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Robin Williams

It’s been mere minutes since I learned about the death of Robin Williams, which is reportedly a suicide, but I have the chills. The last time I reacted this way to the death of a celebrity was with the death of Whitney Houston, who was a major part of my childhood growing up. Whitney represented my childhood in so many ways, predominantly with my love for “I Will Always Love You” blasting on my boombox as a bedtime melody, but Robin Williams represented a different part of my childhood: he represented the loss of my innocence.

With Mrs. Doubtfire, I first learned about the concept of divorce and love going wrong.

With Patch Adams, I learned about childhood cancers, the concept of murder, and even gynecologists.

Years later, with Dead Poets Society, I learned what it meant to be a teacher, as well as the impact one’s suicide can have on others.

Robin’s publicist issued the following statement not too long ago:

“Robin Williams passed away this morning. He has been battling severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”

I have no doubt in my mind that a lot of suicide-and-depression-awareness posts are about to pop up on the internet, and I agree that you should reach out if you’re struggling to get through anything from everyday living to bigger deals. Depression and suicide aren’t black and white, and there won’t be answers, just confusion. But you know what? Not everybody is a suicide expert.

quote courtesy of LILF

quote courtesy of LILF

Nonetheless, I keep thinking of a quote my friend Lauren said about her friend who had committed suicide, a mere year before her own suicide. Her words seem to ring especially true right now as the world reels in the comedic loss of Robin Williams:

“We always question the people who look more upset and more depressed than usual, and never think to worry about the people who don’t seem capable of expressing any sort of negative emotion at all.”
Sometimes there aren’t signs. Sometimes you don’t know what someone is going through. Sometimes you’re just left feeling helpless.
Rest in peace, Robin. Thank you for shaping who so many people have grown up to be today.

The Last Snowman

I’ve been meaning to post this blog, but Holy Christmas Time Rush things have been busy!

My lovely friend, JC Little, recently published a fabulous story called The Last Snowman about a teenage girl building a snowman. I knew my kiddos at school wouldn’t be able to actually learn about literary themes and plot developments the Friday before Winter Break so I told JC I was going to use her ebook for a lesson.

I read JC’s story to my 11th graders, who are known as a very tough crowd, both in the classroom and out, and I was amazed at how captivated they were. They were quiet, entertained, and enthralled by the giant snowman.

Then I gave them an assignment. It was kind of a mediocre assignment, as I made it right before I ran to class, but it was an assignment nonetheless.

I made my students think as they colored the day before Winter Break.

I made my students think as they colored the day before Winter Break.

If you give kids markers and paper, regardless of their age or life experiences, they will love you and surprise you.

The students really took the “theme of their childhood” thing to heart.

Some were cute or funny.

photo 1

Themes:
(Top) “Never have too much fun.”
(Bottom, left to right) “Watch where you’re going when running.” “Family comes first.”

Then…Quite a few of them connected something in the story with gang life and deaths that happened in their own lives.

photo 3

Theme: Kill or Be Killed.
Caption:
Person 1: “You think I’m dumb?”
Person 2: “I don’t wanna kill you. Just put the gun down.”

 

"You are a delicate flower." While this isn't exactly a theme, for this particular student this was a job really well done. She put forth a lot of effort in this assignment.

“You are a delicate flower.”
While this isn’t exactly a theme, for this particular student this was a job really well done. She put forth a lot of effort in this assignment.

I was blown away by how much a story about a 14 year old girl and a snowman could connect with teenagers who have seen and been through so much in their childhoods. JC’s book allowed my students to have both a bit of innocence and a bit of therapy for one class period, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Thank you, JC, for this wonderful experience. If you haven’t done so already, please check out her blog at The Animated Woman or consider buying her wonderful story, available in both ebook form for everything Kindle and as a  hard copy.

(This is not a sponsored post, by the way. I just love how JC’s book was able to impact my tough-guy filled classrooms!)

 

For Brian

(Spoiler alert: Do NOT read this post if you have not watched this week’s “Family Guy.”)

 

I saw the internet was freaking out yesterday about the demise of Family Guy’s beloved alcoholic dog, Brian, and the logical choice was to watch the episode with my dog last night.

I didn’t expect Family Guy to make me cry as much as it did.

The episode was a bit choppy, but it was poignant. It perfectly depicted the emotional roller coaster of losing a loved one, and the various stages of grieving, but it forgot one thing: the significance of the character if Brian, and the subsequent significance of his death.

Brian was the f-ed up, blunt voice of reason on the show. Without him, not even the stereotype-filled Italian-American replacement dog Vinnie can save an already staling show. After over a decade of repetitive story lines and tired out jokes, it’s time for more than Brian to bite the dust. Family Guy has officially jumped the shark.

Rest in peace, Brian Griffin. I’m sure the rest of your family will be joining you shortly.