Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sharing My Second Place Speech

I've done several posts for the variety of Art classes that I took this Spring, but this evening, it dawned on me that I didn't mention my Oral Interpretation Class.  What we did in this class was memorize stories, poems and prose pieces of less than 5 minutes and present them to the class.

Part of the requirement was to participate in the Speech Tournament in April.  I had walked out of the room and the professor specifically asked the second student to send me back in so that I could hear the announcement.  I figure he could just have easily emailed it me, but what he wanted was for me to enter in three categories.  So I did:  Storytelling, where I shared the story of Al the Mouse, Poetry, where I did my own interpretation of Wyndreth Berginsdottir's Savage Daughter:



And persuasive Speech, where we had to write an original speech on any topic of choice.  Mine was, "The Age of Entitlement."  Before I share the speech, I wanted to mention that I had an absolutely amazing time at the event, and was very pleased that I participated.  I made it to the final rounds, and swept second place in all three categories.  Without further adieu, here is my second place speech:

We live in a world of narcissism, where funerals are used as the grounds for religious protests, bullying leads to children committing suicide; where celebrities are on public display at all times, and common courtesies, are less and less common. 

USA Today says that the Narcissistic Personality Inventory,  a psychological study that has been evaluating people since 1982, shows that we are 30% more narcissistic than ever before.   We live in, “The Age of Entitlement”.  The general problem is this:  the world revolves around me, so I can do or say whatever I want and everyone –else- is required to meet my needs on my schedule because they are, obviously, less important than I am.  But there is a solution:  It doesn’t have to be this way.

The storyteller, Dan Yashinsky said, “We are living through a time of unprecedented and troubling change.  We have come to a crossroads where old and familiar customs break down, but the new moral frame and social structure we urgently need have yet to be evolved.  We step into the future with less connection to ancestral guidance than any human generation before us.  Although we have invented amazing technologies for saving our data, we are at risk of forgetting our personal, family and cultural stories.  We broadcast our voices over vast distances, but talk less to our neighbors.”

But how is this a problem?

I saw a quote on a church billboard, on the way home from Dothan the other day.  It said, “Freedom is not the right to do as we please, but the liberty to do as we ought.”

It’s something I think should be put up like public service announcements to drink more milk and stop smoking.  Right there with signs for not messing with power lines.  Perhaps, if enough of the signs were posted, more people would see them—and think about it—and hopefully take it to heart.

Because the America that shows up in television seems to think that being the land of the free means doing whatever they want and who cares about who gets hurt in the process.  It’s the opinion that we’re “OWED” whatever it is we’ve set our sights on.  Instead of thinking about how we have to –earn- what we want.  It’s the having that’s replaced the striving for.  It’s not accepting responsibility for our actions---and blaming anyone else.   It’s the idea that disagreement should be met with hostility.  And that the best way to get what we want in the world market is to make them do it our way…There seems to be a strong dose of “What we ought to do” missing from the daily quota of their lives.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying all of America is that way.  Nor even that most of us are—but lets face it, we’re not the ones making the headlines.  You don’t generally hear about the good deeds and little acts of kindness…and I think we should.  It may not be intentional, but when we watch the news, we’re subconsciously fed that this is the norm….and I’m of the opinion that we need to show a better norm!  A Solution!

An America with more patience.  More personal responsibility.

With altruism, like the 50 workers at the nuclear plant in Japan who have stayed behind and continue to work to prevent a melt down.

Generosity, like the people who are sending aid and support to Japan, including our own Art Club and SGA, all of them giving of their time, effort, and attention.                  

An America with Gallantry, which is an act of marked courtesy, and can be as simple as leaving room so the person who’s trying to merge into heavy traffic can get out ahead of you.               

And we’ve all been at the store when a single line is open and there are a lot of people ready to check out, and –someone- is going to get ugly about it.  But with patience, that someone doesn’t have to be –us-.             

An America where kindness, compassion and integrity are more respected than wealth and it’s acquisition at any cost.  Where the striving for is as important as the gaining.  And the pride in a job well done is just as satisfying as the end result.

In conclusion, although we are entrenched in “The Age of Entitlement” and inflated narcissism, we can have a future free from these through compassion altruism, generosity, gallantry,  and patience.

As the civil rights activist Dorothy Cotton said, “If you want to have change, of course, the bottom line is that the folks for whom the change is meant, must be involved in it.” 

Because the future isn’t a place you go—it’s something that WE create.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bullying

I remember when the rash of teen suicides from bullying happened in 2010.  I also remember when the middle school in my town hushed the suicide of a student from bullying, that same year.  Turned out that I had a friend whose son was in the class-- but I also had a friend who was the teacher for the class.  I remember being outraged that the school hushed it, but it turned out they kept it out of the papers to prevent copycats and a rash of suicides.

But that was a year ago.  Tonight, I want to talk about my child.

My oldest is 9 this year, just finished third grade.  He's an excellent artist, a creative story writer, quirky, helpful, has a wonderful sense of humor and I'm certain that he's going to be an excellent SCA heavy fighter when he's a teenager.  He's in the gifted and talented program.  Very proud of how smart my boy is.  But during the last month and a half of this year, my straight A student started bringing home Cs, Ds, and 3 Fs.  He started sassing.  And not listening.  And becoming more difficult.  And started bullying his little brother a bit.  And when I asked him what was going on, he would shrug his shoulders and give me, "I don't knows".  I look back on it and realize it probably didn't help that I was angry at the inexplicable bad grades and nasty attitude I was seeing.

I have a long standing habit of cuddling with my boys at night.  It's a chance for us to talk about their days, visit for between 15 and 60 minutes before bed time, and usually ends with a story.  It's happens often throughout the day that I don't stop to immediately listen-- I'm cooking; They're asking questions just to talk and don't actual want to hear the answer; They're playing; I'm busy; Whatever-- there are simply too many times throughout the course of the afternoon when our attention is NOT focused on each other.  So I set this time aside at the end of the day for us to talk.

I will admit that my oldest sometimes tends towards drama and really likes to complain, so most of the time, when he gets going, I give him about 5 minutes, empathize, then ask him what was GOOD about his day.  I always prefer to end on a good note.

But sometimes, what I'm hearing makes it very clear that he was being bullied.  I sent notes to his teacher to take care of the issues that I could, as soon as I heard about them.  And she addressed them and things got better.  But tonight, I learned that there were 2 classmates that bullied him frequently.  In ways that could have seriously hurt him (like pulling him off the top of the monkey bars).  And I didn't know.  I talk with my children every night, and I didn't know.

Until tonight.  Tonight, I -asked-.  And I really listened.

These two boys would physically go after him at P.E.  They would push him in the classroom.  They would call him names like "Gay" and "Faggot".  They would make hand signs (flipping the bird, jacking off, and other sexual innuendos-- not that they knew the name of any of these), but they would also make up new ones and tell my son that they meant 'homo' and 'gay'.  He's interested in girls, but he knows it doesn't matter to his Daddy and I either way.

I have always told my son to tell an adult who is present-- they are the only ones who can take care of it on the spot.  And he did.  And the teacher wouldn't do anything.  She might tell him to tell the PE coach-- who would put the boys in time out on the line, if he did anything at all.  Or he might tell the Vice Principal-- who also wouldn't do anything.  And so my boy was shown, over and over, by adults that he should have been able to trust, that there was nothing anyone was going to do about him being bullied.  And so he didn't even tell me.

Until tonight.  See, tonight, I came across StopBullying.gov while following the link to a blog that a friend had posted called Free to Be...Not Anymore.  And both of them advocated that the first way to stop bullying is to start talking.  And tonight, my son and I talked for over an hour.  No.  That's not exactly right.  Tonight, for over an hour, I let my son talk.  And I really listened.

This school year is over, and there is nothing I can do to fix the hurts I did not know had happened, save to let him know that I am on his side and here to listen.  But next year, I will be better armed with information and lines of communication-- so that it never happens again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Baseball Season is Over

This spring, I signed up both of my boys at the local parks and rec for baseball. 

My youngest, at 5, was in T-ball.  This was his very first time with group sports.  And I have to admit, getting him interested in the beginning was a lot like pulling teeth.  But once he got the hang of it and realized it meant he got to play with new friends, he really got into it. 


One of the things that I love about T-ball is that it's a lot like watching someone try to herd cats.



See the resemblance?

Of course, he loved getting to bat just as much.


This is another of my favorite things about T-ball:  It's all about the kids having fun and learning a little bit about baseball.  So everyone gets to bat and runs all of the bases.  There is no tagging out.  There is also no score.  There's doesn't need to be at this age.

Taking his helmet off after running the bases.
 He also did well enough on the catching he was always on the infield.


Well...that's where he always -started- anyway...  (Remember the previous mention of herding cats?)



In the end, he had a wonderful time being a Giant.


And is very much looking forward to playing again next season.



As for my oldest, it's the second time that he's participated.  His age put him in the minor league-- where the definitely keep score, have umpires, and the kids work on improving technique.  I had a hard time accepting that some of his game, even though the age range is 8-10, weren't over until almost 9:30 at night, and that all of the games happened on school nights.  But the boys handled the resulting lack of sleep like troupers.

Every game happened at the same ball park:



He had an excellent coach and a talented group of teammates.  His absolute favorite part has always been hitting the ball... being hit by the pitchers three time this year put a bit of a damper on his enthusiasm.

(But only a bit.)  (;
I took him out to the field the day of his last game to take some pictures to document this season.



This season, his team, The Diamondbacks, won the league.


And my boy is a champion (:


He's already looking forward to another great season next year (:

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

Here's the recipe for the homemade chicken pot pie I made for dinner tonight:

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts, diced.
4 potatoes, peeled and diced.
Large pot of water to boil the chicken and potatoes in
5 slices of bacon, diced
1small onion, diced
1 small bag of frozen mixed peas and carrots
4 pie crusts
cornstarch

Directions:

Take out your ready made pie crusts and let them thaw.  Preheat the oven to 350.

Put the chicken and potatoes in the large pot with enough water to cover it all and about an inch more.  Put it on high temperature, bring to a boil and boil for 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  In the meantime, using a frying pan, brown and saute the bacon and onions.  When they are thoroughly cooked, put them in the pot with the chicken and potatoes.

Using a 9x12 baking dish, carefully put two of piecrusts in the bottom, poke with fork holes and prebake in the oven for 15 minutes.

When the pot has boiled for 20 minutes, mix cornstarch and water, then slowly stir it in to thicken the water and make homemade gravy to go in the pot pie.  After 2 minutes of boiling, poor all of it into the 9x12 over the first 2 piecrusts, add the frozen peas and carrots and mix gently.  Then put the other 2 pie crusts on top.  Cut a couple of slits into the top for steam to vent, then bake for 20-30 minutes or until the top crust is a lovely brown and the house smells delicious (;



Yet another reason that my kids amaze me

Yesterday, while we waited for my oldest's last baseball game of the season, I'm sitting in the front seat reading my book and my youngest says, "Momma, you're doing that without even saying anything!"  And I said, "Well...yes, honey.  When you get more comfortable with reading, you don't have to do it out loud any more."

He climbed up into the front seat beside me and asked if I'd read it to him.  So I picked up from the last sentence, "It would seem you argue for us to help Darken Rahl."

And my 5 (almost 6) year old excitedly interrupted me saying, "You have a Legend of the Seeker Book!"


I confess, I blinked twice, dumbfounded.... How the hell did he know that?!?

Then, I had it-- they had watched episodes of Legend of the Seeker with me when I powered my way through the entire series on Netflix a couple of weeks ago.


And my very smart little boy -remembered-.  He recognized the name of Darken Rahl.

I probably shouldn't have been surprised, considering it's not the first time he's done something like this.  But it still makes me proud (:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bibliophile

A friend of mine commented on my previous post about digital books, noting that as much as she loves it, she still prefers actual books.  And I completely agree.  I appreciate that I have 60 books on my cellphone, so that if I'm stuck and bored somewhere, I have a large variety to choose from.  But my home is a tribute to the fact that my family loves actual, paper bound books.

As I sit here in my living room, I am surrounded by 5 bookshelves.  One of them is absolutely covered in boardgames, but the other 4 are dedicated to books.  There's a small bookshelf in my kitchen filled with cookbooks.  Another large bookshelf in my dining room.  Both of my boys have tall bookshelves in their rooms filled with age appropriate children's books (many that I had when I was a child).  And Mark and I have 2 more bookshelves in our bedroom.  Our home IS a library, filled with our favorite books.

Some people collect knick-knacks or brick-a-brack.  I collect books.  They -are- my decorations.  And sources of entertainment.  We have a large assortment.  Our paperbacks tend towards sci/fi, fantasy, fairytales and a couple of romance or horror for variety.  Our hard bound overflow with classics, educational books and how to.  And that how to collection is fairly extensive-- gardening, wood working, house repair, sewing, quilting, calligraphy, pet training, origami...just to name a few that I can see from my chair.

My boys delight in getting to chose a different, or favored, book to read each night.  Books have taught me how to read, how to juggle, how to embroider.  They've improved my vocabulary.  They've taken me on great adventures.

I still remember the summer when I was 12 and read the entire David Eddings, Belgaraid and Mallorian series, pretty much non-stop, without sleeping.  I believe it took me 4 days.  What I remember most is that I stopped seeing words, and instead, saw the characters in action... I'm sure sleep deprivation played a hand in that, but I also like to attribute it to the skill of the author.

The other day, I caught my oldest after bedtime, under his blanket with a flashlight reading a chapter book (:  It brought back fond memories from when I was a child, doing the same thing.

One of the things that I absolutely adore about my husband is that he is as big a reader as I am-- I love that there are times when the television and gaming consoles are turned off, the computers are walked away from, and we're sitting in the living room, just reading in each other's company.  It warms my heart when I'll stop reading long enough to look up and and see that all four of us are curled up with a good book (though my youngest still needs some help as he's the newest reader in our house).

Believe it or not, but I've actually culled our books four times since we've been here.  I've reduced the number of books in our home by a little over 200-- books we had duplicates of (though I kept 8 of my dictionaries and 4 different versions of the bible); books that weren't very good (like the entire collection of Twilight); books that were obsolete (any computer related book over 2 years old):  All of them made their way to goodwill, where I know that other bibliophiles will find and appreciate them, and give them good homes.

Digital Books

After attending my kindergartner's end of year program

 

I brought my boy home for the day.  Only seemed right, as he would otherwise have been one of three children staying (;  The first thing we did was stop at Wal-Mart and buy him a new bird feeder.  His previous one was broken irreparably by squirrels.  It turns out that the new one he chose is called, "Squirrel Proof"... we'll see how it works.  I'm hoping it doesn't turn out to also be -bird- proof.

There's a spring that is weight activated, so if 'enough' weight is put on it, the outside cage moves down and makes it impossible to reach into the feeding area.  I'm thinking that enough birds can easily weigh the same as a squirrel, but I might just be pessimistic.

Then he got to complete a level of Lego Indiana Jones and we watched the movie, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull".  When it was over, I told him it was nap time (they normally take one at kindergarten), and he asked me join him.

And this is where the title of the blog actually comes from.  I went to sleep and started dreaming about when I was a kid and how much enjoyment I got from going through my Mother's college dictionary and complete Encyclopedia set.  I remember learning about Aardvarks and Ant eaters, Volcanoes and the tallest mountains.  I'm absolutely certain that my hours spent gleeful browsing through these books is where my fleeting wealth of random knowledge came from (;  It made Jeopardy! one of my all time favorite game shows.

And in my dream, I was introducing my boys to the joys of the Encyclopedia Britannica-- complete on a single nook.  With a little research at Amazon.com, it turns out to be available quite cheaply!

Now -that- would be an excellent reason to have a nook/kindle!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Feng Shui

Come August, we'll have lived in this house for 5 years.  Come August, we'll have lived in this house for 2 years without also living with Mark's Grandmother.  She's living with Mark's parents 5 minutes up the road.  Got to visit with her for a bit when we went over this evening (:

When we moved down here 5 years ago, we moved from a house that was over 3000 sq ft.  Grandmother's house is about 1500.  And she'd already moved into it from a house that was over 3000 sq ft.  I mention this to point out that it was already overfull with stuff when we moved in.  Mathematically speaking, you simply cannot put 6000 sq. ft of stuff in 1500 sq. ft of space... well... not without being a hoarder.

So the majority of our things have been in 2 separate storage units for the most of the last 5 years.  After Grandmother moved, I still didn't feel completely comfortable making her home ours.  But 2 years in and I -have- to get through this stuff!  I know that I'm coming up on a very busy year in school.  If I don't get my house in order this summer-- I won't have a chance to for another year.  So I've been busting tail this past week, without plans of easing up this coming week, so that everything in my home has a place and it's that much easier to keep clean.

But that's not really what this post is about.  I mean, yes, I plan to rearrange furniture, and have already done so in 3 rooms.  Nope, this post is about going through boxes that haven't been opened in 5-12 years.  A vast majority of what I've come across has been in great condition-- but something that we no longer need/ want/ have any attachment to.  And all of that has found it's way to the Salvation Army Thrift Store where others can find what they need amongst it.  And some of the rest of what I've come across was outright just trash that has since found it's way to the sanitation department.

But some of it!  Oh, the very smallest some of it!  were things that I've been looking for, unsuccessfully, for the last 5 years:  Art work that I made at my previous universities, that matter to me.  Two cookbooks I've desperately looked for off and on when trying to cook.  A couple of favorite mugs and glasses.  And three or four decorations.

It doesn't sound like much, but finding -these things- has put a nagging 'to do' list that has been in the back of my mind for 5 years, finally, -finally-, at rest.  Things, literal, physical things, have been returned to their proper places.  And my mind and spirit are easier because of it. 

It's amazing how freeing it is, no longer having to worry if they've been lost, or broken, or destroyed.  I endured some fairly intense insomnia all week while I worried about all the clearing out and stuff that I have to do this summer.  But when I found these personal treasures amongst all the other stuff, and brought them into my home, and restored them to their place in my physical space-- I finally rested when I went to sleep.  I slept like the dead for 12 hours last night, and it didn't have anything to do with the rapture that wasn't. (;

I have stopped several times throughout the day today, with my eyes resting on one or another of them, and found myself smiling.  I'll finish doing the rest of the 'rearranging of furniture' this week-- but that's not the real feng shui:  As silly as it may seem, my personal heaven and earth have been aligned by taking the last of the, "Where is the..." questions, and laying them to rest.  The few things that could not be found, have been, and my world is finding its' order.