For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Moving On, and see what else has been going on.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Getting busy

For a lot of home schooling families, especially those that follow a more formal curriculum, things tend to slow down for the summer.  Even those that don't, tend to take breaks.  Our local hs organizations stop meeting for the summer, for example, and a lot of lessons and classes stop for the summer, too.

I've noticed our summers tend to get busier.  There are just so many more things to do!

Recently, we had a pleasant surprise.  My MIL got a contract in our city and was able to visit with us while she was here, in between when she had to work.  She's not the touristy type, so her visit involved a lot of sitting and talking (while she enjoyed our A/C - her accommodations supplied by her client didn't have any), and going out to eat.  It was pretty funny when my MIL looked at a new painting Eldest started on.  She'd sketched it out and was doing the lining in preparation for the watercolors.  This particular painting has a couple in dapper party clothing from a bygone era - and they're skeletons.  My MIL looked it over with a critical eye and started discussing with her the angle of a particular bone.  MIL, you see, is a retired RN with a very strong knowledge of the workings of the human body.  She'd done autopsies every chance she could during her nursing training, and the only reason she didn't become a forensic pathologist was because she couldn't afford the continued schooling it required.  So Eldest's paintings showing the inner workings of the body are quite up MIL's alley!

Anyhow, we had a great couple of days visiting with her while she was out.  There was also Father's Day, Youngest's birthday (she's 14 now!), and our hs group's last Monday at the park until fall, which is a big potluck breakfast, all on top the visit.  So just the past week has been a lot busier than usual for us.

While heading to the library this evening with Youngest - much more pleasant than walking over at our usual time, when the temps reached 25C - I was reminded that festival season is almost upon us.  A public square near our library is being set up for a huge arts festival that will last over a week.  That location will have several more festivals, one right after the other, throughout the summer.  Some of the vendors - especially the food vendors - just keep their pavilions up in between, since they're taking part in two or three festivals in a row.  I'm looking forward to seeing what will be happening this year.

Meanwhile, Eldest will be having her display at an art festival in another part of the city in the middle of July.  We've found out where her spot is and, for a non-prime location, it's pretty darn good!  We have to figure out what to use to hang her paintings, because the hooks designed to fit on the grid walls we've ordered for her won't work with the type of frames she's got.  Meanwhile, she has her official participant pass and a list of things she needs to know, as well as suggestions for what to bring along - like a sun hat, water bottles, and sunscreen, as well as things like thin, transparent plastic sheeting to protect artwork if there's a light rain, while still allowing potential customers to see the pieces. 

She's also going to be going to a local Not Back to School Picnic near the end of summer.  I'd kinda like to be going with her, just because I'd love to go camping.  This is, however, more than just a camping trip.  It's actually going to be 5 days of guided philosophy discussions.  A friend of mine had organised something like it before, and it turned out to be really popular.  The biggest complaint people had was time constraints, so in doing it as a camp, the discussions will take part throughout the day, ending with a free-for-all talk around a bonfire.  Of course, no one has to take part in any particular seminar they don't want to.  There's a lake for swimming, hiking trails, and various other nature type things available.  I really hope she enjoys it. 

It sure looks like we're gearing up for a busy summer! :-)

Monday, June 14, 2010

We interrupt this moment to bring you another interruption.

In the last several years or so I've been making extra effort to battle my inner hermit and actually get out and socialize more often.  For the past while, my primary source of socialization has been with other home schoolers.  More recently I've gone out of my way to get involved more directly with various groups, and to actively participate in things.  For someone who would quite happily stay at home with my kids, my books and my crafting tools, this is a challenge.

Eldest, bless her heart, has been keeping me company on many occasions.  This has not always led to positive experiences for her.

One of the things we've frequently come across is an amazing lack of social manners.  More specifically, frequent interruptions and seeming inability to listen to others, even when they do get a chance to talk.  This has not been limited to any particular group dynamic.  It's endemic to pretty much any gathering of people, small or large.

What typically happens is a person begins discussion of a topic.  This catches the attention of one of the listeners, who promptly interrupts and begins describing their experience with the topic.  In some cases, I've seen people interrupt with a completely different subject.  Sometimes the first person stops talking due to the interruption.  Sometimes not.  Then a third person jumps in with their thoughts on the subject, interrupting the others.  Before you know it, there are three or four people, all talking at once, each trying to be heard above the others, and no one is really listening to anyone else.

Now, as children, most of us have been taught not to interrupt when someone is speaking.  I certainly was, and passed that on to my own children.  I've certainly seen parents admonishing their children on that very point, which makes it even more curious to me when I see them then turn around and do what they just finished telling their kids not to do.

As I child, I perhaps learned this lesson too well.  As I got older, I frequently found myself outside of conversations, being in social groups, but not part of them, simply because I never got the chance to speak.  Or, more accurately, no one stopped talking long enough for me to inject my own voice into the conversation.  Often, when there finally was a lull for me to speak up in, someone else would simply start talking, interrupting me completely.  Being the polite person I was taught to be, I would stop and let them speak their piece, waiting for the next moment to speak myself.  Chances were pretty good that, by the time the moment finally arrived, I either no longer remembered what I meant to say, or the conversation had moved on to a completely different topic, making what I had to say irrelevant.

Over the years, I began to realize that the only way I'd be able to say anything was to not stop talking when someone interrupted me.  Often the person trying to interrupt would stop and let me finish, then jump in when I was done.  A surprising number of times, however, the interrupter would simply ignore the fact that I hadn't stop talking, and just keep on talking themselves.

A number of years ago I read the book, Personality Plus.  The book talks about the four basic personality types, and the pluses and negatives they have.  One personality type, the Sanguine, is the social butterfly and people person.  These are the folks that walk up to strangers at a party and talk to them as if they've known them all their lives.  They are open and friendly and love being the centre of attention, which works out rather well since they often attract people to themselves by the sheer vibrancy of their personalities.  On the down side, they tend to dominate conversations, under the impression that everyone around them is riveted to their words, and they're often guilty of "embellishing" stories.  The author made a challenge to these talkative types.  The next time a Sanguine was in a social group, regaling the others with a story, and something interrupted their speech, they were not to continue the story when the interruption ended unless one of the listeners specifically asked them to continue.  This challenge was a way for the Sanguine to see if those around them really were interested in what they were saying, or if they were just being polite (or unable to get a word in edgewise themselves).  If no one asked them to continue, it meant they really didn't want to hear the story.

Now, I don't have a Sanguine bone in my body.  It's taken a great deal of effort to develop the conversational skills Sanguines seem born to.  Still, I decided to give it a try.  Whenever I next found myself talking with a group of people and got interrupted, I would stop and wait to see if anyone wanted to hear the rest of what I was saying.

No one ever did.  At least not until I had kids.  They, and eventually my husband, are pretty much the only people that regularly ask me to continue with what I'd been saying before the interruption. Being an observer of people, it occurred to me that one of the reasons was that whatever the interruption was, it was distracting enough that people didn't remember to ask.  With some interruptions, I actually forget what I'd been saying myself!  Other times, I noted that the interruption led to a complete change in conversation, so that going back to what a person was saying no longer made any sense.

Most of the time, though, it seemed to me that people just weren't interested in listening, and far too many were interested only in hearing themselves talk, welcoming the interruption (or doing the interrupting) as a way for themselves to take over the conversation.

When I was a kid, the constant interruptions by the people around me, preventing me from taking part in any conversations, was pretty painful and left me feeling very isolated and alone.  As a result, I spent many years on the sidelines, never really trying to take part in conversations, convinced that no one cared about me, my thoughts or my feelings on any given topic.  I had been taught that one showed care and respect by not interrupting and listening to people when they spoke.  That no one did this to me had to mean that they neither cared for, nor respected, me.

As I grew older and studied people more intently, I eventually realized it usually wasn't personal.  People tend towards self interest and self absorption.  It wasn't that they were deliberately shunning me; chances are they weren't even thinking of me.  They were thinking of themselves and what they wanted to say, and often didn't even seem to notice that they were cutting me off.  It may have been extremely rude, but they typically didn't even notice that they were doing it.

The results of my little experiment from the book did change things for me.  Now if someone is talking and something happens to interrupt them, I try to make a point of bringing things back to them and asking them to continue.  Because, you know what?  I really do want to hear what they're saying!

While everyone is guilty of interrupting at some point (and sometimes it's necessary), I feel it shows considerable lack of respect.  So does dominating a conversation, preventing others from taking part.  To me, it's just plain polite to listen to the person speaking - and I mean actually listening, not vaguely paying attention while thinking up your own response.  I admit that part is a struggle for me.  A person might say something that catches my attention, causing a sort of chain reaction of thoughts on it, and suddenly I realize that I've completely missed the rest of what the person has been saying.  This is particularly difficult do avoid when my auditory processing issues come into play.  If a room is noisy, or if there are various visual distractions, and I suddenly stop being able to hear a person's words, I have to really stand vigilant over my own thoughts, or I will disappear into my own mind, completely tuning out the other person.  It would be completely rude, and I try to avoid it.

Having said that, my habit of actually waiting for others to finish what they're saying before responding myself usually ends up with me not talking at all.  I might start out trying to take part in a conversation, but after a while, I just sit and listen.  There's no point in adding my own voice to the three or four already trying to shout each other down.

The problem with this sort of thing is that, when things get to that point, there's no longer a conversation.  There's no give and take of ideas.  The participants aren't really caring what the others have to say, because they're already working out what they want to say - and saying it.

I'm not trying to say that conversations should be just a bunch of people sitting around in a circle, taking turns talking.  A lively conversation is filled with plenty of back-and-forthing.  Especially when those partaking in it are on the same wavelength.  What Eldest and I have been increasingly seeing is groups of people who are basically all having conversations with themselves at the same time.  It seems the only way to take part in such a conversation - if one could even call it "taking part" - is to interrupt the interrupters!  Since I thoroughly dislike doing that, it usually means I end up not being part of the conversation.

Since the reason I'm there in the first place is to expand my social activities, ending up just sitting there, not interacting with the others in the group, seems to rather defeat the purpose of being there at all.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What's been going on...

You know, it's strange how, the longer I find myself neglecting to post, the harder it is to remember the things I would have been writing about if I hadn't put it off!  It's been more than a week and we've done plenty I could write about, but do you think I can remember even half of it? 

So, just a few highlights from the past little while.

Our library days are still a regular feature for us, though some weeks that involves me swinging by and trying to find someplace to pull over and wait while the girls run in to do the returns and take out any holds.  Youngest has been reading and taking notes on the Twilight books.  She had to return New Moon before she finished it because, with all the holds on it, she couldn't renew it.  When I went to put it on hold again for her, I noticed that, while there was a waiting list for the regular books, there was no waiting list at all for the large print version - so I put that on hold, and instead of being 3rd in line, she got the book right away and is already finished it.  Her other major project is another blanket for herself.  This time, it's basically a giant, rectangular granny square using up her stash of Bernat Satin yarn - she's been buying them in pairs for a long time, with no actual plans for them.  By the time she's finished up, it's probably going to be big enough to cover a King size bed!

Eldest has been taking out a lot of books on Art Nouveau and has been experimenting with its influences in her paintings.  She's also been working on a stop motion movie.  She was going to use the video camera we got last year, but the quality of the image isn't as good as she wants.  I did get the best quality we could afford, and it wasn't exactly a cheap camera, but it wasn't HD (until we ended up replacing our computer monitor, we had nothing that could play HD anyways), but it's the best quality image available in non-HD.  Even when setting it at the highest quality, and made sure we had a decent sized memory card for it, it's still not as good as my old Canon S3 camera's video function.  Plus, it turns out it doesn't work with Windows 7.  We couldn't even install the software on the new machine.  We did get the old one running again and have the software installed on there, but still... not good.

Anyhow, since that video camera kinda sucks for quality, she's been taking still shots for stop motion and using our movie software to put it all together.  She's having a blast, and it's looking really interesting so far. 

We recently had the last monthly meeting with one of our home school groups for the school year.  Eldest has been coming along with me.  This would be the group I've talked about before, where I'm just SO popular on the email list... NOT.  Well, at least not with some members.  Anyhow, I've been able to start going to the meetings regularly.  Along with Eldest, I've been able to give rides to a friend without a vehicle.  (I so love our van!  We'd never have been able to offer rides to people before.)  We're now part of a committee to work on the group's website, and Eldest is going to be reworking the logo.  The original is just some free domain clip art, but the same elements will be used to make a unique design.  Eldest even promised not to draw any dead things. LOL  My anti-fan club may or may not appreciate our increased activity within the group, but since they're not bothering/able to go to any of the meetings, they're hardly in a position to complain.

My balcony garden for this year is all planted!   I've got a couple of new containers - storage bins with holes drilled into the bottoms for drainage - that are a fair bit deeper.  A bunch of us went to a nursery together and got stuff for container gardening.  They all got flowers and pretty stuff.  I got food plants. *L*

I'm trying a new variety of carrots and some totally weird new plant that, if it actually grows, has both edible leaves and berries.  I've got a different variety of chives this time 'round, along with some oregano and sage.  I picked up a transplant of sweet basil, too, but just one plant - we now know from last year that our balcony is too exposed to the elements for such a relatively delicate plant.  I'm also trying out some joi choi  - just to see what it's like!  Along with spinach and lettuces, plus the rosemary and tarragon from last year, I think we should be all right.  By next year, I hope to be able to get climbing structures to grow some peas, at least.  Little by little, my balcony garden will grow. :-)

Well, it's past 2 am, and we're supposed to be getting up rather early for a weekend - Dh is taking part in some corporate challenge thing, and I'd like the whole family to come along, and get photos at least of the event he's signed up for.  Time to hit the hay!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

On the go

I've been horribly lax in posting on this blog, though I've managed to keep up a bit better on my companion blog (see link below title).  Aside from being on the go a lot more than I expected, I've been having a difficult time sitting down and writing.  Too many distractions.  Which would be why I'm writing this at almost 1 am.

Some of the running around I've been quite happy to do.  Dh finally went to his first physio.  Now I just have to keep nagging at him to book new sessions, and actually make it to them.  Just the one treatment he's had so far made a big difference.  Add in the stretches/exercises he's been doing at home, and he's been able to put away his cane pretty much from the get-go.  I did end up driving him home from work a couple of times, but not lately.  At least not because of his back.  The whole thing have brought a notable change in him.  Clearly, the pain has diminished.  His temperament has improved, and he just seems happier and able to tolerate things he couldn't before.  Almost.  There is that one person at work that's been making life hell lately, but then, she's been having that effect on everyone else at his office, too. :-P

As for me, I finally went for my 6 month follow up ultrasound from some tests I had about 9 1/2 months ago. *L*  Because today was also library day, I ended up dropping the girls off on the way, since I had no idea who long it would take.  This way they could return things, pick up their holds, grab some new stuff, have a sit down at the coffee shop, do some wandering if they wanted to, and even walk home on their own if I ended up taking a really long time.

After dropping them off and driving to my appointment, I realized I forgot my project bag.  No crochet to keep my hands busy!  I was early, though, and the medical centre just happens to be next to a rather large and well stocked yarn shop, which I would have to walk past after parking anyhow.  I dashed in and picked up a hook and a small ball of on-sale yarn, then continued to the medical centre.  After letting them know I was there, I sat down and took out my stuff.  I tried to find the centre end of the yarn, but all I managed was to yank out the middle more and more.  I didn't want to deal with a yarn barf in the waiting room, so I grabbed the outside end and started winding a centre pull ball of yarn around the hook I'd just bought. *  As I worked, I overheard some people next to me, complaining about how long they'd been waiting, so I figured I had some time on my hands.

I didn't even wind half the ball before I got called in!  After being taken the the change room, I got the gown on and was just about to take the ball I was working on out of the bag, so I could sit and work on it some more, when I was called out again!

What I found really neat as I went in with the tech was that she actually remembered me from my last test!  How many hundreds of people must she have done tests on over the last 9 + months, and she still remembered me!  I was rather impressed.  I'm lucky if I can remember someones face five minutes after I've met them (I remember faces, and I remember names, but putting the two together is a bit harder for me. *L*)

I could see the screen while she was doing the ultrasound, and could see the area that's of concern as she highlighted it for the radiologist.  When the tech was done, she left me to see the radiologist to go over the images while I waited.  I actually spent more time waiting there than I did in the waiting room before my test.  It turns out nothing has really changed since last time, but since I mentioned there was tenderness in the area, the radiologist was considering whether or not to have me back again in 6 months.  Whatever she ends up recommending will be on the report that goes to my doctor.

I have to say, I've been really pleased with the folks at this medical centre.  Fast, efficient, personable, informative... just overall excellent care.

When I was done, I called up the kids (and THAT's the sort of thing we insisted Eldest carry a cell phone for...).  They'd had their time at the coffee shop and had headed over the the mall across the street and were in a book store.  I'm rather glad I was able to give them a ride home.  Eldest has been picking up books on things like Art Nouveau and art history - books that tend to be very large, and very heavy!

Youngest has been working on the Twilight books recently.  She's been taking notes as she reads them.  She had to return New Moon today, even though she wasn't finished, because it couldn't be renewed due to holds on it.  Later on, she asked me to go online put it on hold for her again.  The version she just returned had her number 3 on the holds list, but I noticed there was a large print version, too.  No holds on that one at all, so that's the one I put on hold for her.  It should be ready by tomorrow, since our branch has a copy in stock.  From the looks of it, she won't have to worry about not being able to renew it if she can't finish it in time.  I look forward to seeing her notes on this one.  She was rather appalled by the first book.  She can't stand the Bella character.  In the second book, however, the character is actually more likable.  The Jacob character is a lot better than the movie, too.  Eldest has promised to get Youngest a Team Jacob t-shirt now. *L*

The next little while is going to be rather busy.  I'm getting together with a group of people this weekend to visit a nursery, then go to someones back yard, where we're all going to plant containers for our gardens.  There's another more casual get together with the same group, and hopefully the girls will be able to join us.  Then there's a meeting with one of our local home school groups, committee meetings with our co-op, and a craft exchange somewhere in there, too.  Eldest wants to visit the museum again this weekend, too.  Probably on Saturday, since I've got the gardening thing on Sunday. 

You know, for someone who tries to avoid filling my calendar with too many things, I've been filling my calendar with an awful lot of things!

* To make a centre pull ball of yarn using a hook, tie the end of the yarn to the hook end, then wind the yarn into a ball around the handle.  After it's all wound, untie the yarn from the hook, remove the hook, and you're done.