". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Delicious Irony

It just dawned on me that the piece I wrote for The Federalist has a rather wonderful ironic twist to it. In my article I took issue with the position held by Ezekiel Emanuel  that it is best for a person to die before he starts to experience a steep decline in health, mental acuity, and usefulness. As part of his argument, Emanuel cites research suggesting that most people peak in their forties:

. . . by 75, creativity, originality, and productivity are pretty much gone for the vast, vast majority of us. . . . Dean Keith Simonton, at the University of California at Davis, a luminary among researchers on age and creativity, synthesized numerous studies to demonstrate a typical age-creativity curve: creativity rises rapidly as a career commences, peaks about 20 years into the career, at about age 40 or 45, and then enters a slow, age-related decline. There are some, but not huge, variations among disciplines. Currently, the average age at which Nobel Prize–winning physicists make their discovery—not get the prize—is 48. . . . Simonton’s own study of classical composers shows that the typical composer writes his first major work at age 26, peaks at about age 40 with both his best work and maximum output, and then declines, writing his last significant musical composition at 52. 

For the record, the year your humble blogger turned 50 is the same year she sold her first article to a national magazine. Take that, Emanuel.

De quoi écrire
Hermann Fenner-Behmer (1866-1913)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Can Anything Good Come of Insomnia?

Apparently so. Two nights ago I was having one of those nights when my brain just refuses to turn off. I have learned that if I can't get to sleep in half an hour it's not going to happen for a while and I might as well get up. This time instead of turning on Nick at Nite and watching Friends (my go-to non-medicinal remedy)  I decided to write. The next morning I sent what I had written to one of my favorite online magazines. Imagine my surprise when several hours later I got an acceptance letter. Woot. My article went up on the site today (talk about fast turnaround!), so here it is in case you missed it and would like to read it.

Why I Want to Live Long and Burden My Children

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Teaching History to the HSC

When you're rearing an HSC (highly sensitive child), it can sometimes be hard to judge the extent to which you should shield him from things you know will upset him. On the one hand, you want to protect him from undue stress. If he doesn't like Halloween decorations, what is there to be gained by making him go places where he's going to encounter them? At the same time, you don't want to coddle him. The older he gets, the more he's going to find himself in situations where he has to handle things on his own, without Mom or Dad going ahead to make sure it's safe. So as a parent, you look for opportunities to "gently" toughen him up (assuming that's not a total oxymoron).

Yesterday in Evan's history book* we read about the Lewis and Clark expedition. The author recounted how, when the explorers ran out of food, they were forced to kill one of the horses for meat. As I heard the words coming out of my mouth, I looked at Evan. So far, so good. He was frowning, but handling it. But then we read the next paragraph:

"The horsemeat kept them from starving. But if they killed too many horses, they wouldn't be able to move fast enough to survive. So they ate some of the hunting dogs as well. . . . "

Uh-oh. There was more about how Clark disliked the dog meat while Lewis liked it, but we didn't get that far. Instead we stopped reading and I explained to my crying son that as terrible as it sounds to us as dog lovers, the humans had to come first. Not only is a human's life more valuable than an animal's, but if the humans had died of starvation, the rest of the animals would have perished as well because there would have been no one to take care of them. Evan absorbed all of this while lying on the floor trying to comfort our own dog, who he was certain was traumatized by the history lesson.

Eventually, with the passage in question behind us and the tears stemmed, we read on. But moments later, I saw this one coming: "In all that time, only one of the party had died--from appendicitis."

Sigh. Evan has long had a fear of getting appendicitis. Did his mom do an on-the-fly edit? What do you think?

*The Story of the World, Vol. 3, Susan Wise Bauer

Monday, September 15, 2014

You're invited . . .

. . . to read the first chapter of my daughter's novel. It is linked here. I know I'm her mom, but I am beyond impressed and totally sucked in to this story. I don't know when she will make more of it available, but if you are so inclined, please go on over and read and encourage her to see this tale through. She welcomes your comments and constructive criticism.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Importance of Audience

Example 1 

"I don't want to learn another language. Why do I have to study Latin? No one speaks Latin."

Example 2

"Caitlin, guess what? Mom's teaching me Latin!"

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Promise is a Promise

My son had his first Confirmation class this week. It was an orientation meeting during which parents and students were provided with an overview of the schedule and expectations for the year. Everyone was asked to sign a covenant committing to carry out those expectations as faithfully as possible. After students and parents signed on their lines, the covenants were collected, at which point Evan asked the meeting leader when he could expect to get his covenant back. You see, there were lines on the covenant not only for student and parent, but also for teacher, DCE (Director of Christian Education), and pastor. Evan wanted to make sure each of those individuals would be providing his or her signature, and he wanted his covenant back so he could see the signatures. He also wanted his covenant back so he would be able to remember what he had agreed to by signing his own name.

I don't think the normal procedure is to return the signed covenants to the students, but Evan was told he would be provided a copy. In a world in which we routinely sign on the dotted line without having read every last word of what we're signing, I appreciate how seriously my son is taking this class and his commitment to it. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone did the same?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

I thought we weren't in Chicago anymore, Toto.

Yesterday I had one of those days, stacked from beginning to end. I used to have them with regularity when we lived in Illinois. In Oklahoma, life has been much less intense. That has been a welcome change, but there is also something satisfying about having a day where you don't have to think about what to do because it is all laid out for you. Here is my timeline for yesterday.

6:00 Woke up, had coffee, did two hours of Sylvan online training
8:00 Woke up Evan, showered, filled out forms for new dentist
9:30-11:00 Dentist appointment for me and Evan (no cavities!)
11:00 - 12:00 Grocery shopping
12:00-1:00 - Dealt with refrigerator repair man
1:00-3:00 - The lull in the storm. Lunch, coffee/Facebook/email break, a little school with Evan, made chili so it would be ready for drive-by supper later.
3:00-5:30 - Onsite training at Sylvan Learning Center. I did my first actual teaching! Phillip came home to have supper with Evan and take him to Confirmation at 6:00.
5:30-6:30 - Raced home, had supper, cleaned up dishes, went to church for Catechism/Communion service.
6:30-8:30 - At church. Yay!
8:30-10:00 - Came home, watched some Spongebob with Evan, got ready for bed.
10:00-10:30 - Read and unwind.
10:30 - Lights out (at which point, naturally, I was unable to get to sleep).

Looking over this list now, it doesn't seem quite as overwhelming as it seemed yesterday. I think the level of Crazy I am able to tolerate is declining as my years increase. Or maybe I'm just out of practice. But you see how much homeschooling got done yesterday. You can imagine how much housecleaning got done. Luckily, not every day will be like this. I have been wanting to do something about my Facebook addiction. I think Everyday Life is going to take care of that for me!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Schedule Planning

For those who are interested, I thought I would post Evan's and my schedule. It is still a work in progress and may get tweaked. But I thought my homeschooling friends, especially, might find it interesting to compare notes.

6:00 Mom wakes up. Have coffee/chat time with hubby, exercise, check email/Facebook/blogs, shower, do morning chores, have breakfast.

8:00 Wake up Evan if he is not already up. From 8-9 he needs to do his morning routine (breakfast, grooming, chores), after which he can have free time until 9:00.

9:00-11:00 Devotion followed by first school block. No screens for either of us. School work that needs more mom involvement will be the priority during this time. At least half of school checklist needs to be completed during the morning block.

11:00-12:00 Free time if morning school done.

12:00-1:00 Lunch

1:00-1:30 Silent reading, for both of us. I think in school they call it DEAR. ("Drop Everything And Read.")

1:30-3:00 Second school block. Finish assignments for the day. Practice piano. No screens (exception for me if I am writing, but no Facebook).

3:00 Free time if all schoolwork done.

This will be our general outline, but there are daily deviations, as follows.

Teaching at Sylvan Learning Center 3:30-6:30. Dad is home on Mondays so he will help out with homeschooling and cooking supper. :-D

Tulsa Children’s Choir for Evan, 4:30-6:00. From there Evan and I will go directly to church for adult choir. Fast food or sack supper night!

Weekly (or semi-weekly) play date with homeschooling friends, 9:30-11:30. (Whoops, there goes that morning school block!)
Teaching at Sylvan for me, 3:30-6:30. I will need to have something prepared for supper as Phillip will come home to eat with Evan and take him to Confirmation. I will meet them at church for Catechetical/Communion service. Another sack supper night for me.

This is a lighter day! Right now there is only one scheduled activity: Schola Cantorum (children's choir) at 4:00-5:00. We hope to add swimming in the morning. Phillip has church responsibilities so I think Thursdays will be "Mom & Evan Pizza, Popcorn, and Movie Night." :-D I think Thursday will also be grocery shopping day. Um, maybe it's not such a light day after all. . . . 

Most Fridays I will be playing piano at a nearby school 9-10 and 1-3. Phillip is home in the morning to help with homeschooling. In the afternoon Evan will need to work independently, with me checking his work when I get home. He won't be completely on his own, though, as Grandma and Willard (the dog) will be here to help. :-)

Teach at Sylvan Learning Center 9:00-12:00. Dad will be home most Saturday mornings.
Saturday afternoon: Laundry & housecleaning.

Church and rest, of course! Not to mention caipirinhas mixed by my favorite bartender. Yay for Sundays!

What this helps me to see is that we will not be having supper together as a family Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. I guess four family suppers out of seven is not bad. The nice thing about homeschooling is that we get more breakfasts and lunches together than families in traditional schools. Truth be told, I don't love cooking supper. I think I'm going to like this schedule. :-D 

(P.S. Ironically, even though I'm going to be cooking fewer suppers, without the freedom and time to make many quick trips to the market every week, I'm also going to have to get better at planning the meals we do have together. Hmmm, I think that's another blog post. . . . )

And so it begins.

Choir practices.
Two new jobs.
It all starts back up this week!

In light of the above, I have been doing a lot of planning and prepping, trying to figure out how it's all going to fit together. Last fall was strange. I wasn't working. I didn't have choirs to play for. My husband was in one state, I in another as we waited for our house to sell. So the mindset of "not enough time" that has been such a defining part of my existence for the last 15 years had a chance to recede. It has been a blessedly relaxing year, but I think I am ready to have more to do. Not as much as I used to, ;-) but more. As the schedule slowly fills up I find myself feeling more motivated than I have felt in a long time. That is probably also a function of fewer bad things happening. But busy-ness is good. It makes one feel useful. God knew what He was doing when He put Adam in the Garden to "work it and keep it." Even in his pre-fallen state, Adam needed things to do. He had a sense of vocation. Of course, during the time that I wasn't working a paying job, with two children and a husband at home, I still had vocational purpose. But now there is only one child at home, and he is becoming more self-sufficient, and as he becomes even moreso I am going to have more time to serve my neighbor. I am thankful this fall that God has seen fit to give me a few more ways to do that that will also put a few more dollars in the bank. :-)

So. How can I return to a fuller schedule without its overwhelming and getting the best of me? I think I need to reclaim a few old practices that I have drifted away from in the last five or so years. The first of those is waking up early. I used to be a dyed-in-the-wool morning person. When my children were small, I made a point of waking up hours before they did just so I could enjoy those precious, quiet morning moments. I have gotten away from that, in part because I haven't needed to wake up so early but also because of plain old apathy and lack of motivation. Instead of waking up between 5 and 6 a.m., I more often wake up between 7 and 8. That is late for me. Time to start setting the alarm clock again!

Second, I need to set limits to my online time. It is so easy to wake up, pour the coffee, go into computer land, and not come out until hours later. The result is that mornings, which have always been my most productive time of day, get frittered away. To avoid that happening, I need to set start and stop times for my online activity. And once those times are set, I need to abide by them.

Third, not only do I need to assign times for waking up and going to bed and using the computer, but I need to do so for other things as well. That becomes more needful and, ironically, easier when your time is no longer your own. As I look at my weekly schedule taking shape, with choir rehearsals, Evan's activities, and paid work claiming large chunks, it is going to be important to schedule the other things I want to do. Blogging, exercise, piano practicing, reading, housecleaning, cooking, shopping, laundry . . . . They aren't going to happen organically. They need designated times, too.

If you have any tricks or suggestions that you have found helpful for staying on top of the to-do list, I would love to hear them!