Post Christmas Blues

Today I am like the Christmas lawn ornaments that now lay face down and flat on lawns throughout our town. Whether Santa or Snoopy in a snow globe, these balloon sculptures have been left forgotten and unfilled now that we are a few days past Christmas and almost ready to ring in a New Year.

I LOVE the Christmas season.  I LOVE making lists, shopping for just the right giflts, decorating the house, writing Christmas cards, wrapping, procuring and preparing our traditional Scandinavian foods, and having time to read and relax.  And the thing I cherish most of all is being together with my family. Our children are grown now, so for most of the year they are busy leading their own amazing lives. But when Christmas comes, they come home and they stay for a while.  We decorate the tree together, shop and wrap together, cook and eat together, talk together, go on adventures together, read on the couches together, and see lots of movies together (This year we saw The Favourite, Vice, and Mary Queen of Scots, along with Christmas favorites including It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf,  Santa Clause, and Charlie Brown’s Christmas.). Over the week, we settle in to a nice rythm, and everything feels so right. This year we ended the week with a fantastic day in New York City. We saw The Magic Flute at the Metroplotian Opera House, stopped for a glass of wine at a bar where my daughter knows the bartender, walked through Central Park to see the Christmas windows at Bergdorf Goodman (as we do each and every year) and went out to a fabulous (and probably too expensive) dinner in SoHo. We walked, we laugher, we enjoyed.  As the night came to a close, I felt closer to my two daughters than I’ve ever felt before (and we are pretty close).

And then the time came. The time to drive them back to their apartments in Chinatown and South Park Slope.  The time to drop them off with all of their new Christmas loot. The time to send them back to their own lives…and me back to mine.  

Today it’s quiet.  The tea kettle isn’t boiling for my daughter’s tea.  The music isn’t on. It’s just me, my husband and the dog on the couches.  I’m feeliing a bit deflated and like I’m lying face down on my front lawn.

Footprints on the Heart

“Some people come into our lives, leave footprints in our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”     Flavia Weedn

My stepfather, Warren, was one of those people. I am forever changed (for the better) as a result of knowing, loving, and being loved by, Warren.

A few years back, Warren and I were visiting my sister in the hospital after a difficult surgery on her leg. After spending some time with Nina, Warren and I noticed that it was starting to snow and we decided that maybe it was time to head out for the ride home to Connecticut. We got onto the FDR, heading north.  Of course Warren insisted that we take the Willis Avenue Bridge to avoid the toll over the RFK. “No decent New Yorker would ever pay a toll to get out of the city!” he told me, not for the first time in our many years together. 

So we headed along toward CT and the snow started to come down harder and faster.  By the time we were on the Hutch, we were in white out conditions. That’s when Warren kicked in.  He was, of course, in the passenger seat, and as we moved toward CT, Warren coached me along.

“OK..You are doing fine.”

“Move a little to the left.  You are a little close to the edge of the road.”

“Good…Better”

“Give yourself a little more distance.  Better.”

“You’re good.  You’re doing great.”

“You can probably go a bit faster.  I think it’s OK.”

“Can you see?”

“Take your time if that makes you comfortable.”

“We’re not in any rush.”

“You are really doing well.  This is tough ride.”

He never acted anxious.  He never yelled. The whole way home he sent the message, “You can DO this, and I’m right here to help you.”

That was Warren.  He was always there.  Always encouraging. Always willing to give advice.  Always willing to be honest. Always telling me that even when things were tough, I was going to be OK.  He always sent the message, “You can DO this,” even on those days when I wasn’t at all sure that was so.

I think he did this for everyone he knew.  He listened. He encouraged. He guided. I am a different person (a better one) as a result of his belief in me.

My heart feels so heavy now that he has died.  Maybe it’s the feeling of footprints that Warren is leaving on my heart. I will never be the same, ever.  

“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” Helen Keller

Viewing

I’ve started thinking about viewing.  When we talk about literacy, we often talk about reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing. We spend quite a bit of time with the first three, less with number four, and not much time at all with number 5, viewing.  Yet kids spend a lot of their time viewing.  They are on their phones and iPads watching YouTube, looking at photos on Instagram and Snapchat, and (although this seems reserved for older folks these days) looking at Facebook.  If we are lucky, they are also viewing pieces of art in museums, galleries, and on the walls of people’s homes. I’ve started to think that we need to teach kids how to view.

This study has me wondering:

-Are there specific skills kids need to view well?

-How is viewing different from reading?  How is it similar?

-Is the skill set different if we are looking at a moving image vs. a still image?

-How do we view well?

I’ve been trying some of this work out with kids.  Recently I asked students to view a short film and think about characters and themes.  The kids were incredibly engaged in the film.  Their responses were quite insightful.  But I wondered – had they really paid attention to some of the details in the film?  Had they studies how the filmmaker included certain details?  Had they noticed the shifts in perspective? Had they realized that the animator had used color and sound to communicate with his viewers?

It seems to me that viewing is rich with opportunities to engage students and show them how to look in ways that will bring them to some deeper, more interesting understandings about these visual texts and the world at large.

If you have any interesting ideas about viewing, please share.