Saturday, May 17, 2014

And that's irony, baby...

My high school speech coach and english lit teacher passed away last week.  I've been turning it over and over in my mind trying to figure out how to best memorialize him in the online universe of social media.  I really just want to explain to you what made him such a unique influence.  I've decided that I should write an essay that he might enjoy reading.  I've tried to incorporate all of the essential components...let's see if I can pull it off:

Tom Oglesby is dead.   

He died on the day that I finished reading the latest novel based on the life of Zelda Fitzgerald.  

Zelda was a woman who was greatly misunderstood.  She had a strong creative voice which was often paralyzed by social expectations, mental illness and her husband.   Her real crime was that she was very good at many artistic mediums but great at none.  Her contributions to the infamous Lost Generation of late 1920's Paris are indisputable, but her own work in art, literature and ballet is largely disregarded.  Her legacy is almost entirely based on her struggle with schizophrenia, (a diagnosis that is now widely disputed), and the impact her illness had on her husband's work both positively and negatively. 

Mr. Oglesby
Tom Oglesby was also infamous, albeit on a much smaller stage.  He was that teacher whose reputation made underclassmen squirm with anticipation, and not the good kind.  He was terrifying and awe-inspiring.  And, his grading system was legendary.  In his class, it was possible to receive an F3.  That's F to the third power.  As in, you failed so badly, you actually failed your failure.  Now, to be fair, one could also earn an A++ but that's as "not as sexy" (a phrase he, himself might use to describe the A++.)

He was often misunderstood, as well.  It's not easy to be a quirky, liberal-minded literary scholar in a small, conservative Indiana town.  Unlike Zelda, he was a master of his craft.  His art resided in his ability to turn would-be high school wallflowers into oratorical power houses.  He believed ALL students had potential for greatness in some form or another.  And he was pretty good in bringing it to light. 

In the classroom, he utilized multiple mediums to illustrate that art and literature could be found everywhere.  He taught us the importance of details by forcing us to watch a 4-hour mini-series called The Martian Chronicles starring Rock Hudson.  We never read the book, but we did have to know how many times the phone rang in scene whatever before so-and-so answered it.  

He introduced us to transcendental thinking from the likes of Whitman, Emerson and Thoreau and he showed us how Civil Disobedience could change the world.   He called on us by an assigned number in the classroom long before Austin Powers made it comical.  During speech, he referred to us only by our last name. In fact, he might never have known that my first name is Rachel, he knew me only as Beher...which took two seasons for him to pronounce correctly.  

Most memorable to me was his keen appreciation for irony.  He would often end a lesson with a smirk and a punctuated, "And that's irony, baby!"  Last year I was waiting at a stop light and I noticed a church undergoing a huge expansion.  I happen to notice that outside they had placed a temporary placard advertising their latest sermon series.  It had a picture of the earth engulfed in flames superimposed over a clock and titled "Earth's Final Hour Is Near: Have you Prepared YOUR Spirit?"  I glance from the sign to the girders, beams and hard hats and say out loud, "And that's irony, baby!" It was lost on the seven-year-old in the back seat and garnered a roll of the eyes that would have put many of his students to shame.

Zelda Fitzgerald
In the years following the death of her husband, Zelda Fitzgerald was villified for her role in the lost potential of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The public wanted to know what her illness and instability had cost the literary world?  In reality, many of the characters from his books are based on Zelda and a number of passages from her diaries can be found in his novels, verbatim.  Eventually, the tide of public opinion turned and she was seen in a new role: Zelda the victim, Zelda the artist, Zelda the dancer.  She was finally much more than just the first, and last Flapper.

In the hours following the death of Tom Oglesby, hundreds of former students took to social media to eulogize the contributions that he made to the person they currently are.  Lawyers, policemen, marketing directors and mechanics all took to the keyboard to share their memories of the impact he had on each of their lives.  

I've been digging through the few relics I still possess from high school.  As I wallow in sentimentality, I'm shocked by how much I've forgotten and how little has survived.  I did, however, come across a hand-written script, among the newspaper clippings, ticket stubs and playbills.  It was an excerpt from the one-woman play, The Last Flapper.  The play is based on the life of Zelda Fitzgerald and it was the first time I ever heard her story.  I'll never forget taking the packet and listening to the instructions to memorize it for Saturday's meet.  It was handed to me by Thomas W. Oglesby. 

And that's irony, baby.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Super Powers, Storytellers and Cancer

Over the course of the last two months, I've had the opportunity to help a friend compete for "Man of the Year" for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  The other evening, I co-hosted a shopping event at a local women's clothing store.  Fifteen percent of sales during our two-hour window would to be donated to the LLS.

NASCAR Vintage Tees and Scarves!
Turnout was amazing.  The mood was uplifting.  The clothing, shoes and accessories alluring.  The wine was delicious.  (I made two trips into the fitting room: one before wine and one can guess which landed me that new pair of jeans.)

I found out that we made nearly $1,500 for the LLS.

When I heard the number, I was actually a little disappointed.  I mean, the amount of shopping that was taking place was CRAZY!  But, then I did the math and realized that in a 2-hour window, this group of about 30 ladies spent nearly $10,000.  Okay, THAT is an impressive number.

Shopping by committee!
And, I tapped into a part of myself that I hadn't even realized had gone dormant.  For as long as I could remember, I adored being in big groups of people and finding connections.   I hate small talk (HATE) and I'm really not very good at it.  But as a hostess, you don't have to participate in it.  You have to facilitate it.  And that, I'm actually good at.  I am an excellent rememberer of details.  I believe at times, it's made people uncomfortable, that I can recall specific details about one thing or another from a conversation over a year ago.  But, I'll remember when you tell me your uncle's dog has been suffering from hip displasia.  And, by the way, you should meet my friend over here, who is a dog-lover and also owns a large dog that is currently suffering a malady.

My husband refers to this remembering of details as my 'super power.'  I usually refer to it as a curse, because information sort of feels trapped in my brain.  But, I realize now that it's rooted in my love of stories.

Strike a pose, ladies.
It doesn't take a best-seller to please me.  I think everyone has a story.  Everyone has some interesting experience worth hearing about.  Things far more interesting than the weather or their workout.  And, when you meet someone new, it's a chance to tell someone else about that trip you once took or your brush with fame, or even sledding with your kids during the long winter.  

So now I've found an appreciation for this skill I possess...I just need to put it to work.  And, who knows, maybe next time, we'll top $2,000 for cancer research.  And, maybe that $2,000 will fund the the research project that finds the cure...won't THAT be a story to share!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Remember me?

Well hello out there! 

It's been such a long time since I've posted.  I was reviewing my last blog post (which is 18 months old!) and I realized that not long after that post, I started writing for pay instead of pleasure.  I'll admit, it wasn't financially lucrative but the experience is priceless!  I haven't published anything in a few months though.  I've spent the last few months stepping back into retail, as well as participating in multiple volunteer activities, all of which is rewarding in it's own way, blah blah blah.  None of that is the point of this post.  It's just required because I haven't put anything on this page in so long!

A few weeks ago, I found myself with an unexpected day on my own.  Meatball, in all her popularity, went on a spontaneous playdate so I had no prepared-in-advance to-do list.

So I spent the next few hours shuffling (yes, I actually shuffled...) through the Target Clearance shelves, purchasing $5 vases and various kitchen utensils that we really don't need (well, we DO need a pie server, for that one time each year when we serve pie and say, 'gosh, don't we have a pie server?').

The aimlessness of this unanticipated time to myself led to an epiphany of earth-shaking depths.  This fall, she will be heading to full-time school with her siblings and I will be on my own.  And I'm unprepared.

Yes, I'm emotional that my youngest is heading out into the grown-up world of elementary education.  But, mostly, I'm excited for her because she's ready.  I'm sad that the PBJ sandwich phase of child rearing is coming to a close for me.  But, like my kids, I'm ready for what is coming the workforce.  At least, emotionally and mentally, I'm ready.

Technologically, not so much.  I left work in 2007.  At the time, I had a job that paid for me to attend  conferences about marketing to the MySpace crowd.  Yeah,  When I left, Mark Zuckerberg had only recently left Harvard to pursue Facebook full time and was still battling litigation from the Winklevoss Twins.  Congressmen were 'tweeting' during the 2008 State of Union while I was trying to figure out what birds had to do with US armed forces in Iraq.  Um...insta-huh?  SEO?

For the last few weeks I have been trying to narrow down exactly what I need to learn.  (I still don't tweet.) And there's a lot out there. (It's possible most of it is Google-related.)  So much, that I find I've had to re-evaluate where I fit into this new marketing community.

Because I know I want to work more in creative than I have in the past, you'll be hearing from this blog more now.  (Of course, that's if I don't change to wordpress, in which case, you will hear from me over there.)  When I titled this blog, I wasn't really crazy about it, but in retrospect, it's pretty perfect, huh?

I knew 'going back in' would be difficult after so much time off.  I just had no idea that I would be re-entering as a dinosaur (the shuffling should have tipped me off).

I have deep gratitude to a network of people who have shared their knowledge so openly.  I also find myself grateful for three children, who will soon find a new item on their daily chores list:  Help Mom access_____________________.