One glorious advantage

For decades I have lamented my lack of formal, accredited, liberal arts education. I admit it. I have been envious of my husband's multiple degrees, life experience, and most of all ... his time IN LIBRARIES DOING RESEARCH. Someone really does need to hire me as a research assistant.

But, guess what I just did? I started researching ONLINE, in preparation for my final paper for the 19th Century Lit course I am taking ONLINE. And guess what you can do in these here modern times? You can do LIBRARY RESEARCH ONLINE.

And guess what is included in these gloriously, wonderfully, infinitely searchable, hyperlinked, interconnected, downloadable files and journals and articles and such? (This is just so cool.) When I find a journal article I want to use, I print it out. And then I click on the link that gives me the entire citation, all formatted and ready to put into my paper, in MLA format, or APA format, or whatever I want. Poof. Just like that.

Today I have decided that there is a most wonderful advantage to my having waited all this time to earn my own degree. Search, research, locate, click, cut, and paste. What's not to love? On days like this I feel like a whole Lois Greenfield portfolio (searchable, of course)!


Harder than it should be

Not at all sure that our intentions match, but our faces do. Good GOLLY I'm having trouble making myself do my school work today. "Success comes to those who deserve it" is what it says for this picture at thismakesmelaugh.com. And actually, it says "those who deserves it." Typo. I can certainly see that easily enough. And when I succeed at this blasted project, I'll deserve it. How can someone who loves writing and loves reading and loves proofreading and loves all the various parts (how can I, of all people) have such a hard time making myself do this work?!

The third and final first

Today I intend to keep the boxes of tissues handy. This is my third and final first Day of Bittersweet Birthday Weeping. As I said before, It Always Slams Me on Their Birthdays.

First, the girl baby -- who spent her eighteenth in the woods, clearing trails, cutting off all her hair except the bangs and side locks - it's called a Chelsea, and THAT was interesting! She still says all girls should shave their heads at least once because girls should learn to define themselves by something other than their looks -- I say there are less drastic ways to come to such personal perspectives. But then ... I always do say that sort of thing to my daughter. I am generally in opposition to repeated broken noses, and need not run full force into brick walls to recognize their brickwallishness. I'm just sayin. (But she does have a nicely shaped head. And hair grows back.)

Then the youngest - the adventurer - the Get-it-done Kid. First he said he was moving out right after high school and then he did it. He got his job, he found an apartment, he moved into more financially realistic digs, he moved in with a friend because of the problem with housemates, and finally he found a good place of his own. He went to school. He gave up his car and learned to commute on a bike and on public transportation. (He had two reasons: financial expense, and emotional expense - he was constantly enraged when behind the wheel of his car in the city.) When that kid says he's going to do something, he does it. And then his birthday came. The first one he did not begin or end in our house. I cheer him on -- and on his birthday, I keep the tissues handy.

And now that taller, curlier, more bearded young giant. It takes my breath away. He turns 23 today. Twenty-three, for cryin out loud. He's the same age I was nine days before my wedding (which makes me the same age my mother was when I got married), and I'm quite glad it's not nine days before his wedding, because I'm very much NOT ready for that! Fortunately, he isn't either. But he's not here. He's at college. It's not far away, but it might as well be Africa - or Asia - or any of the other places he might very well visit someday, researching things like Throat Singing.

Today I think about my tiny, curly-headed little blue-eyed baby. I remember those awful night terrors - I remember how little trouble he was to me, and how much trouble he always was to himself. I remember his frustrated tears and fierce determination over things like video games he refused to abandon until he'd reached the goal. And I remember how boundless his imagination was and still is, and the fact that he taught himself to read - lying on the floor, with his head in the bathroom and his body in the hall. Was he listening to Green Eggs and Ham echo?

My fierce, private, serious, hilarious, wry, focused, soft-hearted, scary Asian movie-watching, weird music-making, curly-headed son turns twenty three today. I'll have pizza delivered to his dorm or something like that. Pass the kleenex, would you?

Good ideas

It was a good idea to think of sending a letter to someone via a postal system, so that everyone could send letters - not just people who could afford messengers of their own. (And I wish I could go someplace with such charming pillar boxes when I want to post a letter! Those are in the UK, where they seem to have some kind of unique genius in charming design for ordinary objects.)

It was also a good idea to connect people via telegraph lines ... and then telephones ... and to put those 'phones into houses. Yes. All good ideas. For summoning help, finding your loved ones, ordering pizza ... telemarketers notwithstanding, that was a good idea. Thanks, Innocenzo, Antonio, Johann Philipp, Elisha, Alexander Graham, and Thomas. You had some good ideas there.

It was also a good idea to hook up all the people everywhere. I bet there were a lot of grumpy folk in rural areas who didn't want the city men coming in, and who grumped about the Rural Telephone Administration as much as they did about Rural Electrification. The first man of the house in this house was not pleased about electricity (or indoor plumbing, for that matter) and the family tells me that the old man would not stay here to watch the installation. He left the house for the day in protest. But there's no stopping progress, and this was progress. It is better not to be isolated.

It's also better not to pollute the world we live in. A lot of toxicity happens with batteries of any kind, and now that we're all the way up to cell phones (and a plethora of other electronic communications devices - enough to make us all deaf and distracted for all eternity), we are ready to start solving that pollution thing. Here comes one of the best ideas I have seen in my lifetime. This one ranks right up there with recycling bins at the curb, TiVo, and distance learning. (Of course, once again, Japan is waaaaaay ahead of us here in the U S of A.)

See this? It's a cell phone ... and it's solar powered!
The phone, created by Sharp and Japanese network KDDI, is set to be released this summer. It works by using a special solar panel that snaps onto the device and soaks up the sun's rays. The companies say 10 minutes in the sun will give you enough juice for about a minute of talk time, or two full hours of standby power. (From: Today@PC World)
Ten minutes. Hmm ... I wonder if we're going to get a whole ten minutes of sun today here in Skamania County. We might not - but this is still a good idea. I have a solar powered calculator in my purse. It's very tiny, and it always turns on, and I know the sun does not get into the depths of my purse very often, so I know they're going to invent a cell phone with even better solar capabilities. And that's a good idea.


Education is the Science of Relations ... so's baking

Charlotte Mason, a woman brilliant in her day, "ahead" of her time (which, in my opinion, means we moderns are surprised to find her relevant -- sheer hubris), made several good statements of educational fact. She taught that "children are born persons," and that "the mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum." She also taught that
Education is the Science of Relations
and she was right about this. Understanding the relationship between one thing and another is what makes musical intervals, healthy bodily habits, poetry, horticulture, and commandments functional. Nothing works without proper relationships. And that includes the baking of a loaf of bread.Rarely do I purchase brand new books, and even more rarely do I purchase these books in hardcover. But this is one I intend to purchase as soon as possible. Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, by Michael Ruhlman.

Faster than it seems

If, at the end of this quarter I have accomplished everything I set out to do, I will have accrued a total of forty-three or forty-four credits (I'll make that last decision when I get to the end of the quarter.) If I finish the PLA writing in the summer, I'll have more than sixty. Sixty quarter credits done by the second fall of school - that's about four full time school quarters, accomplished while attending half time. And THAT's what PLA is for! If I also add in the standardized testing I would like to do, the number will be closer to ninety - and that's two full years worth of credits in one. And that feels very good.


The Hardest Thing

Sometimes it required effort to parent small children. Sometimes we were sleep deprived or didn't feel so great ourselves, and taking care of children was hard to do with an even temper. Sometimes it was frustrating to watch them be frustrated, or maddening to watch them be angry. Sometimes it was really really hard.

But the hardest thing of all, after all is said and done, is to hear that the child you tried to raise as an intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and physically intact human being has just received her anthrax vaccines and all the rest of them. And you know what such assaults on her immune system to do her, and you can hear the tears in her voice, and know that she is in the middle of the emotional reverberations and because of this she just thinks she's a little emotional today. She never will remember (because you don't remember such things about yourself either) that there is a reason for the tremors in her voice and inner compass.

So you tell her to find a good health food store and look up the homeopathic remedy for the effects of these vaccines, and you repeat yourself until she hears you. If all else fails, you say, take some Arnica. Arnica is for shock. And then you resolve keep tabs on her for the next week or so, to make sure she is okay.

And then you remember.

In a couple of months she'll be in Afghanistan and there are no remedies there.


Wild Library Leavening

Perfectly delightful discovery yesterday at work. I work as a sub in the local community library. I love my hours there because libraries make me happy just by being libraries. But lately there's a new and interesting development. The "collection" (all the stuff the library owns) has begun to "float" (move from library to library by means of getting checked in wherever it lands and staying there).

The old-fashioned way was for each individual library to have and develop its own collection. Then the libraries made districts, and started to share their collections. (This, I imagine, went down with various librarians just about like a suggestion that they all share family members - or blood.) This sharing was done with extreme care and control. Stickers and markers and dates and a "grid" were in use so that everything would proceed in orderly fashion and the librarians would all know where their "own" books were at all times.

But then ..... (dun dun dunnnnnn!) a new computer system came in, and for some unknown and unknowable reason, the grid never worked again. Poof! Someone apparently shot the last living dodo bird, and the species was extinct. Just like that.

And the workers complained, and the librarians fussed, and the collections languished. (Hear laments being played on cellos here. Or the steadily dying beat of a funeral dirge.) It got verrrrry boring with only a few new books to alleviate the samey shelving that went on and on and on.

Then the librarians (who had become accustomed to a constantly self-refreshing collection, and had learned to like it) took matters into their own hands. "Fine," they said. "WE will rotate the stuff. Librarian Jane, I will send you a bunch of audio books, and you will send me a bunch of yours - okay?" said Librarian Joan. And so they did.

This went on for awhile, and then the whole system suddenly woke up. The solution, once completely inconceivable, and predicted by many to produce madness and chaos, was to let the community build the collection. Not by making suggestions, and not by being in on purchasing, and not by any other means than directly. In the district, it was already possible to return a book to any library regardless of its original home, but now the collection "floats" - wherever it gets returned is where it stays. When there's a jam-up of stuff, the librarians clear the drain and send it on to somewhere else; the collection is starting to perk up and look more and more interesting; and all of this was done by means of exerting less control over the specifics.

Apparently, libraries are like really good bread. You put in the flour and water, and you let the random spores leaven the lump. The library is being leavened by wild yeast, and it tastes great!

Really good story - and jazz!

"Tell me a story .... pleeeease?"

These days I'm insatiable, and the stories I want to hear are the ones about soldiers who come home and have lives that benefit from their time in the military,

and the stories about people who make a living with a combination of things they do at home, on their own land, in their own homes, and do it as a second career (but it's a bit late for "second" around here ... twenty-second, maybe ...),

and the stories about women in universities, women who've joined the chorus with their own voices and done something significant - after the age of 50,

and the ones about really inventive young parents and young adults who figure out oddball ways to make things work in ways no one else ever figured out,

and the ones about up and coming artists, composers, film makers ... (although, I gotta say, I'm a bit worried about that film maker one -- my Young Giant could go hungry for a lot of years going down that path -- but he'd be okay. I know he'd be okay. He'd be good at it too. (oh.) I just figured it out. I think I might be worried that I would not be able to figure out what he's doing. Yes. Well. Been there, and I know I'd be okay too. So ... where was I?)

and the stories about musicians. New musicians. Talented musicians. Musicians from HERE who do all kinds of stuff! Got a good one today. This musician is sooooo "Portland" - and then she went to Berklee in Boston, and that's what my Young Giant wants to do, and this is a verrrrry good story indeed. Click here to go to the NPR interview and story, and click on the picture to go to Esperanza's own gorgeous and exuberant (bilingual!) site. This up and coming generation just makes me so danged HAPPY!!!


A job I could not do

Well, it's happened. I have encountered my first maddening academic moment. I am taking a Lit course, and of course, in a lit course a horse is not a horse, of course, of course. We are studying 19th century Lit, and right now we are discussion Jane Austen's Persuasion, and I'm sorry, I am apparently some kind of Philistine or Troglodyte or something. Howcome it's not just a story about a woman who found out she didn't have to be an old maid after all? Why does it need to be about feminist ideals or autonomy from formerly feudal societies or things like that? It's just a story! It's a good one, too.

But ... see ... the people who study these things as a lifetime's pursuit -- they're not so easily dismissed, these people. For them, the novel is a fascinating specimen on the table, to be dissected and pulled apart and put under various lights. I get that. I understand the fascination, and I respect their expertise. But I think this is why I could never be an English Lit major, or for that matter, a novelist. I haven't got the stomach for it. It seems so ... well, it seems so detached. Characters in my favorite novels are people in my mind, and it bothers me to have them made into constructs.

N.B. re: The System

N.B. Refer to the notes.

The system works, but I will derive no benefit from it if I do not actually look at what I have noted down. Today I am ready for work an hour early because I had the time wrong in my head and did not look at my noted calendar.

N.B. ~ Nota bene is a Latin phrase meaning "note well." It is in the singular imperative, instructing one individual to note well the matter at hand. In present-day English, it is used to draw the attention of the reader to a certain (side) aspect or detail of the subject on hand, translating it as "pay attention" or "take notice." It is often written in the abbreviated form: N.B.

Did anyone tell YOU that you would have to teach your old self new tricks, or did you get the impression in childhood that all adults already knew what they were doing?


Wow. Just wow.

I'm sure you've heard of Susan Boyle. I'm sure you've heard her sing her bit for Britain's Got Talent. But if you really want to be knocked silly by her voice, go here, to Scottish TV (yes, really), and listen to her sing Cry Me A River. (And don't watch the montage. The song needs you to close your eyes and feeeeeel it.)

Yes! It works!

As far as I can tell, I've finally nailed a system for keeping track while working - keeping track, that is, of ideas which persist on trying to storm the cranial gates and take the brain by storm, thereby making the land in which I am trying to sow, tend, and reap some very specific OTHER idea than the marauding ideas. I think these notepad sized post its are going to be the magic weapon - the freeze you where you stand so I can come and get you later power of the wand. (And that castle is a coloring page you can download - just click on it)

In the comments, Nell asked about a recording device. I invented one, actually. (scroll down to the Thinktank) It got honorable mention.

But the problem with the Thinktank is the necessity for transcription. I can't use a recording device if I do not also have a secretary. So ... it doesn't solve my original problem.

But this notepad system, now. This is just tactile enough for me (actual paper and pens are involved), just flexible enough (and a blessing on all the descendants unto the seventh son of the seventh son of the person who invented stickum that doesn't stay stuck), and just portable enough (in a pinch, I could grab the handful from one whole category to take with me on the way out the door).

Now I need a big dry erase board to stick them to so I can draw lines for the category places and take other notes. And I think this is going to be the topic for my Problem Solving paper. After reading Dan Crowe's How I Write, I have been looking for my own best Idea Generating Situation. After taking Problem Solving, I barely even feel silly at all for needing it.

A system?

I think I'm onto something.

Requirements: moveable, re-arrangeable, accessible

Today's requirement: something already on my desk, or at least in this room

Solution: I think this can work. They're notepad sized, color codeable, and I already have some. I can take notes onto them, at the end of the day put them up in their places in a board divided into places into which to put them ("School" "Home/Office" "Writing Ideas" ... etc) and then when I need them I'll just take them down and use them. More flexible than spiral notebooks, less easily lost than naked 3x5 cards. Yeah. I think this could work. And this is me, taking notes as I go.

Now ... where was I?

The blank surprise of it all

I do not think this has ever happened to me before. In years past, the end of winter's darkness has seemed like a cruelty. I have concluded that my ancestors were probably mole people, all of whom deeply resented being pulled from the cozy darkness each year, out into the uncomfortable light of spring.

But THIS year ... this year is different. Something happened during a long and winter of our discontent. Some unseen battle was fought. Something I could feel, but only as the thing passed by. The only way I knew was that the wind moved my hair around a little. Some small change in the sound of the worlds - a modulation of the key in which the universe sings. Something, I know, has happened.

So here I am. Monday morning. A PLA essay to finish. Housework calling. Reading to do. Ancient Faith playing on the computer after my morning dose of NPR's Morning Edition. Three fat, over-confident and brazen "wild" deer in the front yard are eating the grass and new leaves. The sun is proving that it was not a dream, and there really are more colors in the world than the one implacable color of this past winter.

Something has happened. The world is waking up again, and so am I.


Sooner rather than later

Today, all day, Problem Solving - the in-class portion, with the paper due June 1. Today, all day, the seedlings of thoughts, resolutions, habits, and knowledge became, at last identifiable. And today, all day, there were the recurring thoughts of "this is what I am supposed to be doing; now how shall I accomplish it?"

Things I need to do, beginning immediately.

1. Morning pages, a la Julia Cameron, and regardless of the parts of the book I didn't like or see myself using. These, I need to do. (She mentions them in nearly every book she's written, I think. I read about them in The Writing Diet, which book I was tempted to hide whilst reading because it's embarrassing - and really irritating! - to be having this much of an issue with general physical malaise and subsequent increase of clothing size.)

2. "Make a note." This was a real gem of an idea from my instructor for my PLA essays. Do NOT follow interesting lines of "new learning." Prior Learning Assessment is about stuff you already know ... it's "prior" learning. If you come across something you want to learn about, make a note, leave it alone, and move on. (clang!!) It's a huge fear for me that when I go back to look at something again, I will not be able to find it. Just typing the sentence describing it makes me twitchy. And so I pursue all leads when I see them. But this has got to stop. I cannot make any progress if I don't just "take a note" and move on.

3. Take notes. That's what I learned today. I have got to start taking notes in the midst of the process I go through, and they need to be notes about the process itself. I kept losing track of my own train of thought today, and it was aggravating. Just like taking notes when there is an instructor, I need to take notes along the way when I work on my own. I suspect this may turn out to be a parallel track I might need for writing in general - a kind of side-bar notepad so I can see what I'm doing and also do it.

So ... that's three notebooks here at my elbow all the time. Or, better yet, here right by the computer monitor where I can see them and remember to use them.

Then there's

4. Take more walks. (Take any walks.) ((Okay... take a walk.)) Everyone from Julia Cameron to Nietzsche says that's where the good creativity is, and today it came up in Problem Solving.

5. Schedule some more emotional processing time. (Watching sad movies helps, but I think the morning pages will help with that too.) I can feel a backlog building. I need a few good cries.

6. Get a Jobs Schedule system on the wall. Dry erase? I think so. Must look into this. This week. It's been awhile since my days needed to be this clocked out ahead of time, but I have to admit to myself that the time has arrived. (And don't laugh at me. Lots of people overschedule themselves and live like that all the time, but I jumped off that ship a long time ago. I don't want to be on board that ship again either. I just need a little dingy. ...yeah, yeah ... write your own joke here.)

And in closing, this poem crossed my path again today. So I'm going to pass it on to you. It was written by Derek Walcott

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.


I'd like to order a Keeper

Seriously. I need a Keeper. On this morning of fog and drizzle, the damp before the warmth and sun, on this morning which is a prelude to another round of PLA writing and online Lit course, on this morning which is a Friday in a calm and cheerful week (mostly - there is the issue of the son-in-law deployed this week) ... on this morning I rose to see The Great Husband off to work, make my coffee, and eat my yogurt.

And I opened the container of Trader Joe's Greek yogurt - fig today because I ate all the honey yogurt.

But the plastic seal was missing, and the yogurt was partially gone already.

Uh ...

"Did you eat some of this?"

"No. I figured you did. I don't eat partial containers of yogurt."

But I cannot remember. Honestly and truly, I do not know if I was the eater of the yogurt. And if I did not eat it, then I brought it home from the store that way. (eeew!) And if I did eat it, why can't I remember that?

No yogurt for me this morning.

No brain either.

I need a Keeper.


Somebody give him a medal!

Ladies and gentlemen, I LOVE MY HUSBAND! The Great Husband has done it again. He returned home from work this evening to find a nearly hysterical wife who knew full well that yes, she had saved her work. Repeatedly, thank you very much. But that document is supposed to be eleven pages long, and not four. Look. Here's a printed sheet of paper. See? It's from a later version than the four-pager you're looking at. Where IS it???

(this went on for awhile - me lamenting like a crazy woman, him clicking keys and hunting through drop down menus)

And he FOUND it! I'd saved an academic journal article I am using as a reference, and apparently while saving that, I'd opened a "temporary" file folder, and my longer document - my first PLA essay of the quarter - was in there.

Now I don't have to collapse - or ... I don't have to stay collapsed.

I am nearly recovered.

Time to write.

And think of some really good way to thank The Great Husband.

I'm trying to write here!

When very large versions of this particular flying, stinging, hunting-for-a-home bugs - bugs, which I am SURE were NOT in the Garden of Eden - bugs we trap and kill and fight all summer long - begin to fly by one's window, and are large enough to cast a shadow ... well, all I'm saying is that it's distracting. That's all. Worse than yesterday's mouse!

Note the proper use of "them" as a plural noun, denoting more than one person --- I'm just sayin'

Barbara Wallraff, who writes about language, is among the fans of the guide that some refer to simply as "Strunk and White."

"There's a certain Zen quality to some of [the book's rules], like, 'Be clear,' " Wallraff tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "There's a lot being conveyed there in two words, in exactly how to do it. People will spend whole other books explaining [that]. Or, 'Omit needless words.' That's probably the most famous dictum from this book."

The new edition of The Elements of Style also includes a compilation of praise for the book from writers over the years. Wallraff's favorite remark is from Dorothy Parker, who reviewed the guide for Esquire magazine:
"If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they're happy."


Do you see it???

See this? Know what it is??? It's the SUN! For real! Sun on the trees in the late afternoon. Sun, I tell you! And look at THIS. 'aaaat's right. SWEATIN' weather comin up. That is not at all the same thing as sweatER weather. Within the next seven days, there will be weather out of doors that is warm enough and sunny enough to make people sweat. I never thought I could be so glad for that!

But this is just weird. First of all, these guys are back. Just now. No joke, I just now took this picture of elk grazing in my yard. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the definition of "Utterly Worthless Cat." This just happened a couple of minutes ago as well. The black fur to the left under the harp is the cat. Note, please, what is face to face with the cat. On my slipper.


Perversity of nature

Will someone please tell me the proper Name of that particular perversity of human nature which, when confronted with a reading assignment, makes an inveterate reader, accustomed to avoiding all tasks and duties whenever possible by means of escaping into the pages of a book, do anything and everything imaginable to avoid reading the assigned book??? Geeeeeeeez!!!!

Still in love

If I lived in a different era or a different part of the world, I might be wondering where my next meal was coming from, or whether or not I would live to see another day by avoiding the violence. I might be wondering what it would be like to get a university education, or even to read at all - because I am a woman. But as it is, I live in a land of privilege, in an era of possibility, and in the enjoyment of time and health enough to pretty much choose my way in the world. I have enough sense to be grateful for it.I am, apparently, also built "sassy as can be," like the bride of Adam in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I always figure that if I can think of a question, that there must be an answer, you know? If a situation presents itself ... like "seven slummocky backwoodsmen" and the fact that they've got no manners, then there must be a way to handle things. First, you turn over the table, and tell them that if they're going to act like hogs, then they can eat like hogs. And the next morning, you steal their clothes to wash them before those guys can even wake up. Even slummocky backwoodsmen eat more politely if they're trying to keep blankets wrapped arount their naked bodies at the same time. Solve the dilemma, and the brothers get brides, right? They learn to dance.Well, at the moment, other people are not making me all feisty and determined. At the moment, the elements of my own life are making me crazy. Once again, I have misplaced important bits of information. Once again, I drove to the campus and had a helpful appointment with an amazing instructor, and once again I wrote down stuff I need to know, and once again I lost it! How on earth does this happen? The reams and piles and heaps and stacks of paper in my life are worse than seven times seven slummocky backwoodsmen! They simply will not behave in a rational manner.

The thing is, though, I'm in love ... and when you're in love, when you're really in love ... you get on with it. So, sans essential Notes To Self, I am getting on with it. This quarter, two weeks behind because --- well, just because, I am finally ready to get to the next set of PLA essays. This time it will be:

1. SP 105: Listening
1st draft: 4/20 submit for credit: 4/27
4 l.d. credits from PCC’s course to replace the planned 3 u.d. M.U. Effective
Listening course

2. SP 111: Public Speaking
first draft: 5/4 submit for credit: 5/11
4 l.d. credits from PCC’s course to replace the planned 3 u.d. M.U. Public
Presentations course

3. SP 227: Non-verbal Communication
first draft: 5/18 submit for credit: 5/25
4 l.d. credits from PCC’s course to replace the planned 3 u.d. M.U. Non-verbal
Communication course

4. ILS 300: Literature for Children
first draft: 6/1 submit for credit: 6/8
This course is for four upper division credits – perhaps consider writing for fewer
credits or for lower division?

See that? That's what my instructor helped me with last week on the ditzy day when I lost all the notes I took during our conference. Instead of a mere 9 or 12 credits this quarter, PLA writing is set up to deliver 15 or 16 credits, and that's in addition to the online (3 credit) Lit course and the on campus (1 credit) course this quarter. When you write for PLA, you really rack 'em up. If you can remember what you're supposed to be doing. And hang on to your Notes To Self. And budget your time. And stop writing for goofing off at your blog and get back to your Lit text so you can do your assignment. Which is due today. (bye!)


Noticing it

Last month, I wrote that
The tectonic shifts and cataclysms and seasons and tidal waves have all seemed so huge that I thought the tiny little girls and boys in my life might be moving out of range and disappearing from my view. I do not recognize anything around me anymore, and I do not recognize even my own self these days.
The small children are not gone, I discovered. Not a bit of it.

But now a pretty good indicator of all the change showed up too. I dreamed a dream (and in my dream I dreamed ...) I was walking above the ground again. At about ceiling height, as usual.

It has been a very long time since I dreamed about being able to walk or move about above the floor or ground. I used to dream it all the time -- I think I was about eight before I figured out that I couldn't really do it. In this dream I might be indoors or out, I might be alone or with other people, and I might be trying to keep it a secret or I might be trying to talk to people who can't hear me, but this is the first time I ever tried to show anyone else how to do it. I wonder why I'm teaching "people" to walk above the ground - it's not flying, really - it's a matter of proper takeoff and balance. And it's so freeing. So fluid. Funny I never thought to show anyone else how to do it before now... I wonder if I will be successful one of these days -- uh ... nights.

And a lot of it!

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

T.S. Eliot

(I swear I saw blue sky for a moment today.)

The food, the friends, and the fabula

Highly recommended. Delicious. Sensually joyful and deeply gorgeous. If you get Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie on your TV, watch it. The food writers travel all over the world, and find the growers, sellers, and cookers of some of the most elementally pure and lovely foods you can imagine. Watching shows like this always makes me more ready to get my hands dripping with juices and sharpen my knives and have company over so we can eat together.

We had company yesterday after Easter services - if you can call it company when it's just friends that feel like family. We sat and ate and talked and ate some more and had some wine and laughed and fell asleep (our Easter Vigil begins at 5 in the morning, and there is a 10:00 Solemn High Mass as well -- we were really tired as we are every year when Holy Week's labors are crowned at the Vigil and High Mass.) I actually roasted (after an all-night marinade) a bit of lamb, a bit of beef, and a whole chicken. Getting very fresh lamb is the trick, I finally figured out.

But now it's Monday. Monday, as if nothing had been different lately. Monday as if our son-in-law is not joining his battalion in the Middle East tomorrow, and Monday as if I weren't still too punchy to think clearly. Some of our friends are taking today off (a very smart move), and The Great Husband went to work only after sleeping in a little. Life goes on today in as surreal a manner as after some kind of life-changing event like a death or a birth or a marriage or an earthquake. Easter Monday is very strange in its peaceful and victorious ordinariness.

And class has to happen too! I am already two weeks behind with getting this quarter's PLA essays written (a communication snafu), but I got some extremely helpful help from my instructor last Thursday when I went to the campus.

I also got the psychological hit of academic and intellectual adrenaline I always get just by being on the campus! It is difficult to explain exactly what it does to me to be there, but you can see it if you go with me some time. I'm inclined to walk across the grass or barely restrain myself from balancing on the edges of the sidewalks on the way back to my car and I can't really stop myself from grinning like a Cheshire cat as I drive away. Sometimes there is the sound of drumming and singing coming from the music building - or a violin. It is too chilly and wet for there to be groups of students all over the lawns, but I can almost hear a hum of mental activity and curiosity and eager interest in "new learning" when I walk around between the buildings there. New learning, and the old Sisters of the Holy Names who used to teach the "Marylhurst Girls" in that place. I think it's the internal sound of the glory of intellectual pursuits.

The lit course I'm taking online this quarter has moved on from Joseph Conrad to Jane Austen, and I have a lot of reading to do. My fabula and syuzhet are all blended together and confused, but I think I can straighten out today if I just take my time getting the work done. My one-day course is this coming Saturday. SCI 366: Problem Solving. I'm supposed to bring cardboard - and a crayon - and a towel. (I love Marylhurst!)

Stuff due ... stuff to do ... a freshly cleaned up house (the Great Husband and I did that on Saturday) making things easier and a freshly exhausted emotional and spiritual mind making things slow and rather surreal ... a new wireless keyboard and mouse making things much less frustrating ... and I've just now realized that I have not seen the cat today. That's odd ...


As a couple

Today is Good Friday - God's Friday. This is the first Triduum and Easter of the rest of our lives. In our house, the only people who come and go this Lent and Holy Week, the only people getting into the car on Easter morning's wee sma' hours (to be there for the 5:00 Vigil) are us two. This year it is The Great Husband, and me. This year we wake early for our hours of The Watch ("Could you not watch with me one hour?"), and we turn on lights and talk out loud and have a cup of tea before we leave the house. This year is the first year of observances done for us alone - not for an example or habit-forming or opportunities for the children. This year it's just us two.

Not as early this year (no need to return home before the children wake up), and we will have to start to factor in the morning traffic if we travel in the light. Not as tired either, oddly enough. As busy as ever, but easily moving in and out of each other's schedules and responsibilities. The dance we do at this season is different from the Christmas dance or the summertime Haying dance ... or the daily routines. This is a slow and steady pulse that leads to tonight's Crucifixion and Sunday's Resurrection. We know where we are going because we went there many times with our children. This year, we have time to talk about it on the way.


Now, children ... do re mi fa so and so on are only the tools we use to build a song


Oh wow! I don't have time today to peruse, giggle, or dance, but when I get a few minutes, this is where I will be going to do it! From the blog of author/illustrator Patricia Storms, called BookLust, I found out about the blog of author/illustrator Tara Lazar, called Tara Lazar: Writing for Kids While Raising Them. (Tara interviews Patricia here.) I feel precisely as if I have just entered the most amazing chocolaterie and have begun to anticipate a few choice choices in here. YUM!


Everything you could ever want to know

...about where I come from is found in this story. I am laughing out loud listening to it, I am tearing up, and I love these guys. They are incarnations of the soul of my home. They are my own peers - and I would dance with glee if one of my own children spent their careers acting like this.

Listen to them in the interview at NPR. Go to their blog.

Buy from them. (They could use the money.)

And find someone to sing with today.


To pieces, I tell you! To pieces!

Do you remember Pixie and Dixie from the Huckleberry Hound cartoons? They were wretched, horrid, cutesy little monsters, and I always agreed with the (hopelessly idiotic) Mr. Jinx. I too hated meeces to pieces.

Today I REALLY hate meeces to pieces. Both kinds.

I hate Pixie, or whatever the dratted mouse's name is who decided to die in the wall somewhere between the downstairs and the upstairs and treat me to several days worth of the scent of his demise and its aftermath.

And I hate Dixie - the dying mouse attached to my computer. Random mouse outages are not conducive to study, writing, web surfing, or spider solitaire. And never you mind which one I'm doing more of today.




There is a disadvantage to returning to student status as an adult in midlife. This disadvantage is one of perspective - and habits of duty and sacrifice and responsibilities and such. This term, I am supposed to be writing for more PLA credits, and I am taking a class online, and what I really really really want to be doing is obsessing about the online course. I want everyone else to go away and leave me alone. I want to read. I want to think. I want the bell to ring so that everyone else goes to do their own things in their own classes and lets me think!

Instead, I have duties at church an hour away, and duties at home in laundry room and bathroom and kitchen, and besides ...

If you take an online course with other grownups, nobody else has time to obsess either. sigh ...

And how do you pronounce Sjuzhet (also syuzhet, sjužet or suzet) anyway? I strongly suspect the online speaker is just reading it phonetically and has no idea what she's saying. I need a Russian.

(click on the image and you'll find it in a mousepad - be sure to read it - it made me laugh out loud just now)


To Anne Fadiman: J'adore

Have you ever owned the perfect dress? I did once. I wore it for a piano recital when I was 11 years old and still as willowy as ... well ... as a willow branch. Thin, flexible, straight up and down, and tall.

This dress had a toile sort of print on it. Burgundy floral pattern on a cream background. The seams ran from the floor to the shoulder, and at the bodice, the seams were bordered by burgundy grosgrain ribbon that I tied in the back. In that dress, I felt as perfectly clothed as if the thing had grown from my own flesh, and I was as happy as a storybook princess.

The dress fit because it was made for me. My mom made it - she and I together made most of my dresses back then - back before I was old enough to realize that the ordinary, common sewing of clothing was a creative work of textile sculpture. That was a beautiful dress.

The perfect happiness of wearing that perfect dress, made to perfectly fit me in colors that suited me, feeling it sweep against my ankles when I walked, knowing it was hemmed to skim the floor ... that is how I feel when I read Anne Fadiman's writing. Her essays are so rich (her vocabulary!! she must have a whole thesaurus in her head), and soothing to the inner ear, and sudden-laugh-out-loud funny, and deeply moving that I will want to read them over and over throughout my life. I plan to keep a small Anne Fadiman library of books (she needs to write lots more!) by my bedside, and on any day when I go to my bed all churned up and rubbed the wrong way, my failsafe remedy will be to read a bit from one of these slim little volumes of familiar essays.

Too much? You think that recommendation is too effusive? Well, I scoff at your scorn. And I offer proof. Here is a passage:
"...[T]o swoop your net through the air and see something fluttering inside; to snatch that bit of life from the rich chaos of nature into your own comparatively lackluster world, which it instantly brightened and enlarged; to look it up in Klots and name it and know it — well, after you did that a few times, it was hard to muster much enthusiasm for Parcheesi."
That is from the interview at Powells.com. It is a passage from At Large and At Small. She and her brother were avid (the word isn't quite obsessive enough for what they did) bug collectors when they were children. She begins the chapter "The Joy of Sesquipedalians" in Ex Libris like this:
"When my brother, Kim, and I were children, our father used to tell us stories about a bookworm named Wally. Wally, a squiggly little vermicule with a red baseball cap, didn't merely like books. He ate them. The monosyllables he found in most children's books failed to satisfy his voracious appetite, so he turned instead to the dictionary, which offered a richer bill of fare. In Wally the Wordworm, a chronicle of some of our hero's lexicographic adventures that my father wrote when I was eleven, Wally savored such high-calorie morsels as syzygy, ptarmigan - which tasted pterrible at first, until he threw away the p - and sesquipedalian, which looks as if it means "long word" and in fact, does."

See? She's pure deliciousness, she is. I adore her.


Inversions, Harmonics, and Exercises

I have a son who always has been the most communicative of the three of our offspring. The other two talk to us on a "need to know" basis, and in general, they do not think we need to know much ordinary stuff from their days. Number Three Son, however, was a chatterbox as a child, and has turned into a man who likes to talk to me. This quirk in his personality means that now that he is a college student, and since he is studying music, I am at last getting the music theory education I always wanted but never pursued for myself. Or, to be more precise, he is getting the education, and I am getting the fallout. How much fallout depends on how determined he is to explain himself after I say, "That hurts my head. It sounded like terms I understand, but I have no clue what you just said." He thinks this is very funny.

Anyway, I am picking up just enough from him so that I can almost see the structure of what I have always called "chords." These musical sounds are combination sounds - several notes at once, with the notes cooperating together in a specified way. In "solfège," which is the "do, re, mi" way of singing or playing a scale (like the von Trapps and their governess did - remember? Do, a deer, a female deer?") if you play the notes of do, mi, and so, all at the same time, you have a "I" (one) chord. Or, that's what I have always thought - apparently, what you have is a triad with the root as its base and not an inversion of the triad. Whatever.

The reason I am bringing this up is because it has come to me that this is a good metaphor for my life right now. My life has become so fully about a few specifically chosen things which function together in a specified way, that it is as if I am living in chords - triads - inversions - variations on a harmonic theme. And it works. This is music.

And the thing that surprises me is that all the notes are playing at the same time. When I first learned to play the piano, I learned to practice one hand at a time, practice with a metronome, practice very very slowly until I could do it consistently, and then only gradually come up to tempo. Work on the finger exercises until they were part of muscle memory. Take great pains to learn it right because unlearning was so horrible.

I figured out that life works that way too. In order to function well, it is necessary to play one hand at at time. Focus. Stop trying to play too much too fast too soon.

What I did not know is that it is possible to concentrate on the parts so well for so long that eventually a whole sonata breaks through. The undertones of mystery, longing, worship, communion ... the strong and purposeful rhythms of a daily life - of cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, folding, polishing, arranging, experimenting ... the barely perceptible building of tempo and breadth and complication in a life of intellectual pursuits ... the artistry of crescendo and decrescendo, movements, counterpoint, paint or needle and thread or words ... all at once, just when I thought the finger exercises had exhausted my ability to listen, it comes together and makes music. And it is beautiful.