Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Gift for Generations

Our dad, Ensley Tiffin, was a recorder.  He was a documenter.  His two most important priorities were his church and his family, and in the 1950s, Ensley Tiffin decided to buy a movie camera and document both for posterity.  My goodness, he had no idea exactly what kind of posterity he was dealing with.
We didn’t have much money growing up, and Dad hardly ever spent money on himself, as he had a family to support.  He did have a stamp collection he lovingly organized, but he allowed himself two major expenses (and they, of course, were for the family):  A yearly family vacation trip, and home movies.   He took movies at home and at church, and carefully separated them, splicing each scene in its respective category, because as he put it, “I don’t want to bore the family with church movies or the church folks with family movies.”  So by the time he died in 1980, he had amassed several decades’ worth of church movies, mostly of the church where we grew up, Harris Memorial Methodist Church in Memphis.  The fact that they were "silent" movies did not detract from the vibrant personalities of those who were filmed.
Most people who knew him remember Ensley with a camera up in front of his face.  His favorite place to stand was out on the sidewalk in front of the church, taking movies of everyone walking out the front door and down the steps.  It’s fascinating to watch them now - the ladies with their flowery hats and gloves, kids in suits and dresses with petticoats and patent leather shoes, elderly ladies with their elbows held by one of the men who helped them maneuver the steps, a group of men gathering to smoke out on the curb.  I always love to watch the people who were initially unaware of the camera, then a smile (usually a startled look, then a embarrassed or delighted grin) broke across their faces when they realized they were being filmed.  Some of the older folks weren’t used to a movie camera, so they would stand very still until Dad told them, “You can move, you know.”  The children would run around like crazy, enjoying the freedom after being cooped up for Sunday school and the worship service, many of them carrying little crafts they made or pamphlets from their Sunday school handouts.
And the parties!  Back in the ‘50s, the “young adults” who were starting their families (our parents) in the church weren’t financially well off, but they loved to have a good time, so they did it on the cheap.  Let’s have a costume party!  A talent show!  Hey, let’s dress up like hobos and each bring a can of stew and we’ll pour all the cans into one big pot and ladle it out!  Let’s have a “womanless wedding,” where all the men dress up as a wedding party!  Let’s put on a show that parodies all these crazy TV ads!  The costumes were clever and always homemade.  The laughter was contagious.  The parties were memorable.  The church fellowship hall, Moffett Hall, was the place to be!  
Of course, there were the pictures of the Easter altars, some pans of the choirs from different years, the Christmas programs, a few weddings, some picnics, and some softball games.  These movies run the gamut.  
Harris Memorial closed after over 100 years of service, then later the church building tragically burned down.  Like little capsules of time, though, the people in these home movies have shared something precious.  Some of us were there the whole time, others were there for just a few years.  Some of us have kept in touch for decades.  Some have lost touch but reconnected.  Some we can't find at all. We all share this though:  We know what it was like to be running around on that sidewalk after church.  We know where the hall was that Lib Wilson scared us as a witch at the Halloween party.  We know what was in that closet under the stairs leading to the sanctuary.  We can visualize that pulpit at which so many ministers preached.  We can see in our minds the door where Billy Grogan stood and counted heads so he could record the attendance.  We know what the choir loft looked like, we know where every restroom was, where every Sunday school room was, how the pews were laid out. We especially remember the light (and sometimes the wasps!) coming in those gorgeous old stained glass windows.  We are the last generation to have experienced these things first-hand.  These movies Dad left us remind us of a time gone by, experiences that changed every single person who was involved, in one way or another.
Last week with the death of another church member, I felt a strong urge to get these movies up and out there where people can see them.  We have lost too many of our “church family” already, and before long, there won’t be anybody around to appreciate them.  So Facebook it was.
In the last few years, my sister Joy and I had been looking into the possibility of publishing a collection of Dad’s letters, and have run into the stumbling block of legal ownership - Do the letters Dad wrote belong to us or the recipients - and do the letters he received in return belong to us or the writers?  That’s all being worked on.
However, with his movies, we know to whom they belong.  They belong to Marti, whose grandfather died shortly before she was born.  She gets to watch him “photobomb” scene after scene in his animated and delightful way.  They belong to Sheila, who recognized her late parents in a scene - filmed on their wedding day.  Sheila wrote me, “I just can't tell you how blessed my heart was this morning when I unexpectedly saw this...This video helped me beyond what I can ever tell you. I've seen pictures of my parents but to see them moving in this video !!!!!!........ There are no words!”  They belong to Phyllis, who felt blessed to see her grandfather; to the Grogan and Underwood families, who can watch their matriarch, Zuleika, who died just this week, demonstrate how she “blacked out” her teeth for a comedy routine to look as if she had some missing. They belong to the Tanners and Fosters and Prescotts and Agees and Archards, the Glasheens and Wilsons and Fletchers, the Rogans and Basses and Yarwoods and countless others who can see their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other relatives, so many who have passed on.  And they especially belong, I think, to the children. They belong to every child who was recorded singing in the Christmas program or playing an instrument, every kid who contorted his or her face at the camera, or who was maneuvered to line up out on the sidewalk for a group shot.  My sister Joy and I were two of those kids - kids who are now grown, many of us with children and grandchildren of our own.  We get to watch our little selves grow up in these films.
It’s kind of ironic that Dad once told us, “If anything happens to me, don’t just let my stamp collection go; take it to be appraised, as there may be some stamps worth something in there.”  Joy and I did exactly that a few years ago - and we were told his stamp collection was considered worthless except for sentimental value.
What he thought might be valuable was not...and his real priceless legacy, his gift to generations of people he had never even met, has turned out to be his precious home movies.  The gift for generations.  At the time he recorded them, he would have not dreamed of the Internet, and that one day his beloved movies would be available for anyone to enjoy.  That time has come, and I feel blessed to be a part of it. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

An Open Letter to Medical Dictators - Tips!

Dear Doctor/Mr./Ms./PA, FNP, CNM, etc:
If you spend what seems like an inordinate time dictating, I am sure you spend an equal amount of time wondering how you could improve the lives of the folks listening to you on the dictation poor medical transcriptionists.  I know your time is valuable, and so is ours, and I know you think for the most part we do a good job and you are aware that improving things on your end would make it easier for the MTs to do our jobs...but try as you might, you have until now not figured out how to do that.
It’s probably safe to say you’ve never had an MT sit down with you and tell you how to improve your dictation.  Well, here’s your opportunity - listen and learn!
The first thing is the “pause” key.  You know those times when you have to sit and think in the middle of the dictation, or maybe search for lab tests in the patient record?  Most dictators think the pause key is the way to go.  That way, the MT is not sitting, waiting, fuming, during minutes of silence until you come back on to continue the dictation.  Well, I’m here to tell you to NEVER use the pause key!  MTs would much prefer the silence - it gives us time to give ourselves a manicure, for instance.  And those of us who get paid by line - don’t give a thought to how you are stealing money out of our pockets with dead air space when we could be making lines.  I mean - really, we didn’t really need to pay the mortgage this month.  I’m sure the bank will understand.  Bonus points for this:  If your phone rings and you let the dictation run and pick up the phone and carry on a private...I mean PRIVATE...conversation that we can listen to - that really makes our day!
I know you sometimes like to dictate on the cell phone while doing other things.  That’s great!  There are a few times you must absolutely be sure to dictate on a cell phone - when driving (don’t worry about running over that kid on a bicycle - the emergency room needs the business) - and at sports games, because the guy next to you, who never heard of HIPAA, has really enjoyed hearing the private medical details of his neighbor’s hospitalization.  And yes, some MTs are sports fans and we love to hear the games too.  If you’re not at the game in person, just dictate while you watch the game on TV, and make sure the volume is turned way up.  The same effect applies to the news.  MTs are so busy, we miss a lot of news, so we can listen vicariously through you.  Just make sure the volume of the TV is higher than the volume of your voice so we can stay informed.  Thanks!
Speaking of volume, if you really want to make MTs swoon, eat while you dictate.  After all, we know you’re too busy to do just one thing at a time, and we love to take turns trying to identify the particular food you are consuming, since we hear every bite so clearly.  After all, we get bored listening to your voice over and over.  Throw a few potato or corn chips in the mix, and it gives us a break from your monotone delivery.  Now regarding chips, you do know some are louder than others, don’t you?  We prefer the really crunchy kind - they make the loudest decibels in our ears.  And you get extra credit if you rustle around in a plastic bag to retrieve them!  Makes me giddy just thinking about it.  If you don’t have chips handy, there are alternatives, such as popcorn, crackers, and celery.  Use your creative imagination and surprise us!  Or, if you don’t feel like crunching on a certain day, go with...
Hard candy.  Mmmm...that sucking sound is out of this world.  And it even gets better while you try to talk through the sucks! Who cares if there are blanks in the medical record?  It’s worth it because YOU SUCK!
You silly dictators - always trying to please us in the most charming ways.  Sharing your mealtime and snack time with us is so nice!  We love to try to distinguish what you are saying through all the dietary intake.  Bonus points if we can hear you actually swallow liquids- and double bonus points if we can hear you make other bodily noises down below!  (Going into the bathroom?  We feel honored to come along!)
We know there are some times when you have the sniffles.  Aw, Mr. or Ms. Practitioner - we feel for ya!  Sometimes if we’re really lucky, you will sneeze or blow your nose DIRECTLY INTO THE PHONE.  Oh, yeah!  Some people might find that disgusting, but it just gives MTs a  reason to visit the ENT doctor for burst eardrums - after all, we need regular medical care for our ears, as they are our most valuable asset, right?  Thanks for giving us the impetus we need to go for a checkup!
We know how hard it is for you with all these foreign-sounding names these days, too.  When you admit a patient with the last name of Klzyakchkzn, please don’t bother to spell it or even give us the first letter.  It makes it like a treasure hunt for us!  Gives us a much-needed break during our shift.  Be sure not to give us any clues like a birthdate - clues are for sissies.  We want to spend the next hour  trying to find the correct patient - but if we accidentally put it on the wrong patient, that won’t really matter, will it?   Hey, things happen.  It’s our fault anyway - everybody should know how to spell Klzyakchkzn!  Bonus points if you say your dictation is on “Baby Boy Smith” and the real name of the kid listed in the electronic medical record is Chester Anderson Grobenoff III.   Just because his mom’s name is Smith, just go ahead and assume it’s the same for the kid. Your time is too valuable to double check that; please, let us do that for you.  
There are some words that sound so alike if you talk fast and/or slur:  Regular, irregular.  Hypertension, hypotension.  Incomplete, complete.  But that’s OK.  What difference does it make whether the patient has hypertension or hypotension anyway?  I’m sure the nurses know what’s what - they certainly don’t need to see it in the medical record correctly.

I think I’ve about covered it all.  If you want more tips, we MTs are always happy to give them to you.  After all, that telephone line is a direct communication link between you and us - and the whole communication involves the entire health record of thousands of people.  I know we both want to do things right.  Right?  (Or left?  Oh well, it doesn’t really matter, doesn’t it?)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A necklace and poems!

I got the most wonderful Mother's Day gifts - a handmade necklace from my creative daughter-in-law which featured a thumbprint from 3-year-old Joshua and his 1-year-old sister Emily, a sweet card from my son, and then today I got poems written by my other two grandkids and my daughter (the latter who does not grant me permission to publish here!).  So here is my necklace:

And here are my poetic tributes:

From Charlotte, age 8
Dear Grammy:
I love that you're such a great singer,
And you can be strict just by wagging your finger.
I know when we're with you, we keep you a-hoppin';
My favorite part is you take us a-shoppin'!

Happy Mother's Day!

From Caroline, age 11 (3 poems)

Poem #1
And smart.

You steal
My heart.

and Definite.

My love
For you
Is strongly infinite.

Poem #2
Your music is infectious
Your love is very strong.
Your face can light the darkest room
And everyone else follows right along.

Your music is infectious
Your heart beats pure love.
Your blood is filled with many a tear,
But I cannot tell you enough -
I love you more than words can say
That only music can explain.
And it's more than likely
That it'd be yours -
Your music is infectious.

Poem #3
My feelings vary not for you
My love is more than enough.
My heart exceeds the largest limit
On the inside I'm like melted chocolate
Though I may look very tough.
I act like nothing scares me
But that is very untrue.
My eyes fill with happiness
At the mention of your name
And may feelings vary not for you.


The things my daughter wrote in her poem and that my son wrote in his card will not be written here, but suffice it to say they both made me cry.

If my legacy consists only of these two children and these four grandchildren, my life will have been worth it.  I am so blessed!

Monday, April 21, 2014

I must be getting old

...when blacks sat at the back of the bus.  Mom would take my sister and me shopping in downtown Memphis, and each time we rode the bus, I would see all the blacks sitting towards the back.  I always thought they liked it that way - why else would they sit there?  

....when women wore gloves and hats to church every Sunday.

....when the Blue Laws were in effect.  For those who have never heard of this, the Blue Laws were a set of laws which made illegal the selling of certain things on Sunday.  The Old Testament says the Sabbath (Saturday) should be a day of rest, which was basically a Jewish thing,  but the Christians said the Sabbath was now Sunday and that the "not working" condition applied to them, and they decided that if a product in a store couldn't be used without "working," then that product would be forbidden for sale on Sunday.  So I remember going into a store on Sunday after church and seeing white sheets covering half of the store merchandise, and learned why after asking Dad.  So you could buy a ready-to-eat item but not something that needed cooking, etc.  No bleach because that meant you were washing something.   Confused the heck out of me!

....when the phone receiver was attached to the phone and to get any privacy, you had to drag the phone as far as you could, then receiver cord a little more.  And there were no answering machines.  If you missed a call, you just missed a call.

....when bills were only paid through the mail, as there was no internet, no computers.

....when phones couldn't take pictures and cameras used real film that you had to take to the store to get developed and wait to see your pictures.

....when Daddy recorded church services and other interesting things on reel-to-reel tapes.  Later he graduated to a cassette player.  Yeah, I remember cassettes too.

....when we rode around in a car without seat belts or air bags or car seats.

....when the TV had 4 channels and you actually had to get up and walk over to it to change a channel or change the volume.  There were no recording devices to record a show to watch later.  As with the telephone, if you missed a show, you just missed it.

...when an interactive doll meant one whose eyes closed when you put her on her back.

....when you could buy records at many stores.

....when women wore corsages on Mother's Day and my sister and I wore rosebuds from our rose bushes.  We were told the flowers were white if your mom was dead, but were red if she was still alive.

....when there was no thing as a "digital" clock or watch.  Clocks and watches were round, had all the numbers in a circle, and you had to learn how to tell time with the two revolving hands.

....when kids used to get all new clothes for Easter - including socks and underwear and brand new shoes.

....when "home movies" didn't have sound - and to watch them, you had to get out a screen and projector.

....when girls at our high school weren't allowed to wear pants.  That changed in the era of the miniskirt when Memphis had a very cold winter.  The rule was restated to say girls couldn't wear pants except during the winter, but once the door was opened, it pretty much became okay.  Never jeans, though!

....when classes had chalkboards instead of dry-erase boards.

....when the smell of mimeograph paper accompanied all tests.

....when we had to hang clothes outside on the clothesline to dry.

....when you had to type school papers on a regular typewriter, trying to guess how much room you needed at the bottom for footnotes.

....when the garbage collectors had to walk to the back of the house by the garage to empty the garbage cans.

....when there were two water fountains in stores - one for "whites" and one for "colored."

....when everyone had to look up a phone number in the phone book instead of on Google.

....when you "dialed" the phone and "rolled down" the windows in the car.  We Boomers still use these terms, even though the phone no longer has a dial and the car windows are button-controlled.

...when every night on the evening news, they would list the death toll in the war in Vietnam.

....when you'd go to the doctor and see prescription pads with his name on them just lying around.

...when freezers needed periodic defrosting and you made ice by using ice trays.

...when the regular adult combo at McDonald's was the same size as the Happy Meal today.

...when sewing patterns cost 50 cents.

....when gas cost 35 cents a gallon.

....when our family of 4  could stay in a motel for one night for $12.

....when there was no airport security.

....when Cokes came out of the Coke machine in small glass bottles.

....when cigarettes were sold everywhere in coin-operated machines - no ID required.

....when doctors used to smoke cigarettes when rounding on patients.

....when you had to use a card catalog to look up books at the library.

...when Memphis had two daily newspapers.

...when you could buy candy cigarettes.

...when cigarette ads were all over TV.

...when Elvis was still alive.

...when parents had to wait until delivery to find out their baby's gender.

...when bank security was so lax, they let my sister and me play around back in the tellers' area and even step into the vault (Dad was a teller).

...when most homes boasted a set of encyclopedias that were outdated as soon as they were printed but which occasionally would save you a trip to the library.

...when personal hair dryers were humongous hoods you had to sit under.

...when families collected Quality Stamps, then traded them for merchandise.

...when one of our favorite restaurants still had the sign at the door that read, "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."  I remember asking Dad what that meant, and he sighed, shook his head and said, "They don't want to serve Negroes."

...when sewing machines only sewed a straight stitch.

...when it was safe to walk home alone from school.

...when we rode bikes and roller skated without helmets.

...when babysitters were paid 50 cents an hour.

...when grass was mowed with a rotary mower.

...when you had to wait until your favorite movie was broadcast on TV before you could see it again.

...when almost all toys and games needed no batteries.

...when Prince Charles was just a teenager.

...when a Dairy Queen cone cost a dime.  (I remember Dad every once in a while agreeing to take us to Dairy Queen, but it was a rare thing.  He said, "I hate to pay 40 cents for 4 cones when we could go to the grocery and get a half gallon of ice cream for 42 cents!)

....when the girls had to wear UGLY white one-piece shorts/top set for gym class.

...when the lions at the Memphis zoo were confined to small cages.

...when kids were lined up at a community center/hospital to receive polio vaccines in little sugar cubes.

...when we lived through hot summers without air conditioning.

...when a family of 4 could share a small house with only one bathroom and only one phone and only one car and somehow it all worked out.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

A Riddle

Every day I call my mom in Memphis and in the process of catching up, she always asks for a joke.  I have had to buy joke books and search the Internet for appropriate ones (after all, she is my mother!) and in the process have stumbled across a few great riddles too.

My latest riddle is this:  You have 2 coins that add up to 30 cents.  One is NOT a nickel.  What 2 coins do you have?

The answer is simple and obscure at the same time.    Just think about it.

The answer is....

A quarter and a nickel.   

"What?!" you say indignantly.  "I thought you said one was NOT a nickel!"  

That's right - a quarter is not a nickel.  Feel free to hit your head on something.

This riddle encompasses everything about how we think.  The riddle says "One is not a nickel," but we hear/read this:  "Neither one is a nickel."  Big difference.

Countless books have been written about "thinking outside the box."  (Believe me, I'm a e-book addict and I know.)  The box is what we are handed in life.  We assume the answers are inside, and we assume the person who handed us the box, indeed the person who describes to us what is in the box, has our best interests at heart.  Not always the case.  Sometimes our brain is required to interpret. And our brain, though remarkably intricate, is not infallible, as it is filled with false assumptions, prejudices, ideas that are less than truthful, and, yes, is skewed to hear what we want to hear.

Riddles like this can turn your thinking upside down and inside out.  It makes you question everything you think you know, because we interpret and assume so many ideas based on what we think we have heard/read.  Each new day brings a new opportunity to think again, twist an idea, try out an experiment, see things from a different point of view, and challenge our assumptions.  As they say, statistics can lie, depending on who is using them.

The next time you hear something that someone asserts is "fact," stop and think.  It may indeed be fact, but, on the other hand, you may be hearing "Neither one is a nickel" and your mind is led down the garden path of assumption.  And from personal experience, I know it's an easy, mindless walk, but in the end leads to nowhere very interesting.

Monday, January 20, 2014

An Open Letter to Caroline

My dear granddaughter:

I get it.  You're bored with school.  I also get that you are one of the smartest people I know.  I also get that the work at school is not challenging you.  I get your frustration.  I also understand that there is a part of you that is a rebel - just like I was when I was growing up.

You come by it genetically, of course.  At least on our side of the family, we come from a line of rebels.  My own father (your great grandfather) confessed to being a maverick.  When he was starting to raise his family, black people were being denied access to just about everything.  They even had a special day at the Memphis Zoo for the "Negroes" to visit so the white folks wouldn't have to be around them as they watched the animals.  Can you imagine?  Well, of course, your grandfather had to speak out.  The danger was this:  He was afraid if he wrote letters to the newspaper he would lose his job as a bank teller.  The mayor of Memphis at that time was a powerful man and didn't want any complaints about how he ran the city.  So Dad wrote for a while under a pseudonym, then after a time wrote under his own name became open about his beliefs in the equality of all people.  He was frustrated at what he saw and heard, and he was in a minority when it could be a dangerous time to speak out, but he did anyway.   He would stand up for what he believed until the day he died.   He was a functioning, giving, caring member of society and he did everything that was expected of him - but on his journey, he took his typewriter and wrote and wrote so the rebel in him could be given a voice and his thoughts about how to live out his faith honored.

OK, so being upset with school is not anywhere near being upset with the way the blacks were being abused.  But...I can get closer to your feelings by telling you what else I see in you....I see myself.

My school years were not too different from yours.  I wasn't quite as smart as you are, but I was intelligent enough to get into some accelerated classes.  My response to school was always one of three emotions:  1) I adored my class and my teacher and found the work exciting.  2) I was bored to tears because I wasn't being challenged, or 3) I was frustrated that I had to learn "crap" that didn't have anything to do with what I wanted to learn and which didn't apply to or enrich my life in any way, something I considered a total waste of time.  On top of this, there was a rebel inside of me that the minute I was "told" to do something, I automatically resisted.  I absolutely hated giving other people power over my life.

I've mentioned to you that one of the highlights of my junior year in high school was having to read Walden Pond by Henry David Thoreau.  Now, I had nothing against Walden Pond.  Part of it I really enjoyed.  Now Mr. Thoreau had a way of going on and on and on with descriptions, so much so that I had trouble staying awake to read the book.  However, I read enough to understand his message.  So on our test, one question dramatically stood out:  "How deep was Walden Pond?"  Seriously???!!  Of all the important  ideas and observations in that book, this is a question my teacher felt needed answering?  I was shocked, upset, offended, frustrated, and angry.  How can you take a book and dissect it into mere facts?  How can you take a book and make it a multiple choice quiz?  Where was the joy in reading?  Were we just some sort of machines that spit out what was fed in?  Were we parrots or monkeys, repeating and mimicking what we were taught?  So from early on, a book I might have picked up on my own and might have enjoyed became a power struggle once it was officially "assigned" in school.  I indignantly resisted every word on every page.

As I have told you, I dropped out of college after one year because I wanted to immerse myself in history and French and music alone - and the college requirements mandated that I take math and other stuff I had no interest in.  Even then, I figured out life was too short to waste it studying something that wasn't interesting or relevant to my life.

But here's the thing:  I always kept up my grades.  I could have slacked off with a lot of excuses about how it was boring and I was frustrated and I didn't want to be there and I'd rather be doing something else, but I didn't.  I just gritted my teeth and got on with it, mainly because I didn't want to disappoint my parents.  But I did learn something back then - that this is part of life.  Every day unfortunately can't be a roller coaster ride.  Sometimes it just consists of riding in the car to the grocery store - BORING.  But we take the good with the bad.

So, you might say, Grammy, how did you manage to balance the rebel with the acquiescent student?  That's a good question and it deserves a truthful answer.  I wrote.  Oh my, how I wrote!  I wrote poems that made fun of everything that frustrated me - some teachers, homework, even the cafeteria in the school! I made fun of how literature teachers always wanted to find hidden meaning in every word - which I sincerely doubt was intended by the authors in the first place.  (To do that, I took the poem "Mary had a little lamb" and wrote pages and pages of "hidden meanings" that were insanely funny!) I wrote it all down cathartically.  I can still to this day recite some of these poems.  I had to see the humor of the situation or I would have cried every day through high school.  Writing my poems kind of gave me the "last laugh" and those clueless teachers didn't win after all - at least that's how I felt.

There's no need to write anything nasty or vindictive.  There's no fun in that.  That's just pure revenge.  But parodies and comic poems and things like that - that's where the rebel in me could shine.  Of course, the teachers in question never saw these.  I shared them with a couple of close friends only.  I would never, ever want to hurt someone's feelings.  But I had to let it out somehow.  Somehow this silly, ridiculous, test-oriented, one-size-fits-all education had to be challenged, and that's what I did - in my own way.  (Even your great grandfather concentrated on writing complimentary letters to those were were taking unpopular stands, or letters of encouragement to those who were being victimized.  His rebel wanted to bring light into darkness, not more hate  - as there was quite enough hate to go around.)

The good student in me graduated high school with excellent grades.  The rebel in me wore white shoes during the graduation ceremony instead of the black shoes that were required.  Just little things - they kept me sane.

Every one of us, Caroline, is a blend of personalities.  It is very hard for a nonconformist to have to conform, and just as difficult for the thinking minds to accept boring assignments.  It is frustrating for the creative mind to see assembly-line education.  We don't want to be stagnant or lose our focus or passion, and want outlets where we can empty ourselves in the pursuit of beauty and philosophy and the wonder of the universe.  Somehow you have to let the rebel and the conscientious student live side by side in your brain and figure out a balance.  Believe me, when you get to be an adult, you will still feel the need to speak out against stupidity and ignorance and ask the uncomfortable but important questions.  That never goes away.  But to get there, you have to settle down, do your homework, and in your spare time, use your creativity to help you deal with the daily frustration.   Once you keep earning grades that reflect your intelligence, you can go on to high school and college and can choose whatever path you want in life with that good foundation.   And that is what I want for you, my sweet Caroline.