Saturday, January 31, 2009

What Kids Need

A blank canvas.

A few raw materials.

The freedom to create something unexpected.

Temperatures have hovered near freezing all week, so as you can see, our snow and ice are lingering.

Yesterday Dragonstar's dad called. He and his wife live across town in a cabin tucked back in a hollow. Their power has been out since Tuesday. They have a wood stove for heat, and they have water -- though no hot water -- so they've been able to stay put while utility crews work to get power restored to the one-third of the city that's been without it all week.

It was supposed to be a cabin weekend for Dragonstar, but he wasn't sure she'd want to come, given the (ahem) rustic conditions -- no Wii, no internet, no dvds, cooking food in a pot on the woodstove and eating in lantern-light. Plus, her step-brother was away with his own dad, and wouldn't be around to play.

She barely hesitated (and only because she was concerned that, with the BBPiT off on a road trip, I'd be home alone all weekend.) Hell, yeah, she wanted to come.

Here's what she told me after she hung up the phone: no step-brother meant she could play with the dog without constant interference. (Her step-brother is a wee bit possessive of the family border collie.) And no electricity meant no one would be on their laptops. They would be interacting with each other instead of with machines. And that sounded like a great weekend to her.

When her dad came to pick her up, he told her they'd have to shower at the Y in town, since there was no hot water at the cabin. She lit up. "We get to go to the Y, too?"

Kids need a whole let less of what our culture says they need, and a whole lot more of what is so often denied them: time spent in the company of the people they love. Dragonstar didn't give a damn about the Wii. She was looking forward to having her dad's full attention for two days.

And dinner by lantern light sounded pretty cool, too.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Day

If I'd known it was going to snow this much I would have bought some boots.

The forecast was for less than an inch. From the looks of Yard Kitty, we got considerably more than that.

I was not prepared.

So it's a Snow Day, and the neighborhood kids are happy. I see them trudge up the street with their sleds, on their way to the hill overlooking the old lock and dam. One little boy pulls a white plastic laundry basket with a rope. Resourceful.

Power is out all over the city, including most of the houses in our neighborhood, but ours is so far unaffected. Either it's a miracle, or that charm I placed on our little bungalow last year when we went on vacation is more powerful than I realized.

Next door my neighbor wrestles with a generator. He and a friend pulled a little red wagon down the block to retrieve the generator from the friend's house; with all the fallen branches it was easier than driving. He has already lit a fire in his fireplace. He invited us to come over and share the warmth. I felt almost guilty telling him my furnace is still operating.

The day's plans are tossed aside for a snowball fight and digging the van out of a drift. We'll return soon enough to our regularly scheduled lives, and so will all the neighborhood kids. But for the time being -- through the end of the week, at least -- it looks like we're all unschoolers.

Everybody say Amen.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ten Sites Worth a Visit

Kivyn at Tangled Hill has included Crooked Mile in a roundup of ten blogs with "great attitude or gratitude," bestowing a Lemonade Award upon the lot of us. I'd not heard of this award before, but a lot passes under my radar. I like the cute logo. Makes me think of summer and a nice tall glassful.

Tangled Hill is an unschooler's blog, and it occurred to me as I browsed her list that I haven't written much here about unschooling lately. (Dave at How to Save the World gave me a similar nudge in a comment on this post.) I am writing about it elsewhere, but that hardly helps us here and now, does it?

Okay. When the universe taps you on the shoulder (twice, in my case) it's a good idea to pay attention. So beginning next week you can expect some unschooling posts to be cropping up along the Mile as I finish that Big Writing Project and turn it into something you can hold in your hands. Meanwhile (because I know you don't have enough to read already) here is my own list of ten blogs and websites worth a click, a wildly divergent assortment for wildly divergent minds. (Like yours.)

1. The Art of Nonconformity. Chris Guillebeau's adventures in unconventional living.

2. The Communicatrix. Where does she get the energy?

3. The Cassandra Pages. Go now and read her series on the inauguration of President Obama. If you couldn't be in D.C., she'll make you feel as though you were.

4. Pace and Kyeli. Living, thinking, writing (and unschooling) in Austin, Texas.

5. Ornamental. Nina Bagley creates astonishing art and soulful writing from her perch in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

6. Crossroads Dispatches. Evelyn Rodriguez's (altogether too) infrequent posts are well worth the wait.

7. Passing Thru. Betsy Wuebker's writing, Peter Wuebker's photography. These two get around.

8. Be Nurtured. Spirituality and mindful parenting, and a site that just exudes warmth and peace.

9. Learning to Love You More. Go get your assignment. (A great site for unschoolers, by the way.)

10. How to Save the World. Linked to in the text above but worth a second mention. I've been reading Dave for years. Go give him some love.

So there you have it: my Lemonade List. If your blog or site isn't on it, it's not because I don't love you, too. You can brag about your site in the comment section, and one of these days I'll update that woefully overlooked blogroll of mine and put you there, too.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Where Are You Going?

We are three weeks into the new year. Plans have been made, goals set, folks I know are headed toward some fixed point on their mental map. Me, I don't know.

Yesterday, the new President headed off to work as soon as he'd been sworn in to office. I fiddled with a painting, made greens and mashed potatoes, watched the last season of Alias on dvd.

We've cruised through Capricorn, crossed over into Aquarius. Time passes, and more time. And still, when I ask myself for a plan, the only answer I have is the one I imagine the cat who prowls my back yard might offer.

Where are you going?

This way.

What are you doing?


Friday, January 16, 2009

A Disturbance in the Force

"The dysfunction of the old consciousness and the arising of the new are both accelerating," writes Eckhart Tolle in Stillness Speaks.

"Paradoxically, things are getting worse and better at the same time, although the worse is more apparent because it makes so much 'noise'."

I want him to be right about this. Tolle. I want him to be possessed of the clarity and perspective I lack.

I want to believe.

The guts of the world are twisting and anxious, Zeus and Hera are fighting in the kitchen, pots are thrown, dishes break.

If only it were pots and dishes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stay Hungry

A friend of mine is standing on the cusp of a life-changing opportunity, and I'm coming up for air long enough to ask you to do something quick and easy to help her cross the line.

Here's the story: Author Daniel Pink's latest book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: the Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need, offers six lessons for success. After reading the book, inquiring Bunko fans wondered what a seventh lesson might be.

Imagine a contest, a winnowing, a final three. Imagine a chance to vote for the best one of the three.

Imagine the prize for the winner: an all-expenses paid trip to the 2009 TED Global Conference in Oxford, UK.

Enter my friend Becky. Her entry is one of the three finalists. According to Becky, Lesson #7 is: Stay Hungry.

You can visit the Lesson Seven website she created where she makes the case for staying hungry. You can check out (and download) this free Stay Hungry e-book, put together and made available by Becky and a few of her fans/friends.

Most important, you can vote to send this amazing woman on her first trip across the pond to one of the most inspiring, creative, talked-about conferences ever launched.

But you have to do it now. Voting ends on January 15th. That's either tomorrow (if you're reading this Wednesday night) or today (if you're reading this Thursday. ) If it's after Thursday by the time you read this... I'm too late in asking.

And in case you're wondering who this Becky person is, you can go here to read about her and here to read a bit of her work. And go here to read what another of her friends has posted.

And then go here to vote. Thanks.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

It's Almost Done

Do you remember that Big Writing Project I told you about a couple months ago?

It's almost done.

It's going to have a new site to go with it, with its own domain -- a big step for me, even tho the whole endeavor is remaining on Blogger for the time being. One learning curve at a time.

I'll still be hanging around here on the Mile, too, so there's no need for you to wander off, tho once the new digs are all pretty and useful I'll post a link so you can visit me there, too.

It's good to have a project in January, which is otherwise a tough month for those of us on the Northern Tilt.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Flocks of birds have been peppering our skies lately, great avian ribbons that pass like swarms of bees over our heads, crossing the highway and scattering across the cornfields that line the main route in and out of town.

One by one the cornfields they glean are given over to construction projects: a subdivision, a new retail plaza, a strip mall just like the dozen other strip malls that languish a few miles up the road, already faded and backfilled with nail parlors and check-cashing outlets.

I thought these cornfields would be spared, given the state of things, but developers seem to be chasing their losses here, marching ever onward even as houses go unsold and office space goes unleased.

We don't build pretty in these parts anymore. The gothic structures and mansions of the old downtown mock us as we sprawl our way to inconsequence.

But the flocks of birds are beautiful, sensual, undulating on the currents of cold air. I can't take my eyes off them.