Gee! Haw!

Farmington_35SMMeet four-year old Julia and her two large friends. She had the fine distinction of being the youngest and smallest driver in a special class of oxen pulling created at the Farmington Fair this year. She also had the distinction of having the largest team in the class.

For somebody who’s a huge fan of oxen pulling and an even bigger fan of kids this was one of the better experiences I had while attending fairs this year. She was truly amazing. Driving oxen is about using a “goad” (the stick she’s holding in the photo) and “tapping” the oxen in distinct spots to encourage them to move in certain directions. Julia got some chuckles because she had trouble reaching their backs so she would occasionally leap into the air if a correction seemed necessary. She would also occasional leap over piles of poop. The oxen seemed to understand and follow her lead. (They didn’t leap, but they pulled nicely.)

Surely some credit is owed her Dad–these oxen are obviously older than Julia so he must have done most of their training. And a lot of credit goes to the Farmington Fair Association for encouraging these kids. There seven teams driven by kids of assorted ages. Honorable mention goes to Oxford Fair where I was pleased to find a 4-H Club centered around kids raising steers and learning to drive oxen–thought by many to be a “dying art.”

I don’t know if Julia will continue to compete as she grows up, but she did seem to have fun. It’s not usual to see kids walk with a team at the end of competition. But this was not the case. The adults who were present kept their distance and the kids did the actual drawing. One young fellow kept running out of hands. He needed one for the goad, one for the rope attached to the halter, and one to pull up his pants as they kept sliding down.

I sorta kept an eye on Julia while she was waiting her turn–not out of concern for her safety, but out of curiosity. Her attention didn’t waiver; she gave her oxen the same attention one might expect of adult teamsters. She also seemed to have a lot more energy than her adult counterparts.

Watching her was a powerful reminder–one that I hope you’ll experience from seeing these photos–even if you know nothing about oxen and these competitions. Remember, she’s four years old–preschool age. If a picture isn’t worth a thousand words, here are the words: Never underestimate a kid.

"Okay, guys... we just need to wait here until you are hitched."

“Okay, guys… we just need to wait here until you are hitched to the drag.”

 

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Before the Birds Start Singing…

Let's get some thinking done before the birds in trees start singing and the phone starts tweeting.

Let’s get some thinking done before the birds in trees start singing and the phone starts tweeting.

One of the things I enjoy about starting my day between 4:30 and 5 a.m. is the quiet. At this time of the year even the birds aren’t up to sing. The phone doesn’t ring. (Well, usually… sometimes there’s the call inviting me to sub at school but it usually doesn’t come much before 6 a.m.) Unfortunately, email does arrive–but usually at a much slower pace than throughout the day so I can start t feel like I’m catching up. And, depending on what my plan is for the morning, I can of course “turn off” the email. I don’t mind bragging that I can accomplish lots in that hour or two of solitude with no interruptions or distractions.

This morning’s email included a point to an article on a site I particularly enjoy called “Brain Pickings.” (I’d been using the phrase “brain leaks” before I came across it and now I’m not sure but what I like their idea better. The idea of picking someone’s brain does seem more acceptable than looking at what leaks out. Maybe.)

Anyway, this particular article is “The Psychology of Writing.”But it’s really about way more than writing. The article is an in-depth review of a book by Ronald T. Kellogg by the same title. I gather from the review the book “explores how work schedules, behavioral rituals, and writing environments affect the amount of time invested in trying to write and the degree to which that time is spent in a state of boredom, anxiety, or creative flow.”

It’s particularly interesting that the book was written in 1994 – twenty years ago – before we became constantly connected to each other electronically. But it’s not much of a stretch to see some application and connection. Are we really more productive because our smart phones are strapped to our side? (Actually more often they are in the hand at at the ready.) Our “behavior rituals and writing environments” have definitely changed in the last twenty years.

There’s a quote on this site “I write to discover what I think” and I would offer that the psychology of writing is akin to the psychology of thinking.  For some reason, there is a fascination with writer’s environments and habits. Perhaps we could develop an interest in thinkers environments and habits. We may not all be “writers” in the professional sense, but we are all thinkers. I hope.

When I teach writing, my bias is “put the pen on the paper” (or your fingers on keys) and get started. That physical act will often get the creative juices flowing. Thinking is a bit more abstract, but physical acts or rituals can be developed. With the kids at school we sometimes go through a motion of putting imaginary thinking caps on to signal we are going to make a deliberate effort to think. It’s really fun to watch the kids’ countenances change. The room becomes quieter and facial expressions change to a serious, thoughtful look.

Certain types of thinking do require a disciplined approach and that can include consideration of the environment and perhaps some ritual, particularly when we are starting. Reading the habits of great writers can be particularly entertaining–although one might do well to wonder how much was about writing and how much was about branding. I can’t say that I’m conscious of any particular rituals or habits I use, but I’m working on some. I think it would be fun to be a “character.”

I do have some thinking rituals. I actually have two imaginary thinking caps that help me decide how I’m going to think about the topic at hand. One is divergent or lateral and I wear it when I’m trying to generate ideas or look for possibilities and consequences. The other is convergent and I wear it when I’m trying to get focused and task oriented. I’m convinced we should sometimes think about how we’re going to think as much as what we’re going to think about.

The more we write (or think) the more likely it is we will discover what works and what doesn’t work for us. I don’t have a writing cap, but I suppose I could. Writers and thinkers should develop a high level of self-awareness and a few rituals along with it. It will increase our efficiency and output. Let’s put on our thinking caps and read The Psychology of Writing, then give some thought to what thinking and writing environments and rituals work best for us.

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Some Opportunities…

I recently had the distinct privilege of helping out in the 4-H booth at the Piscataquis Valley Fair… in the process I met an awesome five year old who was quite excited over the prospect of entering Kindergarten next week. She thought it was really cool that I sometimes teach at her school as a substitute and wanted to be sure that I knew she spells her name with a “K” and not with a “C.”

back_to_school_supplies_400_clr_9051One of the great joys of being a sub is getting to experience the excitement of “back to school.” If you miss that excitement, there are some opportunities coming up!

I’ll be teaching the Substitute Training Course twice: On September 10 for PVAEC in Dover Foxcroft and on September 13 for RSU 19 in Newport. This one day course includes classroom management strategies and teaching stratgeies… for information or to register, contact PVAEC at 207 564-6525 for the Dover class and RSU 19 Adult Ed at 368-3290 for the Newport class.

On September 23, budding authors and publishers can attend the “Is there a book in you? Publish it!” class in Dover Foxcroft. This evening class explores the opportunity of “Indie Publishing” and print on demand technology.  This is an evening class that will also be offered in Newport on October 21.

If you are in the Bangor area, I’ll be a guest at the ERA Dawson Mixer  on September 8 for those with an interest in a real estate career. Typically, other speakers include lenders, insurers and title companies. For information about the Mixer call Julie Williams at 947-6788 or email juliewilliams@eradawson.com.

Of course there’s the usual schedule of Real Estate Courses: Sales Agent starting on September 17, Associate Broker, and Broker both starting in October.

Also in October, you can take the Your WordPress Website class in Dover Foxcroft at PVAEC or in Newport at RSU 19. Building a site can be fast, easy, and free!

You can also download a complete Fall 2014 Course Schedule and a Flyer for the Sub Course. Be like my new-found five year old friend and be ready to learn! (It does help if you can spell and write your name correctly!)

 

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Tents Not Needed…

wordpressiconFolks who’ve taken my WordPress Course already know that the software used is WordPress–one of the most popular website/blog authoring programs because it’s user-friendly and free!

What you may not know is there are WordPress Camps held around the world that focus on “everything WordPress.” Everyone from casual users to core developers participate, share ideas, and get to know each other.

And there’s one scheduled in Portland Maine on August 15-16!

But wait, there’s more! Not only is WordPress free… it only costs $30 to attend both days! So dig out your pocket protector and check out the details: http://2014.maine.wordcamp.org/. Unfortunately, a prior commitment prevents me from attending on Saturday, but I hope to be there Friday… if you decide to attend, let me know and we can try to meet!

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When I Grow Up…

Having spent 11 minutes with this 13 year old (virtually) I can say that I would love to spend some with him in person. He knows what he wants to do but is not so sure he knows what he wants to be. I think he’d make an awesome teacher.

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Books and Balloons at Guilford River Festival

And there might be dancing!

And there might be dancing!

“Are you old enough to dance?” is just one of the many questions “Mr. Boomsma” has been asked by the children he works with as a volunteer and substitute elementary school teacher. In his book, Small People—Big Brains, he points out that his original knee jerk reaction was the child had asked it wrong and really meant “Are you too old to dance?” But whether this is just an example of the literal thinking of a child or one of the many insightfully innocent statements kids make, it becomes another one of the stories about simplicity, exploration and wonder contained in the book.

Boomsma explains that the book formed when he realized after years of telling stories about his experiences with kids—sometimes hysterically funny stories, sometimes extremely insightful stories, and sometimes tragic—he’d already “written” most of it—all that was left to do was compile and publish it. Completed just over one year ago, he’s already hinting there may be a volume two as the stories keep coming and the kids still seem to have a lot more to teach him. He especially likes it when the kids ask “Mr. Boomsma, what would happen if…?” and wishes more adults would recapture some of that exploration and wonder because “thinking with kids about that question can lead to some amazing discoveries.”

Jack Falvey,  a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal and Barron’s says of the book, “This is a light and fast read until it isn’t, and then you stop and read a sentence or a thought a couple of times… If you have ever been in a classroom, on either side of the teacher’s desk, you will enjoy these classic and classy observations on the art and science of learning.”

Boomsma’s work with Valley Grange and children will be featured in a soon to be released issue of Maine Seniors Magazine where he will be identified as a one of the magazine’s “Prime Movers – seniors and organizations who have truly become icons in their communities.” “I have figured out a lot of things about working with kids,” he jokes, “but I don’t have a clue how to be a community icon. I wonder if it involves dancing.”

“Mr. Boomsma” will be at the Guilford River Festival on Saturday, July 26 with some of his Valley Grange friends and the Bookworms who volunteer to listen to the kids read at Piscataquis Community Elementary School. There will be balloons for kids and funny stories about kids for adults. Signed copies of Small People – Big Brains will be available for purchase. And maybe even some dancing!

(Adapted from a press release…)

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All work and no play is bad for your health. So says Jack.

What follows is the work of friend and colleague Jack Falvey–who many will recognize as the author of the “blurb” on the back cover of my book, Small People–Big Brains. Jack’s authoring this online investor program for Saint Anselm College… a free daily investor brief. See the bottom for additional information… try ‘em! The price is right and I think you’ll enjoy Jack’s style. As a bonus you’ll learn a lot! Subscribe here.


Jack F HeadshotWorking smart is harder to do than working hard. To learn the application of this principle, read a few biographies. They are usually written about people who have accomplished things. Most pay a high price for being recognized in print. The lesson well could be that it is best not to be biographical material.

For all those who focus and lead the world, there are some impressive members of the pack who have not done badly. At times, hard work, long hours and dedication are justified and indeed are the smartest strategy. Biologically, we have reserves that make this possible. Realistically, we are better off if we can come down off of an adrenaline high and figure out how to even out things in a healthy way that will produce acceptable results.

Good financial planning has never required master-of-the-universe efforts. Being in a hurry is not a workable guiding principle. Progress is seldom smooth. Fits and starts seem to be the rule. Being smart enough to know when full forward is required and when reasonable cruising speed is best is the challenge. Having physical reserves to commit when needed means that you must get each day to work for you without having to force it to do so. How best to use the division of labor is a “work smart” skill. What must be done by me, by when? cannot have an “everything right now” answer.

Technology now requires around-the-clock commitment. Getting off the grid is a new life discipline to be mastered. Eventually, we all will learn how best to deal with this challenge. Working smart, while often requiring a lot of hours and effort, eventually translates into a strategy of setting priorities and doing only what must be done. Patience is a rare virtue. Take some time off to think about that. Thinking time is very important.

Investor Education Briefs is an online investor education program provided by the Institute for Politics at Saint Anselm College. It goes out each business day of the year at no charge. The editorial opinions of Jack Falvey, a Fellow of the Institute and a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal and Barron’s, are provided for investor education only and are not offered as financial advice. Anyone may enter or exit the program at any time. There are no tests or academic credits involved. It is designed as a free program which will recycle and be updated every twelve months. Subscribe here.

 

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