Thursday, October 23, 2014

Braiding Ideas

Braiding usually involves taking three strands of hair, three ribbons, three pieces of string, weaving them into a single thread.  Some years ago I became intrigued when a workshop presenter talked about composting ideas.  This morning I found myself thinking about health care, public education, and baby boomers and realized I was braiding.

With increasing frequency – twice over the past few days – I’ve heard people bemoan the fact that going to the doctor now feels so impersonal, like being a small cog in someone’s out-of-control machine.   From personal experience in public education I know many teachers feel oppressed by a system which has turned them into data collection portals.  And boomers?  Just yesterday in a large planning group Gen Xers bemoaned what they described as an outdated boomer-driven mindsets about economic development.

Then I read a wonderful NY Times opinionator piece about the value and importance of doctors’ stories to round out what can be gleaned from data, and how the trend has been to squeeze the art out of its science. This was the first thread in my braid.  Next I thought about how much teachers would appreciate an invitation to add their stories to the vast student information databases, and to have these stories valued along with the numbers.  This was the second thread.  And finally, I thought about who seems to have been most responsible for shifting medicine and education away from admittedly incomplete anecdotal stories toward technology-facilitated numbers – not the boomers, but Gen-X.  (Of course those of us who are boomers must take some responsibility for having raised our Gen-X children.)  But I contend, we are not the ones defining public policy, other than by virtue of our sheer numbers.

So my idea braid suggests that there is a real benefit to finding ways to capture and add vignettes to our public policy data sets; and that we would benefit from spending more time thinking about how the different generations’ dispositions inform our past, present and future, rather than dismissing valuable perspectives and experiences.  Sounds so 60’s doesn’t it?  Makes sense since Peter D. Kramer (b. 1948), author of the article, and I (b.1949) are both boomers.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The thing about apple crisp...

Yesterday I posted a picture on Facebook of the apple-pear crisp I made. The ladies who prepared lunch in my elementary school cafeteria set the apple crisp standard for me - a perfect balance of fruit and crunch.  In those days they actually cooked the food from scratch at North Mianus!  Some years later I found this topping in a recipe for fresh rhubarb crisp and I've used it ever since:  1 cup flour, 1/2 cup raw rolled oats, 1 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter or margarine.  Sometimes I use granola for part of the oats and reduce the sugar.

I was also inspired by a special fruit delivery from my friend, Ikuko.  Last week she dropped off a few Asian pears and yesterday she delivered some Mutsu apples along with a dozen Italian prune plums. I think she got them at Blue Jay Orchard.  I decided make a plum torte (Marian Burros' recipe is the best) but wanted a way to easily share tomorrow with my former colleague, Pat. I decided to try making small, individual tortes rather than the larger one described in the recipe.  Here's the result. Not bad but I think next time I will cut the plums in smaller pieces and try to arrange them more artfully.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Aunti Randi's Curry Kit

Last May I went to Sandpoint, Idaho to be part of a loving bedside vigil for Aunti Randi, my mother's younger sister.  She passed from this life as she had requested, looking out on the Pend Oreille River, surrounded by  family and friends.  During our stay, my cousins and I explored Aunti Randi's pantry and freezer - in part to see what was available for mealtime, but also as cultural anthropologists, investigating the ways artifacts reveal people's lives.  We were not surprised to find bags of frozen rhubarb and berries, key ingredients in her famous Rhurazz jam.  We noted a large basket in the pantry marked "curry fixings."  Randi learned how to make curry early on in her marriage to please Uncle Roger who was born and raised in India, the son of medical missionaries. Several days ago I received a box in the mail from my Seattle cousins after they cleared out Aunti Randi's home before it was sold.  Powerful smells and fond memories of curry dinners long ago flooded my senses.  Proust had his madeleines but I have Aunti Randi's curry kit!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Did I used to be like this?

I've been interested in ethics ever since I took a graduate course many years go.  The take away for me then was that there is a difference between ethical and legal.  I also enjoy reading The Ethicist in the Sunday Times Magazine.  As a school  administrator I sometimes got involved with interpreting and enforcing our town's code of ethics.  Over time I became more and more convinced that most people really want to do the right thing, but sometimes they need a little help understanding the finer points of ethical behavior.  Then there's the issue of perception vs. reality.  So when I learned our local Ethics Board did not seem to be doing the work they were appointed to do, I offered my services.  Time went by and nothing happened until two current members of the Board were proposed for reappointment.   OK, I said to myself, it doesn't matter if I'm on the Board but is it a good idea to have people who haven't been doing their jobs continue?  So I wrote a letter to the editor expressing my consternation.  Several weeks passed and I learned that my letter had apparently disqualified me from further consideration.  "No problem," I said to the  terrific elected official in his mid 30's, who conveyed what he described as "bad news."  I told him not to worry, this was not about me!  I felt I had done my civic duty by offering to serve and by highlighting what I viewed as the current board's shortcomings.  He listened thoughtfully and apologized.  I again stated, this was not about me.  He repeated that he felt badly about being the bearer of bad news.  After we ended our conversation I started wondering if I used to think the end game was about me rather than the well-being of our community.  Sometimes getting older feels good.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My usual walk

My usual walk around the neighborhood is a 1.5 mile loop.  The other day I thought about the people I know or have known who live along my route and how this contributes to my sense of being connected to my community. In the small world category is this house, previously owned by Mr. Schuman,  my late 9th grade government teacher at Eastern Junior High in Greenwich. I particularly remember that class for three reasons:  It was the first time we had a black classmate. Kennedy was assassinated that fall, and we moved to Chicago mid-year.  One of my former high school students lives down the street and an elementary principal with whom I took graduate courses lives across the street.

Just last month I performed a wedding in this house.  As an elected Justice of the Peace, people contact me from time to time to ask about my availability and how much I charge (nothing).  The Thai nanny who works in this home emailed me while I was traveling so I didn't respond.  Shortly after our return she drove down our driveway one morning with her mother who was visiting from Thailand and the little girls she looks after.  How could I say no?  

Someone once told me that this driveway on a street that forms a border between Norwalk and Westport  leads to the lovely home where the jazz saxophonist Gerry Mulligan lived with the actress Sandy Dennis sometime between 1965 and 1973.

About two years ago a young couple bought this lovely house across the street. Even though Mrs. Donnelly --- the elderly widow who lived there for many years --- had a long driveway, our children always loved to trick or treat there because she was so clearly delighted to welcome them.

Giving thanks 2012

This morning I volunteered to help my friend Marcia at the Rowayton Turkey Trot, a fundraiser for the Rowayton Arts Center.  It was fun standing in the middle of the road in my orange vest, directing the runners where to turn at the intersection of Pennoyer St. and Rowayton Ave.  I didn't notice until the end of my shift that the race organizers had drawn a turkey on the pavement at each intersection.

Besides cheering on the racers, I suggested that what they were calling a hill around the corner was really just an incline. On my way home I passed a group of day laborers at their usual spot near the train station.  Will they get any work today?  Do they know it's Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Charlie appreciates good art!

Early this morning 4 year old Charlie called to ask whether we knew James Flora wrote children's books.  Charlie had just borrowed one from his local library and learned that this was the same man whose paintings hang in our home.   Here's a section of the Flora painting in our sun room:

How cool that besides his album covers and paintings Jim Flora also wrote and illustrated children's books including My Friend Charlie and Charlie Yup and his Snip-Snap Boys.