Thursday, October 08, 2015

I May Never Grow Up

I met a young man years ago through my Son-in-law.  He is a handsome New Jersey Italian, friendly, nice, from a deeply Catholic family and was at a cross roads in his life.  My SIL and others felt he might be gay as he was very good looking and never dating anyone.  He was a twin and his brother had long since married and started a family. We years later heard he was dating a playboy model.  I had (be)friended him on FB and he never revealed any beautiful women with selfies or that part of his life.  This young man had worked for a high end consulting company, lived at home and saved his high salary while he was looking for a passion and then in recent years has morphed into a foodie.  I followed him on FB and watched as he evolved into finding himself and worked with various chefs in the city where he lived.  He slowly became involved in promoting interesting foods and farm to table type events.

I cannot remember how it came about years ago, but he was invited by me down for a weekend and ended up coming with another young newly divorced man who also seemed to be at a cross-roads in his life and who was also part of my SIL's work life.  My SIL seemed a little miffed at our new relationship with "his" friends, but that is another story that I may blog about someday.  We took these young men boating, fed them, they stayed overnight and then they went on their way home.  I did not feel we made a "connection" with either.  They seemed your typical self-involved types who do not realize what happens around them.

I sometimes post a "foodie" photo about what I am cooking...remember the stuffed pepper casserole that ended up on the  floor(?)...the photo above was before it went into the oven, and I write about what we are having for dinner on FB.  I am pretty good at making what I cook sound delicious.  Well my foodie guy is intrigued and now wants to come down for a another visit and maybe side by side cook effort!  I know that many of  my readers would be so ready for this fun team effort with a "young'in."who actually has real connections in the food world.

But I am just a bit terrified as I do not see myself as a great or even good cook!  I see myself as an old lady cook who gets easily distracted and can burn stuff.

It looks like this may happen and I am going to screw my courage to the sticking place if it does and figure it out.  I will let you know.....  Yep, this blogger is an enormous timid mouse type.  If you read my entries you do know this, and I do agree that it is pathetic.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Apple of My Eye

Tradition in northern climes this time of year is to harvest and save and savor.  Nothing tastes better than freshly picked apples in the autumn.  There are many varieties in the U.S. although Johnny Appleseed (our folk hero in the planting of apples) probably carried mostly crab apple seeds.  These were perfect for making apple cider and that is what our forefathers drank in abundance because in some areas water was scarce and in other areas it was foul.

Yes, we have whole farms devoted to pick-your-own.  This place has school buses of public school children and vans for home-schooled children that keep them super busy in the fall.  You may notice the orange warning cones in the drive.  They have classes, hay wagon trips out to the field and then lots of fun stuff in the craft shop to also buy and take home.

We purchased some Jona-gold, some Honey-crisp and I think those last red ones were early Fuji.

Some were made into applesauce which is really lovely for breakfast with pancakes.  Because the weather is cooler I like to heat up my applesauce.

I made some tarts with some leftover puff pastry that absolutely HAD to be used, and while it did not have the flakiness that one expects, the tarts were still very good for dessert.

...and of course, several containers of apple pie filling for the freezer.

Yes, we also ate a bunch of them freshly sliced this past week.  So sweet and juicy and not at all like the apples one gets at the grocery store.  (We did not leave any behind on the table...that was an overfull child's apple in the photo below.)  This is a fun kind of business and fills the house with smells of cinnamon and nutmeg and sugar and apples.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Truth ...In the Eyes of the Beholder?

New giant dove discovered during eclipse of the moon.

"people remember through photographs but that they remember only the photographs ... that the photographic image eclipses other forms of understanding – and remembering. ... To remember is, more and more, not to recall a story but to be able to call up a picture"  Susan Sontag

For readers who do not know Sontag, she was a fiction and non-fiction writer who became interested in photography and its affect on society and its implications as it evolved into what we have today with the ease of digital documentation.  She was a very demanding, smart, and exotic woman.  I have not read any of her fiction, but may tackle that someday.  Her interest in war grew with several trips to Sarajevo during the war there.  I have been reading a Susan Sontag book about the brutal photography taken during war.  Oh, yes, a nice after dinner theme to sink my teeth into after watching the photos and videos on TV covering all the devastating news.

Decades ago in the old Russia, people were removed from dignitary photos without guilt as certain leaders lost favor with the regime over time.  There were usually a few other non-doctored photos that revealed the editing to the world.

Most people remember the famous photo taken by AP photographer Nick Ut of the naked 9-year-old Vietnamese girl running from the rain of chemical napalm from a South Vietnamese Air Force attack that incorrectly thought the village was an enemy group. The photo won a Pulitzer prize and yet history tells us that President Nixon doubted its authenticity.  Was it too awful to be real?

Recently a photo of a Syrian toddler lying face down in the surf on a beach near a Turkish resort was published around the world.  This very moving photo touched many people much more strongly than all the boats of refugees crowded in rafts or trudging along railroad lines in search of a new life.  An investigation later revealed that the boy had been moved from a small cove to the beach area for a better photo opportunity.  So now this becomes a bit of a staged photograph!  Would it have had the same tragic punch if the original site of death was the one shared around the world?

Also this year some videos of Syrian refugees refusing water and food and in another case carrying some flags in protest were sent out with the information that these were examples of how Islamic zealots were willing to protest for their religion with the sub-text of how dangerous these people could be if let into "Christian" countries.  Not given enough attention was that these photos had nothing to do with Islam.  One was not even part of the current refugee crises but another protest entirely at a different place and time.  The other videos reflected frustration at being stuck behind a fence for days with no where to go, rather than rejection of "Red-Cross" meals.  If someone had not followed with accurate context, could this have mushroomed into a larger rejection of Muslim refugees?

There was also a photo this week from Peru that Kay Davis lawyers insisted was a mass meeting of Christians in Peru (of all places?) supporting her stand against gay marriage.  It took less than 48 hours for photographic detectives to reveal the photo was taken more than a year ago and had nothing to do with her protest.

We are going to have to question photographs we see as photo-shopping a digital photo can be even more confusing and less able to detect as we move into the future.  What we once relied on as photographic truth is not necessarily so.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Used Books

While perusing the local used book store in a college town in the mountains of Virginia last week, I just had to take a photo of this top book shelf in the store.  Someone has a dark sense of not ignore the careful placement of the book in the middle.  (You may get a closer look by clicking on the photo.)  I did not get out of this place without buying three books of course, but none of the above were in my bag.

If you read my blog, you will understand why I selected all of the titles above.  I will always buy books even though I can read electronically on at least three devices.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What Happens Backstage---13 Revelations for Thursday 13

  1. Having so many delicious bell peppers from the garden I just had to brag and post a photo of a stuffed pepper casserole on Facebook.  After taking it out of the oven it slipped from my hand and the casserole broke neatly into two pieces as it slid across the kitchen floor.  No shards, so we ate it anyway.  Did not post that on FB!
  2. One Sunday afternoon in fall enjoying the beautiful weather and being thankful we had nothing on the calendar as we sat in bliss.  Then an old friend of hubby calls reminding him we are supposed to be at their house for dinner.  Got out my most expensive bottle of Barolo and sheep-faced made the hour-long drive to their house!
  3. I have already posted about my new tutoring experience and how I am handling my fear of math.  But did not post that my student canceled (once again) our third scheduled meeting due to a bad back.  Sometimes we are our own worst enemy!
  4. I got a rather large bill from the electric company, and after some research, realized I had failed to pay last month's bill.  Getting old is not for sissies.
  5. This past week we had a house guest who rides a Harley, once belonged to the same golf club as The Donald and wears an earring in one ear.  If you knew us, you would realize this was not someone you would expect we would entertain.  I found I liked him in spite of my prejudices.  (He also has had children by three different women, lives on his own in the coal country of Pennsylvania, and knew hubby way back when they were both much more naive.)
  6. Trying to (once again) run 3 miles a day 3 times a week even though it does NOTHING for my shape or weight loss.  I rarely write about it because people might expect I would be thinner.
  7. I purchased some doughnut holes for the gardening seminar that I was helping set up last Saturday and forgot to take them, and proceeded to eat a bunch over the next two days.  I have no self-control.
  8. My addiction to British murder mystery shows seems to show no abatement even when I have seen them three times and know exactly what is going to happen.
  9.  Flat-earth society types give me an ulcer and I may not find it easy to be polite much longer.
  10.  I get disappointed when I think I know so much and find out I know so little.  Learning will always be a passion with me and I wish this was so with everyone.
  11. I do not listen to enough music in my life and should be better organized for that.
  12. I have no idea who I am going to vote for in this next election, but that in reality, is not something I have not told anyone.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Failure Is Not an Option

I'm a little nervous so I arrive about 20 minutes early to check out the study room in the public library.  The room is small with a built-in table against one wall and clearly designed for no more than two people.  It is cold!  I should have brought a sweater.  I spread out my notebook, two pencils, the first lesson, and tuck my purse into the corner.  I look around, and satisfied, head out to the main part of the library.

This library used to be about 25% of its current size.  There was a plan to build a new library for the community in the budget, before the deficits raised issues a few years ago.  In the old building the librarians had a workroom/storage area about the size of a large broom closet and there were two tiny offices.  I had done some volunteer work years ago in the old library building and was cramped into a corner trying to enter subscription data with two other librarians within touching distance of their tiny desks.  The two children's librarians had only plastic bins on the floor to store their tools.  The circulation desk was slap up against a wall.  When the local gourmet food market on the main road could not get a buyer, the county bought the building and using less money converted the space into a new library.  The new space is lighter, roomer and closer to the main traffic.  This library was used a lot when it was smaller and off the road near a school and some woods and within walking distance of the Senior Center, but it gets even more use now that there is room and it is closer to town.

I look at the shelves to pass the time and find Harper Lee's book "Go Set a Watchman" which I had been wanting to read and take it to a comfortable chair to peruse.  After about ten minutes I hear a conversation regarding the location of a study room and I hear my name.  I stand and walk over to where the librarian is pointing and I see an attractive, casually dressed (in clean jeans and a wine colored T-shirt), stocky, black woman.  She looks like she might be in her 40's-50's.  Her stance is energetic and I am sure she is my student.  I approach her and indicate who I am. 

She waves her arm in my direction and begs  "I just have to get something to eat!  Just a few minutes."

I respond, "No problem." as she is fifteen minutes early.

I go back to the study room as my student disappears outside somewhere.  There are a few restaurants on the strip mall and the gas station has food.  I sort the lesson and wait.

Five minutes after our start time, my student comes back energetically into the room.  She does not smell of food, so maybe all she had was a granola bar and a drink in the car.  She is a talker like me, so our greetings topple over each other.  I formally introduce myself and offer my hand.  She introduces herself and we shake hands, talk some more, and she offers her hand again and we shake ... again.

I do like her and we settle down into learning about her study issues, etc.

She is so eager to get through this training in order to graduate in October of 2016, that I am worried about how she is setting her short term goals.  She explains how she had to drop out of school at 17 because she was pregnant.  She has at least one child now in college.  She wants so much to get her degree in front of her children and grandchildren and then as tears come to her eyes, she apologizes and gets a tissue.  She does not once mention that the diploma is for a job opportunity.  It seems this is a personal goal for her.

Yes, I can feel the pressure on me to make this training successful.  She talks about teachers she has liked and the class that she has to go to that very evening for math.

I start with a few charts and vocabulary sheets that were given to me to help with approaching word problems.

We start with the basics of trying to decode a word problem.   I read her the first exercise which involves determining how much a waiter made in tips when we know his hourly wage, number of hours worked, and total money he gets at the end of the day.  She is slow to figure this out and I am wondering if I am helping her too much as we multiply, add and then subtract.  I have her read the next problem and this takes me back to fourth grade when some fellow classmates would nervously struggle with reading a paragraph out loud.    Now I see that some of her problem is reading and not just math.

She is bravely not too self-conscious although she apologizes too much.  I am totally positive and full of encouragement reminding her these are steps of the journey, reminding her to take her time, and then giving clues when I need to.  We struggle though the problems for an hour and then I give her an exercise sheet and ask her to do a few of the problems for the next class.  We do the first one together and when we both come up with the same answer, which according to my "Key" is wrong, it takes a few minutes for us to realize that the exercise has a major typo!  This is going to be more work than I thought!

We talk about learning styles and then I suggest a later time for our next Tuesday class because it will give her some free time before she has to drive further up the road for her other class.  Both my class and the other class are about 20 minutes from where she lives.

I think she is feeling good about the session and she insists on giving me a hug when we leave.  I am a big hugger, so feel good about that. 

Now I have to do some serious research on learning styles, learning strategies, and real teaching...not just training which I do with my grandkids.  This is making me reach just like her, so I think this may work out for us both.  I do not want to fail her!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Too Old to Learn New Tricks?

Way back in January of this year when gray snow and blistering winds were all that greeted me as I left the house, I decided I needed some activity that was more inspiring for me and more useful to others, before I turned into a winter hermit.  I perused the listing of volunteer activities in the county newspaper and the Adult Basic Education program caught my eye.  I used to teach many decades ago, and figured my skills were not that rusty.  Some one on one time with someone who needed my help could be pretty rewarding for me as well.

After placing a call to the ABE office I was told that they would place my name on their list...there would be training...there were others also on this list.  January came and went and February was almost over before I received a call that there would be a meeting/training session in March and did I have a date or two that suited me?  There was much juggling as there were four of us who led complicated lives and finally the ABE office admitted they would have to have two sessions to accommodate us.

I drove up to the old concrete block building across from the fire station.  It was uninviting and sparse in decor.  It reminded me of an old school room in the the 1950's with walls filled with workbooks and reading materials and some old fashioned desks in the middle of the room.  Budget constraints were clearly visible everywhere.  There were two women of pre-retirement age and gentle personalities to explain the program as we two potential tutors sat at a small round table.  Lots of paperwork.  The training consisted of some simple rules, ideas and paperwork forms and took a few afternoon hours.  I was asked to complete a form on how many students I was willing to tutor, whether it was English and/or math, etc.  I said one student to start, and although I do hate math I was afraid I would never get a student if I didn't check that box also...everyone wants to teach reading comprehension or grammar, etc.  They said it would take some time as they had to run background checks on us among other things.

I went home to wait for an assignment.  Spring came and my volunteer garden work and travel filled the months.  Summer came and my grandchildren visits filled my time.  I had almost forgotten about this teaching project.  Then the last week of August I get a call to tutor a math student.  My heart sank because I really had forgotten all my math and in the back of my mind I had been hoping for English.  Who does math anymore with computers and calculators everywhere?  But having a Puritan work ethic I said I would be happy to tutor this adult woman in math.

I was given the name and phone number of the student but told to wait two weeks while the office put together a packet of lessons for me.  Oddly, I was beginning to panic more!  What made me think I could teach basic math?  I researched some exercises on the Internet and tried hard to remember how to reduce fractions, figure perimeters, calculate percentages, etc.  Gosh, I was going to have to re-learn everything.

I drove up to the local high school and picked up the lengthy study packet and reviewed the lessons inside and then called the student.  She was thrilled to hear from me, desperate to get her high school diploma, and willing to meet on any day, any place, and any time for tutoring.  Yes, having an eager student is golden, but I was still very nervous as I set a date to meet at the public library the following week.  During our phone conversation she was interrupted by noises of children in the back ground.  Excusing herself, but not bothering to put her hand across the receiver, I heard her yelling at them and scolding them to behave.  When she got back to me she apologized and explained they were her grandchildren!  Shoot, if she could do this, why not I?

While I sorted materials and made a flexible plan, the day of the lesson arrived and she called to cancel because her niece had been taken to the hospital.  I am well aware that adult students have all kinds of reasons for not moving forward with their goals and that they have real lives to interfere and that sometimes they use excuses to avoid doing the work.  Yet, I heaved a sigh of relief to be given a short reprieve.

I called a few days later to re-schedule.  Yesterday we did finally meet for our first lesson and I will tell you how that went in my next post.