Tag Archives: United States

wotz da big deal cuz u kno wot i mean

Tomorrow is National Grammar Day in the United States.

I thought I would share some real examples of email communications that I have received over the last 12 months from first year college students.

Please know my intention is not to poke fun at my former students. I respect them and see so much growth during the course of one semester. But I am ashamed of our nation’s education system because I receive communications from students that are peppered with errors like this all of the time. It’s time to pay attention to our children. If we don’t teach our kids to be solid writers, if we don’t give them the skills they need to read and write masterfully, they aren’t going to be competitive in this world which is becoming increasingly reliant on professional international communications.

7 Things That Can Interrupt Solid Grammar

1: Illness

2: Desperation.

3: Pushing SEND too quickly.

4: Contraception.

5: Music.

6: Missing the bus.

7: TMI

Which one is your favorite? Do you think this is funny or sad? Do me a favor, will ya? Show me your grammar skills. Pick one of these messages and fix everything that’s wrong with it. Make it pretty. Please?

A Wee Presidents Day Quiz

English: Seal of the President of the United S...

Image via Wikipedia

Sadly, most Americans are pretty ignorant about our history, especially when it comes to our presidents; however, if we think of former presidents as characters (and many of them were!), they really come to life.

While he was actually born on February 22, Presidents Day is celebrated on the third Monday of February in honor of our first President of the United States: George Washington. This year Presidents Day is today: February 20.

And while I am not a history teacher, I was feeling teacherishy, so I figured I’d give a little quiz to see what you might know about some of our former Heads of State.

• • •

 Question 1:

Which President never lived in the White House?

 Answer: George Washington. (It wasn’t finished being built yet. Duh!)

Question 2:

Yankee Doodle was born of the Fourth of July. Can you name 3 presidents who died on July 4th?

Answer: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both kicked the bucket on July 4, 1826. (How weird is that?) James Monroe died in 1831.

 Question 3:

Who was the first president to have a beard?

 Answer: Abraham Lincoln. Did you know he was the one to declare the last Thursday in November as the official Thanksgiving Day? It’s true. This year, you can remember to thank Abe for the turkey.

 Question 4:

Who was the first president to wear long pants?

 Answer: James Madison. But it should be noted he was also the shortest president. Standing in bare feet at 5’ 4”, it’s possible that he was a little too small for his britches, and perhaps started the fashion trend.

 Question 5:

Which president put a little Dick in his mouth?

 Answer: Thomas Jefferson had a mockingbird named Dick that took food from Mr. President’s lips. (What did you think I meant, you pervs?!)

Other presidents born in February include Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809), William Harrison (February 9, 1773) & Ronald Reagan (February 6, 1911).

Which president was in office when you were born? What is your earliest memory involving a president?

Tweet this twit @rasjacobson

Something Wrong

Photo by Auntie P at flickr.com

Today, I did something wrong.

I ate a perfect pear in January.

In this part of the United States, January usually means down jackets, snow pants and polar fleece.

By now, we should have built a snow fort or two; our weekends should involve ski slopes and sleds and hot chocolate by blazing fires.

January is supposed to mean batting flakes out of my eyelashes as I go into the grocery store and scraping the ice off my windshield on my way out.

So while the earth is firm under my feet and breathing the air makes me cough, I can still see grass.

We are at a threshold, neither in nor out.

And on this winter morning, as my son slid out the back door wearing a new parka — so blue against the white sky – biting through that pear’s flesh tasted entirely wrong.

The sweet nectar was delicious but wrong.

I tried to be grateful for a summer reminder.

{In subtraction, they would call it the remainder.}

But I’m tired of these remnants, the what’s left sticky residue of summer on my fingers.

Let it be winter already: enough of this in-between.

Is anyone else wishing for full-blown winter?

Are There Alternatives to the College Experience?

Harvard

Image by Patricia Drury via Flickr

Over the last twenty years, societal attitudes have fostered an expectation that all students should go to college.

Currently, 71% of graduating high school students in the United States go directly from high school to college. And while financial aid has made college accessible for nearly everyone, not all students are ready for college (or the college experience).

Right now over 50% of incoming first-year students require some kind of remediation to help retroactively prepare them for college-level work.

So I am wondering: Are we putting too much emphasis on going to college? Is it possible that the pressure and increasing “requirement” that everyone go to college is an unjust expectation? Is it really necessary that everyone have a college degree? To get entry-level work? Or tradesman status? Because it seems like that’s where we are today. People are paying extraordinary amounts of money to attend college, only to find that upon graduation there are very few well-paying jobs.

Should everyone be expected go to college right out of high school? What else could kids who aren’t hard-wired to continue with formal education do rather than menial labor? Or do you believe that college is the only way to a better life?

I Could Not Celebrate: So Kill Me

I know that Osama bin Laden is dead.

I was awake the other night when the announcement was made.

I heard President Obama’s speech and I got this weird feeling that the speech had been written for years and, like a dark Mad Lib, there were just a few holes left for the particulars to be filled in: a few nouns, a few verbs.

How does this help?

Yesterday morning I woke up and I saw all kinds of disturbing images peppering the internet: People screaming at a Phillies game; folks gathered in the streets of Washington, DC and at Ground Zero dancing and singing; Photoshopped pictures of Osama’s head being held by Lady Liberty. Pithy signs.

I felt a little squirmy.

This past Sunday we gathered for YomHashoah, a day commemorating the six million Jews (and others) who were murdered in the Holocaust. Obviously, Osama bin Laden wasn’t a leader who shared our western worldview, I know that. I have a friend who said: “Celebration in the streets is really unimportant either way in the great scheme of things. There are a select few historical figures whose demise is truly wonderful news for the world, and this is one of them — a man whose very existence was a threat to civilization. Ding, dong, the mass-murderer is dead.”

I guess I’m uncomfortable celebrating another person’s murder.

Aren’t we taught not to be joyful when blood is shed?

Proverbs says:

“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice…” (24:17).

So what are we doing?

Really?

I wish that in his speech Obama had thought to caution Americans, to remind Americans that this is a time to act with discretion and with civility. Because the world is watching us. All this partying seems not to be very productive. More likely, it will simply add fuel to the fire. And it certainly will not do anything to end the “War on Terror” when many Americans look like college students on Spring Break: that is, students behaving badly.

I know that Al-Quaeda is responsible for the attacks on our own soil and so many other atrocities abroad. Still, all the screaming and celebration and nationalistic dogma is unsettling. I’ll leave you all with a quote from Mark Twain:

I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.

There is a difference about feeling quietly content about a desired result – the death of a person who openly declared war on another country and its people – and making a choice to bombard people with inflammatory images and mob scenes where groupthink is at play.

Let me be clear: I am not saying that Bin Laden was a good man. He was, in fact, and without a doubt a terrible, terrible person. He was like Hitler, okay. Evil. But the Torah teaches us that it is not right to celebrate when someone else is killed, even if they are our enemies. If you just celebrated Passover you should have read this in your Haggadah. As I understand it, this is why we take drops of wine out of our glasses as we read the ten plagues. This is why the angels were rebuked by G-d for celebrating too much as the Egyptians drowned when the Jews crossed the River and made it to the other side. We can be quietly pleased. We can be grateful. We can be respectful of all those who have died as a result of bin Laden’s horrible crimes against humanity. But “partying” when there have been murders committed, on any side, is just another evil.

For those of you who watch the dramatic series Dexter, you know that Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department who moonlights as a serial killer. All I know is that Dexter would have handled things a long time ago. Quietly. Discreetly. And he wouldn’t have been celebrating. There is a kind of sanctity to his bloody ritual.

To me, Monday was a little too much like Lord of the Flies.

I got lambasted on my Facebook page yesterday.

It’s okay. I can take it, and I know that others were a little uncomfortable with all the celebration today, too.

One last thing: Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violemce, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction… The chain reaction of evil-hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into a dark abyss of annihilation. -Strength To Love, 1963.

And this is just another of the zillions of reasons I love our county.

I can say my peace and have faith that no-one will haul me or my loved ones off in the morning to be tortured or raped or murdered.

Meanwhile how should teachers handle Osama bin Laden’s death? What kinds of statements would you want teachers to make or not make to their students?

Guest Post by Clay Morgan: Lessons From a Pop Teacher & a Few Zombies

Today’s guest blogger is Clay Morgan from EduClaytion.com. Besides being one of my very first cyber-friends in the bloggersphere, Clay is an amazing educator. He is a revolutionary. You know that game six-degrees of separation? Well, in the world of bloggers, it seems nearly everyone knows Clay. He gets around. Today he is sharing his thoughts about using Pop Culture in the classroom.

As a teacher, I’m often amazed at what pools of knowledge I must dive into in order to effectively communicate with my students.

Just the other day I was giving a lecture on Europe after World War II. Many of the students were fading and staring blankly in my general direction. I was about to explain one of the most important parts of the entire course and needed them alert and free of mental paralysis.

Good thing I know so much about zombies.

I’m not referring to the students although any teacher doing the job for a while knows what it’s like to stand before a room of pupils imitating the undead. I’m talking about the zombies of culture, specifically movies.

See, I needed to explain the crisis of Germany after Hitler’s death in 1945. Nations like America and England recognized the importance of a strong German nation, strength that was critical to European recovery. At the same time, someone had to keep an eye on nasty Joe Stalin and the Soviet Union.

But those pesky Russians and their nervous cohorts in France were sick of Germany. They despised the nation that had brought war on them twice in a quarter century. Tens of millions had already been killed. They thought letting those Germans come back again was just asking for global destruction. Plenty of folks wanted Germany turned into a parking lot surrounded by fields.

History as Yawnsville

So I’m teaching this anti-German plan named for U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau. Students must understand these events to get a grasp of the Cold War, our centerpiece for the rest of the semester. They didn’t seem too enthused. Then I remembered Zombieland.

Most of my students haven’t seen the greatest films ever made about WWII such as Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, or Life is Beautiful.

But they have seen Zombieland, a 2009 flick in which Jesse Eisenberg (the guy from Social Network) plays Columbus—a college student trying to survive in a zombie dominated world.

Columbus lives by about 30 rules, the most famous of which is probably #4: Double tap. You might not know what that means, but my college students do. It means shoot twice when the walking dead want you to join them. It means be certain that the monster you just defeated doesn’t get back up.

History that Pops

Do you see where I’m going with this?

My class was alive and kicking when I told them that the Morgenthau Plan was the 20th century attempt to double tap. Germany was the zombie. This analogy led to a great discussion on world power and how we should handle those responsible for human atrocities. My students will never forget the stakes of the post-war world with such a powerful visualization. Based on past experience, I have a feeling I’ll get an email in a couple years thanking me for a good class and joking about double tap.

Some education types say that movie references have no place in an academic setting. My question to them would be whether or not they want to connect with students or not. The past couple generations have been saturated in culture. It’s long been in our heads and now it’s in the palm of our hands.

Students live and breathe this stuff, so why not make it work for us? The best way to teach someone what they do not understand is by using what they do. You wouldn’t walk into a Chinese classroom and expect the students to understand your English. Same thing goes in Western classrooms. If you fail to speak their language, you will not be heard.

Applications for using pop culture in educational settings are only limited by our creativity. That’s why a bunch of us started PopTeacher.com, to pool together the best ideas out there so we’ll have a nice reservoir of ideas to dive into.

I expected opposition and ignorance from naysayers. I was even prepared to double tap their arguments. I did not expect such a fabulous response so quickly.

Clay Morgan, Superstar

PopTeacher.com has already been featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and I’m now being asked to speak at collegiate conferences about these ideas. That’s pretty funny because my pedagogical strategy consists of a) showing up for work and b) being myself.

The best response has come from dozens of teachers—grade school to higher ed—who are eager to share their experiences and ideas. More email comes in every week.

Teaching as a career is a grind that can wear us down. Then we risk getting tired and disconnecting. We lose effectiveness when that happens. Why not have some fun and dive into our bountiful culture? You never know where the interests of others will lead a discussion. You might even find a way to bring a group to life by talking about the undead.

So what do you think? Do you like the way Clay thinks? Would you want to be a student in his class? Have you ever been in a class where the teacher used Popular Culture references? What do you remember? Or do you think this kind of approach dumbs down our educational system?

Clay will field your comments today.

Lessons on Slowing Down

Nearly every parent I know has wrestled with deciding how important it is to have their children take Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Parents want their children to have all the opportunities they can get so that they can succeed and be happy in life. (If only happiness could be achieved that easily!) Meanwhile, kids feel the pressure and report feeling exhausted, unhappy and anxious.

People often ask me, as a person who has spent nearly twenty years in the classroom, what I think about AP classes. Should their child take this AP or that AP. And they are often surprised when I respond with a question: “Does your child love French? Because if he doesn’t love it, why would you want him to take the AP which is going to require so much of his time and energy?”

What people (and by people, I mean parents) do not seem to understand is that the demand of an AP class is designed to be similar to a 100-level college class. The difference is that, in high school, that class will likely meet every day – while in college, there is usually an “off-day” where students have time to read and generally better manage coursework.

In RACE TO NOWHERE, filmmakers Vicki Abeles and Jessica Congdon speak to educators, parents, tweens, and teens about the pressures they face academically and emotionally, and the physical toll these expectations exact. What results is a picture of a fractured educational system that pushes kids to become successful — but at a cost.

During the Post World War II Advanced Placement pilot program, AP courses were designed to draw the top students into a small class of other students who LOVED the material. In 1952, AP classes were designed to be small so teachers could move at an accelerated pace because of the students’ voracious love of the subject matter. The idea was excellent.

Of course, what has happened over time, is that parents have demanded that their children be allowed entry into AP classes because, these days, there is a warped race to create the best college application. (Believe me, parents want those AP’s on their college applications.) So AP class sizes have ballooned, and there is less one-on-one with teachers. And kids who had no business being in an AP in the first place struggle. Because AP classes are hard. Really hard. When the idea was created, I don’t think anyone from the Ford Foundation would have recommended that any one student take five AP courses.

I always tell parents that AP courses are not the be all/end all. When I say this, they look at me like I have five heads. Then they ignore me completely. (I’m telling you, parents don’t like to hear this.)

I truly believe that the point of education is for children to love to learn. When students are getting sick, when they arrive at college unprepared and unmotivated, there is a problem. Students who feel too much pressure to perform, burn out. Feeling the pressure to achieve, students self-medicate, turn to drugs and alcohol as an escape, and sometimes cheat to complete the ever mounting pile of assignments which need to finished – now! From my vantage point, I see kids who are over-scheduled and overtired.

School should be the place where our teens learn about balance. Schools that allow students to skip lunch periods so they can take five Advanced Placement courses have bought into the hype (or caved into parental pressure). And that is sad. Lunch should not be optional. Humans need to stop and eat healthy food (not a bag of chips) to provide their bodies with energy. I don’t care how many times a parent calls and says, “I want my son to take 5 APs.” Administrators need to grow a set and say, “I’m sorry, but we just don’t think that is beneficial to your child.” Students need help learning how to make healthy choices. Sometimes that means they need the school to shield them from demanding parents. And anyway, kids don’t have to be enrolled in a course to take AP tests: a really self-motivated kid who loves to learn should be able to access all the material he needs to prepare him/herself for any AP test.

For the love of Pete, I’m a Tiger Momma. I believe our children need to pick the things they do and do them well. But we need to help guide them to understand they cannot do everything. Our kids need to study hard – absolutely – but they also need to eat. They need to be able to go to the bathroom without worrying they are missing crucial information. And they need to be allowed to tune school out for a while so they can exercise and nurture friendships. They should not be running from this practice to that recital just be sitting on their asses in front of their computers every night.

When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to take regular English, AP English, or  Syracuse University Project Advance (SUPA English). At the time, SUPA was a college curriculum class taught by our own high school instructors who had been trained to teach the course. I worked my butt off in that class, and I did not always excel. I remember getting one paper back with a big fat “D” on it. (Maybe it was a “C,” but in my mind, I remember it as a “D.”) I also remember taking that paper to the library and weeping next to a huge potted plant. I had worked so hard on that paper. And English was the subject in which I was supposed to excel. I did not understand how I could have failed. My ego was battered, but my love for the subject matter made me want to figure things out. I busted my hump in that class. It was truly an amazing experience, and I believe it was the course that best prepared me for college.

When I think back on it, I cannot imagine how grueling it must put in that kind of work into every subject, every day. To me, taking all those APs seems utterly unnecessary. No one has ever asked me: “How many AP courses did you take in high school?” (Well, one pretentious fuck did, but it was after he had polished off an entire bottle of red wine himself.) In fact, many colleges don’t even accept AP credit anymore. It’s true.

So, my recommendation is this: If you’ve got a kid who is interested in some accelerated academic experience, have him/her enroll in a summer course at a real college. That looks good on college applications, too. And the credit might actually transfer somewhere, and it might help transition him or her to the realities of actual college life. Help your child live a balanced life. Have your kid go to summer camp, get a job, plant a garden, try something he/she has never done before. Not for the college application, just because.

In the United States, success has long meant making a lot of money. And the way to do this has traditionally meant attending a great college. But we need to redefine success for children. We have gotten caught up in this “race to nowhere,” as described by Abeles and Congdon. We need to teach our kids to do what they love – not pressure them into taking five AP classes because it will make them look good on paper.

In 2010, over 1.8 million students took over 3.2 million AP tests at about $87 bucks a pop. I’m no mathematician, but even I can tell that some people are taking more than one test. And I’d like to know five years down the line, where those kids are, and if they feel all that pain was worth it.

Check out this clip from the film below. Tell me you don’t want to see it!

The Giver: Thirteen Years Later

The Giver

Image via Wikipedia

It’s happening.

My son is reading a piece of literature that I used to teach.

He is reading Lois Lowry’s The Giver, the story of a young boy named Jonas living in a highly controlled community some time in the future. The novel fits into a larger genre of cautionary tales called “dystopian literature.” If a utopia is a society in which everything is perfect, a dystopia is the opposite: everything has gone wrong. The novel explores Jonas’s encounter with memories of “the past,” a time when people still had the freedom of choice.

When I first taught The Giver, the book had just come out, and it was controversial. In fact, it was banned in many schools for its disturbing content and ambiguous ending, but I taught The Giver to 9th graders in an independent school, so I had a lot of freedom. The Giver explores an age-old debate: Should government let people have freedom or seek to “protect them”? Should we value individuality or the greater good? Are emotional highs and lows better than the steady middle ground?

Fast forward. My son is now in 6th grade. Oh, he can handle the language and the concepts just fine. He is a voracious reader, and he seems to understand the book thus far. I have struggled over the last weeks because, really, I want him to discover the book himself. I want him to be stunned when he learns that the main character’s father has lied to him, that it is his father’s job to kill babies. To nurture them, yes, but also to decide which one’s live and which one’s die. Jonas watches his father administer a lethal injection to an otherwise healthy infant twin because the community has decided there can be no twins. And he learns that his father will have to “release” a baby that has been living with the family because he simply cannot sleep through the night without crying.

So I will be waiting for his response.

Because right now, he thinks The Community is a pretty good place to live.

No one has to worry about money, he insists. The climate is controlled. The birth-rate is controlled. Jobs are determined by Committee Members based on careful scrutiny of children and their personality traits. Kids who like to build become engineers and kids who like to play with children become Nurturers. There are Laborers and Birth Mothers. All kinds of jobs. My Monkey likes this kind of order. It seems logical, and it appeals to him.

“Sameness eliminated fighting and wars,” Monkey said matter-of-factly. “There is no more racism.”

“True, but people can’t see or appreciate colors. Everything is kind of beige, so they can’t appreciate hot pink flowers or the blue of an ocean,” I said. “And they don’t know snow or sunshine because of climate control,” I suggest.

He shrugged his shoulders at this. He isn’t far into the book yet to know what is coming.

While he was out today, I re-read The Giver from beginning to end. And I am struck by how Orwellian Lowry’s vision is. And I am amazed by all the ways the government has slowly intruded into our lives since 1993. Post September 11, 2001, video cameras are everywhere. Everywhere we go, we are being filmed. If we purchase something, our credit card transactions are tracked in a way they weren’t before. When we go to the airport, we are made to practically strip down – and we agree to do so, in the name of the greater good; we take off our belts and shoes and put our liquid products into baggies to be searched. We have caller identification so we no longer have to answer the phone. And every prank phone call can be traced back to the place of origin. The government is more involved in public education than ever, practically dictating to teachers the curriculum that needs to be taught. Textbooks, which have been approved and distributed throughout our country to our children, are filled with hundreds of factual and grammatical errors and people do not seem to be outraged. The latest version of Huckleberry Finn has had the “n” word removed. (Sure, you can still get the alternate version, but tens of thousands of students will never even know that another version exists because it is easier to edit the language of difference.) Journalism has become entertainment, and few people read primary sources. Most people just pop onto Blackberries and iPhones and read commentary (read: secondary sources or the ideas from “specialists” telling us what to think) about everything from the food we eat to the latest shooting. I see people forgetting how to think critically. I know people who do not know much about our Constitution. They could Google United States Constitution and read about it, but most folks would rather read Status Updates on Facebook or download the latest App designed to make us forget that our country is engaged in a war.

“There is no war in Jonas’s world,” Monkey said, his chin angled up defensively.

“True,” I said, thinking to myself but there is no love either.

And I wonder how many civil liberties my child might be willing to give up if the Government told him it was for the greater good.

Post Vay-Cay Gratitude

Colorado River Ride

Having just returned from a fabulous, week-long Tauck-Bridges Tour that started in Phoenix, Arizona, moved through a few of our country’s National Parks, and ended in Las Vegas, Nevada I am finding re-entry into everyday life a little rough as we were so very pampered. Where is my breakfast menu? You mean I have to start cooking again? Sigh. But now that the six loads of laundry are behind me, and I have a fully stocked refrigerator, I would like to take a moment to express a little gratitude because it is easy to get sucked back into the daily grind and forget how wonderful it was just 36 hours ago.

Here goes. Thank you to:

  1. AT&T: For your miserable coverage, which reminded me that I did, in fact, live without a Smart Phone until last December. Had my phone been working, I would not have been able to plug in to my family as fully as I did. Together, we swam, hiked, played chess, read books and chattered away. Not being plugged into technology also afforded me the opportunity to meet everyone on our tour. Yeah, I worked the bus.
  2. Suitcases with Good Zippers: I didn’t believe it was possible at the packing stage, but we were able to live completely comfortably – with everything we needed – for 8 full days – out of 3 medium-sized suitcases. And I still managed to bring 4 pairs of shoes and my favorite pair of cowboy boots. How can you go west without ‘em?
  3. The Grand Canyon: For reminding me how small I am. (Because sometimes I forget.)
  4. Horses & Mules:For being sure-footed where I would surely have fallen. Also for 2 hours of happy-happy, joy-joy bliss.

    Riding in Bryce Canyon

  5. Sunshine: For confirming what I had already suspected: that I am an exothermic lizard-girl who gets happier and happier the drier and hotter it gets. Thank you, sunshine, for showing up every morning around 4:30 am and sticking around – hot on my face – until around 7:30 pm. (Husband would like me to take a moment to thank Neutrogena sunscreen here.)

    Me, doing yoga on a very skinny ledge

  6. Headlamps: So that when day was done and sunset descended into the canyons so completely, we could still see the deer and fox around us. And when we turned them off, we could hear frogs and owls and bats.
  7. Children: Who despite their varied ages all managed to find something wonderful to appreciate about each other and enjoy the time they spent swimming, hiking, catching tadpoles, playing football, rooting on a park ranger as he wrastled a rattlesnake, even just hanging out together on the bus.
  8. Good guides: Thank you Southwest pilots for your sense of humor when the roller-coaster turbulence complete with big dips and swells was not appreciated by everyone. Thank you to William, our motor coach driver, for allowing my husband to truly relax and not have to fuss with maps or GPS systems or reservations (which, in turn, allowed me to completely relax because you know we might have killed each other if we were driving together, getting lost together, for 8 days). With William at the wheel, hubby’s most basic needs were met: he had a bottle of water every day; a rotating but reserved seat; he was able to tune into conversation when he wanted, tune out when he had had enough; and he could nap whenever he wanted, knowing we were still moving toward a destination. He never had to worry about checking in, checking out, dragging a bag, checking to make sure our flight was on time, or arranging for transfer to or from the airport; all of this was handled by our tour company. Thank you to Justin, our riverboat guide, who encouraged us to soak our feet in the Colorado River to understand what 47 degrees feels like. (Note: It’s damn cold.). Thank you Julie, our Tauck-Bridges guide, who worked her butt off to make sure the needs of 40 people were met. That woman managed to land us a king-sized bed and roll-away cot combo in the most remote of places. And thank you to Ver, our more than slightly abrasive Navajo guide who, at the time, pissed me off by snatching the camera out of my hands and screwing around with all the presets – but managed to capture one of the best photographs of the entire trip.

    In Anelope Slot Canyon, Page, AZ

  9. The Navajo Nation: Though skeptical when we met in a rundown gas station parking lot in Page, Arizona. The trip to Antelope Slot Canyon was truly a treat, and we never would have found that skinny little hidden canyon where the sun shone through the cracks and made purple and yellow and orange. Thank you for opening your land to us. I truly feel blessed to have been able to be there.
  10. Bryce National Park: For making me feel like I was on another planet, like there are a million other places on this big blue marble we call Earth that are filled with that kind of magic.
  11. The Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada: For reminding me that everything is better in moderation. That the 2-foot hot dog is a better idea than a reality; that sometimes it’s hard to tell by the height of a woman’s shoes if she is being stylish or if she is a prostitute; that I am not a drinker, a smoker, or a gambler and I prefer living in a place with windows and far fewer bells and whistles; that the shtick, the glitz, the glam – enjoyable as it is – is fake and after you’ve seen the MGM lions and ridden the roller coaster at New York, New York, and seen the fountain at the Bellagio and been to a show, there’s still no place like home.
  12. Family: That I am blessed to have one as good as I do. Because I am. Thank you for taking the trip that I have always wanted to take.

    My family at Zion National Park