Thursday, June 28, 2012

a little deflated

I attended my first homeschool convention on Friday.  Friends weren't able to go and so I went alone, looking forward to a day to myself and excited about the great session titles, too many I wished to hear that I could not choose.  I wanted to be there early to not miss a thing.

Jim has an ongoing joke about the homeschooling culture- you can imagine what it is: odd fashion, angry dogma-- the stereotype, and I laugh and tell him he's wrong, that it is not some strange subculture but a solid, intelligent movement motivated more by a standard of education than religion.

In my years following blogs and reading about homeschool, this has been my impression.

But on this day, at this conference, I was surprised. 

I was surprised by the anger.  The self-importance.  

Maybe it was only a session or two that colored the day this way.  I hope.  By the end of the day I had to admit that Jim was more correct in his estimation than I had been. 

I was glad for the information I gained from the conference, but I left in turmoil, and a little deflated.  Overall this was not the warm, hopeful, energetic atmosphere that I expected but an atmosphere of arrogance and condescension.  

This is not the reason we are homeschooling.  We are not homeschooling because we think we are better than anyone who doesn't.  We are not homeschooling because we are too spiritual for public school, or too delicate, or too afraid.

A few of the sessions I attended were very helpful and informative.  I got a lot out of the keynote speaker, and did find some friendly faces.

But all day I wondered if this is the impression unbelievers have of Christians?  Is it the impression I leave?  This flavor of self-importance?

"I thank you God that I am not as other men are . . ."(Luke 18:11)

I left asking myself, What is worldly after all?

I felt it again this weekend.

Returning to our religious hometown, meeting people I haven't seen in years and often there is this twinge of something- some underlying conflict or tension- what is it?  I rack my brain . .. did I offend them?  When?  Is it the church we attend or don't attend, some political affiliation we have or don't have, something I wear or don't wear, some group that we or someone in my family do or don't or did participate in five, ten, fifteen years ago?

It makes me tired.

Why the anger?  Why the division?  Why must I be in your particular camp on every issue, for us to love one another as brothers and sisters?

As my brother Joe, who participates in no church, said this weekend:
Christians, you have all the good stuff!  Love and mercy, kindness, goodness, humility . . . be known for these things!  There is so much good and attractive that could be what characterizes you!
But continually, in my experience, we drift back into our small circles.  We draw our lines and tilt our noses, and shun, and mock, and alienate ourselves further . . . and then we attend conferences for which to congratulate ourselves.

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.  
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 

On a positive note, Why Homeschool? at a Soulful Life are some of the best reasons I have found to homeschool.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

a grateful good-bye

"Tell the girls that Grandpa Hartzler has two arms now," I said on the phone to Jim on Friday.
My dad’s dad, Glade Hartzler, passed from this life into Heaven on Friday, June 22nd.  And although we are grieving for ourselves, and though there is suddenly a baffling empty space next to Grandma where my grandfather is supposed to be, yet we are rejoicing in his good and faithful life, and in hope that we will be with him again one day in Heaven.
Grandpa lost his right arm in a farming accident when he was young, and yet he was a carpenter and farmer all his life.  I never once heard him complain, or thought of his missing arm as a handicap.  Even until his last days he was busy doing the things he loved most: working on the farm, serving his church, and helping my grandmother serve countless meals to family and friends. They loved people.
My earliest memories of my grandparents’ farm are still the closest my imagination can reach into what Heaven might be.  It was a place where all of earthly joys were present, and I was young enough to simply accept them as the way life is.  It wasn’t until I grew up that I understood how rare and exquisite were those gatherings on the farm.  And yet maybe we did know, in the way of children who are drawn instinctively to what is pure and lovely and good.   It was what drew us to the place, cousins, to the table where there was sure to be all of life’s sweetest things: strawberry jam and sweet iced tea, ice cream that had been churned from the green fields outside the window, to the cream from the cows, with strawberries from the garden.  
It was all so simple and so joyful.  Always too much, too excessive.  We were conservative in most ways, but liberal with the butter, the cream, the hugs, the laughter.  We ate with the fullest pleasure.  
Laughter was the full-body kind.  I did not know then that it was our laughter as much as the feasting that was nourishment, medicine that healed and cleansed our spirits, knit us together, produced a tenderness and affection for one another.  Our bellies ached, we laughted unto tears.  Aunts and uncles and cousins quibbled and spat, argued and teased, all in this delicate spirit of affection and respect, an unspoken delight in one another, in being together, and this was good too; so much goodness.
I can remember every detail of the farm as though it were yesterday.  If we stopped by on a Sunday night the house was sure to smell like popcorn.  Grandpa would pour us Dr. Pepper into cold jewel-colored tin cups, we sat on the floor half-listening to the grown-ups talk.  This listening in on adult conversations was my first entrance into wisdom, into putting together what life is and how to face it, how to love life and love people, even when life hurts, when people hurt you.  I learned by listening how to grapple with hard things but to not let them make you bitter or hard, how to forgive, how to love God and love your neighbor.  I understood even then that this is the greatest commandment; though I’d yet to read it in the Bible, I saw how it was lived.
Family was as certain and secure then as the land, as enduring as the tree in the front yard.  We climbed to the top and swung from it’s branches.  It had not yet entered my realm of possibility that sometimes families split; even now our families remain close, gathered together beneath the shade of our grandparents’ commitment to loving each other, to their family, and I know now that this is it’s own kind of miracle, rare and beautiful.  
In this way, what formed in my earliest understanding about God, about Heaven, was of abundance; a satisfying rhythm of hard work and sweet rest, contentment, abiding joy.  Truly the richest lives are the quiet ones, connected to the earth, serving the land and others, humbly dependent upon God.  
In the cold months we hugged good-bye beneath the porch light, and the short walk to the car was a bit of magic to a young girl, a sort of ceremony.  I would breathe deep, and look up at the stars.  I loved nothing more, then, than the sweet fresh smell of the farm, the quiet movement of cows in the barn, the clear open darkness of the sky, and I still do.  It is a memory even now so hushed by the presence of wonder and mystery, but glowing behind me is the light of my grandparents’ home; the warmth and acceptance of family, the quiet presence of wisdom and godliness.  Even now this memory remains as my deepest awareness of God, my closest sense of the beauty of existence, of hope in death.
On summer nights we hugged good-bye and stepped out into the promise of fruitful land.  It is in this golden light of a June evening that I think of my Grandpa Glade now.  We stand together on his front porch, full from a good meal, satisfied, humbly aware of our blessings.  We look out on the rich green fields.  He hugs us strong, like he always does, blue eyes twinkling; but he hugs us now with both arms. The sky is pink, and long shadows cast across the farm, across a community, across generations.  In this shadow of love, of hard work, of faithful, quiet goodness we lift up our children and swing them from the branches of the tree in the front yard.  
We say good-bye, but mostly we say thank-you.

(note: these photos are actually taken from my parents' home, which was originally part of my grandparent's farm. I know, know, know that I have pictures of my grandpa on this computer and I cannot find them! grrr . .. )

Thursday, June 21, 2012

the end of a summer day

Yesterday was the first day of summer, my favorite day of the whole year, and I nearly missed it.  I love the first day of summer because it is the longest day of the year, and there is something so wonderful about late, warm summer evenings.  In 2003 Jim proposed to me on the first day of summer.

I am re-posting this, about the day-after the longest day of the year, from a few years ago, because it is still one of my favorite posts.

the end of a summer day

It's the end of a summer day.  The day after the longest day of the year, already beginning that slow descent and I can't help but be a little sad about it.  Summer!- just arrived yesterday and today it is already beginning to end . . . and this anxiety begins to rise in me, like it always does, this ever-present feeling that there isn’t enough time . . . the rush of days, this slippery beauty, it’s all passing so quickly and there is so much to do and there just isn’t time.

I have this ache in my back and I am irrational and imagine that it’s cancer, wrapped around my spine and i’ve only a few months to live . . . God I hope not . . . God I love living . . .

there is so much living to be done

and there was a small earthquake just a few minutes ago, so i hear . . . and what if this is the end . . . or what if i have a hundred years . . . how will i spend this afternoon?  This one hour of quiet while everyone is sleeping?  The answer leaves me equally anxious because either way there just isn’t enough time . . . I hope that the answer would be the same, that either way I'd spend this moment and the rest of today doing the same thing that i am now doing.

Lord there are many things I would like to do, need to do, wish i could do.  help me to choose the best things . . . this is my constant prayer.

I wish I could read more and sew something ruffled and make my own yogurt and be a farmer .. . I want to paint something orange and bake something chocolate and write a poem about the way she rolls her eyes . . . and there are so many books left to read and places left to go and fascinating people I still need to get to know and old familiar fascinating friends I need more time to soak in . . .

Life is too short for a lot of things. . . . life is too short to go to the mall.  It’s too short to dress the baby up with all those snaps when I'll only have to change her again (all summer she is wearing only a t-shirt and her cloth diaper, and she is beautiful) . . . life is too short to keep my house perfectly clean, (though I am working on finding the balance on this one; my temper blows and my back is turned to my children all too frequently as i clean one mess and then another) . . . life is too short for grudges, too short for worry, too short to wonder what she might be thinking, too short for television, too short to spend not with my children or wishing i weren’t . . . life is too short to try to please people, too short to eat too much or bad things or to be unhealthy, and too short to worry too much about it.  

Life is too short for many things, but too precious too, for a lot of things not to do them. . .

It’s too precious not to plant a garden, so we can watch the miracles explode from the dirt; too precious not to put-up a clothesline so we can wear the sunshine; too precious not to paint our toenails pink like little flags from the Country of Happy.  It’s too precious not to stop instantly and laugh, not to kiss the cheeks, not to check-out stacks of books from the library that I’ll never have time to finish.  

Life is hard, but it's amazing too, and I love it.  Really, I do.  Even when everybody is whining and the house is a mess and at any given moment at least two kids are crying for me . . . even when I’m crabby and in a huff and when i just want to be left alone . . . even then at the end of the day (which never comes soon enough) I sit back exhausted and wonder why I still wish I could have a hundred babies; why I wish I didn’t need to sleep so I could just keep living and doing and be wide awake to all this beauty, all these possibilities, all this life.

I love life, and I love knowing that it’s only a mirror, only a taste of the glory in Heaven . . . God every last bite of this life, these good things, are from you and for you and because of your Son who gives us all things so lavishly to enjoy . . . God it’s all praise to you . . . God it will take me this whole life and eternity to marvel at it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

a simple summer day

Yesterday was the first normal summer day we have had--
we all were tired and ready for a day at home.  
I decided to photo document our simple, restful, summer day at home . . .

7:00 a.m. bunny fort

8:00 a.m. oatmeal

9:00 Dr. appointment, well visits.  Everybody healthy!

11:00 hungry for granola bars, we try these.  I forget to read the recipe, and it turns into granola.
Really, really good granola.
I eat nearly the entire batch.

11:30 blocks

12:00 lunch: veggies and cucumber & cream cheese sandwiches

12:30 on the couch with books
Josie to bed
. . . and then the big girls watched a movie, because- get this- the Doctor said it was okay for them to watch more television (after we had been doing so, so good with near-zero t.v.). . . and they heard her . .. and now they think that they "need" to watch more television . .. oh bother.
She also suggested they go to bed earlier.  Ahem.

While they zoned out I painted.

(arty biz: I am not loving acrylics, even the good set I bought, at all.
I am surprisingly enjoying watercolors.  
I bought Jim a swanky set that he asked for for Father's Day and then snuck into them to borrow his cerulean blue . ..
he says if I keep stealing his cerulean blue we be fightin . . .)

After giggling through Bambi 2, they decide to paint with me.
I really love that making art invites company.
Writing is such a solitary process, 
and trying to do it in the middle of the day during "rest time" was a continual fail.  
But painting in the middle of the day has turned into a nice time for good, quiet connection.

3:00 sleepyhead awakes.
Time for yogurt
and happy dances.

Josie wants to paint too-
(this has turned into a long process . .. )

But everyone is happy so I keep passing out the paper.
(Yard sale haul: a huge ream of 11 x 17 paper. Yard sales are great places for craft supplies!)

This is when I stopped taking pictures . . .
Jim wasn't home for dinner so it was a mac & cheese night.
We met a sweet neighbor girl who is going to babysit for us a few hours a week so I can work- 
a side job for my Dad.
(*my turn to happy dance*)

6:00 Outside to ride bikes.
I declare surrender to the deer and pull all my flower-less stems out of the ground.

7:00: our first official Neighborhood Book Club meeting.
A friend organized a book club for the kids-
they will read a book and then walk or bike it to the next person to read.
They have their own little maps and official book bag.
So much fun. 

By the time we got home it was time for bed.
No books tonight,
just a little chatting about our day,
a few songs . . .


We hardly made it outside,
but it was a slow, sweet Summer day-
the very best kind.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Imagination and Community

. . . In the First Epistle of Peter we are told to honor everyone, and I have never been in a situation where I felt this instruction was inappropriate.  When we accept dismissive judgments of our community we stop having generous hopes for it.  We cease to be capable of serving its best interests. . . Why the judgmentalism, among people who are supposed to believe we are, and we live among, souls precious to God . . . It is not possible to act in good faith toward people one does not respect, or to entertain hopes for them that are appropriate to their gifts.  As we withdraw from one another we withdraw from the world, except as we increasingly insist that foreign groups and populations are our irreconcilable enemies.  The shrinking of imaginative identification which allows such things as shared humanity to be forgotten always begins at home. 
It is very much in the gift of the community to enrich individual lives, and it is in the gift of any individual to enlarge and enrich community. 
The great truth that is too often forgotten is that it is in the nature of people to do good to one another.  -the essay Imagination and Community from When I Was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson
I really enjoyed this thoughtful collection of essays by Marilynne Robinson.  I especially like the essay "Open thy Hand Wide: Moses and the Origins of American Liberalism," in which she argues that the Old Testament is more truly liberal than has often been recognized. Here is a good review of this book by Janet at Across the Page.

Friday, June 15, 2012

all that summer needs

Our Summer Fun list hanging on the refrigerator . . .

A day spent searching for thrifted tea cups with the little ones- which apparently don't exist anymore . .

I sewed a bunting.  A bunting!

Berries and cream in tiny cups . . .

all in hopes of making the End of Kindergarten tea party celebration the best ever.

Out for dinner of her choice, all dressed up . . .

summer calendar filled with swimming lessons, Bible School, nature camp, art classes . . .

Summertime Board ready on Pinterest . . .

and on the first day of summer vacation she came into the bathroom where I was getting ready, 
we sat on the rim of the tub . . . 
pulled up our knees .. .
and talked, and talked, . ..
 and then she led me on a long bike ride . .. 
smiling all the way . . .

and this, I thought, is all that summer needs.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

community and homeschool

Of all my doubts and fears surrounding homeschooling, this would be the greatest:

the sense of breaking away from our community . .. 

of being a part of something alive and growing, a community of people where we are both needed and in need of it's members . ..

it has been a sorrow throughout my life.  I hate good-byes.  I feel a deep sense of connection to others, a great awareness of their value in my life, even if I don't always know how to express it . ..

Urban Outfitters
We didn't talk about homeschool with Sami in the last weeks of school.  It seemed important that she be allowed to be fully present, that she soak in the last days with her class before moving on.  On the last day of school, talking with other moms and seeing her with her friends, I could have changed my mind right there, signed on to public schooling her for the next twelve years, if only to not have to say goodbye . ..

The next day we had our first gathering with our homeschool co-op, and I am so glad that we timed it this way, to remind ourselves of the new community we are re-attaching to, of the new beautiful people we will be joining hands with.

And our public school friends reminded us that we are neighborhood friends, not just school friends, and that our friendship will continue well beyond the school walls.  It is so good to know this.

I don't know that I could homeschool if there weren't a community for us to be a part of, even if only a few times a month.  I am so thankful that God has allowed us to find these other like-minded families to enjoy the homeschooling journey with!


"Mom will the fireflies come out again tonight?" -Annie . . . This is the only appointment on our schedule this summer.

This post by Sarah Bessey is one of my favorite posts ever.  I wish I had had the eloquence (and the coherence) during the sleepless years to pen a post like this.  I so identify with this grace found in the dark; the beauty I could, at times, cling to in the midst of the fog of sleep deprivation . . .

{This Sacred Everyday} In Which I Minister Love in the Night
I remember one night this past winter, I stood in the middle of my living room, alone, in the wee small hours. The cold house was lit with stars and street lights. I couldn’t go back to bed, it was so quiet, so still, so other-worldly. I was brimming with something like wonder in the loneliness of the night, I could see the stars, something in me wanted to stay there, awake with all the mothers-hearts, up in the small hours, I felt them. 

happy girl~happy summer

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

we heart cleveland

I will only ever tell the truth on this blog.
And the truth is, we love Cleveland.
We do.
Since moving here a year ago we have found that Cleveland is terribly underrated,
it's poor reputation is mostly undeserved,
and just maybe, we like Cleveland even more because of her rough edges and modest charms.

At least she's not snooty.

We will argue to the end that Cleveland is Ohio's best city,
and even though it's not the largest or most thriving city in the U.S.,
it holds unexpected gems that could rival any major city . ..
but on a much more accessible level.

Take for example: 
and Botanical Garden . . .
Cleveland's culinary scene is really fantastic . ..
the Cuyahoga County Public Library was ranked number one in the U.S. in 2010 . . .
the Cleveland Clinic, of course . ..
I could go on . .. (here's 100)

Cleveland has really wonderful neighborhoods,
lined by old trees and beautiful architecture,
a fabulous library system,
great metro parks,
cost of living lower than the national average . . .
tons of family events . . .
(honestly, if you look, there is more to do here in the spring, summer and fall months than one would ever have time to exhaust).

We love living in Cleveland for all that it offers for kids and families,
but this weekend we got to experience the city without children . .. 
and Cleveland without kids is very nice too!

first stop, Aladdins

dessert at Presti's

hanging out at Wade Oval,
and a few hours at the art museum . . . 

Jim and I were able to remember why we really like each other, too . ..
with our rough edges and modest charms. (smile)

Then, time to pick up the kids
who are not at all happy to leave Nana and Papa . . .

and back to wild, sweet reality .. .

in Cleveland.

I am adding a Cleveland section to this blog, a place to share some of the things we love about Cleveland. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

sick week . ..

The little one and I have both been sick this week, so we are trying to lay low.  It is hard for me to do nothing, I feel anxious and worthless.  My constant struggle with working from home is the unpredictability, we may have three days out of five that are somewhat normal, but even those spare hours before everyone is awake or during naptime are often full of interruptions, and I am continually trying to work-out how tightly to hold to "my time," and how much to accept as season in life.  

I have learned to lean more to the side of letting go of my agenda, and we all are happier.  Somehow, the work will get done, for now I want to choose the children.  I try to repeat to myself, that's alright, everything is alright.

Yesterday is a good example.  I had to run to the library in the morning, and by the time we got there Josie was asleep in her carseat.  Of course she stayed asleep through the library, back in the car, and all the way to her bed where she immediately woke up, as I knew she would.  It is hard not to be frustrated when this happens, as now not only will there be no nap time, but she will be cranky the rest of the day as well.  I'd not accomplished anything all week, and was itching to at least start something.

I ask the Lord constantly how to live my days, and I was particularly desperate as I gritted my teeth and prayed, How do I redeem this day God?  

So often when I pray this way I find the answer be to do less.  Let go.  As Shaun Groves said,
Is it possible that the descending way of Jesus might be God’s way for me?
And so I let the day unfold as it would . . . and this is how we spent the entire afternoon:

Josie, still not feeling well, finally crawled up and fell asleep on me, and Annie sat with me and brought me books to read to her for two hours.  I was so thankful for this focused time with Annie before her sister is out of school, and I kept thinking that I will not be given many more afternoons to sit and hold a sleeping baby.  Day redeemed.

Jenny P.  left this quote in her comment recently:
"Yes, men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life to God will find he has eternal life."
My day is such a small example, but how true that God can "make a lot more out of our lives that we can."

As I've been down this week I have been trying to catch-up on some homeschool reading . . .

I don't intend to read these cover to cover, so I won't be doing a book review, but these are some of the books I am skimming that have come highly recommended . . .

Teach Your Own by John Holt and Patrick Farenga

The Hurried Child: growing up too fast too soon, by David Elkind

The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise

For the Children's Sake, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

And, there are two fears that I am learning to get passed related to painting, and that is giving my work and showing my work . .. I always resisted giving my art as gifts for fear that the recipient would feel some obligation to pull the art out from under her bed to hang when I came to visit.  I am moving past that, out of the joy of giving a gift that is handmade, and if it remains under her bed I am completely fine with that.

Two, I don't like showing my work because it seems like I am fishing for compliments or something, which I am not!  I love to see what other people are creating.  So here is a completed painting I finished up last week:

In the interest of our floors and walls, I am switching from oils to acrylics, which clean up with water.  This was my first attempt, I don't love working with them but I'm going to keep experimenting.  It is just too impossible to keep oils anywhere near the children, and I found that to be a major reason why I wasn't painting.

And now, I am taking myself to the doctor.

Happy June 1!  
The very best month of the year!