Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Free Indeed?

Consider the alcoholic, or the shopoholic, or the chocoholic . . . the addict of your choice. He/she will say, "I'm not addicted. Oh, no. I just enjoy this behavior. I can stop whenever I want. But I'm not hurting anyone by indulging, so why stop?" Only when challenged -- or required -- at some point to stop does it become clear to them that they are in bondage.

Such is the case for us all, according to Paul in Romans. We are sinners. We indulge in sinful behavior, thinking it enjoyable and harmless. Not until the Law was given -- "Do not covet" -- and we had a reason to not sin did we realize we were in bondage, a slave to sin.

This slavery to sin, and our stated freedom from it, has been haunting my reading and study for a few weeks now. In my reading last night, Charles Spurgeon used a term I've heard in the past but haven't considered much: the "carnal Christian". The one who is regenerated, saved, going to heaven, delivered from the guilt of sin . . . but not yet delivered from the power of sin.

In Romans 7, Paul gives an elaborate description of this state, one which many believers quote readily and seem to take refuge in. "I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do -- this I keep doing." Amen, brother Paul, we say with a sigh, happy to hear that the great apostle understands.

But we neglect the end of this chapter, or at least don't consider its real implications. "Who will deliver me from the body of death?" he asks. "Thanks be to God -- through our Lord Jesus Christ!" And he then proceeds to explain how he is delivered. Delivered, people. This is not where he stays, this bondage where we are content to sit and sigh. The Bible, as I am reading it -- and not just Paul, for you Paul-haters out there -- the Bible seems to clearly state that Christ's death didn't just free us from having to go to hell someday because of our sin, our sinful state . . . it freed us from the power of sin in our lives now, from the bondage of sin in our lives today.

And this haunts me. Because I know a multitude of Christians, but very few, if any, of the non-carnal variety. If this teaching is true, why are we not experiencing it?

The unbeliever would say, because it's all B.S. But I'm a believer. So, I continue to read and study and pray and search . . .

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Voice of Darwin . . . Really?

I ordered this book that I heard about last week because the idea of it fascinated me. It's called I, Charles Darwin, by Nickell John Romjue. The premise is that Darwin returns to earth in 2009, the 150th anniversary of The Origin of Species. He reacts to all the discoveries of science since his death -- the complexity of the cell, the Cambrian explosion, the lack of transitional fossils found -- and bemoans the mindset of modern scientists who refuse to address the fact that this evidence calls his theory into serious question. He reads of the ways his theory has been used socially and politically to the detriment of humanity, and regards the lack of continued evolution of humanity with despair.

As I said, it sounded fascinating! Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

I don't want to pound on Romjue. He frames this as a journal written by Darwin himself, and it's possible that its style is modeled on Darwin's own writings. I have read very little of Darwin in his own words, mainly because what I did read was difficult to read. So, perhaps that accounts for my disappointment. Or it may also be because most of the information presented was familiar to me already.

But, I was hoping for a more exciting read. More emotion from the man. I would like to have actually "seen" his moments of discovery and "felt" the shock and disappointment and outrage he experienced. I guess I wanted a novel.

It also bugged me that some passages read like an essay on Darwinism that someone used a search-and-replace function on to make it first person. "With 'consilience', Darwin's theory became dogma, Origin and Descent annexed as texts of a Church of Darwin," becomes "With 'consilience', I became dogma . . . " Just awkward sounding. It doesn't sound like someone speaking. The voice is wrong. But as I said, maybe this is an accurate representation of Darwin's voice in writing.

There are a few shining moments. "What is my legacy? I am a founder, I am a destroyer," he says. But oh, I wanted to hear more from his heart after that realization.

I found myself wanting to rewrite the thing. I mean, it's a great idea for a book, yes? But it needs to be more accessible and attractive to the masses. More showing than telling. More story than lecture.

Or . . . maybe it needs to be a play? Hmmmm......

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Answer? Maybe?

I was all prepared to write about something else this morning until I read a link an FB friend posted. "The Myth of the Eight Hour Sleep". It describes research which seems to indicate that we are wired to sleep for about four hours, be awake for one or two hours, then sleep for another four. A historian has written a book about how this was a widespread pattern of behavior for much of humanity before the advent of artificial lighting that permitted us to do more in the dark. Historical documents refer regularly to the "first sleep" and "second sleep". And doctors expect this is a factor in people who have sleep maintenance insomnia.

Oh. My. Goodness.

If this is all true, this could explain so much for me. My waking up in the middle of the night and having trouble going back to sleep . . . my light, fragmented sleep for the last few hours of the morning . . . hmmm.

This puts a whole new light on my sleep problem. If this is all true, then let's see . . . a normal pattern for me could be go to bed by 10, wake up about 2, do something for an hour or so, back in bed at 3, and up again at 7.

Dare I try that? The thing is, so many other "sleep experts" put so much emphasis on getting a good long 7-8 hour sleep. They tell you things that contradict this. I hate experts. Really! When you have two "experts" on a topic giving you contradictory information, the term itself becomes completely bogus.

It has occurred to me lately that we allow ourselves to be too dependent on "experts". I decided a couple months ago that to fix this sleep problem, I needed to follow my own instincts and the leading of the Spirit. And so far, I think I'm more on the right track.

This bit of info will require some further pondering, however . . .

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spring Play, Third Edition

Kim and I started our spring drama program yesterday for the middle and high school homeschoolers. We're "auditioning" for the first two or three sessions, because this is a different kind of play. It's kind of a Godspell-style version of the Sermon on the Mount. And we have music, music that will hopefully be accompanied by our own students on stage.

Here's the kicker: we have thirty-seven kids. Thirty-seven!!!! If you've read about this homeschool drama program before here, you know that I try very hard to give every kid in every play a moment in the spotlight -- an intriguing character, a funny line, a memorable bit, something to ensure that they enjoy their part. That will be a serious challenge with thirty-seven kids.

And the music . . . really, I think I may have finally truly bitten off more than I can chew. I don't know these instruments. I can hear in my head what I'd like it to sound like, but I don't know if I can get a bunch of mostly inexperienced young musicians to re-create what's in my brain.

Add to this the fact that the content of this play is inherently pretty theological, and I expect to have at least one parent complain about something in the script. "This isn't really how we interpret this passage . . . can you change it for my kid? . . . our denomination reads this in this way . . . can you rewrite the ending? . . . this section sounds legalistic . . . this seems a bit irreverent . . . " Sigh.

On the other hand, this is SUCH a great group of kids! It was exciting and energizing to be back with them yesterday. And we had a bunch of new ones who were fantastic! That makes it all so exciting. And knowing this may be my last play with this group adds some poignancy to the whole process.

Overall, this new drama venture is feeling a bit overwhelming right now. But kind of overwhelming in a good way. Like, we're stepping out into territory where God has to take over. And it's scary and exciting to anticipate what God is going to do.

Monday, February 20, 2012


So, when we started homeschooling, I was introduced -- through homeschool literature and personal acquaintance -- to a segment of society which subscribed to a whole new interesting and radical way of life. Large families -- letting God decide the number of your offspring. Natural living in diet and healthcare. Courtship rather than dating. Family-integrated church. Ultra-traditional concepts of Biblical manhood and womanhood. Extreme modesty. Economic independence, as well as independence from government reliance. It's often referred to as a "Quiverfull" lifestyle, based on Psalm 127.

My first real exposure to this was a tape I purchased of a talk entitled "What's a Girl To Do?" discussing how to raise your daughter to be a truly Biblical woman. When I finished the tape, I thought, "Wow. If this is right, I have been really wrong for a long time." And there was enough rightness in what I heard to cause me to really closely examine what it had to say -- compare it with scripture and struggle mightily with what is truth and what is not.

I'm not going to say I've figured it all out . . . what is truth and what is not, I mean. But I've come to more of a sense of peace with myself about it all. And I hesitate a bit to discuss it here, because I have friends from extremes of both sides on these topics, so I'm likely to offend a lot of people. But it's a subject that I think could use some perspective.

Large families? If that's how God leads a person, more power to them. The problem comes, I think when people are made to feel that they are somehow less spiritual or righteous because they don't choose this path, when people start having more babies because some human told them they're supposed to. I had a friend once who, every time she got pregnant again, seemed to be working hard to be happy about it. On the other hand, one of my best friends is raising nine kids very joyfully -- but she would never imply that someone else should do this without a calling from God.

Courtship rather than dating? I actually see a lot of advantages to this when done well. When done in a too-parent-controlled fashion, it has some real problems. Mainly, I think the kid has to buy into this as much as the parent for it to work.

Family-integrated church? I've never seen this one in person -- I would love to see how it's done. Again, if it works for your family, great.

Biblical manhood and womanhood? This is one I'm all on board with. However, there are folks that take a scriptural truth and run to an extreme with it. This one takes discernment.

Natural diet and healthcare? Extreme modesty? Economic independence? By all means -- if you can manage in this messed-up society to live in this way, please do. Again, the problem comes when you start making others feel guilty . . . like they are not good Christians . . . becoming their personal Jiminy Cricket-style Holy Spirit trying to convict them of their sin if they don't follow the same lifestyle you do.

If it is a godly approach to life, if it is a better way of life, if it is a way of life that someone else should be adopting . . . well, that should become clear to that someone else just by observing it in you. Let the Holy Spirit do the convicting. You just live and love and look to your own obedience.

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Modus Operandi

My youngest and I are diagramming sentences this week. I hit upon something to make it more interesting to her: I had her come up with sentences for me to diagram. And, of course, she gave me the most complicated, convoluted sentences she could muster up.

I loved it. I LOVE diagramming sentences! I love taking an apparent mess of words and locating the structure, plotting it all out clearly, creating order. I've said this before here: I love creating order out of chaos. There is something satisfying to me about taking piles of dirty clothes, washing them, and then creating neat organized piles of clean clothes. Jigsaw puzzles are tremendously relaxing to me (and addictive, unfortunately, which is why I don't do them much). When I coordinated our homeschool co-op in Jersey, I enjoyed setting up systems to make things work more efficiently. One of my favorite moments in my Creative Memories career was when I took a bunch of tips I'd gathered from different sources, organized them, and created my own journaling class.

This is how I approach the world -- seeking or creating order and structure. This is my modus operandi.

So, as I'm pondering how to approach my daughter's history study (history being one of my favorite subjects and not one of hers, much to my amazement and chagrine), I realize I'm leaning toward a method of structuring the information. I did this several years ago with my eldest -- we made large cards with the labels "Ancient Times", "Classical Age", and "Middle Ages". Then on smaller cards, we wrote specific events, people, or concepts that I wanted her to associate with each time period: Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and the birth of Christianity were all in the Classical Age. Feudalism, the Crusades, and monasticism were in the Middle Ages. We shuffled up the cards and she sorted them out in their appropriate categories as a way of review.

But I'm wondering now if this is the best method for my youngest. Because I'm not sure if her modus operandi is finding order. I'm not sure what her modus operandi is. That's tough to figure out, because it's hard to see different ways to approach the world than the one I use. I mean, what other way is there to learn history than to find the structure of the information and organize all the facts in that structure? That's how I approach the subject, and without someone explaining a different way, it's hard for me to conceive of one. And she's too young to understand what I'm talking about and examine herself to figure out her way. But it occurs to me that this is important to know if I'm going to teach her effectively.

Nevertheless, I think I'll do the card thing with her anyway, for now. It worked well with my eldest . . . and Lord knows, order and structure is not her thing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

School vs. Learning

Never let formal education get in the way of your learning. - Mark Twain

I asked my eldest the other day, if you could decide what you wanted to learn and learn it in any way you want, how would you learn it? I expected to have to prod for an answer, but she had an immediate response. She would learn through real-life activity. Building a house. Working in a zoo. Labs in chemistry class don't cut it, she said. Ah, now that was enlightening.

At an at-risk student conference I attended when I was a teacher, I heard of a school that does just that. The students earn credit for high school classes through "internships". English credit for working in a newspaper office. Biology credit for working for a vet. Sometimes they even got paid for their time. They learned real-world work skills. They networked with real-life professionals and mentors. And often, they found their passion and ended up getting hired by one of their mentors at an internship. BRILLIANT, I thought!

Let's be honest. This is real education, yes? This is how real adults in the real world learn things. We learn economics by having to manage our own money. We learn auto maintenance by having to figure out why the car won't run. We learn things on an as-needed basis, and the knowledge sticks because we have to use it.

I recognize this in homeschooling. My kids will clearly understand the parts of a cell and their functions -- but in a few months, that knowledge has dissipated for lack of use. How often do you need to know the purpose of a mitochondria? They memorize lists of vocabulary words, but only the ones that work themselves into their active, daily-use vocabulary stick.

Which all makes me ponder the relevance of spending so much time teaching, say, stoichiometry in chemistry class. I know, I know -- I'm picking on science. Someone else might argue that kids don't need to be able to identify and name a correlative conjunction in a sentence. There may be a case to be made for learning the details of a discipline you don't intend to use later, even if just once for a general level of understanding. I just think we need to consider more carefully what kids need to know for the future and why. And then, what is the most effective way to teach these things. Because a classroom environment is rarely it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Awake My Sole

There's snow on the ground this morning. Beautiful snow. The schools are having a two-hour late start. And my first thought when I got on the computer this morning was, "Jim's running in this snow!"

Jim Ellis is my eldest's former middle school pastor. He's a runner -- a serious runner. He's on this crazy, awesome venture this year that he's calling "Awake My Sole" -- running across the state of Iowa and back, with all his "luggage" strapped into a rigged up baby stroller, stopping at various cities to speak on the way. Here's the website if you're interested. He intends to write a book about it all when he's done.

This guy is pretty amazing. And not just the running thing, although the running thing is pretty amazing, too. He runs long distances in all kinds of weather, just for the fun of it. He was even into a barefoot running thing there for a while, although I'm pretty confident he's not running barefoot these days.

But he's amazing just because of the kind of guy he is. He loved on those middle school kids like no one's business (I mean, in a good way, not a creepy way). He encouraged them to serve their community -- and he led by example. Last year, he and a group of friends did one service project a month. In May or so, it was collecting . . . 40, I think? . . . 40 mattresses for people who needed them. They just found out there was a need and went and did something about it. That's what he's like. Neat guy.

Very neat guy, but kind of kooky to try to run 30-some miles in this weather. Fortunately, I just checked his schedule and realized that last week was a writing week for him, and he's not running again until next Monday. Whew! But I expect that next Monday, if the weather's like this, he will still run, if for no other reason then just because so darn many people know he's supposed to run to Storm Lake that morning and he won't want to wimp out in front of them all. (Although I hope he is wise enough to back off of the plan if it really is dangerous.) There is value in proclaiming your goals and best intentions to the world for accountability.

Kooky isn't the word, I suppose. Bold? Courageous? Determined? For all his determination, I bet he was happy when he saw the snow this morning and knew he didn't have to run in it.

I'm praying today that he stays healthy and safe on this venture. I'm praying that God blesses his efforts by speaking to the people of Iowa through him. I'm praying that God blesses him himself for his faithfulness. And I'm praying that God will awake my soul and make me more like Jim Ellis.

Friday, February 10, 2012

And All the Time . . .

Life is good. God is good! I have so many blessings in my life right now.....

- We're going back to Sioux Falls today for the follow-up with the youngest's neurologist after her emergency room episode last fall. Other than one kind of serious headache in December, which quickly came under control with Ibuprofen and rest, she has had no more problems in the last four months. After the scare we had that night and the anxiety over the potential issues we could be dealing with, it's WONDERFUL to have a healthy child!

- Last night, I went to bed at 12:20 (I waited until I really felt sleepy), went to sleep relatively quickly and didn't wake up until 4:15. That's almost four straight hours of sleep! Drug-free! And I slept more again after that, too!

- Our dog is on his last legs. He stopped eating a few days ago and can hardly stand now. We're expecting him to go any time. The blessing is not his pending demise . . . the blessing is the companionship he's given us for the last seventeen years. And the fact that he seems to be going peacefully.

- It has been a mild winter. The last couple winters here in Iowa have been horrific, so this is a blessing. And even when it's cold, we have a warm house, warm clothes, reliable vehicles.

- Our orchid is blooming again. Clusters of big, beautiful white flowers. And the . . . I just forgot its name . . . our other flower in the house is about to bloom also -- and it's gorgeous when it blooms.

- My efforts to calm my mind at night before going to sleep has included more reading and devotional time. This has led to a multitude of benefits -- I feel more positive and together during the day, I'm getting more done, I'm resisting various temptations more successfully (including the carbs), I just generally feel closer to God which makes everything better.

- It occurred to me the other day that I don't feel like my husband is unemployed. I don't have that feeling of lostness and anxiety I would usually have in this situation. I don't think he does either.

Blessings. God is good. All the time. And all the time . . .

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fixing my Belief

Another visit to the sleep doctor yesterday -- I'm guessing my last, which kind of makes me sad because he is SUCH a pleasant person to talk to! Anyway, he applauded my successful weaning from the sleep meds and suggested that my main issue now is retraining my body that lying in my bed in the dark is a signal for my brain to shut down and go to sleep. Part of that retraining is getting out of bed when it's clear that my brain is not going to shut off anytime soon and doing something else, something non-stimulating, until I'm convinced I'm really going to go to sleep.

I tried that last night. Kind of. I don't think I realized just how hard that was going to be. We've already discussed here my addiction to comfort . . . my bed is very comfortable at night, even when I'm not sleeping. Oh, it was painful to pull the warm covers off and pull my body upright, to move myself to the love seat and afghan that have been sitting in the cold room unwarmed by my body heat, to pry my eyes open to read something. I did it twice, for about an hour each time. The second time, I was about to fall asleep on the love seat, and of course, once I moved my body into the bed, I couldn't sleep again.

This convinced me that Dr. Summers is right. See, I have spent so much time in my bed not sleeping, just thinking about other things, my brain seems to associate lying in bed in the dark with thinking time, not with sleeping time. I have to change that. But oh, it will not be fun to do it. I fear I won't have the discipline to pull myself out of bed when I'm not sleeping. I LIKE lying in bed in the dark and thinking.

In our small group last night, we talked about how our actions are indicators of our true beliefs. If we really believe that when we pray, we have a private audience with the all-powerful, all-knowing God of the universe who love us intimately and unconditionally, who delights in us, and who desires the best of all things for us . . . honestly, why would we ever get up from our knees? If we live unprayerful lives, it's not a lack of discipline to blame -- it's a lack of belief. Deep down in our heart of hearts, we don't completely believe what we claim to believe. I believe! said the demon-possessed boy's father to Jesus. Help thou my unbelief!

Do I really believe that my brain can be trained to associate the bed in the dark with sleep and nothing else . . . and that training my brain this way will take care of my sleep problem . . . and that getting better sleep will make a significant difference in my waking life? I have to really believe these things, or I won't be able to motivate myself to change my behavior completely and thoroughly. And if I only do it half-heartedly, it won't work.

In other words, I have to believe it will work before it has any hope of working. Like I have to believe that a chair can hold me up before I willfully set my weight on it. And I would have to believe that a tightrope is securely fastened before I could willfully venture to walk out on it. And I have to believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God before I can willfully put my life in his hands.

Sometimes the belief has to be solidly in place first before it can be verified by action. This is faith -- believing before we see. I believe. Lord, help thou my unbelief.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Fixing the World

Tim Poppen is a Siouxland icon. He created a local kids' TV show in the 70s that was a centerpiece in the lives of most anyone from my generation who grew up around here. He also goes to my church. And he also has a serious passion for Haiti.

Hubby and I were talking to him yesterday upon his return from his latest mission trip to the island. He's been doing this for eleven years now, and he has an interesting perspective on addressing poverty in these desperate nations. Our hospital there, he said, pays nurses $10 a day, which is a good wage in Haiti. But then these relatively short-term mission groups come in and offer them $25 -- pittance for the mission group coming in, but a fortune to the locals. So of course, the nurses leave the hospital to get that wage. Then when the mission group leaves, those nurses are dissatisfied to go back to their $10 a day job at the hospital. The local long-term stable hospital loses its good nurses, "market wages" for the industry are thrown out of whack, and everything is messed up.

I read a book a while back called When Helping Hurts, excellent book addressing this exact subject -- how rich folk go in to try to help the poor folk and, because they don't understand poverty, end up making everything worse. Tim said so many countries in the world don't like America and don't like seeing Americans come in trying to help them and for good reason: we screw everything up.

In Port au Prince, Tim says, before the earthquake, people lived in shabby homes and barely had enough food to survive. Now, they're living in shabby tents and have plenty of food, thanks to relief efforts. We feel so frustrated that there's no progress in restoring the country. They're in no hurry to be "restored" -- they're better off now.

I commented on this in an earlier blog when the subject of fair trade foods came up. I'm not terribly informed on this subject, but I have read that the whole fair trade market was really screwing up the economies in those countries, because the inflated prices were attracting more people to the industries than the market could support, particularly when those industries (coffee, chocolate, etc.) tended to be those that decline during bad economic times like the west is having now.

Americans are kind-hearted but myopic. We want to help, but we don't have the insight, knowledge or perspective on the problem to fix it. We have a warped view of what is the good life -- even of what is the acceptable life. We are modern-day compassionate Marie Antoinettes, sharing our cake with the poor huddled masses and feeling so good about ourselves because we are re-creating the world in our spoiled, stressed, unhealthy image.

Yay us.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Gotta Serve Somebody

The youngest and I are studying medieval times these days. Castles and knights. Lords and serfs and feudalism. We're finding as we read that, while the feudal system kept the peasants down, of course, not all lords were terrible tyrants. Many were good men who protected their people and cared for them. Many were of such good reputation that people chose to give them their allegiance; they had to give it to somebody, after all.

We Americans find the idea of being under someone else's authority repugnant. We are free, we think. Free from all rule and authority. But no, friends, I'm afraid Bob Dylan had it right when he said we gotta serve somebody. Freedom is not freedom from rule -- it is merely the freedom to choose who our ruler will be.

In our American democracy, we are able to choose who will govern us. But we are still subject to their governing. We are able to choose our employer, but we still must submit to that employer's direction. Those who believe in the principle of a wife submitting to her husband point out that the wife chooses the man she intends to submit to. "He's the CEO of the family," my friend once said, "but I'm the Chairman of the Board. He only has that job because I hired him."

Yep, we gotta serve somebody. As I age and grow wiser in the foibles of humanity, I find it amusing when I hear someone insist that they serve no one but themselves, that they live under nobody's rule but their own. As if Self is a beneficent ruler. That is a lie. Self is itself ruled by passions and desires. Our desire for things, which rules our pocketbook. Our passion for tasty food, which destroys our health. Our longing for comfort, which limits our horizons. Self is perhaps the most malicious of all rulers. We're never truly free until we can say no to ourselves, and how few of us are really able to do that.

This hearkens back to my earlier post, about being a slave to sin. About Christ setting us free from slavery to sin, to make us a slave to righteousness. We are always slaves . . . we are just free to choose our master. But we are only free to reject Self as a master when we choose to submit to Christ as a master. Ah, the book of Romans is making so much more sense these days.....

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Defending Chemistry . . I Guess

I found myself in the ironic position of defending the study of chemistry to my eldest this morning while taking her to school. "Chemistry is stupid!" she proclaimed. No, I protested, chemistry is actually pretty critical -- without chemistry, we have no medicine, no plastics, no lots of stuff that defines our modern society.

But I had to admit that her homework last night was completely incomprehensible to me. Steitho . .. steigo . . geomo . . . I don't even remember what she called it. I just know I never did anything like that in high school chemistry. There was nothing I could do to help her. I haven't felt that incompetent since my disastrous attempt at playing Super Mario Bros on the Wii.

Yes, chemistry is important. We need to learn it. We need more skilled and gifted chemists in our country. But does my non-scientific, writer/artist daughter need to know steitho . . . steigo . . geomo . . . whatever it's called? I don't know.

I want her to be challenged. I want her to be exposed to things that are not her natural bent. I want her to have to push her brain to think in other ways, to try to understand the difficult. I just don't want her to get D's that pull down her GPA when she does her best and it still doesn't click. And I don't want her to end up thinking she's stupid, because she's not.

The analytical educator in me wants to know where the dots aren't connecting here. Is it a matter of requiring something of her that is more than should be required -- a curriculum problem? Is it a teacher who doesn't understand my daughter's thought processes and can't explain her subject matter in a variety of ways to hit her particular mode -- a pedagogical problem? Is it a student who has decided she sucks at science and has given up -- a motivational problem?

Sigh! So much I wish I could change about education these days.