Letters from Summer Camp

Here’s a link to my recent blog article on the New York Times‘ “Motherlode” parenting blog:  “Letters From Sleep-Away Camp”

Yesterday, my 16-year-old son departed, by bus, for four weeks at a camp in northern Minnesota.  I’ve already checked the camp’s website for photos, and I found one photo of him from the Opening Day.  I’m pleased to see that he arrived safe and sound.

As he posed for this photo, I think he chose body language that would convey as little emotion and information as possible.  Because he had read my blog article about letters from summer camp, he knew that I’d be studying the photo carefully.  Over the next four weeks, we will be engaged in a battle of wits as he tries to confuse me from afar with his micro-expressions.

Published in: on July 28, 2009 at 8:33 pm  Comments (2)  
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Grammar on the Moon

All the media attention for the 40th anniversary of the first walk on the moon has stirred up some memories for me.  This momentous event happened the summer after I was in 8th grade, and I remember staying up late to watch it live on TV.  It was a big deal for me then, and it still is.

However, I must confess that I’ve always been bothered by those first words spoken by Neil Armstrong:  “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”  I’m afraid that those words have never made sense to me. It seemed like something was missing.

Because I was so young when I first heard them, I assumed that those words made sense to adults.   Back in 1969, I assumed that my sense of proper grammar was still undeveloped.  Over the years, however, those words have continued to puzzle me.  As a result, my confidence in my “inner grammarian” has always been slightly damaged.

Now, at last, the mystery has been explained.  As discussed in this AP article and this earlier blog post, Armstrong intended to and probably actually said, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for Mankind.”

I feel much better now.  My inner grammarian is finally at peace.

God’s in his Heaven –
All’s right with the world!

– Robert Browning, “Pippa Passes”

Published in: on July 23, 2009 at 10:27 am  Comments (1)  
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Thoughts on Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture”

Check out my post on today’s “ACS Careers” blog for some thoughts on Randy Pausch’s inspirational video and book, “The Last Lecture.”  The article is titled “Quadratic Graffiti Inspires Blogger.”

In his life, Pausch beautifully integrated science and parenting.  Although his “last lecture” has inspired millions of people, his motivation in giving this lecture was simply to leave a legacy of his values and wisdom for his young children.


Published in: on July 8, 2009 at 7:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Unplugging from Electronics and Plugging in to Nature

A week ago, I returned from a five-day retreat, held at the Audubon Center for the North Woods. It’s a beautiful environmental education center, situated next to one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes and featuring more than 500 acres of forest, wetland, and prairie.

In addition to the natural beauty of the location, there is another notable feature of this wilderness location.  It is so remote that there is no cellular phone coverage. Let me repeat that: There is no cellular phone coverage.

As I feared (see previous blog entry), I went through TWS (technology withdrawal syndrome), a condition which often follows a long bout of NDD (nature deficit disorder).

Here are some examples of the symptoms I experienced:

  • When I wanted to know the current temperature or the forecast for later in the day, I thought immediately of logging on to the National Weather Service’s online site. Then, I realized that I’d have to figure it out on my own, by going outside and studying the sky.
  • When I met new people at the retreat, I wished I had access to Google so I could learn more about their backgrounds, interests, and professions. Instead, I had to decide which questions were really important for our conversation. I eventually realized that most of the information I would have found with a Google search wasn’t really relevant or important to our new friendship.
  • When I found myself wondering about a subject about which I had very limited knowledge (e.g, the lyrics to a song, the definition of a new word, the identification of an unknown plant or bird song), my first response was to reach for my iPhone to surf the net. Instead, I simply had to live with the uncertainties or try to figure it out for myself.
  • Perhaps the biggest problem for me was to be out-of-touch with my children. Even though my four sons are independent, resourceful, and competent young adults, I’ve gotten used to the ability to communicate with them at any time by phone, by texting, or by e-mail. For those five days, I had to trust that they were getting along fine, even when the electronic umbilical cord was cut.

In a future post, I’ll write about some of the things that I discovered, once my addiction to the online world had been tamed.

Published in: on July 6, 2009 at 9:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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