Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Green Jello Salad

My home life as a child was not a happy one. My happiness came at school. However, one positive thing stands out when I think of Thanksgiving dinner (Christmas too), and it is my mom's green jello salad--lime flavored jello with fruit cocktail mixed in it. Most of you have probably had it at least once, haven't you? I loved it when I was a child. My mom died when I was 18, and the green jello salad was a thing of memory until I had my children.

Like most parents, I wanted to create happy traditions for my children, but I was tradition challenged from my childhood and had to figure out, through trial and error, how each holiday should be celebrated. When you think about it, traditions seem to evolve almost on their own, which is why each family's traditions differ from every other family. But, we often bring something treasured from our past to our new family life, don't we, and I brought green jello salad.

What I find fascinating is that my own grown children want me to make green jello salad for every Thanksgiving and Christmas. From childhood, they embraced jello salad as one of our traditions, and they won't hear of not having it, even though no one eats that much of it. I like to think of green jello salad as a link going back to my mom, the grandma they never knew, and I have a feeling that one or the other of my children will be making it for the family gathering long after I'm gone. Green jello salad--such a simple thing linking the generations.

So, with all the love in my heart for my children, I just finished making this Thanksgiving's jello salad, keeping our tradition, our link to the past and the future, going for another holiday.

I look forward to hearing about one of your family's traditions.

Happy Thanksgiving,


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Monday, November 21, 2011

You Know You Are Educated When

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about education and what it means to be an educated person. I've known many people with degrees who are not, in fact, educated; and, I know many people without degrees who are the epitome of educated. So, how do you know when you are an educated person?

You know you are educated when you can entertain conflicting ideas and not get frustrated or give up.

You know you are educated when you don't need to shout your opinions nor demonize your ideological foes; rather, you choose to search for new ways to create meaning and understanding, finding ways to bridge ideological gulfs.

You know you are educated when you realize that if you live a million years, you will never learn everything, but, by gosh, you are going to try anyway because learning is the greatest joy you can experience when you're all by yourself.

You know you are educated when your curiosity will NOT accept not knowing something; a question will niggle your brain until you must find an answer.

And finally, you know you are educated when you realize you can NEVER know enough.

Take care,


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Sunday, November 20, 2011

What We Can Learn From A Symphony Orchestra

What a treat! Last night, my youngest son, Grant, and I attended a Monterey Symphony concert. His History of Music class requires each student to attend a classical music concert of choice, and Grant selected this one. It was Grant's first classical music concert, and it was my first one in about 30 years. The orchestra played Who Cares?, a selection of Gershwin melodies with accompanying ballet dances, in the first half, and it played Tchaikovsky's Symphony #2 in the second half. The first half was delightful, while the second was thrilling. The ecstatic applause went on quite awhile during the standing ovation. A transporting evening was had by one and all.

While the main part of my brain was enjoying the music and dance, another part of my brain was thinking about the orchestra. I marveled at how the instruments complemented each other. The brass did not drown out the strings, nor did the woodwinds interrupt the percussion. Each section of the orchestra played its part, respectfully waiting its time to play and its time to be silent. The drums were of especial interest to me because the drummers would gently silence their drums' sounds by hand, stopping the reverberations that would have destroyed the symphony.

I marveled even more as I watched individual musicians play solos, starting right on cue and never insisting on more time. All the instruments in the orchestra working together to make ethereal music.  And I thought, "Why can't our government work like an orchestra?"

I almost laughed out loud at the mental image forming in my brain of our current members of congress playing instruments in a congressional orchestra and attempting to perform a symphony. What a cacophony that would be! The brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussion all being played loudly, insisting on being heard over the other instruments, with no direction, no respect, no timely silences. The sound would be worse than a thousand fingernails scratching on chalkboards.

Why would the sound be so awful? Because it would not be music; it would just be noise. I may like the brass best (and I do), but I also enjoy the strings, woodwinds, and percussion. Brass by itself would get boring because it cannot make all the sounds necessary to produce a symphony. 

Our elected officials and we voters need to take our cues from orchestral musicians. We need to listen at the right times, respect the virtues of the different sounds, and work together to make the music of democracy play in our land again. This is what I learned at the symphony last night.

Take care,


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