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Archive for the ‘Family/Friends’ Category

Manhattan, Central Park, New York City. 


Waters off the coast of the Abacos, Bahamas.


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Bridge over the Willamette River, Portland Oregon.

Wishing you all a very festive, joyous,
springtime, wherever you are.  

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Springtime

Grasses yellow-green bright, leaves are just buds, blooms appear unexpectedly, and the result is spectacular. I react with raw emotion, reminded of happy times past, hopeful of things to come.

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The aisles are large, the fruit is fresh and on a beautiful sunny autumn day, the mood is glorious.

It’s time to pick some apples.

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Writing with Children

Sketch drawn on-line by my grandson.Micrasterias.jpg

 

Just this last week, my grandson asked me to help him with an article he wanted to write.  He had discovered a pretty colored single-cell plant called Micrasterias in a Smithsonian picture book for children and wanted to learn more about it.

How hard could it be to write up the life of a single-celled plant?

It sounded like fun, so I helped him out by posting articles to him about Micrasterias Denticulata (the name of the cell).

As a joke, I said he was writing an article on “Mike Rasterias and his friend Den Ticulata.”  Mike and Den.

He spent a week writing the article, and asked a number of questions as he went along.  What was its shape, its size, how did it move?  What color was it, and  where did it live? Did it have skin?  How did it eat? We had a great time exchanging ideas on where to find out more information on this little one-celled plant.  I googled and found scientific articles, photos and videos that he earnestly reviewed and summarized his ideas, placing them carefully into his essay.

He discovered some interesting things.  It comes in colors of bright blue and green, turning ponds bright green when it grows in them.  It lives like a plant by collecting sunlight and turning it into energy.   He was amused that it moves via excretion of slime (what a perfect story for an eight year old boy). He also found out how to locate it in ponds and streams and how to make a slide of pond water with micrasterias in it for use in a microscope.

“I want everything on one page,” he told me.  He worked to condense his ideas until they all fit.  He typed it up on his own, learned how to use spell check in the process, and successfully got it all on one page.

After that, I asked him to present it to me first by reading it aloud and then again, by looking me straight in the eye and  summarizing his ideas to me.  I used my I-phone to video him presenting both ways, and then we discussed how his voice and presentation changed according to these two types of visual presentations.  It surprised him to see how his voice and pronunciation changed when he went from reading it aloud, to orally presenting it without any notes.

What started as a simple exploration of a one-celled wonder, became a fun process of learning for us both.  I like what he said in his last paragraph the best.  He said,

“From doing this I have learned how to use a computer better and I even learned that such a little thing can be so complicated and interesting to learn.”

There we have it again, simply complicated.

 

 

 

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I know that in order to survive, we do require time, activity and materials.  However, it requires even more foresight, planning,  imagination, creativity, and just plain mulishness to learn to live simply.

We are attracted to the colorful maze of materialism.  Material items we acquire accumulate in piles, get lost in storage boxes, spill out of desk drawers, clog dressers, jam closets, teeter in uneasy stacks on counter-tops and drift about in drips and drabs.  They ultimately end up in a land fill  further eroding our planet.

Similarly, we also are dazzled with many daily activities which add little to the quality of our lives and result in addled brains, hyperactivity and shortened attention spans. They include, for example, watching several television screens while simultaneously intensively roaming  a multitude of social media internet sites, commuting in heavy traffic while talking on the phone and texting,  exercising at a gym while listening to or watching the news and the like.  Under such conditions, our abilities to listen and learn are badly hampered.

Finding out who we are after we strip ourselves of unnecessary material items, obligations and useless hyper-activities, takes time, energy and planning.  It can result in some wonderful surprises.

I no longer expect to arrive at a place called “full simplicity” especially since I am not even certain what that would mean.  But I intend to continue on this most interesting journey aimed at simple living while still locating myself smack dab in the middle of our complicated, demanding  world.

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Abstract Art by Jordan
Children watch everything that we do and are involved whether we know it or not.  
Yesterday, while the children and  I were doing art together, I wrote a short poem and did a brief a sketch showing them how I blog.  The result is here.
This morning, my grandson brought me a picture that he drew and asked me whether I thought it was abstract.

On the back was a poem.  His smile indicated that he had enjoyed the moment, as did I.

He is always teaching me new things.

His abstract art is above.  Here is his poem.
On his own, he is busy writing a long story, and I am looking forward to reading it.  

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A big brown office envelope arrived in the mail from an old friend and inside I found, much to my surprise, a bundle of letters written by me fifty years ago when my husband Joe and I were Peace Corps Volunteers in South Asia.

At that time, we were living and working in a deeply rural village that, one might say, rode tight against the earth’s surface.  We felt the tight ride while we experienced several years without electricity, running water or flush toilets, among other things. We encountered food scarcity along with our neighbors, witnessed the horrible power of famine and drought followed by flooding, malnourishment and disease.  We felt this tightness to the earth while simultaneously learning to appreciate our neighbors’ courage, affection, and strong community spirit which helped them to survive and sometimes even thrive, under such tough conditions.

These letters brought it all back, like a flood.

Joe and I felt guilty, knowing our situation was temporary and that we would leave our village after several years.  We worried about what would happen to the many friends and acquaintances we left behind, who did not have the freedom to walk away, as we did.  Our youthful hand-written letters confirmed our affection for our community, told stories of friends we had made, and also pointed out the many frustrations of residing in impoverished circumstances.

In those days, we wrote letters on pieces of paper and sent them via the postal mail.  From our village, roughly half of the letters we sent managed to arrive. We often waited months for a reply and our letters declared our frustration with having to wait so long.  At least half of the letters that family and friends wrote back to us were also somehow mislaid or lost by the postal system.

After several years in South Asia, Joe and I returned to the US, to more schooling, then returning again to Western Asia for several years, then back again to the US for more graduate training and new jobs and responsibilities.

When we returned to the US for the second time, Joe and I had started a family.  On top of our jobs, we had three children over a five-year period, taking up any extra time we might have used for writing letters, especially since during these same five years we moved back into the United States and then back out again, this time to Western Asia.

Once, during an emergency, we were evacuated with our two small children back to the US, due to heavy street fighting.  We were instructed not to return until things quieted down.  Our friend who shared the letters helped our family set up a temporary place to live.  She also helped us locate blankets, pots and pans and spoons and forks to use while we waited for word that we could return.

I owe her many letters of thanks, and I am about to write them.

Each time Joe and I have moved to new places we gathered more responsibilities, gained new friends and lost others.

Although we had the privilege of enjoying technically challenging and very interesting jobs, we confronted complicated administrations and large inter-related bureaucracies that sometimes held projects back, messed up plans and created stress.

During this period of heavy work responsibilities and young children, we wrote few personal letters.

These same complicated bureaucracies gave us the power and support we needed to our family to continue our work in the area of international development, an area we both wanted to work in.

I owe numerous people who worked in these administrations with me, letters of appreciation, too.

I have unfinished letters to write.

Letters of condolence.
Letters of love.
Letters of appreciation.
Letters of thanks.

Letters to my wonderful adult children, expressing gratitude and pride, telling them how much I love them;

Letters to my grandchildren, leaving word tracks for when I am no longer here, to make them smile and trust that life is good.

I owe thank you notes to people who changed my life.

A letter to my husband, thanking him for all the love and affection, fun and adventure, hilarity and frustration, devotion and friendship, for his mightiest protection, biggest debates, most delicious omelettes, ever.

By the way, dear, thank you as well for all those morning cups of coffee.

I owe a letter to myself.  It may be the most difficult one to write.

I owe letters to the people I thought I hated but really didn’t.  Letters to people who suffered unfairly.

Letters to those who reached out and received no thanks.

Letters to the privileged and seemingly spoiled who would not know why I wrote, even if I did.

In addition, I owe a note of appreciation to the small boy, wearing just simple cotton shorts who used a broken branch with leaves to sweep under the sacred banyan tree, making the dirt smooth;

I owe a letter of affection to that little girl who told me her stories of being married at the age of twelve, and the uproarious tales of how she outwitted her husband and got to come home to her widowed mother;

I will send a letter of sorrow to that dead body I saw lying in the streets waiting unceremoniously to be picked up by the early morning carts;

I have written numerous letters of thanks in my head to those men holding machine guns who stopped our bus and who read all correspondence we held in our purses and backpacks and left without killing us;

I owe a letter of amazement to the midwives who delivered village babies on rope-woven wooden beds with no running water and no clean towels;

A letter of love to the villagers who sang all night to us while we sat together on dirt floors and listened to a tiny wind-driven accordion wailing to the moon.

It is time to write a letter to my mother to tell her she is forgiven for not noticing;

A letter to my father saying that I view him with compassion and realize it might have been worse, he could have become President;

A letter to my brother, saying goodbye, sorry it did not work out;

Letters to my sisters reminding them of how much I cared.

A letter to my childhood dog whom I miss greatly, especially since he was my nanny.

Letters to my hair dresser saying thank you for getting me out of the sixties look.

Letters to the grasses and trees that welcomed me on mountain slopes and

A thank you letter to near clear blue lakes and to all bright stars of the night.

Letters of appreciation and awe to the unknown for all that it holds.

Thank you, my friend, for keeping those letters for fifty years and then sending them back to me as a gift.  They are provoking me to write what I had forgotten to write, until now.

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