Monday, September 27, 2010

Partying with 4-year-olds

Yesterday the Crossroads band started the service with that great Black-Eyed Peas song, I Gotta Feeling. Although quite tired from having Kepler sleep with us all night, I perked right up when those chords started. "I gotta feeling that tonight's gonna be a good night." (FUN song, but with the double fun of remembering the BEP singing it in Norman last year to open for U2.)

I had this idea a few weeks ago to invite all of Kepler's classmates and families to a get-together at our house, just to get to know each other at the beginning of the school year. Kepler obviously doesn't talk about his classmates, so I never know the first thing about any of them. With the addition of the deck and the trampoline in our backyard this summer, I suddenly felt like hospitality and I could be friends.

My invitation needed approval from the principal -- don't want to break any rules, I guess -- and then traveled home with the kids in their backpacks. The RSVPs trickled in. I wondered if I had miscalculated since so few responded. As I called the non-RSVPers, I re-discovered the truth of how easy it to do the "urgent" thing, as most of the families had sports commitments that would preclude their involvement. Ah, but I realized that it was definitely going to meet a felt need in the guests that responded and in myself as well. Kepler's beloved teacher and assistant teachers made time for the party and we loved having them there.

And it was a rousing success! I can now identify Drew, Tamara, and Eleanor when I walk into the classroom, and I sure feel like I got to know the parents much better. I loved seeing Greg having a good time. Food covered the table, and people raved about the hot caramel apple cider.

I thought maybe my original 3-hour time frame might have been a little over-optimistic, but apparently the food, fun, and friendship fit the bill. Quite a diverse group -- parents from Mexico, Louisiana, Scotland, Kansas, and Ohio, and some really cool connections happened.

Kepler partied hard all afternoon and into the evening, but finally reached a point where he just wanted his familiar couch, a cup of milk, and a Zone bar. Kepler kind of spoke for everyone, and families began to gather up children and stuff and started home. The setting sun made us all put jackets and sweaters on, and the kids suddenly found their hunger and snarfed down as much as they could before leaving.

Easy clean-up; lots of help from Greg and the kids; and the satisfaction of a successful soiree. Looking forward to the next one!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wax On, Wax Off

When Karate Kid came out in 1984, the thing that grabbed my attention more than the karate was the bonsai collection that Mr. Miyagi lovingly tended in his little apartment. I believe I must have been a little ahead of my time, because I was unable to find bonsai plants anywhere for sale at that time. I considered creating my own bonsai plant, but never did get around to it. Of course, now you can buy them everywhere, but I've moved on . . .

Besides a very short foray into Tae Kwan Do (by Joel) a few years back, none of us Taylors have ever had the slightest interest or involvement in martial arts. This summer when Greg and I did the Loveland Amazing Race, Patten's Martial Arts (Patten family pictured above) sponsored one of the stations. One activity we had to do was 7 side kicks in a row, and I REALLY enjoyed that. I went away from the LAR having had a great time, and having found the motivation to look into karate at Patten's.

What a treasure I have found! Mr. Patten is very family-oriented, as you can see in the pictures of his family, all of whom are black belts, except for the littlest one, and I'm sure she'll get there one of these days. He's an excellent teacher, with a great sense of humor, and a fun sense of playfulness, which one wouldn't necessarily expect from a martial arts instructor. Since the adult classes incorporate everyone age 14 and up, Anna-Jessie is still in the children's classes. Therefore, I have the privilege of hearing how Mr. Patten instructs these kids to be the best they can be, at home, at school and at play. I love seeing how much Anna-Jessie loves karate.

In the adult classes, he encourages us to be the best we can be as well, but he leaves out things like "Clean your room" although that wouldn't be a bad idea for some of the adults to hear!! He's a fierce defender of his family, deeply grateful for his wife, and genuinely appreciative to the students who grace his life.

In the sense that I appreciate being reminded that I have physical strength, karate reminds me of weightlifting, but that's where the similarities end. There is a sense of camaraderie among the karate students, and that social piece was definitely missing from any weightlifting I ever did. Higher-level students are patient and helpful with newbies, and positively complement what Mr. Patten teaches.

I also see it as an amazing privilege to stand side-by-side with my husband and older three kids as we learn and develop ourselves together. That sure never happened with soccer, basketball, or skateboarding. As great as those other sports are, and as positive experiences as they were for the players and the watchers, I believe the Taylors have found their niche. I'm looking forward to having Kepler start classes sometime in the next year. He will be amazingly cute in his little outfit.

When I was 8 years old, my ballet classes were just a few blocks away, and I rode my little blue bike with the "Susan" license plate attached to the seat stem. One day, as I rode to ballet, some bigger boys stopped me on the sidewalk. I. Was. Terrified. Of course, that probably was pretty exciting for them, but they finally let me go after telling me they had stolen my license plate (liars in addition to being bullies). If I knew then what I know now, I would have been brave and confident and looked them in the eye and said "Can I help you?" And they would have known I was a tough little cookie, which I was, but hadn't learned yet how to show it! I'm glad Patten's is around to teach other children how to defend themselves against bullies and meanies!

We recite this student creed at the beginning and end of every class:

"I am developing myself in a positive manner, and I avoid anything that would reduce my mental growth or my physical health. I am developing self-discipline to bring out the best in myself and others. I am using what I learn in class, constructively and defensively, to help myself and my fellow man, and never to be abusive or offensive"

Sure can't go wrong with that philosophy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Defriending Facebook?

Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism

A good friend of mine recently mentioned an article he had read about such topics as facebook, narcissism, and co-dependency. I love to Google things, so I tried to find the article. Although I did not find the article he mentioned, I did find the one I've linked to. This quote interested me:
"Does this technology, with its constant demands to collect (friends and status), and perform (by marketing ourselves), in some ways undermine our ability to attain what it promises—a surer sense of who we are and where we belong? The Delphic oracle’s guidance was know thyself. Today, in the world of online social networks, the oracle’s advice might be show thyself."

I decided a long time ago that I was going to hide every last one of those "game" updates for Farmville and whatnot. I'm not good about going to external links to read articles or watch videos. I get irritated with posters who constantly use song lyrics, and just assume everyone already knows who sings the song. It's frustrating to me to have posts that hint at something and never ever clarify what the issue is.

I have Facebook friends from high school, college(s), present life, friends of my kids, long-ago acquaintances and friends, and a few people I have met along the way with whom I share some common interest. I've posted about Facebook before, and I may have written this before, but I really wonder how many of the 400-500 friends I have really care at all about what I post, and to be fair, how many of those people do I genuinely care about? I suppose it must be said that I may care about someone even if I do not post on their status. But I think I am missing that connection I want to have with people. Actually, I do experience it with a few people on Facebook, especially the ones I care about but cannot see because of distance.

Facebook seems to be good for keeping in touch with people I don't get to see because of time and/or distance. But even in the days when I was writing Christmas letters every Christmas, the level of involvement I had with most people really left something to be desired. I long for deep relationships; conversations about things that mean something to me and the other person. Those types of relationships seem to be diminishing these days. Perhaps it's just my own level of busyness that renders me less involved with others, but I know everyone else is busy, too. After all, haven't you already heard "I'm so busy!" 20 times this week, either out of your own mouth or from others?

I recently friended some people I remember from high school, but probably haven't even thought about for over 30 years. What's with that? I think the people I send friend requests to are people I remember as being kind to a very insecure teenager all those years ago. But I'm not that insecure teen anymore, and I have no idea who those kind people are at this point. I've noticed that there are a handful of people whose posts I look forward to and often comment on. I suspect this is a common experience for adults closer to my age. There aren't enough hours in the day for me to "share" the minutiae of my day, and like I said, who cares anyway? Is it really the way I want to live my life that I know more about my sisters, both of whom live ONE MILE away from me, by what they post on FB than what I find out in face-to-face conversations?

Again from the New Atlantic article:
"Today’s online social networks are congeries of mostly weak ties—no one who lists thousands of “friends” on MySpace thinks of those people in the same way as he does his flesh-and-blood acquaintances, for example. It is surely no coincidence, then, that the activities social networking sites promote are precisely the ones weak ties foster, like rumor-mongering, gossip, finding people, and tracking the ever-shifting movements of popular culture and fad. If this is our small world, it is one that gives its greatest attention to small things."
I've never been much for fads, and my grasp of popular music is certainly more tenuous than when I had hours with nothing to do but listen to the radio and hang out. I don't have the time or desire for the games like Farmville (that's the only one I know the name of), and I'm not big on "liking" things. I would comment sometimes on things that people "like" but there is no comment link, only the opportunity to choose to like it too.

I see a lot of sarcasm on FB, and some genuinely funny things, but overall, I'm not too sure it's something I want to continue on in the present form I am using. I'm considering creating a new account, and limiting it to just a few people I really care about knowing about. There are people I care about, but if I don't have time in real life to see them even 5 minutes in a month, how good of a friendship can that be? I suppose if I am going to share the contents of my head (ht/Annie Lennox), then I would rather do it via blog. These really are Siouxsie's Musings. Facebook doesn't seem to be designed for musings. I think it's definitely good at what it is designed for; I'm just questioning my own level of involvement.

Thanks for reading.