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On the Chopping Block

My favorite part about the Internet is getting to know regular people. Regular people don’t get media training. We don’t know that we don’t have to repeat ourselves. We don’t speak from talking points to make soundbites. If we get something wrong, it’s accidental and not a manipulation ploy. Knowing that still, somehow, those are the most cringe parts of listening to myself on The Chopping Block at VisceralChange.org.

VC The Chopping Block Ad Card mostly decorative

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Yearbook Ruined Senior Year

I was thrilled to be the yearbook editor my senior year of high school, class of ’89, but it turned to total crap. Fortunately, watching my dad have my back rocked my senior year. Since then, I’ve lost sleep remembering regrettable yearbook signings. Thinking back, I understand where the snark came from and how to differentiate the hateful from the … nah, it’s all hateful.

Girl with long hair in profile in front of a school building with a man ominously perched on the roof

This photo was sent to me over Twitter as my 30th high school reunion approached. If you took it, let me know so I can credit you for my multitude of readers.

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RebL Books

Freedom to Read ‘Em, 2022 Edition

On crisp autumn Friday nights in my collegiate hometown, visiting teams in the late 1980s who made strong plays against the Norman High School Tiger football team might hear “We have more National Merit Scholars than you do!” Maybe our team didn’t win every football game, but we were sure proud of our academic success. Of the six teachers I had my junior year, four held doctorate degrees. The two who didn’t were the yearbook advisor and the history teacher. Feeding straight into stereotypes, the history teacher was among the football coaches.

These days, Norman has two high schools. I presume football is still important to both the Tigers and whoever prances around in green on a campus haunted by spirits of Longfellow Middle School past. I am sure that residents of Norman will say academics are still important, but it’s hard to believe that they have the same level of support as back in the day when the town had never voted down a bond for education.

My English teachers had us read the classics, which consisted of nearly all the banned and challenged books of last century. With a few exceptions, these were books about white people written by white men. These offensive texts typically exposed us to profanity or religion or socialism/communism. My teachers didn’t seek banned and challenged books, but we students sure did! Thank goodness I wasn’t a teen mom. I would have named my kid Holden, and lord knows this planet has enough phonies in it.

A poorly drawn portrait of the main character from The Catcher In The Rye with the text Book Hate: I'm holden' Caulfield responsible for every phony I dated.

A RebL classic post from a platform lost to social media history.

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The School Bus Driver Who Made a Difference

By upper elementary, I reached expert levels for ditching school. My parents had kids at a young age and were too busy figuring out their own lives to pay much attention to my whereabouts during the school day. They trusted the public school system to deal with me. Why else would we hire teachers, attendance clerks and truancy officers? It’s not that my parents didn’t value my education, they just had a lot going on and knew other people had their backs. I could slip them all. Only one obstacle stood between me and a day of freedom–Sid Griffin.

The School Bus Driver Who Made a Difference
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RebL Books

Scaffolding Challenging Books As an Adult

Back in high school, teachers provided me with the skills that helped when a book challenged my ability to pay attention. Without that influence and as a slow reader, I fell into a pattern with comfort books (easy-to-read books read primarily for relaxation). Tackling a book like Wolf Hall, with its lack of antecedents, or The Good Death, with its dense factivism, diminishes my TBR consumption from slow plow to long slog. I’m not sure why I decided to read Wolf Hall and The Good Death concurrently, but I did. I’ve always had self-punitive reading┬átendencies. This post is for those of us who choose to go beyond comfort books and need a refresher on tips and tricks to tackle challenging books without returning to the demoralizing practice of gutting through it.

Scaffolding Challenging Books As an Adult: Wolf Hall
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