Saturday, February 4, 2012

The coffee shop formerly known as Starbucks


My husband and I went on a date night tonight.  My brother and his wife watched our 5 kids as a trade for us watching their one child last week.  I thought that was a pretty good deal.  We went to our typical thai restaurant, then remembered we had a gift card and bought a Civil War documentary at Best Buy.  We thought my brother might send us away if we came back that quick, so we decided to stop in at Starbucks and have some hot chocolate and a cookie.

This is what we were greeted with.  A symbol.  All I could think of was the symbol that the "Artist formerly known as prince" chose instead of his own name.  When I read about why he did this, I found that he decided to use this symbol as a retaliation against Warner Brothers and the lack of control he had over his artistic output in his albums.  I used to think it was because he thought he was just too cool to have a word represent him, so he chose a symbol.

This is how it feels it is with Starbucks.  They have officially become a worldwide brand.  When you are a brand, you are international.  Children know you.  Elderly people know you.  People from Russia to New Zealand recognize who you are.  You become above words and are known by your icon.

I'm not sure what this says about modern culture.  Does it mean that we are dumbing ourselves down, living by symbols to recognize things?  Is the written word becoming unimportant?  My Apple computer uses icons for me to identify the applications I wish to use.  The Chrome browser we have installed has no text in its header and uses symbols entirely.

Are we too impatient to take the time to read words?  I was looking for movies online when we were considering that as a part of our date tonight and  I immediately went to the page that had a small icon of the movie poster.  This way, I could judge the movie by its promotion picture, thus having a quicker and easier time of finding a good film.  In the end, this wasn't useful at all. I had no idea what the movies were really about and they all seemed silly anyway.  If I had read a brief synopsis of each movie, I would have had a better idea and we might have found something good. Instead, we scrapped the movie idea and bought the Civil War documentary, reading the back of the case and realizing that it would be interesting.

How much am I missing when I go to my same thai restaurant and don't take the time to read about the new little restaurants people are opening up all over our area?  What do I miss when I don't take the time to drive to the interesting Co-op stores people tell me sell really great organic food?  I'm inspired by this Starbucks symbol, while simultaneously feeling a little sadness and nostalgia.  Starbucks may have gone name brand, but there are so many new little coffee shops opening up all the time.  Not everything in life has been simplified into a symbol.  I have a choice about the types of places I go, and I don't need to choose them by symbol.  I think I'll take the time to try to dig a little deeper and find the things and places that need to be described by word of mouth or written review.  Maybe I'll find something like the coffee shop that used to be in Pike Place Market back in 1971.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sunday on our tiny farm

Here's poor marnie, our little alpaca who's kind of long in the tooth.  I think we may be having her teeth filed this summer.

Today is Sunday.  Instead of going to church, we decided to stay home and have a family day with Brandon.  I read the 23rd and 24th Psalm to the kids and we proceeded to enjoy the day.  It was mainly relaxed, with the girls helping daddy with a project, me doing some work on the computer and around the house, then doing some errands alone while the kids and Brandon hung out at Grandma and Grandpas doing puzzles, eating snacks and watching some shows.

Saraiah made tiny creatures out of the vinyl scraps

I had a photo shoot that ended up being rained out, so when I came home from errands, it was laundry and then time to do animal chores with Maia.  We chased the dairy goat around with the buck rag (a rag that has been rubbed on a very stinky male goat) and found instead that two other does were in heat and having a tizzy over it and the dairy goat could care less.  I took some pictures outside then went in to make some food and spend time with the kids.  The last sounds I heard from the kids in their room was giggling because they had made some pvc pipe into a loudspeaker.  It was a good day.  Thank you God for this day, these beautiful children, this sensitive, super handsome and mightily caring husband, the good food we have to eat, our goofy animals, and the way You take care of all of us.

The rhododendron outside our front door
Rainy day
Pearl, our fearless hunter-cat
Pearl steps lightly on the trampoline

Christmas lights still up

There is so much life, just on this one branch!  As I was driving up our hill, I was struck with how the whole woods had a greenish cast to it, especially the bare branches, which were actually teeming with living lichen and mosses

Maia loved touching the moss

natasha is wary
the crazy dairy goat who does NOT want a man goat.   
not wanting her picture taken
The goat who DOES want a friendly male goat around
hey goaties!
Like father, like son: favorite place is having a computer nearby.  

The Little Things

Our family has a love/hate relationship with board games.  We braved the game Scrabble and ended up having great times together,  just me and the 3 biggest kids.  Our eight year old melted down when he became overwhelmed by the rules of the game, but I think he'll come back for more.  I think of the song lyrics, "These are the days we'll remember.."
Lately I've been learning about the small things in life and how they multiply.  Small comments and actions built up over time create a reputation.  Little pockets of clear and obvious attention to the ones we love build trust.  Moments of distraction add up and create insecurity for those around us.  And small choices we make can foster change.

Brandon decided to ask the little girls to help him with a vinyl project he was doing for a programmers' meeting he'll be attending.  It was priceless to see them wadding up the scraps and passing them carefully to one another, helping their daddy.

My words, if not chosen carefully, can break a child's resolve, or bolster it.   The first semester of school is drawing to a close.  On the days I was under stress, if I communicated it at all in the way I taught my children, our home became a tangled ball of anxiety.  On the other hand, on days there was stress, but I gave it up, prayed with the kids and forged on, there was a certain peace that prevailed.  When I take it personally that the kids could care less about doing place value, or that they are bickering when we should be learning, things go downhill.  But when I choose to remove myself a little, and see that these are normal things, life goes on, and a day that could have been ruined by hurtful words is instead salvaged.

Isaac is one of my most sensitive children.  He has a built in sense of justice and fairness and hates to see people fight.  He is a peacemaker and as sensitive spirit.  For him,  a harsh word ruins an entire day.  I am learning to be sensitive to this gift he has and am trying to allow him to teach me.  Here he's sporting his new haircut.  It's my third time doing a scissor cut.
The photography class I'm teaching at the homeschool co-op is ending.  I noticed very clearly that the remarks I or my co-teacher made about the photos our kids were making were very powerful.  They could be poison or they could be nourishing.  Photography is unique in that there is technique that makes a good photo, but even more, there is the idea behind the photo that drives it.  When I saw a brilliant idea behind a photo, even if it was hidden behind still-developing technique, I did my best to call it out.  If I said nothing, it was seen as disapproval.  These children know when we notice the work they put in.  It's important to highlight it.  Sometimes the work is more as important than the final product, because it teaches perseverance and dedication.

On our last day of photo class we had a party.  It was fun to see the kids so relaxed.
The hardest part about teaching is finding that not everyone loves things the same way you do.  The greatest thing I am learning as an educator is not to take it as an insult to my teaching ability or to the subject matter when children are not interested.  When I express my insecurity regarding this to my children or my students, it only makes them confused and unsure of my authority.  Instead, I am learning to find the sparks I am lighting in the minds of these kids.  Those sparks of interest in a subject area can turn into a blazing torch.  This can happen when conscious effort is made by us as parents and teachers.  We can offer good mentoring, helpful library books and some healthy applause on a job well done.  It is all the small opportunities that we give them to learn that will grow them into intelligent and well rounded people.

Jill, my co-teacher, can't have chocolate chips.  These were from her cookie.  It made me think about the little morsels of goodness we left in the kids' minds regarding photography.  I hope the things we taught will continue to inspire them.
By nature, I am very self conscious.  In my writing, I become more confident, and, emboldened by not having to look people in the eye, I can say radical things.  The things I write on my blog or on public social networking sites build a reputation that I cannot back down from, so I am learning to choose my words carefully, researching carefully every claim I make.  Online, people are not afraid to proclaim their beliefs clearly because there is no need for a direct confrontation with recipients of the information.  For me, the people who read my writing are usually all people I care about, will probably see soon, and do not wish to confuse with words that are not well chosen.  I have found myself writing notes of apology or explanation when I later realize things I have written or even said out loud don't actually jive with what I think.  It is the small words, said in encouragement or degradation, in jest or in all seriousness that create the credibility for the words we most want people to hear and take to heart.

During our Scrabble game.  By this time Levi had given up and Saraiah had taken about ten other games out of the game closet.  You should have seen the chaos that was the aftermath of our little Scrabble game!
Frogs get used to anything, whether it's the proverbial boiling pot of water, or a balmy spring day.  Children are the same.  They will adapt to whatever situation they find themselves in, not knowing for sure if things should be different or not.  They trust me and the authority I have in their lives, and when I begin to build a pattern of distraction and benign neglect, they adapt and learn to occupy themselves.  This is not a healthy situation, because if I try to connect with them, they have already built an emotional cocoon of safety and will not allow me to come in.

I am learning to combat this mentality by trying my hardest to understand what they're trying to explain to me.  It is important to them that I sit with them so I am learning to sit, instead of constantly being busy.  These are the times that the snuggles, the sweet confidences, and the boisterous exclamations of love happen.   This discipline is a daily challenge for me, to be here in my house not just with my body, but with my mind, my eyes and my heart.  I am trying to learn about the things they love, and allowing them to show them to me.  Today, I learned what a "natural" note is from my daughter.  My son shared his cozy blanket with me because I was cold and actually sat down near him.  My baby girl told me I was the "best mom ever" just because I picked her up and hugged her.

Maia, our youngest, loves having special time with me.  She is an animal lover and walks brazenly close to the llama and alpaca's rear ends, grabbing the ears of our goats and nuzzling them.  This was when we went out to the barn to take care of the animals this afternoon.
There is a bill going through the Washington State Legislature that would require all Genetically Modified Organisms that come through our food supply to be clearly labeled as such.  This is an important thing, because there are now seeds with toxins built right into their DNA that are ubiquitous in our food chain.  Genetic modification is a new and untested field for food, having come about only in my lifetime.  I do not want to be the lab rat for this kind of science experiment.  There are already studies that show the dangers of many genetically modified foods on lab animals as well as everyday people.  Europe was running their campaign to ban them when I was in high school.

Why is it that our country is so backwards in this very obvious way?  I'm sure it has something to do with corporations and the powerful say they have in our government.   I'm glad that people are now recognizing the dangers of GMOs and are fighting for the right to know what we're putting into our bodies.  I've written to our legislators to encourage them to back the labeling bill.  This is how we can make a difference in little things...if our legislators are inundated with communication from their constituents, they cannot deny the desire we have for change.  If we choose to buy organic and non GMO foods, grow our own and support others who do the same, we can change the system.  We live in a democracy!  We vote with our dollars and our actions.  This is our right.

It's the little things that compound to become the most important things of all.  Let's be reminded of that in all facets of our lives.  We will become more trustworthy people when we back our words with our actions.  We'll become the people we were created to be.

Article explaining the legislation in Olympia