Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lesson 39: Where is your Tipping Point?

Eloise is in a book club, everyone!  I always thought the idea was cool, but I never really had the opportunity to join one.  No one sought me out, and I was not adventurous enough to seek one out on my own.  I read a few of Oprah's book choices for her book club, but never found the connection to them that other readers did.  Truthfully, Oprah, I found them, kind quite depressing.  When you get done with a book and feel like you want to jump off of a bridge, the book didn't really do anything for you.  Oprah is forgiven though, because she pointed me toward one of my favorite books of all time, East of Eden by John Steinbeck.  Readers, if you haven't read that one yet, it is worth the time investment.  It is a beautiful story and one I plan to read again someday.  Maybe I'll suggest that one to my new book-lovin' peeps, because someone finally asked me to partake.  Yeehaw!

When I told my husband, who is not much of a reader (he is a math teacher), that I was joining a book club, this was his response:  "We can't afford it."  I was like, "There is no fee to join a book club."  For some reason he thought that a book club was like that thing in the Sunday paper ads that I joined 10 years ago--the Book of the Month Club.  The club mailed me books every month to read and charged my credit card which my husband hated.  I had books stacked up on my bedside table waiting to be read and the charges kept coming in and he made me stop.  Divorce or my books.  I did spend a day or two thinking it over, but decided it was in my best interest to cancel my Book of the Month membership. 

I explained to my logical-analytical-math-minded husband that a Book Club is a group of people who choose a book and read it over a couple of months time, then meet over dinner to discuss what they thought of the book.  There was this long pause, followed by a quizzical look, and then this response:  "For real?"  When I answered in the affirmative, my husband laughed and shook his head and said, "People really do that?"  My birthday is coming next week, so if you haven't sent me a birthday card yet and want to send me a sympathy card instead, go right ahead.

The Book Club choice was The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.  I highly recommend it if you like nonfiction and even if you are not a fan of the genre.  The subtitle of the book is "How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference."  It is almost hard to classify the book, because I've never read anything else like it.  I decided to reference Malcolm Gladwell himself for clarification.  On his website he answered this question:  How would you classify The Tipping Point?  The following was his response which I think is a good hook for all of my readers:  I like to think of it as an intellectual adventure story. (Hooked, yet?)  It draws from psychology and sociology and epidemiology, and uses examples from the worlds of business and education and fashion and media.  (See what I mean?  Something for everyone).

WHAT'S THAT?? FASHION?   Cha-ching!  My sister Karen just read the word "fashion" and charged the book from Barnes and Noble on her credit card and it will be at her house in 3 days.  She'll never read it though and ask me what it's about in due time, only to tell her friends, "I read this really great book........."

The most interesting part of the book is about Gladwell's "Law of the Few."  This means in Eloise's terms, that in order for something to hook with people, to really make an impact--it depends on just a few people with a unique set of social gifts.  Gladwell categorizes these people into three types and calls them Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen.  Given the fact that you are reading this blog, you are probably a "social type" yourself and I think you could classify yourself into one of Gladwell's categories.  Read them below to see if you fit into one of them.  The wording of the descriptions is paraphrased from an Amazon publisher's review.  The publishers have a little more fluency than I do tonight:

  • CONNECTOR:  people who "link up  with the world and have a special gift for bringing the world together.  They are people who have an extraordinary knack for making friends and acquaintances.  These individuals have social networks of over 100 people (so--how many facebook friends do you have?).  My sister Karen and her 819 facebook friends comes to mind right away.
  • MAVENS:  information specialists.  These are the people we rely upon to connect us with new information.  They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others.  A maven likes to solve other people's problems.  I just realized that my mother isn't just annoying, she's only trying to help solve my problems for me--even as I turn 40 years old.  Thanks, mom--You're a MAVEN.
  • SALESMEN:  persuaders.  These are very charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills.  They tend to have the ability to make others agree with them.  They are good at using nonverbal cues to get people on their side.  Geez!  I thought that silent head nod and extended hand with a beer in it was just an invitation to drink.  Here, all along, my dad is a salesman--a salesman for Yeungling nonetheless, but a salesman just the same.
After completing the book in just a few days, I was left with the satisfaction of a better understanding of the world around me.  There is a science behind fads that I never even knew of before.  When Gladwell was asked on his website what he hoped readers would take away from the book, he responded the following:  One of the things I'd like to do is to show people how to start "positive" epidemics of their own.  The virtue of an epidemic, after all, is that just a little input is enough to get it started, and it can spread very, very quickly.    Kind of like Lessons From the Lamp Post's popularity in Slovenia.  I do have 29 followers, you know.  Not quite an "epidemic of positive thought" yet, but maybe tomorrow there will be 30.  All in due time, my friends, all in due time.

So, to answer my own question I put as this blog title, "Where is your Tipping Point?"  It better be on your bedside table.

Happy reading,

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lesson 38: Learn Your Presidents

Happy President's Day, lamp post followers!  I will be enjoying a day off today in honor of the American Presidents.  I just heard all my foreign followers click the red x.  Sorry, Slovenians.  I'm a patriotic girl and have to give props to my homeland whenever I get the chance.  That should free up some cyber space for my American and Canadian readers.  Maybe your computers will all work faster.  Yes, Canadians, stay on here.  It never hurts to learn more about the country with whom you share a border. 

Eloise loves history, but there is more to learn every year.  Imagine the difficulty as a teacher.  We have to continually revisit history and condense and whittle away at the "old stuff" to make room for the "new stuff."  Throw in there the many and varied interpretations of people and events, and we history teachers have the toughest job on the planet--keeping a very important subject alive in minds of young people when the subjects being taught about are long dead. 

I have a respect for clever people.  The person who created the above video, albeit annoying on the first run through, cleverly found a way to condense presidential history into 3 minutes and 19 seconds.  It was obviously made more than ten years ago because "W" and Obama are not included in the piece.  It definitely is worth a whirl though, because I think it is everyone's responsibility to understand the basic history of their country.

I tell my students the easiest way to do this is to learn the Presidents.  I make my students memorize them from time to time.  I require them to write the last names in order from Washington to Obama--43 in all with Grover Cleveland confusing us with those two non-consecutive terms. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams...... I single handedly drove parents of 150 students crazy.  Children were reciting the presidents on the way to soccer practice, during dinner, and in bubbly bathtubs.  Many of my students' parents thanked me for the history brush up as well.  Once they are in your head though, you have that frame of reference.  You if you know Lincoln is the 16th president, you can easily figure out that the Civil War was around 1860.  Need to know something up or back from that date--just count your presidents.  It is like having a new tool in your toolbox.  Something you can use when you need it, like when you take a ride in the Cash Cab.  A presidents question just may buy your dinner that night, not to mention give you free cab fare.

So anyone willing to challenge themselves a bit can take it upon yourself to memorize the Presidents of the United States in order, find me.  I will have prizes for you.  See me  in person, call me, e-mail me, or text me them (that would be killer on the thumbs, wouldn't it?).  If you use one of the written methods and I don't hear your voice, you could be cheating and reading them from your friend Mr. Wikipedia.  Shame on you, Canadians.  We put our trust in the maple leaf, so don't betray it.  I live on the northern border and can zip across the lake in a matter of an hour in my father's speedboat called the Titanic.  You don't want to mess with Eloise, especially coming at you in a speed boat flying Old Glory.

Enjoy the above video.  I think you to will be amused at how the creator put it all together.  My students enjoyed it and we are all kids at heart, so I believe you will too.

Happy President's Day.
Eloise--Commander in Chief, Lamp Post Dharma Station

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lesson 37: T Minus 20 and Counting

Tik, tik, tik, tik, tik, tik, tik, tik, TOK.  Yep.  That's it, Readers.  Time is almost up.  20 days left in my 30's and then I'll meet 40!  March 3rd.  Mark it on your calendars because you have a job to do.  You have to help me with a little Eloisesque experiment.  I am asking you to send me a birthday card.

I want a birthday card in my mailbox.  You know, that thing at the end of your driveway with the red flag that you stick up.  I live in Erie, PA, so I can best describe it as that boxlike thing on a post that the snow plow hits once a winter.  It is the thing we used to pay bills before on-line banking and send birthday wishes to friends before facebook wall posts. I want cards, in envelopes, with stamps on them.  Consider the task helping out the post office.  I hear they have been struggling lately.

I want to confuse my mail carrier.  I want Mr. Mailman to think, "Wow.  Someone really important must live in that house."  I kind of want the flood of cards to be like the one when the owls were delivering the Hogwarts invitations to Harry Potter.  I want to roll around in a sea of them.

Don't think that this is all to support my vanity or to help me cope with turning 40.  Not a bit.  You are actually helping me take part in a little social networking experiment of my own.  I am going to see how I receive the most cards--through requests via telecommunications such as e-mail, facebook, and blogger or tell-a-kid, as in my students.  They will receive this assignment beginning next week.  I will collect all cards and use them as part of my "big numbers" lesson.  Kids love big numbers, so I try to put one in my Quest classes every year.  Keep in mind I will be using the cards for school, so no boobs, butts, or bad words.  School kind of frowns upon that you know.

Of course as with any assignment, there will be some sort of assessment.  I will be having a little contest and do some judging to make it extra fun.  There will be prizes for my favorite cards.  I will have "kid categories" and "adult categories".  There will be store-bought and hand-made divisions.  There will be a prize for the card received from the furthest distance away.  Slovenians unite!  You have a chance for the win.  There will be bonus points awarded to anyone finding or making me a card that has any connection to LOST, such as a dharma symbol, an island, or a picture of my hottie hero, Dr. Jack Shephard. 

If you are reading this blog, you owe it to me to honor my request.  Even if you live in Slovenia.  I have given you hours upon hours of reading enjoyment free of charge.  I have taught you things, made you laugh, and hopefully inspired you.  So do this for me.  Please.

Here are your directions for your assignment.  Please read them carefully.
1.  Shop for or make the perfect birthday card for Eloise
2.  If it has a connection to LOST, bonus points will be awarded.
3.  Sign it
4.  Make a notation that you were informed of this assignment on Blogger
5.  Put it in an envelope with a stamp
6.  If you live in the north, take a brisk, cold walk out to that thing at the end of your driveway called a mailbox, place the card inside, and put up the flag.  If you live in the south, you don't even need a jacket now, so no complaining.  If you live in Slovenia, I don't know what your weather is like so do your best.
7.  Check back on the blog in a few weeks to see if your card was considered a "winner."
8.  My address:  Eloise Hawking--The Lamp Post---5768 Firman Road   Erie, PA   16510

Spread the word, Readers.  Let's make my 40th birthday extra large!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lesson 36: Moths are Tougher than Butterflies

My little butterfly spread her wings the other night.  Natalie participated in Harbor Creek High School's Ever So Lovely Pageant.  It was a night intended to celebrate and showcase the beauty of girls with special needs.  The girls were given an opportunity to shine.  They donned beautiful gowns and were escorted by handsome high school boys across the stage to a cheering crowd.  Each girl had the opportunity to stand alone in the spotlight showcasing a special talent or by sharing special knowledge of herself with the audience.  There was singing and dancing and sharing by the girls which led to whoops and shouts and tears of joy among the spectators. 

The panel of judges which was an array of teachers and the high school principal, declared all of the girls winners.  Each girl received a sparkling tiara, a satin sash, and a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  Natalie put her crown back on after we were home and she was changed into her pajamas.  I've seen her walk into her room several times this weekend and trace her finger over the bumpy rhinestone hearts on her crown. The night mattered.  Don't think for one second that she forgot about it because she doesn't have the ability to prattle on about it like other pre-teens do.  I can tell by the sparkle in her eye and the shy half smile she gives me when I mention the night to her.  Mother Eloise knows.

The song posted above is Miley Cyrus and Billy Ray Cyrus singing Butterfly Fly Away.  Play it through a couple of times and listen to the lyrics.  It is about a little girl learning how to spread her wings and fly away.  It was a perfect song choice for the night and more specifically for Natalie.  She will turn thirteen this May and in many instances acts like a typical teenager.  She gets moody, is harder to rouse in the morning, and is constantly into my make up.  As much as I try to shelter her, she too is growing up and I know I must step back at times and let her figure things out for herself--like how to put on mascara without poking herself in the eye. 

Of course this brings a LOST episode to mind.  In season 1 there is an episode titled "The Moth."  It is about Charlie Pace's battle with his drug addiction.  Imagine crashing on an island with a heroin addiction, knowing that your stash went down with the plane.  Charlie finds later that a drug runner's plane also went down on the island and it was discovered with a cockpit full of dead bodies, maggots, and Mary statues filled with heroin.  John Lock talks to Charlie about his problem in my favorite John Lock sort of way.  John uses stories to teach people things, almost like the parables of Jesus.  John finds a cocoon hanging on a jungle leaf and points it out to Charlie.  This is their conversation:
"What is in this cocoon, Charlie?"
"A butterfly."
"No.  It is not a butterfly.  It is a moth.  It's ironic because butterflies get all the attention, but moths are stronger---faster.  See that little hole?" (pointing to the little hole at the top of the cocoon)
"This moth is just about ready to emerge.  It is in there struggling---dragging its way through its thick hide of the cocoon.  I could help it---take my knife and gently widen the opening and the moth would be free--but it would be too weak to survive.  Struggle is nature's way of strengthening things."

Raising Natalie has been kind of like that; a blend of helping and stepping back.  Giving her the extra patience and support she needs, but knowing when to hold back and let her try on her own.  The latter is the hardest part for me.  Try wiping mascara of the face of a highly sensitive autistic kid.  It isn't fun, but she's getting it.  The ebb and flow of parenthood I assume. 

Enjoy the photos and the song.  When you are having a bad day and life seems difficult, remember the words from the writers of LOST:  Struggle is nature's way of strengthening things.  Natalie child, I decided you aren't a butterfly, you are one tough, strong moth.  I am proud of you, sweetheart!  Spread your wings and fly, but Mother Eloise will be close by with my bug net.  No worries.