Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gearing up for Samhain

So Samhain is less than a month away (YIKES!). The Fellowship has a great overnight ritual planned - and instead of tenting it (which could be rather chilly), we're renting a cabin which is AWESOME. Perhaps even...dare I hope...warm water???

Samhain is going to be a VERY busy weekend. Friday night is the Fellowship ritual, and Saturday morning we are going to do the induction for the council and myself as steward. I am very excited about taking a more active leadership role in the Fellowship, but I will definitely only be a part of our leadership structure with the council - not the person 'in charge'. Unless, of course, my will is defied!! ;-) J/K

There's a bunch of great classes going on right now - Jason Miller's Financial Sorcer, and Maggi Setti's excellent classes (my top picks are Green Magick and Initiation), not to mention Autumn Magick with the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel and the beginning of the Shamanic 2-year program being run by Denise Sarraco.

So in other words - VERY busy fall. But very productive! I'm really looking forward to all the opportunities that have presented themselves - and hopefully will do right by them!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer Solstice - Gone & Done with LOTS of changes!

So, a lot has happened since the summer solstice this past Monday. A lot has happened in the past year, actually, but I am excited about where all paths are leading. And I am VERY excited about many of the lessons I have been learning.

Having to juggle so many different priorities at once is really starting to take its toll on my over-achieving need to constantly commit myself to things. I have learned that I would rather not offer to help, than offer to help and be unable to fulfill what is asked of me. I want to strip some things away and really focus on the core of what I am trying to accomplish over the next year.

With the solstice I made a dedication to move towards more in-depth study, and more time spent on meditation and learning the nature of deity and my place within it.

So far, I've managed to plant an indoor garden of medicinal herbs, and have started going more in-depth with my studies of Qabalah. Looking forward to where we go from here, but I'm glad to at least be making some forward progress!

As to what has happened this week - poor Sonny (my handsome hubby) got sick for the first time in forever, his great friends came to visit (unfortunately coinciding, but we managed to have fun I think!), and I started my MBA program up again. I'm really excited about studying with the University of Ph
oenix - it's a great school and I'm really enjoying my time there.

The last thing that happened is the biggest and the saddest. My poor little rabbit, Pan, passed away on Friday. It was very sudden and we miss him ter
ribly. The house is so empty and quiet without him - I never realized how much his presence really filled up our home. We're thinking of you, Pan. You will always be a part of our family.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Been a while...

The past few months have been such a whirlwind, and I haven't taken the time to write about them. It's only 11 days now until the wedding (MAJOR SQUEE!!!), and almost everything is buttoned up. Sonny and I need to finalize the ceremony details, put the finishing touches on seating charts, and in general sweep everything together for the big day.

When I say "Sonny and I", I actually mean mostly Mom and Amanda, since they have both been really running the show (in a GREAT way), helping us get organized. If we'd been left to our own devices, we'd be having a reception in the backyard with hamburgers and hot dogs. And while there's nothing inherently wrong with that, I'm definitely excited about the "Crab Cake Action Station" that will be at the reception, not to mention the inch-thick prime rib our guests will be enjoying.

Let's see...outside of wedding-type things, I've decided to switch schools from Walden University to Phoenix. I had originally avoided going with the University of Phoenix because I thought I'd get much more in the way of indidivual attention - well, it turns out that wasn't really true at all. The application process with Phoenix has been really great, and I'm confident that my overall experience will be a lot more positive.

Other than that, I have made the decision to suspend my studies of Dutch for a while (apparently my accent is very German, which I want to work on later), and I will be focusing primarily on my Irish studies. Also, I'll be working on improving my musical ability with the bodhran, the pennywhistle, and a basic harp.

More to come...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New Language-Learning Method

So, most people know I love languages. I'm not terribly good at them, but I've studied a bunch over the years and hope to continue that as I get older. So far I've dabbled a respectable amount in Spanish, French, Japanese, Gaelic, Swedish, and Dutch.

Right now, I'm trying to learn Dutch. I'm not sure why I've never really tried it before - my awesome grandmother speaks Dutch and it's an excellent opportunity to not only bond with her, but also to converse with a native speaker.

However, my main problem is that, in learning any language, I tend to get terribly bored with basic grammatical exercises and vocabulary memorization. So with Dutch (or Nederlands), I'm trying something different.

I'm using one of those 'Teach Yourself' books, along with an excellent FREE linguistic program called Byki, all topped off with a healthy dose of 'het laatste nieuws' courtesy of I study vocabulary and grammatical structure with 'Teach Yourself', use Byki for vocabulary building, and spend a lot of time translating full articles from Dutch into English. It's teaching me a lot about syntax and actual usage, both of which you can kind of miss living only in the world of language books.

So far, it's going well - I'm engaged, interested, and am learning all sorts of interesting things (like, apparently, they have designed a shoe in Holland that responds directly to the hormonal and menstrual cycle of women, raising and lowering the arch because, apparently, we need more support on our period!)

Monday, January 18, 2010

The New Children's Story: Coraline vs. The Grimms

I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine before the holidays regarding the nature of modern children's entertainment. Children's literature is an extremely large field today, with a variety of sub-genres and an almost endless supply of authors and silly titles. However, this conversation centered more around an (unfortunately) more common form of stimulation for today's kids: movies.

The discussion arose when we were discussing Avatar (which had just been released). I was extremely enthused about my experience with it, and recommended it to her - I also threw in that her nine-year-old son would probably enjoy it as well. To this she shook her head and replied that it would be too much for him - she'd rather not expose him to it.

For a second, I was utterly dumbfounded - tall, blue-skinned aliens with mostly suggestive and not direct occasional violence was not what I would view as 'too much' for a boy his age. However, I thought about it - I am constantly overstimulated and overexposed to violence simply because I am a part of American culture. (If I were European, it would be sexuality that I would probably be overexposed to). Avatar, while relatively tame to me, would probably be an enormous challenge for a child under the age of 12 to process.

This got me to thinking about other 'made-for-kids' movies that I probably would NOT show to my kids until they were old enough to get it - and Coraline, an excellent stop-animation film, would be one of them.

I recently watched this movie and was absolutely captivated both by the excellent medium of creation and the wonderfully inventive storyline. However, I was MAJORLY creeped out at several different points of the movie, and can only imagine what my child-self would have had to do to process all the very complex themes and elements contained within that movie.

However, in comparison, Grimm's Fairy Tales are hardly more upbeat. Replace the weird child-killing needle witch with the evil gingerbread-house kid-EATING witch in Hansel and Gretel, (not to mention the abandonment of the children by their own parents), and I think we're on pretty much even keel. However, I clearly remember hearing that story as a child and, while being 'scared', was not terrified or overwhelmed by the themes it presented.

For a long time, I mulled over what made Coraline different from Hansel and Gretel - why do I plan on reading the latter to my children in their cribs, but won't show the movie to them until they're old enough to be bringing home schoolwork I can't help them with? That's when I realized - the factor of imagination.

Grimm's Fairy Tales are extremely complex as well, with a great deal of deep themes that you can spend hours and days and weeks (etc etc) considering. However, they are short, quick-to-tell stories. Few are longer than 5 pages, and most vastly shorter than that. While tales like BlueBeard and The Brave Cobbler have a lot of depth, their descriptions are relatively short. They are put down quickly, with a great deal of 'wiggle room' for a child to imagine what the enemy looks like, how the hero comports himself, and what the princess is wearing. It's not like Coraline, where you can SEE the needles that make the witch's fingers - you have to imagine what a sugared glass window looks like.

And here is where the very important difference between 'children's' movies like Coraline and stories like Grimm's Fairy Tales diverge very distinctly - Coraline tells you, in every detail, what the story is and how it unfolds. The Grimm brothers allow children to fill in the blanks themselves - and if something is too much, they simply can skip over it.

It's very similar to the argument I have with children's toys today - they don't leave a lot of room for imagination. They dolls are fully articulated, fully featured, and completely out of room for a child's imagination. Castles are laden with nifty nooks and crannies that are already full of the creations of its makers - children don't have room to put down their own roots there.

What the Brothers Grimm did (whether or not intentionally) with their often incredibly dark children's stories was to leave kids room to imagine the story for themselves - they gave a relatively blank canvas with a lot of good structure for them to paint their own pictures with. Modern children's movies don't do that - and often actually shy away from leaving room for interpretation.

I will revisit this topic later, but the thought has been percolating for some time and I wanted to get it out. I'm interested to hear thoughts from others, though!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Awesome Esbats

Tonight was the first Fellowship Esbat. The Esbats are a series of classes where we work on more advanced rituals together. We were mostly laying the groundwork at this session - going over the goals and objectives of the class.

Point 1: Gwaeron has an absolutely AMAZING collection of books. I am trying really hard to remember all the titles now - needless to say I will be dedicating a portion of Xmas money towards amassing them (in used condition, of course).

Point 2: It's going to be great working with the group that's forming now - we have a great range of talents and interests, which should definitely keep things lively and fresh but nice and functional.

Point 3: I think this is really just what I am looking for in terms of honing my skills and continuing to develop. A lot of good stuff is going on right now, and I feel like this is one of the big waves that will bring me closer to the shore.

More to come...

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Study of Fairy Tales: Part 1 Follow-Up

I did not properly cite Ms. Kready's book in my last post, so here is the citation now for your future reference. This text is available as an e-book at a variety of locations all over the web - you can just search for the title and author name.
Kready, L. A Study of Fairy Tales. Houghton Mifflin Company. 1916.
I was very engaged by the concepts laid out in Ms. Kready's first chapter and introduction. The overall goal of this study is to learn more about the nature, structure, and telling of fairy tales, but her focus on using the same in early childhood education was really fascinating. I took some time to look through the Walden University database of articles, and found a few relating to the same topic.

I would like to point out, however, that since 1916 not much progress has been made in terms of using fairy tales to build up a strong foundation for future interest in literature - a lot of the articles I was finding focused on sexism and bias prevalent in fairy tales. While of course these are important issues that should be addressed, I think it is throwing the baby out with the bathwater to dismiss the value of these literary pieces to focus only on these negative aspects.

In that vein, I actually uncovered an article entitled "First Graders and Fairy Tales: One Teacher's Action Research of Critical Literacy" by Ryan Bourke. Not only did this offer a case study of the use of fairy tales to develop literary criticism, it also dealt with some of the negative issues above, as Mr. Bourke discovered when presenting the stories to his class, all of whom were not of European descent.

Bourke offers a good definition of critical literacy, actually quoted from another article entitled "Girls, Social Class, and Literacy".
Critical the act of approaching texts wearing a set of eyeglasses through which the reader examines and questions the familiar and comfortable.
Especially in its application to fairy tales, I find this definition to be most appropriate. There is very little more comforting than familiar stories from our childhood - but their inherent value comes not only from the 'mug of hot cocoa' response that is very superficial, but from an actual in-depth analysis not only of the story's message, but it's place in the readers time, in the authors time, the influence of the characters and their potentialities, and a number of other factors.

Another article, written by Maryellen Grebin, outlines suggestions for helping kids actively play out fairy tales. Bourke's work focuses mainly on discussion an analysis, but I feel strongly that Ms. Grebin's work also has an important role to play in helping children synthesize the information contained within the stories.

Her suggestions include a "Fairy Tale Museum", where the children are curators of props they bring in themselves to represent the different stories. She also read different versions of fairy tales, from countries all over the world. Many of her students had never before heard the different versions. She also had them grow actual bean seeds as a tool for discussion about Jack and the Beanstalk. They covered topics such as why a lot of fairy tales seem to revolve around girls, and introduced other stories with more of a balanced focus.

However, while this innovative approach is certainly fun and engaging, the addition of Bourke's critical analysis techniques are essential to fostering a truly deeper understanding of the material.

I highly recommend reading Bourke's article, as it includes several conversations amongst his students that really reflect the intensity of the impact that critical analysis of these stories can have on children and their ability to synthesize literature.

Bourke, R. "First Graders and Fairy Tales: One Teacher's action Research of Critical Literacy". The Reading TEacher, 62(4) pp. 304-312

Grebin, M. "Fairy Tales Get Real". Teaching Pre K-8. Nov/Dec 2002, Vol. 33 Issue 3, p58