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I just bought four pairs of really comfortable shoes so that I can take a walk any time, any place, no matter what’s on my feet. I’m no shoe fashionista, not by a long shot, but it is giving me an unusual amount of pleasure to be able to purchase shoes that make my feet happy and don’t look ugly. I test drove one pair yesterday on our forty-minute afternoon walk and landed home with no blisters, no red marks and no sore feet. Yes!!!! This is the way to travel on foot.

I remember my years as a businesswoman when the “uniform” required high heels. Every morning I’d don a 2” to 2.5” heel and start my day. I never questioned the awkwardness of driving in heels and never had the smarts to kick off the shoes while behind the wheel. For several years my office was in Faneuil Hall, and I hobbled over the cobblestones on a regular basis.  The uneven surface did a job on my ankles, my back, and on my shoes, but flats were never an option. They just didn’t fit the prescription for a professional woman.  Now I think, how silly was that?!?

I still have more high heels than I can count, and none of them have been worn in years.  I think that’s progress. What pleases me most is that I now consider my daily walks part of my essential routine. It’s non-negotiable that I’m able to walk on a whim. No, I’m not jogging or even power walking; I’m just taking a fast enough walk to build up a sweat and take in the world around me.  It clears my head, and makes me happy, feet and all.

And now for something different…

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Monday's solar eruption at its peak moment. Photo courtesy of NASA

Monday’s solar eruption at its peak moment. Photo courtesy of NASA

Even though I’ve always been addicted to words, sentences, and paragraphs, I’ve also been drawn to science and wonderful “nerdiness”. My dad worked at Bell Labs while I was growing up and came home with great adventurous tales of  the evil Sputnik, the fabulous Telstar, cathode ray tubes, lasers and product testing telephone poles. Fast forward a few years, and I find myself marrying a physicist at MIT who continued my science adventures with questions from Part One of the doctoral exam (Why is the sky blue?) and a whole new world of wonders: fusion, the aurora, chaos theory, string theory (not yarn!), complex systems and more. I don’t pretend to understand all of our physics discussions and have been known to say: “Do you know how you can spot a physics joke? –It’s not funny.” I do understand these matters and anti-matters better when analogies and metaphors are used. Food analogies work best.

We have always celebrated Einstein’s birthday (March 14), and Richard Feynman is a hero to both of us. Our daughters went to the Children’s School of Science in Woods Hole during the summer and learned science with a “hands on” approach. They still talk about their exciting experiences years later and want CSS t-shirts for Christmas. They use their science skills at work and keep it alive in their heads. So science has woven its way into our life.

I especially like how it has influenced my critical thinking and teaching strategies. I used the “scientific method” as a way to teach problem solving and essay writing in my college classroom. This approach demands that one looks at an abundance of evidence from multiple perspectives and not prejudge and pre-pick the easy, obvious stuff.  It calls for embracing ambiguity and pushing beyond one’s comfort zone. It means having the courage to say “no” to arguments that turn out to be not worthy—and walking away from pat answers while searching for something meaningful. It means not throwing your body at the first idea that pops into your head; if I said that once, I said that a million times to my students. It means not being afraid to explore. So after all of these years, I realize that it’s the exploration that excites me; it’s whether I’m discovering meaning in one of Shakespeare’s sonnets or the new, first novel The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht or trying to figure out the unintended consequences of consumerism or what is really going on in the night sky or how to make a great chocolate cake that rises without eggs. It’s all the same process; it’s really not something different.

Teaching to Fish

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Father Bill’s/Mainspring is an extraordinary non-profit/non-denominational organization whose mission is to end homelessness. It is both smart and compassionate, and truly makes a difference in people’s lives. I’ve been working with FBMS for six or seven years and am constantly impressed at how the organization teaches folks “how to fish” and doesn’t just throw them a can of tuna. This is evident in all of the programs that are offered to those who seek shelter or a meal. Two emergency shelters (in Quincy and Brockton) are the way many homeless men,women children seek refuge AND also find strategies to end their homelessness. They’re portals to better options. While providing the emergency services, FBMS offers medical and behavior support services as well as job training. Today I was at the Brockton facility and saw the Work Express team in action; these formerly homeless people are gainfully employed, earning money and learning life skills and job training. They no longer live on the street. Two new multifamily houses are being renovated and will soon be home to six previously homeless families. The Spring St Residences. in Brockton as well as a new facility in Hingham houses previously homeless veterans. FBMS does it right; I wish more organizations would follow their lead. FBMS is a gateway to a better life and it’s working.

To Blog or Not To Blog

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Yes, that is the question. Do I dare to enter this world of words? Do I dare to eat a peach?

I’m jumping in with expectations of being able to write about ideas, creative expression, experiences, and whatever. I have always been a wordsmith, a teacher, a businesswoman, and a fiber artist. Telling stories and spinning yarns come naturally to me: hence, the title Yarnsista. Until a year ago, I taught writing and literature at a nearby university. Being retired has been exhilarating and rewarding. I do, however, miss the dialogue with students and colleagues on campus and hope to be able to create some of that here. Books will be reviewed, teaching and learning strategies discussed, minimalist living might be explored as well as my latest adventures with yarn and cloth.

I think it will be fun.