Saturday, September 19, 2020

From the archives: How we're losing "I can, I will"

First posted January 2016

I'm fascinated by Annie Kate's review of Smart but Scattered Teens by Guare, Dawson, and Guare. Books like this say a huge amount about our culture, and the healing that parents may need to initiate if their teenage children have become infected with "do it for me" syndrome.

Check out the list of "executive skills" that the authors feel teenagers may be lacking:
"working memory, planning/prioritization, organization, time management, metacognition, response inhibition, emotional control, sustained attention, task initiation, goal-directed persistence, flexibility."
Do you see a connection between those skills? Every single one is something that Charlotte Mason would say we must not do for children who are capable of taking it on for themselves. And yet, so often, we do...just because we do. We try so hard and worry so much, like Aunt Frances, when we should be  letting them take the reins, like Uncle Henry.

The sad thing is that the teenage years may be almost too late to change some of those lifelong habits, although the point of the book is that there's still time. (I haven't read the book, just the review.) If you have younger children in your care, these are the things you should be doing, or rather, not doing. Letting them begin an activity and encouraging them to stick with it for a reasonable amount of time, to get some "goal-directed persistence" (see Charlotte Mason's "Inconstant Kitty"). Teaching them to be prompt and orderly (organization, time management). Using learning methods such as narration (working memory, sustained attention). Dealing with tantrums and other emotional disruptions (emotional control, response inhibition). I would add, seeing a situation from the other person's point of view and deciding to do what benefits another person, or the larger group or community, rather than yourself; developing empathy. As I've discussed here and elsewhere, I'm with those who believe that one of the best ways to gain empathy and flexibility in thinking is to have a very good store of stories.

That is what we can do for our children: give them that store, train them in habits, and allow them to develop their wills. What we can't or shouldn't do: think for them, remember for them, rob them of their initiative.

From the archives: Squiggly Lines and Paper Pages

First posted September 2012

So Michael Reist says that "literature will never die, but if we keep force-feeding it to the kids of cyberspace, its integrity will certainly suffer."

And since he has thirty years of classroom experience, and has written and lectured extensively on the problems of both teenagerhood and education, we assume that he does know what he's talking about.  The tone of the editorial made me think at first that he was actually cheering the demise of English literature; but I think he sees the situation more as sad but true; lamentable, but inevitable.

His conclusion?  "There are two ways to resolve this tension: Lower the standards in English class so the poor kid can go and make video games, or stop the mandatory study of English at, say, Grade 10. For many kids, the only thing they learn in Grade 11 or 12 English class is to hate it even more."

Those alternatives sound like the equivalent of "you don't get a real dinner tonight, but you can choose between fries, candy, and vitamin-mineral supplements."  Or, more closely, since the diners refuse to eat "real" food, we will no longer bother to cook and serve it.  Let them find their nourishment as best they can.
“But I’m going to be a video game designer!” protests one of my Grade 10 English students. “I don’t need to be able to read novels or write essays.” --Michael Reist
Need to be able to?

Would anyone dispute the idea that human bodies still need to eat? Public school lunches are all about enforced nutrition, these days. So don't human minds still need to think, and to know what has been thought?

Around here, school IS, largely, reading.  If you search this blog for the word "subversive," you will find that every occurrence, with the single exception of a tuna recipe, has been in connection with books and reading.  In our view, the immeasurable value of Real Books has not changed and will not change. 

But in Michael Reist's opinion, the rest of the world has stopped caring, and there's no turning back.  The occasional Matilda is simply an odd exception; the other "students" are shut out.

Prove him wrong.
"All the reading she had done had given her a view of life that they had never seen. If only they would read a little Dickens or Kipling they would soon discover there was more to life than cheating people and watching television."--Roald Dahl, Matilda

Friday, September 18, 2020

From the archives: Uncle Eric and how you decide how you will know...can you?

 First posted October 2012

Book studied:  "Uncle Eric" Talks About Personal, Career, and Financial Security, by Richard J. Maybury

Why a study guide for chapter 8, when I haven't posted any for the previous chapters?  This is where we're at in our term's work, and it's an important chapter.  Plus it shows you both why I both appreciate Uncle Eric (or Richard J. Maybury) and occasionally disagree with him--or at least want to raise a few questions about where he's coming from.  Which just shows that I've read chapter 8.

Dollygirl and I last read chapter 5 of this book, and discussed why the storytelling model is an effective one, especially for children (it's something our minds can more easily grasp than a list of rules).

We will skip chapters 6 and 7 for now--they're important in Uncle Eric's overall plan, but they don't make especially compelling reading at this point, at least for a sixth grader.

Chapter 8 is "A Model for Selecting Models."

"How do we know we have a good model?" Uncle Eric asks.

What are some ways you can make up your mind about which belief (about a given problem) makes more sense?  Flip a coin?  Ask a celebrity (the "prestige" model)?

Ask a specialist?  Uncle Eric points out that this is at least better than asking someone famous who doesn't specialize in that area, but, on the other hand, some specialists may be reluctant to give up their own accepted models, even if new evidence brings what they believe into question.  For example, read about Ignaz Semmelweis (we like the chapter in Exploring the History of Medicine).  Uncle Eric also uses Galileo as an example.

Sidewinding questions:  Does the Bible teach that the earth is the center of all God's creation?  Uncle Eric says that today we honour Galileo and regard his opponents as "closed-minded tyrants."  Are things different for scientists today?  What about Christian scientists?

Back to the main issue:  what is the final problem with the "prestige" model, that Uncle Eric points out at the top of page 52?

A third method of choosing which model is true:  do your own research.  What are the pros and cons of this?

Why does Uncle Eric say that if "everybody" believes something, then, mathematically speaking, there's a good chance that they're wrong?  Do you agree with this?

What is the scientific method?  What is a working hypothesis?  Watch this excellent, if somewhat silly, demonstration of the scientific method at work:

On page 54, Uncle Eric explains his beliefs about certainty/uncertainty.  Why does he feel it is safer to stay "uncertain" about many things?  Is there anything we can be certain of?  See Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 25:9; Isaiah 33:6; Matthew 27:54; Matthew 28:20; Romans 6:5; Hebrews 6:13.  Does that certainty contradict the point that Uncle Eric is making?

For further thought:  does science also demand an element of faith, or does that contradict the definition of science?  "In science, one must commit oneself to the belief that the world we see and touch is real, that nature is uniform, and that it operates according to the principle of cause-and-effect.  Without these prior 'leaps of faith,' reasonable though they are, one cannot undertake science."----What Does the Bible Say About...The Ultimate A to Z Resource

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Out of touch, out of time

Still here, Hodgepodging on Wednesdays. This week's questions are below. Answer on your own blog, then hop back to From This Side of the Pond to add your link to the party. 

From this Side of the Pond

1. What's one thing you learned at the ripe old age of whatever age you are now?

I can finally fold fitted sheets, more or less.

2. I read here a list of foods that can help you look younger-

extra virgin olive oil, green tea, fatty fish, dark chocolate, vegetables, flaxseeds, pomegranates, avocados, tomatoes, spices, bone broth

How many of the foods listed have you tried? How many do you eat regularly? Your favorite from the list?

Chocolate, but not quite as dark as Mr. Fixit likes it.

3. Something you miss from the 'good old days'? When were the good old days anyway?

The good old days, if we're feeling cynical, are anything pre-2020.

A lot of people, if you ask them, will describe something relating to technology. Not necessarily those good old days of dial-up...but, let's say, the summers at a campground when the only phone in sight was the one at the store (for emergencies).

Other people will say something about people who used to be there. Those dreaded visits with an elderly relative that, looking back, you wish you could have back (from your more mature perspective of course).

Some people will mention foods, either something somebody cooked, or a product, maybe a drink or a candy bar, that's no longer available. I miss Canadian Smarties when they came in brighter, more toxic colours (and you could blow on the empty box to make it squawk).

4. What are two or three of the most rewarding things to be found in growing older?

Being less worried about growing older, because you're already there.

5. What's your favorite part of your life right now?

The townhouse we moved to a year ago last summer. We may not be here forever, but it works for us right now. There are amazing trails to walk on, and the view of the trees from the back deck makes me think we're at a campground or a cottage, and the only phone in sigiht is the one at the store...

6. Insert your own random thought here.

I did a riff on The Vivienne Files here yesterday: want to read it?

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A Tripping Breaker Causes a Trip (A Story Inspired by the Vivienne Files)

Janice at The Vivienne Files recently did a story about an imaginary heroine venturing out on a not-too-formal business trip, inspired by the painting The Visit by Marie Laurencin.

I  thought, "I could do something pretty close to that." Maybe a bit more casual.

So here's my story. It's made-up too, in case you wondered.


Her first word, according to her parents, was "plug-in." And she grew up to be an electrician.

While she and her partner haven't completely been staring at four walls this year, they're feeling way overdue for a short change of scenery. But what would even be available right now?

Then the email comes. Their friends' cottage has been having some electrical issues over the summer, and while they won't be up there much this fall themselves, they'd like to get it taken care of before winter. They know her spouse is also quite handy at gardening. Could they be talked into checking out the situation and maybe doing some small repairs and cleanup, in exchange for a week's free rental? Oh, could they...

When she looks at the Vivienne Files wardrobe, she's struck by that blue turtleneck sweater. She has a thrifted cotton sweater dress that she has been intending to shorten into something she can wear with pants, and this is her motivation to get it out, chop off the bottom, and sew a new hem. (She's versatile like that.) And while the sewing machine is out, she might as well make a couple extra of those things she'll need when they go into town to buy coffee or parts. Right.

She pulls together an outfit for the drive up: grey jeans (technically they're black); grey fleece cardigan, pink long-sleeved top, pink earrings, a scarf, a  bag, and her Allbirds Mizzles. Since she doesn't have pink shoes like the Vivienne Files wardrobe, she lets her bag have some colour instead.

What's in her suitcase? Another pair of grey pants, and a grey skirt. A blue short-sleeved t-shirt, her DIY blue turtleneck top, a pink shirt, and a grey long-sleeved pullover. Another scarf. Extra shoes (not shown). 
She forgot to put the pink shirt in the big photograph.
Some fun socks, and a pair of warm tights.
Socks: Dollarama

Three more pairs of earrings, and two necklaces. She is especially fond of jewelry that resembles wires.
She also puts in a warm jacket, a hat, and work gloves, just in case. And her toolbox.

She copies out some of the outfits shown on The Vivienne Files.

Grey pants, grey cardigan, blue turtleneck, earrings, socks, running shoes, a scarf.
The Vivienne Files showed an outfit with grey jeans or the other pair of pants, grey pullover, pink shirt, earrings, necklace,and grey shoes. Because her pullover has a loose cowlneck instead of a crew or V-neck, she brings along a pink tank top to wear under it instead of the shirt.
She also tries out the other pullover-pants outfit from the Vivienne Files.
Grey skirt, grey cardigan, blue t-shirt, scarf, earrings.
The photograph shows pumps, but for this trip she thinks her Arcopedico shoes would be more practical..
Grey skirt, grey pullover, earrings, scarf. Ditto on the pumps.
Grey pants, blue turtleneck, scarf, running shoes, earrings. She adds the backpack in the hopes they could do a bit of not-too-strenuous hiking.
When she looks at the size of the Vivienne Files wardrobe, she realizes that she might need a few extra tops, since they're staying for the whole week. So she picks out some that work with the other clothes.
(Should I have included a cable-knit sweater instead?)

If anyone asks why she likes her job, she quotes George Carlin: "Electricity is really just organized lightning."

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Labouring over this Wednesday Hodgepodge

Here are this week's supply the answers on your own blog then hop back to From This Side of the Pond (click the graphic) to share answers with the universe.

1. Something you've done in recent days or months that might be described as a labor of love?
See the Welcome-Summer Hodgepodge. Still working on the same project. 
2. Last time you 'worked your fingers to the bone'? 
Maybe the last time I had to pack moving boxes? 

3. According to a recent survey people named the following ten jobs as the hardest-nurse, doctor, paramedic, police officer, firefighter, surgeon, healthcare worker, bomb squad, farmer, and prison warden. Of the jobs listed which would you say is the hardest? The one you'd most like to do? Least like to do? What's one job you would add to the list?
Most of these would turn up at the bottom of just about any vocational test I ever took. Not because they're nasty jobs, but because I'd be awful at them. Answer to the last question: pastor. (I was going to say kindergarten teacher.) 

4. A recipe you make that is labor intensive, but worth it? 
Most of my recipes are chosen to avoid labour. 
Chocolate-chip icing used to be fairly labour-intensive, and therefore reserved for great celebrations, but I have found that it can be made decently well in the microwave. 

5. Last job you did or task you completed that required teamwork? 
Getting ourselves to the Big City last weekend to visit our daughter (The Apprentice, for longtime readers). Mr. Fixit drove, I navigated. 

6. Insert your own random thought here. 
Today was our regular thrift store run. Best thing I found: a fall table runner. 
Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Another Three-Dollar Thrifting Trip

Today's thrifted finds:

 Cotton jersey t-shirt from the dollar rack
Two-dollar fall table runner
How does it look?
Happy fall.

Monday, September 07, 2020

From the archives: Pedagogical Passion

First posted August 2013; edited slightly 

I've been reading The Passionate Learner: How Teachers and Parents Can Help Children Reclaim the Joy of Discovery, by Robert L. Fried.  It's one of those recent educational books that homeschoolers, especially CM homeschoolers, would probably read with caution, if not with outright suspicion.  This guy is an associate professor of education.  He works in public schools, with teachers.  Still, he might be sort of on our side, since he wrote a book about passionate learners (and also one about passionate teachers).  My vote:  I like the book.  It's not a homeschooling book and it doesn't match what we do exactly, but I think it speaks to a lot of the questions I raised in Part One of this post, such as, how do I encourage a student to take ownership of her own learning without dumping the curriculum?

Towards the end of Dr. Fried's book, he points out that there are good schools that are very "resource-focused," and there are those that are "responsibility-focused" (where the onus is on the kids to knuckle down and do their homework); and that there are great educators who are "progressive/child centered" and those who are "traditionalist/authoritarian."  (Not to the point of being destructive, either one; he means those that take their educational philosophy and use it to teach in a productive way.)  And, although he puts himself at particular points along both of those lines, he points out that you can really have any combination of those and still be successful, still turn out passionate learners.

We might be inspired to plot Charlotte Mason on Dr. Fried's grid--was she more "child centered" or more "authoritarian?" (What she really said, I mean, not how other homeschoolers have labelled her methods.)  Was she more "resource-focused" or more "responsibility-focused?"  Or did she come out right in the middle?  Something to think about.

Anyway, back to Dr. Fried's book.  How can you not like someone who writes, "In the best of circumstances, teacher, parent, and student will share the vision of the child as a self-initiating seeker of truth and power through knowledge and skills development.  The teacher will, in most cases, take the lead in creating such a vision, but the student and parent must understand and interpret 'excellence' in ways that make sense to them."  "Quality learning requires the parent to be both patient and supportive, holding in check the voices that want to push the child toward short-term, less-authentic rewards, and keeping in one's mind a vision of the child as a lifelong learner."  "Quality learning has a lot to do with taking what's given--an assignment from the teacher--and figuring out how to make it correspond to the child's idea of a quality experience, how to find an angle on the assignment that the child can be enthusiastic about (or at least help the child not feel insulted or overwhelmed by the assignment."  (all on page 229)

Some of Dr. Fried's most interesting ideas come from the university classes he teaches in children's literature and in curriculum.  One workshop exercise he does with teachers is have them draw a pie graph of the major concepts or skills they want students to take away from a particular course--particular big ideas, ways that they relate material to their own lives, and so on.  Then he also has them graph their grading scheme for a course--15% for term tests, 10% for homework and so on.  Their conceptual goals for the course often conflict with the way the students are being marked; the ideas they say are important get less weight than things like attendance and homework.  We may or may not be grading our homeschoolers' work,  but it's still something to think about, maybe in terms of time spent instead of grades given.  If we say, just for example, that a goal in history is to see how God deals with nations and individuals, do we actually spend much time discussing that, or is it all about memorizing dates on a timeline?

What happens in the workshop, then, is that they take the two pie charts, and try to rewrite the grading-scheme chart to better reflect the important ideas of the course.  Maybe there will be a larger, self-designed project on a major person or event in a period of history, something that allows the student to ask and answer his own questions.  (Like a science fair project.)  Maybe there will be no quizzes, but there will be one short-answer test just to make sure they haven't missed the basics.  This is something that we can apply in home schools, no matter what curriculum we're using: we definitely have the freedom to structure or restructure a course to focus on what's most important.  And then--I found this interesting--the teachers are challenged to take the major concepts they used for the first pie graph, and make them super-clear and intelligible, something that they could hand to the students (or the parents) to explain what they're supposed to be learning, and why they're learning it.

Because if you're the teacher and you don't know that yourself, you're going to be stuck with "open your books and read the next chapter," and that's not very passionate.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Just a Second

Here are the questions to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog, then hop back to From This Side of the Pond to share answers with the universe. Here we go-

From this Side of the Pond

1. The Hodgepodge lands on the second day of a brand new month. Tell us one thing you're looking forward to in September. 

The calendar's kind of empty, but that could always change. 

Small things, weather changes, fall sweaters, apples. 

2. Do you enjoy browsing second-hand shops? Last thing you bought or 'inherited' second hand? 

Welcome to my life (and my blog). Both the browsing and the buying can be fun. Visiting one particular antiques market last weekend was almost as good as an art gallery. I often note the names of artists from paintings I like, and try to find out more about them later on. 

Here's one we noticed: Andre Bertounesque, No Blank Walls. (I'm not going to paste the image as I'm pretty sure it's copyrighted to the auction site.) 

The last thing I thrifted? This pair of printed cotton pants, which I bought the second time that I'd seen them. 
 I've been wanting to do a blog post about making outfits with them, but today (rainy weather, terrible lighting) isn't going to be that day. 

3. Something you had second thoughts about after committing to, purchasing, or posting/commenting  online? 

An interesting question, and I could probably say "yes" to that about a lot of things, some little and some very big. But it's often the third thoughts that matter most. 

4. What's a product or service you use that you'd rate as second to none? 

Idaho brand instant mashed potatoes, unflavoured. Tastes like potatoes. 

5. Something you do so often or that comes so naturally to you it's second nature? 

Good habits or bad ones? 

Reading...using a keyboard (although I had to retrain myself not to leave two spaces after periods)...thinking "cooking rice, water's twice" (but I have better luck with "water's one-and-a-half")...praying when stuff happens. 

6. Insert your own random thought here.

For years, it was second nature for us to read the morning paper (local) and to watch the six o'clock news (local)...I think those were habits handed down from our own parents. In recent months, we've stopped watching the newscast, and we also let the paper lapse. They say old habits die hard, but we haven't seemed to miss those particular ones much. (We do listen to the radio and read news online.) 

Monday, August 31, 2020

Quote for the day: A different perspective

"That ordinary life is an admirable thing in itself, just as imagination is an admirable thing in itself. But it is much more the ordinary life that is made of imagination than the contemplative life. He who has seen the whole world hanging on a hair of the mercy of God has seen the truth; we might almost say the cold truth. He who has seen the vision of his city upside-down has seen it the right way up." ~~ G.K. Chesterton, Saint Francis of Assisi

Monday, August 24, 2020

From the archives: A crazy kind of gratitude

I found this in Frederick Buechner's memoir The Sacred Journey, where he remembers a hungry, cold, wet supper during his infantry training. Just before this he has been talking about St. Francis of Assisi and his Canticle to the Sun--"the madness of throwing away everything he ever had or ever hoped to have for love of the creation no less than of the creator...."

"With a lurch of the heart that is real to me still, I saw suddenly, almost as if from beyond time altogether, that not only was the turnip good, but the mud was good too, even the drizzle and cold were good, even the Army that I had dreaded for months. Sitting there in the Alabama winter with my mouth full of cold turnip and mud, I could see at least for a moment how if you ever took truly to heart the ultimate goodness and joy of things, even at their bleakest, the need to praise someone or something for it would be so great that you might even have to go out and speak of it to the birds of the air."

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Intentional Thrifter: The Joke's On Me

 Thrifting has its unexpected side.

I bought this longer-style sort-of-stretchy white shirt yesterday, from the women's shirt rack. When I looked up the label, I found out it's from a men's collection! I should have guessed that from the buttons on the wrong side, but the sort-of-stretchy thing fooled me. Oh well, I won't tell if you won't. (Update: we also discovered that it was a you-paid-how-much?? shirt, so we're going to try to resell it. If nobody bites, I'll wear it.)

Yes, this is the Same Skirt I bought previously, from the Same Place, but three sizes smaller. So now I have a striped skirt that I altered, and a striped skirt that was that size to start with. One of them will probably get made into striped something else.

Remember this personal-size teapot and cup?
The same store had another one, for a dollar. Mr. Fixit thought I should get it so that everybody can have their favourite tea in their own
(Says someone who's wishing for the no-visits era to be ancient history.)

We also found a picture we had liked before, and it happened to be on its half-price day.
And two 1970's Glasbake pans, for $3 each.
Good heavy-duty stuff, and in great shape.

It was almost as good as a yard sale.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Why Five?

Here are the questions for this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge.|

 Answer on your own blog, then hop back to From This Side of the Pond (click the graphic) to share answers with all the other world wide webbers. See you there!

1. Five years ago this month hubs and I relocated from New Jersey to the Palmetto State. What were you doing five years ago this month?

The biggest event for me that month was what didn't happen: it was the first August in almost two decades in which I was not preparing to homeschool anybody. We had two Squirrelings still living at home, and the youngest was getting ready to start ninth grade, which meant acquiring things like backpacks and and running-for-the-bus sneakers. I had also just published my first book, and that had taken a slice out of me, so I was refueling by doing a lot of reading.
2. What was the last 9-5 job you worked? Tell us about it.

During my first year of marriage (which mostly consisted of pregnancy), I was doing "floater" work at a university: temping in whatever departments needed office help. One of the human resources people had me come in a couple of times a week to handle her typing, make overheads, and book space and order muffins for meetings. We got along so well that she offered me a permanent part-time job, but I turned it down (I  didn't want to make her have to find yet another temp while I stayed home with the baby). On my last morning there, I was supposed to come in and take minutes of a meeting, but I phoned in to explain that I had a two-hours-old baby and didn't think I could make it.

3. Plead the fifth, high five, take five, it's five o'clock somewhere, or the big 5-0...which number five phrase relates to your life in some way currently? Tell us how.
'Well, Jack, and where are you off to?' said the man. 'I'm going to market to sell our cow there.' 'Oh, you look the proper sort of chap to sell cows,' said the man; 'I wonder if you know how many beans make five.' 'Two in each hand and one in your mouth,' says Jack, as sharp as a needle. 'Right you are,' says the man.

Thanks to Jack and the Beanstalk, "to know how many beans make five" has become a synonym for "to know what's what."

This year I'm not only less certain how many beans make five, but whether they're still going to be in my hand the next time I look

4. During this season of spending so much time at home, what distractions get in the way of being your most productive? Or have you been extra productive since this whole thing started?

Productive in terms of...? Yes, I did a couple of extra computer-related projects I had been putting off, but other than that, about the same. It's not the actual distractions that get in the way as the apparently common problem of 2020 brain fatigue: see #3.

5. Give us a list here of your top five anything.

I'm tempted to write a list of the negatives, "top five things I haven't done since March that I'm annoyed that I haven't been able to do." But ahem, I'll go on from there.

Top five favourite things I've thrifted since the stores reopened:

This little teapot that has its own cup underneath
Floral scarf
Book I've wanted to read for several years
Floral vintage-vibe purse (I like flowers)
Pink coat for chilly weather.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

The Nature of Thrifting (Part Three): Taking Sides

It's National Thrift Shop Day.

There are some annoyed people out there who feel it's wrong-handed to dump on limited-budget fast-fashion shoppers, and who blame that situation at least partly on the gentrification of thrift stores.

Let's pick that apart carefully.

Yes, thrift stores went through a change. I've mentioned before that, years ago, I'd walk into the Salvation Army store and things wouldn't even be priced. The woman behind the counter decided what she thought you could/should pay for the pants. A little strange, and sometimes reversely discriminatory (people with little money don't always look like it), but that was it. Then the old stores closed, and new ones re-opened in shopping plazas and places further out; the price of the pants became fixed, and, often, higher. The new locations and higher prices, as well as the rival for-profit stores, did somewhat change the customer base.

But as most people do realize about charity-based thrift stores, they do not exist primarily to give people with low budgets somewhere to shop, although that is one of their benefits to the community. They exist to raise money for their organizations, and/or to provide training and work/volunteer opportunities. If a thrift store decides to brand itself as a "boutique" to attract new customers, that may not help someone who just needs pants, but it may also be a matter of survival for the store. The rent has to be paid, and those of us living through 2020 can hardly be unaware of how little it takes to push businesses, including non-profits, over the edge. 

Thrift stores, in spite of the predicament they've been put into of having to figure out what to do with the mounds of donated stuff, are nevertheless proud of their ability to help "green" the planet a bit. If people can be encouraged to use some of the stuff that already exists instead of feeding the corporate sausage machine, that's a good thing, right?

But, the argument goes on...and I'm trying really hard to see the logic in this...the thrift stores haven't "done their job" (whatever that is) for people under financial stress, and so these same people are not only entitled to buy fast fashion, but should buy fast fashion.

Sorry, I'm not buying it. 

Does that argument not sound demeaning to you? More of an us-and-them thing than we had going in the first place? Me, I''m privileged to thrift a good cotton t-shirt...but you, you go buy the piece of new rayon junk. And never mind what the factory conditions were for the women who sewed the shirt, or what that gigantic order of shirts did to make the planet a bit worse off. 

I'm all for not judging where people buy their clothes. How would I know where you bought yours unless I asked? How would you know where I bought mine unless you asked? If you can travel to one store or another easily, that might even outweigh (to some extent) the benefit of, say, ordering something ecological online and having it shipped; or having to travel a long and inconvenient distance to a thrift store. I used to live next to a discount store, and it was very handy.

But supporting fast fashion, and bashing thrift stores, as a way to support human rights? 


Take it from someone wearing a pair of one-dollar jeans.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Three-Dollar Thrifting

One of the thrift stores near us has a dollar rack, for things on their last week in the store. This morning I found a pair of black jeans there, just my size and definitely a Good Thing because I was thinking at least one of my current pairs of jeans would soon need replacing.
And that seemed to be it for that trip; even Mr. Fixit didn't find anything he could use. On my way to check out, I thought I heard a little over-here voice from the scarf rack. I didn't see anything interesting at first; then it popped out at me: a great big lightweight scarf/shawl, in an entire garden of colours, for two dollars.
The world of thrift can be an amazing place sometimes. Little voices and all.

In the Middle of a Wednesday Hodgepodge

Here are the questions to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog, then hop back to From This Side of the Pond to share answers with the universe. Here we go-

From this Side of the Pond

1. August 12th is National Middle Child Day...are you a middle child? If not, where in your family do you fall in terms of birth order? Do you hold true to the typical characteristics of oldest-middle-youngest-only child? (a quick list can be found here) Elaborate.

Oldest daughter of an oldest daughter of an oldest daughter. My fate was predetermined.

2. Tell us about a time you felt like (or you actually were) in the middle of nowhere.

Any time you feel seriously lost in a strange place can feel like nowhere. When you're a child lost in a store, that's big enough to feel like nowhere. When I was about thirteen, I went with a summer youth program to watch the Toronto Blue Jays play Kansas City (they lost), but after the game I got turned around and couldn't find the right bus. There were a LOT of buses in that parking lot, and who's going to remember the name of whatever company owned the bus? I had visions of living in the Exhibition Place parking lot forever (this was a few years before they built the Skydome). All of a sudden one of the names did look familiar, and there was everybody just lining up to get on the bus. My hour of panic turned out to have been only a few minutes.

3. What's something you're smack in the middle of currently?

A longterm book project which is starting to come near its end.

Also, helping our youngest Squirreling funnel her belongings from this Treehouse to her new place.

4. What's a food you love to eat that has something delicious in the middle?

Stuffed shells with ricotta-spinach filling.

You thought I was going to say chocolates?

5. Share a memory from your middle school days, or junior high if that's what your school dubbed kids somewhere between grades 6-8.

I thought I just did that...anyway, those aren't years I usually want to spend much time revisiting.

Okay. Regional French contest, third prize. Polaroid picture at the end of the day. The trophy was supposed to go to my school, but they didn't want it, so I kept it on the bookshelf for the next thirty-seven years.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

Last week I promised to post a picture of the thing I was waiting for in the mail. Here it is:

These are the Fierce Wisdom bracelets from Fierce Lynx Designs in New Brunswick. If you have spent any time on the Vivienne Files website, you will have seen Fierce Lynx bracelets mentioned there. I chose them to honour the spirit of some family members who are no longer with us. (I didn't mean I honour spirits, just their spirit.)  They're also one of my favourite colours.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Fall Clothes: From the Ground Up

 Season(s) covered: September through November 2020

The planning process: I posted earlier about starting to think about fall clothes, here and here. Along with many other people, I am looking at a fall with few opportunities for trips, outings, or occasions. At this point, even a casual run into the public library is a no-go, and eating inside a restaurant seems to be reserved for the brave. The outfits shown here are as my-real-life as I can make them.

Where I'm shopping: Most of the clothes were thrifted unless otherwise noted (because we are able to access thrift stores).  Some of the accessories and jewelry came from antiques malls or markets (because ditto).

Would I really wear a skirt to Food Basics? Yes, I would. Next?

Colour Inspirations:

This scarf (from the antiques market)

And these apatite-bead bracelets (from Fierce Lynx Designs in New Brunswick)