Wednesday, December 26, 2007

heeding the call

No, I'm not gonna be a minister, even if all my career testing says I should. But I am thinking of "heeding the call". I have had this vague, uneasy feeling off and on for the last year. I finally know what it is. It is the atheist version of the "call" -- I am being pressured by my own conscience to get off my butt and do something. The world is a mess, and I can no longer sit on my sofa and write checks, and feel I have done my part. I have to walk the walk, live the life, whatever. I have to find ways to inspire the good by doing good.

I don't have any idea yet what form this will take. It might be organized volunteering, or it might be a more chaotic individual effort. I figure that even if I only help one person, just one, the world is better off. Maybe I can start a movement, the "Just One" movement. If everyone takes on just one project, or just one person in an effort to make things better, it will actually GET better.

What do you think???

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!!!

Happy Holidays! The Winter Solstice has come and gone, but there is still time to celebrate the season. So gather round the hanukkah bush, genuflect before Elvis, do whatever floats your boat... just ENJOY!!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

holiday time at the office

I absolutely LOVE holiday time at the office. I also hate it a little bit. I get very little work done, and I have a lot of work on my plate, so that's the hate part of it.

But the love part, that's special. At this time of the year, everyone is nice to everyone. It is cheerful, and the halls are filled with the sound of laughing, joyful people. We have solid holiday traditions in place, and everyone looks forward to the rituals.

We have a Christmas breakfast. We used to cook it ourselves, but since we don't have a kitchen and there are now 38 of us, we have it catered. We decorate a meeting room, have holiday music, and play the White Elephant game. Each person who wants to play brings in a wrapped gift costing around $20. We place all the gifts on the table. Then we each get a number assigned to us, representing our turn in the game. The first person unwraps a present. This present is now in play. The next person can unwrap a new present, or "steal" from the first person. Gifts get stolen back and forth, sometimes changing hands 4 or 5 times, with a ton of laughing and joking thrown in. If you have a gift stolen from you 3 times, your next gift is "safe" and can't be taken from you. It is amazing to see the various strategies that people employ in such a simple game.

We have Secret Santa for 12 days. Small gifts, ideally around a dollar, appear in your office or your mailbox for 11 days, and then a big gift at the breakfast, when you try to guess who your secret santa was. People are amazingly creative, and really enjoy sneaking around and coming up with artful ways to hide their identity.

There is also a holiday party for the office, hosted by the boss. Usually this is at his home, with lots of catered food and an open bar. It does wonders for office morale to do shots of tequila with the boss. This year, his house is being renovated, so we are going to Little Italy for a 3 hour "lunch".

Lest you think we are all about us at the holidays, we also adopt a family from the University's charity drive. This year we adopted a grandmother raising 6 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild. She is confined to a wheelchair, and the whole family lives in a two bedroom apartment in East Baltimore. We hosted a party for them, complete with tree and Santa. Then we sent them home with 5 bags of groceries, a tree with ornaments and lights, wrapped gifts for Christmas morning, and a few hundred gifts for the kids and grandmother to open on the spot. Our office elves shopped and wrapped presents for a week. We also baked treats for the party, made sure each child got a winter coat and mittens, hats and boots, and video-taped each child with Santa. It was truly special. The grandmother kept saying it was the best Christmas they had ever had. What I don't think she got was how great it was for us!

It really is a wonderful time of year!

Monday, December 10, 2007

my deadline looms

I started this paper early. I really and truly did. I gathered my sources, I read all the books, and now it is due tomorrow. AND I only have half the thing written. How the hell did this happen? I have made less progress than if I had stuck to my tried and true method and not started until today....

I have taken the day off tomorrow. Hopefully with a few hours tonight, and the bulk of the day tomorrow, I can finish up. There is no option to turn this sucker in late. We have to give oral presentations tomorrow night [no, I don't have that ready either]... Maybe I should use my son's methods for the presentation -- make lots of handouts, and give out candy. It worked for his 8th grade english class book report...

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Thanks, Sally

Sally Smith, founder of the Lab School of Washington, passed away yesterday. I never met Sally, but I mourn her loss. In 1967, Sally Smith's son was diagnosed with learning disabilities. She was told he could be educated with the retarded, or with the disturbed. She came up with her own option, and started a school for bright kids with learning disabilities. She made up her own methods as she went along; these have since been duplicated all over the world. Her philosophy was that all children could learn, and it was up to the adults to figure out how to make that happen.

I owe her a tremendous debt. My son is learning disabled. He's bright. And in 2003, there were still almost no options for educating him. Luckily for us, Sally's idea in 1967 had grown, and a new school, Baltimore Lab, was expanding. Our son has thrived there, turning into an educated, confident young man. He went from barely reading, to reading far in advance of his grade level. He couldn't learn to subtract in his previous school, and now he handles pre-algebra with relative ease. I don't think I will ever understand how less homework, fewer tests, almost no structure and what seems to be very little work produces these results. It is akin to magic in my mind. All I know is it does work, and I am forever grateful to Sally Smith.