What Are We Teaching Our Children?

November 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Risking sounding like an old worry-wart, I do sometimes wonder what we, as a society, are teaching our children. That said, my faith is not lost on the youth – not yet – as I know many who are not only bright and beautiful but resilient and strong thinkers. And isn’t it the task of every generation to worry about the next? Our parents surely did at some point, and theirs before them. “What is the world coming to?” and “How will these kids become our great leaders, our future?” are probably timeless questions.

In fact, it’s not the kids themselves I worry about. It’s what they see, hear, and ultimately experience on a daily basis. What they’re “fed”. In near gluttonous levels.

Is it that any problem can be medicated away? Is it that violence is commonplace? Is it that hard work is for someone else? What examples do they have, within their families, within their communities, and within that great machine of celebrity? Are they examples with solid values at their core, or examples of shrewdness, coolness, false fronts?

I wonder. In lots of ways these are exciting times to be alive. But there’s so much coming at them, so much! ~ so much accessibility to just about anything and everything, so much information to filter and absorb and sort.

To be fair, within the “so much” is an abundance of good, right alongside the not so good and even the atrocious. And maybe because they grow up with it, their brains may adapt in ways we ~ who did not have so much-so much-so much coming at us in one continual thread of bundled energy sprouting a thousand tendrils ~ perhaps do not so easily adapt ~ or maybe we have more built-in resistors.

We remember what is was like to be bored without incessant distractions. Yet they are there, smack dab, and they are oh so attractive, these distractions.

Still, if you take that child to a farm for a week, or take them to the mountains where there’s no electronic reception, a marvelous thing happens: they do just fine. They don’t think they will. But they do. And that has to be good. Because there has to be room for the spirit to breathe some of the time. Just to “be”, to discover or just sense what’s driving the wondrously distinctive ship called you.

In any event, what are we teaching… ? Is it to be a good person, strive to do your best, have a sense of humor, care for others, build dreams? The art of communication? Or is it wanting what someone else has; their look, their money, their life. Glamour. Intrigue. Drama.

So you just hope you set a good example. A strong, good one. (And that more are setting that example than what we hear about.) You hope you provide enough stimulation and opportunity to get through the onslaught of stuff. Trusting and hoping that at the end of the day doing the right thing will win.

Okay, worry session over. Although I do wonder what they’ll say in 20 or 30 years. Maybe it’ll sound something like “Kids these days…. “

 

Outrageous Happiness #11: The Goofy Quotient

November 9, 2014 § 4 Comments

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I was recently marveling at the architecture in an old city in northern New York. “Oooooh! Look at that one! Just look, oh, the detail! And that one, oh my goodness, it looks like something from Harry Potter. And that one. And over there, that’s a beauty! And just imagine, people built these! Who were they? What were their lives like? How long did it take? Did they take pride in their work? They must have. And who designed them? Aren’t they amazing?”

With a knowing smile in her voice, my daughter says,”Mom, you’re such a nerd.”

“Yes, I am,” I reply.  “And I embrace that!”

…………….

So, yep, I enjoy old architecture. But in truth, I’m mostly a word nerd. Granted, I suppose it’s not so “inner” since it doesn’t take long before people know this about me. Like how much I like Scrabble. Or how almost any word game will do ~ on a board, on paper, in the car, at the table. “Twenty Questions” anyone? Maybe a good round of the Geography game to pass the time on a long drive?

Yes, I love words. How they sound, how they form sentences, the infinite varieties of written expression. Some people like old comic books, or maybe they’re all about shoes. Maybe they’re into astronomy or Egyptian hieroglyphics. Maybe football and nachos. I like words and tea. (And hot fudge sauce.)  A bit geeky, but being cool is not the goal, being happy is. (And, true, a nice pair of boots doesn’t hurt…)

Goofy is also good. Not all the time – but the well-placed goofy quotient can really turn things around; in fact, my first love may have stolen my heart that way. He was a pretty big deal, handsome, smart, athletic. And on one of our first few tennis-playing dates, I wore these silly flag socks. Not sure why; it could have been that’s all that was clean, but more likely because they were fun, and somewhat out of character. In any event, my boyfriend seemed to mock me. I acted like it didn’t matter, but it felt hurtful, like an “oh brother, what a weirdo” sort of vibe. So the next time we played tennis, I was sure to wear the plain variety  ~ and he showed up in the same flag socks as mine, grinning from ear to ear. Strangely unromantic as it sounds, I do believe that was that was the tipping point for me.

The moral of the story being that your inner nerd likes to be heard. It wants to play. And I for one think it’s a necessary ingredient to personal happiness, worthy of indulgence now and then!

How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Things That Go Bump in the Night (… boo!)

October 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’ll be missing the trick-or-treaters this year, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get into the “spirit” of things. So I present you with some art and prose to keep the spirit alive. (oh, yea, I said that)  Just remember to keep the little ones safe, stir your cauldrons slowly and never take candy from a goblin you don’t know.

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Print small_pencils.boo peace_halloween_72
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……………………………..

All Hallows

By Louise Gluck

Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
sleep in their blue yoke,
the fields having been
picked clean, the sheaves
bound evenly and piled at the roadside
among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:
This is the barrenness
of harvest or pestilence.
And the wife leaning out the window
with her hand extended, as in payment,
and the seeds
distinct, gold, calling

Come here
Come here, little one

And the soul creeps out of the tree.

 ……………………………..
Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I
by William Shakespeare

Three witches, casting a spell …
Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights hast thirty one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

 ……………………………..

And a song to sing:
to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”)

If you’re a monster and you know it, wave your arms.
If you’re a monster and you know it, wave your arms.
If you’re a monster and you know it,
and you really wanna show it,
If you’re a monster and you know it, wave your arms.

……………………………..
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……………………………..

And off I go then.
But first I will leave you with this link to some really cool, very spooky art created by artist Don Kenn. Happy Halloween…. !

Vintage Vogue

October 24, 2014 § 2 Comments

These fall into the “they don’t make things like they used to” category. Not just because they’re well illustrated, or because of their artistry and creativity, but because of the cleanliness, the sheer un-clutteredness, the freedom from too many headlines and too much text vying for attention. They’re a breath of fresh air, courtesy of the early 1900′s.

Aren’t they wonderful?

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A Few Words on Compassion

October 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

You may have seen Monica Lewinsky’s speech by now, recently presented at the Forbes Under 30 Summit. I remember well her being a target of some pretty vicious emotional attack. Depending on your age you will too. It was The Big Scandalous News. Can’t imagine the road she’s traveled back to some degree of “normalcy”, but I’m happy to see her turn it around, use her high profile to aim that experience towards something potentially good. And she does so very genuinely. My applause, Monica; big and loud applause.

And I hope she strikes a chord. She struck a chord with me ~ which is, quite frankly, what the hell is wrong with people? I’ve never understood “meanness”. I understand anger, and I understand wrongful things said and done, I even understand rage. I understand people have this incredibly wide range of emotions that run the gamut from joy to grief, love to hate, forgiveness to resentment, appreciation to bitterness, pride to shame. But unless you’ve got a mental illness as the root cause, being outright rude, being thoughtlessly and openly mean is incomprehensible to me.

I also understand that for some reason, kids in particular can be very mean to one another. There’ve always been mean kids, mean people, mean situations. Not that that’s “okay”, it just “is”. But the continuing rise in cyber-bullying brings all this to a whole new and deeply disturbing level, because it can be anonymous or feel “safely barricaded”. The culprits hawk their slurs behind the closed doors of digital gadgets and screen names – like a video game, it’s almost like it’s not real. But it’s real, alright, and I simply can’t get my head around this growing culture of “mean.” This sort of human indifference. The opposite of compassion.

(And it’s not just kids. Hello grown-ups. Hello news outlets. What’s wrong here? A need to be right? Feel powerful? Be the first to know? A mass gossip gene?)

In the old days it hurt well enough if someone picked on the fat kid, or the slow kid, or the geeky boy the clumsy girl. I’m not sure it if was a good or a bad thing to know who your taunter was, but maybe you had it out in the playground, or maybe you grew up to be a wild success and it no longer mattered. But you knew who to steer clear of. And more than likely, the person doing the damage knew it was wrong. I have to wonder, are we cultivating a society where right and wrong aren’t recognized? Who’s teaching what to whom these days?

Sticks and stones may hurt my bones but names will never hurt me. We were taught this growing up, and there’s truth there. But it can hurt, some people more than others, and while I think we need to develop self-esteem and thicker skins and not shrivel into a ball when someone is less than kind, those tools aren’t always built-in, they take time.

Think before you speak. Think before you act. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Pretty darn simple.

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The 5 Minute Whine

October 19, 2014 § 2 Comments

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Okay, just for the record, I think this is a dumb rule. Yes, even I, Miss Positive Pants, Miss Live Your Dreams, Miss Make Lemonade From Lemons, Miss Outrageous Happiness, Miss I Can Do This ~ even I sometimes feel the need to whine, and I’ve decided that it’s okay. It might even be healthy. It might be good for you! We all have “those days”, and sometimes ya just need to get it out, let it rip, blow a smallish gasket. Vent. Complain, if you will. Maybe there oughta be a 1-800-WHINE number to call.

Sometimes the act of whining even gives you a fresh perspective. Once it’s over, it somehow clears the air to feeling more appreciative of what you do have, of what’s right in your world, instead of what’s not.

But you only get 5 minutes. And you only get to whine occasionally. Then you have to put your head back on straight, cheer up and move on. Otherwise you become your whining. And that’s just not cool. Because, you know, we are what we think, and any prolonged attention usually produces a state of mind for the better or for the worse. I choose for the better.

But first, I may have to have a good 5 minute whine. Don’t mind if I do. And I certainly won’t mind if you do. As long as it doesn’t become a habit, we’re good. Then we can get back to this more inspiring, less-strict-but-still-firm version of the no whining rule. Who’s in?

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Fun With Apples

October 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

Fruits may very well be one of the most universally painted subjects. Fruits, flowers, landscapes, portraits – all very classic.  But fruits in particular, ah … they’re full of delicious secrets, hidden like magic beneath their splendid curves, their dappled, imperfect skins protecting succulent juices dripping with nutrients, new life at their very core. They are marvels. God’s candy. Delivered fresh every season. And to the artist’s eye, something entirely pleasing, century after century.

For me, it’s always been pears and apples. Grapes are nice. Peaches, too. But apples and pears are my favorites. So I delighted in some apple-picking last weekend, and pulling out my handy-dandy iPhone for some on-the-spot shots. And since I’m now an expert, I share with you how to have fun with apples:

First, you go to the farm and walk to the apple orchards. You see your favorite variety (SunCrisps), and just because it’s a beautiful day, stop and take a few pictures. Then you start picking.

Next you take a selfie with your daughter (< insert your own favorite person) (well, she takes the selfie); pick a few more apples, put ‘em in the basket, take ‘em home.

Then you notice the afternoon sun streaming in lovely ribbons through the kitchen window, grab your camera and shoot a few  more shots of your freshly picked produce. Added bonus: you get to eat your prize. All in all, a pretty sweet way to spend an October day. Costs little, inspires much.

But it didn’t end there, because I thought I’d share some apple art into the mix here too. for a real apple fest. Enjoy! :  )

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Outrageous Happiness #10: Traffic Magic

October 1, 2014 § 3 Comments

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Sitting out in the sunshine this past weekend, with a book, a cup of tea, taking in the joy of late-September’s gloriousness, looking up at the first real sparks of color in the changing leaves against a clear cobalt sky, I think to myself: I sure am glad I’m not sitting in traffic right now. Why traffic would pop into my mind at a moment like this, I cannot say. Of course, yes, I also think how beautiful it all is. I’m glad I’m here. Not in traffic. And I’m reminded of the time…

My daughter and I were driving back from a wedding. Cruising the 8 hour stretch from Ohio across the Pennsylvania heartland. We may have been singing “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad” to pass the time.

We were super tired. Anxious to be off the road, home and near our pillows, when an hour and a half before “home” we come to a grinding halt. Cars lined up for miles. You know the drill. No where to go, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, you’re just there. I begin to fume. Steam shoots from my ears. Shrill words come from my mouth. Hand bangs against the steering wheel.  My daughter chimes in. We sit. And we sit. The car doesn’t move more than a foot at a time. We’re miserable humans stuck at the tail-end of the Pennsylvania Turnpike with a bunch of other miserable humans. 

It was then that a touch of insanity arrived. I snapped. “You know what, sweetie? This is great. No, I mean this is SO great. This is so great I can hardly believe it! This is exactly where we’re supposed to be, and sitting here, trapped on this highway, is absolutely WONDERFUL! This is FANTASTIC!”

Utterance from the back seat: “Mom, are you okay?”

“YESSSS!”, I shout with delight. “I’m GREAT!”

“Mom?”

“No, really. This is perfect. Don’t you see? This is the best place we could possibly be right now. Sitting here. In our car. Miles from home in a super-sized traffic jam. It’s perfect! I’m so happy we’re here. Aren’t you? I mean, who knows why, but this is where we’re meant to be, so why not embrace that? It’s crazy but it’s true! I’m loving it. Loving the traffic. Loving the road! Loving the other cars with all the other miserable humans inside feeling their miserable thoughts! If only they knew. This is so awesome, hun!”

“O-kaaaay…?”

“Really. It’s more than okay. And pretty soon, the traffic is gonna move and we’re gonna move and then we’ll be on our way and before you know it, we’ll be home near our pillows. We’re gonna travel safely and smoothly. Everyone here’s gonna travel smoothly and safely! The traffic’s gonna move, just you watch. It’ll move exactly at the right time. I can feel it. I just know it. It’s all so right. This is GREAT!!! Smoothly and safely. It’s all gonna move. It’s all good. It’s just as it’s mean to be. And pretty soon….”

And don’t you know, the traffic started to move. Smoothly and safely.

Coincidence, sure …. but it had me convinced that magic had indeed transpired. Nor would it be the first nor the last time that “traffic magic” cast a good spell.

Ah well. Wizardry or not, it was still pretty fine to be enjoying the cloudless sky and shimmering color and warmth of the sun on my skin, instead of aimlessly burning fossil fuel on a highway somewhere.  And all these little joys shone through… The last ripe pepper on the vine, the fully-pumped tires on my bike, butterflies dining on zinnia’s. A cup of tea, a good book. And right then, that was exactly where I was meant to be.

Isn’t it the truth; sometimes the simplest things are the most outrageously uplifting.

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

Friday Night Book Club: Devouring Words

September 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

A more delicious work of writing in recent months, I have not read. Anthony Doerr’s latest novel is a shining star.

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from “All the Light We Cannot See”, a stunning novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

We’ve read quite a few books since I last wrote about our Friday Night Book Club ~ many of them noteworthy ~ but All The Light We Cannot See was, to me, the most notably delicious. It’s storytelling at its best, woven with a scrumptious use of language. Doerr marries prose with bold emotion and stark realism, the offspring being sentence after readable, captivating sentence.

And yes, the characters! Always the characters – you have to “care” about them, and we do.

This novel passes my “what makes a book really worthwhile” test with flying colors: It’s got to be purely great storytelling. That means brilliant writing. Personable, intriguing characters. Interesting plots, invisibly rich details. You’re immersed. You’re engaged. You care.

I’ll also add that I like to feel I’m learning something. And here, in All the Light We Cannot See, I learned about a different side of World War II (a subject I seem to be perennially fascinated by), primarily taking place in France and seen through the eyes of two intriguing children. But learning alone is not enough. I wanna be grabbed by the belt, taken on a voyage, filled with wonder. All The Light We Cannot See does all that. It’s one of those books that makes your life feel richer for having read it.

………….

For you book lovers out there, we gather on the first Friday of each month, if you want to read along virtually. Other Book Club Books read since my last Friday Night Book Club posting are The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (loved), The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (loved), The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (really loved), and Raven Black by Ann Cleeves (liked).

I also have a really long list of books on my GoodReads author page if anyone wants to connect over there.

Peace, love, happy reading.

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What Poetry Tastes Like

September 21, 2014 § 2 Comments

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