Thursday, September 13, 2007

Things I Want to Learn

Learning and EducationThe theme for this month's Write-Away Contest is "learning" so my list today is about things I'd still like to learn before life's done with me.

1. To speak French. I took French in high school and on into college. I got through French Lit and read all the requisite Gide, Camus, Ionesco and Baudelaire they threw at me but I was a genius at dissolving into the background so that the professor never called on me to answer a question. I listened, understood what he was saying but never felt comfortable saying anything myself and therefore coasted through with easy A's and absolutely no conversational ability. Yes, those were six well-spent years. It's not as if anyone will ever rush up and say, "Michelle, oh thank goodness you're here, I have some paragraphs from L'Etranger that need to be translated, stat!" No, I've pretty much lost all usefulness but maybe, just maybe before I die I will get to spend some time in someplace wonderful learning to speak French properly. Well, someplace not Haiti. I'd rather it not be Haiti.

2. Horseback riding. When I learn to ride a horse I want to get decked out in the full English riding suit. Head to toe, with the black helmet, the funny pants that I can't pronounce and a beautiful Arabian horse. Why Arabian? I was a big fan of The Black Stallion when I was a kid and I like the way their tails fly upwards when they run. Then when I ride I will speak with a British accent and use perfect grammar before going inside for my afternoon tea.

3. Patience. Yea, yea yea. Patience. Eventually, though not soon enough for me.

4. To control my emotions. I tend to--what's the phrase?--"wear my emotions on my sleeve"? Hard to hide what I'm feeling and though I'm not so concerned about hiding them I would like to learn the discipline to control them. To be less irritated with people, to cut them slack, to be slower to anger, that kind of thing. It would be helpful in my line of work i.e. motherhood. With my luck I'll figure out how to accomplish this just as my kids are leaving home, life is ironic like that.

5. To play the harp. Always wanted to learn this instrument but Mom instead enrolled me in piano lessons (for which I'm eternally grateful, don't get me wrong) but I've always thought the harp to be wonderfully romantic and fun. Because people are always looking for a harpist to accompany them. Yes, there aren't many parts for harps, yes it's hard to pack around in your backpack for band class, yes, it's more expensive than a gold-plated Mercedes but it's still cool, darn it! I bet your fingers get awfully callused though--just guessing.

6. Astronomy. I live in the wrong place for studying astronomy. Too bright in the summer and too cold in the winter which just goes to prove that I'm destined to retire to Maui someday where I can take up astronomy. And blogging, don't forget the blogging. Every time the paper reports an eclipse, a meteor shower, a comet or some other celestial occurrence I'm dying to see it but usually it is hard to see from Anchorage. Something about the skies is exciting and fascinating.

7. How to play pinochle. This has always been a popular game between my parents and my grandparents and they'll play when they get together. I always wanted to play with them when I was a kid but it's a game of partners (convenient, huh?) so they wouldn't let me join. Well somehow along the way my sister and her husband learned how to play but Andrew and I missed out. I still want to learn and I should just pick up a pack of cards at the store and figure it out. But then maybe I should just stick to Scrabble.

8. To like exercise. I figure I'll have to learn to like this if I'm going to live long enough to complete everything on this list. I'm still sore from my Stair Master torture session yesterday. The best thing about exercise (apart from helping to keep you alive longer) is when it ends. Well, that and getting to watch cable while I do it.

9. The difference between "lay" and "lie." I'm pretty good at grammar and can successfully navigate my way through who/whom, I/me, taut/taunt, flout/flaunt, etc. and I rarely dangle any participles or end my sentences with prepositions (as the great Winston Churchill reportedly said, "That is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put!") But for the life of me I mix up "lay" and "lie" and have little hope of figuring the difference out in the near future. I usually guess so I'm probably getting it wrong.

Cardamom Sugar Bubbles from Creme Brulee10. To make sugar balls. I saw these sugar balls made from caramelized sugar months ago and have had them bookmarked, waiting for the moment when I will be brave enough to attempt them. Why? For the same reason mankind has climbed Everest, "because they're there." I don't know that they taste better than your standard piece of chocolate cake but just imagine pulling these out for dessert at a dinner party. You'd be elevated to the status of Cooking God before anyone even took a bite. Someday . . . and then I'll post my own picture.

11. To play Chopin's Polonaise in A flat major. I don't think that there's any chance of this as I haven't taken piano lessons since college and outside of playing for the kids and teaching them how to play my fingers are very rusty and it would take a Rocky Balboa-style burst of training to get me back in shape enough to play anything of Chopin's let alone his finest piece but it was always my favorite piano solo and I dreamed of playing it, or at least getting through it. Here's a video of someone else playing it who knows what they're doing. Hey, you can always dream, right?

12. How to do a load of wash and not loose any socks. Does my machine eat socks as a secondary source of power because I swear I've never done a load of wash in my life that hasn't turned up at least one lonely, unmatched sock. Usually I'll find its mate in the next load but I always have a pile of sad little socks that are without matches. Drives me crazy.

Whirled Serving Dish by Kim Westad Pottery13. Pottery. I took pottery in high school and loved it but it's rather hard to do it without your own kiln and pottery wheel, let alone the space to store them. I suppose I could go to a studio and throw things there and I did take a raku pottery class a few years ago but it's all about time and energy isn't it? Maybe someday I'll get to do it and make things like this:


Have you entered this month's Write-Away Contest yet? The topic is learning.

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Damozel (Buck Naked Politics) said...

I love your list. I'd love to do pottery myself, but have as little hope as you do (for the same reason)....

Lori said...

3, 4 & too:) Happy TT. Great list!

Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

That's a pretty ambitious list! I'd love to learn to love exercise too (maybe I'd do it more often!), and 'lay' and 'lie' trips me up too. I did study French in college, but now I get it mixed up with the Spanish I took in high school so don't really speak either at all anymore. :)

Lisa said...

I'd say that is a pretty big list. I took French for 4 years and can only remember a few phrases. My daughter is now taking it, so I hope to actually remember enough to help her study. I would love to learn everything about computers.

chelle said...

Ambitious list!

Heffalump said...

I loved The Black Stallion books as well and even wanted to be a jockey for a few years in grade school (but sadly I am afraid of it ranked right up there with wanting to be an olympic swimmer before I learned how to swim).
I have a whole children's book in my head about what happens to those socks you keep losing too.

Anonymous said...

Your feelings towards French are the same as mine towards Spanish. Just replace L'Entranger with Don Quixote.

My parents taught me how to play Pinochle. We used to play it whenever the power went out, which was often because Florida gets tons of storms.

As for Astronomy, I hope you understand math. REALLY WELL.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I am right there with you on #9.

I think I did a TT on this very topic at the beginning of the year. It should make a nice entry into your contest :) !!

Kendra said...

ohhh astronomy and pottery are on my list as well! i've also just bookmarked teh page for the sugar balls! happy TT... way to cheat and post on wednesday night! ;)

Denise Patrick said...

Great list. I love pottery, too, but I haven't done any in a long time. And, for the record, Yes, washing machines (and dryers, too) DO eat socks!

Happy TT!

Bobbie said...

Nice list.
Personally, I would love to learn how to knit. That's it - for now -just knit.

FYI, there is three handed Pinochle. My Mom taught my cousin and I when we were teens. After we mastered three handed, we were able play partners. We always had to play against the more experienced adults and always ended up going set!

pussreboots said...

Good luck on your goals. Happy TT.

Schelle said...

This month's writeaway sounds 'write' up my alley ;) I shall have to enter this time!

ROFL @ 3
4 is definitely something I need to learn too...
5 have you ever heard Joanna Newsome's music - it's probably not your taste, but she incorporates her harp playing into it beautifully

I'd say more but that's all I've got time for ;(

Joy T. said...

All great things to learn. I have always been fascinated with pottery but way to chicken to try it. Happy TT!

Robin said...

Pottery has been on my list for years. I'd really love to take a class someday.

As for the French, I got as far as writing papers on medieval French literature (Gargantua and Pantagruel anyone?), and spoke completely fluently. Unfortunately after that I moved to Israel and the Hebrew crowded out the French. I struggle these days with the most basic conversations. It's really a shame, I used to speak so naturally, even dreaming in French on occasion...

childlife said...

I love the list and the sugar balls look like fun!

Thought I would give you a little pep-talk on your #5: Learning to play the harp used to be on my list too (I also missed out on the childhood option and was signed up for piano and violin lessons). When I turned 30, I decided to jump in and just do it.

I bought a lovely previously owned William Reese lap harp and and signed on for Celtic/lap harp lessons. Even though it is technically a 'lap harp' it is quite large and stands on the floor , but was much more affordable than the giant gilded version seen in symphony orchestras. I am so glad I did this - it has added a whole new layer of joy to my life!

I adored learning to play lullabies for my children and during my pregnancies and they still beg to hear them. Just the sight of my harp sitting in my living room makes me happy. Take the plunge, it's worth the jump! : )

snarflemarfle said...

Great list!

My bachelors degree (in music performance) required a string methods class, but since we didn't have any string profs on campus, I got to take cello lessons at the college across town. Consequently, I didn't have to learn how to play the harp. But looking at the book, the pedals to change the pitch on the strings reminded me alot of a motorcycle and driving a standard!

Oh and "lie" and "lay"? Here's a quick tip: If you can use the word "place" in your sentance then use "lay" (they rhyme!). Someone else told me that...It frustrates me, too, that I can't always get them right!

Terri said...

I, too, have a list of things I'd like to learn. I'd like to learn French, also. I took only two years of it in highschool, but always dreamed of becoming fluent and visiting France, or living there. And I would love to be able to play Chopin's Polonaise in A flat major.

The sugar balls are way to ambitious for me. I'd be content just to learn to be a decent and somewhat creative cook.

I love this idea. Maybe I'll post my own list.

Melissa Garrett said...

Just remember, a chicken LAYS an egg. She "places" it in her nest.

I remember lie, because my kids have always said "lie lie" as in, "I want to lie down."

I want to be patient, too. When you learn that one, please let me know ;-)

Babystepper said...

Oh yeah, I think all of us have these lists in our minds if not on paper. There are so many things I'd like to be able to do and learn. I try not to think about the liklihood that that will ever happen, because it can be depressing. Good luck with yours, though. I bet you'll be the most patient, fit, pinochle playing harpist/astronomist in France someday.

Judy Callarman said...

I always love your lists; this is one of your best! I think you have an excellent handle on the English language in a time when not many do. I also learned quite a bit of French in college--even taught it for a few years. However, it has gone down the rusty trail! and I,too, loved the Black Stallion.

I am intrigued by the sugar balls.
Au revoir.

Nap Warden said...

Wonderfully thoughtful list! I tell myself every year that I am going to learn French...gotta get on that! Happy TT

mcewen said...

Now there's an interesting list.
1. French - don't visit often enough to make that one an effective use of my time.
2. Horses - easy in America as it's like sitting in a comfy chair, none of that up down stuff of English riding.
3. Patience - over-rated
4. Emotional control - don't want to go all anal now do we?
5. Harp - just a striped down piano - stick with the piano.
6. Astronomy - husband's turf
7. Pinochle - never pick a game that you can't spell.
8. Exercise - allergic
9. Lay/lie - lie low
10.Sugar balls - unfamiliar turf, no comment.
11.Chopin - well worth it, especially since I've not touched the piano since the last one was born, but it'll save you having to shell out for the harp.
12. socks - all socks are in one of those mesh zippy bags, escape is futile.
12. Pottery - need to dust off the wheel in the garage so that I can make some more clay dust and splatter the car with slicks of slip!
Have a great day.

Marie N. said...

Those sugar balls look amazing. My fear of the candy thermometer will probably keep me admiring at a distance though.

Pinochle is fun even though DH and I still play with a cheat sheet to help us along.

I'll give a five star recommendation to the film _The Umbrellas of Cherbourg_ to help you brush up on your French.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Confession time here: I've got TWO degrees in English -- writing, even. And I go out of my way to avoid using lie/lay. They freak me out.

(btw, exercise is addictive. Be careful with that one.)

Qtpies7 said...

I love your list, and I really want to have my dd make that awesome pottery piece!
And I must learn to make those sugar balls! Oh, I would be so cool!

Joyful Days said...

Great list! I really need #8.

I had a Baudelaire t-shirt in college that I loved dearly. Six years of French here too and it is useless, except for ballet terms and I can recite one poem half way.

Gave up the horseback riding due to time, money and...oh yeah children. Glad my kiddos don't want to follow in my footsteps.

Lynn / vigilant20 said...

Patience is one of those things you need patience to learn :)

Southern Girl said...

Fantastic list! I'm with you on #9.

My TT is up, too.

Carinne said...

If you want to learn that bad, come over and Kendall and I will teach you Pinochle. We'd love to have more people to play with.

Annie said...

Great list! Made me think about what I'd put on mine. I'd like to do one someday, but unfortunately #1 might have to be "Learn not to procrastinate!"

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

I would try starting with Chopin's prelude in e minor. If you took piano in college this should do well for you.

Wacky Mommy said...

Great list -- go for it.

Thea said...

LOL! When ever I think of patience, I think of Guns N' Roses. How weird am I? Good list, as always.

Lei said...

Fabulous, aspirational list.

My 13 are up!

jtcosby said...

I will have to someday share my story of the baby sock and the major amount of crow I had to eat at Sears...

You are tooooooo funny! Oh, and I can play Pachabel Canon in D...does that count for something, :)

Shalee said...

I'm with you on all of these except the harp. I like to listen to it though...

Joan said...

It's scary how much we are alike, but I have a few years on you so I may be ahead on one or two things...

1) French in jr high & high school & college. Speaks French? Un petit peu...tres petit. (I probably got that wrong; is peu masculine or feminine? Whatever.) I've actually been to France twice, but both trips were well before I hit 30, and I'd be embarrassed to try and speak it now.

2. Horseback riding -- OK, maybe this one, I'll pass. But I do love the Arabians. My kids' school does The Black Stallion literacy project in 1st and 4th grades, it rocks.

3. Patience. OMG, who doesn't need this?

4. Controlling emotions? Well... I look at this in a different way. I can't control what I'm feeling, but I can control how I act, regardless of what I'm feeling. It's futile to try not to feel sad, for instance, especially if something sad has happened. Let the feelings come, but give some thought to what you should do with 'em is all.

5. To play the harp -- I'll give you this one, too. My dream instrument has always been the French (there it is again! ha!) horn, which sounds so mellow and dreamy to me. But I have neither the lip nor the lungs to play brass... I couldn't deal with the calluses from harp or any stringed instrument.

6. Astronomy: I am so there with you! I had to take a science elective in college, and I chose astronomy. Love it, which is weird, because I detested physics, and a lot of astronomy is physics, only disguised somewhat. Honestly? I blame the teachers! (hehehe)

7. In my family it's whist, not pinochle, and I get to play maybe twice a year on vacation, and so feel completely inadequate next to the experts who play all the time. Card games like this are great for keeping the wits sharp, though. If you can keep track of the picture cards in all four suits, plus the trump suit, that's saying a lot.

8. Ah, exercise -- for me it has been a phased thing, sometimes I like it (I took a yoga class one year that was divine), sometimes it's torture. However, I discovered that exercise makes my rheumatoid arthritis much less severe, to the point where I don't need medication, and so now I love exercise... or at least how I feel when I do it. I also get a kick out of being able to increase my weights on a workout machine, the ultimate competition: Me vs Me!

9. Lay & lie? I have no idea -- and people have paid for my writing! My solution? Rework the sentence to avoid using either one. It's almost always possible. Second best: rely on the editor to fix it for you. (Caution: this method does not work on self-published material, like blogs!)

10. Sugar balls? Awesome. My culinary Holy Grail is fried chicken, believe it or not. The last time I attempted it, it was such a disaster that I haven't tried again. But I had a similar horrible track record (years -- years! -- of disasters) with yeast breads, and now I can do them with my eyes closed, so I know it's just a question of practice. (For sugar balls, you'll need to watch the humidity, practice may come secondary to that.) There's always something...

11. I started playing piano in 4th grade. I want to be able to play Mozart's piano sonatas, any one of them, even an "easy" one (as if)... but like you, I'd need to train like Rocky Balboa for such a thing to happen. I figure when I'm retired I'll have time for lessons and practice... right?

12. Laundry is relentless. What I want to know is, why is it always my socks that get eaten?

13. Not pottery for me, but all the needlecrafts I did as a girl, and now only do in fits and starts: knitting, embroidery, needlepoint, hand sewing. I love that stuff, and can't ever seem to find a time to do it, unless I'm making a Halloween costume or something.

Michelle, if you ever find yourself in AZ, we really have to get together!

J at said...

I love arabians, too. They have the prettiest faces of all horses, in my opinion. I'll be there with you. Can we learn some jumping, too? That looks like fun.

SabineM said...

THis is great. I AM WITH YOU on the Lay and Lie. I am ALWAYS trying to figure that one out!
I can teach you French. That is my first language!
I will think this through (I already know a few things I want to learn) and will let you know when I have posted!
Great IDEA!!!

Susan said...

The harp? Really? You know, I love the sound of the harp so much, that we had a harpist play at our wedding. This is such a great list, Michelle. PS about the socks. My mom's friend who was tired losing socks (she had 4 boys who played lots of sports), starting tying them together, but then they all complained there was always a "wet spot" halfway down the sock. It didn't work, but we've chuckled over it plenty.

Janean said...

I missed the contest again! But wrote my piece last night. Thanks for letting me use your idea. It inspired me to do a Thurs. THirteen...which I haven't done in about three months.

God bless

Kathy in WA said...

This is a great list. I laughed and laughed at several points. The idea of someone running up and needing help with a French translation really tickled my funny bone (as a former comparative lit major). I laughed outloud at the video of that beautiful piece.

Lovely post. May you have great success in your attempt.

Lay - something you do to something "Go lay the book down."

Lie - something you do.

"I'm going to lie down."

I am still working on the past tense when lie becomes lay. Yikes. :)

Lauri said...

Your French will come back quicker than you think! I got some language tapes for our trip to Europe last spring. I only listened to them a few times, but words and phrases popped back in my head. I wouldn't have been able to conjugate verbs or anything but I could at least order and decipher signs and directions.

Summer said...

That's a great list. I want to learn pottery as well.

Kristin said...

I finally conquered the lost sock issue...I pin them together before they go into the washing machine. When they come out of the dryer I take the pun out, voila, no missing socks!

(((((HUGS)))))) sandi said...

If you wanna play the harp, you could always start with a mountain dulcimer. It's not that it's similar, it's just really EASY to learn to make beautiful music! I used to wanna play the harp, but they are expensive, and with all the littles it's just not my season! LOL! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

JAM said...

Harps are cool. As a self-taught (and terrible) guitar player, seeing someone playing harp on TV stops me in my tracks. I just cannot imagine being able to play that thing. Amazing.

The whole lay and lie thing has always escaped me as well. I just put down whichever one seems more correct and then remind the reader that I went to Louisiana public schools. That seems to have covered me pretty well all of these years.

I always have trouble with ei or ie, and have followed the comic Gallager's advice. He says to make a kind of e looking i, and then a kind of i looking e, and then put the dot right over the middle between 'em. That works pretty well in my experience too.

Kim said...

I had to comment on this because of the lay/lie thing. For me it is effect/affect. I never know which to use. I am sure I get it wrong a lot!

Kim @ TheBitterBall