On Giants' Shoulders

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Struggling with HTML

Being nothing like a techie, I've been sitting on my daughter's shoulders a lot this week as I try to put stuff on my blog. Posts I can do, but links are a challenge. If anyone logged in this morning they would have found very strange stuff on the links list as I struggled to make html work for me. I ranted at the mouse, copied, pasted, saved, published, viewed, shrieked with dismay and went back and tried again. The one thing I did not do was wake up Sleeping Beauty, otherwise known as the HTML Sleuth, to help me. I finally achieved some degree of success and I'm as proud of myself as a newly walking toddler.

Learning a new thing is good for us, at any age. I'm fairly certain I'll never achieve my daughter's level of competency (after all she did take a college course in this stuff) but if I can toddle around I'll be satisfied, I think... I just wish I could do this in straightforward English as in "Computer take the url from Bonny Glen and put it at the bottom of my links list." Instead I have to struggle with < and> and / and commands I don't understand. Whine, whine, whine! It reminds me of math in public school, "why can't they make this so normal people (as in verbally gifted, mathematically challenged) can understand it?" What I have to accept is that for the computer, just as for my math instructor this is straightforward, and the fact that I don't find it that way is not the computer's fault. I did figure out in grad school that the fact that I didn't understand math better, however, was in part my instructor's fault because a better instructor made me a much better math student.

So for all of you out there struggling with a new thing, keep plugging away at it. You may never become a mathematician, or a computer expert, but minimal competency is within your grasp. Toddle on!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sometimes Our Children Are the Giants

One of the things you find as your children get older is that they become more competent than you in some areas. My mother-in-law once told me she realized my husband was growing up when she had a flat tire and he changed it for her. My children have certainly learned computer skills at a rate that astonishes me.

My daughter helped me set up my blog, but then she left for a couple of days. Today she came back and helped me put links on the site. One of the links is to her own Xanga site. So if you'd like to meet the rest of the family, so to speak, you can travel there, or to my niece Amanda's Xanga site. Abby's site has links to her webpage where there are some neat pictures (of sheep, horses, people, etc). It also has copies of some of Abby's poetry (in case there's a poetry loving editor out there).

Anyway thanks to my daughter, the giant, for her help. I'm certain to need it over and over again. By the way if you do look at the pictures you'll see that calling my daughter a giant is metaphorical only. While she's now taller than me, she's very normal sized.

Even Giants Don't Get Always Get It Right The First Time

One of my all time favorite giants is C.S. Lewis. I discovered the Narnia Chronicles when I was in my early twenties and visiting a friend at Gordon-Conwell Seminary. She had just purchased the set. I spent incredible chunks of that weekend reading Narnia while she did homework. Before the weekend was over I went and bought a set for myself. I've read and re-read the books both to myself and to my children. I've worn out at least copies of two of the books. I've always loved them.

This week I've been reading Walter Hooper's book Past Watchful Dragons. It's a little book, but has great insight into Lewis's composition process. One of the things that Hooper has in the book is the text of a discarded beginning for what was ultimately The Magician's Nephew. It was fascinating, and would have made an interesting book all on its own, but it bore very little resemblence to the final version of the story. Digory and Polly are there, but no Uncle Andrew and Mrs. Lefay looks like she's going to turn out to be a good godmother, not a wicked one.

So often we've heard that Lewis dashed off the books in a hurry. We've heard loads about his marvelous pictorial imagination. It makes those of us who struggle with a story think that perhaps we just don't have what it takes. It's really encouraging to know that even a wonderful story teller like C.S. Lewis could start off down the wrong story tunnel, then back up and begin again.

Past Watchful Dragons is a great book if you are interested in Lewis and his writing. It's not a book for kids, but if you're an English geek as my daughter and I are you might well enjoy it. I'm not certain the book is still in print since I got it out of the University of Vermont library, but I'm sure you could get it through interlibrary loan.

The comments on the inside cover say it all. The Narnian Chronicles of C.S. Lewis : How They Came to be Written, How They Can Best Be Enjoyed, How They May Be Interpreted.

Hooper is very clear that the best way to share them with your children is to just read them to them, not to try to explain all the allegorical content.

Anyway, it was an encouragement to me to see that this giant of a man had to do more than just dash off a story.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Head Banging

You would think that after raising sheep for over twenty years there would be very little they could do that surprises us. This morning, however, one of our rams left my husband shaking his head in bemusement. David had taken the water bucket out of the pen and dumped out the cake of ice that the water had become over night. While he was refilling the bucket the ram began charging the bucket shaped piece of ice and butting it all over the pen. David said it was painful just to watch because banging that piece of ice had to hurt.

Now I'll grant you that sheep have hard heads. They do, supposedly anyway, have brains behind that hard skull plate and you would think that the banging would have hurt just a little bit. Apparently it didn't hurt hard enough for the ram to think it worth stopping. We've seen rams take on each other in that fashion but always figured that it was a dominance thing and that neither one wanted to be the first to give in. That chunk of ice was not fighting back, why on earth would the ram keep butting it? Who knows. I just wonder if sometimes God looks at us with the same sort of bemusement when we continue down a foolish path.

As my husband often says, "When God compares us to sheep in scripture it really isn't a compliment."

Oh, by the way, the ram finally stopped, once his food appeared. Apparently food is more important than head banging.

Friday, January 27, 2006

On Giants Shoulders

In everyone's life there are people who are the giants whose shoulders we stand on. They are the people who showed us how to do things, who dared to be the Daniel Boone who started down a particular path that we have taken further. Some of them are people we actually know like our parents, grandparents, pastors, teachers, friends. Some of them are the authors of books whom while we've never met them in person have become integral to who we are.

I'd like to start my list of giants with my Grammy Lyon. She was the one who taught me how to knead bread. Grammy never made anything, but white bread or graham bread. She never made challah, or Italian bread, or French bread she never did a spinach wreath or made pretzels. She only made ordinary white bread, once in awhile graham bread, and for holidays pan rolls. However, all those fancy kinds of bread I make need to be kneaded and I learned to knead in Grammy's pantry. Everytime I knead bread I remember the smell of the pantry and the sound that Grammy's bread made as she turned it to knead it. Kneading bread is just one way that I stand on the shoulders of this giant.

Standing on the shoulders of giants, that seems to be the story of my life. Everything I know, everything I do is in some way the result of people who went before me down a particular road. In a world where what's new and trendy grabs the attention of most people, I seem to be walking towards A while everyone else is racing towards Z. Even that is not an original thought, but something that I remember John Holt writing years ago.

Anyway this will be a blog about lots of different sorts of things. It will be about knitting, spinning, and raising sheep. It will be about literature, writing, and sharing books with kids. It will be about the Catholic Church, spirituality, and orthodox theology. It will be about life after 50, life in a small town, life in a family. It will sometimes touch on homeschooling, childrearing, cooking, and distributism. I hope it will sometimes make you laugh, sometimes make you think, maybe encourage you to try something new.

If you are a fan of Chesterton, Tolkien, Lewis, and L'Engle you might be a kindred spirit. If the names Lee Raven, Linda Ligon, Paula Simmons, and Lynne Vogel ring a bell then we've been reading the same magazines. If you've been to Defending the Faith we might have met. If you're a Catholic convert we've walked a similar road. If you not only know what eclectic homeschooling is, but actually do it then we share a common mindset. If you mothered with La Leche League or raised your kids in 4-H then we share another kind of bond. If there are knitting needles sticking out of your sofa cushions and you've failed at FlyLady more than once, well welcome to my world.