Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thinking and not writing....

I really am thinking thoughts these days, although you'd never know it by my blog. I have rather a lot of notes I've taken about blog posts I want to write. But an odd thing happens when I sit down to write them. All the enthusiasm sort of drains away. I've written and deleted four or five blog entries in the past two weeks alone. I'm not sure what's behind my lack of enthusiasm, but I thought I'd try to sort it out by freewriting about it.

I find I get enthused or "charged" about a subject when reading a book, listening to people, reading a magazine article, or reading other people's blogs. I think and digest, and then have dialogs in my head about the subject. I might go online and read more about it, especially if it is a news item, like immigration or the war in Iraq. I've taken notes on my thoughts (a good way to pass the time during a boring sermon or waiting for an appointment) and get prepared to write my thoughts. Then I get in front of my computer and ...drain...... I feel like it's just not that important (does anyone really want to hear my thoughts on parenting?). Or maybe I feel like the subject is too complicated for me to pull apart (immigration, for example). Or maybe I don't actually feel qualified to take on an issue (like whether the alternative gospels are a valid source of historical information supressed by the early church, or whether they are simply apocryphal writing of a deluded minority).

I end up feeling I need to read everything and from all sides before expressing an opinion. Otherwise, I'm talking empty air.

But in the end, don't we all have biases? Are any of us really without a starting point from which we judge what we read and hear? I think one of the most frustrating things for me is to encounter someone who wants to be heard, only they are not willing to hear. They think they are hearing and not judging, but... I count myself in there, btw. Guilty, as charged. So I end up doubting my own conclusions, or, if I don't doubt them, I know they aren't going to stand up to the scrutiny of others. They are my experience and my biases and my points-of-view, obviously skewed by my own a priori position.

I'm not a writer. I have no burning need to express my thoughts on paper (or on the web). I'm a talker. Oral communication (heavily supplemented with my hands) is my strength. I've learned a great deal in the past 8 years of having to express my thoughts in writing on the web, and I am a smarter, stronger communicator because of that. However I know that for me, learning is best accomplished by being able to talk things through. I wonder sometimes why I even want to keep writing, but I do.

Friday, May 25, 2007

What I learned on my summer vacation

We just returned from our family vacation....two days early. Why early? Long and boring story. Well, it's not that long, but it's still boring. ;-) Let's just say we ran out of things to do, at least things to do we could afford! The "resort" we went to wasn't exactly as described, either. But enough of that. We are home safely, and what we did, we had a great time doing.

But what I want to share is a few things I learned on this trip:

  1. Never turn down a chance to go to the bathroom.
  2. When you attend an iMax show that lets out after the Smithsonian museum closes, you will not be allowed to go back in to the bathroom.
  3. The Metro stations do not usually have bathrooms.
  4. Sympathetic Metro staff will sometimes open locked doors so you can go to the bathroom.
  5. Hands-on exhibits aren't much fun when being swarmed by groups of school children on a field trip.
  6. There are many, many school field trips going on at the Smithsonian museums.
  7. Admittance to the museums is free.
  8. Eating outside the museum from a cart is half the cost of eating in the museum, but still expensive.
  9. Eating in the museums makes up for not having to pay to get in.
  10. Finding a 7-11 across from the zoo was a salvation. $1.29 hot dogs may not be real food, but they fill the void.
  11. Driving an hour to the Metro stop sounds like a good idea.
  12. Driving back an hour after walking for eight hours doesn't seem quite as good an idea.
  13. Taking the Metro costs a family of six over $40 a day.
  14. Flexibility is key when planning for trips, but an agenda is a good idea, too.
  15. Don't be too quick to change your plans.
  16. Doing nothing is okay.
  17. Listen to what other people in the family are saying...especially your spouse. If they mention more than once being interested in doing something, they probably really want to do it.
  18. The National Gallery isn't high on my kids' lists of "Things I Most Want to Do."
  19. The National Gallery is on my list of "Things I Most Want to Do."
  20. Sometimes it isn't worth pushing your agenda. I'll return to DC someday to go to the museum.
My husband did all the driving for the entire trip. I know driving out of DC in the evening after walking all day wasn't easy. I would not want to do it, but I appreciate his willingness to navigate all the traffic and unfamiliar roads.

It's good to be home.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Taking a break....

We're off for a week's adventure in northern VA, which hopefully will include a few day trips to DC.

NoVa Dad- please accpet my apologies fro dropping the "you've been tagged" ball. I wrote the post, but then couldn't get the links to work right. I hope to figure out how to post a link here using just the name, like you did, instead of the whole url. When I do, I'll tag other. Better late than never!

I'll be without internet for a week, and looking forward to the it! ;-)

Bless you all,

Friday, May 18, 2007

Do schools today kill creativity?

This video is about 20 minutes long. Any one with children or any interested in education, creativity, or the human mind in general should watch this video. Robinson is profound, yet the video at times views like a good stand-up routine. Highly, highly recommended.

"Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining (and profoundly moving) case for creating an education system that nurtures creativity, rather than undermining it. With ample anecdotes and witty asides, Robinson points out the many ways our schools fail to recognize -- much less cultivate -- the talents of many brilliant people. "We are educating people out of their creativity," Robinson says."

I laughed through most of the video until Robinson told the story of the choreographer. Then I cried for the rest. He was decsribing my son at that age. The one I put on Adderall and medicated instead of taking him to a dance class. That's the son who doesn't know what to do with his life and, although he has a high IQ, can't "do" academics.

One of Robinson's books:
Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Have fun wasting time seeing examples of just uploaded pictures from all over the world. The site has a world map, and it moves around and gives you pictures that were uploaded less than a minute before on flickr. I stumbled onto some way of enlarging the photos, but can't remember how I did it.

Have fun!

Monday, May 14, 2007

How are Christians thought of on campus?

Why Christians feel unwelcome on campus.
David French
National Review Online

Evangelical Christians have long complained that colleges are hostile to their faith, said David French. Now there’s evidence that they’re not being paranoid. The San Francisco–based Institute for Jewish and Community Research recently surveyed 1,200 professors at a cross-section of schools, seeking their attitudes toward various religions. The study actually was designed to gauge anti-Semitism, but it found something else: 53 percent said they had “unfavorable” feelings toward evangelical Christians; Jews and Catholics elicited overwhelmingly positive feelings. The study did not use qualifiers such as “conservative” or “pro-life,” institute director Gary Tobin explained—so respondents’ image of “the entire group comes through.” For evangelicals, it came through loud and clear. The academic establishment has long dismissed stories about bias against Christians as “mere anecdotes.” But now we have “concrete evidence of sheer bigotry.” Our colleges clearly have a religion problem, “and faithful students and professors are paying the price.”

Edited to add link to the Institute of Jewish and Community Research:
On this site is the link for the original Washington Post article. It's worth reading.

Who gets to say?

When do I find out if I'm a success in life? Do I receive a candy-gram, or does someone deliver balloons to my door? Will they throw confetti and sing "For she's a jolly good...whatever"? I just want to know when I get the report card, or the certificate, or the plaque to hang on my wall? And most of all, who gets to say whether I'm a success?

Am I a success as a homeschooler? Who gets to say? What are the parameters? Where is the checklist so I can see how I'm doing? Am I a success if my children graduate from high school, or only if they do so with good grades and a college scholarship? Are they "successful people" if all they do is sit and play video games or have we all failed miserably?

Am I a successful mom? Who gets to say? Where is the yardstick for comparison? Am I successful if my kids are polite in public, or only if they do volunteer work for the poor or go on missions trips?

And what about relationships? Am I a success if I have people I can smile at and make small talk with at church, or does success require soul-mate status with at least one other person?

How about career? How about success as a house keeper, cook, homemaker, teacher?

Everything, everything, everything seems to be dependent on input from outside. How do we know who we are sometimes without input? We are all like "Number 5" in the movie Short Circuit, wanting "More input, Steph-an-ie!" Without it, we don't seem to know what to think about ourselves. It seems that in a world that is more and more detached from community and extended families, we are more and more dependent outside input to know who were are and how we are doing.

In fact, I wonder if the very detachment from the solid foundations of community and family have left the void in the first place. These anchors in the past secured our place in life, even if it also limited our possibilities. Losing, or breaking free, of the anchors has proved a mixed-bag. I'm reminded again of The Paradox of Choice by Schwartz. Having more choices doesn't always make us happier.

This past week I've been trying to come to grips with a son who has blown his final year of high school, and who shows no lasting ability to concentrate on the future. I don't feel like a success, and he doesn't look like one. Yet, even as I worry and fret, I know the heart in that young man. I know not just what "could be, if only," I also know what is, right now. So each day is a balancing act of trying not to let any measure of "success" be how I look at him, or myself either. Especially now, as his friends get ready for college, have graduation that laud their many merits and successes, and as proud parents talk about the scholarships and the plans for "great things." I am here praying my sweet boy will find his way in the maze he has, in part, created for himself. (With a little too much help from his parents, perhaps.)

More than a mother...

Yesterday I heard a talk on being a mother. I was reluctant to even go to church because I really didn't want to hear another sermon on the glories of motherhood, or the trials of motherhood, or the duties of motherhood. Been there, done that, don't measure up. But I went, and I sat and waited. One of the pastors wives was given the task of presenting the Mother's Day talk. She's about 50 and the mother of 6 grown children. She has a lot of experience and good sense of humor. She has had some real challenges as a parent, and has kids who do not fit the mold of what a PK should be. She and her husband have dealt with it all graciously- including the bright pink mohawk their youngest sported for awhile. (The young man got dubbed "My Little Pony" by his friends because his hair reminded them of the My Little Pony manes!)

I was pleased that Phyllis would be the speaker and I wasn't disappointed. I wasn't disappointed because she didn't talk about the glories, the duties, or the trials of motherhood. She talked about who we are as women. She included all women: single, married, divorced, childless or with "full quivers." Motherhood, she said, is only part of our identity. We are first and foremost children of God and brides of Christ. We have unique talents and gifts, and although motherhood can and will take a lion's share of our time for a season, we should never forget that we are more than mothers, it is only one of our callings in life. We need to be whole people.

I realize I've said nothing new or profound. But I liked hearing this from "the pulpit" as it were. On Mother's Day. I liked that the woman talking had raised six children to adulthood and was now thriving in her "empty nest" life. She homeschooled her children until high school and devoted herself in her role as mother, yet retained an identity outside of that role. In fact, she's managed to maintain an identity outside of her role as pastor's wife, too. She's truly a well-balanced person.

None of us can wait until "later" to achieve a well-balanced life. We need to work on it all the time. As children grow and leave home, and our roles change, we can flex and change with it. We can, that is, if we have been careful to take a little time to keep our whole identities intact.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

On the offensive

Psalm 119:165 (King James Version)

165 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

I like this verse in the KJV. I love how it ties together love of God's law with not being easily offended. In other translations, which might be more accurate, the second half of the verse reads "for nothing shall make them stumble." That definitely has a different feel to it, but seems a little more intuitive. "If I love God's law, I'll have peace and I won't stumble. Check!" That makes it almost all about me, and not about me and someone else.

But the way the KJV has it, now that's something to think about. "If I love God's law I will have peace, and I won't take offense easily." Think about it. It actually says "nothing" will offend someone who is in tune with God's law. Wow. Does that describe most Christians you know?

We could spend an entire blog, or book for that matter, discussing what is meant by "thy law." The Ten Commandments, the entire Levitical Law, the Law of can go on and on but whatever someone takes it to mean, the summation of what trusting in that law does is the part that is mind-boggling to me, "...nothing shall offend them."

It seems the knee-jerk in conservative Christian circles these days is to be offended. Everything offends us: movies, books, songs, lifestyles, language, dress, hair, tattoos. Sometimes it seems we spend our lives either being offended or being offensive. More people can identify Christian by what they stand against than what they stand for. But is that the way it should be? should we as Christians spend our time being offended by people and then trying to change what offends us?

There are issues which I won't compromise on, issues, such as abortion, that I don't have a middle ground no matter how much I sympathize with another's situation. But that doesn't mean I need to be personally offended by someone who disagrees with me. I can work to change laws since we live in a democracy. There are many ways I can go about promoting life and opposing abortion without being personally offended. Not being offended isn't about compromising your beliefs. It's about attitude.

Are you familiar with the Nicene Creed? I believe that...all of it. And if I believe all of it, why aren't I acting like it? God is the creator of the universe, the reason we draw breath and the means of my eternal salvation. If I trust in him, if I believe he is in control, if I believe he is love and everything that is good and just, do I really need to worry about what others think of me? Do I need to be offended if people make fun of Christians? Do I need to be offended if someone chooses a life I think goes against God's laws? I can be sad, or prayerful, or helpful, or loving...but why offended?

I shouldn't be offended by being overlooked, or misinterpreted, or disliked, or belittled. I don't need to be offended by people second guessing my motives, or even for willfully hurting me. I may be hurt, but I think that's different from being offended. Being offended has a air of "righteous indignation" about it. Being hurt is simply an emotion. I can be hurt, and I will be hurt, but I can choose not to be offended. Or I can at least choose to recognize it and work against it.

Almost every verse in Psalms 119 has something in it about God's law, commandments, precepts or some other word that means the same thing. Love of it restores the soul, makes our way straight, is sweeter than honey, is perfect and makes us peaceful. And love of his law makes us impossible to offend. Or should.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

I'm back, sort of...

I'm back from my weekend away at the beach. Life intervened when I returned and I've had little time to spend thinking cosmic thoughts. Maybe tomorrow. In the meantime I'm getting ready for my last teaching day this year (Biology and Life Science at our homeschool tutorial), getting my son ready for his acting debut, helping with costumes and props for my two daughters' singing and acting debut next Friday, cleaning the house for a visit from my brother tonight, buying special snacks for our end-of-year parties tomorrow, and sleeping.

I'm also reading the Mediated: How the Media Shapes our World and How We Live in It when I get a few minutes. It's an interesting, thought-provoking book. I realized that blogs are the sort of quintessential mediated, self-conscious activity. Bloggers expose their processing to the world, self-consciously acting and reacting to the constant bombardment of information. Interesting.

I'm off to help drive scenery flats to the theater, but I'll leave you with a thought from Mediated. The opposite of real isn't unreal; the opposite of real is optional.