Thursday, January 27, 2011

passing it down

Awesome sil Kathleen made this beautiful blessing dress 26 years ago for Meghan. In fact she smocked all three of my kids blessing outfits. All treasured heirlooms now. Faye wore this for her blessing and seeing her in it causes me to tear up every time.

27 minutes away

They moved in right after Thanksgiving. Kenz is doing a great job making it into a home. In this photo note Megs bringing Faye for her first official visit. Check out ld and Maddie peering out Cate's bedroom window.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

a serendipitous january

On the downside of January. So much snow and cold this year. There have been a few sunshiny days, but mostly gray. It’s been a long month of trying to get my health issues in check (the wheels of diagnosis, just like the wheels of justice, grind ever so slowly), squelching subsequent anxiety, reading a ton and sewing.

We had our first MoDA (mother/daughter) bookclub meeting over lunch last week. Good times. Even Cate caught the vision and wanted to talk about ‘Princess Books’.

So, about the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Not our book club selection but a recent read. At first, I sort of dismissed it as trying to be more than it actually is. In fact, I think I had actually read it before, without any impact obviously, probably thought it was pseudo pop philosophy. But on this reading I found things to treasure up, which is interesting. I like to think I have a highly developed and finely tuned crap detector and a few months ago would have found quotes from this book very Hallmarky Malarkey. I can only attribute my softening attitude to….I dunno. Winter living, perhaps? Or maybe that I have privately (meaning in my own head) embellished and added to the book to suit my purposes. When we take ideas and remembered text from other literary works and bring them to what we are currently reading, it creates synthesis and synchronicity. And such synthesis and synchronicity allows us to think deeply and with more understanding. Yup, happened here.

At any rate, the little fable touches on many themes. I like this about fear:

My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,’ the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky. ‘Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself… People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them.
Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.’”

One question to ask myself here, then: “What would you do if you were not afraid?” Think about it. (Bike across America!)

"There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

And then I thought of fear themes throughout literature. From Macbeth, Lord of the Flies, Wizard of Oz, Edgar Allen Poe, even, and the whole Gothic fear thing - where this thing might happen or it might not, it’s the place in between, that flux that makes us so uncomfortable and where fear gets all its power. Hey, that’s modern life/free floating anxiety, I recognize you.

And then from Dune: Fear is the great destroyer.

And again in my private in–my-own-head bookclub, I interjected the pop quote:
Many of our fears are tissue-paper-thin, and a single courageous step would carry us clear through them. ~Brendan Francis

See what I mean? By my bringing more to my reading, then suddenly a book (even a just okay book) becomes more.

And then of course the book concludes with this over arching truth:

The real treasure is in the journey itself

Santiago’s dream was to make it to the pyramids, but the adventure that he found himself on in order to get to those pyramids taught him more than he ever thought possible. By the time he reached the pyramids his life had changed forever.

Which makes me think of the quote: The way we measure the value of a pursuit or goal is by what we become in the process.

It’s not the goal, per se. It’s the journey, eh?

Which is, all the more reason, why I need to get a bike.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

C'mon over fam. Enough leftovers for a week.

Last night we ordered Chinese take out. When we got home, I dived into the sweet and sour chicken, but as I opened the other boxes it became apparent both by the quantity and variety that they had given me the wrong order. The bill I paid was for $17.80. This was too much food. A ton more. And good stuff I hadn’t ordered either.
Ld and I felt a little uncomfortable as we chewed. Quietly he said, “go take a twenty and go back and pay them the difference.’ I readily agreed.

The teenage boy’s face lit up when I walked back in. He apologized profusely as it had been his fault with the mix up. I told him I wanted to pay the difference. The three at the desk exchanged puzzled looks and then after some discussion in Chinese rang up the total - $55.60, minus the $17.80 I had already paid. More than I had expected but it was right to pay it.

When I got home I said to ld:
I may not say this often enough or ever again but I am very happy to be married to someone who was bothered by that and wanted to fix it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

aptitude is really a function of time. and some other stuff.

My 6th book read since Christmas. Oh, Ipad, you and I have become BestFriendsForever. The book Outliers by Macolm Gladwell, has my head spinning. So much so that I have chosen it as Januarys Mother/Daughter bookclub selection and as the designated topic for tomorrows Sunday dinner. I am itching to discuss this book (as ld can attest). Give it a go, it's an easy narrative non-fiction read.

Gladwell brings up the idea of the “10,000 Hour Rule”. Scientific studies show that 10,000 hours are required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world class expert – in anything. Think the Beatles, Bill Gates, Mozart, too.

Gladwell quotes neurologist Daniel Levitin:
“In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years… No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.“

The notion that it takes at least 10 years (or 10,000 hours) of dedicated practice for people to master most complex endeavors, like learning a language, mastering a musical instrument, etc. it’s not a new idea. But it is, according to Gladwell, a requirement to be an Outlier.

"Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good," he writes. "It's the thing you do that makes you good."

But wait, there’s more. He tackles cultural differences among airplane pilots and how that contributes to crashes, why professional hockey players are born mostly in January, February and March, Asians proclivities to math and how they relate to rice paddies, and why Appalachian hicks are such hotheads. Fascinating, stuff. Really. As with anything it’s not to be swallowed wholly and requires thought to sift and weigh his arguments and conclusions. But me likey.


“No one- not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software’s billionaires, and not even geniuses- ever makes it alone.”

“Success arises out of the steady accumulation of advantages: when and where you are born, what your parents did for a living, and what the circumstances of your upbringing were all make a significant difference in how well you do in the world.”

“Each of us has his or her own distinct personality. But overlaid on top of that are tendencies and assumptions and reflexes handed down to us by the history of the community we grew up in, and those differences are extraordinarily specific.”

“When we understand how much culture and history and the world outside of the individual matter to professional success…. We have a way to make successes out of the unsuccessful.”

“Superstar lawyers and math whizzes and software entrepreneurs appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don’t. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky- but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.”,9171,1858880,00.html

we make a rather interesting pair

Saturdays have their predictable rituals around here. Ld visits his folks, does the laundry and stamps his money in the kitchen. Minutes ago, as he was attending to his numismatist duties he hollers out to me:

Now who tried making a bumblebee out of this lemon? Hmm? Who exactly would that be?

He wouldn't let it go.

Let me guess.

What? You mean your Saturdays don't include rubber stamping dollar bills or making insects out of fruit?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

a year of mostly sun

From The Passing of the Year by Robert W. Service

My pipe is out, my glass is dry;
My fire is almost ashes too;
But once again, before you go,
And I prepare to meet the New:
Old Year! a parting word that's true,
For we've been comrades, you and I --
I thank God for each day of you;
There! bless you now! Old Year, good-bye!

True. I am blowing kisses to 2010. So many good things came to pass – the graduations, the miracles, the progress, the better choices, the books, the insights, the grandgirlies born. And as it slips away I can only whisper, no yell, thank you. Some years, sometimes whole life seasons even, are not so good, for whatever reasons. I am very, very glad to have had 2010.