Fallingwater – A Trifecta Challenge

The prompt: lucky.

Fallingwater

FallingwaterIt all begins with a thought, a question and an ability to act.

“Damn! DAMN!” Edgar pulled the pillow tightly over his head to drown out the sounds of passing vehicles.

“Are you alright, dear?” whispered his wife, Liliane.

“Oh…I didn’t mean to…”

“You didn’t. I’ve been awake for awhile.”

Edgar tossed the pillow into the corner of the screened-in porch. “How long have we been coming up here, 10, 15 years?”

Liliane propped herself up with her elbows. “Twelve years tomorrow.”

“Now, how do you know that?” He lit the kerosene lamp on the table between them and put on his glasses.

“When we bought this property, Edgar Jr. had just turned two. He’s now fourteen.”

“Do you hear that?” Liliane looked at him with a puzzled look. “Quietness! No passing trucks or cars, just the serenity of the countryside and our waterfalls. Remember when it was a summer camp for our employees?” Softly, he stroked the back of her head.  She nodded.  “Damn Depression. Now they can’t even afford the $1 round trip fare by train.

Liliane swung her legs over the side of her cot and sat up. “Yes, we’ve done well, Edgar.”

“Been lucky, too.”

“That too, but it doesn’t hurt having the most elegant store in Pittsburgh.”

“No, it doesn’t,” he replied, smirking.

“What’s troubling you?”

“The traffic noise level since they paved that road… Maybe we should sell?

“Sell Bear Run?”

“Or… build a proper home.”

“We’d need an architect.”

“Uh-huh.”

“You’ve already done it, haven’t you, Edgar? Who?”

“Frank Lloyd Wright.”

By 1935, the design had been agreed on and construction of the main house had been completed by 1938. Frank Lloyd Wright incorporated their love of nature and the waterfalls by building part of their home on top of the waterfalls.

“You’re not too disappointed, are you, Edgar?”

“You mean missing the view of the falls? No, not really. It drowns out the sound of the passing vehicles.”

“No wonder you look so pleased with yourself.”

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Fallingwater – A Write at the Merge Prompt

Word Prompt: Wonder

Fallingwater

Fallingwater

It all begins with a thought, a question and an ability to act.

“Damn! DAMN!” Edgar rolled over and pulled the pillow tightly over his head to block out the sounds of passing vehicles.

Their ‘country home,’ as they called it, was only large enough for Edgar Junior’s crib and the two of them, provided they didn’t want to sit down.

“Are you alright, dear?” whispered his wife, Liliane.

“Oh…I didn’t mean to…”

“You didn’t. I’ve been awake for awhile.”

Edgar tossed the pillow into the corner of the screened-in porch before sitting at the edge of the cot facing her. “How long have we been coming up here, 10, 15 years?” Picking up his spectacles from atop the novel “Work of Art” by Sinclair Lewis on the floor beside his cot, he put them on.

Pushing her pillow under her, she propped herself up with her elbows. “It’ll be twelve, tomorrow.”

“Now how do you know that?” He struck a match and lit the kerosene lamp on the table between them.

“When we closed on this property our neighbor’s daughter had just turned two. She’s now fourteen.”

Edgar cupped his hand behind his ear. “Do you hear that?” Liliane looked at him with a puzzled look. “Except for the water falls, there’s no passing trucks or cars, just this fresh air and the serenity of the countryside.” He began to softly stroke the back of her head. “Remember when we opened this property up to our employees as a summer camp?” She nodded.  “This damn Depression changed that. Now, their daily living has become so hard they can’t come anymore. Few people can afford the $1 round trip fare by train from the “Smoky City.”

Throwing back the light sheet covering her, Liliane swung her legs over the side of her cot and sat up facing him. “Yes, we’ve done well, but we’ve worked hard for it.”

“And, we’ve been lucky.”

Taking his hands in hers she smiled and said: “Yes, that too, but it doesn’t hurt to have the most elegant and exciting store in Pittsburgh.”

“No, I guess not,” he replied, smirking.

“So what’s really on your mind?”

“It’s the increased noise level since they paved that road. We’ve either got to sell this property or build a proper home.”

“Sell Bear Run? No way!”

“I thought as much… Liliane?… I’ve already retained an architect.”

“You have?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Who?”

“Frank Lloyd Wright.”

By 1935, the design had been agreed on and construction of the main house had been completed by 1938. Frank Lloyd Wright incorporated their love of nature and the waterfalls by building part of their home on top of the waterfalls.

“The sound of the waterfalls is soothing,” Liliane said, placing her cup and saucer on the table beside her. “You’re not too disappointed, are you?”

“You mean missing the view of the falls? No, not really. It drowns out the sound of the passing vehicles.”

“No wonder you look so pleased with yourself.”

Standardized Testing – What Does it Do to the Average Student?

“If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.”

Learning Environment-Margaret Mead

This quote by Margaret Mead is the foundation upon which my views as an educator were built; it is the lens (or bias) through which I will attempt to answer (as succinctly as possible) this deceivingly complex question.

Like an onion, the expression ‘average student’ consists of many layers of interpretation beyond the statistic of mean, median and mode especially when it comes to assessing the marvelous elasticity and growth potential of the human brain.

For example, who would be the average student and the below average student in these examples?

John wrote down the following in his notebook:

10+7=17, 9+6=15, 11+5=16, 8+11=19;

While Leanne wrote the following in her notebook:

10+7=5, 9+6=3, 11+5=4, 8+11=7

Leanne was also correct. How could that be?

I think most would say that John was at least average and Leanne was below average. John’s answers are the obvious traditional replies we would expect and, therefore, he would have been credited with a correct response.  Unfortunately for Leanne, the logical path she chose would probably have been dismissed outright. Yet, I would argue that she is—in all likelihood—a more actively engaged learner than John and what we should encourage in our system. Why? She used higher level thinking skills to construct a different mathematical system while he regurgitated ‘superficial’ skills. In other words, she set a new standard of opportunity: opportunity to examine how she had applied what she had learned in a new and unique way.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do believe that the basics must be mastered and are an ingredient for success in our competitive world; but, like all recipes, success depends on all of the ingredients being proportioned correctly. Imagine ranking a cake in a baking contest by only tasting its baking powder?  Yet, I wonder if that isn’t what’s happening when a diploma is denied on account of failing an exit exam.

A student’s initiatives, creativity, imagination, curiosity, effort, judgment—just to mention a few—are invaluable assets that must not be ignored just because it cannot be measured on a standardized test; these assets can and are evaluated every day by our teachers. The following quote says it all:

Every person passing through this life will unknowingly leave something and take something away. Most of this “something” cannot be seen or heard or numbered. It does not show up in a census. But nothing counts without it. –Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

Our schools and teachers are well placed to develop and to deliver meaningful programs throughout a school day that not only recognize and engage the uniqueness of each student but allows for expression, awareness, and development of the multiple intelligences present in their classrooms. If we want all our students (irrespective of ability levels and socio-economic factors) to be lifelong learners in the 21st century, then the intelligences of intrapersonal, interpersonal, musical, spatial, and kinesthetic must be treated with equal importance alongside verbal/linguistic and logical/mathematical. To do otherwise not only cheats students from feeling successful and discovering their potential and the opportunities that await them, but may also deny the community the richness of their contribution.

The goal within our educational systems should always be about enhancing the quality of our students and the schools they learn in: not just about ranking them. The world we live in demands much more of our students than a shallow approach to learning that stresses storage of information in their heads. Higher scores (though laudable) on standardized tests should not be the gauge by which time and money are judged well spent; especially, if dropout rates continue to rise and our placement in the global community is deemed unsatisfactory.

Our choices must always profit our students. Stakeholders must collaboratively work together to find a way to encourage a willingness on the part of the student to trump factors that may impede their success and to find ways to empower our students to reach their educational goals.

Standardized testing has a place but, like the baking soda mentioned earlier in our cake, it is only one ingredient and, as such, must never (by itself) be accorded legitimacy when determining a valid measure of a good education.

An overemphasis on standardized testing impacts negatively on attitudes towards education and what learning is all about at a time when we want students and teachers engaged in a meaningful dialogue of discovery within their classrooms.

Living  in a global community demands a broader, more informed perspective and application of a mixture of new learning ‘tools’ well beyond the regurgitation of facts. Standardized tests emphasize an outmoded emphasis that only hurts our students’ learning if it is allowed a disproportionate part in their educational experience. Twenty-first century education must have an all-encompassing and broader view that emphasizes commitment to fairness, equity, accuracy and quality for all.

How was Leanne right? This is my humble view on this problem.

If she let 10+7=5 (it really doesn’t matter what it is equal to because she always applies the same logic) then

9+6 = (10-1) + (7-1) = 5-2 =3

11+5 = (10+1) + (7-2) =5-1 =4

8+11= (10-2) + (7+4) =5+2 =7

What’s your opinion about standardized testing?

Between Now and Then – A Trifecta Weekend Challenge

The Trifecta challenge was to use three words ( remember, rain, rebellion ) to make a complete 36-word response.

Without further ado, I introduce:

Between Now and Then

History would not treat the vanquished kindly in this rebellion. Measuring the distance across the blood soaked field, pocked by rain and shells, he waited for the command and tried to remember ebullient times during childhood.

The Unlikely Hero – A Write at the Merge Prompt

The writing prompt this week from Write at the Merge is legs. The prompt included a photograph and a Justin Timberlake video.

For your reading enjoyment, I introduce:

The Unlikely Hero

Virginia sat at the edge of her bed and re-read the letter from the White House. Looking up, she watched the young lieutenant through the open bedroom door, her thumb gently gliding across President Truman’s signature several times. She noticed his impatience had become more noticeable as he awaited her reply in the living-room.

Sighing deeply, she thought: There can only be the one reply—any other would be foolhardy and dangerous. Looking at her legs, she remembered how her life had changed in 1933 while a clerk in the U.S. Embassy in Turkey. We’ve come a long way since then, haven’t we ‘Cuthbert?’ she mused, tapping her left leg with her hand before standing up. With a noticeable limp, she walked over to her desk and sat down and picked up the pen.

_____

Virginia’s high intelligence and language proficiency had not gone unnoticed at the Embassy in 1933. A career in Foreign Service—her lifelong goal—was within reach.

On March 20, everything changed.

Hunting wild boar with friends in the Kizilcahaman District of Ankara, Virginia stumbled and shot herself in the leg. Though they managed to stop the bleeding, the grueling two mile trek back to their vehicle had taken its toll.

A few days later in Ankara Numune Hospital, she learned the bad news: the surgeons had amputated her leg below the knee.

When she was finally fitted with a wooden prosthesis, she immediately called it ‘Cuthbert’ after Saint Cuthbert, whose feast day was March 20. After difficult weeks of therapy, she walked out of the hospital and into an uncertain future.

Since an amputee could not be employed in the Foreign Service, her convalescence bubbled over with despair and confusion.

For several years, she backpacked throughout the Mediterranean. When the Germans invaded France on May 23, 1940, she was in Paris. Itching to get involved, she drove an ambulance for the French Army before fleeing to England.

Learning that the British Special Operations Executive was having difficulty recruiting, she volunteered to become a spy. Sent back to Vichy France under the guise of an American reporter, she worked under several aliases to organize French Resistance to carry out sabotage and guerilla warfare while writing articles for the New York Post. She barely missed capture by the Gestapo when one of the resistance cells she worked with was compromised. She escaped over the treacherous, snow covered Pyrenees to Spain.

Hearing of her exploits, the newly formed American Office of Strategic Services (OSS), recruited her and in 1944, prosthesis secured in her knapsack, she was parachuted into France to coordinate sabotage operations with the D-day landings.

_____

Sealing her reply in the envelope, Virginia went out to the living-room and handed it to the lieutenant.

Later, opening the middle drawer of her desk, she pulled out a Gestapo reward poster: WANTED – DEAD OR ALIVE – THE LIMPING LADY.

To preserve her cover in the newly created CIA, she received the Distinguished Service Cross without publicity.

.

Using Dialect – Learning From My Mistake

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
― Albert Einstein

“But what if I make a mistake?’ Will asked.
Gilan threw back his head and laughed. ‘A mistake? One mistake? You should be so lucky. You’ll make dozens! I made four or five on my first day alone! Of course you’ll make mistakes. Just don’t make any of them twice. If you do mess things up, don’t try to hide it. Don’t try to rationalize it. Recognize it and admit it and learn from it. We never stop learning, none of us
.”
― John Flanagan Erak’s Ransom

 Everyone Makes Mistakes

Getting It Right

When using dialect as part of dialogue, it should sound real but not be too real because when “it is written as it sounds it is difficult to read.”

I should have remembered those wise words before I submitted “Alistair McBubble” to the Write at the Merge Prompt. Before you read further have a look at the version I submitted and I think you’ll understand.

Now that you have read it, I’m sure that you would agree (because I sure do) with the following comments:

I had a hard time getting through dialogue.

I think it’s a creative story, but I had a problem with the dialect.

The dialect was a little difficult to get through.

Some ‘Tools’ to Guide You

In their book The Elements of Style, 3rd edition, William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White quite correctly point out the following:

“Do not attempt to use dialect [when writing] unless you are a devoted student of the tongue you hope to reproduce. If you use dialect, be consistent. . . . The best dialect writers, by and large, are economical of their talents, they use the minimum, not the maximum, of deviation from the norm, thus sparing the reader as well as convincing him.”

At least I got one part of what they wrote correct. A first generation Canadian, I was exposed to the Scottish brogue daily. That’s where the bias to my decision lay. In fact, I attended speech classes to lose my accent. They wanted me to speak Canadian, eh. I still easily lapse into the brogue over a few pints when I’m surrounded by Scottish folk. My wife is always amazed by how easily I do that.

Unfortunately, I was not “economical” in the use of the dialect in the dialogue and by not choosing “the minimum of deviation from the norm,” I compromised the story. Quite bluntly, I should have known better. Then I thought: “What a great opportunity! Maybe others can learn from my mistake.” And, that’s how this post came about.

Stay Connected

According to Lori L. Lake:

  “ … fiction is best when it conjures up verisimilitude, using dialect in your writing can lend color, accuracy, and liveliness. Use of proper dialect helps to vividly express a character’s identity and to spark readers’ interest in both narrative and characterization.”

If not used correctly, dialect can be a ‘ball and chain’ to the flow of your story and literally ‘turn off’ the reader. That’s why it’s important for other writers to read your work on a frequent basis. Their feedback is invaluable!

As my examples and links have shown, there is clearly a right way and wrong way to incorporate dialect into dialogue. Don’t lapse into heavy dialect because it discourages readers from reading. If you work at keeping the dialogue consistent, convincing and economical, you will do alright in staying connected to your reader.

If you don’t belong to writing groups similar to Write at the Merge or Trifecta, I encourage you to give them a try. You will not regret it.

Now, I give you again – Alistair McBubble: revised version.

Hopefully, I’ve got it right this time. What do you think?

Tartan HatAlistair McBubble

Alistair McBubble was born to Florrie and Hugh on March 14, 2013 at precisely 9:47:15 A.M.  After delivery, Doctor McAlister completed a few preliminary tests and assured them that Alistair was indeed spherical in shape.

“Ur ye sure? Florrie asked. “Without that shape …well…ay don’t want tae…That shape ensures he has the minimum surface energy and the—“

“Lowest ratio of surface area tae volume,” interjected Dr. McAlister. “I know all of that.”

Furrows formed at the bridge of Florrie’s nose. She peered at him with a look of consternation. “If ay remember correctly, doctur, ye said that before.”

“Florrie!  Don’t pinch yer forehead like that,” Doctor McAlister commanded. Softening her expression, she looked up at him. “Florrie, I will test for the Marangoni effect, if that makes ye feel better.”

“It woods,” she retorted.

“I will get Hugh.”

Hugh and Florrie remained on pins and needles—figuratively speaking—waiting for the results. When the doctor returned and told them that the surface tension on Alistair was stable, they were overjoyed.

“Och, Hugh, we finally hae a perfect McBubble.”

“Och aye,” rejoined Hugh, puffing his chest out with pride, “we dae.”

“Don’t get carried away, Hugh,” warned the doctor.

Hugh’s face took on a dismayed appearance that alarmed Florrie.

“Whit in heaven’s nam is wrang, Hugh?” she pleaded.

Speechless, he pointed to the location beside Florrie.

“Ack!” Florrie screamed. “He’s taken flight!”

Alistair’s choice would have been to remain with his parents but his destiny was ordained the moment that gust of wind swooped him up and ushered him off.

As Alistair wiped away his tears, a deep voice startled him.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

Glancing back, Alistair saw two bubbles coming up quickly behind him. “An’, why not?” he asked, perturbed by this interruption.

“Because… it doesn’t matter now…you’ve already done it. I was just going to say it would thin out your surface.”

“An’, why shoods that matter?” Alistair replied snootily.

“He doesn’t know anything, Albert,” giggled the girl. “He even talks funny.”

“Who ur you two anyway?” Alistair asked, unable to hide his displeasure with her comments.

“I’m Albert and she’s my sister, Alicia. I can see you’re interested in what I’m doing.” He held up the miniature chalkboard.

Alistair nodded and moved closer.

“Not too close.” Pointing at his chalkboard he said:”It’s an equation.”

“What diz it do?” Alistair asked with great interest.

“Oh!” Alicia interrupted. No longer giggling, she pointed at Alistair. “His color has changed. He was bluish-green when we arrived and he’s now more yellow.”

“We must get out of the sun.”

“What’s happenin’? I’m almost colorless.”

“The film that formed you is much thinner. That’s why…”

Looking at each other, their faces filled with anguish.

Albert pointed to the old castle below. “We must hide there until dark…maybe…”

POP! POP! POP!

 

Alistair McBubble – A Write at the Merge Prompt

There were two photos to reflect on at Write at the Merge. The creative prompt offers up…somethings…for your inspirational pleasure. The idea is to find where it intersects for you and write on. Sometimes it will be one, sometimes both.

For all you Scottish folk, I hope I have not embarrassed myself too much. I tried my best to get it right.

For your reading enjoyment, I present:

Tartan HatAlistair McBubble

Alistair McBubble was born to Florrie and Hugh on March 14, 2013 at precisely 9:47:15 A.M.  After delivery, Doctor McAlister completed a few preliminary tests and assured them that Alistair was indeed spherical in shape.

“Ur ye sure? Florrie asked. “Withit ‘at shape …weel…Ah dornt want tae…’at shape ensures he has th’ minimum surface energy an’ th’—“

“Lowest ratio ay surface area tae volume,” interjected Dr. McAlister. “A ken aw ay ‘at.”

Furrows formed at the bridge of Florrie’s nose. She peered at him with a look of consternation. “If ay min’ correctly, doctur, ye said ‘at affair.”

“Florrie!  Dornt pinch yer foreheid loch ‘at,” Doctor McAlister commanded. Softening her expression, she looked up at him. “Florrie, ah test fur th’ Marangoni effect, if ‘at makes ye feel better.”

“It woods,” she retorted.

“Ah will gie Hugh.”

Hugh and Florrie remained on pins and needles—figuratively speaking—waiting for the results. When the doctor returned and told them that the surface tension on Alistair was stable, they were overjoyed.

“Och, Hugh, we finally hae a perfect McBubble.”

“Och aye,” rejoined Hugh, puffing his chest out with pride, “we dae.”

“Dornt gie carried awa’ thaur Hugh,” warned the doctor.

Hugh’s face took on a dismayed appearance that alarmed Florrie.

“Whit in heaven’s nam is wrang, Hugh?” she pleaded.

Speechless, he pointed to the location beside Florrie.

“Ack!” Florrie screamed. “He’s taken flecht.”

Alistair’s choice would have been to remain with his parents but his destiny was ordained the moment that gust of wind swopped him up and ushered him off.

As Alistair wiped away his tears, a deep voice startled him.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

Glancing back, Alistair saw two bubbles coming up quickly behind him. “An’, wa nae?” he asked, perturbed by this interruption.

“Because… it doesn’t matter now…you’ve already done it. I was just going to say it would thin out your surface.”

“An’, wa shoods ’at matter?” Alistair replied snootily.

“He doesn’t know anything, Albert,” giggled the girl. “He even talks funny.”

“Fa ur  ye tois anyway?” Alistair asked, unable to hide his displeasure with her comments.

“I’m Albert and she’s my sister, Alicia. I can see you’re interested in what I’m doing.” He held up the miniature chalkboard.

Alistair nodded and moved closer.

“Not too close.” Pointing at his chalkboard he said:”It’s an equation.”

“Whit diz it dae?” Alistair asked with great interest.

“Oh!” Alicia interrupted. No longer giggling, she pointed at Alistair. “His color has changed. He was bluish-green when we arrived and he’s now more yellow.”

“We must get out of the sun.”

“What’s happenin’? Aam almost colorless.”

“The film that formed you is much thinner. That’s why…”

Looking at each other, their faces filled with anguish.

Albert pointed to the old castle below. “We must hide there until dark…maybe…”

POP! POP! POP!