Friday Five

1. What’s on your playlist? That’s what these skeletons want to know. I bet the guy in the lawn chair is still on hold with Pandora to request “Monster Mash.”

I’m not sure how this scene relates to Halloween, but as many of you know, my neighborhood goes all out with the decorating, much more than Christmas. I’ll be bringing you the best and the worst of it in the coming weeks.

So…what’s on your playlist these days? 

2. Hemingway’s Gatsby. Years ago, I used to teach English and literature courses at a local college in Harlem. It was an eye opening experience in many ways. In the microcosm of my classroom, I had the opportunity to learn why school is important and why it isn’t.  Many of my formerly hard and fast rules were tested about what it means to be educated. It sounds cliche to say this, but I often think I gained more than my students did.

I wrote an essay about my time there, and I’m happy to say that it was published in Prick of the Spindle, a New Orleans-based literary journal. I’m so flattered that they decided to include my work in this issue. It’s on the longish side, but if you have a few minutes, you can check it out here. As you’ll see, by the end, I certainly had to face down some of my preconceived notions. A bit controversial perhaps. I’d love to know your thoughts. What would you have done in Helen’s situation? Or mine?

3. Before I die I want to. Candy Chang, a TED fellow and New Orleans resident put this question to her neighbors on the side of an abandoned building as a way to build a sense of community. The number of responses run the gamut from funny to though-provoking to poignant and becomes a mirror for the neighborhood. Wait til you see it!

Before I die I want to appreciate every moment I’ve been given.

Now it’s your turn. Fill in the blank: Before I die I want to __________________________.

4. Chocolat Noir. Every now and then a book I’m reading will somehow pop into my daily life in unexpected ways. I’ve just finished a lovely memoir, Paris in Love, about the author’s year in Paris. She writes about an afternoon when she stumbled upon “La Grande Epicerie on rue de Severes and bought three different kinds of chocolate.” One of which was “Michel Cluizel’s noir aux ecorces d’orange.” She had a tasting test and the winner was “Cluizel’s chocolat noir. It’s astounding: deep and rich, with a silky melt.”

Then last week shopping in my local market, this package of chocolate caught my attention. (Chocolate usually does catch my attention anyway, but I recognized the name from Paris in Love, even if I can’t pronounce it.) I splurged, despite the high likelihood that I would eat the entire bar in one sitting. This one is not the orange flavor the author had, but it’s just as rich and silky as she described. I savored it while reading the book and felt transported for just a few minutes to a chocolate shop in Paris.

5. A big thank YOU! After last week’s Friday Five in which I mentioned my recent Kiva loan to Ana in Mozambique, blog reader Karen used the link to donate funds to Ana also! Now Ana’s loan is fully funded and I received a $25 bonus in my Kiva account to make another loan. Talk about paying it forward.

I was very excited to put that bonus to good use in a hurry. I found Melba from Columbia. She needs USD$1,675 to buy a new sewing machine. When Melba was doing seasonal work some years ago, she began to sew. She bought a tabletop sewing machine with her savings and started working as a seamstress; then she bought a serger and offered third party service. She was able to grow her business until she had her own workshop.

Melba’s husband died recently, and she is now a single mother of four children. To support her family she must increase her production and she wants to buy another sewing machine and serger. Her dream is to create her own clothing line and give her children a higher standard of living with better economic opportunities.

Thanks again to Karen whose donation contributed to both of these loans! Go here to learn more about Kiva.

Have a great weekend, everyone! 



  1. I had a similar struggle with education standards during my brief stint teaching in high schools. I had a boy in my year nine English class who refused to write. Anything. And I was made to pass him by the school administration! I love that ‘before I die’ wall. And you can tell that chocolate’s good just by the packet!


    1. That must have been so frustrating! I think these sorts of things happen more than we realize in high schools. In college, the students are supposed to be there because they are interested in learning. Or at least that’s the idea, right?


  2. Your neighbors could be celebrating Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) which happens around Nov. 1. In Mexico, they display skulls and skeletons to honor the dead.

    Looking forward to reading your essay…congrats on getting it published!

    Now I want to try that chocolate. 🙂


    1. Ah-ha. Maybe that’s it. I like that this guy was listening to some tunes. He looked like he was having a good time. 🙂

      I’d written that essay a few years ago, but it sat in my folder untouched. Then Nathan over at Mr. London Street (do you read his work?) kind of inspired me to send it out again.


      1. Just read your essay and it’s wonderful, Jackie. What a teaching experience.
        Yes, I read Nathan when I have time. His stuff is so powerful I want more than a few minutes to really digest and savor it.


      2. I’m so glad you enjoyed the essay! I had so many other interesting experiences while I was there, I could probably write another one. Thank you for reading it.
        I totally agree about Nathan’s work. Whenever a post comes into my inbox, I wait until I can read it uninterrupted. I would love for my non fiction work to be that powerful.


  3. “Murmuring commenced and a spokeswoman was nominated.” I love your essay, Jackie! Its understated humor is wonderful. And the descriptions are so vivid; I enjoyed that you mostly just describe, without offering your judgment – that kind of writing is powerful.

    I would not have wanted to be in your shoes with the ethical questions. Sometimes what we wish is a different thing from what is morally right. I have watched young people of all colors and backgrounds struggle to earn a degree – one homeless white woman even living in a small cave she dug out near campus and washing in the public restrooms there before class. When I compare an experience such as that to the kids whose parents pay their way through college (and who often cheat too) it’s obvious inequality is not something simple to solve. Life is always easier for those with, than for those without. It’s one reason keeping out library system alive and thriving is so very important. Those (loud) voices who proclaim our libraries to be unnecessary and a thing of the past, and that closing them should not worry us because books can always be read on one’s Kindle have NO idea that many people cannot afford a Kindle, or the payments/credit card necessary to obtain book loans, and might even need a sanctuary to read and study in quiet without TVs and music blaring. Everyone has access to libraries, and so many now provide internet access too.
    Okay, that’s my rant. See, your lovely essay got me thinking!
    Nice job. And congrats getting published. =)


    1. Thanks for your kind words about my essay, Cynthia. It means a lot to me that you enjoyed it.
      I’ve had several students over the years who told me that libraries saved them. When they had no where to go after school or needed a quiet place to get out of a chaotic home life, libraries were the places to which they escaped. It’s a shame that more people don’t recognize them as the valuable resources they are. Go, librarians, go! 🙂


  4. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your essay. You portrayed well the struggle that we face as educators to balance standards and ideals against reality. Parts of your essay reminded me of a book I just finished reading last week – Sapphire’s “Push.”

    Really well done. 🙂 Kuddos on the publication.


    1. That is quite a compliment coming from you! I really appreciate that you took the time to read my essay and can identify with the decisions, large and small, that have to be made on a daily basis.
      Thank you!


  5. What a powerful piece, Ms. C…
    have you heard from Helen or any of your other students after the Regents? I suspect the majority of your students appreciated (if not at first then later on for sure) all the effort you put into your class structure / assignments, etc… the easy thing to do would have been to pretend like it didn’t matter… but it seems hard to believe that would have benefited them as much as your dedication.
    Also… had I been there I would have driven you nuts! But I would have tried, anyway.


    1. One student keeps in touch now and then to let me know what she’s been up to, but most of them were just happy to escape the class! 😛
      I hope they did appreciate the lessons, at least in retrospect.
      Thank you for you kind words, SIG! That means a lot to me.


  6. I should read Paris in Love. I’m hoping to go back this spring. we spent 3 rushed days there and there’s so much to see. I love the song, Monster Mash. It’s actually on my ipod. Many moons ago I worked in a day school and on Halloween the school didn’t have any Halloween music, but I happened to have the Monster Mash in the car. We played it over and over all day. The kids loved it and I think all of the adults have recovered by now.


    1. I hope you do get back to Paris soon. Three days is not enough!

      Monster Mash is one of those songs that stays in your brain all day long. It’s impossible to think of anything else. 🙂 (Kind of like It’s a Small World after the ride at Disney World!)


  7. Wow! The book was such a success it popularized the chocolate.

    I’ve done all the major things, I think. The only truly important thing is to love my children to adulthood. I’d like to do that before I die.


    1. Have you had a chance to read the book? I think you might enjoy it even more than I did as you probably know the neighborhoods and shops/restaurants that she mentions. That level of familiarity would make the book even more exciting to read.


  8. Just read your essay. It is beautifully written! On a topic which is relevant all over the world. Especially in countries like South Africa where in the past education standards for the majority of people have not been high.

    I think the question you ask is a very complex one and difficult to answer simply. I’m going to forward the link to Estie (my sister-in-law) who teaches high school biology and maths. She’s often spoken of very similar situations to me.

    Thanks for sharing your essay!


    1. Thank you so much for reading the essay, Lisa! I really appreciate your thoughtful comments.
      I feel like I know Estie through her guest posts. I hope the essay resonates for her too. I’d love to get her take on it since she has so much teaching experience.
      Hope you have a lovely weekend!


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