Saturday, July 10, 2010

Published 1:34 PM by with 0 comment

100th Blog Post!

So this is my 100th blog since I began writing here! Woohoo! And according to the blogger's code, I am writing 100 facts about me. Be prepared for complete randomness.

* EDIT: I have updated some of these facts since this post was written in 2008! *

1. Until I was fourteen years old, everybody called me Ally. After that I wanted to be called Alyssa. I don't quite remember why. Now I'm mostly called Lyssa by my friends.

2. I was born in California.

3. My family, consisting of my mom, stepdad Sean, and sister Emily, are the most wonderful people in the world. The only person I could love as much as I love them is...

4. husband, Chris. We balance each other. I could not imagine spending my life with any other person.

5. Besides my family and future husband, my circle of friends vary greatly in age and occupation. Two of my very best friends have been a sixteen year old guitarist and an eighty-seven year old lady whom I knit with.

6. My secret music passion is techno, even in spite of my being a classically-trained musician.

7. I am allergic to almost everything that grows and breathes in the outdoors except for mold and bird feathers.

8. My dreams are almost always vivid, bizarre, and memorable.

9. The end scenes of Disney movies Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Sleeping Beauty scared me so much as a kid that I don't think I was ever able to sit through the entire show without covering my eyes or running screaming out of the room.

10. Bright colors bothered me until I was in my late teens. So I wore dark or muted clothing all the time, with no patterns like stripes or dots or sequins.

11. The worst (and usually most effective) punishment my mom could ever use to discipline my bad behavior as a child was to take away the privilege of reading for a day. It was pure torture to not be allowed to open up one of my precious books! I would always try to change my behavior for the better and count the hours until the next day when I could dive back into my reading again.

12. My sister's birthday is the day before mine. The day after she was born, I went to see her and my mom in the hospital (it was my fifth birthday), and I remember being completely elated that we could take her home with us! I still consider Em the best birthday present ever : )

13. Wassily Kandinsky is my favorite visual artist.

14. Hayao Miyazaki is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.

15. If I don't watch where I'm going, I will walk into walls. And trees.

16. Large crowds bother me.

17. People-watching is one of my absolute favorite pastimes. The only tricky thing about it is trying to not look like a creepy stalker.

18. I make many, many, many mistakes.

19. I will eat honey straight out of the jar.

20. Spanish, Esperanto, Latin, and French are the only other languages I ever attempted to learn, and I suck hardcore at all of them. I'm just not cut out for foreign languages.

21. I was home-schooled my entire life until I went to college.

22. One time when I was helping a friend fill up his hummingbird feeder, a live hummingbird flew up and rested on my finger. It was an absolutely incredible moment.

23. Roller coasters make me ill.

24. Although my mother, sister, dad, maternal grandmother, and maternal great-grandmother are amazingly talented artists, I missed that gene, and can barely draw stick figures. Though I love playing with colored pencils and paint.

25. I wanted to start playing classical guitar when I was four years old.

26. My mom read out loud to me almost every day (and night) from the time I was an infant all the way through elementary school. We read together as a family after that quite frequently, and now I still enjoy hearing her read out loud.

27. I write much more fluently than I speak. I'm shy... get nervous talking in front of people... can never think of the right words to say... and sometimes stutter.

28. The fourteen different places I've lived in my life have made me accustomed to constant change. I actually enjoy moving now.

29. Through process of experimentation, I've developed a killer recipe for chai tea.

30. From what my mom tells me I said my first word when I was five months old: "Hair".

31. About 70% of all the guys I've ever been seriously attracted to were/had been Catholic. Weird trend.

32. Zucchini is gross, except when hidden in zucchini bread baked by my mom.

33. The first vegetable successfully grown by Yours Truly was tomatillos. What the heck is that, you say? Well, let me just tell you that they are not generally used in traditional American dishes, look like little green tomatoes with a papery coat on, and they don't taste very good. But they grew like the dickens below my bedroom window. And that was all that mattered to a nine year old. Look for them the next time you go to the grocery store.

34. I had three imaginary friends who appeared when I was about ten. One was named Link, one Chip, and one Flash. They phased through other names briefly, but always came back to those. They lasted about nine years. Can you tell that I was a weird child? Yeah.

35. Only one of my good friends was a girl when I was growing up. All the rest of my friends were boys. Now it's the opposite way.

36. Climbing trees has been a beloved pastime of mine since I was four.

37. Doctors continually classify me as underweight. I think it's called "high metabolism and a dislike for most meats". After having a baby, I'm now at a healthy weight! Yay!

38. When the Lord of the Rings movies first came out in the theaters, my friends and I were so enamored that we dressed like elves at the movie theater and wrote letters to each in elvish for about three years. Can you say "ultra nerd"?

39. I used to want ten children. Now I'd like to have five. But it'll most likely end up being between three and four. We'll see...

40. My first guitar student was a little boy named Carlo. I was sixteen, he was about eight. He doesn't play guitar anymore, but he lives in Italy now and we keep in touch occasionally.

41. At this point, I've taught over one hundred fifty guitar students. Not all at once.

42. I strive to focus my life around the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, who I believe to be the one true hope for mankind, serving Him in thankfulness with the abilities He has given me in the circumstances that He places me. That's the basic theme of my existence; I'm not going to get into theology or worldview discussions here.

43. My guitars are named Rubio and Elphaba.

44. I still write and receive handwritten letters.

45. My mom is so cool that she let me sleep on the top shelf of my closet for about two months when I was a kid.

46. Vampires AND werewolves are stupid.

47. Milk products make my tummy hurt.

48. When I first read Shakespeare at twelve years old, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

49. The only music I could tolerate being played on the radio in the house and car up until I was fourteen years old was classical music. ULTRA NERD.

50. My earliest musical memories are of dancing in the living room to Vivaldi's Four Seasons and covering my ears as my dad tried to play the Beetles' song Yellow Submarine.

51. Supposedly I have a great-great-great-grandmother who was from Ireland.

52. When I walk, my big toes stretch out away from the other little toes. It makes my feet look weird.

53. Sometimes I forget what I'm saying as I'm sayi...

54. One of my goals is to become familiar with the songs of native Missouri birds.

55. Ships and airplanes freak me out. Or, rather, I should say that being on water and in the air freak me out. Not the vehicles themselves.

56. I hate watching t.v. Unfortunately, it's rather addictive.

57. But I do enjoy watching non-suspensful, not-overly-mushy movies occasionally. And cooking shows.

58. If I like a movie/CD, I will watch/listen to it on repeat for days at a time. This drives everyone around me bonkers. Only I can have "Pirates of Penzance" on twice a day for three weeks and not go mad.

59. I used to collect stamps, coins, rocks, moss, yarn, and books. Now I collect yarn, books, and plants.

60. Fire has always been an immense fascination.

61. One of the only ways I can remember anything is if I make it into a song.

62. One of my nicknames in childhood used to be Hazel, or Hazel-Rah, from "Watership Down" by Richard Adams. This book taught me a lot about who I wanted to be.

63. I met the musician Sting when I was seventeen. He gave a master class on composition at the university I attended; it was very interesting, and the acoustic performance he gave was lovely!

64. The library (any library) is my favorite public place to be.

65. Of course, my favorite place of all is anywhere my family is : )

66. I own only one pair of shorts, but I never wear them except as pajamas.

67. My sister and I like making the peace sign when our pictures are being taken.

68. The most popular t.v. shows in my house when I was growing up were Reading Rainbow, Wishbone, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, Sesame Street, Barney, and the Antique Road Show. Yeah. We liked antiques.

69. I am an extremely touch-sensitive person.

70. I tend to learn lessons the hard way.

71. When I was a child, I was completely convinced that I had magic powers that would allow me to see tiny people that nobody else could see and talk to animals.

72. Also, I had a magic stone that would turn my bicycle into a flying horse.

73. All kinds of weather make me happy. Maybe it's because the weather changes so often. And I like change.

74. The only sport I was ever good at was track and field, and even then it wasn't really the running that I could do, it was long-jumping.

75. The long-jumping is what earned me one of my nicknames in high-school: The Toad.

76. As a kid I used to love reading the books Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Judges, 1st and 2nd Samuel, and 1st and 2nd Kings from the Bible. They were filled with exciting stories that made me wonder who the heck God really was.

77. When I was a young teenager, I would often read Psalms and Proverbs from the Bible. The poetry I liked. The wisdom I was pretty sure would be useful.

78. Legos were the toy of choice throughout most of my growing up years.

79. I didn't learn how to type on a computer until I was eleven. Before then, I wrote my poetry, stories, and diary on paper.

80. I'm pretty sure I get slightly dehydrated quite a bit, because I'm rarely thirsty, so I never remember to drink water.

81. My body naturally inclines towards being a night owl, but I like waking up early in the morning better. It's a constant war against myself.

82. "Lucille" was the only doll I ever loved. My grandmother got her for me when I was an infant, and she came complete with a little green jumper, bonnet, and adoption certificate of "Cabbage Patch".

83. The most popular game in the homeschool group I grew up in was called "Medicine Tree". It was like a cross between Robin Hood and a primitive outdoor hospital. Usually Robin would be played by my friend Ryan, with the evil Sheriff and Queen roles switched around to various kids. There was a Jester, several Archers, Soldiers, animals (younger siblings), Messengers, Gatherers, and sometimes a Spy. I was almost always Maid Marian.

84. Skittles are my favorite candy. Followed by Butterfingers.

85. One of my deepest desires is to try to fix things, whether they be people or objects.

86. In order to do that, I have to understand what makes them tick, which means a lot of studying and/or taking them apart. I don't take apart people, though. Too messy.

87. As I get older I realize more and more that I can't fix people. I can only give help where I am able and let God do the rest. This doesn't mean that I am always okay with letting go.

88. Cooking food is fun.

89. Eating food is even better.

90. Eating food with friends is the best.

91. Eating food with friends out in nature is glorious.

92. While I don't have two left feet, I fail at any kind of dancing that doesn't have a set pattern. But I do love to dance.

93. I am a radical in this world because I believe in absolute truth, ultimate goodness, and definable beauty.

94. I love it when children give me pictures they have drawn.

95. The two hardest things for me to do are to forgive as I have been forgiven and to have patience.

96. Yoga is super relaxing and fun to do, but I never have enough discipline to consistently practice it.

97. Synesthesia is very important in my everyday life. I see colors when I hear music, read words, or talk to people.

98. It seems like most people look at the world and think "so what?". Wouldn't it be interesting if everyone thought "what if?".

99. I want to live to be a hundred years old.

100. "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
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Friday, February 12, 2010

Published 8:46 PM by with 2 comments

Differing Thoughts on Educating Children

In my recent studies, I've come across these quotes. You can probably tell which ideas I agree with and which one I don't.

"Why should we have to try to develop such [actively inquisitive] minds, when children are born with them? Somewhere along the line, adults must fail somehow to sustain the infant's curiosity at its original depth. School itself, perhaps, dulls the mind- by the dead weight of rote learning, much of which may be necessary. The failure is probably even more the parents' fault. We so often tell a child there is no answer, even when one is available, or demand that he ask no more questions. We thinly conceal our irritation when baffled by the apparently unanswerable query. All this discourages the child. He may get the impression that it is impolite to be too inquisitive. Human inquisitiveness is never killed; but it is soon debased to the sort of questions asked by most college students, who, like the adults they soon to become, ask only for information."

~ Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book, Chapter 18: How to Read Philosophy

"We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is simple... We will organize children... and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way."

~ Excerpt from a 1906 document from Rockefellar's General Education Board, called Occasional Letter Number One

"Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief use for delight is in privateness and retiring; for ornament, is in discourse; and for ability, is in the judgement and disposition of business. For expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars, one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots and marshalling of affairs, come best from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament is affectation; to make judgement wholly by their rules is the humour of a scholar.... for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need proyning (pruning) by study..."

~ Francis Bacon, Essay L: Of Studies

"To a very great degree, school is a place where children learn to be stupid. A dismal thought, but hard to escape. Infants are not stupid. Children of one, two, or even three throw the whole of themselves into everything they do. They embrace life, and devour it, it is why they learn so fast, and are such good company. Listlessness, boredom, apathy- these all come later. Children come to school curious; within a few years most of that curiosity is dead, or at least silent... The expressions on the children's faces seemed to say, 'You've got us here in school; now make us do whatever it is you want us to do.' Curiosity, questions, speculation- these are for outside school, not inside."

~ John Holt, in his book Why Children Fail
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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Published 6:01 PM by with 1 comment

In Praise of (Gentle)Men

The movie "Mary Poppins" has been one of my favorite Disney films ever since I was a child. Even more than the movie, I loved the songs. My mom (to whom I am eternally grateful for raising me with music in the home) bought me several cassette tapes of Disney songs before I was five years old. The two I remember the best were "Oliver and Company" and "Mary Poppins". Being so young, I hardly understood what the lyrics meant even as I sang along with them; "political equality, and equal rights with men" in the Sister Suffragette song, all the talk about investments in the bank, the cockney accents of the chimney sweeps, class division of the servants... so many things make more sense fifteen years later.

In the scene where the main characters magically jumped into the chalk picture, I always particularly loved the song that Mary and Bert sang to each other.

Ain't it a glorious day,
right as a morning in May,
I feel like I could fly!
Have you ever seen
the grass so green,
or a bluer sky?

Then Mary takes a turn to sing about Bert:

Oh, it's a jolly holiday with you, Bert.
Gentlemen like you are few.
Though you're just a diamond in the rough, Bert,
underneath your blood is blue!
You'd never think of pressing your advantage,
forbearance is the whole mark of your creed;
a lady needn't fear when you are near,
your sweet gentility is crystal clear.
Oh, it's a jolly holiday with you, Bert,
a jolly, jolly holiday with you!

When I listened to this song, I used to wonder why Mary Poppins seemed to imply that the majority of men in the world were bad. To me, most of the guys I saw in my little sphere were "good" in the sense that they weren't cruel towards anybody, that they strove to be honest. At least they opened doors for women and had common decency. Then the real world hit...

Who wouldn't agree with Mary now that "gentlemen are few"? After four years of college, I'd say there is maybe one true gentleman out of a thousand normal college males, perhaps even less. The dictionary qualifies a "gentleman" as "a chivalrous, courteous, or honorable man", and further defines these attributes:

Chivalrous: giving special attention and respect towards women; brave.

Courteous: polite, respectful, or considerate in manner; having manners fit for a royal court.

Honorable: being worthy of honor by concerning oneself with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.

How many men do you know that fit these qualities? I've been disillusioned many times by naively assuming that any fellow I meet is automatically a gentleman. WRONG. But why should I expect young men to behave in a certain way when they have never been taught to do so, when gallant conduct is not encouraged or rewarded, and when in our society nowadays females insist on being treated the same as their counterparts, which effectively negates all sense of deferential propriety?

But I didn't want to write this to malign men. Its intent is to praise the few who still adhere to the higher standard that used to be the norm. There are several men who I'd like to acknowledge for being true gentlemen in my interactions with them.

1. Mozart-Man: I've written so much about him recently, so I'll try not to go on about all his amazing characteristics : ) I love him so very much. He treats me with deference and kind words and actions.

2. My step-dad, Sean: Watching how much of a gentleman he is towards my mom, both Mozart-Man and I are humbled. Sean very much has a servant's heart, looking to my mom's needs, questions, and wants before his own. There are many things in my mom and Sean's relationship that Mozart-Man and I hope to emulate in our own marriage eventually.

3. Matt: An old friend who I've known from the time I was eight years old. We were home schooled together until we graduated from high school. I loved him like a brother, and for a long time we were best friends. I haven't been good about staying in contact with him, but I will never forget how kind he always was to me. I don't ever remember a single mean-spirited word from him.

4. Alec and Xander: My youngest friends. At sixteen/seventeen, they are both well on their way to becoming quite honest and warmhearted young men, who are very gifted musically. I'm looking forward to seeing what they plan on pursuing in college. I've been especially happy to be included in Alec's family life over the past few years. I wish I was able to see Xander, but he lives in California.

5. Jim: The husband of my first guitar teacher, Kelli. He has never been anything but kind to me. I have admired him so much for fourteen years. He and Kelli have a wonderful marriage relationship that is good to see.

6. Kevin: Guitar educationist extraordinaire, he took the time to help me get on my feet as a young performer and then a teacher. His careful attention to the people he directs is inspirational to see. Consideration of details, both in human temperaments and in his work with music, is one of his specialties.

7. Peter: Last, but most certainly not least, this young man (and his entire family) has been in my life since we met at guitar camp almost seven years ago. The phrase in the Mary Poppins song, "sweet gentility", fits him perfectly. He is one of the most energetic, intrepid, driven guys I've ever met, but also one who exhibits the most courtesy. I saw him and his sister Ellen the other night and realized again how blessed I am to have Peter as one of my greatest friends.

The more I see of the caliber of men in the world, the more I realize how important it is for everyone to do what they can to motivate gentlemanly behavior. Parents obviously have the most effect on the next generation of males, with teachers and mentors as a close second. Friends can have a large influence on the men in their lives, too. But this lack of comportment and noble mindset is not just the fault of men... women are in on the blame.

Maybe I'll write another blog about the degenerate female state sometime.
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