Monthly Archives: May 2016

(I swear I wrote this yesterday.)

Can I cop out today and say Toronto? Because I’ve never been to Toronto but am very seriously considering moving there this fall for graduate school.

That’s surely not in-line with the spirit of this challenge, though.

I think I would live in Finland. It might be hard to secure a teaching job, as teaching is one of the most revered occupations, and their teachers are so well educated, but maybe I could find some position in a Finnish school. I would love to witness their superb education system. Plus, they have low poverty and prioritize social justice. I think I’d fit in just fine. (Of course, I’d have to learn Finnish . . .)


  1. I once dyed my hair pink, in celebration of having raised $20,ooo for Invisible Children. I did it (raised the money and died my hair) on a livestream, with people all over the world watching. The pink didn’t last long (I opted not to bleach first), but hey—for a few days, I had a head of magenta hair.
  2. “Ellen” is a family name. My great-grandmother was Ellen, and my grandmother is Patricia Ellen. My mom totally should be an Ellen but, alas, is not. I think it’s rockin’ that my great-grandmother named her daughter after herself, and I plan on passing the name down to my daughter as well.
  3. I was an English major in college. This surprises people who don’t know me but do know my job title (computer science teacher). In actuality, my English degree equipped me with many of the skills I need (presentation, effective rhetoric, reasoning, analysis) and an ability to acquire any skills lacking (during my interview, my now-boss asked, “Do you know much about computer science?” I replied, “No ma’am, but I can learn.” English majors can learn anything.).
  4. I was a student at the school where I now teachTo my knowledge, I’m the only St. James alum who has returned to be a faculty member. Today, I’m preparing for the sixth-grade graduation, working on slideshows and awards. One decade ago today, I was myself a sixth-grade student, preparing to graduate and move out of The Bubble.
  5. I have two tattoos—a white one on my wrist that I want to fade away (or else to cover it with something new) and a brown one on my ankle that I love more and more every day. I regret neither of them; giving myself freedom to make and not regret mistakes has been a necessary and liberating part of my journey.
  6. I played soccer for nine years. I started in the fourth grade and kept going through my first year of college, only to quit because I felt the team to be oppressive, disrespectful, and lacking sportsmanship (mean girls are mean, you know?). I so wish that that had not been the case; what I wouldn’t give to have spent four years playing college ball. Now, if I play, it’s on the school’s field with a group of ten-year-olds (still very fun—and wow, they’re fast) (also, they think I’m super cool because I have an ounce or two of skill).
  7. I have Bipolar II Disorder, or something like that. It’s more annoying than anything;  I never know what kind of day I’ll have or how long an episode will last. I manage, though, and use my situation to my benefit: I wholeheartedly believe my disorder is an advantage because, while it makes day-to-day functioning way tougher, it also grants me a greater capacity for empathy and understanding. I am a better person, teacher, and friend because of my experiences with mental illness.
  8. I’ve been to 15 countries on 4 continents: USA, Mexico, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, England, France, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Tanzania, Greece, Israel, Uganda, Honduras, and Belize. I am so grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve had to travel, and for the passion for travel that my mom instilled in me. This summer, I’ll add Canada and Turkey to the list, about which I am more than excited.
  9. Meanwhile, I’ve only (“only”) been to 19 different states (and some of those barely count—just ate a meal there, etc). I have a lot of backyard-exploring left to do.
  10. I’m currently looking to pursue a MEd in Developmental Psychology and Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (at the University of Toronto). We’ll see if that happens; it’s obviously quite far away from home, and taking such a step would be huge, but for now, I am enjoying the dream.

I was 15 and had been dating a boy, John, for a bit, probably a couple of months. I had trouble with physical contact then, as I do now; even things like holding hands made (make . . .) me nervous, so we most definitely had not kissed.

John’s best friend was dating my best friend Shea, so we had a “double date” at her house one evening. After watching a movie (“Marley and Me”), we sent the boys home; they, 16, had ridden together. Shea and I saw them off, and we hadn’t even made it inside when the truck circled back into the driveway, and her boyfriend, in a thick southern accent, hollered out the window, “I hear someone didn’t get a kiss tonight!” Lovely. So I walked up to the truck, and Shea and her boy made their way behind the truck, out of sight, to do their own kissing.

John and I somehow managed to kiss once; “That was awkward,” I said immediately. So we tried again. “Nope, still awkward.” So we tried once more, and, finally, it was enjoyable, PTL.

I loved John through all of our high school years, the way kids love. He was good to me and to my family. He was comfortable to me, physically and emotionally. He allowed me a glimpse into what vulnerability minus anxiety feels like.

I think that, one day, I will experience the grown-up version of love.

Of course this is a guess—how can anyone truly know what their earliest memory is? Or maybe it’s not so much a guess as it is a choice: I am choosing this memory to stand in for my earliest. It may or may not be a lie.

It takes place at the house of my great-grandmother, my namesake: Ellen Lavendahl Hart, Grandma. The living room had true-green carpet. Her rocking chair and rocking foot rest were mustard yellow, the fabric worn a bit rough. Directly in front of that foot rest sat the television. I remember sitting in front of that foot rest, the world and room dark, watching “The Lawrence Welk Show” and eating homemade (or supposed homemade) banana pudding, rocking along with the music and my grandmother, as if we and the chair and the foot rest were one.


Five problems with social media:

  1. It’s distracting. It is hard to be productive when you spend your time tweeting. Before social media, people were so much more productive; before the 21st century, before all of these technological distractions, the world advanced at a much more rapid pace . . . right?
  2. It enables people to post whatever. they. want. Personally, I like my people like I like my coffee: quiet and un-empowered. Social media really pushes the boundaries of “freedom of speech.” It’s one thing to guarantee the right to it under the law; it’s another thing for it to be legit accessible to people of all races, genders, socioeconomic statuses, national origins, and ages.
  3. It’s so political these days. Political information should come from one place and one place only: The Capital-M Media. If I want political updates or analysis, I’ll turn on CNN or Fox (or, god, maybe I’ll pick up a newspaper . . . nah). Diverse perspectives are overrated.
  4. It keeps people glued to their screens. I see it every day: people on the bus, in a line, at the grocery store, eyes fixated on their iPhones. It’s just too much. I fall prey to this myself; the other day, for example, I found myself on Facebook during the movie preview previews (the weird commercials that come on before the actual previews). So ridiculous. All I was doing was catching up with friends who live on other continents, reading articles about Rosa Parks, and doing a little guerrilla marketing. I should have been watching the local retirement home ads that were running. Ugh.
  5. One word: #HASHTAGS. So apparently hashtags are meant to organize information—which, okay, #icangetdownwiththat. But the super-long, non-organizational hashtags? Nonsense. Is nothing in this world purely #utilitarian anymore? The English language has no room to accommodate more rhetorical innovation. Leave well enough alone; beauty comes from the status quo. Also, “hashtag”? Really? #poundsignforever