Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Attempted shopping

Bethany and I attempted to shop today between other commitments. I was looking for something to wear for Easter, a dress or a pretty skirt. Unfortunately, we had no luck. I didn't even find anything that I was interested enough in to look at the price tag!

The prints were ugly, the colors were garish and the fabrics were cheap.

Why, oh why, is it so hard to find pretty clothes?

Monday, March 30, 2009

It shouldn't have to be stated

But unfortunately, in this climate, it seems sadly necessary.

Angie Harmon says, "I'm not a racist because I disagree with Obama."

The Racist Card is becoming the new tool for attempting to stifle dissent. Racism is evil, and so is accusing people of it because they don't agree with you. Being called a racist is difficult to defend against--because you're stuck trying to prove a negative-- but it can't be accepted in silence.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Back from scrapping

I had a great time at the scrapbooking retreat. I completed over 50 pages and had a nice visit with my mom and my friend Lori. I also enjoyed getting to know another friends from church better.

This is going to be a whirlwind week. Things just keep piling on to my schedule.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Been thinking a lot lately about words and language and the internet. I've always been a word buff and love learning new words. I like to use precisely the right word when possible. (Sometimes, as I get older, they seem to go missing.) Nuances, subtle shades of meaning are important.

It has always irritated me when people say,"Communicating on the internet is hard," or "It's too easy for things to be taken the wrong way." I've had people misbehave on my email lists for years and then blame those who took offense for not understanding them properly.

But think about it: Is communicating in writing on the internet any different than communicating in writing on paper? I don't think so. What is different is the amount of thought that is put into it. People will say that spelling and grammar don't matter in email, but those conventions exist for a reason. They make communication clearer and easier. People will write things in an email that they would never commit to paper. They will send an email un-proofread because it's just email.

Sometimes, too, I think that people do not communicate well on the internet because they don't read well. They skim. And all too often, between the sloppiness of the writers and the lack of skill of the readers, the meaning gets muddled.

Then, too, I have seen people write things on the internet or in email and then express surprise when they draw an unfavorable reaction. They almost always say the same thing, that the offense is in the mind of the reader. But in reality, the offense is in their words. People seem, for whatever reason, to more readily deny the clear meaning of their words online than in print.
Maybe it is because much of online writing is done in haste. I, personally, have a read-three-times-rule for any writing that is prompted by emotion. After I write it I make myself go back at least three times and read it, with at least thirty minutes of thinking about something else in between. This has saved me from many emails and blog posts that were better not shared!

For this communication thing to work, online or off, people need to understand what words mean, use them properly and carefully, and then own them. If we want to communicate more effectively online, reading effectively written items--good books, old letters, even well-written blogs--can be a tremendous help. And we should always, always give things a second read--I usually do this aloud--just to make sure that we are clear in what we are saying.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Why is it taking me so long to get my photos organized for the scrapbooking retreat?

Why can't I get Def Leppard on my iPod?

Why the big stink about pink?

What should I make for dinner tomorrow night?

Are the rest of us going to catch Patchy's yucky cough/fever/sore throat?

Will I sleep all night tonight?

Is my house ever going to be clean?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Obama's teleprompter

If you aren't hearing about Obama's teleprompter, you probably aren't paying attention. Or maybe you only watch MSNBC and read Kos. But the discussion is everywhere, serious and otherwise, about this president's dependence on his teleprompter.

We saw in the campaign that he had a little trouble speaking off the cuff. Last night he appeared on Jay Leno's show--which is another topic--and showed once again that he REALLY needs his 'prompter.

So, for your reading pleasure, Obama's teleprompter. Aka, TOTUS. And his book.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Likely to offend

I'm going to warn you right off the bat that if you are a big fan, or defender, of institutional schooling you might want to skip this post. Or, better yet, you need to read it, be offended, and then read the book.

I've been reading Weapons of Mass Instruction by former New York State Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto. His book Dumbing Us Down helped shore up my courage when we started homeschooling, by aiding me in articulating some of the things that bothered me about the way that we school children. This book is reminding me again, and giving me reasons for much of what I see going on around me.

Gatto's books take a good hard look at the dichotomy between what we suppose that schools are for--to produce an educated citizenry--and what they were really designed to do, and do well. That is, to provide a trained, more homogenized workforce that does not question that the experts know best and that recognizes that some animals are more equal than others.

This is why in spite of 12-13 years of mandated schooling, with many of us adding a year or two on the front end, and more on the back end, we get statistics like this one:

"Only 31% of college educated Americans can fully comprehend a newspaper story, down from 40% a decade ago." (National Commission on the Future of Higher Education, 2006)

Statistics like this explain why, when I'm discussing the news or world events with people, or am involved in an online discussion, I ask myself again and again, "Can't these people READ?" Unfortunately, that answer is likely to be no, since reading proficiency is even lower among those who are not college grads.

For years we have seen study after study that show that our schools don't do what we think they should. The antidote suggested is always more money and more time. What we generally don't recognize is that schools are doing exactly what they were designed to do.

At some deeper level, I think many people know this. It is the reason why the main question homeschoolers get is, "What about socialization?" People worry that our children won't know how to wait in lines and get up to an alarm. Homeschoolers are criticized when their children don't fit in seamleesly with a group of others their age. Pepople don't worry that our children won't be able to read, write, and think. They worry that they'll make other people uncomfortable by being different.

Consider this, "We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks." This is Woodrow Wilson, speaking to businessmen about the purpose of mandatory public education. Quotes like this and ideas like this are not the exception in the shaping of our schools. They are the norm. For an even more in-depth look, Gatto's Underground History of American Education is available online.

Reading Gatto's books makes me realize what a subversive activity homeschooling is. It helps me to understand why, since we began this adventure 13 years ago, my outlook on so many things has changed. I question more. And I have taught my kids to do the same.

There will be more posts stemming from this book in coming days. It bears many markings and dog-earred pages, each of them a potential post. Read the book. Even if you're sure you disagree.

Monday, March 16, 2009

You've seen this one before

Once again I am trying to get a modicum of control over my life. Yes, again.

I spent some hours Saturday--as I sat on the couch with my bum ankle and newly-twisted knee propped up and iced--berating myself for my lack of accomplishment. I haven't been to the Y in months. My house is pretty much of a wreck. I haven't baked since Christmas, aside from one delightful triple batch of biscuits. I am making almost no contribution to the family finances, even though a modicum of effort would add a significant amount to my income. I really want to sell my house, but there is a huge amount that needs to be done in order to accomplish that.

As I stewed, I remembered a suggestion for mothers who get to the end of the day and feel like the haven't accomplished anything. Make a list of what you was accomplish and then cross items off. So I went back a week to last Saturday and wrote down everything that I had done. Suddenly, I didn't look like such a slacker. There was work done on the church nursery and books. There was an out-of-town trip and shopping. There were meetings. There was laundry and cleaning. There was cooking for about 50 people outside our family across three different occasions. Then there was a bum-leg day on Friday, when I at least got photos uploaded and ordered from Snapfish.

I felt a bit better. Maybe I'm not a slacker. But I still have a problem. I have to find a way to fit in the things that I want and need to do.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Another book list

This is a list of books that the College Board says that college-bound high school students should read. After being in honors English classes in high school and minoring in English in college, followed by homeschooling and reading tons for the past 13 years, this list makes me feel slightly inadequate.

Those in red are those that I've read. I am italicizing those that I'd like to read.


Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
A Death in the Family by James Agee
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Go Tell It on the Mountain, by James Baldwin

Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett
The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Stranger by Albert Camus
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Inferno by Dante
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Selected Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Tess of the d’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
The Iliad by Homer
The Odyssey by Homer
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Beloved by Toni Morrison
A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Selected Tales by Edgar Allen Poe
Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
Call it Sleep by Henry Roth
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Antigone by Sophocles

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (read 1/2)
Vanity Fair by William Thackeray
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Candide by Voltaire
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Collected Stories by Eudora Welty
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Native Son by Richard Wright

I've read 49 of the 101. Of those I really only think about 25 are important to read. It seems to me that many of these are best read later, and for pleasure. I am so glad that I did not first encounter Pride and Prejudice as a book to be dissected in class.

I also think that one of the benefits of homeschooling--especially the way we do it--is that my kids have encountered literature as they were ready for it and as it suited their mood and taste. Bethany commented, on hearing this list, "No wonder so many kids think they don't like literature."

We also found the list of Poetry and Cultural and Historical Texts to be dismal. "You should read these three poems by this poet." How about picking up a book of poems and reading?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A few pictures, just because

In the midst of cleaning, organizing, and trying to get ready for the next big scrapbooking retreat, I thought I'd share some pictures.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Went shopping today with my mom and Bethany. I hadn't been shopping for months, unless it was to look for something particular and necessary for some member of the family. I've always enjoyed shopping as recreation--especially with my mom --but today I just wasn't into it.

Nothing looked like anything that I wanted. It all seemed too expensive. The music in all the stores was too loud. The only store I really enjoyed was Borders. And I had a gift card, which made it that much better!

I don't know if this is a momentary blip, or a sign of some deeper change. But me not enjoying shopping is significant enough to merit comment.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The end of the story

Maybe I really didn't run my van out of gas. We aren't sure. It may have been the beginning of the fuel pump going out. That repair was $900.

The Buick didn't cost anything to fix. Colin looked at it and discovered that when the car had some maintenance work done on Tuesday, the air filter hadn't been properly replaced. It caused sensors to trip, which in turn shut off the engine.

I got through the silent auction last night. Now I'm ready to spend some time working on the house.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Act II

I shared yesterday's van trial last night. Here's an update.

The van is not running. It is in a parking lot, sitting, waiting for Colin to go look at it and see if he can tell more than I can about why it's not running. Needless to say, since it is in a parking lot, I was stranded for a time today.

But WAIT! That's not all!

My car is not running either. It is also in a parking lot. Fortunately, it is in the church parking lot, where it died this afternoon. It started acting up while I was our running around trying to gather silent auction items, and I was fervently praying that it just get me to church. It did. So at least I got to enjoy some yummy soup and a church service, but the car is not starting. So Colin's going to go look at it tomorrow, too.

We are wondering about the gas--from the same station--that we put in both cars, which were both empty or very nearly so. Bethany filled her nearly empty car at the same station minutes after I did, so let's see if hers is next.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Never a dull moment

I had a lot that I wanted to get done today. I've been doing battle with a sore throat for the past couple of days, and it has slowed me down a bit, so I was hoping to catch up. The morning was already committed, so I planned to try to get some running around for the silent auction done this afternoon.

I headed out, deciding at the last minute to wear my wool jacket over the top I had on with my jeans. That turned out to be an extremely good decision.

I have been driving one of our minivans, because the fan in my car isn't working and I'm waiting for Colin to look at it. Today I was driving the Silhouette, which is right at 190,000 miles, and has a few quirks. The gas gauge hasn't worked for a while, but I just use the trip odometer to keep track of how much gas I have.

Apparently I lost track.

As I was pulling up to a stop sign--on my way into Jefferson Pointe, for those of you familiar with Fort Wayne--the van started running roughly. When I accelerated to pull away, the van died. In the middle of the intersection. My initial assumption was that the van was dead; I didn't even consider that I might have run out of gas.

So I sat there, flashers on, door open, trying to figure out what to do. I wanted to get it out of the way, but obviously couldn't do it alone. I managed to push myself backward with my foot so that I was at least back out of the intersection. A few people honked at me, before they figured out that I couldn't move. Most just ignored me. Finally a lady stopped to see if I needed help and offered to push. As soon as she stopped, three more people did, and I was shortly pushed into the JP parking lot.

I started thinking, and remembered that Monday I had only put in $10 worth of gas because of problems with the pump. Duh! So I walked across the four lane road and the Wal-mart parking lot and bought a gas can. Then back ascross the parking lot to the gas station for a gallon of gas. Then back to the car.

I could NOT figure out the gas can. After about ten minutes of messing with it--and after getting gas on my hands--I finally worked out the secret, and got it to work.

Got into the van. Prayed that the gas was the problem. Turned the key. It started and died. Tried again. Started and died. Again. Waited a few minutes. Again. This time after I started I really stepped on the gas. And it kept running.

Needless to say, I drove straight to the gas station and filled it all the way up.

At this point, I had lost over an hour. I had been in the wind and my hair was flat. I was sweaty from walking. I smelled like gas. I was no longer in the frame of mind to go beg for donations. So I went home. Afternoon wasted.

Now the good things about the afternoon. I wore the jacket. The van died less than a block from a gas station--with a nearby store that had gas cans--where it could be pushed into a parking lot, not by the marsh, or out by our house, or on the highway, all of which could have easily been the location. There were several people willing to stop and help a stranger. It was a beautiful sunny day for a walk. All in all, a fairly painless reminder NOT to forget how much gas I put into the car.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I should be in bed

...but I'm not. I don't know why.

I have to be up and about in the morning. The boys all have haircuts. I have places to be all day. I've had a sore throat all day. A good night's rest would be an excellent idea.

But I sit here still, looking for conversations on Twitter, reading emails, catching up on Facebook statuses, and reading blogs.

Maybe it's akin to me never wanting to leave a party while it's still going. I don't want to turn off the computer until every last person I know has one to bed. Of course, knowing people on several continents makes that difficult.

I suppose I'll just have to rein in my FOMS, and head to bed.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Reading, funerals, & headaches

Really, those things have nothing to do with each other, except they all are reasons that I haven't blogged in a few days.

I retreated into books this weekend after having a couple of particularly bad internet experiences. First, on Friday night, while searching for old friends I found out something about one that I wish I didn't know. Then I had the experience of being present in a chat room where someone made a racist remark. I left immediately, un-followed the person on Twitter, and told her why, but I still felt dirty, simply from having been present.

Saturday we had a funeral at Redeemer for the sister of several women who are very dear to me, and we ended up spending a good chunk of the day at church. Saturday night my headache made its return , and by Sunday afternoon it left me with only one option: sleep. It has been a long time since I had a headache that put me to bed, but yesterday's did.

One upside of having a funeral, is that we get a great sermon. As soon as Pastor Petersen has it posted, I'll link to it. In the meantime, if you are interested you can listen to the audio from the Redeemer Free Conference featuring Rev. Dr. Rick Stuckwisch and and Rev. Dr. Burnell Eckardt.