Sunday, February 27, 2011

"On Legacy: Part II," by Aimee.

"For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” -Bible Passage (Genesis 3:19)

What will you leave behind when you are gone? What kind of person were you when it really mattered? What impact did you make on the world? How will you be remembered?

These are the questions I am going to explore today. On my birthday this year, I shared my "bucket list" with the world: a list of all of the things that I would like to do or see before I die. While, it's important to have lifelong goals, I think it's also important to think about what I can do to fulfill my own life on a daily basis.

What will you leave behind when you are gone? People generally think of possessions with this question, but really, I have minimal possessions... a car that gets great (35+) mpg (an '07 Toyota Yaris 4-door), lots of artwork hanging all over my house, books that nobody but Rachel or an english teacher would want, clothes of all types that I hope Tom will donate to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, and a few important documents. Mainly, my Copyright for The Lost Romantic, (which still needs a copy edit before it can go to an editor- after a disastrously unhelpful agent search). My four rescued cats will be in good hands with Tom- he kisses all of them all the time.

But I like to think beyond mere possessions. What will I leave behind when I am gone? I think to my career and the lessons I have shared with the now 250+ students I have taught for at least a year. (See the iMovie video I made last fall about the "Top ten lessons in Ms. Nadow's class" and while Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (the first one) is super silly, the rest are not.)

I should be grateful to my teachers who shared these lessons with me first. My mother, my dad, Kim & Jeanine, Ms. MacPherson, Mrs. Mendes, Mrs. Voght, Mrs. Doyle, Mr. McGlone, Mrs. Sparfven-Areson, Mr. Glass, Mrs. Hebert, Ms. Rosa, Mr. Sawyer, Mr. Rainier, Mme. Lamoreaux, Mme. Gabaude, Mme. Kozaka, Mr. Ferruccio, Ms. Simmonds, Mr. Bennett, Mr. Wollman, Mr. Gullette, Ms. Bettencourt, Dr. Turner, Mr. Soto, Mrs. Moran, Mrs. Craven, and more... What were the most important lessons you've learned from a teacher? What lessons have stuck with you over the years?

I would also leave memories behind. People behind. Family behind. Friends behind. It is comforting to know that I will linger for a little while in the memories I have shared with people.

What kind of person were you when it really mattered? Katrina? Check. Oil Spill in the Gulf? Check. Haiti? Check. Heifer International? Check. American Cancer Society's Relay for Life? Check. Susan G. Komen's 3-day for the cure? Check. Alzheimer's Center? Check. Red Cross? Check. The Renaissance Project? Check. Blood donations? Over a gallon so far. I'm always looking for ways to give back. Let me know if you have any!

Inspiring stories of giving: After the B.P. oil spill in the gulf last summer, our student council at school raised several hundred dollars from dance tickets and "Hall-o-grams", for the American Red Cross and even cut their hair in a giant school wide assembly to stuff the booms with for coastal safety. 

In Boston, my B.L.S. students raised enough money to donate animals to help build a sustainable life for an international community in need through Heifer International. To watch my quick commercial for Heifer International (from a Great Movie Project with the 8th graders, click here!) To see other student-created commercials about many charities & causes for this project, click here!)

While I was walking the Susan G. Komen "3-Day for the Cure" with Rachel, we encountered so many legacy walkers and volunteers, the stories were so inspiring. From the woman who had walked 9 times, to the survivor-volunteers who had walked the 60-miles previously who were back to lend a helping hand. Move ahead to 13:00 in our video to see for yourself.

Yes, I've done some things that I can be proud of, but the real question is: how can I help more? That's something I'm going to try to think about and work on harder. I'm open to feedback and suggestions! :)

What impact did you make on the world? Hopefully none: if we're talking about Carbon Footprint, but I know that I've definitely added my share of trash. I'm so proud that Massachusetts gave out the extra large "streamlined: No Sort" recycling bins to homeowners; boy, does that make sense. Here in Florida, recycling is an amenity for homeowners only. Giant apartment buildings and condominium and townhouse subdivisions either don't recycle or are so badly managed that it's impossible to recycle, the nearest recycling center being forty miles away. Clearly that is a cause near and dear to my heart and I should see how I can advocate to improve access to recycling. 

But if we're walking about a legacy in what I've left behind: an unedited novel for one (I'm still proud of it). Lots of children understanding Carpe Diem, and many other life lessons, and I hope a sympathetic memory. I hope I can be buried in the "Green Funeral" Nicole made me aware of or cremated to have my ashes dumped at Newport's First Beach and off of Mt. Washington and that I can return to the Earth the way nature intended, as dust.

How will you be remembered? I'll leave that to you to think about. I hope well. The questions that arise from this topic, are: Will you endow a fellowship or scholarship to a deserving student at your college of choice? Will you leave remembrance gifts for your family and loved ones? Will you donate your heritage to a charity? I can only add that I hope my Facebook wall will remain a place for people to think of me or remember and enjoy my life with me again. 

Vita brevis: vade mecum: Life is short, go with me.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

"On Legacy: Part I," by Aimee.

"For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” -Bible Passage (Genesis 3:19)

This passage from Genesis in the Bible, invokes thoughts about legacy and what is left afterwards: when we return to dust. I've been thinking about this quotation: the epigraph of Ash Wednesday, one of my favorite services of the year in the Catholic Church, because it is coming up fast. (Where has the first quarter of this year gone already?) 

Those of you that know me know that I am not an overly religious person, nor do I preach any of my own thoughts generally, but I would like you to know: that even though I may stay away from church on Christmas and on Easter, that I usually attend and have always tried to attend mass on Ash Wednesday. While some of the messages of the Catholic Church and I don't mesh- I have found that you cannot run away from faith, and that our spirituality can guide us through harder times in life, when our own strength cannot.  Catholic Mass represents a comforting tradition, one I grew up with, and then chose on my own to continue to follow, and have since shared with my family. 

Photo courtesy of:
St. John's the Evangelist in Attleboro, Massachusetts, stands as a beacon to me, calling me home to my family. Inside, the pews: cold and hard wood, nothing like the padded rows here in Florida churches. The walls made of stone- drafty and echoing the choir from the loft above. Here, there are flat screen televisions, air conditioning and professionally tended lighting and music technicians. Yet, no matter the venue, the messages are the same. Especially the message of Ash Wednesday- a day that reminds us of how human we are, and how fragile our lives are as well.

In addition to the penance, reflection and fasting encouraged by this first day of Lent, Catholic Online shares the message of the significance of the ashes in this way, "While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. His divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance." (source)

There are many holidays of contrition in faiths around the world: 

In Judaism, the observance of Yom Kippur strikes a similar message: "The name of Yom Kippur means "Day of Atonement." It is believed to be the last chance to change God's judgment of one's deeds in the previous year and his decisions one's fate in the coming year. The "books" in which God began recording his judgments on Rosh Hashanah are sealed at the end of Yom Kippur. It is thus a day of intensive reflection, repentance, fasting, worship and self-denial" (source).

In Islam,
Ramadan is observed for the ninth Islamic calendar month, and includes fasting "to focus on purifying the soul"
(source). They also observe the Day of Arafat, (during one day of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabi called Hajj) where they gather at the Plain of Arafat to seek God's mercy and Muslims elsewhere fast for the day. (source)

In Hinduism, Hindu's observe Mahashivaratri, the Great Festival of Shiva, a day spent in meditation and fasting to honor his mercy to a hunter who survived a lion by climbing a tree and offering Bilva leaves to Shiva in one legend. "In general, Hindu festivals "are intended to purify, avert malicious influences, renew society, bridge over critical moments, and stimulate or resuscitate the vital powers of nature." They include a wide variety of rituals, including worship, prayer, processions, magical acts, music, dancing, lovemaking, eating, drinking, and feeding the poor." (source)

In Buddhism, it is thought that  "repentance is most important in daily practice" (source). Daily meditation is a way to eradicate evil thought, speech and deeds. There is a Repentance Ceremony called Liang Huang Bao Chan which "[is] to eradicate bad karma and to liberate all beings from suffering." You can read more about this ceremony here.

So, from today's research of the common repentance for sins or shortcomings, and meditations or prayers for God's forgiveness and grace, and for reflection on our own mortality, a common trend through many of the world's major religions- I have decided to consider my own legacy to the future in my next post, because "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations." -From the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy.

Friday, February 25, 2011

"The Best of Broadway!" by Aimée.


I can't sleep. I'd like to say it's because my t.v. shows were so exciting tonight before they went on a five week hiatus, but really it's because I've got Rachel Berry's rendition of "Don't Rain on my Parade," from Glee stuck in my head.  

Which got me thinking about the best songs from Show Biz. Having acted/danced/sung in two musical reviews and in 
Fiddler on the Roof and Cinderella, and having had season tickets to the Providence Performing Arts Center for a decade growing up, I've heard a few great tunes and I'd like to share them with you today.

Aimée's Embarassing but fun Acting Repertoire:
Performing "You Can't Stop the Beat"
from Hairspray in a Musical Review with
Triboro Musical Theater,
Attleboro, MA in Jan of '05.

Performing "Dentist" from Little
Shop of Horrors,

 with the Carollwood Players 2008.

                         Performing "Cell Block Tango" from  Chicago
                  with the Carollwood Players in 2008.

With the mainstream success of a musical television show such as Glee, I've been enjoying the comeback of a lot of Broadway hits. The oldest song I've loved from the first show I ever saw on Broadway is "All I Ask of You," from The Phantom of the Opera.

Another little know, but great show, The Scarlet Pimpernel, most famously sung by the amazingly talented Linda Eder, was both romantic and funny. The French Revolution period clothes I remember were quite colorful...especially for the men! Linda Eder also reached new heights (literally) with her rendition of "Man of La Mancha," nailing a fourth octave note only hit previously by Mariah Carey. Stick around for the note from 2:15 to 2:29! 

As for beautiful duets, nothing beats Heather Headley and Adam Pascal's chilling "Written in the Stars," revelation in Aida.

If you can't get enough of these two Broadway powerhouses, click here to watch their other duet...

Of course, Broadway hasn't been the same since Rent came out in 1996. The most famous song, "Seasons of Love," became an instant high school movie montage classic, but it had other powerful songs mixed in throughout. 

("Finale B," from Rent.)

A Viral Internet YouTube success of last year, Harry Potter: The Musical, a parody which starred Darren Criss (currently playing Blaine on Glee) is a must-have for my Best of Broadway. Even though it wasn't on Broadway per se, it is still amongst the funniest and most original book-to-musical creations in history. Check out the hilarious opener and stick around at least for Draco's "Totally Awesome" reprise in Part II.

A recent addition to Disney's hit musical Beauty and the Beast after the 1992 film: is the song "Human Again," which has been added to the most recent DVD as well as performed at Disney's show in Hollywood Studios and on Broadway. Check it out below!

Then I dragged my mom to see Mamma Mia! not realizing that she hated Abba, but we both enjoyed it. Especially the song, "Lay all Your Love on Me," (check out Amanda Seyfried's version from the movie below.)

Alright- that's enough for today, I hope you enjoy the clips! :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"My Favorite Things!" by Aimee.

"EVERYONE IN THE AUDIENCE GETS A FREE 2012 MUSTANG!!!!!" (Just kidding, but I was definitely channeling Oprah on that one!) Yes, I'd buy you one of everything if I could.

"My Favorite Things," by Aimee. 

1. My favorite electronic: iPhone 3G-S. Yes, I have a Mac desktop, an iPod, an iHome, a iLuv portable speaker set (thank you Christy), and I've had about four or five cell phones before today but the iPhone is a clear frontrunner. I hate phones, yet, even I can admit, I don't know how I enjoyed life before my iPhone. Read all about it here. Granted, I hated iPhone users when I didn't have one because of how obnoxious and ravingly passionate they were about a phone- for God's sake- but if I could go back in time. I would have had one for the past decade. And if you STILL HATE IPHONES: Check out these HILARIOUS jokes about them!

2. Favorite Magazine: REAL SIMPLE. Yes, it even inspires ME to clean and be organized and cook...and that's asking a lot. To check out the contents, check out the webpage here... They have tons of recipes, organizing tips, beauty & style guides, product tests, health, work and life tips, and entertaining check lists. It is THE online guide to life. 

3. My favorite webpage creator: WETPAINT. Get started here... It skips all of the more advanced HTML and code, and lets you create an engaging website, completely individualized and for free!

4. My favorite BLOG: (besides Nicole's and this one) is the premier  Twilight Blog. It has more scoops than an ice cream shop, most recently included ninja black ops leak pictures of Bella & Edward's Cottage in the woods. If you don't believe me- check it out! 

5. My Favorite Book from 2010: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. People ask me all the time if it's better than the original and I say this: Yes. Not only does it retain 70% of the original text, and add only 30% of zombie-fighting mayhem, the additions are almost impossible to distinguish, being that they are as well written as Austen's finest. As one critic said, "The literary community should never be too proud to laugh at itself." (source) 

6. My Favorite Movie from 2010: DESPICABLE ME. Snarky, kid-friendly, and touching all wrapped up into one gut-tickling comedy. It's a shame it wasn't nominated with the animated weeper Toy Story 3, because Despicable Me clearly beat TS3 out of the park for creativity and humor. 

7. My favorite song from 2010: iTunes cleverly tells me that I listened to Miranda Lambert's rendition of "The House that Built Me" 53 times since I bought it last March, making it my most played song from 2010. Enjoy the tune below, courtesy of YouTube: but be prepared to sniffle. 

8. My favorite new T.V. show from 2010: COVERT AFFAIRS. Yes, as a teacher, I am drastically behind the real world in regards to primetime television- yet this funny and quick based thriller came on over the summer and I for one, can't wait for it to come back! Starring the lovely Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly) as the C.I.A's newest recruit the show follows the many dangerous misadventures and exploits of Annie's new career. 

9. Favorite Car from 2010: The CHEVY VOLT. Call me an optimist, and environmentalist, and idealist, quixotic, iconoclastic and biased, but I love the Chevy Volt. I love that G.E. bought 11,000 of them for their fleet, and I love that they're on the market now. If I were to buy one, I could essentially drive to work for $1.25 (electricity) per day. No gas necessary, but available if needed. Read this great review of the Chevy Volt by a guy who knows nothing about reviewing cars. 

10. Favorite Restaurant in the South: Ceviche's Tapas Bar and Restaurant in South Tampa, is a romantic with the most delicious tapas to try and share. Closely followed by Tina Tapas at Channelside. Check out the Ceviche menu here...

Favorite Restaurant in the North: Flo's Clam Shack, Newport, R.I. There's nothing worse than arriving home to New England for a summer spell from teaching and to arrive at Flo's the DAY BEFORE they open for the season. (Seriously) The best clam cakes around. Amazing raw oyster bar upstairs. The Salt Life doesn't get any better than this! Check out their historic page here...

Monday, February 21, 2011

"The Princess and the Assassin: How Today's Culture is Negatively Impacting the Minds of our Teenagers," by Aimee.

Growing up the lucky daughter of a children's librarian, I was never at a loss for good books. My mother Liz tirelessly carried hundreds upon thousands of picture books; then chapter books, then novels and series home for both my brother Nate and I since we were toddlers. What I've noticed over the years is a lack of diverse female role models in the books I was reading.

Disney and his Princesses

This topic is going to cause a riot with my colleagues at work. Yes, I know that these are timeless stories that will transcend the 21st century to become 'Classics', but the sexism and racism in the history of Disney cannot be forgotten. The examples of racism in Disney in this article as recently as in Aladdin (1992), are egregious enough on their own, only equalled in the derisive sexism inherent in the Disney Princesses. See the photo below: 
Photo courtesy of
Granted, these characters do have merits as well, besides their beauty: Snow White is kind, Aurora loves animals, Jasmine is a rebel and independent (although she is enslaved eventually because of it), Ariel is an independent rebel as well (although she loses her identity because of it), Belle is a reader and brave, and Cinderella is also kind to animals. However there are much better female role models, see my list in the last paragraph of this post.

Twilight and the Impossible Standard for Men:

Most recently: people have been reviewing the popular Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, and asking the question, "Does Twilight set an unreasonable standard for men?" In this great article by Ted Cox, he breaks down the Twilight series obsession for teenage girls:

"My sisters, like so many teenage girls, went gaga whenever the hunky, pasty Edward and his male-model coif appeared on-screen. Edward is inhumanly gorgeous, inhumanly strong, holds several medical degrees, plays concert piano, drives a shiny car, is filthy rich and, most importantly, is instantly and uncontrollably attracted to Bella.

It’s not hard to see why Twilight has become so popular. The story probably resonates with young women who feel they aren’t particularly pretty, smart, talented or loveable. Twilight is the movie version of a common teenage fantasy: The hot, rich guy falls madly in love with the unpopular klutz.

I guess that means Twilight is pornography for young women. While porn for men takes normal, everyday guys and pairs them with idealized women, Twilight flips the formula around: Bella is the everyday teenage girl who ends up with the idealized man.

When women are idealized in the media, it’s called sexism, objectification or misogyny. But when men are idealized, it’s called a blockbuster. One blogger at cried foul over Bella needing a man to fulfill her life. The same writer didn’t mention anything about the story holding men up to impossible standards." 

(Excerpt from Ted Cox's article.)

While I don't think that the Twilight series is reverse-pornography, I do think that the media is now holding men to impossibly high standards, especially with the uber-romantic character of Noah in The Notebook, the impossibly fit Wolverine in X-Men, the perfect-assassins or warriors in Hitman, Batman, Superman, Iron Man, and I worry about the impacts of these characters on young males. 

Video Games and the Acceptance of Violence:

When video games were released in the 80's-90's the "Top Ten" games were:

1Super Mario Bros.Nintendo1985
2Super Mario 64Nintendo1996
3Donkey Kong Country 3Rare1996
4Final Fantasy VIISquaresoft1997
5Super Mario World 2Nintendo1996
7Pac ManNamco1980
9Monkey Island 2Lucas Arts1990
10Megaman 3Nintendo1990

 Notice the lack of 'realistic violence', how these games are mostly fantastical violence. Now, in the 00's: the list changes:

1Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of TimeNintendo1998
2Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2Activision2000
3Soul CaliburNamco1998
4Grand Theft Auto IVRockstar2008
5Perfect DarkRare2000
6NFL 2K1Sega2000
7Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3Activision2001
8Halo: Combat EvolvedBungie2001
9Metroid PrimeNintendo2002
10Grand Theft Auto IIIRockstar Games2001
Fantastical Violence: 3 games.
Realistic Violence: 2+ games.
Professional Sports: 2 games.

You can see last year's list of top grossing video games here but now the focus becomes more on being a professional athlete, and real-life violence: both realistic and fantastical. There are many articles about the negative impact of video games on children: mainly that kids, (1) tend to be more aggressive, (2) are more prone to confrontation with their teachers, (3) engage in fights with their peers and (4) see a decline in school achievements. (Source) 

So basically as culture advances: girls are encouraged to accept the "Princess" expectations and boys are encouraged to accept the "Ultimate Athlete" or "Warrior" expectations. There is something inherently wrong in encouraging these expectations in our teenagers: all of which contribute to narcissism, social dysfunction, and low self esteem a direct result of being unable to achieve any of these "impossible standards." 

Already, the differences between Generation Y (which saw the successes and money surplus in the 1990's to the current economic crisis) and Generation Z (who have seen only the Great Recession (2005) from age 10 to now) creates a stark contrast of generations. Realizing that everything can be taken away, and that savings are more important than ever, my generation (Y) is watching Z with interest and capitalizing off of introducing our necessities (cell phones, social networking, clothes, music) to an audience younger than ever. However, all of the older generations have a deep responsibility to create meaningful and ethical role models for these young kids. Role Models such as bookish Hermione, awkward Harry from the Harry Potter series, Enola Holmes, Katniss Everdeen (from The Hunger Games trilogy), Percy Jackson, Stanley Yelnats, Alanna of TrebondCheck out this list of positive female role models. While it's a challenge to find a similar list of positive male role models for boys, I did find this list of "100 Must Read Books: Then Man's Essential Library," on the Art of Manliness- an interesting cultural analysis to be sure!

Check out some of the listed books here: