Introvert consoles herself with sticks and string

So I am just never ever alone.

What a gift, what a joy.
I am always in the company of people I love, really.
And, simultaneously,  I am a person with a very high need for alone time,
and that’s been the case all my life.
So, knowing I have this great yawning need for solitude, I gave birth to six children.   Of course, who wouldn’t!
And they have friends.  And I have also got a husband.  And now my mom lives with us too.   And I love them all.   And I also love to be alone.

These people I love  manage their day by taking turns talking to me.  Passing the baton of continual conversation so that I am prevented from ever completing a thought.

Today in a short two hours, I began with a long chat with the 11 yr old about Minecraft .
He mentioned all its different building materials, and how it has blessed his little heart more than any book he has yet read   (a challenge which this literature loving Mom identifies and accepts).
Now he’s building me my own Minecraft house…..actually a fantastic compound with towers and swimming pools, a breathtaking view of the ocean, and BEST OF ALL…. a multi-level sheep farm.
He delights to describe it to me in minute and repititious detail.

In case anybody wants to see it, I have a photo of the sheep area which he took on my phone and brought to me:

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Those things that look like bunk beds on the left are actually two sheep pens, extra large, one stacked on top of the other.    Because he is confident that one day I will want to produce wool in my very own yard to save myself the bother of hauling off to Paradise Fibers every time I need more yarn.

Then, he  randomly mentioned something irrelevant to sheep and virtual building, which was this:    ”Oh, and there is an extinct family of cephalopods which were Ammonoidea  or something.  But they are also called ammonites.  Weren’t those guys in the Bible?”  and, like you, I have no idea what he’s talking about.  But when I Googled it on my phone as he was speaking, I discovered  this.   And  realize he’s doing sciencey stuff in his free time, when he’s not making sheep bunks for his old mom.

And as soon as he’s done  and headed out of the room, the six year old comes in a different door and starts talking about what kind of rabbits she’s going to have when she graduates from medical school and how she plans to dress them in little outfits and take them to work on leashes to keep her patients from being bored in the waiting room.   And she’s asking if I have some spare fabric so she can start that project right now.
As she heads off to paint some bird houses instead of sewing, my mother arrives with a fist full of statements from her broker wanting to talk about how much better her portfolio could be managed if we would just spend an afternoon trading out stuff and cleaning the whole mess up.   And she has quite a number of ideas on the subject.

And I’m smiling and nodding in the most noncommittal sort of way when the sixteen year old saunters in talking about election law reform, the galaxy-wide loss of popularity of the US,   and asking for food.  He then eats and leaves……
And just as my head begins to settle on the power line again, picking up some pitiful train of thought from three hours ago, the 17 yr old crashes into the house full of disturbing updates  about her delinquent chemistry professor who made somebody cry,  and how many drug dealers she observed while waiting at the bus station.
This sets my mind racing in all new directions,  only to be interrupted by the ringing phone and the rice  boiling over and the kittens  falling  into the toilet.
And then,  Hark, it’s the doorbell heralding the unexpected arrival of  the architect with drawings for Jon to look over, only Jon is still in the hospital with patients.  I greet him at the door wishing  I was wearing something other than spandex running tights and top,  also wishing I could teleport my husband right home.

So that’s why I knit.   Knitting creates a little bubble of isolation around me.  Knitting is my little cave.  When I am knitting, people come and talk to me and I can whisper, “sorry, I’m counting….”  And they actually apologize and back out of the room.  Because they were close to me the year I learned to knit lace and they know I cried over it from time to time.

And then, most of the time they can come and sit with me and do their talking, and it’s all friendly.   But there is some kind of buffering membrane around me when I am knitting.  It’s like a portable comfort zone.   I think it makes me a kinder person, sometimes.

Sometimes ladies will suggest we gather for  knitting as a group with cups of tea and lots of chit-chat.  And I always say, Oh that sounds fun.  But I wind up never going.  I think it’s the chit-chat that scares me away.   I’ve got all the chit-chat I can handle.

I knit alone mostly, and I am up to my eyeballs in Christmas knitting projects.
There’s a man’s Size Large sweater, a Size Six girl’s pink poncho, eight or twelve hats, a stack of washcloths for the ladies at Jon’s office, a lacy wrap,  a super cool fair isle skirt in a Ladies Size Extra Small, a coffee pot cozy, and a blanket.

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I have a written schedule to help me get them all finished in time for Christmas Eve.   It’s crazy speed-knitting, and it’s making me faster.

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And while I knit, they all talk to me.    Roughly 50 days to go.   It seems like a whole lot of time.

 

 

 

 

The top ten reasons I don’t keep up this blog

Often  I go to bed with an idea for a blog post in my head, and often even rise in the morning with a blog post in my head, but nobody would ever know it.  I love the idea of writing, and of being read….it feels like a lovely   connection to me.  And I find there are so many little piles of stuff to get past on my way to writing anything.

Here’s what gets in the way:

1.   Always as I am beginning to write something up, regardless of the hour and never-mind that I might have just sat all alone for two hours, the minute I start typing in this little window Somebody arrives and wants to talk to me.  It just happened again, and I can’t type with people talking to me.

2.  Blogs (of this type) require photographs.  But my 100 year old house is under re-construction in many places, and the progress is so slow that I don’t want it photo-documented.   People like to see change, but I don’t have much of that to show.  People always appear a bit discouraged when they realize that we still have no kitchen cabinets, and the deck is still about to fall off the back of the house, and we still have a 3 x 6 foot  opening in the floor under our bed.  I don’t mind camping in my own home, but I hate to disappoint anyone if I can help it.

3.  Blogs, again,   require photographs.  But I have the deadly triple curse of cream colored carpeting, a one year old German Shepherd and a pond.
Not wishing to publish any pictures of cream colored carpeting covered with  muddy  prints from the dog who just bounded into the house from the pond, my field of photographic backdrops is narrowed further, because that dog just loves the pond, and I just love the dog .

4.  My kids are still funny, but not in that universally shareable toddler kind of way.
Now their humor is kind of esoteric and controversial and when I try to describe it, we sound like a pack of nerds.  And they want to edit what I can say about them.  It’s as though they were all running for office.

5.  The other funny person in my house is my mother, but if I share her funny remarks it sounds disrespectful.  She’s got some early senile dementia going on, and even she finds some of it amusing……but it also doesn’t share well.
I sometimes think that a blog about this aspect of life would be helpful, because we are not the only family watching brain impairment change a parent.  That blog should be called “Are You My Mother?”    But this minefield is a tricky one.  Not going there yet.

6.  There is no great theme in my life around which to write.  We’ve got a whole lot going on:   renovating this house, educating kids at home, keeping up with eight people whose ages range from 6 to 80 under this roof, there is also a Speech and Debate club which meets here (60 human beings) each Friday, plus the knitting and the camping and the fly-fishing and the preparation for college and keeping Jon’s shirts ironed.   All are marvelous, but I find that too many hats make me  just  distracted rather than particularly interesting.

7.  All that stuff in  #6, plus the shampooing of the carpet in #3 leave me with no time at all to put coherent thoughts together.

8.   My mother’s comment about this blog, when she saw it once was this:  ”You mean people read that?  Well I guess some people just don’t have enough to do to fill their days.”     I had to share that.  It makes me laugh every time I hear it in my head.   It’s so humbling.

9.   All the lovely Christian Lady blogs are so lovely and theological.  And much as I love to read them, I do so because I need their insight.
I am better at dishing out borderline irreverent humor, and have offended people in the past in the most ridiculous ways, simply by writing what popped into my head.
Anyone who witnessed the “hubby” incident on my facebook wall, or my little rant about the word “congrats” when “Congratulations” are in order, will know what I’m talking about.

10.  I am a poor finisher.  Beginning a blog was easy….carrying it on well is a different story.   It’s a maturity thing.

 

 

 

Dearie is In the House

So, in a watershed moment which was far from unexpected, my sweet mother has moved into our home.

There is no mother anywhere who would be more charming to live with, and everybody who has met her would agree.

She’s a good sport and everybody loves her.  And best of all, she loves my husband at least as much as she loves me.  She always takes his side over mine if there’s a disagreement.  And that’s exactly as it  should be.

The kids love her.  Sometimes they love her too much, too close and with too much talking.  But overall it’s  healthy and mentally stimulating.

Even the dog is glad to have her.    It’s win-win all around.

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But having another person around with her own esoteric ideas, needs and shopping lists is reminding me of the days when we had four or five tiny children underfoot, each one perfectly certain that each thought must be shared the instant  it gelled.   By five PM, my brain  is mush and I have to apply some energy in order to meet the darling husband with anything softer than a  glare.  And it isn’t really his fault they were talking all day.  Poor man.

Mom’s arrival, combined with a the fact that the NCFCA, or my desire to start a debate club in the name of the NCFCA,    and the mountain of stuff I don’t know about starting a club,  is eating my life (… another story for another day),
plus this acre of overgrown garden which we purchased  nine months ago and which is now coming to life and Must Be Subdued …
these events  have been  almost mind-numbing in combination,  and I’m thinking we might have to hire somebody to come in and brush my teeth for me if the iron supplements and the spirulina don’t kick in.

Anyway, all that was just to excuse the crashing drop of literary standards which has occurred.
No Greek classics.       Instead:

 

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I read Albert Brooks 2030 and it was the most wonderful bit of mental junk food.  Just an easy, compelling anti-utopian guess at what might occur in the US by the year 2030.   Cancer is cured, LA experiences The Big One, our health care program is a bankrupt disaster.   One night I read about a third of it before falling asleep, and woke up thinking all these calamities were really happening.  What a relief when the coffee brought me around!

Lots of food for thought here.    This would be a great beach read, or if you find yourself stuck in the airport, trot off to the bookstore because I’m pretty sure they will have a copy.

 

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My second piece of mindless non classical fun was Adrienne Martini’s book Sweater Quest, in which the author chronicles her month by month progress knitting an Alice Starmore Fair Isle sweater.   She chose the Mary Tudor Sweater  which can be seen, along with a basket of all the colors required to knit it up right here .

This sweater and all other sweaters designed by Alice Starmore,   represent the Mount Everest of knitwear.  It’s more like stunt-knitting.   Here is a poor quality  picture of what it looks like completed in case you didn’t want to bother with the rabbit trail  link above.

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I’m almost embarrassed to say how much I loved this book.    Like the author (not Alice Starmore, but Adrienne Martini)  I could gush on and on about all the wonderful things that I believe have come into my life via my obsession with knitting.    I felt such a kinship with her when she described the attention deficit disorder which crashed in during her years  mothering small children, and the outrageous sense of accomplishment and personal victory that washes over her when she completes a knitted item.  I really really understand that.   I know it’s weird.    So, this book was such a sweet  confirmation of fellowship, somewhere in the lonely universe.

But, nice as kinship can be, I will never under any circumstances knit up a Starmore sweater.     Laying hands on the required yarn, let along knitting the sweater, would take a year. In order to follow her pattern, I  would  have to overcome my terror of  cutting steeks, and I have never been invited to a 1980′s theme party, which is the only place on earth where a Starmore sweater would not look frumpy and overwrought.

Anyhoo, getting back to the book,  Martini shares her reasons for tackling this ridiculously hard project, the history of the Tudor family, since it helps to understand the motifs knitted into this Mary Tudor pattern, she shares some wonderful anecdotes about some of the celebrities of the current knitting scene (yes, there are knitting celebs).   She talks a bit about Toronto as the leader in fun, young knit-design in North America…..and I thought that was pretty cool, because it was during my years in Toronto that I became a knitting freak.
She also tells quite a bit about Alice Starmore,  knitwear designer and litigant of all who might take liberties with her name and designs.
This aspect of Starmore’s persona takes one by surprise, as we are   all hoping she’s kind of a cuddly granny drawing up soft wooly designs from her hideaway in the Hebrides.
Alas, no.  She is quite fierce, and not to be toyed with.
Starmore, when not defending her name,  creates patterns for  the most complicated and revered knitting patterns anyone has ever seen, and she designs them to be knit only in her own colors…..no substitutions.  Which would be merely an inconvenience if her wool distributer still carried these colors.  But none of them are currently in production, and so it requires a good deal of detective work and a very large Visa credit line to find the correct colors on E-Bay or any of the numerous knitting chat rooms.  The book includes Adrienne Martini’s story of how she found her yarn, and how unsettling it was when  had to substitute some colors with yarn of which Starmore-The-Designer would never approve .

Tempest in a teapot.  But I loved it.

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And it set me off to read Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting.    I have finished the first long chapter of this book which deals entirely with the history of the Fair Isles and the knitters who live there.   I particularly enjoyed the speculation in this chapter that the Fair Isle motifs  which are so much associated with this remote island in the North Sea, may have originated from Spain in 1588 when the flagship of the Spanish Armada crashed on this island, and somehow the sailors Moorish sweater patterns were snatched up and copied by the good wives of the Fair Isle fishermen.

This idea was dismissed by Starmore as colorful fiction, but it appeals to me because of my own ties through marriage to Norway.  My mother in law, born on the west coast of Norway,  claims that her dark coloring comes from a Spanish ancestor who was himself a sailor who washed up on the beach in 1588 when the Armada was defeated and his ship drifted north.

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The proximity of Fair Isle and the Shetlands to the same coast where my MIL was born gives so much heft to that story.   And I love the idea of a Muslim sailor, representing a Catholic king, running in defeat from a Protestant Queen, with gorgeous knit wear as the punch line.   Makes me smile.

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Reaching back to a couple of dry ones from February

I’m strangely charmed by the observation that if you close your eyes in a karate class, it can sometimes sound like a crowded birthing room full of laboring women, with choruses of gutteral grunting from all directions.   Perfectly suited to reading.  Not.   Which is why I usually knit during karate class.   But the similiarity of  background noises lend the pinache of Blackbelt achievement to motherhood.  And I think that’s just about right.

Three weeks ago, I was seated on a bench at Daniel’s karate school “watching”  his class perform a self-defense  maneuver  with my gaze riveted to the screen of my kindle, upon which I was reading yet  another debate text………(insert agonizing groan)… .    ( It turns out that there are some very engaging debate books, but I had not yet discovered them three weeks ago.)

 

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I was reading Leverett S. Lyon’s Elements of Debate……….dry as the Sahara.  And I was still hopeful I might find some savory tidbits about how one might  build a solid and compelling debate case which finessed everyone in the room into the very palm of one’s hand.

I was in the middle of some juicy sentence like “The issues when stated in declarative sentences are the fundamental reasons why the affirmative believes its proposition………”  when Daniel’s ultra energetic karate instructor  yanked me out of my stupor with the news that Daniel was being “invited” to join a special training class, the demo team which does karate demonstration (for recruitment purposes)   all over town.  This was presented, and actually is,  a great  honor which is not to be sneezed at .   It was four days later that  I realized the  fullness of the price hike that accompanied this profound  upgrade.   And I’m thankful we can do this for him.

But since that fateful day, Jon and I have parted with something close to $300 in unanticipated fees.    So, I won’t read in karate class for  a while.  I’d better stay alert.

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And then there was Hesiod’s Works and Days.   I did not read Theogony, even though it was included in the same volume I have which was translated by  Stanley Lombardo.  The main reason I didn’t read Theogony is because I found that Works was just a little more Greek god than I need on any given weeknight.    It’s almost a Theogony all it’s own, with some good difficult labors and oxen tossed in.

I was mostly interested in reading Works and Days because it was described to me as one of the earliest known narratives on economic thought.  The First of anything is always interesting, and always turns out to be less auspicious than expected.  Having always thought of Hesiod in conjunction with Homer, I expected  Works and Days to be formal and majestic in the way, I guess, that one would expect epic narratives to be.  But it was more like epic poetry for the common man.  Written in the first person and, as I already indicated,   a little bit over the top in his invocations of Zeus and all his mates.    But Hesiod does have a keen eye for the frailties of man, our tendencies to mischief and squabbling,  and the need of hard work and no more insolence towards the gods.

The kids and I have been reading about the  establishment of Greek colonies all around the Aegean, Sicily, and even as far flung as Hemeroskopeion in  modern  Spain, and a dozen or so colonies spread all around the Black Sea.   This colonization was ongoing for five centuries after Hesiod’s lifetime, and was neccessary because of an endless need of more and better farm land to feed the growing population.  It’s interesting to interpret the farming crisis of these islands, and rocky colonies along the seacoast in view of Hesiod’s portrayal of the rigorous like of the Greek farmer, and his much repeated perception that hard labor is the lot of men, and that success will come to the one who is willing to work for it.   And not complain, or expect a life of ease.   I think he must have been a great parent.

So, Works and Days was a well timed read.  It helped that I could fit it right into it’s historical context.  Otherwise it might have felt too repetitive and a bit much Greek Diety-filled for most of us.    I think this blog should be called something like Classics for Rednecks, because that’s really the flavor of these reviews, isn’t it?

So those were two books for February.   Glad I read them.  Glad I am all done with them.

 

Five books in February

Exactly one year ago, at an early morning ladies prayer gathering here in Spokane, I unravelled little bit when my turn arrived to tell everyone what I needed prayer for.

My issues of the moment were over the fact that our family had not yet settled in a permanent home after seven months in Spokane, and that there seemed to be no house which met all our criteria,  anywhere.    That this led to a chaotic home life which made home schooling almost impossible.
And I had an  unsettling terror arising from the fact that my first-born child was about to become my first-graduated child.
And further, because I had been such a negligent home educator, that he would  certainly be spending his adult years living under an overpass………. because, surely,  no university would allow him to darken its door.     He had no foreign language, no understanding of what a gerund phrase was, insufficient extra-curricular activities,  and the scanty  course records I had kept were lost among the hundred or so unpacked boxes in our recently flooded basement.   I wasn’t sobbing, but I was close.

This little melt down was followed by a tender prayer by one of those dear ladies in which she asked God to help me to persevere and see his kindness in the midst of my insecurities and lack of faith.  I had not recognized that it was insecurity and lack of faith until she labelled it for me.   And God did carry me through,  and we did find a place to live and David did manage to get into the school he wanted with a partial  academic scholarship, and I see in retrospect that my freak-out was  overdramatic.   And I have reflected often since that day that I have a tendency towards insecurity and a lack of faith, and sometimes I freak out needlessly.

I mention this because it’s happening again.  I am having a freaking-out, insecure failure of faith.  My mom is moving into our house in three weeks, and I  have begun to wake up at 2am chronicling all the ways in which I will be failing her, my husband, my children, this ginormous renovation project in which we live,  the  dog, and probably everyone else I know.  This calamity will begin when I  reach that point of no return as I close the door on her empty apartment and drive Mom and her stuff down the hill to our house.   For good.

There’s a little voice in the back of my head, occasionally audible when the sun is up, which says “it’s all going to be fine.”    Of course it will.   But there is a more strident voice at 2am which ticks off every possible way in which all who depend upon me will be lost in the quagmire of my disorganization, probably causing Jon and the remaining five children and my mother to spend the rest of their days living under an overpass.

I finished a book which I had started last year, Octavius Winslow’s Help Heavenward.  I picked it up again because I wanted to find a particular passage in his chapter “Human Care Transferred to God”.   The entire chapter is helpful for getting my sights corrected when worry begins to pull me under.   Here’s a little bit:

“Is not the voice of the Lord mightier than the voice of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea?    Is not the Care-taker mightier than the care itself?  Yet how we magnify and multiply our cares, anxieties and sorrows!   But for the immutability of our redeeming God, whose unseen hand guides and whose power, almost insensible to ourselves, sustains us, our care would consume us.    How often we are upheld, we scarcely know how, preserved in safety, we scarcely know why.  But ‘the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him” and sooner or later, we learn that Jesus has done it all, and has done it for his own glory.”    p. 99

And there’s a great deal more good encouragement where that came from.  Winslow is one of those soothing and comforting Puritans.  It does me good to think that those Puritans brought their own mothers into their homes when the time came, and that they did it with a sturdy heart which loved duty and obedience.  It’s helpful.

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For a whole different kind of  treat, I  read a little PG Woodhouse as the finishing flourish to calm my jittery nerves.  This time it was Plum Pie, which is one of his short story collections.  Not my all time favorite of his books, but it was relaxing and mindless.  And that’s helpful.

I was escaping to the rich oxygenated leisure of  Woodhouse because the other book I’m dragging myself through is Martin Cothran’s very dry Material Logic text.   I have never read anything on the subject of material logic before, and so have nothing to which I can compare this text.  But, as it’s  a formal logic course,  a systematic study of the structure of reasoning, I am a few inches over my head.  I have rare intervals of lucidity as I read through this, and most of these moments come as I read a paragraph for the second or third time.  It’s helpful, I am gaining a better understanding of how to reason and to build arguments logically and coherently.   And to follow a debate round and flow it (almost) effortlessly.

Not surprisingly, I just happened to own this Material Logic text.
It  was languishing in the distinguished company of a few other unread logic texts in my “compulsive home-school purchases”  book-stash.
(Sometime I’ll write something about victory over my compulsive curricula purchasing days of yore.)
Anyhoo……I cracked this Material Logic book open for the first time after  yet another weekend at an NCFCA debate tournament where I had the opportunity to judge way more Team Policy debate rounds than I probably should have.   Much as I want to give these debaters intelligent feedback, I was continually reminded of the fact that they know TONS more about logical argumentation than I do.   I’m running to catch up with the kids again.

And, on the same subject, only more so, it looks like we’re starting up a speech and debate club here at our house next fall.   So I’m working through Richard Edwards’s Competitive Debate,  and Meany and Shuster’s  Speak Out,   to get my head oriented to what’s required to run edifying debate and speech instruction for highschool kids.

And this brings me back to the need for God to help me to persevere and see his kindness in the midst of my insecurities and lack of faith.

Somewhere in the late 1990′s, I read a line in which EB White said something to the effect that his life was the story of conquering his fears and insecurities, one at a time.  I have never been able to find that quote a second time, so maybe it’s my own idea of him.   It’s also my idea of myself.  I am a fearful mess sometimes, and it is God’s kindness that he shows himself to me through my weakness.   And I am thankful for the many many ways I find I am redirected to that perspective.

 

 

Having predicted…

I mentioned, in the little post in which I said I was not going to make excuses, that I was likely to fall off the rails when it came time to actually write up the blog posts.   Three weeks ago, I lost the book I want to write a post about.   The battery charger for my camera is fritzing out on me. We are frantically doing educational projects 14 hours a day in order to catch ourselves up, as we have fallen behind schedule.    I am never ever alone.    I have an undeniable compulsion to knit rather than read or do anything I ought to be doing.  I am four months behind on the book-keeping   (thank God for automatic  on-line bill pay).   And the 9 month old German Shepherd never tires of being walked, run, chased, and frisbee’d.      What all these  things have in common is that they  make blogging less and less possible.

Indeed!

But here’s the lowdown.  I got four books all done since the last time I wrote a post here.  I have absolutely no shame at all, and am going to claim for this list every single book I finish, as long as I get to the last page with honor.    (Even if it’s a kids book I read at bedtime to the babes.)    And that said, I will tell you that in the past two weeks I have finished Dorothy Sayers Letters to  Diminished Church,  Norton Juster’s Phantom Tollbooth,   Kate DeCamillo’s Tale of Desperaux, and Nina Brown’s Children of the Self Absorbed:  A Grown-Up’s Guide to Getting Over Narcissitic Parents.   I’ve got three books on Africa going,  but they are slow and aren’t mindless enough for my old gray head to absorb while surrounded by the kind of mayhem that swirls around me currently.

But isn’t that an eclectic little foursome there?   I loved Sayer’s Letters…..and I have a little review of that one going as a draft.  But I’m delayed on that because my notes are tucked into the book, which I lost at a Hampton Inn in Portland, Oregon.  The housekeeping staff  is  hopefully reading it now.  It would certainly do them good.  That book is one helpful piece of dogmatic theological opinion.    I have to locate another copy so I can dig up the quotes I liked best and say why I think almost everybody  should read almost all of it.   It’s essays…..and some are way better than others.  And the edition I was reading had such a pile of distracting typographical errors.     Dorothy deserves a more meticulous editor.

Tollbooth and Desperaux  are certainly not up to Dorothy Sayers’s standard, but they were both fun.  How can it be that I have been parenting for almost 19 years and have never read either of those books until now?  I have heard my marvellous husband read The Phantom Tollbooth aloud to the offspring  at least twice.  Nevertheless, I’m  including it in my 100 because I have never read it with my own eyeballs.    And  I’m desperate for any morsel of literature that will take me to 100.

Which brings us to the book about children of narcissistic parents.   I found that title on a list of books recommended for people who’s parents are moving in, and I couldn’t resist.   Who wouldn’t want to see what lurks under that rock?     One thing that book did for me was convince me that my mother is the very least narcissistic  parent of her generation.  It’s a collection of tales of unhappy families and work sheets and quizzes to help adult children of the self absorbed work out the issues they have inherited.   The stories in this book left me so deliriously appreciative of my mother’s flexibility, humor,  uncomplicated nature and sensitivity to everyone around her.   Sin is misery, and it really is handed down from one generation to another.  What a sweet gift that we get to take care of someone who is kind and loving and fun!

And I’ve got one more “read aloud” to include…..I am almost finished with Livy’s Early History of Rome, some of which I got to read aloud to Daniel and Helen.  And that is such a great book to read to a boy.   I remember reading Herodotus aloud with David ten years ago, and he was so completely captivated.  And Livy had the same effect on Daniel.  Daniel is listening to Herodotus on audio in the afternoons.   These books are so perfect for middle school boys.   Loads of battles and double crossing, death and crazy acts of courage.

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So, that makes six finished books and four underway.   Must finish two more before February 1.     Those two will be Livy’s Early History and Moyo’s   Dead Aid.

I have a week at home to finish books and begin new ones.    Then some of us will head off to our third NCFCA Speech and Debate tournament for the year.   At these tournaments, I don’t read as much as I knit and talk.   Lots and lots of  interesting people to talk to at a tournament!

But,  I have to say that as I am reading these books on foreign aid to Africa, and what a disaster it has been, my opinion of our role in the world is changing.   As I listen to the NCFCA   kids debating the topic of whether or not countries are morally obligated to help other countries in need, it’s all I can do not to jump up and quote passages from Dead Aid  and What’s wrong with Nigeria, about the miseries we have caused by pouring in monetary aid, food aid, cheap loans, all kinds of unhelpful help!  But there are so many perspectives on this problem of foreign aid, entitlement, charitable kindness, a global welfare state……and what the World Bank really ought to be doing.   I wonder what God is doing with us all.  One day we will see all, and know.

 

A New Chapter Begins

Life is like a book, and we’re all starting new chapters all the time.   Chapters in life overlap one another, beginning and ending in messy disorderly ways.   And in a family, as one member starts something new, there can be an impact across the entire household which is unique for each  individual.    And…. there are so many wonderful ways to start new chapters in a family!

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But, there are no babies here any more.  The photo above, and the baby in it,  will be six years old this coming Wednesday.   Today, a different  chapter ended, and another began.  Today,  David….the firstborn  (above, loving the sixth born)  headed off to college.      So we’ve made that fateful transition out of the “Adding Offspring”  phase, and we’re beginning the phase in which we launch offspring into the  fearful world of expensive education, where there are giants and ogres and financial aid fairies.

He’s in the car with my husband as I write.   They’re driving across Oregon, heading out to a big fat adventure all his own, six hours from home.
I am so delighted that he has this opportunity.
He’s been  educated at home all his life, and he’s so fired up to get into classrooms full of students, with professors who have all kinds of new funky   ideas.   And he’s going to have so much fun in  an age-segregated community with a diverse bunch of people and no parents around.   I already know he’s got friends there who play frisbee after bed-time on a school night, probably in the rain without warm jackets or even clean socks.   All kinds of exotic diversions.

There’s all this stuff we militantly held him away from for such a long time, and now the gate is open and he’s heading out to gorge on it for awhile.  He’s going to have the time of his life!   And I’m so happy to see this kind, compassionate, motivated, interesting, entertaining and diligent man as he heads out into the world.  He’s just awesome.

His five sibs are home here today, somewhat snowed in.   They’re all sad about his departure, and it’s been extra sweet  here, with everybody remembering David tenderly and looking ahead to his return for spring break.  And they’re all making a heroic effort to be extra kind to one another….. and my heart is  warmed by them.   All these years of keeping six kids under my roof, one of my top priorities was that they love one another and treat each other with respect.   This was the one aspect of family life that kept me swinging from the chandelier ranting “Be Gracious To One Another, Or I Will Alter Your Face….”
Many days I was discouraged because they seemed not to be getting that concept at all.
But now that one of them has been removed, and the others have to reorient themselves without him, it is beautiful to see how much they really really do love him and each other, and how proud and pleased they are to see their fearless leader as he heads off to make his way in this big world.

Sending David Off

It’s going to be exciting to see how the departure of the kid  on top will open up new avenues of growth for the kids who have been thriving in his shadow.  Things will be different around here, and I’m watching with all my senses tuned in to see how it all develops.

I never anticipated this day with any kind of longing.  I loved having David around!   But now that it’s here and he’s gone, it’s just the right  thing.

What an outrageous privilege it is to live in a time and in a place where we can dream big dreams for our kids and really see them happen.  I am so thankful!

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Chris Cleave’s Little Bee beats Incendiary

 

 

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I’ve just completed Chris Cleave’s book Incendiary.   I read this one because I had loved his book, Little Bee so much.

Little Bee was an amazing combination of  the unexpected, the unlikely, the really insightful and funny, and then there are a couple of just horrific scenes which never leave your mind after you finish.  I would say that I (pretty much) loved Little Bee.  And Incendiary was almost as satisfying.

Incendiary was, like LB ,  insightful, surprising, very thoughtful and memorable.  I most appreciate Cleave’s ability to describe the attachments we have for one another, and how the pain of loss is  physical, emotional, spiritual, and often permanent.

6a00d83452008269e201156f2f1bf8970c-320wiBut in both books it  bugs me continually that Cleave is writing the thoughts of a woman from his very masculine perspective.  And he doesn’t quite understand how women think or where they find comfort.  He’s writing in both books about women who are trying to recover themselves after unimaginable trauma, and he gets some of it right.  But he wants to sooth their heartache in a very masculine way.  Women don’t automatically solve their emotional issues with sex, as Cleave seems to think.  Women may attempt to  solve our problems with men, but the goal and the point at which we find satisfaction is different.   Still, both books are  worth reading as they are well structured, with compelling story lines and extraordinarily memorable characters.

Incendiary is a good beach read.    Little Bee is fine for vacation reading, but I would not read it anywhere near a beach, at least not the end of the book.

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I think that Little Bee ,  and the book club discussion it launched, have shoved me off in the direction of reading about Africa.  So, the next three books are all about Africa.    First, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o's  In the House of the Interpreter,  which is the autobiography of a Kenyan’s experience of the Mau Mau uprising and its aftermath.   Then, Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid:  Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa.  And with a title like that, I don’t need to summarize.

I am also reading Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which was suggested as a good choice by a gentleman who grew up mostly in Nigeria, his father having been s a British colonial judge in Nigeria in the 40′s.    His plug  for  this book was that it gave an accurate view to life in Nigeria as he knew it.   I’m thankful for such a glowing recommendation.

 

Book No. One…When Your Parent Moves In

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I  just finished  David Horgan and Shira Block’s book When Your Parent Moves In, which I’m reading because our family’s preparing to move my mother into our home in two months.  I thought this was an excellent resource and a helpful tool for getting the broad picture of multigenerational family life in view.    This book helped me to be a little more objective and honest about  the reasons why we’re moving Mom in and what life will look like with a  new senior family member in residence.   It’s helpful for re-orienting some of our expectations, so we can prepare better to make life sweet and productive for all of us.

Horgan and Block cover the subject of moving an elderly parent in (or, when appropriate, NOT moving that parent in) very thoroughly with sensitivity to all concerned.  They include appendices which list books, websites, organizational lists for meds planning and financial planning, checklists for environmental safety and a practical glossary of terms you’ll need to be familiar with once you have a parent with geriatric issues  in your care.  So much helpful information, and I am really thankful for such a circumspect resource.

I especially appreciated the chapters which discuss what this move will be like for Mom.  I sometimes get caught up in the details of how it will affect me and Jon and the kids, and I overlook the difficulties she  will be facing as she moves into the busy, loud chaos of a house full of kids and animals and ongoing construction.   Not to mention a chain of command which, up to now, has not included her very valuable opinions.

So,  for our situation, it’s a  good “read through”   and I’m keeping it close at hand as a reference, because I’m going to be using those Appendices.

I sat down to write up a post about books….

And I have actually finished three books since January 1, so I have something to say.   And I waited until 11:15 to do this, so everyone in the house would be asleep.

But, David and Michael showed up, having been lured to the kitchen by the smell of  bread fresh from the oven  and the hope of butter.   And I am here typing while David tells me about ice-skating, planning four years of university related financial gymnastics, and a few things I can’t say here in case anyone were ever to read it.  Michael is spreading butter on warm bread and I am enjoying my teenage guys who’ve moved on to a duo interpretation of Bug’s Life,  Toy Story II and III,  Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Monsters INC. and UP, all at the same time.   And laughing at themselves and each other.

It won’t be like this for a few months, David leaves for  George Fox in 36 hours.  Then, on any given night at 11:15,  the house will be quiet and I will write  blog posts and miss what’s here tonight.

So I will come back Saturday with something about books.