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In case you don’t know yet, that’s my doggy, Moon Pie.
Let’s geek out for a bit, shall we? I filmed the above video today. Moo Moo is three months into her training. She is doing better with action words than nominals. Her repertoire of action words includes: Sit, Down, Off, Come here, Get, Outside, Touch, Drop it, No, and Listen. She’s currently working on Stay. Her nominals include: Ball, Panda, Yip, Nickel, Kitty, and Squirrel.
Due of my own training, my approach with Moo Moo relies heavily on behaviorial theory with a linguistic spin. Recently though, I’ve been learning about “dog psychology” from Cesar Millan. Skattur has been telling me to check out this guy for awhile. She watched his show religiously, despite the fact she doesn’t have a dog. I finally broke down and got his book, Cesar’s Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems. It was fabulously undogtrainingguidebookish.
I abandoned most of the dog training books in my gianormous stack within a few chapters (and sometimes within a few pages) because they were horribly boring or just too campy. But Cesar Millan’s book was different. First off, he does not consider himself a dog trainer. He describes himself as a “dog psychologist,” which for me instantly brought up a mental image of a dog reposed on Freud’s couch. Based on that image alone I was prepared to not like this book. Then there’s the fact that he works with all these celebrity people and he frequently uses the word ”energy.” Psychology, celebrity, and energy — the combination of the three made me roll my eyes in self-righteous derision. So, I surprised myself when I stayed with this book until the end. I was even more surprised when I realized I like him and his book. Millan is a ballsy guy who bootstrapped his way to success. His insights on dogs are based on sound experience.
The only other book I’ve found about dogs recently that I liked was a work of fiction — Nora Robert’s The Search. The blogger behind roughwighting.net recommended it. I haven’t read Nora Roberts in years, so I was due for one. The woman has written about a bajillion books and her writing style has definitely evolved since the last one I read. Romance isn’t my usual reading fare, nor is it my go-to genre for dog information, but I felt strangely compelled. This was no ordinary romance novel. There were serial killers, murders, a bit of mystery, and lots of dog training tid-bits. The romance seemed ancillary, though there were steamy parts. Table sex was involved. It was a good read on all counts.
Back to Moo Moo. More videos of Moo-Moo’s genius may be found in the following posts. I highly recommend viewing them at work due to their Power of Kawaii (Nittono, Fukushima, Yano, & Moriya, 2012), which improves your productivity. More information on that following the reference.
Nittono H., Fukushima M., Yano A., Moriya, H. (2012) The Power of Kawaii: Viewing Cute Images Promotes a Careful Behavior and Narrows Attentional Focus. PLoS ONE 7(9): e46362. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046362
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am so happy to be celebrating the success of a friend. She has certainly succeeded by Emerson’s standards — and tomorrow my shimmy sister, Debra Parmley, releases her fourth book, Trapping the Butterfly. This one is set in the 1920s in one of my favorite weekend getaways: Hot Springs, Arkansas. I cannot wait to read it!
Last night she had a radio interview about the book, which you can listen to HERE.
You can watch the book trailer from her third novel, Aboard the Wishing Star, below:
And be sure to check out her blog! She does a fun series of interviews called “Cover Model Corner” with those hunky men of romance novels.
Just in case you missed the other book trailer I posted (I love these things), you can find it HERE.
Yay Debra! You’re awesome.
How was that even normal, to cry over insects?
–Delarobia, Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver
There are very a few authors whose collections I feel compelled to devour in their entirety. Barbara Kingsolver is in that select few. She’s brilliant. Her mastery of the English language inspires me. Her intellect humbles me. Her reverence for nature motivates me to observe, conserve, and appreciate the natural world.
Her latest book, Flight Behavior is set in the Appalachian Mountains. The story centers on Delarobia Turnbow, a young wife and mother, literally running away from her life in someone else’s cast off boots. Delarobia chances upon a discovery that changes her life: millions of monarch butterflies unexpectedly alight in the forest. Miracle or sign of impending environmental doom? You decide. Kingsolver, a trained biologist, throws in enough science to make you feel like an armchair lepidopterist. Staying true to the region, she also smacks down some religion. Any time you pass by the Bible Belt you can expect a good spank. It’s a good mix that creates a nice tension.
I relished most of this book, but there were parts that made me really tired. I understand the story is set in Tennessee, but I could have done without the Honey Boo Boo vibes. I like my fiction to take me away from my real life, not put me right back at the heart of it. I live in Tennessee. I have relatives that wear shirts that say things like, “You mess with me, you mess with the whole trailer park.” If I wanted to experience a marital dispute in Wal-Mart I could just load up the family in the pickup truck, drive a couple miles down the road, and go at it. I’m already familiar with this routine. I don’t need to read about it. And if I wanted to experience Wal-Mart scenery, but felt too lazy to drive down the street, I could surf the People of Wal-mart website from bed without having to read pages and pages of dialogue devoted to this sort of thing. Wal-mart drama does not make good literature. In Kingsolver’s own words, “It could not be more tedious or familiar, any of it.”
Also, I wish academia was half as fabulous as described in this story. Kingsolver paints an idealized version of this endeavor featuring researchers with the purest intentions who are blessed with outlandish funding, and the most understanding of spouses. It’s a really lovely picture, even true to a degree, but still incomplete. (Where are the turf wars, conspiracies, and petty squabbles over the minutia?)
Despite my minor gripes, it was an awesome story. I was smitten with the real main character of the story: the butterflies. In the end I cried for what was revealed about the interconnectedness of individuals to each other and to the environment.
And only because I brought it up, I have to include this video of the People of Wal-mart.
It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.
Today was exactly like that quote from Charles Dickens.
Spring Break was a couple weeks ago. Quite suddenly the frenetic pace in which I have grown accustomed to functioning, came to a screeching halt. Then there was silence and time. I can’t remember when I had such a vast expanse of both.
Last year at this same time I was learning new ways to kneel and kiss the ground even as that ground was spinning away beneath my wheels and shifting beneath my feet. Prayers were being flung to the heavens. Finally, the ground gave way and I poured right through the hourglass into a completely different life. And here I am.
This year I am learning to operate at a slower pace. The curriculum is challenging, but the lessons are definitely worth the while….as well as delicious! El Diablo made these fluffy rolls this week the slow way.
They took *forever.*
Piping hot and drenched with melted butter and maple syrup as they were, I ate entirely too many of them.
Now, raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry bushes are ready to be planted. This season’s new seeds will be planted soon, along with the seeds collected from last year’s garden.
As we are making way for slow food, I’m remembering some of the things I read in Barbara Kingsolver’s memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life about how to rely less on fossil fuels through the food choices we make. So I leave you today with food for thought.
- Americans put almost as much fossil fuel into our refrigerators as our cars.
- The average food item on a U.S. grocery shelf has traveled farther than most families go on their annual vacations…. an average of 1,500 miles….
- If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Look into your own heart and discover what gives you pain and then refuse under any circumstances whatsoever to inflict that pain onto anybody else.
Author: Karen Armstrong
Synopsis: Karen Armstrong, a religious historian and former nun, explores the notion of empathy and compassion that underlies and unifies the Abrahamic faiths as well as most other religious traditions.
Why I read this: A certain yogini inspired me to deepen my understanding of compassion.
What I loved about it: Armstrong’s conviction and intellect shine through every page. The depth and breadth of her scholarship was a nice change from my recent lighter reading. The language was scholarly, yet accessible, intelligible and beautiful.
What was unexpected: I was surprised by the depth beneath the self-help title and macrostructure. There really are twelve steps, but the history, spirit, and detail Armstrong provides were far more intriguing.
You might like this if you liked: The Lost Art of Compassion: Discovering the Practice of Happiness in the Meeting of Buddhism and Psychology
Fun coincidence: As I was reading this book, El Diablo was reading God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
by Christopher Hitchens. The themes and events covered often coincided. It was fun to compare notes and the authors’ vastly different perspectives: enduring optimism vs. chronically quarrelsome.
Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.
Author: Twyla Tharp
Synopsis: Master choreographer, Twyla Tharp, interweaves stories about what makes her creative life tick with advice and exercises to help others develop their own creative habit.
Why I read it: Because Caitlin Kelley wrote that it was one of her favorite books ever, which instantly made it a must-read. She described it as, “Kick-ass and inspiring in equal measure.”
You might like this if you liked: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Highlights: You don’t have to be a dancer to appreciate this book – she gives lots of examples from other creative walks of life, including the business world. That said, her descriptions of how she choreographs and teaches dance were fascinating. My favorite chapter was the one on failure. She used one of her own productions as a case study on failure and what to do about it. The rigor and brutal self-assessment/honesty with which she handled the topic were impressive.
Fun coincidence: One of Tharp’s methods to harness and organize creativity is by starting with a physical box because as she puts it, “before you can think out of the box you have to start with a box.” She devotes an entire chapter to the box and what she puts in it and why. In an entirely unrelated conversation, a friend recently invited me to craft an intention box with her – same idea as what I was learning from Tharp, but different verbiage. Crafty boxing fun will be had this week.
Author: A.J. Jacobs
Synopsis: Targeting one body part at a time, Jacobs takes an “experimental journalism” approach to improve his health.
You might like this if: you want some light, fun reading to get or stay inspired about your own health.
Why I read this: A colleague raved about how funny it was.
What I loved about it: I learned about new fitness trends like the paleo movement. I can relate to Jacobs’ quirky obsessions. I also like that he’s not afraid to do ridiculous things (like take a pole dancing class) in the name of reporting.
What was unexpected: He skims the surface of lots of trends, but doesn’t dive too deeply into any one. His previous works seemed more tightly woven and better organized.
Best Quote: This was actually a quote from Jacobs’ grandfather on the sheer improbability that we exist.
“…out of the millions of people in the world, your mother and father met and decided to get married to each other. And out of the millions of sperm, that the one with your genes was the one that made it to the egg and fertilized the egg.”
Better books by Jacobs:
My Life as an Experiment: One Man’s Humble Quest to Improve Himself by Living as a Woman, Becoming George Washington, Telling No Lies, and Other Radical Tests
The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
Synopsis: A cynical writer searches for the world’s happiest place
You might like this if you liked: Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert)
Recommended to: Grumpy people
What I loved about it: This was my first Weiner book, so I wasn’t sure whether I would like it or not. Truth be told, he seems like a bit of an ass, but he had me at the first mention of a PET scan. I’m one of those people who enjoy reading books peppered with sound-bites of science, culture, history, and philosophy. Like right here on page 41, in a chapter on Switzerland, he manages to work Einstein AND Bertrand Russell into a passage. Later on page 183, he combines Iceland, Aristotle, and Nietzsche. Gosh—it just makes me feel all heady and smart in the same way that sprinkling wheat germ in pancake batter makes me feel healthy, even if I do wind up drenching it all with butter and syrup.
So yes, I will be reading him again. Plus, I now have added two new places to my bucket list: Bhutan and Moldova.
What was unexpected: Weiner was a little mean to the Moldovans.
Best Quotes: There were so many fabulous descriptions of places and people, so I will give you a few:
In Bangkok, the sacred and the profane exist side by side, like a divorced couple who, for financial reasons, decide to continue living together.
Watching Brits shed their inhibitions is like watching elephants mate. You know it happens, it must, but it’s noisy, awkward as hell, and you can’t help but wonder: Is this something I really need to see?
India does not disappoint. It captivates, infuriates, and occasionally, contaminates. It never disappoints.
Qataris have no culture. Frankly, I can’t blame them. If you spent a few thousand years scraping by in the desert, fending off the solid heat, not to mention various invading tribes, you wouldn’t have time for culture either.
Synopsis: Nicholas takes a trip around the world with his brother and the two reminisce about their family.
You might like this if you liked: Message in a Bottle, The Rescue, The Notebook, A Walk to Remember (Nicholas Sparks)
Recommended to: Fans of Nicholas Sparks, people trying to make sense of loss
What I loved about it: In his fictional work, Nicholas Sparks writes sweet stories of love, family, and loss. His memoir moved along the same themes and provided insight into why he tells the stories he tells. The speech-language pathologist in me was also particularly interested in the intense work Sparks described doing with his son, Ryan, to help him learn to communicate.
What was unexpected: This book is not so much about the places traveled in real time as it is the places traveled in the past. That said, Sparks does deliver enough descriptions of places they visited that I added a few destinations to my bucket list (e.g., Machu Picchu, Peru and Phnom Pehn, Cambodia).
Standing next to Micah, I realized that there were times when we talked not because we needed to communicate anything important, but simply because we each drew comfort from the other’s voice.
Author: Jenny Lawson
Synopsis: Jenny Lawson had a crazy childhood in Texas with her taxidermist dad and lunch lady mom.
You might like this if you liked: Running with Scissors (Augusten Burroughs) or The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)
Recommended to: those who enjoy reading memoirs of people from outside-the-norm dysfunctional families because it makes us feel a bit relieved about our own upbringing.
Highlights: It’s pretty funny.
Lowlights: It might be slightly more funny to readers from Generation Y than to Generation X. It may be questionable that whatever generations came before us would find the amusement in the book. The stories are different, but the humorous devices can be a little redundant, particularly the phrase “YOU’RE WELCOME” which often following some piece of unsolicited advice.
Best Quote: I can finally see that all the terrible parts of my life, the embarrassing parts, the incidents I wanted to pretend never happened, and the things that make me “weird” and “different,” were actually the most important parts of my life. They were the parts that made me ME.
Author: Justin Halpern
Synopsis: Justin Halpern recounts his sexploits.
You might like this if you liked: Me Talk Pretty One Day (David Sedaris)
Recommended to: People who like to read funny things and to people who like wise dads.
Highlights: The story about stealing porn from the homeless was so funny it made me laugh until I cried. I had to read it aloud to three other people to make sure it was as funny as I thought it was. It was.
Lowlights: It’s fluffy. That could be a good or a bad thing.
Eventually my dad got home from work and set his briefcase down.
‘So. How was practice?’ he asked
‘It was good. Why? Did you hear it wasn’t?’ I said, trying to keep my cool.
‘Son, no offense, but you play Little League. It’s not the Yankees. I don’t get daily reports about who’s hitting the shit out of the ball”
The more I teach and read about teaching, the less I seem to know about the topic. Three books I read in 2012 about teaching taught me quite a lot…and left me with many, many more questions…
In Teaching with Your Mouth Shut, Finkle invites us to recall our most significant learning experiences. Only one of the
three I recalled happened in a classroom, which supported his point - most of our learning happens outside the classroom. Finkle contends “good teaching is the creation of those circumstances that lead to significant learning in others.” This focus takes the sage off the stage and brings learners front and center. In his model of teaching, learning occurs by first engaging students with problems to solve and then through the process of mutual inquiry and discussion.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I applied his advice about teaching in the classroom by reducing lecture time and providing students with case studies to contemplate, research, and discuss. After two semesters of experimenting with this in three different classes, I came to the conclusion that the majority of my students do not particularly appreciate this form of learning. Some do (mostly honors students), but most expect the structure and predictability of classroom lectures along with the opportunity lectures afford to tune out and covertly text under the desk.
Ultimately, I was left with more questions than answers from Finkel’s advice about teaching: How do I meet the needs of such a wide array of learners? Should we give students what they want or what we think they need? Can I strike an effective balance between the two? Is the Socratic method of teaching still relevant in this era of edutainment? Why do students write such horrible things in their course evaluations? Is it because I am a horrible teacher? How good are students at evaluating what they have learned? When should I practice “tough love” and when should I show compassion? And when is that tough love and compassion the exact same thing? What in the world are we even measuring with course evaluations — my teaching ability? Student perceptions? Teacher popularity?
…and just as I was having this existential crisis in my teacher’s heart, two more books came along to guide me through it:
Push is the debute novel by Sapphire, on which the movie Precious is based. I have yet to see the movie, but I experienced the story via audiobook. The audio version was a good one – I enjoyed listening to the music and rhythm of the dialect. The story itself was one of the most disturbing I have come across. In the words of Precious, the main character,
“I don’t know what “realism” mean but I do know what REALITY is and it’s a mutherfucker, lemme tell you.”
And boy, did she. Precious’ reality was a bleak place of incest/rape, abuse, ignorance, and disability. It is definitely not a tale for the faint of heart. There was all sorts of darkness in her story that I did not want to face. There was also a small, but persistent ray of light: the power of compassion and education to propel us through the abyss. It was a much needed reminder.
And finally, Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach found me and forced me to break out the journal and take notes. Palmer’s writing is masterful. He illuminates a wide range of subjects – social constructivism, empiricism, epistemology, genetics, spirituality - with simple and beautiful language. He confirms that:
“Good education teaches students to become both producers of knowledge and discerning consumers of what other people claim to know.”
He writes of the importance of conflict in teaching and of holding open spaces where we can grapple with paradoxical tensions. In this space of turmoil – in this tension of opposites there is:
“a power that wants to pull [the] heart open to something larger than itself.”
And “suffering is neither to be avoided nor merely to be survived, but must be actively embraced for the way it expands our own hearts.” He writes of pulling both teachers and students from center stage and putting “great things” at the center, then teaching and learning those great things from a place of humility.
“We experience humility not because we have fought and lost but because humility is the only lens through which great things can be seen – and once we have seen them, humility is the only posture possible.”
I cannot say enough about how good this book was. I will definitely be reading all of his works in the coming year.
So as this year winds down and a new one begins, I resolve to embrace my teacher’s heart crisis and learn what I can from this “great thing.”