EXCHANGING PLOWSHARES FOR POLYGONS

The concept of childhood is a relatively recent one in the past 100 years or so. With a few exceptions since the industrialized era, we’ve created a cultural expectation that children under the age of 15 should indulge in long periods of leisure time without much responsibility, schedule, or hard work. We now raise our children to spend their summers exploring, experiencing and getting lost in thought, more than laboring in drudgery. In general, apart from some perfunctory chores like unloading the dishwasher, running some loads of laundry, making beds and caring for the family pet, kids don’t spend their summertime working to feed hungry mouths. In the Highlands, however, summertime is spent feeding hungry minds.
If I went door-to-door in my neighborhood and asked what kinds of activities parents lined up for their kids the past few months, there would be reports of pool memberships, vacations with the grandparents, and Science Camp. I would find an assortment of leisure activities paired with educational activities. In place of mucking stalls or picking crops on a farm, kids are learning HTML and marine biology. Twelve-year-olds are more likely to be found logging on to an online Spanish course instead of chopping logs for firewood. Highland parents seem to waste no time finding activities that bring fun and learning together in ways that will hopefully benefit their children’s development and future. We all know our darlings are capable of whiling away the summer toggling between Xbox and Netflix (pushing every parent’s buttons in the meantime), and wasting every brain cell lodged between their ears. Some would say our culture has had enough of long luxurious childhood summers and would prefer to return to an era of minimal idle time. Some would claim that we have overindulged several generations of children who grew up to be lazy and unprepared young adults. Will it be that within the next generation our youth will exchange repose for recitals, leisure for learning, and fun for photosynthesis workshops?
I’m not convinced either extreme is the way to raise kids. Complete and constant engagement in academic pursuits can be stressful and is suitable for a minority of agile minds. Let’s go with a farming analogy. In working with crops, farmers periodically set aside their fields for fallow time to regenerate the soil’s nutrients, so the next season they will bounce back with abundance. Let’s say our minds work the same way as these fields. If we push them too hard our “crops” become weaker and less abundant. If our children are given no time to relax, they may experience “crop” burn-out. Studies show that great creativity comes under circumstances where the mind is peaceful and not randominzed in multitasking. We all do our best thinking in the shower after all, right? It would be nice to spend the entire summer in a state of creative receptiveness — as if we were in a two-month-long shower — but that is easier said than done. Being engaged in creative thought is a discipline unto itself and requires diligent practice. The other extreme of allowing our kids to do absolutely nothing over the course of summer seems erroneous too. After all, when we leave a field fallow for too long, it gets overrun by weeds and stubborn to return to planting condition. This fall when our students return to school, our teachers will know which “fields” were had been worked too hard season after season, and which ones were choked with brambles from lack of attention.
One of the most disputed topics amongst Highlanders is childrearing and how to best prepare our children for a productive future where they can positively contribute to society. Very few parents want their children rising at 5am, working their fingers to the bone all day just so they can collapse in bed exhausted and awake the next morning to do it all over again. Yet most parents know that leaving kids to their own devices means they’ll be on some electronic device all day “doing nothing”. Whether engaged in computer camps or backpacking, geology or GeoCaching, Highlanders typically put a lot of time and thought into their own approach to childhood. This September, will your children look back at summer having tilled their fields with vigor, or let them run rampant and become overgrown?

SURPRISE! IT’S ANOTHER HOLIDAY AVALANCHE!

holiday avalancheLet me whisk you off to metaphor land. It’s snowing outside and has been for days. It’s time to take a look at the snow accumulation on the roof, so I head outside and step under the eaves. I extend a broom handle above me and jam it into the thick foamy protrusion hanging over the lip of the roof. Within a second I am engulfed in a frozen avalanche; left gasping for air from surprise and cold shock. Now let’s take that little fictional episode and say that the snowfall represents Thanksgiving, and the Siberian-style landslide is the approach to Christmas. Despite the same routines and expectations every year, the family winter holidays always result in a surprise crushing blow that leaves me frazzled and shaking stuff out of my ears for weeks afterward.

Preparations for visitors and their inherent tumult of food, bedding and activities; Christmas card photos, composition, addressing and sending; musical engagements like the kids’ school concerts and my band’s Christmas shows; presents and food shopping; family outings to ice skating, drummers, “Straight No Chaser” show, and botanical garden lights; various company and social parties…even writing this list makes my blood pressure rise, and I haven’t even started my craft beading projects yet or going to church! I can hear the roar of the avalanche in the distance, but my feet are stuck in the snow.holiday avalanche 2

Avert your eyes or skip ahead a couple paragraphs if you think I’m a generous and kind-hearted neighbor. I’d like you to preserve that positive impression you might have of me, and what I’m about to reveal will pulverize that illusion. Starting in early November I batten down the hatches on my social receptiveness and accordance. Over the years I’ve honed survival strategies intended to maximize my enjoyment of holiday sparkle and fun, but minimize my effort output. My first line of defense is to stop giving to as many places as possible. (Can you feel the Grinch squeezing his way in?) The holidays make me feel drained of energy, finances and creativity, so number one that gets flicked off my list is my Puget Sound Blood Center appointments. I literally feel drained, (of course) when I leave my pint of blood in the clinic’s plastic bags, so sorry car accident victims, you’re out of luck with regard to my B positive contribution from November through January. I don’t have much “being positive” to spare for 60 straight days, and I have to allocate it to other causes.

The next thing to go is excursions from the house with only a single intended stop. If I can’t pack in at least four errands in one trip, then I’m not using my iPhone apps wisely. And with all the new stores now open in the Highlands my shopping list of mascara, clogs, cranberries, candles and a screwdriver can get banged out in the blink of an eye. Sorry Santa, a visit to your lap gets lumped in with printer ink and an oil change.

You can now tune back in to hear how Big Giver Tami approaches the holidays meaningfully. Resources of time, talent and treasure are tapped more frequently in the last two months of the calendar year. I have to get creative with my treasure with all the gift shopping we do. Spreading out the financial squeeze, yet fully embracing the materialistic side of the season, I started my purchases in late September this year. As for talent, I just follow my skillful bandmates from one “Celtic Christmas” gig to the next, spreading cheer and sharing our joy of music with audiences across Seattle. (Shameless self-promotion here: be sure to pop by Blakely Hall Sunday, December 8 at 5:00pm to witness firsthand my bandmates’ genius on Irish instruments.) Finally, with regards to sharing time during the holidays, while there’s not much of it to spare, I try and keep everything meaningful and family focused. Being the Big Giver that I am, if I had to choose between doing the dinner dishes or lying under the Christmas tree looking up at the lights alongside one of my boys, I’m good with tackling caked-on food residue a few hours later. Let the avalanche spill all over me and shock me with chaos – it’s worth it!

A “reel” good time at the craft fair

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Shoppers from near and far were delighted by the Fall City Arts Holiday Market held at Chief Kanim Middle School on Saturday. Visitors marveled at the variety of handmade items such as table runners, baby clothes, woodcrafts, beauty products and original paintings. With favorable weather, a steady stream of shoppers explored the wares of local artisans and crafters.fall city market

Greeting the crowds at the door was the fragrance of fresh evergreen boughs forming decorative wreaths. Farther inside the commons of the middle school, visitors’ salivary glands went into overdrive with the aroma of fresh clam chowder and zesty chicken curry soups. Shoppers did not go hungry at the event.

With hunger taken care of and items checked off the holiday list, event attendees were entertained by live music provided by The Fire Inside Celtic music. Their catchy and lilting blend of traditional Christmas songs with Irish jigs and reels provoked many dancing outbursts amongst shoppers.

If the bright poinsettias did not capture one’s interest at themarket there was no lack of other exquisite handmade items suitable for teacher gifts, hostess presents or even a recipient closer to home.