Category Archives: Inspiration

Censoring Enlightenment

Oftentimes when reading To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee in the classroom, students giggle when stumbling upon the first “inappropriate” word.

By ages 10 and 11 nowadays, students have heard and said all of those words at some point. In fact, a lot of those kids have heard their parents shouting those words while driving through morning and afternoon traffic.

Cropic Share File
Should we censor or just ban it?

Because I teach in Miami, many of the students volunteer during class discussions that their parents say very colorful words in a couple different languages.

Just a side note:  If you’ve ever had the pleasure of driving in Miami, you would probably say them too. 

So, when students giggle about those words, it’s because for one, they’re in school and for another they know it’s wrong to say them. Their parents (guardians) and teachers have told them this.

Enlighten Us

For the most part, when students’ eyes run across the “N-word,” they stop, stutter, and say “N-word” or skip to the next word. Some students say the word and just keep going.

It’s not too far into the book that we have a Socratic Circle on the topic of censorship.

It gives them a sense of enlightenment to be given the opportunity to take control of their education and decide what they think is right or wrong.

The students boldly talk about the importance of using those words in this book and to remember how terrible the word really is. These young students, who hear all types of inappropriate words on YouTube and when they’re playing video games, speak about censorship intelligently and almost sound like little parents.

Interfering

I, as their teacher, never interfere with their viewpoints. I only offer questions about it.

Why do you think people would want to censor “inappropriate” language from books?

Who decides what’s “appropriate” or “inappropriate” for whom?

Why do we feel the need to censor anything, in any type of media?

These questions are difficult to answer. We adults know that we go to great lengths to protect our children from any number of situations let alone what may or may not be “inappropriate” language in a book. What about the content of the book itself?

Banned Books Week ended already, but there are other issues involving the internet that leave us all stumped in one way or another, especially those with children or those who are teaching children.

How do we solve these issues? Do we look to our history of banning books and censoring art to guide us into the future?

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/enlighten/”>Enlighten</a&gt;

 

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Praying to the Electricity God: Irma leaves us on our knees.

Writing was only used to text or post for help. We had to preserve electricity.

Funny how we call it power.

Well, we lost power. By that I mean, the kind we depend on for everything lately, even our brains. We are so accustomed to Googling everything that we use, essentially using electricity inadvertently instead of our brains.

Needless to say, everything slowed down after Irma ripped electricity from us.

And, all I have to say about it is a lot.

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Irma takes our trees at their roots and eliminates our electricity.

After the storm: Irma ripped away our electricity.

If you’ve never been to Miami during a humid hot summer day–and I don’t mean at the beach–then don’t roll your eyes when I repeat what everyone is complaining about. One day without electricity left us baking inside our houses, even with the windows open. By day three, my daughter slept on the tile floor while my husband fanned her with my son’s science board.

I kept getting up and putting the pillow under her head, but she still had bumps from hitting it against the floor.

I thought I could deal with it, but the hurricanes before Irma left us with somewhat of a breeze during the long days of no electricity. Irma left Miami and the Keys and other parts of Florida with not even a small breeze to tease us enough for a hint of hope.

Dead heat sucked away all of our energy.
So that brain power, which needed to be harnessed and used for the lack of power we have become so reliant on, that was useless except for reading books and minimal movement.

Homegoing
Homegoing kept me going.

I picked up Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and read it finally. I’d been pushing it to the side in the name of parenthood, work, cleaning, sleep, and even writing. The hellish descriptions of enslavement intertwined with the lyrical tone of love and resilience kept me more than thankful for what we had despite the extreme discomfort during the days without electricity. I also relearned history and was continually reminded of how lucky and spoiled we are.

Incredible people emerge when circumstances leave us vulnerable.

Let’s be realistic. There were the crazy creeps who crawled out of the woodwork and thought it was the Walking Dead come to life, so they hoarded all the gas to power their pickup trucks and generators. But, for every single creep, there were multiple kind-hearted humanitarians who came to the rescue for the elderly and all of us who were so anxious and tired.

We picked up tree branches and cut trees from our fences, mailboxes, and cars.

Especially those with electricity, neighbors and friends asked each other if anyone needed help: a charger, a warm shower, a place to breathe fresh air.

Then there were those we couldn’t even contact.

Phone service was terrible.

Landlines didn’t even work, let alone wireless phone service. Most of the first three days after Irma hit, texts wouldn’t go through and phone calls lasted maybe 10 seconds if you were lucky to get a signal at all.

We had to walk or drive to hospitals or grocery stores that were able to open just to try to contact relatives. It wasn’t just the heat that kept me from sleeping for five days. I would wake up drinking in hot air after passing out from lack of sleep. Panic attacks plagued me after 12 and sometimes 24 hours without a word from my parents.

Irma took my parents’ home.

My parents lost their dream home in Plantation Key. They are the hardest working people I know. My father’s a 74-year-old war veteran, who was awarded a bronze medal for his service, never shed a tear over it; but he was heartbroken. He quietly stood tall and accepted his loss as my mother cried then grew strong with her own acceptance.

Slowly their hearts were mended when the police officers and fire rescue in Miami-Dade and the Keys checked on them. Most of their neighbors also came to their rescue, even locals who didn’t have any idea who they were responded to my pleas for help on social media and checked on them.

Police
Police officers all over Florida are helping and keeping us safe. If you look at the top right of the photo, you can see that sometimes we had one dot of service from AT&T.

They have another home in the Keys where they took shelter and remained without electricity, cleaning up debris and flooded areas while enduring this damned heat. Those beautiful police officers and fire rescue workers got the word out and managed to restore their electricity yesterday.

Electricity Gods

When our electricity finally blipped on, everyone in our entire neighborhood, windows open, cheered. My mind flashed to us with spears in hand dancing in honor of the electricity gods. My children panted, “I will never take it for granted again.”

I joked that we now worshipped the electricity gods. Before this one, our children just took it for granted. Now they understood adults spouting words such as “spoiled” and “lazy” as they relentlessly played with their electronics and inhaled fresh, cool air.

The only good think Irma gave us was a deep appreciation for everything she took away from us.

This is what my daughter played on the piano after we were blessed with electricity.

Here’s a link for those who need help: The Miami Herald.

 

A Carousel of Spanish

One of the beauties of being married to a Hispanic man is that I’ve gotten to learn about his culture through his eyes.

I had grown up in Miami before I met him so Spanish was all around me. Many of my friends were Cuban, but they wanted to be “American” and most of them were already losing their handle on their language, creating what we know now as Spanglish.

He, on the other hand, came from Venezuela, which at the time was nothing like what you see on the news now, but there was enough violence that moving to the United States was a dream come true for his family who had seen victims of shootings on the street and who had been robbed of their gifts for Christmas.

His father is a journalist and was offered a job with a major news organization so they took the opportunity and ended up in New York.

I met him after he’d moved to Miami because his father was working at El Nuevo Herald by then.

And, after all of the years of living in Miami, studying Spanish and hearing Spanish, I couldn’t speak it.

But, he introduced me to the Telenovela: A wickedly colorful version of what we “Americans” call Soap Operas.

I had seen my friend’s grandparents watching them but the crying and screaming freaked me out.

Until he showed me “Carrusel de Ninos,” a telenovela about children who attend school and their relationships with each other. It was the children’s carousel.

It was simple enough that I could understand what was happening and hear the Spanish language delivered by children.

Within the confines of this little school, you would laugh and cry and the language would live and breathe inside of you.

There were the rich and the poor. There were the outcasts and the popular kids. There were the mean and the nice kids. Everything related to you and yet you learned about their culture also.

My husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, showed me it because it was a good show, not because he wanted me to learn the language.

I watched it for the same reason.

So, when the thought occurred to me that I could actually learn how to speak Spanish from this, it didn’t feel like I had to work very hard at it.

The children expressed themselves with their bodies and expressions as much as through the language itself.

How Did It Change My Approach to Spanish?

When I ordered food, I would ask for the item in Spanish more often.

“Dos empanadas de carne por favor.”

When I listened to Spanish I understood more.

Sientete aqui really became Sit here but I didn’t need to stop and translate it into English like so many have to do.

Mostly, though, I just felt at ease with the language.

Por qué siempre hacemos aprendizaje tan difícil.

So, I ask you: Why do we make learning so difficult?

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/carousel/”>Carousel</a&gt;

The Summer Blues

Tossing the clothes in the dryer after an extremely long day at the beach, an excursion meant to make our summer feel like summer vacation. It felt more like hell.

It was burning hot, crowded, and smelly. So, when my beautiful Ray-Bans emerged in a twisted mess, the screams of terror and the ensuing tears amplified my established upset.

Those shiny, metallic-blue Ray-Bans landed in my hands when we visited Catalina Island off the coast of California last summer. My mother insisted on buying them for me even though I told her they were too expensive and I didn’t need them. I don’t wear them often because I don’t want to break them or scratch them, but this summer, they’ve been keeping me together and there they were.

Destroyed.

Everything broke out of me, not just tears and mucus, a wild river of what had been left behind, nearly forgotten.

Ray-bans

I missed JetBlue. I really missed LA. I fully missed my sister. I missed the other side of the country where mountains sprout from the ground and majestically watch over everyone. I missed the cool air at night, so cool you need a jacket.

I missed Elvis walking down the street to go to work. I missed the Pier. I missed the $30 Asian massages. I even missed the nausea of twirling up and down a mountain in my sister’s car. I especially missed the excitement of preparing and going there.

I usually take off to Los Angeles to visit my sister every summer. This summer it didn’t happen mainly because money became an issue.

Money, where are you?

So I’ve made the best of a disappointing situation and pretended I’ve been traveling. I put on these Ray-Bans and think of the fresh air on Catalina Island.img_6334.jpg 

The minute I walk outside I’m reminded with a heavy hit of humid heat that “No, Lisa, you are still in Miami.”

No matter.

I drive to Starbucks and pretend I have to have a cappuccino there because my sister doesn’t have an espresso machine like I do at my house. When I walk back outside, my skin sizzles worse than ever now that my body is warmed from the inside as well.

“Still here,” the Miami heat proclaims.

I swerve on over to Nordstrom Rack and think I’m in LA across from the Beverly Center. It works out pretty well until a pinch on my arm turns to an itch and I realize I’ve just been bit by a mosquito.

I stand at the door watching the sudden burst of rain pour buckets. Thunder trembling against the glass and lightning cracking its whip. I can’t wait any longer so I rush to my car, only about 10 feet away but I’m completely soaked when I get in the car.

A mosquito zips around my head.

Pinched again, I drive home.

I open my computer to find that instead of writing or working, I’m looking for flights on JetBlue:  Too expensive, Too many stops. Bad timing. No one to take us. Need to save money.

I call JetBlue to ask about points and I’m met with the nicest voice. She’ll help with whatever she can. She has a fifteen-year-old daughter too. She knows what it’s like to stay when you want to leave.

Then I really miss LA, more than ever.

The Joy of JetBlue

You see, I’ve flown on JetBlue ever since my daughter turned two and a half and I have only flown on one other airline, Virgin America, but it didn’t even come close to my experience on JetBlue so I never went back.

I knew when they helped me take her out of the stroller and folded it for me, smiled patiently, not the snarky kind, and waited for us to gather everything up that I was in love.

They forgave us when she screamed for a half hour during a landing. They cleaned up our vomit when both kids puked during a red-eye flight.

And, to top it off, they gave me brand-new beautiful suitcases on the spot when mine were damaged after the flight.

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If there was a delay even for five minutes, JetBlue gave us free movies.

I miss watching movies, asking for too many popcorn chips, and even drinking the bitter coffee when we take the red-eye flights.

I miss that so much more than my Ray-Bans.

I miss where JetBlue can take us.

It took us to San Francisco also. The magic of wearing a coat in summertime. The bread bowls. The tea bars. The crazy hills and crazier trollies.

And I’m here. And I know.

I really do know.

…that, really, when I look around me as I type on an Apple laptop and am feeling sorry for myself, I can’t really feel sorry at all.  I watch my son falling asleep on the couch as we watch E.T. because he said that I should choose a movie.

I think of my daughter already asleep growing into a young woman who can be fierce and challenging but still she rests her head on my shoulder and often holds my hand.

How can I feel bad in my air-conditioned house full of comforts I couldn’t have dreamed up when I was little and lived in a tiny house with one bathroom.

I feel the deep appreciation for everything I have and have had and even what I will have.

That kind of pleasure sends surges of joy traveling through me so much so that I know JetBlue will be there for us on another vacation and sunglasses can be replaced.

Written By Lisa Chesser

Mija’s Moxie Makes Okja Magic

Her eyes bit the screen as the camera zeroed in on her face. Her grandfather’s love split from her own when she realized she’d found herself slapped in the face with betrayal. It wasn’t the reaction of a spoiled child having a toy taken away. It was the reaction of pure love being ripped from your heart.

If we were unsure whether we wanted to watch this movie, we no longer were after that intense moment portrayed by Actress An Seo Hyun who plays Mija in the Netflix original film Okja directed by Bon Joon Ho.

Our stay-at-home summer has given us ample time to check out Netflix. When we started looking at different categories, we found Okja. We were skeptical as always because sometimes you stumble upon something you connect with and other times you enter a downward spiral and just keep watching because you already started and can’t look away.

You know the feeling. Then you spend the rest of the week watching movies you know are good just to get that movie out of your mind. That wasn’t the case with this movie.

An Seo Hyun (Mija) lulls you into her world set in the mountains of South Korea where she lives and breathes her life along with Okja, a “super pig” temporarily given to her grandfather who is a farmer.

You fall in love with Mija and Okja after the first fifteen minutes or so.

I have proof of this because I live with a house full of cynics:  an eleven year old who sounds like a lawyer, a fifteen year old who will be focusing on her film strand this coming year, and a journalist/online producer who won’t watch Alice In Wonderland directed by Tim Burton because it’s “not realistic.”

By falling in love with both of them, you feel the bite when Mija decides to find Okja who’s taken away from her by a large corporation that plans to use these super pigs for its own profit.

Mija runs, flies, punches, kicks, and takes a real beating on her quest to reach Okja. Her <a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/moxie/”>Moxie</a&gt; makes her the perfect heroine for such a wildly fanciful film with a heavy message that delivers layers of frightful beliefs and behaviors we all embrace on a daily basis.

So, if you haven’t experienced this, set aside some time and watch what happens to your mind.