Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Intramural Education

I am always delighted to receive threats from the local school district. This most recent threat included criminal prosecution regarding my role in my daughter’s required attendance at the public high school.  As if the mandated public service hours weren’t far enough beyond the scope of education for me to question the actual goals of public education, I am warned that I must be an accomplice in the school’s arbitrary attendance policy.
Yes, sporadic attendance will no doubt hamper a student’s ability to follow what was presented in class; particularly when what is presented is not part of a prepared or shared course syllabus. This is not the concern manifested on the notice, however; the concern is that each child be held within the walls of the school for the days and hours prescribed by the law under the guise of promoting public education – not that the child is actually educated. Somehow, within this tight scrutiny, time spent in public service is understood to be forgiven.  
According to these state guidelines, today, I have committed a criminal act.  What’s more, I have conspired with the inmate, I mean, my daughter, to systematically commit further criminal acts.  Most egregiously, my act was done in defiance of the understood exception to the intramural education policies: I excused my daughter early from school today, and will continue to do so on a weekly basis because she wants to work instead of wait out the waning minutes of the day within the walls of the school.
Clearly, we both suffer from the same social disease.  I just hope officer Krupke doesn’t find out.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The GOD in the DOG

Have you seen the signs: articles and advertisements in the local paper for the special Blessing of the Animals ceremonies?  It happens every fall and is timed to pay tribute to the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of all animals. (Apparently, Saint Francis was religiously re-branded in 1992 and became the patron saint of animals and the environment!) I don’t mind telling you that as a child, I held St. Francis above all the other saints because of his connection to the beasts; now I see how beastly it can all become.
Here are just a few of the sites I found regarding this traditional ceremony in which the faithful gather to equate the lives of dogs with those of people:
A Catholic organization in New York understands the connection and distinction between human and pet and blesses the animals for human comfort.
A preacher in Washington takes a more practical approach with several blessings and theological “thinking about animals” resources.
But an older posting by a congregation in Santa Monica offers the oddest sermon and blessing (If You Can, read it there).
And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam. And it was a good animal. And God was pleased. And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and he wagged his tail. And Adam said, "But Lord, I have already named all of the animals in the Kingdom and all the good names are taken and I cannot think of a name for this new animal." And God said, "No problem! Because I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG." And Dog lived with Adam and was a companion to him and loved him. And Adam was comforted. And God was pleased, And Dog was content and wagged his tail.
Neihc el? I guess everyone who doesn’t speak English has been neglected by the almighty.

Now don’t misunderstand me—even with my rejection of mysticism—every person who loves his pet should be able to celebrate that relationship in any way they choose in accordance with his own set of values. Despite my love of dogs, however, I see the danger in attempting to institutionally anthropomorphize animals. When animals are recognized as having rights by manmade legal convention, men begin to lose their rights (See “Dear Uncle Gus”, third question).
Besides, all this bestial beatification is based on a bogus bloodline. 
The Townley Greyhounds: The British Museum
Roman, 1st - 2nd century, marble statue

According to the book The Dog: 5000 Years of the Dog in Art, the Blessing of the Animals was the direct result of the prohibition of prized hunting dogs from the church in 5th century France. The noblemen so valued their dogs that they would not go to church without them. Upon losing an impressive part of their congregation, the priests began to hold blessings outside of the church so the noblemen would remain counted as church-goers. This event was later retrofitted to the celebration of Saint Francis.
Now those were some guys who loved their dogs, not to mention some priests who knew how to address the conflicted values of their congregation.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

3 Good Things (Atta Boy! Edition)

1.   Jumped from 80to 95 back squats this morning.  My lifting partner and I were in cahoots to make the jump—we figured we could handle it. We were right! Plus, there is something quite satisfying about putting on the big 25 weights rather than the pastiche of little weights (although the little weights do generate that satisfying “clang”).
2.   With a narrower stance and wider grip than the dead lift, I managed the 115 of the clean dead lift pretty well. Truthfully, I can’t even imagine getting that much weight OVER my head, but I’m not there yet, so I needn't fret.
3.   On seeing my handling of the clean dead lift, the trainer cheered me on with an “Atta Boy!” While I generally prefer, "You go, girl!" his exclamation struck me as a compliment.
*Unicode character U+2114 () is called the "L B Bar Symbol", and it is a cursive development of this symbol.  (from Wikipedia
Of course I have to use it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

My Spirit Sang All Day

With the sad dissolution of our homeschooling chorus, my daughter and I sought new opportunities to continue singing on a regular basis. For my daughter, this means private vocal lessons with a fabulously fun and talented woman who also runs a small theatre company nearby. For me, it means striving to sing with a local chorus, but with the added benefit of getting to do that with my husband! As someone who is unable to sing by sight reading, I am quite challenged by the music in the chorus; however, I have no doubt that the end product will be wonderful.
Our program this semester is The British Are Coming!, music from the 14th to the 20th century. Here is a brief sample of one of my favorite pieces we’ve practiced thus far, based on an unnamed poem by Robert Bridges and composed by Gerald Finzi.


My spirit sang all day

O my joy.
Nothing my tongue could say,

Only My joy!

My heart an echo caught —

O my joy—
And spake, Tell me thy thought,

Hide not thy joy.

My eyes gan peer around, —

O my joy—
What beauty hast thou found?

Shew us thy joy.

My jealous ears grew whist ; —

O my joy-
Music from heaven is 't,

Sent for our joy?
She also came and heard;

my joy,
What, said she, is this word?

What is thy joy?

And I replied, O see,

my joy,
'Tis thee, I cried, 'tis thee:

Thou art my joy.

While the sound seems a little wonky, I found this video to be the best for hearing the words. 
And it gives me shivers.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Autumnal Equinox Sep 22 2010 11:09 PM EDT

Autumnal Delights

The sudden cool of morning brushes skin,
Air scented thick with ripened apples mulls,
Piquantly spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon,
A breeze, a whoosh of fallen leaves, then lulls.
Perhaps still green, remains a supple leaf.
As maple bursts in orange-red, umbered oak,
And aspen’s deepest gold, explode! In brief
Calliopes of color: Nature’s cloak.
Surrounded by the changing atmosphere,
Imbibed in richly, flavored, shades of earth,
Awash in subtle, brilliant, bracing air,
My senses wake! I breathe autumnal birth.
Outside grows cold as inside’s glow ignites,
With Fall’s imbued sensorial delights.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

3 Good Things (weekend edition)

After I quickly itemized three good things from this weekend, I realized that there were at least a dozen good things I could share. So here they are in chronological order.
1.      Friday night high school football – I go to support the band, especially the flute section, and the weather was perfect. It was an early game and we won.
2.      Friday night Family Movie Night – The Breakfast Club. Classic. “I pulled the *&@# trunk, and . . .”
3.      Saturday morning Crossfit workout – 6:30 to 8:00 AM, 3 sets of 5 back squats, 75 lbs. I’m working on it. I hate burpees – the name and the crazy-ass ultimate wind-sucking exercise – just thought you’d want to know.
4.      Early fall apple picking – with the whole family! Macoun, MacIntosh, Courtland, and Gala. Yum.
5.      September Poetry Night (really Poetry Day) – each of us read the sonnets we wrote for the occasion (no one had memorized his).  Good parts, everyone adhered to the rhyming scheme and iambic pentameter and most to the story telling aspect as well. (Don't tell anyone, but my seventeen year-old thought it was really fun and she went with a classic tale of star-crossed lovers!) Next month: a dialogue – not poetry.  Should be interesting. More details to come.
6.      Freshly painted front stair risers, posts, and door trim.
7.      Saturday night movie with the minor family – Inspector Lewis on DVD.
8.      Sunday morning breakfast with the whole family including two sets of grandparents! How fortunate we are to have both sets of parents and to all enjoy getting together.
9.      Sunday afternoon Greater Boston Objectivist Club lunch - shared friendly frustrations over the state of the world and discussed a chapter in Objectivism in One Lesson.
10.  Sunday evening surprise delight Nature: Dogs that Changed the World (Part II: Dogs by Design)
11.  Sunday afternoon football – mostly, that it aired at 4:30 and didn’t interfere with breakfast, lunch, or Sunday evening activities.  Oh, and that end zone catch by Moss.
12.  The smell of apple pie and apple tart cooking. Nope. I didn’t eat any of either as I am on day 9 of the Whole 30. More on that, too, at some later date (like day 31).

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Gift of Books

I have four minutes between lunch and orienteering to share my delight in just having received a package from Amazon!  I can't adequately describe the joy running through both my daughter and myself when I opened the package.  Yes, I ordered the books, and yes, I knew they would come eventually - but their arrival was met with no less enthusiasm than if they had been suddenly bestowed upon us!

Thus, The Dog: 5000 Years in Art, The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet, and the boxed set of The Hunger Games Trilogy all now sit quietly on our table as we dream of the world of knowledge and adventure held between their covers and eagerly anticipate our return home.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Far Afield in 223 Years

"The people of the U.S. owe their Independence & their liberty, to the wisdom of descrying in the minute tax of 3 pence on tea, the magnitude of the evil comprised in the precedent. Let them exert the same wisdom, in watching against every evil lurking under plausible disguises, and growing up from small beginnings."

-- James Madison

(1751-1836), Father of the Constitution (signed 223 years ago today), 4th US President

via Liberty Quotes

Thursday, September 16, 2010

God’s Work

As six Catholic hospitals in Massachusetts are slated for sale to a private equity firm, another coalition of hospitals in the state is seeking government interference in the sale to ensure that low-income quality healthcare is accessible. 
Among the conditions being sought by the Healthcare Access Coalition are measures to prohibit the buyer, Cerberus Capital Management, from using “improper’’ incentives to recruit doctors from rival hospitals, a three-year ban on price increases for hospital services, and restrictions on “limited network’’ insurance contracts that exclude other providers.

What exactly constitutes improper is not discussed, but what does the government have to do with improper? Illegal? Yes. Improper? No way.

Why would a group of hospitals want to keep prices low at competing hospitals?  Clearly, they don’t want more of the lousy government insurance cast-offs that are causing all the bankruptcies!

Using popularly proper prattle, the rent seeking hospitals are asking the government to “level the playing field” because the new group may “become predatory” by using its market power to drive up healthcare costs. After all, the coalition has only society’s best interest at heart, as this is all done in the name of providing access to low-cost healthcare for all. If this were the real reason, however, the hospital coalition would seek to get government out of the health care industry rather than use its hammer to pound the competition.

In addition to state approval, the sale requires the approval of the Pope. Seriously. This fact could be used as an excellent metaphor if it weren’t true.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Note to Homeschooling Parents

To ensure your safety when casually reading through curriculum materials don't gesticulate wildly while your full cup of black coffee teeters on the edge of your lap desk as it rests across you in bed. Three out of those five circumstances might be okay, but adding the other two added approximately two hours of laundry and hard labor to my day.  

On the plus side, my folly did generate this priceless juxtaposition of the trappings of homeschooling and some fabulously clean, lavender scented bed linens.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gone Dotty

It wasn’t until I received a copy of our home appraisal that I realized I had a problem. What’s interesting to me is that it is neither the clutter, for which, happily, nothing was deducted from the appraised value of my home, nor my last minute whirlwind de-cluttering attempts that apparently amounted to nothing that is problematic. It’s my previously unrealized affection, or perhaps affliction, for dots.
Included in the appraisal were five pictures: one into my daughter’s room, two of the room above the garage (East Wing: erstwhile school room), one of the upstairs bathroom, and one of our family room. Bedspread, blanket, kitchen towel, shower curtain, jar, bowl. There they were – in all five pictures. Dots!

But why are dots a problem? Well, they’re not spots, as in leopard spots, or zebra stripes, or giraffe polygons. Colorful dots scream out to my bold graphic design sensibilities but cannot be neatly grouped with my established attraction to animal prints. They are perfectly round circles without depth, variation, which can’t even be found in nature. Okay, they can be found in nature, but not on animals. 
Even with that serious limitation, there is something about dots that I find quite appealing, though in an uncharacteristic sort of Suzy homemaker way.
Two days after I made this realization, an essay and slide show describing the historic meaning of dots in fashion was published in Slate.  Like the dots themselves, it made me smile.

By 1936, polka dots were sufficiently big business for the fashion industry that shoe designer Miss Mary Bendalari sued Irving Fox of the National Retail Dry Goods Association for copyright infringement of her strap-sandal designs, as well as polka-dot and daisy patterns. "Wearing an 'original' dress of dark blue-and-white striped chiffon over blue, with a belt decoration of red and blue stars and a corsage cluster of small 'gold stars' in honor of the 'friends of design copyright,' " which she dubbed the "Constitutional Inspiration" and dedicated to Mr. Fox, Miss Bendalari defended designers' right to accrue coin based on designs featuring unique variants on the polka dot."How can you copyright a polka dot or a daisy, or claim as original arrangement of polka dots or any adaptation of the daisy motif?" demanded Fox, to which Bendalari spunkily (if illogically) retorted, "There is only one principle here, no matter how you smother it with polka dots. ... We base our demand for copyright protection on the Constitution, in which our right to it is specifically provided." Bendalari ultimately lost the suit, but her plucky defense (and fetchingly patriotic ensemble) epitomized the polka dot as the energetic motif nouveau for modern women.
Quite similar to animal prints in their appeal, dots make me happy. It’s interesting to note that with the exception of my 1950s housewife apron, I reserve their use for basic household items rather than fashion accessories. Why this is true may be summed up best by the author of the Slate piece, “Seeing Spots”. 
Clean, friendly, upbeat, durable, and universally pleasing, polka dots signaled the triumphant pulse of midcentury America.

Monday, September 13, 2010

3 Good Things (weekend edition)

1) Friday: Inspector Lewis

I just learned about this Masterpiece Mystery last weekend when I caught a repeat episode of the new season on television.  I really enjoyed the interplay between the two detectives, Lewis and Hathaway, their different thinking abilities, and, I must confess, DS Hathaway's Alan-Rickman-like voice.

2) Saturday: Newport, RI

It was a lovely, lovely day to meet friends along the mansion Cliff Walk in Newport.  I might as well admit upfront that it was also the first day of clog wearing season and in a sort of homecoming for my red clogs, which I bought there in February 2009, I made a grand statement in them by falling on my face on the cliff walk. Had I no hands, I would now lack teeth as well. Except for my pride, I remained uninjured. As I rolled over and off the path, I had to laugh my head off. As one of our companions offered, considering our location, 40-50 feet above the rocky coast of the Atlantic, it could have been much, much worse.

Even better than such slapstick fun was meeting the ARARI Objectivists. Ellen and Harris Kenner were warm and incredibly hospitable hosts. There were over twenty of us gathered for a nice dinner at The Landing and coffee and dessert and discussion after. The view of Newport harbor on such a gorgeous night was incomparable.

3) Sunday: Pink Champagne (no ice) and Football

As we celebrated the beautiful fall day with food shopping, beef stew cooking (including the smell of simmering thyme flooding the entire house), and the pink champagne drinking (we needed the space in the fridge), we watched the Patriots trounce the Bengals in their opening day outing.

Life is good.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Return of Football Sunday

I love Sunday afternoons in the fall. I know it's not officially fall, but the cooler weather is here, the local apples are prime for picking, and the Patriots are on the TV while Stephen does food prep for the week.

Over the past few years I have really come to enjoy watching football (great play Guyton!), and I enjoy analyzing the commercials as well.  Mostly, the beer commercials are so dumb, they're not even fun to watch, but they seem to be getting slightly better.

And I've always enjoyed a good play on words.

Hope you're appreciating your Sunday afternoon, too.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Round Up

Go git it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The First Day

by Christina G. Rossetti

I wish I could remember the first day,
First hour, first moment of your meeting me;
If bright or dim the season it might be;
Summer or winter for aught I can say.
So, unrecorded did it slip away,
So blind was I to see and to forsee,
So dull to mark the budding of my tree
That would not blossom, yet, for many a May.

If only I could recollect it! Such
A day of days! I let it come and go
As traceless as a thaw of bygone snow.
It seemed to mean so little, meant so much!
If only now I could recall that touch,
First touch of hand in hand! - Did one but know!

New York Times photo

I met my husband when I was in the first grade. Awwww. I know. He was not yet in the first grade when he and his twin brother came into my classroom and showcased their reading skills while their mother talked to Sr. Noelle, our teacher - in French, no less. One of those boys, doesn't really matter which, had the audacity to read over my shoulder from my very own book of Ned and Lad stories.  I disliked them from that moment on. For a while, anyway.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Confronting My Linguistic Fear of the Week

I'm attracted to spicy language: particularly gritty, pithy sayings such as “drop it like it’s hot.” But even with the assistance of Urban Dictionary, I'm afraid that I may use it incorrectly and divulge my otherwise secret middle-aged-suburban-mother identity.  

Does anyone have any good example situations in which this expression would be appropriate, or better still, complete sentences that I can model?   I will deduct points from your score if you have to begin the sentence with, “Yo! Bitches!” to make it work.  

I don’t like that, or gangsta crap in general.

But I do like the sound of the expression itself and so I want to drop it like it’s hot into my everyday speech.

For what it's worth, that rates a C+ for effort.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Friends, Co-Workers, Sexual Partners, lend me your . . .wait. What?


That's not too many people that Shea suggested I round up for the Objectivist Round Up. Okay, the friends count might be a little low, but friends-who-might-be-interested-in-the-Objectivist-Round-Up-who-have-not-already-read-it might be even lower.

As a homeschool mother, my co-workers and sexual partners are one, and I mean one, and the same.

And here's a little trivia regarding sexual partners: how many is too many? Over six. I know this is the official number because I saw it on Oprah. And, people, just as a point of clarification, that wasn't six during the same time period, but over a lifetime!

Okay, so I imagine that a lot of you who aren't Catholics or ex-Catholics are feeling pretty scandalous about now.

You're welcome.

It's all in a day's work, my friends.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

More Tears Than Words

How can it be her fire we’ll see no more,
In colors red and gold ablaze in life?
A bird in song, a trusted hand, adored,
A teacher, singer, friend, and Mother. Wife.
Her fiery passions warmed souls near to match;
Her wisdom never ceasing to amaze.
When questions came, ‘twas she who did dispatch,
With twinkle, smile, and nod to proven ways.
But now must I contend that she is gone;
So hard to reconcile her life with death.
When vibrancy abounds then she lives on,
In those who walked with her and shared her breath.
                For in my ears her voice will e’er return;
                For in my mind her fire will always burn.

In honor of my friend, Mary Kate (1961-2010)

"Argentine Phase" Inspiration

“The forms of tango are like stages of a marriage,” explains Barbara Garvey as she rests on the sidelines. Garvey, a true tanguera, and her husband Al go on an annual pilgrimage to Buenos Aires just to make the rounds of the milongas. “The American tango is like the beginning of a love affair, when you're both very romantic and on your best behavior,” she says. “The Argentine tango is when you're in the heat of things and all kinds of emotions are flying: passion, anger, humor. The International tango is like the end of the marriage, when you're staying together for the sake of the children.” As she and Al ocho crisply over the parquet, it's clear that after 34 years of marriage, they're still in the Argentine phase.

The tango is more than a dance - it's a moment of truth. Smithsonian 24.n8 (Nov 1993): p.p152(9). 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

She Who Will Always Shine

Cheeks as bright as rowans are
Brighter far than any star,
Fairest o' them all by far
Is my darlin' Mhàiri.

from old Scottish traditional, Mhairi's Wedding.