“The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children." G K Chesterton

Saturday, July 12, 2014

My Diet, Your Diet

So you want to talk dieting? At least Laura does :)

I know a lot about dieting because I have been overweight for a long time. All the time I was overweight I was still trying to lose weight and still trying to be disciplined but none of it helped me lose weight. The first success I had losing 80 lbs. came after I read the book Protein Power: The High-Protein/Low Carbohydrate Way to Lose Weight, Feel Fit, and Boost Your Health-in Just Weeks! which I found at the pharmacy while picking up my first prescription for blood pressure meds. I was in tears and I grabbed the book and I lost 80 lbs. and kept it off until I had another baby and went on a different blood pressure medicine. I gained it all back over a few years.

For the last 4 years I have been slowly losing that weight.

The baby is 13.

First I got off that bad blood pressure med and lost 20 lbs. Then I went low carb for a year and lost 20 lbs. but it was not enough. Then I saw my daughter losing weight on Weight Watchers and tried that. I lost 40 lbs. but had trouble affording WW. Then this spring I got sick and gained back some of that and found myself in a quandry. What to do? low carb, Paleo, calorie-restriction, exercise?

Right now I am doing a mixture of all of the above.

I use My Fitness Pal to track my calories. If I do not eat any carbs I am not as strict about the calories.

I bought a Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity + Sleep Wristband to track my steps because I am naturally very sedentary. This has been fantastic. I go to the gym every single day to use the treadmill to walk or run my steps. I spend about an hour on the treadmill and love it, not counting this week where I was determined to finish the audio of Ulysses by James Joyce.  I also love that the FitBit measures sleep. I strive for 7-8 hours and it lets me see how many times I wake up at night and how many times I am restless. Truly amazing. Getting my 10,000 steps a day has changed me.

I read mostly websites that promote Paleo eating and try to eat as naturally as possible. I am finally loving fresh, natural food.
Mark's Daily Apple  I am a fan of dairy because I truly believe that all my blood pressure issues began when I gave up whole milk in order to have smaller babies.

Here are the pros and cons of calorie restriction:

The Pros:
You can eat anything at all, which is a big pro, as long as you count what you eat.
You learn to eat less.
Other people understand.

The Cons:
You get hungry which is a recipe for disaster.
You get grumpy.
You end up leaning towards fake foods since they often don't have the calories of real food.
You tend to eat more carbs because fat has so many calories.
You plateau and it is hard to stay motivated.
You lack energy.
Weight Watchers is a rip-off with their ridiculous line of food.

Here are the pros and cons of Paleo:

The Pros:
You essentially eat only real food. This is not about making up foods.
You do not get hungry after the initial carb-flu.
You get to enjoy fresh fruits and veggies which you don't so much on a low carb diet.
You get to eat butter and other fats. The more the merrier. Coconut Oil rocks. I put it in my coffee and on my face every morning :)
You lose your cravings for sweets.
You do not have to count calories and should not at first until the hunger subsides.
You have lots of energy.

The Cons:
You can't eat toast, bagels or cereal.
It is expensive. Twice as much at fast food.
You can't eat toast....or bagels.
Paleo is only gluten-free because it is wheat free. No such thing as a paleo gluten-free brownie.
People do not get it.

In order to get the best of both worlds make sure you eat plenty of fat so that you can eat carbs sometimes but don't crave them. Avoid all fake foods or even low carb foods which qualify the carbs-A carb is a carb is a carb.

I think many naturally thin people already eat fat normally. Thin people do not "get" weight issues. Some people have to work harder to be slender, Thinnies.

My Biggie Goals:

I would love to get down to a normal BMI and I would love to wear sleeveless next summer.

Have you lost weight? I would love to hear your  success story. We are all different. Here is someone else's story.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Little Way to Success

I borrowed a book for Kindle called Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results . I liked the title because it rang true for me. My own journey to fitness, a journey I have not completed, began very much like the author's. He started with one pushup. I started with an App and a check mark.

As I was reading the book which is very short, I realized that Morning Time began in our family as a mini habit. It did not start out as a full blown plan. It grew slowly over time. It started with a hymn.

I am very against grand schemes as longtime readers must know by now. We should never have a goal to eat an elephant and according to Mini Habits we should only have a goal to take one bite today. Maybe we will take two or three but we will have succeeded when we have taken that first bite. 

I am all for using the tools of modernity which help us create and succeed at mini goals. In fact, I suspect that our fragmented lives have helped us rediscover this old truth.  As a mother of many children I lived a very fragmented life. Any large goal was quickly overwhelmed by reality, especially in homeschooling, but small successes bred more small successes.

This is why I used to say stop planning your school and go do it. If you are frustrated about something not getting done in your home or school, get up and go do a tiny part of that...Right Now! Read a chapter of a book to your children Now. Pick up your Bible Now. You don't need a plan to read through the whole Bible in a year all you need to do is pick up your Bible and read a chapter today, pat yourself on the back, and do it again tomorrow. Do this for a lifetime and you will have read through the Bible many times, far more times than your grand scheme would have allowed.

One day I was so frustrated with our inability to fit in nature walks that I took the kids to Lookout Mountain in the rain. We had one of our most difficult and most memorable hikes ever that day. We may not be able to hike every week next year but we can hike one day.

Many of you have read through my Morning Time posts and have written me. Sometimes you get frustrated because you try to birth your MT as a full grown adult. If that is not working for you go back and try doing a couple of small things consistently together in the morning because that is the heart and soul of MT. It is also the heart and soul of written narrations. The power of the written narration is in the dailiness of it-the lifetime habit of writing. There is no power in a grand scheme for writing which never happens.

Most of us are involved in planning our school year right now. I hope you will remember to schedule your days in small increments which Charlotte Mason calls short lessons. There is tremendous power in doing something for a short period of time consistently.  I hope you will schedule in rest steps. The Grand Scheme is a recipe for failure. It is the little things done daily that add up to an education and a life.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Best Laid Plans

I have not been blogging as much lately.

It seems that I find myself in a new stage of life.

I am no longer busy JUST homeschooling. I am still busy though. Busier.

That is a secret that older moms have kept to themselves. We sometimes whisper to one another over lunch, "Should we tell them?"

There it is the conundrum of Titus 2-knowing when to share what. Sharing too much can lead to discouraging younger moms, sharing too little can lead to unrealistic expectations.

I believe that the boldness of youth, the sureness, is a gift and therefore, as a Titus 2 woman, if that is what I am, I should not belittle that gift or scorn it.

Age and experience tend to temper the gait. That is also a gift.

I wanted to blog through my school planning for next year but I find myself befuddled. While I usually joyfully plunge into planning-striving to ease the pain of what I did not already accomplish according to the last plan, this year I find myself unsure when the plans hit the paper.

In truth, God has not given me the plan yet and not being young, I am not racing ahead anyway.  In fact, as I have grown older and my plans have become more realistic there has been a lessening of that end-of-the-year frustration. Oh, it is still there but not nearly so devastating as the defeat of my grandiose plans of youth.

The more I have understood that children are born persons the less I have placed my trust in my plans for those persons.

We start school August 9. Hopefully by then I will have come up with a plan because it helps to plan but in the meantime you will find me reading and thinking and waiting. Resting. The Rest Step.

When the plan arrives I will let you know.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Great Conversation Continues in Rockford

I can't begin to tell you how much I am looking forward to the Midwest Region CiRCE Conference in October!

In the first place, I once lived in Rockford for 9 months and while I mostly remember my longest bout of morning sickness ever, I also remember that it was lovely in the fall.

In the second place, I get to hear some of my favorite speakers and  for the next couple months I can say nonchalantly in random conversations,"Oh, yes, David Hicks is speaking in Rockford....and me. David Hicks said loudly and me softly.

But I am mostly excited about the format of the conference and the possibility for real interaction and conversation. Each speaker will lead discussions after each keynote. This will give us a chance to really flesh out what we are doing and why. Coming on the heels of Karen Glass's soon-to-be published book Consider This, the topic could not be more timely.

I have been thinking about wisdom and virtue and education for years and I am truly excited to discuss these topics with you, not as Utopian ideals but as truth that matters.

I would LOVE to have a great conversation with you in Rockford.

(Due to technical difficulties, I am writing this on my Kindle which is kind of difficult.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Consider This....Consider This....

The cat is out of the bag and I am so excited. 

Karen Glass has finally written THE book.

It has been all I could do to keep my mouth shut lately and the last two articles I have written have been highly influenced by this book which I am now reading for the 3rd time.

I know, I know, I am always so full of hyperbole but I cannot help it. This book is wonderful. This book will be the GO-TO book for Classical and Charlotte Mason educators, homeschooling or otherwise, for many years to come. 

I can hardly imagine saying anything philosophically that isn't already said better in this book.

Here is the blurb I wrote for it:

"This may be the most important book written on education since Norms & Nobility. When I finished reading it I started right back at the beginning and now that I am nearing the end of my second reading I plan to read it again. Karen says everything I would have loved to say about education (if I had the mind to grasp it) in a clear, understandable, and easy to read style. It is the missing link between what we call Classical Education and the Charlotte Mason approach. This is THE book we have been waiting for."

I am writing this without any remuneration, out of plain love, although I did receive a review copy. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hanging Angels by Neill Edward Calabro

Hanging Angels By Neill Edward Calabro

I grew up in the South in the 1960s and 70s. I moved to Central Florida during the time of busing. I remember going to school for the first time and being asked, “Are you a Yankee or a Rebel?”  I didn’t have a clue.  I am not exactly sure what busing accomplished in the South. Before busing I walked to a mixed race school, in fact I walked to school with two children, a brother and a sister, and they were black.  After busing, I could no longer walk to school. School was now far away.

My mother made my brother and me ride the bus to make a point.  I didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t notice that we were the only white children on the bus. Not sure her point was made. We have two hilarious family photos of my brother. One of him as the only little white boy, and he was as white and blond as possible, at a black child’s birthday party and the other with the reverse. 

All that to say that I enjoy the genre that explores that not so long ago, tumultuous time period.

I love southern literature. I love Faulkner who captures the people so well. I love Harper Lee and her Book. I love Walker Percy, Zora Neale Hurston, Margaret Mitchell, Pat Conroy,and even Fannie Flagg. 

In fact, If you like any of these you may also like the new novel about the south in the 1960s and before: Hanging Angels by Neill Edward Calabro.

This is a book full of the rich imagery of the times. In fact, it had its start as a movie script and that explains much of the rich imagery that has you seeing the book as you read. It is full of scattered diamonds of prose, and some truly inspiring originality. How did the author come up with these ideas?

“With a willowy seasonal change in the landscape, moving the calendar to another month, an ominous magnolia tree sits at the edge of an acre by crossing dirt roads.”  Ominous, indeed! In some ways this novel is the story of what happened at that ominous tree.

It is a truly unique look at racism which asks the question, and leaves you with the question: What if we couldn’t tell what color someone was?

Because for the white Pine family race is going insert itself into their lives without their permission and we are going to find out just what kind of man Jefferson Pine is. It begins with a little boy(white? black?) with a scar around his neck and ends 30 years later with a courtroom drama.

It has moments of darkness reminding me of Flannery O’Connor and moments of whimsy reminding me of Walker Percy. 

Hanging Angels is a new novel in the southern Gothic tradition reminding us that color is not always so easy to discern.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cottleston Pie

~Let's start with some good news. Call the Midwife has cast Queenie from Lark Rise to Candleford. Queenie was one of my all-time favorite TV characters.

On making bobbin lace Queenie said, "When I was young all I saw was the purpose of it. Now that it has no purpose all I see is the beauty of it."

~Sadly, I learned last week that Stratford Caldecott is dying.
"The Cross seems impossible, incredible. It seems foolish, crazy. But we must join fully, deeply, truly. And we must start as soon as possible." 
Only one life will soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last. I grew up with that saying but of course, it means more to me with each passing year. Sometimes life is hard but someday all things will be made new and Caldecott has given us a great gift in his writings.

Strat's daughter has done something fun for him.  Apparently, he is a huge Marvel Comic fan. Who knew?  The Avenger's franchise has responded with warmth to Caldecott's final days.

~I am not sure if you can access this article, I did from Facebook, but this is a commencement address which speaks to the immaturity of the current graduates. I am happy to see people speaking out against this ridiculous culture of coddling BUT we have a long haul before the pendulum reaches the apex.

"This is the bind you find yourselves in, Class of 2014: No society, not even one that cossets the young as much as ours does, can treat you as children forever. A central teaching of Genesis is that knowledge is purchased at the expense of innocence. A core teaching of the ancients is that personal dignity is obtained through habituation to virtue. And at least one basic teaching of true liberalism is that the essential right of free people is the right to offend, and an essential responsibility of free people is to learn how to cope with being offended."
~Brandy is having a cool contest to announce the publication on Monday of Sarah MacKenzie's Teaching from a State of Rest.  I am also excited about Sarah's book and hope you will use Brandy's affiliate link. I am an affiliate also but I am not confident enough in my tax status to enjoy making money online. As to Sarah's book, I am reading it and have listened to most of the audio files. The audio is worth the price of the book alone. I am even content with my own session with Sarah. I like it better than my Circe talks. Learning to speak in public is a slog for me but I enjoyed talking to Sarah and I think our conversation will be helpful to moms.

~What about Mom's Night Out?  Have you seen it? I have not but it looks like a winner and it really irks me that it is getting flack for being about stay-at-home moms.

~Finally, please forgive me if I don't answer your emails. So many of them are encouraging to me and I am gratified that you are kind enough to send them but my choices now are either to stop answering emails or quit blogging. Almost anything I could say is already on this blog and I hope you will be able to find help in the archives. It is a huge blessing to me that anyone reads this blog at all so please understand that I appreciate all the emails, only I do not have enough screen time to answer them.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Thing Itself

"From his schooldays, Tolkien possessed a keen sense of his mission as a poet. He shared with other English Romantics the sense that something vital had been lost from our civilization in the new industrial and scientific age. That something was a poetic consciousness, a mode of knowing through feeling and intuition that connected us with nature and with the natural law, with the reading of God’s intentions expressed in nature and the divine wisdom manifest in creation."

It is notable that modern Christians of a certain stripe have been highly influenced by Tolkien and Lewis and other Inklings. In many ways their thinking redeemed the failures of the Romantics. 

"The tragedy of the Romantics, according to Barfield, is that beauty became disconnected from truth. Objective truth was claimed by the empirical sciences, whose great successes in the nineteenth century left most of the Romantics feeling powerless and resentful."

Caldecott now reiterates exactly how he has envisioned the Trivium

"The first lesson of our revised ‘Trivium’ is therefore the vital importance of crafts, drama and dance, poetry and storytelling, as a foundation for independent and critical thought. Through doing and making, through poesis, the house of the soul is built. The grammar of language, however, rests on a deeper foundation still. It rests on music. Music is the wordless language on which poetry—the purest and most concentrated form of speech—is built. Poetry is made of images, similes, metaphors, analogies; but what holds these elements together and makes them live is fundamentally musical in nature."

My own view is that poetry is the bridge between the trivium and the quadrivium but I like what Strat is saying here. 

 "In music we glimpse the grammar of creation itself, from the harmony of the planetary and subatomic spheres to the octaves of human experience and the cycles of growth in plants and animals."

 As Plato says  in the Laws, "When the right kind of song penetrates the soul, the result is an education in virtue."

And thus ends Chapter 2 and Stratford's very helpful recasting of Grammar as remembering. We end up with what we call poetic knowledge. Yes, understanding the mechanics of grammar helps us understand grammar but it isn't THE THING.

Monday, May 12, 2014

"Conscience is the Most Sacred Property of All."

Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education Chapter 2 Continued.....

We are probably not going to get through the chapter in this post either. Each subsection is too meaty to pass over but it is this first chapter of the book which is transformational to the discussion of classical education and we are in no hurry.

In the section titled Defending the Art of Memory Caldecott brings up the famous Dialogue of Plato in the Phaedrus where Socrates "suggests (writing) has a tendency to 'implant forgetfulness' in the souls of men."

Imagine living in a world where it was imperative to remember. Homer lived in that world and that is probably why we still have his words. Imagine now a world where you needn't remember anything because of Google. It is a scary thought.  Writing has given us textbooks and textbooks have given us information and now we have Wikipedia and Google. "The written text pretends to master and contain truth. which in reality exceeds anything that one person can grasp."

On the other hand, writing can often be a form of memorization. We may write something down, not to have it on hand for the future but to solidify it in our minds. Do you remember a sermon better if you have taken notes rather than just listened? I am not sure.

Caldecott then makes an important distinction. The point of the Phaedrus is not for us to memorize by rote vast amounts of information.

"But how is this to be achieved? By bringing back rote memorization in schools, and by testing students on their recall of information? Partly, no doubt, but it is worth noting that there is also implicit in Plato a critique of ‘rote’ memory. True human memory is not mechanical repetition; it is an organic assimilation and appropriation. What is remembered is not something other than the self, but something experienced and known through the self. This means that we must probe a little more deeply into the meaning of memory, before we try to work out how to recover it."

Benjamin Jowett in his introduction to the Phaedrus reminds us that what Plato is doing is giving us "a picture not a system."  I just love this distinction. Systems get us in trouble. Systems are for machines not humans.

Likewise, Caldecott reminds us that "remembering is inseparable from knowing and loving...." 
Augustine then says that education is not about the trivium of remembering, knowing and loving ourselves but rather education is remembering, understanding and loving God.

"This by speaking of Memory or Remembering we are rally speaking of the foundations of attention of the integration of personality, and of the road to contemplation. We are also speaking of  'conscience.'"

Wow!! This is it. This is why we are educating. One of the most intriguing manifestations of education in our day is The Principle Approach. They place great emphasis on conscience using James Madison's famous quote:
 "Conscience is the most sacred property of all."

The problem is that there are no shortcuts to this sort of education. The development of the conscience is a delicate matter which can be easily derailed by over-zealous educators as Charlotte Mason warns us over and over again.

Caldecott is telling us that we have a tool to shape the conscience: not memorization but remembering.

What does this mean?
How does it affect our planning?

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Education as Gratitude

As chapter one of Beauty in the Word moves into the section titled Anti-Tradition and Anamnesis we begin to grasp why this book is so important.

First of all the word anamnesis holds in it something more than just remembering. In its Platonic use it means we are remembering things from tradition or an inferred past. We are not remembering what we have learned already but what went before us.

This is the antithesis of technology because technology in principle is looking forward without looking back.  Technology makes history "external to ourselves."  Therefore, the highest goal becomes consumerism in a technological society. Education becomes the consumption of information. We become greedy for more, more, more like a fat man at a pie eating contest.

Technology looks forward without looking back "Whereas tradition requires the initiation of persons into a living world that is RECIEVED AS GIFT AND CALLS FOR GRATITUDE." 

Enter the Covenant, the Lord's Supper, the community.

Technology is a giant vacuum sucking us away from past, signifying nothing. Tradition is what holds us fast to the things that really matter.
"This is the moment when tradition becomes Covenant. Christian or not, we can see in the scriptural narration of this event a mystery opposed to the technological order, the possibility of overcoming the essence of consumerism through consumption of the Eucharist, the gift of a supreme love that creates and nourishes a new communal identity."
 I hope you are able to grasp the meaning of all of this because it has everything to do with how we plan our school years and how we look at our children. We are not or should not be consumers of education. We are receivers. That should make a difference when we are looking at those catalogs. It should help us remember that the tools we use are not the things themselves.

"..as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." II Corinthians 4:18

(And we are still not done with chapter 2. I feel like a Presbyterian pastor preaching through James or Galatians.)