Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Keeping up with Family and Wasted Time

In my family, people tend to assume that everyone knows the same things they know. But gossip is usually only that efficient when you don't want it to be. So if something happens, and I don't hear about it, I don't know that I don't know, so I don't ask, and they don't know that I don't know, so they don't tell me. And most of my relatives live far away. So I might hear that someone was divorced, for example, but not that they'd remarried. Or that they'd remarried when I wasn't aware they had divorced. I also have a plethora of cousins on both sides of the family that I lost touch with years ago.

About a month ago, I reluctantly joined Facebook for the same reason I reluctantly joined MySpace a few months earlier: a friend had posted something I wanted to see, and I had to join to see it. This post is not about Facebook or Myspace, both of which I think are a waste of time. But I want to explain how I found something more useful and enjoyable.

I never really got into MySpace. I think I must have resisted their appeals to let them search my address book for friends who were already members. Whether I cooperated more or not, I found more of my friends and family on Facebook. What a time eater! While it was nice to find out about friends I'd lost touch with, but that our mutual friends hadn't, it's all to easy to sit down to check your email and spend the next several hours searching your friends' friends to see who else you know, chatting about nothing with people you barely know, reading status updates that are mostly meaningless drivel, and taking stupid quizzes full of advertising just because your friends did.

I did run into some cousins I hadn't seen in a long time. Then I stumbled on Facebook's family tree. It stinks! It's not just the annoying ads and the endless survey questions obviously designed to target the ads and sell you more stuff, you can only add your direct ancestors or descendants. After several hours of tinkering, I still couldn't add even one brother, sister, uncle, aunt, or cousin. I mentioned this to my aunt, and she said, "Don't you know about Geni.com? Your mom posted some stuff over there."

WOW! What an improvement! I'd often thought it would be nice to construct a family tree, but there were too many family members I'd lost touch with, the ones I hadn't didn't have much time to fill me in, and even their knowledge of family history was limited. It turns out several family members have already put in information. All I have to do is fill in any missing parts I can, merge it with their trees, and we can all share information. The tree shows how we're related, but then there is a profile for each person, photo and video albums, a calendar to keep track of birthdays, anniversaries, &c., a timeline for each person's major life events, and more stuff I haven't tried yet. You can selectively import information from your address book and/or Facebook, and control who is able to view that information.

Now I'm catching up with cousins I haven't seen in twenty years, seeing pictures of their children I hadn't even heard about before, and even emailing and chatting with aunts, uncles, and cousins. We're sharing photos, including photos of earlier generations that only a few had copies of, and most of us had never seen. When families are scattered all over the world, it's nice to see a site like this bringing them together. Time consuming? Yes, but worth it!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Goldilocks says the darnest things

We have had issues lately with Goldilocks treating Brother Bear with respect & kindness. Today after chiding him for bossing his brother. He looked at me with hands on hips & said “But I’m a teen-ager, I’m supposed to be bossy”

After overhearing Mama & Papa Bear discuss a news article about our President, “Mr. Barack Obama, I’m going to bounce a ball off you!” (bouncing head against a soccer ball) “I have Mr. Barack Obama in my head!”

Monday, March 16, 2009

Beowulf is min nama

We've read other adaptations of Beowulf, and the boys, being boys, enjoyed the story. For days afterward, they would wrestle. "I'm Beowulf!" "No! I'm Beowulf, you're Grendel, and I'm going to pull your arm off!" If one of our boys ever shows up missing an arm, you'll know who the real Beowulf is. While the quality of the illustrations varied, the plot never failed to grip young imaginations. But the text epitomized the word prose. How could word choice make such a thrilling story sound so dull and lifeless?

When GL goes to the library, he always brings back an assortment of comics. There's not a comic old, new, funny, witty, political, violent, beautiful, bizarre, realistic, or surrealistic that he doesn't take an interest in. He's always the first to spot a new comic book. So it was no surprise when he brought this home. While bound in hardcover, the pen and ink illustrations, finished in watercolor, have all the expressive action of the best comics and graphic novels. Beowulf and his companions are plain, strong men, but mystery and danger lurk around every sinuous curve and dark corner. The action is underscored by an authentic landscape with details reminiscent of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings sets. (Where do you think Tolkien got his inspiration?)

But my attention was caught when I glanced at the back cover and read:
"Award-winning author and illustrator James Rumford forges his own account of the tale of Beowulf using only Anglo-Saxon words still present in our language. These iron-strong words recall the boldness of the original poem and echo the sounds of the ancient language for today's readers."

I was aware of the power of Anglo-Saxon words. They are our simple, direct, unpretentious words. I call them truck driver words. Not only because many of them have four letters, (yes, many of those words are Anglo-Saxon) but because truck drivers don't have time to hint, nuance, or beat around the bush. They rarely use euphemisms. They say what they mean and get on with the job. Anglo-Saxon was not spoken by people who gave long speeches or sat around gossiping, IMing, texting, or Twittering, but by people who spent a good deal of time out of doors, struggling for survival. A man's word was not only all he had, it was who he was. Every syllable was packed with meaning.

Could those words help fill the gap between an unknown tongue and a dry translation? I quickly read the book. While not verse, (which would have sounded contrived) the prose had a natural, even cadence that seemed innate to the simple, cogent words. Beowulf was meant to be performed; the Anglo-Saxon words beg to be read aloud, and with gusto. I read it again, aloud, to the boys, now whispering, now thundering. It was even better. The boys were enthralled. Another day we read it again, and again they crowded close to see the pictures, eyes shining.

James Rumford is right. The ancient words make the night darker, the shadows deeper, and, perhaps, your heart bolder. Ages: Strong-hearted and up.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

We are alive

We have been very busy the past two months. Tax refund time (early February for us) is a time filled with budgets, school book order forms, therapy catalogs and much chaos. Finally it is all over, the books have been purchased, the lesson plans created, revised, much discussed and revised again. Now we have a clear plan of where we want to go this year at least in the areas of school and therapies. If only the rest of life were in some kind of order. Well one day at a time. We should start posting in a more regular fashion any time now. As soon as we fully recover from the colds we all caught during our planning period. Also pray for my work place. A group home for the mentally handicapped, it is currently overrun with the flu (the stomach kind). Please pray that all will recover quickly, I will not get it, and I will not bring it home to my family.