Monday, December 16, 2013

A Keeper

While growing up, there were several Ann Lander's columns that I never tired of reading--probably why she reran them repeatedly. I'm finding that Carolyn Hax also has wise words worth saving. Like this column from today:

Dear Carolyn:

You often talk about a "best self" and the ways people should either live that themselves or permit others to do so. I can guess what a best self might be, but I wonder what your workaday definition is?

-- Best Self

It's when you like yourself.

Or, when you're getting the most out of your strengths and succumbing the least to your weaknesses. It's highly personal, but here are some ideas for cultivating strength:

Are you doing things that are meaningful to you; well-suited to your interests, skills and talents; and challenging enough to keep you humble?

Are you with people to whom you want to be kind; who reinforce your good choices; and who don't inspire persistent doubts about whether they're dependable, genuinely fond of you, free of ulterior motives, honest with you?

Are you that person to those you love?

Do you take responsibility for your choices and their consequences?

Do you honor your promises and commitments, to yourself and others?

When you are impressed by, grateful to or concerned about someone, do you show it?

Do you forgive?

Are you representing yourself honestly, to yourself and others, creating no facades to maintain?

Do you take care of yourself -- in small ways like flossing, and in big ways like thinking through potential consequences before you act? And do you put yourself first in ways that sustain you, to minimize your burdening of others?

As for taming weaknesses:

Do you realize your needs have the same status as everyone else's? And you're not the hero in every encounter with others?

Are you mindful of your flaws and demons?

Do you make choices that put distance between you and your temptations?

Do you resist the impulse to blame others when things go wrong?

Do you understand the boundary between your and others' business, and stay on your side?

When you're unsure, do you admit that and seek help?

When you're about to express negativity or a criticism, do you ask yourself whether it needs expressing? And imagine how its target will feel?

When you fall short, do you admit that? To those who most need to hear it?

Since all of these questions hinge on solid self-awareness, I'd call Step 1 a brutally honest assessment of what you bring to the party -- and how you're most likely to wreck it.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Learning, Always Learning

Thanks to principal Gary Griese, I've worked in kindergarten as an assistant since 1988. During those 25 years, I've had the pleasure of working with over twelve very different teachers, in both Roseburg and Salem, OR.

Lucky me, my first year I was able to work with the teacher who taught my eldest in the first grade--June Kuitert. She'll always be my ideal kindergarten teacher. Well, okay . . . except for my own personal first grade teacher, Mrs. Kane. I imagine Mrs. Kane (Minnie, who taught me to read), would have been an amazing kindergarten teacher.

What a roller coaster these past 25 years have been! I wish I knew how many children's hands I've held--whether it was to hold a pencil or lead a recess line. I've worked with strict teachers, (what we call) loosie goosie teachers, warm hearted teachers, single minded teachers, imaginative teachers, creative teachers, but most fall into the category of "never stop learning" teachers.

I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that my preference are the teachers trained to teach kindergarten. People will try and convince you otherwise, but kindergarten is a specialty. It's a child's first school experience. They learn how to stand in line, hold a pencil and scissors, sit next to another child on the carpet, follow directions and solve problems. And hopefully, if they haven't learned already, that there are other people in the world and consequences for their actions.

Not sure where I was going with this, other than pondering the past years after trying to model something  that I hadn't done for 8 years to my teacher. She was moved (voluntarily) from third grade to kindergarten, at the end of the 2012-13 school year and has been working hard to find both her comfort zone and what's best for the children. Sadly, I forgot several important instructional details and (evidently) hurt the feelings of the person who gave me permission to take over for 20 minutes.

Navigating the puzzle of people has never been my strength. If I ask permission to show a fellow educator something I know will help them and they assure me they're comfortable with it, I tend to believe them. Though I only have the body language and actions of the other person to go by, I'm certain I overstepped today. And so, I'll leave it to the experts from now on.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

An Accidental Dinner to Remember

"Hurry! Write this down before you forget!", I nagged myself.

How it began: I didn't want to forget to use the leftover rotisserie chicken from the night before. Since I was home alone (chef Fran was gone), I used google to find recipes using cooked chicken. The search was over quick, once I spotted the one below. That spinach needed to be finished off yesterday.

The name of the recipe that inspired dinner is:
"Three-Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine"

BUT I only used

  • half the mushrooms, 
  • half the spinach, 
  • much less oregano, 
  • traded 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt for the cottage cheese and milk,
  •  used a cup of Gruyere and Parmesan (no cheddar), 
  • NO cream of chicken soup--instead we used about a cup of chicken broth and 
  • a couple splashes of dry vermouth. 

So, yeah.
Pretty much a totally different recipe, but it did provide inspiration. :)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Family History Project

I can't count the number of times I've been inspired to take action (in a small personal way) all due to something I've heard on public radio. This time it was from the Story Corps program. I think it was a special Thanksgiving program I was listening to, where they were urging everyone to share and record family stories over the holiday.

On a whim, I packed our video camera, then enlisted daughter Lise to be in charge. I urged her to find a way to get this started during our visit to my brother and sister-in-law's house on Thanksgiving. Like most of my whims, I was prepared for it not to work out. Whether due to people being uncomfortable with telling their story in front of a camera or just the usual problem with holding anyone's attention during a large family gathering.

I was thrilled with the family cooperation and Lisa's success in getting this started. I urge all of you to give it a try. I suggest you give everyone a warning the day of, find a quiet place and start with the bravest members.

On a slightly different note--how cool would it be to do this city wide? Maybe as a project for CCTV that would last an entire month? People could walk in or make appointments? What do you think?

Here's our project, but we're not finished . . .

KarlaandNorm from K Miller on Vimeo.