Thursday, December 28, 2006

loss of nuance

My recent class has made me notice that my written skills are diminishing. I blame it squarely on this blog, and on email. Both favor brevity -- get the point across quickly, with short sentences and shorter words.

A school system in California recently decided that they would allow IM-type spelling on standardized tests. My first thought - LOL, UR kidding. As these kid's vocabularies diminish, all nuance is lost. It is nearly impossible to express a complex thought in the abbreviated language of texting. If we have no words, do we have thoughts? If we take away facial expression and tone of voice, and reduce our vocabulary to what can fit on a two inch screen, what the hell can we say?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

it doesn't feel a bit like christmas

Is it the abnormally warm weather? Seriously, this Saturday it is supposed to reach 60 degrees here in Baltimore. 60! I hate winter, I really really do, but it does seem like it should be COLD at Christmas.

Maybe its the work schedule, which has required much work from home [sorry, family!]. We haven't put up the tree yet. My son and I have not built our gingerbread house yet. We haven't hung the stockings with care. I haven't finished shopping. I haven't wrapped a single gift.

Maybe its the clutter, which is really getting me down. My house is a sty, and it's all my fault. My crap is EVERYWHERE. I really don't relax when it's this bad, but I am too tired to do anything about it. I am hoping to get it under control tomorrow afternoon.

I know that it will feel like Christmas when it actually arrives, because the Christmas magic always works for me. No matter what the circumstance, no matter what is going on, Christmas Eve and Christmas day are always miraculously wonderful. I love everyone, and everything, for 48 hours. If only the miracle lasted the whole year. Maybe that will be my New Year's resolution -- to keep Christmas in my heart the whole year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

missing a cartoon giant

Joe Barbera died yesterday. Half of the team of Hanna-Barbera, he was responsible for many many happy hours during my childhood. Tom and Jerry. The Flinstones. Yogi Bear. Huckleberry Hound. The Jetsons. Johnny Quest. I watched them all.

They weren't cutting edge animation. They didn't have a lot of flash to them. But they were sweet and funny and endlessly entertaining.

I'll miss ya, Joe.

Monday, December 18, 2006

social risks

I am fairly outgoing, fairly comfortable socially, but I wasn't always. I used to hate to go to parties because they made me nervous. I wouldn't talk in class, because I was afraid I'd say something stupid. I was uncomfortable meeting new people.

Now I feel at ease (mostly) because I am comfortable in my own skin. I know who I am and I don't feel like I have to impress everyone. But there are still holdovers from my early, introverted years, that I can't seem to shake.

We throw a couple of parties every year. I love planning the food, preparing the food, and I love seeing all my good friends. What I hate is inviting people. I feel so exposed when I do. What if they don't want to come? What if no one wants to come? What if people come, but because they feel they have to? Am I presuming friendship where none exists? What if I'm boring? And so on and so on and so on.

Once things are started, I'm fine. I enjoy myself. I think my guests enjoy themselves. All the worries disappear. But when I'm asking people over, I feel like a sweaty 8 year old handing out birthday invititations. Will I ever GROW UP completely???

Thursday, December 14, 2006

done, done, done

My paper proposal is FINISHED. It is not the most stellar work I have ever done, but it is completed. I am turning it in tonight, marking the end of my first semester. This has all been harder than I expected. I did two semesters of graduate school in the English department at the University of Maryland. That seemed fairly easy to me. I did well, and didn't really strain my brain to do so.

In contrast, this semester saw me reading things that made me try to bend my brain in ways it doesn't go. I read some of the Gnostic gospels, and if you know me, you know that was a stretch in oh so many ways. I had to write several small assignments. It turns out writing blogs and email is really really bad for your writing style. I apparently think and write in snippets now, almost telegram style. And it turns out that writing critically is something you can fall out of practice with. Who knew?

It was also much harder to fit school into my life than I had anticipated. My son wanted my attention after school, and really didn't get the concept of "mommy is doing homework now." My husband was not too thrilled to pick up the slack with the kid and the puppy. The puppy tried to gnaw my laptop, and honestly did try to eat my paper proposal. And my office really really needs me to work some extra hours right now, but I just can't fit everything in. Thoughts of dropping out actually crossed my mind. I think the exact phrase was "you need this like you need a hole in your head".

But I think I'll stick it out. I do feel more alert, more mentally there. And I feel a sense of accomplishment that's different than what I get from work or home. I guess because it seems like more of a solo effort, and so the results are all me. I also feel smart, for the first time in a really long while. I even feel my vocabulary coming back. It has been a long time since I felt free to use ALL the words I know instead of the small subset of common, day - to -day language.
Wicked cool.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

old habits die hard

As many of you know, I am back in school, doing the grad school thing part-time. This is my first real coursework in about 15 years. Now, I like to think that I have matured and grown as a person in that time period. But old habits die hard. I have my termpaper proposal due on Thursday. This means of course that I spent the last 20 minutes trying to figure out how I was going to go see Rules of the Game tonight or tomorrow... and I have committed to bringing a dessert to tomorrow's holiday breakfast at work, 'cause I have so much free time.

Apparently I still function under that "paper deadline syndrome". This is the one where I can never really get anything done on a paper until the deadline is imminent - defined as tomorrow, or maybe today. I need that fine sense of panic in order to motivate me. God, I thought I had gotten past this point! I want to be a good student, I really do. I do my reading. I prepare for class. But start a paper early, or even on-time, never.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I don't wanna work -- I want to bang on me drum all day

I recently realized I am having a feminist dilemma. Sort of. What I mean is that I have been thinking a lot about what I would really really like to do. And what it boils down to, is that if I had unlimited funds, I would want to stop working. Which is kind of what our mothers and their mothers fought so hard against, right? They fought to be in the workplace that I would give a lot to get out of.

I could take my time cooking wonderful meals. I could take up a sport. I could play with my husband. I could play with the dog [differently, please -- get your mind out of the gutter!]. I could work on my photography. I could help out at the school, while my son doesn't mind me being there. I could find time for haircuts and manicures. We could take lots of day trips as a family. My house would be clean. My laundry would be done. Holes would be mended, buttons put back on. I could pay my bills on time, instead of shoving them somewhere to pay when I have time and then forgetting. I could finish a book -- instead of starting another one because I forgot where I was in the first one.

Maybe what I really want is to be retired. But the damn retirement calculator keeps telling me I'm going to have to work until I'm 72. 72! That is another, hold it while I do the math, 29 years. That seems somehow impossible. Even if I break it into 7 four year chunks... Maybe I can get 5 years off for good behavior.

Monday, December 04, 2006

race and schools

The Supreme Court will be looking at race and schools again this week. At issue is when and if it is okay to assign public school children to different schools based on their race, in order to artificially desegregate the school systems.

I think the issue is much much larger than making schools racially diverse. My son used to attend a lovely private school that was almost a 50/50 split racially. It was in no way diverse. All the kids came from upper middle class homes where the parents could afford tuition and felt it was worth spending the money on their child's education. They wore the same clothes, had the same toys, went on similar vacations, lived in similar homes, etc.

It seems to me that what the school systems are doing is a good first attempt, with good intent. But in looking solely at race, they ignore real diversity and real issues. Why isn't their community naturally diverse? Is there opportunity for the children to make friendships across economic lines, religious lines, cultural lines, not just racial ones?
Are all the schools in their system equally good? do they all have the same quality equipment, the same quality teachers, the same opportunities for all students?
Is there a range of housing opportunities in the same community and school district? Is there room in their district for all kinds of differences?

Fixing schools by artificially desegregating is like a bandaid. What we really need to do is fix ourselves, and our communities. The schools will improve when we improve.