Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Education? Priceless!

Remember those old Visa commercials that listed several material items and their prices? Then they’d name one final non-material item that cannot be bought and deemed it priceless?   This is how I would do that commercial:  Pencils- $3.00, paper- $4.50, backpack- $15.00, education- Priceless. I’d show people of every age heading off to school.  Little kindergarteners holding their parents’ hands, teenagers goofing on each other on their way through the school doors, college students getting hugs goodbye as their parents drive away, moms dropping kids off at school then heading to college, dads at the computer after tucking their kids in bed for the night, night school people working toward their GED, and older folks who have a need to continue to learn walking through those doors of higher education.  It would be a pretty cool commercial, don’t you think?

Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States, who happens to be from the great state of Iowa, understood the importance of education.  Through his life’s work, knew that not every country had the same educational expectations and benefits of its citizenry as the USA does.

“My country owes me nothing. It gave me, as it gives every boy and girl, a chance. It gave me schooling, independence of action, opportunity for service and honor. In no other land could a boy from a county village, without inheritance or influential friends, look forward with unbounded hope.”

 – Herbert Hoover

I read the book Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson a few years back. Greg, a mountain climber, nearly died in his attempt to climb in the Karakoram mountains of Pakistan.  He wandered incoherently into a remote mountain village, where the residents graciously cared for him.  When he regained his health and was preparing to leave, he noticed that the village children were scratching letters into the dirt with sticks. It was because they had no school. He vowed to the elders of the village that he would come back and build them a school, and he did.  This book was an interesting read for another reason too; and that was the cultural differences between Greg, an American, and his host village. The book is called Three Cups of Tea for a reason. This leads me to my final point…

I have been given the opportunity to teach English Language Learner classes at a local community college to adults who are immigrants and refugees.  These people are from all over the world and have left their homeland for a better life in America.  My students are on average, about forty years old. Some a little older, some a little younger. None of them have had formal education in their home countries.  I teach the very first level class called Basic.  I’m teaching these people the alphabet.  I’m teaching them the sounds that letters make and how to put the sounds together into words, and the words into sentences.  It’s very humbling for me to see them work so hard for what so many of us take for granted. These people are the epitome of Hoover’s quote. They didn’t have connections; therefore they didn’t have an education.

And they’re all so happy to be here and to be learning.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Parodies Are Fun

Parodies are fun. 

Saturday Night Live has proven that. Presidents, politicians, actors, and other famous or infamous people’s actions and words have been the fodder for SNL parodies for forty years now.  My favorite parodies from SNL have to be “Celebrity Jeopardy" skits.  Norm Macdonald’s Burt Reynolds and Darrell Hammon’s Sean Connery characterizations are hilarious. Jimmy Fallon plays an exasperated Alex Trebek to a T. 

The sly creators of Sesame Street have kept mommies and kiddos entertained for years.  Their parodies not only teach little ones numbers and letters, but offer sometimes frazzled and often isolated child care providers a good laugh. I personally laughed my head off the first time I saw Polly Darton, a country singing muppet that looked very much (in every way) like country singer Dolly Parton on Sesame Street. (My babies stared at me like I’d gone mad…)

There are lots of song parodies on the internet.  Just type ‘parodies’ and you’ll get an impressive, never ending list of videos to satisfy your creative funny bone. The king of parodies is of course, Weird Al Yankovic.  He’s been around for a long time. And he’s not so weird.  I watched an interview on line recently where Al (we’re on a first name basis) talked about his creative process when deciding which songs to parody, what the topic of the parody should be, and how to write the parody.  He also stated that every song he writes must get the original singer’s approval before it can be recorded. Think way back to “Fat”, a parody of Michael Jackson’s Bad, and more recently “Tacky”, a parody of  Pharrell William’s Happy… and every parody in between.  That’s an impressive run.
I like parodies because they're by nature something that has to be copied/imitated well to be good.  That's much more difficult I think than just writing your own song or skit.  It takes creative problem solving to make sure a parody sounds like the original and makes sense in its own right.
I wrote my own parody while attending the EIWP at St. Ambrose University.  I’ve talked about this class in previous posts. One of the things we did at least two afternoons a week was an activity called Writing Marathon.  During a Writing Marathon we organized ourselves into small writing groups then we picked several places around the city to visit to and just sit and write.  We found inspiration most everywhere we went. With a shout-out to Starland Vocal Band, here is a parody I wrote during a Writing Marathon.

Afternoon Write
By Nadine Roth

(With apologies to Starland Vocal Band and in appreciation of Weird Al Yankovic)

Gonna find my pen gonna hold it tight
Gonna grab some afternoon write
My motto's always been 'when I write, it's right'
Even if it starts: “It was a cold dark night.”

Everything's a little clearer with your muse at play
And I know the revision’s gonna be there any way
Marathon invite. Afternoon, write. Afternoon write!

Thinkin' up stories feed my appetite
Looking forward to a little afternoon write
Rubbin' pens and pencils together starts sparks igniting
And the thought of publication is getting so exciting
Marathon invite. Afternoon, write. Afternoon write!

Wrote a poem this morning that was so polite
My fellows assured me that it didn’t bite
But it’s gotten me a thinkin’ and I’m sure I might try grabbing a little afternoon write.
Marathon invite. Afternoon, write. Afternoon write!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

So Many Books… (So Little Time…)

“One must always be careful of books," said Tessa, "and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.” 
 Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel

In a previous post wrote about a few of my favorite books, but as you can guess, I have many, many, more faves!  I’ll tell you about a couple of “oldies but goodies” today. J

When I was in junior high, I wanted to be like Lucinda/Cindy. She became sophisticated Lucinda when she moved to a new town.  I was a bean pole, like Cindy, and thought of myself as unpopular, too. If only I was brave enough to reinvent myself like Cindy did! The New Lucinda by Grace Gelvin Kisinger was published in 1964.  Lucinda learns some lessons about being herself in this story.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to find this book at the library.  I guess it’s just too old…however timeless the story is.

Forever, by Judy Blume, was published in 1975. If you were a pre-teen in the mid ‘70’s, I need say no more. If you were the mother of a pre-teen in the mid ‘70’s you know, too. Judy Blume rocked my world in a titillating way. This  young adult story was about a teen-age girl and her new boyfriend from another high school, but more than that: They.Had.Sex!!! It was scandalous back then and there were cries for book banning. I can’t think of another popular young adult story in which high school teens have sex. Even Edward and Bella waited…

My curiosity got the best of me and I found myself at the library, standing in the aisle reading this book just a couple of weeks ago.  I had to laugh a little because, even after all these years it’s still a rather shocking read.  I mean, who tries to put aftershave on her boyfriend’s nether regions? I went on line today and found that this book has had at least eleven different covers and was made into a movie! Now that’s staying power.

A large of the books that have meant the most to me and that have become so memorable, are books that have taken me to thrilling or dangerous places I’d never been before. Given me that “oh, shit” moment that I love so  much. Maybe even a fantasy life for a while.  Made me think differently. Taught me some lessons.

So, I’ve asked you before, and I’ll probably ask you again: What story or book changed your life? How did it change you? Tell me about it!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How I Became A Writer: Chicago Writer’s Conference

This past weekend I attended my very first writer’s conference.  It took place at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois.  I was nervous about attending an event that I considered a next step, or a step up, in my growth as a writer.  I thought I’d be writing this post about  all the great things I learned; and although I enjoyed the sessions at Northwestern, and enjoyed exploring downtown Chicago,  I found that all the classes and seminars I have attended right here in the Quad Cities are not much different than the ones I attended at Northwestern- therefore, I’d say the Quad Cities obviously offers a top notch education!  I ‘m happy to know that I don’t need to travel far from home to find excellence in education. 

Score: Big City- Zero; Quad Cities- 1  J

I remember back when we first moved to the Quad Cities through a job transfer from my husband’s employer.  I found so many opportunities for higher education within just a ten mile radius of my home. That was exciting for me because my home town had one community college, which I attended, and no other colleges for miles and miles around.  I told my husband that I wanted to finish my education before we were transferred to another city. He thought that was a great idea. (By the way, we were never transferred and have made the QC our home!)

While raising a family, I finished my degrees at Western Illinois University, Quad City campus. I also took classes at Scott Community College, St. Ambrose University, and Augustana College.  I left no campus un-used!!!! I've taken many, many classes over the years, but none will top the EIWP that I've talked about in previous posts-- including Northwestern.

This blog post started as an account of my writing conference experience in Chicago and but became a celebration of my community’s higher education options. 

So I must ask you, Can you name something great about your community? Do you take advantage of that great thing? Or sometimes take it for granted? 
Stop and take a look around!