Overcoming Stitches and Fat Fingers

The photograph is of my grandmother (Janice) with my twins when they were six months old. This is the woman who has inspired me to work so hard so that I can make things with my hands. My horribly clumsy hands. I know that I had a blog earlier this week that says we learn from failure, and should be proud of it, but I’ve gotta say, I don’t want to fail. So I refused and put in more time than indicated by the Digital Literacy class for which I am learning this passion based learning project.

Learning to crochet hasn’t been easy. I’m basically just working on the stitches I’ve learned from Crocheting for Dummies. There aren’t many that I’ve learned when compared to the dozens of stitches there are. IMG_0012 I thought it would be easier to make a chain out of yarn than it is. This is what took me the longest to learn, well specifically the slipknot. I accomplished this, and then I could move on, and so I did, I next attempted the single stitch. I thought that it would be easy once I had getting the chain down, but this “simple stitch” as they called it made my fat fingers very angry. IMG_0013 This is three rows of a single stitch. It’s what they called a “basic stitch” It took me an hour to get this one down. Once I did, however, the other stitches I worked with were easy. I think that getting the basics down is important, and I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be able to move on to the next step without mastering this one.

IMG_0014 This is a half double stitch. I know, that name is confusing. It’s basically between a single stitch and a double stitch. It was fairly simple once I got the single stitch down. This is three rows of the half double stitch.

IMG_0015 IMG_0016 IMG_0017 Here are the other three stitches I worked with from top left to bottom, the double stitch, the triple stitch, and the double triple stitch. It was hard to figure out how to make the yarn do what I wanted it to, but thankfully I figured it out. Now I can make something while, at the same time, learning other stitches, more difficult stitches. These stitches are used to make blankets and scarves, so I think I should start small. So next week, I will have at least one scarf done, hopefully I’ll have one for each of my children. Of course, I don’t think I’ll be as good as my cousin’s wife for a long while. She’s actually amazing. This mermaid outfit was made by Rebecca, my cousin’s wife for Lillian, our youngest. This is her newborn picture. Just the power of yarn, I guess. I can guarantee she doesn’t have fat fingers.

Photo courtesy of Developing Memories Photography of North Platte, Nebraska
  Photo courtesy of Developing Memories Photography of North Platte, Nebraska

Failure is Always an Option

Tara Suri and Niha Jain are failures. They admit it, and so should we.

“No one wants to talk about failure,” one of them states in their TED talk, “Learning to Fail”. And they’re right. We want to talk about our successes, not our failures. We have to make mistakes to learn from them. Admitting our failures, does not mean that we only fail.

Courtesy of nicolettlodge.com
  Courtesy of nicolettlodge.com

Suri and Jain visited India and, appalled by the fact that 85% of the women in the community outside of New Delhi were forced into prostitution due to the fact that they didn’t have any other form of income. They came up with an idea to give these women an alternate form of income. They learned about market and design and raised about $20,000 to train the women to to sew and embroider in order to make and sell tank tops.

Unfortunately, the organization that Suri and Jain were working with misinformed them as to where their funds were going. They assumed that the money was being used to teach these women a trade and for doctor’s visits, but this isn’t true. They have no idea what happened to their money.

Instead of giving up, they connected with existing government programs for aid for the community. Despite doing everything they could, they failed to pull those women out of a life of prostitution. Instead of hiding their lack of success, they felt as if they “owed it to the women” and themselves to share their failure. They returned the grant money they’d received for the project and wrote an honest article about their failure. Their point. . . don’t be ashamed of failure.

courtesy of quotes-lover.com
courtesy of quotes-lover.com

I like their story of failure because I can relate. We all fail, whether we admit to it or not. Sometimes we epically fail, sometimes we just fail a little. Either way, we need to accept our failures and not be ashamed of them. I like this TED Talk, because I can use it to teach my students and my kids. If someone as intelligent as these two young ladies fails, the failures of my girls or students aren’t so bad.

Their story is poignant because it’s something we can all relate to. We don’t always succeed at our goals, but we try. As long as the attempt is made, we can always be proud of what we’ve done.

I like the idea of using TED Talks to begin a conversation. My students would be able, using this particular TED Talk, to admit to failures they’ve had. I can admit to my failures, not that I’m going to share any with you! I usually do, my husband marks the calendar any time I admit to being wrong, which isn’t often!

My point is, I think that if we can all admit that we are, in some ways, failures, we will be happier. We can look back on our mistakes and learn from them. We can look at other people’s mistakes and learn from them. We can see what made us fail and change that in order to succeed the next time. We’re only human.

courtesy of career digressions.com
courtesy of career digressions.com

Go. Seek. Fail.

Learning can become a Hobby

When I was thirteen, my grandmother tried to teach me to crochet. I didn’t want to do it, so I didn’t. It looked boring and hard. Now that she’s gone, I wish that I had used that time to learn with her, the master in my opinion. It would have been more than learning to thread a huge needle through a piece of yarn. It would have been more time that I got to spend with an amazing woman. Now, I want to learn so that I can continue her work. She made blankets for all of her grandchildren and continued that tradition with her great-grandchildren. My twins, Maddisun and Mackenzie have one each, but the baby, Lillian, never met her, so she doesn’t have that heirloom, though she does carry my grandma’s name (Her middle name is Janice-Sue).

I need something to do other than read (though if given half a chance I’d do just that all the time!), so now that I have the opportunity to do so, I’ve decided to do as my grandmother wanted, and learn to crochet. With her, I never got past the slip-knot. Now I wish she were here to teach me. Learning this on my own is not an easy undertaking. She taught me to sew, which I am proficient in, and cook, which according to her is why I “caught me a man”. I know it seems like I’m going on and on about my grandma, but, she taught me so much, she had a great impact on my life. If I can be half as awesome as she was, half as amazing and perfect, I’ll be doing well. She was always the rock in my life when everything was falling apart. She always answered her phone when I needed someone to talk to. When she learned to text, she texted me everyday. And don’t even get me started on Facebook! When I lost her, I didn’t just lose my grandmother, I lost my best friend.

photograph courtesy of nekoman85 deviantart.com
photograph courtesy of nekoman85 deviantart.com

I know that this isn’t what anyone wants to read about, but it’s good background as to why I’ve chosen to learn to crochet (finally!). I’m not overly creative, or crafty, but I want to learn something that I can pass on to my girls, and maybe my grandkids. I can be like my grandmother. I can be the Janice in our family, the one who cooks like an angel, who always has the answers, and makes things from yarn by hand. It may be later than she wanted, but I hope she knows that I’m finally making the effort for her.

Education- It is what it is

photo courtesy of canstockphoto
photo courtesy of canstockphoto

The education system is slow to change. We haven’t had a change since the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind in 2001, and that’s working so great. Did you notice the sarcasm? Was it too thick? No Child Left Behind (NCLB) had a goal, that 100 percent of students would be proficient in math and english by 2014. Well, how’s that working out? The education system is obviously inefficient for the learners that we are dealing with today. “Hacking” the education system seems like a good idea to me. We aren’t teaching students anything that they will use. I haven’t used algebra since I took the class, yet I was taught to balance a check book in eighth grade, and never again. Which one do you use more often?

I think we need to teach students how to live a happy life. We need to teach students what is important in life. The majority of people aren’t going to use algebra to figure out their interest for their mortgage or car payment because it’s done for them. I like knowing how to do it, but I don’t. We need to teach students what they need to know to get through life. We can each learn to excel in school, but once we’re out, and real life begins, we’re helpless. We have to teach ourselves the best way to get through life. I wish that I knew how to make the changes, but that’s been left up to politicians, not educators. I think the people who are most frustrated with the education system are educators, and those who suffer from it are the students. Hacking the education system, making it more geared toward teaching students how to make happy and healthy lives, is a great idea.

Logan LaPlante, a thirteen year old boy who gave a TED talk, is currently being educated in a “hacked” system. He is highly intelligent, and knows exactly what he wants. He doesn’t focus in one area, and is probably smarter than many college graduates. He is on to something. Unfortunately, one thirteen year old and a small group of education “hackers” can’t make the change. It takes so much more than that. Most parents trust the education system despite having gone through a traditional education. I think that’s because too many people are afraid of change. We would rather let our kids be taught the things that they’ll never use, that they don’t need, than how to live a happy and healthy life. Heaven forbid we teach a little creativity! I think that kids need to be given a little freedom to pursue what they want, even if it’s finger painting in peanut butter and catsup. The education system needs a reboot, it needs to keep up with the times, because NCLB is just a new layer to what was established in 1965, Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Let’s throw all of that away and start anew. Kids today are smarter than we give them credit for, they don’t want to learn traditionally, they want to be hacked.

photo courtesy of abcteach
photo courtesy of abcteach

We live in a digital age. Unfortunately, we need to keep up with it.

There are so many definitions of digital literacy. Library.illinois.edu (University of Illinois library) defines digital literacy as “the ability to use digital technology, communication tools or  networks to locate, evaluate, use, and create information; the ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide range of sources when it is presented via computers; there ability to perform tasks effectively in a digital environment including the ability to read and interpret media, to reproduce data and images through digital manipulation, and to evaluate and apply new knowledge gained from digital environments.” Reading all that makes my head hurt. So, to make it easier, I’ll tell you my take on digital literacy. Digital literacy is the ability to use technologies (computers, tablets, e-readers etc. . .) to find, understand, use, and create information. It is the ability to use what you find or generate creatively and apply it to your project. There, simple, right? I don’t think that education institutions what to be quite so simplistic. Digital fluency is easier to understand. It is the ability or aptitude to intercept the data you find in the digital media, to find meaning, to create, and to communicate ideas digitally. Both of these concepts require technical skills, unfortunately. There are eight essential elements of digital literacy. The first is cultural. This means the context in which the literacy is situated, where the information is from. The second is cognitive. This means the different ways we think when we are using technology verses the way we think when we are not. The third is communicative. This is how technology is used to enhance communications, such as Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Confident is the fourth. It requires a bit of confidence to explore, use, master, and/or learn technology. The fifth is creative. Creativity is required to take on technology as well as some risk taking. The sixth is Constructive. This means we should use technology in a constructive way as technology isn’t a passive undertaking. The seventh is critical. We need to look at technologies with a critical eye, both the technology and the reasons for using it. The final essential element of digital literacy is civic. This means that technology needs to be used for the “greater good”, which is hard to actually define, because I don’t think that a topless photo shared online is exactly “greater good” worthy, but someone else may think that it is.

Now, I am excellent at conducting information sources. I am great at finding and utilizing scholarly and reputable sources. I use technology to share with my family because we’re far away from one another. I’m efficient with sharing, but for the most part, I’m a little afraid of my computer because it has too many functions that I don’t quite understand. I want to learn how to use technology creatively. I’m not overly creative, I don’t really have the time. I don’t take many risks with technology, again, afraid to do something wrong and break it. I basically just use Facebook to share photos of my kids with my friends and family who live far away, and don’t get me started on Twitter, I think I’ve composed twenty tweets, maybe a few more. I use the internet to search for sources for research papers, and that has been the extent of my computer usage. I’d like to learn to use technology as a creative outlet. I expect that, in order to learn this, I will have to work harder than I ever have because I have to overcome a type of fear. Technology is constantly changing, and if I don’t catch up with it, I’ll be left behind. In order to fully step into the digital world, I have to embrace all of the changes, and fiddle with my computer, opening functions I haven’t ever opened, though my three year olds can do that. I need to figure out how I can use it confidently and creatively.

Sounds simple to you, huh? Well, it’s seriously intimidating to me.

Life is about learning so my journey should make me smarter than Einstein.

relationships A romantic relationship while getting your degree. . .

I have become an expert at maintaining my relationship with my husband while I’m working to get my degree. Sure, it’s harder to fight about money when one of you works nights and the other drives almost daily a total of two hundred miles, but the key to maintaining a relationship with my husband while I drive and do homework for about half of my time ( half of what is left is in class!) is to let him know that I love him. I had to learn this lesson. At one point during my fourth semester, we began to feel as if we were in a “funk”. We had a new set of twins, I was taking eighteen credit hours, and he was working twelve hours a day, sometimes more. We’d gotten to the point where we barely spoke because we didn’t see each other much. I started to feel neglected, and knew that he probably felt the same. So from that day, I make the effort to kiss him hello, kiss him goodbye, and tell him how much he means to me. No matter how busy our lives are, we take the time to make sure the other knows that he/she is in our thoughts. It’s not always easy, though, sometimes it ends up just being a text.

friendship Friendship in College. . .

So, I’ve never been particularly good at making friends, but for some reason, I’ve made and kept many college age friends. I think that Facebook is to blame for that. In a Shakespeare Comedies class (Pictured above), I met so many wonderful women. We acted out scenes from some of the bard’s comedies ( The Merry Wives of Windsor above). I learned that these young women and I have more in common than I thought we would. I also became a sort of “den mother”, I think that’s because I’m ten years older than many students. They came to me for advice and actually listened to me. It was an experience since my daughters rarely do so. I discovered that you can’t judge people just because they are a certain age. I thought I would be so beyond a group of twenty year olds that I might as well have been on the other side of the moon in comparison. I am glad to say that I was wrong. I am still friends with these young women and I hope to remain so.

first day Raising babies. . .

Raising children is hard no matter when you do it. Doing it in college. . . it’s almost impossible. Almost. Raising my girls is the hardest endeavor I’ve ever taken on. They were born on August 31, 2011. Yes, just as school was starting. I was in my third semester, and I learned more from them than I ever had from any professor. They get into things when you aren’t looking, so you can’t use the bathroom until they’re taking a nap (see for example the featured picture). They break anything that you don’t have nailed down. They run around and get hurt. They wiggle their little ways right into your heart. I learned from the twinado that love knows no bounds. They can smear poo all over the bathroom wall and into the bathtub (and they have) but there is nothing that they can destroy that can stop me from adoring every inch of them. That was a tough lesson, especially when cleaning the poo.

lillian 1 And baby makes 5. . .

So, we planed for the twins (one of them anyway). But Lillian came along two years and five days after Maddisun and Mackenzie. She was a surprise. From her, I’ve learned to expect surprises. She is just as destructive, just  as gross and messy. However, I learned that sometimes, the most surprising of things can be the most amazing. So, because of her, I accept, even welcome the surprises that life hands me. Sometimes they are the cutest little ball of pink. . .

learning You are good enough. . .

I haven’t always been the best student. In fact, I failed math twice and had to be put in a remedial math class. But what I’ve learned during my time in college is that My best is enough. I’ve always given everything to what I’m doing, and during my college experience, I’m seeing that my best is exactly good enough to get me through this. I know that I can apply this lesson to every aspect of my life: work, love, family. I think this is the most important lesson I’ve learned while in college. I learn from living, and even though I’m learning so much in college, my most important lessons come from “real” life.