Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Fumblings, Vol. 6 - Tardy Birthday Tumblings, The Sarah Sturm Edition

Well, I took the week off from blogging.  I was feeling under the weather, dealing with a destructive dog, and working on some school work.  And honestly -- sometimes I just need a break.

Back to business:

It was someone's birthday yesterday, and I thought about her all day.  I didn't call her, however, because I never really have been good at timely communication.  I'm working on it...  (always...)  Well, she's my best friend from college, and I've known her officially now for about 15 years.  And yes, that makes me old, but it makes HER even older, since she's older than me  ;-)

Here she is with cute-as-a-button son, Cameron

She's my best friend Sarah.  She's sarcastic, brilliant, loving, strikingly gorgeous, and believe it or not, a little shy at times.  She was president of our class at St. Joe.  A born leader.  Star track and cross coutry runner.  Responsible, thrifty, savvy and most certainly, sweet.

And because she has such a wonderful sense of humor (hint, hint!), I'm sure she's not going to mind these college pics of us  (they are some of my most favorite memories, and I look like a shmuck in them too, so I'm calling it even):

 Christmas dance, freshman year at Saint Joe.  That's Sarah in the pretty blue dress.  Man, we were young!

In my dorm room in Halas Hall.  Yes, we were stuffing our bras.  She always loved when I embarrassed her...  Right Sar?

Oh, and here's me with her oldest, Spencer.  Such a sneaky little thing!  

I'm guessing we were rocking out to Shania Twain here.  Because we were 
THAT cool.

Well, I could go on, but I think I made my point.  She's my friend.  And she rocks.



Much love,

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Fumblings, Vol. 5 - How you gonna kick it?

Gonna kick it ROOT DOWN!  For some fabulous Friday fun, watch this. It's getting me through my morning...

1. We're talking root down...I put my root down.   And if you want to battle're putting loot down...I said root down... it's time to scoot down. I'm a step up to the mic in my goose down!

These guys know what I'm talkin' bout!
 (Photo credit:

2. Great friend Marilyn from Chicago is in Denver today and tonight.  Looking forward to happy hour tonight!

Here's Marilyn and me, circa 2002-ish: (yup, those are pumpkins!)
 And here we are, attempting our version of the Funk Soul Brother dance:

In case you don't know about the Funk Soul Brother Dance, here it is:

3. In honor of Marilyn's visit, we're heading to happy hour tonight at a lovely little spot in Denver called, well, you guessed it...
(Image credit:
The restaurant / bar used to be an old car service station.  So cool!
(Image credit:

I'm off to clean the house and run errands.  How you gonna kick YOUR weekend?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Moral Development Cycle...An Explanation!

Oops...I failed to connect some information from my last post...

I mentioned that Logan helped me to think of the development of morality in a cyclical way

I then moved on to talk about modeling as a first step.

I forgot to "close the loop," in the cycle, however.
Picture this:

I view modeling (setting a good example), done by a teacher, parent, faith leader, mentor, etc., as the beginning of the cycle.  Morals are passed along, and eventually, the process begins again.   Just like Logan passed along his moral values (modeled by the boundaries set by his parents, rules at school, etc.) to me through his D'var Torah talk, and now I'm continuing the cycle through my reflections via this blog.  Morality and the idea of conscience will continue to develop, as I see it anyway, as we share our reflections. 

My ultimate hope, and a way to continue the cycle, is that Logan will continue to learn and grow through this process, perhaps by reflecting on how I perceived his Torah interpretation, or through what people share in the comments section of this post. 

Instead of a linear, cut and dry process of development, a cycle allows for reflection and interpretation

Hmmm...still wonder why naturally knowing the difference between right and wrong isn't so simple?


"Right" (or Wrong?) of Passage -- A Bar Mitzvah D'var Torah Reflection

Dear Logan,

The weekend of your Bar Mitzvah in Chicago was such a whirlwind!  Mark and I were thrilled to travel from Denver to be a part of such a meaningful event in your life.  It has been a few weeks now since the overwhelming celebration, and I'm sure you have already resorted back to life as usual (for the most part, anyway).

As you continue on your journey with one huge rite of passage under your belt, you will have a greater awareness of how the entire experience had an effect on you, and how it will continue to transform you as a person in the future.  What you may not know, is how your Bar Mitzvah experience touched the lives of others; your family, friends and beyond.  I can't personally speak for anyone else, but I'd like to share how your D'var Torah talk inspired me to reflect on my own life and what it means to be a good person (and I apologize in advance if this gets a little long!  Bear with me, ok?)

I want to thank you  for allowing me to share your D'var Torah talk in such a public format.  As I will mention later in this post, you are truly wise beyond your years.  I have told you and your brother Eli this before; although we are not related by blood, Mark and I love you both as if you were our nephews.  Needless to say, we are proud of you and all of the hard work and dedication that you contributed to the process of becoming a Bar Mitzvah.

I am blessed to know you, Logan.  Strangers who read this post will be blessed to learn from you.  I hope your "little voice" reminds you often of how blessed you truly are!

All my love,
Intrinsic Insight Into the Cycle of Morality

A few weeks ago, I attended my very first Bar Mitzvah.  Given my Catholic upbringing, I had no idea what to expect.  I was, however, eager for the experience because lately, I have been on a mission to make some decisions in regard to my own faith.  This will give you a little background... 

I was honored to be invited to support Logan, the Bar Mitzvah, as he embarked on such a sacred milestone.  It was his choice to honor this tradition along his spiritual journey, which required countless hours of studying, reflection and commitment. 

For those unfamiliar with some aspects of Judaism, please click here for a quick, bare bones background on Torah Study, which is a large portion of a Bar Mitzvah's responsibility.  (Keep in mind the source -- Wikipedia.  It is certainly convenient, but not always accurate...wink, wink!) 

In particular, the Bar Mitzvah shares a talk called the D'var Torah, related to the weekly Torah portion of the service (Click here for specific information on D'var Torah).

It was during Logan's D'var Torah talk at his Bar Mitzvah service that I realized how much he had grown up in the short time since I had seen him last.  I was stunned by his insight and maturity.  Flabbergasted by the connections he made between his Torah portion and his own life and to the world.  Astonished at how wisely he conveyed what he had learned from his studies so succinctly in his writing.  And pleased with how confidently he shared his written speech to a synagogue filled with his family and friends.

I did expect to witness a symbolic spiritual transformation in Logan, even though I didn't know exactly how it would manifest itself.  A mysterious and powerful calling to reflect on my own faith and morals, however, I did not expect.

The "old" Logan...dancing with me on my wedding day, July 2008
Photo credit: Andy Andrews

Logan provided countless tidbits for reflection in his D'var Torah talk.  So many, in fact, that I had to ask him to send me a copy of his talk so I could read it to refresh my memory.  I have included a portion of his talk below, with highlighted snippets to show exactly what spoke to me then, and continues to challenge me now to seek out meaning in my life and guide my spiritual path.
***The following text is original work belonging exclusively to Logan Faber.  Please respect his thoughts by refraining from duplication or use without obtaining specific permission.  Thank you.***

Logan's D'var Torah Talk

"When I was little, I used to love watching Loony Toons on Sunday mornings. In this show, the bad guys always fall short of getting the good guys, because they did very awful things, and the good guys always ended up with the prize because they were innocent and did the right thing.

My Torah portion, Bechukotai, explains this very same process. It explains that if we follow God’s laws and commandments excellent things will happen to us. If we don’t, horrific things will happen to us. But is it really that simple?

I think we can all agree that real life isn’t always like it is in a cartoon or in the Torah. Terrible things do happen to good people. And nice things do happen to not so nice people.

So, is Bechukotai meaningless? I don’t think so. I think there is still a message we can gain from this portion. Let’s start with an example. Imagine being a young child standing on the edge of a very deep lake. Our parents call over to tell us to stop and be careful, because we might fall in. Our parents aren’t trying to control us like puppets—rather, they are setting some reasonable boundaries for us. They want us to be safe.

I think that God is setting boundaries for us too so we can be safe. Let’s remember, at the time of this portion, the Israelite people were only a few years out of slavery. They had hundreds of years where they couldn’t really think for themselves—their slave owners decided everything for them. But God set up these rules not only so they would be safe, but also so they can feel satisfaction. Behavior that can lead to satisfaction can also be helped by setting up rewards and punishments. 

For example, do you ever get the feeling where you just want to do the right thing? Not because there’s a reward, or a punishment, or someone yelling at you to do so? I think that by offering rewards and punishments, God is giving us some incentive get this feeling more often.

When I was little, I wanted what I wanted right away . Whenever I did something wrong, my mom would say, “what did your little voice say” and I would say, “it didn’t say anything”. But now I realize that of course it did say something. I knew when I was doing something wrong because my parents set boundaries and rules for me.  The little voice was my conscience, telling me when I was violating those rules.

I think that Bechukotai is not saying simply that if we follow rules good things happen, and if not, unpleasant things happen. That would leave a ton of questions, like what could a sick child have possibly done to deserve his or her illness? Or what did a family to do to be punished by being born into poverty with less opportunity than most of us? 

Instead, perhaps Bechukotai is God’s first step in helping us develop our own little voice—our own conscience. There are good things and bad things.  Like a child, at first we choose the good things because we fear punishment. But eventually, we should choose good simply because it is the right thing to do. That doesn’t mean we are guaranteed a life free of problems…just that we are on the path toward making good decisions.

In my opinion, God intends for us to make choices between good and bad—in other words—gives us free will. We have choice when multiple paths lie in front of us.  We have to learn from the choices we make. Sometimes they are the right ones for us. Like going with your gut on that test question, and then getting it right. Other times, we make the wrong choice. Like when we take something without asking and it ends up to be a present for a cousin. We can only learn from our mistakes and try to make better choices in the future.

I believe that another reason God gives us free will is because God wants us to develop a sense of social justice and act on it. I think this is the case because God wants us to prosper by ourselves, and not control us like puppets all the time. Even God needs a coffee break sometimes. In Hebrew, we refer to these acts as mitzvot. Literally “commandments”—so God is commanding us to work toward social justice.

Since the age of 5, I have been working with a great organization called Circ-Esteem. The mission of Circesteem is to unite youth from diverse, racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds and help them build self-esteem and mutual respect through the practice of circus arts. In the process of working with the other kids, I have found that even though we come from diverse backgrounds we aren’t much different at all.  I have made many friends and learned many skills like juggling, balancing on a wire, and being very silly in clowning. I have also learned to become a great team mate with all the group acts and trips we go on. Currently, I have been working with a program called “Homework and Circus Work” in the Circ-Esteem curriculum, helping to tutor kids who need help with their studies. This is my way of contributing toward social justice by giving everyone an equal opportunity to learn. This is also for the common good—looking beyond myself and helping my community. 

I think God is trying to tell us that rules, boundaries, punishments and rewards are what set us on this path of moral development. So what meaning can we take from this portion, with its promise that God blesses those who follow the mitzvot and curses those who turn away from Torah? Maybe it's as simple as this: The mitzvot teach us to recognize and appreciate life's blessings, helping us mature and develop an attitude of sensitivity and gratitude."

Conscious Conscience Connections

What Logan said in his talk helped me to think about the development of morality in a cyclical way.  Throughout the course of my recent graduate education courses and student teaching experience, I struggled with the challenge of developing intrinsic motivation in students.  I will continue to ask myself, "How can I motivate students to do the right thing... for the simple fact that it is just the 'right thing to do?'"  "How do I explain to students that the process of rule-following holds a deeper meaning than simply staying out of trouble?"   "How can I get these kids to realize that the development of moral character is enhanced by an understanding of why a specific choice is the right one?"  

Well, the answer (a common buzz word in education these days)  is modeling.  Leading by example.  Modeling, modeling, and more modeling.  In my opinion, modeling is the "first step"  -- it begins the cycle of morality off on the "right" foot (oh yes...pun intended!).  This first step, modeling, guides us and helps us to develop a conscience (the little voice inside our heads, as Logan puts it).  As an aspiring teacher, sometimes it is difficult for me to explain to students that just because they follow my lead and make good choices, it doesn't mean that their daily experiences will be rewarding and that things will always be "fair."  It wasn't until last year in my Teaching for Social Justice course that I truly understood the difference between equal and equitable.  I realized that equal is not always equitable.  How could I transform this concept into something an elementary student could not only understand, but apply to their own life?

Well, as Logan very eloquently remarks, "That doesn't mean we are guaranteed a life free of problems...just that we are on the path toward making good decisions."  I realize that I am a little biased when it comes to Logan because I know and love him, but to me, that statement is remarkably profound.  People, young and old, continue to grapple with the reality of bad things happening to good people.  It has torn people from their faith, and forced others to question their entire moral platform.  The fact that this thirteen-year-old boy, my friend Logan, gleaned this realization so early in his life makes me beam with pride and fill with hope for future generations.  

Ok, maybe that's a little extreme.  I do tend to go overboard at times, but the simple fact remains that life is not always fair.  Things will not always be equal.  The right thing to do will not always feel the best (which is exactly what Logan's mother, my dear friend Pamela, reminded Logan of during her speech on Logan's Bar Mitzvah day...MODELING at it's finest!!).  The path toward making good decisions might be riddled with unanswered questions, but the longer we continue down that path, the more opportunities we'll have to feel that unexplainable satisfaction that Logan refers to.  For lack of a better term, let's call it joy, shall we?
 The "new" Bar Mitzvah
Photo credit: Chrissy Richter
Logan, thank you for helping me to realize that figuring out all of the answers is not the point.  The joy of the journey is really what counts.

Well, there you have it.  Logan's D'var Torah, for ya.  An insightful speech to teach all within reach and beyond.  I hope it reached you in one form or another.

EnJOY your journey,

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Sunday Tumble - Blow it Out Your...

9:00 p.m.  Sick, sore, exhausted.  Off to bed.  But first...

Time to tumble!

Post a caption and I'll announce the winner on Friday.  You can do so in the comments section or on the Denver's Tumbling Leaf Facebook Page.

Here goes (yep...this is me, a few years back...):

Have you all had a lovely weekend!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Fumblings, Vol. 4 - Rainy Weather OUT. Feel UNDER Weather. Definitely OVER Both.

Whine, complain, whine, complain...  Pick a preposition, it's all the same.

Just a few thingportants today and then I'm back to resting on the couch with some tea:

1. My entire body hurts.  Throat, head, bones, tummy, eyes, blech.  Perfect timing -- Colfax Marathon Relay in TWO days.

Here's me yesterday...feeling fine...

And today...  Ugh.

2.  AH!  Colfax Marathon Relay in TWO days!

3. Have run TWICE in past TWO weeks.

4. I have to run almost FOUR miles.

5. Have only run TWO recently.

6. Am determined to push through for the sake of my friend and relay team member Jill, who has been busting her patoot to run in her first ever race.  Will not let her down!

7. Had a wonderful breakfast meeting with my Pedagogy professor this morning.

8. It's hailing and raining and thundering and pouring.

9. Tucker is shaking and drooling and hiding, NOT snoring (because he refuses to eat the lunch meat spiked with tranquilizer treat I made for him!).

Attempting to move everything in my closet out of the way so he could hide in the corner...

The picture doesn't do it justice -- he's actually panting and shaking and drooling all over.  Ew.

He thought maybe THIS closet would be better...  (YES, I label everything.  No judging!)

It might look like a doggy smile, but he's really in agony.  Poor guy!   Seattle would be like suicide for him...

10. Headed to hide on the couch, myself.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Michelle....Chicago....Rhythm on Randolph -- A Most Fabulous Trifecta

Oh, My Michelle!

Nope, she's not actually "mine." I'm not that selfish...  It's just that there are a lot of Michelle's out there in the world, so I like to lovingly refer to her as "My Michelle."  Much better than "Michelle, my bell."  Right?

Well, she's wonderful.  Smart.  Stunning (seriously!).  Thoughtful.  Efficient.  Sweet, savvy, saucy, sneaky, and silly.  A loyal friend.  A most fabulous person!

Why write such a glowing homage today?  You guessed's her birthday.  Of course I feel this way about her everyday.  Today it just seemed fitting to share this with others in honor of my friend. 

In an attempt to keep most of the special nuances of our friendship private (which I respect because Michelle truly values intimacy between friends), I'd like to focus on one (believe me, there's MANY!) of her major life accomplishments that is very dear to my heart.


I hope that those who are lucky enough to know her had a chance to experience Rhythm.  If the opportunity unfortunately passed you by, in a nutshell, Rhythm was a bar that Michelle and her partners Rob and Doug opened on Randolph Street in Chicago's West Loop.  Please take a moment to read all about it here.  And hereHere.  And  Oh wait...there's some pretty good reviews here!

I know, I know.  Overkill.  I just want you to get the full effect, you know?

Anyway, let's say you've never participated in a drum circle before (gasp!).  I once tried to capture the feeling in words, so maybe this will help: (I gave this to Michelle when I heard that Rhythm was closing)


rap rap rap TAP slap TAP slap slap
rap rap rap TAP slap TAP slap rap!
we clap our hands and stamp our feet
at our favorite place to meet on Randolph Street

long steady beat
we feel the heat of
our throbbing hands as we
SLAM jam jam SLAM
SLAM jam jam SLAM!

ALIVE comes the pit!
our souls commit
in the circle we dance, prance, groove, move, shake, quake, quiver, quaver,
romp, stomp, gyrate, gravitate, twirl, whirl, swirl, reel FEEL.
It's personal.

Your way
my way
his way
her way
their way
our way

easy, soft, gentle, hush,
shh, shh, shush, shush,
easy, soft, gentle, hush,
shh, shh, shush.
hold it- hold it- hold it- hold it
low low low low
slow slow slow slow
sssss llll oooooo wwwwwww
long soft song.....


And now for the Rhythm photo montage... 
**Photos are courtesy and property of Aaron Frey and Chrissy Richter**
(Rob, I apologize...I can't find ANY pics of you!  And not for lack of trying.  Ugh.)

Michelle, wherever your future journey takes you, always know that your past is a true testament to you as a person.  No one can ever take that away.

 Happy Birthday, Lovie.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Friday Fumblings, Vol. 3 - Tardy Tumblings

Hi.  I'm tardy with my posts, but for good reason.  Traveled to Chicago and back to attend my first Bar Mitzvah!  A whirlwind, indeed, as my Chicago trips always are.  More on said Bar Mitzvah in a future post.  For now, it's time to TUMBLE!

Speaking of tumbles...

1. I should address my first Sunday Tumble Caption Contest.


Jeremy! (He's not a blogger, but he enjoys a good fall as much as the rest of 'em!)
With this doozie:
 "On a first date some women like chocolates, some like flowers, but not us. 
We enjoy the good old-fashioned concussion!" 
Sorry Jeremy, no job for me means no prize for you, but hopefully I'll be able to offer prizes soon!  Until then, will you accept this?
Thanks to all who participated!  Stay tuned for the next Sunday Tumble Caption Contest - will post another photo this coming Sunday.

 2. Finally got to meet good friend Gretchen's baby, Max!  More on him in the future (there's so many wonderful things to say...he deserves his own post!) 

Here he is with lovely Chicago friend, Michelle:

Here, he fell asleep while Gretchen was holding him...
nope, he's not eating a snack, he he!
Sooooo fun cuddling with friends, new and old! 
(Old friend, not person, he he)

 3. Here's some other random happenings from my Chicago trip, in no particular order:

                                                    Logan and Mark, in Millennium Park                  
That's me, in the Bean
                            Eli and Mark at the "Gyro Wheel" table at the retro-themed Bar Mitzvah reception

Me with the Bar Mitzvah, Logan, at brunch at Tavern on Rush
Yep...The Bean
 Me, in a cab on Michigan Ave.
4. I am proud to admit that I taught my young friend Caroline to plan her time using color coding and an "unschedule."  Had no idea she'd really take it and run with it, but look!  Wowzers...

 More on the Bar Mitzvah later this week.  Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!

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