Friday, March 28, 2008

Ornery is as ornery does

Our mother is probably one of the most orneriest people I have ever known. To say she is stubborn is a complete understatement. On her first day of school the bell rang for the children to line up and go inside. She was stunned when the children all ran and obeyed. She tried to convince them that there were more of them than there were teachers and they should all just stay outside and play, what could they do? But everyone else got into line and finally, when she couldn't convince anyone to stay and play, she did, too. But she didn't like it.

While I was growing up I thought I was entirely different than my mother. I would have been HORRIFIED to try to convince the children to rebel against the bell! And yet, my mother reminds me, she got a phone call from a mother who said I was no longer to talk to her son. Now, you are probably snickering. Was I boy crazy? Was I pestering the young lad? We were in second grade. I wasn't allowed to talk to him any longer because he was a Jehovah's Witness and he was supposed to go to the library while the rest of the class had their halloween party.

I was shocked that he had to leave while the rest of us had our party, and he was so sad! I convinced the poor child that it was no different than any other moment in a classroom of laughing children, because it was what you believed in your heart. If he didn't BELIEVE it was a religious holiday, if he just thought of it as having fun with his friends, it wasn't really "celebrating" a pagan holiday. So, he stayed. And, he brought home his halloween candy. Obviously, he didn't use my argument very effectively with his mother! My mother informed me that while I didn't do something wrong, I really didn't do something right. I should not come between a child and the parents' beliefs.

I do wonder what would have happened if my mother hadn't been the type to try to organize playground rebellions.

A few years later I had a teacher that still used the paddle to not only discipline but supposedly as a learning "encouragement" tool. If you didn't memorize a poem by the day set for reciting you were "hacked". There was one boy in class that was "hacked" every single day for not memorizing something, or for not using some social grace, or for being last to get in line. I began getting ulcers in the fifth grade. This man made me physically ill. Every single "class party" day he would make this boy go to the neighboring class room and miss it for some imagined slight.

Our Christmas party my mother was the "homeroom" mom. She brought the treats and helped disperse and clean up. I was the room monitor in coordination with my mom. My mother brought a store bought sheet cake from Home Bakery, just the very best thing! The teacher asked me to bring a piece of cake to each of the other fifth grade teachers with some punch. I delivered the cake slices with punch, one at a time and as I came into the classroom with the boy who had been banished from our class he looked up and said, "OH! Is that for me?" so hopefully, that to this day my heartaches. I replied, "No, but I'll be right back with yours" and brought the teacher up her piece.

I then went back into the classroom and up to my mother and told her what had happened. She cut the biggest piece and handed it to me on a plate. I picked up the cup of juice and started across the room and out the door when my teacher called to me. "Where are you going? Didn't you already take cake to all the fifth grade teachers?"

"I am bringing this to Jeff," I replied. "Oh, I don't know about that!" he said. I was trembling as he stomped towards me. And suddenly my mother was standing there. "But I do," she said quietly, "I told her it was the right thing to do, don't you agree?" The teacher stood there looking at my mother and she at him. "Of course I agree, I was just going to do it myself," he said and reached for the plate. My mom gave me a shove, "No, let her," and out I hustled.

The look on Jeff's face was pure joy! The next day winter break began. I hope life wasn't harder when we got back from break. I hope the teacher didn't bear grudges. I really don't remember. I know it didn't get better. I know my mom was startled years later when I told her how much a truly, truly, truly hated fifth grade. Although I do know Abou Ben Adam may his tribe increase ..., and Four Score and seven years ago our father brought forth on this continent a new nation ... it took me years later to enjoy and understand them.

It is odd, though, how that fifth grade class prepared me for things in my later life. I really hate confrontations, and I don't go out looking for them, but neither do I allow them to side step me from doing what is right. And, if I can't convince anyone to join me, I can always decide to get in line or leave the playground.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

For #4

My littlest sister keeps checking back on my tired old blog and I keep disappointing her. She should know better, however. Our whole family has Chronic Focus Disorder - CFD (our kinder term for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a family that goes crazy together doesn't commit one another). Whatever task we have before us basically consumes us. I think that's how we made it across the ocean and then across the continent just to make it this far west "back in the day" before being in the far east once again . Like our forefathers (and mothers) we remain a very "focused" herd of people.

Our mother has been known to scrub out the bathtub tile, with a toothbrush, fifteen minutes before we were to leave for Christmas Eve dinner at our aunt's home. When we take on a new job the whole family usually takes a vote on it because if it is too "much" we will literally lose that person for a year or so. We vote to see if the job is worthy of the person they are getting and we are loosing. We are the dedicated worker who takes on all the tasks that everyone else has learned to say "No" to. We organize the place, pull it out of the red and put it into the black, negotiate and win over tough customers, all the while the household falls apart unless we've pulled in another family member to take over there (and change the perfect spot where the potholders go or else the universe will cease to exist as we know it).

Psychologically many have said it is because we are so egotistical we can't believe someone else will do as well as we will do (or secretly we are afraid they will). Others have said it is because we don't have control of any other area of our life so we micro-manage where we can. As someone with CFD I can state that while those things may be side effects what really drives me is a thirst to "know". I want to know if the plan of action I have set in motion will work. I want to know if my hypothesis is correct. But even more, I think the end result isn't half as important as the process in getting there and if I am not there to take part in the process I won't KNOW how it worked.

What we haven't learned is moderation. I think, of course, I am a little bit better than the generation before me (and a little bit better than my siblings, if truth be told). I would not, for instance, arrange a vacation cruise around my car's maintenance schedule. I'm just saying. However, just try serving my rice with a freaking silver serving spoon. I swear if one more of my kids does that I will bury that spoon where the sun does not shine (which around here is most any place). You work all day on a holiday meal and then they stick a silver serving spoon in the rice! Or use paper napkins with dinner! Now that's just plain disgusting and rude. Hahahaha!

When most of my siblings and cousins get together it is chaos. Fifteen micro-managers with their corresponding parent(s), fingers itching to "finish" the project at hand, with our own ideas of how it would make life so much easier for the world if done using "my" theories.

No wonder we no longer all live in one town! Not even Seattle could contain my cousins. My own siblings have had to spread out to different areas of the world, all of us on one continent is a little too much for those around us.

So, dear number four, as you may have guessed, I have started a new job and am "focused" and slightly neglectful. What's that? You have a new job, too? Oh! I do have a suggestion or two that will work perfect for you and if you don't use it, well, I think the world just might possibly end. Maybe.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


As you know by now if something says it has been researched I want to see the proof. When I saw this on a local forum and received it in my email I remembered back to when it first was making its rounds.

Olny sarmt ploepe can raed tihs
I cndolu't bvlieee taht I culod autclay uesdrantnd waht I was rndaieg. The poanhoemal pwoer of the hmaun mnid, aodcrincg to a rcehsecaerehr at an Elgsinh Utvinersiy, it dsone't mteatr in waht odrer the ltreets in a wrod are, the olny irpmoatnt tnhig is taht the fsirt and lsat lteter be in the rghit pcale The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sltil raed it woihtut a pelorbm. Tihs is bseucae the hmaun mnid deos not raed ervey lteetr by ilstef but the wrod as a wlhoe. Aznamig huh? Yaeh and I aylaws tughoht slinpleg was irmtapont! If you can raed tihs psas it on!

If, however, you were unable to read the scramble above and don't know what it is asking you to do, let's try it again below.

Olny srmat poelpe can raed tihs. I cdnuol't blveiee taht I cluod altaucly uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rcseareher at an Ensligh Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs psas it on !!

Most people are amused that they can read the paragraph in this rendering and readily agree as to why they can do so:

Only smart people can read this.

I couldn’t believe that I could actually understand what I was reading. The phenomenal power of the human mind, according to a researcher at an English University, it does not matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and the last letter be in the right place.The rest can be total mess and you can still read it without a problem. This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself , but the word as a whole. Amazing huh! Yeah and I always thought spelling was important! If you can read it pass it on!!

When this first went around my homeschooled kids cheered. Hahaha mom, see, you really don't need spelling! My son, however, was a good speller and stared at it puzzled. Do you see what was done in the second rendering of the paragraph that, though slightly scrambled, makes it much more readable than the first? The letters are switched in a pattern (often mirrored) and your mind quickly picks up the pattern and automatically makes the adjustment in the rest of the words.

uesdnatnrd unsdeatrnd undseartnd undesratnd understand?

It is a fascinating ability of the mind to look for patterns and automatically assimilate them. However, that is not the conclusion that the paragraph is telling you to come to. The power of suggestion, eh? A trick within a trick. How often do we fall prey to them?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Baha'i Children's Classes on NPR!

"It sounds like the start of a bad joke: A Jew, a Baptist and a Baha'i get together every Sunday morning ..."

NPR news article regarding one of the types of children's classes that Hubby and I teach facilitators how to do as well as host ourselves. This summer we plan to hold a couple week long summer sessions for children, pre-youth and youth. The pre-youth and youth classes, of course, are markedly different than the children's classes.

The Junior Youth series is designed to build reading, vocabulary, and problem solving skills. Future books for the series will include math and the sciences.

Youth classes use the RUHI course materials with the only difference being at their own pace (about two or three times faster than adult classes) and more music.

All of the classes are centered around strengthening communities. First the individual learns to strengthen themselves, then they learn how important their contribution to society is and how to develop tools within themselves to help communities be a better place to live for everyone.

Anyone interested in attending children, pre-youth, youth or adult classes can email the local Baha'i RUHI coordinators (serving Clatsop and Tillamook Counties). Classes are open to people of any religion or philosophy, send email to: bahaicoast at twowings dot net.

I am deliberately keeping this blog entry short. The NPR article does a very good job describing a Baha'i children's class and I encourage you to go there and either read it or listen to the news story about it.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Secondhand Lions

I only got to watch the last 15 minutes of a movie that I have been looking forward to watching all week because I totally forgot it was on, instead the tube was hogged by people watching some basketball game or another. Natch! I love this movie, too! A great example of story telling. I wonder if I got it as an audio if it would be just as good?

When we would go camping when the children were young we would bring books on tape/cd and in the evenings (or afternoons if it was a rainy trip) we would put the tape/cd on and watch the fire as books came alive in our minds. We listened to the Lord of the Rings, Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, and Pride and Prejudice are the ones that I can immediately think of. Games of cribbage or dice (played to 25,000) or endless rounds of Yahtzee would also be played as we sat listening to the voices, each of our own mini-movies spinning in our heads.

When Hubby and I gave a class on teaching children's classes we showed a series of movies that featured the art of story telling. So much of what we teach our children can be best taught (and best learned) through a story and it is wonderful to see that this is not a lost art. And art it is. Over on Auntie's blog she had a contest for people to name a piece of art. Most people couldn't stop with a name, they gave it a mini-story.

When I read the blogs of others there are so many stories out there. Often what I read is obviously something that the writer has either told or heard numerous times. Oral story being preserved in the written form. I read the words aloud to my family and a little later I overhear one of them retelling it over the phone to one of their friends. Yes, it has changed a little, much like the stories of the secondhand lions. How much of the story is what actually happened and how much of it is what all players wished happened? How much of it is colored for a better effect, or a worse one? Would the original cast recognize their roles?

The beauty of the word and how it caresses the idea giving the creator the opportunity to communicate love, anger, joy, sadness, ecstasy, despair is one of the most important things that a parent, mentor, can give to a child.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Good-By Ha, Hello Fast

Let the days in excess of the months be placed before the month of fasting. We have ordained that these, amid all nights and days, shall be the manifestations of the letter Ha, and thus they have not been bounded by the limits of the year and its months. It behoveth the people of Baha, throughout these days, to provide good cheer for themselves, their kindred and, beyond them, the poor and needy, and with joy and exultation to hail and glorify their Lord, to sing His praise and magnify His Name; and when they end -- these days of giving that precede the season of restraint -- let them enter upon the Fast.
(Baha'u'llah, Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 13)

Fasting and obligatory prayer constitute the two pillars that sustain the revealed Law of God. Bahá'u'lláh in one of His Tablets affirms that He has revealed the laws of obligatory prayer and fasting so that through them the believers may draw nigh unto God. Shoghi Effendi indicates that the fasting period, which involves complete abstention from food and drink from sunrise till sunset, is ...essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires. (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 176)

The above is in answer to friends' questions regarding why Bahá'ís fast. Personally, I love this time of year. The prayers for fasting bring me peace, make me think, contemplate what I am presently doing, what I want to be doing, is it in accordance with being a Bahá'í and what does "being a Bahá'í" mean?

Totally opening my mind to possibilities, which at times can be quite terrifying and others reassuring. It is a time to free oneself from the mistakes of the past year, while reaffirming what went right. Acknowledging debts owed, making plans for repayment. Understanding why things went wrong, how things went right. Puzzling about things and comprehending that, yet again, it may remain unresolved. Taking one step closer to just being.

Physically, I become more conscious of the day. I am up before the dawn and watch the sun rise with my morning prayers, I say my evening prayers with the sun going down. I am much more aware that spring is upon us and our daylight hours are growing longer. Nature and my spirit both seem to unfold at the same time, a little bit more each day. I am reminded that it does not happen all at once, but by degrees. Sometimes so slowly that unless I am looking for it, I don't even realize it is happening.