Welcome to Our Little Blog

So glad you stopped in.

Feel free to look around. Please excuse the dust in the corners, it’s been awhile since we’ve cleaned over there.

Oh, and you probably saw the sidebar hasn’t been updated in… um… well, let’s not go into that right now.

The thing is, we deeply appreciate your visit here today because we know there are bigger, mightier blogs you could be reading instead. And if there’s anything we pride ourselves on at Feeding on Folly, it’s appreciation for our readers.

Also, we’re big believers in Blog Awareness.

Blog Awareness is a lot like Self Awareness, only it applies to Blogs rather than Self. (Not sure if you caught that?)

You see, we here at FoF (that’s Feeding on Folly for the acronym-challenged among you) strive to know the Who, What, Where and Why of our internet presence.

For instance:

  • Who: CJ Hartwell & her various alter egos
  • What: A humor site with occasional recipes and questionable comma usage
  • Where: WordPress under the domain name feedingonfolly.com
  • Why: The world needs a respite from those who take everything so damn seriously. Also cookies. The world needs more cookies.

Happy with our Sense of Blog, much like one has a Sense of Self (hope this isn’t proving too difficult for you), we were satisfied with our place and forged ahead. Never looking back.

Though now we have reason to fear we grew complacent. For it’s come to our attention that while we were jotting down observations, posting our cutesy illustrations, passing off texts as worthy stories, far bigger and more important blogs were rising up.

Casting an ever-growing shadow over the FoF entity.

FoF gal overshadowed

And how do we know this?

It came about like so: Back at our last place of employment (before we left Phoenix to become a Minnesotan, dontcha know), an email was sent out to all school staff by a dear friend, giving the Feeding on Folly link. Making dear friend dearer still.

In no time at all, the comments rolled in:

“I didn’t know you had a little blog!”
“I heard about your little blog!”
“I love your little blog!”

So you see? What we have here is One. Little. Blog.

There’s just no getting around it, friends. Here was a group of well-educated professionals who visited our blog and found it short.

Now it’s true we’ve not been blogging for a lengthy amount of time. A mere three years. Barely a blip in internet years.

But in that time, we at Feeding on Folly have worked hard – well, maybe not hard, but off and on, when the mood was right and we had an ample supply of Pepperidge Farm Dark Chocolate Milanos – to develop this space into the smattering of articles, recipes, and scribblings you see before you.

In truth, we’re rather proud of what we’ve accomplished here, and the cookie crumbs under the cushions speak to that.

So these comments reducing FoF to Lilliputian status were troubling. Where did we go wrong?

Is it the lack of ads?

Two years ago we paid big bucks ($15) to make this space ad-free. Was that a mistake?

Hey, if it’s what we need to be taken seriously…

Pickle ad

Then again, I follow a few pros and they don’t have ads.

For reference, see Chuck Wendig, Mark Manson, Leo Babauta

It’s true, they have other things they sell. Books. Classes. Seminars. Workshops. Speaking Engagements.

Hey, you can hire us to speak at your next Rotary Club Meeting!

Oh man, that’s the ticket! Anyone who speaks at a Rotary Club Meeting has just gotta be taken seriously!

FoF gal

What’s that you say? You don’t belong to Rotary?

Well, screw that then.

So here’s the thing: what’s Chuck, Mark and Leo got, that FoF doesn’t got? (Besides better grammar.)

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Bingo! FoF doesn’t have something dangling between her legs!

And that, my friends, is what makes her little. FoF gal mad as hell

Now before you slam your laptop shut and accuse us of getting all feminist on you, think about it. In all honesty, can you imagine the following being said to a male blogger:

“That’s so cute you have a little blog!”

No. Of course not.

But here’s another thing to consider: Everyone who referred to this blog as little, or told us it was cute, was a woman.

Yes, you read that right. A woman.

Every. Damn. Time.

Really, we shouldn’t be surprised. Women are so used to having their efforts diminished, we don’t realize when we’re doing it to each other.

(Ah dang, I just heard 20 more laptops slam shut.)

Okay, before we lose anyone else, let’s consider one more thing. How many times do we — male and female — talk about our creative work in a diminishing way?

“I do a little painting now and then.”
“Yeah, I enjoy writing, but it’s not like I’m published or anything.”
“I love taking pictures, but really it’s just a hobby.”

Listen, if we feel more alive when we are creating, if these activities are what gives us pleasure and seem more real to us than any stinkin’ job, can that be called little?

What’s more, how can we expect others to respect our work – to see how important it is to us – if we don’t treat it as such?

From now on, let’s present our work with the same joy it gives us in creating it. Let’s make no qualifications for it whatsoever. 

And when someone says it’s cute? Or when they call it little?

Little? Little?!

You must be mistaken.

Baby, this is BIG!

cropped-feedingonfolly1.png

A Letter From Nanna

My dad’s mother — my grandmother and namesake — was the youngest girl of 11 children, six boys and five girls altogether. The oldest was Clara, whom we heard from in a prior post

IMG_20180424_201733414

In the course of packing for our move to Minnesota, my progress is being continuously sidetracked by finding old photos, notes of family history, even a few letters.

Case in point: I found a little letter written by my grandmother when she was 12 years old, addressed to her sister Clara.

And when I say it was a little letter, I mean little:

Nanna's letter
The pen should give you an idea of the letter’s size

I was in college when my dad received the letter from a cousin. I remember him showing it to me and how delighted we were by the size of it. The envelope is 3” by 4” and the letter itself is folded like a little book.

What I didn’t remember was that my parents made a replica of it for me, going so far as to create a makeshift envelope so I had the complete package.

I must be the luckiest blogger in the world.

Before I reprint the letter here, I should explain something. As has been stated before, my dad’s family was not one for nicknames but they made an exception in my grandmother’s case. Since her name was so long — Christianna — as a young child she had a hard time saying it. The best she could manage was “Nanna.”

The name stuck. Even as a young girl, she was called Nanna.

Clara and Grandmother
Clara & Nanna

Personally I’ve always been charmed by the fact that my grandmother’s name was literally Nanna. 

Postmarked: Nordness Iowa, May 4, 1897

Miss Clara Jacobson
Hills, Rock Co. Minnesota

Dear sister:

I will ans. your very welcome letter, received it yesterday eve when I had gone to bed. Momma has a cold, the others all well. Ragnvald is over to Bakken to help Signe Abraham and she has not done her house cleaning yet.

How do you like to teach school when it is so many, 34 in all wasn’t it?

It is getting very nice down here now. We have Pentecost lilies that bloom and bleeding hearts will soon be out & pansies out and many buds on the peonies. Momma said I should thank you ever so much for those nasturtium seeds. I’ve been going to school today. Helga is playing now.

The church was just full at Mary’s funeral. The boys came up. Christian, Isaac and David, they came up on bicycles Saturday. Isaac and David stayed till Sunday but Chr. went down again.

We laid 5 hens on the hen house, one was dead on her nest and the others ate up their eggs.

How do you like to stay with Mrs. Sarah Jacobson? I suppose she has it nice.

Martha Brown fell out of the buggy Sunday when they came home from church and the wheel went over her. Nettie Hovey said she did not get killed but I have not heard any since that.

I must close now. Please ans. soon.

Your sister,
Nanna

Excuse scribbling and bad spelling, writing and everything. I hope you can make it out. – Nanna

Just a couple thoughts:

  1. How hard it is to write out ‘answer’? That’s twice she abbreviated it to ‘ans.’ (No offense Nanna, but really. It’s just three stinkin’ letters)
  2. Is it just me, or do you get a sense Nanna was disappointed Martha Brown survived? I mean, outside of the peonies the letter was a bit dark, don’t you think?
  3. Did you notice where the letter was sent? Clara was living in Minnesota! Where I’ll be living in just one month’s time!

I looked it up. Hills, Minnesota is in the southwestern-most corner of the State, very close to both South Dakota and Iowa borders.  According to Google maps, it’s just a little over four hours from where I’ll be.

Hills to Randall

I was aware that our move would put me closer to family in South Dakota and Wisconsin. I hadn’t considered how much closer it would put me to my past.

Of these 11 offspring of Jacob Abrahamson (Nanna and her siblings), eight of them wound up in Minnesota. I know this because my family kept ridiculously good records.

When my move is complete and the dust has settled, when I find my “new normal,” I plan on sharing a few thoughts regarding the bios I have on these 11 offspring. They are interesting not only for what they say, but for what they omit. Particularly with regards to Nanna.

In the meantime, hang loose my friends. Only don’t fall out of the buggy.

Three Word Challenge in Text: My Thematic Response Using Untoward Reasoning

A few weeks ago, a certain blogger by the name of Brian of Bonnywood issued a challenge. He’d give me three words, and I’d write a story with said words.

Seemed easy at the time. Then I saw the words: Thematic, Untoward, and Reasoning.

I’m sure you’re as shocked as I am. I mean, I don’t know what I did to the guy, but clearly he had it in for me.

What’s more — now get this — he added, “And I challenge you even further by suggesting that a recipe and/or Norwegian kinfolk be involved in some way… ”

Honestly!

I decided I needed to have a chat with the guy. I sent him a text:

Brian 1

Brian 2

Brian 2 and a half

Brian 3Brian 4

Two hours later…

Brian 5Brian 6Brian 7Brian 8Brian 9

You can read about Brian’s challenge here.

(Hint: he’ll accept your response in text.)

Ratatouille in 5 Minutes, With Help From Trader Joe’s and No Help From My Cat

Plus, a brief history on the founding of Feeding on Folly…

Recently we dined at Macaroni Grill. I won’t say it’s my favorite Italian restaurant, but their complimentary herb bread is lovely and they know how to grill salmon right.

bread

However this time, not being in a salmon frame of mind, I ordered their Ratatouille instead. Have you tried it? They serve it over grilled polenta, which I find inspired. (I don’t get out much.)

Anyway, the other day at Trader Joe’s, I saw they have polenta and *angels singing* I was inspired! For less than $10, I had all the ingredients needed to make a copycat recipe of Macaroni Grill’s Ratatouille.

And given how I hadn’t shared a recipe with you all in… let’s see… going on a year now? Unsure. It’s been awhile, I know that.

Funny how it used to be such a regular feature of this here blog, and now it’s but a distant memory.

Anyway, I gathered together the ingredients and prepared for the picture. Merricat rushed over to help.

Merricat 1

I swear this cat knows when I’m holding a camera.

Merricat 2

So the main ingredient to look for, the one that makes this recipe so darn easy peasy, is in Trader Joe’s frozen food section. It’s called Misto Alla Griglia, and it contains grilled eggplant, zucchini, and red peppers.

Now of course you could buy fresh eggplant, zucchini and red peppers, or pick them from your garden should you be so lucky, but that would add on extra minutes and then this wouldn’t be 5-minute Ratatouille, would it?

Oh, Merricat walked behind the ingredients! Quick, take a picture!!!

Merricat 3

So now you see what the Misto Alla Griglia looks like. Also, you’ll need their polenta which you slice in thick rounds, and a can of their Organic Tomatoes “diced in tomato sauce”. I already had the fresh basil, onion, garlic, and jar of capers. (You can skip the capers if you don’t like them; I think they add a nice peppery taste.)

Back when I was regularly sharing recipes on this blog, I learned how to write some code so the recipe would appear in a nice little box with its own print button. But I don’t remember the code and I’m too lazy to look it up, so you’re out of luck. Sorry.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: the reason I added recipes when I first started blogging had nothing to do with the name “Feeding on Folly” and everything to do with my insecurities as a writer. I believed that if I didn’t offer something helpful – such as recipes – no one would stick around and read my little stories.

Okay, so you’ll want to let the Misto Alla Griglia thaw a little. The veggies are in large pieces, but they’re easy to chop once they’re partially thawed. While they thaw, chop half the onion and mince three to four garlic cloves. Saute in olive oil until softened.

Merricat monitored the thawing for me.

Merricat 4Once the onion and garlic are softened, add the can of tomatoes, the chopped Misto Alla Griglia, and two tablespoons capers. Add some Italian seasoning — maybe a couple teaspoons? — and salt to taste. Keep over medium heat until hot, a few minutes or so. As it cooks, fry or grill the slices of polenta.

I bet you’re wondering how I came up with Feeding on Folly for my blog name, am I right? Glad you asked.

About the time I was puzzling and puzzling until my puzzler was sore over what to name my blog, I was reading a collection of James Thurber’s essays called Lanterns & Lances. In the forward, he explained his main purpose in writing:

“Much of what follows, therefore, is my own attempt, in my own little corner of the struggle, to throw a few lantern beams here and there. But I also cast a few lances at the people and the ideas that have disturbed me, and I make no apologies for their seriousness.”

I rather liked that. You might say I was inspired. And I was particularly fond of the alliteration with Lanterns & Lances.

Alliteration is something that tantalizes my thoughts and sustains my soul.

I set out to find my own and spent an inordinate amount of time doing so. Eventually, in a moment of happy luck, I landed on Feeding on Folly. Nervously, I did a quick internet search to see if it was taken. It wasn’t, but I found this:

The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly. — Proverbs 15:14 NIV

So there you go. Bible approved.

Also, cat approved.

Merricat 6

To serve (the Ratatouille, not the cat), put two fried slices of polenta on a plate, spoon the ratatouille over them, top with fresh basil and shredded Parmesan if desired and serve with garlic toast.

Ratatouille

To recap, I may from time to time, as the mood strikes me, continue to share recipes with you. But as dropping their weekly inclusion hasn’t seemed to adversely affect my readership, and no angry mob has appeared at the Feeding on Folly doorstep, we’ll just let that ship sail.

As for dear Thurber, I don’t know how many lantern beams I’ve thrown and I’m terrible at casting lances, but the folly I’ve witnessed has fed this blog well. Thank you for the inspiration, good sir.

For the record, this Sunday — April 1st — marks my 3rd year blogging.
So there, person who told me I couldn’t do it!

Oh, wait… that was me. 😜

To My Recent Outlook.com Subscriber, Alex: Your Comments Have Been Noted

For those of us residing in WordPress Land, an exciting new development has been afoot. That being, the sudden increase in email followers subscribing to our sites, all using highly suspicious Outlook.com addresses. Addresses such as slfhowtylaley@outlook.com, or, whyisitsodifficulttowriteacoherentemail@outlook, etc.

The discussion on said topic has been riveting.

Full disclosure: I myself was pleased when I first received the email notifications and found nothing to be concerned about. I figured I’d finally found my tribe and was proving quite popular among Microsoft users who choose highly complicated email addresses.

It’s a narrow audience to be sure, but an audience nonetheless.

Then Ray over at Mitigating Chaos wrote about his outlook followers and I thought, alas, they’re not that into me.

Back of woman with head down

But then… but then folks, one of these mysterious Outlookers took the time to comment on my last post, the one on money. Not once, not twice, but THREE times!

Here’s the first comment my new friend Alex felt compelled to share:

I am now not certain where you are getting your info, but great topic. I must spend a while finding out much more or figuring out more. Thanks for great information I used to be in search of this information for my mission.

You’ll see that he opened with a bit of constructive criticism, pointing out that the source of my info was not clear. I found this odd as my very first sentence begins: “I was at Costco…” so, you know, Costco. But then I realized I didn’t give the address of Costco.

So there you go. Helpful.

Also, did you notice how Alex has a mission? I ask you, how many of you have a mission? Hmm?

I have to confess I did not respond to Alex’s comment in a timely manner, beings how the email was labeled “Please moderate” and it was the weekend. (The Feeding on Folly Comment Moderation Committee meets on Tuesdays.)

Did this stop Alex from commenting again? No! Using a different (though just as baffling) email address, three hours later, unable to contain himself, Alex wrote:

Wow, amazing blog structure! How lengthy have you been blogging for? you made blogging glance easy. The whole glance of your site is magnificent, let alone the content material!

My heart soared. His admiration for my blog, yea, the very glance of my blog, cannot be denied.

That’s when it occurred to me. This is what I’ve been lacking!

Tell me, faithful readers, those of you who have been following this blog and reading my posts and commenting here and there and — dare I say it? — beginning to take Feeding on Folly for granted? Tell me this: When have you ever commented on my structure? Or ever once thought to ask how lengthy I’ve been blogging for?

Honestly. I’m beginning to wonder if you care.

And as I mused on your neglectful ways, Alex commented again! From yet another Outlook email!

You actually make it appear so easy with your presentation however I find this matter to be actually something that I feel I might never understand. It sort of feels too complex and extremely vast for me. I’m having a look forward for your subsequent post, I will attempt to get the grasp of it!

Oh dear! Alex is confused! My post on money was too complex and he’s expecting me to write more on the subject. Poor Alex!

To rectify this situation, until the Moderation Committee convenes (last I heard Francine wasn’t sure she’d make it and she was in charge of bringing the donuts), I decided to showcase Alex’s comments and address him directly.

ALEX: What follows is a simplified explanation of my previous post.

Save More, Spend Less

I truly hope that takes care of things for you, my dearest Alex.

But what’s this?! Another comment has landed in our moderation queue, this time from Yvette:

I simply couldn’t go away your web site before suggesting that I extremely enjoyed the usual info a person supply on your visitors? Is going to be again steadily in order to inspect new posts

Oh… um… gosh. I see you’ve got a question in there, Yvette. I’d like to help you out, but I’ll need some time to figure out what it is you’re… um… asking?

Tell you what. As soon as I’m done here, I’ll start diagramming your sentences. I should have an answer for you in about a month or so.

As for the rest of you, you know what you need to do. Look over this presentation, comment on my structure, admire the glance of my blog. Show a gal a little support now and then, okay?

Also, write yourself up a mission. You could use one.

*******

FYI to Fellow Bloggers: From one of  our WordPress “Happiness Engineers” regarding these strange followers (taken from the forum linked at the top):

There is no way these spam followers can put your site, your content, or your private account data in any danger. (…) You can remove the spam followers under My Site ->People, but that won’t prevent new follows from coming in. You might also consider temporarily disabling email notifications of new followers in your account settings until we manage to get these blocked. (…) Please don’t email these addresses back – another potential reason for this is that someone is fishing for emails which they can then use to try and spam directly, and emailing them back will only provide them with your personal email address – something they cannot get hold of by merely following your site.

The Blogger’s Annual Performance Review

Blog Title: Feeding on Folly
Blogger: CJ Hartwell
Review Period: January to December, 2017
Reviewer: CJ’s Internal Critic
Note: Beings how this CJ person is currently enjoying some time off work — and sleeping in EVERY morning like the lazy bum she is — I, her Internal Critic, am conducting her Annual Review in her place. (She can thank me later.) 

Blog Description

Hard to say. Is this a humor blog? Food blog? Self-help blog? (Lord knows Self could use some help.)
Describing this blog is like describing the smelly thing you stepped in while walking the dog: Possible, but why go there?

Posts of Note

Your top three posts this past year, both in terms of “clicks” and “likes”, were:

In close running were two other posts: one on Broadway Musicals and one on your Post-NYC Blues. The one unifying thread among all five posts: New York. As in all five mention New York in some fashion. If you had a brain, you’d write about New York more. Or just tag every post New York whether they were about it or not. Or maybe just write it: New York. Give it some thought.

As for my personal favorite, I’d have to say it was the week you missed. Remember that one? You totally forgot what day it was and didn’t publish anything. That was great. You should do that more often.

New York.

Accomplishments

Back in March you created a Facebook page for your blog. Then in late April you went on vacation (New York) and promptly forgot about it. Sometime in September you tried to resuscitate it with about as much enthusiasm as giving mouth-to-mouth to a blowfish. Blowfish

You stretched a bit with your writing with your rambling thoughts on Beauty and a feeble attempt at poetry. Normally stretching is good, but in some cases, e.g., yours, it’s less so.

You added some illustrations to your posts to give them a (*cough*) New Yorker flair. It is painfully obvious, however, that the ones where you bribed Daughter for help (Suicidal Mice) compared to the ones you did yourself (Cursive Schmursive) are vastly different in quality:

The answer? Less drawing, more bribery.

Additional Comments

You are nearing your third full year of blogging when many (okay, it was just me) said you’d never make it three days.

You managed to hoodwink a sizable number of people into following this blog, when everyone (fine, just me again) said you’d be lucky if you got your family to read it.

Maybe I was wrong before, but this time I’m right: give this foolish thing up NOW!  If you continue stretching yourself as a writer and trying new things, you might fail! And you know what’ll happen if you fail? You’ll DIE!

Okay, maybe not actually die, but you know what I mean…

Oh shoot, she’s waking up! I better finish this thing fast. Dang it, now she’s reading something affirming! I hate it when she does that! It only encourages her.

I better hit this publish button fast before she tells me to shut—

Cursive Schmursive: If It’s Legible, Who Cares?

If I were looking for a new job — I’m not, you know, but if I was — there’s a new skill I can add to my resume: Handwriting Translator.

Reason being, throughout the day students approach my desk and show me a yellow slip of paper. They ask in meek tone, one befitting Oliver Twist: “Please, ma’am, I don’t know what this says.”

Well, maybe not that Oliver Twistish. But you get my point.

The yellow slip is our school’s “student request pass”. The student’s name will be there, usually written clearly, we hope written clearly, the rest… well, the rest is a crapshoot. It might be written clearly. It might be like a doctor’s scribbling.

I do my best to decipher the note. Usually it’s from our Attendance department, sometimes the Nurse’s office. Back in my greenhorn days, I used to follow up with a polite email, suggesting the scribbler fill out the passes more carefully or give up cursive altogether. After all, most of our kids don’t read cursive.

I no longer do that. Reason being, it usually triggers a rant:

How come they don’t teach cursive anymore?!

Why in my day…

Everyone is so lazy nowadays!

Cursive handwriting is the hallmark of civilized society!

I usually enjoy seeing people on their high horse. It can be quite entertaining and worthy of a blog post or two. But after the fourth or fifth time around the track, even I grow tired of their raging.

Pity they don’t feel the same.

In any case, I’ve come to realize that people of a certain age, the age being somewhere on the far side of 40, tend to feel strongly about this issue.

Well, at least women do. I’ve not witnessed any men going off the deep end regarding cursive. Maybe they do. I’ve not seen it.

In any case, I’ve noticed the arguments for returning cursive to the curriculum range from the ridiculous:

“You’re more creative when you use cursive writing instead of a keyboard”

(Oh, if only Hemingway, Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, et. al., not insisted on using their typewriters! How much greater their works might have been!)

To the nostalgic:

“Remember those lined workbooks with the letters to trace? I loved those!”

I didn’t. As much as I tried to replicate the letters and follow their lines, my clumsy little hand would not cooperate.

And having to make such BIG letters too. The capitals absolutely insisted on touching both top and bottom lines. Not to be undone, several of the lower case demanded it too.

Cheeky little devils that they were.

Cursive alphabet

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. McCullough, was not a patient woman. She rarely approved of my feeble attempts.

Ms. McCullough and me

It wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the fact several letters are battling identity issues.

The letter A, regretting her cross line and open bottom, caring little she represents my favorite article of apparel (A-line skirt), chucks it all away to look like an abnormal apple:

Cursive A

So too is S, no longer content with his smooth, sloping shape, chooses instead to shroud his silhouette.

Secretive little sneak:

Cursive S

G, ever the garrulous gent, decides he can’t give ground. He follows S’s guide and makes a point of it:

Cursive G

And what are we to make of Q?

It’s shameless, really. Q, in her printed state, is round with a little tail; the cousin of O with a quirky flair.

Yet in script, she opts for something different, a queer and querulous affair:

Cursive Q

Yet none of that comes close to Z, that zany zealot who zigzags his way in print.

For cursive… well, at first he seems to copy Q. He zips onto the page, zeroes in toward the bottom and… what’s this?

He zooms below the line, where he has no business being!

Cursive Z

Breaking all zoning laws!

You know what I think? I think Q and Z got together and hatched this devious plot!

“Why won’t they use us more in their writing?” Q queried. “I say we make them quiver and quake, every time they pick up their quill!”

“Zounds, Q, that’s zelicious!” And with that, Z zapped and zipped his shape in a most zesty fashion.

Q looked at him quizzically, but remained quiet.

For most of my early schooling, I disliked my handwriting. No, more than disliked. I actively despised my cursive skills. No matter how I tried, Mrs. McCullough’s elegant swoops and flourishes would never be mine.

Then sometime in high school, I was looking through old records and came across Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years.”

Ignoring the cheesy mustache, I latched onto the words at the top.

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 2.38.09 PM

Look at those S’s folks! Sure, Z still gets down and dirty, but capital S remains true to form!

Only then did it occur to me how adults (as they do in so many things) throw out the rules and do what they want. I decided right then and there, Mrs. McCullough be damned, I’d write how I wanted.

Which is how I finally embraced my own version of handwriting (more like smushed together printing) and never looked back.

 

WP_20171106_20_23_04_Pro

All this is a long way of saying, I don’t think it’s a big deal students aren’t being taught cursive. Maybe you disagree with me. If you’re anything like the women I work with, I know you do.

I still say it’s not a big deal. If our youth want to learn cursive, they’ll figure it out just like my kids did. On their own, with no Mrs. McCullough breathing down their neck. There’s no age limit to acquiring it, and there are plenty of sites offering free lessons.

And of course, they can always make up their own rules.

As for the argument that it teaches them fine motor skills and helps brain development, art lessons and playing a musical instrument do that too. And I’d argue do a much better job of it.

Now as for students not being taught how to properly diagram a sentence?

My God people! When will the madness end?!

Diagram

Words from a Noble Woman – Thoughts on Home and Hearth

As I present these meditations from our mysterious M.A., first talked about here, I find myself in a bit of a quandary. There are times she seems to contradict herself.

For instance, in the passages below, you’ll see how she first tells herself to not take her home too seriously, then in the second she says never neglect it. How do we reconcile these thoughts?

I think it’s important we realize that by all appearances, they are her private reflections. It’s natural that her thoughts drift from one idea to the next, first believing one thing, then another. It is, after all, how we grow as thinking individuals. Always open to new ideas. (Would that all people were this flexible, eh?)

Also, I can’t help but notice M.A.’s fondness for the semicolon. I counted up to four uses in one page alone! To own the truth, I grew faint. Did she use them correctly? Hell if I know, and I’ve been to college. (Perhaps, at least in this, Kurt Vonnegut was mistaken.)

But enough with our rambling preamble. Let us begin. Here are two more of M.A.’s entries (plus a recipe!) that I managed to decipher from her atrocious handwriting:

Continue reading “Words from a Noble Woman – Thoughts on Home and Hearth”

On Philosophy, Pronouns, and Stoic Women

Last week in an article in the New York Times, columnist Laura Collins Hughes referred to a recent performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

No, not that performance. The one Hughes spoke of was at an all-girls high school. Not only were all the roles played by girls, the word “man” was changed to “girl” throughout the script.

Hughes wrote:

“Thou art the ruins of the noblest girl that ever lived in the tide of times,” Mark Antony said over the dead body of Caesar, and I thought: When do we ever describe girls as noble? When, in the stories we tell, do we ever take them that seriously?

–from “When Women Won’t Accept Theatrical Manspreading
by Laura Collins-Hughes, the New York Times, July 17, 2017

To which I say, “Right?!”

It started me thinking – or rather, it returned me to thinking, as it’s not my first time – how powerful language can be, especially the words we choose to describe ourselves.

I’ve been doing some reading into Stoicism (because I’m weird like that), partly because it reminds me of my dad. He was a calm, quiet Norwegian. A perfect fit for Stoicism.

But also… well, have you ever read something and thought to yourself, “Yes! This, right here! This is meeee!” (Squealed in a most stoic fashion, I assure you.)

You find out you’re not a weirdo after all. Someone — okay, someone in ancient times, but still, it’s someone — thinks the way you do. Only smarter and with a better vocabulary.

Stoicism is like that for me. But there’s one little problem: it’s a wee bit masculine. Oh hell, it’s all the way masculine. I mean, they were all men.

(Okay, fine. I realize there were some female Stoics, but we know very little about them, and they don’t appear to have written anything. Not so much as a grocery list.)

So after hearing of the plucky girls doing Shakespeare, I started changing the language of what I was reading.

For instance:

The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity.
― Seneca

becomes:

The bravest sight in the world is to see a great woman struggling against adversity.  ― Seneca, feminized

Granted, it’s a small change. Just one word. But that one word not only makes it more relevant to me, it’s done something more.

It got me to thinking: Maybe there are other women, maybe lots of women, who would like these Stoic thoughts too.

To tell the truth, I never felt I had much in common with other women. It wasn’t a gender issue, but more a mental one. I wasn’t as interested in the things they were (or what I thought they were – shopping, makeup, diets, fashion), which may explain why I always had more male friends than female.

But what if that was based on misplaced thinking?

Women are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them. — Epictetus, feminized

Consider the basic Stoic principles of humility, self-control, equality, justice — are those strictly masculine ideals? Of course not. Do all women practice them? No, but then neither do all men. That’s why we call them ideals. (Also, did you notice how christian they sound? Again, ideally speaking.)

Okay, so what’s the big deal, you say. Just read “man” as humankind. If these ideas aren’t exclusively male, then neither should they be exclusively female.

To which I say, Geez fella, lighten up! After several centuries of language going your way, you can’t give us a few quotes of our own?

Because just as it is for an all-girl Julius Caesar, changing the pronouns makes the quotes more meaningful to the average female.

She who lives in harmony with herself lives in harmony with the universe.
— Marcus Aurelius, feminized

A nice concept, isn’t it? A woman living in harmony with herself?

Imagine if young women were hearing messages like that, rather than “Jeans that Make Your Butt Look Great!” (from Seventeen)

Of course, I realize we’re not in the habit of quoting philosophy to our kids, either to our daughters or our sons. That’s not my point.

(Though if you do quote philosophy to your kids, I want you to know how much I love you.)

My point is… well, I’m not sure what my point is. Let’s say it’s my wish. I wish we had a Stoic equivalent for women. Because Stoicism is far more than tweetable quotes, it’s a way of life.

I wish there had been a female Marcus Aurelius who wrote down all her thoughts on how to live a good and honorable life. Maybe Marcus had a second cousin, twice removed.

Let’s call her Marcia. Marcia Aurelius.

But what’s the use of wishing? (Wishing is not a Stoic-approved practice.) Maybe we don’t have ancient philosophies to bolster us up. That doesn’t mean we can’t make use of them, or alter them if need be.

Or — hey, how ’bout this? — what if we wrote our own Meditations?

One day, someone will find a wise woman’s diary — your diary — filled with ideas, admonitions, private reflections; Empowering words on how to be a good, noble woman.

I really wish we had something like that. Tell ya what – I’ll work on mine if you work on yours.

Deal?

Waste no more time arguing about what a good woman should be. Be one. — Marcus Aurelius, feminized