Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Archive for January, 2011

That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be

I understand now how people “get behind the times” or “out of date.” It’s how we were taught.

In the ongoing educational debate over the so-called “21 century skills,” I’ve argued that we need to change how we learn without enough cogent, eloquent thoughts addressing WHY we needed to make that change.  But earlier this week, Kate at Sweet|Salty tweeted a link to this article on typography that rocked my world and really brought together in a personal way my thoughts on this subject. The article states – unequivocally – that putting two spaces after a period while typing is outdated, unnecessary, and just plain WRONG. There are few things I hate more than being wrong, let alone wrong AND outdated, so I applied my skepticism and my 21 century skills and set out to prove that I, who ALWAYS puts two spaces after a period, was NOT a dinosaur. To my shock and horror, I discovered that my name should be changed to Sue.

When I first read the article, I was so shocked by this revelation, and so sure it was wrong, that I only read the first 6 paragraphs. But then I started wondering why I use two spaces after a period? My eager-to-please, perfectionist, school-girl self immediately wondered if I’d *gasp* LEARNED IT WRONG?! But then I read the article in its entirety and realized that no – I’d learned it right, but the definition of “right” has changed. [The practice actually goes back even further than the typewriter, as explained in this article, for those of you REALLY interested!] The bottom line is this: what I learned had become outdated and because I’d never learned WHY two spaces were “right,” I didn’t know when it was time to change.

With a startling burst of insight, I realized that this problem – knowing what but not why – permeates our society (and our educational system) right to the core. I started thinking of other examples of things we do here and now because we were taught that way. Then I solicited examples from others and the floodgates opened.

My friend Rhi (say REE like “Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup”) on Plurk shared my favorite hilarious anecdote: “My mom was over at a friend’s house once, while her friend was preparing a whole turkey for roasting. Before she put the turkey in the pan, she cut off both legs and threw them out. My mom was surprised and asked her why she did that. The friend’s response: ‘Well, that’s how you’re *supposed* to do it. My mom always did it that way.’ So my mom told her that *nobody* else did it that way, and had the friend call her mom to find out why. Turns out, the friend’s mom never had a pan big enough to hold an entire turkey. For decades, the rest of the family had been throwing out the turkey legs just because they thought they were supposed to!”

So let us all be reminded that change is constant, youthful inquisitiveness imperative, and single spaces after full stops the new standard – for now!

[Note: typing this blog post with only one space after each period was insanely hard. Sometimes re-education is painful!]

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For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her

If you met me on the street, you’d think I’m a normal run-of-the-mill human being. But don’t be fooled, because sometimes I am two people inside my head. We’ll call them Miss Rational and Miss Emotional.  Well, Miss R and Miss E got into a big ole fight today. I’ll give you a glimpse into the conversation once you have the backstory.

Our 11 year old is in the 6th grade gifted program in our district.  She worked a year and half to get in, usually missing the required standardized test scores by one or two points.  Making it into the program mid-way through the school year last year was a huge accomplishment for her and she was THRILLED.  She was also excited for this quarter’s subject: guided independent research on a topic of her choosing, which was Alaskan Wolves.

The quarter started around November 1st, but by Thanksgiving we got a head’s up from the teacher that 11yo wasn’t turning in stages of the required assignments. We are very hands-off parents with regard to homework, but we stepped in at this point to help guide and coach our chronically disorganized and potentially overwhelmed young student.

Fast forward to today: project and presentation due date when, in the car on the way to school, I discover that the centerpiece of her research, a telephone interview with a gentleman from the Alaskan government who works with wildlife, was omitted from her bibliography.  I was already struggling to keep my mouth shut about the lack of reference to this interview in her presentation, but when I heard it wasn’t even listed in her bibliography of sources, I hit the roof. “Take out the bibliography and WRITE IT IN,” I bellowed.  It was at this inopportune time that she discovered she hadn’t even printed out and included the bibliography, a major requirement of the project.

I cried all the way home, heartsick, while Miss E and Miss R took it to the mat inside my head.

One interpretation of Miss E and Miss R

Miss E: How completely embarrassing.

Miss R: What? Why? It wasn’t YOUR project.

Miss E: It’s incomplete per the rubric, it had PENCIL on the final project info board, it’s uncreative, she’s ill-prepared – and it shows.  It’s a complete DISASTER.

Miss R: It’s not your project.

Miss E: I’m the parent, it reflects on me.  People will think I’m a bad parent who can’t motivate my child to be responsible and follow directions. Worse, I’m a STAY-AT-HOME parent – parenting is my JOB.

Miss R: Every kid goes through this and besides, grades don’t matter.

Miss E: She’s had this organizational “issue” since kindergarten. This isn’t a one-time thing – it’s an ongoing problem. She should have this organizational thing figured out by now.  She has great teachers, involved (but not OVER involved) parents, and all the tools she needs. And grades are only unimportant in theoretical discussions on Twitter. We all know that in the real world, GRADES MATTER.

Miss R: Remember your 5th grade book report and poster on Daniel Boone that you did ENTIRELY the night before? Hmmm? You were the poster child for procrastination. And grades DON’T matter. Learning matters.

Miss E: Demonstrating learning matters.  She didn’t demonstrate it. Don’t tell me grades don’t matter.  Are you saying that 4.0 MBA I have is irrelevant? I worked HARD to earn those grades. And I learned not to procrastinate because the alternative was even more uncomfortable.

Miss R: (amused) So you don’t procrastinate anymore?

Miss E: Shut up.

Miss R: She’s bright, she’s creative, she’s imaginative, she’s kind-hearted, she’s thoughtful, and yes – she’s a bit scattered and disorganized. She sometimes can’t focus because her mind goes in a million directions. Everyone has issues of some sort.

Miss E: (dismissively) Yes, yes – she’s a great kid – but she has FAILED this project.  She did this in some of her regular classes, too, so this will be her worst report card EVER. She’ll never get into the magnet school for the arts to which she is applying with those grades.

Miss R: So what if she fails this project?  The gifted class isn’t graded. Maybe she’ll have learned from it. And a few B’s or lower on the report card aren’t the end of the world.  If she doesn’t get into that school, she doesn’t.  Life goes on.

Miss E: It would have been so much BETTER if I had done the project. It would have been complete and TOTALLY creative and top notch.

Miss R: It’s not your project.  You had your chance.  And what would she learn if you covered for her?

Miss E: The project would have rocked, and I’d’ve felt better about it.

Miss R:  Not in the long run.

Miss E: Nothing is solved.

Miss R: Nothing ever is.  Correct one weakness and another will emerge.

Miss E: Life sucks sometimes.

Miss R: Yep. Sometimes. That’s life.

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

I did not grow up in an athletic family.  I successfully resisted my father’s attempts to get me to put down the books and pick up the badminton racquet.  I tried out for field hockey one year, ran track one year, LOVED the diving team but wasn’t good enough to keep my place on it, then decided sports just weren’t for me – and this was BEFORE kids started their sport of choice at age 3 as they do nowadays.  But for some reason, my dad decided skiing something we COULD do as a family, so he became an instructor at Brandywine in the Cuyahoga Valley when I was 8 and I’ve been hooked ever since.

I skiied with my family every Saturday in winter for 9 years (until I went to college).  When I got my first job, they sent me to Utah on a business trip for 4 days and told me to spend an extra weekend out there so I could ski. The mountain grandeur and knee-deep powder blew my East coast ice-sheet skiing mind and I was forever spoiled.  I effectively gave up skiing after that for about 14 years until I found out about the Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio ski club and Emily, who inherited my athletic dismissiveness, expressed interest.  As soon as Megan was old enough to join, too, skiing officially became a girl sport in our family. [John, who had braces on his legs as a child, claims a genetic inability to point his knees inward, and has thus proclaimed himself incapable of skiing. We let him slide, so to speak.]

So, despite it being a near-record 28th day of skiing already in Cleveland, Ohio with 60 inch base in some places, tonight was MY first night of the season out on the slopes – and I was excited!

It wouldn’t be warm, but I was fully equipped to brave the elements: new silk LL Bean long underwear for Christmas courtesy of my sister and brother-in-law to replace the 20 year old set that used to be my dad’s & new goggles from Santa to replace the 30 year old pair that used to be my mom’s and on which the foam had finally completely disintegrated.

Emily and Megan were ready, too, with their own sets of new long johns, new goggles, new ski hats, and snazzy new ski pants, too (no more bib style pants, making potty breaks much easier – yea!).  We needed all the protection we could get, too.  As the sun dropped, so did the temperature – bottoming out by 9:45 pm at 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although everyone was gung-ho, the first hour was touch and go.  My children apparently mis-took me for a pack mule, claiming inability to carry their own equipment and clothing.  I channeled my father, told them they couldn’t ski if they couldn’t carry their own stuff, and kept walking.  When we hit the slopes, the 9 year old claimed to have forgotten EVERYTHING she learned last year – including how to make a wedge to stop or turn – while the 11 year old grumbled that “the baby hill isn’t steep enough for me to practice my parallel turns.” I told the 9 year old to stop whining and have some patience or I’d leave her in the middle of the hill (it only took one abandonment for her to figure out I meant it) and told the 11 year old to point her skis straight down the hill for speed until we all got our ski legs under us.  Someone told me this week that parenting is only easy if you’re doing it wrong, so I figured I was doing fine.

I finally, with relief, dropped both kids off in the capable hands of the Boston Mills ski instructors and zipped off to find some peace and quiet among the black diamond slopes.  The name was apt tonight.  The sky was like soft black velvet and the lazy snow sauntered down like it hadn’t a care or rush in the world.  A perfect crescent moon rose over the slopes and despite the fierce cold, there was peace in the snow-globed world.

This early in the season – and that late in the evening – there aren’t many confident advanced skiers, so I had about 5 runs in a row where I was alone on the hill, skied right onto the lift, and had a 3-seater chair all to myself.  Next week, I’m bringing my ear-buds so I can rock out like all the ‘cool’ kids, but for tonight, my own thoughts made good company.  By the time I rejoined the kids after their lesson, I was much more centered and they were much more confident and excited.

Since we’d been out for about two hours at that point, we took a 45 minute break to warm up and grab a quick dinner before heading back out for another lesson (where I joined them to observe their progress) and another 75 minutes of practice runs.  When we piled into the car at 10 pm, everyone was cold, thirsty, and tired – but also invigorated, confident, and ready for another great season of winter sport in Cleveland.

Let’s Get (a) Physical!

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com inspected my blog stats for 2010.  Here’s a high level summary of my overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ says my blog is fresher than ever!

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 6,900 times in 2010. That’s about 17 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 8 new posts [really?  only 8?  I need to blog more, I think!], growing the total archive of this blog to 85 posts. There were 5 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 3mb.

The busiest day of the year was November 22nd with 94 views. The most popular post that day was Billy Elliot: Dancers Soar, Writing Falls Flat.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were playhousesquare.org, plurk.com, scrapbooktreff.plusboard.de, twitter.com, and digital-photography-school.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for scrapbooking, dodge charger, dodge charger 2007, unicorn cake, and dodge charger 2006. [The dodge charger stuff STILL cracks me up!]

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Billy Elliot: Dancers Soar, Writing Falls Flat November 2010
1 comment

2

How to Make a Unicorn June 2009
3 comments

3

Baby, You CAN Drive My Car! October 2007
6 comments

4

Dodge Charger April 2008

5

(Inter) National Scrapbooking Day May 2008
4 comments

WordPress further reported to me that, “Some of your most popular posts were written before 2010. Your writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.”

Ch-ch-ch-Choices

Everything is a choice.  Do you believe that?

Whether you work, or not – and where: choice.  Whether you eat, or not, and what – and why: choice.  What activities you use to fill your time, how busy your life is – or isn’t: all choices.

I hear through space and time your vigorous denials. “But…but…I have to work! I have to go to school. I have to eat. I have to get out of bed.  I have to be president of the PTA!”  But really – you don’t.  You don’t HAVE TO do ANY of those activities – you choose to do them all – every single one. And yes, there will be consequences for every choice (after a while, not eating will cause some problems), but that doesn’t make it any less of a choice.

I think many people live daily lives doing what they think they HAVE TO do, never acknowledging the CHOICES they have, ruling out myriad possibilities of action before they are ever considered.  When your eyes are opened to the vast magnitude of choices we all have every single day, it can be incredibly empowering, uplifting, inspiring, and motivating!  It can also be completely paralyzing, overwhelming, and debilitating.

I was first presented with the reality of choice by a counselor in college while I was facing a pivotal, life-changing decision.  I told her I had no choice in the matter and she pointed out that not only did I have several choices, but that the illusion of lack of choice was in fact a construct of my own unspoken choices.  The box of stress into which I had painted myself was built by my own hand. At the time, this concept of broad choice was empowering, possibly life-saving.

Nearly a year ago, I embraced the extension of reality that EVERYTHING was a choice.  And I stopped doing nearly everything.  I was tired of getting ready for Christmas, so I. just. stopped.  I did laundry only when I ran out of clothes.  I cleaned only when it bothered ME.  I didn’t want to go to work, so I quit my job.  I was tired of helping at the kids’ school, so I stopped going in. Some days, I did not want to get dressed, so I lounged around in pajamas. For days.

At first, I told myself that this was just the usual holiday break, that things would pick up again to the usual frenetic pace come January.  But the “break” lasted for 4 months and eventually I figured out that my “break” was depression.  But that period did remind me that everything – EVERYTHING – is a choice.

As a society, we are also conditioned to blame some mysterious outside force for our perceived lack of choice. “I was so busy…” or “I had no time…” or “I couldn’t get to it…”  We are somehow trained not to own our choices.  And let’s face it – putting the blame on something outside ourselves is easier than admitting that we just didn’t want to do something!  But we all have the same number of hours in a day.  What really happened in each of those situations was that we MADE A CHOICE.

The start of the new year is all about resolutions, but resolutions are really about different choices we’d like to make in our lives.  I’ve read a few thoughtful blog posts since New Year’s Day that also speak to making choices. They are worth your time and thoughtful consideration, should you chose to read them.  Zac Chase blogged about choosing to be vegetarian, but not vegan.  And Kimburly VanderHorst blogged about making purposeful sacrifices on the altar of change in order to accomplish a big goal.

Me? I’m choosing to continue my success at taking the medicines that help me balance my system and be more healthy.  I’m also choosing to keep trying to find and incorporate fun physical activity into my life.  I’m choosing to give myself permission to fail and try again, and again, and again!  And finally, I’m choosing to live a less busy, but more meaningful and joy-full, life. That doesn’t mean there are fewer activities to occupy my life, but it does mean I won’t be trying to do all of them at the same time anymore.  And I won’t apologize for making choices that please me.

What choices – large or small – will YOU make this year?

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