Saturday, December 31, 2011

52 Books in 52 Weeks Wrap-Up

This is the second year I've participated in a the 52 books in a year reading challenge. Here's my wrap-up for the year. For more visit Robin at 52 Books in 52 Weeks. She's doing a writing challenge this year too. Oy vey. I might have to add that to my life. Seriously, just not sure where.

Did you reach the goal of 52 books or did you manage to beat your own personal best?
It was kind of touch and go this fall when I realized I was about 10 books behind. Too many house re-building projects going on and school started again with regularity. I did, however, decide to add in our read-alouds (the Wrinkle in Time series and the Little House series). I figure hours and hours of reading out-loud ought to count for something. As a result I made it with a few more than 52 books read for a total of 57.
What book are you ending the year with? I finished Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott. In fact, the last 3 books of the year were by Lamott: Bird by Bird, Operating Instructions and Plan B. Each is a collection of essays gathered around a theme (writing, parenting, faith) with lots of Lamott's signature reverence, irreverence, 12 step survival and LOL humor thrown in. I tried a couple of her non-fiction books. Not my cuppa. Too many gay, recovering potty mouths involved.

Did you discover a new author or genre? Did you love them or hate them?
Fantasy is not really my thang I thought but didnt' realize that L'Engle was considered a fantasy writer. (duh). As a result discovered a new to me author,  Le Guin. She has a militant writing style- not fluffy, not fun, but oh so brilliant. I actually missed the characters and missed the book (The Left Hand of Darkness) when I was done.
Also Allen Addison- total brain candy but loved it. New genre: mystical realism. Baboom, baby. I will delve slowly into this genre, however, because it looks like a lot of fantasy world of nevahland escapism and that is really, truly, not my thang.
Lamott- edgy, liberal and crude but a brilliant and funny writer.

Did you challenge yourself to read more non fiction if prefer fiction or more fiction if you prefer non fiction? My goal was to do a even amount of non and fiction but I definitely erred on the side of fiction.

Did you read from a list or wing it? I start with a list from and add and subtract as I go. Lots of titles from the Hive's weekly 52 in a Year participants and others from the stacks at the library.

The 3 Witches- scenes from our Homeschool production of Macbeth.
How many classics did you read? What did you think of the writing style or author? MacBeth by Shakespeare, in prep for Feeche's performance as Macbeth this summer.  Love the language.
Can I count the Little House series? If so, I love the colloquialisms, the descriptions of what life was like. It's especially interesting to me as we live so close to the De Smet homestead.

Name one book that you thought you'd never read and was pleasantly surprised you like it. Probably Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness. A difficult thought exercise and brilliantly executed.

What are your top ten favorite books?
A God Who is There by Schaeffer - discover the spirit of this present age and speak to it out of your living faith.
The Book Thief by Zuzak. Metaphor as narrator. Brilliant. Touching, disturbing, moving.
The Help -Loved the book. Loved the movie. Powerfully rendered apologetic for the prejudices that bind and define us. Brilliant portrayal of how love can free us.
Bird by Bird by Lamott- I want to write like her when I grow up. Puhleeze?!
Garden Spells/ The Sugar Queen (all of 'em) by Addison Allen. O.k. I want to write like this when I grow up. I loved the magical elements- metaphor, serendipity? She writes like how I think life really works. What we need is there when we need it cause the deep magic is at work despite the fact that we live in shallowville.
The Necklace by Jarvis. Loved this book about community and allowing participating in it to transform you. A great metaphor for the Christian faith.
Grooming the Next Generation for Success by Johnson. A beautiful parenting book about how we can powerfully bless our children.
Son of Hamas by Yousef. The Christian faith is transformational and this book is a touching example of that. Not to mention the fact that Yousef does a stellar job of honoring his father, despite the deep rift between them.
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Chua. I did not agree with a lot of this mother's tactics, but I enjoyed the intentionality with which she parented.
They Thought For Themselves by Roth. Moving testimonies of modern-day Jews who follow Yeshua. Beautiful and powerful.

What are your ten least favorite books?
Handmaid and the Carpenter - the author is not up front about the basis for the premise of the story,  deceiving the reader. Not only did I not appreciate Joseph (of Joe and Mary fame) slandered but I did not appreciate the bait and switch at the end of the story. Blech.
 In the Land of Believers - what to say. This chick plays with fire (or deep magic, or both) all for the sake of a story.
She Looks Just Like You - claiming to be something just cause you want it doesn't make it real. Seriously. The Velveteen Rabbit is not true.
Wisdom Hunter- not believable.
Zipporah- again, seriously? Too many scenes that don't fit with what I know about history. 2 too many sexually explicit scenes that don't make sense. Blech.
Escape- The author does not write with insight about herself but portrays herself as an innocent victim. I do think she was victimized but it's time to play grown-up now.  She continually portrays herself as the only rationally sane person in the southeastern part of Utah. O.k. this part might actually be true. Sad, sad portrayal of polygamous cult-life.
Half the Church - do women feel so marginalized in the church, really? This book felt like lots of belly-aching and whining with no actual solution.

Did you start any books that you just simply couldn't finish? I started several other books that I skimmed and several I took back to the library.

What did you think of the mini challenges and did you join in or complete any? I did my own mini-challenge on Memoirs. I read 16 of them, if you don't count the Little House books.
I read authors and that turned in to a mini-challenge of sorts- got into L'Engle again this year, Addison, Lamott, re-visited Potok and Gladwell, along with Gladwell, Lewis  and Lawhead.

Did your family join in on the fun? No. But they all read voraciously. And they had the serious fun of my talking about all of the books I was reading. Lucky them.

How many books have you added to your wish list since the beginning of the year? hmmm. A bunch.

What was your favorite thing about the challenge? Just keeping myself reading in a pro-active way. I remember much more about the story when I write blog reviews but I kept running out of time to do so this year.

Here's my list for the year:

Addison Allen, Garden Spells
Addison Allen, Peach Keeper
Addison Allen, The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Addison Allen, The Sugar Queen
Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Arthur, Wisdom Hunter
Berg, The Handmaid and the Carpenter
Burnett, This Time Together
Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
Coulter, Godless
Downing, Silesian Station
Ephron, I Remember Nothing
Flinchbaugh, Daughter of China
Gladwell, What the Dog Saw
Gonzales, A Biography of Madeline L'Engle
Green, Bloodroot
Haigh, Faith
Halter, Zipporah, Wife of Moses
Hanley, Seize the Story
James, Half the Church
Janzen, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress
Jarvis, The Necklace
Jessop, Escape
Johnson, Grooming the Next Generation for Success
Johnson, UnPlanned
Klempnauer Miller, She Looks Just Like You
Kuffel, Passing for Thin
L'Engle, A Swiftly Tilting Planet
L'Engle, A Wind in the Door
L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
L'Engle, The Last Unicorns
L;Engle, A Circle of Quiet
Lamott, Bird by Bird
Lamott, Operating Instructions
Lamott, Plan B, Further Thoughts on the Faith
Lawhead, SkinMap
Lewis, C.S.; A Grief Observed
Peretti, Piercing the Darkness
Platt; Radical
Potok, Old Men at Midnight
Potok, Zebra & Other Stories
Roth; They Thought for Themselves
Schaeffer, The God Who Is There
Shakespeare, Macbeth
Stockett, The Help
Walls, The Glass Castle
Welch, In the Land of Believers
Wilder, By the Shores of Silver Lake
Wilder, Farmer Boy
Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods
Wilder, Little House on the Prairie
Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie
Wilder, On the Banks of Plum Creek
Wilder, The First Four Years
Wilder, The First Four Years
Wilder, The Long Winter
Wilder, These Happy Golden Years
Yousef, Son of Hamas
Zusak, The Book Thief

Friday, December 30, 2011

Versitile Bloger (such that I am)

Nancy, over at Sage Parnassus has passed along a Versatile Blogger award. Nancy is a CM advocate and her blog is full of good things. Be sure to check it out! Here's the skinny on the award:
  • Thank the award-giver who nominated you and link back to them in your post. (Thank-you, Nancy!)
  • Share 7 random things about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 blogs you enjoy reading (not happening, I'll just nominate 5, more or less)
  • Inform the bloggers of their nomination.
  • Add the Versatile Blog Award picture on your blog post.

7 Random Things about me:
  • I spent a month backpacking in the High Unitas Wilderness in Utah the month before I entered college. I turned 18 in the mountains.  
  • I learned to read when I was 4. I used to read everything I could get my hands on. Now, I'm a bit more discerning. 
  • B.C. I had no intentions of getting married and had vowed never to marry a psychologist. (True Story. Cosmic joke in my life #2).
  • I have been (mostly) happily married to my polymath, psychologist, hairy-beast husband for 26 years.
  • I love Christmas brag letters and photos. Bring 'em on. Life's hard, tell me the good stuff!  
  • I have lived on the East Coast, West Coast, Great Lakes region, Southwest and upper Midwest.
  • Besides the Bible, Narnia has probably influence my theology more than any other writing.

5 Blogs (+ 2)I like:
The Momma Knows. Great article right now on Goal Setting For Real Life.
Home is Where You Start From. Jen runs a fun photo contest each week among other things.  
The Magic Schoolhouse. Karen is passionate about science. I love reading her blog- it never fails to push me further....
I'm Nobody Who Are You. Daisy does lit studies like nobody else I know!
52 Books in 52 Weeks. Robin does a great job sharing new reads, reviewing and keeping fellow bibliophiles reading along.

Hip Homeschool Moms. Good stuff happening over there. Just so happens I'm also guest blogging for them: True Confessions.
And Heart of the Matter On-line. A great resource for Homeschoolers. My December article is up:  Making High School Fun. Not that I do that much, but we do have our moments.

What are your 5 Fav Blogs?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What IS Stressful

We've slept in a bedroom 2 nights in a row; more than we have for the past 15 months. It's an odd feeling to be encased by a room as we sleep. And our bedroom is totally different than it had been. There is a long closet on the west side that our bed had been on, making the room seem longer and narrower. The old closet is gone, so we are putting our bed on that, the north, wall. Not to mention that some walls are totally new and all are texturized. Gone are the give-away old-farmhouse cracks in the plaster walls and ceilings.  There are also outlets on each and every wall. It is a totally different space. Still incredibly light and sunny with gorgeous views of the valley, but different.

The living room is large and cavernous and echo-y without our dressers, bed and temporary closet. Our bedroom is crowded and messy. The closet is finished but very un-closet like. There are, as of yet, no rods or shelves or doors. My husband's pesky day job keeps interfering with the business at hand of finishing up the millions of little projects still left lying around. Though, we are getting to them, one pesky job at a time.

Re-building a house is, by itself, not stress-ful.

I repeat. Re-building a house, by itself, is not stressful. What is stress-ful is having to shop, cook, clean, do laundry, do dishes, move stuff around ad-infinitum because you are living in the re-build, replace lost stuff, find lost stuff and kick yourself for having re-purchased it, feed people again, talk to kids, force, coerce and threaten gently encourage the kids to do their chores and school, homeschool, have a relationship with my husband that consists of more than just coordinating schedules and car usage, pay bills, do finances, celebrate holidays and birthdays, go on walks so I don't end up crippled again, read stuff so my mind does not atrophy, get ready for school to start again way too soon, order books for 2nd semester, share the computer, be nice to others, not run with scissors and believe that God loves me extravagantly.

It's always something though, or more likely, 10 things at once, so if it wasn't the house re-build it would be some other challenge. And, I'm sure, cynicist realist that I am, I 'm sure that once this project is done, there will be another one. It's fun, most days. It's a blast to be creating something beautiful, and useful. But I confess, I have hit the wall being tired more than once.

I'm reading another Lamott book: Plan B....she quotes Levertov, writing of Mary, the Mother of Jesus,

"She did not cry, "I cannot, I am not worthy."
Nor, "I have not the strength."
She did not submit with gritted teeth, raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
consent illuminated her."

Lamott responds, "This is so, so not me." Ayup. So, we continue. One more pesky project at a time, fitted in between meals and  holidays. This is what it is; life. There is no clean, beautifully decorated Martha Stewart or Norman Rockwell snapshot, in my life anyway. It's always been like this; it's always been unexpected, a bit rumpled, things mis-placed because there is so much going on. I'm not waxing poetic, believe me, I'm just clearing my head of the jumble and demands and the needs of the people  and the place that I live with, which are legion. Forgive me this therapeutic moment, because blogging is cheaper than therapy.

See,  I'm better now. Off to clean the bathrooms. Miss R's beau was, literally, struck down by the stomach flu and had to postpone his flight to the Territories by a day. We hope to meet him this evening. Meanwhile, still have to finish cleaning up some of the mess from moving the bedroom to the actual bed. room.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bed B Gone

This is a grand-poombah day.
Our bed is out of the living room. Our bed resides in an actual bedroom. This is oh-so-huge. So what if it's on the floor, the closet is uninhabitable, the trim is not cut or affixed and it still looks like a construction zone more than an actual living space upstairs. It's out of the living room and it is more than 3 feet away from the front door.

We are dividing and conquering today. Miss R and I will polyurethane more yards of trim, the likes of which Viking Man and Feeche further sanded on Christmas Eve day and which we stained, assembly-line style yesterday. KB and Feeche and the notsolittles will take the girls mattresses and assorted dressers and clothes items to the 2nd floor.

My husband has been, on occasion, hardly ever, known to over-schedule himself. He truly believes that he will have time this week to work 3 full days (plus driving, notes, and management details), get ready for his on-line class which starts on Monday, affix door posts/frames for 6 doors and cut and affix several yards of trim upstairs. Along with meeting/hosting Miss R's beau for 4 days, attending a few New Year's partees, and being coherent for Cub's birthday bash on Sunday, along with eating and sleeping. He's lucky he has me to push food in his way and to remind him to sleep cause, knowing him, those items would be the first to go. Odd man. I try to smile and be encouraging at times like these instead of shouting hysterically that he is a crazed, maniacal work-aholic.

I pledge, in all honesty, that if he dies first, his tombstone will read, "I didn't get as much done as I wanted." That being said, he does get an inordinate amount of stuff done. The down side of that is, as his support staff, so do we. I might not get the next book read this week. And speaking of which, I've gotta go polyurethane more wood.

Christmas pictures to follow at some point. It was a lovely day. How was yours?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Operating Instructions

Our oldest is 25 today. It's hard to believe that she is that old because, by implication, it means that we are that old. It's true just how relentless time is. My husband is aging much better than I am. Time is relentless and comes with wrinkles, aches and pains and a complete and total lack of fairness.

I am reading Lamott's Operating Instructions. It's a journal recording the first year of her son's life. She is a single, liberal, Bush-loathing, ex-addict who cannot face one more abortion. The sperm-donor in this situation has bailed and she prays for wisdom about what to do next. She has a dream directing her to save her baby. She is about as different from me as possible (other than the praying part and the belief in Jesus, though I definitely do not envision or call Jesus "Uncle Jesus"). She's only been clean and sober for 3 years at the time of this book and her writing is crude and raw. That I can relate too. Probably because I'm in a constant state of recovery, and also because I have not experienced life as very fluffy. Fluffy as in easy and comfortable. Life before marriage was not fluffy and life after marriage has not been fluffy.

While Lamott does not have a marriage partner she is surrounded by a tribe of people, family, friends, community, that have lasted the test of time, weathered addictions and deaths and disappointments, and hung together. She also lives in Northern California, in the Redwood forest, and while living in California ensured it's own stresses, I have fond memories of the weather, and the ocean and the freedom, in a sense, that is so prevalent there, that is not tangible in other parts of the world.

My husband and I have worked hard, on a number of levels since we've been married; worked to learn, to build, to create a family culture, to create community.  It is much easier to create community, or be part of one,  when you understand the culture, are welcomed into it, know the morays and nuances and language. We've moved too often, I think, to regions that were as different from each other as could be, the east, the west, the southwest, the upper Midwest. None of these places speak the language of my youth, and none of them have come with operating instructions. We've been alone, more often than not, though we have invited and shown up and laid the ground work for more. We have applied to a zillion jobs closer to "home" and are still part of the diaspora. We work with what we have, but it's been lean, a lot.

It's odd how, when you get a child, you hope. You hope for a fluffy life for them, success, fulfillment, for a tribe. You hope that they are not alone, not foreigners in a strange land, but comfortable in the places they find themselves, at peace with themselves and their situation. But one constant my husband and I have noticed is that when there is too much fluff, too much ease or wealth or toys, a sense of entitlement emerges, becomes part of the person, the personality, the community, the culture. Having fluff takes the edge off, but also makes one, or the tribe, less hungry, less willing to take risks, make mistakes or get dirty. Dirt, after all, emotional or otherwise, is the universal language for unkempt, as opposed to curious and involved with living.

At one point in the book, Lamott, a 35 year old, says to her mother, after weeks of living with a colicky baby and being totally sleep deprived, "Mommy, I'm so tired."  I felt a twinge of jealousy at reading that because I don't think I ever said anything that vunerable to my mother, and if I had, I'm not sure that she would have had the capacity to care. I've felt those words often, weary from the stresses and the not knowing how to fix things and feeling in a constant state of failure and anxiety and worry. I can't figure things out and there is no relief from the mess that I've made. I feel, these days, this strange sense of being caught. Caught between what we've given our kids and what my parents gave me. Caught between what I've worked so hard at getting; a sense of ease with my self and the world, through therapy and faith and the crucible called marriage and just the very act of sticking with life; and the values and morays I grew up with. Get thin, get rich and then good things will come; ease and fluff and tribe and relief from the colic of life. Caught between old operating instructions and the ones I've found to be really, truly true. The true ones that include colic as reality. The true ones that  say relief might not come, but it doesn't define me as a failure. The true ones that include an enemy that has designs on me, to keep me either desperate from fluff or so immersed in it my understanding of Jesus and my self have drowned and might not be resuscitated.

Fluff isn't really on my scope so much any more. For myself or my kids. Fluff is like the sticky marshmallow goo that I ate once out of curiosity. Intriguing, but nauseating. It gets all over your hands and mouth- the very parts of yourself that you need to communicate with, and is hard to extract yourself from.

Don't get me wrong. I hope that my kids don't suffer. I hope that they find a sense of ease with themselves. At the same time, I don't really want them to get too comfortable in this world. I don't want them to get too settled in cause this is not the real thing. It's a fine line between living a life of fluff and comfort and selling out to the Lady of the Green Kirtle and living in the underworld.

One of my sweet Catholic friends was talking about how her priest has been preaching on the fact that at conception, an eternal being is created. I love that on many different levels. We are going through this life, not for fluff, ease or comfort, thin-ness  or wealth. We are living now, as a sort of pre-amble to the real thing. This is just the warm up. It's a difficult task to raise a child as an eternal being, wanting for them the good things in this life, hoping for enough fluff to see them laugh out loud and showing enough restraint to keep them invested in something bigger.

And then they are grown and are discovering the operating instructions themselves and in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter what we hope. We've laid a foundation, for better or worse, and are called on to trust in the rightness or wrongness of it, the character of our kids and our hope in Jesus. I sound melancholy, perhaps, but I don't feel it. I feel relived that one child of mine is launched, making their own choices and decisions, doing a good job, working, schooling, relating, curious about the world and invested in the things of God.

Happy Quarter Century to our oldest daughter. Wishing you enough fluff for side-splitting laughter and enough reality to keep you grounded in the heavenlies.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Meet KB in town yesterday with everyone, split in to 2 cars and everyone finished their Christmas shopping with a stop for food stuffs to create really great food. It's cool to have kids with their own ideas and bank accounts and generous spirits to want to give good things to each other. 

We discovered a Western Store in our fair city- very dangerous for the likes of us. You walk in and it has that rustic leather smell. It is chock full of unique clothing that is western enough to appeal to the conservatives amongst us and funky enough to appeal to the artistic amongst us, with walls of skinny jeans for the skinnys amongst us, gorgeous leather boots and hats and saddles and tack...we all waxed nostalgic about the west for awhile (Viking Man was born in NM, as were Cub and Flower). We're still sorta in the west, but the southwest is a world unto itself.

Cooking, baking, staining and polyurethaning on the menu today. Viking Man and his band of merry men are already upstairs measuring and inventorying trim. We are re-using the old door jambs from before the fire but they need sanding, stained and poly'd. The kids and I had stained hundreds of yards of trim and, honestly, it is a job I know loath. It's easy, work-wise, but it smells and you are bent over so your back is yelling obscenities at you by the end of the day, and it's now very cold on the porch, and work gloves and a nice stain job don't go together. The good news is that we have wood to stain, and stain and a husband who knows what he's doing, or at least invested and smart enough to figure it out.

Yesterday Viking Man received a thoughtful card and gift box from former clients. The card said that they were happier than they had been ever, their faith is strong, their relationship solid and they owe much to the wisdom that he offered them.

KB said to me on our way home last night, "Do you know how blessed we are. We want to buy presents for each other, so we go and buy them. Our car gets low on fuel and we go and fill it up."

We are blessed in so many ways; health, freedom, work that is meaningful. Very blessed, indeed!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bird by Bird

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life Cover

When I asked the Hive what their fav "how to write" books were for the list I was making for my high schooler Creative Writing class, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird was mentioned over and over again. Unbelievably, I had never heard of her before. Sometimes the best is last and right now she is vying for "best find of the year" in my 52/11 list!

Bird by Bird is Lamott's "Some instructions on Writing and Life." It's kinda the Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for Writers. Great points on writing and the writing life and a whole lotta philosophy on living and dealing with getting stuck- in writing and in life- and on dealing with one's own narcissism and self-doubt.

Ann is liberal and opinionated and bare bones, with enough swear words to make even me, reformed (most days) gutter mouth that I am, flinch every now and then. Along with all of that she is laugh out loud funny; evry funny; really funny; and wise. I want to call Anne and confess to her that even though I probably disagree with her political and social views I would like to hire her as my writing mentor,  adopt her as my sister, or both.

I do have a better understanding of writing from reading this book. In fact, Anne makes writing for a living seem do-able. Maybe it's cause I relate to her random global rambly-connectedness. She is bunny trailer extraordinaire (and my dh thought I was!). Anne makes writing as simple as putting down thoughts, as reasonable as confession, as poetic as weather. She defines character, first drafts, plot and design. She also goes over interesting tid-bits such as why you write, getting published, and index cards, an item apparently not to be overlooked by the serious writer. 

She also talks about the importance of transparency, honesty and morality. Along the way, she points to the co-dependence 98% of us live with, the importance of naming pain and treats us all to a healthy dose of 12 step and faithful living.

I loved this book. My new fav author for the year was going to be Addison Allen- mystical realism, baby, bring it on. I LOVE Allen's writing. But Lamott's nitty gritty, life's a b*tch, own your grief and anger and the damaged person that you are and be there with it, breathe, laugh about it, laugh hard and long, spoke to me profoundly.  I've requested all of her titles from the library. I need the dose of nitty-gritty, and the dose of funny right now.

Lamott ends her book on writing with this: "So, why does our writing matter..."
Because of the spirit, I say. Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life; they feed the soul. When writer's make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship."

Yep. That's what words and books and stories have been for me. She gets it, she is writing my truth, with wit and humor.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fairy Flower Party!

Instead of writing class today we had a Flower Fairy making party, complete with cupcakes, other goodies, wine and cheese and the expertise of fairy flower maker extraordinaire, Miss. R, home for winter break.

Aren't they cute? Silk flowers, wooden beads, florist wire, embroidery floss, a little glue and colored pencils.

They had a blast making them, playing with them, and giggling together- imagine that!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Embracing Odd Offers

I've been reading William Shatner's latest book in the aisle at Sam's. Cheesy, I know, but reading, it's my way...He's funny, but a bit crude, but very funny. He writes about embracing the odd offer and how that can lead to amazing things you would never dream of. You know the sentiment. That's kinda my motto. Actually, my motto is "If you have 2 loaves of bread, sell one and buy a lily." Cause growing things are my thing. But I've modified it to, “If you have 2 loaves of bread, sell one and try to eek a lily and book out of it. If that doesn’t work, sell another ½ loaf of bread and add more water to the soup" Despite my motto not being exactly like his, the gist of it is, embrace as much as you can.   I agree with Bill - you know, William Shatner. I feel like I can call him Bill because when I was 8 and he was Capt. James T. Kirk, I was going to marry him. Our relationship goes way back and even thought he was divorced and re-married again before I even graduated from high -school, he was still my first love. (I pretended that Jimmy Swaggart was in 3rd grade, only 'cuase my older sister had claimed John Wayne, but it was all a ruse).

I embraced a rather odd offer this week-end to discover a huge blessing, the details of which I can't share. But it was huge and wonderful and totally, unbelievably unexpected. This was on the heels of another really cool gift that a good friend of mine surprised me with ‘cause God told her to do something wild and crazy at 3 a.m. during a bout of insomnia. Two-fer. Just cause. God’s so cool like that.  

Blessed, very blessed even if I think the Bill should have passed on the Priceline account.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The True Meaning of Christmas

Yesterday at Bible Study the topic was "how we celebrate Christmas" (some of our study members don't). It was a great study (again) that included Astronomy (Dr. Geek saw to that) Jewish & pagan festivals, and the birth and conception date of Christ.

The conception date of Jesus is is probably during the Winter solstice (in the Northern hemisphere, where over 80% of the world's population dwells) during the darkest days of the year.

Light came in to the world. He dwelt among us.
He didn't have to.
He choose to. He loved to.

He entered into the world on its darkest days.

I like Christmas; the decorations, the tree, twinkle lights, the music and movies and church songs and services- mostly. But it can also be a time of intense pressure. Come up with presents that are meaningful from an already strained budget and create  holidays that are memory making and picture worthy. It's supposed to be magical and stress free.

My Mom was not perfect, but the one thing she did better than anyone else was to create magic at Christmas. She's been gone over a decade and I've felt the loss each and every year. No one else has stepped in to fill her shoes and while I'm good to have around in a crisis and have lots of other redeemable qualities, magic making is not my gift. My husband's mantra this year has been, in response to everything I think needs to be done, is this; "Does this glorify the light coming in to the darkness. Because if it doesn't we don't need to do it."

And honestly, I think Dr. Viking Man got it right (again).. We try to create something wonderful, (I do at least) protect our kids from disappointment (maybe that's just me). When, in reality, all we need to do is really get a hold of the fact that

 came into the Darkness and the Darkness could not wrap it's arms around it.
Because of that the darkness can not wrap it's arms around us. 

The presents, food, twinkle lights, memories, it's all good. But it's not the heart of the matter. I want my kids to know the reality of Christmas. It's bigger and beyond presents and expectations (theirs and ours). It's about Him, not us.

A Blessed Sabbath!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Faith & The Pioneer Spirit

Faith by Jennifer Haigh

Just finished Faith by Jennifer Haigh. Briefly, it is about the sex scandal in the Catholic church and the fall-out. This intrigued me because of the comments made in interviews in a book I read last year, "Being Catholic Now." Lots of moral comments, made from publically immoral people, about how the church handled things and the outrage that was felt. There is some discussion about church politics (and wow, were the priests accused really hung out to dry in such an infamous manner?!)  but the real depth of this book is about family legacies, systems, fear, and petty thieves (both religious and criminal) preying on others.
This is really the story of a priest who himself was molested as a child. He laid down his life to secure a brighter future for another lost boy and in doing so, created a richer legacy for his siblings as well.
Haigh's ability to create believable characters, characters like us, who love and are disappointed and confused, and hope for love that satisfies rings true throughout the pages.
A beautiful story about redemption through sacrifice. In the end, the priest cared for his people, loved his tribe well and gave all that he had. A really lovely, believable story.

 The first four years [Book]

The kids and I also finished These Happy Golden Years and the First Four Years. Jeez Louise. If you ever feel like life is 1 step forward, 2 back, read this book and you'll feel much gratitude for the life you have. I love.LOVE. Laura's writing. It is simple and straightforward and sweet. I've read these books at least 6-8 times and each time another aspect of the family and gender roles and the American West stands out to me. We're now reading The Way Home, which seems so very real to us because they traveled within 20 miles of our home, on their way to the Big Red Apple.
And yes, I'm counting the series under my 52 books for the year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tis the Season

... for suicidal deer and Christmas Trees...

Our annual trek to the tree cutting farm started with a false start the day before. They closed just before we got there, no thanks to being within spitting distant of Iowa. On the way home a suicidal Odocoileus virginianus jumped in front of the car resulting in a dead deer and $495 car damage. Great timing, right. So much for the table saw and several Xmas presents. Paying cash is a great way to live. Mostly. On the positive side, a friend of mine went to a co-workers funeral- killed by swerving out of the way of a deer- just last week. I figure body work on the car is cheaper than a funeral. And much less hard on everybody. Thank God for His protection from testosterone crazed deer!

Anyway, Feeche's grimace, above, is in response to the lack of selection for sale (the selection was great, it's just most of the trees weren't actually for sale- what?!). The trees that were for sale were over $50. What?! We decided to do one more go around before heading to Get -n-Go for a $20 Tree.

My "location" in case ya don't know is "Where the cold wind blows." There is a reason for this. The wind blows here, a lot,  and it is wicked cold when it does. KB and I going for the Russian peasant look (no offense to Russian's, or peasants!)

We did find a tree, in the back of the lot, well away from Iowa, I'm talking the back.of.the lot. for much less than $50. Still, if you add in the $495 for the car repair, this is the most expensive tree we've ever purchased.
We've picked the tree. Everyone agrees it's the one.
This is the point where I abandon my husband. For one, he sweats when it's cold out, due to the many, many layers he wears, and his amazing metabolism . I get cold in, say, mid-October and slightly thaw in May. Around August I'm fully thawed, if I work out, or weed in mid-day sun, on days when it's 80 or 90 degree weather wearing a sweatshirt. So, really, the only reason that we cut a tree every year, rather than just cutting one of construction paper in the safety, and warmth of our own home, is that he likes cold weather. Seriously. Strange man.

The tree fought back, but the Prussian won. WooHaw. Saw a delightful Xmas film called Silent Night, set during WWII where German and American soldiers end up eating Christmas dinner together. The one guy says, "So you're German, right." The Paul Barnes (friend from college) look-alike proudly and properly corrects him, "Prussian actually." Ya have to know my dh to know just how funny this is. He's Prussian, btw.

Freshly back from the big, bad warm and temperate city of Atlanta. I said, "no gang signs" (just like Robert Downy Jr. in Iron Man I, right) but they totally blew me off.

Christmas Cuties. Ready to go home to hot-chocolate, Christmas carols (after all these years, A Charlie Brown's Xmas is stilla fav! Thank-you, Laura!) and trashing decorating the house.

Cub got into the holiday spirit by decorating the kissing ball. Do you see the Xmas themed bionicle lurching out of the symbol of love? (Disregard the mess. The kids were trashing decorating the house!)

Is your tree up? Link pics ; )

Monday, December 12, 2011

Integrated Parenting 101

We have friends who are constantly commenting on their children's spiritual acumen; their profound prayers, their prophetic words. I've been a parent long enough to know that developmentally kids under the age of 7 are oft fond of mimicking their parents. It's not that I disbelieve that their children are spiritual powerhouses, it's just that, really, in the grand scheme of things, little children and their parents have not been tried and tested, have not weathered the storms of puberty, have not suffered mentored kids who want to argue for the sake of it, or really gone through enough as parents to do much more than dote on their kid. And really, the kids haven't gone through much either. If these kids weren't exposed to this stuff, would they come up with it on their own? In many ways, they are merely repeating what they've been taught, are seeking the praise and approval of their parents (This sounds cynical, I know. I'm all about capitalizing on a kids desire to parrot and please. I brag about the results myself. I just don't think we should count it as something it's not).

At the same time these parents are exposing their kids to lots of spiritual stuff, they take them to day care full time, drop them off at public school and pick them up from after-care. I know the day care and I know the school system. They are both "good." Good in the sense that they teach the kids academic stuff and there is very little change of bodily harm. But I see the parents actions as dichotomous. The thing that does not make sense to me is that this Christian family- and many like it- believe that they can train their kids in a certain context for a small amount of time a week, and at the same time their kids intellect, bodies and hearts are being trained in a totally different and dare I say it, adverse context, for hours and hours and hours a week and they believe that their heart training will win out. Schools are not Christian, (though I will assert they are religious, but that's a different discussion altogether) and offer paradigms and beliefs that vie for a child's heart and mind. Can a person so divorce themselves that their heart be trained in one belief system, their intellect in another and they not have to make a choice between the two?

The reality is that only 4% of   kids raised in Christian homes these day, keep the faith; keep the faith in a way that is decidedly and markedly Christian; keep the faith in a way that has the appearance, rather than just the words of a moral code. Somewhere along the line, the training isn't taking, or it's falling away, or it's being snuffed out by something more alluring and appealing to the kids. Somewhere along the way, many kids believe that Christianity is "almost christian" and that "almost" is just as good. Heart felt community is lacking in the American Church. True community is lacking outside of it, but at least their is some semblance of belonging in other quarters. Intellectual training- study as worship- is a foreign concept both inside and outside the church, and "good "Christian schools often substitute legalism for education that stirs the soul and calls men and woman to do courageous things for God.

The reality is that if we want to "reach" our kids; reach their hearts and minds, and imprint something on both that is permanent and true, we must live radically, we must live in a way that is different. It's a lonely road to homeschool. It's a lonely road to be a homeschooler. I hear this from not only my older adult kids, but from thier friends. Living so radically away from the norm makes them different in profound ways.  Good, Godly ways, but ways that ostracize them from the average, the norm. And, honestly, homeschooling is not the only way to tackle this arduous task, but in some ways, as my friend Jennifer says, it's the easiest (and that too, is a whole 'nuther essay). People who don't live intentionally with a thought and care to train the hearts and minds of their children, who don't understand the profound influences that will clamour and shout for their children's hearts and minds, are naive, at best.

I was served by a beautiful young woman in Starbucks last week with a tattoo emblazoned across her collarbone in calligraphy. It said, "Self Preservation." I've thought about that a lot this week. Because I don't endeavor to give my kids the tools of self-preservation. If anything I want them to see their desperate need for SomeOne bigger, mightier and infinitely more dangerous, wild and free than they can ever be. I want them dependent on the Living God, and ready, willing and able to go and do and be whatever He is calling them to.

I can't do that for them, but I can empower them to have hearts and minds open to it, uncluttered by what the world has to offer their hearts, minds and bodies.


Friday, December 9, 2011

2 Much Love

I was talking with a friend of mine last week who mentioned that she "probably loved her kids too much." I found that a fascinating statement. Can there be "too much love?"

 As a homeschooler I have heard most of the negative comments and labels thrown around about homeschoolers - that I am a helicopter mom, enmeshed with my children, afraid and controlling. It is rarely offered up that I am a concerned, educated woman, providing, (like the financially wealthy),  my children  a private, personalized education, affording them time and solitude, excellent literature and home cooked meals, because I want the very best for them. Going off the beaten path is a threat to the norm, rather than the hope of finding an extraordinary path.

Can we "love out kids too much." True love preaches good news to the poor, heals the broken hearted, announces freedom to all captives, pardons all prisoners, announces the year of the Lord's grace, celebrates the destruction of God's enemies, comforts all who mourn, gives beauty for ashes, messages of joy instead of news of doom and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. True love heals, frees, brings forth joy.

The answer to the question rests on definitions. If I determine love to be Biblical (as in Isaiah 61, above) my answer will be 180 different than if I define love from a different source.

I read an interesting articles on "Why the World Hates the Duggar's"  I love what this gal said in response to the ugliness floating around the net about them. It's all in definitions and expectations, world-view and theology.

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I hope I'm getting points somewhere for living in this climate. If I've mentioned it's cold here, rest assured it's not hyperbole.

We're reading aloud the Little House books. It just blows me away that these folks lived in the Territories, in homes with no insulation and inadequate heat and lived to tell about it.

- 6 yesterday morning. Feeche and KB are in for a rude homecoming tonight when they return from Georgia.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Winding Down

Another slow week. This cold is from the dark side. It just won't relinquish it's hold.

Homeschool: We did math. I have an exciting new math program, waiting for review (with an awesome give-away, too!). Cub did his work for Tutoring Center.
We had another guest speaker for my Creative Writing Class- the state co for Poetry Outloud. Another great program for the Rhetoric stage.

We read- These Happy Golden Years. The time-line for this and Little Town on the Prairie are skewed, but the kids continue to enjoy the series. Flower, Cub and I have been taking turns reading. It's nice to see Flower's ease and comfort level with reading improving.

John Adams Poster
We also watched John Adams. Loved it. I like how the producers kept it a period piece.  For instance, every one's teeth ends up rotting. Love that. Not the teeth rotting part, but the fact that they didn't sanitize the production. It's one of my pet peeves about historical documentaries. As a result, you get a real sense of how physical decay was a real deal back then. The bond between Abigail and John was very sweet and the fact that they portrayed a real man- one with failures, struggles, vanity, made it very much worth watching.

Of course, I had to look up Giamanti (the actor that portrayed Adams) afterwards and was floored to see that he was the manager in Cinderella Man- cool. We ended up watching that, just for fun. Interesting actor with a fascinating family-  his Dad was the prez of Yale University and the and the major league baseball commissioner who banished Pete Rose from baseball. His great grandfather, Commodore Alfred Brown, was the first and only man to swim the Panama Canal. His mom and bro were/are both in the acting biz, too.

Viking Man continued to work on the downstairs basement. The ceiling is in, he'll finish texturizing today, I'll prime and paint tomorrow. We still have wood trim to install but it's sanded so I'll get it painted tomorrow, too. Then the light fixtures and the mirror go up and last of all a door knob. Details, details. We still have a million to get too.

Next up is trim on the 2nd floor. We have lots of cuts to make and dh is deliberately considering tool choices- we'll have to purchase a couple at least. And we have stairs to figure out. I have a board on Pinterest devoted to stairs. Who knew there was such diversity in stairs?

Friday was our last day of co-op for several weeks. My kids love co-op so they are not so happy about the break. But, we'll have visitors in between and One Act Play rehearsals and the Poetry Outloud competition, Christmas and 3 birthdays, so it's not like we won't be busy. Not to mention that Tutoring Center goes for 2 more weeks, and starts up again right off on the 3rd.

Last song of the season "On That Holy Mountain." Just beautiful!

Check out my Mom Gear Give-Away. RSD are offers purses (among other fab designs). The durability, beauty and washability of these purses make them a great addition to a busy homeshool, or working mom's, wardrobe. Sign-up soon! you have a GREAT chance of winning!

Our first snowfall of the season last night. Winter usually hits here with a vengeance just after Thanksgiving. It's been a dry, khaki colored fall.

Check out my review of Chapter 4 on Give Them Grace: License and Legalism over at HSV.