Friday, February 27, 2009

News - what a sham

This is not my usual BFA blog. This has little to do with travel or homeschooling or live on the farm. I feel like ranting today, so I'm going to. If you don't want to hear me bitch er...complain about media coverage or recent news COVERED, stop right here.

OK, I'll say it: It's getting REALLY tough to read the local paper, watch news on television or listen to it on the radio. It's not just the focus on the depressing, bad news that is ever so easy to find, but the poor coverage, the abuse of statistics, and, OK, yes. Terrible spelling and grammar.

GO ahead. Page back through my blogs. SURE I've made spelling AND grammar mistakes, but THIS IS A BLOG! This blog is not edited, may not even be written by a true writer, may not even be researched. But it is a BLOG. You don't depend upon it for news, let alone accuracy.

I depend upon media for both, though I should know better. (What can I say, I'm an optimist.)

Take today's front-page headline, "U.S. jobless claims top 5 million" with subhead "Number highest in nation since record-keeping began." Seriously. Can we not see straight through this? The POPULATION is also the highest since record-keeping began. So what we need here is a comparison of apples to apples. What percentage of the population is jobless? We also need to know WHY we're jobless - I choose to be jobless, so I don't count in the stats focused on panic. This was an Associated Press story - I expect more. (But then, I suppose my expectations are just what gets me in trouble.)

Move on to local news, a story entitled "New rainwater guidelines rile city." Now, wouldn't you think that somewhere HIGH in the story they'd give SOME indication of WHAT those guidelines are? NOPE. Not until 13 'graphs into the story does the reporter shed any light on the details that are leading the city to threaten legal action.

And the story above that? A nice little feature story about a talent show given by students at the area's alternative high school. But, I'm confused. First it states that about 30 students "showed off their art, music and pottery skills." Five 'graphs later the story states, "About a dozen students performed or submitted paintings or other art projects." Well...which is it? If the reporter can't get the basics right, how do I know any of the rest of it is accurate, or even close?

Don't even get me STARTED on television media. (As it currently exists, it should be banned. Did anyone ELSE take that ETHICS class - you know...neutrality...fairness...? Guess not.)

I know...who even notices these details? Well, I do, for one. Particularly when so many stories in a single issue confound me.

Maybe I'm getting old, losing my mind. Maybe these things make sense to everyone else. On days like this, I wonder.

I know our local paper is VERY short staffed, and doesn't have a great track record for providing editors time and resources to do their duties anyhow. Still, its really the reporter's job to work out the details, like spelling names correctly and CONSISTENTLY throughout a story. The editors are your back up, People!

Oh, and when it's not reporters' lack of ethics, knowledge of statistics (and how PR flacks use them against us) or skill, the content of today's news is enough to choke a goat.

Come on, Arnold! Do you REALLY think citizens who are losing their homes, their jobs, facing work cutbacks and rising health care costs (for those of us who still pay for our own) and other living expenses are really going to, as the AP reporter put it, "see past the higher costs...of taxes and fee increases" proposed on the special election ballot? We're still paying for countless bonds passed in recent years to fund more schools and road improvements than at any other time in my life.

Arnold et al - IF OUR HOURS ARE CUT BACK, we have LESS MONEY. If we have LESS MONEY, then we are LESS ABLE to pay INCREASED TAXES. Take it in TAXES, and we'll have less to spend at MERCHANTS so you'll lose out on your proposed INCREASED SALES TAX.

Plus, haven't we been over this before? I seem to remember some promise about not dipping into dedicated funds (like capital improvements on our deteriorating roads and bridges). Have we managed to keep that promise?

And, did you not notice that THIS type of BORROWING (and associated lending) by irresponsible parties was a driving force in creating this fiscal disaster? HELLLOOOO! And as for creating a "rainy day fund" at this juncture - you've got to be kidding. I spent my rainy day fund on my health insurance premium this month. And YOU, Lawmakers?!

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Lucille Ball and Me - Sharing the Spirit of Sweet Adelines

Hours after the birth of our first child, I found myself alone in my room with our little pink bundle. As the minutes wore on and the two of us continued to stare at one another, I began to feel uncomfortable. Isn't it rude to stare? Shouldn't someone at least say something?

My voice cracked as I broke the silence and began the conversation.

She stared.

I introduced myself and told her about our family.

She stared.

I told her about our home and pets.

She hiccuped and stared.

I told her about my dreams for her future.

The hiccups subsided. Still, she stared.

It was time for a change up. I started to sing.

I hadn't sung in front of ANYONE since I was a small child, so though I was singing to a completely nonjudgmental newborn, I was nervous. Plus, what if my husband walked in on us? What if he HEARD me?!

For months, I only sang when I was alone with the baby. I'd never received vocal instruction, and I wasn't sure I could even carry a tune. Oh, sure, everyone THINKS they can carry a tune, but some can't. You know who I'm talking about. We've all heard them. I was afraid I might be one of those. Still, E didn't care about vocal quality or tune. She didn't judge. So I sang.

Then along came V, more music, public displays of toddler tunes. The girls were singing beautifully, and it hit me: Maybe I should stop now. Maybe, if I can't carry a tune, I'll be a bad influence. But I didn't want to stop. I needed to find out if I qualified to continue singing aloud, or whether I should return to my previous performance stage: alone, in a vehicle with the windows rolled up.

First I opted for voice lessons through our local city rec program. Big mistake. The teacher told our class of women that ALL women are sopranos. I sure as hell definitely am not a soprano, and it took only seconds to determine neither was most of the class. I stuck around for a few weeks, but it was a losing battle.

Then I decided to look up my local chapter of Sweet Adelines. They took me in. They nurtured me through the holiday season allowing me to sing lead. Then when I committed to stay on beyond "Jingle Bells," they assigned me a new part - baritone.

Was this their way of telling me to get out? I don't know vocal performance etiquette. Maybe they don't actually simply ASK you to leave. Maybe they're too kind. Maybe you're supposed to take the hint. Seriously. What does a baritone do? I mean, really, listen to it sometime. Pick it out from a crowd, if you can. Those notes don't even make SENSE!

But if assigning me to bari was their way of politely asking me to shove off, it was only slightly too subtle for me. Instead, I learned that bari does, in fact, fit in, though I still don't understand how or why it provides that magical fourth note that helps make those chords ring.

Still, I've been flailing along and in serious need of basic vocal lessons. Perhaps, "Singing 101." Today, I got a really great dose of that. Our chorus spent four hours working through two songs, under the tutelage of two great coaches, Laura and Lisa. Four hours, two songs. These are SIX MINUTE songs....MAX! We worked them over and over, in parts, but seldom in whole. We worked on diphthongs and breathing and vocal quality and no break, no coffee, no chocolate.

It was worth it.

Then I found this video. Though I sing bari, I'm Lucy in more ways than I ever thought was possible:

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Family Hike to Devil's Landslide

We used to hike quite a bit as a family. Then it became weekly hikes for the girls and me. Then I got obsessed with coaching and book publicity, and the girls signed up for various classes, and, well, we just got off track.

Today we went on our first family hike in quite some time - a hike that included ALL FOUR of us. Sure, during our Big Adventure Mr. B joined us for exploration of the Black Hills of South Dakota, but our last family hike here on the coast was clear back in November. Before that? I don't have ANY idea.

We headed out to the Nipomo-Guadalupe Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, aka Main Street Beach west of Guadalupe, CA. The girls were real troopers as we headed 2.5 miles south to Devil's Slide at Mussel Rock. When I was a kid, this was a driving route, but it's been closed to vehicular access since the late 1980s. The only way to get there now is to walk. The hike can be REALLY windy and the sand can be incredibly soft, not to mention the mileage that was simply too long for little kids' legs.

It was really fabulous to share this special spot with my whole family. Mr. B and I had come down here before the girls were born, perhaps even before we were married. So it'd been awhile. We climbed the slide and headed out to The End of the World where some wildflowers were already in full bloom and others will be ready to pop in coming weeks. Then we climbed further to the top of the sand mountain, explored coyote tracks, enjoyed a fabulous smorgasbord-style lunch overlooking Paradise Beach, and returned to the beach via a leap off The End of the World.

I didn't remember there being so many rocks at this end of the beach, and certainly didn't remember a rock bluff at the bottom of the slide. We found some obsidian, wonderful clay, and 18 pounds of trash on our long hike back to the car.

What a fabulous family day!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Plan V

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Today we had a plan. Let's call it Plan A. There were lots of activities on our mommy-do, honey-do, kid-do list. There were things to be learned, subjects to cover, projects to complete and others to begin. Seeds and science and geometry and spelling, history and music and more.

V woke up with another plan in mind. Let's call it Plan V.

Though I was awake and heading toward the shower, she made me breakfast in bed. It was to be consumed in bed, reclined, relaxing with the newspaper. She served it with a big smile. She had her own plan.

Plan V worked.

I ate my Egglet (hard-boiled egg from the pile I boiled yesterday, bread, cheese and a mug o' milk), stretched out, and promptly fell back to sleep. For an hour.

An hour of play. An hour of absolutely NO direction from Mom. An hour of trampoline bouncing and reading and kitty wrestling. In kid terms, an hour of bliss. On top of the time it took me to eat breakfast and flip through the paper that put me right back to sleep.

When I woke, V was squealing on the trampoline; E was pounding yucca leaves she'd soaked overnight so she could extract the fibers and make rope. Far be it from me to disturb them. That's P.E. and history/science/art, right?

I took a shower and worked the crossword.

Finally, V ran in flushed and panting. "Mommy! Will you please help me move the compost bin?! There's a frog under there and I can't move the bin!"

Enter Mommy - the heavy lifter, the amphibian catcher. exit, Mommy.

The girls played with the frog, analyzed the frog, tested the frog's ability to jump on various terrains. (In case you wondered, no, trampolines don't help small frogs.) Then they built a terrarium for their newfound friend. It was a wonderful setup with all the things the frog needed, except food. So they went on a bug hunt and collected a variety which they dumped unceremoniously in the terrarium.

Meanwhile, I finished my Project Linus quilt, and made lunch. I resisted the urge to turn on the computer and get involved with a blog, or blog reading, or friggin' Facebook, or my own book project.

After lunch, we returned to Plan A. Yes, we did math. Yes, we wrote a little. We giggled and talked, and thought and crafted. V was keen on reading to me, so we stopped everything so she could. She did. For an hour. We began building armor for Knight Day which Mr. B has planned for this weekend. (We're studying the Middle Ages this year.)

There were no textbooks. There were no lectures. Sorry, traditionalists, but this seems to be working for us all.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Famous Sayings (from the eyes of a child)

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Last week, a cousin of mine forwarded one of those ubiquitous funny e-mails involving kids and classrooms and off-the-wall comments. This particular e-mail included the alleged result of a quiz involving quotable quotes. I decided to find out how my OWN kids would fill in the blanks.

As we enjoyed a quiet breakfast together, I pulled out the list. The girls really thought about some of them. Others, like the first, they just threw right out there. I'd pause to give them a chance to change their minds, but without fail they stuck by their original answer.

Here's the E (in green) and V (in purple) Version of Quotable Quotations:

1. Don't change horses. Period. (She may have a point.)

2. Strike while the horse is moving. (Hmmm....I sense a theme.)

3. It's always darkest before morning.

4. Never underestimate the power of God.

5. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. (yawn!)

6. Don't bite the hand that is next to you.

7. No news is no news. (Again - good point.)

8. A miss is as good as a Mrs. (Up 'til this point I was doing a really good job of remaining completely out of this, not to passing judgment or making comments. But this one? Oh. It surprised me. What a great way to start the day - with tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks, COMPLETELY losing my composure, and the girls looking on in wonder.)

9. You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

10. If you lie down with dogs, you'll get licked. (Given her history, I'm surprised she didn't say, "bitten.")

11.Love all, trust few. (Mr. B and I were both surprised she knew this one. A cynic already, or maybe it's from her reading. Yeah...that's it. She's read it!)

12. The pen is mightier than the paper. (A new playing piece for reaux cham beaux?)

13. An idle mind is not working.

14. Where there's smoke there's fire.

15. Happy the bride who got married.

16. A penny saved is a penny earned.

17. Two's company, three's still company. (That's my girl!)

18.Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and the whole world cries with you.

20. There are none so blind as blind people.

21. Children should be seen and not heard. (If you've been to our house, you KNOW she picked this up from her reading, not from OUR house!)

22. If at first you don't succeed, try; try again. (She said, rolling her eyes.)

23. You get out of something only what you tell the truth of it. (huh?)

24. When the blind lead the blind you run into everything and you get run over.

25. A bird in the hand is a warm and tame bird.

26. Better late than early. (On this they agreed.)

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

You're Invited to a Pajama Party

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As many of you know, our family is working on a project that we hope will change our community, if only a TINY bit, for the better. Each day, we're doing a charitable deed. It doesn't have to be big, but neat projects are popping out of the woodwork! So far, we've made quilts for Project Linus, volunteered at the animal shelter, recycled, opened doors, maintained a website, provided roadside assistance, picked up trash. None of them are GREAT works that will CHANGE THE WORLD. But it's been fun being more aware of our community, the people around us, the details of daily life, living mindfully, I suppose.

I just found out about the Pajama Program, a national nonprofit, which is getting its start here on the Central Coast. The program collects new (with tags) PJs for kids from infancy to age 17 and new books for the same group. These items are distributed to kids who may not have their own parents to provide these things for them, who may never have had a parent tuck them in at night. So far, the local chapter has identified three organizations averaging 30 children/month each who will benefit from this program. There's a high turnover, so that's 30 children times three programs times 12 months. Well, that's a lot of bedtime books and PJs.

The Best Family will be collecting PJs and books for the project through April. Would you like to join in our drive? Maybe you can hit up your neighborhood or church, friends, other clubs or organizations in which you're involved. Once we've gathered our PJs, I thought it would be fun to have a PJ party (parents could PJ, too) to bring the collections together. I don't know where, yet. When I think of PJs during WAKING hours, I think of COFFEE, HOT CHOCOLATE and CIDER!

If you're interested in taking part, please keep in mind, PJs and books need to be new and unused. Please keep all tags on the pajamas. In addition, we cannot accept pajamas or books with any religious messages or violent themes.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Panther in the Skylight

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We have a neighborhood dog cat who has a perfectly good home. His owners provide food and water, and not just shelter, but a luxurious, pillow-lined hutch with a heated bed. Still, Panther loves people so much he just can't bring himself to stay in his own yard, let alone house.

He spends a lot of time in the adjacent open space, watching strangers pass, getting pets from anyone willing to slow down, stalking dogs not quite wise to the ways of an outdoor cat. He also spends a lot of time at our house. I suppose it's because we're home. Or maybe it's because he can sense the three kitties inside. Or maybe it has something to do with me rescuing him one day several years back when I found him hanging by his toes which had gotten pinched between the slats of his rolling garage door as it closed.

Panther doesn't play in our backyard. One of our three cats is an inside-outside cat, limited to guarding our backyard. I think he's been inside the perimeter once. Shadow doesn't mess around.

This morning, as V headed down the hall after breakfast, she yelled, "WOW! Look at this Mommy! Hurry! Look!" This is what we saw.
That's Panther, keeping watch over the house. Panther in the Skylight.
It's nice to know someone's watching over us, even if it is "just" a cat.

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