Coffee and Conversation: In Defense of Screen Media


Ah, it’s getting on toward that time again….time for me to take a stand in favor of skipping Screen-Free Week.

In the last year, we’ve watched, and enjoyed, and learned:

  •  Dragnet and Adam-12, and discussions of legal and ethical matters.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and a foray into reading  and writing fan fiction -and learning a great deal about the process of writing, too.
  • Lots of documentaries, news,  and talk shows.
  • Comedy, and Anime, and a world of conversation, explorationand laughter.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise, and the benefits and risks of relating to other species and other worlds…and more ethics, physics, and humor. Plus great storytelling!

Oh, and there have been many times when we’ve been otherwise occupied – camping, cooking, walking, swimming, going to events or museums, playing in the yard, reading, drawing, hometending….

Screens are part of life. Not the enemy, not an addiction…

A part of a rich and varied life – just the way we like it!

How about you and your family? Are you planning to limit or eliminate screens from May 5-11? Why or why not?

Originally posted on shanjeniah:

Sit down with a cuppa, and let’s chat a while…

Last week, Campaign for a Commercial -Free Childhood promoted its annual Screen-Free Week. Many parents turned off the screens in their homes. Libraries and bookstores offered up alternatives; board games sellers and family attractions hopes for a few of your dollars, in lieu of viewing.

We did not participate. Everyone here had freedom, all week, to use television, computers, videogames, and Kindles exactly as they pleased, without limits or even gentle hints that they might want to turn off or disconnect – just the same as every other week.

Here’s why:

We don’t have a problem with how televisions and other screen delivery systems are used in our home – not by us, and not by our children, either.

On a recent evening, we were gathered in my room, me writing on my laptop, and Annalise and Jeremiah playing

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Coffee and Conversation: Monday Morning Magic, Redux

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday again - time for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my familywas driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own…

Hey there! How are you, this fine Monday?

I’ve been productive, in a relaxed way. I’ve taken some walks with the kids and the dog; I’m moving and hometending more. I’ve made some tiny steps to welcome spring into our yard, and I’ve spent one-on-one time with each of my beloveds who lives here with me.

I’ve spent a little time in my study, making some improvements…

But, mostly, I’ve been writing. As I’ve mentioned here before, I am involved in two writing challenges this month, and have another planned for next month.

Rather than skip my regular Coffee and Conversation post, or try to come up with something fresh when my mind is filled with fiction, I thought I would share this post from a Monday morning in January 2013. It involves a late night when I chose a more peaceful path with my children, and magic happened…

I’m learning, now, well into my forties, that this just doesn’t apply to life with my children-it applies to everyone. It can be tempting to try to make someone do what I want, because that would be most beneficial to me. Sometimes I forget that the other, too, has a perspective, and quite possibly a way they’d like me to be, too.

It’s a fine art, and a new one, still, to me. I keep peeling back layers and learning more about how to meet others where they are, to state my own position without imposing it on the other party as the “right” one. It’s a process, and it’s still not natural, sometimes.

Want to join the conversation?

Have you had the experience of meeting someone where they are? Has it been rewarding, or frustrating? Do you have other challenges, when relating to others? Areas where you’ve grown? Particular skills that make human interaction more pleasant? Surprising or eye-opening interactions with others?

I’ve got a nifty little single-cup coffeemaker in my study. I’ll make your drink to order, while you get comfortable. Let’s chat!

Where she was, a year ago….

(Not Quite) Flat Surface (Not Quite) Friday: Valentine’s Pax


Yes, I know – it’s Saturday, again. I’m still working out the kinks that allow us all to use one internet connection. It’s amazing how many devices around here use it rather covertly. I was attempting to edit, here in my study, last night, and, meanwhile, Jim was quietly watching  Adam-12, using the Roku.

You can counsel me to get better at finding clear Internet pockets,, or laugh at my first world snarl-up…or remember that this blog is called Lovely Chaos for good reason, and just c’mon in and have a slightly belated peek into one of the flat surfaces in my life!

I love the life I live with my family. Every day is filled with laughter, connection, learning, negotiating, projects, and people I love. We weave a tapestry of affection, dissent, discovery, and growth together….

I want to celebrate these years – these years where the children we’ve shared our lives with journey into adulthood. I want to spend less time grousing, and more time paying attention to Right Here and Right Now.

So, on Fridays (and sometimes Saturdays!) when it seems fitting, I will share a flat surface in our home, and maybe tell a bit of its story…

Today’s surface isn’t exactly flat, but since it just kinda fell into our lives, I’m going to share. There’s not much to say, beyond that it snowed. A lot.


And then, it snowed some more…and this is the result.

Annalise tends to see virgin snow as a canvas…maybe, so do I!

Did you see the snow angel?


What was your weather like this week? Did you get so much snow that these photos are laughable? Do you live where snow is a rare occurrence? Is it summer where you are? I’d love to see your weather pictures, and hear your stories.

Wishing you all a slightly belated Valentine’s Day, and piles and piles of love and laughter along the way!

Do you have a flat surface you’d like to share? Feel free to add a link or photo in the comments! =D

Coffee and Conversation: “I Am Me!”

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday again Tuesday already!time not too late! for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own…

Last Saturday, Annalise came to me with a small notebook, and showed me what she’d written in it.



I am me and only me

And you are you

So love yourself!

You are who you are.

-Annalise S. Burton, age 9

I thought she had intended to write a poem, but she held it up in front of herself, instead.

 “Here’s my sign!” she said, with a big grin. “Will you take my picture now?”

We’ve talked a few times, in the last months, about the current trend of public child-shaming, especially on social media sites. We’ve chuckled at Elf-on-the-Shelf shaming (she finds the elf creepy at best, and the idea of parents using it to coerce their children offensive). We’ve laughed outright at the hilarious “animal-shaming” parodies.

And then, a week or so ago, I was invited to a Facebook Group which invites kids and their parents to turn the entire concept on it’s ear, and, rather than shaming a child, to celebrate what makes a person one-of-a-kind.

This, then, is what Annalise feels, at nine-and-a-half, and what she wants to say to the world.

“Here’s my sign!”

Compared to my nine-year-old self, Annalise has a tremendous amount of autonomy. Her wishes are taken as seriously as every other family member’s. She eats what she’s hungry for, when she’s hungry for it, she chooses how to spend her time, what to wear, when to sleep, what to read. She has the freedom to follow her passions, to indulge her imagination, to speak her mind, and to challenge herself in the ways she chooses.

I was no less an individual than she; I had big ideas, things to say, hungers and aversions, just as she does. I wanted to stay up late, to free my imagination, to dive into all the things that fired my spirit and set my mind racing.

Sometimes, I could do what I wanted. When I could, there was often sneakiness involved. I learned to be covert, to keep many things hidden within my mind, guarded against discovery.

It wasn’t a great situation for trusting myself, or feeling that I was all right just the way I was. Honestly, what I often felt was a vague shame that I couldn’t, by my very nature, live up to the expectations my parents imposed upon me, with the good intention of making me into a “decent adult”.

I grew up still carrying that shame, still trying to appease my parents, still feeling like I had to sneak and hide aspects of my life and my self that they would not approve of. Still, not loving myself, but asking myself what was wrong with me.

Learning how to help Annalise and her brother gain the skills and knowledge they need to meet their own needs; to honor, trust, and love themselves, is a journey I’m still taking. My own childhood doesn’t offer examples, and neither does most mainstream parenting advice, which seems to see raising a child very much in the same way as tending a garden; prune away the undesirables, enrich the soil with schooling, maybe also sports or extra lessons, demand they meet expectations.

Our children are more like wild meadows than well-tended gardens. They live according to their own natures, enriched by love and honest interaction, and expected to be – well, who they are. When there’s conflict, we do our best to work it out in a way that allows for everyone to get what they need, a “Win-win”. When feelings burst forth, we accept that, pay attention to what lies beneath, and then find our way back to peace.

“I am Me!”

Given the choice between what happens when a child feels shame, and when they feel at peace with themselves, I choose peace.

And maybe that’s why I have a nine-year-old who chose to write this message, and share it with anyone who reads it. Maybe it’s behind her wide, confident grin, in her easy assumption that we’re all who we are, and we should just love ourselves.

Maybe, if all children could feel this way, there wouldn’t be parents who feel that publicly shaming a child – or anyone else – is a good way to attain a goal. Maybe there’d be a lot more of love, and peace, and self-acceptance.

Now, please go out and love yourselves! =)

How have you loved yourself lately? Treated yourself to something you wanted? Really looked at yourself in the mirror? Indulged yourself with a gift of time? I’ll replenish your cuppa and listen, and the hugs are free; let’s converse! =)


Saturday’s Share: “Fashion Lords, Pick Me!”

“Lords of fashion, pick me!” Photo credited to Annalise S. Burton. Used with permission.

Welcome to Saturday’s Share – Reflections and impressions inspired by and celebrating images from daily life, to add a bit of sparkle to the weekend. Happy Saturday!

Today’s Share is courtesy of Annalise, who posed in, photographed, edited, and titled this image.

Last week, I wrote about adult interference in children’s creative pursuits. This photo echoes that, and carries it further.

Before she could walk (just after her first birthday), she was in love with shoes. The sight of jewelry has always put new sparkle in her dancing eyes. It’s quite possibly that she owns more clothing than the entire rest of the family combined. She began putting on fashion shows before she was four, and loves creating new outfits for her Monster High Dolls.

Clearly, this fashion passion is lifelong, and a part of who she is. It didn’t come from me, or nurture. So, logically, it must be nature.

I like to say that she’s the fancy daughter of a plain mother. I’m not interested in fashion, for myself. I admire people who put lovely ensembles together, and I don’t happen to be one of them.

I’m not inclined to fight my children’s natures. They are who they are, whether I understand it fully, or not.

So, how do we support our children’s interest in things we have no knack or personal interest in? Is there a way to give them the space and support to be who they are, to love what they love, to follow their passions and interests where they lead, even when it’s nothing we would have chosen, for ourselves or for them?

  • Take an interest. Okay, I’m never going to be interested in fashion, for myself. A few years ago, Miah gave me so much information about Pokemon (often while I was washing dishes!) that it leaked out my ears. But I’m interested in my kids, the way I’m interested in my friends. When we listen to our kids’ passions, let us see why these things matter to them, show us their projects, we tell them that they matter, and so do their interests.
  • Facilitate their passions. As adults, when we discover a new passion, we can indulge ourselves. If we need supplies, we have means to get them – money, transportation, the ability to arrange our time and make space in our home for our new love. Kids have fewer resources, sometimes none, if their parents won’t cooperate. If we can offer funding, rides, space, and time for our children to explore what fires them, they will have more resources.
  • Let it be theirs. When Annalise asked to borrow my Kindle to do a fashion shoot, I handed it over and let her go about her business. When she edited her photos, I didn’t offer my ideas of what she could do to make the pictures cooler. When we accept our children’s vision of their passion without imposing our own agenda on it, we allow them to own it.
  • Let them quit, or step away for a while. I know that the phrase, “Never quit” is popular amongst adults. But kids might not even be willing to try something, if they think the stakes include pursuing it forever, and, even if they do, they may lose their love and interest. I’ve had many intense passions that faded with time, and kids are still growing, still changing. When a child has freedom to pursue a passion, take a break, or lay it aside, they gain the confidence to do what will most delight them.
  • Don’t raise the stakes. Kids are very attuned to what their parents think of them. If a parent spends a lot of time bragging about their passion, or in some way gives the child the idea that their approval is dependent on their performance with their passion, it can rob their pleasure and interest in it. Likewise, if the parent disapproves or forbids the passion, the child is faced with the choice of disappointing a parent, relinquishing a beloved activity – or doing it covertly, the way I wrote Star Trek fan fiction in high school. If children can have their parents’ positive regard and their passion, their lives will be richer and sweeter.

I was raised in a home where my parents judged my interests, deciding which we “worthwhile” and which were “pipe dreams”. One of the “pipe dreams” was writing – yup, happily including Star Trek fan fiction.

My children are confident in themselves in a way I am only now, well into my 40s, getting the hang of. They pursue their passions in ways they’ve chosen, create what they please, for their own purposes. And, as they grow, I see those passions growing with them, becoming more sophisticated, with more targeted goals. They don’t do it as work, they do it as delight.

It may not seem like a big thing, but, to me, the difference is palpable and profound – a difference of joy, and freedom, and ownership.

Were your passions supported, when you were a child? Do you support your children’s passions, even when you don’t share them? Happy makes more happy. I’d love to hear your stories and see your happy photos.

Come enjoy the rest of Annalise’s fashion photo shoot!

After all, Saturdays are for sharing! 

Play Resumes Slowly: ROW80 Update, 1/29/14

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I’m feeling better, other than a lingering sinus headache and a cough. My energy is returning slowly, and I’m getting back into a more normal routine. It’ll be a few days, yet, before I dig through the dishes, laundry, and myriad details of hometending…I’m trying to be patient with myself and everyone else. For instance, Jim wasn’t sick, but he spent a lot of time repairing our cranky furnace, our aging cars that creak in subzero weather, and doing the errands I wasn’t able to do.

As my energy level returns, I’m rediscovering my playful spirit. T’Pol and Trip are cavorting in my mind, living out brand new stories in my head – and, because they both have their own ideas, of course they’re not living out the stories that will fit neatly into my plan for Story-a-Day May…but that’s all right. Things do tend to feed each other….

Note: The Enterprise videos are a little steamy…if you’d rather avoid that, I understand!

So, what have I been doing?

Daily Writing Frames:

Wild Card Wednesday:

Blogging posts and queues:

  • Posts: 3

  • Queues: Pending.

Play in many ways:

  • Lots of time with the kids.

  • Freewriting on various topics.

  • Reading.

Whatever feels right:

  • I was getting sick. Taking it easy felt right.

Trueborn Thursday:

Editing CD and BBAN; Rereading BAB.

  • CD: Completed rough draft revision plan.

  • BBAN: Continued pre-editing notes.

  • BAB: Pending.


  • TBOTB: New words added.

  • TSAF and PTD: Pending.

Exploring timeline and plot tribbles:

  • Listed WIPs and pending projects in chronological order.

  • Sketched rough idea of pending projects.

Flirtatious Friday:

Exploration of whatever kind:

  • Does exploring the depths of rhinovirus count? =)

  • Pre-editing notes for BBAN.

Freewriting on and without topic:

  • Freewriting for blogging.

Family connection and play:

  • No – I was sick. So were they.

Playful re-emergence….

Sharing Saturday:

Answer/make comments:

  • Yes, a couple.

Saturday’s Share posts.

  • Post: Yes.

  • Queue: Pending.

Sharing/social media/submissions:

  • No; I was sick, and my head way too muzzy.

Sampling Sunday:

Reading books/blogs:

  • No books..

  • Quite a few blogs for Sunday Sampler.

Sunday Sampler posts:

  • Yes! First one since November! =)

Playing with short stories:

  • No. The Sampler post was all I had acuity for.

Melding Monday:

Answer comments/make comments:

  • Yes! Caught up at shanjeniah.

Coffee and Conversation posts:

  • Posting: Yes.

  • Queue: Pending.

Writing/Life integration:

  • Yes. Blogging, editing, and my beloveds. =)

Talking Tuesday:

Twitter and Facebook::

  • Twitter: Yes!! I even made a new friend! =)

  • Facebook: Yes.


  • Yes. Poked about and shared a link.

Other types of physical/virtual connection:

  • Family time.

A freezer door canvas for a creative-type girl I know.

2014 Blogging:

Focus on layout and design aspects of my Blogging Action Plan.

Overhaul sidebar for Trueborn Jottings (it’s the least noxious!). On target.

  • First steps: deleted outdated/unwanted bits.

  • Updated all relevant badges.

  • Considering what to add.

Add all useful bits, templates, links, etc, for each feature to Master Resource File. On target.

Build positive blogging habits – post regularly, build queues, answer comments, and share diversely.

Answer all comments on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. On target.

  • All shanjeniah comments answered (new ones waiting now).

  • All Trueborn Jottings comments caught up Tuesday.

  • February Revision: Answer comments at least every other day.

Return visits to all commenters, as standard practice. On target.

  • Visits ongoing – caught up at shanjeniah.

  • Moving through Trueborn Jottings.

  • February Revision: Make at least two return visits every other day, on average.

Resume my regular blogging schedule with Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday posts across the three blogs. Target attained!

2014 Editing:

Complete first revision passes for Chameleon’s Dish and Bounded by a Nutshell; make pre-revision notes for Blood and Breath.

Complete pre-editing notes for Bounded by a Nutshell.On target.

  • Page 426/734.

2014 Hometending:

Continue physical and virtual hometending plans – resetting rooms, cleaning files, and inhabiting my study.

Continue the family room reset.On target.

  • Computer desk nearly excavated; general decluttering.

Spend time daily in my study.Target attained!

  • Yes; not so much when I was sick.

Clean up homeschooling files by February 15. On target.

  • Restructured main file/ Annalise’s files.

  • Added/condensed folders.

Develop new habits that support organization and productivity.

Experiment with play project schedule. Target attained!

  • Details above.

  • February Revision: Continue with Daily Writing Frames throughout the month.

Things are looking up….

2014 Lifetending:

Stretch and find new ways to blend the facets of my life with intention and awareness.

Make plans to meet with at least 1 person from my list; get in touch with at least 2 more to express my wish to reconnect. On target.

  • I left a message with one friend.

Seek out playful new ways to move and challenge my body.

Choose one playful motion for each day in January; do it several times throughout the day, with a spirit of adventure. On target.

  • Reverse crunches; quick steps; skipping rope.

  • February Revision: Choose two actions per day for the m,onth; do each several times each day, with a playful spirit.

Sponsor Visits:

See what the other ROWers are playing with this round!

Coffee and Conversation: Refrigerator, Responsibility, Reality

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday again – time for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own…

Now, each Monday, I strive for that understanding by offering ideas and tidbits from my life. Settle in for a while, and maybe share something of yours, too..

Okay. I’m guessing at least some of you are sitting out there, asking yourselves what these three words have in common, other than that alliterative ‘R’. Right (I know; again with the ‘R’!)? Well, let me explain… Yes, these photos are of our refrigerator. I took them last week, just after I bought my new Elph camera (it’s BLUE!!!!!!) and just before I got a nasty cold. I took them for a reason, but we’ll get to that in a minute or two, depending upon how quickly you read or scroll.

Sparkly -shiny!

Many parents assign chores as a means of ‘teaching children responsibility‘. Some make it simple and friendly. Some have complex checklists, sticker charts, and the like. When I was a kid, there were no rewards for doing chores. You did what you were told, or paid a painful price. Period. Here, where there are two children, no one has any assigned chores. I know. When I first read about this concept, I gasped too. My mind filled with questions:

Oh, and the Big Question:

Okay, so there’s the refrigerator; and we’ve chatted a bit about responsibility. Reality’s what ties it all together. The reality here is that we don’t assign our kids chores. Instead, my Partner in Parenthood and I do what needs to be done around the house and yard, and we try to do it with an attitude of generosity and service. We ask for help, sometimes – but the kids are as free to decline as we are to decide that doing that last load of laundry isn’t absolutely necessary today, or that we’d rather enjoy an evening at home and order Chinese than go to the grocery store and then cook something.

A freezer door makes a happy canvas…

We try to impart a sense that we are all a part of what makes life here at our house peaceful or chaotic, that we can each contribute to the welfare of all. Sometimes, it looks like we’re not succeeding, as clutter overwhelms us. Dishes and laundry gather so fast, I wonder if they’re breeding. And then, I get up one morning, and the front of the refrigerator is gleaming – and so are my nine-year-old’s eyes. “It was dirty, so I washed it,” she tells me. A little later, she shows me how she organized all the coupons and receipts, and put our four Claudia magnets in order, to make a little magnet biography. Somehow, the clutter seems – not so chaotic. Those receipts strewn across the floor? Well, she’s been studying those, lately, along with reading bills and bank statements. Sometimes, she just reads quietly; others, she has questions and comments. And that interest in interest might have led to the organizing, in the way watching her dad clean the fridge a few weeks before might have led her to notice it was getting grubby again. I could have coerced her to wash the refrigerator. Partner in Parenthood could have growled while he cleaned it. Would she want to do it then? Would there be tears and yelling and threats and punishment? Would it have been worth it, for something that might take ten minutes of my own time? I guess that depends. More than responsibility, I hope my children will develop a growing awareness of the needs and preferences of others, and the generosity to help as they can. I hope they will possess the judgment, to see things like dirty fridges, or that frazzled other mom at the grocery store, and know if and how they might help (frazzled moms in stores seldom want to be confronted, but giving their child a sheet of stickers,a little bottle of bubbles, or a game of peekaboo can work wonders!). I want my children to feel loved, valued, respected, and worthy of kind gestures. I want them to bestow those same things upon others. If I had assigned her a list of chores, she might think of that checklist as her job. Once it was done, she might not even consider looking around her, and deciding to make something better because it could be fun, and she was willing to do it. If I used a reward system, she’d probably be looking for her payoff. For sure, I would have missed that glowing, I-thought-of-this-and-did-it-all-by-myself-because-I -wanted-to face, and the pleasure of that surprisingly sparkling surface – and my life would be a little less shiny today. Instead, she got the pleasure and pride of accomplishment and service, and I saw her grow into more of my hopes, without force or any payoff but the kindness of her act, and our gratitude. You might call me crazy, but that’s worth the clutter that comes with chore-free and happy children, to me. Did you have chores as a child? Do you assign them to your own children, or would you? Have stories of cheerful service to share? I’ll replenish your cuppa; let’s converse! =)

One real live girl, just as she is…

Saturday’s Share: Tiny Treasures

Welcome to Saturday’s Share – Reflections and impressions inspired by and celebrating images from daily life, to add a bit of sparkle to the weekend. Happy Saturday!

Do you have any cherished found objects – bits and pieces picked up along the path of your life? Why do we keep these tiny treasures, and what do they say to and about us?

I took this image a week or so ago, in the emerging space of my study. It evokes a feel, for me, a tug of emotion and a knowing deeper than words that certain objects help me to find my life.

I’ve collected stones and rocks as far back as I can remember. As a girl of seven, I slept with a rock I named after my second-grade teacher. When I learned how to swim underwater, I amassed a large collection of pretty little white pebbles gathered on my forays to the bottom of the Battenkill River.

In the summer of 1994, I picked up a rock that fit perfectly into my hand as I walked with my late fiance, Tim, along the shores of Lake Ontario. Another, with a mysterious hole in it that narrows as it passes through the center, I found along the Oregon coast, while camping with Jim, as we sat on a pile of rocks and driftwood to eat freshly purchased smoked salmon and oysters, back in the days before we had children. And then there are the ones the kids and I picked up along the coasts of Plymouth, and Salem, and other points not in Massachusetts, some of them in jars with sand, shells, and bits of driftwood. We have bits of shale picked up while exploring the banks of the Erie Canal, and the random ones people have gifted me with, over the years…

So, now, to these two stones…I bought them this past August, from my friend, Litsong Lu. When I look at them, I see her smile, her passion for kites and creating art from nature, her patience as I explore her tableful of offerings, her willingness to explain the Taiwanese characters only after I’ve made my choices, and the way that she encourages her customers to choose what they liker, and pay what they feel. I hold these stones, gathered in places she’s been, but I have not, and I’m more aware that the world is a small place, and we are all connected.

Maybe these little keepsakes are much more than they seem, taken at face value. Maybe they tie us to moments, and memories – and to each other, too. Maybe they remind us that the simple can hold beauty, and wonder.

I think these found treasures are grace notes in our lives, gifts from our pasts to who we are in this breath, proof that joy and treasure are often found in the unlikeliest of places and objects. They whisper that it’s more than okay to slow down, sometimes, and focus on a tiny bit of the world. They ground us and connect us to a wider world, a deeper history, maybe to all existence. They allow us, in a sense, to touch the intangible and inexpressible.

In making space for them – in our homes, our attention, and our lives, maybe we also make space for ourselves..not the outward, active, social selves, where we so often live, but the inner expanses of our souls.

Do you have any everyday found objects that speak to your soul? What do they say? I would love to hear your stories, and see what tiny treasures you cherish! After all, Saturdays are for sharing! 

Coffee and Converation: Hey, Teachers! Leave Their Minecraft Alone!

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday again – and time for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own…

Here, each Monday, I strive to reach that understanding by offering ideas and tidbits from my life. Settle in for a while, and maybe share something of yours, too…

Recently, I read this article debating whether Minecraft was brain-rotting kid crack, or whether this open-ended and almost infinitely variable gaming experience might have educational benefits.

Touted in the article, which was mainly positive toward Minecraft, were several programs initiated by teachers who wanted to bring some educational value to the game.

  • Students in one school were given gravity lessons.
  • Students in a (Danish) school were free to play, but only in English.
  • Some schools have instituted assigned quests for kids to work on collaboratively.

I’m all for schoolkids – everyone! – learning through play. That’s the purpose of play – to learn, by challenging ourselves.

But reading this made me sad.

My unschooled kids discovered Minecraft late last winter, and, by spring, they were both intensely engaged with the game That passion has not subsided. Minecraft is part of their daily routine.

Some adults might call this level of passion obsessive. They might fear video game addiction, impose limits, or require kids to earn their gaming time. Teachers (if they had them) might complain that Minecrafting was interfering with their studies…

Happy Minecraft moment.

I have a different perspective on my kids’ Minecrafting. I willingly make plenty of room for it, in our home and in our schedule. I listen when they tell me what they’re doing in the worlds they’ve created, and I look when invited. I can sing several Minecraft parody songs creditably well.

I don’t interfere or impose any agenda upon their play, because I believe that what they learn on their own, for their own purposes, by trial and error, experimentation, and imagination, is more valuable than any curriculum could be. I’ve seen it, over and over, in innumerable ways, since I stopped trying to direct what they learned and how they learned it.

Besides, what they come up with is deeper, richer, wider, and more diverse than anything I could have planned. Life is lived in moments and inspiration, here. I want my kids to be free to explore, and to follow their inspirations where they lead.

In the process of creating and playing, they’ve learned and used many skills valued in classrooms, and in life:

  • Geographic features, mapreading, and coordinates
  • Elements, compounds, and their properties
  • Chemical formula and properties of TNT
  • Writing and spelling
  • Coding and programming
  • Architecture and construction with a variety of materials
  • Animal husbandry
  • Collaborative play – creating worlds, working together toward common goals, figuring out how four children can play together using two Kindle Fires and two iPad Touches
  • Mentoring others in aspects of games play
  • Budgeting, purchasing and selling
  • Interior and exterior designs of rooms, buildings, structures, dams, canals, rollercoasters, machines, and other items
  • Reading
  • Research on various aspects of the game, and various notable gamers
  • Music- learning, singing, and composing parody songs
  • Foreign languages- several of the Minecrafters they follow are native speakers of other languages, and so they are exposed to both their spoken and written forms.
  • Social sciences- history, character interaction, sharing game spaces.
  • Games modification using various means.
  • Virtual exploration of assorted ecosystems.
  • Virtual exploration of practical arts – smelting and forging metals, mining, farming, shearing sheep, building a wide variety of items.

This is just a sampling. I don’t analyze their play to look for learning in it. I’m sure they’re learning far more than I know, far more than they can articulate. Minecraft is helping them both to frame their models of the universe, and it empowers them to play with life on a grand and ultimately risk-free scale.

Happy Minecrafters!

And they do – because it’s theirs, and not mine.

That’s the mistake that’s being made, I think, by those well-meaning educators. By imposing their idea of learning, and what should be learned, upon the children in their charge, they take away the children’s ownership of their Minecrafting.

And with that goes the magic.

Children need things of their own, things adults don’t understand. That feeds fashion and lingo and music. It’s why kids a couple of generations ago built clubhouses in the woods.

When adults invade these private spaces, they usurp them. For the kids in these programs, Minecraft is now part of the adult world, something else being used to control them, with artificial conditions imposed by authority figures, for their own purposes.

What makes Minecraft so amazing is that it can be played with any goal, or none at all. Well-meaning adults put kids’ focus where they think it will best serve their ends, and, in so doing, divert the kids from the grand and wild ideas they might have explored, on their own.

If schools would really like to support learning through Minecraft, they would do better to start Minecraft clubs in the school, and the community. Rather than a programmed goal, people could just gather to play as they please. Age would not matter; Minecraft is a great equalizer – every player will have their own approach, interests, and special skills to share. Adults might easily find that there is a great deal more to the game than they thought, and that the little children can lead them to discoveries they might not have made, so long as they wanted only to use the game as a teaching tool.

And that is a different kind of magic.

Are there Minecrafting kids in your life?  How do you feel about it?  I’ll supply an ear, and a fresh round of hot beverages – won’t you join the conversation?

Masters of their own universes!

My “Play Jar”: ROW80 1/13/14 Update

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Welcome to the end of Week One! I hope this finds you well and happily engaged in joyful life!

Today, I’d like to introduce a new friend of mine. Meet my Play Jar.

It’s a simple idea. I’ve come up with 80 playful adventures, written them on slips of paper, folded, and filled this jar with them, because I like the shape and the cork.

During the course of the round, I intend to do all of these playful things.

Hello, Play Jar! =D

To this point, I’ve completed two, with four more in play (I won’t reveal them till I’ve finished them.)

  • #65: Buy The Eye of the World in hardcover. (I bought a Kindle Edition; less expensive, and far more compact.)

  • #69: Buy myself something pretty and blue. I have a new shawl-cut sweater. Very pretty. Very blue.

I’ll detail my playful progress with each Sunday’s update.

2014 Blogging:

Focus on layout / design aspects of Blogging Action Plan.

Tidy Master Features Resource file. On target.

  • Doing a bit each time I use the file. May finish in two weeks, perhaps a bit less.

Build positive blogging habits – post regularly, build queues, answer comments, and share diversely.

Answer all comments on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. Target attained!

  • Comments were answered in the way-wee hours of Friday, and into Sunday. I can live with that.

Return visits to all commenters, as standard practice. On target.

  • Finding for a rhythm that fits. Visits ongoing.

At home on my writing desk.

Resume regular blogging schedule with Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday posts across the three blogs. Target exceeded!

Brainstorm what I want in a website; move The Unfettered Life to a spiffy new home.

  • Write out a one-page brainstorming session for desired website features. Pending.

The Quiet Joy of my new writing space.

2014 Writing:

Complete rough drafts of To Be or Not to Be, The Stars Are Fire, and Perchance to Dream.

Reread the last few chapters of TBONTB.Target attained!

  • Reoriented in this pantsed, nearly completed WIP. Ideas flowing.

  • Complete rough draft of TBONTB. Pending.

Draft two more novels in Trueborn double series, as NaNo projects.

Freewrite on idea for the unwritten portions of the story. On target.

  • Created very rough list of the existing story timeline, with asterisks for five novels not yet begun.

Explore gestating Star Trek: Enterprise fan fiction novel concept, as well as Last House story collection concept, as short pieces / flash fiction, during April and May.

Bounded pre-revision notes.

2014 Editing:

Complete first revision passes for Chameleon’s Dish and Bounded by a Nutshell; make pre-revision notes for Blood and Breath.

Reread Rock Your Revisions; draft rough revision plan for Chameleon’s Dish.On target.

  • Rereading completed.

  • Rough-outlined eight step plan for Chameleon‘s pre-revision process.

  • Listed steps needed to prepare for first pass revision plan, and took basic notes on creating plan.

Check out NaNo Now What Months features in preparation for March NaNoEdMo.On target.

  • Signed the contract, read this post, explored the page.

Complete pre-editing notes for Bounded by a Nutshell. On target.

  • On-page notes: Page 189/734.

  • Pre-revision Notebook: Page 179/734. Untangling some obvious structural knottiness.

  • Doing this, a bit at a time, between other projects.

Revise all poems for QOMIS, until satisfied with the results.

  • Read poems aloud, highlighting for revision.Pending.

Complete Deep Revision process with my three short story WIPs.

  • Read through completed exercises, and my work for “A Splash of Red.” Pending

Playful missions accomplished! =)

2014 Hometending:

Continue physical and virtual hometending plans – resetting rooms, cleaning files, inhabiting my study.

Complete family room reset. On target.

  • General decluttering/cleaning; more computer desk excavation, sorting and tidying family room desk.

  • Goal changed from ‘Continue’ to ‘Complete’.

Spend time daily in my study. Target attained!

  • Pockets of calm expanding and multiplying, and I am truly loving this little space of my own.

  • Shared my writing desk in my Flat Surface Friday post!

  • Clean up main documents files. Pending.

Develop new habits that support organization and productivity.

Experiment with play project schedule.On target.

  • Using the Daily Frames with pleasure. Enjoying knowing what I’m likely to be playing with each day.

  • I’ve been setting things up and getting started before bed After sleep, I can pick up where I left off.

  • Goal changed from ‘Create’ to ‘Experiment with’.

Research small business establishment /administration.

A ribbon board collage of my life as it is….

2014 Lifetending:

Stretch and find new ways to blend the facets of my life with intention and awareness.

Select and complete projects from my Play Jar.On target.

  • Details above.

  • 2/80 complete; 4/78 in progress.

List people I want to connect with this year.On target.

  • The list grows – in my head.

Seek out playful ways to move and challenge my body.

Choose one playful motion for each day in January; do it several times, with a spirit of adventure. Target attained!

  • Relearning skipping rope; moving firewood; Cobra (yoga pose); lunges.

  • Mild weight and cardio (2.25 miles on the recumbent bike) workout.

Sponsor Visits:

See what the other ROwers are playing with!

My Kinda Playground!