Make your world alive

I have those days where I think, why do I still write this blog? Does random olio connect, inspire, or impact any of my readers? Maybe, or maybe not. It is sometimes hard to know, and often I feel I am in this vacuum, diligent to a pact I made for myself to write everyday. Whether or not my writing is stellar or not, when I started this blog almost 3 years ago, I never thought I would go this far or write this long. I will be driving, in a store, or in a meeting at work and an idea will pop into my head and when I finally have a moment to put my fingers on the keyboard the words just flow out, 90% of the time effortlessly.

Now, that does not mean I do not struggle with whether to actually publish a post, or even if it is worthy of the Publish button, but when I started I did it for the discipline, the community, and now I continue to do it because it keeps me sharp, aware, and always listening. When I came across this quote from Chris Guillebeau, I thought “so well said.”

“That’s the promise: you will live more curiously if you write. You will become a scientist, if not of the natural world than of whatever world you care about. More of that world will pop alive. You will see more when you look at it.

Writing needn’t be a formal enterprise to have this effect. You don’t have to write well. You don’t even have to “write,” exactly—you can just talk onto the page.”

Guillebeau is an author and avid traveler with three books out, one of which I have read “The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World” and another which I am waiting for my turn at the library: “The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life.”

Often I feel that I “just talk onto the page” — it depends on my life that day, where my head is at, and my inspiration. Regardless, it has kept me curious, hungry to read voracious amounts (books + articles), to explore other blogs, and other writing styles of all the things important to me. My world is definitely alive and full, and I see so much more. This does not mean that everyone has to write a blog, but I think writing in general often breaks out what is within, we learn more about ourselves, and often resolve things in our heart.

No fairy tales for me!

I have always been a fan of children’s books that accurately portray women and girls. Of course I grew up with Disney, Barbie, and all other crap that told me to look at my body, that boys were smarter and stronger, and that women were not equal. As a kid, I really had no ideal role models about women. At least not until college. I had a mini childhood retroactive while in college during a children’s literature course and a women’s writing course where I had the opportunity to look at what messages we are sending children from an early age.

When Chris met me I already had a small collection of children’s books (think quick picture books, not children’s novels). Most of my accrued stack of books were more specific to a child feeling loved and good about themselves. Hmm, maybe a trend that I did not feel as a kid. However, one of my all time favorites was “The Paper Bag Princess” where a princess is to marry the prince when a dragon attacks the castle and kidnaps the prince. The princess finds the dragon, is smarter than he is (ah yes a book that shows little girls and boys that girls can be badasses). Yes, she rescues the prince. I mean, why not? Think about how many books and Disney movies have a princess or some “beautiful” distraught girl who is saved or rescued by their dashing prince (or maybe a beast). Beauty & the Beast, Cinderella, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, oh I could go on, but you all know how the story goes.

When I read this New York Times article “Turn Your Princess Obsessed Toddler Into a Feminist in Eight Easy Steps” a huge smile appeared on my face. I will copy the first two steps to give you a gist of why you should take a moment to read it:

“1. Read the Brothers Grimm version of Snow White in which Snow White is asked to clean, cook, make beds, wash and sew for the dwarfs in exchange for shelter from the evil queen. Ask your toddler to imagine what might have been different if the dwarfs had been female instead of male, and instead of a tiny cottage in the Wood, if Snow White had stumbled upon Wellesley College.

2. Wonder aloud, what with Cinderella’s history as a cleaner, if she and Prince Charming are likely to share the division of labor in their home. Remark that, if the immaculate state of his white gloves is anything to go by, it’s difficult to imagine that he ever takes out the garbage.”

Somehow I am in a marriage where Chris’ white gloves would never be clean and the division of labor ebbs and flows, and if anything it flows fuller to his plate, depending on what is happening in our life. As my tiny baby niece grows up I hope she is surrounded by positive influences that allow her to decide that her brain and creativity are just as important as the boys around her, that she is not here to serve a man, and that her voice matters. I know whenever we have kid(s) of our own, I will be a strong proponent to let them play out whatever gender roles they decide are comfortable to them while also encouraging respect and understanding for the other gender.

Bikes instead of desks

I am a fan of activity. We sit too much. We watch television, surf the Internet, and generally have become less mobile in recent years. I am not one that is comfortable sitting for long periods of time. I need to move. So when I saw that schools are utilizing standing desks, I thought: “What a great idea.” The article is titled: “Standing Desks Are Coming To Schools, To Cure Obesity And Increase Attention Spans” and it is brilliant that the focus is on obesity and attention spans.

I can remember the strange desks we had a school. Either you had one that had a top that pulled up (and sometimes would easily fall back down on your hand or your head). The base was made of metal, and the top part was made of wood. The other variation we had in my school was also wood + metal, but the desktop did not lift up, rather there was almost a cove/drawer that did not move and was open where you kept all your supplies. I think if I had a choice looking back I would take the more lethal variety of the open top desk. It allowed you to find things more easily, even if it sometimes felt like a hatchet.

In any case, neither desk did anything to help with obesity or attention spans which is why I love the idea of having kids stand. Whether for the attention span aspect of being able to focus more readily or to learn how to sit still, even if it means it is happening while standing. I wonder how many elementary school boys can stand long enough to make it through a class each day? However, if they can pass the test, maybe that is amazing progress for other kids.

Or you can take it to an entirely new level. with this Fast Company article titled: “This School Has Bikes Instead Of Desks–And It Turns Out That’s A Better Way To Learn.” Maybe we can have an amalgamation of both standing desks and bikes to add some variety. Well, actually mostly all for variety. I agree with the article, with physical education and recess being cut either entirely or significantly, maybe these are the new options for maintaining activity at schools?

A more focused and active child, what is not to love? What do you think?

Encyclopedias were my Google

I am not that old, but I did not grow up with the Internet at my fingertips. Instead, I had World Book Encyclopedias. They were not cheap either. At one point my mom sold encyclopedias. I always found it kind of odd. However, looking back I have a hunch she sold them so that we could have the sample set in our house. Whenever we would ask a question about something my mom would tell us: “Look it up.” I was never really a fan of pulling out the volumes that were massive like “S” and always wondered what was in the volumes like “Z.” “Q” (like Z) were in mint condition because they were rarely opened.

I had not really thought about encyclopedias in years, until I read this in the book: “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family” by Kathleen Flinn:

“Encyclopedia salesmen were a fixture of suburban America in the 1950s and 1960s, widely mocked by comedians. Regardless of the brand, the hard sell invariably included an expression of grave concern that a potential client’s children would suffer without having a ‘library in the living room.’ Most offered a payment plan to help ease the impact of the investment, which could be the equivalent of half a year’s rent.” Page 81

Her book is such a great memoir and reminder of so many items long forgotten in life, such as Chef Boyardee (which I wrote about a few days ago). It is actually incredible if you think about how fast the sharing of information has changed over the years. In addition to encyclopedias, we also had issues upon issues of National Geographic. While some of the covers and photos inside horrified me, it was a view into other parts of the world. Now we can do that in just a few clicks.

Today we are spoiled rotten. We do not have to wait to print a new version of encyclopedias and know that the money we shelled out for an entire edition of encyclopedias are old the second they are printed. We can read more than one can ever imagine after a few key strokes. We have instant access to good information and instant access to time-wasting information. It makes it much harder to know the integrity of the details, but there is plenty of it, and it is fast. We never have to worry about having a “library in the living room.”

eunoia

I am a lover of words. I never was able to take Latin in high school or college, but somehow throughout the years I became addicted to words and their meaning. I always remember the saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” It is not true. Words hurt. They infiltrate our minds sometimes, and never leave us. We go over and over them in our thoughts when they hurt. We never forget the first time someone tells us they love us, or the last time.

Recently, I came across a new word:

eunoia (n). beautiful thinking, a well mind

I love the word. Somehow a word rolls off your tongue, or makes you think what does that word mean? eunoia is Greek, and is the shortest English word that contains all vowels. I think of all the people in my life that inspire me with their eunoia. Maybe it is a bit harder to put into a sentence, nevertheless, I like the word. Who in your life has eunoia?

Ah words. Somehow on most days, I make up my own words. I cannot tell you how often I have woken up in the middle of the night and not so gracefully and illegibly written down my own words. When I wake up in the morning, I would try to make out the newest word that oozed out of my half coherent brain. When I am not sleeping, and my mind is going a mile a minute I still make up my own words. They always make sense to me. Somehow over the years, they now mostly make sense to Chris. When I asked him for an example, he said: “That is so hard, because you do it all the time. It is hard to remember them all. I mean, you say it and I repeat the word to you, and you say, ‘Go !&@%&!$’.” Usually he is laughing so hard he does not hear me.

Ah, maybe I do not alway have eunoia. I can dream.