Literacy Confidence

After spending a quarter as an education intern at a local museum, I have to sound off on something I’ve seen plenty of times in my many education-related roles, including when I was a student learning to read so many years ago. I’m a firm believer in many things relating to education: that discovery is one of the best ways in which to learn a topic; that memorization is essentially useless to truly understanding material; that people learn in many different ways while doing different tasks; that informal learning sites are just as integral and important as classroom learning–and sometimes actually more effective; and that literacy is a fundamental piece to learning that can not and should not be taken lightly. This final piece is what motivated me as I stood in front of a classroom of 4th graders and helped them learn their civic responsibilities, what drives me as I wander through galleries with a group of 3rd-graders, what will continue to shape my practice as a future educator in museums.

I will continually fight for literacy, as I feel it is a human right. Without the ability to read, how can one be informed about the world around them? How will our children (or adults, for that matter) create a better future for tomorrow without being able to read about science, about history, about the political structures around which the world exists? How can one discover new people and places, both real and imaginary, in the pages of a book without being literate? How can one appreciate one of life’s simple joys when they cannot read a sentence? Literacy is essential to so many facets of our human existence, we cannot deprive anyone of the ability to communicate in these ways.

While literacy is so important and essential, it is not something that is taught easily; it requires time, energy, and patience on the part of the instructor, the more-knowledgeable other (to borrow from Vygotsky’s ZPD and to appeal to my more academically-inclined friends). These are the very things I see lacking in educational environments with regards to the developmental years of literacy. I see parent chaperones or other student group members correcting and “helping” reading-challenged students through difficult words while they attempt to read labels in the galleries by simply telling them how it is pronounced instead of letting them sound it out. I see fellow students snicker at their classmates who read sentences–or even words–more slowly than themselves. I see teachers who will not allow everyone to read in class, calling on their more reading-inclined students, because they want to get through the material at a more rapid rate. While, certainly, the child may eventually be able to memorize word patterns if given the pronunciation “answers” (much like young toddlers memorize their favorite picture book’s story and “read” it to their parents or guardians), they will not have the experience of sounding it out and going through the struggle of understanding the pronunciation themselves. Without this experience, literacy learners are not independent, struggling to figure out the pronunciations of other words without an instructor there to provide them the answers.

Beyond this, however, it is important that a sense of confidence is instated in the budding reader. Providing them the appropriate guidance yet allowing them to figure it out for themselves (and not shutting them down when they are not “fast enough” of readers) offers students a level of confidence in their literacy that will carry with them for a long time. Shutting them down deprives them of this confidence, making them insecure in their abilities for years to come. I cannot count on one hand how many of my fellow students during undergrad were anxious about reading aloud, possibly from some traumatic experience reading aloud as a young student. With a little literacy confidence, students will likely practice reading more and will not have as many negative feelings towards it–and that’s certainly not a bad thing!

On Tuesday of this week, I had a related experience at my internship. I encountered a student who declared to me, “I do not know how to read or write!” which stirred in me a twinge of sadness–this was an upper elementary class after all. But instead of considering all of the reasons why this student had a difficulty with reading, I elected to slow down and spend a little extra time helping him sound out words. We didn’t get to understand the full point of the lesson, but we did figure out how to spell “airplane” with a lot of trial and error. To me, seeing the student beam with excitement after finishing spelling that word (only a small part of the greater lesson plan) was enough. The student left feeling a little more excited about his reading ability and truly excited to explore the rest of the museum–and see a few model airplanes. It is only my hope that more people who interact with this student take the time to help on the journey to a more confident literacy.

So, with regards to literacy: take the time, let them sound it out. It might slow down your lesson plan or keep you in the galleries longer, but it will provide budding readers with a learning experience that they will carry with them for years to come.

Have some thoughts on literacy learning? Share them in the comments below–let’s help make education a more collaborative, community-driven field!

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First Quarter? Check.

Hi, everyone.

Has a month really gone by since I last wrote? Yikes. Grad school is busy, alright?

Now that the quarter is officially over, I would like to reflect on the quarter’s many growing moments, lessons, and endless, wonderful gifts. I’ve learned so, so much about myself as a student, a person, a friend, and a human, more than I can completely express. These lessons arose from challenges; interactions; experiences; encounters with different people, ideas, places, and methods than I’m accustomed; all of which on top of the course material I was assigned.

Here are the highlights:

I have so much to learn. This has rang true from the moment I got on a bus going in the wrong direction and ended up lost to the moment I had a conversation with someone about a specific museum-related topic on which my knowledge is extremely limited. My perspective has been so limited, due to geography, situation, and other circumstances that have prevented my even knowing that other perspectives existed. The realization of this alone has inspired me to know more, be more, experience more. I have to continue to grow and change to be the person the world needs me to be, and I am thankful for the upcoming quarters to allow me to continue to do this.

Sometimes people are growing mold on their souls, and there’s nothing you can do. Sometimes people make it their personal mission to be miserable and to make others miserable. These people are everywhere, and there’s little that can be done about that. However, what I’ve learned is that as long as you don’t let that mold grow on you, you remain unaffected. This is, certainly, easier said than done. I, myself, have struggled with this continually throughout not only these past few months but my whole life. Sometimes it is really difficult to keep your head clear of other peoples’ mold. But it’s important to try.

It is so important to take time for yourself. So many times during this quarter, I found myself overwhelmed with the responsibilities on my plate. Some of these had more immediate and pressing deadlines, and others, like internship applications and long-term projects, were not immediate but still looming. At any point, I could have been bogged down in the monotony; the seemingly endless cycle of papers, readings, and assignments; or the dreary weather. And, at times, I did. But, what I learned, what became the best way to cope with the overwhelming number of things in my iPhone calendar and planner, was to take a moment, as long as I could afford without causing worry, to do something for myself, something I enjoyed. Some days, this was just a simple run in the morning to clear my head or a trip to the gym. Others, it was going to get dinner from a restaurant I had walked by a million times but never tried, or a drink with a friend. Others, still, all I could manage to do was make myself a pot of tea, or eat breakfast while watching a TED talk or two (in order to help me out with my first lesson). These were my moments. These were my way to keep my head screwed on (at least a little bit!).

And, perhaps, the greatest lesson of them all: I am right where I need to be, doing what I need to do. While I still have a long way to go academically and professionally, at this very moment I feel I am learning what is necessary, not only for my academic and professional success, but also to be a better human in this life.

I cannot wait for what is to come. But, first, some relaxing days at home with family and friends for the holidays.

x. M

 

Wom[e]n Crush Wednesday

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the Oiselle Flagship Store for a night of food, fun, and shopping. Sally Bergesen, the founder, CEO, and designer of their beloved Roga shorts (if you haven’t tried them you are missing out) gave a brief presentation on her personal story and how the company began, Flywheel made an appearance to talk about their company and their fun spinning and barre classes with super cool technology–they track your progress on your account online, how awesome is that?!–and then we #flystyle lovers got to shop, bond, and come face-to-face with the company and its apparel.

Oiselle is a #girlboss company; they not only make innovative clothing that is both functional and fashionable, but they also design clothing for all body types and shapes, and for the new runners, all the way to the pros. But the thing that I love more than their clothes (and it’s hard to beat those) is the women both involved in and obsessed with the company. Last night, I met some fun, empowering, inspiring people who are passionate about running and Oiselle (and also Seattle). They welcomed me in with open arms into their community of Birds–and even invited me on group runs with them, which I’ll definitely have to do! I am blown away by the welcoming nature of this crew, and can’t wait to do more with them!

And so, Oiselle Birds of Seattle, this Woman Crush Wednesday goes out to you. Thanks for the inspiration and laughs last night!

x. M

Northwest Tea Festival

One of the things I’m making a point to do in the first few months of living in Seattle (which is also something I would recommend to anyone living in a new city) is getting out to explore and try new things. Seattle has so much to offer as a city (more than anything I’ve previously experienced) and I really want to take advantage of that in the best way possible. It’s been helping me feel more connected to the city and is helping me find a sense of place and purpose here, besides being a UW grad student.

The most recent experience out in the community I’ve had in Seattle was at the Northwest Tea Festival last weekend. A few weeks ago, I was in a sandwich shop and noticed a poster for the festival, and KNEW I just had to attend–I love tea and cannot go a day without it. The poster promised tea samples, informational and educational sessions, and plenty of tea products to peruse and purchase. I couldn’t wait.

After reading through all of the tea tasting sessions and educational sessions, Nick and I decided that Saturday would be a great day to visit. When Saturday morning rolled around, I pulled on my best teacup sweater (a birthday present from my mom) and hopped on the bus to Seattle Center, where the festival was occurring. After paying the $10 admission fee (a small amount considering the amount of tea we sampled, the free reusable shopping tote, and the free porcelain tea cup that we received), we entered the main room of the festival, which was essentially an expo where tea vendors of the Northwest could sample and sell their goods.

It’s safe to say that we sampled pretty much everything the place had to offer! There was so much tea to be consumed and enjoyed. I learned so much about tea leaves, tea preparation, and the tea culture of the Northwest (it’s about as popular as coffee out here!). I took note of some tea houses to visit, and even bought some DELICIOUS black tea from India to enjoy for months to come (provided it lasts that long, of course!). What a wonderful experience!

Me and my tea sweater at the Space Needle in Seattle Center!

Me and my tea sweater at the Space Needle in Seattle Center!

Get out and experience new things where you live, whether you’re a newbie or a local! One of my favorite things to do is to Tripadvisor my own city and see what recommendations it has for visitors to your town. Read the newspaper, follow websites that detail the happenings in your city, do something different you’ve never done before! Explore your home as though you’re a visitor; it may surprise you–you may find where you live is fresh and exciting, even if you’ve lived there forever.

Happy exploring!

x. M

Things You Do When You Live Alone

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This breakfast brought to you by a song and dance party.

As Three Dog Night once wisely put, “One is the loneliest number.” But is it really? I have spent a week entirely alone in an unfamiliar city (my mom and dad left me last Tuesday evening to head back to Ohio) and I don’t really feel that alone. But, at the same time, I also do. It’s a very strange feeling living alone in a city–you’re never really alone, but then you are all at the same time. Some people love this environment–they are meant to be alone to harness their true potential. I do not quiiiite fit into this category. Yet, I’m not the opposite extreme; I do not need to surround myself with everyone I know in order to feel secure or happy. I find myself somewhere in a happy medium: I enjoy being alone and can competently survive alone, but for me to thrive I desire some form of human interaction or enjoyment in order to make my life feel worthwhile. Luckily, in a city like Seattle, this is not too hard to come by. Certainly, it will be easier once school starts and I can interact with my professors and peers on a daily basis (and maybe even make some *gasp* friends), but until then, I am getting by.

Like going to college or working in retail, I honestly think everyone should live alone for at least some portion of their lives. Or, on a smaller scale, they should at least spend some time on their own. When I was in undergrad, my favorite alone-time moments were either when running, eating a solo breakfast or lunch, or during my almost-weekly adventures to a local coffee shop that I love. It was great to just spend a few hours by myself, in my own thoughts, and being my own intrinsic, pure self. I cherished these moments, and would suggest them for anyone. It’s important for everyone to learn to spend at least a little time by themselves. It is truly a great period for personal growth.

After spending a week essentially alone, I have found, in myself, a few tendencies that I will share with you. Maybe these are akin to something you find yourself doing in your own life, or maybe they will help you in your alone moments.

    1. I spend most of my days searching for some form of human interaction. Some times I am just not in the mood to spend the entire day with myself, so I go out in search of people to just be around. Luckily, this city provides me many opportunities and spaces to do this. Some of my favorite days I will just go sit at a coffee shop (like I am right now), drinking some coffee and reading a book, taking in the environment of the place and the presence people around me. Other days, I adventure to weekly happenings like farmer’s markets or craft/flea markets, just to be among other people  (and of course to partake in some wonderful shopping or window shopping).
    2. My good friend, Nick S. told me this would happen, and he is certainly correct: whenever I do have the opportunity for a genuine human interaction, I do not back down. This is best illustrated in my visit to Trader Joe’s this morning: I started up a lengthy conversation (lengthy given that she was a complete stranger) with a woman in the nut aisle because she was struggling to find the walnuts. I also struck up a solid 3-4 minute conversation with my cashier about their wonderfully delicious Chocolate Coconut Almonds (if you have not had these I would highly recommend them).
    3. I play music almost constantly in my apartment. It helps fill some of the empty space that somehow exists even though my apartment is only slightly larger than a large dorm room. Spotify has become my best friend in this regard–their themed playlists have been a huge help. I would also recommend 8Tracks for this, as it has a number of pre-made playlists you can search for by mood/genre. This is fun, as it makes almost everything into a dance party–cooking, cleaning, and getting ready for the day become a lot more fun with my own personal soundtrack!
    4. I also watch a lot of movies. At the end of every day, I settle into my daybed with one of the many movies Netflix offers. I’ve sampled some different genres in the past few nights: comedies, chick flicks, and a pretty gruesome war movie (here is my twitter blast about that, in case you missed it–which let’s be honest you probably did because most of this happened after all you Eastern Standard Timers were in bed)

If you have any good Netflix recommendations, please let me know in the comments below!

All in all, these seem like pretty harmless activities, so I’m certainly not complaining.

x. M

First Impressions

I cannot believe I’ve been here for a full week! After a few days of moving my life into my apartment, I immersed myself in the city of Seattle, as I have detailed in previous posts. Running with the active early risers, drinking coffee among the cafe dwellers, biking with the Burke-Gilman lovers, relaxing in the local parks… I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far.

After a week of being here, I have a few observations about the place that I’d like to share.

  1. Biking here is hard. I mean, really, really HARD. I thought I was at least in decent shape before I moved here, being a pretty dedicated runner for the past few years, but there was one key factor I had previously overlooked: hills. This entire city is covered in pretty significant hills, which make biking (and running) a bit more strenuous of an activity than it was in Ohio. I have never felt so out of shape as when I was slowly pedaling up a hill, gasping for breath, while others whiz by me hauling up hills like Tour De France champions. Granted, they were probably also struggling a little and weren’t actually “whizzing by,” but that’s how it felt to me.
  2. The Runner’s Wave isn’t really a thing out here. You know, the one where you acknowledge another runner’s existence with a quick wave. The non-verbal exchange where you say “I see you out there doing your thing. Keep on keeping on, brother/sister!” while continuing your own run. Well, any interaction here extremely non-verbal, in that it doesn’t really exist. Occasionally, I will pass another runner who will smile or give me a nod, but I suspect generally they run by and wonder why this blonde midwestern chick is smiling at them like a fool. At this point it’s important to note that I feel as though people can tell I’m from the midwest–perhaps they can smell it on me, like the smell of farmland and corn and high school football or something. It’s not that runners are unfriendly here, but they are not overly friendly. It’s as though they acknowledge the others’ hustle without feeling the need to interrupt it. Which I respect, but I certainly need to adjust to that. Now, I’m probably looking for an overly-friendly runner because I’m in desperate need of running buddies, so I’m sure once I find those I’ll be better.
  3. People here are pretty great, actually. They’re not as unfriendly as people say–I’ve read about accounts of the “Seattle Freeze,” which means that locals are generally cold to other folks. Now, I’ve found that this isn’t true–people here have been warm and friendly for the most part so far, even when I admit I’m not from here (which, as I said above, I’m sure they could tell from a mile away). That brings me to my next point, which people have told me about other western cities before: that most people are not actually from here. In fact, I met a woman from Northeast Ohio just the other day, and we talked like old pals about our hometowns. She welcomed me to the city, told me I made a wise choice, and then told me I could contact her at any time if I had any questions. Of course, I would–if only I could remember her name. Silly me.
  4. Seattleites do not feel temperature. Ok, so this might be a complete lie, but I feel like I’m missing something with the way people are dressed. Today, I went on a run in a sports bra and shorts–it was 70+ degrees, of course– and yet I passed a woman in full tights and a long sleeved shirt. This woman must have been overheating, as I was dressed for a much warmer temperature and yet I was sweating. But she was just carrying on as if nothing phased her. After passing her, I noticed another woman biking to work or to do some shopping or other leisurely activity wearing long pants and a sweater, again looking completely relaxed. Even last week on a colder day (mind you, it was still 55-60 degrees), some people on the streets were wearing light down jackets. Considering I was not wearing a coat and was feeling just fine, I was a little puzzled by this. Still haven’t reached any real conclusions on this, so I’ll have to investigate this further.

I’m certain, as in the case with any first impressions, that some of these will change as time goes on and I become more acquainted with this city. I will, of course, add to this list in new posts as new observations candidly arise.

x. M

P.S. This post was sadly without a picture, so I’ll include this nice one I took yesterday at Lake Washington.

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For the times, they are a-changin’

Changing time zones, that is. 

Whomp. The adjustment to a new time zone (three hours behind that of my home state) has proven to be a more difficult task than I had previously assumed. Between attempting to communicate with those still in the Eastern time zone at home to developing strange sleeping/exhaustion/eating patterns, the time has constantly been on my mind today. 

This struggle with time began Thursday night at about 10 PM PT/ 1 AM EST. After arriving at the Sea Tac Airport, my parents and I drove to our hotel, located a few miles north of the city. On our way, we resolved to drop off our belongings in the hotel room upon checking in, and then find a place to eat–our flight time did not allow for us to eat dinner before getting on the plane, and aside from a few mid-plane Sour Patch Kids and Peanut M&Ms (my personal favorite travel candies), we had not eaten since lunch, many, many hours ago. We quickly surveyed the area and discovered nothing was open except a nearby Buffalo Wild Wings–a local establishment you’ve probably never heard of. 😉 While we were at the restaurant and when we were heading back to the hotel, my dad kept asking what time it was. When I would tell him the local time, he would reply, “No, what’s the time back home?” My response was always a quick and honest “You really don’t want to know.” Because, mainly, it’s true. That’s the first thing I’ve learned rather quickly about dealing with the time difference: you do NOT want to think about what time it is back home. This will only make things worse: you will get more tired and/or will be even more confused or thrown off by the time. It’s best to live in the moment–but seriously, live in whatever time zone you are presently. This is truly the best way to adjust, or at least to cope with your jet-lagged exhaustion. 

I, for one, was not good at taking this advice Friday morning. I awoke as any girl adjusted to Eastern Standard Time who is used to waking up around 8:30-9AM would do: at 5:30AM PT and wide awake. Even after attempting to lay there for a while, I decided around 6AM that I should simply accept my fate and remain awake. I went downstairs to the hotel breakfast to make some tea, wondering why the place wasn’t more packed before remembering it was merely 6AM. At this point, I decided to give N a call to update him on the trip. After a few rings, he answered the phone with, “Why are you awake?” 

The only answer I could give was, “Because this time change thing is a bitch.” 

Because it is. For now. I am looking forward to when I am more adjusted. But for now, there’s coffee. And, thankfully, I’m in the right city for that!

x. M

P.S.  I promise all of these posts won’t be be titled with references to music from the 60s. Or references to music in general. But, it is a pretty good song, so you might as well give it a listen

Leaving On A Jet Plane

  
As I sit here, nestled into my hotel bed in the strange territory that is Pacific Time, I contemplate my journey today. It began, as most journeys unfortunately do, with a sense of frazzled urgency, with a side of major anxiety on the side. We left the house in a hurry, only to realize we had forgotten things that required turning around to retrieve. Our lunch, which we had hoped to be a quick pit stop, turned into a more lengthy event than we had hoped. The airport, as I had anticipated, was somewhat of a logistical nightmare. Luckily, our flight was delayed, otherwise I don’t think we would have made it altogether! Safe to say I was full of anxious energy.

Don’t get me wrong: I love flying. There is something so romantic about it; the hustle and bustle of people shuffling to and fro, traveling from one end of the world to another. Merely being amongst this in an airport setting conjures swells of excitement within me. Today, especially, I was in disbelief. You see, none of this feels quite real yet. I feel as though I could wake up and be in Ohio at any moment, going about my regular business. I am not sure when that moment of clarity will strike, or what form it will take when it does. However, I hope that this will all feel more real (at least in a good way) very very soon. 

To me, the best part of flying is getting the window seat. I saw on Twitter once a tweet that read “Let me have the window seat so I know it’s real,” and I think there may be some genuine truth to that. I love to sit and watch the patchwork quilt that is the American landscape unfold in front of me. Flat plains, snowy mountain tops, and cityscapes all blend together to create one remarkable American terrain, full of character and differences, just like the nation’s citizens. And to have a front row seat to watch this all occur–wow. It certainly enriches the airplane experience. 

I miraculously survived 4-5 hour flight without any complete meltdowns, which I find to be a pretty significant accomplishment, being that I am generally too fidgety and movement-oriented for my own good. I would love to tell you more, but my first piece of advice from Adrian, my best friend and fellow West-Coast transplant, states that I must get some sleep because “jet lag is not kind.” That’s all I have for now, I promise more updates as I move into my apartment, which I begin doing tomorrow! 

x. M

Hurry Up and Wait

So a lot of time has passed since my last post. Naturally, a lot has happened. I’ve attempted to keep busy in anticipation of my big move. I’ve been making lists, completing tasks, and trying to get my life at home together. I got a summer job, working part-time in the retail world, which I surprisingly love. It’s fun to see the other side of stores, the behind-the-scenes, day-to-day functionings that bring the products to the customers. Plus, the extra income will be greatly appreciated when I’m in a new city. I’ve continued to run, increasing my mileage slightly each week to get myself to better physical fitness and mental state. I’ve also been including yoga in my week, sometimes practicing two to three times a week. 

While all of these things are great, it also feels like my life is at a standstill. I’m between places, without a permanent home. I’m not quite in Seattle, but I’m not quite at home, at least not for very long. I have all this anxiety and anticipation about my impending move, but it is still over a month away. I feel uneasy with all of this impending-but-not-too-impending change in my life. 

I suppose the best way to deal is to live in the everyday and not think about what is to come. At least, not too much. 

All for Love, and Love for All.

Ok, so it’s been a few days since I’ve sat down to write. I would like to say that I was just too busy to do so, but let’s be serious: It’s summer, I’m unemployed–I have nothing to do. The truth is, I’ve been lacking inspiration.

…Well, until today.

This morning, I slept in late, as is expected for someone with no daily life happenings because, well, summer. When I woke, I sat up in bed and pulled my trusty iPad into my lap in to check in with the world around me (a daily habit of mine that is a sad indicator of my dependence on technology, much to N’s chagrin). While scrolling through my skillfully-curated Twitter timeline, I became aware of the Supreme Court’s decision on Obergefell, Et al., v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, Et al. (sorry, not sorry–self-proclaimed SCOTUS nerd here), or, more colloquially, the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision on same-sex marriage.

All at once, my heart swelled with pride–not only for the members of the LGBTQ+ community, who had achieved a long-fought victory today, but for our Nation as a whole, who began to make steps toward a more progressive, more inclusive future. I beamed at the thought that, at last, everyone in the United States could make their wedding dreams a reality–a privilege afforded to me my entire life as a heterosexual woman. Finally, my friends, classmates, colleagues, and community members could publicly profess their love to another in the highest and most formal way that, for reasons of bigotry and fear, was controlled by the government and denied to them until today. This is a monumental step in the right direction–but there is certainly still plenty of work to do.

As the day went on, the true colors of some Americans on social media shined through. While many posted supportive rainbow flags and wrote supportive words (a Facebook friend of mine even told of coming out to her mother–very powerful), all of which gave me hope, I grew sad as I read through comments on Instagrams, replies on Twitter, and written Facebook posts that cried out in the name of their God (I do not associate this God with mine, as any God I would choose to worship would not call for us to hate another on the basis of difference) or in the sheer basis of their ignorance declaring their disagreement with this SCOTUS decision. Hateful speech, including derogatory slurs, sprinkled throughout these posts.  I am thankful that in the midst of today’s celebration, these ill-given words were likely overlooked, but I am concerned for what is to come. I hope that these couples, like all couples, who face challenges will be strengthened by their love, as love is what guides us all, and is what brings us all together.

It is also my hope that others begin to recognize love as love. Many social media posts (including ones that positively spoke of the decision) began with the basic sentiment “I don’t want to get political, but…” or “I’m normally not political, but…” I understand. I try to avoid politics as well, as, after sitting through a number of fiery, exhausting Political Science courses in undergrad, I’ve tried to remain numb to purely political action. But I don’t see this as a political issue. The freedom to love is a basic human right. Basic human rights should not be an issue of politics. They should simply be upheld, appreciated, and recognized by all. Love is not politics. Love is, well, love.


One of my sorority sisters posted this Tweet today, which I love, mostly because it reminds me of the big picture historic significance of this day.

Weird and wonderful, the way history works.

YAS.

x.M