Sunday Seven – For All My Teachers

I am dedicating today’s Sunday Seven – with some teacher quotes I found on Instagram – to all my teachers. We have gone from classrooms to online learning without skipping a beat – and I can just imagine the herculean effort this has required on all your parts. Hats off to all of you – you are amazing!!

  • Parents saying they’re now “teachers” is like saying you’re a carpenter after putting together IKEA furniture.
  • I hope the phrase “just a teacher” disappears after all of this. Teachers are rock stars.
  • Dear Educators, Together my wife & I have four college degrees and 40 years’ experience working with children. We have three elementary-school kids, two jobs, two computers, an old iPad, and slow internet. We. Are. Still. Overwhelmed. A Parent.
  • After a week of “Home School”…the teachers have been lying to me all these years. THEY ARE NOT A PLEASURE TO HAVE IN CLASS. A Parent.
  • Don’t ask school leaders and teachers if they are happy to “have time off.” No, we are not happy and our hearts ache for our students. We want to be at school. We want to see our kids. We want to meet their needs. We want our normal back. A Teacher.
  • Been homeschooling a 6-year old and 8-year old for one hour an 11 minutes. Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year. Or a week. A Parent.
  • Shout out to all of the amazing teachers doing everything they can to continue teaching during the quarantine. You are heroes. Ellen DeGeneres.
  • AND MY FAVORITE:  My professor is 74 and he isn’t confident using Zoom so he’s prerecorded the rest of our classes. Today, I watched the first one. He has a Pinocchio doll in the front row because he isn’t comfortable teaching to an empty room. I’m social distancing for this man and this man only. @macho_montana

Sunday Seven

During Christmas break, I visited Amsterdam, and the Anne Frank House.  So much has been written about Anne Frank, that I wouldn’t know what to add.  In one of the display cases, there were Anne’s journals, and a note saying that Anne’s father had told her to write down the beautiful, meaningful sentences or quotes she came across while reading.  That registered with me – I too come across beautiful sentences and quotes, and I think every Sunday I will list a minimum of seven that I have come across during the week. 

So here is my first list of seven.

Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better. Leave them different (Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading, and daydreaming).

There are tales that are older than most countries, tales that have long outlasted the cultures and the buildings in which they were first told (Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading, and daydreaming).

I took half a packet of smokes to Geel Piet, who thought all his Christmases had come at once (Bryce Courtenay: The Power of One).

Mankind at its most desperate is often at its best (Bob Geldof).

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world (Anne Frank).

Wie boter op zijn hoofd heft, moet uit de zon blijven (He who has butter on his head should stay out of the sun) (Dutch proverb).

I didn’t always have things, but I had people – I always had people (Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me).

No one is useless in this world, who lightens the burdens of another (Charles Dickens).

Matryoshka Dolls

For my birthday, one of my friends gave me a set of Russian Matryoshka dolls.  They are absolutely beautiful, and I love opening them one by one to take out the smaller doll from inside the bigger doll – there is something so satisfying about the smoothness with which the dolls come apart and reveal their secret – I’m not surprised they are so loved by Russians and everyone else. 

My beautiful birthday present has a set of 10

The Matryoshka dolls, also called babushka dolls or nesting dolls, are made of lime, birch, alder or linden wood. Once the logs are cut, they are left to aerate for two years before the wood is ready to be carved.  Highly skilled artisans carve the doll, starting with the smallest doll that cannot be taken apart and working their way to the biggest doll in the set.  Once the carving is complete, the doll is covered in glue to smooth out the surface and get it ready for painting

The dolls are mostly painted in Russian folk art form and depict a delightful village life. In one popular version, the dolls look like Russian peasant girls with colorful scarves (or babushkas hence the name), and are wearing sarafans (pinafore dresses) and carrying baskets, flowers, or a scythe. Sometimes the set is a complete family with children, sometimes they depict Russian nobility, sometimes they are painted to represent the time period or some newsworthy event – for example in 1909 to celebrate the anniversary of Russian dramatist Nikolai Gogol, the dolls were painted like characters from his books.

Traditional Russian Nesting Dolls

The first Russian dolls were carved in 1890 by craftsman Vasily Zvyozdochkin and painted by Sergey Malyutin.  They were both folk artists who worked under the patronage of Savva Mamontov, a wealthy industrialist. The dolls gained global exposure when Mamontov’s wife presented the dolls at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris where they won the bronze medal.

The dolls were named after the Russian name “Matryona,” which was a very popular name in Russia in the late 1800s.  The name is derived from the Latin word “mater” for mother, and since the motherly name fit the dolls perfectly and the name stuck.  The most number of dolls in one set is 48, and it was made in 1913 in the city of Semyonov. My set has 10, as does my sister’s set which is actually Czech not Russian.

Though considered quintessentially Russian, the first nesting dolls are from Song Dynasty in China (1000 CE) where the smallest doll would be holding a grain of rice.  From here they went to Japan where the seven luck Gods were made as seven nesting dolls, with Fukurokuju the Japanese god of happiness as the biggest and the other six nesting inside.  It is speculated that it was these Japanese dolls which served as the inspiration for the first Russian dolls.

Carnation, Lily, Lily Rose

Ye Shepherds tell me
Tell me have you seen,
Have you seen My Flora pass this way?
In shape and feature's beauty queen,
In pastoral, in pastoral array

A wreath around her head
Around her head she wore
Carnation, lily, lily, rose
And in her hand a crook she bore
And sweets her breath compose.

The Wreath, Joseph Mazzinghi (1765 - 1844)

Expatriate American artist, John Singer Sargent, was invited to stay and recuperate from a head injury in the Cotswold village of Broadway by his friend and fellow American expat artist Edwin Austin Abbey.  Here a group of artists would gather around a piano and sing the popular song, and spend glorious evenings together either playing tennis or going on boating expeditions on the Thames.  It was during one such boating expedition, when the natural light of the day was fading, that Sargent saw some Chinese lanterns hanging amidst trees and lilies in a garden. This vision of that exact purple twilight moment in the day when natural light gets replaced by artificial light captured Sargent’s fantasy, and he spent the next few months trying to capture that light, the result of which was the absolutely spellbinding painting which he titled Carnation, Lily, Lily Rose.

He chose two sisters, daughters of a fellow artist for the painting because they had hair of the exact color he was looking for.  Every evening, Sargent would stop his tennis game, and wait in the spot with his models for the light to be exactly like he wanted and paint for a few moments.  He repeated this every evening from September to November 1885, when the light changed completely with the changing season.  He then resumed in the summer of 1886 and completed the painting in October 1886.

Lantern with illuminated ridges. Courtesy Tate Britain.

The painting is simply mesmerizing. In it Sargent has captured the twilight moment when natural light is replaced by artificial light, the innocence of childhood with the intense childlike concentration at the task of lighting the lanterns, the beauty of the late summer foliage in the darkness of the leaves and the maturity of the flowers, and the glow in the white cotton-linen dresses of the girls.  The young girls themselves are surrounded by a garden that forms a protective cocoon around them, the eye goes upward with the growing size of the flowers, and the age old Japanese technique of the increasing size of the flowers as the eye moves upward has the effect of bringing the background forward. At the same time the eye moves along the curve of the lantern string, stopping with the two central figures, where balance is achieved with the two girls facing each other.  The glow of the lanterns, some brighter than others, illuminate their faces and dresses, and the ridges of the lanterns. The painting draws you in – into the world of the fleeting light of dusk, and of fleeting childhood summers.

An Essay on America


I meant to do this post on July 4th – but I was in camp with very little time to compose any thoughts.  But there is never a bad time for a patriotic post so I figured I would do it now.  Would be nice if something could unite us all and drive us out by the millions to celebrate the way the World Cup sent the French to the Champs Elyse.  What absolute fun to forget your differences briefly and just celebrate a well- deserved victory.  I know it doesn’t seem like it, but we do have reasons to celebrate every day.  Towards that end, I want to share one on my sister’s college responses to a prompt about inclusion in America.  I think she answered it brilliantly.

“It was late – a lot later than we expected when the bus finally rolled out of the parking lot into a dark, and surprisingly cold, Florida night to start the trip back to Orlando. A proud group of LHP students sat in the bus that evening.  For two grueling days we had competed in a Speech and Debate tournament in Tampa and were taking home some hard-won trophies.

As most of my teammates drifted off to sleep, my mind started to mull over the question of acceptance and inclusion in a country that tries hard every single day to live up to its own promise to itself – and it occurred to me that this bus was the promise of America, the America that perhaps the founding fathers dreamed of. The driver – a man with a mission – led the way; behind him sat the coaches and chaperones, still chaperoning, navigating, and making sure we stayed on track. I could imagine the aged, ever-watchful gaze of the founding fathers upon them.

Behind them sat a vibrant, dynamic melting pot – a veritable “salad bowl” of students, a young team of various teenage years, of more ethnicities than any founding father dared to hope for, of individual dreams and common hopes. We were all recent immigrants or children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren of recent immigrants. As our passions for our competition and trophies flared, our ethnicities faded – our common goal melted away the differences in our skin colors, our religions, our aromas of homemade food, and the accents of our ancestors upon our tongues.

I was keenly aware that despite every criticism, this bus – a microcosm of the world – could not have been rolling down a highway in any other country in this world. Perhaps it is naïve of me to equate this bus to the promise of America – but weren’t the founding fathers just naïve young men when they rolled down a revolutionary highway with nothing but a dream?

For four years, since I made my first competition piece on immigrants, and started to explore my place in America, I have waited to attend a course like the —. I am excited to engage, to share, listen and learn from others in my class. I am ready, and my generation is ready, to continue fulfilling the promise of America.”

I think her response is brilliant. I loved the comparison and the feeling of pride and belonging.

My afternoon with Sargent

Last weekend I went to Washington DC to accompany my sister on a speech tournament. I could do that because school is over.  Since the group had free time, we went to various museums around the city.  I went to the National Gallery of Art (NGA) which was great fun especially because it was so hot outside.  The museum was big but not huge like the Louvre or the Hermitage, and I felt like I saw most of it.  It’s a gorgeous building with an atrium on either side – where one can sit and relax.  There was a Sally Mann photography exhibition going on in the museum.  Her large black and white landscapes of the South were really stunning.  Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the exhibition.

I spent a long time admiring the John Singer Sargent paintings in the museum. Sargent (1856 – 1925) is an American artist, who was trained in France, and lived in London. He is heavily influenced by Spanish master artist Velazquez, whom he studied passionately.   Interestingly, Sargent also painted murals which can be found in the Boston public Library and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.  The NGA in DC has some beautiful Sargent works which I photographed (with permission of course).  The paintings in the museum show his versatility as an artist – his landscapes, portraits, interiors are all equally beautiful.  It’s very difficult to pick a favorite but if I had to, I would pick the lady in the white silk gown with the paisley shawl.  I had a really fun time in the museum because I saw a lot of stuff but focused on one artist the most.  Others may not like to focus on one artist as they feel it limits their enjoyment of the museum – for me it was great fun.

Sargent - Pavement, Cairo, 1891Sargent - Nonchaloir (Repose), 1911


Arts in the City Beautiful

Art, in the words of Picasso, “washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” For Orlando, it was the balm that soothed its wounds from the horrific nightclub shooting. Orlando, as a city, collectively turned to art to heal the wounds of that horrible night and find a way forward. Lake Eola Park is a beautiful public space in downtown Orlando.  For the last year, the hatch shell has been painted in the colors of a rainbow to symbolize LGBTQ pride and #OrlandoStrong.

In Orlando, all around the ‘city beautiful,” there are new murals, graffiti, and even painted electric boxes – some memorializing the Pulse nightclub, others just there to add a little beauty to our day. Driving to school, stopping at red lights, being stuck in traffic, I have appreciated this art.  It has brought a smile to my face and reduced some of my morning tiredness – wouldn’t you smile if the Girl with a Pearl Earring smiled at you from a dumpster on your way to school every morning!!

Mimi’s Musings

This is the post excerpt.

As a teenager in high school, I want to be able to remember this journey.  High school is so much work – with classes, debate, projects, exams, homework – that I wanted to take the time to slow down sometimes and do the things I love – we all love – to do.  Among other things, I love traveling, exploring new places, art, food,  shopping (of course) and taking pictures.  This blog is for some of these things – and more –  as I go along on my journey.

Mimi Norway