Thursday, February 27, 2014

E-Learning Journeys: #TeacherTuesday - Malawi: The struggle for literacy

E-Learning Journeys: #TeacherTuesday - Malawi: The struggle for literacy

I think digital means can enhance education abroad in many different ways, including literacy, of course. It also gives students the opportunity to examine different ideas. I though in Qatar for eight years, and I am hopeful that digital education can bring our lifestyles and choices more in sync.

Judy Higgins ---

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Young Cancer Survivor's Speech

(Kyle Pezzi is my grandson, and I couldn't be prouder of him. This is the speech he gave at DanceBlue, an annual event at the University of Kentucky that raises money for young cancer victims.)
Hello everyone! My name is Kyle Pezzi. I’m eighteen years old and I am a freshman finance student at American University in Washington DC. I spoke at DanceBlue last year and I wanted to come back again since I had such a great time. DanceBlue is one of the most exciting things I have ever experienced and I hope to come back every year.

Now that I have reintroduced myself, I want to share a little bit about my story. I have thought a lot about what I wanted to say this year and wanted to change my message from last year. Last year I talked about my journey with cancer and how DanceBlue helps children with pediatric cancer. However, this year I wanted to give some words of wisdom, and share what I have learned from my experience with cancer and what I have learned these last few years after my diagnosis. During these last few years I have learned a lot about life and I hope that I can share some things that will be of value to each of you.

            For those of you who do not know, I had Osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. I was diagnosed during my sophomore year in high school. The diagnosis was very sudden. One day I was playing tennis, and the next I began hospitalizations and treatments. I had to withdraw from school and everything else went into the backseat. My chemo treatments lasted for ten months and I had eight surgeries. I spent almost 150 days in the hospital and at the Hematology and oncology clinic at UK. Because of my treatment plan, I was unable to go out in public often. I spent more time at the clinic and the hospital than I did at home. Every holiday and birthday was spent in the hospital. It was a very difficult year.

Now comes my advice to you. Although I hope all of you will never experience hardships like this in your life, you will all experience inconveniences, setbacks, deaths, and other very difficult things.  At times these events may be very difficult. Even to this day things happen to me that get me down. However, since my treatments I have realized that failure and bad things happen to everyone, even the richest and the most powerful. It is how you deal with your difficulties and the lesson that you learn is what makes you stronger, more resilient, more grateful. Being negative never helped me and it won’t help you. Push through the difficult times, stay positive.

I want to tell you a story to illustrate what I mean. It’s about a guy named Peter Thiel. I don’t know if you know him but he went to law school in California and he really wanted to clerk at the Supreme Court. For a law school graduate the best credential you can get is to land a Supreme Court clerkship. After graduating from law school and clerking for a year for a district court judge, Thiel was one of the small handful of clerks who made it to the interview stage with two of the Supreme Court justices. It was all he wanted, it consumed his life. Guess what? He didn’t get it. He became depressed and felt like he would never succeed. This is a feeling that many of us have when we don’t succeed at something. Or when we encounter something difficult. We have the same reaction. Feeling of failure, sadness.  After grieving for a short period, Peter began to work very hard. He reevaluated his career and began working in business. Peter soon started to experience success and was able to recover from his setback. After a few years he built a business and sold it for a great deal of money. This business was called PayPal. He is also an investor in Facebook, an investment that has made him a billionaire. One of his old friends from law school who had won the clerkship over him and now worked in law said to him “So, aren’t you glad you didn’t get that Supreme Court clerkship?”

My point in telling you this is that sometimes things happen in life that you have no control over. I had cancer, something I had no control over. Peter, didn’t get his clerkship. It will happen to all of us at some point. I want to encourage you all not to worry about stuff when things don’t go your way. Take something away from the experience, move on, stay positive and keep working hard. Most importantly, realize that you are blessed to be healthy, be grateful that you go to a great school and are receiving a top-notch education. And remember that when things don’t work out the way you expect, its sometimes a gift.

Now I want to tell you  how my bad experiences have changed me. One thing I never really mentioned in my last speech was that in high school, I didn’t work that hard. I never was that interested in class and my mind often wandered to other things rather than schoolwork. For the first two years of high school, before I got cancer, I spent more time playing Halo, and not doing my schoolwork. I did okay but never reached my potential. I convinced myself that I would never excel like my cousin who went to Harvard Law School or my other cousin who was in Medical School. I kind of just accepted my fate to just be average. I just wasn’t’ as smart as them. Then sophomore year when I got cancer, my life took even a worse turn. I thought “How could it get any worse?” At that point I decided to take a different approach. The way I saw it, it could only get better from here because I had really hit the bottom. Sitting in the hospital for so long gave me a lot of time to think. I wanted to change my life. As soon as I got through treatment I started working much harder, and things did change. I quickly learned that I wasn’t any different from my cousins who were so successful, except they just worked harder and were more positive and better at dealing with setbacks. I went from being an academic underachiever to getting terrific grades and finally working to my potential. Now that I am in college I am continuing to work hard and it is paying off.  As difficult as cancer was, I can honestly say that it got me to where I am today.  I’m lucky and I’m grateful. I now know I will succeed in life.

We will all fail sometimes, we will all go through hardships. Try to learn something from everything, be the best you can be. Today you are being the best you can be. Thank you for sacrificing your time, energy and effort. By participating in DanceBlue you are helping create more survivors like me. Thank you.

Before I go, I’d like to thank a few people: my family for all the help throughout all of this, and my girlfriend Nisha Patel, who is here today with Kappa Kappa Gamma.  I’d also like to give a shout out to my friend, Emily Dawson, who you all met last night from the hospital. She is going through the same treatment that I did. We are all thinking of you Emily. Stay strong.  Thanks everyone.





Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fifty Shades of Gray and Cross-country Skiing.

Good Glide
       Apparently, the Norwegians lost the cross-country skiing event in the Olympics because their official ski wax technician messed up. And I always thought winning had to do with the athletes! 
        Droves of Norwegians are demanding the technician's resignation. Apparently he didn't study the ski-waxing e-book called "Good Glide." In Norway, "Good Glide" has displaced "Fifty Shades of Gray" as the top best-seller.
     I'd like to offer an alternate explanation as to why the Norwegians lost the cross-country events: lack of passion. If a country prefers a technical manual to a hot sex novel, then surely they must lack passion. Notice how much passion the winners in all the events have! So my suggestion to the cross-country coaches in Norway: have your competitors read "Fifty Shades of Gray" and get a little passion in your skiing.

Friday, February 21, 2014


"It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known , but to question it."
                                                                     Jacob Bronowski "The Ascent of Man"

"The important thing is not to stop questioning."
                                                                           Albert Einstein

Thursday, February 20, 2014


To get the brain going and the creative juices flowing:
Creativity Milkshake
1 cup milk
2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup chocolate syrup
1 pint vanilla-flavor Greek frozen yogurt
Whipped cream and a cherry for the top
Blend until blended!
Share, or drink the whole shebang yourself.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Turkey Disaster

Turkey Disaster
     My son and I lived in Aberdeen, Scotland for a year. Like the other Americans living there, we celebrated American holidays at the appropriate times. When Thanksgiving rolled around, I invited neighbors for a traditional holiday feast. I was quite busy during the week preceding Thanksgiving, so I neglected to buy the goodies until the last minute, paying no attention to my colleagues' talk about "ordering their turkeys." It seemed like a lot of bother to me: going to the store to order the turkey, and then going back to the store to pick it up.
     The day before Thanksgiving, I set out for the grocery store. There were no turkeys to be seen.
     "Where are the turkeys?" I asked.
     "Did you order one?" was the reply.
     "Why should I order one, don't you always have turkeys?"
     No, they did not. I spent the day making the rounds of the grocery stores in Aberdeen, always getting the same thing: "Why did you not order your turkey?"
     Finally, someone suggested I try the business that sold to restaurants. It was my last hope. I walked out with a forty-pound turkey, the smallest they had. That evening, after I had removed every item from the refrigerator to make room for the turkey, I calculated the time required to cook a forty-pound turkey.
     I set the alarm for three, hopped out of bed, prepared my giant turkey, but alas. The thing wouldn't fit in the oven. By shoving and squeezing, I finally managed to force it in, but the oven door wouldn't shut. I pushed a chair against the door to hold it in place, but there was a gap of three of four inches through which the heat escaped.
     Guests were invited for three. At seven we still waited for the turkey to finish cooking -- a thoroughly humiliating experience.
       There remained about five months worth of turkey leftovers and it took me at least five months to finish scraping the turkey from the sides of the oven.
     The next time I live in Scotland we're going out for Thanksgiving dinner and having haggis.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

If God Meant Woman to Cook

She wouldn’t have Invented Restaurants

            I have very few talents, and cooking definitely isn’t among them. Growing up, I learned to open a can, dump the contents into a pan, set the pan on the stove, and then turn on the eye. I learned to salt meat (heavily), coat it with flour, heat up the lard in the frying pan, and fry the meat. I didn’t know there was any other way to cook meat. Chicken, steaks, fish, pork chops all got the same treatment. Salt, coat, and fry. Better known as SCF cooking. It’s also known as Southern cooking.

 The only exception to the SCF method in the house where I grew up was turkey. My mother excused me from the preparation of the Thanksgiving meal (Company was coming so it needed to be edible!) hence its preparation remained something of a mystery. I knew it involved basting (I had no idea what that was), and brining (no idea about that either). When I married, I decided that if I’d learned to read (and I had), and if I’d learned what measuring spoons were (I’d learned that, too.), then I could cook a Thanksgiving turkey. I opened my Good Housekeeping Cook Book (a wedding present), turned to the turkey pages, and went from there. The turkey turned out fine, but I think its fineness had to do with my mother-in-law standing over me, explaining every step in the cookbook. Subsequent efforts in the kitchen weren't so successful.

            During my first year as a housewife, I decided it was my duty to prepare meals using something other than the SCF and open a can method. After studying the recipes in The Good Housekeeping Cook Book, I dog-eared the ones I thought I could handle, made grocery lists, and gave it the old college try. There were problems. The first arose when I didn’t know the difference between Worcestershire and Tabasco (How was I to know? They’re both the same color!). This made my first attempt at spaghetti . . . . well, interesting. The recipe called for Worcestershire. I liked to add a little extra of whatever I was using for good measure, just to make sure the taste got through. So I dumped goodly amounts of Tabasco into the spaghetti sauce. After that fiasco, I used the open a can approach for spaghetti sauce, or rather the open a jar approach. Even with my Good Housekeeping Cookbook, my successes in the kitchen were so few and far between, that I can’t actually remember any.

            Predictably, after marriage came children. Two of them. If the goodness of a mother is measured by the cookies she bakes for her children, then I was a bad mother. Except for a few occasions when I bought those rolls of pre-prepared cookie dough that you slice and pop into the oven, I didn’t do cookies. Not even Christmas cookies. Why bake cookies when everyone gives you little tins filled with their sparkly, iced, and spiced opuses shaped like trees, stars, and angels?  Besides, I hated the idea of scrubbing flour off the kitchen counter after baking. Not to mention the flour that coated the floor. And my hair. And the children’s hair.

The cookbook got lost in the shuffle of diapers, music lessons, soccer practice, chauffeuring, nagging about homework, laundry, et cetera. I got over feeling guilty about using the open a can and SCF technique. I believe I actually did my daughter-in-law a favor by being a bad cook. She will never have to hear my son say: “If you could only cook like my mother.”  Just in case she might actually threaten to cook like his mother, he learned to cook himself. Quite well, I have to say. As did my daughter. Being a terrible cook does have its advantages. When I visit them I sit with my gin-and-tonic while they cook delicious meals for me.

            Eventually, I wound up in the place most women do: widowed with married children thoughtless enough to go off and do their own thing. They say make lemonade when life gives you lemons. I have no idea how to make lemonade other than it involves a lot of lemon squeezing and sugar, but I decided my lemonade would be never cooking again. Isn’t that what restaurants are for? I reasoned that had God meant me to cook she would have given me a talent for cooking, but instead she invented restaurants. Behold the goodness of creation!

And so I’ve devoted the past few years to having someone else do the cooking.  Sometimes, though, it doesn’t quite work out the way you intended. Adventures happen, mishaps occur, the unexpected pops up, and sometimes everything that can possibly go wrong, goes wrong. Especially when you’re eating in a far corner of the world. I have scribbled down a few of these adventures and, over the next few weeks, will share.