Thursday, April 30, 2009

Learn Anything!

If you could research ANYTHING. What would you choose? My student have been getting a research paper (and extensive 8-15 page paper) together for the past two months. I let them choose ANYTHING (within reason and school appropriateness). I call it their Inquiry Report.

I get such a thrill looking through the topics to see what they chose. I think it gives us a good inside into the teenage brain. Also, I feel like I learn SO much about so many things when I read through them over the next week because they kids REALLY do their research. They make each topic fascinating!!

I love my job. Have I mentioned that before?

Here you go, (remember, we're a Math, Engineering and Science based school):

Gordon More Founder of Intel


The Evolution of Computers

Hayao Miyazaki: His Life and Works

Bob Marley and the Wailers (every year I always get a Bob Marley paper, never fails!)

The Power of Nuclear Reactions

Harry Potter Movies

Child Soldiers

The Silk Road

The Grimm Brothers

Electric Cars

The Bell Jar: A Woman's Story of Depression


Archery in the Middle Ages

Albert Einstein (he's a regular too!)

Harrison Ford (he's a new one!)

The Works and Achievements of Ozzy Osbourne



The Hulk Comics

Salem Witch Trials

Plastic Surgery

Cows (? Really, ANYTHING in the WORLD and I get a paper on Cows?)

Walt Disney

Mummies and How They Have Affected Our World

The Solar System

Tyra Banks (again, REALLY?)

Jim Jones: The Face of Evil

Terrifying Realities: the truth about drug trafficking

What would YOU like to know more about??

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Karrie Ann

I've known this beautiful woman since we were both four years old. We were in kindergarten together and I got into trouble more than once when I was caught braiding her hair instead of learning my letters. I was always planning and plotting and getting her in trouble (she was WAY too sweet for her own good) when we were little. We went through junior high and high school together. From studying, to passing notes in the hallway, to jogging miles every day to keep in shape, to photo shoots, to planning our weddings, to broken hearts, to losing loved ones and holding each other's hands during funerals, to wild sleepovers, to skipping school, a million other moments. Her wedding day is here and I couldn't be happier for her. Isn't she beautiful?

You can see the entire shoot here.

To the Media

From a letter written by a young girl in 3rd Period....

To the Media,

Why do you steal away my identity? Isn't it hard enough for me to figure out who I am without all of your messages? You say: You are fat, you need to be skinnier. You aren't pretty enough. You need to get a facial and wear make-up all the time to be pretty. You are ugly. You're not important because you aren't famous. You're only ONE person' you can't do or change anything. You need to be rich and buy a lot of new stuff to matter. You're only a girl, you can't do anything. You're too fragile and weak to do anything; you're just a dumb blonde. You're too smart. You're too dumb. You don't matter.

I want to know who I am, what my special talents are. I want to know what I can do to help others. I want to know more about myself, even random things. I want to know if I really like to be funny, or if I just do it to fit in. I want to know everything I can about myself. Why does everything, especially the media, make it so hard to do that.

Who am I?

So, what do YOU want to know about YOURSELF?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Elvis Perkins in Dearland

Artist: Elvis Perkins
Album: Elvis Perkins in Dearland
Rating: 4 out of 5


When you hear the name Elvis, it's hard to imagine a rustic sound with a melancholy grace that hints at old funeral dirges. It's hard to imagine a man who takes those funeral tunes and turns the music into an act of catharsis. It's hard to imagine a tangle of saxophones, the picking of a banjo, and a pump organ. But, it shouldn't be hard to imagine a musical king. 

Many simply refer to Elvis Perkins as a singer-songwriter. Yet, he "loathe[s] the term singer-songwriter, because it reminds me of open-mic nights and coffee shops and lazy chord structures," he'd much rather be referred to as "a recording artist."  Whatever you choose to call Elvis, one thing is clear, the man IS an artist.

Elvis Perkins put out his first album shortly after the death of his mother in 2001. His mother died in the terrorists attacks on September 11, flying on the fated American Airlines plane that crashed into the twin towers. Almost nine years early, his famous actor father had died from complications from AIDS. Elvis Perkins knows misery. What's more, he took that misery and spun it into the moving music that makes up Ash Wednesday, his first album. The name comes from the Catholic traditional day just before lent. Religiously, Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful. The priest takes the ash from a palm leaf and makes the sign of the cross on the forehead while reciting the words "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." That line is felt in almost all of Perkins' lyrics, he reminds us that life is short, life can be beautiful or hard or sad or soft or happy, but it's life and you have to live it.

Time has passed since his first album, and Elvis Perkins has a proper band behind his lyrics and has produced a solid, yet soft and eloquent eponymous album, Elvis Perkins in Dearland.  The band includes multi-instrumentalists Brigham Brough (bass,vocals, saxophone), Wyndham Boylan-Garnett (organ, harmonium, trombone, guitar, vocals) and Nick Kinsey (drums, clarinet, vocals), Perkins, himself, wrote every track on the album.

Dearland, a magical place with lyrics begging the question "I don't let doomsday bother me; do you let it bother you?" The track begins with a slow trumpet echoing the feeling of slow night in the small latin quarter of New Orleans, but as soon as the drumming begins you are told that doomsday isn't just one event that happens to the world at once, but instead, it's a reoccurring event in the daily lives of those just working at living. Elvis really taps into the ghost of Buddy Holly on this track and you feel at once as if you are in the past and the present and maybe just a hit of the future, but don't let that bother you, he never does.

The record opens with a windy howl and a slowly picked guitar line before an organ joins in. This gives way to a swirl of keyboards and drums and there you have “Shampoo.” With  a conglomeration of loud reggae and quiet poetry. The attention to detail in regards to the instrument selection and usage shows the maturing of Perkins' musical style. He sings so clearly, "Sweep up, little sweeper boy."

“Hey” begins with the feel of gospel music turning into a jaunty folk pop, and Perkins' modern voice turns into an old time croon.  At one point, he sings with “If it was up to me I would leave it all up to you” and while you can't see him, you get the clear impression that he is smiling on this one. 

Elvis Perkins has been compared to Leonard Cohen and on the tracks “Hours Last Stand” and “Send My Regards to Lonelyville” he echos that Cohen-esque ache.  The songs are beautiful and heartbreaking, asking "how's forever been baby?" Is it a bitter question? Is it a forgiving question? Is it a question with or without an answer? Whatever it is, it illustrates the gifted lyrical style that is uniquely Elvis and uniquely gorgeous.  

Ash Wednesday was one of those stark and sharp debut albums that took so much emotion to compose and produce that you were left wondering if this was all the soul that Perkins had, and he had just poured it all out in one shot. It's hard to imagine that he had anything left to offer or give. It was fueled by tragic events, and as the only person working on the album, it was a study in isolation. But then you listen to Elvis Perkins in Dearland and he still has soul, he still has poetry, he still has heart, he still has everything that made you fall in love with him in the first place, but this time, this time he reaches out his hand and invites you along for the ride. I have no doubt that this album will end up on many a critic’s “top ten” list for 2009.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Exponent

So many wonderful things are happening in my life on a day to day basis that it's hard to sometimes sit back and take it all in...but I'm trying!

One of the highlights has been an invitation to be a permanent contributor to the online forum of the Exponent II magazine. 

I got SUCH a thrill today to see my name and photo on the site (take a look! just scroll down to the end of the list of contributors and you'll see me!). I'm part of something I love and believe in and that is valuable for women everywhere!

Here's a description:

We have begun this blog in an effort to support the Exponent IImagazine, which for years has provided a forum for Mormon women to openly and compassionately share their diverse experiences with each other. Begun in 1974 in the midst of the women’s movement, this independent Mormon women’s magazine continues to feature personal essays which often highlight women’s concerns.

As the Exponent II website states, “The purpose of Exponent II is to provide a forum for Mormon women to share their life experiences in an atmosphere of trust and acceptance. This exchange allows us to better understand each other and shape the direction of our lives. Our common bond is our connection to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and our commitment to women. We publish Exponent II as a living history in celebration of the strength and diversity of women.”

Just as Exponent II frequently quoted and republished original articles from The Women’s Exponent, this blog will frequently feature seminal articles from the Exponent II. We hope that LDS women and Exponent II readers will share their insights and reactions so that we might empower each other through our diverse experiences.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Unexpected Thank You...

I got a thank you email from a student I had over two years ago....and let me tell you, it was awesome. Have you thanked anyone today?

Ms. B! thank you so much. You are the most amazing teacher. I just want you to know that you are the reason I even know that I can act, and that I like it. So thank you, you pushed me to do a lot of things that I wasn't sure that I was good at, you gave me confidence and encouraged me to follow my dreams. If I was to name a teacher that has done the most for me in my life, I would definitely say you:) so, know that and thank you. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

My Name

One of the creative writing assignments involved the kids writing about their names. I told them to compare them to numbers, to sounds, to people, to their ethnicity, to colors, to moments, and finally, if they had to choose a NEW name for themselves, what would it be?

Here is one of my favorites thus far....

My name is Megan, my middle name is Alice, so even though Megan boars me; Alice is no fall back name. It appears my mother had a fondness for Meg. Meg of all words! Three letters, no meaning. Megan, sometimes spelled with an H. 

It's plain, blah; it's a pale face with a few freckles. It's a girl who does her work and gets straight As. It's a girl on time, with a planner. A girl with no idea what fornication is, a girl oblivious that there is another sex besides her own. Megan isn't a name you can tease. It's too simple. I don't ever answer to Megan unless it's shouted at me 4 to 5 times. 

If there is anyone worth my time they address me by Asian. It's my ethnicity, but it bubbles. So proud I am about being Asian, but it's not the reason I see myself as Asian. I got my name from Alex. He doesn't pay attention to much of anything, so by the 6th grade the only way to address me was "Asian". 

It could be for the fact that I was the only Asian in the entire school for three years. I smile at that fact. I am easily recognized as Asian on my face, but then in the 8th grade I was known as Asian by my laugh, my smile, and my smart aleck remarks. 

Asian: a small two year old with paint on her face and floor and walls and ceiling. 

Asian: pig tails and glow sticks. 

Asian: head banging and rock music. 

Asian, a nonstop smile, a giggly tummy, and a guilty conscious when consuming gummy bears. 

Asian: fierce with ninja stars and chopsticks. 

Asian: artsy with dragons and calligraphy. 

Asian: pointed out and up front and centered. 

Megan is a name to be written on paper. Megan is meant for teachers and distant family. Megan is meant for formal documents. Asian is for my friends, it's for my art, it's for my music, it's for my tantrums, it's for my air, and it's for my fire. 

Asian is me. Megan is just my Name.

Let me ask you, if you could rename YOURSELF, who would you be?

Sunday, April 19, 2009


To the World, to Tomorrow, to Jesus, to My Cousin Who Committed Suicide, to Anticipation, to Taco Bell, to Anyone Who Will Listen, To So and So, To Whom it May Concern, To My Sisters, To Mango Street, To Poverty, To President Obama, To Missy Elliot, To Mom, To Whomever Cares about The Topic of Language, To Miss Benincosa and Hobos, To Those Listening, To Allison, To The Lord's Resistance Army, To The Reader of this Letter, To The Women of Society, To Future Generations, To Expectations, To My Conscience

The past month my classes have read The House on Mango Street. 

They've breathed in the language and seen the power there, they've worked hard on creative writing, on seeing colors and shapes and life differently than before. They had a series of five writing pieces to complete. The final one is a letter. These are just a few of the things that the letters were addressed to. I'll be sharing much more of their creative work this week as my job has stopped feeling like a job. My work doesn't feel like work. My daily existence is spent participating in so many wonderful interactions with humanity. These kids teach me and I teach them. They learn and I learn. I laugh and they laugh. The past two days we just shared our creations and it was with gratitude in my heart that I am able to do what I get to do every single day.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Washing Feet

Yesterday, I found myself talking about my mission. For those of you who have heard anything at all about my mission, you know it was fraught with crazy people, wild tales, hard work, and unbelievable events. I can entertain a whole room of people just with stories of cockroaches and animals wearing clothes and companions who cried and hid in closets and couldn't read and were deaf and are now in mental institutions....

But the part about my mission that I always forget to talk about, because it's just not as entertaining, is the part where I learned to serve and love and care for people. It's also the part where I learned the power of Jesus Christ. When I was on my mission my own personal goal was to metaphorically wash the feet of those around me. I bought a print of the painting above my first week out on my mission and kept a print of it in every apartment that I lived in as I moved to various parts of Florida.

I've had a few thoughts this morning about Jesus and Easter and religion and service.  And most of them are echoed by a friend of mine, Maithri. He is a doctor living in Australia, but traveling to Swaziland to give aid and help where he can. He truly knows all about washing of the feet. This morning I want to share his words with you.

Throughout my life I have fought not only for tolerance, but for the celebration of all faiths and belief systems. To reap the harvest of our diverse understandings of love has always seemed to me to be part of the excitement, the joy of living.

My friends are muslim and hindu, jew and pagan, atheist and agnostic. I see no belief system as exalted. No way as the 'right' way. Merely a thousand painted ways of presenting the same universal truths.

Still the stories of Jesus' love, have always spoken deeply to my heart.

I fear that his ideals of unbounded, inclusive, universal love have been warped and tortured by small fearful minds trapped within cages of literalism and spiritual arrogance.

For me, at its core, his teachings were and always have been about deep humility and non judgement.

I see him washing the feet of the poor, the outcast, the reviled. I see him walking with leper and prostitute, thief and liar. And I think to myself "I wanna love like that."

Here in Swaziland, a day feels like a year. I ride the rollercoaster of deep despair and wild gratitude and celebration for the smallest act of kindness.

This morning before I headed out to see an old grandmother who was unable to leave her bed, I saw two Swazi women talking.

One said to the other "I know you are going through such deep sorrow CiCi (sister). I will take it all to God tonight and lay it under his cross."

Jesus is dying here in Swaziland and throughout the developing world. Covered in sores and kaposi sarcoma. He is a little girl being raped by her drunken father. Two little boys who are weeping at the freshly dug grave of their mother. He is the outcast. The forgotten. The hated and unloved.

Tommorrow is Good Friday.

We have organised a meal for 50 orphans at the Makhewu carepoint. Cooking starts at 7am. The party starts at 12.

I think there are more than enough 'religious' people in the world. Enough judgement and arrogance and exclusiveness.

I dont want to be religious. I dont even want to be a Christian.

All I want to do is take a bowl of water and wash the feet of my brother, my sister in pain.

To love them.

Not because I am 'special' or 'chosen' but because we are one.

As I try to find where my religious beliefs are at this time, I find myself wanting to avoid all labels. I don't know if I'm a Christian anymore, I really don't, and that phrase seems to scare people. But I do know that I can look to Jesus as a teacher and I can embrace the powerful love that he showed to everyone, and by living a life of washing the feet of my brothers and sisters is just about the best life that you can live.


P.S. --How adorable is my little niece in her new Easter dress (that I got at Old Navy for only $10!!! ) And the headband she is wearing was found in my drawer. I bought it in Brazil from a lady who was making them on the side of the road to feed her family. You can see more photos from our Easter shoot at my photo blog.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Great Lake Swimmers: Lost Channels

Artist: Great Lake Swimmers
Album: Lost Channels
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review at:  in your speakers

Has a song ever haunted you? Has the voice of a certain singer conjured ancient spirits, captured forgotten emotions, and left you feeling a little displaced, but in a good way? Can the places in which a tune is crafted and a lyric composed encompass the ghosts that once dwelled there? The answer is a simple, resounding "yes." Don't believe me? Listen to Lost Channels, the practically ethereal new album from Toronto’s Great Lake Swimmers.

The core of this hip, empowering folk-rock group is singer/songwriter Tony Dekker. Dekker enjoys adding the occasional sound of harmonica and acoustic guitar to his particular musical style. The man is a genius, and his magical talent affects everything he touches. The band has previously released three albums: Great Lake Swimmers in 2003, Bodies and Minds in 2005, and Ongiara in 2007. Although some members of the band have changed since the seven years that Great Lake Swimmers have been active, Erik Arnesen has been Dekker’s constant right-hand man. Other band members include Greg Millson, Darcy Yates, and Julie Fader. Several of the songs feature perfected cameos by Paul Aucoin, Serena Ryder, and Bob Egan.

The album gives off an effortless sense of awe. Where other bands are loud, Great Lake Swimmers are quiet. Where other bands are full of undefinable hubris, Great Lake Swimmers are endearingly humble. Where other bands are complicated, Great Lake Swimmers are simple, but deceptively so.

The album represents a journey in which each song is a different path traveled, a different river crossed, and a different haunted church. Great Lake Swimmers are known for recording their music in isolated churches, buildings, and other lonesome places. And each church, each castle, each community lends their soul to the music created there. The band traversed the Thousand Islands region of Ontario, carrying their gear from boat to boat to record the castle bells that open "Singer Castle Bells".

The album starts out with "Palmistry", a beautifully flowing song with a universal theme. A man looking at the palm of his hand and trying to decipher his divine future from the lines he sees. "I've been carrying a heavy load," the man begins. He is joined with another voice for the refrain "Oh dear God, won't you tell me how I will not feel so lonely?" This plea seems as if God is not listening, ignoring, and the emotion is raw. The singer decides to read his own future, "Read the patterns on my skin, let the fire somehow get in. See my heartline is intact, so this is what I'm left...tell me something divine. Is there a future in these lines?"

This is followed up by the chant "Everything is Moving So Fast," whose lyrics eerily (yet motivationally) repeat "Everything is moving so fast. I am unlimited. Everything is moving so fast. I am unlimited." The song is a chant, one you feel you understand deep in your core, one that is easy for you to repeat. This would be the perfect song to listen to on a bus heading in an unknown direction, rain on the window, and you, uncertain of your future, but taking the leap anyway.

So much of this album is about the give and take of life, the ebb and flow, the yin and yang. It’s about someone wanting to talk to God, but seeing the divine inside the self. It’s about someone who realizes that they have unlimited potential and yet still finds life moving too fast. This idea is recapitulated in the third track, and lead single, "Pulling On A Line." The song has a melody and message that will hit the right chord with everyone. There is a line that seems to connect us all, each human to every other human. Sometimes we get pulled on and go a certain way, and sometimes we are the ones being pulled. Dekker refers to the song as an "abstract tug of war." And the pristine voice in which he sings it rings true. Sometimes we are the ones in control and sometimes we have to give up control and go with the flow. "I'm just pulling on a line and sometimes it pulls on me," he sings.

Perhaps one of the most captivating tracks is "Come To Me in Dreams" due to the combination of Dekker's voice, the soft drums, the beautiful and comforting harmonies, and the captivating lyrics. It will be a song that stays with you long after it is finished. The idea of your lover, a person with so much influence in your life appearing to you first in a dream is the idea that feeds the souls of poets.

This is but a taste of this album. The album is calm. The album rings. The album haunts. Simply put, Lost Channels will make you feel like you just found an old part of yourself that you left long ago along the river's edge.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Very, Very

This girl is very smart, very charming, very beautiful and VERY fun to do a photo shoot with. You can see some candid shots here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Here is what my dining table currently looks like. I've got sketches and paintings and ideas scattered about. I'm constantly thinking and planning and manipulating materials. I've been thinking how cool it would be if I could offer PHOTOGRAPHS and PAINTINGS. A few of my friends have let me use some of their photos to practice with and build up a bit of a portfolio.

April and Randall

While these are very rough, I think the talent for capturing a mood and a feeling and a face is there. And yet, I have the art of manipulating it the way that I want...playing with colors and lines and shadows in a way that I can't when an image is caught only on camera

Stephanie and Kurt

I've thought a lot about manipulation lately. It happens a lot. It happens with everyone and I've had a bit of it this week with someone I barely know, a man, who is trying to get me to date him. He is SO obvious in his manipulation...the compliments, the guilt trips, the slight phrases that are said to get a certain response. I keep wondering if the world of dating is rooted, somehow, in subtle manipulations? I only had a few interactions with him, but does he not see how transparent he is? 

Stina and Theo

Are you the type who can see clearly when someone is trying to manipulate you into a certain reaction or mood or belief? Do we manipulate ourselves? Can manipulation ever be a good thing? What is at the heart of it?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring Break Day 1

I am officially on Spring Break! I have been planning this for awhile. My original plan was to go and bum around New York with Michelle for the week. But as times are hard, I've been trying to cut back and save everything for rainy days and Paris...or rainy days in Paris. 

What to do with my free time? Read and paint, read and paint. That's my plan...A painting a day. Yesterday, I got those two out. I love them and I walked right into this fancy schmancy restaurant and said, "Hey, you have an open wall right there and I have just the paintings to fill it." And I showed them and now the paintings are up and out in the public. Kinda cool.

I painted the above painting today. Well, I started it late last night and finished it this evening. It's actually quite large and inspired from a photograph I took two years ago of one of my favorite couples. Since I have no romance in my life at present, painting "love" seems to be perfect food to feed and fill my romantic needs.
I liked it so much (it's quite large, about 16x20) that I put it up over my favorite antique (a dresser I've had since my birth...though it dates back much farther.) What do you think?
This one is smaller, but of the same couple. It's a 10 x12 with gouche (just black and ash blue). I love the comic book feel of it and the way her face turned out. Very sexy.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Here is what I created today. I am calling it "Same". I really like it. It's two separate paintings that will be placed next to each other. I'm framing them tomorrow and will be able to get some better shots of it with the good camera. These were taken under some bad lighting. But I like them. I like them a lot. I'm hoping that I can sell a painting or two in the next couple of months so I can finally have enough money to buy oils.
A lot of people have asked me what I want lately, truthfully, I've been the most insistent with myself. "What do you want D'Arcy girl?" I know what I should want. One part of me wants a PhD and to be powerful and smart and sophisticated. The other part of me would like to find that person that I could be with for a couple of years and have a kid...just one. Part of me wants to move to New  York to be in the heat of it all. Part of me wants to move to California to be in the cool of it all.
And yet, when I keep looking at what I want, what I really's to help people. Plain and simple. I feel my profession is perfect for this. I feel I am good at it. I feel great pride and joy in my daily activities. But I also need more. I want to look at ways of donating my time to do more. I'm thinking of donating my summers to teaching English in Asia or Thailand. If I live frugally I could do this, without any other motive than to help.

When I think about what I REALLY want, I want to help people. I'm an educator. So, I'd like to educate. So many people, women especially, are searching for that, education frees. Sometimes I wonder if I don't need to seek after the prestige of the PhD or the cliche of a husband...and just wander the world, learning and living with it's people.

I'm looking to do this for summer of 2010. If you know any places that come to mind, let me know.