Friday, December 23, 2011

Linguistic Ponderings

So, everyone knows I'm the Grammar Queen. But I should clarify that I'm not necessarily a snob about correctness. I'm perhaps a snob about clarity. But my love of grammar is actually just rooted in my love of analyzing structure and system.

While driving for six hours to Kansas yesterday, Hubby and I happened to wander into a discussion of "Ebonics". I was fascinated, when I took Linguistics in college, at the fact that the urban black dialect has its own structure, rules, and system. It's not just "bad English". That's true of most strong American English dialects, which is why they're hard to imitate and fool a "native speaker".

Hubby talked about how interesting it would be to take a 2011 inner city black kid back in time to speak to one of the founding fathers. He figures some of them would be appalled at the condition the mother tongue has evolved into. Others would find the boy's language remarkable and want to study it. His point was about how the founding fathers were very different individuals and not the unified blob we often picture them as. But I took from it a point about language.

I do think we, as a society, are becoming increasingly poor communicators. Lazy, non-specific, unpoetic, unmelodic, unclear. I once found a letter written by my grandfather, a relatively uneducated farmer from Western Kansas. I was struck not only by the meticulously precise handwriting, but the quality of his vocabulary and sentence structure.

I told Hubby, I think where we started losing it is when we stopped practicing "recitations" in the schools. If you read the Little House books, they talk all the time about the poems and speeches every person in the school had to memorize and recite. They also read aloud to each other in the evenings for entertainment. I think these things make a HUGE difference. They give you an internal sense of the rhythm of language. Complex vocabulary and sentence structures feel more natural, and your thoughts start to organize themselves more clearly and readily with such structures instinctually available to you.

I'm regretting now that I didn't do more of this with the girls. I guess I still have time with Eastin. Gotta break out the old poetry books!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Keepin' Things New

Last night, we did Christmas here at home with our immediate family. Yes, that's a week early. In New Jersey, we started opening our presents to each other at home before we flew back to Kansas for the holidays. It didn't seem to make sense to ship our gifts to each other to Kansas and then ship them back again. Anyway, the tradition has stuck. And every evening of this week is busy, so this was the only night we could do it.

And we had a new twist to the tradition this year . . . our eldest's boyfriend was there, too. He was over studying with her for finals (and yes, I think they got at least a little bit of actual studying done), and he just ended up staying. She had been invited to go with his family to his aunt's earlier today, but they ended up not going. Still, they're only 15 . . . only been dating a couple months . . . and they're joining each other's families for minor holiday get-togethers. Ah, it begins.

I thought it would be weird to add someone to our holiday traditions. It wasn't. He's a good kid. We didn't have a lot of gifts to open this year, so it was kind of low key. We all played Eastin's new Monopoly Deal game afterwards (the gift she got for finding the pickle ornament on the tree), and then Apples to Apples. A pleasant evening.

In a way, it was kind of nice to add something new. I'm all for traditions, but I like to freshen things up, too. Kind of like how the Bible says to "sing a new song" to the Lord. The old hymns are awesome, but you gotta add something new to keep things . . . well, new.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Questions, Questions

So, the youngest and I just got back from a Mitt Romney rally at Missouri Valley Steel here in Sioux City. (She started getting another big headache and is lying down now . . . you might say a prayer for her.) I'm not sold on voting for Romney yet, but we figured, as someone said recently, if your child grows up in Iowa and never shakes hands with a future president, it's your own fault. We haven't been able to see any Republican candidates live yet, and the campaign's almost over, so we took advantage of the opportunity this morning.

The rally was fine. Romney was just what I expected. Seems like a fine man. He's definitely in my top tier of choices. There are just so many things to consider in a presidential candidate.

Do I agree with their policy ideas, their agenda, the direction they want to take the country? I think most all of the Republican field, I would say yes to this one, in general. They're all at least much more safely in that direction than Obama is. (Although Ron Paul's foreign policy ideas scare me . . . he may be right, but they still scare me.)

Do I think they really believe what they say they believe? Or are they just saying what I want to hear to court my vote? Hmmm. I have to say, that's something Paul has going for him. You know where the man stands and I have no doubt he's sincere. I think most of the others are sincere, too. I don't have an issue, necessarily, with the "flip-flops" Romney and Gingerich are accused of. People are allowed to be wrong and change their mind.

Another VERY important one to me: will they be able to accomplish what they say they want to accomplish? If I could ask each candidate one question, that would be it. Just how are you going to get Congress on your side to do all you want to do? 'Cause Congress is very important . . .

Do I trust them to make good decisions in a crisis? Seeing how I don't think we have seen any of these people in a major public crisis situation, this one has to go on my gut feeling. I don't have good gut feelings about Bachmann, Perry, Huntsman . . .

And are they generally a person of character? Again, got to go with your gut. Here's where Gingerich has problems, and not just because of the affairs. He strikes me as a man who struggles with pride and discipline. There are a lot of things I like about the guy, but voting for him would feel like building a house on the sand.

And very important right now -- can they get elected?

I take this voting duty very seriously. Especially as an Iowan. I intend to be at a caucus on January 3rd, and I'm very excited to be a part of this process. So, you can expect a fascinating post here on January 4th. ;)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Craft Weary

I shared a link on FB to a picture of a Christmas tree made out of stacked books. Very cool. My friend Robin ran with it and wrote a story on the trend for her blog at Mother Nature Network. And posted a picture of the book tree she made herself.

I used to do stuff like that. I would see cool ideas at craft shows and such places and try to recreate them. I have a shelf full of craft books in the basement that I used to browse through, looking for ideas for things I wanted to try someday. I watched home improvement TV shows and got all sorts of ideas for things to do to my house. I used to LOVE hands-on creative projects.

Not anymore. I have a cross-stitch piece I started to make for my mother-in-law when I was pregnant with my 11-year-old. It's still not done. That's kind of appalling to me, when I really sit and think about it.

I'm not sure why I don't enjoy crafts anymore. But I think do remember when my shift in attitude occurred. It was during my MOPS years in New Jersey. We did a craft at every MOPS meeting, and I enjoyed those a lot the first year or so. By the end of my MOPS tenure, I was just annoyed at the idea of having another cheap, corny item to find a place for in my house.

I was in charge of planning crafts for the kids in MOPS for a year or two, also, as I recall. I only remember it because I remember trying desperately to come up with crafts that would somehow go away with use -- a snack to be eaten, bathsalts that got poured in the tub, that kind of thing. From Sunday School, church nursery, preschool, MOPS, and any other child care I had the girls at, I had piles of cheap artsy craftsy projects laying around the house that I was tired of looking at.

So maybe it's just the clutter issue. I know I sound more and more like my mother every day, complaining about knick knacks being "just another thing to dust". I'm much more interested these days in crafting words than crafting things . . . and I think I'm a lot better at it. And they store themselves away very neatly on my laptop.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Shawty, With You

For some inexplicable reason, I woke up this morning with Justin Bieber's "Mistletoe" running through my head. "I should be playing in the winter snow, but I'mma be under the mistletoe . . "

OK, let's stop right there. "I'mma"? Really? "Gonna" isn't quite a lazy enough contraction? Now we're going to leave out the main verb entirely? Words that identify a generation. Not that I wouldn't ever use the term, but I'mma reflect on its silliness anytime I do.

But back to the song: "I'mma be under the mistletoe . . . with you, shawty, with you . . . " Shawty. The first time I heard that word was in a song in dance class and I asked the other dancers if it was a term I should discipline my daughters for using or what. Shawty. It doesn't sound complimentary. It's not a cozy, mooshy word. It's a weird thing to call a girl you like. I googled it and apparently, it originally came from the word "shorty". That's what I want my man to sweeten me up with.

Hubby and I read an article years ago talking about nicknames lovers create for each other and how they tend to fit into certain categories. There are the names that have to do with animals. Tiger, Pooky Bear, and such. There are those that have to do with sweetness or sweet food: Sugar, Honey, Sweetie Pie, etc. (We realized that hubby didn't have such a nickname for me, so he immediately started calling me his little Sorghum -- my grandpa's word for molasses. It stuck, no pun intended, mainly because it's so bizarre.)

And there's a group of lover nicknames that have to do with smallness or cuteness: Baby, Cutie, Punkin, Snookums, and all. Does Shawty fit into that category? Somehow, calling someone "Shorty" doesn't sound cute -- it sounds snarky.

I don't know what I'd think if my husband called me Shawty. But then, based on the way the term is used, I think I left Shawtydom a couple decades ago. Words that identify a generation.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Other Little Grumblings

I'm really not in as much of a grumbly mood as this week's posts would indicate, but I do have a few grumbles I want to get out of my system.

- I think I'm going to have to break down and buy some long underwear. Iowa's cold. I can add more layers to my top half, but the bottom half is still always chilled.

- If musical artists are going to do covers of well-known Christmas songs, I wish they'd at least do something different with them. I mean, the same orchestration, the same melody, the same sound . . . what's the point? At least do the American Idol thing and make it your own.

- I usually love the wide open sky in Iowa, but not on mornings like this when the sky is the same solid sheet of white as the blanket of snow on the ground. It's a little freaky. Makes me feel like I'm living in a coloring book.

- My hands are cold. All. The. Time. My feet, too, but I can wear socks on my feet. I would feel very strange wearing gloves around the house all day. Not to mention how impractical it is.

- As I was typing that last one, hubby and I heard a thud in the kitchen and he said, "Well, Tagger bit the dust again." He can't get traction on the hard floor and goes splat on his belly. This poor mutt. Lord, make it clear to us when it's time to put the sweet boy to rest.

- The Republican debate here next week is sold out. Bummer. I don't know how often I'll get a chance to see something like that.

Grumble, grumble. On a positive note, the youngest and I ate lunch at Pizza Hut yesterday and I had a BBQ pizza. Mmmmmm. The small blessings of life.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Political Grumblings

We're getting scads of political calls these days. We just don't pick up the phone anymore if it's a Des Moines area code. Three times we've had messages on our machine from Mitt Romney, at least one of which we suspect may have been the actual man and not a recording. There's a Republican debate in Sioux City next week that I'm going to try to get to. Living in Iowa is kind of cool when you're a minor political junkie like me.

But I'm frustrated about how the Republican field is shaping up. Right now it looks like Romney or Gingerich (unless someone else makes some dramatic surge in the next couple months, which I suppose is not out of the question). And I don't care for either choice. Romney's the safe one, I guess. He's pretty much Steady Eddie; not likely to get any surprises out of him in the coming year. On the other hand, he's not likely to stir up much passion, either, unfortunately.

I kind of liked Gingerich from the first debate, and more with each subsequent one, but I know why. He's an intellectual. He speaks my language. Unfortunately, he's got a reputation for being undisciplined in a multitude of ways, and that makes him unreliable in a multitude of ways. I think he can rally the base, but I don't think he can unite the country or Congress to get anything done. And I don't think he can beat Obama.

And beating Obama is the important thing. I've been put in a political position here that I really don't like -- I'm going into this election (so far) not pulling for a particular person, but against someone. I am an almost-anyone-but-Obama person . . . and I don't like that.

It's not that I don't like the man. He seems like a fine person. He's decent and respectable. He's got an impressive list of accomplishments, especially considering where he came from. I think he's very sincere in wanting to do what he thinks is best for the country. I just disagree with him STRONGLY about what is best for the country.

I'm very, very worried about the road he has started us down. And if re-elected, he will see that as a mandate to continue in the same vein. Eight years of this direction will be very, very difficult to turn around.

I used to avoid talking about politics in this blog, but I may be doing it a lot more in the coming year. It's all just too troubling to me to let alone.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Play for . . . Someday

I have a play I want to write. In Bible in homeschool, the youngest and I are reading about the last week of Jesus' life (which is more seasonally appropriate than you would think -- I mean, this is why Jesus came on Christmas in the first place). It's, of course, a very familiar story, so less familiar parts of it are standing out to me.

In particular, the Sanhedrin -- the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who came to see Jesus as a great threat and were looking for a way to get rid of him. Fascinating, really, to examine these people. We think of them as so evil, but I doubt they all were. Nicodemus was one who came to Jesus in the middle of the night asking him questions. Another complimented publicly an answer Jesus gave to a trick question, and Jesus told him he wasn't far from the kingdom of heaven. There were others of the group, I believe, who didn't run with the Pharisaic crowd in their condemnation.

And even those who were genuinely after Jesus . . . some of them were possibly just power-greedy jerks. But others, I think, honestly believed they were doing the right thing, protecting their people, preserving the faith. There's a story where the Chief Priest points out to the others an Old Testament passage about how someone would have to die for the salvation of the Jewish people, remarking that this points to the need to get rid of Jesus. Fascinating, isn't it, how he could be so right and so wrong at the same time?

I think this would be a cool play. The last week of Jesus' life from the point of view of the Sanhedrin. Seeing the discussion and conflicts between them, where their faith is genuine and where it is not, the plotting behind the scenes, the misunderstanding of scripture and of his words . . . the playing out of the sacrifice of the Lamb against the backdrop of the Passover rituals, and how so many of them missed it altogether.

Maybe I would be the only one who would find this interesting. But I bet not.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Getting Involved

The topic on my mind today is Political Involvement, in two respects.

1) A woman shared in our homeschool moms' meeting last night about how she got started getting involved in the political process. She had been living in Pennsylvania and started homeschooling after seeing some great models of families doing that. (This was back when Pennsylvania was an easy state to homeschool in -- no longer that.) When they moved back to Iowa, homeschooling was illegal. Thus began their venture into the political realm.

She gave us all a Ron Paul pamphet -- not necessarily to promote Ron Paul, she said -- but to point out that one generation ago, people in Iowa were being arrested for homeschooling . . . and today, presidential candidates are specifically promoting themselves as "homeschooling champions". What a turn-around! And it's families like this, who were willing to sacrifice so much to fight for what they knew were their constitutional rights, who paved the way for the rest of us. I'm very grateful for them.

And I'm convicted of the need to make similar sacrifices myself today. I'm very concerned about the direction our country is headed. And I suppose the only way anything will change is if individuals like me all across the country step up and do something. That's one of the things that makes America great -- an insignificant housewife in Iowa can actually make a difference in the governing of the nation.

2) Is anyone else just appalled at Congress these days? Just appalled??? How is it possible that a group of 500-some reasonable, intelligent people are incapable of being financially responsible? For that matter, how is it possible that 500-some reasonable, intelligent people managed to get our country into this outrageous debt situation in the first place?? Trillions of dollars in debt! TRILLIONS, people!! We've heard the numbers tossed around so much, they simply have no meaning for us anymore.

The tipping point for me was when I realized that this Super Committee who failed so miserably wasn't even, if they succeeded, going to reduce spending. They were just going to reduce projected increases in spending. Are you kidding me??? This has gone beyond all reason.

My husband rants that the whole body, and everyone who served on the body for the last couple decades, should be tried for treason and thrown in jail. The damage they've done to the country is incalculable. I'm starting to agree. This simply has to be fixed . . . but how . . .

Monday, November 28, 2011

Decking the Halls

I've been decorating the house for the holidays this weekend. This is one of those holiday activities that I don't have a problem with. For one thing, I don't let it stress me out. I give myself plenty of time so I can afford to take my time. I don't feel obligated to put out every decoration I have every year. When I start getting tired or grouchy about it, I take a break.

But also, my Christmas decorations add to the meaning of the holidays for me. I've learned to decorate with the mantra, "If it isn't beautiful, useful, or meaningful, I don't need it." And most everything I have now fits that criteria.

I have a small collection of Nutcrackers I put out. These are meaningful to me -- I took ballet for about 8 years and was in the Nutcracker all but one of those years. The Nutcracker is a significant part of the holidays for me.

I also have a collection of small tomtes I set up around a Swedish Christmas tree on the dining room tables. Tomtes are Swedish elves that are said to live in the barns -- the kids put out food for the tomtes on Christmas to bribe them into not playing pranks on the family the next year. These are a connection with my own Swedish background and my husband's upbringing in Lindsborg, Kansas.

We also have a Christmas in Lindsborg collection of ceramic buildings from his hometown. Again, a connection to our past -- and they're beautiful.

I have a small tabletop tree that I decorate with several sets of felt ornaments that my mother made, a different set every year. There's also a nativity set in almost every room of the house.

And of course, just about every ornament we put on the tree has a story behind it.

There are a few things I would get rid of -- and I weed something out probably every year. But the house decorating is a holiday tradition that passes my Scrooginess test and stays.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Brightening a Blackened Holiday Season

Is it just me, or has Black Friday reached a new level of insanity this year? My husband was heading to Walmart at midnight last night hoping to snag an inexpensive laptop (we need another now that his work computer is gone). But I told him an FB friend said something about getting "tickets" earlier in the evening for something, so he headed over at 11 to see what that was about. He was grumbling this morning about Walmart not making things clear . . . what a madhouse . . . lines up and down aisles, out doors . . .

That FB friend described fist fights over the xbox games she wanted. Insane. Do you remember the craziness over Cabbage Patch Kids one Christmas way back? Seriously, what is wrong with people?

Readers who've read my blog for a while will probably roll their eyes at my Scrooginess cropping up again this year, but here it is. I really don't like what Christmas has become. The stress, the craziness, the checklist of celebratory duties that we force ourselves through with no sense of meaning behind any of it. The stupid, formulaic Christmas movies on every night. The countdown TO the 25-day countdown to Christmas on the now inappropriately named ABC Family channel.

My family was way late this year getting our Christmas lists to family. I really wish we could give up writing out Christmas lists altogether. A friend just commented, "If you want your kids to focus on giving at Christmas, stop asking them what they want." Duh. It seems ridiculous to me that every year, we make our kids write up a list of stuff they want someone to give them. And when they can't think of enough things (as is the case with my kids sometimes), we get out catalogs, have them search the internet, watch more TV commercials . . . to have them beef up their list of wants. Ridiculous!!

I may just completely rebel next year. Refuse to do Christmas as usual. If we move and are doing Christmas in a new place, that may make it easier. It's time to redeem the holiday season.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Rest

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Our family is staying here in Sioux City, just us. I'm not cooking; we'll eat out somewhere. We have absolutely nothing special or significant planned other than relaxing and enjoying each other's company. And I am thrilled.

I realize that sounds kind of bad to say I'm happy to not be spending Thanksgiving with extended family. I feel a little bit guilty saying it. Really, it's not a statement about my family and how much I love or enjoy them. It's just a statement about Thanksgiving.

The ten years we lived in New Jersey, we were never with family for Thanksgiving. Because we were going to be traveling back to Kansas a month later for Christmas and staying for a while, we couldn't justify spending the money for Thanksgiving, too. The first year, I think I tried making a traditional dinner and quickly realized the silliness of that -- neither Keith nor I are crazy about turkey and interested in eating the leftovers for weeks, and Leslie being only two didn't make much of her own dent in the feast.

So, we started our own Thanksgiving traditions. We'd hang around in our pjs all morning long, watching the parades on TV. (Yes, we did actually take the train up to NYC to see the parade live . . . once.) I made a leisurely breakfast of waffles or pancakes or something and then we just hung around until we got hungry for lunch. Then we'd usually head over to Cracker Barrel for our feast, come back home and be lazy the rest of the day, maybe ending the evening with a Christmas movie on TV.

We always spend time casually talking about all the things we are thankful for. One year, when Creative Memories had just come out with a paper punch in the shape of a leaf, we punched lots of little red, orange and yellow leaves, wrote on them things we were thankful for, strung them up and hung them on the fireplace for a couple months.

Thanksgiving became one of my favorite holidays in New Jersey. No stress. No expectations. Just a quiet day with me, my family and God, truly taking the time to appreciate our blessings. It was a great way to prepare for the crazy holiday season that I refuse to allow to start until the next day. I wish I could find a way to redeem ALL of the holidays like this and make them something that adds joy and meaning to my life more than stress and hassle.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Evil. Really.

I'm not sure why, but I read the Grand Jury report from the Jerry Sandusky hearings. It was horrible. I was particularly haunted by the testimony of the then-graduate assistant who walked in on Sandusky performing an unspeakable act on a 10-year-old boy in the showers at night and was so disturbed by it that he . . . left and called his father.

Really. My first thought was just that: really?? You saw this happening, you saw that they saw you seeing them, and you didn't stomp in there and pull that monster off of this child? But then I thought about it more. I put myself in the man's situation. And I'm stunningly afraid that I might have done the same thing.

I've never been exposed to violence and abuse like that. I can imagine walking around the empty locker rooms at night, hearing the noises, turning the corner and seeing that sight -- honestly, it had to have felt absolutely surreal. I can imagine doubting my senses, even my sanity. I'm sure I would have needed to step away and pull myself together, question whether I had actually seen what I thought I saw . . . and by that point, it would have been over, my word against his, and my word based on my shaky perception of the reality of it all. I might not have had it in me to step into the situation either.

I knew a man once who was a former Satanist, and he talked about how so many of us sheltered, comfortable Christians really only conceive of evil in the abstract. We'll say, "Yeah, I know there's evil and there's a Satan," and he'll tell them emphatically, "No, no -- you don't understand -- there is EVIL . . . there is SATAN . . ."

I know there is evil. But do I know it enough and believe it enough to recognize evil when it's staring me in the face? Or do I question my senses, my instincts, the Spirit within me, and call it something more benign? Or walk away altogether, not wanting to test whether or not He that is in me is really greater than he that is in the world?

I'm not sure I wouldn't have responded the same way this graduate assistant did in that situation. But I am sure I would have been haunted by my response for the rest of my life.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Skill and the Art

There are the skills of acting, and then there is the art of acting. Likewise, there is the skill of writing and the art of writing. I find that I'm pretty good at teaching skill but pretty clueless about how to teach the art. There's probably a way to do it, but I don't know the way.

That's why I think, if I go back to teaching, I want to teach at the middle school level and/or teach lower level students. When I taught the honors kids, I had many kids I just didn't know how to help progress any further. They were enjoyable students to work with, but I didn't feel like I was doing them much of a service.

My first year of teaching in Blue Springs, Missouri, I had three classes of "regular" Junior English and three classes of kids who were all having to repeat Sophomore English. It was a challenging assignment for a first year teacher right out of college, and I think I did pretty well for a first year teacher right out of college. But I'd love to have another shot at those kids now, with the experience I have today.

In fact, if I could just create my own job in the schools, I would say, "Give me 30 students -- in two different classes. 30 kids who try hard but consistently struggle in English class. Give me the freedom to teach them whatever and however I want to, and let me see if I can get them to a point of being able to function successfully in a "regular" English class . . . and function even better in their other classes."

I would love that challenge today. I'm just not sure the school system has the flexibility to let me do something like that. My principal in Hutchinson, Mike Wortman, awesome administrator that he was -- he would have found a way. But not all administrators are that awesome.

Someone told me yesterday I should just start my own school. Right.....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Blind to Sin

Some Pharisees . . . asked, "What? Are we blind, too?"

Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim to see, your guilt remains." -- John 9

A good friend in junior high attended an Apostolic Pentacostal Church for a while where not only were they not allowed to dance, watch movies, or listen to rock music, but the women were not allowed to wear pants, cut their hair or wear makeup. Her mom thought she was in a cult and forbid her to go, and she started going to church with me and ultimately cut ties with the other church and its beliefs.

We had some interesting conversations, though, about that church and its people. If a woman in this congregation genuinely believed that cutting her hair was sin, an act of rebellion against God, and she cut her hair . . . did she sin? We concluded that she did -- she was choosing wrong over right, rebellion over trust. It was a matter of the condition of her heart toward God.

Of course, this then begs the question . . . if someone has a right heart toward God and commits a sin not knowing that it is a sin, did they sin? The passage I quoted earlier from John 9 seems to imply not. I remember a woman in Bible study in NJ very innocently telling us all how couples really do need to have sex before they get married to be sure they are "physically compatable". A new believer, and quite apparently ignorant that the traditional Christian stance against sex outside of marriage was not a matter of tradition but a command from God in scripture. (An easy mistake, actually, for one who doesn't know the Bible well -- there are many church traditions that have come to have the weight of scriptural mandate in some communities.)

Then, of course, this begs the question . . . why tell people that they're sinning if, in their ignorance, they are also innocent? A valid question, and a tough one to answer in the abstract. I actually do think there are situations where we are probably better off keeping our mouth shut and allowing the Holy Spirit himself to convict a person of their sin. As Pharisaic as my tendencies are, I would rather trust the Spirit to do his job there than overstep my bounds and condemn another of a "sin" that I'm mistaken about.

But the fact about most sins in the Bible is, the reason God tells us not to do these things is because he knows how they will hurt us. He made us and really does have the right to tell us how we should live our lives if we want to be happy. He knows that saving sex for marriage makes the sex thing so much better and our marriages so much stronger -- and he knows the "physical compatability" thing all works out in the end.

So, confronting someone regarding sin in their life (something we are instructed to do with fellow believers) is a delicate thing. Something to be done with humility, love, discernment . . . with the right condition of the heart. And once again, the condition of our heart will determine whether our confrontation is an act of sin or an act of compassion.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Joining the 9%

Blue Bunny Ice Cream is eliminating the food service marketing division -- that's my husband's division. Which means he's spent the past couple months transitioning his people into new spots and preparing himself for the new management job they were creating for him in Sales. But in light of the high prices these days of dairy products (from which ice cream is made) and corn (by which dairy cows are fed), the Board decided costs needed to be contained.

Which means they would not give approval for any new positions to be created. Like my husband's new position in Sales. And his old position no longer exists.

Which means my husband is now unemployed. Which sucks.

I try to keep this in perspective. There are thousands of people out of work these days, and most of them are not have not been the obsessive savers that we've been over the years. Many of them are not as very employable as my husband is. Many of them are not as healthy as our family is.

But it still sucks. Mainly because it will probably mean another move, and we like it here. I'm not done with this place and the life we've made in it.

I wrote about a month ago about Phil Vischer learning to hold everything in his life with an open hand. And here I sit. With my house, my church, my drama teams, my friends, my kids' schools, my activities, my sweet comfortable gig I have here . . . all clutched in my hand as I slowly pry my fingers open.

You give and take away . . . my heart will choose to say . . .

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bouncy Brain

The eldest and I had a spat last night. It built up from small infractions over the course of the evening, each of which was forgiven and let go of, I thought, but seeing how my frustration increased over time, I guess I didn't let go of them that effectively. And most of them had to do with her forgetting something I told her to do.

We made peace before bedtime, and I went to bed pondering the situation, as I am wont to do, because I have an inborn need to analyze the problems in my life to find the source and take care of it.

I think her forgetfulness -- which has run rampant lately -- is connected with her right-brainedness. If I had her tested, I bet she'd be diagnosed with ADD. Not ADHD -- no hyperactivity involved. She's the lost-in-thought daydreamer whose brain bounces from one topic to another in a heartbeat. This means, when I leave her room at night and give her instructions to pick the stuff off her floor before she gets in bed, that idea connects to ten other seemingly unrelated ideas in the next five minutes and the stuff on her floor is completely forgotten until I mention it again the next afternoon.

So, I don't think it's rebellious behavior, although there may be an element of not taking seriously the things that she just doesn't want to do. But there seems to be a need for training here more than for discipline. She needs to understand how her brain bounces like that, determine what things are too important to allow her brain to bounce away from them, and develop strategies for keeping certain facts and instructions in her working memory as long as needed.

On a positive note, I was pleased that our tiff last night ended so quickly and amiably. That hasn't always been the case. Not sure if that's a sign of maturing on her part or on mine.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No Establishment

A friend posted this quote from Jon Stewart on Facebook the other day:

I have to say, as someone who is not a Christian, it's hard for me to believe Christians are a persecuted people in America. God-willing, maybe one of you one day will even rise up and get to be president of this country -- or maybe forty-four in a row. But that's my point, is they've taken this idea of no establishment as persecution, because they feel entitled, not to equal status, but to greater status.

A few personal words to Jon.

Agreed -- Christians are NOT a persecuted people in America. The Christians out there who whine about persecution apparently don't know what persecution is. They need to spend some time in a Muslim or Communist country where people are imprisoned or killed for practicing their faith.

Agreed -- there are Christians out there who think because Christians are the majority in America and because the nation was founded on Christian principles that Christianity deserves a "greater status" than other religions here. They are wrong. But let me contend that, although that group of believers may be loudmouths, they are not necessarily representative of Christianity in America.

Let me also contend that you may be misunderstanding the "no establishment" situations that you are referring to. Any public bickering I'm aware of concerning Christians and the no establishment clause deal with things like . . . the Ten Commandments being displayed in a courthouse. (I'm not including the gay marriage debate because that is a much bigger, more complex issue dealing with more than religious belief.)

Here's the thing: if I was living in, say Saudi Arabia, I would understand that the vast majority of people there live their lives by the principles in the Koran. I would understand that Islam and the Koran is a significant part of the culture and heritage of the country. I would fully expect to find scripture from the Koran on display in public places -- I would expect community celebrations, even those promoted by the local governments, to be centered on Muslim holidays and beliefs -- I would expect Muslim teachings to come up in the schools, even if they are run by the government (which I don't know if they are . . . ). None of this would qualify to me as "establishment of religion", even if they make me uncomfortable or make my life inconvenient. Sometimes faith is uncomfortable and inconvenient.

Now, if I were required to participate in these religious activities, if I had no choice but to put my children in schools promoting Islam . . . now we're talking about establishment of religion. And if I had rights or freedoms taken away from me for practicing Christianity, now we're talking about persecution. I don't believe we are there in America, for any faith or non-faith group.

Understand, Jon, that sincere believer of every religion want no establishment of religion in the United States. But no establishment does not have to mean we put a cloak on our religious practice and hide it in a closet for fear of making someone uncomfortable.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Two Things

ITEM 1 - Last Friday was the homeschool play for the young 'uns. "Not Your Ordinary Sheepfold". It went very well. The kids looked adorable, and many of them stepped up their performances remarkably for the big show.

I think this is the only show we've done yet where I haven't come to the last week or two of rehearsals and thought, "I can't wait for this to be over." I always enjoy it, but it gets very hectic and stressful toward the end. I didn't have that feeling, really, until the cast party between shows. And that was just a matter of being tired of being around noisy, hyper children for so long. Great kids, but they're still kids, and that many kids can grate on me after that much time. . .

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to do this! I'm still amazed when I look back at how far God has brought Kim and I with this program. If anyone had told me two years ago that at this point, we would have done five plays together, and done them as successfully as we have, I would have been stunned.

ITEM 2 - Last Saturday, we went to the Roller Derby. :) Yep, the Roller Derby. Yet another new experience for me and the girls. (I assume Keith had been to one before -- not only was it his idea, but he explained the rules to us when we got there.) Honestly, I was expecting something more violent. There was a lot of bumping, but it wasn't as rough as I thought it would be.

I was also not expecting to enjoy it much, but I did! It held my attention -- I was amazed at how quickly the time passed. I couldn't understand the strategy a lot of times, and I wasn't always sure why some bumps earned fouls and some didn't. But it was sure interesting to watch.

Hubby and youngest decided we need some Roller Derby nicknames like the ones they had. Fun Size. Leggy Gaga. D'Naile Inya Coffin. Gotta work on those now . . .

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Goal is LEARNING

Got some insight the other day into my eldest's 1st quarter grades. Apparently, her "Marking Period Exams" that she took in her core classes are tests that are given district-wide to every student in those classes. And apparently, almost all the kids do poorly on them.

I'm struggling with how I feel about these tests, as a parent and as a teacher. I understand why they do this. They want each teacher to be accountable for teaching the content the course is supposed to cover. They want uniformity in results across the district. They want an A in Mrs. Jones' Geometry class at North High to mean the same thing as an A in Mrs. Smith's Geometry class at West High.

However, Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Smith have different students, coming from different starting places, with different learning styles and different life situations . . . it really is very hard to make education uniform and make it quality as well. That's when teachers end up "teaching to the test", rather than teaching the child.

The problem with this system, I believe, is the time factor. An effective teacher, I think, should be able to get almost all of his students to the point of passing a district-wide established "Marking Period Exam" . . . but they may not get all of them there in nine weeks. Some kids will be there in three. Some will take a full semester.

Now, it's true that at some point, kids have to figure out how to accommodate someone else's schedule -- if it takes Joey longer to figure out his Geometry than the rest of the class, he has to put more time into it outside of class. But that time will need to be with a teacher if it's going to help him, and so teachers need to have the flexibility to give that extra time.

Good teachers already give hours and hours of their "personal time" for their students. But I think there should be a way for them to be compensated for that. And a way to make it more feasible for students who need extra time to get it. In an effort to manage masses of students going in and out of their doors, schools have had to set up artificial boundaries and time schedules and guidelines that have little to do with effective learning.

Case in point: when I taught in the at-risk student program at Hutch High, we wanted to arrange things so that a student who finished all the requirements for a class early in the year could stop coming to school for that hour. We knew that would be a huge motivation for these kids. But the law states that, to get credit for high school Geometry, you have to not only complete the required coursework, you have to sit in the classroom for a certain number of hours . . . whether you're learning or not . . .

Let's remember, folks, the goal here is learning . . .

Monday, October 31, 2011

10/31. Ugh.

It's Halloween. I've never liked Halloween. Well, I probably liked it when I was a kid trick-or-treating. I even have a memory of looking at some costume ideas in some craft book and getting excited about coming up with a costume. But it's been a while since I've really enjoyed it.

For one thing, I stink at costumes. I gave up making my kids' costumes a few years ago. Forget being frugal -- it's not worth the stress it puts me through. I can afford to go to the costume store, so I do. Not that the costume store was an easy out this year. My 11-year-old is too big for the kids' section now, and there was next to nothing appropriate in the grown-up section. When did Halloween become such a sleezy holiday?? She's going as Nefertiti, the ancient Egyptian queen/goddess . . . only because it was the only costume that covered her body enough. Luckily, she's into ancient gods and goddesses now, so she's content.

I'm also not crazy about the "evil" side of the day. It doesn't bother me as much as it does some people. I can take some of the TV shows and all as mostly being in good fun. But I know there's a danger here for people who, for various reasons, have an unhealthy attraction to "dark" things, and that bothers me.

But most of all, the whole trick-or-treating thing bugs me. I mean, seriously -- whose idea was it to send their kids out begging for candy at their neighbors' doors? Why, on this one day of the year, do we decide this behavior is appropriate? The children are usually not polite or grateful. Some of the older kids barely even make an attempt at a costume. And do we really think children need more candy? Maybe it's because, for the last several years, I've lived in neighborhoods where parents bus their kids in and drop them off to trick-or-treat . . . but I find the whole process very disillusioning.

When the girls were younger, we would have a "fall" party for their friends (not a Halloween party, because some of their friends didn't celebrate Halloween). There are lots of things about the fall that I love and love to celebrate, and these were always fun parties, without all the stuff I don't like about Halloween. Maybe I should find the energy to do something like that again next year.

But I don't suppose that will stem the tide of trick-or-treaters. Ah, well. I bought extra candy this year so I won't run out. Bring 'em on.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

True Lovers of the Soul

While I was walking the dog in the dark, early hours this morning, I was trying to think of what I should blog about today. But I was distracted by the sore on the back of my right hand that the dog's leash kept irritating.

See, the handle of the leash at some point scraped too hard on the high middle knuckle on the back of my hand and broke the skin a bit. And because of its prominent position jutting out proudly from the top of my dominant hand, that tender little spot now gets re-scraped over and over by various other offenders -- the lid of the container of cleaning wipes, the opening of the bag of dried cranberries . . . but most often and most offensively by the handle of that cursed dog leash. My knuckle just hurts like the bloody dickens.

Yes, I try holding the leash in my left hand, but I'm apparently a right-handed dog walker. My mind wanders and the sudden flash of pain shows that I've reverted to old habits again. I have to be constantly aware of this sore spot and protect it, or it just gets scraped up again.

I'm reading a book called When You've Been Wronged. It's about moving from bitterness to forgiveness in relationships. It has been bringing to mind people in my life who injure like the dog's leash -- they attack the same spot on my spirit, over and over and over. I can't avoid these people any more than I can avoid walking the dog (unless I want to deal with messes in my house). So I just have to always be conscious of this open sore, allowing a cushion of air around it in hopes it won't get scraped again.

That's a tiring way to relate to someone. And it doesn't allow much space for real relationship. I find myself getting annoyed at these people because they don't bend or move to accommodate my sores. But then, why would they? My sores don't hurt them.

But, you know, the important and valuable relationships in my life are the ones where my sores do hurt them. Where they are willing to bend and move themselves to keep from causing me pain. That's a true lover. Bear one another's burdens, scripture tells us. I need lovers like that . . and I need to be a lover like that. I need to look at the people I love today and make sure I'm moving and bending myself to protect the sores on their spirits.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Our small group met downtown Saturday evening to see the movie "Courageous". Yes, I cried several times. And I wasn't sure I would, even though everybody warned me to take tissue along. You see, I tend to watch such movies with a very critical eye.

I'm inspired by this church in Georgia that decided to create some serious movies with Christian themes and promote them on a national scale. That's big and bold and . . . well, courageous. I had mixed feelings about their earlier efforts. "Facing the Giants" had some wonderful moments and was very well-done in a lot of ways. But then it had some scenes with some very amateur actors that were almost excruciating to watch. "Fireproof" was better, but still had some spots that just made me squirm.

With both movies, I felt like, for non-professional productions, they were pretty fantastic. But to really compete against the Hollywood establishment, they were going to need to up the ante a lot. "Courageous" does that, but I'm not sure it's quite there.

I feel strongly about the idea of having movies out there that demonstrate Christian thought and worldview in a positive way without being preachy. But to be effective, they've got to be very high quality. And again, they can't be preachy. They can't simply be a thinly veiled attempt to convert the masses. That's laborious viewing for believers and nonbelievers alike.

All this said . . . I really did enjoy watching "Courageous". A wonderful story about what it means to be a man and a father. Our world needs to hear this. Our boys -- young and old -- need to see what it looks like to be a godly man . . . and be inspired to want to be one.

Monday, October 17, 2011

One Big Dysfunctional Family

I'm going to wade into dangerous territory here . . . a topic I'm not well-informed on and one that many of my friends are very angry about (on both sides): Occupy Wall Street.

I've been a little frustrated at the coverage I've seen of the protestors (mostly Fox News coverage), because they mainly focus on the weirdos out there, of which there are many. But I assume there are some intelligent, articulate people there, too. It isn't right to characterize the Tea Party by a handful of idiots with racist signs -- and it isn't right to characterize OWS by the hey-wows on dope.

Mike Huckabee had some thoughtful remarks about this movement last night. I tried to find his comments online and couldn't (I kind of suck at that), and we didn't DVR the show, so I can't watch it again. But he basically said that the OWS folks have a right to be angry -- they're just angry at the wrong people.

They're angry, as I understand it, about the banks and corporations and investors and all who took big risks with people's money and futures and then got bailed out by the government with no consequences for their bad behavior. Well, so am I! So are all conservatives! Haven't you heard us all gritching about the bailouts?

Thing is, I blame the government for that. Even the Bush administration. All sorts of government entities, it sounds like, were intervening in the markets to muck things up rather than let it run its natural free-market course. From what I hear, it sounds like they created a problem that they then had to try to fix with ridiculous bailouts.

But the OWS folks are mad at the corporations . . . for what exactly? For taking the bailout money? For not using the bailout money well? For taking too many risks in the first place? I'm not exactly sure. And I'm not exactly sure what they want to happen now to fix it all.

Huckabee said that Wall Street has become a high stakes casino where investors gamble other people's futures and then get bailed out by the government when their gambles don't work out. Like a dysfunctional parent/child relationship. A kid stupidly spends all his gas money on booze every month, and his dad continues to get up in the middle of the night to pick him up when the truck runs out of gas out in the boondocks -- and then fills up his tank for him again. I think the OWS folks are raging at the investors behaving like irresponsible selfish children -- and rightfully so. But the rest of us are more angry at the parents for sheltering the children from the natural consequences of their bad behavior. That's what will force the children to grow up.

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Homeschooling Failures

Our eldest is not doing as well on tests lately as we'd like. In one class, for example, she has A+'s on every assignment, but her test scores . . . well, they're definitely not A+'s. We know what a bright kid she is. Hubby asked me the other night if she knows how to study for tests, which initially invoked a bit of resentment in me.

But as it turns out, that's a fantastic question.

See, teaching one-on-one, like in homeschooling, is a different game entirely than teaching a group in a classroom setting. When I taught my daughter History, for example, I knew the information and concepts I wanted her to understand. I tried to present them in a way that fit her learning style. We reviewed them frequently. When she clearly didn't understand something, we went over it again, usually in a different manner.

I knew if she understood the material or not -- and I didn't actually test her until I knew she understood the material. I mean, the goal was her learning the material, yes? If she didn't get something, we kept working on it until she did. Tests, for me, were not to assess her understanding -- I did that as I taught. Tests were just a written record to prove someday (if necessary) that the material had been covered successfully.

But when I taught 25 kids in a high school English classroom, I couldn't assess every student's understanding as I taught. There wasn't time to interact with every student individually and question them about the information. I assigned written exercises which often showed me which kids needed more help, but not always. Ultimately, in a classroom, it's the student's responsibility to take in the information and evaluate themselves to know if they're not getting it -- and then go ask for help. Unfortunately, by test time, it's already too late. The class is done with that unit and moving on.

So, no, I probably didn't teach my eldest how to learn in that situation -- when information is presented to you in a blanket one-size-fits-all fashion and you have to take charge of your learning and make it fit you, and get help when it doesn't. And I should have. I knew all along that she would eventually be going back into a factory-model education system, and I should have planned better for that. I focused on her learning -- but success in school these days is as much about working the system as it is about learning (a fact which I have bemoaned since my first year teaching).

Sigh! Every homeschooling mother has fears of putting her child in a "real" classroom someday and finding out she failed her kid entirely. So, I didn't fail her entirely. But I should have anticipated this problem. My bad.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Where's the Debate?

SIGH! Okay, folks, let's get a few things out of the way about American politics and economics. There are always some far-out wackos on each extreme side, but for the most part, we all want the same things:

Nobody, conservative or liberal, wants poor people to have to do without food, shelter, health care, etc.

Nobody wants anyone, rich or poor, to behave unjustly toward another.

Nobody wants corporations to run the country or abuse their employees or communities -- but everyone wants corporations to be successful, because successful corporations create jobs and feed pensions and 401k's.

We all want everyone in the country to have the opportunity to succeed and prosper when they put forth the effort.

I'll say it again -- we all want the same things, we just disagree about how to get there. Liberals (to my understanding) don't trust the free market to provide necessary things, like healthcare, to the masses in a just way. Conservatives believe that, with certain specific, limited regulations in place, the free market is the only way to ensure that affordable, advanced healthcare is available for the masses. Liberals look at the state of our economy now and say, see, the free market hasn't worked. Conservatives say, our markets haven't been genuinely free for a long time, which is why we're where we are today.

The debate we need to be having in our country is about free markets. But instead, we're calling rich people greedy and painting Hitler moustaches on posters of our president. It's ridiculous. We're trying to win people to our side by appealing to their basest fears and prejudices rather than to their highest values and intellect.

I'm afraid next year's ugly presidential campaign will be the death of me. Because Lord knows, it's going to be u-g-l-y.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Calling

We got back from Hyllningsfest in Lindsborg last night. I mentioned to my eldest on the way to school this morning that by the next Hyllningsfest (in two years), we will be talking about colleges for her. "I have no idea where I want to go to college!" she lamented. "I don't even know what I want to do with my life!" In my prayers driving out of the high school parking lot, I prayed that God would give her a clear calling for her future.

But then I thought, what if she isn't supposed to know her calling yet when she gets out of high school? What if she doesn't know until she meets the man she's supposed to marry -- what if her calling is to be a mother and a "helpmeet"? What if the thing God made her for and wants her to devote her energy and passion to is raising her children and supporting her husband in his calling?

I have known women like that. Women who never really had a job, but raised amazing children and were their husbands' "right-hand men" in the work God called them to do. They had just as much skill and talent and passion about what they were doing as any career woman on the fast-track. They had just as much influence on their world, maybe more. They were very happy. But I wonder how many people over the years had looked at them as sadly unambitious and thought they were wasting their lives.

I want my daughters to go to college. And I've become more convinced, too, that they need to start right after high school and get, at least, the basic courses out of the way while they're still fresh in their minds and while they're still used to a study routine. It would be much harder to come back to that stuff a few years later when they've decided on a career path finally. But I do hope I, and the other important people in their lives, will give them grace and encouragement if they come to realize that their future isn't going to require a college degree, or even a paying job.

As I've said before, that's one of my beefs with the women's rights movement -- the way it has demonized the "traditional" woman. I thought the idea was to open up more options for women, not to exchange one set for another.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Open Hand

Phil Vischer created VeggieTales -- and then lost the company when it went bankrupt. In an interview I just read, he said, "Rather than seeking God and asking Him, 'How do you want me to move forward?' I did some spiritual math and said, 'OK, how could I have more impact? By just making my films or by building the next Disney?'"

I don't think that way. I'm too much of a wimp to actually dream of something so bold as to build the next Disney. I've actually always admired people who dream boldly like that and wondered if something was wrong with me to not have more ambition. But Vischer's story rings true to me. He says,

"We're drinking a cocktail that's a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel . . . Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It's the Oprah god. . . I realized I'm not supposed to be pursuing impact, I'm supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have."

I'm not supposed to be pursuing impact. For someone who writes dramas -- and drama is supposed to be all about impact -- those are tough words. But I know they're true. Randy, on our worship-planning team at Hope in NJ, was the one who always cautioned us when we were toeing the line with merely manipulating the congregation's emotions. That's not worship -- and it's not genuine impact.

So, what do we do? As Vischer says, we pursue God. The impact is up to him. When I'm pursuing God when I write dramas, that means some sketches will move the congregation powerfully . . . some will touch a handful of people and leave the rest dry . . . some may fall flat but change the life of the actor portraying it . . . and some may be just about business God has to do with me. But they will always have impact -- the impact God wants it to have, whether that's what I had in mind or not. What I have in mind simply isn't the point.

"There's something wrong in a culture that preaches nothing is more sacred than your dream. I mean, we walk away from marriages to follow our dreams. We abandon children to follow our dreams. We hurt people in the name of our dreams, which as a Christian is just preposterous. . . the only thing I can't let go of is God. Everything else should be held with an open hand."

Monday, October 3, 2011


Our worship leader, Jeff Ream, closed the service yesterday by singing "The Lord's Prayer" -- the good, old traditional one people sing at weddings and such. It was downright glorious! I was on a high from that for quite a while after the service ended.

And Pastor Jeff (different Jeff) mentioned in his sermon how in seminary, he studied the old church fathers who would get up at 4am every morning and pray for two or three hours before they ever started their day. (The topic of the day was prayer, if you haven't guessed.)

All this served to remind me of Choi, the friend in college who sang "The Lord's Prayer" at my best friend Christine's wedding. Choi was from Korea. He was very quiet and shy when we first met him. Another friend at school told us that Choi was up every morning at 6am; he went outside into a kind of empty area of the campus between the dorms and prayed for an hour every morning. Kevin told us, if you're outside at that time, you can hear his beautiful voice belting out Korean hymns.

I was profoundly impressed by this kind of devotion. Within a couple years, however, Choi became quite Americanized -- in his lifestyle and in his faith. I expect he was a believer still, but I never heard about him getting up at 6am to pray anymore. In fact, he was the epitome of the lazy bum college student, struggling to get out of bed at all. Good guy, but quite American now.

When did "American" become the equivalent of "lazy"? It's been sometime since the last World War . . . when and how did that shift take place from the Greatest Generation to the sorry state of affairs we have today? My fear is that, whatever exactly caused the change, it was introduced into our lives as "progress" -- as something that would make our lives better -- and we bought into it whole-heartedly, not realizing how this was going to eat at our souls.

Progress is not always the forward motion it is purported to be. Sometimes, we would do well to look for the ancient paths and walk in them.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Sigh. We Can Do Better.

Put yourself in a scenario here with me. You're a young pre-teen student who has always struggled with math. It's just not your thing -- it's tough for you. And maybe because of that, you've avoided working very hard at it, which hasn't helped. You WANT to be better at it, you just don't quite know how to get there, and it's hard. But in any case, you are now placed in a homogenous math class with students at various levels of math ability.

Some of these kids are naturals with numbers. It all comes very easy for them; they hardly have to try. Some of them have even competed in math competitions and gotten special coaching and practice in the subject. You're at the bottom of this class. And it's obvious to the whole room.

Everyone in the class is given the same assignment -- one that is beyond your current ability. The work is graded by other students in class. And when it's time to tell the teacher your scores, you're required to announce it . . . out loud . . . in front of everyone. "85." "92." "100%!" And then you give your score: "27." Kids snicker and look at you amused out of the corner of their eyes. And the teacher seems oblivious to the snickers and to your humiliation.

Does this make you love math? Does this motivate you to want to work harder to get better at it? Does this encourage you to develope lifelong healthy "math habits"? Would anyone say this is an appropriate way to conduct a math class?

Well, if it's not appropriate for math class, why is it appropriate for P.E.?

For a country who is so concerned about the healthy lifestyles of our youth, you'd think we could find a better way to conduct our Physical Education classes. P.E. is notorious for being a locus of fear and shame for the non-athletic child. How have we allowed that to continue? I suppose it's because the only people who become P.E. teachers are those who loved P.E. as a kid -- and they apparently can't put themselves in the mindset of a child who hates this. Or maybe it's because we simply don't allocate the money and resources to be able to do P.E. in anything but a mass production factory fashion.

I hated P.E. after elementary school. I assumed things surely had changed; apparently not. We've got to be able to do better than this, folks.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Me and Jeremiah

The young 'un and I are reading about Jeremiah. That poor, poor man. God gave him this depressing message to deliver to the people of Judah -- you're going down. You screwed up. God'll bring you back eventually, but things are going to get really bad here, really soon.

Obviously, nobody wanted to hear this. He was beaten -- put in stocks -- thrown in prison -- thrown down a well, for Pete's sake. The other "prophets" contradicted him and tickled the people's ears. "Oh, no -- the Lord's going to give us victory over the Babylonians! You just wait and see! Jeremiah's full of it." The king burned the scroll of the word Jeremiah received from the Lord, a piece at a time as it was read. Harsh.

But the man kept on keeping on. Not that he didn't complain. He did. But he didn't quit. He kept right on doing exactly what the Lord told him to do, even when it looked like his "mission" was a complete failure. No one was listening to him. No one cared. No one even liked him.

How does a person do that? Keep going in the face of failure, I mean? I remember hearing someone say once that God has not called us to success, God has called us to obedience -- meaning that sometimes we can be right smack dab in the center of God's will for our lives and it will look like nothing is working right. When you're in those situations, how can you be confident that you really are right smack dab in the center of God's will for your life? How was Jeremiah so sure that he was hearing God right and the other prophets were wrong?

I'd kind of like to think that, you know, he was one of those great prophets of old who just had a secret line to God somehow and knew this stuff for certain. But I know better. Folks in the Bible were very real and very normal. In fact, Jeremiah sounds a lot like me sometimes. "If only I had died within the womb . . . cursed be the day that I was born . . . " (OK, I don't get that morbid, folks, but I do get depressed.)

Some days it discourages me to read about the perseverance of a Jeremiah and realize what a wimp I am. And then other days, it encourages me to know that wimps like me and Jeremiah can be given the power to persevere.

Monday, September 26, 2011


A very medical week last week. After Eastin's emergency room episode, she had an EEG on Friday. No results from that yet. And Thursday I drove down to Omaha for yet another follow-up with my sleep doctor.

About a year ago, he suggested that I need to see a psychiatrist in town and try an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety med -- see if messing with my neurotransmitters did anything. I opted instead to spend some time with a holistic health kind of guy trying to get at that problem more naturally, to no avail. So, last spring, my sleep doctor again recommended I see a psychiatrist about anti-depressants.

I did, and the psychiatrist after talking with me a while said, although it's clear I'm "dysthymic" (kind of a low-grade chronic depression -- I've known that for years), I seem to be managing that well on my own and don't need meds. He gave me another type of sleeping pill.

So, following up with the Omaha sleep doctor last week . . . I'm still not sleeping as much as I'd like, and I'm still tired and groggy all day. And he AGAIN wants me to try an anti-depressant -- in fact, this time, he just wrote the prescription himself. Effexor. I'm reading up on it online, and I'm not crazy about the idea.

It occurred to me as I thought through all this over the weekend that I've been taking some kind of sleeping pill (Tylenol PM, Benadryll, Ambien, Trazadone, etc.) on a somewhat regular basis (at least once or twice a week -- now every night) for about 14 years. 14 years!! And it has been during those 14 years that I've learned how to manage my dysthymia better. I'm wondering, if I got off all these sleep meds altogether, if I might be able to figure out how to get some sleep on my own. Maybe the meds are part of the problem.

Thing is, I am quite dependent on the meds now. I don't sleep at all without taking something. Going au naturale is going to be a painful process, for myself and probably for everyone around me whose head I will bite off until my body finally readjusts itself -- if it ever does. I may be totally wrong about this.

Is this worth the battle to try? I don't know. I'm not a fan of the better-living-through-chemistry movement. But I still gotta live . . .

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Emergency Room

I pulled the car over yesterday because my eleven-year-old daughter suddenly sounded like she was drunk. I made her look at me and told her to speak as clearly as she could. "Ahm trah-ing to," she slowly spit out. It looked like the right side of her mouth wasn't moving right. I asked her if it felt weird and she said kind of. "Izz juss I cann . . mebbe I need tuh see a dotter . . " Yes, I think so. My mother died of a massive stroke -- her mother died of a stroke -- not taking chances with this.

After a quick stop at our family doctor's office, which was right nearby (and during which the numbness left her mouth . . and moved to her right hand . . and then her right leg . . . and then back to her mouth . . . ), we drove to the emergency room. By that point, all the numbness was gone, but her head ached and she was very sleepy. And she was struggling to speak right. Fighting to find the words she wanted. Substituting words that sounded similar. When the doctor said to her, "Repeat after me: 'No ifs, ands, or buts'", she said, "No ifs . . and . . is but." He looked at me and asked, "Is this a normal vocal pattern for her?" I shook my head intently; no, it most certainly is not.

They did an MRI and several other small tests. We're supposed to call to schedule an EEG this morning. After we'd been there for three or four hours, and Dad and sister had shown up, she was quite back to normal which was a tremendous relief. The doctor's best guess was that it was a migraine or some kind of seizure. Thus, the EEG. We'll see what that shows.

A rather scary evening. I appreciate all your prayers.

Monday, September 19, 2011

So, You Gotta Live It Big Time

Last Saturday night, our family went to the Grandstand concert at the Clay County Fair, about an hour and a half away. It was a cold, cloudy day, and we expected to be rained on any minute. And we got back very late, especially when I had to be at church early the next morning. But we couldn't have missed this concert -- it was Big Time Rush with special guest Hot Chelle Rae, and the girls had been hoppin' excited for this night for weeks, especially Eastin.

For those without teen- or pre-teen-aged children, Big Time Rush is a boys band with a show on Nickelodeon. I feel a bit of affinity for them because one of the members is from Wichita, my hometown. Big Chelle Rae I hadn't heard of until I realized they sing "Tonight, Tonight" -- I love that song.

I had mixed feelings about going to this concert. I don't mind BTR's music, so I figured it would be a decent concert -- and it was. But as I said, it was cold and rain was pending the whole time. And I dreaded sitting in the middle of a bunch of screaming girls all evening long. As it turned out, our seats were near the top of the bleachers, so although the cold wind was worse up there, the screaming was mostly in front of us. Our ears got a break anyway.

At one point in the concert, they pulled a young girl up on the stage to sing to. I was afraid the poor thing was going to pee her pants she was so nervous and excited. They asked her if she'd ridden any rides at the fair that day . . . and she couldn't remember. She sat giggling, hyperventilating, on the verge of tears through the whole song. She squealed when each of them took a turn hugging her while they sang -- until her apparent favorite, Kendall (the Wichita boy), put his arm around her shoulders and she closed her eyes and just shrieked. Too funny. These boys have to just love this concert tour business.

I have been relieved that my girls haven't let themselves get all crazy obsessed over any celebrities since they've hit the pre-teen stage. No Bieber fever in our house, thank God. I don't think I ever got like that about anyone from my day (who would it have been? All I can think of is Shaun Cassidy . . . Andy Gibb . . . oh, yeah, Rick Springfield . . . but they never really did anything for me).

Nevertheless, the youngest had the time of her life Saturday night. "Thank you! Thank you! I love you guys SO MUCH!!!!" she told us over and over. That made it all worth it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Faith and Compassion

An FB friend posted a link to Pat Robertson answering a question about a man whose wife has advanced Alzheimer's disease. The man was angry at God and had started seeing another woman -- and Robertson suggested that, once he's provided for her continued care, it would be appropriate for him to divorce his wife and "start all over". It was a lousy answer to the question, and he was legitimately crucified for it by people from all over the spectrum.

But having watched my mother stand faithfully and lovingly by my father through a cruel 21-year battle with Alzheimer's, I felt defensive at the many implications that Robertson was a hypocritical scumbag for daring to try to give the man an out. Seriously -- have you walked in those shoes?

Sometimes, God allows difficult and painful circumstances in our lives. In fact, "difficult and painful" is hardly adequate to describe the situations some are in. And he calls us, in those times, to be faithful and obedient. To stand firm and not waver. To follow his lead, even into the terrible darkness, trusting that He has us there for a reason and He will never leave us and He will work all things together for good. I believe those like my mother who do stand firm, despite how hopeless and unbearable the situation around them becomes, find a tremendous reward at the end of the battle that makes it all worthwhile.

BUT. It takes a profound faith to believe that God can redeem the unbearable, and some people simply don't have that kind of faith yet. Maybe they're new believers, or immature believers, or wounded believers, or weak believers . . . they may be very genuine believers, and yet when facing the dark path God is leading them down, they simply don't trust enough to keep walking.

It does no good to castigate them for their lack of faith; they're already castigating themselves. We can encourage them, "exhort" them (such a churchy word) to stand firm and trust God, but in the end, they have to have the will to do it, and many won't. In fact, I bet most won't. Most of us walk away from the fight long before such sacrifice is required of us.

So, how do we respond to these?

I think we need to respond in a way that allows them to hear what Jesus would say to them, which I believe is this: I understand. It's okay. What I ask is hard. Impossible, actually. That's why I ask it -- so you can see me work and know it's me. But I give you free will and a choice, and even when you don't choose my will, you're still my child. I still love you. I'll still walk close beside you down the path you're choosing, because things are going to be difficult that way, too. And when I've carried you through those trials, you'll know me better . . . and you'll trust me more. And that was the goal in the first place.

Yes, I believe one should stand beside their invalid spouse to the end. But I also believe God is full of compassion, not condemnation, for his children . . . and we need to be, too. Because it is compassion that gives them strength to keep walking.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Extra-Sensory Perception

Just got back from taking the eldest to school and the neighbors' two dogs are in our front yard. First time that's happened in three years. I assume they'll corral them back pretty soon. They were having a regular sniff-fest on our lawn, feasting on the various scents our own mutt emits in the area.

I always wonder what information they get out of those smells that we can't decipher. I heard somewhere that they can identify who's been passing by, how long since they've been there, whether they be friend or foe . . . and probably, like, what they ate for dinner last night. I bet if these dogs could talk, they could tell by smelling our mutt's pee out there what's wrong in his digestic tract that has kept him from eating much these last few days and given him diarrhea. The vet and I would like to know.

How do their noses get this information? Do they have more receptors? Different kinds of receptors? Do their brains have more neurons firing in the olfactory mode? Are they born with more innate information about scents stored there for use later?

And dogs hear better, too -- hear sounds that we can't. That always freaks me out a bit to think that there are sounds out there in the stratosphere that no human can hear. Are there tastes in food that our taste buds are too limited to taste, that if we were aware of them, would stop us from eating things that are bad for us? Are there things to see out there that our visual systems don't physically register? Or maybe that they register but our brains can't make sense of, so it's as if we don't see them?

Might there be things in our environment that we could feel if the nerve endings in our skin were more sensitive or developed? Or that we would "feel" through a completely different organ altogether? Are there other senses that we simply aren't aware of? I read once that we only really use about 20% of our brain capacity -- who's to say that with the other 80% functioning, we might not discover some other ways of "knowing", ways of experiencing the world that have been closed to us?

Maybe we'd hear the voice of God, the way the Old Testament prophets did. Not through our ear canals, but through another "sense". Maybe we'd see the hand of God. Not by way of the optic nerve, but we'd just know it was there, like we know the color purple -- like we "feel" the air pressure drop, or "feel" a storm coming.

Kind of makes it easier to believe the miracles in the Bible without questioning. If my dog can smell how old the neighbor's cat is through its pee, why couldn't a God-man know a way to walk on water?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Brick and Stone

Just got back from another one of my wimpy jogs (but I jogged! Yay, me!). I sat on the front steps for a little while when I was done to cool down cuz it's so nice out this morning. I was looking around my neighborhood and thanking God for the blessing of living in a place where I see beauty when I look outside. Planned and manicured beauty, yes, but that's still beauty -- art -- an act of creation in the image of God.

I was looking at our and the neighbors' mailboxes. Theirs is red brick. Ours is whitish and grayish stones. And I was wondering why they made our mailboxes look so different when they sit so relatively close together on our relatively isolated end of the cul de sac.

Then I looked at the neighbors' house and realized it's made of red brick. And I turned around to glance at ours and saw . . . wait for it . . . whitish and grayish stone. (At least at the bottom -- I don't know what to call the material the main part of the house is made of, nor its color -- taupe, maybe?).

This is one of those things about me that makes my husband shake his head in disbelief. We've lived here almost three years now, but if you'd asked me what material the house was made of, I'd be hard pressed to picture it in my head to even describe to you. And I'd have no hope of describing the Lapkes' place to you. Red brick! Who knew.

I think it odd now, too, that looking from the perspective of my front steps, I was thinking of the mailboxes as a unit, as connected. But from the perspective of the street, clearly each mailbox is connected with its house. Duh.

I'm not sure there's a point to be made here. Something about perspective? Attention to detail? Unity in diversity? I don't know -- I just jogged and I'm tired. Find your own insight today. :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What I Remember About 9/11

- The weather was beautiful. And we were so grateful, because we could send the kids outside to play and not worry about them over-hearing what was going on.

- The skies were quiet. The streets were quiet (which is nearly miraculous in New Jersey). It was like the whole world had gasped in horror and hadn't let their breath out yet.

- Flags suddenly popped up everywhere. On lawns and cars, in particular.

- Churches were all open in the evenings for special prayer services -- and everyone went.

- At my daughter's elementary school, many kids had parents who worked in downtown Manhattan. Apparently, the school office got calls all day from parents saying, "Please tell my child that I'm alright." And the school told them, "We can't. We can't tell your child that his father is alright if we can't tell the child next to him that his father is alright. The kids know nothing."

- A friend of mine had one grand-daughter at college near the Twin Towers and another at college near the Pentagon. The family lost contact with both of them for several hours after the attack. Later, she printed up the series of panicked emails floating around among family members trying to hear some word from them, concluding with the news of their safety. She was a Creative Memories consultant like me. She put the printout in a scrapbook, of course.

- A friend in Wichita called that morning to tell me that our friend Scott had died a couple nights before. His funeral was a couple days later, and his brother had to drive across the country to get there because all the airplanes were grounded.

- At another elementary school in the area, the principal reportedly defied the ultra-secular culture in New Jersey and, after the morning announcements, invited the student body to pray with him for the country.

- The Sunday edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer had a several-page special section full of nothing but reader-submitted photos of the Twin Towers. I heard somewhere that 80% of New Jerseyans knew somebody who had been in the Towers during the attack; 50% knew somebody who died there.

- I looked at my daughters at one point in the days that followed and ached for them, because I thought, the country they will grow up in will be so different than the one I did. At that moment, it seemed like nothing could ever really be the same again.

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Life, These Days

WRITING -- We had auditions for the 2nd-5th grade homeschool play last Tuesday, so now I have to finish the script before next Tuesday. Lots of random sheep in this play, so now that I know the kids I have to work with, I have to tailor personalities to each character that the kids can portray successfully. The girly sheep . . . the whiny sheep . . . the sassy sheep . . . P-Dawg, the sheep with bling . . . it's fun, but intense. Got a lot to finish up this weekend.

HOMESCHOOLING -- Just starting to get into a real routine here with the youngest. She's in class at the middle school for one period a day -- P.E. half the week and orchestra the other half. That's fifth hour, which cuts our day in two. Makes it tricky to figure out how to work everything else in around it effectively. But the good news is, she's out in time to do homeschool choir and homeschool drama in the spring.

THE DOG -- Oh, this poor mutt! All summer long, he's been up and down, eating and starving. Two days ago, he just stopped eating again -- the same food he's been devouring for the past couple weeks. I don't know. You gotta eat to live, and we can't force him to eat. Between doctoring up food for him and taking him out frequently to avoid messes in the house, our home life seems to revolve around the dog anymore. It will almost be a relief when his time comes . . . but it will be sad, too.

CHURCH DRAMA -- . . . feels like it's hiccupping along lately. I don't like all the skits I've been writing, and several of them haven't been used anyway, and actors are having to back out on me . . . just kind of frustrating. Feeling a little bit of burn-out, I think. I need a Kim Jacob at Sunnybrook.

AMBIEN CR -- Which puts me to sleep for 5 or 6 hours. Then I wake up, think of something I have coming up during the next day, and have a moment of anxiety that takes a while to calm down from. Then I doze restlessly for another couple hours with some very bizarre dreams. And I feel like I'm half-sleepwalking for the rest of the day. I'm trying to decide if this is acceptable or not.

THAT 70s SHOW -- The eldest is into this show now. It's very funny. It's also rather inappropriate. What to do, what to do.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"He Ain't Through With Me Yet"

Last week, the eldest was scanning Netflix looking for a comedian to watch who was clean and on instant queue. She happened upon a Steve Harvey show described as being performed to a sold-out crowd of "the Christian faithful". Well, hmmm.

I had to google Steve Harvey, because I knew the name but couldn't place him. He's a comedian; he had a sitcom for a while on WB and he looks remarkably like Richard Pryor. He got remarried a few years ago to a lady who he says turned his life around, and he decided he needed to clean up his stage act. So, Bishop T.D. Jakes invited him to get a new start by doing a show one night of "Megafest", some monster Christian event the Bishop runs every year.

Harvey started out the show, after receiving his truly wild applause from the huge audience, by asking them all to pray with him: "Lord God, PLEEEAAASE help Steve not cuss during this show tonight . . . " He explained that he'd been performing for twenty years and hadn't once gotten through a night without cussing, so he was going to need their grace and their prayers. And if he messed up, he asked them to remember the name of the DVD this would be put out as -- "Don't Trip: God Ain't Through With Me Yet."

He cut himself off in mid-sentence more than a few times. He played with some theology I thought was questionable. And he danced around some subjects I'm sure aren't often brought up at many mega-Christian conferences. But, he was seriously funny. He'd obviously grown up in the church and had plenty of material from the experience. And he continually gave God the glory for where he is today and for the work he's still doing to straighten him out.

I loved watching this. I love stories of how we dig ourselves into pits and God pulls us out anyway. I loved watching an audience of Christians -- who are often SO judgmental and sanctimonious -- embrace and carry him through this big night, even when he stumbled very close to the line.

He ended the show with a glorious demonstration of how he (who has introduced many a celebrity on award shows, Showtime at the Apollo, etc.) would introduce Jesus Christ to an audience, had he the blessed opportunity to do so. As I said, it was glorious. He got a rousing, standing ovation, and he was visibly moved to tears when it was all done. I LOVED watching this.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Who Do You Believe

At least a couple times this week, I've passed a vehicle on the Sioux City roads with a bumper sticker that says "I Don't Believe the Liberal Media". I'm not sure what to do with that one.

What exactly don't they believe? Do they think the liberal media makes things up -- flat out lies? Well, yeah, I know some of them think that. I'm not sure I do.

I try to temper my thoughts by considering what others think about the conservative media, as in Fox News. (Isn't it interesting, by the way, that "conservative media" and "Fox News" are pretty much synonomous? Explains why FNC is hated so much. The conservative hate has more area to be spread around in -- the liberal hate is very focused.) I fully acknowledge that Fox leans conservative and that, therefore, I don't "believe" everything they say.

But do they flat out lie? Sigh. Unfortunately, there are probably occasions when someone speaking on there makes a statement that is more rooted in their own wishful thinking than in fact. (Curious, though, that the occasions of this behavior that I see myself never make it on the websites that my liberal friends are constantly linking to in their personal missions to take down Fox News. Usually, the clips those organizations show are pulled out of context and clearly misrepresented.) Of course, the liberal news stations are as guilty of this wishful thinking as Fox is. But I don't believe any of those stations are intentionally misrepresenting reality out there in an attempt to influence their viewers -- their views of reality are simply colored by the glasses they see it through.

It seems we have come to an unfortunate time when no media can be truly "believed". You can't just listen to anyone on the news and just take it for granted that what you're hearing is reliable. You always have to consider the source, compare it with other accounts, ask the questions, examine the data yourself, dig for the data they're leaving out. (Even when -- and perhaps especially when -- you like what they're telling you.) I don't think there is such a thing as unbiased journalism anymore. "Fair and balanced" is the best you can hope for -- that they give both sides equal time and equal credibility. And nobody really does that. We have to do it for ourselves, with our own little channel clickers and our own little laptops. We have to be our own journalists.

It's a shame. But it just makes the effective eduation of our children all the more important. We gotta teach our kids to think for themselves, folks.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Film-Maker in the Making

School has started -- the public and the home varieties. The youngest and I have been focusing on science for a week or so. Matter . . . solids, liquids, gases . . . atoms and molecules . . . all that fun stuff. Once again, about half of the "experiments" I tried to do with her didn't work. I don't know what's wrong with me. I keep telling you, I'm a reasonably intelligent woman....

Fortunately, I am intelligent enough to work with my strengths -- and her strengths. One of her assignments was to write a short sketch illustrating one of the principles we were talking about. I gave her a little guidance coming up with a concept, but then she ran with it. It's about a bunch of teenaged water molecules at a dance. One mean girl tries to separate a couple dancing on the dance floor (they're holding hands, but moving fluidly, like a liquid) by turning up the heat in the room (which makes them spread out like in a gas) and then blasting them with cold air (so they bunch up in the center of the floor, like a solid, with her enemy now "attached" to the nerd instead of the cute guy). Pretty cute. And sprinkled with her characteristic wit.

She invited five of her friends over today (3 public-schooled, 2 homeschooled) to film her work. Wow. That was exhausting. I told my daughter that we needed to work harder to keep her script short next time -- six pages took a while. Well, OK, no, it only took a couple hours which isn't really that bad. It just felt like a long time. I mean, this is a really good group of kids, but they are kids. They all enjoy each other, which just means they are that much louder and more energetic when they're together. I was glad they had a good time, but by the time we were done filming and driving everyone home, I was plumb tuckered out.

They all asked for copies of the DVD. And they asked if they could do it again sometime. So, I guess we will. I had already figured we'd be doing more of this kind of thing this year, seeing how this seems to be my daughter's learning style (as noted in an earlier post). I'll just have to get good and rested up the night before. Because, as I also noted before, performing is not MY learning style....

Friday, August 26, 2011


This had been a weird year, you know? You remember those few days in the spring when tornadoes seemed to be flying across the whole country -- including the one that hit Joplin? Several days before Joplin, a tornado swept through Mapleton, Iowa, not too far from Sioux City here. Destroyed maybe a third of the town. We have good friends in Mapleton, who fortunately had no damage or injuries, but it still seemed to hit close to home.

Then the Missouri River flooding, which was simply epic around here. I just heard yesterday that, now that the water is receding some, they've found that the section of I-29 down by Omaha that was underwater is destroyed, the ground underneath it completely mush. It's going to take a year or two for the ground to recover and the highway to be rebuilt. Un-be-lievable. If you don't live around here, you can't quite understand the impact of that.

Then there was the drought in the South and the fires in Arizona. The young lady who was our flowergirl lives in Arizona with her husband. They were vacationing in Maine and Kansas during that and I followed her conversations on Facebook about local friends clearing out their house for them and how close the flames were coming to her neighborhood. Wow. A thousand miles away, but again -- seemed to hit close to home.

Then there was the earthquake this week. How come nothing exciting like an earthquake happened in New Jersey while we lived there? (Oh, wait -- there was 9-11. Yeah..) And now it seems a hurricane is bearing down on our old Jersey stomping grounds this weekend. Good heavens.

If I didn't know better, I'd wonder if old Harold Camping was on to something. October 21st, you say now, Harry? Hmmm. That's after Hyllningsfest, before Halloween. That'll work.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How Our Family Learns

Last week, I did a learning styles assessment with Eastin from this awesome book. It is SO fascinating to study learning styles in my family! This particular very detailed assessment starts with an evaluation of your "learning disposition". They list five: Performing, Producing, Inventing, Relating/Inspiring, and Thinking/Creating.

So, everyone in our family scores high on Thinking/Creating -- it was hubby's and my highest scores, the girls' second highest. This is about ideas . . . imagination . . . philosophizing . . . daydreaming. I was way high here -- I've told you all that I live in my own brain too much.

My second highest? "Producing" -- which is about finding or creating order, sequence, pattern, organizing, schedules. I tend to outline information, even if it's just in my head. The book says a lot of people score false highs in this category because these are skills that are highly valued in our school system and society, so people learn to do these things whether they come naturally to them or not. My score wasn't a false high. And my eldest's low score here was genuine, too. :)

Hubby's second highest score: Inventing. This is about questioning, discovering, experimenting. This explains a lot. He used to get so frustrated with me when I'd ask him how to do something. "If you just spent a few minutes messing around with it, you'd figure it out on your own -- and then you'd remember it better because you figured it out on your own!" No, I probably wouldn't. You might, but that's how you learn. Experimenting frustrates me -- one reason I hate teaching science.

Even more interesting was the highest score for both of my daughters: Performing. Learning by moving, acting, doing. This isn't that surprising for them; what's surprising is my score in this category. -4. Yes, that's a negative score for the drama mama. See, I do love to perform, but I don't like to learn that way. When I'm studying or learning, I just want to sit and think. I don't want to have to get up and do anything -- that's a distraction. So, I had to really force myself to come up with active projects to do with the girls in homeschool.

The Relating/Inspiring category is about learning through interacting with others -- small group work and such. Only the youngest scored medium-high in this one. The rest of us hate groupwork. It has occurred to me, because of this characteristic of the young 'un, that she may need more public school time than the big 'un. We'll see . . .

I love this book! I recommend it to every homeschooler I know when they start out because it makes such a difference in your homeschool when you know how your kid learns. I wish schools could figure out how to make better use of this kind of information.