Thursday, February 21, 2013


11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Hebrews 12:11, KJV)

You learn something new every day.  Today I learned that there is a connotative difference between chastising and chastening.  Chastising is more punitive whereas chastening is more corrective in nature. I thought that chastisement was synonymous with discipline, but it is in fact more synonymous with punishment.

Chastening is on my mind because I've taken on more hours at school.  In addition to my previous duties as librarian and 8th grade project coordinator, I'm also now taking over morning homeroom and 8th grade Language Arts.  Alas, this means that hours I must spend chastening have increased significantly.  You see, there are quite a few students who--like typical middle schoolers--have a hard time motivating themselves to get work turned in on time and of a suitable quality.  My prayer has been that I receive the wisdom of God to help me know how to reach each student where he/she is, and how to help each one move forward as he/she should.  Believe you me, it feels like it will require nothing short of the wisdom of Solomon to figure some of these cases out!  But we are instructed that if we lack wisdom, we just need to ask for it and be ready to receive it.  I believe my prayers are beginning to be answered already; not because I've figured out just how to make so-and-so turn in his work on time or help such-and-such put more effort into her work.  I'm still waiting for inspiration there.

No, my answered prayer so far has come in the form of Hebrews 12:11 being called to mind, along with the various verses in Proverbs about God chastening or disciplining those he loves, just as a father disciplines the children he loves.  I was convicted that too often I've chosen the path of least resistance, the path of letting kids fly under the radar because I did not want to clash with them.  You see, I have this small problem with wanting everyone to like me all the time.  That just isn't going to fly if you are a teacher, parent, or one in authority.  When you correct people, they probably aren't going to like it.  I'm no exception to this rule.  My own kids have been unhappy with me, as have my students.  I have to get over  my misguided desire to keep peace at ALL costs and remember that I'm not doing anyone any favors by letting them get away with things they shouldn't.

But that doesn't make it any easier to keep calm and serene when you are being argued with, cried at, or yelled at by your young charges.  I guess this is just another way in which Jesus invites us (and the Holy Spirit enables us) to follow His example: he spoke the truth in love and said only, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do," when he was being wrongfully executed by those his teachings had offended.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The not-so-glamorous life (and just what I asked for)

The kitchen sink is full--and I mean FULL--of dishes waiting patiently but not very unobtrusively for me to wash them.  
My son, who decided that one 45 minute nap was all he really cared to take today, is wailing in his bed in a room which only a few hours ago belonged to him and my husband and myself.  Now, after quite a bit of furniture shuffling, it is Ruby and Max's room.  How long it will stay that way depends on how long he keeps yowling like a cat that needs to get fixed. (That sounded ominous, but don't worry, his boy parts are not in danger of being removed.)
Meanwhile, our new room (AKA Ruby's old room) is in no way organized. Everything was unceremoniously dumped into it, because it was more important to get the kids' room taken care of.
The floors need to be swept and really could do with a good mopping.
Max and Ruby's booster seats are like disgusting food-fossil digs and really need to be cleaned out.  
There's laundry that needs to be folded and put away and not just left in a clean but cluttery pile everywhere.  
My dinner consisted of one pancake, which I'm pretty sure is not enough, but the thought of dirtying more dishes to make more food fills me with dread: not unlike the effect which "the silence of the infinite spaces" had upon Pascal, my son's namesake.  
Max is still yowling.  Ruby has stopped her crying, though.  Is it possible that she, unlike me, can fall asleep while he is fussing?  That would be a blessed gift.
The house is disorderly at best.
I have quite a few projects backing up on me right now that need attention, but they all seem to require space and time, both of which seem at a premium.
It's only going to get more-so.  I don't say "it's only going to get worse" because that doesn't take into account the fact that my children are blessings and gifts.  But this not-glamorousness, this mundane messiness, it is only going to increase.  And I'm thankful, because what I always wanted, even from a very young age, was to be a wife and mommy.  It's just not a fancy existence.  

I'd like to close with the lyrics of the song, "Sacred" by Caedmon's Call. It's going out to all the parents out there who feel the weight of the ordinary, repetitive, and sometimes drudging jobs of parenthood.  Ours is a holy calling.  

this house is a good mess
it’s the proof of life
no way would I trade jobs
but it don’t pay overtime

I’ll get to the laundry
I don’t know when
I’m saying a prayer tonight
cause tomorrow it starts again

could it be that everything is sacred?
and all this time
everything I’ve dreamed of
has been right before my eyes

the children are sleeping
but they’re running through my mind
the sun makes them happy
and the music makes them unwind

my cup runneth over
and I worry about the stain
teach me to run to You 
like they run to me for every little thing

when I forget to drink from you
I can feel the banks harden
Lord, make me like a stream
to feed the garden

wake up, little sleeper
the Lord, God Almighty
made your Mama keeper
so rise and shine,rise and shine 
rise and shine cause

everything is sacred
and all this time
everything I’ve dreamed of
has been right before my eyes

Friday, February 8, 2013

It can be done! Praise God!

...although I am not sure if Toyota would officially recommend it.  But today I fit three carseats in the backseat of our little Toyota Echo.

Have I ever mentioned my deep affection for that car?

Technically, it is not the first car I owned.  That honor goes to a venerable 1982 (I think) Saab, which I bought for the princely sum of $1 from a friend whose kids I was nannying.  The Saab was sitting in his driveway and had been for a long time, and after I admired it (having been car-less in Portland for a year or so) he offered to sell it for cheap.  In fact, he opined that I might even be making a profit if I combed through the seat cushions and under the floor mats for loose change.  The ol' Saab was a good little car for a while, but then a few months later it needed some costly repairs and I decided to let it go. After all, carpooling was working out well.

But then a situation arose in which I needed to get a car of my own, stat.  My usual carpool was downsizing from their mega VW van to a sleeker VW station wagon, which meant no room for me anymore.  I had been saving up money and had received a portion of money from my grandmother's estate, so the time was ripe to buy a used car.  I settled on a 2003 Toyota Echo with only about 48,000 miles on it. That was in March of 2008. I was such a proud new car owner; I really did try to keep it looking clean and new.  I even once ran into the car's former owner in a parking garage (more proof that Portland really is a small town masquerading as a city).

 Now, almost 5 years and 100,000 miles later, I still feel an abiding affection for my vehicle, although it is woefully non-clean and non-new looking.  It's covered in the detritus that comes with having small children: cheerios, toys, books, socks that Ruby has taken off and tossed to the ground, old sippy cups long forgotten and probably growing new species of mold, and what-have-you.  Then there's all the grownup trash (empty water bottles, napkins, junk mail) that really should have gotten taken care of by now, but of course hasn't.

You may be wondering why I tried to fit three carseats into the back of the Echo, anyway.  Today we had one of Ruby's friends from church come over for a playdate.  Her mom has whatever horrible stomach bug is going around and needed a day off, so we went to fetch her.  It was a tight fit, but I got them all in there.  Right now Ruby is napping, Max is eating the remains of somebody's sandwich, and Chloe (who is 14 months old) is shaking a maraca with style. It's Friday, people, have some fun!

Alas, I have no photo evidence of the car seat situation, so some of you may not believe me that I accomplished this Herculean feat.  Well, someday I'll get a picture of this triumph again, mark my words!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Are you a pornographer?

Sorry, I couldn't resist a catchy title like that. 
I got Brian Doyle's book Grace Notes from the library recently, and all too soon it must be returned. Brian Doyle is a Portland area writer, a Catholic who writes much about the intersection of faith and life. Below is his short essay, "A Note on Pornography," which is thought-provoking to say the least (and actually doesn't have a great deal to do with anything XXX rated).

A Note On Pornography

You know what nobody ever talks about enough when we talk about pornography? How sad it is.  How sad everything about it is. How weary and dreary. How draining and unfruitful. How, simply, embarrassing.  How deflating and abasing.  How melancholy and grim.  How sad the users and the purchasers are, and how ashamed of themselves for using and purchasing and hiding what they have used and purchased; how sad the purveyors are, and how ashamed of themselves for manufacturing a product that has no substance, and how weary they are, deep in their hearts, of the tinny shrill language they use to defend their actions, for they know full well that their actions have nothing to do with free speech, with courage against the tyranny of censorship, with salty rebellion against those who would imprison speech as a crucial step to the murder of dissent.  They k now that they prey on sadness for money, prey on the sad women and men who perform the empty rituals, the sad men and women who run the cameras and produce and package and market the brittle shells of acts that are, when not sad, funny and powerful and glorious and without which there would be no human beings at all, acts that are holy, acts that are finally a form of dance, of speech, of prayer. 

And another thing we don’t talk about when we talk about pornography is that there are lots of kinds of pornography, if you consider pornography to be the shell masquerading as the substance.  A politician shouting endlessly about family values and yet doing everything in his power to battle help for single mothers, and suspend education for poor children, and dispute free food for those who are starving, and oppose medical care for those who have none—isn’t he a pornographer? Or the woman who battles the execution of infants (for that is what abortion is) but advocates executing older infants (for that is what capital punishment is)—isn’t she a pornographer too? Or the men who spend thousands of hours working for the right to marry each other, and no hours working for the children who are murdered on their street, their city, their state, their country—aren’t they pornographers?  Isn’t it obscene to say that love is the prime force, and then argue about semantics and definitions so that children may be slurped from wombs and quietly disposed of in biohazard containers?

And even the church, my church, that ancient and wonderful boat, the church I love and respect and admire, the church that has thrilled me with its courage and stunned me with its twisted crimes—does it not dabble in pornography daily? Does it not say one thing and do another? Does it not say that life is the most precious and holy of gifts from the Unimaginable One, and then send armies of theologians to defend the unutterably obscene idea of a just war? For there is no such thing as a just war, as you know and I know deep in our hearts.  Wars are merely organized murders, during which lanky children die and everyone else rationalizes the reasons. So if we know a thing to be true—that life is holy, for example, and life cannot be taken for any reason whatsoever, and the taking of a life, new or old, is a sin—and then we create tissues and curtains of excuses and lies to cover our knowledge, are we much different from the polite dapper businessman who runs a company selling images of people making love, though there is no love anywhere to be found in the product he sells?

We have tried to restrict and imprison pornography for centuries, and now it is more popular than ever before; it has burst out everywhere, on billboards and films, on a million web sites, in every city on the face of the earth.  But I wonder if the way to defeat pornography is to see that it is a symptom, not the disease.  Lust is sweet and holy and wild, lust is who we are, lust is a gift.  The perversion of lust, however—that is the spawn of a cultural and religious lie of breathtaking proportions.  It is a lie so huge that we can hardly see it.  But for a moment, today, this morning, let us stop and see it clearly.  As a culture, as a religion, we say one thing and do another, and we have become so used to living this way that substance and appearance are in danger for becoming the same thing.

That would be a very good definition of hell, don’t you think?

(Quoted from Grace Notes by Brian Doyle, copyright 2011)

Saturday, February 2, 2013


Allen told me about an interaction he had with someone. It made me sad, and not just because I'm a teacher.

The song "All-Star" by SmashMouth came on the radio.
Guy: Hey, when you hear this song, don't you immediately think of "Shrek?"
Allen: Oh yeah, totally.
Guy: Yeah, that's how you know you're a parent.  You associate songs based on what kid movies they are in.
Allen: Well, I've seen Shrek, but my kids haven't seen it.
Guy (shocked): Seriously?
Allen: Yeah.  Ruby only watches about twenty minutes of Curious George before she gets tired of it.  Then she goes to read a book.  She actually likes reading books more than watching videos.
Guy:  Hmm.  You might want to get that checked out.  That's not normal.  Kids love TV.


Hey, nothing wrong with watching TV on occasion as a kid or a grown up.  And I'll be the first to admit that when life gets crazy, Ruby gets to watch a lot more videos.  Example: we just moved and have a newborn.  A couple hours of Baby Einstein videos?  Okay!  Example: Mommy has stomach flu.  Watch Elmo on Youtube?  Go for it!  Example: We are on an airplane.  Bring it!

But if it isn't normal for kids to prefer books to TV, then I don't want "normal."  I'll take literate and abnormal, thanks!

A Truth to which I cling

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
24 When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.
25 I have been young and now I am old,
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
Or his descendants begging bread.
26 All day long he is gracious and lends,
And his descendants are a blessing.

Psalm 37:23-26 (New American Standard Bible)