Monthly Archives: February 2011

Ten Things Tuesday

The “Whadda Ya’ Know?” edition. Here are five things I feel I’ve got a pretty good handle on, followed by five things I’m actively investigating to learn more about:

1. Writing. I consider this an ongoing, evolutionary process – all creative processes are – but I can plan, organize, and compose good, solid, engaging pieces of writing with reliable consistency. That, coupled with the fact that I have enough mastery over the process to teach it well to others, leads me to the conclusion that I “know” how to write.

2.  Reading.  In my (many) years as an active and engaged student of reading, I have learned how to read in ways that go beyond dragging my eyes over the words and absorbing a story.  I’m able to make connections, to see subtleties, and to draw conclusions beyond the covers of the book, and those things make my experience of reading (when I’m not simply reading for pleasure) much richer than it would otherwise be.  It delights me that this richness spills into my everyday life, as well; the reading that I do helps me to see things I would otherwise miss in my day-to-day journeys through the world.

3.  Cooking.  Again, as with the writing, this is an ever-evolving process for me, but my time in the kitchen (and under the guidance and mentorship of some competent and accomplished cooks) has led me to a strong sense of self-assurance when it comes to culinary creation.  Though I’m nearly undiluted Scot, I’m convinced that I either carry some genes or am invested of the spirit of some benevolent Jewish or Italian mother; if I love you, I cook for you.  For me, feeding each other is one of the highest forms of care we can offer.

4.  Driving.  I am often inordinately proud of my competence behind the wheel.  I am careful and aware, I know, understand, and respect what my car is capable of doing, and I am mindful always that, at any moment and for no good reason, things could go horribly, tragically wrong.  I think it’s that combination of knowledge and – I don’t want to call it fear, but you know what I mean – makes me an exceptional driver.  Plus, I’m a whiz at working the manual transmission and at parallel parking – first time, every time, Baby!

5.  Mothering and Teaching.  (Again with the ever-evolving practices!  Do we ever really KNOW something?  Perhaps that’s a musing for later this week…)  I tend to see teaching and mothering as two things that are strongly, almost inextricably, interconnected.  I am able to approach each of my children, both biological and academic, as individuals with unique needs and talents.  I’m also able (most of the time) to see what they need in order to get what they want, and I’m able to customize the ways I approach those children so they see it, too.  Really, though?  I think my most significant qualification for these jobs is that I care enough to want to do them as well as I possibly can.  I love my kids – both biological and academic – and I want what’s best for them, not what serves me or my ego.

Here are five things I’m working on knowing better:

1.  How to argue.  I feel consistently frustrated that I’m tripped up by errors in logic (both my own and others’) and my inability to communicate what I’m thinking in ways that make me satisfied that what I’m saying is what’s really in my head.  I’m currently reading a couple of books about argument and persuasion, and am trying to get a handle on logical fallacies so I can both recognize them in my own thinking and call them out when others try to use them to derail the discussion.  I’m also considering taking a couple of L.U. courses in logic and argument, but I’m not quite there yet.

2.  Understanding what I am and what I believe.  I have long proclaimed myself a “lefty Humanist,” and the more reading I do about Humanism, the more I think that is a pretty appropriate label for me.  I want to clarify my own attitudes and beliefs for myself, though, because I find that if I give any evidence of lacking a strong sense of self, people are more willing to attack ME rather than my argument (another logical fallacy; see above.  It’s all connected).  I’ve been doing some philosophical study lately (I’m more than halfway through Good Without God and have been brushing up on my Kant and Hume) and am engaging some of the smart people in my life with the questions that come up.

3.  Learning how to take better care of myself.  I’m over 40 and, as a consequence, some of the “rules” about my physical body are changing.  I’ve found myself having to make some pretty significant changes in how I treat my body over the last year or so, and I’m still learning what I need (and what I don’t) in order to get my body in really good working shape.  I’m also continuing to tend to my emotional and energetic needs, as well, and while I’ve found a number of things that work to help keep me running smoothly (yoga, time with friends, my own professional development, that sort of thing, though I’d like to have a stronger, more grounded meditation practice), I’m always on the lookout for more ways to incorporate ways to keep my whole self healthy so I can continue to love and nurture the people in my life.

4.  Understanding – and being able to teach – history.  One of the things that surprised me when I started teaching English is how much history I had to know in order to give the students proper context and background for the novels and stories we’d read.  I am profoundly lucky in that I have a lot of really good and very generous friends (hi, Eddie!) who are willing to fill in my many empty spaces when it comes to teaching my kids the things they need to know to really understand what the hell it is we’re trying to do here, both in school and as citizens.  I’m working on learning more; I’ve re-applied to the summer teacher fellowship with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, I’m conducting my own investigation of time periods and historical figures that intrigue me, and I’m paying very close attention to the ways in which current events are shaped by the past.  It’s really all connected, and until we really figure that out, we’re going to just keep stumbling along.

5.  A bunch of insignificant, wouldn’t-it-be-neat kinds of things that, if the opportunity presents itself, I’d probably learn to do.  I’d like to be able to do a handstand, and maybe even a back bend from a standing position (I can get into one from the floor, but not from my feet).  I have always wanted to learn to drive a tractor-trailer truck (not enough to go and actually do it, mind you; there’s a school in my region that teaches over-the-road trucking, so I could learn this if I really wanted to).  I’d like to learn to make my own jewelry, and I think it would be fun to learn how to ride a horse.  I’d take a pastry class; the idea of homemade croissants is intriguing, though I think, knowing what I do about the process, it’s something I’d probably only do once just to say I can.

So, Dear Readers; what can YOU do, and what do you still want to learn?

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Filed under learning, Little Bits of Nothingness, my oh-so-exciting life, ruminating, strange but true

Quick Hit: Why We Need Teachers, Reason 26

Really? No… REALLY?! If you’re going to put something in foot-high letters for the world to see, you might want to check your spelling. Just sayin’.

Hat tip to JoeMyGod.

SO! Who’s getting educated about what’s REALLY happening in Wisconsin?

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Filed under duh!, dumbassery, frustrations, funniness, General Bitching

Monday Musings: Learning

Well, last week went well! I was able to think about love and the (very) different ways it manifests itself in my life all week, and I was able to engage in some really productive and challenging conversations. I kind of like this idea of keeping my mindfulness focus here, so I’m going to do it again this week. Let’s see where it takes us!

So, here’s what usually happens on Sundays: I lead my yoga class through a practice, get them all settled in the last resting pose, then sit quietly and wait to be inspired as to what the parting message should be. Sometimes, that inspiration comes right away – I know immediately what I should say and how I should say it. I’m constantly delighted when that happens and someone in the class comes to me later to tell me that what I said was exactly what s/he needed to hear. Sometimes, though, like yesterday, I get nothin’; I sit there and watch a blur of ideas fly through my head without any one of them stopping long enough to make me think it significant enough to give voice to. On days like that, I send it back to the class; what is it that THEY need to nurture or focus on or become open to?

I got my answer this morning.

Every school day, I go to a couple of sources and look up events that happened on that day to read later during the “today in history” segment of our all-school morning meeting. It’s a feature I started this year; I was inspired by my local NPR station which, every so often, gives a little fact or birthday when they tell me what the date is as I’m driving in to work in the morning (“It’s Monday, January 31st. Actress Minnie Driver turns 41,” that sort of thing). Though I’m pretty sure that the adults get more out of it than the kids do (most of them have no IDEA what some of the things I mention are), I really love it and, as a consequence, I’m a little addicted to it. When I opened my email this morning, the alert that history.com sends me every day told me that today, February 21st, is the day that Malcolm X was assassinated.

It occurs to me that I know a little bit about a lot of things, but there are some things that I want very much to know more about. Malcolm X is one of those things. He has always fascinated me, and while I understand the important talking points of his life, there is a lot about him that I don’t know. I think that I will spend part of my vacation week learning a little bit more about this man who inspired so much rancor and discord but who, at the end of his life, learned something he didn’t know before and made some bold and significant changes to his worldview.

So this week will be about learning – reflecting on the things I want to know more about, being mindful and aware of how I learn, and honoring that which I have learned already. I suspect that there will be a conversation in here somewhere about Humanism (I’ve been doing some reading and thinking about that, I’ve just not had a chance, yet, to write about it), about the things I learn from other people (did you know that Kizz is in CHINA?!), and about what I think about the ethics of information. I think there will be a lot to talk about this week, and I’m looking forward to sharing it all with you.

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Filed under admiration, learning, messages from the Universe, my oh-so-exciting life, Questions, ruminating, teaching

Seven Words on the Seventh Day

Love is the reason we’re all here.

image credit

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Quick Hit: Corporate Love *EDITED TWICE*

Some of you may be aware that I am on a quest to find a good vanilla green tea. A few months ago, I was helping O’Mama clean out her overstuffed tea cabinet, and she sent me home with a package of some heavenly stuff that I enjoyed very, very much. The problem is that this aforementioned heavenly stuff came from a little shop in Ottawa that has neither a website nor a mail-order division, so when I ran out, I was not only out of yummy tea, but I was also quite out of luck.
*Edited to include that the little shop in Ottawa apparently doesn’t make that heavenly stuff anymore. Bastids. It happens to me ALL THE TIME; I fall in love with something and in short order it gets discontinued)**

A campaign ensued to try to find a near-enough substitute. A week or so ago, I placed an order for some vanilla green tea from the Tropical Teas company on the internet. The order was easy to place, the tea was reasonably priced (free shipping!), and the box arrived at my door much faster than I was expecting it. The problem is that the tea is not to my liking; it has a strange undertone that I find unpleasant.

I emailed the company to ask if I could return the package I hadn’t opened yet. The next afternoon, they responded that I needn’t return the tea and that I had a couple of options – I could request a different flavor or they could refund my purchase. I emailed back that I’d like a refund, and I got an email this morning telling me that my account will be reimbursed first thing Monday morning.

While I don’t love their vanilla tea (they sent me a sample of the peach which is pretty yummy, though!), I AM in love with their customer service. I love a company that treats its customers well, and I’ll totally place another order from them (and recommend them to you!) because of it.

*Edited again to say that the company emailed me again this morning. Here’s what they said:
Thank you very much for the kind words. We greatly appreciate your sharing our company on your blog. Please pass on to all your friends to be sure and register their email address on our website before March 1st so that they may receive the huge March Madness Discount we offer each year. It will be between 30% – 40% off everything in the store.

We also have a separate batch of Vanilla Green Tea that we are going to send you a free sample packet. We just want to make sure you did not get a bad batch. Really, you guys; GREAT customer service. I am beyond impressed.

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Filed under admiration, my oh-so-exciting life

Things I Love

There are a lot of other things, too, but I discovered that two-word items didn’t STAY two-word items, so my first try resulted in a “heated Punkin” and “generosity seats,” which limited my options.

Happy Friday, Everyone!

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Thought for Thursday: Loving Them

My Thought for Thursday post is up at Teacher’s Education this week.  I’ve been ruminating about my love for my students.

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Filed under love notes