Sunday, January 27, 2008

Seven Questions...On Being Smart

Annie was my first official blog friend. I met her through the generous Stie, who has been very gracious about letting me become part of her social blogland and real life. I love reading Annie's thoughtful posts and catching little glimpses of her charming home and family life.

I feel that we are kindred spirits...probably because we are the same age and both enjoy books and blogs. Annie is also fulfilling one of my secret dreams, returning to grad school and getting her PhD! She is funny and friendly and smart and wise. The perfect choice for my next interview.

Here are Annie's thoughts about life and learning:

1. What are your favorite ways to stay intellectually active and aware?

-Reading, reading, reading! Newspapers, novels, magazine articles, cereal boxes, blogs. I think if you are a curious person, you stay intellectually active and aware; reading is one of the best ways to satisfy that curiosity. Also writing.
-Learning something new. I think our brains love breaking new ground for new learnin'. If you're intrigued by something--a language, photography, upholstery, astronomy, film making--there are classes for that. I went the structured route and signed up for a whole grad program (once my kids were a little older and I had more time) but that's not necessary to keep your brain excited and engaged. Follow what you love.
-Good old fashioned discussions. There's nothing like a long deep conversation about everything and nothing to spark my brain cells. I come from an extended family of great talkers and have sweet memories of listening to rich debates and witty banter around the big oval dining table at my grandparents' house (and also at my own house growing up). I love hearing fresh perspectives and a new set of stories, don't you?

2. What are your top three suggestions for balancing family needs with personal goals?

- Know your priorities and let your standards on other things slip sometimes. At least that's what I do. Sometimes the laundry fairy may not make her rounds as frequently as she used to. The car might be dirty longer. But I decided that I'd take the trade off on some things so I can focus on my family and do some things that keep me excited and engaged and passionate.

- Be optimistic. I decided at one point that I could be a "this will never work" person or a "there are ways to do this" person. The second way is infinitely more empowering. You can find ways to do what's important to you personally and to be there for your family and their needs. Luckily, I have a really supportive husband who is the first person to pick me up and dust me off when I've stumbled or to give me a pep talk. So, I guess I would also suggest surrounding yourself with other optimistic people for when your own optimism lags.

- Check in with yourself and your family and be flexible & adjust when needed. For instance, I really felt that my family needed more of my time right now (& I felt too spread thin) so this semester I'm taking a break and not doing classes. There's a time for everything, right?

3. Do you have a personal workspace? How do you keep it organized?

I love personal workspaces! Up until about 6 months ago, I had to carve out a place on the dining room table or in a corner of the kitchen (and at one place we put up an old door between two filing cabinets at the end of a hallway). I'm a big believer in women having spaces of their own. Now I have a real desk where I can actually leave my things out and they'll still be there. Joy! I am addicted to puttering and pens and paper and funky containers so I'm always rearranging and pruning my desktop. It definitely reflects my mood and mindset at any given time.

4. Who was your favorite teacher of all time? What did you learn from him/her?

Kathy Johnson, absolutely. I've had some pretty amazing teachers all the way along, from kindergarten to grad school, but I would go with Kathy every time you asked. She was my AP European History teacher my senior year in high school. She was absolutely charming and engaging, told great stories (sometimes inspiring, sometimes colorful--about her own life or about history), and was completely passionate about history. I can picture her standing in front of the class, hands clasped in front of her, telling us the story of Joan of Arc with tears streaming down her face. I learned critical thinking and writing, absorbed her enthusiasm, & soaked up history's lessons. She was also one of the first people to tell me I could write (or at least the first person I believed). I took that little gem of a compliment, tucked it inside and polished it for years.

5. How do you teach your children (especially your daughters) that being smart is cool?

I'm not really sure! Each child is so different but I've always tried to meet their interests and give them what they needed to follow their own curiosity. We all love reading & I'm not sure we even gave any of them a choice about that :). We try to send the message that learning--in and out of school--is important and exciting. We ask lots of questions (and encourage theirs) and try to really listen and appreciate their thinking. More than anything, I want them to think of themselves as explorers and questioners.

6. What have you learned from traveling? What is your favorite destination?

My favorite places away from home are London, Copenhagen, and Greece. I had done a little traveling before college but my world opened up when I did Study Abroad in London for six months. I think I discovered who I was (or wanted to be) there. I love traveling for the perspective it gives me on my own life and the window it gives me to others' lives. And it's just fun!

7. What inspires you?

Engaging people who are passionate about what they do--mothers, writers, philosophers, entrepreneurs, teachers. New, unconsidered ideas. The persistence of babies in trying to master something inspires me and makes me want to rediscover that tenacity and curiosity. Music. Mountains. Sometimes procrastination or necessity inspires me to get things finally done!

Thanks Annie!

To read Annie's blog, BASIC JOY, click here.

Also, check out her new project...Letters to a Parent...write in with a letter of your own!


Lauren said...

Ahhhh! Another excellent interview! What a great lady. I love her attitude...I want to become a "there are ways to do this" kind of person~ even when I am feeling the most overwhelmed.

Bridget said...

I loved this. So inspiring. There are so many pieces to Annie's personality that I would love to have. She is amazing. Thanks!

Stie: My Favorite Things said...

I love that two of my favorite people in the world now know each other. Makes me so happy. Annie has always inspired me to want to be a better person, better mother, and a better human being. I count myself absolutely blessed to know her. Thanks for the interview!

Marty said...

Pre-blog life I had many, many days when my interaction with people was limited to the lady at the dry cleaner, the grocery store clerk, the bank teller and the person at the McDonald's drive-thru. While these people might have had some depth, I didn't talk to them long enough to discover it.

I am overwhelmed by the quality of people I've met online! Annie is another great example of what women are really accomplishing in life. Thanks for making her voice heard, Gab!

Annie said...

Thanks Gabi...I'm so glad I've connected with you. And you make me sound so much better than the real-life version:).

Paige said...

Can she come to blogapalooza?

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