Shop Class as Soulcraft

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Ken Myers at Mars Hill Audio Journal introduced me to Matthew Crawford, calling Shop Class as Soulcraft a hymn to the virtues of what he [Crawford] called manual competence and a lament for the decline of honor accorded to work with one’s hands.

My husband, a former high school shop teacher, captivated from the first page — bemoaning the disappearance of shop classes from our common education — kept interrupting my reading of another book to share a paragraph of this book. Thus, he convinced me to read it myself.

Crawford has a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Chicago, but when he’s not writing he makes a living as a motorcycle mechanic. (While this is a rare combination, I know several carpenters who are conversant with Kierkegaard and Heidegger. My husband can weld an axle and ask compelling questions.)

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Crawford’s book is part social history, part philosophy, and part memoir. The altitude of some of the metaphysical  musings were beyond my reach but within stretching distance. The history of transition from craftsmanship to assembly line and the degradation of blue collar work was absorbing. His personal ‘education of a gearhead’ was fun and fascinating reading.

Crawford laughs at the cubicle culture with teambuilding activities and speech codes. He urges learning a trade even if you go to college. Reading this book inspires me to pick up a shovel and dig in my garden.

If thinking is bound up with action, then the task of getting an adequate grasp on the world, intellectually, depends on our doing stuff in it. And in fact this is the case: to really know shoelaces, you have to tie shoes.

 

 

 

This Is How We Roll

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In March my husband installed new flooring in our kitchen, covering up the 1993 white vinyl which remains the worst consumer purchase of my life. Silly me, I thought laminate was indestructible. I think not, Finknottle!

Curt started murmuring something about a plastic floor protector mat. No offense to you in the floor mat family, but they are, in my opinion, uglier than the underside of my kitchen vent hood.

We compromised with a low, backless shop stool that had safe-to-the-floor wheels. Since March, I’ve been hunching over!

I had no knowledge of the office wheel world, that there was even a difference between bad wheels and good wheels. I guess the hospital where he works is choosing these wheels for their chairs. He got rollerblade style rubber wheels and I have never been so happy with an office chair in my life! Smooooth ride! My grandsons love to get in the chair and scoot around. I’m thinking rollerblade wheels just may be the key to happiness!

It’s the little things…

The Little Things

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It’s the little things, right?

One autumn a friend closed her café and gave me a restaurant-sized bag of Big Train Chai to thank me for my help. That winter I had a delicious, steaming, comforting cup of chai every night. Without changing any other eating habits, I gained eight pounds in two or three months. One little thing.

I’m done with diets.* It’s easy to believe I can take off twenty – thirty pounds if I focus hard on a plan—pick one, any one— and execute it. But I know that as soon as I go “off” the ‘plan’ that weight huffs and puffs, red-faced and straining, and catches up with me.

So I’m looking for little changes that over the long haul will add up to loss. This summer my daily drink is Mint Lime Water. I clip some mint and put that at the bottom of my 32 oz. cup. I squeeze a half a lime into it. (Or, pull a snack bag with the juice of one lime out of the freezer.) I add one package of Truvia. (I know, I know, it’s not healthy, but I’m going to finish my supply before I give it up.) Fill the cup with ice and then water. Suddenly, it’s easier to drink my water. And I’ve taken a leave of absence from caffeine.

Curt’s cousin encouraged me to try a sprig of rosemary in my water. I like it!

What is your little thing? I’d seriously like to glean some other ideas that friends/readers have found helpful.

Do you have a fun substitution or a new twist on something? Does anyone out there use a standing desk? My friend at work does squats while she blow-dries her hair. I’d love to do that, but I’m not willing to give up reading a book and I don’t think I could manage both!

I’ll wait for your comments. Thanks!

* Until the next new one seduces me.

Call the Nurse

Combine James Herriot, John McPhee, Seamus Heaney’s poem Digging with a dash of Call the Midwife. Mary J. Macleod moved her family from southern England to become a district nurse on an island twenty miles long in the Inner Hebrides. She, along with a 70-year-old doctor, provided medical care for all the inhabitants in the 1970’s. She writes with a clear-eyed, unsentimental, but affectionate voice.

The book is a series of vignettes: like a gurgling stream it ambles along, making it an satisfying read in pockets of time. Macleod worked (tending elderly, administering daily injections, attending to medical emergencies) with her patients in their homes. She was called at all hours and had to traverse a mountain or be taken by sea in a boat. She cared for people from newborns to octogenarians, many who spoke only Gaelic.

This book taps into three fascinations: island culture, self-sustaining lifestyle, and Scotland. I have been on two islands in Scotland, which is knowledge enough to be dangerously ignorant. To protect the privacy of the inhabitants, Macleod calls her island Papavray. This fired my curiosity, sending me to Google to unsuccessfully tease out the island’s true name.

The best thing? The author wrote her first book (of three now published) in her 80’s. It fuels my hope. Check out her Facebook page.

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Photo taken from Iona, a small — but important — island on the western coast of Scotland.

The second best thing? This book is $.99 on Kindle today.

Cleaning before Being Cleaned

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There’s something radically new in my life: a young woman comes every other week to clean my house. It’s pretty weird. But I’m getting used to it.

I was telling my husband about a book I was reading,  The End of Your Life Book Club — the story of Mary Anne Schwalbe and her son Will, and the books they read and discussed during her final two years. As I explained their background, I said, Well, they lived three doors down from Julia Child. And Mary Anne worked full-time, back when moms typically didn’t work. But she must have hired a housekeeper because all they did was read on the weekends and you KNOW that someone had to clean toilets.  And Curt, bless his heart, leapt into this opening he had been waiting for to suggest that we hire a house cleaner.

So Jamie comes and I gather scattered books so she is cleaning and not picking up. I work on a deep-cleaning project while she’s here. To me, it’s akin to paying a piano teacher when you mostly need accountability to practice.

But, here’s the thing: the instinct is so strong to clean up myself before I get help. It’s neat to clean (Next to Godliness is my favorite soap from Trader Joe’s) but this is more about self-protection and perhaps some self-deception. I see this tendency in my life in other areas. After I lose 15 pounds, I’ll go to the doctor, I promise myself.

Years ago, I participated in a foot-washing ceremony. A group of women circled their chairs and the friend on the right got on her knees and dipped my feet in a large bowl sudsy with warm soapy water, washed, rubbed, and dried my dirty, stinky feet — a profoundly unforgettable encounter. It struck the same emotional response in each of us. We were happy (happy! happy!) to wash a friend’s feet, but our heart screamed No! when it was our turn to be washed.