Thursday, June 30, 2011

Age

The NYT magazine had a cover story on Derek Jeter, who turned 37 this month - 37 and old; 37 and 12 years past his prime. Jeter, the New York Yankees' captain, shortstop, and all-round good guy hero for a long time, is old. ". . . that makes Jeter a decade older than Einstein was when he published the general theory of relativity, a decade older than Lindbergh when he set the Spirit of St. Louis down in Paris."  I don't know what to say about Einstein. Clearly we have many young geniuses (look at Facebook, etc. and other high tech endeavors) who are in their twenties.  Minds awhirl, buzzing with new ideas and new ways of thinking, the future belongs to them. We also have our fair share of  27 year olds back living with mom and dad, shuffling from here to there, posting for positions and applying for jobs to be coming up with world shattering theories.
It's still hard to think of 37 being way past prime, other than in athletics and, for some of us, hard to think that the world of breathtaking ideas and new visions belongs to the 27-year olds.  But as I was hustling off to an IPad lesson at the Mac store, a friend told me that her son's private school (grades 1-8) would be giving IPads to all its students next year to use for homework.  She laughed and said, "The teachers will be taking the lessons, but the students won't need them. This stuff is all intuitive to them."   Fertile young minds and active young bodies.
Bill Gates may have aged out of the discovery phase of technology, but he's into application now. How do we put this all to good use?  And how does Derek Jeter put his 40's to good use?
But there is good news out there for the folks who are decades beyond the ancient Derek Jeter. The 75-year old Dalai Lama is still giving lectures, still making a difference.  And I want to give a shout out to a friend of mine, 72 years old, back-pack on her back arriving in Canterbury from London today. Tomorrow Pam and 3 friends will get the pilgrims' blessing and set out to walk from Canterbury to Rome - the Via Francigena - for four months. They'll go through England, France, Switzerland and Italy. Four women in their 60's and 70's, one step at a time, carrying everything they need on their backs. Living in the now, seeing the world in the now, taking care of one another in the now.  Maybe no new scientific theories will come out of this walk, but I bet some spiritual theories may. Different types of theories, different types of athleticism in different decades.
I'm not trying to say something cute or cliche-ish like "age is all relative" or cite the "60 is the new 50" sort of thing. Just thinking about age and its conundrums. This entry is a bit too random, even for me.
If you want to read something worthwhile, ready Garrett's comments on grapefruit from yesterday's posting.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fires and Food

"The bread just came in fifteen minutes ago. A day late. That fire in Los Alamos is causing trucks to be re-routed off major highways and extending the time and miles for the trip. An ice cream truck came in the other day with containers of melted ice cream. And the police have set up checkpoints to go over drivers' logbooks and make sure they aren't putting in too many hours at a time.," said the clerk at the bakery in the grocery store.
Turns out the drivers are under pressure to deliver on time, regardless of re-routing and other problems. And the west doesn't quite have the connected and intermingling interstates as the east coast does. This is serious, time-consuming re-routing. The police in some areas are under pressure to make sure the drivers take their breaks when they are supposed to. No-one wants a truck driver who has been on the road fourteen hours careening towards them on the highway. Public Safety matters. Truckers lives matter.

It had occurred to me that the fire in Los Alamos would have an impact on Santa Fe, and that the Arizona fires would have their own impacts, but I'd never considered that those incidents would directly effect my own little personal dinner menu. I like this particular bread because you cook it for only ten minutes and it tastes just like homemade bread, straight out of the oven. I had never thought that it was transported across states to get into our kitchen. (Not very local, is it?)
More importantly, it never occurs to me - or rarely occurs to me - that there is a little interesting story behind almost everything that happens in our daily lives. Does it matter if I buy greenhouse tomatoes or tomatoes whose plants are rooted in the earth?   Whose jobs were lost when the Post cut back its comic pages this past week? Who is making that Greek yogurt and why does it have more protein than other yogurts? And speaking of Greece, what will be the impact if Greece moves away from the euro? Will that impact my life?
It's not that it's all about me and the cause and effect on my particular life. It's about how little we know about the journey people, food, news, fuel, laws, clothes, furniture, just about everything etc. have taken on their way to our lives.  Have to love the man behind the bread counter for telling the story.




Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Meaning or meaning?

Are you living a Meaningful Life, a life with a higher purpose? Is what you do Meaningful?
How can I find Meaning in my life?  One doesn't spend a lifetime in universities and colleges, being part of the educational process without asking those questions, debating, discussing, looking for Meaning late at night or at dawn.Most of us have had one-on-one talks with ourselves or anyone who would even pretend to listen  about the meaning of Meaningful.
"If you had to choose would you choose making a lot of Money or doing something Meaningful? And for decades that question lined the business majors against the liberal arts majors. Little messier with scientists. Everyone wants to say "both," but if you were to only get one, which one would you choose?

  Like most of you, I have asked those questions, searched for the Capital M Meaningful life on and off for years. And there have been times that I've been in those Capital M situations or moments.  The Meaningful Life epiphanies weren't always planned, but occasionally serendipity would bring me to those experiences.  Yesterday, talking with a good friend, we contemplated the Meaningful over sips of tea and coffee, but found ourselves drifting to the lower case meaning and meaningful. 
"Let's face it," Ginia said.  "Our moments for the capital M, the Meaningful Masterpiece (art, book, craft, professional work) have pretty much come and gone. I think our energy is better spent concentrating on the lower m meaningful moments."
How true. If I give a homeless person a bottle of water on a hot day, I'm not changing the world, doing something profoundly Meaningful,  following a higher calling. But I  am doing something intentional, something with meaning, and something that might give meaning to the person who gets the water.
I sometimes go out of my way (especially when I travel, for some reason) to walk up to strangers who are not accustomed to being called beautiful or attracting a lot of attention and I'll say something like "That shirt is so beautiful," or "I love your necklace,"  "Your smile is so great you make me smile."  I especially do this to older people and to young people who don't appear to be attention getters.  I know, it doesn't change the world, doesn't add one bit of Meaning, but sometimes I can see how meaningful the statement is to the recipient.

 I do think lots of lower case m's can lead to a Capital M. For instance, in the movie I Am, at the end people are running around with 'Free Hugs' signs and hugging strangers.  Well, if the whole world were to suddenly be filled with people willing and eager to give free hugs to strangers, we'd be on to something Meaningful.
In the meantime, I'm going to continue with the questions, but will focus on the lower case. I love the distinction and the tweak it has given to my perspective.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Out of Options

One never knows the tales someone is holding inside. This morning I went to yoga and wrestled to keep my scarf on my head as I moved around.  Surely there will be a large crop of hair on my head one of these months.
After yoga, a woman I had just met yesterday came up to me and said, "I know what you are going through as I've been battling cancer for two years." We talked about her short curly hair and I asked her if she was new to this yoga studio and the gentle yoga classes.
"Yes. I'm new here. Actually I am from Santa Fe but am in Denver for three weeks engaged in an experimental cancer trial.  The drugs make me both tired and anxious so I come to yoga to breathe, to settle myself.  I leave the end of this week, and then will be back one day every three weeks for the next several months. Actually, it takes three days (travel to, day in Denver, travel home) for the one hour appointment, but what else can I do?
The doctors at home told me I was basically out of options with nothing left to do but let the cancer spread.
Out of options. Can you imagine? So I found another option."
I might see her once more, maybe twice, if I am lucky.  What beauty, what grace, what spunk. How fortunate for me that she shared her story, as it will be with me forever. And the beauty of this blog is I get to share her story with you.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cells and Circumcision

I wish I knew more about science. In particular, on this day I am thinking about a beautiful woman I know who had a stem cell transplant. Hers is a long story - cancer discovered when she was eight months pregnant, immediate c-section, and the now thriving five-year old boy is happy, healthy and ever so talented. After months and months of treatment and the transplant the beautiful woman is more beautiful than ever.
Her hair is no longer blonde, but darker with blonde highlights. But whose hair color hasn't changed over time - and many times.
But I learned yesterday that her hair color is darker because that is the hair color that emerged from those stem cells. And I learned that she is slowly getting her childhood vaccinations again - to ward off those childhood diseases.
You can probably tell I don't quite know what I am talking about, don't know the multiple impacts from stem cell transplants, don't understand how and what happens to the cells, how much time is involved, what changes and what doesn't. I'm just in awe of this beautiful woman and thankful to science that she is thriving.
But I will do some research; one can still be in awe (maybe more in awe) knowing some facts.
Speaking of medical procedures and research, I also have to figure out what is going on with circumcision and medicaid. Apparently, circumcisions are no longer covered by medicaid and are thought to be unnecessary. This new policy is an affront to several religious and cultural traditions so we'll see if it stand up. If it's true that circumcision is unnecessary and really only causes traumatic pain to baby boys, we American mothers will have one more reason to feel guilty about something. 
My medical thoughts for this Friday.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stolen Art

Most of us know the tales of Nazi art looting. Hitler had a dream, a plan, if you will, for a grand art museum in his home town, so many eyes were open and looking for national treasures and great works from other parts of Europe. Even though, or maybe because, Hitler was rejected from art school twice, he understood the political and cultural power of art. He understood it well enough to collect it and well enough to burn and desecrate works by Jewish artists. In his bunker, until the very end, he had a drawing of what his great art museum, filled with world masterpieces, would look like.
He's not the only one: walk into the British Museum, the Louvre, other major museums and you'll find art 'taken' from one country to another, lifted, pillaged, call it what you will. But I suspect most of the art looting done during war times was not as strategic, as well thought out as Hitler's plan. Although the allies recovered much of the stolen art, there are still unclaimed works sitting in several museums. 
Why am I blogging about this? Well, I recently went to a talk on Stolen Treasures: History and Legacy of Nazi Art Looting and was reminded of much of this history.  In addition to describing the looting, the speaker also mentioned that the 'legal' business of buying and selling art was thriving during the war. Money was to be made in art in Germany, France, and other areas.  How do people figure these things out?  How do people do things that are absolutely legal (buy and sell art and get rich) while the world around them is disintegrating?  I do not have the opportunistic gene nor the gene or whatever it is that says 'This is a great opportunity and you should take advantage of it.'  Is it the making lemonade out of lemon cliche that has grabbed people who figure these things out? All over Europe, Russia and other lands people in churches and museums were hiding their art, looking for safe places to preserve the cultural heritage. And all over, people in suits were doing business collecting, trading, buying and selling art.  I can't get my mind off the business of art during the war.
The speaker also talked about reading letters, papers, articles in her research written by some of Hitler's closest colleagues and supporters. She was astounded by the eloquent ways some of these men would describe the beauty of various artworks, talk about feelings evoked, compassion, wonder, awe - words written about works of art by men who could not find one redeeming characteristic, one bit of compassion for other human beings. How can one melt in front of a painting, yet remain without feeling staring into the eyes of another human being?
Today my mind is on the business of art vs. the stealing of art and on the way the mind is able to slice and dice/ draw lines/ differentiate and justify its actions. There is always so much to learn.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Multitasking Failure

I know, most of us have been multitasking since way before the word existed.  Engaging in one conversation, listening to another; keeping five people's calendars in our heads simultaneously; reading and watching television; driving, smoking, tweeting, texting, putting on makeup.  There aren't many of us who can't do multiple tasks at once. The research seems to suggest that multitasking and multi social networking don't make us smarter, they just make us more harried. I hope a lot of money didn't go into the research, as it as seems pretty obvious to me when my phone is hiding or my keys have taken a walk while I was doing something else.
Today I failed multitasking. Big failure. I was simply going to e-mail and listen to a cd simultaneously. Who hasn't done that?
The problem is the cd was Mary Oliver reading Mary Oliver's poetry. It's one thing to e-mail dates one is available for a meeting listening to Handel, Mozart, Black-Eyed Peas or Beyonce - it's another to do so when Mary Oliver is saying 'Make of Yourself a Light the Buddha said.' 
Try responding to an old friend's query or reading a spreadsheet when Mary is asking 'What is it you plan to do with your one wild and wonderful life?'
It doesn't work. The poem about the swallow stops the fingers in hopes of hearing a bird outside. It can be just one word, a phrase, a whole poem, but suddenly the fingers stop and the mind follows the poet. How can one possibly allow those tapping fingers interfere with the voice and the poetry? Too much dissonance for me.
I've been unsuccessful at times listening to books while driving - if it's a good book. Again, the book takes over and I've gone past my stop.
But listening to great poetry and doing e-mail definitely don't work for me. I failed, and I think I'm proud of it. Perhaps we're all good at multi-tasking the meaningless or the trivial (how's that for a value judgement?)and that is ok.  I gave my full attention to the poetry for forty-five minutes and am happy to have done so.
What kind of multitasker are you?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gong Bathed for Solstice

Yes, went to a gong bath last night in preparation for the summer solstice. It all began with a story in The Post in early June.  'No religion, only "open heart" needed to received and enjoy sacred vibrations" sounded like a good idea.  Who doesn't need some sacred vibrations?  And no it's not a public bath or pool, just an experience of being bathed all over in sound and vibration. An ancient Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
For an hour and a half, along with 100 other people, we reclined on our yoga mats, covered ourselves with a blanket, and let the sound wash over.  One man playing one gong. He had several brushes of different sizes, some bowls of different sizes, and tingsha bells to orchestrate the sound healings. Yoga mats were placed so everyone's head pointed towards the gong. And we had to make sure our feet did not align with the head of the person in the next row. Something about alignment, toxins, karma. . . so I made sure my feet did not point at the head of the person lying beneath me.  As we happened to get situated in the front row, the only thing close to my head was the gigantic gong, and I was to its side, not in alignment with it. Being bathed in sound is a great way to spend some time.  The sound and vibration puts one into that meditative state between here and there -- not quite awake, not quite asleep -- the body, mind, spirit, soul just go to some other space and time during the experience. And they all seem the better for it after its over.
The gong master did warn us that for about two minutes the sound would be very, very loud and if it bothered us we should do whatever we needed to be comfortable.  In that way he reminded me of the shaman in the Sweat Lodge in Mexico who warned us to push ourselves into a little discomfort, but to take care of ourselves if we became extremely uncomfortable.  If you are wondering why I am attracted to these rituals, so am I. I guess I like to try what is new, but in safe circumstances. And who ever was hurt by music?
The gong master, Richard Rudis, was educated at UConn (yea!), and has an engineering background. The many years he spent in India and Tibet learning this tradition came after his traumatic time in the Vietnam War.
Here's a quote about the gong:  "It's a 38-inch alloy gong made by Paiste and tuned to the 136.1 Hertz vibration of Earth in an elliptical orbit of the sun. " 
The discussion of the 136.1 Hertz vibration didn't resonate with me, so I can't tell you more. I can tell you I don't understand how a gong is made and tuned. I know it's all very scientific and makes sense, and that there are people out there who can make a gong and tune it to the 136.1 Hertz vibration. I am in awe of all the creativity in the world.
The music was beautiful and I must tell you that many times as the sound and vibration moved over me, I saw images from the film 'The Tree of Life.'  There is such synchronicity in this world.
So here I am on the day where the sun is in the highest position in the northern hemisphere, the day where daylight lasts the longest, and I've been cleansed by sound for the event. If the opportunity shows up, get yourself a gong bath. It's well worth it. Happy Summer Solstice.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Tree of Life

Have you ever seen a movie you loved, found awesome, and profound even though you weren't sure you understood it? I just had that experience with The Tree of Life. Oh, I figured it was about the origins of life, the meaning of life (along with the development of life), the end of life, and had a slice of real human drama in the middle of things, but it was such an ethereal experience I wasn't really sure what it all meant. 
There is a story, a plot. The film focuses on a family in the Eisenhower era, a family fraught with the tensions, love, misunderstandings, cruelty and love found in many families; it's a father-son story; a brothers story; a real story of loss when one son dies.That part is compelling enough, but it's not the whole story.
The film is bigger than its storyline of the family.
It oozes religious experience and the big questions (Where are you, God?), but in such an impressionistic way. It begins with a quote from the Book of Job and discussion of nature and grace, but that's pretty heady for someone with a bag of popcorn in her hand.
So, I did what I always do when I am not sure what I just saw or read, I googled the movie to find out what it was really about. How can you recommend something if you aren't sure you really understood it?
All the reviews on metacritic.com were over the top:  'It's a poem,' 'It's a prayer,' 'It's a symphony,' 'It's a meditation.' Difference voices, different views.  I agree with all four.
I noted that two critics compared The Tree of Life to Stanley Kubrick's 2001 in terms of its significance and powerful message. This visionary film pushes viewers far beyond their normal comfort level into a zone of discomfort and some uncertainty. A.O. Scott of the New York Times, gushing with praise for the film, says Terrence Malick's  (writer and director) view is that "the loss of innocence is not a singular event in history but rather an axiom of human experience, repeated in every generation and in the consciousness of every individual."  That should help explain some of it.
Coherence? Clarity?  I don't really think so, and I don't even think either was intended.  So I've read the reviews, understand better what impressed me, but still am not sure I get it. Maybe 'getting it' in the traditional sense isn't the point.
 The movie club members sitting behind us in the theatre sure didn't like it. One left, two fell asleep, one told me she thought the director was arrogant and full of himself, and another thought it was meaningless babble.
With all that said, it's a beauty of a movie, it's an artistic, religious, philosophical, and emotional experience. It's visionary and I think it's bold. Serious thinking on a Saturday night.
Sunday night was reward night: we saw Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. Beautiful, accessible, fun, the Woody Allen we all know and love.  A treat of a different sort.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Purpose and Prairie Dogs

Ok, if you want to read something really interesting, go back and read Pat O's comment on yesterday's blog Purpose.  Pat's a master wordsmith and wit and has a mind that never stops working. Anyway, I promise you will learn more about prairie dogs than you knew you wanted to know - and you'll get some great insight into being and purpose.
Perhaps my purpose yesterday was to post that quote in order to get some better understanding than I was finding on my own.  Perhaps many times we only know our purpose after the fact - unintended purposes and unintended consequences.
Just this morning I talked to a woman who spent two years in Mongolia in the Peace Corps. She was well trained, knew what her purpose was, and was ready to serve. But once she was actually on site, she began to see other purposes and found herself immersed in multiple purposes. So purpose is 'out there' available to us when we can see, hear, taste, smell, feel the world. What about Being?
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The heart is the thousand-stringed instrument. Our sadness and fear come from being out of tune with love.
                                                                                                                                            Hafiz

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Purpose


                                          There is always purpose in being,
                                           but not always being in purpose.

I don't know who originally said that, but I've been thinking about it on and off all day.
I, for one, struggle endlessly with 'What is my purpose?' 'What should I be doing with my life?' Without a purpose what is the point of hanging around. Don't a full, meaningful life and purpose go hand in hand?
This quote suggests something different, something unsettling to me.Can it be possible that just being is purpose enough?
And what does just 'being' mean?I'd understand if I were some spiritual, incandescent light illuminating all things that come in contact with me. My just being would be enough. There would be purpose in that being. But I'm not. And neither are most people I know.Does this mean there is some greater purpose in being that we don't understand? And if so, who figured that out? Why shouldn't we know?
I understand a bit more what 'there's not always being in purpose' means. I think it means all those 'doing' things that we use to define ourselves (the old and 'what do you do? question) don't necessarily add up to the sum total of who we are.  I may be a baker, a teacher, a mother, a volunteer, but those purposes, those things I do, may not reflect my being. Do I find my deepest, most authentic self (selves) when I am doing or being?
Or both? I agree that there is not always being in purpose, but still am not comfortable with the statement
There is always purpose in being. Are you?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lunar Eclipse

I think we're right smack in the middle of the lunar eclipse as I blog this.  The Earth's shadow is in the process of completely blocking the moon, but we won't be able to see it here in the US. Eastern Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and parts of Europe will be able to see it, but not those of us in North America. Well, I'm sure video will be posted on tv, itube, etc. and if you want real time, on time lunar eclipse 2011, Sky Watchers Association of North Bengal will be doing a live webcast of the entire eclipse. Should I be looking for the Sky Watchers site right now.
But life being what it is, a woman told me this morning that one would definitely feel the vibes of the eclipse throughout the body. I'm trying, but I don't feel anything right now. I don't feel blocked like the moon and I don't feel the big bully shadow hovering over me. But I'm going to try. If the moon can affect the tides, surely it can affect me - or I can feel the effects - when it's going through a fairly unfamiliar experience. No sighting here, but hopes for some feeling of it all. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mixed Tastes

Two days prior to my being enlightened about 25-year old champion sperm, I was at Mixed Tastes at the Contemporary Art Museum learning about Baroque Opera and Kim Chi.  You'd be surprised what they have in common.
Someone asked the speakers the following questions:  Do you think Koreans like Kim Chi more than other people do because it is so rich in a cultural context, so full of family, community, country associations?  Do you think Italians (or Germans, French, whatever country an opera is from) like their operas more than other people do because of the cultural, intellectual, personal contexts. An easy answer might be,'Well, if one understands the language that has to help in 'liking' an opera, but that wasn't the point.
The American chef and kim chi expert felt that the whole aura of kim chi, associations with grandparents, growing up, finding an identity - all the non-culinary attributes - would lead someone of Korean heritage to truly 'love' kim chi more than you or I might. The food would actually taste better to someone who had all those positive and important points of identification with it.
The opera director disagreed and stated quite firmly that the power of opera (or any good music) is that it can be deeply, truly 'loved' by anyone, regardless of home, cultural contexts, memories. He stood for the transformative power of music, of its belonging to everyone, its capability to seduce anyone from anywhere.
What I like about these questions is that they aren't about understanding or knowing, but about the power of the senses to be affected by emotions. The questions beg deep, not necessarily rational answers. The answers demand that we bring all our senses to the table and see how they impact what we hear, what we see, what we taste.  What do you think? How does cultural, social, family context affect your reactions, your tastes and sounds.

Monday, June 13, 2011

What I Don't Know

Those of you who know me already know there's far more I don't know than what I know, so I can be easily amused, entertained, or taught because there is so much room to fill.
Well, last night I learned about a champion dog's twenty-five year old frozen sperm finally being used. Twenty-five years that sperm and the sperm's owner had been waiting for the perfect recipient.
The woman who owns the sperm breeds and shows Westies, and her dogs have won everywhere, including Westminster. She breeds champions and trains champions. She does sell some of her dogs, but rarely, and any potential owner of one of her dogs is vetted far more rigorously than is any candidate for the Supreme Court. Jaime has sold two of her Westies to friends of mine, so I get to see her at least once a year when she comes to visit or is in the area for a dog show. She has great flair and impeccable style, so I'm not surprised she would wait for the perfect dog and perfect moment.
But twenty-five years? I've never even thought about how long sperm lasts in its frozen state - human or animal.
I know people looking for sperm donors look for specific qualities or backgrounds, but I don't know if most people want new or old sperm - or if it matters.
I do know the dog inseminated with the 25-year old sperm had two male puppies by Caesarian method. Never dawned on me that dogs gave Caesarian birth, so you can see how little I really know about anything, especially animal related info. These puppies will certainly become champions, keeping the legacy going.
Cloning, legacies, perfection and imperfection, reserving the best, shaping the future. . . one small conversation about one particular dog and the questions don't stop coming. What do you think?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Praise Libraries

In the last two days I have been in two different public libraries. Both were abuzz, people sitting, walking, browsing the shelves, reading and more reading. All ages and stages of life found their way into these two libraries. Is there a better equalizer in the world than the public library? Open to everyone, for everyone. 
Yes, there are endless dvd's, cd's, movies, but so what?  And the computers were all busy, again with people of all ages, people looking for entertainment and people looking for jobs. People come to read magazines, cookbooks, sports, classical literature, newspaper, and mysteries. People come just to feel comfortable surrounded by books and other people. People come because they can't afford their own computers.
Almost every library has had to cut back hours and days because of lack of funding. Imagine a world without libraries, without a place to just hang out, read, think, contemplate, observe human nature. I don't want to imagine that world. Visit your local library and see the good it's doing, the purpose it's serving.
I think I'll go on a local library pilgrimage, just to see if all the local libraries are serving people as well as the two I visited are.  Libraries are central to democracy, at least in my eyes. Praise libraries.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

College Bound

Did you know some parents pay up to $10,000 to hire a private college counselor to help their children get into the 'right' schools? I didn't either. The high-end $10,000 type start with helping the student plan his or her high school course load, strategizing which courses to take when, what extra-curricular activities (long-term and short-term) to pursue, where to travel and how to make it look meaningful, and then the usual - SAT/ACT prep, choosing the best 15 schools, writing the common app and the individual apps. Hard for me to believe there is a kid anywhere compliant enough to put up with this, but I guess there are.  For a couple thousand, you can start later on and trust your high school guidance counselor to help select courses that position one for the good schools. A couple thousand might get one through the selection of schools and the essay writing and re-writing.
None of the above includes the SAT prep courses that sit out there, waiting to be scarfed up by anxious students and parents.
Where is that level playing field?
What happens to the great unwashed who just follow along? Those students getting C's because they'd rather be hanging out with the cool people? The students who have never been told that they are really smart and talented?  The student whose guidance counselor has 140 other students to help?  The student that doesn't know he or she might qualify for an option other than community college? The student who is just too busy being an adolescent, believing that things will work out while he or she is having fun? 
I realize the group I just mentioned doesn't even include the student who is working 3 jobs, babysitting/parenting siblings, living in tense, stressful and sometimes even dangerous situations. That's another group that needs more attention.
I guess the big question is "How do we get more young people to explore and realize their potential?"  What a difference it would make if somehow everyone, starting at a very young age, were able to take it up a notch. Early on...What if teachers were rewarded for getting students to reach, maybe reach a little beyond their grasps...reach for that math class or creative writing workshop? With teachers' rewards now being tied to performance, who will push a student to try something hard?
We are in such a crazy time regarding public education, so many answers, so many wrong answers. So many action plans, measurements, and still so little gain. Lots of attention being paid to people on the low end and high end of the achievement scales, but what about the big, slumbering middle that makes up most of the public school population - especially urban education?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Smart Enough?

I don't usually write about politics, but turned on the tv after the wonder pilgrim event and learned Denver has elected a new mayor. I even voted for the person who was elected.
But... it was one of the most difficult 'should I vote or not?' decisions I ever had to make. Neither candidate appealed to me. Trying to list pros and cons I couldn't come up with a pro for either of them. Not quite true. The candidate I voted for promised not to run a negative campaign. That was nice. . . . Not to mention it was also a precedent set by the previous mayor, John Hickenlooper.
I tried. I listened to debates. I read. I talked to people.  Never have I heard said "Well, I don't think either of them is very smart," said by more people and more consistently. A mayor's race that began with over 30 candidates, drawn down to two in a run-off, and not a person I met thought either of the men was smart.  Without 'smart' how can one possibly talk about ethical, moral, just, or good? How does one process ethical dilemmas without intellectual apparatus? 
Maybe the art of campaigning demands that one not show off 'smart.' We know Obama has taken a fair share of criticism for being 'too smart.'  Maybe it's now mandatory to hide one's smartness in order to get elected to political office.  Maybe the lights will shine now that the election is over and the new mayor will be free to show his smartness. Maybe.
What does that tell us about the state of affairs in U.S. government? We're not looking for Nobel Prize winners, not looking for academic wizards, Mensa men, just people with street, professional and personal intelligence and the consensus is we didn't find one.  Where have all the smart ones gone?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

So Many Paths

Tonight is pilgrim night here. Ann Sieben, Winter Pilgrim, is coming for dinner and Pam Jones, who is leaving for the Canterbury to Rome pilgrimage later this month, is also coming for dinner. Andrea and Lynn will walk here and Linda is getting ready for a walk across Hadrian's Wall. How's that for some foot moving people?
Wish I had the strength and all the other requisite things for a walk this summer, but I'm going to have to postpone it for a while. Not finished yet, just on a sabbatical.
People walk and go on pilgrimages for all sorts of reasons - this is a pretty complicated group, especially Ann.
She's the most 'pure' pilgrim of all, but that is hard to explain. She walks alone, relies on the kindness of strangers for hospitality. It works every time. She always finds a place to sleep, food to eat, and good people populating rural villages and busy cities. She has such a beatific look about her and such piercing blue eyes that I sometimes think she just attracts what is good to her. And her heart is big and open, so that has to help also.
I've only been a pampered pilgrim on the Camino, but that was good enough. Good enough to feel tied to history, people places, and the sacred permanently. For me, finding and feeling the sacred was extremely satisfying. And knowing history is just one foot put in front on another is pretty awesome.
In the right spirit, a pilgrimage can happen at the beach, a park, or in one's own backyard.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer Time

Must be in the mid-nineties today. I hear air-conditioners on in the neighborhood, but figure it is far too early for that nonsense. Better a little sweat and laziness than pumping the electricity.
It's so much easier to be too hot than too cold. Hot - just stop moving. Cold - start moving. I'll take the coming to a dead stop anytime. Even the neighborhood dogs are quiet this afternoon. But there is just enough wind to keep the chimes going. To me, the chimes are soothing and seem almost a reflective, an addition to nature. But maybe there are people who feel the way about chimes that I feel about dogs barking.
Speaking of chimes, I went to a garden party yesterday in truly the most beautiful garden I've been in for years.
There was the white section, the blue section, artwork, tall grasses, low flowers, pots on the patio, but real luscious gardens front, back, and on the sides. As the day wore on, all sorts of birds came by to visit, and even one brown moth.
The owner does all the gardening herself, and it looks like more than a full-time job. I've only known her as someone from Scotland who is very involved in Denver theatre. Now I know a completely different dimension - the woman who can dig, get her hands dirty, and create beauty. So many sides to so many people. I'm not sure what my sides are. Must find out.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mixed Tastes

Feels as if summer is kicking in. Yesterday's weather was hot and windy, today mild, but it's less the weather than it is the opportunities to do various things. Yard sales, concerts, commencements, celebrations,  hanging outside coffee shops, and generally looking at the calendar to check what is possible.
Tonight begins Mixed Tastes at Museum of Contemporary Art - an annual Friday night summer event. We'll miss this one, but make most of the others. At each event two speakers talk on dissimilar topics and then the audience asks questions at the end, to see what the similarities might be after all between the two topics. It's always unpredictable and one can never tell which topic will be most interesting. As with most things, it depends on the speaker.  Last year's speaker on dung beetles blew everyone away with his passion and his storytelling techniques.
Who doesn't love a good story? Is it Amy Rukeyser who said "The world is made of stories, not atoms." Maybe each atom is a story in itself, but one we just don't get to hear. Or perhaps it takes a certain number of atoms to make a story. I think it's time for me to start focusing on 'a story a day' for a while. Maybe it will just be about two robins in the yard, or the laundry, but each day there has to be at least one story to be told. I'll try looking for stories over the weekend to get myself ready for next week. Hope you find a story of your own.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hot Phone

I left my phone in the car while I had coffee with a friend this morning. It was a long coffee, and when I got in the hot car my phone had a message on it saying 'phone is hot. do not use until it cools down.'  Wow.
I wondered if it would explode if I tried to retrieve a message or just die forever if I dialed. Surely I'm not the only one to leave my phone in the car with the sun glaring in for a couple of hours, am I? What about the people who forget all day? Anyway, it was the first message of this sort I have ever received, and I shall try to be more thoughtful of my phone's condition. I guess now it's children, dogs and phones that shouldn't be left in cars.

Why is brainstorming so much fun and why don't I find people with whom to brainstorm more often? Coffee with a friend this morning was a huge brainstorming session and I had great fun. It's amazing how one thought leads to another if noone is saying 'no, that couldn't work' or 'other people have done it.'  Just throw out an idea and see where it leads. I would say one of my strengths is brainstorming; one of my weaknesses is following through. I love to have ideas for other people to follow. That was fine when I had a big staff and could check in and out on how projects were going. But I don't have a staff; I just have my ideas and no follow-through. Quite a dilemma. Is it a crisis of self-confidence that makes it so difficult to move from idea to action? Going to have to figure that out. In the meantime, I need to find my things that need brainstorming and people who like to brainstorm. I prefer small quirky issues rather than solving big problems or contemplating existential issues.  That's what I'll be looking for tomorrow.  And I'll keep my phone protected.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Goals again

This is harder than I thought. I'm having trouble staying on target with my goals just for today. The day started off well enough, bit midway through I start second-guessing myself. Maybe this is too ambitious, maybe the person really doesn't want to work on that program, maybe I should have a different goal, maybe, maybe, maybe.
I'm married to someone who makes a commitment to do something and then does it. Never looks back, never second guesses. Finds life much simpler that way. From afar, I admire his ability to not twist and turn with every second or third thought.
But back to today and my goals... they aren't that large or significant, but one change stimulates another.
I'm off schedule, but the only one who knows the schedule is me, so what does it matter? But here I sit, feeling like a failure because I am off a self-imposed schedule. There are absolutely no consequences of being off this schedule, other than knowing I'm off. As I type this I realize how strange it must sound to someone who isn't me, isn't carrying my psyche around, or having this psyche directing traffic. Maybe it would be better to concentrate on what part of the schedule was successful and be satisfied with 75% and let it go.
It's been a long time since 75% satisfied me, but maybe that's a new achievable goal.