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Author Archives: kathryndean2013

About kathryndean2013

Welcome to my blog! This has been a project in the works for a long time. I'm an English teacher who has been a stay-at-home-mom for 15 years. I always felt I should be reading and writing in order to better myself. I did lots of reading, but never seemed to find the time to write. Now back in the classroom teaching Literature and Writing, I'm discovering I thoroughly enjoy the writing process. This blog is a chance for me to write alongside my students and bring you all along on the journey to better writing.
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My first feature article: A profile of Brandon and Lauren Sheard, proponents and educators in the Slow Food Movement.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

A break-up letter to email marketing:

Dear Random Store,

I visited you once a couple weeks ago and we had a great time. We really did. I enjoyed your bright colors, nice smells, and variety of textiles. I even made a purchase. That was when you got all excited and assumed I was interested in a long and meaningful relationship. You asked for my email address. You were so casual about it, too, like it was all for my benefit.

“We keep track of your purchases and you earn points,” you said.

“We notify you of special sales,” you said.

Now, don’t get me wrong. You were very nice about it, and I don’t mind a benefit or two for my loyalty. Unfortunately, what you failed to mention, and I failed to figure out on our first meeting is that you are very clingy, needy, and sometimes downright annoying.

I’m sorry to be so blunt, but it would appear from my in-box that you run a special sale every. single. day. I’m sure it is just a ruse to see me again. I’m sorry that I have not been back in a while. But, what about our one-time meeting (which was great, as I already mentioned) made you think that I would want to hear from you every day? We may have had a good time, but we are still casual acquaintances, at best.

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You seem to think we are more than casual. Therefore, I have no other option but to break up with you. I will click “here” to unsubscribe, and when you send me to a different site to click

“here”

“here”

and “here”

I will do that as well.

Heaven forbid you ask me to “sign in” to unsubscribe….because then….well, I’m just screwed and will be forced to label your emails as spam. No offense.

If your seductive displays lure me into your store in the future, I will play it cool and keep my personal information to myself.

Sincerely,

Casual Customer

P.S. Little did I know that if I admit I “like” you on Facebook you get even more excited and not only send me emails, but also take over my newsfeed. Have some self-respect. Maybe even see a counselor. This much need for attention from others is unhealthy.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in Humor, Uncategorized

 

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Disney’s Frozen: “Perfect Love Casts out Fear”

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The Disney movie Frozen has been on a loop at my house in one way or another. We own the DVD, we own it on Kindle video, we own the soundtrack, and frankly, my girls don’t really need any of these to reproduce the movie…in its entirety…with their own voices and theatrics. It is entirely possible I’m going a little crazy here, but having been immersed in this story, I’m amazed at the depth.

The story is loosely based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson, and can I just say something crazy? For the first time in forever a movie has actually improved upon the original story. I fiercely apologize as typically I am a literary purist, but I love what the writers at Disney did with this story. To be completely fair to Hans Christian Anderson, they didn’t really improve the original story. It would be more accurate to say they borrowed a few characters and wrote an entirely new story.

In The Snow Queen, a shattered evil mirror pierces Kay’s heart and eye. It causes him to see things in an ugly way and freezes his heart. The main idea being that evil has entered him and he cannot respond to the world in any other way. He hitches a ride with the Snow Queen and is taken to her mountain. His childhood friend, Gerda, sets off in search of him. Many people and animals help her along the way until she appears at the castle of the Snow Queen. The queen had given Kay a puzzle to solve that once solved promised him eternity. As Gerda’s tears thaw his frozen heart, and as his tears mixed with hers clears the shard from his eye, the puzzle is solved and they are granted eternal life.

A deep story in its own rite, the theme of both have similarities. In fact most stories that resonate with us share a common theme: that of vanquishing evil, darkness, and fear, so that good, light, and love reign victorious.

In the movie Frozen, the first time Elsa’s powers cause harm, the wise troll tells her that “fear will be her greatest enemy.” Ironically she locks herself away and shuts others out in fear of her powers for almost the entire movie. Her father’s advice to “conceal, don’t feel” does her more harm than good. She can’t control her powers by hiding and choosing not to feel, she needs to transform her powers by overcoming her fear.

When we visit the trolls a second time, the wise troll reveals the solution: “Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart.” Of course, all of us Disney junkies assumed, just like Anna, that a true love’s kiss would thaw the frozen heart. However, “an act of true love” means so much more. Love is not being twitterpated, or caught up in a moment of dreamy romance. Love is the act of continually placing someone else’s needs above your own. True love is sacrifice.

At the climax of the movie, Anna’s sacrificial love breaks down the walls of protection and isolation Elsa has built around her. Elsa finally realizes that “Love, of course” is the answer. When love conquers the fear Elsa has clung to as a shield, she is able to control her powers and create beauty. She is able to serve people rather than alienate them. She is able to love people rather than fear them.

Disney not only borrowed from Hans Christian Anderson to tell this beautiful and compelling story, but also from the New Testament. The wise troll had it right, fear is Elsa’s greatest enemy and love is the answer.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)

It was only when Elsa understood perfect love that she could redeem the power inside her and use it for good. The ‘happily ever after’ only comes through redemption. The stories that resonate with us are about redemption: redeeming evil into good, darkness into light, fear into love, and sometimes…eternal winter into spring.

 

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Pleasures of life

I linger 

under the covers, feeling the warmth and safety of my bed

over a cup of coffee each morning, preparing for the demands of the day

over a glass of wine with my beloved, savoring each moment together

over my baby’s crib, watching her breath and smelling her sweet scent

over a book, enthralled with character and story, unaware of time passing

over a sunset, enjoying the beauty of creation

in the sun-warmed sand on a salty beach

in the arms of my beloved

I linger.

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Daily Prompt: Linger

 

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Kindergarten Memories

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In the spirit of Anne Lamott, I asked my students to do a version of her “school lunch” writing exercise.* Instead of school lunch, we wrote about kindergarten. In the exercise, she asks her students to write down everything they can remember about school lunch and then see what stands out that could be turned into its own story. In her example it was the ‘boy against the fence’ who popped out of nowhere. In mine, it was Dennis. 

Dennis.

I don’t even remember his last name, but with his dark brown hair and deep blues eyes, he was the man – at least in kindergarten. In games of kissing tag, he was always my intended conquest.

You can imagine my thrill when we were made milk-buddies for the week. Everyday I walked to the lunch room with Dennis, entered the giant, dark, metal refrigerator, filled the milk crate with enough cartons for our class and carried it back to our classroom hand in hand….except for the milk crate between us. Our week together was bliss until the incident. The incident that scarred my kindergarten memories.

My teacher was only trying to keep us safe. Earlier in the week, a student, who had been running, collided with someone else and was badly hurt. She made a new rule: absolutely no running in the classroom.

In my exuberance to meet my milk buddy for our daily walk together, I scooted across the floor. I’m not sure you could really call it running….maybe more like race-walking. Either way, the teacher called it running and paddled me in front of everyone. Then sent me off in shame with my milk buddy, Dennis.

I was quiet as we walked down the hall that day. Then Dennis said the only three words I ever remember him saying to me, “did it hurt?”

“Did it hurt?” Not, “are you ok?” or “I’m sorry that happened to you. You most certainly weren’t running!” But, “did it hurt.” Like he was doing research to weigh the pros and cons of acting up in the future.

I told him that it embarrassed me more than hurt me, and we went on with our task.

I don’t remember pursuing Dennis much after our week as milk buddies.

I do remember the puffy alphabet letters….maybe a topic for another post.

Letter_t

 

*Anne Lamott: Bird by Bird c.1994

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2014 in Memoir

 

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Six things Disney’s Frozen teaches us about True Love

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I admit it. I love Disney movies – the more singing, the better. I took my girls to the movie Frozen and was tempted to see it multiple times in the theater. We all stayed up to watch Idina Menzel sing at the Oscars and celebrated when “Let it Go” won best original song and Frozen won best animated feature. It was a GREAT movie. 

But, what made it so great? Other than the music, which I loved. (Did I already mention I love musicals?) What made this movie unique was a non-traditional Disney love story. When it comes to Disney we are used to Princes and Princesses and true love’s kiss. Frozen shows us a different love story and teaches us six things about true love.

1. True Love is not just romantic love.

Now, I am not one to jump on the “Girl-power! Disney-finally-showed-us-you-don’t need-a-man-to-save-you!” bandwagon, but it is refreshing to see a different manifestation of true love. The best-selling book of all time says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Both Elsa and Anna are seeking to save the other’s life. Elsa by hiding out so that Anna is not hurt again by her powers, and Anna by pursuing Elsa and ultimately coming between her and death. Elsa’s broken heart and sisterly embrace over Anna’s seeming death is the true love that thaws a frozen heart. They both lay down their life for the other.

2. True Love grows over time.

This isn’t the first movie where Disney has rightfully mocked its portrayal of love, engagement, and marriage at first sight (the movie Enchanted comes to mind.) However, I love the parallel stories of love in Frozen. You see the sisterly love, founded on family and the relationship they shared as young girls, which doesn’t diminish even though it is neglected. We also see the love between Anna and Christoff grow as they work toward a common goal together. The “Love at first sight” shared by Anna and Hans is revealed as a false love.

3. True Love requires sacrifice.

There are many instances of sacrifice in Frozen: Elsa sacrifices a relationship with her sister to protect her from her unpredictable powers, Christoff sacrifices his time and energy to help Anna find her sister, and Anna ultimately sacrifices her life to save Elsa. However, my favorite is Olaf building a fire for Anna. “Some people are worth melting for.” He says as his face starts to sag.

4. True Love requires change.

At the pinnacle of the movie, Elsa (Idina Menzel) sings the much loved and rightfully awarded song, Let It Go. However, listening to that song in isolation, I wonder what lessons it is teaching my daughters. Here is just a sampling: “I don’t care what they’re going to say,” “no right, no wrong, no rules for me,” “that perfect girl is gone.”

Now, I get the kind of isolation she had been living in trying to control and hide her gifts, but how tragic if the movie had ended there. She’s basically saying, “Screw the world! This is who I am and now I can let it go and be free!” Thankfully, there is more to the story.

Elsa realizes that if she doesn’t live in fear of her gift but uses it in conjunction with love for others she can control it in a positive way. Her love for her sister not only requires her to change her attitude, but also the way in which she wields her power.

5. True Love doesn’t give up. 

Anna never stops pursuing her sister. First through closed doors, then through a snow storm and up a treacherous mountain. Her sacrificial love for her sister is  what eventually breaks through Elsa’s icy demeanor.

6. True Love always has a happy ending.*

Ok, so Disney may be able to mock itself on some levels, but still doesn’t disappoint with the happy ending. What do you expect? Ultimately it’s a kids’ movie. Children should be able to see peril and tragedy happen and expect everything to turn out ok. At this stage that is how we want them to view life. Harsh reality will rear its ugly head eventually, but for now we can all enjoy the happy ending.

 

*Perfect love truly does have a happy ending: https://babystepstowriting.com/2014/04/01/perfect-love-casts-out-fear/

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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I didn’t learn to write in school

Are we failing students in the way we teach writing?

We have the new Common Core with a stronger emphasis on writing. We have more options than I can count on how to teach the Five Paragraph Essay. We assign creative essays, literary responses, and research papers, but are the students really learning how to write and what the writing process requires?

Let me show you how I approached writing assignments in school:

  • Essay assigned – due in two weeks
  • Ugh! I have to write a paper. At least I have two weeks
  • 1 week later a fellow student asks if I have started my paper…I haven’t
  • 5 days before due date…I better start thinking about that paper
  • 4 days before due date…if research is required, make trip to library and gather required sources
  • 3 days before due date…pull out assignment and look it over
  • 2 days before due date….read/skim whatever material is required in order to write paper.
  • night before due date…commence writing paper, pull all-nighter if necessary.
  • Due date…read/edit paper and fix obvious mistakes
  • Turn in paper
  • Receive grade
  • never look at essay again

78a728fbf134373ba398c69128fdd25aThis worked fairly well for me and got me through high school and college with respectable GPA’s but it didn’t teach me how to write. It taught me how to compile sources and arrange thoughts in paragraphs in order to earn a grade.

The more I study eloquent writers and their writing processes and the more time I spend writing, I realize there are many things I never learned about writing. My procrastination driven college writing process only ever produced a first draft that was turned in and graded.

Here is the sad truth: I don’t know how to go about the tedious work of revision. The act of taking a machete to what I have written and chopping it up until only the best bits remain. Of then taking those best bits and reaching into the depths of my creativity to add to the manuscript using those as my foundation. This is possibly the most important part of the writing process that I entirely skipped over under the false pretense that my first finished draft was good enough.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) it was good enough to earn a respectable grade and move on, but it didn’t teach me how to write. Now granted, there are certain types of academic writing that once you learn the formula, you plug in the information and voila! Instant essay! But as far as publishable creative essays or fiction writing? Not even close.

How do I not fail my students in this area? I have them write frequently because we all know that to be a better writer you need to write all the time. But, as is common with curriculum, we complete a writing assignment for a unit of study and move on. Should I assign fewer writing assignments and spend more time on them going through the whole writing and revising process with my students?

I would love to hear from other writers and teachers regarding how you approach this in your classrooms.

 

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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How Superbowl XLVIII Changed my View of a City

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Seattle: known for its coffee, rain, hipsters, liberals, and independence. Not typically known for its sports teams – until now.

When we moved here almost nine years ago, the Sonics were still here. I hear they had won a championship, so there’s that. But when they left it was commonly quoted that “Seattle can’t support a sports team.” I guess our indie rock artists and computer programmers just aren’t that into sports. Then there was Super Bowl XL. Can’t say much about that except that ref-bashing became the standard topic of conversation for the next year (or eight). Then the Sounders showed up. And all of a sudden “football” took on a whole new meaning. The city rallied around soccer and all of our teams added neon green to their uniforms.

With the Sonics leaving, the Seahawks actually making it into a Superbowl, and the Sounders joining our city, people realized not only what a sports legacy Seattle had, but also dared to have hope for the future.

There has been much said about this present Seahawks team put together over the last two years by Paul Allen, Pete Carroll, and John Schneider. Including the infamous ranking by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. who gave them the worst grade in the league for their 2012 draft picks. But apart from the Seahawks clearly proving themselves on the football field, what have they taught me about the city of Seattle?

They have shown me that people who pride themselves on independence will come together 700,000 strong in uncharacteristic freezing temperatures to celebrate with their winning team.

They have shown me that a city with only 30% who claim any religion at all will support and embrace openly Christian players.

They have shown me the lengths not only fans but local government will go to in support of their team including renaming Mount Rainier to Mt. Seattle Seahawks, and renaming a neighboring community, Issaquah, to 12saquah.

They have shown me that this community clearly can and will support a sports team even when they don’t have a winning record. The Seahawks have had a waiting list for season ticket holders for several years.

Finally they have shown me what community spirit can do to a rainy, dreary Seattle winter. People are smiling more and have something in common to talk about…other than the lousy weather.

Now bring on summer and the Mariners!

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Downton Abbey: Emphasis on ‘Down’

*Spoilers*

I love Downton Abbey. I really do. It is one of few shows my husband and I watch together (though he may not readily admit it). But lately it is bringing me down. Moira MacDonald says it well: 

‘Downton Abbey’: That Episode

We’ve quickly escalated from scandal (Lady Mary’s indiscretion), war, and relationship drama to senseless death and tragedy. I know war could be considered senseless death and tragedy, but at least it is expected. Matthew dying in a car accident after he has been miraculously healed from his war injury and has finally realized happiness with the love he so long denied, is unexpected and downright jarring. Don’t even get me started on Lady Sybil. And now rape?

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It is easy to understand and sympathize (or judge) when characters endure misery of their own making. But sweet, favorite, Anna has done nothing but be a loyal, loving, beautiful gem among the servants.

My husband was mostly done with Downton after Matthew’s death….I may be close behind him.  

 

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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I make no resolutions

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. I haven’t always felt this way, but anything that involves me “resolving” to do something that I have been unable to discipline myself to do the many years I have been alive, seems to be a set-up for failure. There have been some years that I have purchased the obligatory gym membership in January, and other years I have bought a new journal vowing to write everyday of the year. We all know how this goes… By May the gym barely knows I exist, and the journal is buried under a stack of books and magazines with the last entry dated March 3rd and the entry before that is probably February 13th with the first line being, “sorry I haven’t written in a while.” (Who am I apologizing to anyway?)

The nature of my job and the fact that I have four children means our year revolves around the school calendar. Our “new year” really starts in September. I like to picture our year as a mountain with a lush valley and lake on the other side (not that different from our natural habitat). We start up the mountain in September and it is a grueling climb fraught with promise. School and sports schedules control us with the trifecta of holidays looming ever closer. The powers that be might want to revisit the idea of having Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all within two months of each other.

In the course of our climb we lose sleep,  get cranky, and want to give up, but we keep going because with each week and holiday we pass, we are that much closer to the top of the mountain. November and December pass quickly filled with food and fun times with family. By the end of December we feel almost comatose. Then we reach January. January is the top of our mountain. The routine is set, the rest of the year is downhill, and sometimes we can even see the plush valley below that I like to call summer – ah, summer!! The most refreshing word in a teacher or child’s vocabulary.

With the fall behind us and the holidays over we can take a deep breath and prepare for the downhill climb – which in the nature of the school calendar includes several relaxing breaks.

The downhill climb is much more conducive to breathing and thinking. Having time to breath and think enables me to put my priorities in order and make positive changes in my life. I usually have time once again to exercise, get my house in order, and even read for pleasure. But, don’t get me wrong. These positive changes are in no way “resolutions.” I make no resolutions except to arrive at that lush green meadow in one piece and bask in the sunshine while trying not to think about the next mountain that looms on the other side of the valley.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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