Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A word fitly spoken...

October 16 was Noah Webster's birthday, and here in America this date is officially known as Dictionary Day. Visit the link for great suggestions and ideas for celebrating the beauty of language.

Here's to choosing just the right word...

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver" (Proverbs 25:11).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Everything's Amazing & Nobody's Happy

This video of an appearance on Conan by stand-up comedian Louis C.K. is hilarious and very insightful.

Check it out here...

"I'm only responsible for my watch..."

"I'm not prepared to argue that letter-press printing is better, to anyone who doesn't already think so..."

This is an intriguing quote to me - and not because I have any opinion at all about whether or not letter-press printing is really great. It is a quote from John Kristensen, proprietor of Firefly Press in Somerville, MA. (This is located near where my in-laws used to live, but I've never been there. I've only become aware of it through this video I have watched; it is a short documentary about letter-press printing that has me thinking on so many different levels...)

This quote in particular has me thinking. You see, I am a pretty opinionated person; I am also pretty open. This is often a problematic combination. I try not to impose my views on other people, but I am very often unsuccessful in this attempted restraint.

If I feel strongly about something (especially that something is particularly good or particularly bad), I really want to share it with people I care about. Usually this does not garner me the high praise that my friend Rachel recently received. ("ah, there is the rachel that I dearly miss. filled with wisdom and opinion, and spunk! love you.") Usually my shared stuff is less considered "wisdom; opinion; spunk" and more considered "pushy; judgmental; obnoxious." I'm not as cute as Rachel, either, which doesn't help...

No, I don't have a real passionate opinion about letter-press printing. But I do often find myself convinced, as John Kristensen is, that some such-and-so thing is better than some other such-and-so thing. What I have failed to learn is his wisdom not "to argue that (it) is better, to anyone who doesn't already think so."

So, among the many, many things-I-think-are-really-good-and-therefore-must-tell-you-about which I've discussed with people, high on the list is probably homeschooling. It is not the conventional schooling choice for most of America, so it puts me in the "weirdo minority" just by the very fact of my doing it.

I remember discussing last year, at a Homeschooling through High School Symposium sponsored by HSLDA, the common problem of people-who-don't-homeschool feeling judged by those of us who do choose to homeschool our students. We were walking to the cafeteria for our lunch break, and one of the High School Coordinators walking with me gave me some really great advice. She said, "Oh I would never try to convince someone to homeschool who didn't want to. It takes too much time, too much work, too much commitment, too much personal sacrifice... there's no way I'd ever try to convince someone to do it who wasn't already being convinced it was the right thing to do."

And so, I am learning - with varying degrees of success - to keep my mouth shut. Not only about homeschooling, but about just about everything. It is ironic, because it feels very much like I have to stop caring for people as much. I have to watch them do things I believe will be harmful in the end. I have to stay mum about things I think would help them in the end. In short, I have to "let people screw up their own lives," as my father advised me a few months ago.

And I have to accept that they're also probably going to stay mum about things-that-would-help-me-in-the-end-if-they-would-just-tell-me. I'd love the opportunity to hear their "wisdom; opinion; spunk," to accept or reject as desired, but this is not the way most American friendships function. It's a shame, really, but "them's the breaks." If only I could learn the lesson of another of Kristensen's quotes, "I'm only responsible for my watch..."

By the way, though... If you are reading this, and you know me personally (yeah, the map says there are strangers I don't know around the world somehow stumbling onto my Blog... hmmmm...), please know that I really do want to know. Even if it hurts my feelings. Even if it makes me angry. Even if I don't agree and never change based on what you shared. I want the opportunity to hear it and weigh it and take it before the Lord and make a more-informed decision, prayerfully, because you cared enough to share with me. Thank you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Elephant Song

My daughter, who really does love elephants, sent me this song. I think it is very cute, and that small children would find it hilarious. Enjoy...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dog Love

Steve Allen purportedly once said, "Old men miss many dogs." It is true of middle-aged women, as well... I still miss our sweet Little, even as I'm enjoying getting to know our new friend, Pippin. This weekend we will take him camping with us for the first time. Little used to love it. We'll see about this little guy that barks at all noises coming from outside when we leave the bedroom windows open at night. If Pip is one of these "bark all night at the campsite" dogs, I'll go nuts.

My father sent me this sweet song a few weeks ago, and it still makes me smile. It highlights the remarkable fact that canine love often seems enduring and unconditional, reminding us of that heavenly love which truly is enduring and unconditional. As George Eliot once said, "We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment."

I'm not sure my dog really "loves" me at all, but merely appreciates my care for him and views me as the pack leader, in true canine fashion. But he does turn a truly blind eye to all my faults and flaws, which is more than most people in my life. (I have a lot of faults and flaws. It is hard to be blind to them, and even harder to bear with them with grace.) Andy Rooney once observed that, "The average dog is nicer than the average person." He was probably right. One of my goals in life is to love those the Lord puts into my path with the same sort of uncritical spirit that my dog extends to me. (I am very critical, both of myself and of those around me.)

I don't "love like my dog" well yet, but I am confident that, "He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it," and so I continue to hold out hope. Laugh if you will. I truly do hope to one day love as uncritically as my dog does...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Score One for Normal

This article, entitled Education Normal, was written by Mark Mitchell* for Touchstone Magazine. This is not a magazine I read regularly, but the article itself is thought-provoking.

In fact, it might be just plain provoking if brought up in casual conversation in a group of parents. (I rarely do this sort of thing anymore. I have enough "different" ideas, and hold them strongly enough, that I tend to be provoking just by existing in near proximity to other parents. If you do something differently from others, you know, you're automatically "judging them" by having made your different choice. Or so the story goes. They're not judging you by having chosen differently from you, mind you... But I digress. Forgive my baggage. I'm trying to work through it all; really, I am. And I'm trying to work on holding an opinion strongly and confidently without making others who don't hold the same opinion feel judged. It is tricky business!)

In the meantime, we have found a few similarly-minded friends with whom we discuss these types of parenting issues and decisions. We have also found a few not-so-similarly-minded friends who are those wonderful and rare types of friends who like to bat around the ideas and have the discussions and play "devil's advocate" for each other... all that general "irons sharpens iron" kind of stuff... even though we know of our general "different camp" tendencies from the get go. At the end of the day, we often end up agreeing to disagree, but it is all very amicable and respectful, and it is especially refreshing to those of us who really do want to be challenged and encouraged and questioned and affirmed and, and... In these sorts of gloriously rare and beautiful interactions, no one feels condemned and, in the end, everyone feels all the more confident in the choices being made before the Lord. I don't know how it is possible, exactly, but I can tell you that it isn't possible at all unless the Lord is very involved in each of your lives, and in all your interactions together. Pretty tall order.

If you're fortunate enough to have some of these sorts of friends, phone them right away and tell them how much you appreciate them. Write them a note, thanking them for being who they are in your life.

And maybe next discussion you can bat around the ideas raised by this article.

*Dr. Mark T. Mitchell is an Associate Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and a James Madison Fellow at Princeton University.