Facebook Phobia: Rehab

I sat down with a dear friend in her backyard this morning. The kids were starting their fun and we settled to catch up. Before I knew what was happening, my tech-savvy, happily tech-dependent friend laid out how easy it was going to be to GET ME ON FACEBOOK that moment. It was not the first time Tera had encouraged this recluse to join civilization. Nor has she been the only one. But this time my death grip on the comfort of simpler, slower times let up despite itself as she reasoned how quick it will be to snap a photo of me and jump-start my profile. She sounded so disarming. The import of my capitulation didn’t bear so heavily on me. I warned her I take few solo shots and when I do, run 20 to delete 19.  A blur of sixty shots later, we had done it. Indeed it was effortless and it was torture. I clutched my heart over a deep prick of pain. Tera chuckled. She cheerfully, so patiently picked out with me The One photo I okayed with hesitation.

My reluctance to Facebook has not been just about the hermit in me. Yes, I blog some things personal. But I am writing largely in the quiet of my solitude. I don’t know if I’m ready for the noise of a pajama cocktail party. There’s also the fear, a simple matter of keeping up with the times. Which, according to today’s M.O. means learning technology beyond the level of email. Yes, email is so 90s (and wonderfully so). Glancing at my husband’s Facebook page makes me dizzy. Just so many…buttons..and things going on at once.

I watched in awe as Tera’s fingers flew over her phone. She went on to crop my photo – a whole art studio and tool shed in that device of hers. So many icons on the screen, shapes, a feast of choices as we uploaded my picture.

I recoiled. I was overwhelmed. Facebook was unfamiliar terrain.  What technical functions will I have to learn?

Fingers tap danced briefly, and there I was. My smile greeting the masses. We hung the mask that had hid the recluse from the parade of life. In just a handful of clicks, I leapt out of the dark ages of my perceived security into a Brave New World. I am aware that the possibilities for online amity will only make swapping stories more enjoyable. But to put it plainly, change is hard. Congratulate me: a naturalized citizen of social media and of postmodern humanity.

20 Things I Consider Sacred: Part 4

Music is heaven-borne. Was God’s idea. God’s people sung their prayers through the Old Testament, though they did not have to. And they sang a new song before the throne…Revelation 14:3. Music will crown the triumph of restoration, vindication, renewal in heaven.

Imagine there were no such thing. So we couldn’t even paint. Your house and office is straight white; your neighborhood devoid of color, the trees blank against a blank sky.  We live in color but often don’t even think about it. Every color bears its own purpose and energy. Color therapists use green to revitalize the ill. Green in food helps rejuvenate and cleanse the body. When the sun stains the sky in a particularly spectacular way, I point out the canvas of God’s painting to my son. A woman recently shared with me some challenges she was facing, I reminded her to look at or listen to something beautiful because beauty is healing. Seasoned in faith and living, she didn’t need preachy but encouragement to refresh her spirit and senses with the glorious things that surround. She took time to take in her garden.

Words to others. With these we can give someone wings or clip them.

Essentially, self-talk. People rising from their cancer bed. Or dying before resurrecting to pummel themselves through the finish line. Or choosing fruit over the chocolate bar whispering seduction. With our self-talk we keep on or give up. Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over…every living creature that moves on the ground. Genesis 1.28. This call is also the unique ability of man in all of creation to subdue himself. When we tame the beast within and nourish our mind with good words and pictures, the body flourishes. There is no thought that does not produce a biochemical reaction that affects us physically.

Words we lift to heaven.  They rise from depths of hope, longing, fear, joy and move the hand of God.

There are people limited in the use of of their senses.  But there is a power available to those who are forced to compensate for the inability to see or hear, a power that’s also sacred. I could manage all of these parts of my life better. Some, I am outright terrible at enjoying and well could have named this series 20 Blessings I Take for Granted. Perhaps it’s best to work on sinking more sweetly into a few, for starters.

Dancing With the Stars – in Riverside, CA

My husband, Pedro in the BraziliIMG_2167an world of music, teaches Samba drumming to a group of Samba dancers. A month ago, his class from Julie Simon’s World to Dance studio participated for the second time in The Inland Empire Dancing with the Stars competition, an annual fundraiser for the Janet Goeske Foundation. Every year five couples are chosen and paired up with choreographers or studio owners in Riverside. So Julie taught and trained an elderly couple how to dance. The MVPs of the city comprise the panel of judges and include the Mayor and city council members. Because Pedro started teaching at World to Dance last winter, this was the first time drumming played a part in the local Dancing with the Stars.

Pedro helped touch off the extravaganza with a grand surprise. His students interrupted the welcome announcements with their boom boom parade into the room. (You have to know: Samba drums are LoUD.) I got an email of this photo just before their opening number. My fun-loving husband wanted to show me how he’d decked himself out for the night. Back at home he told me he had always felt self-conscious performing Samba without a costume. “Uhhh…you felt self-conscious WITHOUT a costume??” Couldn’t wrap my brain around that one. He explained that he felt naked next to all the dancers in glitzy, colorful array. So he seized the occasion to don the disco wig he for some inexplicable reason had on hand. No one cared that Pedro was mixing music genres. His outfit, like the percussion and dance pizzazz of his group, was a smash hit. And yes, for those echoing the question I’ve gotten before: he is full-blooded Korean.

Julie came in first place again this year.


Technology: The Dark Side of Efficiency, Part 3

angry_birdIn my lifetime, global tech advancement turned a corner, and a sharp one at that. For all their benefits, the microwave, internet, multipurpose cell phone have accelerated the pace of living. When I was in elementary school, a digital Hello Kitty watch was hot stuff. Today, I sight at least 3 kids out of 5 with an iSomething in their hand. Only, they’re not the ones really holding the machine. It is the kids who are held captive by their tablet, their iPOD. As technology serves our demand for instant amusement and excitement, our dependency grows.  With the computer literally shrinking, more compact and portable every year, our minimachines ironically are not an accessory but a necessity. Left unchecked, the reliance has the potential of tailspinning into an addiction. The South Korean government is scrambling toward yet another law to constrain the number of hours kids under 16 can play virtual games within a 24-hour period. The nation whose youth has been known for its academic ambitions is buckling under the weight of her children’s virtual obsessions. I can only imagine how the typical gaming brain of the Korean student has rewired. It has become a product of clicking for instant gratification, not of laboring to produce something deep, meaningful, or imaginative.

As a former teacher in the public schools, I know enjoyment enables and enhances learning. But the world of video gaming has redefined fun. Our young ones are not inherently different from kids two hundred years ago. Our physical apparatus has not changed. The parenting, the environmental influences we watchdog or don’t, condition our children’s preferences. So, at least from observing my own son, it seems to me kids still can get quite a kick out of the incarnations they can summon out of a cardboard box – were it not for the etoys readily put in front of them.

Preoccupation in the virtual sphere can redefine not only amusement but reality.  How many of us believe it’s healthy to keep lost in a world of fantasy? The transfixed gamer not only loses time and opportunity to engage the real world and people, but becomes enamored with a place that does not exist in nature and with powers he in fact does not have. The gamer enjoys the delusionary high of being able to make cool things happen quickly and easily – whenever he wants. It is the omnipotence of the Hero who’s simply changed costume every decade, the Lone Ranger, Superman, Ninja Turtles, the Incredibles: we love being able to manipulate boundaries, play God. Where we are not careful, we could be nurturing impatience and restlessness of character and thought in our children.

Technology: The Dark Side of Efficiency, Part 2

A friend called herself lazy in telling me she replaced her laptop with her mobile because her phone finishes her word for her as she types. I’d say that’s being efficient. But it is a fuzzy line between efficiency and laziness, isn’t it? We are today surrounded by machines dedicated to saving us time because we really are so busy. I, notoriously so. My husband has come to see I honestly don’t have a New York Minute. So if you offer me something to maximize my time, I’m in. But I wonder about the aggregate impact of a tech-dependent culture on our kids’ capacity to learn. How will children who’re used to commanding entertainment and sensory incitement at the touch of a button grow up to embrace endeavors that require simple patience and dogged commitment?

The boundless places we can go and things we can do in cyberspace are technology’s version of fast food. Speedy, convenient, satisfying service. Our powers on the internet embody the antithesis of what took time to clean, chop, simmer properly for health’s sake. Only there is no hassle of a drive-thru, the kids are behind the dash, and for many of them, it’s free. Not unlike the sugar they prefer over whole foods, their online fun is a saccharin pleasure. The body becomes sedentary, the mind grows numb. Antisocial Networking, a 2010 NY Times article by Hilary Stout, mentions kindergarteners buried in their technological fixations during playdates. In the knowledge that sensory experiences grow and direct cognitive neural pathways, researchers believe that brains will be rewired. What are the implications for learning in our tech-crazed culture?

Technology: The Dark Side of Efficiency, Part 1

littlehouseontheprairieWe have in The Little House on the Prairie series a rich American heritage of hard work, an ethos of industry and endurance. I am concerned that the abuse of technology today threatens to cut our kids loose from such a work ethic and is hampering their learning and productive capacity.

First, the merits of mechanized living. To say technology is indispensable is to say it is terrific. You will hear no complaints from me about my washing machine. I often counter my own grumblings against the loads to run with the reminder that what I’m doing isn’t laundry. What my grandmother did by the winter river was laundry. I’m sure the Wilders on the prairie would not have minded running water – especially when it was not chlorinated tap. Technology has freed us to create things we could not imagine in times past and has changed how we invent across the spectrum of life. In the arts, sciences, reconstruction of history.  Case in point, this dialogue on an international platform with readers across the world. America remains the trademark of free enterprise and I love it.  If you’re willing to apply yourself, the sky’s the limit. There is opportunity, there is help, there is scholarship, there is room on the showcase for unique talent. I just fear that each new generation is growing less and less willing to apply itself. Consumerism was nowhere near a household word in the prairie days. Survival meant production, problem-solving, resourcefulness. “Hard” work was a given for both adult and child, the very fabric of life and of growing up, not an extra 30 minutes of exercise they congratulated themselves for. By nature of the wonderful beast, technology will only augment our comfort and efficiency of living as it increasingly bests itself.

Architecting Numbers – at the Lower Grades

Here’s a glimpse of the wonderful ways you can use Cuisenaire Rods to enhance comprehension of number concepts while fostering creativity.

There is just no end to what you can do with the rods across the grade levels (up to the age kids are no longer enthralled by colorful miniblocks). Sorting, counting, crunching all the operations, geometry, odds and evens conception, patterning, money reinforcement. Today Tennyson rehearsed (precise) counting past 35, while exercising visuospatial skills and creativity. After exploring linear designs with the rods when he first got them (say, with different rods lined up like a train), he started going multidimensional.  So we “built the number 36” in all directions (horizontally, vertically and up).

Note: If you’re viewing from your phone, the photos may reformat.

1. After establishing that a yellow stick equals five ones (the white center cube being a unit of one as you can see in the first photo), we first practiced counting by 5s.  Rather than take the time to write out 5, 10, 15, 20 to help him keep track of the sequence, I grabbed some clothespins already marked so (from other math activities) right off the table. P1030493

2. Counting the cube in the center, we get 21.

3.  Add a cube to each yellow, for a picture of 21 + 4 = 25


4. My little student saw the green rod = 3 ones.  So he laid it down, counting 28.  Add two white cubes to the green, and you get 30 (see next photo).


5. He inserted another green rod running north and south between the top two cubes (the next photo below).  The last green rod that roofs the structure gives us 36 (last large photo). So today’s math was a multisensory play with numbers (which he saw, touched, talked through) that normally might extend beyond a kindergartener’s understanding.  Yes, plenty of kinders can

P1030500count well beyond 40, but a firm concrete grasp of what things beyond 20 can look can come alive this way. I procured the rods from https://www.rainbowresource.com/.

The company provides great customer service and some of the best prices online. I made my first purchase after comparing RR with about ten other merchants.  The company beats Amazon’s prices on a lot of products.



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On another day, Tennyson arranged the rods systematically.  We discussed symmetry and examined number sequence.  It all started from free play and experimentation with size and color (as with the last photo from a different day). Kids will also understand odd vs. even with the help of the red that represents two units (that is, fits two white cubes).