Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Posts tagged ‘Traditions’

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I understand now how people “get behind the times” or “out of date.”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 The article states – unequivocally – that putting two spaces after a period while typing is outdated, unnecessary, and just plain WRONG. There are few things I hate more than being wrong, let alone wrong AND outdated, so I applied my skepticism and my 21 century skills and set out to prove that I, who ALWAYS puts two spaces after a period, was NOT a dinosaur.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 The bottom line is this: what I learned had become outdated and because I’d never learned WHY two spaces were “right,” I didn’t know when it was time to change.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!]

Learning Today

This article on the Taste of Tech blog states, “I worry about how K-12 education can remain relevant and engaging as we continue to filter out anything that’s not on a test.”

The information may remain relevant, but not engaging. I think that’s why kids start to view school as a chore by 4th or 5th grade. (You hardly ever hear kids in lower grades complain about going to school – they almost all start out loving it). We have already seen a dramatic increase in testing and teaching to the test materials this year with our 3rd grader. Grades, test scores, and levels all matter to her a lot more now than they did last year.

The way in which material is typically presented slows down the learning process in an age when there is so much more to learn and so many more ways to learn it. Listening to a lecture IS typically boring. But creating dynamic, interactive, multi-sensory learning is hard within the current school structures of fixed class periods, divided subject matter, and fact memorization. Heck, I can’t even make a one hour Sunday School class interesting to 7th through 12th graders! I can’t imagine trying to do it day after day for a 6 hour school day. (This is why I’m not a school teacher, so don’t get too worried).

What’s worse is that parents are blocking educational progress as much as anyone. The attitude I see weekly is that “if my kid ISN’T being taught the same way I was, there must be something wrong with the school or teacher.” The reality is that if your kid IS being taught the same way, that’s the larger problem. It is hard to imagine a better way to learn than the one you personally experienced. After all, we came out ok, didn’t we? But the world today is FAR different than the one in which we grew up.

My kids are still talking about visiting Plimouth Plantation last summer, where they got to see, taste, smell, Megan Grinds Maizetouch, and live life in 1628. Before they went, they watched the PBS Kids show “Fetch with Ruff Ruffman” where they watched other kids complete reality-tv-show-like challenges in Plimoth. So when they got there, there was huge satisfaction in being somewhere they’d seen on tv.

Then last fall, our 1st grader studied Plimoth at school with the incredible Mrs. Hricik. She taught our daughter and her class even more about that time in history through an interactive game, online research, hands-on building experiment, food tasting, and team activity that captured for the kids the emotional, human side of the pilgrims’ story. It was all capped with a program for parents and relative consisting of a series of short skits interspersed with factual presentations for those kids not as interesting in acting.

The beauty of this type of teaching is that it was relevant to a 1st grader’s perspective, engaged all types of learners in the class, involved all their senses in the learning, used a variety of media, and captured the human experience. You can bet the kids in this class will remember this info in context for years to come – and not because they needed to know it for any test. THIS is TRUE learning.

It’s also why we parents have to be engaged in our children’s education from day one. Children are natural scientists and eager learners. My kids were learning in formal and informal ways years before they started school. Learning happens through play, travel, experimentation, and observation of the world around us. It happens when we talk about something that just happened that wasn’t planned or expected. Learning doesn’t stop after school or in the summer. Learning happens in the tiny questions that pop up unexpectedly as we spend time together. This is self-guided learning; it is this type of learning that is lost when children spend more hours in daycare than they do at home with parents who care about answering the incessant barrage of questions that everyday life raises for younger children.

This Takes the Cakes

So I have a few partially written serious blog posts that need to be finished and posted, but I got inspired tonight to start posting pictures and stories of my custom cakes after following a twitter link. (Thanks to Patti for the idea!).

Here are the last three cakes I’ve made, all for my sister’s bridal shower on April 20th.

Groom-to-be is a drummer percussionist who works at Grover Pro Percussion in Woburn, MA; bride-to-be has a master’s degree in bassoon an plays in various orchestras. They met playing in an orchestra, so the musically themed shower was appropo. The teal g-clef is supposed to be an ampersand (teal is the wedding color) so that the trio together symbolizes “Frank and Dawn.” Get it?

The drum was yellow cake, the bassoon was chocolate, and the treble clef was carrot. All were crumb-coated in buttercream and none was filled because I didn’t want anything going bad. I had to bake them on a Wednesday, decorate them on a Thursday, and drive them to Boston (along with my mom, the two kids, and all the shower stuff) on a Friday for a Sunday shower. You also might not know that fondant (the stuff they’re covered with) is sugar based and therefore very susceptible to moisture, so I could not refrigerate them.

These were my first serious fondant cakes. I made two other cakes the month before to practive my fondant techniques. Those might show up on here some other time.

Thank you, Ace of Cakes, for the motivation to learn how to use fondant! I love that show because every time I watch, I notice something subtle but interesting. (Sadly, today I noticed that they color their fondant by hand, which is by far the hardest part of working with fondant, IMHO. I was hoping to avoid this step in the future by making my own fondant, but it looks like there’s no avoiding it)

And thanks also to Stacey Burk for the fantastic directions on making a bassoon cake. Who’d’a thunk that googling “bassoon cake” would have worked so beautifully?!

Neither Judge nor Jury

Obviously, the Dumbledore revelation has the world plugging its ears and shouting at the top of its lungs – again (still?) – about the “rightness” or “wrongness” of homosexuality. It is interesting and sad to me that so many religious people who have strong opinions on this issue (either way) have not taken the time to study for themselves what the Bible says nor to pray for the wisdom to interpret the scriptures with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Several years ago, my husband and took a class studying what the Bible says and doesn’t say about homosexuality. Or more precisely, we took a class that discussed how various interpretations of the Bible apply – or not – to homosexuality. The intent of the class was to present, in as balanced a way as possible, the views and arguments on most sides of the issue. I personally did a 360 in the class – I ended up with the same opinion I had when I came in, but for a totally different set of reasons! These were my conclusions from the class after 6 weeks of study:

1. There are just a few versus in the Bible that even obliquely reference what we know as “sexual orientation. ” None of the passages explicitly references homosexuality – a term not even coined until the late 1890’s – and condemnation of that particular sexual orientation (whether genetic, as I believe it to be, or chosen) doesn’t seem obvious based on the text when Biblical textual context, historical/cultural context, and nuances of the original Hebrew language are considered.

2. At Baptism, we are adopted as children of God. Although we may turn from God, God will never “unadopt” us.

(I think all people do, by virtue of our human nature, turn from God. I believe this is a consequence of the free will with which were were endowed by God.)

3. ALL sin is regarded equally before God and that ALL people fail and fall short under the Old Testament law. No one can redeem him/herself in God’s eyes by adherence to the law or through actions taken on earth.

4. Jesus’ life shows and the Word tells that the most important commandment is to love: God first, yourself next and your neighbor as yourself. Over and over again, when the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with questions of law, he responds in love, regardless of the law, for the people affected. Love truly is the answer!

Generally speaking, Lutherans believe that to go to heaven, you must believe and be baptized. Since faith itself is considered a gift, and baptism represents God’s adoption of us into God’s family, both “belief” and “baptism” are really acts of God, not acts of humankind.

gavel.jpgPersonally, I am at peace with my current stance on homosexuality, though I will continue to seek input from others who disagree or have differing nuances of opinion.

I am so thankful that I do not need to judge for myself who is or isn’t going to heaven! I am so often wrong at unimportant things that I would never trust my own judgment on something so important. I feel that my job is to do my best to reflect Jesus’ love for me by loving and showing love to everyone through word and deed (more than enough work there to keep me busy for the rest of my life) and leave the judging to God.

Invisible Women

I don’t know where this story originated. If anyone finds (or is) the author, please let me know and I will happily give credit where credit is due! The piece was emailed to me and I thought it was too good to keep to myself. (For the record, I did correct a few grammatical mistakes in the original sent to me.)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’ Obviously not. No one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: “Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?” Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Pick me up right around 5:30, please.’

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude — but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going … she’s going … she’s gone!

One night, a group of us was having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean.

My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

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In the days ahead I would read — no, devour — the book. And I would discover what would become for me four life-changing truths after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals — we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.’

And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’ely4.jpg

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.’

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder, as one of the people who shows up at a job that she will never see finished, to work on something that her name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand-bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, ‘You’re gonna love it there.’

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

It Just Doesn’t Make Sense

Two years. It’s been two years since Katrina wiped out New Orleans. The news outlets are searching for nuggets of hope, but the overwhelming news is not good. Major parts of the city still look like they did the day after the disaster. Violent crime happens 10 times more frequently in New Orleans today than in New York City (details here). Over 80% of the allotted federal funds have already been distributed (details here).

New Orleans Councilman-at-Large Arnie Fielkow blames the federal government. He claims that the disaster was caused by “the massive failure of a flood protection system caused by the negligence of our federal government.”

But he’s wrong. Human denial and indifference was the ultimate cause of this disaster.

New Orleans lies, on average, 8 feet below sea level – and it’s sinking at a rate of 3 feet per century (details here). Global warming trends aside, the pumping system of the city itself is increasing the rate of sink. I don’t have the magazine at my fingertips, but a copy of National Geographic magazine I read recently made it pretty clear that it was just a matter of time before a disaster of this magnitude hit New Orleans – and that it WILL happen again.

Yes, it was a unique city with an interesting cultural history. But it makes no sense to try and rebuild it.

The First Day of School

Well…today is the first day of school in Stow! It wasn’t as hard this year to watch the girls get on the bus as it was last year when my “baby” went to Kindergarten. This year, after 4 weeks of relatively unscheduled summer fun (the first 6 weeks were pretty full of scheduled fun!), we were all looking forward to getting back into a routine.

We have lots of first-day-of-school traditions, including the yearly picture next to the piano (handy for seeing how tall they’re growing through the years!). But my favorite first-day-of-school tradition is one I hope my kids appreciate when they’re older. After I dropped Emily off at 4-year-old preschool for the first time, I went home (tearfully) and wrote her a letter. I recorded my feelings about taking her to school, my hopes for her for the year, and some school-related milestones she had already reached. Each year since, I’ve written a similar letter. Then I go back and read all the letters from previous years as a great reminder of how far she’s come and how much she’s grown! When Meg started school, I started the same tradition for her.

Sometime before Emily tuned one year old, someone suggested writing her a yearly birthday letter. I thought that was a great idea, but I never got around to doing it. After she turned 4 and I still hadn’t gotten around to it, I decided I could start a tradition of writing a letter on the first day of school instead!

I haven’t decided when I will give them the letters. I’ve done them all on the computer except Meg’s 4-year-old preschool letter (which I believe is somewhere in the school memorabilia box). I originally planned to re-write them by hand and compile them in an album to give them, maybe at High School graduation? But now, I can foresee using a personal handwriting font and creating a digital album to give them.

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