Friday, April 26, 2013

Spring cleaning

This weekend brought on some serious spring cleaning motivation for Michelle. The sun, decent temperatures, and nice breeze suggested a need for clear windows. She did all the work by wiping down both sides of the windows, soaking the screens in the shower, and getting all the dirt and grime out of the sills. I sort of assisted by taking apart and reassembling everything in each room.

Charlie also had an extra spring in his step with a break from the wet, cold weather. He and I spent some time in the backyard, as I brushed away layers and layers of winter coat hair, letting it all float away in the windy afternoon air.

Then, like all household tasks, Charlie needed to "help" with the window cleaning. He loved the fact that the window and screen was missing, allowing him to hang his head out and watch the neighborhood from his favorite perch, getting the best of both worlds, being both inside and out.

Michelle was a little worried that Charlie would see something he might want to chase, and jump out the window. I was more confident, thinking he knew the jump was too much for his little body.

But then I went on a quick run to do a few errands. As I backed the car down the driveway, Charlie was in his normal spot, watching me. At that moment, I was slightly worried that he might want to leap from inside the house and run after the car as I drove away. Normally the panes of glass are the only thing containing his excitement as we come and go. Now, he had an opportunity to do something even more loyal, chasing a car, like in a movie.

I looked back a couple of times and then kept the reflections of his head hanging out of the house in the review mirror in my peripheral vision, just in case he would do something dramatic. Thankfully he didn't. However, if he did this blog post would have been much more exciting and entertaining.

Our windows look fabulous now and everything is in order. For now. It won't be long before Charlie reinstates his marks on the window as he watches us from his precious spot, sending us off to work and longingly anticipating our return every day this week.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Today, I asked my students to consider the theme of loss. We have been reading the book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and have been viewing the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as a parallel text. In preparation for their writing assignment over the movie, I wanted students to write about how characters in the movie deal with loss.

Some sad events transpired today, causing me to personally reflect on loss in our lives. One of Charlie's canine friends, Ollie, is no longer with us. He was struck by a car this morning. His human parents are obviously devastated, doing the best they can to overcome incredible, shocking loss. And we are also very sad. Ollie was a terrific dog. We will all miss spending time with Ollie, but Charlie will especially miss the mischief he and Ollie enjoyed together. 

Loss leads to remembrance. Through remembering, we grow as people. Our memories become part of our existence. Ollie is, and always will be, a part of our existence.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Complete Persepolis

PersepolisPersepolis by Marjane Satrapi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Occasionally, I enjoy reading a good graphic novel and The Complete Persepolis is exactly that--a good graphic novel. Marjane Satrapi's memoir about growing up and coming of age in Iran is compelling at times, mainly because of the historical context. The slow and systemic radicalization and oppression of the Iranian people is presented in a realistic but heart-breaking way. The glimmers of hope throughout the novel are how people continue to find joy with others and in life, secretly, behind closed curtains in private places. The flip-side is a weighing sadness that people must hide freedom, joy, happiness, thought, and expression because government actors can always be right around the corner.

The journey the reader goes on with Satrapi is an exploration of this polarity between public and private space, and how she (and those around her) constantly negotiate this way of living. The true contradiction or conflict is how one's love for family and country is overcome with exploring a need to leave home and flee from it in order to truly understand oneself. In a lot of ways, that is a theme most wrestle with at some point during life.

Like most graphic novels, this is a quick read. At times, it is also a compelling one. The greatest value in reading The Complete Persepolis is gaining insight into the real oppression some around the world live with every day, and what appears from the collective outside may not at all reflect what is inside the individual hearts and minds of good people. I think our world needs more of that kind of understanding, which would make us all a little more "complete."

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

An earth video... perspective taking and something called the "overview effect"

After this week, I feel the need to write about perspective. Our habits of mind, what we choose to focus on, and how we think about life and people with whom we interact filters everything. We all (myself included) can easily become warped into our own limited worldview, failing to acknowledge the true greatness of potential surrounding us.

Sometimes it is healthy to step outside of ourselves, then calmly and consciously dwell on what it is we fail to recognize because we are too hurried, stressed, jaded, closed-off, or solidified in the every day of our own existence. By letting our minds wander into spaces not normally considered, a certain peacefulness can set in. Maybe a revelation will take hold. Our way of being with others and interacting in the world can be altered--if even slightly--to push us towards a different, more fully nuanced understanding of living.

Astronauts are a selective few who have an opportunity to experience living in ways most never will. There is a very cool video called "Overview" documenting what they understand since they have looked upon the earth from above. The video comes from the Planetary Collective, which is a group of people who want to explore the big questions and ideas that face our planet. The synopsis about the video from the website is this:
Astronauts who have seen the Earth from space have often described the ‘overview effect’ as an experience that has transformed their perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it, and enabled them to perceive it as our shared home, without boundaries between nations or species.
The pictures from space are breath-taking. The accounts of the astronauts make me slightly envious. But mostly, after watching it, the video has me thinking how easy it is to have a blinded perspective.

The video is lengthy. But even if you have to pause it, walk away, and return to continue watching, you will find that it was a valuable use of your time.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A new home

Getting something new is nice, but it is oftentimes difficult to part with the old, comfortable things we have grown to love and rely upon. Charlie loves going into his kennel. It is his safe place when we have to leave him home alone or when we take him in the car.

Charlie has been putting on the pounds lately, becoming a bit too big for his current kennel. It works just fine, but he can't stand up entirely when inside. He has to crouch to move around or re-situate. I felt bad leaving him in there all day while I'm at work.

I made a trip to the pet store, purchasing the next size for his comfort.

I had a feeling that Charlie would be slightly cautious about this new addition to his life. He carefully approached the new kennel when I placed it down next to the old one. He had to smell and inspect it thoroughly. He refused to walk into the new kennel.

I decided to pull out his brown fleece blanket from the old home and put it into the new one. That seemed to be all Charlie needed to venture carefully into the upgraded home.

He stayed in the larger kennel for a minute or so and then carefully began dragging his brown fleece blanket out of it. He left it partially hanging out as he went back to the old kennel to sniff out the nostalgia of what he has come to love and know.

For a brief moment, I thought he would be accepting of this change. I was wrong.

Deciding he wasn't approving of this transition, Charlie proceeded to pull his fleece completely out of the new kennel and leave it on the kitchen floor.

Change is difficult. It requires an acceptance that the past is over and a willingness to embrace the unknown.

Charlie has come to love the larger kennel, his new home. Soon, with time, it will not be the "new" home, but his only home.