Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On Holy Envy

I thought "holy envy" was an interesting concept since I very first heard about it. It's the whole idea that you should admire the good qualities found in religious traditions other than your own.

I first experienced something that could be counted as "Holy Envy" when I visited St. Paul's Cathedral in London when I was a teenager. The interior is exquisite and features among its murals near the ceiling inscriptions in praise of the Creator.

Up until that point, most of my experience with alternate branches of Christianity mostly involved kids at school (not my actual friends) informing me that my Mormonism was going to send me straight to hell. Yeah, like that's going to make me want to convert. (Most of my really close friends were Catholic or Baptist but we didn't tend to discuss religion a whole lot.) So my experience at St. Paul's was a formative experience for me, the concept that there were some beautiful things to be found outside my own tradition.

It's been on my mind a lot since I rejoined facebook a few months ago and rekindled a friendship with a close friend of mine from high school. She is a homeschooling mom with three kids, travels the world with her family, and is a devout Catholic.

I love the stuff that she posts on Facebook. In addition to sharing all the geeky stuff she does with her family that I, also, would like to do, she tends to post a lot of stuff that revolves around Catholicism. Stuff about the Feast of Mary Magdalene and prayer programs and attending a Midnight Mass.

Mormons don't really "do" Midnight Mass or lent, but maybe we should. Why don't we? Are there Midnight Masses to be attended in Utah Valley? Maybe I should find one and bring my six-year-old. That prayer program sounds exactly like my kind of cause. I bet I could do it. Maybe I should. I think I will.

I feel a tiny flame of gratitude that I have a friend who is so devoted to her faith, especially since we live in a society that is becoming increasingly secular, full of people who think it's cool to make snide remarks about Jesus at Christmastime. (Hint: NOT cool.) My friend inspires me to increase my devotion to my own faith. Even though plenty of doctrinal differences exist between Mormonism and Catholicism, I would hope that there is plenty we could teach each other about what it means to be Faithful and how we go about celebrating Christ in our lives. I don't foresee ever becoming Catholic, but I believe I've certainly learned a thing or two from my friend.

 Thanks, Spock Sister!*




*This is an inside joke between us from high school. I don't expect anyone else to get it.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Teaching My Kid To Read: I Give Up!

Let me make one thing clear: my first grade teacher, Mr. Ceily, did NOT teach me how to read. Not even close. He taught me mostly that school was a slog. My mom was the one who taught me to read.

I didn't think much of the whole "reading" business at the time. I remember staring at the words on the page, seething with hatred. It was a hard, painful process that involved chasing me around the house with a book.

God has a sense of humor because he sent me a kid who is just as resistant to becoming literate as I was.

The biggest problem is this: I have no idea what The Engineer's actual reading level is. I don't really want to fight the kid, because I remember very well being on the other side of it. I've tried to entice him using words for things he loves. Namely, airplanes. I write the words down in a notebook and he has to read them for me. the results are surprising.

He can read, "I am a pilot," with no trouble. He can also read, "B-17 Bomber," "Curtis P-40 Warhawk," "Ailerons," and "Propeller." But he will not read, "Max the cat sat" because it is "too hard."

What, I ask you, am I supposed to do with that?

I've even tried to get him to analyze it. "How do you know it says 'ailerons?'" He says, "Because it has an 's' at the end.'"

I have a feeling that God is somehow chastening me for the sins committed by my six-year-old self.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Editing, Writing.

I've been editing my nanowrimo novel. Writing the first draft was the easy part - spew forth 50k words, job done. The editing is highly tedious but also strangely satisfying. Usually this part is like pulling teeth, but I like how it's coming together.

The truth is that it's so much easier to edit and critique other people's work, because you're not emotionally attached to it. It's easier to see how all the pieces (plot development, character development, plot holes, etc etc) fit together and play out when you're looking at it from a distance.

This is my third novel, and by that I mean it's the third long-ish piece of work that I have written that has a beginning, middle, and end. The other two are unfinished and require more time sitting on the shelf before I do more work on them. I think I've learned a bit since I made my first part of my first draft in 2004. At least, I hope so...

My protagonist is eleven, so there's no romance. It's refreshing to write about actual issues instead of troubles with boys. My main character is more worried about social pressure, internal conflict between what she wants to do and what she knows is acceptable behavior, and bullies. Kathy and Deirdre from fourth grade, this book is dedicated to you.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Why can't more learning be done like this?

-or- Maybe I majored in the wrong thing.

I called up my mom a week or so ago. "Hey, mom. You know stuff. D'you think you might be able to find some kind of airplane-centered math curriculum that could possibly be good for a first grader?" The Engineer has a thing for airplanes, I guess. Or at least I think that's what he means when he says things like, "I want to be a pilot just like a guy I know who is an actual pilot," and "I love all airplanes. I don't care what kind, just as long as it's an airplane."

My mom, ever thorough, then had five or six books sent to my house. A couple of them are designed for kids, and they're pretty decent. We did "learn to fly a jumbo jet" today and the Engineer loved it. I am sad to report that "Austin's Airplane Adventure," however, which is supposed to teach about time, was woefully inaccurate. Austin arrived at check-in at 8 am and boarded his plane at 8:25 am. There was zero security between the check-in and the gate. I can't suspend my disbelief that much. This book had a 2015 copyright on it, so it's not like he's living in the 1970s when such things might have been possible.

But anyway, lemme tell you about my new favorite book. It's entitled, "Introduction to Flight" by John D. Anderson, Jr. I have the fourth edition, but the third edition is available as a pdf here. Why do I like it? Oh, so many reasons.

First of all, it represents a highly integrated approach to education. It combines discussion of history with the science - encompassing physics, mechanical engineering, thermodynamics, and chemistry - combined with what appears to be calculus. I've read through a bit of the book and I am inspired to actually learn calculus, now.

In real life, learning is integrated like this. When you have to learn a new skill for a job or something you have to draw from multiple disciplines to become good at it. And James Burke, author of "Connections," has suggested that innovation happens when someone brings knowledge from one field into another. This is why unit studies are so attractive to homeschoolers.

Sadly, school doesn't work that way: you have an hour in math class, an hour in history class, an hour in English literature, and an hour in chemistry, and never shall they meet. Maybe in college, if you're lucky.

There's a fair amount of text, but also lots of interesting diagrams and visuals. 

If that hasn't convinced you, lemme quote the author from the introduction: "Emphasizing that the study, understanding, and practice of the profession of aerospace engineering is one of the most gratifying of human endeavours and that my purpose is to instil a sense of enthusiasm, dedication, and love of the subject, let me simply say to the reader: read, learn, and enjoy." That kind of passion is infectious. I think I would like to do just that.

When was the last time you saw a textbook that didn't radiate disappointment and tedium? Generally I hate textbooks because on the whole, people who write them think that because it's only a textbook, they are allowed to be boring. Even the calculus looks interesting. I won't bore you by quoting the guy, except to say that he appears to have a sense of humor about it.

The final proof of the worth of this book: I am a liberal arts major, waxing eloquent about a book about airplanes. Do I really have to say more?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

"Give Me My Children."

My great-great Grandmother Margarethe Schreiner often had very significant dreams. This account was recorded by her daughter, my great-great aunt:

Sometime after our family had been to the temple our mother had another remarkable dream. Mr. Alexander Sonntag, in whose home she had worked as a young girl and who was godfather to our brother Alex, appeared to her in a dream and asked her to give him his children. She told him they were dead and she could not bring them to him, but he insisted she could help him. Again she felt she had had a significant dream and this meant he was asking for his baptismal ordinance since children did not need this when they died in infancy. Sometime later she dreamed of him again at which time he demanded a suit of clothes. She laid out a dark suit for him which he threw on the floor and angrily told her, “You know what I want - I want white.” This dream was easy to understand and my parents arranged to have the temple endowment ordinance performed for him. Before our mother’s passing in June 1927 she called me to her bedside and gave me the responsibility of obtaining the necessary genealogical information to have the temple work performed for Mrs. Sonntag who had passed away, and to have the two infants sealed to them. As per her instruction I wrote to Florentin Sonntag, brother of Alexander, and he sent me enough data so that this could be accomplished together with the sealing of Mr. and Mrs. Sonntag to their parents.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Guilty Pleasures that Backfire

Sometimes I actually respond to those "I am a lost prince and I want to give you money" spam emails because I think it will be fun to string them along for a while just to mess with them. "Let's discuss the scenario where you just send me a check. So is English your third language, then? Tell me about your sister."

After three or four emails, however, it becomes clear that 1) these people are dumb as rocks - so dumb that it's actually not as fun as you thought it would be and 2) if they are dumb, they think you are dumber.

It's like trying to explain to a toddler that, as much as you would like to give them some candy, none exists in the house. But all they can see is that you're not giving them what they want, so they throw a toddler tantrum. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

No longer Squeaking

The Squeaker, as he has been known for so long, is turning six this month. He has grown very tall, loves to put things together, and is generally brilliant. He has graduated from Squeaking and requires a new blog code name.

Ladies and Gentleman, my I introduce The Engineer:

Here's what I mean when I talk about putting things together: Some friends very generously gave us an old erector set that they were no longer using. Part of the set was already put together as an airplane. The Engineer took it completely apart so that he could use the pieces for a different project. After it was completely disassembled, he decided he liked it better as an airplane so he reassembled it almost (but, to be fair, not entirely) exactly as it had been before.

He says he wants to design aircraft when he grows up. He probably will.

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