Author Archives: Velya Jancz-Urban

About Velya Jancz-Urban

Velya Jancz-Urban is a teacher, author, former Brazilian dairy farm owner, expert on New England’s colonial women, inhabitant of a 1770 haunted home, and a Chica Peep. She has a newly-released novel, Acquiescence, and her first book in a children’s hands-on science series is slated to hit the market by end of summer. When she’s not touring with her highly-entertaining and informative presentation The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife or on the road speaking about her new book Acquiescence, she’s traveling from school to school teaching her award-winning How Cool is That? (Hands-On Science) programs. When she does manage to break away, she and her family travel extensively. In fact, at one point they bought a 175-acre farm in Brazil, with hundreds of mango trees home to sapphire blue parrots. Currently, Velya is accepting submissions for Who Are Your Chica Peeps?, an anthology celebrating women’s friendships.

Every Woman Needs a Roller Derby Alias by Velya Jancz-Urban

roller derby 2

photo: Forx Roller Derby

My 23 year-old daughter recently tried out for the CT Roller Girls team. While she didn’t qualify, she will try again and what’s more important, she and our family were introduced to the world of roller derby. After attending several bouts, I was amazed at the sincere camaraderie between the team members, as well as the rival teams. It made me realize that ladies involved in roller derby ascribe to my women helping women mantra.

Aside from the sisterhood, the thing I’ve enjoyed most are the names and the costumes. Each skater must create her alias or “skater name” and once it’s registered, the name is hers forever. I haven’t quite figured out how the scoring works, so when I’m not watching the Jammer, I spend a good part of each bout reading the names on the backs of shirts and chuckling to myself about the clever wit of the skaters. Skaters often assume the persona that goes along with their skater name. Some of my favorites are:

Eleanor Bruisevelt
Eva Bangoria
Maura Buse
Yankee ClipHer
Wynona Juggs
Ether Bunny
Dewey Decks’emall
Doom Hilda
Victoria Deck’em
Beyonslay
Syphilis Diller
Tess of the Derby Wheels
Vandal Eyes
Artillery Clinton

My daughter, whose last name is Urban, experimented with names like Urban Blight, Urban Decay, Urban Sprawl. I could simply be Veal Chopper.

Most people over the age of forty have heard of roller derby, but it’s a sport of mystery and misinformation. That misinformation is the reason my husband and I weren’t quite sure we heard correctly when our daughter said she wanted to try out for a roller derby league. She’s a gentle young woman who practices yoga and Reiki and never raises her voice. She helps turtles cross the road and, like me, puts spiders outside rather than kill them. In the 1950s, a skater could hit, elbow, and punch another skater. After attending our first bout, we learned there are now penalties for grabbing or using the hands, blocking with the forearms, tripping, kicking, pushing, punching, shoving, elbow jabbing, blocking with the head, and hitting from behind.

In the 1950s, physical violence was all part of this entertaining, but scripted, sport – much like the WWF. Today, most of the derby leagues are governed by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). The days of a banked track are gone and I’ve read that every amateur track is absolutely flat. This is the beauty of the new roller derby; a league doesn’t have to buy or build a track. There are women skating in roller rinks, old warehouses and bowling alleys, airplane hangars and even in empty parking lots. Each team member volunteers her time, talent, and skill in organizing and running different committees, much like a business and this was actually a question posed to my daughter. There are fundraising, sponsorship, public relations, merchandising, and volunteer committees and most leagues believe in giving back to the community. Women helping women – that’s what it’s all about.

So what’s the appeal of contemporary roller derby? I don’t follow any sport, so that’s not what attracts me. There is so much more to roller derby than you might think. It’s not about the fishnets. For me, it’s the idea that women all around the world have created these spaces for themselves. That’s the beauty of it all: it’s grassroots. Men aren’t excluded, but neither are they running the show. On just one team you’ll find college students, lawyers, waitresses, dental hygienists, stay-at-home-moms, and teachers. There are women of all sizes, all ages. Some are tattooed, many are bruised but they’re doing it their way. You can feel it from the “suicide seats” located on the floor. Roller derby girls are no different from the women who belonged to Amish quilting circles of the 1800s, or Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha of Sex and the City fame.

You know you want an alias? What would yours be?

Velya Jancz-Urban is the author of Acquiescence and the creator of The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife
Learn more about her and her novel at:  http://www.acquiescencethebook.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Acquiescence-and-Colonial-Goodwife/1554841878108700?ref=hl
Twitter: https://twitter.com/cgoodwife

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Do You Mondegreen? by Velya Jancz-Urban

mondegreen

Flashback to 1972: I was fourteen-years old and my brother was twelve. Our mother was wandering around the house belting out the lyrics to a very popular song, America’s “Horse with No Name.” My brother and I really weren’t paying too much attention because she was always singing something, thinking she was pretty groovy. When “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” came out, she thought she was incredibly cool as she sang about “the baddest man in the whole damn town.” But back to “Horse with No Name.” For some reason, we actually started listening to her and as she wrapped up the chorus my brother and I looked at each other and exploded with laughter. Instead of singing, “I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name,” she crooned, “I went through the desert with Horace No-Name.” We laughed like hyenas with hiccups gasping for air!  The kind of laughing that leaves you feeling satisfied and happy, but with sore stomach muscles the next morning.

Horse With No Name

Do You Mondegreen?
…yup, we all do!
A mondegreen is the mishearing or misrepresentation of a phrase, usually from a song or poem.

The Disney movie Pocahontas came out when our daughter was about three years old, and it seemed the soundtrack was always playing in the car. One of the songs was called “Savages” and the English settlers boomed out the highly inflammatory lyrics, “They’re savages! Savages! Dirty red skin devils!” But, from her car seat, sweet Ehris always growled:

“They’re sandwiches, sandwiches, dirty red skin devils!”
They’re savages, savages, dirty red skin devils! – “Savages” from Pocahontas

Pocahontas

In 2005, Gwen Stafani’s “Hollaback Girl” became the first digital download to sell one million copies. My husband, snapping his fingers to the thumping tune sang:

“Few times I’ve been around that track
So it’s not just gonna happen like that

Cause I ain’t no Harlem black girl!

I ain’t no Harlem black girl!”
(‘Cause I ain’t no hollaback girl, I ain’t no hollaback girl)

Harlem Black Girl

George M. Cohan may have written the song in 1906, but when my brother was little he patriotically marched around the house with his own tribute to the American flag:

“You’re a Grand Old Flag you’re a high flying flag and forever in peace may you wave,
You’re the emblem of, the land I love,
The homer, the femur, the rave. (The home of the free and the brave.)

Ev’ry heart beats true under red light, and blue”  (Ev’ry heart beats true ‘neath the Red, White and Blue)

You're A Grand Old Flag

My brother also insisted that the “ABC Song” went like this: “A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L,11,P”

The Alphabet Song

And finally, our son Mic had his own version of Donna Summer’s 1979 hit, “Hot Stuff.”  Unlike her Platinum version, his did not hit the Hot Disco Singles list:

“I want some pasta baby this evening! Gotta have some pasta baby tonight!”
“I want some hot stuff, baby this evenin’, Gotta have some hot stuff, Gotta have some love tonight!”

Hot Stuff

How about you? Do you have any funny mondegreens? Kids are particularly good at mishearing lyrics and repeating them with confidence! Share yours in the comments below.

Velya Jancz-Urban is a teacher, author, former Brazilian dairy farm owner, expert on New England’s colonial women, inhabitant of a 1770 haunted home, and a Chica Peep. She has a newly-released novel, Acquiescence, and her first book in a children’s hands-on science series is slated to hit the market by end of summer 2015. When she’s not touring with her highly-entertaining and informative presentation The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife or on the road speaking about her new book Acquiescence, she’s traveling from school-to-school teaching her award-winning How Cool is That? (Hands-On Science) programs.

www.acquiescencethebook.com

Amazon link for Acquiescence: http://www.amazon.com/Acquiescence-Velya-Jancz-Urban/dp/1630661023/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426867032&sr=8-1&keywords=acquiescence+velya+jancz-urban

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Celery and Mousetraps by Velya Jancz-Urban

Tcelery on a white backgroundhe only food my husband won’t eat is celery. I think it’s because his mother, in the 1960s, made a dish called American Chop Suey. I think she made it many, many times. With six kids in the family, she had to be resourceful in the kitchen. American Chop Suey had absolutely no resemblance to Chinese food – it was more like a kissing cousin to goulash. I remember it appearing on the hot lunch menu at our elementary school, and in other parts of the country it may have been called Slumgullion or Johnny Marzetti. But in New England, it was American Chop Suey. From what I can piece together, on the rare occasions my husband will discuss it, his mother went heavy on the celery in order to stretch the hamburger meat in the recipe. Today, if I have a chicken salad sandwich for lunch, my husband’s celery radar is so fine-tuned that when he comes home from work and gives me a kiss he accuses, “So, you were eating celery again!” in the same incriminating tone a district attorney might use in a high-profile murder trial. If I buy deli potato salad, I’ll find a neat little pile of celery cubes on the side of his plate when we’re done with dinner. Since he’s a cooperative eater in all other regards, we never have celery, ‘the devil’s vegetable,’ in the house.

Currently, my husband’s on a special assignment for work and has been “commuting” to Georgia from Connecticut for the past six months.  Like a sneaky teenager who dips into the vodka when her parents aren’t home, I went a little wild at Stop & Shop and bought celery. Celery with a ton of feathery leaves! I open the fridge to that uniquely-celery aroma (good luck trying to describe it!) and ignore my husband’s ranting in my head, “It’s ninety percent water and tastes like WOOD! It tastes just like it smells! In kindergarten, I had to hear all that ‘ants on a log’ peanut butter raisin bullshit!”

And so I come to the entire point of this essay which is not about the evils of celery. It’s about the fact that you never really know what goes on in other people’s houses. The other night, as we were preparing dinner, I said enthusiastically to my twenty-two year old daughter, “Hey, since Daddy’s not here, how ‘bout if we live it up a little and put celery in the salad!” She looked at me with revulsion, as if I had suggested chopping up our puppy and adding him to the salad!

“Celery in SALAD?  Are you crazy?  Nobody puts celery in salad. You have to eat celery hot,” she insisted.

“Well, when I was little we always put celery in salad,” I argued.

“Yeah, but your family’s weird. Nobody in the entire world puts celery in salad,” she persisted.

“Let’s just see about that,” I countered.  “We’ll put it to a vote. Let’s post the question on Facebook and see what people say.”

The response was overwhelming and comments started popping up within minutes. They varied:

I can go either way. A lot of times I think it’s too overpowering.

No!!! Not in my household! I hate celery!!!! Toxic!

Yes! We always have!!

NO ONE likes celery. It’s only in the grocery store for decoration.

Yup, but I peel the strings off.

I like the passive-aggressive crunch!

Lima beans, okra, and celery should be banned from the planet!

Clearly, our scientific survey proved that there are a couple of people out there who do indeed put celery in salad.

“You know,” I admitted to my daughter. “I just assumed everyone put celery in salad because we always did when I was growing up. This reminds me of the mousetrap story.”

“Oh no, not the mousetrap story again,” my daughter groaned.

We live in the country. We have mice – but I never liked the idea of killing them. I always catch them in Havahart traps, take them for a drive, and let them go. But, if I were a mouse, I’d rather die instantly in one of  those old-fashioned wooden mousetraps with the metal bar that comes down fast and breaks the mouse’s neck, than eat creepy d-Con poison and die from internal bleeding, or have my feet stuck to a glue trap and starve to death. One day, several years ago, the mousetrap topic somehow came up in the faculty room during lunch. When I mentioned how disgusting, yet sad, it was as a little kid to have to take the dead mouse out of the trap, the people at the lunch table looked at me in horror.

“Are you serious?” the fourth-grade teacher had asked in disbelief. “You took the mouse out of the trap?”

“Well, yeah. How else do you get it out?”

I got a quick tutorial from my colleagues. I had no idea you were supposed to throw the traps away after you used them, with the dead mouse still imprisoned under the metal bar! I guess having Depression-era parents had something to do with it. My father always re-baited the mousetraps with peanut butter, so I assumed everyone else did.

Celery in salad, and mousetraps…it’s kinda like finding out the lyrics to a song you always sang wrong.

How about you?  Is there anything you thought was ‘normal’ as a child, only to discover that’s not how the rest of the world does it?

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Gay Marriage: A marriage, by any other name – by Velya Jancz-Urban

toothbrush

(The perfect day to re-post this essay I wrote 4 years ago)

I attended my first gay wedding today.
I attended my first same-sex wedding today.
I attended my first homosexual wedding today.

What is the politically correct term for such a wedding? Who cares? Frankly, I don’t understand the furor and uproar over same-sex marriages. I was a guest at the wedding of two women who have been together for thirty-three years.

As our breathtakingly beautiful daughter handed out programs in the rear of the church, our twenty-four year-old son sat alone in the front pew waiting to sing for these two women in his rich bass voice. I sat on the truly uncomfortable pew in the austere little Congregational church, next to Jim, my one-and-only husband of thirty-two years, and thought about our marriage and this man.

He hates celery and he calls me “Wifely.” He made me whole again after our first baby miscarried. I don’t know who made him whole. He usually gets in bed first and every night when I go in the bathroom to wash my face, my toothbrush sits next to the sink topped with a minty white line of toothpaste – waiting for me. It’s there every morning, too.

As we prepared for the impending birth of our son who is now, incredibly, six feet five inches tall, our midwife gave Jim two jobs to fulfill during our forty-five minute drive to the hospital: Keep the car warm, for it was bitterly cold that January, and get to the hospital quickly. I had read somewhere that drinking a quart of whole milk at the onset of contractions lessened labor pain. So, I dutifully guzzled the milk as my body went into automatic pilot with a course set for childbirth, and just seemed to go along for the ride. Jim took the midwife’s directions to heart. He cranked up the heat and zipped down pot-holey Connecticut back roads I never knew existed. All the while, the quart of milk sloshed and bubbled until finally, like a human Mount Vesuvius, I erupted and threw up cottage cheese consistency clumps of milk all over myself and the floor of the car. Jim drove along in the eighty-five degree car while I was astonished and kept repeating the obvious question, “Isn’t that the smelliest barf you’ve ever smelled?” I told him to pull over while I chucked the pukey floor mat out the car door. He never complained and he insisted he couldn’t smell a thing, which I knew was a big fat lie.

When our son began to sing my attention returned to the front of the church. The mood changed when he smiled at the women and the spotlight moved briefly from them to him. The women, one a social worker and the other a successful businesswoman, prepared to exchange their vows. They have been together for thirty-three years. They have crow’s feet, graying hair, anxious smiles, and appeared nervous. They faced each other, holding hands and said, “You have been the steadiness that has kept me on an even keel over the years, and for this I love you dearly” and “I am a far better person because of you and love you more than ever.”

Wedding rings, the same rings they’ve worn for years, were “re-exchanged.” The Congregational minister offered the following blessing: “May your lives together be joyful and content, and may your love be as bright as the stars, as warm as the sun, vast as the ocean and as enduring as the mountains.”

How is this wedding different from any other? To me, marriage has nothing to do with religion or God – it’s about stuff like the waiting toothbrush and the clumpy throw-up. Why should anyone be denied such love because of gender? Same-sex marriages might make some people uncomfortable, but they can’t hurt anyone. Are people afraid that gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall?

Guests were teary, rice was thrown and we all walked down the country road to an evening reception at the home of the women.

I attended a wedding today.

Velya Jancz-Urban is the author of Acquiescence published by Second Wind Publishing.

Visit her at: http://acquiescencethebook.com

http://www.amazon.com/Acquiescence-Velya-Jancz-Urban/dp/1630661023/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Velya Jancz-Urban, and her protagonist Pamina Campbell, have a lot in common. Both are teachers and hoodwinked Brazilian dairy farm owners, and both share a 1770 Connecticut farmhouse with a spirit woman. Velya has been married for 32 years, and is the mother of two grown children. She has a few too many rescue dogs and cats, is happiest with a fresh stack of library books, loves thrift shops, and is passionate about alternative medicine. Velya is the creator/owner of “How Cool Is That?!” (Hands-On Science) (www.howcoolisthat.name), as well as the east coast instructor for the “Earth Balloon.” Her entertainingly informative presentation, The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife is a result of the research completed for this novel.

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ACQUIESCENCE (excerpt) – by Velya Jancz-Urban

book cover changed croppedLara stopped suddenly and said, “They’re in there.”
“Who’s in there? What are you talking about?” I responded.
“Spirits,” she said, putting down her boxes and feeling the door frame.
“What? What spirits? What are you talking about?” I asked.
“There are spirits in that room,” she calmly explained.
“How do you know?” I asked skeptically.
“Didn’t Luke tell you?” she asked.
“Tell me what?” I said, my voice rising.
“That I’m an intuitive?”
“An intuitive? What the heck is an intuitive?”
“An intuitive uses their psychic abilities to sense, feel, hear, and see the energy fields of a person,” she explained.
“Uh, no,” I maintained, “this is the first I’ve heard about this.”
“I’m able to see pictures and images around people that help me tell their stories,” she continued.
“Luke never said a thing. I had no idea you had this ability.”
“Well, they’re in there,” she repeated, putting her hands in front of her like a mime.
“Okay, so what do we do now?”
“Let me see if I can see them.”
“SEE them? You mean they’re in there right now? Like in the room?” I asked in disbelief.
“Maybe. Let’s see,” she said and we entered the cluttered room. Lara looked at the foot of the stairs and said, “She’s right there,” pointing to a corner of the room.
“She is?” I whispered. “Who is she?”
“Give me a few minutes alone in here,” Lara said.
I left the room and waited in the kitchen, leaning on the counter. I wasn’t scared, or upset – excited best described it. This spirit idea had never crossed my mind. Yet, I admitted to myself that I really didn’t know Lara very well. Was she a crackpot? She was a little flaky, but then, most people I was attracted to were free-thinkers and open-minded. I wasn’t religious, but did believe everything is made up of energy and energy cannot be destroyed. Why couldn’t the energy of some dead person be in our home? Right from the start, Jim and I said we didn’t feel like the owners of the house, more like the stewards, and I often thought about the women who came before me in this old home. As I was leaning on the counter digesting all of this, Jim came home from work. Noting her red Audi sports car in the driveway he asked, “Where’s Lara?”
“Well, you’re not going to believe this, but she thinks we have a spirit in the back room. Apparently, she has some kind of psychic powers. She calls herself an intuitive,” I explained matter-of-factly. “Oh my god,” I mused aloud. “I wonder if that’s why she said the stuff about the grandfather clock!”
Jim, in his usual calm way, took all of this in stride and a few seconds later we heard Lara’s footsteps in the hallway. She came into the kitchen, greeted Jim and said, “Pamina, I want to do a reading of you in that room once you have all the boxes cleaned out.”
“What’s a reading?” I asked.
“In a reading, I’m able to contact and channel the spirits of deceased people, and it’s an opportunity to help you connect with your own higher self. There’s a woman in a rocking chair in that back room, holding her dead baby. She stays there all the time. She has a very close bond to you,” Lara said, nodding at me.
“To me?” I breathed, not really registering the dead baby part.
“Yes, her connection to you is incredibly strong,” Lara explained, “but we’ll learn a lot more when I come back. I walked through all the other rooms, but that’s the only one that has a spirit.”
As Lara prepared to leave, she advised, “Get a runner for the hallway outside that room.”
“A runner? What’s a runner?” I asked.
“You know,” Lara explained, “one of those long narrow carpets people use in hallways.”
“Oh, yeah, yeah. I know what you’re talking about,” I said. “But why do we need one?”
“So she can leave the room if she wants to. Put one end of the runner right in the room and extend it out into the hallway. It will serve as a bridge for her.”
“Okay,” I said skeptically. Oddly, the thought of this spirit lady roaming around the house didn’t faze me.
“I’ll come back when you guys are more settled in here. Pamina, you and I will do a reading in that room.”
In a fog, I walked Lara to her car, came back to the kitchen, and found Jim looking through the mail as he leisurely ate a handful of almonds.
“Can you believe this?” I asked.
“Of course,” Jim said in his unflustered way. “It’s a house built at least two hundred years ago. Of course there are spirits here. I’d be surprised if there weren’t. I have no doubt there’s a woman in there.”
“But in that room,” I said. “Don’t you think it’s weird she’s in that particular room?” For the room – the room that now held a mysterious spirit woman – had been intended for my mother, and had also been home to the multiverse bats.

Velya Jancz-Urban is the author of Acquiescence.

Visit her at: http://acquiescencethebook.com

http://www.amazon.com/Acquiescence-Velya-Jancz-Urban/dp/1630661023/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Velya Jancz-Urban, and her protagonist Pamina Campbell, have a lot in common. Both are teachers and hoodwinked Brazilian dairy farm owners, and both share a 1770 Connecticut farmhouse with a spirit woman. Velya has been married for 32 years, and is the mother of two grown children. She has a few too many rescue dogs and cats, is happiest with a fresh stack of library books, loves thrift shops, and is passionate about alternative medicine. Velya is the creator/owner of “How Cool Is That?!” (Hands-On Science) (www.howcoolisthat.name), as well as the east coast instructor for the “Earth Balloon.” Her entertainingly informative presentation, The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife is a result of the research completed for this novel.

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Life Is An Experiment by Velya Jancz-Urban

018I’m a hands-on science teacher. My family lives amongst my lesson plans. In our pantry there’s a plastic tub of lively mealworms. I’ve kept them alive for over eighteen months on a diet of organic oatmeal flakes and organic potato slices. There are assorted snake skins, antlers, and rodent skulls on a shelf in the garage. A five pound box of two-inch galvanized roofing nails waits on the dining room table. Eighty of them will be used in the Bed of Nails prototype my husband is constructing for me.

In our house, it seems that no matter what product we pull from the kitchen cupboard or bathroom cabinet, it is invariably labeled with some cryptic number or letter. The six assorted shampoo bottles in our shower niche are labeled 1 through 6 in black Sharpie marker. I used them in a Shampoo Analysis Lab to determine if price makes a difference in a shampoo’s effectiveness. I won’t be a spoiler, but my students now know the terms viscosity and flash foam. There’s a big red Sharpie A, B, or C on the three toothpaste tubes in the bathroom vanity drawer. They were part of my Secret Formulas unit. The kids identified the attributes of toothpaste, and then made their own blends. But first, they crafted “colonial toothbrushes” from small branches I snipped off trees in our woods. You should have seen those little baby teeth gnaw the ends of the twigs to get the “bristles” just right – my little beaver scientists! The 625-count pack of Q-tips is labeled “for Grossology.” I used them in conjunction with my Microscope unit. The kids investigated their own ear wax and then swabbed the water fountains drains (you will never, ever drink from a water fountain again if you see the results!).

Did I mention the Chicken Mummies? There are eight raw Perdue chickens in my garage. They are part of a six-week after-school Mummification unit I’m teaching. The chickens are heavily salted, wrapped in layers of white gauze, adorned with glue-gunned sequins and jewels, and are slowly dehydrating. We’ll repeat the entire salting/gauzing process next week and the kids will eventually see that, just like ancient Egyptian mummies, the chickens don’t rot or smell. On the last day of class, they’ll wear the hieroglyphic clay necklaces they created and bring their chicken mummies home. Some parents will throw them away before they even make it to the front door, and maybe some will not.

People ask, “How do you come up with this stuff?” I always say the same thing, “I just try to think like a kid.” I don’t really care what they examine under a microscope. My goal is to have them learn the parts of a microscope, and to associate science with a love of learning. I think kids are actually drawn to people who are real and down-to-earth. They can sniff out authenticity as fast as a pack of bloodhounds can track a chain gang escapee in the swamps of Louisiana. My experiments are messy and imperfect, and kids deserve the right to know that life is messy and imperfect.

If you haven’t been in an elementary school lately, you may not know that the Scientific Method has become the focus of science lessons. The scientific method is a way to ask and answer scientific questions by making observations and doing experiments – it involves a lot of predicting and hypothesizing – which is wonderful. But here’s the sad part, and maybe it’s a reflection on today’s perfectionist society – I can’t tell you how many times one of my students makes a prediction, gets it wrong, and then furtively erases their answer. Last week, in a Mealworm Madness class, each giggling child hesitantly selected his/her own squiggly mealworm from a big yellow bowl. Then, they introduced themselves to their mealworm, gave their mealworm a name, and predicted how long their mealworm was, in inches. The responses ranged from one inch to nineteen inches. Each child used a green plastic ruler to measure their crawling worm. Cries of, “Hey, hold still little buddy!” and “Stop wiggling so much!” filled the classroom. Then, the kids discovered that all of the mealworms were about two inches long. Two little girls actually scolded themselves for making an incorrect prediction. One kid hit himself on the forehead with his palm. Four boys shielded their papers with their arms and surreptitiously erased their predictions. These were first and second graders who had gleefully assigned their worms names like Zippy, Sparkly, Unicorn, and Bob. When did it become wrong to make a mistake?

I suspect that standardized testing has something to do with this. Tests that expect all children, no matter their birthday, and no matter their developmental speed, to achieve the same levels at the same time. I always tell my classes “Don’t just think outside the box, let’s totally avoid the box!” But is this what they’re hearing at home or in their classrooms? I don’t think so. Not anymore. I think they’re hearing, “Be the best.” First and second graders should be happy, carefree, and playing – not weighed down by school. And school should be a fun place of learning, not of stress and pressure where incorrectly predicting a mealworm’s length ruins your afternoon.

I left public school teaching five years ago because I didn’t want to be part of it anymore. I didn’t want to teach from a script as my former colleagues are forced to do, because life and learning are not scripted. The quest for perfection is exhausting and unrelenting. Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best.

Experiment. Fail. Learn. Repeat.

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Fifty Shades of Jim by Velya Jancz-Urban

handcuffs

My female goddess awakened as Jim tickled me down there with an ostrich feather. I chewed my lips as he salaciously cocked his head to the side and rocked his groin upward.

“Holy crap,” I gasped, about to reach my seventh orgasm of the day. Jim stroked his humongous male organ with a riding crop while he slowly tied my ankles to my elbows with his silver necktie, my favorite necktie, the one that always made me gasp – but first he freed my breasts from the restraint of my black lace bra. He made me repeat our safe word: Fiddledeedee, as he ran his hand over my sex. His manhood pushed against my belly and I bit my lip to keep from crying out. His ginormous tool bobbed as he strode to the playroom cabinet where he kept his toys. He made a low primal growl as he inhaled sharply. Yes, he did both things simultaneously.

“Jump down. Turn around. Pick a bale of cotton,” he commanded. I gasped at his words, my insides liquefying. He was about to push me over the brink once more when he slipped a Delta airlines eye mask over my face.

“I want you upside down on the nightstand!” he ordered.

“That’s a little tricky, Jim,” I answered in a hoarse whisper. “I’m kind of tied up right now,” I purred.

“Do you want me to spank you?” he hissed, his breathing labored.

“Yes, yes,” I begged and murmured. A moment later I heard him open a drawer. I sensed him behind me.

“So you want it rough?” he breathed.

“Yes, oh yes!” my female parts moaned.

His erection trailed across my back as he growled, “Do you know how hot you are right now, Wifely?”

WIFELY??!! My building orgasm came to a screeching halt.

Can you tell I’ve been reading Fifty Shades of Grey? Are you wondering why? A paperback copy from Woodbury Library sits on our coffee table and I wonder why myself. The plot is terrible, the characters are two-dimensional. The term inner goddess is used fifty-eight times and someone murmurs one hundred ninety-nine times. Some people see a story about a man who was abused at a young age and a woman trying to free him from his demons; a man who is afraid to love and a woman trying to show him how, as they mend the broken parts of each other. Some people are disturbed by the materialism and feel if you take away the kinky stuff, it’s just another Harlequin Romance. It’s been suggested the book’s focus on a BDSM relationship appeals to a woman’s desire to be dominated. Could women love the book because it shows a man doing all the right things in bed – without having to be asked?

Jim and I – the real Jim, the one who doesn’t own a riding crop but does have a humongous male organ – were in the shower yesterday afternoon. He kind of half-heartedly slathered shampoo around on my head with one hand and washed his face with the other hand. As shampoo lather dribbled down my shoulders, I turned to him and said, “You know, this isn’t how that Christian Grey guy washes hair.”

“Who’s Christian Grey?” he asked as he soaped us up.

“The Fifty Shades of Grey guy,” I said.

“Why, how’s he do it?” Jim asked phlegmatically (EL James isn’t the only one with a thesaurus!).

“Oh, he kinds of holds the woman’s face in his hands, peers into her eyes, acts like he doesn’t even realize she’s naked, and totally concentrates on gently washing her hair with some exotic jasmine shampoo,” I explained.

“You beguile me, Wifely,” Jim said (no, he didn’t) as he held my face in his hands, peered lovingly into my eyes and slipped his fingers into my nostrils (yes, he did). This is my Christian Grey. He doesn’t buy lingerie or send me erotic texts. Actually, his last text consisted of one word: Great. He’s never heard of Manolo Blahnik’s, doesn’t have an Audi R8 Spider, or a helicopter We don’t have red paint on our playroom walls, he doesn’t lavish me with praise, and we don’t own nipple clamps. In November, we celebrated our thirty-second wedding anniversary. My stomach still flutters when he comes home from work and he’s the first person I call with good – or bad – news. He doesn’t try to control me, yet his is the advice I most value. When I wake up in the middle of the night he’s always worked his way over to my side of the bed. He never panics. He never flirts with other women. He’s always believed in me, even when I haven’t believed in myself. He’s a man of honor and integrity. He doesn’t hold my hand in public, but he’s been at my side for the last thirty-two years. He loves me with his actions, not with butt plugs, handcuffs, or words. Last night, when I told him how much I loved him, he said, “Alright.” It is alright and I’d marry him all over again.

Laters, baby.

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The Doe by Velya Jancz-Urban

doeThis morning, on the way to get my hair cut, I saw a dead deer on the side of the road. Its dark brown eyes were filmy. She was a doe and had already stiffened. Pieces of her were splattered, splintered, and smeared across the road. In the rearview mirror I saw broken glass, plastic grille fragments, and her two front legs bent at stomach-churning angles. That heap was once a living thing, I thought.

Here in Connecticut, we see dead deer on the side of the road all the time. But this winter, I’ve thought a lot about the deer out there in the woods behind the house. I’ve watched our dogs snooze away the winter in front of the wood stove. Genetically encoded dog DNA compels them to circle their beds before plopping down. Their wild ancestors flattened the grass by circling around it a few times before settling down. They were creating a safe and comfortable nest. Hunkered down under a canopy of evergreens, I suppose the deer do the same. But it’s been such a brutal winter. Even if they’ve been able to stay warm, what have they eaten? How much of their fat stores have been burned as they trudge through three feet of snow looking for food in the bitter cold? On the nights the thermometer dips below zero, I think about them out there in the same absurd way I think about people in coffins, and how cold they must be.

The recent thaw may have driven the doe out to forage for food. If only she could have made it a few more weeks. By late April, Connecticut comes back to life and trees start budding. Chickadees, blue jays, and nuthatches gossip as they build their nests. The days are much warmer. The woods begin their slow costume change from a gown of winter frost that blinds the eyes to the wispy greens of spring.

The mangled deer was still there on the return trip home from my hair cut. When I drove by the first time I noticed, but didn’t want to think about it – large in the belly, she was heavy with fawn.

How ironic that it’s the first day of spring. Life ends. Life begins.

Velya Jancz-Urban is the author of ACQUIESCENCE, published by Second Wind Publishing. Visit her at: http://www.acquiescencethebook.com. Her entertainingly informative presentation, The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife, is a result of the research completed for ACQUIESCENCE.

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