Monday, August 24, 2015

The last few days of summer

getting buried in the sand

blanket drying in the breeze

ready for adventure

the best end to a summer's day

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Do people in non-humid climes know what muggy is? It seems like a word I've known all my life.

When I was a kid, we didn't have air conditioning (or cable, an answering machine or a microwave).

We did have a really enormous metal fan that took up the entire window at the top of the stairs, with metal bars that covered the front in concentric circles. It was no where close to being child safe. As a child I would give myself the heebie-jeebies by standing in front of it and imaging what would happen if I slipped my fingers inside the bars while the industrial size fan, big enough to power a small plane, noisily buzzed. Then I'd slide down the wooden railing to the living room below. Cause that's how we did back then.

At night, the whole neighborhood would sit on their front stoop, fan themselves and yell across the street to each other while trying to catch the occasional breeze. Ah, the 70's.

Anyway, today is really muggy. Here's a definition of muggy, if you want. But really it's like someone threw a warm, wet blanket over you and held you down. UGH.

I also found out today that a dear man from church is dying. Now the weather is matching my mood. I'm mad, mad at myself, for not getting to know him better, not spending more time with him. He is a wise and kindly person, I think I could have learned a lot from him. And now it's too late. That makes me feel sort of the same way, like I was blind sided by a big layer of hot fog and it's settled down over my whole being. And I had a fight with the husband, a discussion that turned hotter by the minute because neither of us backs down. I'm so tired of doing everything, including working on things. Couldn't I just have a day or two on autopilot, where everything is nice and lovely and goes the way it should.

So I laid down in a dark, hot room with the fan blowing on me and contemplated my existence. And I really missed my grandparents. I wish I could have known them as an adult. A middle-aged adult, not the selfish, always in an emergency, always busy snot of a 20 year old that I was then. I think by the time my grandma and I started to get to know each other, she was dying and it was too late. She knew, though, she finally knew what I was all about before she went, and accepted me, so that's something.

It all goes so fast. Sorry to be a downer, but it does. I am now at the age where I can look back and see things I should have done DECADES ago. God, I was so depressed. Why is life so complicated? Why do we fight? Why do we have to lose something before we see what it means to us? But, as usual, I got up, figured out some stuff I needed to do and did it, ate and drank something and got back to the business of living, muggy or no.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


I'm on Summer Break. I know it's mid-May, but MY school is done for the summer. No school, Girl Scouts almost over. Just 36 hours a week of work....whatever will I do with all the free time?

  • All the projects I've pinned all winter
  • lots and lots of doodling
  • writing all the blog entries and other articles I've been putting off til after finals
  • read books just cause I want to
  • lots of hikes
  • These things
  • plant potatoes, sunflowers, herbs
  • sit outside and drink wine
  • make homemade mosquito repellent so I can do the above. 
  • Find per diems so I can have more days off
  • lemonade stand
  • Hurricane Harbor
  • Carnivals and Boardwalks
  • Fireworks!
  • Carnival and Boardwalk food
All the things!!Bring 'em!!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The problem with "God's" will

There's a joke about a guy whose neighborhood is flooding. While standing on his porch, a guy in rowboat goes past, "Want a lift?" he asks, but the man says, "No, God will save me." The water keeps rising. Eventually he has to go the second floor, then the attic and finally out onto the roof. Rescuers come by but he tells them, "Don't worry, God will save me." The water keeps rising. Finally, he has to climb onto the chimney. A helicopter hovers and they drop a ladder down to him. "I'm ok!" He shouts, "God will protect me!"

Then the man drowns.

Dead, he arrives at the Pearly Gates. "God!" He says, "I did everything you ever asked of me! I believed you'd deliver me! What happened?"

And God says, "Sheesh, I sent you two boats and helicopter. What more did you want?"

I'm very dubious of God's will. Well, I'm not dubious of God-I assume he's got shit figured out. But I am very, very hesitant to believe anyone who thinks they know what God's will is. When I was young and thought I knew so much, my friends and I often attributed things to God's will: as in, I'm meant to be with him, it's God's will or That speeding ticket must've been God's will to teach me a lesson. *

Now, you and I could talk long into the night about fate, determinism, free-will, and whether or not God "teaches us lessons." I will only say that in my humble experience, people (myself included) will often "filter" God's will through their own perceptions. A not-so-nice way of saying that people use God as an excuse for their own poor choices or unfortunate situations. I try not to judge, but if a romantic interest ever says that it's God's will for you to be together, run away. 

So I guess my skepticism comes from seeing the repercussions of me and people I know acting on God's will. Of course, things were a lot simpler when I was still naive enough to think I'd go through life without any regrets. And hindsight is 20/20. So a score of years later I look back at a trail of regrets and transgressions and the most I can say is that I did the best I could at the time, but not always my best. Did God's will figure into any of that? I can only hope so, that some part of my life was used towards a part of the Great Plan. I probably won't ever know and so far, God's not sayin'. 

So, you ask, why am I thinking about all this? Because I've found myself back in a position I haven't been in a long while. I see a friend who, I think, is making some pretty big mistakes in her life, life altering, no "do overs" kind of mistakes and she's rationalizing a lot of it by saying she's following God's will or at least acting in accordance to what the bible tells her. I think she's missing the bigger picture. I think she's waving the helicopter away and she's drowning. 

Tell the truth and shame the devil, right? I could say these things to her face. Some I have, nicely, tried to point out but I'm met with a blank wall of stubbornness and denial. You can't change someone until they want to change. I want to tell her, look-you were on the Titanic and it sunk. You can pray all you want for God to raise it up, please God, just send me strong ships and winches and rope and when you raise it, I'll fix it up real nice: I'll clean off the mildew and water damage and oh, yeah, about that hole...well, I'll fix that too-nothing is too big with God's help! Where are you God? Why won't you send that stuff so I can raise the Titanic? She's so busy trying to stay afloat in the freezing water and praying for what she thinks is right that she doesn't notice the lifeboat right next to her.

There are times you can plan and grow and there are times you need to get into survival mode. If that's not in Psalms, then it should be.

I try and be a friend, let her vent, support her as much as I can. That is all I can do. That is the best I can do.  A long time ago, an old-timer told me, "If you go to bed at night and can honestly say you did the best you could all day, then you've done God's will."


* Dougie, another old friend and old-timer (God rest his soul), told me that God doesn't test people. But life and bad things happen and God's there if you need God. So that's what I believe, cause Dougie talked a lot but he ain't never talked shit.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

What Jessa Duggar Seewald doesn't get

So Jessa Duggar Seewald has spoken.

So I enjoy watching 19 Kids and Counting occassionally. Not just in a trainwreck, OMG-what-are-they-doing kind of way, and not in a Brady-Bunch-feel-good kind of way. And I don't get most of the criticisms that people throw their way. Population explosion? I don't think a handful of families having a 12 or 15 or 19 kids is going to have much an impact, in the same way that recycling isn't going to save the world when every middle-class, lifestyle sustaining anything is bad for the environment. Just come and see how much plastic I throw out in a 12 hour ER shift that make modern medicine makes the small amount I recycle every week seem not worth it, but I digress. It's like complaining that we spend too much money on welfare when we allow our corporations to get away with paying no taxes. Whatever, most people in my opinion don't even know why they have kids. As least the Duggars SEEM to like and enjoy their kids.

Seem to. I mean, that's what happens with the cult of personality. I can barely guess at what happens behind the closed doors of my neighbors, let alone what happens in some house halfway across the country that I only know through video. And lets be clear...that's the ONLY way you, I and most of America will ever know them. Because the Duggars are very, very selective on who they let into their house and their circle. They don't even go to a public church, no matter how strict, because it's not strict enough. The only way most of America (or the world) will know them is through their TV show, blog, and books.

So, Jessa ranted on her FB page that people, particularly Christians, use the whole "Judge not lest ye be judged" (Matthew 7:1) thing is used as an excuse by not-as-Godly-as-Jessa-is Christians to excuse their sinful behavior. I wrote a whole post on the things I DO like about Michelle Duggar. But the thing is, Michelle Duggar, et al, would never give me and mine the openminded slack that I give her. She and hers are fervently praying for a world that fits their worldview. For biblical law, a "Godly" America and all the things she is against to be outlawed, like abortion and divorce. This isn't just the Duggars. Google "Dominionism" or "Dominion Theology". If you really want the Be-Jesus scared out of you, Google "Dominionism and The U.S. Air Force". They really want to take over America. It makes ISIS seem like a band of raucous frat boys.

But the part about Jessa's rant that really annoys me is how it separates her from the other. The other Christian, the other non-Christian, the sinner. Is that what Jesus did? Cause I'm no biblical scholar. But I do know that the original J-Wow was out and amongst the sinners and the lepers and the prostitutes. You know that whole, "Let he who is without sin" (John 8:7)? That whole leave your families, sell all your possessions and follow the Lord without much more than the clothes on your back. Yeah, that Jesus. And that's the whole problem with biblical literalness and fundamentalism. You have to shield your child from the world in order to accomplish it. They even use "worldly" as a pejorative: you mustn't wear that, read that, watch that-it's too worldly. It will influence you and lead you astray. It will give you ideas. If your beliefs are so easily swayed, then perhaps they are not much more than stuff and nonsense. I raised my children with certain beliefs: that people shouldn't be judged by their outward appearance, the color of their skin or who they sleep with, that social justice is a meaningful and commendable goal. I didn't want my daughter to be pure NOR did I want her to be a virgin on her wedding night, should she ever decide to get married. You body, girls and boys, is yours, to do with as you please and you should love all of it, even that 1% between your legs. Or maybe especially that 1%. Sex is beautiful, fun, probably good for your heart and whatever 2 (or 3 or 4...) consenting adults do with it is there own business. That's another value that my adult child still seems to share and I didn't have to keep her sequestered to make her believe it.

Anyway, the bottom line of my religious belief is this: it should be a force to bring people together, to create and promote community. I DO believe Jesus was a community organizer (and Pontius was a governor, LOL if you get that 2008 campaign meme). But really, are you trying to bring people to Christ or bring people together? Because it matters. What does it matter if I say, "I believe in Jesus and his Father" and then put yourself away from every unlike you so that you won't be "contaminated" by them. If that's religion, I want no part in it.

I'd rather burn in the hell I don't believe in.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How to Homeschool, Part I

with the dog, of course

People are fascinated with homeschooling. Mention that you are doing it and their will be questions: What do you do? Is it legal? How do you know they're learning? Do you use a curriculum? How do you stand being around your kid all day? (The last one has never been asked but I sense it in some people's minds. And the answer is that I like MY kids. Yours, not so much).

Just kidding. I do like kids, though. That's why I became a parent and also why I like having my kids' friends over the house, even though it's messy and loud and they need to be fed and all that. But life's messy and kids are fun, so why not?

I also should put in the disclaimer here that my wonderful husband is the driving force behind our home school. We sit down prior to the school year and write down our plans, our goals, and the subjects we're going to cover. However,  the reason we get up, brush our teeth and do actual school work everyday is him.

The reasons we chose to homeschool are many. I could write a whole post on nothing but that and maybe one time I will. Suffice it to say, we weren't pleased with our public/charter school options and too poor to afford private school. The legality of homeschooling varies by state. NJ is very liberal in its requirements, other states like Pennsylvania are very strict.

Here's the legal highlights for NJ:

  •  all children 6-16 must be in school or receive "equivalent instruction." 
  • You do not need to tell the school you are homeschooling, however if you are taking your kid out of school, it is prudent to send the school a letter that you are taking them out. 
  • If your kid has never been to school, you do not need to notify the local school board that you're homeschooling. 
  • On rare occasions, a school board has taken a family to court for truancy. In this case, the parents must prove that they are providing "equivalent instruction." Keeping a folder of work/dittos or proof of programs that you use are enough. The burden of proof is on the school board to say if it is "equivalent." 
  • "A notification letter need only say that your children are receiving their education via homeschooling. Other than names and your family’s address, no other information is required." (
  • Homeschool children in NJ do not have to take standardized tests, provide lesson plans or portfolios or any thing else. If a school says they do, mail them a copy of FAQ page found on the NJHA link below. 

Legal links:

  • HSLDA, The Homeschool Legal Defense Association, has requirements by state on their website. They are a Christian organization but they do provide legal assistance to any homeschooler in the U.S regardless of belief or lack thereof. They charge a fee of $120/year for website access and services. 
  • The NJ Homeschool Association: an all-volunteer organization. Their site has legal info and other general info and resources for homeschoolers in NJ. Check on legal link in left column for exact requirements. 
Don't be intimidated. We've been HS'ing going on our 4th year now without issue and I haven't met anyone else in our HS circles who've had trouble, either. 

The Real Intimidating Stuff-Everything Else!!

Just kidding. But the thought of coming up with content for 1, 2, 3....or more children every day can be mindboggling. 20 years ago when I met my first homeschoolers I bet they found it hard to find enough resources and material. Today, it's the opposite problem. Every homeschool mom seems to have a blog with printouts, ideas, planners and more. I was more than a little overwhelmed when I started looking at it. Charlotte Mason or unschooling? Unit studies, lap books or computer programs? There are full curricula you can buy, online shops, interactive games....where to begin?

Here are some terms you might read on the internet or in other resources for homeschooling:

  • Unschooling-Unschoolers believe children learn best through life experiences rather than specific, structured school time. For example, they might write a letter to Grandma or add up items during grocery shopping to learn writing and math. Or a trip to the zoo might lead a child to look up information and learn more about polar bears when they get home. It's child led learning. People I know who unschool tend to be very passionate about it. 
  • Classical-Remember the 3 R's? Reading, wRiting and 'Rithmatic. Classical homeschoolers believe that a good foundation of the basics is necessary for your child to explore and learn. This also includes lots of rote memorization for younger kids, like reciting poems and time tables. For older kids, they teach logic and debate. Although a generalization, think of the Christian homeschoolers who win the National Spelling Bee every year. This may be the type we follow the most, because our daughter has ADHD and this provides the structure she needs. 
    • The Well-Trained Mind-Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Bauer's book was practically our bible for the first couple of years. There website is very good and they sell resource and text books that we've used also. 
    • Classical Education made much Easier-good overview of Classical Education
    • Life in Grace-the blogger has a lot of links and info about her experiences
  • Charlotte Mason-An educator at the turn of the 20th Century, Mason felt that children needed to learn from "living ideas", not utilitarian instruction. Instead of textbooks, she believed it was better to read the original authors. She also believed that formal education should not start too early and that nature and natural settings were an important part of learning. Many homeschoolers, but also private and charter schools, use her methods. There was a resurgence in Mason's methods in the 1980's with the publication of For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macauley. 
  • Montessori-You may be familiar with Montessori early childhood education, but Montessori principles can be used for any age. Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator. She enrolled in medical school in 1890, which is pretty amazing in itself. Her concentration was pediatrics and psychology. She developed a style of child led learning with the children of working class Italians based on observing them. She saw that with the right materials and environment, children would become naturally self-motivated and engage in learning that interested them. 
That's enough for right now, I think, so that I don't overload any. I think my next post will what our typical day is like. 

sometime the cat participates. she's um, not so helpful.