Monthly Archive: October 2008

Reschooling Tool #7: Be Thankful That It’s Not Worse

For the last few days, I’ve been spending time with my college roommates on the east coast. Today the girls and I took in the beauty of historic Concord, the setting for much of the American Revolution, as well as the first intellectual capital of the country. Among others, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott wrote their great works here, and Louisa’s father, Bronson Alcott, was a pioneer of progressive education.

After a fascinating tour of the Alcott house, where Louisa May set the loosely autobiographical novel Little Women, we went to a fall festival at the Old Manse on the Concord River. Emerson and Hawthorne each lived here, and you can understand why the setting inspired such great works. Sitting under trees bursting with red and orange fall leaves, the girls and I gorged ourselves on freshly made kettle corn and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. I felt peaceful and happy…and then began to feel a little sick.

At first I thought it might be a sugar overdose, but I soon suspected that the cramping pains beginning in my mid-section and shooting down my legs were due to what the colonists called “female complaints.” Dizziness and spotty blackouts followed, and I spent the next half hour sitting on the ground with my head between my legs repeating my own advice: Stay calm. Accept the situation. Keep a sense of humor about it. Instead of walking around Walden Pond as we’d planned, my friends and I headed home so I could lie on the couch and sip tea (which the girls later told me was new mom Charlotte’s Mother’s Milk tea that “promotes healthy lactation.” Thanks, ladies!).

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Reschooling Tool #6: Choose the Ridiculous Interpretation

This post continues the story begun in Reschooling Tool #5: Accept Things As They Are.

I find that when I pat myself on the back for an evolved reaction to a situation, the universe tends to respond by kicking up the intensity, as if to say, “Congratulations, you were worthy of that challenge–now try this one!”  My last entry described how I drained the car battery of my anxious grandpa in Maryland one night, and here’s how the story continued.

As promised, the AAA tow truck operator arrived and jump started the dead battery; he informed me that it would charge completely during the 20-minute drive home. As I steered the Mazda toward the parking lot exit, I called my grandpa to tell him not to worry, that I was finally on my way. Mid-sentence, I came to the parking lot exit and realized that I could leave only by swiping an electronic “Smartcard,” which of course I didn’t have. I wasn’t allowed to pay the $4.25 fee with cash or credit card, so I would need to go back into the Metro station on foot and buy a Smartcard there. Unfortunately, I couldn’t park the car again so soon after the jump start, or the battery would die again. As the toll booth was empty, I couldn’t ask a staff person for advice. During this series of realizations, my grandpa was on the other end of the phone asking me what in the world was going on. I hurriedly explained the situation and told him that I’d call him back.
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Reschooling Tool #5: Accept Things As They Are

I’m on the east coast this week, visiting my grandparents in Maryland and my college roommate outside of Boston. This entry was hand-scrawled the other night and transcribed.

I’m making history tonight: I’m paper-blogging for the first time. I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of my grandpa’s 1990 Mazda in the parking lot of the Greenbelt, Maryland train station, writing under the dim light of a lamppost. I parked here four hours ago when I took the train to D.C. to meet some girlfriends. My fretful Chinese grandpa had cautioned me about 20 different possible dangers, including pickpockets and car thieves. He requested that I phone him at every turn: when I arrived at Greenbelt, then at D.C., and again upon my return to Greenbelt, and when I arrived safely at my car.

I gently told my grandpa that I’d lived in a fairly rough neighborhood in San Francisco (the Mission District), and I knew how to handle myself. I didn’t want to stress him out and planned to say at the end of the night, “See? You had nothing to worry about.” I would have succeeded in doing this, if not for one threat that neither my grandpa nor I had foreseen: Headlights that don’t beep when you leave them on as you exit the car.
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Reschooling, East Coast Style

This will be a quick update, because my eyes are glazing over and I’m keeping my friends up by blogging so late. I’m currently in historic Concord, Massachusetts, visiting my college roommate and her new baby. I’ve enjoyed a bit of reschooling in the past few days by doing some culinary things I’ve never done before:

– Trying blood sausage and intestine at an Argentinian restaurant. I chewed tiny bits of each quickly and then chased them with onion rings. The textures were respectively too spongy and rubbery for my tastes, but I was pleased that I tried them.

– Prepared a whole chicken for cooking: rubbing salt, herbs, and lemon juice under the skin, dropping onions and garlic into the cavity, and partially filling the pan underneath with broth and water. The chicken turned out moist (apparently the salt is the secret), flavorful, and delicious.

– Learned how to make applesauce from scratch, peeling and chopping apples and cooking them in a bit of water.

– Used a deep fryer to make French fries, some of the best I’ve ever had just because they were so fresh.

Turns out cooking from scratch is simpler than I make it out to be. I’m looking forward to more food-related learning this weekend, as my friend Charlotte is one of the best cooks around and makes everything from fresh, organic ingredients. Mouth-watering descriptions of her meals are sure to come.

A Week Down Memory Lane

I’m writing from a little library in the Maryland town where my mom’s parents live. They’ve lived in the same house since 1959, and they’ve actively refused to hop on the Interweb party bus. (I think my grandpa’s exact words were: “Don’t buy a computer for me. I won’t use it.”) As a result, I have 30 minutes to give you a brief update before I’m booted off the library computer.

I’m taking a week off between elementary school and middle school, which is giving me time to process my K-5 experiences. My scrawlings have filled a whole notebook with memories and observations, and I’m both eager to translate them into posts and petrified that I’ll lose the notebook before I have the chance. As always, I hope to catch up on writing in the next few days, and share more stories with you.

This week will generate some blogging fodder of its own, I’m sure. I’m spending a couple of days in Maryland with my mom and grandparents (Pop Quiz: 3 generations of anxious Asians + 2 days + 1 small space = ?). On Thursday, I meet two of my college roommates in the Boston area to see the new baby boy of our third college roommate. At my high school reunion, the mere thought of my classmates reproducing made me uneasy, so I’m sure seeing a close friend with an infant will blow my mind.

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Giving Up The Struggle

You might have wondered how I feel to have all this “time off” while launching Reschool Yourself, given that I’m used to such a packed schedule. Since I left my full-time job in June, my planner has been almost appointment-free. I don’t need to be anywhere, though I keep my commitments to spend time at school. I could be using my afternoons, evenings, and weekends to catch up on all that I’ve missed during my workaholic Spark years. I could be investing it in getting healthy, balanced, and informed, as I’d hoped when I first conceived of the project.

I could be, but I haven’t been. I’ve actually used much of my time like this:

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Cutting Class in Fifth Grade

I think I’ve gotten what I need from elementary school and am ready to move on. When I started fifth grade on Monday morning, I felt restless. I hadn’t slept enough, as usual, and I was feeling kind of spacey, with a lot on my mind (I’ll post about that topic soon). I was disappointed in my lack of focus, because I had the privilege of finally being in Mr. Neubacher’s fifth grade class. He taught sixth when I was in school, back when elementary schools were K-6. It was just my luck that my sixth grade year was the year that the junior high became a middle school. So I never got a chance to have Mr. Neubacher, who was beloved by the kids. I appreciate the brief time I spent in his class this week, and here are some highlights:

- Doing a cool science experiment.

The Exploratorium, San Francisco’s hands-on science museum, is piloting a program at my elementary school (the first in the country to try it), and from what I’ve seen, the kids love it. This week’s unit is Magnets, so my “lab partner” and I made a compass by magnetizing a sewing needle, pushing it through a styrofoam peanut, and floating it in a bowl of water. Pop Quiz: In what direction did the needle point? (See end of post for the answer.)

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