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Relativity-ly Speaking

Blog Post #37

einsteinsarc

Einstein had his Theory of Relativity, and I have *mine.

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity: E=mc2

(Energy = mass multiplied by the speed of light squared)

My Theory of Relativity: A=pt2

(Age = perception multiplied by the speed of time squared)

*Disclaimer: There is nothing scientific about my theory of relativity. Any similarities to science, math, or physics is completely coincidental. The ideas and philosophies represented in this post are those of the author and are not to be confused or mistaken with anything legitimate.

My First Blog Post EVER!

I began developing my Theory of Relativity when I was in 2nd grade. During the course of my second grade year, I underwent eye surgery as well as contracting an infectious virus, causing me to miss quite a bit of school. It was during that school year, at the tender age of seven, that I began to perceive a change in Time.

Up until second grade, Time moved at a snail’s pace; to my mind, there was no Time to be reckoned with. Life was an endless stream of fun, family and investigation—everything was new. I was young, carefree, and full of energy. I had loving, caring parents who provided a safe and happy environment and life, and school hadn’t yet become a stressor for me (that came later). Worries were essentially non-existent.

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Then I got sick. I remember how miserable I felt even though it was well over half a century ago. I couldn’t go to school, or play outside. I didn’t feel like eating, and was so tired—the kind of tired where your head feels like a balloon full of lead. After running its course, the illness passed, but not without making an indelible mark on my perception about life. I had come to understand that being sick meant that during the Time in which I was ill I couldn’t do the fun things that I normally liked to do.

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The eye operation meant an overnight hospital stay. I remember my parents giving me a beautiful, light blue, quilted robe with lacy ruffles as a gift. They said good-night (good-bye) just before bedtime, and went home. (In those days, anxious parents couldn’t stay all night in the hospital with their frightened children.) There I was, almost alone in a dark room, standing in a cage (perhaps it was a large crib) where they must have hoped to keep me from wandering about, looking across what appeared to be a vast, dark wasteland of a hospital room to where a toddler was crying uncontrollably in his cage. I don’t remember shedding a tear myself. It was all so surreal. I do remember lying down in that cage and having a hard time falling asleep with the incessant bawling—not that I could blame the poor little guy. I must have eventually drifted off, because the next thing I remembered was waking up and not being able to see. Once the surgery was completed, the doctor had covered my eyes with patches to protect them while they healed. These I wore for a week.  I was too young to be frightened by blindness, and trusted my parents implicitly, so in many ways, the experience of surgery was an extension of childhood investigation, and I might add, fun. In a way, it was sort of an adventure to have patches—to experience the world without sight. As usual, all my needs were met by my attentive mother, and I found I could still draw on my Etch-a-Sketch and “watch” “Car 54, Where Are You?” and “The Mickey Mouse Club” on T.V. even though I couldn’t actually “see” them. The process of healing lasted two or three weeks, and then I was back to life as usual–school, playing, and just being a seven-year-old kid with a story to tell about what it was like to be sightless for a week.

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Besides improved vision, one monumental thing had changed from this experience: my sense of Time. My second grade year dragged by. It was the longest year of my life, and I recognized it as such even at that tender age. I began to mark Time from that year on, and noticed that each subsequent year began to speed up a little bit more than the last.

In my theory, I propose that Age is equal to perception multiplied by the speed of time squared. (Please see disclaimer at the beginning of this post.) I confess that while my theory is not scientific, it is the opposite—a whim. Still, it rings true for me, even though it follows no logical thread. According to my theory of relativity, aging depends on my perception of things relative to the speed of time. In other words, the older I get, the faster time speeds by, and/or the speed of time shapes my perceptions about my age.

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Interestingly enough, perceptions (including memories) of my childhood have remained intact and vivid during each passing year of my life. However, perceptions during the years following second grade, have shifted like tectonic plates with the passage of Time. The more distance between 2nd grade and the current year, the more the shift, sometimes causing quaking and trembling in my perceptions—especially regarding details, such as what I believe I said to my husband, and what I’m sure he said to me.

The following is an example of how age (A) is equal to (=) perception (p) multiplied by time squared (t2). At a young age, maybe around three years old (A), I became (=) acutely desirous (p) of being two years older (t2) than the age I currently was. (*For your own sanity, please do not try to force my variables into a true equation.) This was probably due to my sister being two years my senior, giving her privileges, which I, as the younger sister, had to wait for. I remember crying at the bus stop as Karen boarded the school bus bound for kindergarten. I desperately wanted to go with her, and I couldn’t understand why I had to wait. No amount of sobbing swayed my mother, who simply scolded me for my tantrum and marched me back home. Wishing to be two years older became more intense as the years passed, which accounts for *time squared. (*Mathematicians and physicists out there, I know this is all sheer folly—please humor me.)

images

 

The inverse was also true. As the younger sister by two years, I had the opportunity of observing my older sister, and those behaviors and consequences I wished to avoid. A very valuable asset and one I exploited to my gain.

There is yet another interesting corollary to perception as it relates to Age and Time, that is, how I perceived those who were older than I was. If I was thirteen, a fifteen-year-old was strictly out of my league in every aspect of life. (I now attribute this incorrect perception to the public school system, which unwittingly forces most children into an unrealistic environment—boxing them into a classroom with thirty other students of the same approximate age and developmental issues for about twelve years of their lives. This short-sighted and preposterous arrangement prepares children for an environment they will rarely, if ever, experience later in life. During adulthood, you would be hard-pressed to find yourself (it would seem unnatural to find yourself) among peers of your exact age group on a daily basis. In fact, most people spend the majority of their lives in family units composed of a variety of ages and temperaments,—the ultimate seedbed for learning—not in a setting as unnatural as that of a public school classroom.)

school

When I attended my first year of college, I was eighteen, but my roommate (who was seventeen—having graduated high school a year early) soon after became friends with a girl of twenty-one! Imagine it!—she was friends with a co-ed four years her senior! (This is where my theory of relativity really became obvious to me.) I was in awe of this twenty-one-year-old. To my mind, she was light years beyond me in wisdom, experience, and dignity just by virtue of her three extra years of advanced age—I assumed this without really knowing her.

By my second semester of college, a shift in perspective had already begun to occur. I had become used to sharing the classroom, the campus, the dormitory, and the dining hall with a multiplicity of ages, but it wasn’t until this particular girl—my roommate’s friend—shared a class with me, that I realized the fallacy of my perception about age creating such a huge superiority gulf. On the first day of class during the second semester, we students looked around the room sizing each other up, and because this girl and I had a common friend, we recognized and gravitated to one another, sitting next to each other the remainder of that course. This was when I discovered that she was every bit as childish as I was! We doodled little frogs and cartoon-y characters with text bubbles full of nonsense all over each other’s and our own notepaper, quietly giggling at our silliness. We had so much fun! It was a great class to begin with, but it was all the more enjoyable for me when I realized that “twenty-one” was not the sage old age I thought it was, and that I could have fun and be silly even when I, too, reached the landmark maturity of twenty-one.

Even though challenged with every passing year and season of life, my flawed perception has remained with me; I still view age as a relative thing. When I was a young mother in my twenties, the thirties seemed ancient. Indeed, thirty-nine (or for some twenty-nine) has been the place where many people stop the “aging” clock, refusing to admit to any age above that. Year after year, when asked their age, these people refuse to acknowledge themselves as any more than 39. (Jack Benny comes to mind—he was forever 39. If you are my age, you will know who Jack Benny was. If you are from a younger generation—sorry. It’s one of those advantages of advanced age, to know about and gloat over things those younger than you were unfortunate enough to miss out on—things such as The Great Depression, roller skates with keys, garter belts, corded telephones, and 45s.)

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Hint: The perpetual 39 year-old

As I approached forty, and recognized that I was old enough to be mother to the youngsters of twenty whom I often hosted in my home, turning forty sounded like putting one foot in the grave. To my mind—to my eternal spirit—I was always looking out of eighteen-year-old eyes (that is, from the inside out), and each numerical age I reached was someone else’s bad idea of flimflam (for clearly, I was perpetually “in spirit” the eternal age of eighteen inside—that was my perception). Note: My outward appearance does not necessarily agree with my eternal “inside” age.

Then, fifty came, and most recently, sixty (by the way, I missed The Great Depression, the Revolutionary War, and the age of dinosaurs, though my grandchildren might challenge that). I have friends in every age bracket—age is immaterial when it comes to finding worth in others—and is very instructive as to differences in perception about time and age. With a ninety-three-year-old father, here’s what I’ve discovered: seventy-five is the new “thirty.” It’s all relative.

old_man_with_books

For a 93-year-old like my father, age is a badge of distinction—of longevity few live to reach. A 93-year-old perceives the speed of time as being akin to the time spent on a merry-go-round that goes faster with each rotation. You get on, orbit the circumference a few times enduring the usual ups and downs, and then anticipate jumping off your horse, which might throw you at any time. Life is a blink when you’re 90, and often a blur—but things do tend to appear blurry when traveling at great speeds.

paris-carousel-merry-go-round-at-hotel-de-ville-paris-carousel-horses-at-hotel-de-ville-kathy-fornal

As I mentioned earlier, time began to speed up for me in second grade. During each subsequent year, time has picked up momentum. Although reason tells me this is due to my flawed perception, I think it must also be due to age. With every passing year, I become a year older. (Yes, I know,—brilliant deduction—nothing profound here, folks.) The more years gathered into the garner of time, the faster time passes. Age is the fireman stoking the steam locomotive’s boiler with more and more coal, making Time’s train move on at an ever and ever increasing rate. (Or maybe it’s the other way around.) At any rate, Perception stands on the ground next to the tracks and watches the train fly by, saying “Whoa! Did you see how fast that train blew by?”

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Where once there were long, lazy days of summer, summer days now run into fall, fall into winter, winter into years, and years into lifetimes. Deadlines, responsibilities, calendar events, reminders, commitments, activities, and endless checklists of to dos tip one side of the scale, while the other holds the inevitability of time running out. The scale is rarely balanced. It is all relative. Relative to one’s own age, and time, and maybe even one’s own perceptions.

 

“Time is too slow for those who wait,

 too swift for those who fear,

too long for those who grieve,

too short for those who rejoice,

but for those who love, time is eternity.”

 – Henry Van Dyke

 In light of the relativity of age, time and perception, I would like to repeat the last line in the Van Dyke quotation above:

“For those who love, time is eternity.”

Amen to that.

End Piece

© April 21, 2016

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear Friends, for reading.

 

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January’s Physics of Writing

Blog Post #22

Fresco: Sappho from Pompeii, about 60 C.E
I haven’t written for a while. Nor have I taken time to notice anything. Only when my mind is alert to subtle (and not so subtle) connections existing in the world around me, am I able to find inspiration to write. Too much stimulation can overwhelm a quiet, introverted spirit (such as mine). What is the result? My mind’s vision narrows, becoming more focused, or blurred; tuning out, instead of taking in. Some stimulation is desirable, of course, but a surge creating too much stimulation, can overpower, perhaps destroy, tender and underdeveloped thoughts, causing my brain’s circuitry to spark and short out. 


It’s the steady stream of routine flowing in and out of every day, intermittently switching-off for restful periods at night, I find most productive. Small sparks of stimulation are welcome, provided they spread themselves over days or weeks.  




Sadly, my brain ground to a dull and listless halt back in about November. Now that the speeding locomotive of holiday commotion has passed, I find myself scrambling to clean up the confusion left in its wake. Gradually, as one day rolls into the next, the dust of confusion settles into a sense of calm and predictability. My train of thoughts begins gathering momentum, chugging into action again. 



Slowly at first, the gears begin to creak and turn. Fueled by the beautiful, bright, warm weather, that—like an old friend—dropped by to sit a spell, my creative engine begins creeping along. Sporadic wanderings outdoors and idle walks through the neighborhood commence anew. I wander the backyard, looking at new growth fresh from winter rains. I touch the earth, prune the rose bushes, and pull up poor, brittle plants that failed to survive my neglect during earlier seasons. I rearrange my workroom, “The Studio,” for the first time in years. I tackle a long overdue project. I’m feeling invigorated, moving more swiftly down the tracks. I blow the whistle to announce the one or two goals I’ve already checked off my list. Pressing forward. Picking up speed. Thoughts are churning into words and images.
“The Thinker,” by Auguste Rodin

Maybe I still have something to write about, after all. I was beginning to doubt. It’s been so long. Like Michelangelo’s sculptures desperately struggling to immerge from the stone, thoughts long imprisoned in that dark, forgotten fold of my brain fight to get out. Writing is the chisel and hammer that will free the captives. I am their Michelangelo. I am the sculptor. A blank page is the marble.
Michelangelo’s “Young Slave” (unfinished sculpture)
Accademia Gallery in Florence


Today is a beginning.
Even if tomorrow doesn’t reveal a masterpiece, it will reveal a little bit of my soul.

I welcome the New Year and I welcome you! 

© January 16, 2015


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Home School Daze (other appropriate rhyming words: Craze, Maze, Praise, Ways, Ablaze!)

Country Cousins Celebration

My sister’s and my kids on a typical home school day – dressed up for a “Country Cousins Hoedown” 1990

Blog Post #4

In the old days, those long-ago days when I home schooled our five children—back, back, during the 1Jurassic Period of home schooling, before home schooling was integrated into the educational world and accepted as a viable option as it is today—our house was bustling with creative energy and vibrant learning! (…Our kids had great creative energy, too.)

We studied all the disciplines….yup!…integrating them into a year-long theme. History, literature, math, music, science, geography, art, and more, all blended naturally via year-long themes, such as “Adventure Down the Mississippi,” “Raiders of the Renaissance Minds,” and “The Voyage of the Frugal Frigate,” to name just a few.  

Scientific inquiry was something that came naturally to our kids, making it an easy task to identify principles and laws associated with daily activities.  At any given time, our children (five to be exact—three girls, two boys) were busily engaged in dynamic and scientific learning associated with movement, gravity, heat, and potential forms of energy. 

Example #1—Kinetic Energy

ki·net·ic en·er·gy
noun
PHYSICS
1.     energy that a body possesses by virtue of being in motion.

Teaching five siblings of varying ages and temperaments can be like trying to spoon-feed soup to a troop of monkeys while riding a roller coaster. The kids were ever in motion—kinetic energy in abundance.

The proper tools and materials funnel that energy into useful occupation. Those tools were always plentiful and readily available to our children. Naturally, my best (and only) steak knives were needed to saw a refrigerator box into pieces in order to build a 2pirogue for use at the local marshy area near our house. (They wore, rather than rode, the boat; stepping into its bottomless hull, and holding it up by hand around their waists. Their free hands were needed to juggle clipboards and pencils for recording sightings of flora and fauna, to hold the orienteering compasses, and to push and shove each other and their cousins, who were also wedged into the pirogue, to insure they were all “rowing” in the right direction. Fortunately, our children were each born with an additional set of hands, or so it often seemed.)

Access to premium workspace was a must for such a large-scale, and energy-funneling project as carving out and building a pirogue, which is why said sawing took place in the most spacious room in the house—the living room. The back-and-forth motion of the knife sawing, of course, was a splendid example of reciprocating motion. The din issuing from knife on cardboard was equal to the roar of a helicopter overhead, creating the useful educational illusion of simulating real chainsaws when only using steak knives.

This activity was followed-up with an equally scientific display of pressure differential: that of suction. I ably demonstrated this necessary scientific principle by running the vacuum cleaner as quickly as possible after the completed study in reciprocating motion, restoring my front room to its former state of disarray by sucking up every particle of the cardboard shavings created by my very productive children. (All of whom had scattered at the sight of the vacuum, allowing me a few precious moments of not-so-quiet time to myself.) An impromptu and energetic lecture by our school principal (my husband) was later given to an innocent looking, but guilty group of spectators on the avoidance of clogged vacuums.

Examples of kinetic energy representing the physical prowess of our sons was particularly evident, and remains recorded for posterity on the multitude of videos they created illustrating ninja techniques, and back-flips off the block wall in the backyard. Extremely effective was the dubbing-in of sound effects to staged fight scenes  in which they clearly missed striking their opponents by a good arm’s length, yet the THUD and BANG sounds appeared right on cue—about two seconds out of sync with the action.

 Example #2—Gravitational Energy

 

  grav·i·ta·tion
   noun
  PHYSICS

1. a. the force of attraction between any two masses. Compare law of gravitation.

b. an act or process caused by this force.

2. a sinking or falling.

3.a movement or tendency toward something or someone: the gravitation of people toward the suburbs.

Not to be outdone by Galileo’s experiments on gravity at the Tower of Pisa, our boys were great experimenters in illustrating this principle of physics, dropping everything from small toys to themselves from the second floor landing. Their enthusiasm for learning was so great, they were often found conducting experiments after school hours.  

 

 

On one such occasion, I had strategically maneuvered myself into the kitchen, where I was performing my own experiments in chemistry as it pertains to cooking, when I heard an enormously loud KERTHUNK! near the bottom of the stairs. I turned to see one of the boys lying prostrate on the floor—arms sprawled out to the sides. I cried out and ran to the motionless body, heart in my mouth, only to hear laughter above me.

The boys were apparently performing two experiments at once: one on the effects of gravitation on a large, homemade, stuffed doll (dressed in their clothes), and the other following definition number 2a as listed above: “a sinking or falling.”  The sinking and falling had more to do with the condition of my heart and stomach than with Newton’s apple.  Definition #3a was exceptionally illustrated as my “tendency to move toward something or someone” standing at the top of the stairs defied all principles of gravitation and speed.  In spite of all the “fallings and sinkings” I’ve experienced, I’m lucky to be alive today—and so are my boys!

 

 

If dropping dolls didn’t satisfy their gravitational objectives, dangling from the top of the stairs themselves was a good alternative. However, they did this when I wasn’t looking. (Probably one of those rare moments when I retreated into my room for a few minutes of quiet time—called “using the restroom.”)

Principles of gravitation and momentum continued as the kids were often seen zooming down an inclined plane (our street) on a “Cool Runnings” type of sail-bedecked and wheeled bobsled of their own making.  A separate scientific experiment on the effect of friction was conducted simultaneously, as they did their best to see how quickly they could completely wear out the soles of every single pair of shoes they owned in stopping the contraption.  (Their feet proved to be excellent substitutes for failed brakes. I’m happy to report that an alternate lesson about heat and friction was not lost on their feet.)

Example #3—Potential Energy

 
  po·ten·tial en·er·gy
  noun
  PHYSICS
1       the energy possessed by a body by virtue of its position relative to others, stresses within itself,   electric charge, and other factors.

Our children were expert in their demonstrations of potential energy, especially when sitting at the dining table working together on collaborative learning projects. As one child used his or her power of expression to stress the importance of certain learning options (AKA bossing the other kids), the others were building up a good store of potential energy. This stored energy was later released in the form of a combination of kinetic energy, definition #3a of gravitational energy, and an arm (or fist) perfectly poised to demonstrate potential energy.

Example #4 – Heat Energy

  Heat en·er·gy
  noun
  PHYSICS
1.        Energy that is pushed into motion by using heat. An example is a fire in your fireplace.

Our next-door neighbor approached me when we were both tending our front yards one day, and with an abundance of good nature said, “We never know what is going to explode from your back yard!” I smiled sheepishly, and waited for her to explain. She continued, “ Sometimes rockets on strings come blasting through the gate, and sometimes it’s kids on skateboards and other contraptions…[such as the sail- and wheel-bedecked bobsled before mentioned]….We never know what to expect!” She was very kind and even particularly cheerful when telling me this. At first, I took it with a small sip of pride in my children’s inventiveness and accomplishments. Later, as I pondered her words, I gulped down gallons of humility as I wondered if she were really issuing a gentle warning: “I may appear to approve of the goings on at your house, but inside I am as frightened and poised for action as a coiling snake just waiting for disaster to strike my home!” Being so close in proximity to the unpredictable activities bursting forth from the other side of her fence, I’m almost certain the latter was the more correct message she intended to send. I’m sure she also heard the cacophony of noise that accompanied all our activities—especially since my sister’s six kids sometimes spent their days at our house, as we participated together in school activities. The decibel level of eleven rambunctious children was sure to have rung inside her house like a clanging bell, and probably created a ruckus all the way up the street. I was so used to tuning out incessant racket I didn’t even notice it.

 

 

 Many years have passed since the Jurassic Period of home schooling. Our kids—all of whom are grown—now tell stories about that time period that make my hair stand on end. Where was I?! Right there, at home, wearing a plethora of hats, (mother, cook, spiritual advisor, chauffeur, guardian, teacher, seamstress, piano instructor, nurse, nurturer, counselor, and on and on), and always savoring with relish their creativity and the time I spent engaged in learning adventures with our wonderful children. Although I hide the gray hairs accumulated during those twenty years, I am not about to hide the fact that I would do it all over again! It was worth every white hair, and every second.

 
 1 The Jurassic Period of Home Schooling is characterized by three special facets: (1) the time-period in which it began to take shape— for us, the early 1980s; (2) the climate in which it took place, which was relatively unstable among average parents, educators and lawmakers; and (3) the lack of state-provided resources now available to home schooling families.  In addition, a characteristic of the Jurassic Period of Home Schooling as pertaining to our family was the attempt to buck the system, and to do something creative, engaging, “brain-compatible,” and memorable. Latching onto Susan Kovalik’s “Integrated Thematic Instruction” model (ITI), currently called the +“HighlyEffective Teaching” model, we had a marvelous experience with our children.

2pirogueA small boat used in the bayous.

 
 
 

My sister Karen has developed her own Home School model, loosely based on our experiences with ITI, called *EPIC ADVENTURES, which can be found at her Courageous Beings web site. 

 + We home schooled so long ago, those from whom we gleaned so much inspiration have also retired. Such is the case with Susan Kovalik. It appears she has passed on her mission to The Center for the Future of Public Education (of which we were never affiliated). We were involved with her ITI model in the late 1980s and 1990s. It was wonderful–inspiring innovations of our own.

 *One of the innovations prompted by ITI was Karen’s EPIC ADVENTURES–which was, essentially, what we produced from year to year during our home school days. Karen tweaked it to fit her own personal agenda, created a web site, and continued our former enterprise of putting on workshops for home schoolers for many years afterward.  My dear sister, Karen, passed away in November of 2015. Her web site is no longer active, so I have removed the link. 

 
End Piece
© Copyright April 19, 2014
 

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear Friends, for reading.