Thursday, September 27, 2007

Blinkers on

Making the right choices in life should be easier. Don't get me wrong, I don't want every decision in life to be black and white, every crossroad clearly marked, or every choice a slam-dunk. That would be boring. At the same time, it would be nice for a few areas to be less a study in shades-of-grey. Driving horses have often been fitted with blinders , also called blinkers in the horse racing world, to artificially narrow their world and keep them focused on the one path ahead of them. I sympathize.

As I drove home from taking my son to class today I thought again of our present conundrum. He needs a job so he can afford insurance and perhaps save for a cheap car, but he needs a driver's license and access to a car so he can get a job, which requires getting insurance before he gets a job, which we can't afford right now. And that's just my oldest son. I also have a 16 year old son in the same boat, no driver's license, no insurance, no car, no money, no job. In fact, neither of them practice driving because the only car home during the days is my full-size Ford passenger van. We call it Moby Van. I love it but it can be intimidating as a first car. Plus I need it, so the boys can't drive it to work or school even if they did had their license and insurance, which they don't...because they don't have anything to drive. Are you getting this?

Parenting involves a myriad of decisions and choices, and each alternative has it's own fan club complete with scientific research, anecdotal evidence, personal testimonies, and dire predictions about what will happen if you don't choose correctly. Educational options are the same. Even when settled on a course of action, like homeschooling, the choices aren't over. Classical? Unschooling? Traditional? Charlotte Mason? Relaxed? Eclectic? To outsource or not? And then the branching goes on. Which math curriculum? Which science is "the best?" Is Latin essential? What about life skill?

And we won't even get started on the dizzying array of choices for faith and religious belief. Passionate, well-spoken people write volumes defending their point of view. Again, as with parenting, they cite research and history, they quote experts, and share testimonies. But there are passionate, educated, well-spoken people on almost every side of every issue. I find myself in the middle thinking I just don't have the capacity to figure it out. I hold a few foundational beliefs, and try to go from there. But it's more difficult than it sounds.

Several books I've read this year have touched on the these problems. Most notably, Mediated, The Paradox of Choice, and Blink. Though all quite different, they had a synergistic effect on me. We are overwhelmed by information and alternatives, and we are virtually unaware of how we process information and make choices. We don't know when snap judgments are not only good but vital, and when they can be catastrophic. We don't understand how we are reacting to our information-saturated, mediated, orchestrated, "unreal/real," sound-bite world.

A few well-marked paths would be great. A few certified letters from God pointing the way. A child born with a complete instruction manual attached, specific to that one-of-a-kind make and model. An educational alternative that is clearly superior. I don't want much.

I gotta go now. I need to think about dinner, which means I have to push aside all the feelings of inadequacy there..what I'm buying, how I cook it, and what it's doing to my family's health. Blinkers on.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Into not so great silence......

I've written three or four blog posts recently and deleted them all. They were garbage. My brain seems to be stuck in a sort of infinite loop...I keep coming around to the beginning of things and never getting to the end. There are topics that interest me and that I'm thinking about, but when I blog them... my thoughts just sort of go nowhere.

Okay, so now I've just deleted everything I wrote for this post as well, except for that little bit up there.... Really I have no mind these days.. it's gone to Tahiti. I wish I'd gone with it.

How am I spending my time? Reading blogs...lots of blogs. Most are linked here on the sidebar, but a few I haven't added yet. I'll try to do that today. I'm also watching TV on DVD. Right now I'm working through the NCIS series while I await the arrival of season 3 of Numb3rs. My biggest dilemma right now is whether or not to go on and watch the new season of NCIS without first watching Season 3. Life is tough!

Anything else? Well, I spend a lot of time in the car, where I usually listen to classic rock. Except, of course, when the younger kids are int the car. It's not until you're belting out some song from your youth with kids in the car that you realize, "Wow! I didn't realize how inappropriate those lyrics were!" Sheesh. I'm going to bring my iPod from now on and listen to Teaching Company
lectures or audio books....or my classic rock, only with headphones on.

And, of course, I'm homeschooling the two girls. That usually take a bit of time each day. With my brain away it's a bit more work. Oh, and last night (Saturday) Will and I went to Tylers Tap Room for "Theology on Tap: Beer as a Spiritual Activity" or something like that. It was a thinly disguised excuse for drinking Trappist-brewed Belgian beer while discussing the finer points of hops and malt. Andrew, the liturgist and RCIA Inquiry director at St.Thomas More was the brains behind the operation. He brews beer at home and will use any excuse to promote the spiritual benefits of brewing and imbibing. Gotta love those Catholics. Not being a beer drinker, I sipped some good Australian shiraz and played designated driver. That way Will could feel guiltless about tasting all four brews offered. (Tasting, not drinking full bottles. But the samples were rather generous compared to wine tastings I've been to.) Tyler's seems to have food to match its beer. I look forward to returning and trying more.

Thanks for reading along. I think my brain is due to return from vacation soon. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Randomness 2

It's humbling when your children don't ask "What's for dinner?" but instead ask, "Are you cooking tonight?"

Have you ever noticed that the cars who cut in front of you are usually new and expensive? What's with that? I drive a 12 year old full-size van. Not only is my van bigger and heavier than those cars, it's worth a lot less.

Speaking of cars, why are the side mirrors on small cars so useless? The mirrors on my van let me back that behemoth into most parking spaces. But the side mirrors on my husband's little Toyota are literally useless for backing. You can't see the road behind you. I end up looking like an idiot every time I have to back that car into a parking spot. "Hey lady, did you order your license from Sears?" Grrrr.

I like to buy books that I never get around to reading...or that I get around to reading next year, or the year after. It's a sickness.

I have a nice video iPod I rarely use. Of course my daughter borrowed it to listen to a downloaded Teaching Company lecture series, so I didn't have it for a while. I need to get back in the habit since I spend so much time in the car.

We spend about $50 a month on cable and there's rarely anything worth watching. It's amazing. Why are we spending that money?

I'm currently reading Mother Teresa's Come Be My Light. I am getting tired of the editor's tendency to interpret everything M.Teresa was saying or going through. I would prefer just to read the letters with some background info and let them speak for themselves. I'm disappointed in the "spin control."

I don't generally wear jewelry. I wear my wedding ring and sometimes my diamond (long story about how rough I am on rings), a watch, and earrings. I love earrings. Some women feel undressed without make-up, I feel undressed without earrings. I actually get upset if I forget to put them in in the morning. I love whimsical earrings more than expensive ones. This summer my daughter made the sweetest dragonfly earrings for me. They look something like this, but they are light green, yellow, and purple, and they hang from their heads instead of their tails.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A life lesson?

One of the things I'm most selfish about is sharing my good friends. Truth be told, I don't want that other person joining us at the table. I probably only have this one time to be with her this week, and I have to cram in all the important stuff into the time! Of course the stuff is all about me and mine. I want to share what a tough week it's been, or discuss those important matters like "Which curriculum are you using for grammar?" I don't seem to have room in my schedule or my heart to include another. Or to forgo talking all about me and listen instead while my much nicer friend asks the new person questions. She's good, that friend of mine. I can learn lots from her. In fact, from this good friend I've met several more ladies who are now good friends. Of course, at first, they were simply intruders at my table.

There's got to be a life lesson in there somewhere.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The words of Henri J.M. Nouwen

"How does healing take place? Many words such as care and compassion, understanding and forgiveness, fellowship and community have been used for the healing task of the Christian minister. I like to use the word hospitality, not only because it has such deep roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition, but also, and primarily, because it gives us more insight in the nature of response to the human condition of loneliness. Hospitality is the virtue which allows us to break through the narrowness of our own fears and to open our houses to the stranger, with the intuition that salvation comes to us in the form of a tired traveler. Hospitality makes anxious disciples into powerful witnesses, makes suspicious owners into generous givers, and makes closed-minded sectarians into interested recipients of new ideas and insights.

..Human withdrawal is a very painful and lonely process because it forces us to face our own condition in all its beauty as well as misery. When we are not afraid to enter our own center and to concentrate on the stirrings of our own soul, we come to know that being alive means being loved. this experience tells us we can only love because we are born out of love, that we can only give because our life is a gift and that we can only make others free because we are set free by him whose heart is greater than ours. When we have found the anchor places for our lives in our own center, we can be free to let others enter the space created for them and allow them to dance their own dance, sing their own song, and speak their own language without fear. Then our presence is no longer threatening and demanding but inviting and liberating.

The minister who has come to terms with his own loneliness and is at home in his own house is a host who offers hospitality to his guests. He gives them a friendly space where they may feel free to come and go, to be close and distant, to rest and to play, to talk and be silent, to eat and to fast. The paradox is indeed that hospitality asks for the creation of an empty space where the guest can find his own soul.

Why is this healing ministry? It is healing because it takes away the false illusion that wholeness can be given by one to another. It is healing because it does not take away the loneliness and pain of another, but invites him to recognize his loneliness on a level where it can be shared. Many people in this life suffer because they are anxiously searching for the man or woman, the event or encounter, which will take their loneliness away. But when they enter a house with real hospitality they soon see that their own wounds must be understood, not as a source of despair and bitterness, but as signs that they have to travel on in obedience to the calling sounds of their own wounds....

A minister is not a doctor whose primary task is to take away pain. Rather, he deepens the pain to a level where it can be shared."

..from The Wounded Healer

I'm not sure exactly what Nouwen is saying, but I keep coming back to this passage again and again. This part especially: When we have found the anchor places for our lives in our own center, we can be free to let others enter the space created for them and allow them to dance their own dance, sing their own song, and speak their own language without fear.

In another place Nouwen talks about our "center."

"A life without a lonely place, that is, a life without a quiet center easily becomes destructive. When we cling to the results of our actions as our only way of self-identification, then we become possessive and defensive and tend to look at our fellow human beings more as enemies to be kept at a distance than friends with whom we share the gift of life.

In solitude we can slowly unmask the illusion of our possessiveness and discover the center of our own self that we are not what we can conquer, but what we've been given.

In solitude we become aware that our worth is not the same as our usefulness."

from Out of Solitude

Any thoughts?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A funny for today....

There are 10 types of people in the world,
Those who know
and those who don't.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Deja vu, all over again......

I had an odd thing happen to me today. I had a sort of reverse deja vu moment. Instead of feeling like I've experienced something before, I felt like everything was new. I was driving a very familiar road to take my son to his community college classes. He had promptly fallen asleep when we got in the car (he does that a lot these days), and I was driving along listening to the radio. All of the sudden I got the weird feeling. I felt, not like I was lost, but like I was driving roads that I didn't know well. The road, the traffic, the trees all seemed unfamiliar and unusual. Like I'd just moved to this area and it was still new.

The experience left me thinking of what it's like moving to a new place, learning all the streets, finding out where the grocery store is and the mall. It also prompted memories. Memories of when I moved to North Carolina 25 years ago without knowing a soul. I was single, twenty-six and had been divorced about two years. I finished college after my divorce and was fortunate to find a job in my field during the recession of the early 80's. I moved into an apartment, started working for EPA, and learned my way around.

Today I remembered how it felt, driving alone on all the new streets, learning the look of the trees and the shape of the skyline, finding the laundromat, the dentist, the Jiffy Lube. I was starting over, completely, with nothing familiar. In the previous two years my marriage had ended, my best friend moved to California, I'd had to give up my horse, and my dog had died. My dad was terminally ill with cancer and he and my mom were moving to the mountains of NC. There was literally nothing left for me back in Delaware.

I am an extrovert, but my job involved a lot of quiet work, alone in a dark room looking through a microscope. I also spent my weekends alone, often walking the mall, looking and not buying because money was very tight. I did invest in a health club membership because I liked to be active. I usually worked 7:00 am to 3:30 pm, and then I went to the gym for a couple of hours. I did start meeting people, mainly from work, and I visited several churches.

A little over a year after moving to NC, I met a young man at a young adult Bible study. Three weeks later we were engaged, six months later we were married. Over twenty-three years and five kids later we still are. Funny how things work out.

The moment of reverse deja vu passed in just a few moments, but it was fun to walk down memory lane while my 18 yr old son slept in the seat next to me.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Good post from the iMonk

From the Internet Monk, this great post:

Post-Evangelical and the path to Catholic Spirituality

I wish I'd read something like this two or three years ago. It might have helped me understand how I was feeling.