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.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

I had a birthday over the weekend. I turned 43. None of this "29 again" nonsense. I was just telling hubby this weekend that I don't understand why people play that game. I'm 43. I'm very 43. And that doesn't bother me at all.

I don't want to be 29 again. I know more now. I have more patience and wisdom now. I like myself better now. I like and appreciate other people more now, I think. I went through a lot to be the 43-year-old I am now, and I don't want to go through it all again.

I hope I feel that way when I'm 60-something. And 80-something. I want to enjoy and appreciate every stage of life, not waste my time wishing for something that is gone, or hoping for something yet to come.

Pastor Jeff started a series Sunday called "Live Like You're Dying". (And they sang the Kris Allen song -- I love that song!) He talked this week about living in the moment -- being fully present wherever you are. That's such a good principle to live by. I want to do that more. We found an old home video from when the girls were 4 and 8. They were so adorable! I remember being stressed out by a lot of things at that time, but I also remember trying very hard to enjoy them as they were, because I knew they were changing fast.

I want to remember that now. Someday, before I know it, they'll both be grown and out of the house, and I'll be looking back on these "difficult" teen years and remembering what wonderful girls they were. (At least, I hope I will.) And by then, I'll have new things to experience and enjoy--maybe even grandkids on the way....

Ah! Not to sound cheesy, but what a wonderful gift life is!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Let Me Elaborate ....

Immediately after posting my last piece here, I noticed a bit of a flaw in my logic. I thought about changing it right away, but I decided I'd wait and see if any of my brilliant friends pointed it out. They didn't. So, I'm going to correct myself now . . . because I'm principled and anal that way.

So, I wrote about students with high GPAs and students with low GPAs, and the fact that some of them had earned those GPAs and some hadn't. Concerning the low GPA folks, I said, "Some kids earn a low GPA, and some have unfairly been given a hard row to hoe." The thing is, I seemed to be implying that when unfortunate circumstances in a person's life (bad teaching, bad home environment) result in that person getting a low GPA that they haven't "earned", they might be somehow deserving of someone else's extra GPA points (were this GPA re-distribution scheme ever to come to fruition -- which, of course, it won't).

But I think I kind of mis-spoke there. As I said, a GPA is a record of a student's accomplishments in class; it should be a reflection of a student's academic ability and effort. If a kid has been in a cruddy school all his life where the teachers didn't teach him what he needed to learn . . . or if a disruptive family life has kept him from being able to focus on school and learn what he needed to learn . . . that means he's getting the low grades he's getting because he doesn't have the academic ability needed to get higher grades. It may not be his fault that he hasn't been able to acquire that ability, but the GPA is still accurately reflecting his lack of ability. So, it is the GPA he earned and deserves.

The only way someone could get a low GPA that they haven't earned is if they have done the work they were supposed to do in a class and the teacher unfairly gave them a grade lower than their work deserved. I suppose that happens some, but I don't expect it happens often (although I'm sure many students think it does!). So, to take away points from the high GPA folks (even if only from those whose GPAs are inflated for some reason) to give to the low GPA folks isn't fair to the low GPA folks either. It means that their record will indicate a level of academic ability that they don't actually have -- which basically makes it false advertising for their future employers, something that will likely come back to haunt them.

And that was my problem with the whole GPA/wealth redistribution analogy anyway. A GPA is (or is supposed to be) a reflection of a person's ability and effort. Wealth is NOT necessarily. There are many intelligent and hard-working people out there who are not able to make enough money to get by.

The question is . . . WHY are they not able to make enough money to get by? What exactly is it that is standing in the way? I really don't believe that somebody else's high salary is what's holding them back -- anymore than one student's high grades are dragging another student's grades down. Wealth is not a pie to be divided up, and if one person gets more than their share, others lose out. Wealth can be created. Just like we strive to give every student the opportunity to learn well (rather than just handing out extra GPA points), we need to figure out how to give everyone an environment in which they can create wealth. THAT evens the playing field in a fair way. Wealth re-distribution doesn't.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I saw an interesting story on Fox News this morning. (Yes, haters, I watch Fox News. Surely that's a surprise to no one.) Didn't catch every detail, but a grad student somewhere did some research with his fellow students. He went around with a camera, interviewing random students about the idea of wealth re-distribution -- that the wealthy should give up some of their money to those who don't have much. Everyone was supportive of that policy.

Then he asked them about a new idea: GPA re-distribution. Those with 4.0 GPAs should give some of their GPA points to those in the 2.0 range. Even things out. Make it more fair. Oh no, the students said, that wouldn't be fair at all.

It was a fascinating analogy, but one that I wasn't completely comfortable with, and I'm trying to figure out exactly why.

The students' arguments were that they had earned their GPAs -- it wasn't fair to give those points to somebody who hadn't earned them. Exactly. That was the researcher's point. But it occurs to me that this is the argument many liberals will make about the wealth re-distribution idea: that many of those rich people did not earn their money. They just inherited it. Or they were lucky in their business dealings. Or they were compensated more than they were worth by their companies (for some reason I can't understand yet . . .). Or they acquired that money through unjust or immoral business practices.

OK, I'll concede that there are rich people in this country who didn't earn their money (or at least earn it ethically). But I still object strongly to the broad generalizations being made by the left about the wealthy based on that minority segment of the group.

Nevertheless, my problem with the GPA analogy is based on something else, I think. The amount of money a person has in the bank doesn't necessarily tell us much about the character or abilities of the person. A student's GPA, on the other hand, is a record of their accomplishments in their school career. It is a quick way to communicate to a graduate school or future employer something about certain qualities of the student it belongs to. Ideally, when we see a job applicant had a 4.0 GPA, we can assume that they are a hard worker, that they have a good base of academic knowledge and skills, etc.

Ideally. Truth is, I don't think GPAs are really that reliable an indicator. There are some kids with 4.0 GPAs who are smart and hard-working. There are other kids who worked their little patootie off for that 4.0, but in reality aren't that bright. There are others who are brilliant and can get the 4.0 without much effort at all. There are yet others who have their 4.0 because they know how to work the system -- which teachers to get, how to butter those teachers up, how to get into the right "study groups" where much of their work gets done for them, how to get a hold of the answer key for the final exam . . . we all know that goes on. There are even 4.0 kids out there who are being coddled through their educational careers because of the people they're connected to. ("Oh, you're the board president's kid?")

And what about the 2.0 crowd? Some of them are there because they really don't have the intellect to make it in academic work, to be frank. Some are there because they don't try or care. But some are there by no fault of their own: they were poorly taught before this point and now have catching up to do, or their home situations were chaotic and destructive enough to keep them from being able to put the time and energy into their schoolwork that was needed.

So, some kids earn a high GPA, and some kids get it through luck, connections, inborn advantages, or unethical behavior. Some kids earn a low GPA, and some have unfairly been given a hard row to hoe. And it is very hard to distinguish between all the groups. Which is why a blanket policy taking points away from ALL 4.0 students to give to the academically needy is completely unfair.

Which is probably the point one should take away from this grad student's research.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Don't Be So Sure

Sometimes, I'm a little distressed at how not scientifically-minded I am. Just as a matter of pride. I'm a relatively bright and certainly well-educated woman. Arrogant as it may sound, I like to think that I am capable of comprehending most complex subjects out there, given enough time and sufficient explanation.

But then I watch science specials on cable TV. Well, my husband is the one that chooses to watch them; in fact, he's watching one now (interestingly enough, it's on the History International channel -- the History Channels are as inappropriately named as MTV). Most often, I just happen to be in the room while they're on, but I usually give them a good hearing anyway. And I usually come away feeling like an idiot. All the talk about particles and dark matter and relativity and wormholes and my head is just spinning.

And I always wonder how much of this they know and how much of this they conjecture. I wonder this about a lot of science.

Steve Martin did an old sketch on Saturday Night Live called "Theodoric of York: Medieval Barber". Theodoric cut hair and practiced medicine, primarily in the form of a lot of bloodletting.

Theodoric: How's my little patient doing?
Joan: Not so well, I fear. We followed all your instructions -- I mixed powder of staghorn, gum of arabic with sheep's urine, and applied it in a poultice to her face.
Theodoric: And did you bury her up to her neck in the marsh and leave her overnight?
Joan: Oh, yes. But she still feels as listless as ever, if not more.
Theodoric: Well, let's give her another bloodletting . . .

They also used to drill holes in people's heads. And diagnose mental conditions by feeling the bumps on people's skulls. This was science.

Theodoric: You know, medicine is not an exact science, but we are learning all the time. Why, just fifty years ago, they thought a disease like your daughter's was caused by demonic possession or witchcraft. But nowadays, we know that Isabelle is suffering from an imbalance of body humors, perhaps caused by a toad or a small dwarf living in her stomach.

It seems to me that Science ceases to be Science when it becomes too sure of itself. When it stops challenging its own assumptions, it becomes . . . well, Religion, in the pejorative sense of the word. I have a feeling that our descendants will find our modern scientific arrogance as amusing as we find Theodoric of York fixing a couple broken legs with leeches on the forehead.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Debate Recap

I don't know if anyone cares about my take on the debate last night, but I want to talk about it anyway. As I said yesterday, I don't have any bloody idea who I would vote for. I was really hoping someone would jump out at me last night. Didn't happen. But here's what did jump out at me regarding each candidate:

Rick Santorum: I was actually more impressed with him than I thought I would be. In particular, he made a few really good points that I thought showed more a moderate and reasonable approach than I expected from him -- like, that states rights should not be allowed to run amok, and that the debt ceiling simply had to be raised a small amount for the short term because there was no way to crunch the numbers and deal with the debt crisis with cuts alone. But he seemed a little whiny about not getting much attention from the media (FNC wasn't giving him a fair shake last night) and whininess is not very presidential. I also think he's too socially conservative to be electable (even when I agree with his stances).

Herman Cain: I like this man; my husband really likes this man. He has a lot of good things to say. Truth is, I think he would make an excellent Secretary of Commerce or something like that. But I haven't seen evidence yet that he has enough knowledge in international politics to be the country's front man on the world stage.

Ron Paul: Kind of a nutty man, but I like a lot of what he has to say. I tend to lean libertarian. But he's extreme libertarian enough that he can't be elected, and if he were and tried to implement what he wants, it would be too much too fast. Plus, his foreign policy views make me very nervous.

Mitt Romney: Oh, Mitt. I couldn't disagree with much of anything he said. He's probably a safe bet. Thing is, he's just so boring. And something about him . . . he's, like, too pretty-boy perfect . . . in a John Edwards kind of way, that makes you wonder if he's hiding something. Probably not, but I just can't get excited about him, and Republicans need someone to rally for instead of just someone to rally against.

Michelle Bachmann: She annoyed me. Her bickering with Pawlenty annoyed me. Her very first remarks, sounding like a scripted political rally speech, immediately after the moderator's request to set aside the talking points for the night . . they annoyed me. She may be a fine human being in a lot of respects, but she reminds me of a yappy fight dog -- she'll scare the poop out of you and corral you out of the yard she doesn't want you in, but darned if you have any intention of following her anywhere.

Tim Pawlenty: After the debate was over, my over-all impression of the man was that he was kind of mean. Nothing of substance that he said stood out to me, and that's not a good sign.

Jon Huntsman: This was my first introduction to the man. He was alright. I respected him for not apologizing for his less popular stands, like supporting civil unions. But he didn't do or say anything to make me pay much more attention to him.

Newt Gingerich: Oh, Newt. He was clearly the most comfortable person up there -- perhaps the most knowledgable and intelligent -- and also the most angry. But at least he wasn't angry at the others on stage -- he was angry about the media, and the debt "supercommittee" nonsense, the stuff that the rest of the country is mad about, too. I could possibly support him if it weren't for all his marital affairs. I just can't get past those. Yes, I believe in redemption and if he says he's found Christ and turned his life around, I take him at his word. But the man cheated on two different wives (and those are just the affairs that came out in public -- do we really believe that was the extent of his philandering?) Truth is, two such blatant and huge discretions are a sign, to me, of an area of real weakness in his spirit. He can be repentant and forgiven and fully intending to walk the straight and narrow, but I think it will always be a struggle and a temptation to him, and the pressure of the office is very likely to send him into "remission", which puts him in a vulnerable position as the leader of the free world. Same reason I would hesitate to elect a former alcoholic who had relapsed a couple times. The affairs aren't a deal-breaker for me, but they make me reluctant.

In the end, no one won me over. Glad we have several more months to make this decision.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Where There Is No Vision....

The Iowa Straw Poll is on Saturday, and I'm an Iowan now. So I'm debating if I want to take the six-hour round trip to Ames to participate in that. (And discussing it with hubby -- yes, he has a say.) It just seems to me like, we're part of a very small percentage of people in the country whose voice gets to be heard in this way, who get to have this kind of impact on the national scene. Feels like a privilege and a responsibility.

On the other hand, I don't have a bloody clue who I'd vote for. Not impressed at all with the array of choices. I'm really hoping someone will stand out at the debate tonight -- stand out in a positive way. I hate these elections where I'm having to choose the least bad candidate. I'm not sure I've ever had anyone to vote for that I was really excited about. It's usually a matter of, "Well, he would have to be better than HIM."

You know what would be awesome to hear from a Republican candidate somewhere? A real honest-to-God conservative vision. Not one that is simply everything-not-Obama, but one that makes the case persuasively why you should want smaller, less-intrusive government. Why YOU, the unemployed, should want the government to get out of the way of American business. Why YOU, the underinsured, should want medical tort reform and free-market policies in medicine. It's not enough anymore to point out that liberal ideas have failed -- that's quite clear now. The country needs to hear why conservative ideas are going to work better, because they don't believe it yet. Better the devil we know than the devil we don't know, especially when the devil we don't know just sounds mean and bitter.

I would also love to hear a Republican candidate give credit where credit is due to the left. The hate-fest has to stop if we're going to survive as a nation.

AND I would love to hear a Republican say, "Yes, you're right. The wealthy in our nation do need to give their share. All of you CEOs with your monstrous bonuses, take those bonuses and invest them in local organizations that are providing health-care to those who can't afford it. Invest them in local programs that have proven themselves effective in reducing poverty in your area. Invest them in local education initiatives that are actually improving the education of your communities' children. You can live on less than you live on now. You were blessed to be a blessing. Do it because it's the right thing to do -- not because your government forces you to do it."

That's how America is supposed to work. I don't think it can work any other way.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Five Years Later . . .

Five years ago last week, I was in a production of Godspell at my church in New Jersey. Let me tell you how I know it was a fabulous show: when the lights came up for the curtain call opening night, my husband was the first one on his feet. And he told me later that it was one of the only times he had ever given a performance a standing ovation because he believed it really deserved it. Yeah, it was good.

Yet, when I watch the DVD of our show (which I just did last night, in honor of the five-year anniversary), the flaws are obvious. Some bad dancing, some awkward pacing, some weak harmonies, some poorly delivered lines (including a few by me) . . . heck, we even hit some seriously ugly clunkers on several songs. But it was still a great show. You know why?

Because this cast clicked -- I mean, we connected in a way that I haven't ever really experienced before, which was pretty amazing considering how different we all were. Different in age -- different in background -- different in stage experience and life experience. But there wasn't a diva among the twelve of us, and we genuinely enjoyed each other and looked forward to every minute together. (And interestingly enough, as our director pointed out, we were the only twelve people who auditioned.)

And that director was amazing. Randy took full advantage of our differences and what we each brought to the cast. He let us play, and the show grew organically out of who we were, individually and as a group. The method made me nervous; for the first month or so of rehearsals, I was afraid it was never going to come together. But together it came! Randy taught me so much--I couldn't be doing what I'm doing now without his influence.

There was so much joy in that cast! We SO loved what we were doing that summer and who we were doing it with. I don't know how anyone could have watched the show and not have felt the passion we felt. And that's why it worked, clunkers and all.

I know the phrase "God moment" is a pretty tired one, but it's also quite fitting. Godspell 2006 was a God moment if I've ever known one . . . and I feel so privileged to have been a part of it.

On Running and Pain and Pushing Down Walls

I went running this morning. Well . . OK, I'll be more honest. I jogged for a little bit, and then walked some, and then kind of jogged a little more, and then walked quickly the rest of the way. Mainly, I tried to keep my heart rate up, which I did, so I deem the morning exercise effort a success.

Jim Ellis, Sunnybrook's until-quite-recently middle school pastor, is a serious runner. I mean, he runs miles at a time, he runs barefoot on occasion, he runs because he IS a Runner. It sounds wonderful to me. When I think about getting up early in the morning when it's cool and the sun's just peeking out, and taking off down the road toward Sergeant Bluff, soaking in the fresh air and sunshine, talking to God and writing in my head, working up a healthy sweat . . . really, it sounds downright glorious. Until I actually try it.

A friend in high school joined the cross country team one year for some strange reason she never successfully articulated to the rest of us. For the first three weeks, she hated it. Came back from every practice whining and complaining and cursing about how desperately she hated to run. Then one day, she told us, "You know that 'second wind' thing everyone talks about? It happened!! It's real!! It really works!!! I LOVE running!!!!!"

So, deep down, I think if I just pushed myself, I'd get that second wind and actually really love running in real life as much as I loved the idea of running in my imagination. But the truth is, I just don't want it badly enough.

I'm not sure what I do want badly enough to push past that pain threshold. I'm trying to remember the last time I did push like that -- or even the last time I worked hard enough at something to hit a "pain threshold". I don't think I always recognize such walls clearly in my life endeavors. Sometimes it easy to dismiss them as a case of "God closing a door".

Five years ago, I auditioned for the Godspell production our church was doing. It was my first drama foray in several years, and my first actual full-length production probably since high school. When the singing part of the audition came up, they asked for a volunteer to go first and I did. But the minute I got up on the stage and the accompanist started my music and I saw everyone looking at me, I froze. My gut tied itself into a knot and I couldn't get any air. I haven't experienced much significant stagefright before in my life, but this was enough that I very seriously considered leaving the audition -- I just wasn't ready for this, I thought. But I pushed through and sang as best I could without any breath support . . . and I finished the audition . . . and came back for callbacks the next night . . . and performed in a Godspell production two months later that ended up being something of a turning point in my life.

So, I know the blessings of pushing past the pain threshold. I just need some direction here. Point me to the wall that God's preparing me to knock down.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Why Do I Care?

My daughter was watching some show last night, something off of MTV. (A sidenote: remember when MTV showed music videos? My daughter said the other day, "I'm going to start a cable channel that shows all music videos all the time, and I'm going to call it Reality TV!")

As I was saying, my daughter was watching some show from MTV last night that made me groan. It was six young men, probably in their early twenties, in a library (or a library setting anyway) having to do these weird gags to each other without laughing out loud (because they were in a library). Things like, stuffing a bunch of food in their pants, or allowing a billiard ball to be shot at their crotch, or swallowing a glassful of something disgusting enough to make the boy immediately vomit it back up.

I thought this was one of the stupidest things I'd ever seen. I thought this was a depressing look at the state of entertainment these days. I thought they all looked like a bunch of idiotic twelve-year-old brats. And then I didn't think it -- I said it.

"Geez! They're like a bunch of stupid, immature, twelve-year-olds!" I snapped.

My daughter rolled her eyes. "Why do you care?"

A few minutes later, we were all watching Harry Potter 7.1, and I heard in my memory the voice of an older friend giving her commentary on Harry Potter (which she'd never read or seen). "That's just weird creepy stuff. I don't know why anyone would want to watch that!" -- pronounced with the same turned-up nose and air of contempt with which I had just condemned the library show.

Now, I can justify my attitude all over the place. I did actually watch some of that library show before I judged it. And the difference in quality between the two shows is pretty incontrovertible. But it still bothered me how much I sounded like my elder counterpart. Lord knows, I do NOT want to grow up to be the proverbial contemptuous old bitty who criticizes everything and everyone and whom nobody wants around or takes seriously anymore.

On the other hand, I DO want my children to have more class and taste than that library show appeals to. Ugh.

What to do . . what to do . . a constant struggle in my life. How to communicate some standards in our household without becoming the Church Lady. Because, whether or not I should, I really, really do care.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Red Car and the Credit Card Machine

Last night, while I was bagging my groceries, the lady behind me in line pushed her cart (one of those with the red plastic car attached to the front and a whiny little boy inside) all the way up in front of the credit card swiping machine. I had to lean over the red car to pay for my groceries. I started to feel annoyed, then I realized I'm just flat out tired of being annoyed at people, so I need to talk myself out of this.

I'm quite sure this woman did not intend to make my life difficult by putting her cart there. She wasn't being malicious -- just discourteous. She was absorbed in her self and her son and her own little world there and didn't notice where her "space" was intruding on mine. I've done it before, too. Now, when she saw me leaning precariously over her son's car to sign the credit card machine, she probably should have noticed. Most people would have said, "Oh! I'm sorry I'm in your way!", and moved their cart back. But she didn't.

My choices in the situation? I could have asked her to move it, but no matter how nicely said, I'd have been pointing out her lack of courtesy to everyone there and would have shamed her to a degree, even if she had taken it well. I could have kept my mouth shut but mentally screamed at her (and at the whole of society which has gone downhill enough to allow such behavior to become the norm), probably with the addition of a subtle dirty look her direction. But that would have been completely non-productive -- it wouldn't change her behavior one bit, and it just would have caused me to suffer more by increasing my aggravation.

So, I just leaned over the red car, signed the swiper thing, and moved on. It's a small inconvenience, not worth causing a ruckus, embarrassing her, or raising my own blood pressure over. And I made a mental note to myself to do this more often.

I read something this morning about a man stopping his car, getting out, and punching another driver in the face over some supposed traffic violation. How in the world do you get to that point?? By allowing yourself to habitually think the worst of others and feel abused whenever life isn't a rose garden. A habit of thinking I need to break myself of.