Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Flat Stanley Has Come For A Visit

What can this be?  Is this Alex's handwriting? My heart skips a beat!

Something is all wrapped up. 

It's comes with a letter, written by Alex, telling us about a boy in a book named Stanley.  One day a bulletin board fell on him, smashing him flat.  While chagrined, his parents soon discovered they could mail him to see an old friend, which was the beginning of many adventures.

So now Flat Stanley has come to our house to be shown around our town, and maybe taken on a tiny adventure. . . (to be continued).

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mindfulness at the Dinner Table

I ignored a recent article at the New York Times, Mindful Eating at Food for Thought, mindful of my 20-article limit per month.  But when it crept to the top of the Most Read list, and stayed there, I decided it was time to read it.  I should memorize it.

The lead quote from the article's author, Jeff Gordinier encourages us to put "a forkful of food in your mouth," and in order to pay attention to it, we must do "the hard part" of putting "the fork down. This could be a lot more challenging than you imagine, because that first bite was very good and another immediately beckons. You’re hungry."

He goes on to say that "Today’s experiment in eating, however, involves becoming aware of that reflexive urge to plow through your meal like Cookie Monster on a shortbread bender. Resist it. Leave the fork on the table. Chew slowly. Stop talking. Tune in to the texture of the pasta, the flavor of the cheese, the bright color of the sauce in the bowl, the aroma of the rising steam.Continue this way throughout the course of a meal, and you’ll experience the third-eye-opening pleasures and frustrations of a practice known as mindful eating."

I once took a "food" class where the moderator attempted to retrain us on our eating habits.  This was ages and ages ago, and it was in conjunction with yet another approach to losing weight.  I think I've been on just about every diet in the world--well, at least many of them.  Part of this was a desire to lose the weight after a baby and part of it was defense due to unrelenting criticism on how I looked from the person I was married to at that time.  The experiences I had during that time marked me, and perhaps skewed my vision of, and my response to, shedding weight.  Not only have I been on countless diets and eating plans, but I have also read countless articles on eating, obesity, weight gain, weight loss.

But this article doesn't mention weight loss as the goal, anywhere, but only how to enjoy our food--the textures, tastes, the temperature, the fragrance--all of it.  After years of trying to get through a plate of food--quickly, before the baby did, or the teenager had to be driven somewhere--this advocates a thoughtful approach to eating.  Like what we did in one lovely restaurant in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as we dissected the brilliantly designed salad, bite by bite, flavor by flavor.  We photographed and documented it, and I wrote down the list of ingredients in my travel notebook. (Don't worry, the restaurant was nearly empty--we were early birds.)  We were eating mindfully.  From my travel blog, I wrote:

The “Mayhem” salad was a work of art, which we planned to share, bit by savory bit.  We wrote down what was in it as we went:
thin slice of turnip
wedges of radish, roasted zucchini, roasted yellow squash
“quickled” beet–a beet pickled quickly, in other words
pea pod
puree of butternut squash
smear of balsamiced honey
shiitake mushroom jelly (that was a new on on us–kind of like clear little lumps)
quickled fiddlehead
quickled cucumber (English-type, julienned)
confit of quickled onion
poached whole shallot
plump dried cranberries, softened
All on a little tiny plate.

We still talk about that salad.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Friday, February 03, 2012

How to Deal with a Noisy Person

In our class, we are learning how to write paragraphs in the basic forms of English rhetoric.  One such for is "process," where they write a paragraph giving directions on how to do something or other, and I gave them a list of prompts.  I have learned in the past that some of my prompts, first developed over six years ago, are dated and need tweaking, like asking the students to "balance a checkbook."  Do young adults do this anymore?

One of the prompts is writing a paragraph on "dealing with a nosy person" and underneath I'd clarified by adding "someone who wants to know too much."  I have a student who arrived here from Taiwan two years ago and as you might suspect, is overwhelmed by our language.  And idioms.  So he translated this to How to Deal with a Noisy Person, which given our day and age of blasting stereos and excess noise is probably a good thing to write about.

Some of his advice is filtered through the vagaries of strange verbs and phrasing: ". . . it is three ways to deal with a noisy person instead of leave them alone.  First of all, to be patience for a person who began to make noisy, also hold on our temperament which could easily be effect by the person." Actually, this is great advice.

Some of the paragraph is filtered by his heavy use of a dictionary, such as "It is important when we try to calm down an over activity person has a dispassionately mood, or it is simple to lead to other worse consequence."  He suggests treating them politely, with respect which "will allow the person know we are not his or her opponent, but trying to express the person that it have better method to vent emotion."  He follows this by suggesting that we "leave he or she alone quietly and stay in good temperament in rest of day."

He wraps up the paragraph by saying "nobody in the world wants to deal with a noisy person; however, it could happen every moment in our life.  Consequently, we have to have positive attitude to deal with the person and hope the person could change his personality in his or her certain time of life."

I love this student, in a teachery sort of way.  In one simple paragraph, I learned about respectful ways to deal with a noisy person.  I remember traveling in Shanghai and hearing the phrase "hot and noisy" which a guide was using to describe their soup, but I thought it also described that Chinese city I was visiting, with its motorscooters, old cars, people everywhere with loud conversation in that sometimes sharp-edged sound of Asian language.  I also remember the "wall" of politeness that allowed people to live in tightly packed surroundings.  Maybe "nosy" people aren't a problem in the society he came from, whereas "noisy" certainly could have an impact if your neighbor next door is playing their music too loud.  How to live with noise?

And with the advent of our social networks, with Facebook, emails, blogs and the internet, have we lost the concept of a "nosy" person?  Listening in on phone lines and reading letters worked in days gone past; now we freely share all our news right out there in public.

As you can see, he's earnest, sincere and unfailingly polite.  This is his second time through this class, and I can see it's his language that is the barrier.  But I give him kudos for trying to get through not only the foreignness of being far away from his family (he lives with an relative) in a strange place with strange customs, but also the hidden traps of idioms in our language.