Personal Journey

P is for Paul, Katae’s Paul

Eccentric at a formal dinner.

I used to think I was open-minded. Then I had teenagers. And they were… let’s just say their tastes veered into the eccentric. My kids, my first two, simply would not play by the rules. And by rules I meant wearing dresses and liking it, using utensils at formal dinners, begging to sing in the church choir or at least running the soundboard…

I believed with all my heart I was completely nonjudgmental. Book covers meant nothing. It was the inside that counted. I was so avant-garde and educated and free thinking–

Enter my daughter’s boyfriend, Paul.

Paul was a walking Picasso painting: you weren’t exactly sure how to take him. The first time I met him was homeschool theater class. Paul was ten years old and a holy terror with a ton of talent– that’s what I remember.

In his teens Paul dressed in loosely fitting black clothing that hung off him like his many silver chains. He was funny, flamboyant, sassy, rebellious, creepy… That’s him in the middle.

… and he came to church at 7AM on Sundays to make enough coffee to fill the Boston Harbor. (That’s what it took to slake the thirst of Grace Churchgoers every Sunday.) So here’s the grim reaper barista and he’s in love with my firstborn daughter. Turns out I wasn’t as open-minded as I thought.

One day I was trundling around my homeschool book sale, chatting with moms and feeling all righteous and Rocky Balboa about my calling to educate my children… like I had holy dust scattered in my hair, so homschool-proud. I was talking to an ultra-conservative friend whose tastes (I thought) ran Amish, when who should sally up to us? Jack Sparrow/my son-in-law.

Love those moments when a freight train full of my own self-righteousness runs me down. Jack’s scream there, that’s how I felt upon seeing Paul, dressed for Halloween in June, at my homeschool book sale. My “Amish” friend thought Paul’s theatrics fun and creative and, hadn’t I better loosen up?

Those who know me, know I have.

Katae and Paul live in a lovely house they make lovelier by the day. Paul’s a visionary and super-handy, and Katae has an artful sense of style. They’re living happy-ever-after with their five cats, two dogs, one lovebird, and lots of love.

Paul

This goes out to Justin Smith, by request. “P” is not for PERFECTIOSIS. P is for Paul.

Posts about my other children: Katae, Tory, Luke, Gabe.

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on writing, Personal Journey

July… Don’t Want to Forget

CNW_Winner_200July was NaNoWriMo month for me. I set a goal of 30K words, figuring a thousand a day would stretch me. Boy, did it ever. I consider writing a fun, yet precise and artful enterprise, but in NaNoWriMo the point is to get your story out as fast as possible. In the writing world this is referred to as the vomit draft.

Because so much will be slashed or re-written, it’s not worth it to make every image glorious, every word just so. That comes later. Still– spending a month hurling sub-par exposition onto the screen because I had a word count to make… hurt my lit-snob eyes.

At first it was hard to keep going. Part of what motivates me is the delusion that what I’ve got on the page is excellence. Like exercise or right eating– if breakfast was a donut, might as well hit McDonald’s on the way home because they day is shot. With the vomit draft, I had to leave that thinking behind, to have faith that the sacrifice of my summer mornings would eventually reach the throne room. Confession: I actually love writing and would gladly do it all day long. What I sacrifice are the other practical things I could be, maybe should be doing.

This chart represents my July. How Maureen McHugh got into my head as I slogged through this process, I don’t know. Or else, maybe I’m not that special; I’m just like every other person struggling to write a book. Ok, probably that.

Credit: Maureen McHugh
Credit: Maureen McHugh

While I was practically chanting to myself it’s not a waste to pursue this dream of mine, my kids were doing their summer things too. My job is to get them there. Luke spent Monday through Thursday afternoons downtown. That meant I created my curriculum in the beautiful Carnegie Library or jogged the Hope Memorial Bridge while Luke dragged weighted sleds across Wasmer’s turf field. Have you ever stepped onto a turf field on a summer’s day? It’s like stepping on Mercury. I could see the skyline of Cleveland and feel the breeze off Lake Erie. Luke could feel his thighs melting, I imagine. Two of the pics below are of the aftermath of soccer tryout preparations. Note the dead grass and clever use of lawn accoutrements.

They say chlorine is the breakfast of champions. Gabe had it for breakfast and dinner. He participated in our city’s rec team and in the long course with his club team. The combination made him strong and lean as he’s ever been. Long course was a dish of humility– holy cow, is this pool long; the rec league, a dish of validation– is this kid for real…

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Gabe and Coach Lindsey

Yep. Real as the alarm every morning and the practice every night. …because that’s how winnin is done. – Rocky Balboa

Bob’s summer. He gave it as he often does, to planning a mission trip to South Dakota. Nothing makes Bob happier than helping people stretch themselves in service and charity. The team built a playground and helped construct a house. They led the church services and even fed anyone who came to church. This missions trip is not for the faint of heart. I also posted about it here.

It’s no pleasure trip either. A manager at Aeropostale, Tory gives the same due diligence to cleaning sludge out of a flooded basement in South Dakota as she does to running the store. That was her task for two days. All alone, no complaints. Like Bob, she’s got a feel for managing people and is not above any job that God needs done. I’m here, Lord. Send me. I have a feeling that willingness to get their hands dirty is what makes them effective managers.

As the team wends its way back home, stopping in the badlands, Custer State Park, and Mount Rushmore, they solidify friendships that will last long after the trip is over. Here they are at Indiana Dunes State Park, the last stop on the way home.beach

That was July. Today Luke is at soccer tryouts for St. Ignatius. We’ve always sought the biggest pond for our frogs. Sometimes that big pond was speech and debate, post-secondary college, Model UN, Civil Air Patrol, or the higher athleticism of club sports. I watched club soccer kids getting cut on Tuesday, kids who’d be playing varsity on their city teams. I watched them shake hands with the coaches, hang their heads and walk away from a sport they love.

I think, this pond feels more like Lake Michigan.

It was at this point in my post that I had to leave to pick up Luke from tryouts.  Teams were being finalized as I typed. But August happenings will be another post. 🙂

 

 

Personal Journey

L is for Luke

LLuke. When he was a chubby toddler, we called him The Mayor. It was during the summer performances of Music on the Mound that Luke, then 3 years old, would go blanket to blanket and engage his constituency in monosyllabic conversations that culminated in uproarious laughter and his parting wave. Then on to the next blanket, the next set of hearts to melt… Luke could charm the socks off a Gulag prisoner. Though he’s tough as steel, and probably because of that, his smile is a gift that never gets old.

I wrote this post when Luke was considering whether or not to attend high school at St. Ignatius. He’d been homeschooled all his life, and St. Ig had a reputation of three hours of homework per night. Three hours was the totality of Luke’s academic day up to that point. And don’t forget– there’d be no more sleeping in, no more school on the couch wrapped in a cozy comforter, no more getting out of school simply by scowling at mom when she’s in a fit of weakness. Going to school, any brick and mortar school, would mean galactic shifts in the tectonic plates of Luke’s world.

Luke received First Honors in his first semester at Saint Ignatius, a 4.1 GPA. Transition accomplished.

If you hung with me through that shameless kid-bragging score, here’s some balance. Luke’s had his share of disappointments. His gym grade is partially based on how many baskets he makes. Not cool for a soccer player. Or Luke’s attempt at memorizing all 75 prepositions for his English test– a valiant effort but an imperfect result. Now the big one: Soccer tryouts didn’t go as he’d hoped. Rather than wallow in self-pity, Luke held on to Michael Jordan.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Cut. I don’t even know logistically how that’s possible that Michael Jordan could be cut from high school basketball and still end up professional. But it’s true. So Luke, not cut from high school soccer, just not getting his exact desire, could surely make the best of it. And he did. And I’m proud. I don’t know how many goals he scored or assisted– lots. I’m more pumped that Luke persevered.

This was a really hard post to write because Luke hates having anything written about him. Super-private, he is. If I don’t post anymore after this, it’s because Luke took his revenge.

Last but not least, Luke has a soft spot in his heart. Her name is Delaney. Here they are, looking adorable.

Luke Delaney Horse

 

Homeschool Life

My Son: Into The Lion Habitat

Though most homeschool moms won’t admit it, we have an unspoken code, a knowing nod, a fierce pride, and some definite do’s and don’ts in the secret-circle. Homeschool moms share a marinesque kinship, forged through days of homeschool bootcamp,  homeschool bleedout, homeschool hell-on-earth, homeschool soul-ripping, faith-stabbing, self-questioning, sanity-questioning homeschool days where we despaired of getting through the next– exercise.

Having been, uhem, exercising this way for nearly 15 years, and owning the badge of two graduates (who are not serial murderers or Walmart greeters), I know the patriotism of a homeschool mom, the scar-tissue dogma. When one of our own says she’s putting Jr. in school, she might as well say she’s putting Jr. into the lion habitat at the zoo.

Lion-10312I mean, Honey, have you thought this through?

Which brings me to mein kampf:  Luke, who’s overcome every Everest I’ve thrown at him.

To keep him home, even if he took college classes, as my daughters did, would still not be challenge enough. I know, because I’ve done it twice before. And he can’t take all college classes. We simply don’t have the means. So for him, we needed a new Everest, and God provided one.

St. Ignatius: A rigorous, all-boy private school, in my estimation an Everest not unlike the Eton of Bear Grylls or the Wynyard of C.S. Lewis. In my estimation, a Lord of the Flies jungle of teen angst and cannibalism. The lion habitat, after all.

Luke has thrived in his studies on the couch. Now I’d like him to thrive in the cafeteria, in the locker room, in the hallway. I’d like him to overcome distraction, disappointment, and despair– you know, people.

He’s studied like a cloistered monk, with all the beautiful laser focus that comes from homeschool; now I want him to find focus in a storm. Daniel was put into the  lions den, not for being bad, but because he was so good. He made all the other wise men jealous (Daniel 6:3-5).

Number 1 on the list of homeschool mom don’ts is to put your kid into school. I’ve always been rebellious. So is my son. So was Jesus. This is the best road, as far as my husband and I can tell. It’s not the usual road, not the broad road or the one most-taken. But homeschoolers left that road on day one.

 

Personal Journey, Politics

Hollow. Ween. A Zombie Tradition I Wish Would Just Die Already

GravestoneSkeletonPopsUpMore disgusting and mutilated than any front yard ornament or trick-or-treat costume I’ll see this year is the philosophy behind this “cultural tradition” we call Halloween. Yes, some of you will hate me when I’m done.

An impressionable sapling of a boy was riding in the car with his mom one day when he made this remark: What I like best about Halloween is that everyone gives away candy and you don’t  have to pay any money for it.

Wait.  What?  I nearly threw my computer across the room.  I thought I’d gotten lost in cyberland and was redirected to the democratic party platform or the Affordable Care Act website.  Everyone givesand you don’t have to pay any money for it?!?  I’m not very good at math, but even I know that if everyone is giving, someone is paying money for it.  Just not him– the recipient of the windfall.  But he’s just a kid, right?  He can’t be expected to understand that, can he?  That is the lie our culture perpetrates on young minds.  Thanks for stating it so succinctly, kid.

ZombieAttackUncleSamOf course someone is paying for it; Halloween candy doesn’t grow on trees.  But that’s precisely the problem with our culture and is laser-spotlighted by this boy’s dewy remark.  We teach, sometimes overtly and sometimes through our traditions that it’s possible there really is a free lunch out there somewhere, that it’s possible for everyone to give and for no one to pay.  Isn’t that what we were promised back in 2008 by a certain candygiver, our national SugarDaddy?  But I know many people who are paying for the candy now. And they’re not happy about it.

It gets worse.  His Mom writes:  We all agreed heartily and even as we said so it sunk in further how right he is.  Halloween may be the most givingest holiday we have in the U.S.A. Seriously. Candy is handed out to our friends’ children, our neighbors, and complete strangers all the same. And people who give out treats on Halloween expect virtually nothing in return.  Maybe just a thank you.

Then the coup de grace (again from Mom): Is there any other cultural tradition that compares when it comes to the spirit of altruism?

If Halloween is “the most givingest holiday we have in the U.S.A.” then we may as well build bunkers in the backyard because we’re doomed.  Seriously.  If our greatest act of selflessness, of altruism is to give fun-size chocolate bars to kids dressed up in disturbing costumes, we are an empty, vaporous people, valueless, clueless, and without a scaffold of truth on which to hang anything meaningful.  This is the Kool-Aid of the default culture; it’s the Common Core Curriculum of our moment-by-moment reality: the idea that there is no ultimate responsibility.  Everyone gets and no one gives.  And no one is ever wrong either. Don’t miss that. It’s the real pollution we breathe day in and day out.  It whispers to us in the sidebar ads, screams in the commercials, and lies seductively all throughout the show.  If we don’t step in front of the media tsunami that is our culture, we too will wake up and think the best thing to happen to us is hollow.  Hollow. Ween.  

The greatest act of altruism happened 2000 years ago.  Sorry.  I know it’s not popular right now. But it wasn’t then either.  It was so unpopular that it just might have killed you to sign on.  Now that’s a scary proposition.  But it didn’t deter them from signing on in droves.

jesussaves_zps03aa62fc

Other than that, I don’t hate anything about the innocuous holiday known as Halloween. Trick-or-treat until your heart’s content.  Dress up. Have fun.  Don’t forget to thank the person who did spend quite a bit of dough on your boon.  And learn as much as you can about the other altruistic days we celebrate.  Please.  Oh please do learn so you won’t think Halloween is the pinnacle of goodness on this earth.  Oh, and the word– holiday originally meant “holy day,” as in celebration of something holy, like God. Sadly, for many people, it now just denotes a hollow day.  There really was someone who didn’t stay dead.  And He didn’t look like a mutilated zombie either, which is probably why His story won’t die. Either that– or it’s true.

Homeschool Life, Personal Journey

National Dictionary Day

dictionaryI say this in love: Noah Webster was a total geek.  He knew 26 languages.  Not letters.  Languages.  Don’t you find it odd that he knew exactly the same number of languages as letters in the English alphabet? I wonder if it was a personal goal of his to know that many languages.  When did he find time to speak in them all?

I am convicted of the crime of not using nearly enough of my brain. So are we all.

In honor of Noah Webster and his overachieving ways, why not learn a new word today?  My favorite word, learned in the course of a writing game played with my class, is mordant.  It fits me like a sausage casing.  I’d tell you the definition, but then you wouldn’t go use a dictionary on National Dictionary Day.  Unless you already know the definition.  In that case, may I have your autograph? And can we be friends?

There should be a National Thesaurus Day.  Thesaurusing is a verb I’ve created to describe the process of trashing generic and overused descriptors, verbs, and even nouns, and replacing them with better, more vivid, more academically-mature words.  I’ve gotten some doozies in the process of this exercise.  When students don’t understand the flavor of certain words (or parts of speech), I get things like: I did a ravishing job on the dishes.  Or: Her pulchritudinous lips were too much for me to bear; I had to osculate them.

I tell them I’d rather see a grammar misstep than nostep.  It would be more a shame for them never to have broadened their brood vocabularies.  There.  See?  I thesaurused “young” to describe their vocabularies. The noun young came up, and its synonym, brood, also a noun.  See how easy it is to make a complete fool of yourself with a thesaurus?  One who would write must be willing to write badly.  I am willing. I’ve proven it.  Now go and have a look in Webster’s Compendious English Dictionary (published in 1806).  Today people run from words like compendious.  Perhaps they’re afraid to show their broodness.  Perhaps that’s the beginning of what’s wrong with America.  To be a student I must be teachable; to be teachable I must be willing to not know something.

Homeschool Life, Personal Journey

Car Wars: Driving Through the Dark Side

Rated R for Rant.

7:05. Wake up and drive Katae to Berea Courthouse for her internship.  Well, she drives there.  I drink my joe.

8:30. Get home.  Have 2nd cup of coffee and read Bible, eat breakfast, read emails, yell at kids.

10:00-11:00. Take boys to the orthodontist where we try to get school done.  Gabriel gets spelling done between xrays.

11:30.  Josh arrives 30 minutes early for his testing; I’ve got a mouth full of deep fried cheese-bean quesadilla.  Kids work independently (I love that word) while I administer his test.

1:30. Josh finishes his testing.  Way to go!  🙂

2:00. Take Josh’s test and Gabriel to my post office (ahhh, post office… how do I love thee?).  I leave the test there, but take Gabriel on to the library.  The questions about whether or not Gabe is “fragile, liquid, perishable, or potentially hazardous,” throw me, as he’s all of those things.  Now I know: he’s unshippable.

2:30. Stopped by my neighbor on my way home from the library to talk about some heavy things.  Not the weather.  Not just “fine-thank-you-how-are-you?”  We talked until the rain drew him away from me.  Gabe sat in the back seat, engrossed in his recently checked-out Captain Underpants the whole time.

Me: Did you hear what I was talking about?

Gabe: No… what?

Me: Nothing.

Gabe: (desperate b/c he senses a secret) What??

Me: Nothing.  Just old people stuff.

3:00. Finally begin the complicated math lesson with Gabe I absolutely have to do, as it’s a new concept he can’t just teach himself.

3:01.  (not joking) The phone rings.  I ignore it.  Have I mentioned I always ignore my landline?

3:05. (not joking) The doorbell rings.  I say to Gabe, “Tell your friends you’re still wor–“

“It’s a big person,” Gabe interrupts, crestfallen.

(sigh)  It’s my neighbor again.  With an umbrella.  He tells me I never answer my phone.  We talk a while longer because I value relationships more than math.  Yes.  I value relationships more than math.  Yes.  I do.  Gabe sits listening for something juicy because of our conversation before.  Nothing gives.

3:20. Gabe & I begin math.  Again.  I do some actual school: checking, teaching, coaching.  Luke’s history notes need coaching, but he resists my attempts to show him what adequate note-taking looks like.  After we sort out the 13th & 14th Amendments to the Constitution and learn some cool facts about the “Radical Republicans,” who fought for the rights of blacks after the Civil War, I’m getting in the groove when…

4:15. My timer goes off, which means for Tory it’s time to make the Donuts.  I take Luke with us, because after I drop Tory at Dunkin, Luke needs to be at his FLL club.  Gabe stays home and plays with the neigborhood kids.

5:00.  Drop Luke at FLL club.

5:09. Pick up Katae at the courthouse.

5:45.  Get home for crockpot dinner and admonish Gabe to eat his chunk of meat.

6:40. Leave to pick up Luke and friends from FLL club.  On the way home from what feels like a marathon of driving, Luke tells me he needs help with his algebra lesson.  There are a few things that make me want to drive off a cliff. Non-understood algebra lessons are on that list.

7:55.  Begin hated algebra lesson.  It isn’t so bad after all.

8:05.  Take Abbott for a much-needed walk (not sure who needs it more– him or me). Bob asks if I’d like a partner (besides Abbott). Yes! We have a lovely walk while I rant about my day.

8:50.  I leave a bit late to pick up Tory from Dunkin Donuts, so I speed accordingly.  I am exhausted– can’t wait to get home and curl up in my cozy bed.

9:03.  Sit in the parking lot of Dunkin and watch the many, many people who–amazingly– order donuts and coffee at this late hour.

9:07.  Receive this text from Tory: I don’t get off till ten just FYI

9:08.  My response: Telling me that at 9 isn’t working 4me.

9:09.  Enraged.

9:10.  Wonder what I can possbily do to redeem these minutes?  Dishes are at home, crusty and piled; my computer, my work is there too.  All the stores I’d like to browse (ie, Volunteers of America, Goodwill) are closed.  I start praying about how not to lose character (ie, yell my head off) over this pathetic waste of my time.  MY time, right?  God reminds me it’s His time.   I pray for truth in the inner person, truth in my relationships, truth about God and many other things.  God brings to mind one practical thing I can do at 9:26 at night:  Walmart.

9:35.  Arrive at Walmart and buy a birthday gift for Gabe’s friend.  I pray my way around the aisles, looking for the perfect gift that won’t offend, won’t cost a ton, etc.  I find a stomp rocket for $12.94.  Sold.

9:57.  Back at Dunkin.  More people ingesting sugar and caffeine just before bedtime.

10:04.  Tory gets in the car.  “Hi.” She says sweetly.

“Are you kidding me?”  Not sweet.

10:25.  Tory & I arrive home.   Alive.  We still love each other.  A little miscommunication that iced my cake-of-a-day, is all.

10:30. Snuggle down in my comfy bed.  zzzzzzz