Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cost and deficits of independence

Proofreading a stamp journal for my husband, I am reminded how many countries have split off to become "independent" in my life-time. Triggered by a casual mention of Katanga and South Kasai declaring their independence from the Congo Democratic Republic in 1960, my mind jumps ahead to vague knowledge of many splinterings of countries in my lifetime into "independent" states. More recently, in the interest of political correctness, we have seen a splintering of self-identification into ever-narrower categories - eschewing the identification of "human" for one increasingly narrow - "Native American," "Polish-American," etc. I really don't want to be bothered to enumerate. In our own tiny area of rural Wisconsin, we have yet another splintering of the local Lutherans. This seems to be something of a tradition with them.

Whatever happened to associating with those with whom we differ - or even those with whom we VARY. Likes clumping together with likes allows our skills of tolerance to atrophy from disuse -- a cultural/global disaster in the making.

I like life to be comfortable - but I'm afraid of creating a non-challenging environment for myself as it leads to a dependency on non-challenge. If I loose the skills to cope with variables that surprise me and are beyond my control, then I will need, eventually, to annihilate (in one way or another) those factors that don't fit my norm.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Whatever happened to thinking on the way to the 21st Century!!

A number of smart adults met regularly some years ago to address the local problem of poor "critical thinking" skills noted in our school district. Solutions were elusive. The problem has remained and floats in my head almost daily.  I observe a broad abstention from critical thinking in all parts of our Society and find it most disconcerting since it is counter to inate human nature.  Just look at babies and watch awhile and you will see that critical thought is one of the most basic driving forces in our nature.  How does it get conditioned out of us on such a broad scale?
Dusting has given me the answer!  I was cleaning a neglected bookshelf and randomly opened, "Reclaiming Childhood," by William Crain.  On page 161 toward the center of the page I read:

".......overly difficult instruction presents another danger: It undermines the child's independence. When, to take a contemporary example, we assign a child a math problem that is too difficult for her, she has no recourse but to thur to the back of the book to see if she got the right answer. And because she doesn't fully u nderstand the solution, she must accept on faith whatever the 'smarter' person or the book says is true.  She learns to depend on external authority rather than to think for herself."

Pushing to "cover" a broad spectrum of material in the schools is counterproductive to the purposes of a public education in a democracy.  Many teachers/administrators, during our childrens' school years, spoke of "exposing" the children to knowledge.  Nowhere was it part of the agenda to challenge them to think things through - nor even to give them time to mull and contemplate.  Measuring and recording the outcome of each day's educational endeavor reduces children to survival mode and shifts their focus to understanding and appeasing the authority rather than to developing skills and thinking strategies to ferret out the truth for themselves as they participate in lives of their own choosing.

We have created (at no small expense to the taxpayer) an unthinking, malleable mass of humanity easily swayed by marketers and politicians (sorry for the redundancy).

What do I say is the solution?  JUST STOP IT!!  Stop over-scheduling, over-instructing, over-analysing, over-assessing, over-structuring our children. Stop depriving our society of fully dimensional adults who still enjoy thinking for themselves.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

One-day challenge

Try going one complete day spending absolutely no money - no charges to a card - no online orders - etc.  It's a bit harder than you think.  You may find yourself reaching into your pocket for change for a vending machine...  Nothing creates a clearer picture of how consumer-oriented we are than to "fast" from consumerism for an entire day.  Stock up ahead - fill the tank with gas - be sure there's food in the fridge, etc.  When you succeed with one day - try a week.  It's truly a consciousness-raising activity :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Twenty-nine years ago, after a month's engagement, I married my friend, Wayne Youngblood.  Who knew what that even meant when we began?  Certainly not us.  We knew we recognized in each other something unique and precious we didn't want to lose.  However, building a life together, shaping a family, earning a living, facing making priority decisions over small expenditures as well as large issues -- we had no clue.

Love is not the "happy ever after."  It is, however, the foundation for facing together all life has to offer without giving up.  It requires faith in each other, patience, give and take, a long-term balance sheet (not expecting everything to be equal on a given day).  We had the misfortune of being married in the 80s when we felt compelled to shed any gender-based expectations -- then discovered over the years, you cannot make the genders interchangeable!!  We look at things differently, have different strengths and weaknesses.  Women toss words through the air as if they are ping-pong balls - Men see those words flying and duck from them as if they were lead cannonballs.  So many differences!!

But, the beauty is that life is so much richer for the differences - for the struggles and joys and sorrows.  To choose to build a life together is like choosing to swim in the ocean instead of the 4' deep pool in the apartment complex.  It's risky, envigorating, scary, exciting and so much more satisfying.

I was looking through snapshots of our wedding today.  In no way would I choose the young Wayne & Dorothy over who we are today.  We may at times be tired old curmudgeons, but we are much better people for the 29 years we have spent together.

Do I recommend marriage in general?  That depends.  If you want a solution to life's problems, a happy ending, a simplification of life, then "NO."   If, however, you want a more complex and rich existence, and have the character and motivation to commit through thick and thin - then by all means "YES!"  You, like me, will be glad you did.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Nutrition $1.01

In our fifties, Wayne and I are finally grasping what it is to eat well and not spend much money at it.  The garden helps, but so do some simple recipes and an accumulation of seasonings.

One of our favorite meals for under $1.00 per serving is salmon grilled under the broiler with a huge side of sauteed zucchini.  A 16oz package of Salmon Fillets purchased at Aldi's costs $3.89 = 4 servings = $.97 per serving.  Add free zucchini (2 cups) from the garden and this is what you get:

188 calories
24 g protein
4 g fat
60 mg cholesterol
80 mg sodium
14g carbs
6 g fiber

Lots of great feelings of YUMM when you add a spoonful of hot raspberry jelly to the top of the salmon.  If you're thinking that's not enough - add some brown rice and enjoy!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Adding means subtracting

We Americans seem to forget that when we add something to our lives, we give something else up. We make a purchase and diminish purchasing power. We add a new curriculum at school and give up teaching time for other subjects. We add activities to our childrens' lives without considering the loss of unstructured childhood - or of family time - or of sleep.

Losing weight a couple of years ago, it helped me enormously to reconstruct my thinking to recognize that everything I ate had a cost. The body has to work to change what we put into our mouths into what our cells can use and separate and eliminate what it can't. Eating, though absolutely necessary and very enjoyable, is always a stress to our bodies. This stress should be worthwhile. The addition includes a subtraction. There is a cost of effort to our body's systems to process what we eat - that cost should have a positive benefit making it worthwhile. Blueberries-yes. Fats-not so much.

School days are about 6 hours long for children. If you were teaching them at home, this would seem a very long period of instruction time. However, the schools have become the dumping ground for every well-intentioned social imperative. As each concern arises, something else is added to the school day. No one ever considers what is subtracted. The result is we are working harder at "socializing" our children than "educating" them. We have added much that is "good" without consciously acknowledging its cost in terms of what is subtracted. One of the many things lost comes from families. Because 6 hours of school time are filled with a great deal that is extra - actual study and skill development increasingly must be done at home. This creates several immediate problems.

Families of school children today are unable to "own" their evenings. The school's agenda supersedes the family's. In order to successfully learn the day's material, children must study at home, carrying the school's agenda into the after-school hours. They are deprived of the unique wisdom and ways of their own family as it becomes a subordinate subset of the school. Society with families so influenced loses the strength of its diversity. The ideal of a public education providing a level playing field for all is destroyed when children are are expected to do the majority of their studying in such a variety of home settings. For some children, just surviving the evening is agenda #1.

Some years ago our local schools were required to assess their schools for a weakness which could be addressed with an "improvement plan." Teachers were most concerned about the students' apparent inability to apply what was learned in one context to another. For example, students who had successfully completed a math unit on measurement were unable to measure fractions of inches in shop class. An initiative was planned to develop "critical thinking" skills. When it was suggested that adding a "critical thinking" curriculum was not needed - but, rather, a study of ways in which "critical thinking" is undermined and discouraged at school, the school personnel were stymied. They really were not prepared to think in terms of examining and editing what they do. They didn't know how to subtract - only add.

It's the same with BP - regulators seemingly failed to look at what would be subtracted by drilling for oil in the Gulf and focused only on what would be added. Ooops! Perhaps it's time to develop a broader math skill set.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Time goes too quickly!

Lately the calendar and my head are not lining up.  There are big jumps - it's early spring and we're getting ahead on outdoor chores, then suddenly it's May and how did it get to be the middle of June already??

I've read articles on the subject, but no one can adequately explain the justice of reaching the age where days can be spent more by choice than compulsion, and these precious times dissolve before our eyes.

So, my project for today is to make this the longest day I possibly can.  I began by walking the dog to the post office to pick up to box mail, then doing yard work.  My back and legs can tell that I spent all morning working hard - mowing and weeeding a section of our 1-3/4 acres.  Now that I'm at the computer, I have set a time limit because this is an activity that makes time fly right by. 

After a small bit of lunch and kitchen cleaning,  I'm going to allow myself a rest - reading a novel on the deck with some ice tea (sometimes those types of times seem endless...)  Then housework!! - not my favorite, which should make time drag a bit.  Definitely no TV as it kills time.  Any suggestions?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Self-esteem vs. self-confidence

We raised our kids in a era of "self-esteem" being all important.  I'm so sorry to see children who have it.  They are crushed by anything smacking of criticism, therefore are brittle and non-resilient in facing life's challenges.  Their primary goal is self-affirmation, which is a low moral path indeed.  Kids who are raised in an environment which is concerned with their self-esteem frequently grow to be obnoxious in their sense of entitlement to be regarded favorably, lest their "self-esteem" birthright be diminished.

What was meant as a good thing for kids has deprived them of developing self-confidence.  Self-confidence is a strong ally in facing the turbulence of real, involved living.  It is built by overcoming obstacles, facing challenges and working tenaciously to perservere over time - to try again and be somewhat impervious to failure - treating it not as a diagnosis of self, but a lesson in what doesn't work.  Self-confidence is earned and developed - not given by others.

God spare us self-esteem - it's a cheap trick and a very damaging one.  Let's work toward self-respect, self-confidence and, hopefully, a self-directed moral existence.


Housekeeping - why?

Good morning,

Theoretically it's wonderful to understand the lack of significance of a clean and tidy house.  In practice, however, it's necessary to let the mundane rise to the top of the priority list sometimes!  Buddy (our dog) and I went for a long cold walk this morning which was great - but now I really must vacuum, dust, sweep, etc.  Without those items being taken care of, there is less joy in our house and, surprisingly, less freedom.  The mental clutter of stuff crying out to be taken care of is an obstacle of the first order to brain function.  So, the simple joy of clean and tidy (at no cost, save some expenditure of time and effort) is the joy I seek this morning.  Off to the joy of being a positive influence on my immediate environment!