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31 July 2011

A tale of two "cathedrals"

Can you tell which of these is a synagogue and which is a cathedral? Look closely ...

Worship space "A" 


Worship space "B" 

Figure it out yet? It's pretty tough! Savannah is home to one of three gothic synagogues in the country, and it is pretty awesome. If you didn't know better, you would swear you are in a cathedral (much like St. John the Baptist in Savannah). It's pretty stunning. 

If you haven't guessed yet, "A" is indeed a synagogue and "B" is  St. John the Baptist Cathedral, only a few short blocks from each other. Here is some more of the synagogue:

And a few more of St. John's:

Savannah Memories

I didn't take nearly as many pics in Savannah as I have in the past; I think we were more focused on eating great food, drinking tasty cocktails, and relaxing than taking pictures. And, when you consider that I've been to Savannah many times and have MANY pictures in my files, more pictures aren't really needed. But, of course, we visited Bonaventure Cemetery (one of my all-time favorite places to visit and photograph) and I took quite a few pictures there. 

The humidity fogged up my camera lens when we first got out of the car,
which made for a cool photo. 

Kiki knows of my Sago Palm love. 

Is this not a spooky little gravesite? 

I made a friend in the cemetery. But he wouldn't sit still long enough for me to pull off his tale. 

The creepiness of this trumps the "Gracie Watson" site, does it not?

30 July 2011

My newest love

(aka My newest Time Suck)

A tweep (I'm sorry I forgot who it was!) recently turned me on to the A-MAZING site. If you haven't heard of it, Pinterest is essentially a digital corkboard to "pin" things up that you find in your hours on the web. You can categorize them and keep them for later. You can share with other people and also be inspired by the things that they are finding. It is very cool. I've got boards for photography inspirations, teacher resources, food and recipes ... the possibilities are endless.

It's pretty fantastic. You should try it. Because I said so. :)

Yet another extended summer absence ...

I guess it's a good thing that I'm not blogging as frequently this summer. I think that means I'm spending more time DOING things (mainly things AWAY from the computer). That's a good thing, right? Granted, I've spent plenty of one-on-one time with my trusty MacBook, but the majority of that has been due to dissertation work (which, I am happy to say, is actually being worked on!).

Instead of spending quality time with my computer, I've been spending more time with people and places that I love. I've had some great time with my girlfriends and their adorable children. I had a wonderful weekend in Savannah (my all-time favorite place on earth). I've visited the families up north. I've been working out at the gym (which I guess counts as "me" as a person I love). I've also worked some summer camps which allowed me the opportunity to meet some of my new 6th graders.

All in all, it's been a pretty great summer. Aside from turning (gulp) 31 (more to come about that later), I can't really complain.

How has your summer been?

16 July 2011

The end of an era

(Spoiler Alert!)

On Friday morning at midnight, The Boy and I headed over to our local indy theater to watch the last installment of Harry Potter. The experience was a bit more intense and overwhelming than I expected to be which is why I haven't commented on it yet.

I knew going in that I would be emotional at the end. After all, I have spent almost half of my life with these characters. The first books came out in '97, and I remember buying books for myself and my young nephew.  I recall waiting eagerly for each book to be released (which always either coincided with my birthday in July or the winter holidays) and then subsequently devouring it within days. Once the movies began being released, seeing them on opening night (often times at midnight) was a tradition. I have invested a lot of time and energy with these characters, and, while they have always been younger than me, I have grown up with them in many ways. I think of them as my family. I recognize that each of them is flawed, but their flaws are overshadowed by their strengths and good hearts. Even the "bad" guys -- Snape, Bellatrix, Malfoy -- are a part of that family. It's a bit like that crazy cousin who is always getting into trouble, but they are still family. I love them just the same. I was sad when the books ended, and I was prepared to be sad when the movie ended. But I wasn't prepared for how much the movie affected me.

I was in tears within the first ten minutes of the movie. I appreciated how the movie began with no credits, but that also thrust me right back into the action with no preparation. When I watched the students and staff of Hogwarts preparing the castle for an attack, I felt like me heart was breaking just a little. It hurt to see such a safe space at risk of ruin. This was, after all, the only place where Harry has ever felt safe. This was the place which inspired such awe and wonder when I first encountered in it 14 years ago when I read Book 1. This is a place where amazing things happen. At risk of being cliched and obvious, it was magical. Seeing it go into "lock-down" was scary and jarring. While many of the other books have had moments which revealed a loss of innocence for some of the characters, seeing Hogwarts under attack was the defining moment for these characters; their innocence has been completely lost. Hogwarts, their safe haven, is being destroyed, and their lives will never be the same.

The tears rolled down my face regularly throughout the film. When Harry sees into Snape's memories and the audience sees first-hand the turmoil and heartbreak that Snape experiences, the tears returned. I've never been on the "Snape" bandwagon even though I know that deep down he is a "good" guy. But watching his sacrifice and his hidden protection and defense of Harry was an wonderfully emotional moment in the film.

While I understand that the film had to show the "19 years later" bit because the book has it, I think that the film would have been better without it. If the film had closed with Harry, Ron, and Hermione standing on the bridge, hand-in-hand, after the battle, it would have been more effective. The simplicity of this scene was perfect. The three youngsters had come full circle after having been to hell and back. Again, the tears rolled down my cheeks.

Even after the movie ended, my feelings were still raw. I woke up on Friday morning (a short 5 hours later) with eyes still puffy from crying. I felt silly for being so emotionally reactive to just a movie, but, in a reality, it wasn't "just a movie." It was an ending. There is no more to come. No more to look forward to. Of course I can always revisit the movies and books, but the first time, the magical wonder of the first viewing and reading, can never be replicated. It's over. These characters, these places, the spells and magic, will no longer be an active part of my life; they will be part of my memories. Wonderful memories, but memories nonetheless.

Of course, as a teacher, all this makes me think of my students and their reading experiences. I always want my students to love reading and to fully engage with books on a level which evokes an emotional and (sometimes) physical response. Literature is only successful when the readers feel connected with the characters and the settings and the plots. Without that connection, literature falls flat. I've rarely had such a strong emotional connection to a series, and, while Friday was emotionally draining for me, I'm glad I had the experience. It has been wonderful watching Harry and Ron and Hermione grow. Seeing Neville blossom into a strong, assertive young man was wonderful. Malfoy's straightforward "evil" slowly developed into a conflicted conscience which made him more real and believable. Even the maturation of the Weasley twins was a fantastic journey to watch. I can only hope that my students find such satisfaction and connection in their own reading.

But for now, thank you to Harry and Hermione and Ron and Neville and Ginny and Luna and everyone else for filling the last 14 years of my life with magic and wonder and adventure and joy.

11 July 2011

Scrapbooks are so 1986

If you haven't used Blurb to create photo books, you really need to. They are a fantastic site that allows a lot of customization for your projects. I use them every time I go on a major trip or adventure. I simply organize my photos into the layout and design that I want and then have them published in book form. It's so much nicer having these books on the coffee table instead of awkward and messy scrapbooks. This is the one that I just finished ordering after The Boy's 10-month stint in NOLA. I can't wait to get it!

The Great Trip North - New York

The view from Mom and Dad's. The farmer had just started bailing the hay. One of my favorite sights.

Sunset over the grasses. 

The sky was AMAZING that night. 


Evening mist in the valley 

Charlotte. Or her cousin. Not sure. 

Mom's birthday bouquet from my sister. 

Gettin' a snack.

The baby bluebirds in Mom and Dad's back yard. 

Workin' hard. 

A little slice of rural heaven.

We went hiking with my nieces at Taughannock (which is the best park in the NYS system). 


Home. When I die, spread my ashes here, please. 

Pure beauty. 

And the lakes aren't half bad either. :)

Kyra and Leah. 

Some weird bark-like moth that was hanging out in the garage. 

A few of my most favorite people: My mom, Aunt Gladys, Aunt Jeanne, and Aunt Cindy. :)

Lean back, lean back. :) This old leaning barn has been like this since I was a kid. And I hope it stays that way for a long time to come. 


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