It’s time for the just posts again. As every month there is a wealth of blog posts to read about social justice. As every month Mad, Jen, Hel, and me are collecting them with your help and write a bit about something connected to it.
I don’t know if you have seen it but last month there was “Blog for Choice Day“. I didn’t know until Mad wrote about it. (You can find the link to her post and another one by Thor in the list below.)I had all but forgotten about the whole pro-choice issue until Mad told us about her volunteer work. Then I remembered that this is something I believe every woman should be able to decide for herself. Whether to become pregnant or nor, whether to have a child or an abortion.
The legal situation in Germany regarding abortion is a bit strange but it boils down to the fact that you can get an abortion by a trained doctor if you’re less than 12 weeks pregnant and you have jumped through a few bureaucratic hoops. (Of course it’s much more complicated in real life, we’re talking about German bureaucratic hoops here.) Oh, and it’s covered by health insurance. So that might be the reason why that particular issue hasn’t bothered me in recent years.
Unlike what conservatives are saying though it’s not a stroll in the park to have an abortion. Not that it should be, I think that is a very grave decision to make, but fear of punishment is not what is getting abortion rates down. For all that is known so far the best to get women to have the babies is to give them the feeling that they will be cared for. That they have options. And, well, having access to contraception may also be a factor. From what I know it’s the US that has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the Western world. (For further reading on this topic I recommend Suzanne Reisman’s post about “Victorian Times…” also in the list below.)
On another note, how are your baby shower gifts coming along? I kept my promise to knit at least a pair of preemie socks every month, in fact I made three so far. I’ll add to that so that there will be all pairs, don’t worry.
Alpha Dogma with Happy Period
Andrea with Apocalypse for one
Blue Mountain Mama with I first saw her at a kid’s program
Bohemian Creations with The machine
Bohemian Girl with Paraben Free
Carrie with My little philanthropist
Casey at Expectant Waiting with Actually, YOU need to seek help for my PPD
Chani with Midnight in our souls and Retirement of a cultural dissident
Chez Kirby with Taking Chances
The Cleaner Plate Club with My first boss, and what she had in common with a cloned cow…or a mad one
Dave with Words. Tone. Death
DAYSGOBY with Trial and error
Defiant Muse with bratz dolls and string bikinis for toddlers
Elderwoman with why hasn’t everybody turned green yet Pt. 1 and Pt. 2
Emily at Wheels on the Bus with Blog for Choice Day
Ewe are here with Just a quick note and Why our next election can’t come soon enough for me
Gina with not my god and big bad wolf
Gwen at Woman on the Verge with We real cool and And I Would Walk 5 Thousand Miles
it’s not easy being queen with his dream is still my dream
Jen with oh george, how i loathe thee and don’t you know i’m talking about a revolution
Jen Lemen with Everything we needed
Jen M with Philanthropy Thursday: Haiti
Jess with one step at a time and beloved
Julie Pippert with my big pink elephant for hump day, When it comes to sexual harassment, it’s the little things that bleed you to death and To the Sexual Harassment Google Searchers…
Kevin with Operation Climate Vote Relaunch
Lucy with We do not need rulers, we need rules of law
Mad with Blog for Choice Day
Mouse with Don’t Tell Me How to Talk About Sex and The Talk
No Caption Needed with Love in the ruins
No Impact Man with A balanced approach to climate change
Not Hannah with Enough. No more.
Peter with The politics of greed
R World with Secret decoder ring for Bush’s state of the union address
Seventh Sister with The last hours of ancient sunlight
Sin at Write About Here with tenuous
Slouching Mom with Wherein I’m dismayed to find that old and young are not always antonyms and What happens to a dream deferred
Snigdhasen with Daughters of the soil
Susanne with stifling the urge to learn
Suzanne Reisman on blogher with Why We Vote with Our Uteruses, Standing Up for Working Women & Child Care Providers, Because “Nobody Really Likes Hair in their Private Regions…”, and Victorian Times or Comprehensive Sex Ed: Which Method Do You Choose to Prevent Teen Pregnancy?
Thor with Blog for Choice Day
Uppercase Woman with Take the baby to prison day
Wayfarer Scientista with last native eyak speaker dies and energy & google earth
Technorati Tags: just post
I’ve been thinking a lot about schools and learning the past days. It all began with the question of whether our son should be starting elementary school early (that would be this fall) or regularly a year later. I had been thinking about this already last year. In all the thinking and talking to kindergarten teachers (“Better wait.”) and the pediatrician (“But of course he has to start school this fall!”) I got totally emotional and nervous. And I wondered why. Because, truth to be told, I don’t think that it really will make much of a difference for our son and both ways would be sound. And, as much as we can tell so far, he probably will do well in elementary school. Either way.
I only realized why I got all worked up about this when I went to look at a nearby Montessori school. I entered the classroom, I saw the teachers, I heard their presentation and thought, “That’s how school is supposed to be!” And I realized how much I had suffered as a child in school because I had to learn so slowly. I didn’t get top grades but basically I just sat there, made an attentive-looking face and thought of something else.
I’d like my son to have the chance to learn as fast or slow as he needs to.
The other thing that has me all worked up is the Bavarian school system. When I studied music education I learned a lot about the various school systems in the different parts of Germany. When my husband and I got married, and when I briefly worked as a music teacher in a Bavarian school, I told my husband that we had to move somewhere else in case we had children so that they didn’t have to go to school here.
All in all it’s a jumbled mess of reformed reforms, of decision made hastily and then altered because it all didn’t work. That’s possibly true of most institutions but the Bavarian school system is especially prone to promote only a few elite students and leave the rest behind.
There are only very few students who still love knowledge and learning after leaving school even if they have been successful there. I can see it right now at kindergarten level when dozens of people tell my son that he should be glad to still be in kindergarten because he won’t be having any time for playing anymore once he’ll start elementary school. (Which is crap by the way, school’s from 8 to 1 and they don’t have much homework the first two or three years.) I see it in a kindergarten teacher telling another parent – while I and our two children were standing nearby – that it’s a shame, the things first graders have to do these days in schools, some of the lessons were too hard even for the kindergarten teacher!
And then, in third grade, it gets worse because then the children are pressured to get good grades otherwise their chances of getting access to a college or university education later in life will be minimal. (Really.) And if they get top grades and get admitted to the Gymnasium the fun only begins. With the recent reform of the system joy of learning and knowledge has a very hard time in school today. “Learning” is again used as a synonym for “cramming as much facts in your head as it can hold until the next test and then forgetting all about it”. Learning is considered to be hard, to be something one only does when forced to, something that isn’t fun for sure. And it’s not as if the students were taught how to learn, it seems as if they just get fact after fact dumped on them, without any strategies of how to deal with that.
I, on the other hand, still believe that learning is fun, that it’s something that occurs naturally, and especially that children are eager to learn as much as they possibly can. Just like Maria Montessori did.
In order to have our son visit a Montessori school we’d have to pay about 350 € every month for school, have him driven to school to the next town, and we’d have to be lucky to get him in since there are much more people interested than they can take. Regular elementary school is free, it’s nearer to our house than kindergarten, and it has to take him by law.
Those of you outside Germany might ask why I don’t homeschool him, seeing that I am that passionate about learning and a teacher on top of that. Well, homeschooling is illegal in Germany. This goes back to the 19th century when children were forced to go to school for the first time ever, even those whose parents depended on their labor, like farmers. I always believed that this is a good thing that it makes society a bit more equal.
But now that it is about my son I’d like him to be a bit less equal, or better yet, that all the children can have access to schools where learning is fun and where both teachers and students are looking forward to go to every day.
I know that there are still a lot of children in the world who would love to go to school and can’t. Children who have to work for money like they were adults, children who’d love to learn anything, and can’t. But still I’d like to live somewhere where learning is driven less by fear and more by enthusiasm.
Some of you might have wondered about the button in the left sidebar that says “SOTS ii – the secret is in the mist“. It is a knit-along where you don’t know the pattern in advance. “Knit-along” means that it’s a group of people who knit the same thing at the same time, usually it’s an online group setting goals like “Everybody will try to finish rows 1 to 70 until January 25th.” (And to avoid confusion I might add that each knitter is making her own stole or sock or whatever.) The group that I am part of is knitting a “mystery stole”, that’s a lace stole where we don’t know yet how it will look when finished. Each Friday we get the next part of the pattern and try to finish that during the week. There are more than 2,000 people in this particular group, and if we finish each part of the stole on time each one of us will have her stole at the beginning of March.
I was a bit nervous when I signed up for this. I was afraid it might turn into something like a nine-week-NaNo where I had to spent every waking minute frantically knitting to catch up. Also I was afraid that I wouldn’t like the pattern. So I decided to give the stole away if I didn’t want it for myself, and I made a firm rule not to freak out over this. If I couldn’t knit it in the designated time I’d just finish it later. No pressure.
Then there was the first part of the pattern. I was quite excited on January 18th, printed it out as soon as it went up, and started knitting immediately after dinner on that same day. And was almost disappointed because – it was so easy. After knitting for 2 1/2 hours on Friday evening the first part was more than halfway done. The pattern is very logical and symmetrical so far and so I had long stretches of knitting where I barely had to glance at the chart. Saturday morning I started knitting again immediately after breakfast (what? obsessive? me?) and had the first part finished after another two hours or so.
I almost contemplated casting on for another lace stole that I want to make on the same day, and working on two of them, but then I had to remind myself of the other four unfinished projects around the house. It seems that knitting lace makes me very happy, even though I hardly will wear lace stoles every day. But knitting lace can also be addictive. Like playing computer games. “Just one more row.”, “I just want to see how this will look…”, “If I knit a mere six rows I will have finished this part of the chart.” Never mind that knitting a row might take anywhere from five minutes to an hour.
Which I found out the hard way when working on the second part of the stole last Friday. Since the pattern seemed so easy to me I decided to knit it while watching the finale of “Angel”. Great move! While I made excellent progress for about two hours I also spent almost an hour knitting back four rows.
So, what does this have to do with being proud and such? Well, I am immensely proud that my stole looks so nice and that it’s so easy for me. But when I looked on the group’s message board and ravelry group I found that there are very few people who think like me. There are people who never have knitted lace, people who had to start over three times already, people who are in tears because they are so frustrated and they find it so hard.
I’m not here to make fun of them. I know how they feel and I’d love to help each and every one of them. Sit next to them and help them correct a mistake four rows down without having to unravel the whole thing. But I can’t, since this is an online group. Instead I have been thinking about why this is so easy for me. I found a couple of reasons: a) I have been knitting for 30 years. b) I have never been afraid to try new techniques. c) I like to challenge myself. d) I have heard that German knitters are considered to be very fast.
I can’t say, I have never thought about knitting as a race, I just do it. When Debra Roby wrote that she is a slow knitter and needs about 30 hours to knit a pair of socks, all I could say was that I know that back in the eighties when I had to take a very slow train to visit my parents I could start and finish a sock (basic, boring, very easy sock) on the train ride. That would be nine hours with time off for eating and such. But, really, I don’t look at the clock when I’m knitting. I just knit until the thing is done.
And then I found that instead of being proud of what I had done and my skills in doing it, again, I had tried to find reasons why it wasn’t a big deal and why, really, there was nothing to be proud of. And this is something I have been doing all my life with everything I do. You know, if I can do it it can’t be hard to do. And I could have done better. There surely would be a flaw or mistake in there somewhere. I’m one of those people who, when you’re admiring something they made, always say, “Yeah, but I made a mistake here. Do you see it?”
Every time I’m starting to be proud of something I think about how this makes all the other people around me feel bad. How I really shouldn’t be standing in the limelight but instead I should be there to help the others getting better. How the things I do are not important in the big scheme. How there is always someone better than me.
This even extends to happiness. Even though I know that this is not true, my inner child is firmly convinced that every time I am happy this will make somebody else unhappy. As if there weren’t enough happiness around for everyone and if I take too much there won’t be enough left. And then people would get angry at me.
This certainly is a main factor in my life, one that makes me sabotage myself and makes me at least slightly unhappy all the time. And, as everyone knows, people only like you when you’re nice and humble, when you’re not bragging, and don’t make them feel inferior by being so damn superior all the time.
So, well, I changed the pattern and I’m not sure if the change looks good, maybe I should frog it all and do better the next time over. And, really, you could have done the same under the same circumstances as I and so don’t feel bad. You totally could crank out lace if you wanted to. Go you!
Can I have that bit of leftover happiness if you don’t want it? Thanks.
I don’t know if it can be done but I may have to try. Of course I’m reading too many blogs. In fact I have subscribed to that many that there are a lot of posts on these blogs that I’m not reading at all. Sometimes I just look at them in my feed reader, think, “Oh good, nothing interesting!” and click off to the next one.
I started subscribing to more and more craft blogs, nice pictures and not much text. Beautiful pictures to look at. In an attempt to cope with the sheer quantity of new blog posts every day I have sorted them into folders (you can see that on my blogroll). The distinction between “most favorite” and “very favorite” actually should read “blogs by people whom I really like and regularly comment on” versus “blogs I really like but usually don’t comment on any more because I don’t want to spend the better part of my day tending to my feed reader”.
Since I’m so overwhelmed the mere number of posts per week can be enough to move your blog from “to comment on”- to “not commenting on”-status. There are blogs that I love, bloggers whose comments on other people’s blogs (and mine) I love but I just can’t keep up with them. And so I scan most of their posts, read some, others more deeply, and rarely let them know how I think about any of them.
Of course I have become quite hesitant in adding new blogs to my list, and quite ruthless in throwing blogs out.
I remember when Mad stopped posting in August I felt sad but also relieved a bit. Her posts are so thoughtful and interesting that I felt I wanted to do each of them justice but I couldn’t do that every day. And when she came back I was happy, and even happier when she only posted two or three times a week. Of course, part of the problem is that I tend to like blogs with longer, more thoughtful posts.
Another part of the problem is that almost all of my social life happens through the computer. I have very few real-life friends, most of them live quite a distance away, and over the years with not much contact (because we all live very busy lives) I have the feeling that we have been drifting apart. Having been friends since university is not enough for that friendship to last for decades. Maybe we will get closer again, I don’t know, but for now the people I feel close to – apart from my husband and son – are people that I have never seen in real life. I’m only reading their words.
And while I love to get to know people mainly through their thoughts, something that is very unusual in real life, this kind of friendship does have severe limitations. Writing “((HUGS!!))” is not the same as a real hug. Though right now I’d rather have a virtual hug than none. On the other hand I’m living my life bound to my computer by invisible strands. I think it was Bubandpie who wrote that we maybe are drawn towards these “virtual” friendships because we are on some level not willing to commit to the real thing. On the other hand the feelings of friendship are real, and so is the friendship. It’s only very vulnerable.
As for me, I have the feeling that I really tried to find new friends around me, where I live, and still do try but I didn’t find any. (As for statistics, there were five women I tried to get to know better over the past five years. I suggested going out for coffee to all of them, one of them came to my house once, and that was it.) In this mommyblogger scene, on the other hand, there are so many interesting people writing interesting blogs that I don’t know where to start reading.
I was very relieved when Julie wrote that she is reading here often but never comments because that told me I’m not the only one. And I guess that she’s reading a lot of blogs since I see her comments everywhere and I liked them so much that I go over to her blog on a regular basis, contemplate subscribing, and then shy off. Because how could I read that without wanting to add to the discussion? And how could I add one more “blog to comment on” to my blogroll without feeling drowned in obligations?
So, it is time for the regular weeding of the blogroll. And it’s weird because every time I throw a blog out I’m sad and mostly, a few weeks later, I don’t think about it again. If I do though I will add it back.
So, I’m trying to read blogs mindfully. I won’t be commenting much. In fact, I haven’t commented much these past weeks. I even didn’t comment on De‘s last post which is unheard of. And I didn’t do it because the post wasn’t comment-worthy, I didn’t because I don’t feel like writing much these days. Also I was late as usual. It’s harder to find something to say when there have been a dozen people before you saying something.
Mad recently asked if we had any blogging rules. I seem to be in about the same spot as she (as her? sometimes English grammar eludes me). Here are mine:
- The computer gets turned off in the evenings at about seven o’clock. It can only be turned on again in case of dire emergencies such as “but I haven’t posted in a week and a half!”
- I won’t open a blog post unless I am in a situation where I can read it.
- When I want to comment on a blog post I have to do it right away. When this isn’t possible I can mark it as unread only twice. After that it is done.
- No blog reading before breakfast. (That’s the one I’m breaking very often.)
- On weekends I get to read blogs and write posts on one day only. On the other day time has to be spent with my real-life family. Even if this means sitting next to them knitting while they watch soccer.
- I am under no obligation to read everything.
- When I’m away, I’m away. I don’t have to catch up on my blog reading afterwards.
- The world won’t end when I haven’t posted in a while.
- When I’m sitting in front of my computer and a real person enters the room I will either say, “Not now, I will be getting to you when this is finished.” and then get up from the computer to talk to that person within the next twenty minutes. Or I will turn around and focus my attention on said person.
- When I spend an afternoon in front of the computer on weekends and such I will get up and look what the other family members are doing on a regular basis. Like every thirty minutes or so. For this I will set a timer. After it rings I won’t continue to sit in front of the computer for more than five minutes.
These are mostly blog reading rules. I also have a set of rules for blogging. Such as not showing pictures of my son, keeping him anonymous, only writing things about people that I wouldn’t mind them reading. Well, not much, anyway, I still haven’t told my parents about this and I didn’t give any student the url. And I have a mission statement! See.
Do you think there is such a thing as mindful blog-reading? My husband says that he couldn’t even keep up with all of the four blogs he was reading. He certainly is a mindful blog reader because I think he never forgets anything anybody ever wrote. While I, insatiable as ever, attempt mindfulness with about a hundred blogs. I’m really thankful that not everybody is posting every day, though.