Saturday, May 5, 2018

It's not about the cow (it's love, of course)

I love trying to identify personality types. I don't assume that I'm right, and I understand that people are more nuanced and complicated than a type. But it is interesting and helpful to think about as a way of understanding where people are coming from. I am especially interested in my kids' types as they are getting older, though I'm not certain I know or that they won't change and surprise me.

The easiest part of the Myers-Briggs to identify is the TJ (Thinking/Judging). I am a high FP (Feeling/Perceiving), and it feels like the whole world is a TJ.

Two of my kids are definitely TJ's, and I love (and can be exasperated by) the way their minds work. Today is a great example. I was reading aloud over breakfast. The previous chapter ended with a cow being killed by a bear, and this chapter opened with this sentence:

"Wilbur says I'm grief crazy sad . . ."

I couldn't even finish the sentence before Josie interjected. She already knew what the chapter was about, May Amelia was "grief-crazy sad" because their cow died, and she continued on with several more observations as if she had just finished reading the entire book.

In fact May Amelia's grief had nothing to do with the cow, this was a part of the story she couldn't have seen coming, the part with the cow was sad but she had no idea why May Amelia would be grief crazy sad. She hadn't yet heard the chapter.

This seems to be the way the whole world is interacting currently.

We look up a name and can instantly cast a person into one group or party or another, and then we are done listening.

We read a headline and believe or disbelieve the entire article based on where it was published.

We enter into conversations already disbelieving, already armed with rebuttals.

We assume that no one with a differing opinion is as intelligent, thoughtful, god-fearing, or well-informed as our group.

We just finished the chapter about the cow. The cow is dead, everyone knows what this chapter will be about.

FP's to the rescue.

Sometimes I'm insecure about my FP-ness. And for good reason. I struggle to make decisions, I can be a huge pushover, I'm often ruled by my feelings (oh, my word, why is being ruled by one's thoughts a superior virtue?) We are often perceived as weak and not taken seriously.

As I've gotten older I've grown into my FP-ness. It's the way God made a few of us, there must be a purpose.

Maybe it's because we're willing to wait for the next chapter. We don't believe we've arrived and we're open and willing to listen. We hesitate to make judgments and sometimes that's a good thing.

We usually begin with the assumption that there are people smarter, braver, with understandings and perspectives which we can learn from.

We can hear something with our mind, but if it doesn't engage our heart, if it doesn't resonate in our intuition, if it isn't beautiful, it just never settles.

FP's are quite comfortable with wonder, with hopefulness, with not knowing everything.

In his book You Are What You Love, James K.A. Smith makes the case that human beings are first and foremost lovers. (Great book! Highly recommend).

"To question thinking-thingism is not the same as rejecting thinking. To recognize the limits of knowledge is not to embrace ignorance. We don't need less than knowledge; we need more."
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless . . . Phil.1:9,10
". . . love is the condition for knowledge. It's not that I know in order to love, but rather: I love in order to know. And if we are going to discern "what is best"- what is "excellent," what really matters, what is of ultimate importance- Paul tells us that the place to start is by attending to our loves."

". . . It's a question not of whether you long for some version of the kingdom but of which version you long for. This is true for any human being; it is a structural feature of human creatureliness. You can't not love. It's why the heart is the seat and fulcrum of the human person, the engine that drives our existence. We are lovers first and foremost. "

I love the Thinking/Judging people in my life (I married one). They keep me grounded, they help me make decisions, we laugh at my lack of logic. But that doesn't mean our TJ's don't need us. I don't apologize for my feeling and perceiving anymore.

I have great affection for the number Pi. As a person who struggles to understand most math, my ears perk up hearing about this irrational number which lurks in every circle, appears to go on forever, seeming randomly distributed, has never been solved. There will always be this gap in our knowing, a fault in every fact, the crack in human logic. It is love, of course.

Monday, April 30, 2018

A few of the things I'm loving, learning, or changing this spring

I love home, homes. I love walking my neighborhood of homes built in the forties, all of these decades of coming home. My favorite are the kitchens. I'd trade an entire subdivision for one kitchen table with a light over it, the muffled clatter of dishes, chairs pushed back, over and over and over again. I have more hope in kitchen tables than just about anything, I believe they are the one thing keeping us afloat, holding us together. When despair for the world grows in me . . . I heat up a pan, chop an onion, I set the table. 
"After the resurrection, Jesus didn’t show up at the temple, but around the dinner table." (Leonard Sweet)

A page of my bullet journal contains four lists: things I'm learning, small things I'm loving, my frustrating moments, and what is saving my life right now.

The idea of recording frustrations came from Modern Mrs. Darcy (here). It is surprisingly helpful to actually write down your frustrating moments, even the small things. When I name it, I can begin finding ways to change it rather than endure it, rather than repeating it over and over. 

Here are some of the things that I've been learning, loving, or frustrating things I'm working on changing this spring:


I made this chocolate cake with chocolate frosting from Julia Turshen's Small Victories for Josie's birthday, and it will become my standard chocolate cake recipe

I re-read Daring Greatly for book club, and I really need to re-read it every year or so.
Vulnerability is life's great dare. Are you all in?
Shame heals best between people.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco was hilarious and a super interesting behind-the-scenes look at the White House. (Let's be friends on Goodreads; I track my reading and write reviews there). One takeaway: She says she succeeded by focusing on the next five steps. You can't become an expert on everything, but you can prepare for your next five steps. I'm learning to prepare for the next five things right in front of me rather than looking too far down the road.

Dream More, by Dolly Parton
I would not have picked this up on my own, but I heard it recommended three times within the course of a week. Don't read the book, everyone said, you have to listen to her read the audio. It is a quick book, only three cds, and it is delightful. I love her.
It’s been my experience that happiness begets happiness. You have to work hard at being happy, just like you have to work hard at being miserable. I wake up every day expecting all to be good and right. And if it’s not, I set my mind to making it so by the end of the day. You just have to figure out where the unhappiness is coming from and then set about fixing it . . . I learned early on that if you can just get started at doing something positive, somehow you are starting on the downhill side of your problem. When big things in your life get messy, you need to get up and get out. I make a point to appreciate all the little things in my life. I do out and smell the air after a good, hard rain. I re-read passages from favorite books. I hold the little treasures that somebody special gave me. These small actions help remind me that there are so many great, glorious pieces of good in the world.

Small choices have more power than big. I'm learning this from the Lazy Genius, How to Set Goals Like a Normal Person and The Universal Path to Life-Giving Routine. Both are super practical and thoughtful. I'm loving everything The Lazy Genius (Kendra) writes or says right now.

Rethinking School by SusanWise Bauer
The way we do school is entirely unnatural. If you are a parent, read this book. It's not about homeschool, but about taking charge of your child's education- which is the job of the parent regardless of your school choice.

A few quick tips: 
Don't ask kids what they want to be, but who they want to be.

Help kids to pay attention to their emotions and feelings, look for patterns. Be aware of the things you love. Have them keep lists; when are they confused/interested; frustrated/happy; things I love/places I love. Ask; If you could have a perfect day, what would it be? Take all of the Self-knowledge tests you can get your hands on.

I attended the Midwest Great Homeschool Convention in April. I wish there were a Great Parenting Convention for all of my friends who don't homeschool, as every year I come away encouraged and better equipped in my parenting. A few quick takes because I have pages and pages of notes which I will spare you  . . .

Education is virtue. Your child's teacher should be the most virtuous person you can find. I must be the most virtuous parent I can be. (Andrew Kern)

Parenting: "Let there be a tree of no in a garden of yes." Our orientation toward the world should be positive. We are heirs. We don't lack." (S.D.Smith)

Writing: "Words are not abstract. They make you feel, they get in your head. Writing is a craft. It's physical, you're shaping and creating something. . . Don't try writing massive novels; write one brick, perfectly. If you can make one perfect brick, you can make another perfect brick, you can make a million perfect bricks, you can build a cathedral." (N.D.Wilson)

Little Things I'm Loving:

Tea time. Joy Clarkson's podcast is so great, and A Philosophy of Tea convinced me to adopt a daily tea time. I am surprised by the way a set time for tea actually brings a kind of order to my day.

We toured Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve with our homeschool. The company began in their mother's kitchen, and while it has expanded their process remains the same. They continue to make small batches of soaps and lotions, with few ingredients, on a stovetop. I've switched from a more expensive moisturizer to their whipped face cream and Pomegranate Argan Oil and I love them.

Taking a quarterly day every three months to review life, set new goals, trouble-shoot my frustrating moments. I'm finding quarterly goals are much more successful than grand New Year's resolutions.

Frustrating Moments/ Changes

My art space is in my basement laundry room, and every time I walk by with a load of laundry it sits there mocking me. I am frustrated that I'm not making art, frustrated at my unfinished pieces. My solution: inspired by the Lazy Genius'  #the100dayproject watercolors, I'm starting a forty day project in May. Quick, simple, daily art. 

Somewhere I heard the idea (I believe it was Erwin McManus) that I cannot measure my own success by anything but that I gave my ALL. This changes everything. The question isn't what should I be doing, but What can I give my whole heart to right now? In each situation, however large or small the question is, How can I give my whole heart to this situation?

Saving My Life Right Now . . . 

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias. 
(Read the rest here)
There are other things I'm loving and learning, other frustrating moments, and this is the wonder, that all things are ours, all of God's wide world, and all of the books and people to meet, all of the frustrating moments and cups of tea and chocolate cake; all of life and death and the present and future- all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. We will never run out of things to learn and ways to grow and love. Today, we pour tea and set the table and plant Sequoias. The wonder of it.

Friday, March 2, 2018


It's been a year since I last posted, and my writing here had been dropping steadily before that, and now there is this quiet tug to blog again. Life isn't any quieter now, or the internet any safer, but life circles back and there is this desire, and maybe desire itself is a gift, a nod in some direction- look, there- and to ignore it is to miss something.

This morning I tried to pull into our snow-covered driveway but there was a robin hopping all over the place, huffing, he seemed mad about the snow and I thought maybe he was calling my bluff- go ahead, take me now, please- as it hopped in front of the tires and I had to wait for the suicidal robin to clear the driveway. So what does this have to do with writing? Only that there are these moments- this joy and fury and misery and what do we do with them but notice and watch and protect them somehow, the experience of living.
Pablo Casals, one of the greatest cellists who ever lived, began every day in the same manner. "I go to the piano and I play two Preludes and Fugues of Bach. It fills me with awareness of the wonder of life, and with a feeling of the incredible marvel of being human." (Still Writing, Dani Shapiro)
Does blogging fill me with the awareness of the wonder of life and the marvel of being human? No, but writing does, and this is one way to share in the marvel of being human together.

Maybe someday I'll freshen up the blog, but for now I'll be happy with a free hour on a Friday afternoon to try to catch up a bit and share some things I learned this winter . ..

Harry Potter helped me remember what we're here for. I read the first Harry Potter book to the kids and before I could pick up the next one Annie had finished the series. For a month she ate, slept, and breathed Harry Potter. She is reading them all a second time, she's reading them to her sister, she talks about the stories, the characters, endlessly. She dreams about Harry Potter. Watching her, I remembered what art is for. I remembered how it feels to be entirely transported into an experience, I remembered the shock and thrill and sizzle that good art can do, and how to come back to earth with the light still firing in your eyes. This is why we make art.

I've been learning how to make sourdough bread. I'm learning about the elements of good cooking: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat in this beautiful cookbook.

I'm still learning so much about mothering and living an intentional life from Sally Clarkson, and now I'm enjoying learning and pondering the arts through her insightful daughter's podcast, Speaking With Joy.

I learned more than I thought I could know about North Korea in this amazing novel.

I learned that writing is solitary work. I know this, I've always known it, and yet I've spent a decade believing that I could just sneak it in along with the noise and action of life, wondering why I felt so frustrated. Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, by Dani Shapiro is a great book about the writing life. What struck me most were the details of her working life; she keeps bankers hours, she needs a place free of interruption, she is alone and writing forty hours a week like its her job, which it is. For some reason I needed someone to spell it out like this, to talk me through the details of a writer's life, the sense of feeling cut-off from the world, the courage to claim her own space and time. Some of the same challenges are present with homeschool.

I was able to attend the IF Gathering last month and was encouraged to Persevere in my faith, specifically in the spiritual disciplines.

"If you can't get out of it, get into it." I've kept this bit of advice in my pocket from Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak. Intentionally getting into the very thing you wish to avoid is the key to most things; commitments, relationships, winter, piano practice, growing older, getting things done.

Self-Care Mistakes, and How Service Solves Them, at Simply Convivial. This helps explain my cringing reaction to the term "self-care." I thought about all of the inexplicable ways and times I felt the tender care of God when I wasn't looking for it, and how much more satisfying it is to be cared for by God than to strive for it for ourselves. A wise perspective.

Finally, a fast summary of the past twelve months; I quit my job, we re-homed the dog (don't hate me, she got to move in with her best friend and the most incredible dog parents- a long story that emotionally wore me out but was the right decision), we continue to homeschool, this year we formed our own co-op and its been the best year, I turned forty, the kids are easy peasy, we're all still in process, still trying and failing and loving and fighting and working it out. We're still doing our best to love God and people and to live wholehearted and amazed in this brutal, beautiful world.

Monday, January 2, 2017

reflecting on 2016:

I love the New Year for dreaming and re-focusing, and I love taking time to reflect on where we've been. I prefer to take my time entering a new year, giving myself these first weeks for dreaming and planning the year ahead. These are some of my reflection questions on 2016:

Single best thing that happened in 2016: Changing my diet, eliminating sugar, gaining greater health. Choosing to homeschool the kids another year.

Single most challenging thing: LUCY.

An unexpected joy: that I would not only learn to live with Lucy but also grow to love her. (Most of the time). Watching the kids grow and mature, seeing their strengths emerge.

Best books I read in 2016:
Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson
The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard (still making my way slowly through this, so much to mull over!)
Big Magic was good, too, and The Allure of Gentleness by Dallas Willard. I listened to both of these on audio.
Best fiction was The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, a read aloud with the kids.

Biggest personal challenge: learning to say no, letting go of guilt

In what ways did I grow spiritually? In various ways, at various times this year I have sensed the Lord showing me that I am trying too hard. I feel guilty alllll of the time. I feel like from the moment my feet hit the floor, until I fall into bed at night, I am trying as hard as I can, and I still fall asleep feeling like I'm failing. One Sunday our pastor gave a message on the older brother in the story of the prodigal son, and it hit me hard. The older brother is working really hard. The older brother is angry. The older brother doesn't realize he too is lost. I am the older brother. I have to admit, the message made me mad. I felt hopeless. I felt like saying, no matter what I do I am still doing it wrong. I give up. For the first time I took a long break from everything- a break from guilt, a break from trying so hard. I am still working this out, I know I need to sit here for a while and understand how to abide as the beloved, how to rest in imperfection.

In what ways did I grow physically: I originally contacted a health doctor for one of the children. But it was the week I turned 39, and suddenly I wondered if I was taking care of myself. I considered myself a pretty healthy person, but I was also considering going on a mild anti-depressant. I'm so glad I started by learning about nutrition instead. After cutting out sugar and grains and adding supplements, I have very little pms symptoms, no more insomnia or anxiety or brain fog, more energy and balance. Over Christmas I indulged a bit and instantly experienced anxiety and insomnia again.

What was the most enjoyable area of managing your home? Cooking, meal planning, decorating, planning our schedule and just going about our life together, cooking with the kids, reading together, having people over.

What was the most challenging area of home management: homeschool

Single biggest time waster? The internet. One of the frustrations of being home with my kids all the time is the sense that I can't do anything without being interrupted. As a result, I often default to mindless things which don't require deep attention. One of my goals for the new year is Deep Work- to train myself to give focused attention to my work; whatever it is I am doing.

Best way I used my time this year: any time I was present with the family, the nights that I didn't work, reading with the kids, family suppers, Sunday evenings when I sit down and relax, visiting friends and taking trips. Not trying too hard to read, write or blog this year weren't things I'd have chosen, but ended up being a necessary choice.

2016 was a year of peace and goodness in our home. It was another year of God's beauty and grace. I am so grateful.

Friday, November 4, 2016

the problem with knowing everything

I spend a very large percentage of my life acquiring information in hope of doing something right, whatever it is- Life. Living. This Very Important Question.

I read ALL the parenting books and followed all the blogs and went to conferences. I researched the hell out of homeschool and read all the books and followed all the blogs and went to conferences. I've spent my Christian life trying to read all the books and I still read all the blogs and go to conferences. I've read all the writing books and subscribed to the magazines and followed blogs and gone to conferences. I spent all summer researching dogs which is not my favorite topic. Lately I've been changing my diet and now I'm searching for books and blogs and going to talks on nutrition.

And then I worry. I worry because I am not living up to what I know. I worry that I'm choosing the wrong information, or because this information contradicts that information. There is always more to learn, and yet there doesn't seem to be enough; I am still imperfect, life is still imperfect.

We have this very human need to know how to live. I don't think there is anything wrong with learning, growing, trying to improve; it is vital. Questions, ideas, contradictions, conversation, are some of the best things in life.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; 
to search out a matter is the glory of kings. 

Surely I've read 1 Corinthians 13 hundreds of times. But this week verses 8-13 were brand new to me, the best news I've read in a long time:
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part . . . Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Everything is only in part.

Knowledge is in part.
Prophesy is in part.
Homeschool is in part.
Public school is in part.
Classical education is in part.
Every parenting effort can only be in part.
Every vocation is in part.
Calling is in part.
Relationships are in part.
Nutrition is in part.
Art is in part.
Every book is in part.

Life will never feel quite complete. Every idea or school of thought will eventually end because it is imperfect. There are no perfect solutions or ways of doing anything. Every choice I make will always be at least partly the wrong one. This is a huge relief!

So what do we do with this incomplete life and imperfect living? Faith. Hope. The greatest is Love.

All of the books, all of the reading and asking and discussing and learning- what we are searching for are these.

Love fills in the gaps. Love covers a multitude of imperfections. Maybe living well isn't even all that possible. Only how we've loved will remain.

"Do every day with love, and you will know what to do."

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Daybook October 5

Today . . .
Today we are at home. I knew by the look in her eye at four-o'clock yesterday that Josie had caught her sister's fever, knew we wouldn't be hurrying out the door to co-op today. I never want my kids to be sick, but I never mind the healing. I don't mind canceling plans, cuddling all morning with books, getting out the soup pot and stirring chicken soup. I don't mind that she asks all day long for more hugs. Today is for healing and this is my best and favorite work.

Reading . . .

Devotional: The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. Enjoying this one so much.
Fiction: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Recommended by Ruth.
Nonfiction: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I listened to this on audio and liked it so much I bought the book.

In the Kitchen . . .

I am completely off all sugar and grains now, so I've become one of those people who takes lovely, eternally good, delicious things like pizza and tries to make it out of cauliflower and enjoys suffering. (Kidding. I am all in. I thought I could never give up sugar and now bread but it really is worth it. I'm sorry, paleo people, for making fun of your recipes all these years.)

So now I'm cooking:

This red cabbage and kale slaw. Tuscan garlic chicken. Roasted sweet potatoes. Kale chips. Eggs over quinoa with feta. Or my default recipe: any remaining vegetables and/or protein on a plate, a handful of seeds over, oil and vinegar.

Outside my window. . .

It is a beautiful, sunny and mid-seventies week here in Cleveland, and I feel guilty every time I look out the window and can't stop thinking about Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba.

Thinking about . . .

How to quiet my mind. How to simplify our schedule. How to stay home more. How to say no to good things and yes to the right things. This:

"Until our thoughts of God have found every visible thing and event glorious with his presence, the word of Jesus has not fully seized us." -Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

Looking forward to . . .

Wendell Berry is speaking at the Circe Institute Winter Conference. The price is ouch but I was already hoping to attend and when I saw that Wendell Berry would be there I fell over. My biggest crush (W.B.) and my biggest educational influence- together. I will be such a fangirl.

The Spiritual Discipline of Dogs . . .

Josie is napping on my lap and I'm trying to type around her. Lucy is begging to be on the sofa with us and I keep dragging her off. I am determined to love Lucy. She barks too much and she stinks and the shedding is more than I can take. I don't understand dogs but I believe God is here, and that she is another way to know God and to be loved by God. I'm learning that my heart needs stretched, in all kinds of ways. The older I get the more aware I am of a hardening of the heart, a natural reflex to be unchanged and uncomplicated, and if I choose to believe in the vastness and limitless of the love of God then I must open up, again and again, the door of my heart to Jesus, to invite him to come in, daily, in every way. To find his glorious presence. Even by learning how to love dogs.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Symposium, and what is working this year

Symposium, or Morning Time, is a concept I have read a lot about and have done in various forms over the years. It is basically a way of creating a specific space, or ritual, of reading aloud and memory work, and making it the most important part of our day. 

The word Symposium comes from the Greek and means "to drink together," which is wonderful however for our homeschool this means tea. We have Symposium mid-morning, and promising tea and snacks is a great way to get everyone to the table.

This year Symposium consists of:

A hymn. Usually I begin by playing the Benediction on YouTube, hopefully we will go a little deeper into other hymns and their composers.

Devotions- The Jesus Storybook Bible (still our favorite, we will switch to another when we are through) and Jesus Calling for kids.

Scripture Memory: I have collected in our Symposium notebook many of the Scripture passages we have memorized in the past as well as what we hope to memorize this year. This way we can review several passages, and I can quickly choose the next. Having passages already prepared is key for me to reduce the paralysis of analysis I often feel with Bible memory- which one to pick next?

Poetry: ditto for poems, I have printed the ones we have already memorized, and selections to be memorized (I chose ours this year from The Harp & Laurel Wreath). We can quickly review a few already memorized, and then work on the new poem.

Classical Conversations Memory Work: we review Memory Work lightly and then spend time going in-depth in the subjects with library books, YouTube, Encyclopedia of World History, etc. For example, this week we are reading through an Eyewitness Book of Medieval Life, we watched a short video on the seven biomes, and a video of Charlemagne. 

Read Aloud: One of our read aloud books is from the period of history we are studying, and there are more picture books from the library on the subjects from our CC week in Science, Geography, and History subjects.

Famous Paintings: I love this set of activity cards from Usborne Books. One brief card per week with a famous painting, the artist, and a few key facts.

There are educational coloring books for kids to color while I read aloud, or they can cut paper or draw. Generally Symposium lasts right up to lunch, from about 10:30 to noon, and is our favorite and most focused time of the day.

Other things which are working for us this year:

I am giving myself Mondays as a slow-entry day. Generally I work on Saturdays, and so Mondays are for managing the house: cleaning, laundry, groceries, and the library. I take the morning to catch up on email, plan our menu, figure out what books we need. The kids help me clean, round up overdue library books, and try to at least practice piano. We also try to fit in Symposium on Mondays. My fifth year of homeschool, I don't feel guilty for taking this day. Homeschool is about living life together, and we need this day.

I'm trying to take back a daily quiet time- all kids in their rooms reading for one hour. Everyone is happier when they take some space from one another, especially mom.

Just-Because-We-Can days. We want to be about enjoying the freedom that homeschool give us. Who am I kidding, we've always enjoyed our freedom, but we are being even more intentional this year and planning fun days and trips.

One of the values of Classical education is the idea of much not many- to go deeply into a few subjects rather than a thin study of many subjects. The same applies to life. Learning how to say yes to a few things- and do those things really well. 

Most of all, I am learning to relax and enjoy our days. I'm learning to laugh more and try to control much less. Everything goes smoother when we take it a little lightly.

I love this permission slip at Brave Writer. I hereby grant myself permission . . .

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Our homeschool plan and why I should not be doing this but I'm doing it anyway

I decide that I am unfit for homeschool at least three times a week. Sometimes three times a day. As the mom, you are so up close and personally involved with every moment of your kids' lives, without the space of perspective. There are no perks to this gig or even a coffee break; you are the crazy person who chose this in the first place.

After taking the Clifton Strengths Finder this summer I thought about my strengths and compared them to what is needed to be a great teacher, and determined that I have none of them.

My top five: empathy, connectedness, ideation, input, adaptability. All of my strengths feel like weakness as a homeschool mom.
I love ideas. I can generate a thousand ideas but be unable to choose one.  
I am highly adaptable, I resist structure and routine which are kind of important in a classroom. (Adaptability + ideation means that I change my mind twelve times a day)
I love to learn and so I can be impatient with things I already know.  I love the learning and research aspect of homeschool but struggle to stick with one thing.
At the very bottom of the thirty-two strengths I am sure would be the command strength. I am terrible at command. I hate telling people what to do. I should not be in charge of anyone, I can't even take charge of myself. I cannot ask for help, I have no concept of time and plan for twice more than could ever be accomplished. I hate details. I make most of my decisions out of guilt.

When it comes to homeschool, my strengths feel an awful lot like weaknesses. All of these are reasons why I should not be doing this.

But something about turning 39 this summer has me saying, Ack, so be it. I am a bit of a mess, I will probably always be, so be it. I am what I am; self-deprecating, in over my head, usually a bit confused, doubtful, curious, feeling everything.

I do my best. I give my whole heart. I keep trying, and learning, and adapting. I am going to try to be a bit more empathetic with myself this year.

And also? We might not do it through High School. Or maybe we will.

The best bit of homeschool advice I've ever heard is from Susan Wise Bauer who said that every year they asked the question, what does each child need to thrive this year?

This year, thriving is more of the same: Classical Conversations one day a week, and Math, piano, lots of books, friends, field trips, and time to play. And because I have in the back of my mind (and on my prayer list), that just maybe next year will look different, we are being all the more intentional enjoying the just because we can things.

One of the themes for me this summer was the next right thing. Talking with friends who spent their entire career in Haiti, they said that so many people came to Haiti "for life" and left after a very short time. More often, it was the people who came only for a year or two who ended up being there long term.

Today we begin another year of home education. My next right thing is to make breakfast, and read to the kids. My next right thing is to overcome my nature by sticking to a schedule, at least a rhythm, and to help my kids overcome their natures too. My next right thing is to feed my kids enough truth, beauty, and goodness to make them hungry to seek it for themselves.

Maybe we'll only be here for another year. Or two. It is going to be a great year.

Our homeschool plan for the year:

Josie: First Grade
Yes Mom, Please & Thank-you
Patience & Kindness

Math (Math-U-See)
Handwriting (Handwriting Without Tears)
Phonic Museum

Area of Care:
front door

Annie:Third Grade
No complaining 
Patience & Kindness

Math (Math-U-See)
Writing With Ease
First Language Lessons
Spelling Workout
Read great books

Area of Care:
dining room

Sami:Fifth Grade
See what needs done & do it
Patience & Kindness

Math (Teaching Textbooks)
Institute for Excellence in Writing
Essentials of the English Language
Spelling Workout
Read great books

Area of Care:
living room, steps,

*more on our Symposium- my favorite part! Soon . . .

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Summer 2016 recap

Birthday parties ~ Vacation Bible School ~ Cousin Camp ~ Vet appointments ~ Haiti reunion ~ visits with friends ~ playdates ~ swimming ~ visit my grandma ~ Pennsylvania ~ orchestra ~ a trip to Kelly's Island ~ Lots of walks with Lucy

It was a full, busy summer. The kids are at great ages, they are so much fun. Our favorite was visiting friends who moved away this summer.  These friends have little girls the same ages as ours, they have been the best of friends as long as we've been in Cleveland. Spending a week with them at their farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania was a bit of Heaven. It was gorgeously restful and fun.

The girls paired off and disappeared and we wouldn't see them for hours. Meanwhile Nan and I harvested her garden and made pesto and preserved vegetables or sat on the front porch reading . . . amazing.

We came home refreshed and energized, ready to dive into our school year; in theory. The reality is that we are starting late and still feeling pretty wobbly. Easing our way in is more like it. 

Turning 39 has me thinking about taking better care of myself. I visited a natural health doctor and decided to give it a try. After a reflex evaluation (Reflexology is mind-bending. I love it!) he put me on a few supplements and took me off of all refined sugar- super tricky for me because I am a big-time grazer and could survive on dark chocolate. I'm keeping a food log and go back weekly (it is the first week of homeschool; all that is on my food log is coffee and wine). 

Another thing I learned about this summer is the Clifton Strengths Finder. Our church offers a Ministry by Strengths class, which includes the online Strengths Finder evaluation. This is so interesting! I love learning how people tick. My top five in order: empathy, connectedness, input, ideation, adaptability.

Finally, I discovered a super-cheap babysitter this summer: my kids are now old enough to babysit themselves! I need at least two hours per week to write, and now that Lucy demands my every last breath mornings,  I hire my kids to babysit themselves and Lucy. The better they are (meaning the fewer times they interrupt me or disturb the peace of the neighborhood), the more they can make. Up to two dollars whoa.

Lucy destroyed the house and my sanity, the kids never stopped talking- not even once, I think I finished three books the entire summer. It was perfect.

Monday, August 1, 2016

What I'm Learning This Summer: Own Your Life

One: Own Your Life

My summer began with this book, Own Your Life. For years I have known the name Sally Clarkson and assumed I knew what she was about. I underestimated her. I began with her book The Life-Giving Home, which I loved, and this summer Own Your Life spoke so directly into my life and circumstances and is giving me months worth of insight to chew on. 

At the same time we have this puppy who demands that I own her life instead. 

What have I done this summer? Lucy is what I have done. Lucy rules the summer. 
And somehow I love her. She drives me crazy but I love her.

Lucy was probably providential, in her way, for me this summer as I have attempted to own my life, while realizing how much I allow outside influences to derail me. Jim describes me as a firefighter, constantly racing to the next emergency. I struggle to prioritize, to set boundaries, to not feel guilty. Lucy, bless her heart, is a living practice in becoming intentional.

Some ways I am learning to own my life: 
(quoted from or influenced by Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson)

To choose to accept the hidden, mundane work carried out in ordinary days as my long-term work of service and the place God is calling me to worship Him. To choose to be faithful in the hidden moments only God sees.

Daily to ask myself: How can I bring grace, beauty, and order to each day, and live as though it is a place of worship?

To resolve:
To be a joyful person.
To practice being thankful.
To see God’s fingerprints each day of my life, as I know my children long to have a happy mother.
To live every day by faith, choosing to believe that God is real, He listens to prayer, and He will provide the grace to get through every trial.
To love, as much as possible, all who come into my life.

Don't prioritize your schedule, schedule your priorities.

In order to live a flourishing life of influence, I will choose to own my life- to take responsibility for my choices, attitude, will, and actions, knowing they will have consequences for eternity. My integrity is built when no one but Christ is looking.

Cultivating faithfulness is to begin and end my days with prayer, to spend time in God’s word, to accept limitations by faith, to choose an inner life of integrity. I will choose to find light in this darkness. No matter what happens, I will be as obedient as I can to bring joy into this place, to create beauty in the wilderness, to exercise generous love, and to persevere with patience. I choose to believe that wherever you are my faithful companion is the place where your blessing will be upon me.

Measure your life by how well you have loved. In the moment that you love well, you are the most like Jesus... following the pathways of love will lead me to the most deeply gratifying accomplishments of my life.

I have been feeling a little lost, and the Lord is so good to feed me with just the right book at just the right season. There is much more to learn and to become. I am so thankful for these words this summer. Lord, make them true in me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

July 27

Faith is a mysterious process of following the voice of God, accompanied by hard work and wisdom. -Sally Clarkson
When I try to write there are two things which present themselves, every time: one is who do I think that I am to have anything at all to say? There are so many brilliant people saying brilliant things, let them do this job. The second is that it is selfish; there are many more practical things requiring my energy and attention.

I tried not to write this year. I surrendered it, obeyed the nagging voices. I gave all of my energy to the practical and the necessary. I am a firstborn and by nature, if nothing else, utterly responsible. The year was crammed full, and much easier than writing.

It is easier to fly through the day by reaction than by creation. It is much simpler to do what needs to be done than to wait and listen. Like Martha I am every woman: set in motion, finding my identity by what I can accomplish while at the same time complaining about it.

My negative voices tell me that writing is both selfish and arrogant. But my year long experiment found that the opposite is true.

Writing is an act of listening. It is a way to pay attention.

I want to live a listening life. I love to listen, I believe it is the way God made me. Writing is a way- one way- of listening.

I am watching friends of mine flourish, finding purpose and passion in many different ways. Not all by writing, but I think, at the heart, these friends who are finding their life's work or meaning: what they are doing is listening. At their center they are kneeling and listening, and out of that comes this beautiful work and beautiful living.

There will always be practical work to be done. There is a time to write novels and there is a time to clean toilets and there is no formula. The only rule we are given is to abide in Christ; seek, knock, ask . . . listen. We will know what to do.