Passion

So, I decided I would start blogging. I do like to write, but I’ve never been sure people would care what I have to say. Lately, I’ve felt the urge more than I have in the past.

One would imagine that my focus would be on photography. I can’t guarantee that. I think I just need to write about whatever moves me at the time. I will tell you for certain that this will be about photography or something related at least half the time, but even though photography is my passion, I don’t ONLY get passionate about photography.

So I may go on about other things. And you may or may not care. My only hope is that each time I put something on my blog that it will serve some purpose.

So here’s a list of possible topics you might read about on my blog:

Photography

Writing

Yearbooks

Graphic design

Travel is just one of my passions. I believe that passion is absolutely necessary in life! In Summer 2012, my son and I traveled to Greece. As many of you have heard, the economy there is very shaky. If you were to judge only by what you have seen on the evening news, you probably would choose not to go. Fortunately, I was able to see for myself that it's not all what is on the news.

Travel is just one of my passions. I believe that passion is absolutely necessary in life! In Summer 2012, my son and I traveled to Greece. As many of you have heard, the economy there is very shaky. If you were to judge only by what you have seen on the evening news, you probably would choose not to go. Fortunately, I was able to see for myself that it’s not all what is on the news.

Travels

Food and diet

People, especially teens

Who knows what else?

Today, passion is the topic.

Maybe because I’m a little antisocial, I tend to look at other people as they live their lives. I sort of watch people, like an outsider, to see how they behave. Sometimes I am surprised by people’s behavior, but usually it is easy to conclude two things:

The first thing is that you never know a person until you’ve walked a mile in his or her shoes. This is a theme in the book “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a favorite of mine. When somebody does something that I feel is just not right, I try to tell myself that I can’t understand him/her because I have not worn his or her shoes.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. People sometimes astound me. What comes to mind right now is a student who admitted to me in front of the class this year that he never learned the words to the Pledge of Allegiance because he just never cared to learn it. It’s hard for me to understand that somebody could literally stand up and mumble something every day for 13 years, but not care enough about what he was saying to make some effort to know the words.

My patriotism makes me literally stand at attention for the pledge every day, whether I am alone in my classroom, in the hallway, or in the front of the class. So strong is my desire to set an example and teach young people to appreciate what our country provides them, that I would have it no other way. And I do understand that these students have stood up and mumbled the Pledge every weekday of their lives, but could they not just every once in awhile pause to reflect on what the words really say, as they eye the remnants of their free or reduced breakfast that they picked up on the way to first period, and ready themselves to do as little as possible to take advantage of the free education that is provided them?

The second conclusion is that there are not enough people today who have passion.

After seeing these "Fish Doctor" places all over Greece, we decided to try our own fish pedicure in Heraklion. Yes, it's kind of gross when you think about it, but the little fish eat the dead skin off of your feet.

After seeing these “Fish Doctor” places all over Greece, we decided to try our own fish pedicure in Heraklion. Yes, it’s kind of gross when you think about it, but the little fish eat the dead skin off of your feet.

To me, passion is a strong feeling in your heart towards something. I easily have one main passion that anyone who knows me knows about. That is photography. I am also passionate about other aspects of what I do, basically the list of topics I might blog about. I LOVE PHOTOGRAPHY! I LOVE to TRAVEL! I LOVE EVERYTHING about YEARBOOK! I LOVE to COOK! I LOVE a well-designed magazine! I could literally shout these things from the rooftops. While skipping and singing.

When we go on our adventures, we often take tours. These students posing with my son (far left) in Mykonos were all part of an EF Tour to Greece (by land and by sea). Greece was my son's high school graduation trip in the summer of 2012.

When we go on our adventures, we often take tours. These students posing with my son (far left) in Mykonos were all part of an EF Tour to Greece (by land and by sea). Greece was my son’s high school graduation trip in the summer of 2012.

Reflecting on my life as it is today, I could not imagine my life without these things, even though sometimes these things drive me crazy. (Again, looking at the list, some of the things drive me crazier than others, teens being one of them).

I feel very strongly, passionately, that every person needs to have a passion. What is life without passion?

A few years ago, a colleague and I taught the same subject across the hall from each other. Often, a student would fail her class and then, due to the way the schedule was set up, end up in my class for a second go at earning the credit. While we ate lunch, we often discussed these students. They were simply not passionate about school or English class, but almost all of them were passionate about something. We determined that if we were able to connect with these students through their passion, then they were more likely to pass our classes, hopefully the first time. I remember so many students who had a passion for music, and quite a few, boys especially, who were passionate about cars and fishing.

It was always toughest when there was a challenging student who seemed to have no passion. I remember one of these, a young man. He just seemed so slimy. He was in my class after failing across the hall due to turning in a plagiarized research paper. Instead of learning his lesson, he turned in a plagiarized paper in my class as well. From what I could understand, there was no underlying issue at home to cause this young man to behave in such a sneaky way. In fact, I think his mother might have been a teacher. It was impossible for us to wear his shoes and understand his behavior towards our class and subject.

It was down the hall in a different classroom that I saw this student in a new light. Somehow our principal was able to get Bo Diddley (the REAL Bo Diddley) to come visit our school. As scores of band students assembled in the bandroom to listen to him talk, Diddley first explained what he felt “real music” was as he showed off his handmade guitars. Then Diddley began to jam, and my student, who would not show an inch of personality or passion in my class, got up and joined in! Now granted, there were two who started jammin’ with Diddley, so I don’t know if he would have had the courage to get up there alone. Still, to join such a legend in an impromptu jam session is something that takes a lot of nerve.

I’m sure that student did not earn a point more than was needed to pass my class, but I had a new respect for him once I understood his passion. Years later I ran into him on the Ocala Square on a Friday night. Turns out he was playing at one of the clubs and he invited me to see him. I went in and watched a set. I have long forgotten what instruments he played, but I hope that music is still a part of his life.

And I sincerely hope that any of you out there who have not found or lost your passion in life, please go find it and pursue it. Passion is a requirement in order to lead a happy life.

This is the Greek island of Santorini, which was created by a volcano. We did a hike on the other side of the island on black volcanic rock. Very cool. See the shadow on the rocks? We were actually on that ride at the time, on our way back down to the tender boats.

This is the Greek island of Santorini, which was created by a volcano. We did a hike on the other side of the island on black volcanic rock. Very cool. See the shadow on the rocks? We were actually on that ride at the time, on our way back down to the tender boats.

Greek pottery, very detailed and gorgeous!

Greek pottery, very detailed and gorgeous!

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Why I Yearbook

As most of you know, I’m a yearbook adviser. It’s definitely not the easiest job in the world. There are always going to be two main worries: 1) that you’ll never be able to pay the bill; and 2) that nobody will like the yearbook (and nobody will buy it, and you won’t be able to pay the bill). Certainly the yearbook has become less of a priority for many students, even as my journalism students strive to make a product that everyone should cherish.

A couple of months ago, Herff Jones sent out information about a contest called Power of a Yearbook. They were seeking schools that had done a community service page and were willing to share the page. A panel of judges would evaluate the entries and the winning school would be announced in May.

I never did hear anything about who won the contest (apparently not us), but I saw some really great entries. The one that I was most drawn to, because of the emotion that it evoked, was one about the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. The school that submitted it was an Aurora school, so the story was written on a very personal level.

I came across this picture recently of my first yearbook editor, Rikki, and the cover of my first yearbook. This photo was probably taken around October of 1998.

I came across this picture recently of my first yearbook editor, Rikki, and the cover of my first yearbook. This photo was probably taken around October of 1998.

It had been a long time since a yearbook had given me a lump in my throat. Prior to seeing that Aurora page, it had been years. I had attended a workshop where a young man was talking about how the yearbook was a history book. As he held the yearbook from the Manzanar Japanese internment camp, he went on to explain how important it had been that those young people had been permitted to document their world. His voice cracked as her showed us his aunt’s photo in those pages.

Tonight (June 8, 2013), I had the opportunity to see how a yearbook that my students and I produced had made a difference in someone’s life.

In my 18 years of teaching, I would estimate by now I have taught at least 2,000 students. Some I will never forget because they were just that good. (Others I can’t block out because they were just that bad, but it’s true that times heals all wounds so I rarely dwell on these). In all seriousness, a student does not have to be super special to be memorable, and some relatively average students tend to be the ones who make a lasting impression.

But tonight belonged to Eva Bellon, a 2004 DHS grad who spent just one year, her senior year, in my journalism class and made a lasting impression for several reasons. First, she was the niece of one of my best friends, Lisa. Second, she was great at selling ads (a big plus). And third, because she was just a great young lady all around, academically focused and super-involved in school.

When Eva Bellon told you she was going to do something, she was going to do it. She told her teachers she was going to become a doctor. And here I was tonight, at a party with her huge family, celebrating her degree in medicine. As if it was not enough just to succeed against the odds to complete med school, Eva had also survived a near death experience in her first year. Her tenacity is commendable.

It is tough to describe how proud of her I am. I know I had very little to do with her success, but I still am over the moon that she was able to succeed at such a huge challenge and under adverse circumstances. At the start of the party tonight, her mom Jeanie told a sweet story about a 4th of July long ago and how Eva had always cared for others. And then Eva’s grandmother, Lela Mae Evers, got up and spoke.

Lela Mae Evers has always loved to tell stories. And for as long as I have known her (since the 1980s), I have always loved to hear these stories. Dunnellon has a rich history, and I absolutely love to hear about that history. Tonight I was treated to stories about how her son and his friend had gone to dig for old bottles in the woods and had found old tokens that had been used for money in the Boomtown Days of Dunnellon. The boys thought they had discovered gold treasure. She also told me about how she has become a cheerleader along with a handful of other grads from the 1940s at the annual “old school” reunion in Dunnellon. Back in the 40s, spirited Dunnellon students cheered on a 6 man football team. They remembered all the old fights songs.

Although she is getting older, Lela Mae Evers is a self proclaimed storyteller, but she told me tonight that I’m the one who really knows how to put things down on paper. And this is where the story involves the 2005 Dunnellon High School yearbook.

There was not any real reason we decided to call the 2005 yearbook “Reflections of the Past, Faces of the Future” except that we wanted to have this really cool mirror that reflected the “20” into an “05” and we just could not resist the fact that when you looked straight into the mirror you would see yourself, the “face of the future.”

When I saw that Evers had the 2005 yearbook at Eva’s party, I was perplexed at first because Eva had graduated in 2004. Then I remembered that because of the theme we had done a “past” section in that book where we had created a section on Dunnellon history, decade-by-decade. Although my students quickly tired of researching, I had a really great time researching for the history section, and I solicited information from Dunnellon old-timers. Evers was the first to respond, providing me with pictures, stories and other valuable items.

How about that? We had created a 16-page section of a yearbook with the help of Lela Mae Evers, about 60 years after Evers had graduated from Dunnellon, and she was so proud of it that she had brought it to her granddaughter’s graduation party. What’s more, she had bookmarked the pages where she had contributed. And what made that yearbook even more valuable was that Eva was in that yearbook too, on the spring page because she had been named prom queen the spring before, and Evers’ grandson was also in the book, selling FFA peanuts at a football game. Evers had these pages marked as well. We had invited the alumni to meet us and tell their stories at the Homecoming football game that fall, and Evers had her name tag we had made her tucked into the book as well.

Tonight reaffirmed my purpose. As hard as it is to raise the money every year, we have to keep on striving to produce a yearbook that someday will put that lump in someone’s throat. As I reflect on the book we did this year, I can think of a few stories that can evoke that sort of emotion. As we go forward, I hope that we continue to seek out and record more stories that make our yearbook priceless!