Tag Archives: Education

A Killer Stops the Heart of a Nation Bleeding Inside Itself

Walk in someone else’s shoes and you might see things very differently.

"Arrow Sign" by ntwowehttp://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
“Arrow Sign” by ntwowe

We play a lot. We play with thoughts, ideas, ideals.

Do we really think?

Or, is thinking the problem?

The last time I really thought about something, it felt like my mind was running ahead of my body. I had to stop it. But, first, I had to catch up with it. My body was so tired from chasing all these ideas, ideals, rules. I was busy thinking of the next line, the next rule, and the person who broke it, the person who dared to disagree with me. There was a seething sense of anger that broke from my pinching fingers and sprinted ahead of me. Though I needed to control it, I couldn’t.

I bounced backward out of exhaustion and a desire to see where I was going. That lasted about ten minutes until I could catch myself. I grabbed ahold of the thoughts and cinched them around my fingers, reeling them in. I didn’t even care what the thoughts were. I only knew they moved too quickly and the anger felt violent and full of rage.

I’ve spent a good, I’d say, 35 years observing people in general. I spent my first five years attempting to understand them. The next five, I drew them and then wrote about them. After that, I was schooled either by motivation or by a teacher in observations. But, always, I observed myself.

And, in doing so, I’ve found that I can be a horrible person who is capable of great moments. So, I learned to stop myself and look at the person looking at me. I’ve learned that the moment I judge someone else, I should also turn inward. When the camera lens points at another, it should also point at the one holding it.

Today, for instance, I punished my children for behaving badly. They deserved it. I didn’t even need their angry glares to remind me how much they needed to be grounded. But, I did that thing that many people find weak and stupid, I turned inward and glanced at myself. I hated what I saw. So when I looked back at them. I saw their anger differently and relinquished them of their punishment.

I held my arms out and told them I loved them. They broke too. They cried and we apologized to each other. None of us cared who had won the argument or the tiny battle within our tiny fight. We just ate ice cream and played.

"Children Playing With Balls" by vorakornhttp://www.freedigitalphotos.net
“Children Playing With Balls” by vorakorn

We played, without ideas or ideals.

No one was right.

No one even cared.

Somewhere inside the gunman’s mind yesterday in Connecticut was a need to be right. There was an argument that he needed to win and couldn’t. Or, there was a wrong that needed to be fixed or covered up. Someone needed to win.

No one did.

We bleed. A heavy bruise weighs on our souls where we fight ourselves. To no end, we’ll continue to do this until we understand that we share our wounds.

Those children who died were our children. Those teachers were our teachers. And, that gunman was our neighbor, our child, our friend, our relative, and our monster. His mother was our mother.

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Wild Women and Mad Men: Bite the Change

mouth
mouth (Photo credit: Darwin Bell)

Since Saturday, I’ve been upset and I didn’t want to write about it because I knew it would’ve been unfocused. I also don’t want this to be a place for readers to have to endure endless rants. So, I’ve been reading fellow writers’ posts while attempting to sedate the anger I still feel. But, as I was browsing the blogs I follow in my Reader, I came upon the Daily Prompt: Be the Change. It asks the question:  What change, big or small, would you like your blog to make in the world?

After quelling my initial outrage over a long-awaited yet horribly disappointing Saturday, here’s my answer to this question.

This blog should change every reader’s perspective. What you once thought to be true or real should change because you read about a strange but inspiring moment. You should laugh like a mad man or a wild woman and do something spontaneous. You should find solace in it all because you feel comfortable being different and take pride in yourself even if others won’t ever see it.

In short, this blog should inspire resilience. Without it, you’re doomed.

I write this now, two days later, more clearly and focused, well, because of the prompt and because of the distance from Saturday.

On Saturday, November 10, I got up at 6 a.m. to drive across town to an Idea Expo for teachers. In a fog of fatigue after teaching all week, I told myself this was too important to miss. I did find inspiration in the Superintendent of Miami-Dade Public Schools Alberto Carvahlo’s well-delivered speech. It garnered a standing ovation from the audience of teachers.

But, that was it.

Fifteen minutes later, I sat in a boxed room with a teacher sharing a lesson on Dracula, one of my favorite classics, which she purportedly teaches to middle-school students. I thought, okay, I’m gonna like her because that’s daring.

But, I didn’t like her.

I wanted to bite her.

Instead, I bit my lip and left for the day. She would be the next speaker for the next presentation, and I wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut for that long.

Here’s why. She showed us a sample of the lesson she prepared for her students. She showed us a prompt about horror, which we had to answer. Fair enough, I thought. It was when she asked us what controversy meant that I flinched for the first time. She told us she was modeling the lesson for us. Okay, fine, I’d heard that before. I didn’t like it but okay. Then, she asked for responses, which we gave. After that, she said, if her own students couldn’t answer the prompt, she would let them copy off the student next to them.

I flinched again. I few curse words flew through my mind.

Then, she showed us her list of vocabulary words and said that she didn’t believe in letting students struggle with words because sometimes they mispronounce them. Fine, fair enough. Again, I just needed to give this a chance, give her a chance. She’s a teacher. She deserves my respect.

As she reviewed the list of words, she said, “Aqueese.” Just like that. Aqueese.

I jerked my arm and stabbed my paper with my pen. I shut my packet.

The word was acquiesce.

I make a lot of mistakes. I encourage my students to correct me if I misspell something on the board. I’m a writer, so I know how misspellings happen. But, if I’m teaching pronunciation then I’d better get it right. If I’m teaching spelling and I suck at it, I’d better study those words or admit my weakness.

It was too much to bear. I grew up loving literature so much that I passed my days in the library. I skipped science class, not to go to the beach, but because I snuck into the library to read. I lived inside these books, and she had proceeded to mutilate what I loved.

English: Billie Holiday, Downbeat, New York.
English: Billie Holiday, Downbeat, New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, I left.

I walked to Starbucks and listened to Billie Holiday belt out her piping-hot tunes. I pretended none of this just happened and settled into the sounds around me.

But, the anger lingered.

The fumes gathered and swirled.

I looked at my own children and myself as a child. So many teachers had disappointed me the way this woman did that day. So many teachers have handed my children misinformation on a silver platter and lauded themselves while doing it.

I could and can only think:  Resilience. Laugh out loud, relentless resilience.

The only regret I have is that I didn’t speak my mind. In an effort to be polite, to tame the fire in my belly, I bit my tongue.

And, in honor of Dracula, I should have bit her.

Getting Real

Ready for Reality
A fellow blogger nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger award recently, but I don’t feel beautiful at all. I did realize that there was another nomination I needed to accept before this one:  the Reality Blog award. I’ve been searching for the all-elusive time to do this. However, blogging here has been relegated to the bottom of my list of To Do’s mainly because of my kids.

My son hates school. As a dedicated teacher, I do too. I really can’t argue with him. I’ve told him the value of education until I’ve listened to my words fall letter by letter to the floor. The last straw was when I told him he would behave or never see his Legos again. It was an age-old battle that I needed to win. I needed him to see education the way I used to see it.

But, I underestimated him. He’s smarter than I am. He looked at me, resigned himself to my belief system, and got sick, literally.

He’s been throwing up and now has a fever. Call it coincidence, call it flu season, or call it the sadness of his spirit. I believe it’s his spirit slumping into the sad world of my reality. At the end of the day, he simply looked at me, said his stomach was sick, went to bed then woke up puking.

That’s when everything turned upside down for me. I rewound and slowed the speed forward. I unzipped my skin and took a look around.

A wild second grader danced before me, asking questions, some really smart-ass ones. He laughed at them and sometimes me. He found math interesting when he was allowed to measure things around the classroom but hated sitting still to take a test. He needed to be up discovering the world, finding out why the lizards don’t fall from the ceiling.

A tired mother/teacher walked to her classroom, feeling guilty for leaving her son who she just yelled at. Why couldn’t she just say, “To hell with all of you,” and leave, grab her son and go? All her own students, much older than her son, complained to her, and hated school themselves. She also tried to show them the value of it but was beginning to find it a futile argument. In their eyes, she saw the truth.

The truth is school kills creativity. For all our convoluted words and serious sarcasm, we amount to a bloated, gassy large intestine.

In sixth and seventh grade, I teach about 75 kids just like my son. The rest are sparkly perfect students not unlike my daughter, but they too find it difficult to endure school. When the day nears the end, they’re ready to fly out of their seats and some literally do.

Over the years, my tolerance for shaking pens and pencils, twirling IDs, and random jumps from seats has grown so much that I find myself doing the same thing.

But, when I see my son, like many of my students, get sick over the depressing reality of school, I question my own profession because it feeds the beast. That large, bloated one.

So, I’ll try to blog and read all of your beautiful blogs, but I’ve got to fix a little boy’s view of reality. He’s sleeping right now with a wet cloth mending his fever. We might end up at the doctor’s office first thing in the morning. But, once he’s better physically, I’ll be reminding him that the lizard on the ceiling is his reality and now it’s mine too.

Here are some great blogs to check out while I’m busy mopping up my mess:

http://nettrobbens.com/

http://abreakfastserial.com/

http://readstuffwithme.wordpress.com/

http://freepennypress.wordpress.com/

http://www.nayiaisms.com/

http://strollingsouthamerica.wordpress.com/

http://fromtv2od.com/

http://oawritingspoemspaintings.wordpress.com/

http://truittjeremy.wordpress.com/

http://scotterb.wordpress.com/

http://bornspecial.wordpress.com/

http://somestolenmoments.wordpress.com/

http://mominthemuddle.com/

http://momopolize.com/

http://dianereedwiter.wordpress.com/

http://igamemom.com

There are so many more that I read on a daily basis. If you look around BraveSmartBold posts, you’ll find them.

Then I See Red

English: Mother with child; Oil on canvasC...
English: Mother with child; Oil on canvasCategory:technique with mounted parameter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Purple seems a state of grace. Cloaked in it, the world around you bleeds with creativity and honor. A smile isn’t just a smile, it’s a perspective. I see myself as someone I am. A struggle becomes a path, an enemy, a friend.

Then I see red.

Nothing in between.

Just red.

My goal has always been to remain within purple. But, over the last few years, it’s become very clear to me that red must intrude, must kick purple to the curb and salute a raw instinct to fight.

Mothers know this. They may not feel purple, perhaps they walk with blue or yellow. But, in a swift second, they fill with red when their children are threatened, teased, or hurt.

I know. I’m a mother and a teacher. The inconsistencies shock some and are vulgar to others. I’ve been yelled at by many mothers, and I’ve done a lot of yelling myself. However gentle I try to be, especially with teachers, my manners disintegrate when confronted with problems affecting my children.

Knowing this has changed me even more so when dealing with parents. My purple turns to deep red for the mothers who yell at me. I usually sympathize more than they know.

The angrier the mom, the more I can take a good beating from her, even if she’s completely wrong. The last mother who yelled at me never should have. She was wrong, but I didn’t get mad. I looked her in the eyes and told her to understand that when I spoke to her, I wanted to help her. It didn’t take much. I didn’t even have to tell her I had children too. She simply saw it in my eyes.

By seeing red, by understanding it, I can live in red more comfortably now. I know what it’s there for. It’s a call to action, a desire to protect, a need to be heard.

Red is love, pure, passionate love.

A mother’s love.

Written by Lisa Chesser

Pain and Laughter Unite Us

Pain and laughter often go together. Almost simultaneously after a terrible argument, people laugh. If they don’t, they either continue with more pain or separate from each other, sometimes for good.

I had a friend who, when confronted with difficult situations, laughed hysterically. I always hated it because she did it too much. She never wanted to face the problems that we all must confront. Her laughter actually divided us. But, that’s not the laughter I’m talking about. I’m talking about the laughter that brings people together despite their differences.

Laughter means walking in someone else’s shoes for a day, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime.

“Americans,” a short, public service film starring Sean Penn and Kid Rock, directed by Jameson Stafford.

We are all heroes in our own right. But, we face enormous obstacles when communicating our ideals to people who don’t agree with us. We fall, hard, and need a helping hand. More often than not, that helping hand will come from the person who doesn’t believe what you believe.  All you have to do is remember an argument you had with your parents or siblings, any family members. That person might be angry with you at that moment but would take a bullet for  you the next.

Recently, my husband shared a video with me when I was telling him about some of my students arguing with each other over being Democrat or Republican. I’m sharing this video with you because I couldn’t stop laughing, because I love Sean Penn and now I kinda like Kid Rock too.

After a few weeks of overcoming some major disappointments, I’m adding a new tab to BraveSmartBold called Laughter. It’s just necessary.

Many of you may have already watched “Americans,” a short, public service film starring Sean Penn and Kid Rock, directed by Jameson Stafford. If you haven’t, then you must.

You will laugh and through that laughter realize how important it is to keep talking to each other, to keep teaching each other. Mostly, I hope you remember how important it is to listen, face your fears, and look your enemy in the eyes. Then, remember, that person could be the one who takes the bullet for you.

International Day of the Girl

Today my daughter spoke to a group of middle schoolers about bullying. She had originally created an anti-bullying campaign for the elementary students at her school. When the principal of the middle school saw the posters and asked her to speak to the middle schoolers, this ten-year-old girl spoke passionately about standing up for yourself and doing what’s right.

Afterward, students came to her to thank her for speaking out.

Bully Buster
By Daisy Maldonado

All children should be able to do this.

International Day of the Girl.

Venezuela’s Avatars Remind Us to Vote

Sometimes our heroes live under the ground, having never even been written about.
Sometimes our heroes live so far from us, we don’t even know who they are.
Sometimes these heroes are just walking along the streets that no one else will walk.
Sometimes our heroes need us to be heroes, speaking up, supporting them.

Some of my heroes brave the streets of Venezuela every single day, careful to watch who’s around them, careful to steer clear of this street or that, not that it makes much of a difference. They’re still robbed and kidnapped, often enough, they’re murdered. With crime increasing year after year, I wonder if I’ll ever see Venezuela again.

Capriles vs. Chavez

My husband’s family, those who remain there, visits us. They won’t let us visit them. Why can’t we visit? Why can’t we take our children?

It’s the same old story:  Politics. Men. Ideals. Ideas. Egos. Egos. Death.

My children might not ever see the way the mountains look when the sea meets them along a dirt road free of stoplights and buildings in the small islands just off the coast of Venezuela. They might not see the tiny, wooden restaurant ahead. They might not sip the fresh pineapple drink then break the soft-corn cachapa with their fork and mix the tangy with the sweet on their tongues.

But, it doesn’t matter because they’ll be safe. Safe from the violence that taunts Venezuelans on a daily basis, safe from the mask of right and wrong.

This weekend millions of heroes, just like us, will vote, here in the states (in particular in New Orleans) and in Venezuela. Chavez shut down the Venezuelan consulate in Miami. So, the Venezuelans now living in the United States have to vote in New Orleans because they can’t vote in Miami where many have taken refuge since Chavez became president.

When they vote they’ll attempt to right a wrong, a clear, undeniable wrong:  Hugo Chavez is president. It’s wrong because since he came to power  the crime and death rate increased so drastically that paranoia seems a silly, antiquated word.

On Sunday, October 7, 2012, Venezuelan’s will vote for Hugo Chavez or his challenger Henrique Capriles.

Hugo Chavez has managed to remain in power for about 14 years. The opposition and human rights observers call his government repressive because of his control over the media. Moreover, according to Venezuelan Violence Observatory, there have been 118,541 murders in Venezuela since Chavez took power.

To make matters worse, the Venezuelan government has condemned the American Convention on Human Rights withdrawing from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Guadalupe Marengo, deputy director for the Americas at Amnesty International said in a press release, “This move is an affront to the victims of human rights violations and to future generations of Venezuelans who will no longer be able to access this regional body when their rights are not respected in their own country.”

Venezuelan’s are heroes just for enduring. Their voices are being shut down by the man who’s supposed to fight for them.

If the voters are heard, someday you may be lucky enough to visit Venezuela, you’ll find beauty beyond Caracas, its capital. You’ll find islands and tiny villages with people who create possibly more amazing art and other products than any of us could dream of.

Most of you may not even care much about Venezuela. It was only mentioned in Avatar by the “American” colonel who fought Jake Sully to the death. The colonel spoke of Venezuela as a “mean jungle.”

That’s actually true as of the time of this post, but it wasn’t always that way.

Fifteen years ago my then-boyfriend and I, my now-husband and I, took our first trip there together. We knew then, like with many major cities, that we shouldn’t go to certain places at certain times when visiting his family in Caracas. We knew where to go, when to go. He had left because of crime, his Christmas presents stolen, and there weren’t many to steal.

Crime was a problem even 25 years ago when my husband’s family left for the United States. But, Chavez promised to close the divide between rich and poor. To say he did not deliver is an understatement. In fact, he lied. He still lies. The facts tell the truth.

When we were able to visit, the city itself, Caracas, made no difference to us except for family, food, and certain sites that we found necessary to visit and revisit as if we knew it might disappear someday. Simon Bolivar had once liberated the people, so we visited his statue and smiled, not really considering we’d spend over ten years without seeing it again. Certain districts such as the clothing centers, we frequented because, really, we loved buying great, cheap souvenirs.

Catholic churches, yes, a necessity.

Cachapas. Empanadas. Café of any kind. Arepas, Venezuelan-style. We ate. We drank. We enjoyed.

I miss it all so much as I sit safely here, in Miami.

We Americans take certain rights for granted. We also don’t understand the extent to which voting affects these simple beauties in life that go without our appreciation.

We also don’t recognize the hero within because, well, we’re everywhere. We’re Avatars and we don’t even know it. We definitely don’t appreciate our powers.

Let Venezuela’s plight, those invisible heroes among them, among us, let Venezuela’s vote count. Let it remind you who you are:

Powerful.

Powerful.

Avatars.

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The Little Christian Who Thinks He’s Jewish

With Yom Kippur coming up this Wednesday, my son reminds me that this teacher planning day is a Jewish holiday.

He says, “Memember?” tugging on my shirt, looking up at me. Yes, I thought, I do. I remember it all. How could I ever forget?

When he was turning four years old, I searched for a good school because the one he had attended when he was three left him acting like a mini hoodlum. I found a lot of good ones, but they were either too expensive or too snooty. I kept rolling right back to the Jewish Community Center. It housed a small, early childhood education center, and everyone there seemed so welcoming. I’d also heard some wonderful word-of-mouth reviews about the school and read some great articles about it.

So, I consulted my husband whose very Catholic parents applauded the idea. They themselves were members of the JCC gym. So, with the whole family’s approval, I confidently registered my son for Pre-K.

Not everything went smoothly. For one, I hadn’t thought about the difficulty of packing a Kosher lunch.

But, that wasn’t the most difficult part. It was the part about Christ because, yes, this four year old asked me about it. So, I did what any self-respecting parent would do. I first contemplated lying. After scrapping that pathetic idea, I asked him some questions instead.

The answers I got made all the difference.

According to him, Christ was a Jew so anyone who was Christian should also be Jewish. I told him that was the best answer to any question I had ever asked.

And it was. Not because it fulfilled my desire to avoid an answer I didn’t really have but because it was the kind of answer most adults can’t give.

We can’t give an answer because we forget. We forget the real meaning of religion. With all our piety, we forget that religion offers us a set of standards with which to understand our fellow human being, not destroy him.

The world we live in right now. This angry, vengeful place we all should share but can’t and won’t. In this world, we refuse to share. That’s the most basic concept we teach a baby. a child.

We can’t seem to get past those moments when we first possessed a toy and screamed then cried when another child tore it from our grip. We grow, we learn then we return back to being a baby, constantly craving more.

All those babies, screaming over who’s right and who’s wrong, could learn a profound lesson from a little boy.

One of my son’s collection of kipas (yarmulke).

He will always feel that a piece of him is Jewish. He keeps his kipas or yarmulkes in a drawer and asks me when’s the next Bar Mitzvah. He likes to bring out his menorah placemat during Christmastime. When we’re driving and pass the JCC, he asks when we’re going to visit again. I smile and remind myself we have to go back someday soon.

Liquid in my Eyes

Then, I read the latest news or listen to a report on National Public Radio and I’m reminded of the divide, the extreme, the hell we put each other through because of our beliefs. Instead of proudly admiring my son’s views, I begin to obsess over when he will change. When will he become one of us? Or worse, when will he turn into a baby all over again, screaming for what belongs to him, for what is “right”?

The shape of our world feels like liquid in my eyes, things always changing, but there’s a fire burning that the water can’t seem to extinguish.

We’re so furious, so hateful. It’s not just religion that fuels this fire. It’s the fact that so many of us lost the true value of it.

This is not to say that only a four year old possesses the ability to catapult right over knowledge into power.

I do see hope in the wisdom of his grandparents who rallied around my decision to put him in a Jewish school. I saw it in the JCC leaders and members. I see it in those who volunteer their time for various organizations such as Amnesty International.

But, for most it’s momentary.

The minute we insist we’re right and another person is wrong. It’s gone.

So, what if we didn’t try to be right? What if we just tried to make sense of the rights and wrongs by fitting them into each other? Like this little boy, what if we go back to Kindergarten and take our own basic lessons to heart?

Every Jewish holiday reminds me to do this. Don’t ever forget.

Written by Lisa Chesser

His placemat.

To all the writers, artists, and colorful characters:

You are all crazy-wonderful artists, but you know this already.
Because I teach fulltime and I’m obviously a mom, I’ve tried to reply to every comment, but it takes time. I’ve also tried to explore your blogs and follow some of them. But, that also takes time just like writing, at least for me.
For me, writing is a challenge because of time. It’s the one thing that consistently runs ahead then behind me, sometimes around me, like a wicked two year old. I wrote this challenge on torn spiral notebook paper and sticky notes as thoughts occurred to me throughout the days.
However, by meeting the Daily Post Challenge, I learned to catch up with this wicked two year old and keep it around long enough to play a game or two.

Freshly Pressed, WooHoo!

So, to all the wonderful writers, artists, small business owners, and colorful characters who liked and commented on this blog, I’ll be clicking my way through your blogs into next week and beyond. I want to know everything about you and support you the way you supported me. If I don’t find you, please find me again so we can reconnect. When I tried to click back to some of you, I couldn’t find your address or I got a prompt that your WordPress address didn’t exist any longer.
As far as following me, I promise to write and do it well. I write to breathe to sleep to wake to sing to love. I had forgotten how much I missed it until I started writing again. I had given it up to be a wife and raise my children. I changed careers to schedule my life around my family. Then, I wrote a story and published it two years ago. And, I haven’t been able to escape the need to write since.
I plan to post personally hand-crafted stories and profiles about great, often disguised as ordinary, people and moments we often don’t notice or acknowledge. I will write about the bizarre and the ordinary that make life so fabulous and sometimes terrible. I will bare my soul without making you feel like you wasted your time here. I might ask some of you to allow me to interview you.
I hope to discover, share, and teach you what I know and where I found it.
I may share some great stories I read about heroes, inspirational moments, or anything brave, smart and bold. I might reblog some of your amazing stories, art, poetry, etc. But, I promise to keep it interesting and make it worthwhile.
To the powers that be at WordPress and Cheri Lucas, thank you for taking notice. I’ve loved every second of it and plan to get Freshly Pressed 
again.
So everyone, please keep reading, commenting, and enjoying.
Love,
Lisa Chesser

 

A Few Sounds Later

Her notes struck the incessant thoughts from my brain. Each punch on the keys left me thinking only of the beauty the world had to offer, the drops of rain hitting the pool, the light touch of a butterfly.

I know when I’ve lost our fights because my daughter looks away from me, sits, and plays her piano.

I look at her in a state of reverence when she ignores me, her mother, her teacher, her prodder, her leader, her tormentor.

The sounds bleed from a part of her that no piano teacher could ever touch. She knows the notes from ages ago and I know I have no right to interfere in their delivery to this small space she’s found in a limitless dimension, so I stand distant, yet affected.

Her sounds leave me inferior and that’s when I know I can mother her from a place of love, bowing to the majesty of understanding music with only her ears.

A book, a lesson, exists somewhere but never meets this moment when she sits and creates from her soul. She plays by ear.

My daughter blocks my noise, my pressure to do, to checklist, to become and achieve. She seals my lips shut with a sound, the universal sound of song without words: music.

Times when I need her to listen, I have been cut short by the piano.

With her long, tangled hair draping her shoulders, she defies me. And, I’ve learn my lesson.

I stop my rant and listen.

That music plunges into every empty pocket of the house. No one speaks when she plays. She knows this and so do I.

The humility of knowing that my child may know more than me smacks me in the face.

A few sounds later, she leaves the song behind and we’re smiling again.