Posts Tagged With: Education

The Long and Winding Road to Here

My parents invested in an encyclopedia set not long after they married. As a bonus to that purchase they also received “The Bookshelf for Boys and Girls,” a set of nine red volumes of stories, folk and fairy tales, poems, nursery rhymes, songs, history, crafts, and science.

Mom read to us often from those books. I recall sitting on her lap or beside her as the words that accompanied simple line drawings came to life. Occasionally an illustration filled an entire page with bright colors and the words faded into the background as I imagined myself into the story.

photo 1-2Even on days when my mother didn’t have time to read, I still looked through the books, drinking in the drawings, remembering stories and poems, planning which ones I wanted her to read next. We wore those books ragged, until the bindings broke down and pages tore and went missing. To this day I love Aesop’s tales and the simple rhymes of early childhood.

A decade ago, while perusing shelves at a small local used bookstore, I ran across a complete and unsullied set of these books. You can only imagine my stunned and delighted response. If they had cost ten times as much as I paid I would have still bought them. As it was, they were a steal. I consider those volumes some of my dearest friends and most cherished possessions. They serve as a link to my tender childhood years and a witness to my love of all things written.

A love of reading and anything to do with words settled securely as the foundation of who I would become because of the time my mother spent reading to me. Her willingness to let me rifle through those pages without worry over how gentle I was or how pristine they might look on the shelf, also planted a seed of familiarity and comfort with the written word.

photo by  Richard Benson

photo by Richard Benson

Occasionally as a young’un I’d see a child’s printing set for sale somewhere and my coveting genes kicked in. I craved the opportunity to hand print a book, letter by letter, word by word with a black stamp pad and alphabet stamps. Obviously I had no concept of what such an ominous task would require. Coming up with the money for this desired prize never happened, so a self-stamped, self-published book stayed a distant, unreachable dream.

I adored attending school, learning new things, from early kindergarten, “we walk on the right side of the hallway,” and onward from there. I also adored my teachers as they held the keys to knowledge whose doors I so very much wanted to pass through.

In first grade our teacher gave an assignment that I ran with. “Write about other things you can do with a pencil beside writing.” I filled my page rapidly with idea after idea of uses for a simple pencil. I felt as if I’d invented some clever, never before conjured ideas. The next day our teacher read my little essay to the class. Such pride never before filled a child’s heart as mine did that day. Then the teacher told me I had “a very creative mind” and that she “expected great things” from me.

In response I threw my all into writing assignments and anything requiring even a modicum of creativity. This lasted well beyond first grade.

Writing became so ingrained in me that when I hit those confusing years between twelve and eighteen I turned to the written word to make sense of it all. I filled notebook after notebook with whatever was cruising through my head. And at that age, one’s head spins at incredible speeds. My journals became my best friend, my confidant, my therapist, and my outlet for stress of all kinds. I’m not sure how other kids survive their teen years, but I got through mine using a number two pencil and reams and reams of paper.

I spend what seems like too much time right here.

I spend what seems like too much time right here.

Then in college one professor in particular praised my writing with abandon and kindness. This professor encouraged me to put a few more years behind me and then write like mad. I’m afraid I put a few too many decades behind me before I let myself go crazy with my writing. Those decades can fill volumes though, if I’m only brave enough and creative enough to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.

Five years ago I sat next to a young woman at a volunteer day. She struck up a conversation with me that led us to learn that we both loved writing. She suggested we form a writer’s group. I thought it sounded like a glorious plan. She had the chutzpah to follow through and find a couple of other women to join us. We four started writing five years ago last month, and haven’t stopped.

All these experiences have taught me something about myself that I hardly dare think out loud and yet I’m about to say it here, in public.

I am a writer.

I owe thanks to a mother who read to me, a set of wonder filled books, a teacher’s praise, a strange but effective coping mechanism, a professor’s encouragement and my writer’s group. Thanks to such a convergence I proudly refer to myself as a writer.

I write so that I know what I’m really thinking. I write so that others can see things through a slightly different lens. I write so that someone can say, “ah, that is exactly how I have felt.”

Mostly, I write because I simply can’t help myself.

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“Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.” ~Erica Jong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Relationships, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“As If You Were to Live Forever”

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m thankful that I’m still learning. My brain had to kick things up a notch or two during this past month in a multitude of ways. I’m happy to report that so far, it’s been equal to the task. At least, no one has complained about my progress so far.

I don't think of myself as middle-aged, but in my second young-adulthood.

Describes exactly how I see myself.

I don’t learn things like other people do. I’m not good at simply memorizing words or facts. My brain needs to wrap itself around the whole concept, the what, the why, the relationships, the where is this going, the sense of it all before I can grasp specifics.

(From what I can tell most people need specifics first, then the whole kind of falls into place.)

Once I get the big picture then the little parts of the picture sync nicely into logical order. Understanding dawns, and my mouth says, “Ah, ha!!” I get a little chill up my spine when something new clicks in my head.

I keep thinking I’m going to get brave and sign up for one of those free online courses from the library, but then I chicken out. Not sure why. Time constraints mostly, I suppose. Plus it’d be an almost public failure if I tanked while trying it.

A few of my favorite textbooks.

A few of my favorite textbooks.

What I’d really love is to be one of those old ladies, twenty or thirty or even forty years from now, sitting in a college class full of eighteen to twenty-two year olds, soaking in knowledge like a student on spring break soaking up the sun. I loved school, (the learning part of it, not the social part of it,) as a kid. I loved college as an almost adult. I loved college as a returning student after five years away from it.

Of course, now it’s not even necessary to go to a classroom to get that sort of learning. But there’s something about interaction with real live people in person that gets my heart pumping and makes me smile all the way to my toes. And the discussion afterwards with a professor reminds me of dessert bars on a cruise ship, absolutely heavenly!

I must sound like such a nerd.

That’s okay. At least my brain isn’t shrinking or empty.

If I ever get to the point where learning doesn’t happen, just set me out to pasture and leave me alone to munch on my granola and yogurt while staring at the horizon. Or better yet, put me out of my misery.

Ah, learning! How do I love thee? Let me do a little math and I’ll get back to you.

 

Two quotes from a couple of brilliant dudes:

 

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

and

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Education, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

What I Know, A Very Short Treatise

At age eighteen I thought I knew so much. That may have been true if you compared me to other eighteen year olds. I read more than the average teen. I took Advanced Placement classes. I took life pretty seriously, and yet, at the time I enjoyed myself. I had some brainy and quick-witted friends.

Ten years after that I looked back at my oh-so-wise-in-my-own-eyes teen self and shook my head. What a naïve girl! A lifetime of non-book learning seemed to occur in those ten short years. I’d put in some college time, sure, but I didn’t learn much the first time as a freshman. Who does, right? Distracted by trying to pay for the privilege of being there, I missed out on a ton of fun and opportunities. I had the dumbest work hours. Missed all the parties, missed all the camaraderie, missed learning how to get along with people.

Then I got to go back to school as a slightly older student and I soaked it all in like a sandbox and water. I had a couple of writing classes that kickstarted me in the sanity direction that words spilling out on paper became.

photo 2-1

One professor in particular encouraged and praised my writing beyond anything I’m sure I deserved. I reread that stuff and wonder how he ever saw potential there. His last  bit of advice to me hit me like an anvil dropped from an outcropping cliff by a road runner. Mind you, as a twenty-five year old mother of two I thought I had some life under my belt.

He said, and I paraphrase, “You’ve got real talent there. Give yourself ten or twenty years of life experience and then you’ll really be a great writer.”

It was like getting a hug while a wearing a burr covered shirt. Ouch!

No, I didn’t set out to live some amazing life of adventure. Having children and my particular husband served well as adventure fodder and life experience. “Sure it is,” you’re thinking as you shake your head “no.”

Let me just insert here that after that first move which pulled me out of college one year shy of a bachelor’s degree, we moved eleven times and added two more children to the mix. From the Northwest to the Southeast to the West to the Midwest and then back to the West. Include a couple or more bounces in each region. Add in two stints of wearing out various relatives for several months in between homes.

I’ve met a wide variety of people. Granted, most of them are American, but not all of them. I learned to get along with people, make friends quickly, climb out of my shell, ask questions, act independently and confidently and navigate the weirdest roads without a smartphone or GPS.

Throw in life’s natural disasters and dramas add a generous mix of teenage angst and a bit of insanity from several directions. What you have several decades later is one woman with a head filled to overflowing with experience but not necessarily wisdom trying to make sense of what she’s done with and to her life.

My own personal bluebird of happiness. He hangs in the laundry room and occasionally chirps out bits of advice.

My own personal bluebird of happiness. He hangs in the laundry room and occasionally chirps out bits of advice.

I look at what I thought I knew in my thirties and shake my head in embarrassment. I look at what I thought I’d figured out in my forties and hide my head and shudder. I look at what I think I know now and at least I know that I know very little.

You know who really knows what’s what? People nearly twice my age. People ten years older than me, twenty years, thirty years older. Where is their wisdom? Why aren’t they out there blogging, writing, sharing, spilling, imparting, enlightening?

Oh yeah, because anyone younger thinks they’ve got it all figured out and they don’t pay attention. Including me to an extent.

What a dingbat.

I know some thirteen year olds who swear I know nothing about the real world. Eh, maybe. But I’m pretty sure I’d beat them in almost any game of life put to the both of us.

There’s no convincing anyone. You have to come to that conclusion yourself.

How?

By getting older. By living.

By time you figure it out, it’s too late to profit much from the wisdom of any other person. Unless you’re willing humble yourself and listen. And then follow through.

Is that what the great circle of life really is? Learning that the stove is hot by getting burned? Figuring out the water is too deep and fast by wading in and being swept away?

I suppose to some extent there’s no way to replace experience. But there’s a few thing I would rather not have had to learn.

And I’m certain there’s more on the horizon I still don’t want to learn. I wish I could just read a book on whatever it is and take a test.

I guess I’ll try to relax and breathe deeply, so when the vehicle starts to roll, or the avalanche lets loose, or the tornado hits, or life spins wildly into vertigo I won’t get too banged up.

Anyone want to volunteer for me? Anyone? Anyone at all?

Katniss?

Ah, well. Life isn’t a novel, or a movie.

Age

Age (Photo credit: garryknight)

In the meantime, I’ll write about it all, a little hear, a little there. I’ll try to make sense of it and share what I can along the way.

You’re welcome to take it or leave it.

I don’t really know all that much, after all.

Categories: Education, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A College Graduation Speech, Sort of, But Not

graduation

(Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

My oldest daughter will graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology on Saturday!!

I am one proud mama!

During the ceremony, speeches will echo out across a sea of caps and gowns. Most of what’s said will skip about the room with a low absorption rate. Most members of the audience will focus on one person in the room, their graduate.

It’s a shame there isn’t a way to personalize such a momentous occasion. To hear from each graduate about the circuitous path they followed to arrive at graduation would take weeks, or months, but oh the stories! To get a taste of the audience members perspective of that path would add a dimension never dreamed of before.

To share some small fraction of lessons learned in and out of the classroom while on that path would fill libraries.

I intended to dispense advice in my own little version of a graduation speech for my daughter. After all, I gave a graduation speech at my high school graduation eons ago.

But then, I thought of my daughter and her path to this point in her journey. She’s taught me more than I ever taught her. I’m certain of it.

She arrived in this world already confident and brave and friendly.

Now she is also: A world traveler. Caring. Smart. Beautiful. Open-minded, open-hearted. Anticipatory. Relaxed. Brave, adventurous, fun. Prepared. Strong. Kind. Willful. Opinionated. Easy going.  Friendly.  Wise.

What’s next? Graduate school? Maybe. A career? Maybe. She’s taking the summer to mull it over and relax. It’s been a long winding road.

My Advice? 

  • Be yourself.
  • Trust your feelings.
  • Remember you are loved.
  • Keep your eyes open.
  • Enjoy.
  • Love.
  • Give.

That’s about it. No speech from me.

She has what she needs, she’ll get where she’s going with style and grace and a smile on her face.

Oh, one last thing:

  • Keep in touch with your mom.

That’s all.

I love you my sweet girl!

Confetti

Hooray for you!! (Photo credit: ADoseofShipBoy)

Categories: Family, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Lessons Learned in a Second Grade Classroom

If you don’t have a child in elementary school, you might have forgotten the sights, sounds and smells of school. Children come at a person with speed, wit, surprising widsom, lack of logic, silliness, lack of attention, a trainload of baggage from home and growly tummies.

If you’ve forgotten the sensation of being a kid, visit an elementary school. Sure, you’ll have to get permission, and convince them that you aren’t a scary, stalker type person, but the hassle could be worth your time in the memories it evokes, if for nothing else.

The following two photos are from an actual second grade classroom.

Five basic rules for two different concepts. Nothing major or groundbreaking.

But definitely missing in society on an all too frequent basis.

photo-13 copyI know grown adults who don’t get these concepts.

photo-11 copy 2I know teenagers who have yet to learn these basics.

I don’t always 100% of the time follow these rules, but I am aware of them and try to be a good listener and a good speaker. Sure I fall short at times.

Seems like common sense. But often what passes as common sense is simply something we learned as young children, as second graders, as tots at mom’s knee, out in the yard from pops, while shucking corn with Grandma.

I could be wrong, but I think second grade teachers know more about real life than most of us give them credit for.

Makes sense to me.

 

Categories: Communication, People | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Little House in the Big World: It’s Not Laura’s Prairie Anymore

We moved when I was in second grade, over Christmas break.  This meant starting at a new elementary school in the middle of the year.  My world suddenly got bigger.  Instead of walking to school, I rode the bus. Instead of a traditional classroom I was in a shared classroom with multiple second grade classes sharing space barely divided by moveable walls, and small reading nooks.  The classes were on a staggered schedule, with different start and end times for various groups in the same grade.

I was one overwhelmed kid in that arena. I nearly missed the bus home the first day at that new school. Too much noise, too much input, too many kids, too much to keep track of.

Add in the fact that we hadn’t yet discovered that I needed eye glasses.  That made this new noisy world fuzzy at about five feet away in any direction.

Charles & Caroline Ingalls

Charles & Caroline Ingalls (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The one thing I remember focusing in on very clearly was story time.  The teacher was reading “Little House in the Big Woods,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Mesmerized within the first paragraph or two, I sat entranced, absorbing every word. I lived for those few precious pages our teacher read to us each day.  I was so spellbound that I started reading these fourth grade level books as soon as I could talk the librarian into letting me check one out.

I loved the world Laura inhabited. Even the difficult things she dealt with didn’t deter my desire to live her life in the wild countryside.  It was a small, manageable world with daily adventures and the perils of nature and society ever-present.

Fast forward a few decades or more.

I am not naïve and brainless. I don’t spend my time watching reality TV or sitcoms. I consider myself informed, well-read, educated, literate, book smart, experienced in the school of hard knocks. I’ve lived through more than a few things, survived a few close calls, I know what real life dishes out. I’m no second grader, not any more.

Since I started blogging, my reading and learning has expanded.  It’s as if, once again, I’ve been transported to a new school, with a new curriculum, in a world that never sleeps. I’ve read blogs from all over the world, learned about things I never dreamed existed, followed the rants and responses to topics that amaze and fascinate me. CNN, BBC, NBC, PBS et al have nothing on bloggers and writers and their ability to inform, entertain, enlighten and share and touch raw nerves.

Here’s the thing.  Instead of a lovely, manageable novel or two of a tiny world, I’ve stumbled upon the entire planet. At least it seems like it.  Suddenly I am feeling guilty for the life of ease I live as I realize someone in Pakistan or Ghana or Croatia is reading my words, my life, my wonderland.  I marvel at the audacity of Americans to think they are the center of the Universe and somehow qualified to make decisions for the rest of the planet. I am breathless as I learn of tiny countries and the families and people that live day-to-day, hand to mouth, oblivious to the worries I think are important. The foundational ideas that make me who I am have developed a few hairline fissures as I’ve tried to balance other world views on the same ground.  The ridiculous and the sublime compete for my time and brainpower.

Superman logo

Superman logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hover between two desires. I want to go back to having no eyeglasses, the world a vague and fuzzy place like it was four months ago. And I want to miraculously have laser vision, a flying cape and super powers, endless resources, time and energy to save, help, lift, care for and make an impact.

There I am thinking I have something to contribute having barely skimmed the surface of information.  Silly me.

I want to go back to focusing on my tiny family of six, or my expanded family of sisters and brothers and parents, or even my extended family with cousins and aunts and uncles. I want the ease of worrying over people in my small community and trying to find time for a few friends who need a listening ear or a friendly face.

I barely manage to work, fix dinner, do laundry and keep the house clean. Occasionally I’m able to help out a friend, call a sibling, touch base with someone I feel a responsibility toward.  If I gave up sleep I still couldn’t care for all the people in my life I want to care for, love, share with and spend time around.  How can I possibly do anything with all this new information, this new sense of weight, responsibility and worry I have for the rest of the world?

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The genie can’t be stuffed back into the bottle.  And, unfortunately, I can’t make a wish and have phenomenal cosmic powers.

Here is one itty bitty woman with tiny resources, 24 hours in my day, with a new weight trying to settle in on my shoulders.

Part of me wants to disconnect from the internet, move to a distant, isolated tract of land and simply live a small quiet life.  But I can’t.  Even if I could, I couldn’t.

I’ve heard the stories, I know they’re out there. Reality is too real. I am lost and probably about to miss the bus again.

A good book isn’t going to give me a grip on anything at this point.  Maybe I just need to step back, clean off my glasses and try to pull things in to focus.

Categories: The World, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

It’s Another Gratituesday! Six Reasons I’m the Richest Person I Know

It’s Gratituesday! October 16  –  Today I find myself unable to focus on just one single thing I’m grateful for.  My cup runs over with gratitude. Today I am more aware and appreciative of:

  • The freedom I have to speak my mind without reprisal or fear. I know this is a relatively rare thing in the world at large.  Sometimes it’s a rare thing even here in the US.  Repression rears its ugly head in private homes, too.
  • My education; knowing how to read, write, figure out math, understand scientific concepts, grasp difficult ideas, think and reason.
  • Employment; the job I currently have allows me incredible flexibility and freedom.  I’m treated well, better than I deserve and I feel loved appreciated. How many people do you know that can say that about a job?  How many people do you know wish they had a job of any kind?
  • Having two parents who have always been supportive, loving, caring, kind and generous.
  • Extended family fanning out in many directions, and in just as many flavors.  Good times!
  • An abundant life filled with opportunity, friends, health, experiences, fun, challenge, growth and variety.

I’m amazed as I think about the richness of my life.

It’s a good day for reflection.  There is so much that’s good in the world.  So many things that can bring happiness to mind.

I hope if you were to list some of your blessings, some of  your “happies” you’d find yourself feeling equally blessed.

Categories: Gratituesday, Joy | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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