Tag Archive | curiosity

Entering a New Life

423019Last night one of my best friends called to say her twin brother had died. Jerry suffered from an incurable cancer. Everyone who loved him hoped that his first remission would have lasted longer, but after a short eighteen months, the cancer returned. The news was disheartening for his family.

Whenever I hear about someone my own age dying, it has always had an affect on me. Selfishly, I wonder what I would do if I had to face dying. I like to think the best. I like to think I would die with dignity, facing the unknown like I have faced so many other unknown situations that have entered my life. I like to think I would look at death as my next big adventure. I hope my next stop is a better world, where there is no pain or hunger. I hope this place lets me have the freedom to hurt no more. I hope this place is happy where I can rejoin others who have passed before me.

For thousands of years humans have believe in an afterlife, but is there such a place? When it comes down to it, we truly don’t know what happens after death. Growing up Christian I was taught I am an eternal being, and this earthly place is just part of my journey. If I live a good life, I will be rewarded in heaven. This ideology is a pleasant thought, isn’t it? Even Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He believed in heaven. If that thought is good enough for Him, then it certainly is good enough for me.

But are we humans really better than all of the other living things on this earth? Personally, I’m a little ashamed of my species. After thousands of years, we have learned nothing about living in harmony with nature and one another. We just keep on thinking of better ways to destroy our world and each other. It’s no wonder we want to leave here. Will we really do better in heaven?

I hope for Jerry’s sake there is a heaven. I hope for my sake and everyone I love there is a beautiful place where we all can meet after death and have a grand party. When I must face my own death, I will die as I have lived. Death is part of the cycle of life, and hopefully, I’ve fulfilled my mission here, even though I truly am not sure what it is.

Until that day comes, though, I will continue on the path I’ve struck. I will continue to live with love in my heart, and hope that love has touched others in a way that will live on. So if there is a heaven, I hope to see you there someday.

Curiosity Results in Life-Long Learning

curiosityPeter Mallet’s blog is one of my favorite blogs. He’s dedicated his blog to giving other writers very good advice. He also offers a variety of links to other helps a writer can use. While I was reading his post this morning, I came across these words:

“The best writers are curious. I think the addition to that rule should be, “Always strive to know more than you do at any given moment.” Never stop learning.”

In those two sentences, Peter summed me up. I think this is why I chose to write historical fiction. First, I was curious about the time period of my parents, and second, I constantly love to learn things I didn’t know.

Right now, I’m researching women  pilots of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Most people have heard about Amelia Earhart, but have you heard about Jackie Cochran? Did you know that British women and American women pilots provided a valuable service of ferrying planes from the factories to the airfields, so men could devote their time to combat flying? Did you know there were women who actually flew in combat? I didn’t either until I started researching.

I believe my natural curiosity drove my mother nuts because she felt, as my parent, she needed to know everything instead of saying, “I don’t know, let’s go find out together,” she made something up. That technique worked until I got old enough to prove her wrong. From then on, I never asked her questions any more. Instead, I headed for my neighbor’s encyclopedias.

When my children came along, I thought the best thing I could do for them was cultivate their curiosity. As we drove along in the car, I’d say something like, “I wonder why that tree grew so crooked.”  As we walked through a park, I’d ask, “I wonder what kind of flower that is.” Then we would go home and look up the answer. I wanted my girls to be aware of the world around them, and I wanted them to grow up asking their own questions.

One of the things which concerns me is the lack of curiosity I’ve seen in today’s young people. I would be happy if they had questions and satisfied them quickly by searching the Internet. They have this powerful tool as close as their “smart” phones, but they are more apt to text their friends and wonder, “Whatssup?”

We live in a world where if you stop learning and asking “Why?”, you may as well lay down and die. When I see this kind of attitude in my students, I worry about their futures as well as that of our country. Curiosity is cultivated by parents and teachers. We need to ask our children, “What do you think?” Light their fire. Make them think. Get them excited about the world around them.

Student Teachers

Tormented writerEarlier in the year, I gave my class a Mastery Test to see what areas they need the most help. After careful consideration, I decided to give them all a taste of their own student medicine and make them the teachers of one of the sections.

At first they were all okay with the idea, after all, how hard could teaching be? All a person had to do was stand in front of the class for a few minutes and write on the board. The class was divided into four groups and given class time to plan their approach to teaching their subject.

Last night was guinea pig night. The first group was up. I sat in the back of the room and tried to help them get through the embarrassment of teaching something they really didn’t take the time to understand; consequently, they totally confused the rest of the class. There was a lot of blank faces in the “audience” and perplexed faces on the four students trying to impart their lack of knowledge.

I think the experiment was a success. The team learned teaching isn’t as easy as they thought, especially when the class asked me to reinforce the ideas that the team was trying to “teach.” Hopefully, Group #3 who are up next in November will learn from the guinea pigs and do a better job of preparation.

I had hoped having the students “teach” would make them at least look at the book and try to understand the material. I’m really concerned that so many of the young students really don’t seem to give a rip about anything. Every class, I try to get them excited about the world around them, but there seems to be no curiosity.

I feel sorry for them that they don’t seem to find joy in learning new things. I understand basic grammar and sentence structure  is boring, but with creative assignments like having a chance to teach the class and have the ability to do it the way they chose would get their juices flowing. Instead, they crawled through the chapter and didn’t present anything fun or stimulating.

Oh well, we’ll see what the other groups do as the dog days of the semester crawl on. Hopefully, we’ll find one teacher in the masses. I hope the profession isn’t a lost art.

Raising the Curiosity Quotient

bookwormAs we turn the page of the calendar to August, again all thoughts turn to school supplies—or so the ads on television make us want to believe. I swear you don’t even need a calendar any more because you can gauge the time of the year by what ads you endure on the “tube.”

I find it ironic these ads appear when my writing class is winding down. We have this upcoming week of classes and then a final the next week. On the 19th of August, my students will know if the work they did with me is worthy of passing onto the next class or whether they will have to repeat the course with a different instructor.

In three more weeks, the Fall semester will begin. I’m assigned to teach the same prep writing class, but at a campus ten minutes from my home, which will make any impending winter weather no threat. The educational cycle will repeat. Some students will excel, others will not. Some students will be inspired; others will sit like lumps waiting for me to pour the necessary information into their heads with little effort on their part. And like my class now, some will pass and others will not. And so it goes.

After teaching for two years, I have learned a lot. One thing is the curiosity level of most student is almost non-existent. If I can influence one thing in their lives, this would be it. I’d like to get them to wonder about the world around them and ask why are things the way they are, and what can they do to change them.  Most young people I’ve met seem to have no zest to learn or to ask questions about matters that affect them. Has their world made them so apathetic and discouraged at such a young age?

So as this semester ends and the next begins, I will spend the following sixteen weeks to try to turn on some little part of my students to show them learning is fun. I will try to open their eyes to see education is the key to unlock the doors of the future.  It’s a tough job, but I’m up for the task. My hope is at least one young mind will be switched on to have the curiosity toask “why,”  the persistence to get an answer, and the courage to fix what is broken,

Childhood Memories and Growing Up

saddle shoes and toysChildhood memories . . . most of mine are pretty good. I grew up as the eldest child of four in a small village in Wisconsin. My father was first generation Italian American, who worked in a hot, dirty muffler factory. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, who did everything from cutting our hair to canning everything my grandpa could grow in his garden. Her heritage was a combination of Danish, Dutch and English, so one memory I have was we called ourselves “Danos” because of our combined heritage.

I remember all of the things shown in this picture — especially the saddle shoes.

I remember my Dad throwing a baseball with my brother and me in the backyard. Unfortunately, if we muffed the catch, we ended up breaking the glass in the backdoor more than once. My mother would yell at all of us, until finally my Dad replaced the glass with plexi-glass.

We had a blow-up wading pool to cool off in the summer with the neighborhood kids. In the winter we were always outside playing in the snow — or shoveling it. Usually the shoveling came before the playing. We only came in when our knitted mittens were so wet and heavy with snow we couldn’t feel our fingers any longer.

One of the fondest memories was when my cousins, brother and I made up plays on Thanksgiving afternoon. We had an old 55-gallon barrel filled with old clothes we used as costumes. Dad had brought a couple of pallets home from the shop, so we used them for a set and a stage. We’d practice and practice until we were ready for the grown-ups to come down, sit on the basement steps and watch the production we had prepared. The best part was to hear their applause at the end.

My favorite storybook growing up? To tell you the truth, I don’t remember. It was probably Cinderella, Snow White or some other tale about a damsel in distress who was rescued by a handsome prince.

AND THEN THINGS CHANGED — WE ALL GREW UP!

My generation had a dilemma. We were raised by women who had worked during the war, but were expected to give up their employment when their men came home. We were raise to be stay-at-home moms, but there was an undercurrent of discontent in that role. It’s no wonder their daughters were found on college campuses, burning their bras, and demanding equal rights. These young women threw out the childhood propaganda  a prince would come and they’d live happily ever after. They demanded the opportunity to have choices. They demand equal pay for equal work. They took jobs that were formerly known as jobs for men. And they had the audacity to demand control over their own bodies. All of that was great. We were liberated! Yeah!

But were we? When the reality hit home, we realized that we had created a monster. Society said, “You want to work. Fine. But you better damn well take good care of your home and children, too.” Now we had two careers instead of one — a professional career that gave us a check and a homemaker career that sucked the life out of us. The mistake we made was, we didn’t liberate the men, too!

For myself, I took a position of having one foot in both camps. After my children were born, I CHOSE to quit my job and stay at home so I could enjoy being a mom. I told myself I had waited long enough to have my girls; so I wanted the opportunity to see them grow from babies to toddlers to little girls to teenagers to women. However, I’m really not sure if that was truly MY choice.

But to this day, I’m not sure if I stayed home because I wanted to do so, or whether the people around me had brainwashed me that a GOOD MOTHER always put her children first and stayed at home.

After they were in elementary school and didn’t need me as much as they did when they were small, I was lost. Now I didn’t have a foot in either the feminist camp (where I truly belonged) and the status quo camp where I lived. The process of “finding myself” was just as hard at 35 than it was at 20. It took going to college to reclaim my true identity. I loved exposure to new ideas and learning things I hadn’t been exposed to as a girl or woman. I loved having intelligent conversations about things other than children and household duties.

Unfortunately, the people around me — my husband, some friends and parents didn’t see it that way. , and it ended in a divorce a year after graduation. And why? Because I had grown strong enough to stand on my own two feet.

My voyage of discovery helped me unearth Barbara again. No one’s wife or mother or even daughter. Just me. Deep down under my societal roles, I was a REAL person. . . not too much different from that little girl who used to make up stories and plays in the basement with her cousins. My childhood curiosity had resurrected again  I got back to writing something more than entertaining letters. It was exhilarating  In fact as I write this I’m excited all over again with that part of my life.

The only thing that had changed was my maturity tempered my viewpoints because instead of seeing only black and white, now I saw shades of gray. I’m not apologizing to my feminist friends for taking the path I did — exploring both a stay-at-home role as well as a professional one. I’m just glad I didn’t have the pressure to perform in both camps at the same time.

And the result of this effort?  I learned to feel the fear and do it anyway. An mantra I use to this day.

 

Curiosity is a Driving Force–Passengers Beware!

Every once in a while, my curiosity drives me nuts. Today was one of those days. I woke up with this curious drive to learn where the term “BLOG” originated.

Seeing it isn’t “cool” to just grab the dictionary any more, I warmed up my laptop, called up GOOGLE and summoned my request. Like an archaeologist, I dug around until I found what I wanted. I discovered web journals have been around since the 1990s and the term BLOG didn’t show up until 1999 when it was coined by Peter Merholz–a graduate from the University of California – Berkley. Supposedly, he was making a joke about the technology and put together the two words web and log = blog. Of course, I found this information on the Internet so it must be true, right?

Okay, I had my answer. But for a curiosity junkie like me, it wasn’t enough. Along with the where and when, I discovered a whole new language built around web journaling. Eureka!  Want to know what I found? Come exploring with me! (Otherwise, you may be dismissed.)

First, let us begin with the terms for specific types  of  blogs. With 100 million blogs in the Blogosphere there has to be some kind of organization, right?

  • ANONOBLOG is one written by an author who wants to remain anonymous.
  • An AUDIOBLOG is where you’d find posts of recordings.
  • A BIZ BLOG is a blog operated by a business.
  • A BLAWG is written by a law professor, student or law review.
  • (I’m sure there are many other categories, but let’s move on.)

With 100 million blog sites, there are equally as many bloggers. Here’s some terms for some of them.

  • A BLEGO is the self-worth of the blogger. (blog + ego); at first glance that one had me stumped, too.
  • Then there’s the ever popular BLOGEBRITY.
  • A BLOGSNOB who is a blogger unwilling to acknowledge comments from anyone outside their blog clique. There’s the BLOOGER who is an immature or boorish blogger acting like a teenager.

Again the disclaimer is in place –this is by no means an all-inclusive list; it only contains words I thought were hilarious.

I was concerned when I learned that a blogger can even be inflected by BLOG diseases. Here are a few:

  • BLOGSTIPATION, which is a fatal diagnosis of one being unable to think of something to post.
  • BLOGORHHEA when a blogger writes an unedited stream of consciousness.
  • BLOGOHOLIC who is addicted to writing so much that she/he destroys the rest of their life. (I wonder if they have a 12 Step program?)

That brings us to the BLAUDIENCE –people like you who read blogs. There’s the BLURKER who sneaks in, reads and leaves no trace of their visits behind, and  the BLOGROACH who is an obnoxious commentator who disagrees with rude comments on everything posted.

I could go on, but if I haven’t lost you yet, I will soon, and I would never want to do that. It’s my goal to entertain, inform, and once in a while give you something you can use for conversation around the water cooler.

So, carry on BLAUDIENCE!  Your day awaits you.