Sunday, April 29, 2007

What Page Was I On?

One of my favorite movies is 84 Charing Cross Road. It is the story of a transatlantic friendship that is begun over books. Helene Hanff (played by Ann Bancroft) and Frank Dole (played by Anthony Hopkins) carry on a twenty-some year correspondence revolving around books that Helene Hanff wants from Frank Dole's bookshop in London. Every facet of this movie interests me but I am particularly struck by how each book that Helene Hanff receives makes reference to or inspires her to read another. There is an interesting exercise for all of us in following the progression of our related reading materials.

I have been reading John Lane's The Spirit of Silence. Several posts back, I made reference to the Zen poet Ryokan (April 10, 3007, "Don't Worry, Be Happy"). Lane had a brief discussion of Taigu Ryokan in which he quoted the poem that I included in my previous post. The words of this poet resonate deep within me. So much, that I felt called to read more about the life and works of this man. I ordered Great Fool: Zen Master Ryokan, Poems, Letters, and Other Writings. I think that part of the reason that I am so drawn to him is that in my mind he embodies much of the same spirit that I see in St. Francis. Thus far I have only flipped through the book. I know that I have barely touched the surface of the great wisdom that lies in these pages of Taigu Ryokan. How do I know this? Because the following leaped to me from the midst of this text's 300 pages.

This poem is from the collection, Butterfly Dreams

What was right yesterday
Is wrong today
How do you know what's right today
Wasn't wrong the day before?
Right and wrong aren't something fixed
You can't tell in advance the pros and cons
The foolish are stuck on a single note
So wherever they go, they're out of tune
The wise penetrate to the source of things
And pass their time roaming free and at ease
Forget about knowledge and ignorance both
And you can call yourself one who has the Way

In a nutshell, I believe that the message here is that living in black and white makes one "foolish" and "out of tune." Most of life is lived in they grey area - some days it leans more towards white and is lighter; other days it's cast is dark as it moves more towards black. The good news is that it never remains in one place. Life, we, are in a state of constant flux. This is a good thing. Change is always available to us if we are willing to be open to the present.

This one if from Dream Dialogue

People's minds aren't all the same
Any more than people's faces
Everyone clings to his own point of view
Incessantly arguing over right and wrong
"If you think like me, you're right
even if you're wrong"
"If you don't think like me, you're wrong
even if you're right"
Whatever is right to you is right
Can't you see that's wrong?
From the start, right and wrong are both in you
But the Way itself isn't like this at all
Only a fool would ever attempt
To fathom the ocean with so clumsy a pole

Here too, Ryokan urges that we not fixate on right and wrong. I think he is asking us again to be open to all that is around us. If we form an opinion and then cease to have dialogue around that topic, personal growth stops. We must be willing to always be open and flexible. Judgement, either right or wrong, affords us nothing.

Just as Helene Hanff made her way through books, always being open to the gift that each one brought to her, I too make my way - not worrying too much about whether what I am reading is "right" or "wrong". Obviously I have formed opinions. They may not be right tomorrow but, for me, today, they are. What you discern from the words of Ryokan today is yours. Read today. And, read tomorrow remebering that it is a new day.

Maybe I should put down this book and again watch 84 Charing Cross Road? Will its message to me still be the same? Does it really matter? I don't think so. If the message changes, I needed to hear/see/read something different.

An interesting aside to this idea of change - When I was in London, I wanted to see 84 Charing Cross Road. I wanted to see the shop. I knew THE shop was not still there but the building must be. So, down the street we strolled to discover that what I thought would be a quaint English shop had been consumed by American commercialism. 84 Charing Cross Road was the address for Pizza Hut.

"What was right yesterday is wrong today . . ."

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Stop And Hear The Music

Today's "To Do List" had many things on it. I am proud to say that they are all still there. Though there were many things that I could have, maybe even should have, done, there was nothing that I had to do. I slept late - 9 is late for me - and then spent the afternoon at the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival before going to school at 8 to hear my students present their sophomore recital.

It was a beautiful day for an outside festival. The Civic Center Park was filled with music, artists, crafters, food, and people. It was a center of creative energy. Energy suggests motion, maybe even agitation. Creative energy often has the opposite effect. Listening to all the different music going on today had a soothing effect on me. The sounds varied; I heard everything from middle school choirs to bagpipes to show tunes to jazz. No matter the genre, I felt that I was being pulled to just sit and listen. To sit and listen, what a treat. Life today does not afford us as many opportunities to do this as we'd like or, more importantly, as we need. To be creative beings we need periods of calm and stillness. Listening to music is a great way to achieve this - especially when the music is live. My day of listening concluded in the concert hall by hearing my students perform some classical, some jazz, and some show tunes. Today was a nearly perfect aural experience!

I thought that it was interesting that the festival divided the "artists" and the "crafters". The artists were in the building and the crafters were outside in tents. Best I could tell, the artists were the ones who charged a bunch for their wares; they were the ones who try to make a living doing what they do. The crafters were the ones who seemed to be having fun, but not becoming rich doing their thing. Frankly, I would rather be a crafter - outside and having fun. Don't get me wrong, there was some beautiful "art" but, I enjoyed strolling through the crafter's tents. To me, their goods seemed more creative. I saw ceramic ocarinas shaped like all kinds of animals, beautiful handmade furniture, jewelry, pottery, and copperwork. It was a feast for the eyes.

Then there was the feast for the stomach. Nothing, except maybe the roasted corn on the cob on a stick, was even remotely healthy. To enjoy the taste sensations you had to abandon any notion of Weight Watchers or Atkins. You could have any kind of meat on a stick, popcorn, corny dogs, and anything, from rice to Snickers, fried. I could not pass up an unhealthy dose of fried food; I just had to decide what to put on the inside of my batter. I narrowed the choices to pickles, potatoes, and Snickers. I have had my share of both fried potatoes and fried pickles in my life so I decided to try something new - I got the Snickers. Snickers are my favorite candy bar so I had high hopes for this. It was served on a stick, coated with batter and drenched with powdered sugar. You probably do not have enough fingers and toes to count the calories even if you count by tens. BK and I did share it so I was only half bad! I must say that though I laud the creativity exhibited by frying a Snickers bar, it was not good. When the woman at the counter handed it to us, she said, "Wait at least two minutes before you bite in to it." Even after two minutes it was still mushy in the middle. It was the same disappointment experienced when your scoop of ice cream becomes a melted memory of its former self. I am glad that I tried it. Now I know - order the pickles!

So tomorrow comes with today's chores still to do, as well as a few more. That's OK. I had a great day today. The calm, the music, and my full tummy should carry me through tomorrow with no problems.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

God D#*!, I Mean, Bless You

Today was a whirlwind of differing experiences with humanity - some good and some bad.

After taking the girls to school, we had our regular Spirit of Knitting meeting/therapy session at a local Jewish deli. We have eaten here nearly every Thursday morning since last August. The waitress knows what we all like to drink and has our beverages at "our" table before we even sit down. And, because we are most often creatures of habit, she also knows what we want to eat. Perhaps this is because one of us (not me!) orders french fries with both ketchup and jelly. That is memorable breakfast fare! The conversation usually drifts, sometimes without notice, between knitting, family, food, life, just about anything. I think that such conversations are the essence of real friendship.

After breakfast and before teaching my class at 2, we went to the knit shop. That was a whole different atmosphere. The four of us who had breakfast together have an unspoken agreement of equality. We all bring different things to the table (literally and figuratively); all are valuable and all are respected. This is not the way at the knit shop. It seems hard for anyone there to find good or beauty in any thing or any one other than themselves.

What is it with grown, supposedly mature, woman who act like they are regressing to the terrible two's? Toddlers are renowned for believing that the world revolves around them. By the time we are 50+ reality should have hit and it should be patently obvious that the world does not revolve us. How can people walk through each day with no clue as to how their actions impact on those around them? Why do people feel like they have th right to put down others in an effort to validate themselves? Are people really so insecure and unhappy with themselves? If so, this world is in a pathetic state. Listening to people cut each other into tiny pieces literally caused me physical pain today. We left the shop long before I had to be at school because I could not take that environment any longer. A trip to the bookstore to buy The Natural Knitter was an attempt to calm my nerves, one that was not totally successful.

My class went well. My view of humanity was somewhat redeemed. ANd then, this evening Erin had a soccer game. That too was a pleasant experience. But the real redemption of my poor attitude towards humanity in general came from a phone call that I had this evening.

I am not much for phone calls. But somehow this one was different. I talked with my office mate from graduate school, whom I have not spoken with in nearly 15 years. Much has happened and changed in both of our lives since we last talked with one another. Yet, it seemed like no time at all had passed. In some ways, our conversation flowed easier this evening than it did when we saw each other every day. I wish I understood what makes some people so easy to talk with and others it takes every ounce of Christianity that I have just to utter an insincere "hello". My phone call tonight did wonders for forcing me to reconsider my pervasive attitude of the day that said that the human race is a bunch of self-serving, egocentric, mean beings. I was definitely not thinking, "what would Jesus do?" So, God had to step in and send me a phone call to remind me that all shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.

I am going to bed giving thanks for those who are truly my friends and thinking kinder thoughts, at least for the moment, about my fellow man.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Eight Inches! . . . No, Really.

I have heard that it takes 28 days to form a new habit. Last night I learned that I have formed a blogging habit. We had terrible rain here in Denton yesterday - the national news reported nearly eight inches. We were fortunate that the rains were not accompanied by tornadoes. In fact, the only ill effects at my house were displaced fire ants (that sought revenge by attacking my feet while I was outside with the dogs) and a down DSL line. The lack of DSL service meant that we had no Internet or email access. I realized that I was OK without email but, I was bummed by the fact that I could not write a blog entry last night. It was at that moment that I was forced to confess that I am a blog addict - both as a writer and a reader. I suppose that I could have worse addictions. We are not talking about the yarn and the books!

I was supposed to be at a knitting guild board meeting last evening but thankfully it was cancelled due to the weather. So, I had the gift of an evening at home. What should I do? The mound of laundry called to me but, it is not a good idea to overburden the septic system when the ground is so saturated. It would wait. I could work on the upcoming issue of Spirit of Knitting but, the thunder and lightening with accompanying power blips made working on the computer a poor idea. I made pumpkin bread. I know - if I could not work on the computer because of possible power outages, why did I think that I could bake in the electric oven? Don't look for reason.

Then I decided to do something I almost never do - watch a television show "live". There are not many TV shows that I enjoy watching regularly; House and Grey's Anatomy are the exceptions though I generally record them and watch in the wee hours of the night. Tuesday night is the night for House and I was going to watch it - commercials and all.

Often we lose satellite reception during bad storms. Not last night. And because of the storm, the dogs did not want to go outside - no interruptions. Life was good. Until . . .there were possible funnel clouds southwest of us. This resulted in the interruption of House to "bring you this special weather bulletin". I realize that such information is vitally important but why did it have to come at the climax of the show! Now I will have to wait until next week's rerun to find out whether or not the woman actually died because of the misdiagnosis! Or . . . there is Itunes . . .

I guess this probably sounds a bit whiny. Really I can deal with not seeing all of House. I just find it ironic that the one time I sat down to watch it intentionally, the weather thwarted my plans. And the blog thing . . .I don't know what I would have written had I done so last night. I just know that I was genuinely bothered by the fact that I did not have the choice to write or not to write. Insight gained.

The other thing I learned last night is that people really do care about me. With no email to engage in the idiotic late night banter with my buddies (you guys no who you are!), I received several phone calls asking if we were OK. What a nice feeling.

All is well now. The flood waters have receded so there is no need to build the ark. Our DSL line is back in service hence I am able to write this and receive email. However, I still must wait to find out whether or not the radiation treatment resulted in the patent's death.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Best Laid Plans

It is Sunday evening and I am going over my notes for my Monday classes. Our last class meeting was last Wednesday. On that day, we did something in class that I have not done in 15 years of teaching - as a group, we "skipped" class and went to a local coffee shop. Why did we do this?

The shock of the Virginia Tech incident was fresh and unprocessed in all our minds. We had been together in class when those events unfolded on Monday morning though we did not know what was happening at the time. We stood in the hall outside our classroom and pondered the proverbial list of "what ifs". Despite the memo that faculty and students received on Wednesday outlining details concerning "Dealing With Violent Intruders On Campus", we all know that safety is not a guarantee. Though I have never felt unsafe on our campus, random acts of violence, just like random acts of kindness, are always possible.

Another reason for skipping class is that the anxiety level of the students at this time of year is quite high. Because I teach at the junior college level, the sophomore sequence courses that I teach are the last courses that many of these students will take before transferring to a four-year school. The transfer process, with its applications, auditions, and placement exams takes a toll on the students.

Over coffee we talked about their goals, about their families, about fears, about success, about failure, about shaping and reshaping dreams, about learning, about teaching, about despair, about hope, about local concerts, and about good coffee.

At one point during our discussion, one of my students stopped and said, "Do you do this at the end of the semester for all of your classes?" I had to confess that I had never done this before. Sure, at times I have talked of some of these topics with other classes but always as an aside to the lesson (as stated on the syllabus) of the day. When I admitted that this coffee shop meeting was a first, the student said, "Too bad. This is the most helpful class I have had since I have been here." Don't take this the wrong way. I don't think that he was saying that he did not benefit from what he was learning in the classroom. The message was that sometimes a teacher may have the greatest impact on a student when they dare to stray from the syllabus, their "field of expertise", and in our case, the classroom itself.

Though our outing did not count as a field trip, I think that the value of drinking coffee together was greater than any of us may have realized at the time and on that day was more important than what I had planned to do in class. I am grateful for the freedom to be spontaneous. And, I am grateful for the opportunity to know each of these students.

So, I prepare my lessons for tomorrow knowing that if I am called to teach beyond what I have prepared I will do my best. Over time, I have learned to be open to the present moment. I prepare tonight in the present; however, when I get to school in the morning this will be the past and a new present moment will be at hand - a present that I will embrace and do my best to live in to.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Royal Flush

I have considered writing on this topic many times. I can resist no longer. What are people thinking when they talk on their cell phones in public restrooms?

Today while at school I heard the most ridiculous comment while in the ladies' room. A student in the stall two doors down was talking, at full volume, explaining how she was in the restroom having this conversation because a girl in her class was listening to her every word. Hello - has this girl never experienced the acoustics of the tile-covered bathroom? I too could hear every word she was saying without even trying to eavesdrop. Maybe it is only mothers of toddlers, who explain biological function at the top of their lings while in public restrooms, who truly understand the physics of lavatory reverberation. At least in today's case, the girl confessed that she was indeed in the bathroom.

It is the people who are carrying on conversation in which they make no mention of the fact that they are in the restroom that drive me crazy. Personally, I don't really care where they talk but I often find myself faced with the dilemma of "to flush, or not to flush". Maybe I am too considerate. Should I disclose this person's location by flushing? Should I wait until they are off the phone? What if it is a long conversation? What if it is obvious they are doing business on the phone? Do you really want to know that your realtor is handling the sale of your home while sitting on the commode? I don't. Here are some phrases that will clue you in to the fact that your friend on the other end may indeed be on the pot:

  • Can I get back to you when I finish the paperwork?
  • Let me get a handle on it and I will let you know.
  • It is a relief to be sitting here talking to you.
  • This is the only place where I can get peace and quiet.
  • I wonder what that funny sound was.
  • Damn, the paper roll, I mean paper tray, is empty.
  • This must be an automatic flush. . . Oh, it's an online poker term.
  • For a good time call . . .I don't mean that I a not having a good time talking to you. I am just reading.
  • I am getting tired of reading six month old magazines. (This one may be a little deceiving. Your friend could be in the doctor's office so don't jump to conclusions.)
  • From my perspective, the best advice is shit or get of the pot.
  • Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to fasten a button with one hand?
Remember, no one wants to know all of your business. Consider your surroundings before answering your cell phone.

This message brought to you as a public service announcement by concerned citizens for ethical flushing.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Wing And A Prayer

I walked out of class at noon today to hear the news of the horrendous tragedy on the Virginia Tech campus - the murder of 31 students and injuries to that many more. I walked in to school this morning, as did those students and faculty, eager to share in the learning process. During the hours of my classes, those who should have been in the midst of something similar were experiencing something that none of us can even imagine.

My classes are relatively small - 10 in each. It suddenly struck me that the acts of the troubled gunman in Virginia, had the scenario taken place here, would have wiped out both of my classes plus some. My heart goes out to the faculty members and students who must live the entirety of their lives with the reality of what happened to them today.

As one preparing to send my own child off to college in the fall, I also try to put myself in the place of all the parents anxiously awaiting a phone call from their own child saying that they are OK. With the strain on the phone lines, I can only imagine the agony that such waiting must cause.

I listened to a press conference where a student from a campus a few miles away from Virginia Tech asked the university president what things might/should/will be changed to prevent a similar situation in the future. This poor man, who was still trying to get a handle on what had already happened, gave an honest "I don't know."

Is it even realistic to think that we can prevent such attacks? In the past ten or so years our country has seen crazed gunman enter schools, from elementary to college, killing many innocent victims. Similar rampages have occurred in shopping malls and restaurants. The sad truth is that any day, any time, any place that we go could prove to be the backdrop for a drama like this to unfold. How scary is that?

So what do we, as a society, do? Do walk around 24/7 scared? Do we ignore the hard facts? Do we take matters into our own hands? Do we hold on tightly to all the faith that we have? Each of these possibilities is fraught with its own difficulties. What are the ramifications of a world where everyone walks around scared ALL of the time? Much will be lost to us. I suspect that we would shy away from people, not trusting anyone. We would not venture far from our own homes, thus missing all that good that life has to offer. What kind of life would we have if we lived in constant fear? I can safely say that I would be miserable.

On the other hand, we can not ignore the fact that all that happens in our world is not good. I don't wish the devastating events of today on any other human being. But generally speaking, if all that we experience all the time is good, the blessing of things good is weakened. I really believe that we need the "not so good" for balance, to make us appreciate all that is good.

And taking matters into our hands . . .I am fairly certain that this approach is what cost all of those students and faculty members their lives today. What kind of pain must a human being be feeling that he could deliberately make his way to a college campus, walk to a building full of innocent people, and open fire? What was solved by him looking for resolution by taking matters into his own hands? My prayers ascend for all those whose lives have been forever changed today; I also pray for the gunman. It is hard for me to say that and it is even harder for me to do. But, I must.

Tomorrow I will send my children to school and I will walk into my classroom and greet my own students as I do each school day. I will do so praying that we will all be safe but knowing that there is no way to assure us safety; and that in reality, what happened today could happen anywhere, to anyone.

With all of this, I arrive at tomorrow on a wing and a prayer.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


This weekend I attended the DFW Fiber Fest. I signed up to take a few knitting classes and the rest of the weekend was spent helping (i hope) with the booth that The Knitting Fairy, The Accidental Knitter, and Spirit of Knitting shared. I expected to meet a few new people, learn something, and knit a bunch. On these three points, all went as expected. However, as is the case most often, it is the unexpected that was most memorable.

On Friday, I took an all-day class on knitting Turkish Socks. I love the colors and patterns in these socks and have fantasized about knitting a pair for years. But, the perfectionist in me wanted to do them the "right" way which translates to knitting them from the toe up. I have read the instructions for this technique several times but this blind girl is a visual learner and I just wasn't getting it from the written instructions. After only the second attempt to cast on and get going, I achieved success! This is due to a great teacher, Lynn Hershberger. Thank you Lynn! I am a firm believer, from my vantage point as both a teacher and a student, that no matter how knowledgeable an individual is, if they do not have a personality that resonates a passion for teaching, nothing will happen in the classroom.

I finished my mini sock. It was not perfect by any means. (We knit on so few stitches that when I got to the color pattern on the cuff, my floats were to tight.) That doesn't really matter. I learned and I am going to make a me-sized sock (once I finish the things for the upcoming issue of Spirit of Knitting).

Then the real unexpected - the tornado sirens that went off a few minutes before the event fashion show was to begin. We were all instructed to make sure that we had ID with us and to take cover in an interior meeting room as quickly as possible. Several tornadoes had already touched down to the west of us and were making their way in our direction. We all did as we were told. There were people making calls to loved ones on their cell phones, others knitting (what else should one do in a stressful situation?), and others of us talking with those around us. I manged to leave my knitting in the booth and my cell phone was in an undisclosed location. So, I was one of those talking. I talked with several new people and an acquaintance who I had not seen for some time. The caring and good humor shared was another of those wonderful unexpected experiences. After about 30 minutes we were given the "all clear" and the night's events went on as planned. The good humor that began as were we were being ambushed by the violent storms continued through the fashion show. The atmosphere was fun and light=hearted.

Saturday - work the booth in the morning and another class in the afternoon. At the end of the day, we went to dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. It is amazing what ensues when a lack of sleep, a hard day's work, a wicked sense of humor, and good friends are combined. In a moment of absolute maturity, we played a round of the game that involves everyone adding the phrase "in Bed" to the end of the words of wisdom found in their fortune cookie. My fortune read, "A short stranger will soon enter your life with blessings to share." Okay . . .you can stop laughing now. In this case of our dining adventure, it was our waiter who would have been well-served to expect the unexpected. Oh well, we tipped him generously.

Today was spent entirely in our booth. This allowed the opportunity to meet more people. This afternoon, Lynn (Friday's teacher) gave me a gift of a CD of the music she and her husband create. Knitting and music in the same place - awesome! And, it is a genre that I don't normally listen to - songs of the 1920's performed with voice and ukulele - so again. a new and unexpected experience.

I must admit that my people quotient was about to max out by the end of the day but that is my baggage and had nothing really to do with the people I was with. I just reach a saturation level of sociability and then I can absorb no more. So, I retire to the solitude of my office, fantasize about the sock I want to start and ponder the unexpected. Oh wait . . .then it is no longer the unexpected.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Don't Worry, Be Happy

As a writer, it is both disheartening and refreshing when someone else expresses your thoughts more elegantly than you can. In this situation is where I find myself today. The words are from Taigo Ryokan (1758-1831), a Buddhist monk and poet.
I've never bothered about getting ahead
But just gone leisurely letting things take their way.
In my bag are three measures of rice
A bundle of firewood sits by the hearth
Who cares about delusion and enlightenment?
What use is there in fame and fortune?
In my hut I listen to the evening rain and stretch my legs without a care in the world.

Perhaps this translates to "don't worry, be happy". It has taken me a long time to come to a place where I can honestly say that I believe these words. It is a shame that most of us lose at least a few years, and some more, trying to get ahead - whatever that means. I have come to realize that, for me, being ahead means that I am genuinely happy. Happiness is a rare commodity it seems; experiencing it first hand puts one way ahead of many others without that even being an intended goal.

I don't think that being a happy person means that you are always walking around as Tigger; it means at your root, you are happy. This comes from being able to let go of all those requirements that are put on our lives by other people. This is not to say that we should shirk responsibility but rather that we feel free enough to be true to ourselves. It is imperative that we each take a journey inward and discern what makes YOU happy. And, it is okay if what I discover and what you discover differ greatly. For Ryokan, happiness was found in three measures of rice, a bundle of firewood, and the ability to enjoy the evening rain. How would your poem read?

Though I find myself a little frazzled right now because I have many little things to accomplish, I am comforted by the fact that I can say honestly that I am not worried. What needs to get done will get done and everything else must not have been as important as it seemed at one time. The fact that I was able to step away from those nagging chores and take a few minutes to read, and find the words of Ryokan, is all the evidence I need to be convinced that it is good to "stretch my legs without a care in the world"..

Pace e bene.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Spring Daze

In theory, it is springtime in Texas. The trees are budding and stands of bluebonnets line many of the highways in the metroplex. The rich blue of the flowers against the deep green of grass, thanks to an abundanceof rain in the last few weeks, is definitely confimation that spring is in the air. Today, both me and the bluebonnets were shocked by what else was in the air - near freezing temperatures and snow flurries! How does this figure into the spring scenario? I guess it is another example of life being an array of contrasts. Somehow, the white snow flakes enhanced the vibrancy of the colors of the grass and the bluebonnets.

Today was a study in color all the way around. We were helping our buddy, The Accidental Knitter, get her yarns ready for a local Fiber Fest. After winding thousands of yards of wool, we became a little slap happy and began naming the color palettes of the various hanks. It was quite amusing. It is a good thing that no psychiatrist was around; we probably all would have been hauled away by the little men in white jackets. I will share some of the rejected color names. If your are as warped as we are, I am sure that the palettes will appear to you in vivid color. If not, visit The Accidental Knitter (as well as the Knitting Fairy, and Spirit of Knitting) at the DFW Fiber Fest next weekend.

Okay, close your eyes and imagine:
  • I Should Have Been A Cardiologist
  • Sunburned Frog
  • Prom Queen
  • Emergency Room Visit
  • Lawnmower Accident
  • Peep Encounter
  • Easter, The Sequel
  • Green Eggs and Ham
  • Queen Victoria's Underwear
  • Spring Daze
  • Petri Dish
  • Bluebonnets In The Snow

All this with the help of a little sugar, caffeine, and good friends. Watch out OPI. You may be next!

The point of this? It was good clean fun, something that is hard for many people to come by these days. I am appauled by the number of adults who find it impossible to have a good time without a bit of alcohol. Don't get me wrong; I really am not against drinking - responsibly of course. But, I do feel sorry for those people who can't enjoy themselves without a little liquor. In my case, I am perfectly capable of making an ass of myself without it so why go to the trouble of getting drunk. Besides, if I had been drinking, I would not have remembered all of the rejected color namess and this entry would have been about hangovers or something equally as boring.

I wish you all a colorful spring. And, Happy Easter. May the Easter bunny bring you eggs the colors of a Spring Bouquet rather than those of a 140 degree chocolate bunny.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Joy Sticks

Last weekend Erin went to a UIL math competition. I was proud of her for making the math team because she was the only freshman. She allowed as that being a freshman was the least significant factor in her minority status. More important is the fact that she is not male, Asian, or the owner of a Nintendo DS. These seem to be the markers fro true math geeks. (Okay, I admit it. Everyone is a little bit racist.) There is not much she can do about not being male or Asian, but the Nintendo DS is at least a possibility.

Like most these days, our family has had our share of game systems - Nintendos, Game Cube, PS2 - and we have all enjoyed them. And for Erin, the Gameboy that was a primary source of entertainment during elementary school has been replaced by an Ipod as her constant companion. She did ask for the Nintendo DS saying that it was important to her success as a math nerd. This is not such an unreasonable request, is it?

For years, video games have been targeted as the devil in the lives of children; they make kids fat, stupid and violent. What made kids fat, stupid, and violent before video games existed? Blaming any single thing for all the problems with the youth of our society is absurd. Like anything, video games probably have some negatives, but I think that the positives far outweigh any negative impact that playing games has.

I may be from the first generation of real video game playing kids though I came to it much later than my own children. I was in college before I became a serious video game player. Pac-Man was the reason I graduated magna cum laud in three years. Almost every night, after practicing and studying, a friend and I would head to the local pizza joint, usually around 11 pm. We would each drop a quarter in the table top Pac-Man machine and play for hours, often leaving an unfinished game when the restaurant closed at 2 am. Granted I did spend a great deal of time sitting at the game table, it did not make me fat. How can you eat when you have a hand on the joy stick constantly? It did not make me stupid. In fact, it was pretty good at honing hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, and patience. And, it certainly did not make me violent. I still have a special place in my heart for Blinky. I admit it. While in college game playing was therapy. In addition to Pac-Man, there was Q-bert and Dig-Dug. Wow! I miss those guys. Another true confession: an hour and a half before I got married, my maid of honor and I were at this very pizza place playing Pac-Man.

I must confess that 20 some years later, I still play games, in much the same way as I did back then. Only now, it is Zuma or Puzzle Inlay on my computer in the wee hours of the night. Now the benefit is not so much therapy as it is that they say that as you age, your mind will stay sharper if you do puzzles or the like each day. So, Zuma becomes an age-defying agent. Actually, I really don't care about the benefits, or lack thereof, I simply enjoy playing games.

As a parent I suppose that I should take the whole game playing thing a little more seriously. What if all those people are right and it is bad for kids. No. They can't possibly be right. I think that playing video games may have more benefit now than it did back when I started playing.

If nothing else, video games bridge the generation gap. Today in my class at school (yes, it is a music theory class), we had a long discussion about games and game playing. Almost every one of my students has some kind of game system and plays regularly. I took my jaunt down memory lane mentioning to them the games from my youth. Much to my amazement, they had heard of, and some of them had even played, all the arcade games from the early 80's.

In an effort not to be one of those parents stuck in the past, I make an effort to play the current games with my kids as well. Me playing DDR is quite entertaining. It doesn't really matter that I am terrible at it; what is important is that the girls and I all have fun and we do it together.

When my children have children of their own, I hope that they will reminisce about their days playing Mario, FIFA soccer, Spyro and DDR. And, maybe there will be a Pac-Man machine at the senior citizen center so I can share the joy and show the grandchildren how it all started.

Monday, April 2, 2007

The World Is Round

Last week I took Harley back to the knit shop to see Jackie. I wanted to take Jackie a gift to say thank you for having been kind enough to rescue Harley. It is often difficult to find an appropriate gift for off-the-wall occasions such as this. Having no idea what I wanted, we went to an off-the-wall little shop off the square here in Denton. I found what I thought was the perfect thing - a keychain in the shape of an angel wing that had inscribed on it "The world is round. What often seems like the end is really the beginning." I think that it had an attribution but I can't tell you who it is.

These words certainly ring true to the situation that Harley found herself in on that cold February morning. Between the subfreezing temperatures and the amount of traffic in the area where she was found, the end seemed more of a possibility than did a beginning. We were all blessed and that day the odds were beat; it was a beginning.

I was struck again tonight by the truth that rings in these words. The soccer banquet was this evening. This is the real end of the soccer season. And for Brooke, the end of her soccer career. Brooke went out with a bang by earning the team's MVP award for the second year in a row. The coaches had kind words to say to all of the graduating seniors and the senior slide show, done by one of the parents, was a touching tribute to what these kids have accomplished thus far in their lives.

For the past three years I have attended the soccer banquet and wondered how I would feel when it was my child who was the senior. There were some tonight who were a little teary. I thought this might be me but I found myself hearing the words on the angel wing key ring. This was more of a beginning than an end.

True, Brooke may not play soccer anymore but isn't there more to life than soccer? All that she learned about team spirit, discipline, concentration, frustration, winning and losing must be transferable in the life that is yet to come. And, hopefully, whatever her coaches and teammates saw that made them honor her as MVP must be something that might help her to be an MVP in some other endeavor.

Though I will miss her next year when she goes to Chicago, I am excited that Brooke will be experiencing new things and that she will be swimming in a bigger pond. And as for soccer, Erin still has three more years so it is not over for me! Maybe when Erin is a senior I will feel differently. It may really be the end of watching the girls play, of sitting in the rain, snow and bitter cold . . .

Erin could play soccer in college.