Thursday, December 16, 2010

Play On, Said Shakespeare

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who play a musical instrument and those who wish they did. I have always wanted to be one of those people who could sit down at the piano and play any song by ear, so people could sing along to their favorite tunes. I took piano lessons for years, but don't practice now and am not very good. I keep saying I'll take it up again, but I already have too many (way too many) projects.

I also played clarinet during middle school. I was always second chair. First chair was held by a boy named Mike, who I believe went on to study at Juilliard. I retained second chair status not because of my clarinet skills, but because I was a good sight reader (thanks to those piano lessons). I never wanted to play clarinet. I wanted to play oboe, but our conductor said I didn't have the right embrasure and that we already had an oboe player. Never mind that we had 13 clarinet players.

As any parent of neophyte musicians knows, those early years can be painful. Squeaks and squawks, missed beats, wrong notes and rhythmic challenges are all part of the territory. Among our children, we have suffered through enjoyed two trumpet players, two violinists, a saxophonist, two pianists and a drummer. This does not count their Rock Band sessions.

We beg them to practice. We rent instruments and pay for lessons. We attend school events euphemistically called "concerts". We provide "black bottoms, white tops and black dress shoes" for said concerts. We smile and clap and pretend to recognize the songs they are playing. We endure 73,248 performances of "Hot Cross Buns". We buy band and orchestra fund-raising crap products. We schlep them to rehearsals at 7:15 in the morning twice a week. We secretly wonder why.

But then one day, usually sometime during middle school, the squeaks and squawks turn into sounds that vaguely resemble … music. At first, you're not quite sure you actually heard what you think you heard. But, then, sure enough, you identify a melody. Your ears stop bleeding. You recognize that though your child may not be a prodigy, there is a certain level of proficiency that has been attained. You pat yourself on the back for providing this cultural immersion, knowing that they will carry their love of music with them for the rest of their lives.

It's usually about this time that they decide to quit.

Last week, we attended the winter concert of our two youngest children. It was the school's "Winter Concert", as our public school no longer gives holiday concerts. The short video (I promise, it's just just 33 seconds) showcases the one holiday medley they played and features our curly blonde mop-topped saxophonist (in about the middle of your screen) and our shaggy brunette trumpet player behind him to the left.

If you still think this does not sound like music, then you either never took up an instrument yourself or your children have not yet started. If you thoroughly enjoyed it, then your children are still at the squeaky, squawky stage. I feel your pain. Either way, I hope it brought a smile. Donations may be sent to the Bearman Musical Scholarship Fund. Any level of contribution welcome. Comments are also welcome here.

Happy, happy, merry, merry to one and all.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy Haul-idays! 2KoP First-ever Giveaway

There are two kinds of people in the world — those lamenting the decline of publishing as we know it and those who believe that books are just too important to fade away. I love books. I love the Internet, too, but it's not the same as reading a book. I think e-Readers play an increasing and interesting role in the world of writing and reading, but they aren't books.

This holiday season (like every holiday season in my past) — I will be celebrating with books — giving some and, if I'm lucky, receiving some as gifts. Imagine my joy when I learned that Chronicle Books is offering bloggers the opportunity to win $500 worth of books. Even better, if you comment on this post, we could both win. Simple as that. This is my first-ever giveaway post here on Two Kinds of People. I hope it makes you as happy as it has made me. Here's my Chronicle Books wish list, in order of discovery:

Lotta Jansdotter Seedlings Journal $9.95
L is for Lollygag — Quirky Words for the Clever Tongue $12.99
Show and Tell — Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration by Dilys Evans $24.99
This is NPR — by Cokie Roberts, Susan Stamberg, Noah Adams, John Ydstie, Renee Montagne, Ari Shapiro, and David Folkenflik $29.95
You're a Genius All the Time: Belief and Technique for Modern Prose, by Jack Kerouac $12.95
Secret Lives of Great Authors: What Your Teachers Never Told You About Famous Novelists, Poets, and Playwrights — by Robert Schnakenberg $16.95
You Know You're a Writer When … — by Adair Lara $9.95
Writer's Workshop in a Book — The Squaw Valley Community of Writers on the Art of Fiction — edited by Alan Cheuse and Lisa Alvarez $14.95
No Plot? No Problem! A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days — by Chris Baty $14.95
Art of McSweeney's — by the Editors of McSweeney $45.00
Creature ABC — by Andrew Zuckerman $19.99
Creature Floor Puzzles — by Andrew Zuckerman $24.95
Duck! Rabbit! – by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld $16.99
Eric Carle Decorative Prints — by Eric Carle $24.95
The Lonesome Puppy — by Yoshitomo Nara $17.99
Creature — by Andrew Zuckerman $60.00
Eric Carle Animal Lacing Cards — by Eric Carle $14.95
Eric Carle Animal Flash Cards — by Eric Carle $14.95
The Doorbells of Florence: Fictional Stories and Photographs — by Andrew Losowsky $18.95
This is My Best: Great Writers Share Their Favorite Works — edited by Kathy Kiernan and Retha Powers $16.95
Walk the Dog: A Parade of Pooches from A-Z — by Bob Barner $9.99
Amazing Animals: Snakes $5.99
Amazing Animals: Parrots $5.99
Animals Nobody Loves — by Seymour Simon $7.99
Simms Taback's City Animals — by Simms Taback $12.99
Happy Hamster — by Mathijs van der Paauw $9.95
Hope Valley Mix & Match Stationery — by Denyse Schmidt $8.95
Animal Greetings Mix & Match Stationery — by $8.95

That's a whole lot of book love (with a few peripherals thrown in for fun). Some I'd like for me, some I'd like for gifts, some I want for other, secret reasons. I know the list is a bit … eclectic … but, hey, I'm hard to pin down when it comes to books. If you would like the chance to win these books, comment here. If you think you might like someone else's list better (to each his or her own), you can check out other bloggers participating in this contest or write your own post with your own list. Be sure to leave a comment here and let me know if you do, but be quick about it: last day for entries is 12/10 and winners will be announced on 12/13. Good luck to us all.

Update 12/13/10: Sad to say we did not win. Congratulations to (sort of. I guess. I'm really happy for them. Really.) Happy Holidays, all. I guess we'll have to go to the book store.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Happy Prematurity Awareness Day

There are two kinds of people in the world: those born full-term (at or about 40 weeks gestation) and those born prematurely (before 37 weeks). Today, November 17, is National Prematurity Awareness Day. It is also the birthday of my two favorite preemies in the world, Isaac and Molly. (Happy birthday!)

Those preemies are 19 years old today. I know, I can't believe it either. Part of the reason that's so hard to believe is that the struggles they faced for the first five months of their lives are vividly etched in my brain. I remember more about those five months than I do about the last five months. That's what crisis does to us. It makes us hyperaware.

We've lived through it and those tiny little babies, born at just about a pound and a half each, are now young adults, off on new adventures. For years, people have encouraged me to write their story, but I wasn't ready. I needed to get them safely here, to this place, before I could gain the kind of perspective needed to write a compelling, meaningful memoir. The time has come for me to write my part of this story, because from here on out, Ike and Molly's stories are theirs to tell.

Many of you know that I have been participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I'm here confessing that I'm a NaNo Rebel, writing a memoir, not a novel. Along the way, I reread and transcribed the journals I kept during those long days in the hospital. I took me right back to their bedsides (I should say, isolette-sides). I've been bawling my eyes out, but they have been good tears — cathartic tears, finally letting me shed the fear of that desperate time.

As part of this project, I have decided to launch a new website today, chronicling that time on the neonatal care unit of Evanston Hospital by posting the actual journal entries, day-for-day, 19 years after the fact. I hope you join me on their journey at Mike&Ollie: 24-Weekers Who Beat the Odds. You're in for quite a ride.

We have been so lucky at every step along this journey. We have had wonderful doctors, nurses, therapists, technicians, teachers, helpers, family and friends who have helped and supported us. You know who you are. If I haven't said it recently, thank you. I am mindful even as I write our story, that many families with similar stories have not been as lucky as we have been. My heart is with you. My hope is that this project will help those who are at an earlier point along their path.

I welcome your comments here, as always, but I hope you'll visit the new site and leave your comments there, as well. Don't miss the video page, which has the commercial they made for Evanston Hospital and a short video they made as a gift to the parent support group of the Infant Special Care Unit. Bring tissues.

A special thanks to the lovely Rebecca Rasmussen for granting me a guest post today on her blog, The Bird Sisters.

FYI, you can now find me posting occasionally on Technorati. Here's the post that went up today about the Empire State Building lighting up for Prematurity Awareness Day.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dear Erica, Or Is Public Education Dead?

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who believe in the value of public education and those who feel it is a failed experiment.

I stand firmly with Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father and author of the Declaration of Independence, who believed that public education for all was essential for sustaining democracy. Are there problems with the American educational system? Certainly, but that should inspire us to action, not abandonment. 

There is a valedictorian address by a 2010 high school graduate, Erica Goldson, that has gone viral. If you haven't seen or read it, you should. Goldson makes a passionate argument against the current state of education, going so far as to liken it to enslavement, brainwashing and insanity.

Many of her points are well taken. The goal-driven, standards-based, business model of contemporary education plagues me, as well. People are not interchangeable parts; we are not standard issue and cannot be evaluated nor educated as if we were. Here is part of Goldson's eloquent argument:

"We are all very special, every human being on this planet is so special, so aren't we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still."

The irony, of course, is that Goldson uses her very education to speak against those who taught her to think for herself, to write a coherent speech, and to stand boldly in public to deliver her treatise. She states that were it not "… for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed." Well, brava for Ms. Bryan. Many of us can recall a special teacher, sometimes even the exact moment, when our minds were opened. We should bless those teachers, thank them, and encourage our best, brightest and most enthusiastic minds to become educators.

What I know that young Ms. Goldson does not, is that educational philosophy operates like a slow pendulum across a wide arc. This year, Ms. Goldson is the product of an increasingly competitive, narrowly-focused, goal-oriented pedagogy that we will, for the sake of argument, say is at or near the far right of that arc. In 1978, when I graduated from high school, the pendulum was at or near the far left of the arc, poised to begin a swing back that has taken more than 30 years.

Back then, we weren't so goal oriented as process minded. Our classrooms were filled with bean bag chairs and progressive educators and choices. I took photography as a science, and the only requirement for changing that course from an art credit to a science credit was that I had to learn the names of the chemical formulas we used in developing photos. That's it, just the names. I could have gone further, questioned the theory behind using light and photo sensitive materials to capture images on film in a negative format and then transforming it again into a positive image on paper. I could have, but I didn't. It wasn't a requirement, and while I was fascinated to see an image emerge in the red light and chemical brew of the dark room, it never occurred to me to ask how or why.

My point here, and it harkens back to Ms. Goldson's earlier statement, is that we are indeed all individuals with our own learning curves and drives and levels of ambition. I think Ms. Goldson is lucky to begin questioning her education as early as she has, because her questions and curiosity will take her far. I believe that the goal of education should be to learn how to learn — not what to think, but how to think.

Ms. Goldson lamented in her speech that education — and work afterward — is a form of slavery. She claims to be "a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker."

I part ways with Ms. Goldson on her assertion that education equals enslavement. Baron Henry Peter Brougham (1778-1868) argued that education actually precludes slavery: "Education makes people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave."

Her naivety is forgivable (she's just a teen, after all), but it shows itself most clearly in her definition and understanding of work. So, Ms. Goldson is an adventurer, not a worker. I wish her good luck with that and would like to talk to her when her first rent payment comes due or when she breaks her leg on one of her adventures and doesn't have health insurance. Despite it's bad rap, work doesn't have to be a four-letter word. The trick is to find value and worth in doing your work, even if it's only that it allows you to live as comfortably as you want to live and enjoy your time away from work. If you're lucky, you can pay your bills and feed your family. If you're really lucky, work is more than that, but that can be enough.

Picasso once said: "Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working." I doubt that doodling in class has led anyone to become a great artist by the time of high school graduation. It may start you down a path and develop some rudimentary skills, but so does taking good notes and learning to take tests successfully. I agree that test scores should not be the goal of education, but learning to take meaningful notes, construct a coherent argument, and write an organized paper are fundamental skills for the student, just as learning the play of light against dark and understanding perspective are fundamental skills for the artist.

I could never have been valedictorian of my class. I got very good grades in high school, but I didn't work hard enough to be number one. I don't even know if we had a valedictorian. I did do well enough both in school and on standardized tests to get into an excellent college, where I struggled because I had not learned any study habits during high school. It wasn't until my junior year in college that I figured out how to study. And it wasn't until many years later, when I found myself sitting in the driveway to hear the end of a story on NPR that I really figured out that learning isn't something you do for 12 or 16 years of school. It's a life-long process.

It took me a long time to find my passion. Now, each day, I learn something new about writing and it spurs me to learn even more. I wish I had found this kind of inspiration when I was 18, but I wasn't ready. Inspiration may have shown up earlier, but I wasn't working at it. Sometimes I worry that it's too late, but I push those thoughts aside. They won't do me any good.

I also accept Ms. Goldson's challenge to her graduating classmates: "… do not forget what  went on these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you … We will break down the walls of corruption and let the garden of knowledge grow throughout America." I add only that we are all responsible for tending that garden. What say you? Leave your questions and comments here.

Thomas Jefferson on public education to A. Coray, 1823. ME 15:487

Thomas Jefferson,
public domain image
"The public education … we divide into three grades:
  1. Primary schools, in which are taught reading, writing, and common arithmetic, to every infant of the State, male and female.
  2. Intermediate schools, in which an education is given proper for artificers and the middle vocations of life; in grammar, for example, general history, logarithms, arithmetic, plane geometry, mensuration, the use of the globes, navigation, the mechanical principles, the elements of natural  philosophy, and as a preparation for the University, the Greek and Latin languages.
  3. An University, in which these and all other useful sciences shall be taught in their highest degree; the expenses of these institutions are defrayed party by the public, and partly by the individuals profiting of them." 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

NaNoWriMo Here We Go

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who do NaNoWriMo and those who do not.

What is NaNoWriMo? I'm glad you asked. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It's a voluntary act of craziness whereby participants pledge to write 50,000 original words during the month of November.

What do you get if you "win". The right to say you did it. And you get to change your website badge from "participant" to "winner". That's it. No writing contract. No money. No fame. Just the satisfaction of showing yourself and the rest of the world that you can do it.

In other words, it is the literary equivalent to running a marathon.

Why am I doing it? Oh, well that's a whole other question. First, this is absolutely the closest I will ever get to running a marathon. I don't actually run IRL, but I am happy to take the metaphor and run with it.

Next, I have a project that I've been wanting to get on paper (or on disk, as the case may be). It's a story that I know well and have been meaning to write for a long time. This seems like the perfect opportunity to splatter my shitty first draft all over my screen.

NaNoWriMo is about quantity, not quality. As their website explains, "The Kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly." For me, personally, it's a chance to tell my extremely vocal inner editor to shove it for 30 days. My goal is to let the writing take me where it may.

Last week, Mary Scruggs, a writing teacher from the famed Second City, talked to us at Off Campus Writers' Workshop (OCWW) about an improvisation game called "Yes, and …." One of the golden "rules" of improv is that you are to take what others say, acknowledge it and build on it. In other words, be supportive of your fellow cast mates and what they want to say. Mary pointed out that writers tend to hear our inner voices and respond with "No, no, no, no, no." What if, instead, we listened to our inner voices — our characters — and responded with "yes, and …"? Where could that take our writing? Would we go places we've never gone before? In other words, be supportive of your characters and what they want to say.

I'm looking at NaNoWriMo as one big experiment in saying "yes, and …" to my inner voice.

A writer friend who I have only met online, the fabulous Lisa Romeo, suggested that we partner up for this year's NaNoWriMo. When she asked, I jumped. First, I respect her as a writer and teacher, and if she thinks it's worth doing, then I believe it is. Second, it's always better to be accountable to someone. Who else would care whether I do this or not (except you, of course, Dear Reader)?

BTW, I won't be posting this month of writing here on Two Kinds of People, or even on my shitty first draft blog — SFD @ 2KoP. The whole point is to create a first draft, for me and me alone, a starting point. Then comes revision, revision, revision, editing, polishing and then … who knows. But first comes the shitty first draft.

So, tomorrow is day one. I've installed a little counter there on my side bar. That way you can all help keep me honest. Scroll back up to the top of this post to see one of the web badges designed for this year's NaNoWriMo. I'm not quite sure how that particular image relates to writing in quantity, but I hope this whole project doesn't make a monkey out of me. Here we go. Wish me luck, or tell me I'm crazy in a comment here.

Ed. note, 11/2/10: Last night, my youngest (12-year-old) son read this post and decided to join in the fun, signing up for NaNoWriMo's Young Writers Program. He has pledged 50K words, too. Here's my post about it on SheWrites. Seth does not have his own blog (yet!), so feel free to leave your words of encouragement for him here and I'll be sure to pass them along.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You Just Never Know

Laura Munson at a reading sponsored by the wonderful Book Stall of Winnetka.
You never know when or where or how you are going to meet someone who will touch your life in a meaningful way. I "met" the lovely and talented Laura Munson through an online writing forum called SheWrites. We struck up an e-mail conversation, which resulted in a phone conversation and then a real life meetup last month when she traveled from her home in Montana to visit family in Illinois and promote her touching, best-selling memoir, This is Not the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness.

While she was in town, Laura spoke at a benefit and shared the podium with Dr. Gary Hammer, director of the adrenal cancer program at The University of Michigan (go blue!). Laura posted about her personal experience with adrenal cancer on her blog These Here Hills. The post, "Rare Cancer, Rare Doctor" also ran in the Huffington Post on 10/18/10.

Because this is such an important message, and because Dr. Hammer's hypothetical letter to a hypothetical patient is a powerful treatise on the doctor-patient partnership, and because the post includes a beautiful Two Kinds of People reference, I am honored to include it here today as a guest post. Please read and share.

Rare Cancer. Rare Doctor.
by Laura Munson

Amazing people have come into my life lately, and I can’t help but feel a deep knowing that it is nothing close to coincidence. Doctor Gary Hammer is one of them.

Dr. Gary Hammer
I met Gary because my sister-in-law was dying of a rare cancer that was supposed to kill her within months of diagnosis. Adrenal Cortical Cancer, or ACC for short. Doctors looked at her gravely. Mayo threw up their hands. There are only 300-600 cases in the US annually. That’s 1 to 2 per million. There was no cure. There was very little research being done. It looked hopeless. This is a cancer that often times lays dormant, wreaking silent havoc in the stomach, often caught too late. It goes where it wants. There’s little to radiate or chemotherapize. She was going to die, and fast. Five kids under 16. A woman who never drank alcohol, did drugs, smoked. An athlete, a practitioner of positive thinking and positive being, the definition of community leader, Sandra was that “one.” The one who defined the difference between the “two kinds of people: the ones who think about things, and the ones who do things.” Sandra was a doer.

So when she was stripped of her future, she caught her breath, and then she did the impossible. She lived for another nine years. She lived on will and positive affirmation and love. And then eventually, the cancer came back, and the only hope fell in the hands of a man who has devoted his life’s work to finding a cure for ACC. Gary Hammer, who is the University of Michican’s director of their adrenal cancer program. He is one of the only doctors in the US doing research on her kind of rare cancer. One of the only people in the world. When she barely had the energy to walk down the stairs of her home, Sandra participated in his clinical trial, travelling week after week with a family shepherd from her home in Ft. Collins to Denver to Chicago and back in the same day, processing the side-effects of the treatment, which is essentially a pesticide banned in the 1950s for use on crops. Because who wants to put money into such a quick killer of so very few. If you ask her children this question, they’ll try to find grace, because that’s what they learned from their mother. But inside they feel mad, ripped off, and beyond shocked that they live in a country that even still has expendable populations. How are they supposed to find trust again? How are they supposed to find faith after this tragic loss?

Gary Hammer is their link to making sense of loss, tragedy. It’s doctors like him around the globe who are blazing new trail, despite the odds, and in-so-doing, become the gatekeepers to new terrain. I am so inspired by Gary and his work, and also by his spirit. He has not detached from the heartbreak of his chosen field. He has moved deeper into it. He learns from his patients and has much to teach us about finding freedom even, and especially in the most challenging times. He is the sort of person who reminds us to have faith in the things that matter right now, wherever we are in our lives. My nieces and nephews can’t regain their mother, but they can rediscover faith.

My book is about rediscovering faith. Faith in yourself, against the odds. Mine were different odds. But finding faith in yourself is fundamental, whether it’s in death or love or both. For we all face both. In my book, there is a section that has to do with clear vision in the midst of crisis. The crisis, as you may know, had to do with my marriage, but on a deeper level, it had to do with my husband’s relationship with himself. Like me, he had rigged it that his personal worth was only as good as his career success, and though he worked so very hard, he wasn’t seeing financial results. He went into a crisis of self in which he questioned his love for me and our marriage. I felt that this was a crisis of his own self, and felt in my gut that the best thing I could do was to get out of his way. To not engage the drama. To focus on what I could control, and let go of the rest.

There began a time of soul searching for my husband that came together with crystal clarity when he went to be the family shepherd, assisting his sister on the long trek from her home in Colorado to the clinical trial here in Chicago and back again. He called me from the waiting room with a tone in his voice I hadn’t heard in a long time. He was flattened by the weight of cancer all around him. Whatever fears he had about our finances and his job were washed upon the shores of his own good physical health, and his relationships. “It’s who you love and how you love,” he said, as humble as I’d ever heard him. That was his sister’s gift to him. To us. She passed away a few months later. And in her dying, she taught those of us who loved her how to live.

Her message was to find the freedom of the present moment. To affirm life in all its abundance right where you are, whether you’ve been given months to live, or if your husband has announced that he no longer loves you. Her message was and is one of empowerment.

Gary has written something that is ground breaking. He debuted it last week in Chicago at a hospital fundraiser where we were the keynote speakers. You could have heard a pin drop, but for the tears. I would like to share it here. I have never known a doctor to show this sort of vulnerability. Here is his hypothetical letter to a doctor from a patient diagnosed with cancer, and his hypothetical repsonse. This is the very definition of empathy. I am honored to have him in my life and to call him friend. Please pass this along to everyone you can think of who would benefit from it. It gives us hope.

To that end, here is what appeared the night my sister-in-law died. Over her house, for all of us to see. I’m going to believe that it is possible to make rainbows if we want to deeply enough.

Dr. Hammer, then, is making rainbows in acts like [this open letter to cancer patients] (get out your tissue).

Thank you Laura. Thank you Dr. Hammer.

Comments welcome comments here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Split Personality

There are two kinds of people in the world: regular people and superheroes.

I was never a huge superhero fan. Sure, I watched hours of Superman reruns (the black and white one with George Reeves) and Batman (Pow! Bam!), but that was only when there was nothing better on (like reruns of Petticoat Junction and Gillgan's Island).

Maybe it's because there weren't many great female superhero role models. I hated Wonder Woman's outfit. Bat Girl and Super Girl were lame wannabes. Then there was Catwoman, but she was kind of an antihero whose only superpower appeared to be sex appeal. Besides, I could never have pulled off that skin-tight black thing she wore.

The guys had the real super powers — faster than a speeding bullet and all that. But if I could reinvent myself as a superhero and choose my own super power … hmm, what would it be? Time travel? Invisibility? Teleporting? Flying? So many choices.

I first started thinking about this after hearing the Superpowers episode on This American Life, way back in 2001. (Subliminal message: it's pledge week — support NPR if you can.) But the question resurfaced today when I was tagged by E. Victoria Flynn of the fabulous blog Penny Jar. The first question:

If you could have any superpower, what would you have? 

It has finally become clear to me that the only superpower I really need is the ability to be two places at one time. It all started when I married a man who had two children, and the two places at one time thing would have come in very handy. It would have been handier still when I had twins. And then two more boys, just 16 months apart. It would be really handy tomorrow at "Take-your-parent-to-school Day", because those two boys are both at the same school. At the same time. In different classrooms. You see where I'm going with this. 

2. Who is your style icon? 

It's my daughter, who was recently voted the style icon of her freshman (college) class. The girl has the "it" factor and, man, can she accessorize.

3. What is your favorite quote? 

Oh, there are so many. I love the Fitzgerald quote in this post; and Robert Benchley's Law of Distinction — the ultimate Two Kinds of People quote. But today I think I'll go with a little ditty by Ogden Nash:

"Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker."

4. What is the best compliment you've ever received? 

When I was in college, I wore this fabulous black trench coat and a real Stetson fedora. I was sitting in a cafe when a waiter came up to me with a martini. He said that a gentleman  had bought it for me because I looked like Greta Garbo. When I asked who the gentleman was, the waiter told me that he had ordered the drink on his way out because he thought that I wanted to be alone.

5. What's on your iPod/CD player right now?
Mercy by Duffy. Also liking OK Go's new tune, White Knuckles

6. Are you a night owl or a morning person?

Please. Have you seen what time I usually post? Night. Owl.

7. Do you prefer cats or dogs?

As the co-owner of a pet store, it would be unethical (and unwise) to express a preference. But it may be a future 2KoP post, so stay tuned.

8. What is the meaning behind your blog name?


And now, I offer you these three exceptional blogs: 

Artichokes and Aristotle
Darryle Pollack — I never signed up for this …
Christine Wolf's Blog

Those of you who are blogless or who have yet to be tagged, feel free to leave your answers to any or all of these questions by leaving a comment here. And while you're in the the neighborhood, stop by and see my latest post on The Chicago Moms, which also went up today.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

At Two With Nature

"I am at two with nature." Woody Allen

There are two kinds of people in the world. I'm not the only one who thinks so, either. Robert Benchley wrote it into law. Ian Gibbs writes a comic called Two Kinds of People and this guy stole my first choice for my blogspot URL, even though he has never written a single post.

Lately, everywhere I turn I see two kinds of people. In comedy, "There are two kinds of people" ranks right up there with "A priest, a minister and a rabbi" as the start of a groaner joke. I recently even ran across the Two Kinds of People List (good fodder, if I ever run out of my own ideas).

But now it seems Two Kinds of People has gone highbrow. Most colleges and universities ask applicants to submit a personal essay (or two) as part of the admissions process. This year, applicants to the University of Chicago are offered five options, and Essay Option 2 sounds mighty familiar:

"Dog and Cat. Coffee and Tea. Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. Everyone knows there are two types of people in the world. What are they?" They claim this was "Inspired by an alumna of the Class of 2006."

I'm telling you here and now that while I have yet to post my coffee essay (I call it "Regular or Decaf"), I wrote it long before I read U of Chicago's prompts and have only been waiting for the right time to post it. You can find one variation on the dog and cat theme on last year's post called "Pet People and Proud of It". And if you have to ask whether I'm Team Gatsby or Team Catcher, then clearly you never read "Sensory Perceptions".

I hear the University of Chicago calling to me, but I can't quite decipher the message. Is it saying: "Carpe diem (which it would definitely say in Latin, because it is The University of Chicago, after all). Apply to our Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH) Writing Option." Or is it saying: "For God's sake, you just had a significant birthday. These essay prompts are designed for 17- and 18-year olds. It's time for you to let go of this whole Two Kinds of People obsession." (I don't know how to say any of that in Latin, but I think carpe diem may still be appropriate. And just FYI, Google Translate says that "Two Kinds of People" in Latin is People duplex; maybe I should change the name of the blog.)

On further reflection, I'm thinking the University of Chicago MAPH program may not be right for me. It's more of a creative writing option for people who are studying another discipline within the humanities. Perhaps I should explore other MFA programs more in keeping with my writing goals ('cause that's going to happen with two kids already in college and two more coming down the pike).

But I'd like to think there's still plenty of room to explore the rich world of Two Kinds of People, even for an old fogey seasoned writer like me. In the meantime, perhaps I need to start my own graduate program. We'll call it 2KoP-U. Click here to ask a question, leave a comment or request a course catalogue.

And now for a little Two Kinds of People trivia. In what movie will you hear the following quote and who said it?

"You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig."

Bonus question: There's another Two Kinds of People line in the same movie. What is it? Answers here, but don't cheat.

Graphic credit: (love this title) Two of Arts — 2000 visual mashups by Q Thomas Bower via a Creative Commons License.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Turn and Face the Strain

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who struggle with transitions and those who embrace change.

When it comes to transitions, I hide, I deny, I run as fast as I can in the other direction until the change swallows me whole. Then, like Jonah, I sit in the dark counting whale teeth until life spits me out before those digestive juices can do their job. It's not a brilliant strategy, but it's mine.

Normally, I cling to my imperfect strategy and it gets me by until things settle back into a predictable routine, but this fall, this season of change, finds me overwhelmed by the sheer number of transitions.

My twins graduated from high school in June are now in their new roles: one as a part-time community college student also exploring his opportunities through the new high school Transition House (I'm not making that up); the other as a full-time student at a schmancy east-coast school where she is learning to look down her nose at us Midwesterners even as we speak. They have handled their respective transitions quite smoothly (damn my superior parenting skills).

Me, not so much.

The next boy literally has one foot in the high school (for math) and the other in the middle school, while the youngest is working toward that great Jewish transition, becoming a bar mitzvah in April. They're doing well.

Me, not so much.

The oldest son got married this summer; the elder girl just got a new job and moved to a new city. They actually sought out these changes.

Me, not so much.

I wish I still embraced change with the joy and anticipation of my adolescents. Their lives have been blessed enough that they believe all change is good. I can still touch that feeling in my memories of the first days of college. So when did my feelings about change change?

I can tell you exactly. When I was a kid and even into adulthood, I loved roller coasters. The rush and swoop, the climb and fall, the tingle up the spine as your stomach rolls along the curves and your brain floats high above it all. I could get off of one ride and run to the next, panting and laughing and wanting more.

Then sometime between my last two pregnancies, my body lost its equilibrium. Maybe it was carrying those alien beings around in my womb. Maybe it was three pregnancies of hyperemesis that made the idea of flirting with G-forces somewhat less appealing. Maybe it was simply the fact that I was now responsible for other human beings (how boring is that?). In any case, I really can't do roller coasters any more without throwing up.

In a college philosophy class, we spent a great deal of energy on the constancy of change, the perception of time, and the seeming acceleration of both. If we're lucky, when we're young change means new schools, new jobs, new friends, new relationships, new places to live, and new things to see and do. But now I know that many of the changes to come in my life will be sad ones, irrevocable and final.

In just a few days, I'll be forced to acknowledge a "significant" birthday. My usual tactics of duck and cover have been working pretty well, unless I make the mistake of looking in a mirror. Just a bit ago, my friend Kate gave herself a fabulous "significant" birthday party, complete with dancing to songs where I actually knew the words. I swore then and there that I would not hide, but would welcome the dawn of a new age with just such a festive event.

Too bad the forces of transition have seen fit to throw the start of school (four schools, mind you), a 2,000-mile round-trip delivery, the Jewish high holidays and a ton of work in my path. It's hard to plan a party when you will be fasting on the Saturday before and your big day falls on a Monday.

I've watched in awe as my children have embraced the changes in their lives. I've seen my parents plan well, choosing their transitions instead of waiting for changes to be forced upon them. I've also seen the trauma that the denial of inevitable changes can bring.

Change will come, whether we're ready or not.

Change will come, whether it is celebrated or not.

So why not celebrate?

It may not be on the day (or even the week or month), but my significant change will be celebrated. In the meantime, I'll just keep riding that virtual roller coast known as my life.

How do you handle transitions, big or small? Tips and tricks are welcome here. And in case you haven't noticed, I have made a few changes around the old blog as my own private celebration. What do you think?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ode to Hymn #694* (Free Hot Lunch)

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who take vacations and those who travel.

A vacation is someplace you go to relax, rest, rejuvenate. It often involves travel —sometimes a little, sometimes a lot — but usually the travel is direct, getting you from home to your point of destination. Once you arrive, there may be the occasional side trip or adventure, but usually you have a base of operations. Cottages, second homes, beach houses, resorts, and destination vacations, like Disney World, all fall under the realm of vacation. Visiting the grandparents in Florida is a vacation, even if it takes two days of driving each way. You could arguably include cruises in this list, as well.

Traveling is a whole different ball game. The point of traveling isn't where you're going, it's what happens along the way. Writer Miriam Beard once said: "Certainly, travel is more than seeing the sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living."

I hope that's true, otherwise the nearly three weeks that my family of six just spent crammed into a minivan were for naught. I like a nice vacation every once in a while, sitting on a beach or going to an island resort. I like to travel, too, but to travel successfully requires a lot of advance planning — something I don't enjoy. Fortunately, I have a husband who thinks vacations are a bore, who loves to travel, and who dives into all the research and prep work like a man on mission.

Traveling with three teens and a 'tween may not be everyone's idea of a good time, but this was our last hurrah before we send the girl off to college. From now on, chances are that when we gather it will be more of a vacation than a journey. One of the delicious things about this particular trip was that, with the exception of our furtherest point (a wedding in Seattle), every place we went was virgin territory for all of us.

A family is constantly in transition, but the changes are usually subtle. Suddenly, your boy is wearing flood pants and you realize he has grown three inches. Or your girl makes dinner for you and you realize how independent she is. Some of the changes are accompanied by physical symbols — that shiny new set of braces or that shiny new drivers license. Others are unheralded, almost unnoticed, like when toddler temper tantrums subside, or two consecutive years of whining taper off into the occasional eye roll. These are all signposts on the journey of a family.

But what do you do when you get to the end of the road; when one of your co-travelers is striking out on a new path of her own? If you are our family, you take one last road trip (just to ensure that as soon as you get home, she'll run screaming off to college).

When my youngest son was born, I knew he would be our youngest and I tried hard to really pay attention along the way. Despite my best efforts, many of those details have slipped away (four kids can really muddy your memory). I felt the same way on this trip. I was hyper aware of every detail along the way, worried not just about my memories of it, but that this would be the final family memory my daughter would have before her life changes forever. It was a fool's errand, trying to manufacture a memory. Memories don't come from planning — they come from doing.

We had our share of discord on this journey, but probably no more than we would have had at home — it was just harder to separate the perpetrators. We had our share of giggles, too, and bonding and awestruck moments and quietude sprinkled among the noise. When the dust settles, each of us will carry a different memory of this trip. Here are some of the things I learned along the way:
  • The two most important things to pack for a long family trip are patience and compromise.
  • A little hokey goes a long way — a reenacted shootout, a few dumb jokes at a rodeo, and the Hokey Pokey at the wedding added just enough. Bookending the trip with the Corn Palace and Spam Museum was probably overkill.
  • Always take the scenic route. Interstates are great for getting from point A to point B, but the byways will take you to places you never dreamed.
  • You can't rush experience. Leave "quickly" and "right now" at home.
  • You find the best things off the beaten path. We saw a small bear tearing apart a log when we decided to take one last dirt road before leaving Yellowstone.
  • Join AAA, learn how to change a tire and don't forget the bug spray.
  • If you are looking to live the life of a vacation, don't have a family; family life is better suited to adventurers.

"Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends.
It is played out over and over again
in the quietest chambers, that the mind 
can never break off from the journey."

Are you a vacationer or a traveler? Share your adventures by clicking here. *And if you're curious, or a seasoned Interstate Highway traveler, you'll appreciate the lyrics of the song mentioned in the title, by one of my favorite bar bands.

Read more about our trip on The Chicago Moms; see pictures here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Me Oh My

There are two kinds of people in the world: cake people and pie people. Guess which one I am.

I'm a little surprised that I haven't tackled this particular 2KoP dichotomy before, but I'm grateful to Lisa Romeo's Summer Writing Prompt project for reminding me of it. A bit of research shows that both cakes and pies have long, venerable histories dating back to the ancient Egyptians, who are believed to be the world's first bakers.

Cake is fine. It has it's place. Much as I love it, a traditional wedding pie would be a hard to pull off, so my husband and I chose carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. (A mutual disdain for butter cream is one of the things that attracted us to each other.)

But pies (I'm talking fruit pies here) are a different sensation all together. Diet wise, cakes and pies weigh in about the same — both running at a not-exactly-healthy 250-300 calories a slice — but fruit pies somehow feel more virtuous. There's a complexity to homemade fruit pies — sweet and a salty, wet and dry, creamy and flaky, all at the same time — that makes each pie a singular experience.

Pies were originally called coffyns, then pyes and finally pies, and the delicious flaky pastry of our modern tarty desserts does not much resemble the typically inedible crusts of their early ancestors. Back then, the baked shells primarily served as cooking and storage vessels for savory meat dishes. I've had a few meat pies in my day, and a fair share of other crusted dishes, like quiche, but my true love is fruit pies.

Though the romance developed over time, it probably stems back to warm memories I have of baking pies as a child with my grandmother and cousin. My mother's mother was a less-than-stellar chef, coming from the school of cooking where you began making dinner first thing in the morning and boiled or baked the hell out of everything until it was served as barely distinguishable portions of mush and gristle.

That may be a bit harsh, but I will say the woman knew her way around a rolling pin. She made delicious pierogi (Polish dumplings), as well as all kinds of pies. When my cousin Cindy and I, who were the only girls on that side of the family, visited for a day or two, Grandma always made a little extra dough and would give us the trimmings to make tiny tarts. Wrapped in hand-embroidered aprons, we pretended to be grown-up women by pummeling and playing with that dough until it was more like rubbery silly putty than delicate pastry. My Grandma's pies, made from the more tender, earlier version of that self-same dough, were wonderful — delicately lattice woven and flaky on top, moist but not mushy on the bottom.

The first time I attempted to make a pie on my own, it was a complete disaster. Though most pastry dough is made from just a few ingredients (flour, some kind of fat, a little bit of liquid, and sometimes salt and/or sugar), it is a deceptively simple recipe, sensitive to atmospheric conditions and insensitive hands. As the Joy of Cooking explains: "No one recipe can precisely convey a sense for the way the dough should look and feel at all stages nor confer the fabled 'touch'. This comes only with practice."

By the time I was old enough and wise enough to try to codify my grandmother's recipes, it was a little too late. She had never written them down and though she tried to convey that "fabled touch", I just didn't get it. Years later, I let Joy of Cooking take me step-by-step to a decent, if not great pie crust, but it was a lonely learning experience and made me wish I had paid more attention to my grandmother while I had the chance.

About 15 years ago, I decided to forego even birthday cakes in favor of pie. Every year since, I have asked for a homemade peach or sour cherry birthday pie. This is a tricky request, since my late September birthday falls just beyond Midwest cherry and peach seasons.

One year, we planned a neighborhood progressive dinner that just happened to fall on my birthday. In a case of pure serendipity, our neighbor Al, who was in charge of dessert, had baked a peach and blueberry pie. I was sure my husband had tipped him off, but he assured me he had not (and he's not one to miss such a ripe opportunity for praise).

Then, one day in 2008, my friend Cindy Fey posted some juicy pictures of pies she had baked. She was a new friend at the time, and when I left a comment about my unabashed love of pie and dropped a few not-so-subtle hints, she commented back that she would bake me a birthday pie. Sure enough, in September of '09, she produced my first-ever baked-just-for-me homemade birthday peach pie. Never has a birthday cake tasted so wonderful as did this pie, dripping with the full goodness of summer and sweetness of friendship baked right in.

I tried to include a clip here of Andie MacDowell singing "The Pie Song" from the 1996 movie Michael, but no luck, so you'll have to settle for the transcribed lyrics, written by Roy Blount, Jr. Maybe this is the theme song for which I've been searching.

Pie, Pie
Me oh my
Nothing tastes sweet, wet, salty and dry
all at once, oh well, it's pie
Minced an' Wet Bottom!
Come to your place everyday if you've got 'em
Me oh my
I love pie!

So what say you? Is it cake or pie that tickles your dessert fancy? Just click here to let us know.

P.S. Don't forget to check out the launch of The Chicago Moms. It's official as of today.

Photo credit: Peach & Blackberry pie by Tamara Manning via a Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Farewell and Thanks, SVMoms

"Change is the constant, the signal for rebirth,
the egg of the phoenix."Christina Baldwin

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who were lucky enough to be part of the Silicon Valley Moms Group and those who never had the opportunity. Even if you never contributed to the blogs, I hope you read and enjoyed many of our posts. For me, the SV Moms Group really meant the Chicago Moms Blog, but there were 13 other regional sites that, along with the Chicago Moms Blog, comprised the SV Moms Group.

My first post, Lousy Lice, went up on September 12, 2008, and in the intervening 22 months, I had 50 more posts. That's fifty one personal essays on topics ranging from bickering to O'Bama's Nobel Peace Prize; from exciting technical innovations for children with special needs to personal milestones. Fifty one opportunities the hone my writing skills. Fifty one spaces to share my opinions, joys, fears and experiences with a wide-ranging audience of local, national and international readers. Fifty one chances to get feedback on my words (comments people; I love comments). 

I also got to meet some really cool women (these are links to just a few of them; there are too many to count). Some I met in real life (IRL), some only online through this vibrant community. And it was and is a community. About 450 writers currently contribute to the SV Moms blogs, and there have been nearly 800 writers in all, not to mention the thousands of readers who have clicked on our posts. Until I joined the SV Moms, I didn't really understand the concept of an online community or how powerful it could be. 

Through SV Moms, I "met" Heather Spohr and learned about her amazing daughter, Maddie. I watched the online community's heart break over Maddie's loss and witnessed an unprecedented outpouring of love and support for the Spohr family. I marveled at what an incredible tool the Internet is and how it would have been so helpful to us during our own difficult days and months on the NICU. 

I also learned a lot about technology, as this group helped me through the growing pains of learning to blog, navigate Facebook and participate on Twitter. At every turn of a technological corner, they had my back and pushed me forward.

I belonged to the Chicago Moms Blog for just under two years, but the SV Moms community began a little more than four years ago — a blink of an eye IRL, but practically a lifetime online. It seems that lifetime has run its course, though, as a few weeks ago the powers that be decided to end this journey. It was a sudden decision, abrupt, at least to me. I was shaken by the news and surprised at how upset I felt. Perhaps it's all the other major changes going on in my life (kids graduating, going to college, getting married) that has me clinging to the familiar.

But life goes on. It should and it must, and I am learning (really slowly, but learning) that change brings opportunity. Not surprisingly, a group of women from the Chicago Moms Blog has stepped up to fill the void and will be launching The Chicago Moms, a regional online community, and many of us from the Chicago Moms Blog will be contributors. So stay tuned, there's more to come. 

In the meantime, while I have been told that the Chicago Moms Blog posts will stay up indefinitely, today is the last day of new posts. Over the next few days, I will be reposting my CMB entries here on Two Kinds of People (you'll forgive me if they don't all fit the two kinds of people profile). They'll be backdated to reflect their original posting date to keep them in context.

Thank you to all who made my experience on the Chicago Moms Blog one of growth and friendship. Thank you to those who are pushing us forward and creating a new community. Thank you to my readers, here and on CMB. You make it all worthwhile. If you have a thought to share about the CMB or have experienced an abrupt ending in your life, click here to leave a comment. (Comments people; I love comments.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Parenting Deadline — CMB Post

Originally posted on the now defunct Chicago Moms Blog.

As a writer, I justify my procrastination habit by claiming that I thrive under deadline pressure. But there is a pressing deadline looming large on my horizon that has me hyperventilating: my daughter is going off to college for the first time at the end of the summer.

That's right, I have fewer than 12 weeks to cram in all the parenting that I haven't managed to do in the last 18 years. First step, making appointments to get her wisdom teeth out, see the pediatrician one last time, and four or five other doctor visits so she can avoid the campus health clinic for as long as possible. (Done.)

Next, we definitely need to work on laundry. I taught her twin brother how to do laundry when he made noises about not going to college, but she has benefitted from my laundry largess for far too long. Then we have to work on making plane, train and shuttle arrangements for trips to and from Massachusetts. We also need to cover how to pack a ridiculously large bedroom that she has never had to share so that it fits into a dorm room with at least one roommate. (Not done.)

Sure, we've repeatedly discussed boys, drinking, smoking, drugs, partying, safe sex, and safe internet practices (you did not just see me patting myself on the back). We've even talked about the relative dangers of getting involved with older men and the pitfalls of falling for your professors. But what about the more subtle lessons of protecting yourself from users, being generous without giving away your soul, being open to new relationships while keeping your heart reasonably safe from unscrupulous manipulators. (Not done.)

What about all the stuff I need to teach her about men. Like how you should go for nice. Nice lasts. Good hair recedes and turns grey; tight abs turn into pot bellies; and you can buy your own damn car — but nice is a rare quality that should be sought and, if found, held dear. (Not done.)

How do I teach her to reach for the moon without forgetting her roots? To carry us with her without letting us weigh her down? To treasure every moment of the next four years as what will likely be the most exciting time of her life until she has children of her own? (Not done.)

How can I help her understand that the decisions she makes from here on out will have a lasting impact on her life, but that there is always time to change and grow? To be bold and brave, but not stupid? (Not done.)

How can I let her know how much she is loved and treasured, and how deeply she will be missed, without making her feel guilty or too frightened to move ahead? Most importantly, how can I send her forth with joy without letting her know that, inside, my heart is breaking? (Definitely not done.)

Clearly, this deadline is unrealistic. If anyone knows where I can file for an extension, please contact me.

When Susan Bearman isn't busy racing the clock, she can be found writing at Two Kinds of People and The Animal Store Blog and freelancing at

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Living Your Passion

There are two kinds of people in the world: those whose work lives and personal lives are two separate entities, and those who live, work, dream and breathe their passion.

I'm trying to make that work as a writer, which is my passion and haunts my dreams. There isn't much about writing that I don't love (although I wish the pay was better). Writing fulfills, renews and excites me like nothing else, and that passion seems to increase the more I do it.

Not everyone is lucky enough to discover his passion. I have high hopes for my son, who recently graduated from high school. I know in my soul that when he finds his own passion, he will know no limits. But finding that passion and convincing him to look for it have so far been elusive.

Our oldest girl, on the other hand, has known her passion at least as long as I've known her. When I me her dad, she was about six years old and already crazy about animals. When my husband bought The Animal Store, she was just 10, and she has logged many hours in the shop helping him. Even from afar, she continues to be a valuable contributor, writing the employee handbook, as well as much of the material for our soon-to-be-updated Website.

But it is the animals she truly loves. In high school and college, she participated in internships through the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. She worked at the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon, FL. She studied marine biology at the University of Miami and received a masters degree in primate conservation from Oxford Brookes University.

Her master's thesis was on a study she did training select individual animals within a large group. She developed the protocol herself and conducted the study on a group of baboons at the Six Flags Wild Safari in New Jersey. That study will soon be published in a scientific journal. Her methods revolved around the concepts of positive reinforcement training, and her depth of understanding and commitment to these concepts are remarkable.

Her passion has taken her from Chicago to the Bahamas to Florida to England to New Jersey and back to Florida, where she is now working with birds of prey. It has also taken her to the hospital with three (count them!) monkey bites. Her passion sometimes makes us a nervous wreck, but not even those three monkey bites has dulled it for her.

Those who work with animals must do it for love, because it's certainly not for money. As I have mentioned, I'm a reluctant pet owner, but more and more I have come to appreciate other people's devotion to their animals. But Becky's passion goes beyond just loving her pets. She has developed a deep commitment to conservation and ecology, understanding the true ramifications of various efforts toward recycling and new energy technologies. She helps us decipher the sound bites we hear in the news, explaining how some things that sound good on the surface can actually be more hazardous to the environment.

I admire Becky's passion. I know it is deeply felt and affects all the decisions she makes in her life, not just her career choices. Today I learned she is vying for the opportunity to travel with Julie Scardina, the Animal Ambassador for Busch Gardens and SeaWorld. It's an outstanding opportunity to work with one of her idols, learn about Emperor penguins of Antarctica and further her education.

Becky's goal is to make a real impact on how we treat our home planet and all the creatures with which we share it. She believes education and understanding are the way to do that. I hope you will vote to make her dream come true. Just click here to vote for Becky Bearman.

Not all of us are lucky enough to know or recognize our passion from such a young age. Some of us are lucky enough to be inspired by the passion of our children, family or friends. Are you living your passion or does someone else's passion inspire you? If so, let us know in a comment by clicking here.

"Nothing great in the world has been 
accomplished without passion."
— Georg Wilhelm