Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Well, That's Interesting...

I've had several Big Thoughts this week--shifting perspectives and gleaning 'aha' moments in workshops attended, books read, relationship interactions had. There is still much that I am tumbling about in my brain, and likely will be for a while.

One of these Big Thoughts struck me quite powerfully this morning. I discovered something about myself. Well, sort of. I was more reminded of two things I already knew about myself, but had never looked at together side by side. And it left me thinking, "well, that's interesting..."

I was at a workshop discussing the pedagogy of play. For those readers not entrenched in the field of early childhood education, some context: play is one of the most important things we can allow children to do if we want them to be confident, competent, successful adults. And without getting into it here, experts are trying to get this message out loud and clear, because there is a rift between those who recognize the need for a play-focused classroom, and those who continue to try and argue for an academic-focused classroom for young children.

Every play workshop I've attended includes a brief definition of play. And it is generally defined including these terms:

  • Play is spontaneous
  • Play is apparently purposeless
  • Play is more focused on the process than any sort of product
  • Play is non-literal
  • Play is directed and controlled by the child
  • Play is intrinsically motivated and voluntary
Any time an adult imposes any sort of agenda onto a child's play activities, they run the risk of hindering the full potential that could have come out of the experience for that child. While I am not perfect, I must say, I do consider myself a pretty darn good play-er. It is generally not hard for me to let play unfold in the child's time, in the child's way. I have had many circumstances where I've gotten right into it with a child. And then suddenly, the parent walks by, or comes in to ask me a question, and looks at the mess noise play space around us. I find myself looking back up at them, scrambling to reclaim my title of Responsible Adult by declaring, "I promise we'll clean it up when we're done."

I lose my sense of time, and I lose my sense of needing to be the adult authority figure.*

I'm a good play-er. And I know this.

Now, look at that list again. Especially bullets 1, 3, and 4. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not a spontaneous person, I am task-oriented, and I am quite the linear/literal thinker. I struggle so much in my adult life with these character traits.Yes, yes, yes. I know there are positive aspects to each of these traits; that being said, there are so many times when embracing the 'what if' that underlies all of those traits would be so enriching.

It is just so hard to do. And I know this.

But wait.

How is it so hard for me to have these qualities in my daily, adult activities, and yet it is so easy to do when I'm on the floor with a child?...

Well, that's interesting...

I do not have an answer for you. This revelation just happened this morning. But I wonder something. Research shows that when children are engaged in play, they have the ability to step beyond their zone of proximal development. They are able to use language, take perspectives, and act cognitively at levels up to two years ahead of where they show themselves to be when assessed outside of a play experience. They can do things in play that they can't otherwise do.

Maybe it's not so different for adults.

In children, mind you, abilities acquired in play do eventually transfer into abilities that can be carried out in their other daily activities. Because their brains are still growing and new neuron connections are being made.

But my brain is not growing. My activities serve to maintain neuron connections, but I'm not really developing a whole lot of new ones at this point. Not the way a child does.

Still, it makes me wonder... because if there is any way to transfer what goes on when I'm in the block corner to what goes on when I'm in a meeting, or out with my friends...

* Within reason, of course. Child safety trumps uninterrupted play experience.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pleasing to the Eye

Petal Droplets I by gina.blank
I could not get enough of these flowers at the Muttart today. I was there this afternoon shooting family photos for friends, shooting flowers both before and after, of course.

Now that I have seen the Butchart Gardens, I have to say that neither the Devonian Botanical Gardens nor the Muttart Conservatory hold a candle to the floral experience there. Nevertheless, the Muttart holds its own as a year-round escape to colour and beauty in this city. I have been often enough this year that I'm planning to purchase an annual pass for 2013 on my next visit.

A photo I took there a couple years ago (an impromptu shot in the middle of a portrait shoot, nonetheless) will be featured in the Muttart's 2013 calendar. This is the second publication this year in which a photo of mine has been included; crazy!

And all because I can't keep my eyes off the colours!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Way, Truth, Life OR SOTC 36/365

Way, Truth, Life by gina.blank

SOTC 35/365

Winter Creek by gina.blank

SOTC 34/365

Snow-Capped Birch by gina.blank
A patch of snow on the birch tree, a dollop of snow on the ground. It is a beautiful day for snowshoeing in the mountains.

Despite receiving a large dump of snow in Edmonton just a few days prior to my weekend retreat, there was no time to take advantage of it in the city.

And really--what better way to take in the first snowshoe of the season than through the birch and pine trees, with a backdrop of sunshine, blue sky, and the jaggedly majestic peaks of the Rockies?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Every Day I'm Shovelling

It's not even 8am. Normally at this time, I am just getting my coffee prepped and my lunch into a bag before heading out the door. This morning, however, I was up just before 6, to bring my car in for 7, to get her winter tires put on. It's rough being up this early, but I always need to have one of the first appointments of the day, because I need my car for work.

Unfortunately, it was yesterday that Edmonton received nearly a foot of heavy, wet snow. I drove slowly, I drove carefully. I was not one of the roughly 200 motor vehicle accidents. (I was, however, one of the roughly one million snow blowing their driveway after work.)

My brother, having spent much of his adult life in Lethbridge, says this is the most snow he's seen at once in nine years. I told him if he can make it through his first winter here, he could make it anywhere (except maybe NWT). But I told him not to snow blow yesterday, and I'm kinda glad I did. I think he would have tapped out on winter entirely.

Snow blowing yesterday was about 10,000 kinds of awful. I generally quite like snow blowing. There is supreme satisfaction in watching several of inches of snow disappear under your feet. That being said, I have never had to blow through snow so thick and dense with wet. I lost count of how many times the pipe got clogged with snow (I had to scoop it out with a trowel every 5-10 ft. Who carries a trowel with them when they snow blow? Honestly.) Still quicker than shovelling manually, I cleared the driveway fairly well.

The snow continues to fall today. I will have to shovel. Or snow blow. I'm not sure which at this point. The weekend forecast calls for sunshine across the province, and I am hopeful of that.

A few blog posts ago, I talked about intentionally seeking beauty in every season. While this is only Day 2 of snow, it is day 5 (6? 7?) without sunshine. All week has been a "hazy shade of winter." Snow just adds insult to injury, but I think I am taking it in stride. Today. All the tree branches are topped with snow. In my ageing neighbourhood, it means the elm trees on each side of the street come together in a beautiful frosted canopy. While the backdrop is a little grey right now, the first sunny day will be glorious.

Today the flakes fall slow, gentle, fluffy. There is beauty in this, too. In another month, this will be downright holy.

"But You came like a winter snow,
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below."

     -- Chris Tomlin

Saturday, November 3, 2012

SOTC 33/365

Tessellation II AND SOTC 33/365 by gina.blank

Every time I see stuff like this, I get the refrain of this song in my head:

(And in case you're sitting there thinking, 'what on earth is this?!' ...THIS is what thirty-something math geeks watched as children.)

Friday, November 2, 2012

What Does it Mean?

Every now and then, I glance back at old journal entries. I often see areas where God answered prayer; sometimes dramatically. I see how my thoughts and feelings have grown and/or evolved. I chuckle at things like being worried about a psych test. And then--and this is what gets me--I see some of the same old problems.

I read about feelings I am processing and/or still struggle with 5, 10, 15 years later. I could cut and paste the entries and slap the today's date on the top, and it would still be relevant and accurate and true.

Same crap, different pile, it seems.

It makes me wonder...

We talk so much about how we can grow, change, improve as people. We are encouraged to recognize the parts of our character that challenge us, cause us struggle--our weaknesses--and invest time, energy, prayer, and counselling into changing them. We are to learn from the negative experiences they cause, using our awareness to come up with strategies lessen their impact or power on us in the future.

And then...

They still show up.

I was chatting with a friend about how--similarly--the struggles experienced by married couples are often struggles they experienced while dating. The issue doesn't really seem to go away--it just seems to be the issue we've decided to accept "till death do us part."

So what does this all mean?

Are we not dealing right?

Processing right?

Praying "right"?

(....I SWEAR I brought that issue to the cross already. Twice. Does it mean I didn't leave it there?)

Are we not as able to change some parts of ourselves as we think we are/should be?

How do we know if a weakness is a way Satan plants seeds of insecurity in our hearts or a way God plants seeds of humility?

Can we truly accept ourselves if we know we can't change? Or do we only "accept" ourselves on the belief that we will grow and move beyond our weakness(es)?

So many more questions than answers...