Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

Scrolling Along

In Church, Learning on May 22, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Several topics dominate my recurring interests – among them, reading, writing, books, creativity, learning, solitude, housing, and religion. Sunday’s visit to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to see the IMAX movie Jerusalem and the exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls fell into my religion wheelhouse, or at least I thought it did. I went with a group from my church, although it quickly became apparent that religion was not really under consideration here.
The movie began by naming the three religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, that claim the city as their place of origin. You can’t talk about Jerusalem without pointing that out, but the movie was about the history and archeology of the city and featured a young woman of each religious tradition telling about her way of life in the city they share.
Computer animation did a masterful job of showing both the land as it would have appeared 3,000 years ago and the subsequent structures built there, each on top of the rubble of the previous one.
Rubble figured prominently in the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, too, chiefly as bits of the crumbling jars containing the scrolls as well as other clay artifacts. These items formed the bulk of the exhibit and told the history of the area. The scrolls themselves were on tiny fragments of parchment painstakingly pieced together and translated.
The accidental discovery of the scrolls in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd chasing a runaway goat, could lead us to believe in divine intervention. The story of what happened to the scrolls after their finding, told in a short film, made all of us gasp at the shoddy way they were treated and makes us wonder that they survived.
Now that I know a little about their history, I want to study the contents. How do these manuscripts differ from the Bible books we know and how might Christianity be different if these texts were available to the men who chose which books belonged in the Bible? Do they fill in any blanks?
That’s what museums are supposed to do, give us some knowledge and whet our appetites for more. Mission accomplished.


Book It

In Arvada, Books, Learning, Libraries, writing on May 21, 2018 at 7:20 am

I told a friend I was going to the Arvada Book Festival, “a one day celebration of literary arts,” on Saturday, and she asked if they would be selling books there. Yes, I said and other book-related items. She looked confused and then nodded and said, “bookmarks.”
Indeed they did have bookmarks, one included with the complimentary tote bag. Unfortunately, I don’t use bookmarks, haven’t for years. I use Post-It flags to mark my place or I read on Kindle and it saves my place. They had other things, too, but it was mostly local authors trying to sell their books. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I get my books from the library.
The Jeffco Public Library was there, and I signed up for their summer reading program. You choose your own books and record the number of minutes you read. If the total for everyone reaches 40 million minutes, the library will give $500 to Foothills Animal Shelter, plus readers earn prizes along the way. If I did the math right, that works out to $1 for every 1,333 hours of reading, so we won’t be doing it for the money. Still, that’s more than I normally earn for reading, which as we all know, is its own reward.
I didn’t stay for the afternoon workshops or panel discussions because, frankly, I’ve had my fill of those kinds of things.
Everybody kept asking me if I was a writer, and I never know how to answer that question. Yes, because writing is the way I make sense of the world, but no, because I’m not interested in publishing, which is what they were really talking about. I was briefly interested in a local group of mystery writers (Sisters in Crime) until they told me their quarterly meetings are a whole day long. No, thank you. (See workshops above).
I was also happy to learn that Arvada has an Arts and Cultural Commission. I voted for making Arvada the most art-friendly city in the area.
I’m glad I went, but let’s face it, my favorite way to celebrate the literary arts is to stay home and read.

Deep and Wide

In Books, Learning on May 18, 2018 at 4:05 pm








In my 70 years on planet earth, I’ve learned a few things. My master’s degree is in lifelong learning, so I’m not new to the concept of learning throughout life. In fact, research shows that the way to prevent cognitive decline is to keep learning something new.
I read an article recently about learning being the key to keeping your mind young, and the author suggested learning a new language or a musical instrument. Aside from suggesting subjects to learn, he advised using new learning methods. If you prefer taking a class, try finding an app and learn on your own, or sign up with a private tutor.
I like to think of learning deep versus learning wide.
You’ve probably heard of the 10,000 rule described by Malcolm Gladwell in his popular book, Outliers. This theory says that in order to become a master at anything, you must spend 10,000 hours in dedicated practice. On the other hand, Josh Kaufman explains in The First 20 Hours:How to Learn Anything Fast, that it is possible to gain a workable understanding of most topics in just 20 hours because we don’t need to become a master at everything. Some things we just want a passing acquaintance with. Computers fall into this category for me. I know just enough to use them to do what I want to do.
On the other hand, you probably know about my love of books. Although I’m sure I’ve put in more than the requisite 10,000 hours reading them, I also study writing, publishing, and bookmaking. I’ll go deeper by reading about the history of books and even try my hand at papermaking. Tomorrow I’m going to the Arvada Book Fest to explore all things book-related.
Religion is another of my major interests. I go to church every week, take occasional classes, read books and follow a couple of blogs. Sunday I’m going to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to see the Dead Sea Scrolls (books again).
I won’t become a biblical scholar or an expert papermaker. Those are ancillary interests to enhance my knowledge and enjoyment of books and religion. Your favorite topics are undoubtedly different. The key is to keep learning about them and every once in a while, try something new. Even if it doesn’t extend our lives, it will make the time we have more worthwhile.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

In Friends, Learning, Resistance on May 16, 2018 at 10:36 am

A Facebook friend (now former friend) recently posted a meme showing Senator Chuck Schumer saying, “it’s racist to only allow citizens to vote.” That sounded fishy to me, so I looked it up and found out that he never said anything like that. I commented that it wasn’t true and suggested that she might try checking before posting. She was highly offended and told me I “didn’t have to be so nasty.”
Was that nasty I wondered and reread my comment. I guess I could have said “please.” Then it occurred to me that she had posted a vicious lie about someone, yet somehow concluded that my correcting her made me the nasty one. Before I had the chance to compose a polite response, she unfriended me.
This is why I can’t seem to stay friends with conservatives: They refuse to accept facts. “I’m entitled to my opinion,” they say. Yes, they are, but opinions are not equal to facts.
Another friend who hasn’t (yet) unfriended me rails against politicians, saying, “They’re all crooks. They’re all the same.” So far I have avoided telling him my opinion that only conservatives say that to justify voting for a crook. I’ve never heard a liberal say that. Maybe that’s because we pay attention to the facts.

In their last 25 years in office, Democratic Presidents had a total of three executive branch officials indicted with one (1) conviction and one prison sentence. that’s one whole executive branch official convicted of a crime in two and a half decades of Democrat leadership.
In the 28 years that Republicans have held office over the last 53 years, they have had a total of 120 criminal indictments of executive branch officials, 89 criminal convictions, and 34 prison sentences handed down.
Notice this doesn’t go back to the Nixon years. There I go again, pointing out facts. My friend, Chris, says, “My life is a constant battle between wanting to correct grammar and wanting to have friends.”
Yeah, what she said.

Spiritual Mothers

In Church, creativity, Learning, spirituality, women on May 9, 2018 at 10:01 am

I don’t observe Mother’s Day and not only because I am not a mother and don’t have one. If you want to know why read Anne Lamott’s piece on Why I Hate Mother’s Day. So for the next few days, I will be acknowledging and celebrating several women who have helped me grow into the woman I am for better or worse.
Today I start by thanking the women who have helped my spiritual life. By the way, although I am calling them my spiritual mothers, every one is younger than I am.

Rev. Dr. Betty Jo Bradford—my first pastor. I was delighted to find a church with a woman pastor, and in many ways, she was a perfect fit for me. She welcomed all my questions and invited more, taught me many lessons, and opened my eyes to the fact that church is a volunteer organization. As a minister, her “thing” was teaching while mine has always been learning.

Rev. Kerry Greenhill—a beautiful, creative mind, she showed me that worship comes in many forms. One of my favorite pieces she wrote was a spoken word chorus several of us performed one Mother’s Day. Always a quiet and calming presence, she writes, sings, composes music, makes crafts and shares her creativity without fanfare. She also introduced me to Facebook and Pinterest, which she may now regret.

Pastor Ashley Hawkins—a young rebel and nonconformist and a member of the United Methodist Queer Clergy caucus, she shows her love of God by toiling through good times and bad with a luminous smile. She regularly makes me laugh and that’s always a good thing.

Rev. Mariah Hayden—Like Kerry, Mariah came to my church while still a student at Iliff School of Theology. A tireless crusader for social justice, she taught me that church means being in community with others and that serving God can be done in the pulpit, the front office, or even an urban farm.

Walking the Talk

In Books, creativity, Learning, Walking on May 3, 2018 at 10:05 am

After walking every day last week, I missed the first three days of this week. Sunday was too hot. Monday I had other commitments. Tuesday I woke up at 2:30 a.m., so later that day, instead of walking I slept. Sometimes when I don’t walk, I like to read about walking instead. This should come as no surprise.
I’ve probably checked out a dozen or more library books about walking and never read more than a page or two in most of them. Some that I did finish are A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and Wild by Cheryl Strayed, both about tackling very long trails. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce had the titular character taking off on a whim to walk across England. Years ago I read Louis Lamour’s Sackett books and remember one where the protagonist left someplace like Virginia to head west on foot. I won’t be doing any of those things.
Here are some of the titles I’ve tried. Bet you didn’t know there was so much to say about walking.
Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit
Walking by Henry David Thoreau
The Wander Society by Keri Smith
Walking in the World by Julia Cameron
On Looking: Eleven Walks With Extra Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz
Walking in the Rain by Department Store for the Mind

You can also find books on walking in poetry, fiction, memoir, history, physical fitness, mental health, travel, equipment, and technique. Explore wilderness trails, city walking tours, hikes, spiritual paths, and walking to improve creativity.
I just ordered a library book on the literature, science, philosophy, art, and history of walking, The Lost Art of Walking by Geoff Nicholson and also downloaded A Philosophy of Walking by Frederic Gros who discusses the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, and the nature ramble.
Last year, I faithfully followed my Facebook friend Rasheed Hooda’s epic trek along the entire Route 66.
I am currently enjoying Thich Nhat Hanh’s minibook on mindful walking, How to Walk. It’s short enough that I will easily finish it. I think the only way for me to get through the longer books is to get them on audio and listen to them while I walk. Seems appropriate.

Ebb and Flow

In creativity, Learning, Walking, writing on April 30, 2018 at 6:52 am





I didn’t write last week. Maybe you noticed.
It wasn’t that I was too busy with other fascinating projects. In fact, I did very little besides read and walk and putter around the house. Someone, either Lucille Ball or Benjamin Franklin, said, “if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” This week demonstrated to me that the opposite is also true: leisure expands to fit the time available.
I have been listening to Julia Cameron’s Walking in the World and reading How to Say Everything by Tom Hart and The Creative Sandbox by Melissa Dimwiddie. These all contain advice on how to jump-start creativity. Although conventional wisdom says I should write every day even if I write crap, and usually I agree with that, last week my well seemed to run dry.
A popular strategy for refilling the well is to walk. Writers and other creative types recommend both mental and physical wandering around to find inspiration. I did that more this week than I have for years, and I have the callouses to prove it. Luckily, my friend Sheila gave me some Burt’s Bees foot crème and pink Himalayan salt to soak my feet. These combined with taking a day off have worked a small miracle, so I should be able to hit the pavement again today.
Another tool from Julia Cameron that I have neglected is a weekly artist’s date—a solo one-hour visit to a gallery or museum or art supply store, anywhere to explore something interesting. I’ll be doing that this week. Feel free to suggest someplace fun for me to visit.
Meanwhile, I’ll be writing again. Rest assured that some of it will be crap, but I take comfort in Melissa Dimwiddie’s idea that we need crap to fertilize the good stuff.

Morning Prayer

In Learning, spirituality on April 18, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Dear Lord, please surprise and delight me today. Help me to be a blessing to someone.
This what I pray for every morning, not because I believe there’s some old white guy with long hair and a beard sitting on a cloud waiting to hear my prayer and grant my wishes but because I believe in setting my intentions for the day.
While I may not consciously think about it again for the rest of the day, somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice encourages me to seek surprise and delight, urges me to show kindness to the people I encounter.
I don’t look for any grandiose results. In Anne Lamott’s classic advice for writers, Bird by Bird, she explains that she keeps a one-inch picture frame on her desk. When she starts feeling overwhelmed, she reminds herself that all she has to write is what she can see through that tiny frame. I’m looking for results through that one-inch frame.
A nice surprise could be a package I’d ordered arriving earlier than expected or a text from a friend asking me to lunch. Delight me with flowers blooming in the snow or sparkling lines in the book I’m reading. My blessings to others, likewise, are small–a compliment to the store clerk on her fingernail color or a like on Facebook.
You probably see me only in my guise as a crotchety old biddy and never suspect I’m trying to locate my inner Mother Theresa.
Most days, I don’t even come close to my ideals, but I pray the same thing again the next day and the day after that and the day after that. On rare days for a brief and shining moment, I see a tiny bit of progress.
As Annie Dillard observed, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” On my last day on earth, I’d like to look back and say I spent my time enjoying all the wonders the world offers and doing my best to contribute to good side of the scales.
It could happen.

Free Range College

In Learning on April 11, 2018 at 4:21 pm

I dipped my toe back into my former profession today. It felt good and I think I helped a friend.
I stopped working six years ago, having spent the previous thirty years helping adults earn college degrees without breaking the bank or spending years sitting in classrooms. I wrote most of a book sharing my knowledge about the rapidly changing college landscape and how to avoid it.
That effort stalled when it seemed that nobody was interested. Few people buy books on the topic although I remain convinced that they simply don’t know such resources are available. Colleges have done a remarkable job selling America on the idea that everybody needs a college education, and that traditional colleges are the only, or at least the best, way to go. Advocates of nontraditional approaches to education have not been able to puncture the wall of prejudice and ignorance that colleges and their allies—government, banks, and corporations—have built.
You only need to heed the old adage and follow the money to understand why. Michael Price https://www.huffingtonpost.com/michaelprice/7-reasons-why-you-shouldn_1_b_5501111.html explains “America now holds $1 trillion in student loan debt. This is more than home mortgages, car loans, and credit cards.” Wall Street and the government love this because it’s the only kind of debt that can’t be expunged through bankruptcy. James Altucher offers 40 Alternatives to College in his book of that title. I recommend both reads to anyone thinking about going to college.
If you think you must go to college to qualify for a specific profession, don’t make any commitments based on conventional wisdom about which program suits your circumstances. Conventional wisdom is frequently wrong. Check first if it’s possible to enter that field without a degree. You may be surprised.
The field of higher education has changed drastically in the past 5-10 years due at least partially to advances in technology (no, that isn’t limited to offering courses online). The field is literally exploding. Read Anya Kamenetz’s brilliant book, DIY U, for a taste of the smörgåsbord of opportunities now available. Or talk to me. Maybe I can help.


In creativity, Learning, Resistance on April 5, 2018 at 6:59 am

I loved Roseanne the minute it debuted back in 1988 (THIRTY years ago!) right through the next-to-the-last season. Let’s face it, that last season was a turkey. Anyway, I’ve been looking forward to the reboot and dreading it at the same time. Would they ruin a good thing? Could it be updated and still remain relevant? I certainly hoped so.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch the premier and started seeing some alarming (or alarmist) posts from people saying they wouldn’t watch because the character Roseanne was a Trump supporter, as is the real-life Roseanne.
I wanted to give the show the benefit of the doubt. As divided as the country is, maybe treating it with humor on both sides would help.
Then Roseanne tweeted some nonsense about giving Trump credit for freeing hundreds of child sex slaves each month. Say what? Turns out it’s a conspiracy theory from one of those whacked-out websites with no regard for the truth. Apparently, Roseanne wears a tinfoil hat whenever she’s not on camera.
Now I was really eager to see the new show. Yesterday, I finally got the chance, and I liked it. Yes, Roseanne’s character supports the orange man, and her sister Jackie stands, if a bit wobbly, in the opposite camp. The rest of the family are too busy trying to live their lives and deal with daily problems as well as unemployment, single parenthood, surrogate birth, and cross-dressing to pay much attention.
The humor, sarcasm, and family relationships have only evolved and it was very funny. While I remain pretty much unable to deal with Trump supporters in real life, maybe the fictional characters will help.
Can we separate an artist from his/her work? Yes, I think we can. Sometimes.
On the other hand, I will probably never again be able to watch a Woody Allen movie. Some things are unforgivable.