After Time Breaks Your Heart

Yesterday morning, I braved the scale. I stepped on, read the numbers, stepped off, then on again. No, the scale wasn’t broken. Whether it’s the extra morning caramel coffee runs to Dunkin Donuts, my inclination to snack while grading papers at home, or filling the cupboards for Charming’s visits and not wanting to see the goodies go to waste afterward… the digital response might as well have read, “Outlook not good,” like a magic weight-ball.

Is it vanity or something deeper and darker that stirs anxiety in the tummy beneath the pesky, ironic love handles when we realize the woman we see in our mind’s eye no longer matches the reflection in the mirror or the person captured in our photographs? We wonder how we let it get this far. We chide ourselves for our lack of discipline. We shut our eyes and can still see ourselves in our prime.

And our prime is typically when we were young. In my early twenties, I was something of a fitness nut with the worst diet you’d ever seen. It worked for me though. I could leave the gym and hit up McDonald’s with my boyfriend and fit easily into my size two slacks for work the next day. Modeling and personal training were my favorite side jobs during my early teaching years. Admittedly, I loved the camera and attention. (I reserve the right to characterize the peak of my own arrogance, but rest assured that it’s taken a justified beating since then.)

Now, I much prefer to man the camera than pose for it. I’d rather fill the frame with my nieces, my students, or my prince. Admittedly, I still enjoy the spotlight a bit too much, but I like to leave my current resemblance to memory alone. So is it vanity now, at size eight, that has me lamenting pounds gone by and questioning if I can persevere to right this health-wrong?

Yesterday’s weigh-in comes on the heels of what’s been a few weeks of toeing the line of a something akin to depression but not as eminent. Consider it a cautionary awareness of my disconnectedness with the rest of the world. For example, my students’ junior prom was on Friday, and I attended only to debrief with my yearbook staff who covered the event.   I reminisced on my own sixteen years ago in my lavender embroidered gown lined with rhinestones and the boy I hoped I would marry someday.

I hoped that because I could then. You can hope for anything when you’re young and it’s rarely dangerous. The boy broke my heart later that night after the dancing was done. That was the first time that I had to learn how to move on. Young Beauty, my Student Life Editor, posted a blog entitled, “Songs You’ll Need Someday”. Teen girls know the power of the right song at the right time. Like Beauty, I turned to music to comfort me in the wake of prom night heartbreak.

I did that for years to come. And I still do. This disconnectedness that I sense beneath the surface, the awareness that I’m on the fringe is triggered primarily by families. Before heading over to my students’ prom, I had dinner at my brother’s. They fit together, the five of them. And later, Beauty’s mom arrived in her mini-van to pick her up from the yearbook gig and they fit together, mother and daughter. The reflection in the mirror matches the image in their mind’s eyes.

The weigh-in yesterday was a gamble, and my Blackjack profits are abysmal. I walked into my students’ freewrite second block on “life” with a hopeless outpouring of all the thoughts and feelings of recent weeks that I had yet to verbalize. The vomited verbiage also seemed to purge me of the pessimistic weight at the pit of my stomach.

A few hours later, another of my young bloggers waited patiently at my desk for me to read her analysis of the lyrics to Katy Perry’s “Fireworks.” A few hours later, those thoughts would inspire her latest blog post. Snow White has grown during our poetry unit, as anticipated. She wrote, “This song begins by having you imagine an old, used, meaningless, plastic bag floating through the sky on a windy day as maybe a person may feel after thinking a part of their life has come to an end and they must drift away…Comparing one to a ‘Firework exploding across the sky on the Fourth of July’ reveals a sense of self-pride and finding a (literal) spark of happiness in life! … there is a way to make your way back up to the top even after you’ve hit rock bottom.”

From the mouths of babes comes surprising wisdom. Could Snow have known how much her timely words would resonate with my inner struggle with time? Did she intuit that her teacher needed a reminder that she is just as connected to society as all the other disconnected people who at one time or another have identified with that meaningless plastic bag.

Maybe this time, it’s time itself that broke my heart, filling me with promise in my youth only to find me driving home to an empty house after sending Beauty off safely with her mom following prom. Maybe it’s not vanity that skews my interpretation of my reflection in the mirror. Maybe it’s the fact that the woman in the pictures doesn’t match the image of myself in my mind’s eye. Maybe like my best shape, I don’t want the best me to be left in my twenties, too.

After reading Snow’s draft for her blog, I left school and rifled through the old, burned CDs above my passenger side visor, protected from several years of dusty disuse. Enough of the flirtation with depression over the illusion that my life doesn’t look like I thought it would at thirty-three. My date for junior prom taught me a valuable lesson: how to move on.

We do it with music, like Snow reminded me with a gentle spark yesterday. I knew I’d made a mix in my early twenties after a man broke my heart. Inspired by Snow’s lyric discovery, I was keenly aware that if time had broken my heart, I needed to get passed it like any loss before. Beauty’s belief that there’s a musical soundtrack for life was put to the test when I rubbed out the scratches on the back of an old mix entitled “Learning how to move on…”

The first track wouldn’t play, but I coaxed the car’s stereo system with the fast-forward button. Before and after hitting the gym, I played the other sixteen tracks. Each one transported me to a different loss in my past, every time that I had to move on whether it was from a romantic disentanglement, a soured friendship, or an entire state. I was working through a second listen this morning driving to work and on my lunch break.

The timely tunes, I’m afraid, were sirens, tempting me into a nostalgia laced with brokenness and pain, eliciting thoughts about events that were forgotten for a reason. After school, my stereo told me, “Disk error.” The walk down memory lane was bittersweet and enlightening. But it was over. Considering the past has a purpose. Dwelling on the past rarely does.

It was in the silence that music convinced me it was time to move on. I drove home after the gym today to be greeted by my garden beds. On one side of the house, there are three bushes. Each is slightly different with varying shades of pink, and they take turns blooming. Right now, the one on the left’s magenta blooms have all but withered and died. The middle one’s pink starburst blossoms are still in their prime. The one on the right is boasting strawberry buds that are getting ready to pop like fireworks in unassuming tubes.

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The bushes are a visual paradox. All three are azaleas, yet some combination of microscopic atoms determined that they would bloom at different times and of different hues. Magenta doesn’t envy Pink Starburst’s full blooms, and Strawberry didn’t question why her boughs were barren when Magenta’s were laden with color. My azaleas simply exist and please as they were designed to do.

I’m no longer young like Snow and Beauty. I may never fit my skinny skirts again. My first marriage might be the last. My students could be the only kids I have. Time might break our hearts, but like any unwelcomed severance with desires or dreams, we have to learn how to move on.   When the music is halted, in the silence we hear the truth from some still, small crevice in our brains. We shake off the illusion of what should be and open our eyes to the azaleas that help us see the truth.

We’re human, but we don’t look the same and we don’t bloom at the same time. We can envy and wish and regret, but we can’t change the atoms and circumstances that merged to form us. A spark of hope shot through the depressive cloud as I ejected my heartbreak soundtrack in favor of a teen girl’s affirmation that I can still make it to the top, that the best “me” might not be long gone after all.

When the Wind Whispers

The wind whispers though the branches of my magnolia trees. It taunts me to overcome the writer’s block that’s uncharacteristically imposed itself on my evening. For the first time in fifty-eight weeks, I’ve backspaced over five false starts. Yet still, I am determined to uncover some novel insight before the clock strikes ten.

Knee deep in our poetry unit at school, it’s surprising to me that I’m so uninspired. There’s nothing more pleasing to an English teacher’s heart than studying two dozen teenagers while they’re lost in heavy books of poetry searching for four perfect poems to include in their own projects. This far into the school year, I know my kids; I know whether to put a book in their hands that’s filled with modern poetry or classic, poetry about war or love or music. I get excited when one discovers a poem he didn’t know existed before, but he connects with it and asks me to make a photocopy.

There’s a little of the mundane in everything. I must have copied a hundred poems over the last week as I steered my unwitting protégés into a positive experience with poetry. It’s not until they thumb through the pages of a poetry collection that even the toughest critics of the unit stumble across a poem that makes them rethink their dislike of poetry.

In a documentary that I filmed at my old school, my former principal said that reading poetry outside under a tree on a spring day was about as good as it gets. Maybe that explains my hindered train of thought. Tonight, typing on my porch in a light nightgown (in sharp contrast to hoodies and blankets of recent months gone by), I’m tempted to simply sit and read, to let the crickets accompany me on a journey into a newly checked out collection of sonnets from our school library.

Why should poetic discovery be limited to my teen audience? I am not a saleswoman in any other arena. But my classroom is an advertising playground. I’m selling them poetry. I’m reeling them in with the strategic combination of relevance and surprises to pique their curiosity. I’m setting that curiosity free in sea of poetic potential, titles and authors that many would have otherwise foregone in their life spans. I’m taking their budding knowledge and setting the stage for the next Act where they’ll contribute to the world’s narrative with their own original poetry.

For this project, each student creates a book that includes poems by other others, analyses, and original poetry. The book opens with his or her definition of poetry. I introduce the project with my own definition: Poetry is an utterly indefinable, immeasurably infinite, and inexplicably unique form of writing in which ultimate freedom resides. Writers communicate and often expel feelings and perceptions into combinations of words that solidify and express meaning. It is nothing and everything, meaning it has no boundaries, owes no apologies, and necessitates no prefaces, and yet carries all value, meaning, worth, and possibilities.

In marketing to them, I somehow always seem to sell myself again on the often underrated craft. With the structured organization and syntactical, grammatical persuasive essay end of course test behind us, I sense that this month is the ideal time to campaign for poetry. We’ve belabored the rules of writing to the point where the freedom of poetic expression practically sells itself.

While visiting the book fair during my last class today, I had an opportunity to catch up with one of my young bloggers. Since teachers don’t play favorites, I’ll just say that she lights up my classroom every time she enters. She has a servant heart, constantly making thoughtful gestures and serving her friends and even me. If I had to put her in a fairy tale, she’d be Snow White, taking care of the dwarfs and making their lives better simply by being there.

I confessed to her that I wasn’t feeling inspired and worried I might not come up with anything to say. Snow replied, “I can tell you what’s been going on in my life, but it might not be inspiring.” She went on to describe the flurry of activities preparing for prom on Friday night… the dress, the nails, the make-up. As she reeled me into the dangerous comfort of teen’s responsibilities, I could only conjure up the unoriginal sentiment of envy.

Then Snow halted my adult-responsibility-neverending-to-do-list inspired jealousy by confiding in me about a terrible, heart-breaking situation affecting one of her friends. I was reminded not that the grass isn’t greener on the other side, but that the experiences that make us discover who we really are aren’t limited by age or role in the school building.

Back in the classroom after the book fair, noses stuck in e.e. cumming’s “since feeling is first” (I mean, come on, what sixteen-year-old isn’t going to like a poet who spells his name lowercase), mind still wandering back to my conversation with Snow White, I discovered inspiration in a poem I’ve taught for a decade.

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

While coaxing explanations of the extended metaphors out of my kids, Cummings moved me. Syntax. It’s that systematic orderly arrangement of words and phrases. I think he’s suggesting that feelings are more significant than structure and rules, that love is better than knowledge. If life is not a paragraph, it is not organized and structured. If death is not a parenthesis, then it is a part of our experience.

It’s the right time to do this poetry unit while spring is in the world and natural inspiration abounds. I’ve been drilling order and structure and knowledge into their eager brains for seven months. But writing, like life, is about more than rules and reasoning. While the art of persuasion is necessary, the ability to express emotions, thoughts, and desires is equally as critical in their development.

As we analyzed Cumming’s poem together, I watched Snow White buy what I was selling her. She’s told me that she isn’t any good at writing poetry; I believe she’s going to surprise herself during this unit. It’s in conversations like ours between the learning that my kids let me know what’s going on in their lives. Snow’s empathy will find itself a cunning blank slate when her expression of feeling is no longer restricted by rules or structure.

Order dominates life, yes. I keep waiting for shoots of green to pop up in my garden beds, but as I watered this afternoon, there was no sign of new life. Then as I pulled into my driveway to settle in for writing night, I thought I saw a flash of red. In the dim twilight, I got on my knees and searched. Sure enough, mostly hidden by leafy boughs, my first rose of the year smiled up at me.

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I didn’t have the emotional room to register the pricks on my fingers in the process. The blossom was perfect, illuminated only by a tiny solar lantern in the garden. This is the feeling I hope my students get when they flip through a hundred pages and finally discover that one colorful poem that speaks to them.

It’s not unlike navigating through my own writer’s block tonight. I tell my students to persevere, that it might take them a while to find just the right poem. An hour and a half ago, I didn’t want to write, didn’t want to face the abundance of thoughts and words and sift through them until I discovered something of value.

When I sat down tonight, the wind whispered. And because of our current studies, I thought about how I had just personified the wind, that using my words, I had given the wind the power to tempt me to write. And having personified it so convincingly, I rose to its challenge. I abandoned syntax and started writing from feeling.

That feeling was prompted by Snow White; though she believes herself to be uninspiring, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Her empathy and compassion for me as she reversed roles and encouraged me in my writing and for her friend as she painfully recounted recent events in our conversation. Like me, she needs an outlet that honors free expression of thoughts and feelings.

Poetry has no boundaries, owes no apologies, necessitates no prefaces, yet carries all value, meaning, worth, and possibilities. It’s where we discover the first roses of the year.

Tickled Pink

My silent butterfly wind chimes captivate me now, the gentle spring breeze causing little movement in stark contrast to the nearly 40 mph winds ripping through my newly planted infant garden just three days ago. From beneath a blanket on the couch curled up with Charming and Netflix, I bristled a bit each time the chimes sounded. I had never before been so aware of their clamor.

In fact, I would have never referred to their melodious tinkling as clamor before. Dozens of Tuesday nights, they’ve accompanied me while I write in my “I Used to Be” document on my laptop. Saturday, however, less than twenty-four hours after sowing seeds, planting seedlings, arranging hanging baskets, and starting an herb garden, the persistent chimes signaled worry.

I’d planned carefully when I would begin this gardening season, waiting until the magnolias’ green leaves fully shaded the front lawn and the threat of the last frost was behind us. Anticipating further challenges, I hired a neighbor friend to install an outside water spigot. The unrelenting summer heat is equally as unforgiving to thirsty roots. A hose is far more practical than hauling gratuitous bucket after bucket from the kitchen sink to the yard.

Charming urged me to show him what I had done in the garden. We braved the winds and I pointed out each plant, explaining my vision. I was tickled as pink as my blooming azalea bushes that he’d expressed an interest in my novice hobby. (Perhaps I’m being generous, but a second-year gardener is promoted from amateur, right?)

Between the gusts that shook my hanging fuchsias baskets where my moonflowers will once again climb, I told Charming everything, pouring over the plant selection process. I’m not certain he was captivated, but he humored me nevertheless. I pointed out my favorite new installation, a mini shepherd’s hook boasting a tiny solar lantern atop and bearing impatiens on one arm and a copper tea-kettle bird feeder on the other.

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Right now, it’s partially hidden behind the azalea bushes. Right now, the impatiens, begonias, and coleus in the beds are miniscule globes in vast stretches of soil. Right now, the herb garden appears vacant. But the azaleas will shed their blossoms soon, and I’ll cut the branches back revealing the tea kettle. The flowers in the earth will quadruple in size within the coming months, until their leaves meet and the dirt is hidden. The herbs are latent, not vacant, with the potential to produce fresh basil, parsley, cilantro, and lavender.

I am confident about the azaleas and the flowers because I’ve tended that garden once before. My experience taught me what to expect. This year, I chose mostly plants I knew would thrive because they did last year. And when I planted different seeds, I did so with little invested. When plants died last spring, I felt a tinge of failure. Now I understand that each plant has varied potential for success given the climate unique to my yard.

So the herb garden concerns me most. It was the most expensive novel venture, and I hope the return on investment will wind up in my pasta sauce; still, when the chimes clamored on Saturday, I imagined the gusts carrying the thin layer of soil and the seeds beneath off into oblivion. When I showed Charming the garden beds, my narrative centered around what the garden would become, not the current infant state. I had no story for the herb garden. This is the essence of tapered dreams.

Typically, this is where I flush out an analogy. It was through my flowers last year that my weekly writing style emerged, uncovering my own growth in tandem with my garden. A relevant comparison elevates to appropriate neurons while I write. Tonight, a dozen anecdotes surface to consciousness, each with its own ornamented lesson.

When I was married, I was the azaleas blooming for the first time. When I was divorced, I was the azaleas shedding blossoms and losing branches. I didn’t know that I would blossom again, but winter takes its necessary toll on the life cycle, and I would eventually blossom again. I know, too, that there will be more loss and painful trimming. Before my nuptials, I hadn’t learned the rather emotional logic of expecting both.

Charming and I are more akin to the coleus, impatiens, and begonias. Having seen gardening successes and failures, I was highly selective in my beds’ foliage. Having seen relationship successes and failures, I was highly selective in my choice for a fairy tale prince. We’re still seedlings now, but my narratives tend to focus on what might be. If the climate is right… the shade, the temperature, the precipitation, the severity, I’m thinking we’d be captivating in full bloom. And from my geraniums decapitated by a fierce storm, I know that these “ifs” are nature’s unexpected curveballs despite how carefully we plan.

The herb garden, well, that’s my future. I’ve sown seeds throughout my existence. I’ve claimed a half a dozen identities – teacher, writer, singer, daughter, wife, ex-wife. Some seeds, like the book I wrote in my twenties, wither and die sixty pages in. Some seeds fight their way to life, mounting to trees cut down with a divorce decree four years later.

Other seeds, like my choice to change majors to English Education, have bloomed and multiplied such that new seeds are continually planted. With each fresh batch of adolescents, I learn new tricks that make my job fun based on the successes and failures of the previous bunch. And after they graduate, I accept their Facebook friend requests because I want to see what color they will be when they’re in full bloom.

My writing bent was latent for two years. I thought I wasn’t a writer anymore. I thought that flower had withered. I wouldn’t understand that it was simply dormant beneath a layer of disillusionment until shoots of green broke through soil and I started writing again fifty-seven weeks ago.

The reality is that I’ve planted seeds every time I made a significant choice, invested something, or committed myself. I cannot know if a seed will take root, thrive, die, or go into hibernation. I cannot even speculate as to the current state of seeds I’ve planted. My experience has taught me that there’s always a lesson in my garden. It’s the experiences that matter. Because we learn from them. We grow. We change.

The herb garden, winds whipping at the soil, is my future. I don’t know how much potential for life has been carried off by windstorms of the past. I cannot know if identities will ever sprout up for wife or mother or home-owner. It’s a mystery what will grow at all.

But what I learned as an amateur gardener reframes the herb garden. When I spotted tiny shoots of green breaking through brown soil last July, I actually giggled with glee. When they climbed the slats of my front porch, my excitement was unparalleled. That is, of course, until the huge white blossoms of my evening glories greeted me on a Tuesday night, warmer than this one.

I never know the future of any seed that I sow – any critical choice, investment, or commitment – but that knowledge alone won’t stop me from planting it. The potential for future joy and success is worth the calculated risk.

If my pasta sauce is seasoned with store-bought, dried herbs come August, I won’t regret trying something new. I can blame it on the wind, but either way, it just wasn’t meant to be. My wind chimes are still silent now. The storm has passed. Only time will reveal which seeds will thrive.

Suspend and Believe

“Fairy tales aren’t just for children,” one of my young men declared as his take-away from our Fun Fairy Fiction unit in tenth grade English class. On presentation day last week, eager teens entered through a castle door into a medieval celebration. Coats of arms framed a banner waving, dragons hung from ceiling tiles, and a knight stood watch as my students were greeted by their guest host, Cinderella.

While teams of kids were plotting their fairy tales, I was plotting a surprise visit. Armed with a British accent to cement the illusion, Cinderella explained that Ms. Palma was pulled away by an emergency and crossed realms to ask Cinderella to guest host the presentations. With the help of my fairy godmother’s magic wand, I had crossed through a portal from Kingdom Far Far Away to Kingdom America.

One might think a sixteen year old would need more convincing to suspend reality and believe that the blue gowned woman before him is not simply his teacher in costume. But regardless of our ages, we suspend and believe regularly – every time we load up a Netflix series or laugh through a musical comedy. We know that that the characters are actors. We know the story is fiction. Yet we engage, suspend and believe, and are thereby transported into the pleasing entertainment arena of imagination.

Cinderella had brought with her refreshments of golden corn pouring out of pewter pitchers and bowls as well as silver kingdom kisses as a reward to each presenter. In character for ninety-minute blocks at a time, you wouldn’t hear me call them popcorn or Hershey’s. The clothes, the accent, the facial expressions – that alone wouldn’t turn an ordinary presentation day into a meaningful learning experience.

It was all the unanticipated, unplanned ad libbing that sold the illusion. One of my students asked to take a picture with Cinderella, and I obliged though I didn’t understand what type of magic was inside the tiny contraption, worried that I would be trapped inside its tiny glass face. The kids explained what a cell phone was, in a way that would make sense to a foreign, medieval princess. Even with reality suspended, they were applying real life problem solving skills to teach Cinderella.

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When the loudspeaker interrupted, I stopped in bewilderment, slipped through the desks as gracefully as possible in my hoop skirt, and pressed my ear to the wall beneath the speaker, wondering how to rescue the person stuck inside. They explained what a loudspeaker was, made comparisons between its audio capabilities and the visual capabilities of the cell phone they had already taught me.

Cinderella had only to ask them how they knew who she was and the students essentially demonstrated mastery at every unit concept in the moments that followed. “What do you mean, I’m a character?” and, “I’m in a story?” and “What’s a fairy tale?” and “How’s it different from other stories?” and “What’s a moral?” My sophomores became the teachers, owning their learning in a way that delighted me almost as much as my glittery gown!

One of my male students claimed he was a knight and would like to ask for Cinderella’s hand. Not missing a beat, I replied that I was already married to Prince Charming and he’d agreed to let me cross realms only if I brought along his most loyal knight. They told me about happy endings, and I concluded that I had one. We chatted about my friends Snow White, Beauty, and Rapunzel. There, amidst hearty laughter and lighthearted ad libbing banter, I truly was a guest host as my students rose to the proverbial podium.

As they shared the tales they had written, I responded as Cinderella would, continuing to reinforce that it was for these stories that she had come from Far Far Away, that she shan’t want to leave after such a marvelous, magical visit, that Ms. Palma would be so proud of their work.

I really was. Each tale was incredibly unique. Having started their project with fully formed characters and settings that needed to fit into a fairy tale together, the teams had demonstrated creativity and critical thinking to resolve plot decisions together. While they were planning, I would hover every so often on the fringe of the teams, overhearing their discussions. We studied fairy tales, but to write them, we had a strategic undertaking. It was about the elements of story and fairy tales, yes, but more importantly, it was about teamwork and imagination.

The final products were pleasing in their own ways, and every plot led to someone’s happily ever after and a moral that we could relate to. In self and peer reflections, students were able to evaluate themselves and their teammates and assess the unit. Their responses support the conclusion that working with others was not without its challenges, but that they ultimately couldn’t have arrived at their published work without at least one contribution from each member.

This weekend, Ms. Palma’s Charming joined her on this white wicker loveseat and looked through the pictures from Cinderella’s visit to my class. As much as I tried to explain why a certain photograph made me laugh, I knew I could never do it justice. What transpired in my classroom was a fairy tale of its own, and my students and I were the characters. For an afternoon, we weren’t in a school. We were in a story. It was like trying to summarize a movie and falling short. You had to be there.

This story had a very happy ending, as students exited the castle into their spring break adventures. I took off the costume, put away the decorations, and stared at the empty classroom. Moments before, it had been buzzing with collective imagination. Now, the bare ceiling tiles simply convinced me I would have to plan another unforgettable unit.

Fairy tales aren’t just for children. They were, after all, originally created for grownups. Perhaps it is easier for me to dream like a teen since I never left high school, but we all love a happy ending. We get angry at our favorite TV series for killing off a beloved character. We cry at The Notebook. We mark the success of a production not by how it develops, but by how it resolves in the end.

For me, this unit with fairy tales reminds me of the importance of every part of the plot. In each stage, from conception to publication, my students were engaged in a transformative journey. They faced and overcame conflicts. They wrote their own success stories even as they penned the pages of their team fairy tales.

When the story is over and reality resumes, the happy endings inspire pursuit of more happy endings. Spending time in a realm where anything is possible, where Cinderella commutes to hear your story, bolsters your belief in hopes and dreams.

When I shed the blue gown and became Ms. Palma again, the magic had faded, but the inspired theatrics had changed me. I didn’t need a costume to imagine all of my own possible happily ever afters.

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