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The Talk…

12 Mar

I just turned 30.  The build up was awful – I had all of these negative thoughts about not living up to my own goals and desires but had a sudden change in thinking when I realized – hey, I’m 30. I am a woman. Stop with the 20 something doubtfulness and be a woman.  Very liberating.

In all of this, I really started thinking about all aspects of my life and one of the many topics that came up was my own identity as a sexual being.  I have been speaking with other females and realized how afraid I was to even have this discussion, not only with them but with myself.  As an educator, this got me thinking about myself a teenager and how little focus I give to sexual health in my own classroom.  When I really allowed myself to consider who I am as a sexual being, I realized that I had some very negative ideas of what sex was and how it related to me as a woman.  My personal beliefs concerning my self-image, how deserving I am as a person and what my personal needs were entangled into my own sexuality.  It was then I realized that something needs to change about the way we address and educate young girls on sexuality.  While it’s all good and well that we are teaching about safe sex practices – what we should first be teaching, no enforcing, is that females deserve to feel good about themselves and they deserve to have their needs and wants respected and listened to.  This conversation, or training, or indoctrination, should then be followed up with very frank and open conversations about sexual health and practices.  What good is teaching girls the purpose of using condoms if they don’t first value themselves enough to enforce using the protection in a vulnerable moment?  The preventative information is important.  We should be teaching all young people about how to stay safe and healthy.  There is so much more though that we don’t talk about that is just as important when it comes to sex and an openness and honesty that we should be fostering concerning our own sexual needs and health.  Just as an example – Masterbation.  It seems a common conversation for teenaged boys to have, even if just in jest, but never did I ever discuss masterbation with friends as a teenager or in my twenties.  Why? For me, it felt inappropriate, it was just not something that you should not talk about ever with anyone.  It’s this kind of closed mindedness that leads to females devaluing their own needs and wants.  As educators, youth workers, social workers, parents and mentors we need to encouraging open and honest conversations (without shame) about everything – including sex.  I am guilty of not including the topic enough over the years in my classroom.  I am not a gym teacher, so naturally I didn’t have a sex health unit in my history or drama classes, but there were ways that I could have introduced the topic and let my students know that as an adult I am someone who they can talk to about anything (including sex) without judgement if they needed to.

On that note – I know that this is old news and that many people are already doing great work in this area. So, I am interested to learn about sexual health programs for girls that are addressing these issues openly and without shame.  I’d love to hear from you about what programs you’ve seen that are most effective and focus on personal self-worth as part of the learning.

In the meantime – Meet Laci Green, she inspired this posting.  If you have a young female in your life that looks up to you why not watch these videos together and let them know – guess what you’re awesome and so am I and this sex stuff is part of life so lets talk about it… like we would talk about any other part of life!

Check out her facebook…

https://www.facebook.com/officiallacigreen

and Tumblr…

http://lacigreen.tumblr.com/

Here are some other great resources to share that I found on upworthy.com (an awesome website if you’ve never been).

Message to our Daughtershttp://www.bodyheart.com/

Banbossy.com

Quotes for the Classroom

26 Feb

There is nothing that I love more than a good quote.  I often use quotes as a way to introduce a lesson or spark a morning check-in.  Enjoy.

Here are a few of my favourites on the topics under the umbrella of literacy!

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”
Oscar Wilde

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Stephen King

“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”
Voltaire

“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”
Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”
Margaret Fuller

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
Frederick Douglass

“Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.”

– Edmund Burke

“My bursting heart must find vent at my pen.”
Abigail Adams

“No two persons ever read the same book.”

– Edmund Wilson

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
Philip Pullman

“Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted.”
Jules Renard

“Half of writing history is hiding the truth.”
Joss Whedon

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
George Orwell, 1984

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein

“It’s only words… unless they’re true.”
David Mamet

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
Albert Einstein

“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
Voltaire

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”
Socrates

Sharing Means Caring – Lesson Share

23 Feb

As a teacher, I have never in my life found a lesson plan and used it in its entirety – ever.  I recognize that there is no need to “reinvent the wheel” but the more I teach the more I realize how different each teachers intentions are when they develop a lesson plan.  This is the magic of teaching.  Yes, we have common goals regarding the specific skills and knowledge that we need our students to learn during a lesson – but the approach and the details that we use to reach that goal are very different.

So instead of packaging a neat lesson plan (which may or may not meet the criteria for a “lesson plan” where ever you are at this point in time) I am going share the overall idea, resources and purpose of my lessons.  Do with them what you will.  My favourite way to lesson plan is to set the purpose and goal of my lesson and then Frankenstein the best ideas from lots of different lesson plans into something that works best for me and the students I am working with at that very moment.  As every teacher knows, one lesson that works wonders in first first period can flop in third period because the dynamics of each group of students is so different.  It’s more important to be flexible and creative then it is to have totally organized and detailed lesson plans – because at any moment something could happen that will through the entire plan off track.  Now what? Improvise!

Please feel free to share your own ideas and how you used or twisted any other ideas (whether from here or somewhere else) to make a lesson plan that worked!

LESSON IDEA #1 – Impressionist Movement – Self Portraits and Impressions of the Past

Overview:

As an alternative teacher I wanted to develop an integrated curriculum where one assignment would meet the curricular expectations of two (or more) different courses.  As a drama and history teacher I find it easiest to find curriculum links between the arts, English and Canadian history courses.   I will focus on the arts aspects of my curriculum in this Lesson Share.  In the first unit we explored the Impressionist Movement.  It was a great way to introduce and set the stage for the first unit of the Canadian history course which explores the beginnings of Canada’s industrial age and gives context to the fundamental changes in thinking about how the world functioned at the turn of the century.  We began by learning about the history of the Impressionist Movement and how it changed the purpose and style of art.  We then learned how to paint as an impressionist artist using the touche technique – dry brushing and mixing acrylic colours on the canvas.  Once students had practiced the technique they were give two assignments to complete. One, an impressionist style self-portrait painting and an impressionist style painting depicting how different groups of Canadians viewed Canada between 1900 and 1919.

Purpose:

Integrated Arts – (ALC 20)

B3.1 describe how creating, presenting, and analysing a variety of art works has affected their personal values and their awareness of the values of their community and culture and those of other cultures
B4.1 identify skills, character traits, and work habits that are developed through the processes of creating, analysing, presenting, and/or promoting art works, including integrated art works/productions
C1.1  use appropriate terminology related to elements, principles, and other key concepts when creating, analysing, or presenting various types of art works
C1.2 demonstrate an understanding of elements, principles, and other key concepts associated with the various arts disciplines
C2.1 demonstrate an understanding of common symbols and themes in past and present art works from a variety of cultures
Knowledge –
My students watched a video and had a short reading to complete to gain an understanding of the Impressionist  Movement.
Skills –
Students needed to learn how to paint using the techniques of the impressionist painters.  As a group we watched a video and broke down the steps.  Students were given the opportunity to practice the technique until they felt comfortable.
Application –
Students were given the task of creating a self-portrait in the impressionist style practiced in class.  They were asked to use colours that best suited their personality based on symbolic representations of colours (as provided to them).
Throughout the creative process students worked in groups and with me, discussing their choices along the way.  Which picture will I use that best captures who I am?  Who am I? What do I value? What defines who I am?  Which colours best represent that?  Does it matter that this painting doesn’t really look like me at all?  What does this painting represent about me?
Here is the finished result…
Outcomes:
  • We learned a new skill (touche painting technique)
  • We learned about the industrial revolution and gained different perspectives on its cultural impact
  • We explored self-identity and personal expression
  • We created artwork that became the center point of our classroom for the rest of the semester.
  • The skills developed during this unit were later used in by students in different units as a new tools for creating integrated art projects.
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Social Media, a new territory for teachers.

7 Jul

This morning while scanning over the headlines on MSN, this caught my attention; “Ont. girl charged for online threats”.   Earlier this week I went for an interview for an LTO position and during the interview we got on the topic of using social media in the classroom.  As an example of the connections I make with students outside of class time, I mentioned that I have used class websites (recently Tumblr) as well as facebook and twitter as a means to stay connected to students.  This semester past I was teaching an LTO and used twitter to send reminders to students.  Some students would use the twitter to let me know if they were going to be late for class and when I explained this the interviewer was curious to know how I managed using social media while in class, assuming that I was communicating with the students before and during class.  This is a pretty valid question to ask and one that I think is the kind of root cause of the problems we’re facing in the schools with cellphones and social media…

Here is the thing, and boy am I going to sound old fashion saying this.  10 years ago (which I realize is eons on the technology timeline) students didn’t have cellphones and if they did it was unimaginable that they would use it in class.  Please do not get me wrong, I love technology and embrace it as a teacher.  I recognize that my students function in a very different world that I did as a teenager and as a teacher I need to find the best ways to convey information to my students that will allow them to a better understanding and way of communicating what it is they have learned.

But…

There is a time and a place.  I really enjoy looking at the world from a deconstructionist view point.  The reality is that we create our reality, nothing has meaning until we decide to recognize it and name it.  My favourite way of explaining this to my students is through gender.  Why do girls get dressed in pink and boys in blue? Why are girls encouraged to play house and boys encouraged to play with cars?  Little girls are not born with pink bows attached, and boys don’t come with blue bow ties… so why?  Girls have the same capabilities to be physically aggressive or mechanically inclined as boys the same way boys have the same capabilities to be nurturing and domestic as girls… gross “domestic”.  Where do these ideas come from? When were they “constructed”?  Usually I don’t get an answer, just more questions and anecdotal stories.  Why are we not asking the same questions of our students about technology and communication?  As a teacher, it is a constant battle to have students put their cellphones away.  Usually we are told as teachers we have the right to take the cellphones if students do not comply with the “no cellphones in class” rule.  This is new territory for us.  Who is liable should the cellphone go missing while in our watch?  I don’t think taking the cellphones is the solution, I feel we need to teach respect and appropriate behaviour and it’s going to have to be a school wide initiative.  I have heard from employers and workplace trainers of youth they have encountered who are texting or playing games on their phone during interviews or during safety training.  Clearly the problem is one of boredom in the classroom, but a lack of respect and appropriateness with the technology.

As teachers we have a lot to contend with when it comes to cellphones.  I constantly have parents texting and calling their student while they are in class.  One day I had a student come to me to let me know that her mom was at the school to pick her up for a doctors appointment.  Really? Go into the school and sign your child out; which is what I told my student.  She was not to leave class until I was given instructions by the office.  To make things worse, as an adult, I have seen administrators and other adults in positions of authority using their cellphones to text and check emails at times that they themselves would not want a student doing the same.  Hello! What are we teaching them? That its ok, thats what!

During the interview I explained that I do not have my cellphone in class (unless I am using it as an ipod) and would never let a student use twitter as a way to justify lateness because, well, I told Ms Marr.  Unless students are looking up information to support their learning, I don’t want to see their cellphones.  Mostly, because I know what they are texting and tweeting, and it is certainly not questions to their friends about last nights homework.  The things I have seen on twitter are shocking… shocking!  Which brings into light a whole new issue… what are the students rights in terms of privacy? And as a teacher, when is it my responsibility to step in and address what is being tweeted?  These things need to be addressed.  Is it our responsibility to not to read what students post or is it their responsibility not to post anything they don’t want seen.  The answer seems obvious, if you don’t want people to read your private thoughts, don’t post them online.  But it’s not that simple, if it were we wouldn’t have 14 year old girls being charged for making death threats.  The technology keeps expanding and changing but we never teach students how to use the technology so they figure it out for themselves and then the schools have to deal with the repercussions of bullying on sites like Formsprings.com , Facebook.com and Twitter.com.

Last year I did a Forum Theatre project with a group of senior drama students about bullying in their school.  One group simulated what happens when people post hurtful things online.  One student stood center stage, while the others covered her with post-it notes, each with some insult or rumour.  The other students disappeared but the one girl remained crying on stage and covered from head to toe in sticky notes.  You can delete the posts the same way a post-it can be removed, but that post-it still exists somewhere and so do the words posted online.

There have always been bullies and victims, but the internet has added a new component to the harassment that has ballooned bullying into a new monster capable of ruining someones life and I don’t just mean the victim.  Where is the girl from Windsor going to end up after being charged with uttering death threats? I can tell you that youth who spend time in juvenile centers do not come out reformed, instead they are released with new survival tools and I don’t mean for camping in the wild.  It’s common knowledge that youth live and learn through their sense of immortality, but at what point is enough, enough? Bullying has become part of mainstream media, but its not really getting better because we as adults are not doing much that is tangible to teach respect and understanding.  In a world of global connection through the internet and new technology, there has been little to address how to communicate appropriately or use the millions of new pieces of information shared over the internet on a daily basis.  In a world with little to no boundaries, how do we teach children and youth to find their own personal and moral boundaries?  How can we teach our children and youth to respect themselves and in turn to respect others?

… I’m working on it.  Any suggestions?

Windsor girl charged with Facebook threats

05/07/2012 5:33:00 PM

The Canadian Press
WINDSOR, Ont. – A 14-year-old Windsor girl is facing charges after threats were posted on another girl’s Facebook page.

Police allege the girl threatened to kill a 14-year-old girl she knew in posts on the victim’s Facebook page.

Investigators arrested the girl Wednesday night and have charged her with conveying threats to cause death.

A police spokesman said he could not reveal the exact nature of the threats because the incident is still under investigation.

Police are reminding parents and teenagers that threats posted on social media are subject to charges.

(CKLW, The Canadian Press)

Eaton Center Shooting

8 Jun

As I’ve mentioned before, I work in Regent Park.  The shooting at the Eaton Center on June 4th, 2012 was tragic and my thoughts are with the victims and their families.  The Husbands family are also victims, and my thoughts are with them as well.  The media has (day-by-day since the shooting) been actively demoralizing the victim who suffered the fatal shoot.  There has been little effort to report on the loss his family has suffered and how it has been affecting them to lose a son/sibling/cousin/nephew.  Instead, each day it’s a new detail about his criminal activity and as a result it spawned a stream of ignorant and heartless responses to his death on online article responses.

The media has been reporting on the crackdown the Toronto Police Services intend to embark on as a result of the tragic shooting.

But why crackdown now?

Excuse my aggressive wording, but as a result of the shooting affecting citizens who are not “gangsters”, the youth I work with and their families will be dealing with an invasion by the TPS in the form of TAVIS and Project Post in an effort to help the rest of Toronto feel safer about shopping at the Eaton Center.  There will be increased police presence in the neighbourhood and the police will be stopping everyone and anyone they feel the need to.  There will likely be raids within the community and the students I work with are going to be the victims of this.  I’d like to see what would happen if homes in affluent areas of Toronto were raided in a crackdown on insider trading…  How would you feel if your child was stopped by the police and interrogated while walking home from school?

Reactive initiatives meant make non-priority neighbourhood citizens feel safer is a waste of our tax dollars. My students deserve more than the negative stereotypes that have once again been thrust upon them. Regent is a wonderful community! Please don’t fall victim to ignorance; look past the familiar rants of the media and open your eyes to systemic issues this country hides so well.

Simon Black, a researcher with the City Institute at York University, has written an excellent article which can be found by following the link below.
http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1207132–youth-violence-in-toronto-and-our-hierarchy-of-victimhood

Youth violence in Toronto and our hierarchy of victimhood

By Simon Black

Last year in the city of Chicago, nearly 700 young people were hit by gunfire; 66 of them died. The vast majority of victims were African-American and Latino youth living in the city’s racialized low-income neighbourhoods. A recent analysis found that 8.5 per cent of Chicago (in terms of geography) contained almost all of the city’s shootings and homicides.

The mayor of Chicago insists that his city is safe. After all, around 90 per cent of neighbourhoods are not affected by youth gang and gun violence. This year, programs designed to reduce violence are being cut along with Chicago’s education budget.

While not as extreme in its geographic concentration, youth violence in Toronto is more likely to occur in our low-income postwar suburbs and pockets of racialized poverty in the downtown core than in white, middle-class neighbourhoods or shared spaces such as Yonge St.

As the 2008 report “The Roots of Youth Violence” found, while crime rates are stable “severe violence is apparently becoming more and more concentrated among socially disadvantaged minority youth.” The report concluded that the roots of youth violence are often found in poor, socially deprived neighbourhoods: the immediate risk factors of impulsivity, low self-esteem, alienation, hopelessness and lack of voice are compounded by longer-term issues of racism, poverty, community design, barriers to education and a lack of economic opportunity. The social exclusion of racialized youth and the alienation and denial of full citizenship they experience must be addressed.

When violence migrates from Toronto’s racialized low-income neighbourhoods into the spaces of commerce and tourism central to our city’s sense of collective safety, identity and international reputation, our public discourse shifts, government officials react and respond, and we reveal a hierarchy of victimhood and trauma that contravenes principles of equality.

On Dec. 26, 2005, 15-year-old Jane Creba was tragically killed while shopping on Yonge St. Between December 2005 and last Saturday’s Eaton Centre shooting, our city has lost 20-year-old Allen Benn, 24-year-old Amin Aafi, 19-year-old Yonathan Musse, 23-year-old Ricardo Francis, 25-year-old Michael George, 19-year-old Richard Gyamfi, 23-year-old David Latchana, 25-year-old Fitawrari Lunan, 21-year-old Kimel Foster, 19-year-old Kevon Hall, 18-year-old Keegan Allen, 19-year-old Ryan Hyde, 18-year-old Delane Daley, and 16-year-old Keyon Campbell.

This is a partial list of young people, racialized men in particular, lost to violence in only one of those intervening years, 2007.

These names, along with those such as Andrew Naidoo, Sealand White, Jermaine Derby, Lorenzo Martinez and Okene Thompson, are not as well-known as that of Jane Creba. Their deaths did not invoke statements from the mayor, they were not the topic of talk radio, and they did not occupy the front page of the newspapers.

When shots were fired in the Eaton Centre last Saturday, leaving 24-year old Ahmed Hassan dead and six people injured, it was not the names of these young men that tripped off the tongue of police officers, news broadcasters and elected officials.

Nor was it the name of Chantal Dunn, a 19-year-old black student at York University, who was murdered in 2006 in the Keele and Sheppard area, another victim of gun violence. Nor mother of three Rachel Alleyne, also a young black woman, shot to death in 2007 while socializing with friends in a backyard at Jane and Driftwood .

After the 2005 Boxing Day shooting, politicians of all stripes talked tough on crime, adopting a law-and-order rhetoric thought to match the mood of an outraged public. Premier Dalton McGuinty met with Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair and told him to come up with a strategy to deal with “gang and gun” violence. Talk to front-line agencies that work in the city’s “priority neighbourhoods” and they will tell you that in the wake of the Boxing Day shooting, funds became more readily available for “at-risk youth” intervention and crime reduction programs.

Following the Eaton Centre shooting a well-known Toronto journalist wrote: “Frankly, I don’t much care if hoods want to bump each other off . . . Saves the rest of us a lot of trouble . . . Hell, I’d even jail the targeted ‘victims’ of gang hits, should they survive the attempted rub-out. Usually, they asked for it.”

Racism can be understood in part as the collective denial of the humanity of “the other.” Unlike those deemed “innocent,” poor, racialized young men impacted by youth violence are our “urban other.” Victims and perpetrators alike are spoken of as “hoods,” “gang-affiliated” or “known to police,” never as “citizens,” full members of our community. They are criminalized in life and in death. This “othering” is a form of violence in and of itself.

In our city it is the trauma and victimhood of those seldom exposed to gun violence that is prioritized. In response to last Saturday’s events, a headline on a Toronto Star column said, “It could have been any of us; it wounds all of us.” Yet the reality remains that the primary victims of gun violence in our city are poor, racialized youth. And the primary sites of this violence are those neighbourhoods these youth call home.

All our young people’s lives are precious. We have at our disposal the resources and policy know-how to address youth violence. We have countless studies that show what works in reducing violence and victimization. We know how to build safer and healthier communities.

What we are missing is the political will. The main barrier to generating that will is the hierarchy of victimhood and trauma that governs our approach to youth violence. Only when poor, racialized youth are no longer seen as urban “others” will we realize our collective responsibility to address youth violence.

Simon Black is a researcher in urban social policy at the City Institute at York University.

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1207132–youth-violence-in-toronto-and-our-hierarchy-of-victimhood

Fingers Crossed

19 May

As of today, I am officially entered in the Who Inspires U Video Contest!  If I win, I will have the opportunity to open my own arts and education center.  I have been working on a business plan for a few years but haven’t been able to take the next steps because of, as always, money!

Please watch the video, the more views I have the further I will progress in the contest!

I am eternally grateful for your support!

Too Soon…

12 Feb

On Monday February 6th, 2012 Katelyn Traverso was killed on the Gardiner going east into Toronto.  She was only 19 years old.  I had the pleasure of meeting her back in November; she was the actress in a music video my husband shot for country singer Marshall Dane.  Her mother attended the shoot, which took place in my house in Caledon.  Not three weeks ago, she again worked as the actress in a second Marshall Dane music video.  After the shoot, the crew went out to dinner together.  I had a chance to chat with Katelyn over sushi, a first for her.  She told me how much she loved kids and hoped to have her own children one day.  The second video was released to the public through youtube.com and other social media sites on Monday February 6th, 2012.  Shortly after it was released, my husband received the tragic news that Katelyn had passed away.  On Friday we attended her viewing, along with many other friends and family members of the Traverso family.  My thoughts continue to be with Katelyn’s family and the friends who knew her best.  Her death was so sudden and tragic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On September 10th, 2011 Gavin and Zachery Marengeur, two brothers from Alliston, both passed away after being caught in an undertow while swimming in Georgian Bay.  Gavin was only 18 years old and his brother was only 20 years old.  In May 2011 I was hired for a long-term occasional position to teach drama at Banting Memorial High School in Alliston.  Gavin was one of my students; he had a unique role in my class as a student support. He was completing a drama credit as a classroom room support in one of the grade eleven drama courses I was teaching.  Gavin was one of the nicest and most enthusiastic students I have worked with.  He was a great help to me as a new teacher and I thoroughly enjoyed his spirit and positive energy.  When I learned of Gavin’s tragic passing, I sent the following letter to the drama students who knew him through my drama classes.

Dear Students,
Even though we knew each other for such a short time, I felt I should write to you all with my regards concerning the recent tragic loss of the Marengeur brothers.    You are all such wonderful kids, and it’s not fair that you have experienced such tragic loss at such a young age.  Sometimes life isn’t fair.
Gavin was one of the friendliest students I’ve met.  I enjoyed working with him immensely as I know many of you did as well.   His big smile and sense of humour will be missed, there is no doubt.   My thoughts are with you and his family at this time.
If there is any lesson to be had (none of which can ease the pain, only time will do that), we can reflect on how each and every person, including you, affects the lives of everyone they come into contact with.   You have today, with no other guarantee, and today needs to be lived to its fullest.  Today is the day to make a change for the better, today is the day to chose to be happy and to chose to make the day of those around you a little better.   Life is too short for negativity, doubt, worry, anger or sadness.
Please find comfort in each other and do something small to make each other’s day a little bit better.
It wasn’t easy coming in so late in the year, but we managed and came out stronger in the end.  Please feel to write to me through email, I’d be honoured to be an adult you can turn to now and in the future.  I’m so proud of you all and know that whatever it is you want to achieve, you will.
Sincerely,
Kendra Marr

 

 

 

 

Life does not make much sense.  These young people died too soon.  For a brief moment, I did ask myself what is the point?  Katelyn and Gavin have proven to be a reminder to myself of the importance of gratitude.  There really are no guarantees which means I need to grateful for all of the wonderful people in my life because they make me who I am.  I need to be grateful for the life I live and I should live a life that makes others grateful for what they have as well.  The point is we are all in this together, our lives are tangled and our experiences are shared through the connections we have to one another.  The point is to stop waiting and start living life.

Katelyn and the Marengeur Brothers are missed and their memory will live on through our shared experiences with them.