Ten manly things every guy should know how to do:

Hippie Cahier:

Since I read this piece at Brown Road Chronicles, I have been mentally scoring the men in my life. There was one perfect score and one 80 %, possibly a 90 %, but only if crying at the ending of Gran Torino counts. I will be using it for a screening tool going forward.

Originally posted on The Brown Road Chronicles:

Sure, this sort of list has been hashed out a million times on internet sites, in Men’s magazines and over drinks at a bar. But here’s my take on it (in no particular order):

1. Wash your own laundry:

Wash it, dry it, fold it, maybe even hang some of it up to dry so it doesn’t shrink. You don’t really need to sort it all out, that’s one of those female “myths” that’s been perpetuated for eternity. Well, except for anything red… sort that shit out or you’ll have a real problem with pink underwear. While you’re at it, learn to operate an iron. Then go wash a bunch of dishes. You might get laid.

2. Tie a tie:

I know, I know… I can already hear you saying “I don’t ever wear a tie, why should I need to know how to tie one?” Well, because you should…

View original 851 more words

The diamante final exam: a lesson worth remembering

I taught middle school early in my career, at the beginning of the movement to “mainstream” students receiving special education services, moving them from a self-contained classroom environment into the general classroom population.

Jeff was a sixth grader in one of the classes I team-taught with the Special Ed department chair.  Try as we might, we couldn’t get Jeff to participate in class assignments.  We couldn’t get him to pick up a pencil, much less the curriculum-required blue or black ink pen.

We couldn’t get him to dictate a story or a response to a question.  We tried modification after modification, parent conferences, team conferences.

We worked hard to get a computer so that he could use a word processor. Even bribery (yes, it’s in the teacher bag-o’-tricks).  Nothing.

He wasn’t a bad student, or a bad kid. He just didn’t want to do anything – seemingly because we wanted him to.  We sensed he was probably fairly bright, but we were locked into a “Do it. / I Won’t” cycle that had probably been a pattern for him for years. (Apparently there had been a BIG power struggle – not just for Jeff but also for many of his peers  — with their fifth grade teacher over writing in cursive. )

We could tell by watching him that he was taking things in and had some thoughts about it all.  He just was not going to share and we couldn’t find a way to make it worth his while to do so.

I  experienced many moments of feeling like an abject failure, and if it hadn’t been for the highly skilled, seasoned professional with whom I worked, I might have arrived at that conclusion early on and given up on both Jeff and  on myself.

Although she felt the same frustration, my co-teacher had been through many similar challenges, so we didn’t give up on him. We did come to accept that we weren’t going to get much, if anything from him, but still we tried, hoping that some day something would click, even if we weren’t there when it happened.

Traditional diamante template from www.readwritethink.org

The final unit of the year included figurative writing and formulaic poetry forms.  There had also been a year-long cross-curricular initiative in learning the eight basic parts of speech.

I combined these in one “take home” element of the final exam:  students were to prepare a self-descriptive “diamante,”  a form poem so named for its diamond shape.

For assessment purposes, the final exam diamante differed from the traditional form in that it had to include a metaphor, a simile, three verbs, and a summarizing statement of fact, all describing the writer.  To achieve the diamond shape, the diamante began with the writer’s first name on line one and ended with the writer’s last name on the final line.

Exam day came, and Jeff showed up without a pen or pencil, much less a diamante.  He sat through the entire session with the Scantron (“the bubble sheet”) in front of him.  I don’t recall whether he even bothered to write his name.

He turned in a sheet with a few random bubbles filled in, left the room, and that was the end of our time together.  There wasn’t much for my co-teacher and me to do or say about it. That was that.

Then, at the end of the day, I found a crumpled up piece of paper tossed on my desk at the back of the room.  I opened it to find this diamante, which I have kept ever since in a little frame on whatever desk where I find myself.

Although I’ve altered the names for privacy’s sake, it is written in ink and was signed…in cursive. . . by someone who taught me a lesson worth remembering:

You never really know what’s going on with a person and people will surprise you in the nicest ways.



Diamante links:

Read. Write. Think. (An interactive diamante generator).

University of Oregon


A traditional diamante begins and ends with nouns that are opposites.  The poem can be used in two ways, either comparing and contrasting two different subjects, or naming synonyms and antonyms for another subject.

The subject is named in one word in the first line. The second line consists of two adjectives describing the subject, and the third line contains three verbs ending in the suffix -ing which are related to the subject. A fourth line then has four nouns, again related to the subject, but only the first two words are related the first subject. The other two words describe the opposite subject the lines then are put in reverse, leading to and relating to either a second subject or a synonym for the first.


Simple pleasure.

I bought sunflowers because . . .

. . . it was my first chance this summer to visit my favorite produce stand.

. . . the dentist said “No cavities.”

. . . I ran into an old friend and got caught up on good news.

. . . sunflowers have fewer calories than chocolate. I hope.

. . . it was Friday.sunflowers

. . . they made an elegant centerpiece for a summer dinner party.

. . . a sunflower friend has been on my mind.

. . . life isn’t always sunny, but sunflowers usually are.

. . . they were less expensive than the city street vendor’s and guaranteed local grown.

. . . they make me smile.

Is there something you treat yourself to as a simple pleasure?  What makes you smile?


The Be The Boss Of Me poll is open until midnight Sunday.  Click here to vote (or to vote again).

I’m not really an advertising genius.

The other day  I was listening to Bloomberg radio when an advertisement recaptured my attention, which had drifted off to plans of s’mores and fireworks and a long-overdue period of lolly-gagging and dilly-dallying.

What caught my ear was the language of the ad. Roughly translated, the message was that this is a company you can trust because, “Hey, you might not have a clue who we are, but at least we’re not in a heap of financial trouble like our competitors. So,  there’s that.”

I found this approach somewhat refreshing and honest. I wish I could recall the company name, which is less a reflection of the ad’s effectiveness than it is  further evidence of the cognitive decline that has accompanied my own aging process.

Whatever the company’s name, the commercial concluded with the company slogan, or “tag line”: Acme Corporation: Solvent.

This reminded me of another refreshingly honest and not-understated slogan that I see all the time.

There are worse places you could live.

My commute crosses through Prince George’s County, Maryland into the District of Columbia and back again each day.  The welcome sign in either direction reads something like, “Welcome to Prince George’s County: A Livable Community.” 

Whenever I notice the signs, I read the message as “Meh.::shoulder shrug:: It’s livable.”

It makes me laugh.

As with Acme Corporation’s soft-sell on the virtue of solvency, Prince George’s County’s self-promotion seems to be a matter-of-fact acknowledgement that many drivers passing through are aware that the district has suffered some difficult times  since the departure of one of its most notable citizens.

Meh. It's livable. (Photo: collegepark.patch.com).

Meh. It’s livable. (Photo: collegepark.patch.com).

Some might be inclined to read “A Livable Community” with the subtext of “Sure, our last county executive is in prison for corruption, but that’s only because his wife was found stuffing the cash in her bra when the officers arrived. It was simply a matter of poor timing — she hadn’t had a chance to convert it to saline in the time-honored tradition of other political wives.

On the bright side, we’re not Detroit.”

A new trend.

Maybe  this is a new, pre-apocalyptic trend: a shift away from superlatives such as best, biggest, ultimate, ultra-, possibly influenced by the cynical irony and ennui of a hipster generation consumer. A return to a simpler, less pretentious branding.

Prince George’s County is, in fact, livable.

It has essentially the same  access to oxygen and other life-sustaining elements as surrounding counties and Washington DC. No further promises implied, no promises broken. Simple, effective, and most of all, true.  It doesn’t need to pretend to be the best place to live, just, well . . . livable.

I think I’m on board with this new trend of choosing one truth about your product or service, all the better if it’s something less true about your competitors, however miniscule, and making that your brand.

I’d like to pitch a few ideas I’ve been tossing around. Feel free to add your own . . .

Spirit Airlines: It’s a plane.

Whitman’s Sampler: Chocolate.

Shell Oil: Environmental catastrophe-free. So far. Recently. (Revised – thanks Linda.)

Sony: We used to be great.

Fiat: It’s Italian.

Hoover’s: We suck.



FedEx: Shorter lines than the post office.

Crossroads Diner: No confirmed reports of botchelism.

House of Pain Tattoo Parlor: We own a dictionary.

Joe’s Pizza: Two out of five Yelp reviewers didn’t hate it.

Boone’s Farm:  Gets the job done.

Postcard from the real world

This weekend  I decided to put aside deadlines and to-do lists, to take a break from the real world and spend some time in . . . well, the real world.

The weather was beautiful. I wish you were here.

I thought about how you would use your words to describe the beauty of the day and the freedom of the experience in poetry and prose, or how your cameras would capture better images.

I thought about telling you of this place , which I am not alone in thinking of as “Mayberry,” where the people are friendly, the children are always outside playing — riding bikes or skateboards, sailing, swimming, practicing lacrosse or basketball — and how even the teenagers politely wave and say “hello;” how the dogs are fat and happy, as dogs should be, too content to run away, too secure to feel threatened by strangers; how the local policeman sits watching to make sure things stay as they should be  and how he too smiles and waves, unless you’re breaking the speed limit.

I thought about how I never got around to writing about the lemonade stand, and how eagerly I await its next impromptu appearance to see how its sun-kissed, freckle-faced, giggly entrepreneurs have grown since last fall.

I thought about describing the landmarks — the Thomas Point Lighthouse and the U.S. Naval Academy and upcoming Commissioning Week, or telling you about the local competition between sailboaters and powerboaters out there on the open water.

I thought about how some of you would understand the experience of having forgotten how steep a certain grade is or how much farther 10 miles is to pedal  after a long winter indoors, but the feeling of wind and fresh air and sunshine is more than worth the achy muscles.

And I thought about the amusing theories you might have about the fat goose sunning itself on the pier and whether figgy pudding would figure into any of your theories.

Upon closer inspection, it appears s/he was armed and dangerous. I'm lucky to be alive to write this.

Upon closer inspection, it appears s/he was armed and dangerous. I’m lucky to be alive to write this.

But mostly I just  thought . . . about things like dandelions and buttercups, driftwood and rock walls, bonfires and magnolia trees, and fat, sunbathing geese . I breathed fresh air and I took pictures and soaked in enough sunshine to get myself through what threatens to be a rainy week, back in that other so-called  real world.

Wherever you are, I hope your weather is beautiful and your real world is as pleasant as a Saturday bike ride  in April.