Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tired of Christmas Music?

The day after Christmas, my daughter Joy said, "I'm glad Christmas is over. I get tired of hearing Christmas music everywhere I go."

I agree with her to a point. What passes for Christmas music in the stores is often nerve-jangling junk. Still, it is hard for me to put away the really good Christmas music that we play at home. I usually keep playing it at least until New Year's Day.

Most years I add a new CD to our Christmas collection. This year I didn't do that, but I am just about to remedy that.

I discovered that Fernando Ortega has a new Christmas album! I am an Ortega aficionado. You can view details and listen to a few excerpts here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

An Elegant Pumpkin Soup


I love this velvety soup and often serve it as a first course for a Christmas or Thanksgiving meal. This year I tweaked it a bit and added the peanut butter. I'd like to tweak it again and try curry instead of ginger, just for variety. It can be garnished with toasted pecans, croutons, or pears.

Pumpkin Soup
serves 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons instant chicken bouillon granules
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
  • 2 1/2 cups half-and-half or light cream
  • 12 oz. cups pear nectar
  • 2 T. peanut butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large saucepan combine onion, water, and bouillon granules. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 10 minutes or until onion is very tender; cool slightly. Do not drain.
  2. Transfer mixture to a blender container or food processor bowl. Add pumpkin and peanut butter, and a little of the half & half. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Return pumpkin mixture to saucepan. Stir in remaining half-and-half , pear nectar, ginger, and white pepper. Cook and stir until heated through. Do not boil.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Low Key Christmas


I love Christmas festivities: concerts, special books, recipes, parties, and the like. But many years I have been guilty of cramming too much into the schedule. I wanted my kids to hear ALL of the books and learn ALL of the carols and make too many cute ornaments.

This year I streamlined and culled. No shopping trips for clothing--we wore clothes we already owned. Only one Christmas party. A few books and poems, savored more slowly. One concert, Handel's Messiah, our traditional kick-off to the season.

We had a wonderful Christmas!

Our stay-at-home day included dinner guest, singing our favorite carols, a scrumptious meal, good coffee, musical "jams" on newly-unwrapped instruments, Boggle games, and jogging camaraderie at the end of the day.

The day after Christmas can be such a letdown, but today I am feeling a lingering sweetness that is like a benediction settling my soul with contentment.

"And all the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them."
Nehemiah 8:12

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Shepherd's Song

Vintage Picture from The Graphics Fairy



The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?
My God, no hymn for Thee?
My soul's a shepherd too; a flock it feeds
Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is Thy word: the streams, Thy grace
Enriching all the place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
Out-sing the daylight hours.

~~~~George Herbert, 1593-1633

Monday, December 22, 2008

Joseph's Dream

Joseph's Dream
Georges Dumesnil de La Tour 1593 – 1652



"But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." Matthew 1:20

I recently did a Biblical study on Mary, the Mother of Jesus. One thing that struck me was that Mary was a very literate young woman. This is obvious from her beautiful "Magnificat," which is a literary gem that is saturated with correlations to Old Testament scriptures.

It is refreshing to see a painting depicting Joseph as a literary man as well, a deviation from the usual rendering of him in his carpenter role. In my mind, a man who is skilled with his hands AND his intellect constitutes the highest ideal.

I still wonder, though, why is Joseph usually depicted as being bald???



Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mary, Did You Know?







The only thing better than listening to your favorite Christmas music is to hear it sung by one of your own. My daughter Melody sang this at our worship service today and I thought I would share it. I hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

In the Bleak Midwinter

Family Time


My husband took a day off yesterday, so my daughter set up her new camera and shot these family pictures. It was nice to have a little time together on a snowy day. My husband and son spent a considerable amount of time chipping off the 2 inches of ice on the driveway, and then "chipped in" (literally) to help the neighbors. There were several guys outside and the camaraderie made the hard work more enjoyable.

The girls had their own camaraderie indoors by the fire. We set up the card table and played dominoes.

I like snow days!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fun with a Flute


"A flute with no holes is not a flute, and a doughnut with no hole is a Danish"

--Chevy Chase

My friend Shelene plays a flute with holes. When I told her that I once played the flute, she handed it to me and asked me to give it a try. I was terrible!! Partly because it has been nearly 30 years, and partly because I was never accustomed to the open-holed type of flute.

Last evening, she came to church with TWO flutes: her own and a hole-less one for me to play. She patiently took me through the B flat scale, refreshed my memory on a few finger positions, and then shoved some Christmas duets in front of me.

What fun! Twenty minutes of carols in two parts for the sheer joy of it.

Shelene is always drawing people in to sing with her or draw with her or talk about books..... and she is only 22! I love her.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Book Review: Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas


This year I have deviated from my usual Opal Wheeler book, entitled Sing for Christmas. I've borrowed it every Advent season from the library and we know most of the stories of the Christmas carols by heart.

My new find is Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas by Ace Collins. It adds richly to our repertoire of Christmas lore by incorporating the stories of modern Christmas classics into the mix. I have found myself skipping the chapters on the carols and reading the stories of how "Mary, Did You Know?" , "Do You Hear What I Hear?", and "White Christmas" were written. The short chapters are perfect for family circle time.

The carols are heirloom treasures, but I am also unabashedly fond of some of the more recent Christmas songs as well. "Something old, something new" could apply to Christmas as well as to weddings, in my opinion!

Here's a little quiz I designed from the pages of this book:

  1. Which Christmas song became popular after a cowboy singer introduced it at a rodeo at the Madison Square Garden?
  2. Which song was used by the Catholic church to teach doctrine "in code" ?
  3. Name the Christmas song that President John F. Kennedy declared to be his favorite.
  4. The first song ever to be broadcast on radio waves was a Christmas song. What is its title?
  5. A hyperactive young man was encouraged by his parents to develop his musical/performing skills. He eventually penned the lyrics of which modern-day classic Christmas song?
  6. Name the song that became a holiday prayer during WWII?
  7. A poor Appalachian waif sang a Christmas folk song that was passed down to her by previous generations. A historian was entranced by the haunting strains, and made it famous. Can you name the song?

answers: 1)Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 2) The Twelve Days of Christmas 3) Silver Bells 4) O Holy Night 5) Mary Do You Know? 6) I'll Be Home For Christmas 7) I Wonder as I Wander

Hello! Cupcake

This was my daughter's final creation for her "Hello! Cupcake" class at co-op. The class title was taken from this book. Artiste has always been enamored with nutcrackers, and draws them incessantly at Christmastime.

We had such fun at co-op this session. My children enjoyed enrichment classes in photography, beaded jewelry-making, chess, creation science, and cooking. These opportunities add another dimension to their homeschooling experience, and I am thankful.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Impromptu Thanksgiving


Because my youngest daughter was sick today, we had to cancel Thanksgiving plans with our extended family and have an at-home celebration. I had not purchased the traditional turkey or ham because I was assigned to prepare the salad and dessert. So, we had a different kind of a Thanksgiving today: grilled teriyaki steaks, cherry-banana salad, scalloped corn casserole, and pumpkin/cream cheese cake roll. It came together rather nicely considering it was impromptu!

The homely pineapple "turkey" on the table is a tradition at our house. His head has been recycled for at least 20 years, but we still enjoy unpacking him each year along with the thanksgiving candy dish and the books. I'm not very good at seasonal decorating~ I guess I just don't have time to fuss. So the few decorations we bring out every year do become special to the children.



We did have one turkey leg on the table, leftover from the church dinner last night. Artiste was able to take a couple of bites of it in spite of her ill health. I thought this picture was so funny!


Have you ever tried writing Thanksgiving acronyms? We have done this together every Thanksgiving since the children were old enough to write. Just jot down a blessing for each letter in your name, and then share your list aloud in the family circle.

The Courtship of Miles Standish has become our annual family read-aloud. I think of Longfellow as the quintessential American poet. Listen to these lines:

"Heard, as he drew near the door, the musical voice of Priscilla
Singing the hundredth Psalm, the grand old Puritan anthem,
ItalicMusic that Luther sang to the sacred words of the Psalmist,
Full of the breath of the Lord, consoling and comforting many.....

Open wide on her lap lay the well-worn psalm-book of Ainsworth,
Printed in Amsterdam, the words and the music together,
Rough-hewn, angular notes, like stones in the wall of a church-yard,
Darkened and overhung by the running vine of the verses.
Such was the book from whose pages she sang the old Puritan anthem,
She, the Puritan girl, in the solitude of the forest...."
It's good to have traditions, but it is also good to do something NEW. We played a new game called "Life Stories". It has been on our game shelf for a couple of years, but we have just recently pulled it out and enjoyed it. It's great for sharing memories, funny family stories, favorite vacation remembrances, etc. The kids played this game with their Grandparents last month, and it was a hit all round. My daughter wants me to buy another one so that she can have two tables going at the same time when she has her birthday party. It's not often you find a game that pleases young and old alike!

Good food, good reading, board games by the fire~~ so much to be grateful for here at the end of this Thanksgiving Day!


Monday, November 17, 2008

Book Review: The Twilight of American Culture by Morris Berman




"History repeats itself" is a well-known aphorism, one which Morris Berman would agree with only in part. When history comes full circle, the rebound would more closely resemble a helix, a bit more complex than a simple replay of the past. Each time a culture rises to power, a decline is inevitable but seeds of rebirth lie within that cultural decay. Like the mythical phoenix bird, new life may emerge from the ashes.

The book The Twilight of American Culture details author Morris Berman's thoughts on the decline of America, how this decline mirrors that of great civilizations of the past, and his projections (not predictions) of what type of society might spring from the ashes of America the Beautiful.

"As the twenty-first century dawns, American culture is, quite simply, in a mess. Millions of Americans feel this, if only on a subliminal level, while a few hundred write books and articles about it, documenting the trends and analyzing causes. (snip) It doesn't take an Emerson or an Einstein to recognize that the system has lost its moorings, and, like ancient Rome, is drifting into an increasingly dysfunctional situation."

People who would choose to read a book by this title probably don't need to be convinced that our society is in a state of decay. Regardless, Berman catalogues the signs of impending culture death evidenced in the mindless media, consumptive corporate world, sick entertainment, and declining literacy. Faced with this litany of depressing facts, I felt a little overwhelmed at our downward spiral. There was a little comic relief when I read that a university graduate thinks the Gettysburg Address is "an address to Getty." But maybe I should be crying because this kind of widespread illiteracy portends a cultural collapse of huge proportions.

As might be expected, Berman reaches back into history in order to compare America's decline with that of Rome and other ruined civilizations. In reaching back, he "pulls out a plum"-- a little gem of an idea on which he chooses to base the theme of this book:

the monastic option.

"....civilizations rise and fall, and a class of 'monks' is always necessary to preserve the treasures of the dying civilization and use them, like seeds, to impregnate a new one. In the process, they create an authentic life for themselves' the personal benefits of such activity are as important as the possible historical outcome."

The lens through which I view life is Biblical, so these thoughts readily stirred to my remembrance the many times the nation of Israel was reduced to a "remnant," a small nucleus of people who were faithful to preserve scripture, tradition, and culture on behalf of future generations.

Berman does not write from a spiritual perspective, and his worldview is different from mine. Still, I find his thought intriguing. He says,

"One of my intentions in writing The Twilight of American Culture was to create a kind of guidebook for disaffected Americans who feel increasingly unable to fit into this society, and who also feel that the culture has to change if it is to survive. (snip) I have argued that we are in the grip of structural forces that are the culmination of a certain historical process, so a major change is not likely to be quick or dramatic; but individual shifts in life ways and values may just possibly act as a wedge that would serve as a counterweight to the world of schlock, ignorance, social inequality, and mass consumerism that now defines the American landscape. At the very least, these 'new monks,' or native expatriates, as one might call them, could provide a kind of record of authentic ways of living that could be preserved and handed down, to resurface later on, during healthier times."


The "new monks" that are spoken of in the above quote are, of course, not religious in any sense of the word. They are only monk-like in that they preserve and transmit culture as did the Irish monks after the fall of Rome. Berman sees them creating "zones of intelligence" in private, local ways. Notice the word private; they are not in this for recognition or to be in the limelight.

What types of activities might these new monastic individuals (NMIs) engage in ?

  • craftsmanship- bucking the trend of buying imported, cheap junk and opting instead to create and invest in quality.
  • preserving scholarly works* more on this later
  • exercising stewardship over the environment~ could include gardening or agrarian pursuits
  • rejecting consumerism- perhaps opting for a simple Christmas celebration?

Berman admits that there are no guarantees that these NMIs will succeed in their endeavors, however, that individual will reap great personal rewards in putting forth the effort to contribute to the future. He states,

"You and I can lead the 'monastic' life, and we can start to do it right now. And don't worry about being marginalized; this is good."

If Berman had stopped here, I might have closed the book encouraged, but his final chapter is entitled "Alternate Visions," in which he explores the could-be's of the future. This presented a fork in the road for me, because his plausible scenarios leave out one very important truth: there is a God who is Sovereign over the affairs of man. Knowledge of Him, and intimate knowledge of His Word enables me to face the future with hope.

I acknowledge that there may dark days ahead, but choose to believe that history is linear and will culminate in the wonderful events outlined in scripture. Monastic individuals such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and John the apostle get some of the credit for preserving those wonderful words of life.

As I grow older, I become more and more cognizant of the fact that my life has a very small sphere of influence. But it is a sphere and I do wield influence, and that should not be negated.

*My husband and I started collecting old books early in our marriage. At first it was just a hobby, but as time goes by we have both begun to feel that this little treasure cache is not just for us. There will be, perhaps, someone who will value them long after we are gone.

I get goosebumps when I open a well-preserved, old volume and read the inscription written on the flyleaf in loopy, intricate handwriting:

"To my Colorado Sweetheart. Christmas 1920"

Whose hands lovingly held this same volume? What did it mean to them? Will someone yet unborn hold it at some future date and count it as precious as we have?

Some of the antique books that we have collected have brought to light a practice that I find distasteful. Modern publishers will sometimes reprint a vintage gem, but will leave out whole chapters. I presume this is because they want to eliminate controversial subject matter in favor of securing more sales. My "monastic" instinct tells me this is wrong. I want to see the author as he really is, not how someone else dresses him up (or down) to be.

Berman makes note of the fact that individuality is under fire in a declining culture. The chapters that are expurgated from books are usually the very ones that define the individual and set him apart from the pack. Society loses its vitality when individuality is quenched.

I think we all have an inborn need to feel that our life pursuits connect us to something much bigger than ourselves. We all need to feel there is a place in history for "little me." I'm thankful that my Christian faith allows for that individuality, while at the same time connecting me to a great cloud of witnesses who have shared the passion for truth that will set apart a certain percentage of people of EVERY generation.

"LORD, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born,
Or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting,
Thou art God." Psalm 90:1-2

Thursday, November 06, 2008

WHO WRITES THIS STUFF??


Every time I step into the shower, this outrageous claim on the shampoo bottle stares me in the face:

"The sweet and zesty fragrance of grapefruit and orange will reconnect the mind and spirit and fortify your hair with each use."

I wonder, when did my mind get disconnected from my spirit?

How can citrus fragrance put me back together again?

Most of all, I wonder WHO WRITES THESE THINGS???

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Day After

1. The Bible still has the answers.

2. Prayer will still work.

3. The Holy Spirit will still move.

4. God will still inhabit the praises of His people.

5. There will still be God-anointed preaching.

6. There will still be singing of praise to God.

7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people.

8. There will still be room at the Cross.

9. Jesus will still love you.

10. Jesus will still save the lost when they come to Him.

and God approves this message!

ISN'T IT GREAT TO KNOW WHO IS REALLY IN CHARGE?

(This came to me via e-mail and I thought it worth passing on. Thanks Diane!)

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Great Fall Sandwich




These sandwiches were served at my recent pastors' wives retreat and they were yummy!

Turkey and Brie Sandwich

good quality whole-wheat bread
thin sliced turkey or smoked turkey
brie cheese, sliced
cranberry sauce
spinach leaves

Friday, October 17, 2008

End-of-the-Week Inventory




Another week has drawn to a close and I have that satisfied-but-tired feeling that comes after expending myself. There were some definite highlights to remember this week; little things that I want to mark and remember:

History: Melody, now in 10th grade, gave me great delight when she exclaimed, "I LOVE history!" and "How I want to go to England to see all of the things I've read about!" Those comments are music to my ears, because a year ago we had hit a definite dry spot in our historical studies. We were using Winston Churchill's Birth of Britain and although I loved it, Melody did not. Twenty chapters later, I realized that this book was killing her interest. I scouted out a replacement book that has turned things around entirely, a book entitled, Heritage of Britain: Great Moments in the Story of an Island Race. Written in 1975, before pseudo-history came into vogue, the narrative is lively and well-written --not the caliber of Churchill, but decent, nonetheless. And the pictures!! Gorgeous, glossy pictures of everything from Stonehenge, to the kings and queens, to the white cliffs, to the Bronte sisters.... you get the idea. I had to wait a very long time to get this book, because I couldn't locate one for sale here in the U.S.. My copy came from the U.K., and Melody's turnaround enthusiasm made it well worth the wait and the extra postage.

Great poetry moments: Do you ever go back over a poem a second or a third time to savor the most beautiful phrases? We loved this phrase from Sara Teasdale's poem:

The air was blurred with dry leaves flying.
Gold and scarlet, gaily dying.

Word studies: during our shared reading time, one of the children mused, "I wonder if apostate and posterity share the same root ? We looked it up and discovered they did not. I wouldn't be writing about this seemingly insignificant incident if it had been ME that had initiated the research. It is just so gratifying to see their own love for language expanding.

Political discussions: Daily. Often. Seasoned with family prayer.
I feel an urgency to pass on to my children an understanding of our government that encompasses intellect and heart. Toward that end, we've been reading a book entitled Rediscovering God in America, by Newt Gingrich. It is a walking tour of Washington D.C. and catalogues all the references to God at each attraction. We've also printed out the Declaration of Independence and have been highlighting similar references. Eventually, I want them to write the articles of the constitution in their own words. They need to know this. I need to know this.

Music--Magnificat in D by Bach this week. Nothing fancy, just listening to the trumpets and for the repeating of the themes.

A Field Trip--we haven't done many of these lately. For the sake of my youngest, we went to a pumpkin farm. We learned about French Cinderella pumpkins, blue Australian pumpkins, and New York pumpkins that look like a wheel of cheese. I bought a lot of the miniature pumpkins, too, because we are going to use them in the co-op cooking class to make meatloaf baked in individual pumpkin shells.

There are always so many things at the end of the week that I haven't been able to mark off of my "to do" list. Sometimes, it is good to look at it from the opposite perspective and to be grateful for what we DID accomplish. By HIS grace!

What Jesus Is

What Jesus Is

"To the artist, He is the one altogether lovely–Song of Solomon 5:15
To the architect, He is the chief cornerstone–I Peter 2:6
To the astronomer, He is the sun of righteousness–Malachi 4:2
To the baker, He is the bread of life–John 6:35
To the banker, He is the hidden treasure–Matthew 13:44
To the builder, He is the sure foundation–Isaiah 28:16
To the carpenter, He is the door–John 10:7
To the doctor, He is the great physician–Jeremiah 8:22
To the educator, He is the great teacher–John 3:2
To the engineer, He is the new and living way–Hebrews 10:20
To the farmer, He is the sower and Lord of harvest–Luke 10:2
To the florist, He is the rose of Sharon–Song of Solomon 2:1
To the geologist, He is the rock of ages–I Corinthians 10:4
To the horticulturist, He is the true vine–John 15:1
To the judge, He is the only righteous judge of man–II Timothy 4:8
To the juror, He is the faithful and true witness–Revelation 3:14
To the jeweler, He is the pearl of great price–Matthew 13:46
To the lawyer, He is counselor, lawgiver, and true advocate–Isaiah 9:6
To the newspaper man, He is tidings of great joy–Luke 2:10
To the oculist, He is the light of the eyes–Proverbs 29:13
To the philanthropist, He is the unspeakable gift–II Corinthians 9:15
To the philosopher, He is the wisdom of God–I Corinthians 1:24
To the preacher, He is the Word of God–Revelation 19:13
To the sculptor, He is the living stone–1 Peter 2:4
To the servant, He is the good master–Matthew 23:8-10
To the statesman, He is the desire of all nations–Haggai 2:7
To the student, He is the incarnate truth–1 John 5:6
To the theologian, He is the author and finisher of our faith–Hebrews 12:2
To the toiler, He is the giver of rest–Matthew 11:28
To the sinner, He is the Lamb of God who takes the sin away–John 1:29

To the Christian, He is the Son of the Living God,
the Saviour, the Redeemer, and the Loving Lord."


Little Momma shared this with me and I love it! She got it from here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Late October by Sara Teasdale


I found ten kinds of wild flowers growing
On a steely day that looked like snowing;
Queen Anne's lace, and blue heal-all,
A buttercup, straggling, grown too tall.
A rusty aster, a chicory flower--
Ten I found in half an hour.
The air was blurred with dry leaves flying.
Gold and scarlet, gaily dying.
A squirrel ran off with a nut in his mouth,
And always, always, flying south,
Twittering, the birds went by
Flickering sharp against the sky;
Some in great bows, some in wedges,
Some in bands with wavering edges;
Flocks and flocks were flying over
With the north wind for their drover.
"Flowers," I said, "you'd better go,
Surely it's coming on for snow,"--
They did not heed me, nor heed the birds,
Twittering thin, far-fallen words--
The others thought of to-morrow, but they
Only remembered yesterday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Book in Progress: Frankenstein


I did not expect to like this book. It was a title to be read by my two teenagers for homeschool, and I decided to make it a read aloud. I am so glad I did. It is provoking very stimulating discussion: what is the root of evil? Can evil be blamed on circumstances? Can it be blamed on our DNA? What does a creature owe to his Creator? Is it preferable to face evil or run from it?
etc.

Not easy questions, but ones that invite in depth thinking.

The author, Mary Shelley, was the wife of the famous English poet. The language in the book is rich and complex.

Somehow, I missed this book when I was in school and I am glad to have a chance to visit it now in tandem with my own teens. I'm sorry it has been cheapened by poor representations in movies and re-writes, because there are some important gems hidden in its pages.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Quote from the Not-So-Distant Past





“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

~Ronald Reagan

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My Candle Burns at Both Ends


My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But, ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light.

--Edna St. Vincent Millay

"My duty is never measured by what I feel is within my power to do,
but by what God's grace enables me to do."

--Andrew Murray

"A Christian poet of a bygone generation wrote a rather long hymn around a single idea: You can, by three little words, turn every common act of your life into an offering acceptable to God. The words are 'For Thy sake'....."

--A.W. Tozer

"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.

--Luke 9:24

I am a slow-paced person and my desire for a meditative life has been strong enough to enable me say "no" to many extraneous activities. I stepped out of my career when I was in my late 20's and ordered my life in such a way as to keep afternoons free for Bible reading, writing, and prayer. My candle burned steady & slow.

My 4th decade found me with 4 children under the age of 6. The quiet, meditative life was a thing of the past but the habits of that life lingered. I dropped nearly all outside ministries and commitments and allowed my little light to burn at home. Period.

Now in my 50's, I am acutely aware that my candle is no longer a tall taper. I could spare the wax so as to make the flame last a little longer, but for the first time in my life I feel the strong urgency to do just the opposite: to burn the candle at both ends.

In my roles as wife, mother, teacher, and friend my energies are constantly being poured out. Once, I would have resented the lavishness of the expenditure. Now I see that the unreserved burning creates the vacuum into which God may whoosh! send the fresh oxygen of His Holy Spirit to renew the brightness of the burning.

Sunday is often the day that happens for me. I'm truly learning what it means to rest spiritually on that day.

Lord, keep me burning till the break of day.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Ideas Have Consequences Chapter 6: The Spoiled Child Psychology


We've all met the spoiled child at the grocery store. He's the cute toddler who spies the red sucker at the check-out counter and wants it. Now. Pointing to it with his chubby finger, he announces his desire to his mother. "No," she says, and tries to distract him. The child's demand becomes louder, more insistent. The tired-looking mother beseeches his help in unloading the cart, but to no avail. She becomes more and more embarrassed as the drama increases: the child reddens, throws himself weeping on the ground, and kicks his feet. With an exasperated sigh, his harried Mother capitulates. The child gets up and takes his reward. His stormy demeanor has been transformed to a sunny smile. The crisis has been averted--temporarily.

Why is the grocery store the typical setting for such a scene? Because it it the place where needs/wishes can be instantly gratified. The spoiled child receives a tangible reward without expending himself to work for it.

Richard Weaver observes that city life breeds and reinforces the spoiled-child mindset in a myriad of ways. The artificial atmosphere of city life breaks the link between effort and reward. There is no hunting, gardening, or chopping of wood needed because goods can be obtained through a complicated and little understood means of exchange. As the child becomes accustomed to comfort without discipline, he naturally assumes that he deserves to be gratified. He is a consumer rather than a contributor. When he grows up, his inflated sense of self worth causes him to feel that the world owes him a living. In Weaver's words:

"The city renders sterile."


The benefit of hard work can hardly be disputed. When a man has a sense of mission, he willingly bends his back to difficult tasks in order to carry them out. His work is a joy. It is therapeutic, too, providing him with a vision bigger than self and giving a reason for self-discipline. Reward becomes sweet because it doesn't come easy and it doesn't come cheap.

What happens when a whole society shifts from a rural to an urban culture? There is a decrease in self discipline, a decline in the work ethic and hardness of individuals. That society ceases to produce true heroes, because there is no longer an arena in which they must struggle for survival. Heroes cannot be made in a place of comfort and softness.

Perhaps the greatest challenge confronting Western culture, in Weaver's words, will be to

"overcome the spoiled-child psychology sufficiently to discipline for struggle."


He points his finger at science, the tool of "progress" that has made life easy and the "stereopticon" (media) that has actively brainwashed people into being mere consumers.

The fact is that a society cannot survive without a workforce. If the workforce becomes complacent, soft, and solely consumeristic-- the members of that workforce begin to resent those in managerial roles who are needing their productivity. Society is set on a course of decline.

The final words of this chapter are almost chilling in the light of the recent economic actions of our government to shore up private companies. Listen to Weaver's thoughts:

"So long as private enterprise survives, there remain certain pressures not related to mass aspiration, but when industrial democracy insistently batters at private control, this means of organization and direction diminishes. Society eventually pauses before a fateful question: Where can it find a source of discipline?"


I have to ask myself some questions, too, after reading this chapter.

  • How can I, as a city dweller, maintain the link between work and reward?
  • Am I only a consumer, or do I actively contribute toward the benefit of others?
  • Do I shrink from struggles, or do I have the larger outlook that struggles are the very forces that discipline me and make me a fit, contributing member of society?
  • How can I teach my children the discipline and reward of hard work?
  • Who are my heroes?
I may explore some of these thoughts on future posts, before I go on to the next chapter in the book. Important stuff!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tilted


This tree picture prompts the memory of a lovely thing, something enjoyed just last month. I had my morning devotions two days in a row beside this strange tree. As I read the words of Psalm 1, words which describe a tree planted by streams of water, I could see the living embodiment of the poetry right before my eyes.

Usually, I think of a lovely tree as being straight & symmetrical. This one does not conform to the standard definition of beauty. It is unbalanced, leaning heavily in the direction of the water. The branches that extend over the shore are short, while the branches that extend over the water are longer, appearing like fingers straining to reach into the cool flow.

I guess my life is a lot like that tree. I've tilted myself heavily in the direction of the eternal flow, actively seeking the Living Waters. That choice has forever ruined me in the world's eyes: I bend away from its attachments and appear rather lopsided as a result.

I am comforted by this scene because this tree is a thing of beauty in spite of its asymmetry.
With arms reaching toward the eternal, the less I want to extend myself to the world and the less I care about conforming to its standards.

Lord, make my life such a thing of beauty.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Leisure & the Educated Mind

"Peace of mind, solitude, long stretches of concentration, have become luxuries almost beyond reach. We express this very inadequately by saying that we are 'frightfully busy just now.' Deep down we know that the condition is permanent for all who cannot afford the blessed relief of a nervous breakdown.

Now the educated as we have known them in the past have had roots in an entirely different soil and breathed a different air. They were products of leisure and independence, of established institutions and quiet maturing. They contributed to others' enjoyment of life by sharing with them the pleasures of conversation and friendship and spoken wisdom, but enrichment of the mind was the chief concern. The enterprise was deemed legitimate. Whatever was done to earn fame or money, from winning battles to farming estates, the doer was not so bedeviled by it that he lacked time to engage in the fundamental activities of the educated, which are: to read, write, think, and converse." ~ Jacques Barzun


I learned recently that Jacques Barzun is over one hundred years old! Surely then, his words about leisure and quiet maturing are worthy of a second glance. He's had the time to test them out.

I fondly remember my first reading of historian Jacques Barzun's work. It was the very large tome he is best known for, From Dawn to Decadence, a history of the 1500's to the present. We had many a wonderful afternoon together, Jacque and I, as I read his book while sprawled out on a blanket under a tree. It took the whole summer.

Leisure is not something I easily carve out for myself. When I do, like as not I will feel a little guilty about it. After all, there is always another load of laundry to fold, or a phone call that I need to return, or a floor that needs swept. But when Barzun speaks of the "frightfully busy" condition as being permanent, I shudder. That thought provides me with enough resolve to put aside the busy-busy tasks and "breath a different air."

The short term reward is recovery of breath; rejuvenation. The long term reward is that I gain an education.

To read a book deeply is to "put my roots in a different soil" and to "breathe a different air." I can glean wisdom from great men and in fact share the very air they breathe. Spirit is "breath", and the written word enables me a living connection with men of far-flung locale from any generation.

The four activities that Barzun says mark an educated person are all word-related:

*READING
Most Americans probably read a lot: the back of the cereal box, the billboard on the way to work, the news blog. The problem is that we have become accustomed to mini-snippets and unaccustomed to the "long stretches of concentration" to which Barzun refers. Those long stretches require scheduling.

As a parent, I also feel a responsibility to assure my family's ability to read and concentrate in a focused manner. Jane Healy's books have convinced me that TV, movies, and computer usage should be severely limited before a child has the capacity to read fluently. Even after fluency is achieved, it remains prudent to be vigilant. The mind is lazy and loves to be coddled with passive information rather than to be challenged by deep thoughts.

Here are my own current reads:
Ideas Have Consequences
Money, Possessions, and Eternity
Savannah
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge

What are yours?

*WRITING

From personal journaling, to blogging, to writing Sunday School Curriculum~~ writing is the thing that forces my rusty brain to get in gear and get to work. The best writers normally schedule in daily time to practice and do not wait for the "mood" to strike. Writing is learned by jumping in and DOING it. Sometimes, I like to do my high school kids' writing assignments alongside with them. It's instructive and sharpening.

William Zinnser, in his book Write to Learn, contends that the linear, step-by-step process of writing enables us to learn difficult subjects. Think physics or calculus or whatever else you might find difficult. When grappling with a knotty problem, tangles are often cleared up when I write about it.

*THINKING

Writing and thinking are closely connected. Clear writing produces clear thinking; or is it the other way around?

One uniquely human attribute that we have is the power of will to direct our thinking. To CHOOSE what I think about is an aspect of self governance that I suspect will take a lifetime to truly master. I can and I ought to take my thoughts captive. Sometimes I have helped myself along by speaking or reading aloud, or by writing my thoughts on paper.

We also have the ability to store up beautiful memories, songs, and stories in the treasure chest of the heart. Whenever we need something uplifting to think about, those gems are waiting for us to retrieve and to enjoy again.

*CONVERSING

A person who is an avid reader will never fail to have imaginative ideas as fodder for good conversation. My recent reading of Benjamin Franklin's biography comes to mind here. His reputation as a conversationalist was largely due to the fact that he made regular investments in his reading habit. Barzun, in the above quote, notes that conversation is a pleasure that adds enjoyment to the lives of others. I like the other-centeredness of that thought. We all know people who love only to hear their own voice.....that is another subject!

What living ideas have you recently gleaned from your reading that would make for lively conversation? Don't make the mistake of thinking that no one else would be interested. It's usually safe to infer that if it interests YOU, it will also interest others. Take a risk and start a conversation!

OK, I'll take my own advice. I just highlighted a quote in the book Money, Possessions, and Eternity:

"The very expression 'financial independence' may be blasphemy."

Say what?

That is a bold statement that is sure to get people talking!

In case you are interested, as I was, in the "why" behind the statement-- here it is:
When I am financially secure, I don't really sense my need for God. To have a lack in some area may be a blessing. In fact, that gap in my supply may be engineered purposefully by my Sovereign to keep me mindful of my dependence on Him. Why is it that we usually equate material blessing with God's favor? It may be just the opposite, keeping us from drawing near because we are self sufficient.



It's Sunday evening and a whole new week stretches before me. I'm so glad that for now I have wrenched myself away from that which keeps me "frightfully busy." Thank you, Mr. Barzun for your example of quiet maturing. If I live to be 100, I hope that I, too, will show evidence of that same maturity borne of masterly leisure.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Melody sans Braces


It was a red-letter day when Melody got her braces off!! I promised her I would take her for a professional photograph. I am ashamed to say that I have not done that since she was.....gasp....
five? six?

As it turned out, I did not have to take her to a stuffy photography studio. Our sweet friend Mikaela, who is in her senior year of college majoring in art, volunteered to do the photos.
Isn't this one great?
Braces, recitals, birthdays......little milestones on the path of life.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ideas Have Consequences Chapter 5 "The Great Stereopticon"


If you have ever seen the play Our Town, you will probably be humming the old hymn "Bless'd Be the Tie that Binds" for several days. There was a time in history when the tie that bound people together in community was religion. When that tie is broken, we are fragmented and left grasping for artificially generated projects that will keep up our community spirit.

Richard Weaver, the quintessential conservative, says that the liberal's solution to fragmentation is to
"let religion go but to replace it with education".


Not just the education of youth in the classroom, either. He means the day in, day out indoctrination of the entire citizenry through every channel of life and entertainment available. Weaver has dubbed the machinery that makes this possible "the Great Stereopticon" and it includes the press, motion pictures, radio, and T.V. (he wrote in the 1940's before internet).

Do you view new technology as progress? When a new device becomes available and affordable for home use, do you evaluate what it will take as well as what it will give? I confess to being sensitized to this type of critical thinking only very recently. I need men like Richard Weaver and Neil Postman to help me evaluate the choices.

As an example, take the newspaper. The pre-selected news articles are carefully arranged and worded to grab our attention. The press is something Americans are typically very proud of. It gives us information, disseminates issues and ideas. But what does it take from us?

Weaver contends it has taken away the art of discourse. Because we are passive recipients of information , we usually do not actively engage in serious discourse with others on these issue. Plato said that truth often leaps up between people engaged in discourse "like a flame." That doesn't happen when we each read the issues silently and alone. Discussion is minimized, deep reflection is discouraged because of the sheer number of ideas and articles to which we are exposed.

"...the decay of conversation has about destroyed the practice of dialectic."


The press has also taken away our modest sensibilities, sanctioning the romantic ideals of emotion and sensation. The dark, the gruesome, and the depressing articles take precedence over all else because that's what sells newspapers.

John Adams wrote, at the age of 70:

"I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus and Thucydides, for Newton and Euclid, and I find myself much the happier."


I haven't entirely given up the newspaper, but I have given up the evening news and TV and I'm spending that time reading more deeply. I agree with John Adams-- meaty books contribute to my happiness. My husband is farther along than I am on this path. He can read the greatest book, the Bible, for three hours at a crack. And do you know what? When we are both reading substantial books, I find we have fodder for the most interesting conversations! I have experienced Plato's thrilling "flame that leaps up" when a truth is uncovered in the course of discussion.

Weaver's criticism of movies is a little different from what you have come to expect from most conservatives. Rather than to criticize the raw language, the sex scenes, and the violence, he zeroes in on the marring of the hero-image. The role models on screen he describes as "egotistic, selfish, self-flaunting, flippant, vacuous-minded." Virtue requires examples of highest quality and those models are not, he says, being promoted in the cinema.

Radio/T.V. is the third part of the stereopticon. Radio is inescapable, a "cheerful liar". The tragedies of the day are delivered in polished monotones.
"This is the voice of the Hollow Man",

dead to sentiment. Radio provides one-sided conversation, a conversation monopolized by one partner and rendering the listener mute.

The stereopticon brings a constant barrage of the cynical, the brutal, and the negative. How does this affect our psyche? It chips away at our very souls and it cuts us off from the past.

"Technology emancipates not only from memory but also from faith."

but
"The man of culture finds the whole past relevant."


How can we find relief?

  • From nature
  • By returning to primary data: good books
  • By remembering the enduring forms, the great universal ideas of the ages
  • By turning away from the brutal and sentimental

It's an upstream battle. I think Weaver would have been encouraged by the homeshool movement, had he lived long enough to see it. Many homeschool families I know have turned off the TV or severely limited it. Nature studies are a standard part of homeschool curriculum. And of course classical education may be a small minority, but it is still very much alive.

This chapter has strengthened my resolve to be one of the minority.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Book Review: A Year Without "Made in China"

I should have written this book. Though I have never engaged in a formal boycott of Chinese imports, I have been married to a man who, for 31 years has challenged me to buy American products. This is not because he has a vendetta against China. No, it is rooted in concern for the United States of America, her self-sufficiency, her economic health, and ultimately her sovereignty.

My husband tends to go a step farther than did Sara Bongiorni, who authored the book that tells of her year's experiment. Sara would buy merchandise from any country but China; my husband scouts out American products. While it makes the thrill of the hunt more exciting, it also makes targeted purchases more elusive.

There was the year my son needed a bike. The Preacher spent countless hours scouring the city for the one with a "Made in the U.S.A." logo. He found one. Exactly one. One that had big scratches. One that, sadly, literally fell apart the first time my son rode it. It was almost like being mocked, "Take that for your loyalty!"

Last year, it was the microwave oven that needed replaced. Our city boasts one of the largest appliance marts in the country, so we started at one end of a long avenue of microwaves and worked our way to the other end, confident that we would find the American product we were looking for. The sales clerk followed us each step of the way, proudly enumerating the virtues of each oven. My husband patiently listened to each spiel and then would open the oven door, look for the country of origin, shut the door, and move on to the next one.

I knew what he was doing. The sales woman did not. By the time we came to the last model, my heart was sinking because the chances of my walking out of this place with a new microwave were looking pretty slim. The lady was nearly out of breath, having given us every pitch for every model.

Politely, my husband said, "Ma'am, do you realize that not a single model you have shown us was made in our own country?"

She arched her eyebrows, looking incredulous. Then SHE opened each and every oven door, just to verify his statement.

"I never would have believed it! You're right. I have learned something today," she said as she walked away.

I was glad to have added to her education, but I WANTED A MICROWAVE.

As we were leaving, the Preacher spied an "orphan" microwave around the corner, all by itself. It was a Sharp model and it bore the proud words "Made in the U.S.A."

SOLD!

Sara Bongiorni has a whole year's worth of stories like mine to tell, but she's a better writer and has the knack of making their predicaments sound very funny. I think the fact that both she and her spouse had a sense of humor greatly enhanced their year long experiment as they had to go without Chinese toys for their young children, tennis shoes, seasonal decorating items, and ink cartridges. I laughed out loud several times while reading, feeling our sisterhood on this issue a little too keenly at times.

One incident that was particularly humorous was her husband's inability to find sunglasses. The alternative was an Italian pair for $150---definitely not in the family budget. So this resourceful man dug out his ski goggles and used them. She likened him to a horse with blinders---too funny!

What did this family learn by the end of their boycott? That it's next to impossible to buy electronics, lamps, tennis shoes, even candy canes without patronizing China. That young children are NOT damaged when they are denied cheap, poorly constructed Chinese made toys.
That other alternatives are often available if you take the time to search them out.

How did it affect their finances? Sara figured that many of the items they bought from countries other than China were more expensive. BUT, they saved a lot of money by buying fewer items and passing over the cheap "junk" that is so enticingly displayed at every turn.

This was a fun book with a serious point, and Sara writes with sensitivity. She was very respectful of the Chinese culture, but like me she feels uncomfortable about the power they are attaining over us economically. She didn't try to win others to her way of thinking or act self righteous because of her choices. It was all presented as a grand experiment.

Sara and her husband decided that in the future they would purchase Chinese products when there were no other reasonable options. She felt that they had been sensitized to the alternatives and that the habit of making thoughtless purchases had been broken. This in itself is a sane achievement in these days of economic turn down.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Book Review: Benjamin Franklin: His Autobiography


I didn't intend to read this book. It was something I ordered for my son to read when school starts again in the fall. But as I thumbed through it, I found every random thread I perused to be enthralling. I'm not sorry that I went back to the beginning and gave it the attention it deserved.

If I had to compose one quintessential description of Benjamin Franklin's life I would call him a "wisdom seeker". He could glean wisdom from old Quaker women, from books, from conversations,from drunkards, even from his enemies. He passed some of that wisdom on in his writings, but his greatest strength was that he was able to model it and live it.

If he had any fault, it was that he talked too much in his later years. But who could blame him? He was a virtual fountain of rich life experience ranging from swimming (did you know he was an athlete?), writing, business, politics, community service, diplomacy,science, journalism, and even military service.

There is nothing boring here. I loved his ideas about thrift, which are amazingly applicable to our time of economic turn down. It was almost a game for him to support himself on the least possible amount, without compromising quality of life. He writes:

"Thus I spent about eighteen months in London; most part of the time I work'd hard at my business, and spent but little upon myself except in seeing plays and in books."

B.F. could gladly subsist on plain food and simple lodging, but refused to starve his mind and soul by neglecting the living ideas found in books and the arts. His extensive reading made him a brilliant conversationalist so that one can say that providing himself with stimulating "mind food" was the equivalent of investing in himself.

His ideas on religion were disappointing to me; he rejected the divine inspiration of scripture but held to the tenets therein that he found worthy in his own estimation. As a Christian, I believe scripture should judge the thoughts of man and Franklin had it completely opposite~ he judged scripture with his intellect. But that is simply an evidence that he was a man of his times. The 19th century was the dawn of a new era where science would reign. Franklin, of course, could also be labeled a scientist as a result of his experiments on electricity.

I can't wait to discuss this book with my son. There are many, many life lessons here for a young man, yet he is not "preachy". Franklin does not simply catalogue his successes, but is also honest about his mistakes, which he calls "errata". He had the ability to learn from the mistakes of others, too, recognizing their flaws without a trace of malice.

This book has great historical value as it covers the years and events that led up to the Revolutionary War. Because he made so many trips to Britain during this time, one also picks up the perspective of the Tories in his writing.

Whether you are looking for a character study, a historical reading, or just an engaging story~~this book fits the criteria of all of these. I can't imagine why I was never led to this book in my younger years, but I am going to make sure all of my children read it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

After the Storm

Girl in Bed with Cat
Vintage Art Print

It's a fierce thunderstorm that's raging this evening, the kind that sends the cat skulking to his hiding place under the couch. I find my own place of refuge propped against the bed pillows, sipping a cup of PG Tips tea. My emotions have been as intense as the storm this evening, and I share the cat's instinct to take refuge in a safe place.

I reflect on the carefully planned dinner that a few hours ago took a downward spiral into a disastrous debacle. Where did I go wrong?

I had spent a lot of time preparing spareribs, fresh sweet corn, and oatmeal buns slathered with butter. I pictured a time of sweet family fellowship around the table. But instead of enjoying the food, a couple of the children rehashed an old argument. When my attempts to quash it failed, I became angry.

HOW DARE THEY SPOIL THIS NICE FAMILY MEAL???

The long and the short of it is that I didn't act any more mature than they did.

A wise woman once said we need to love without getting tired. I guess that means I need to:

  • seek forgiveness
  • extend forgiveness
  • let it go
  • prepare another meal tomorrow

I learned a long time ago that victory is putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. It would be easier to quit trying, but then I know I'd miss out on that fresh new beginning that can only be described as a world freshly scrubbed after a thunderstorm.

As I finish writing these words, the thunder peals have become more distant. I can barely hear them. Tomorrow, I probably won't even think about them.

It will be a new day.

"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed,
because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23

Oklahoma!


This past week-end we enjoyed an outdoor, twilight performance of Oklahoma! in our community's new amphitheater. I'm still humming "Surrey with the Fringe on Top" and "Oh What a Beautiful Morning." I loved the raucous energy of the dancers and vocalists.

Do you know why Oklahomans are called "Sooners"?

April 22, 1889 was the first day people could stake a claim for a homestead in the Oklahoma territory. Some people tried to beat the noon starting gun, and they were nicknamed "Sooners".
Over a hundred years later, Oklahomans are still known as "Sooners", although most people have no idea why!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sisters


"Sisters -- they share the agony and the exhilaration. As youngsters they may share popsicles, chewing gum, hair dryers and bedrooms. When they grow up, they share confidences, careers and children, and some even chat for hours every day." ~Roxanne Brown

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Book Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


This is a semi-fictional memoir of a young woman who grew up in Brooklyn at the turn of the 20th century. The author manages to sandwich sweet vignettes between the tangy and the tart. Life was hard in the city in those days; yet the main character shows no sign of self pity. Rather, the difficulties make her become like the "trash tree" that stubbornly grows through the cracks in the city concrete. This becomes the symbol of her life, and the title of the book.

One thing I found particularly fascinating was the contrast between Francie (main character) and her mother and Grandmother. Though the Grandmother was illiterate, she was sagacious and able to pass on gems of wisdom orally to Francie's mother. The mother had only a 6th grade education, and had to do menial labor to scrape a living. She wanted a better life for her daughter and came to the Grandmother for advice.

Here are some of Francie's Grandmother's gems of wisdom:

"Mother, I am young. Mother, I am just eighteen. I am strong. I will work hard, Mother, But I do not want this child to grow up just to work hard. What must I do, Mother, what must I do to make a different world for her? How do I start?"

"The secret lies in the reading and the writing. You are able to read. Every day you must read one page from some good book to your child. Every day this must be until the child learns to read. The she must read every day, I know this is the secret."

(Snip)

"What is a good book?"

(Snip)

"The Protestant Bible and Shakespeare."

"And you must tell the child the legends I told you--as my mother told them to me and her mother to her. You must tell the fairy tales of the old country. You must tell of those not of the earth who live forever in the hearts of people--fairies, elves, dwarfs and such. You must tell of the great ghosts that haunted your father's people and of the evil eye which a hex put on your aunt. You must teach the child of the signs that come to the women of our family when there is trouble and death to be. And the child must believe in the Lord God and Jesus, His Only Son."

(Snip)

"In teaching your child, do not forget that suffering is good too. It makes a person rich in character."

"If that is so," commented Katie bitterly, then we Rommelys are rich."

"We are poor, yes. We suffer. Our way is very hard. But we are better people because we know of the things I have told you. I could not read but I told you of all of the things I learned from living. You must tell them to your child and add on to them such things as you will learn as you grow older."


I thought this was fascinating because today so much of what is learned about child rearing is learned from books. Books are wonderful, but in some ways they are a poor replacement for that firsthand connection between the generations. The old Grandmother in this story proved to be prophetic in her words. Little Francie grew up to be a writer and was the first in her family to break free of the bondage of hard manual labor.

A bittersweet and poignant read~~very worthwhile.






Monday, July 07, 2008

On Growing Older

"Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy man has no time to form."
Andre Maurois, French author (1885-1967)

When I read this quote I immediately thought of my Dad. In his mid 70's, he has recently completed an amazing basement renovation in the little house he and my Mom are preparing to move into. I label it "amazing" because my Dad has recently lost much of his eyesight due to macular degeneration and he also has no feeling in the fingers of his right hand. My Mom helped him guide the drill when precision was needed, so she gets part of the credit, too!

Our family enjoyed an overnight with them on the 4th of July. They have the true gift of hospitality, and we felt as though we had just spent time at a lovely bed & breakfast. Hats off to them for showing how productive our older years can be.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Pie and a Poem

The cherry pie is the end result of a lovely day we spent in the country at the home of our friends. Their cherry tree was loaded, and we happily set to work filling buckets of the tart red gems. Then we spent a pleasant couple of hours around the kitchen table, pitting them and talking. I came home with cherries just begging to be put into a pie. I've never felt I was a good pie-maker; somehow I never could master the art of making a crispy crust. I used refrigerated dough for this one and turned out a reasonably edible pie. At least I can say that there was not one crumb left after our 4th of July supper!

Speaking of pies, I enjoyed this poem that I gleaned from an antique book (1907) entitled Dinners and Luncheons. Here it is:

Two Pies

If you would know the flavor of a pie,
The juicy sweet, the spice and tart, you must
Be patient till the fiery core is cool,
And bite a little deeper than the crust.

If you would know the flavor of a man,--
God's mud pie, made of Eden's dew and dust,--
Be patient till love's fire has warmed him through,
And look a little deeper than the crust.
--Aloysius Coll

Monday, June 23, 2008

How I Entered Tasha Tudor's Private World



I had a rush of memories after reading about Tasha Tudor's death last week, and I headed to the bookshelf to pull out my well-worn copy of this book to reminisce. It was the ONLY book that engaged my daughter Joy when she was a toddler. Her older siblings sat in my lap by the hour as we read book after book. Not Joy. She displayed an independent spirit from the first and would grab the book out of my hand while announcing, "I read it MYSELF!" Then she would run to a quiet corner somewhere and jabber while turning the pages.

I was concerned. Reading is what I do and I wanted to do it together. Perhaps I wanted it too much, because nothing could entice her to sit on my lap for a book.

Enter Tasha Tudor. My Mom gave me a copy of Tasha Tudor's Private Word, a glossy coffee table type of book with gorgeous photographs. Joy was mesmerized. We bleated with the goat, used our fingers to stir Tasha Tudor's soup pot, petted the kitty, and said rhymes about the full moon pictured in the book. We did this SO MANY TIMES that even today when I turn the pages I walk my fingers up Tasha Tudor's snow-covered steps and count as I go. It is an ingrained response.



I asked Joy if she remembered this book? Yes, she remembered. This said with a coy little smile. She still is and always will be "Miss Independence", but I am thankful that this one book is a shared memory for the two of us.

Thanks, Mom!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

June Joys


  • On my evening walk I spotted the first fireflies of the season. Always a thrill!
  • The heavy, sweet smell of linden tree blossoms is pervasive this evening.
  • A purple finch showed off his colors to me today.
  • Children in the driveway with paintbrushes in hand, happily creating art work.
  • Pork chops wafting their tantalizing aroma as they cook on the grill.
  • Fresh strawberries.
  • Reading The Sign of the Beaver late at night in our jammies.
  • A big bowl of popcorn and a good movie: I Am David

Most of these summer joys are perennial; enjoyed year after year. Yet the newness of the season makes it feel as though I am experiencing it all for the first time. The mercies of the Lord are truly new every morning. Great is HIS faithfulness!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Changes

I've been contemplating some significant changes that have transpired the past six months:

*Melody got a debit card and a driver's permit on the same day last January
*Followed by a cell phone
*And has started a little part time job for the summer
*Will get her braces off next month!!!

My son has changed, too.
*Most notably, he is now officially taller than his Dad.
*His voice has changed into a rich baritone
*He LIKES to practice his guitar and does so 1 to 3 hours a day

Joy has racked up several "firsts" for our family:
*Has participated in a community league for both basketball and softball
*Will be entering a private Christian school this fall for Junior High

Last but not least, Artiste has
*Met new friends in the neighborhood
*Kept her Dad moving. They like to shoot hoops and take rides on the bike trail together.

Speaking of moving, I have upgraded my exercise routine to include a trip to the gym 2 or 3 times a week in addition to my daily walking. The Leslie Sansone videos have served me well the past 5 years, but I needed to bump up the routine. The nearby Lutheran campus offers the use of their gym to the community for a very low price. I like the fact that I have a punch card and don't have to pay for visits that I don't make; each visit is just an affordable $2.00 plus I have the benefit of meeting new friends, mostly elderly ladies!! Much less intimidating than those co-ed gyms that have scantily clad patrons....

Finally, a really major change that involves the whole family has to do with our television habits. We have had Sky Angel for several years and the satellite was retired in March. The result: we have broken our addiction to watching the news and time wasting re-runs. After having NO TV for several months, we are now getting DVDs a few times a month from Netflix. I like it, because we can choose our viewing intentionally. Although I was the family member who watched TV the least, I still feel a great freedom to be rid of its subtle control.