Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Resurrecting Macrame-nia is a Great Idea! Knot.

             When it comes to fashion and décor, I enjoy revisiting bygone eras, taking pleasure in the nostalgia they elicit. But I do have my limits. There are those decades I’d just as soon exclude from any revival movement. Ever.  Among them, the 1970s.
             The fact I’m not a current fan of the ‘70s decade doesn’t mean I eschewed all of its trends when I lived through them. On the contrary, I enthusiastically embraced “feathered” hair a la Farrah,  bell-bottomed pants, peasant blouses, wooden platformed shoes. I even bought my husband a leisure suit (which, thank goodness, he had the good sense to despise and wore only twice). As I was writing this post, I caught myself humming "The Age of Aquarius" (which actually came out in 1969, but close enough). To decorate my first home, I took inspiration from the apartment of Chrissy, Jack, and Janet of Three’s Company fame. And I was enamored of macramé.

A couple of examples of
the macrame art that
decorated my 1970s home
With walls and ceilings
amply adorned, we could move
on to apparel.
(For the record, my aunt made these
pieces. I stuck mainly with three-prong
pot hangers.)
       I’m not sure what it was about tying knots that had the country ensnarled in that craze, but you can count me as a victim of ‘70s macrame-nia. I think part of my zeal was inspired by an aunt who was truly a person created to create. Her hands were constantly busy—crocheting, knitting, sewing, weaving, even spinning. And she was a consummate teacher, loving nothing better than sharing her skills with anyone who wanted to learn them. In the ‘70s, she found willing and eager  students among family and friends for her macramé classes. In knot-tying frenzies, we  fashioned hangers for anything from pots to pendant lights. Products of our new-found skill were suspended from every square foot above our heads. At one point, my dad flatly refused to hang any more of my mother’s “art” for fear the ceiling would collapse. With the space above us either off-limits or filled, we moved on to wall hangings, window and door coverings, purses, belts, jewelry, vests, hats...even bikinis. (I actually never had a macrame bikini, so don't ask me how that worked.) The options were endless, running out of rope being the  only deterrent to our productivity.
            With the comeback capability of a boomerang, macramé has enjoyed a long and interesting history  of wafting in and out of popularity. Originating in the 13th century with Arab weavers, the skill worked its way across Europe. In the 17th century, Queen Mary taught it to her ladies-in-waiting. Sailors brought it to the New World, where, in the 1970s, hippies and housewives practically made a cottage industry out of it. Macramé fell out of favor for a couple of decades, but the other day on the Houzz website, an article suggested it might be staging yet another appearance. A quick search revealed dozens of Pinterest boards dedicated to it. Of course, for the sake of marketing, this most recent phase will involve innovative twists such as...fewer owls.
            As far as I’m concerned, even a dearth of owls can’t be innovative enough to make resurrecting macrame-nia a good idea. It roped me in once, but as with many trends and fads, once is enough.

            Any thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from those of you who, like me, were entangled in the ‘70s macramé web.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Let's Put the "Self" Back in Self-Esteem

            I began my teaching career in the mid-1980s, about the same time the self-esteem movement began to sweep through education. I struggled for years with that concept, torn between what I was observing first-hand in my classroom and what the education “experts” were telling me I should be observing (experts being those persons with lots of educational theories but little or no actual classroom experience). Then one day in the mid-1990s in the school library, the cover of a Psychology Today magazine caught my eye. The headline: “The Ten Worst Educational Theories of the Last Ten Years.” Hallelujah! The self-esteem theory made the list.
            Of course, in spite of the experts’ insistence they are “cutting-edge” innovators, they’re often reluctant to abandon ideas they’ve long embraced and propounded—even if those ideas don’t work. So twenty-something years after its initial appearance, the specter of bestowing self-esteem as a motivator still haunts the classroom. But thanks to books and articles I’ve read lately, I sense the ghost can soon be laid to its final rest. 
            I’m sure we all have memories of the fire-breathing, draconic teacher who managed the classroom through heavy-handed intimidation. I’m certainly not advocating that method. But, surely, somewhere between tyrannical teaching and feeding undeserving egos, a middle road exists.  
            I’m not a psychologist (never even played one on TV), but I’ve read a lot on this subject, trying to make sense of the nonsensical. Two works on which I’m drawing to write this post are the book Generation Me, by Jean M. Twenge, Ph. D and an article in the Wall Street Journal by Sue Shellenbarger, dated February 27, 2013.  Based on my personal experience as a parent and teacher and based on what I’ve read, the following suggestions are some of my ideas for a balanced approach to instilling confidence, not hyper-inflated egotism, in children.
            First and foremost, realize the operative word in self-esteem is self. It should be earned, not bestowed. High self-esteem is not a cause, a means of producing better results. It’s an effect, a result of having worked hard to achieve an admirable goal. I’m not saying children actually have to achieve that goal. They just need to know they did their best in order to take satisfaction in their effort. And kids are smart. They know when they don’t deserve that trophy, gold star, high grade, praise, etc.
            Allow children to feel bad about themselves sometimes. If they’ve been mean or hurtful or dishonest, they probably should feel bad. It doesn’t mean they can never be forgiven or have to carry guilt for the remainder of their lives. And it doesn’t mean we withhold love from them. But that uncomfortable feeling can be a goad to correct a misdeed or a deterrent to future bad behavior. Several years ago I read that only the criminally insane have continually high levels of self-esteem.
            Recognize that no one is good at everything. When we suggest that all children have done all things equally well by handing out blanket rewards, we diminish the special skills or talents of some and discourage hard work and perseverance. (Before you start objecting, read my next point.)
            Acknowledge that everyone does something well. The “Good Sportsmanship Trophy” has often been the butt of jokes. But you know what? Over the long haul, the ability to encourage others or handle disappointment with grace or perspective might well be a more valuable life-skill than throwing a mean curve-ball. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging skills such as those—as long as you don’t give a good sportsmanship trophy to everyone on the team.
            Do give encouragement. There is a difference between giving encouragement and doling out self-esteem. Encouragement develops self-control and self-discipline—two assets that will serve a child exceedingly better than a trumped-up sense of entitlement.  
            I’ve already overshot my word limit on this post by about two hundred words, but I can’t close without making this final point. If my suggestions sound uncaring or mean-spirited, consider the full title of Twenge’s book: Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before.
            Your thoughts?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Courageous Middle

            Some acquaintances and friends might take issue with my claim I occupy “the courageous middle.” Agreed, my political thinking leans to the right. But not the far right. And I believe that in most--certainly not all--areas of life, there is a middle ground. That delicate point of balance is often workable and acceptable but also difficult to achieve and maintain. Hence, the “courageous” designation.
            Please don’t assume I have no definite opinions on anything. I do. I just don’t feel everyone has to agree with me one hundred percent in order for us to get along. Whenever I see propriety run amok or hear people pontificating on a particular issue, I often think, “But wait. Somewhere there has to be a happy medium.” So I decided that, from time to time, I’d voice my thoughts on situations, pointing out the wisdom—and sanity—that can be achieved by taking the middle road.
            Don’t worry. These posts will seldom address burning political issues—that isn’t the focus of my blog. But notice I said seldom, not never. “Middlers” seldom deal in absolutes. (Again with the seldom.) For the most part, the topics will range from the frivolous—pedicures for five-year-olds (really?)--to the more weighty issues such as healthy lifestyles. (Pardon the pun.)
            For the sake of brevity, I won't tackle a specific issue in this post, but, trust me, I have LOTS of topics. Look for one to come very soon. And, PLEASE, offer suggestions. Areas you’ve noticed that could benefit from a balancing act. In the meantime, let me know if you consider the middle a wise solution or a cop out. Feel free to disagree. I’ll listen. I’m in the middle.



Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Rose by Many Other Names

            Wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, successful business woman, tennis champion, fashionista—all of these and more are among the many names my friend Rose can lay claim to. And with a name like Rose, it is fitting that she can also add avid and accomplished gardener to this list. Recently, I asked if I could blog about her garden, and she graciously consented. Follow along for a virtual tour garden tour.   

Our tour guide! Isn't she beautiful? In addition to the above-listed accomplishments, Rose can also boast--along with husband Glenn-- being a roller skate champion in her younger years! (I'm trying to talk her into letting me blog about that.)

             Welcome...come in, sit a spell.

Artistically arranged groupings such as these add a warm welcome to the front of her house and her porch. Don't you just want to pull up a chair and visit?
And we're walking...
...to the backyard.

There's something about a gate that promises mystery...entices us to peek behind.

With no horses around, this handsome jockey spends his days admiring the flowers.
Names like "Bleeding Heart" and "Naked Lady," suggest these beauties inspire a lot of juicy garden gossip.
And you know there has to be a rose bush. In fact, there are many of them.
An eye for details...As with her clothes and accessories, Rose has what it takes to make her garden not only beautiful but also interesting. Notice all her (almost) hidden treasures such as the figurine and the lamp post tucked amid her plants.

Family, friends, and plants get lots and lots of TLC from Rose.
And now for some gardening tips from Rose. She didn't actually state these for me, but they are what I picked up as we talked and toured and what I've gleaned from conversations over the years.
1.  Have a willing partner. I would be in trouble if I didn't give a shout-out to Rose's husband Glenn. Evidence of his gardening enthusiasm abounds. (And according to him, he provides all the muscle.)
2.  Mulch much--the more natural, the better. Pine needles and grass cuttings provide much of the mulch in their garden.
3.  Fertilize and water freely, especially in the hot, stressful Oklahoma summers.
4.  Economize. As in clothing stores, amazing bargains can be found on sale racks in nurseries. With patience and care, ailing plants or those with spent blossoms can be nursed back to health in no time. 
5.  Share. Rose shares not only her knowledge of gardening but also seeds and cuttings. And she shares generously. Just last Sunday I heard someone at church ask for a cutting from her giant angel wing begonia. More than once I've seen her haul potted cuttings to someone in our Pilates class. (Yes, she does Pilates, too!) And many times I've been the lucky recipient of those cuttings.
These four o'clocks and the purple double trumpet vine
below are in my own garden. Just two of the many cuttings Rose has shared with me.
A gift from a garden truly can be the gift that keeps on giving!
Hope you enjoyed the tour and meeting Rose. Have some gardening tips you'd like to pass along?