Monday, October 23, 2017

Bibles, Bibles Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

I've been cleaning out Mom's house this month. It has been a physically- and emotionally-exhausting activity. Many items were given to friends and family. Much was donated to various places. Much has found its way into the landfill, sadly. And much, much, even more sadly, has found its way to my home.

I must thank my husband for his unfailing support and time in all things connected to this job.

In my down time I have been going through Mom's private correspondence, cards and letters, files, pictures, keepsakes of all kinds. I have done quite a bit so far and there is more to do ahead of me. The interesting thing that I have brought home is a large collection of bibles. The b-i-b-el-e. Two copies are the boxed momento-type bibles from other relatives who have died, barely touched books in wooden boxes that Mom kept in a drawer. They smell weird...yeah, those bibles. One white leather-bound book is from a very beloved aunt who died several years ago. One black, serious-looking number is Mom's personal book.

It was in that book that, just about five or six weeks ago I was showing Mom the many passages that mention unicorns, in the undefiled and perfect word of the Lord. Mom was not amused.

Anyway, I find it interesting that I have become the holder of these books, not without a small amount of irony that I have become the benefactor of these items.

The other day my son John and I were looking at one of the books and marveling at the red ink that is purported to be the real words spoken by the Lord. John was almost in hysterics reading those words. Not to mention in awe at the amazing memory of the person who wrote it all down so accurately. But he was never moved. Never touched by anything as exciting as a noodly appendage. 

In fact, in summing up his reading of the red ink, he replied Hmmm, I'm sure that happened.

My Skeptical Lad

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Got a Teen?

I found this online this morning and I had to share!
Thank you to my friend Julianna for posting first.

This piece was written by Gretchen Schmelzer PhD; I hope she doesn't mind that I'm sharing it here. 

About the author: Gretchen Schmelzer, PhD is a licensed psychologist, trained as a Harvard Medical School Fellow. She is a trauma survivor, who has worked for twenty-five years with the complex issues of trauma, integration and behavior change across every level of system from individuals, to groups, to large systems and countries, including her role as the expert consultant Frontline for their documentary on Alaskan survivors of priest sexual abuse (aired April 19, 2011). Gretchen is the Founder & Editor of Emotional Geographic, a web-mag created to support healing from long term trauma.

Saturday, October 7, 2017


This past month is one of those times of the year when our family celebrates many birthdays of many loved ones. Most of the adults are a bit uncomfortable with celebration in their honor while most of the kids dig the moments of being treated as special and given gifts. 

I think human beings love ritual and celebration. Still I find it interesting that we celebrate the day we were born. When I had kids myself I felt the desire to celebrate becoming a mother to each kid, but that's not really the same thing as celebrating them. Although it did become a celebration of them.

What I'm wondering is why be continue those celebrations into adulthood. Why do we almost universally celebrate with cake. Where did the candles come from? Just...what the heck is this all about? I went and read about the history of birthday celebrations; that still doesn't explain why we do it.

My own birthday is coming up soon and people are already asking me what do you want to do on your birthday? What can I buy you?

The truth is, I don't want anything. I never want anything. 
I don't even like cake!

THIS is what I want
for my birthday.
I love the thought of the people who love me. I love the fact that the kids get enthusiastic about showing me their love. I love that they plan special things for me. I used to LOVE the homemade cards and gifts. But they won't do those things anymore. It is no longer about what I want, but what they want to do for me. If it was for me they would each get a piece of paper and write loving things, draw or make something for me, and simply spend the day with me. Time. Time is the ultimate expression of love.

Instead they wish to buy me stuff...

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Radio Flyer: Stop Wagon My Heart Around

When the kids were very small my dad bought Elizabeth a Red Radio Flyer wagon. The wagon, the best toy ever. Can be used in a zillion different ways by every single kid. You're only limited by your imagination. Jer and I used to go for fairly long walks pulling that wagon with toddle Elizabeth all wrapped up in padding blankets and warm mittens.

Leave it to my kid.
I remember the day when the kids were quite young, John was maybe 4 and Liz was 7ish. Elizabeth was angry at me for something and had decided to run away. And John was going with her, blindly following her, as he used to do, letting her call the shots.

The two of them loaded up the wagon with their important things, including special stuffed animals, snacks, juice boxes, and coats in case it got cold at night on the road.

Someone else might have tried to talk the kids out of running away. Or followed them on a bike or something. Someone else might have fretted. But I was mightily entertained. They were on an adventure...down the block and around the corner pulling their red Flyer Town and Country model wagon. Laughing.

While preparing to run away together, Elizabeth's anger was gone and John was contributing to the project with his enthusiasm and good ideas. She and John were having conversations about what to take, what they were going to go on their trip, where to go. They were psyched. The kids were in this thing together; they were on an adventure.
They started off down the street as I sat on a seat on the front porch, watching. Of course they came back within a very few minutes. Once they turned the corner on that sparkling, sunny day and lost sight of the house they realized that they were on their own and the fun was reduced quite significantly.

They returned home and unpacked their Radio Flyer.
Today they talk about that adventure like it took hours.

Worth it.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Rediscovering the Love of Homeschool

In the past week or so I've (still) been looking through old boxes and cleaning off my shelves. Many of the boxes contain our homeschool files from 2005 to now. I kept work from all disciplines in nicely organized folders.
*pats self on the back.

It is obvious that I don't need to keep all of these papers, but I have to keep some of them!!!!! The adorable early efforts at sentence writing, paragraphs, essays, stories, artwork, etc. Drawings of self and family and home. Doodles, attitude, and boredom. Some of these papers I would walk through a burning house for because they are a chronicle of the development of my children's identities. It's remarkable to see from this vantage point.

While looking through each file folder and reading page after page of the kids' work and page after page of my own notes, I feel like I've rediscovered a few things that I want to pass along to you if you are still in the early throes of homeschooling.

For example:

Doing lessons with kids is so much fun if you let it be. You truly don't have to struggle and stress about every little thing. You are in the process of teaching your children how to think, NOT what to think. You are teaching them that they may sometimes disagree with you, that they may stand alone at times and there is value in that, that learning/knowing more is FUN and feels amazing, that popular opinions aren't always the only options available, and you are teaching them that they have the ability and the responsibility to learn more, always more. They don't need to memorize state capitols and presidential dates. Learn the facts, yes, but learn the facts within the context of learning and thinking humans.

And there is math and science and art and music in every single day.
And you are teaching them that they can trust in you, trust in logic and reason, and ultimately trust in themselves. I recognize that it was my interactions with my kids that they took away from each lesson, in addition to the content of the lesson.

Did I leave them with:
You can do this, Momma, Dadda. You have the love, willingness, and heart that it takes to see your child as a unique individual with unique skills and challenges. Noone else can do this as well as you can with your child. Have patience with them. Have patience with yourself.

Tomorrow is another day.

Your thoughts on this?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Our Estate

So with Mom's very fast death, I've had alot on my mind. She was so ill and unable to breathe at the end there that her final breath was a real relief for her. It was painful to watch her trying to breath.

With my very pragmatic siblings making the decisions, Mom's house went on the market a few days later. And sold.

Suffice it to say, it has been alot to process in a very short amount of time; our heads are spinning.

In the meantime, as we are all being called on to figure out what to do with Mom's things, I started thinking about the things that Jerry and I own.  
Our estate. We truly have alot of shit. Closets, garage, basement, spare rooms, storage rooms... The thought of our kids going through our boxes of shit, looking at each other with quizzical looks, sniggering, pointing to the trash container, and rightfully pitching our shit has been keeping me up at night. I immediately got busy.

I've already emptied four boxes of papers into recycling.

In going through the many, many folders of homeschooling work from my kids, I've got a few reflections on the kids, their work, homeschooling...the works.

First, and I've been telling my kids this all week, the kids were amazing students! Their work was average, above average, exemplary. I was, again and again, amazed at their ability to do the work in their clever, determined, inimitable ways. Their individuality almost always shined through every page they were asked to write. I will probably never throw away the writings I asked them to do; I love the minds of my kids.

Second, I was a decent homeschooling mom. I devised clever ways to get my son to put pencil to paper. I created pretty cool unit studies that both engaged and informed the kids. When I look back at my work, of which there was ALOT, I'm impressed with myself. It's very clear that I gave their lessons a great deal of thought and generally had a method to my madness.

Third, I am convinced that the kids had a very good, comprehensive, and unique education and that they are both well and prepared for college and for life. 

Fourth, I loved homeschool and the kids have both told me again and again that they were very pleased with their education and with the homeschooling lifestyle. We wouldn't change a thing.

...and that's all quite a gift from one little estate.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

8 Guidelines to Being Bad Ass

Everybody's got goals.
One of mine is to be Bad Ass.
I spent dang near fifty years wanting to be a Good Girl and I've found that pursuit to be completely disappointing and dull and not even the slightest bit rewarding. I've decided to change my entire approach to life and to become Bad Ass!

It's going to be a journey because I still have Good Girl baggage to shed. I still want people to like me. I still want to be considered Nice. I'm not good at voicing dissenting opinions. I can't post things on Facebook that are unpopular or that some might consider bitchy. I definitely can't spout uninformed opinions without doing the research. And I know some people who have very very inaccurate images of me because they have gotten their information from other people and I can not and will not address their misconceptions.

I'm 53 Years Old!!!!!!! I can do this. I can break these milquetoast habi... erm, personality traits and I can take the risks and state my opinions loudly and proudly. I can be unabashedly myself without regard for how certain people will view me...because they misunderstand me no matter what I do anyway, right? Also, because the myself I am presenting to the world is pretty worthy.

Now that I'm on a roll...what IS Bad Ass? Well, I did a little bit of research:

The Urban Dictionary defines a badass as someone who does what he wants, when he wants, where he wants. You won't find him on Facebook because he is probably out being cool somewhere. He might be on a motorcycle, but it's probably not a Harley or a crotch rocket because he won't spend that much money to be accepted. He feels no obligation whatsoever to justify his beliefs, values, convictions, morals, etc., with anyone. He likes his music because it sounds cool to him. You won't find him if you look for him because there is no sure way to identify him. One does not think that he is badass; he KNOWS it, and that's that. Alternatively, a badass is the complete opposite of a douchebag.

I honestly think the Urban dictionary thinks that only male paramilitary douchebags can be bad ass...furthermore I don't think that the person who wrote that definition is bad ass. So I will read some other words on the interweb because, obvs the Urban Dictionary has alot to learn about who and what is bad ass. At some website called I found an article called Eight Traits that make you a Bad Ass. That sounded promising. In brief the suggestions are:

  • They say yes first, then figure out how to deliver
  • They think differently than everyone else
  • They speak up
  • They have a replicable skill that others can learn
  • They live by their own code
  • They have the audacity to do things that others only wish they could do
  • They never, ever, ever give up
  • They don’t listen to the haters

OK, I like that, but something is rubbing me wrong there. I don't think I have it in me to not listen to haters and dissenters. There can be wisdom there at times, at least there can be opportunities for learning...I think. I'll read some more.

Oh GEEEZ...some more ridiculous advise is given to young searchers on a website called Your Guide to Better Love and Relationships. Apparently a bad ass requires a person to have a wicked stare, to speak in six word sentences, and to never blink. Or smile. Or show emotion. Good grief, who writes this schlock? And who is the poor young person seeking guidance from these sources? Surely the same people who used to read the ragmag Cosmo when I was younger.  Slowly raises hand with a blush.

Without giving Wiki a single whiff of mojo, an article there called How to be a Bad Ass seems to think that Clint Eastwood and being cocky is the same thing as being a bad ass... CLEARLY my quest is not going to be complete by reading bullshit expected to be consumed by skinny boys in high school who are already bad asses by being themselves but who think that muscles and assholery is bad ass because stupid social media misinforms... UUUGH, those young boys will have tons of mind mush to wade through to get to themselves. How discouraging. This online search is not helpful at all.

And for the love of all things holy, don't read this bullshit.

Looks like, a usual, I will have to figure it out for myself. So what do I mean when I say I want to be a Bad Ass? Because this has been something I've wanted for decades now; seems I would have figured it out by now. I see certain people and I think Man, I want to be like that! They speak their mind and take no names! (Hello Rayven) Or I think She is so smart and cool; I want to be like her! (Hello Mary and Megan) Or I notice my own reticence to say certain things in a public forum and I wonder why I am so wishy-washy...but I also know that words have power and there is consequence to their use...and I care about those things.

Actually, I guess I have figured it out because there are a few qualities that are essential in badassery, in my opinion, qualities that have absolutely nothing to do with black leather, cigarettes hanging out of your mouth, steady stares, preferring scotch over fooffy drinks, or having muscles on muscles. There is no short cut and there are no accessories necessary. Fooffy drinks are delicious. And every skinny person, heavy person, lonely person in the High School of Life can be a fricking Bad Ass according to my Eight rules of Bad Assery. Just remember, when I say rules I mean suggestions. Do your own thing. Because FUCK rules.

  • Embrace your Interests with a Passion.
    Is it the Civil War reenactment? Writing historical fiction? Anime'? Archery? Etymology? Cosplay? Weight lifting? Debate? Chess? Softball? Get into it and enjoy it with gusto. Not everyone can do that and many people don't have the intellect that it takes to enjoy it. So YOU enjoy that, be enlarged by it. Embrace your very own interests.
  • Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable.
    The truth is, people tend to judge and short-cut-think and hide in groups. Having the courage to stand alone, to be misunderstood, to quietly have integrity is SO freaking bad ass. And so is pushing your own envelope. Trying things that are difficult, speaking up with a quivering voice, approaching someone with an introduction and risking rejection...that, My Friend, is bad ass.
  • Fall Five Times, Get up Six.
    Resiliency can be one of the most difficult qualities to develop because you are only called on to be resilient when there is failure, depression, loneliness, discouragement, humiliation, public stuff, and fatigue. And no one else is there to see it, the reboot. No one but you. Being able to get back up and begin again in a very internal and personal decision...and is so so bad ass.
  • Remember that Social Media is Full of Shit.
    Don't be taken in by the artificiality of social media images and claims. No one looks like that. Everyone chooses what they show in public. Everyone has doubts. No one shows their B game. Being human is the same for all of us; some people just have a better ability to flaunt and exhibit their sleight-of-hand image. Everyone. And good looks are both fleeting and insubstantial. Internal beauty always always always means more.
  • Be Your Own Best Friend.
    That's right, talk kindly about yourself. See your own efforts. Recognize your good intentions. Build yourself up instead of focusing on the stuff that didn't work. We all, all of us, have failures and growth areas. We can acknowledge those growth areas and encourage ourselves to be better tomorrow than we are today...that is the way to bad assery. Not perfection. But self improvement.  Self empowerment. I'm not kidding about this. When you build yourself up, when you put your own breathing mask on first, you are able to do for others...
  • Avoid the Kardashians.
    Whoever the hell they are. Unless you like them. Real substance, real information, real education, real knowledge. That is the stuff of the real bad asses. The person walking on the moon didn't get there by learning about who the super stars are dating. They got there by personal growth and integrity, by learning about the sciences, and by looking up. And by being resilient. Because even astronauts puke...only they do it in the presence of other astronauts.
  • Say NO to that which does not Feed you.
    People and activities that drain you emotionally, financially, spiritually, or any other way are generally options in our lives.  Choose what brings you growth, love, goodness. Because being a bad ass means not letting people kick you when you are down. And learning to say No is a real ass kicking thing. Some people never learn it...but you can.
  • No One is Fearless.
    Feel the fear. It often informs us somehow. Then step up to the plate and do it anyway because facing it is Bad Ass AF.

I'm sure there are more, but this is a great start.
And, as it happens, when I use this guide to being a Bad Ass, I see that I am already a bit of a Bad Ass...and getting badder every day.

Are you IN?
Will you be a Bad Ass too?

Friday, September 15, 2017

This One, Meaningless Life of Mine

15 In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: the righteous perishing in their righteousness, and the wicked living long in their wickedness.

16 Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise— why destroy yourself? (Ecclesiastes 7:15-16)
It's an incredibly exciting thing, this one, meaningless life of yours. (Tim Minchin)
Although this bit from Ecclesiastes suggests that our lives are meaningless, unless I'm taking that out of context, it is clear to me that my life is meaningful. I was talking to someone the other day about Life. That's Life with a capital L. We were generally astonished that life exists at all, astonished that the tissue inside of our head can remember, create, maintain a unique personality, direct our physical bodies, feel emotion. If you think about it for a moment, the ability to think about it for a moment is utterly remarkable. And surprising. 

Life. With this extraordinary state of being, alive, we represent something utterly exotic as far as we know in the everythingness of the universe. (I am certain that there is life elsewhere in the cosmos; at this point we have no evidence of that.) But that is not to say that life literally has meaning.

MY life has meaning. Yours does. That meaning is whatever we make of it. When we do good, when we seek knowledge, when we forge connection, when we create, when we dedicate ourselves to a goal, when we recognize our influence on others, when we live with grace, then we are creating meaning in our own lives. Being human brings about the very human experience of existential angst, of distressing over the basic questions of existence, of meaning, and of purpose. I am certain that the majority of thinking people on this planet must come to grips with their own mortality at some point.

A hundred years ago when I was a believer I experienced a good deal of existential angst, angst that no idea of an afterlife could comfort. In fact that afterlife idea made it harder to assign any true meaning to my life, to this life, to my sense of self. It's likely that the angst was a part of that time of my life rather than a result of any Christian belief, but the belief did nothing to comfort it.

I have learned that living this life gives our lives tremendous meaning and joy!
I have learned to embrace this moment. 

To value human connection.
To love the people we love.
To apologize.
To make good.
To do good. 

To do better tomorrow.
To try new things.
To open myself up to experiences.
To take care of myself and to do healthy things.
And most importantly, to feel JOY at every possible moment.

I am going to offer my view on things, a view that might be surprising. 

I notice that people who embrace an afterlife are not, in fact, comforted by it. Just the opposite, really. With this belief of an afterlife, not only are they hopeful of that eternity, they are also dramatically fearful of losing it and wildly overwhelmed with the possibility of being in an eternal, heavenly afterlife without other loved ones. Petrified to their bones of missing out on this eternity. Fearful.

I feel absolute wonder about life, especially about this life of mine.  When I think about the lives I was living fifty years ago, forty years ago, thirty years ago, twenty years ago, ten years ago, it thrills me to see what life will be like in ten years, twenty, thirty...

I want more of it: This one meaningless life spent seeking wisdom, love, hope, goodness, kindness,  humor, creativity, a noble existence, and world peace.
Life, against all odds, it finds a way
Your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

There Are No Atheists in Foxholes

There are no theists in foxholes is a saying used to argue that during extreme stress or fear all people will believe in or wish for or hope for a higher power, and as such, there are no real atheists.

Well I beg to differ.

We must realize that sayings of this sort are actually designed by believers to strengthen the believers' stance rather than to truly suggest anything about nonbelievers. It is meant to suggest that there are actually no atheists for nonbelievers would finally accept the deity of choice during times of extreme trauma or stress. While I, on the other hand, find the whole idea truly repugnant. To suggest that a rational being would suddenly embrace religious dogma while under stress is such nonsense. 

This week I am sitting at the death bed of my mother who is dying of stage 4 pancreatic cancer, leukemia, and COPD. It is absolutely horrible.

Mom has so many friends who love her and who have been here visiting all week. Everyone is praying all over the place and Mom keeps saying how the medical interventions are Gifts from God. Today one woman told Mom All in God's time, Vonnie, for he is our strength.

Sometimes I want to just vomit at the empty platitudes. Usually I'm glad that someone is willing to say stuff like that to Mom because I can't bring myself to do it. Sometimes I close my eyes and roll them waaaay back in my head.
But mostly I'm just too exhausted to have any response whatsoever.

Mom does feel comforted when people say this and I'm certain that many people are, in fact, praying for her, raising her up, sending her love and light... I don't know, I'm really too tired to process all of this. Only to say this, not for one single second would I ever take comfort in the religions of the world. Not for a single moment have I thought that, perhaps, there is a higher power watching all of this. And no way do I think that there is a purpose here.

This is progressing SOOOO quickly.
Today Mom can't stand up or breathe.
This is Mom just TWO DAYS ago
Life has its path. All of us come to this life with our many millions of different journeys and every single one of us leaves this life in the same way. Through death.

It is normal.
It is natural.
And I truly hope that, when my time comes I will remember this time with Mom and find myself approaching my own death with dignity.


I have to give a tremendous THANK YOU to the wonderful people at Hospice: Heartland Hospice here in Belleville Illinois, St. Clair County. The people there have been wonderful.

Tell me about your foxholes.

Sunday, August 27, 2017


One of my favorite movies of all time is the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I'm sure I have watched it at least a hundred times because I tend to put it on on the weekends when I am doing laundry. In fact, any scent of laundry detergent makes me think of P&P.

My sister first introduced me to the movie about twenty years ago. Since then I have watched every other version of the movie and I've read nearly every book associated with it. With the exception of anything to do with zombies. The BBC version is my very favorite above all others.

This blog post is entirely designed to list my top favorite quotes from this movie, not necessarily from the book:

  • Shelves in the closet; happy thought indeed.
  • Mr. Darcy is all politeness.
  • Not at all; they were brightened by the exercise.
  • You have an affectionate mother who will always make the most of it.
  • You have no compassion for my poor nerves.
    They have been my companion for these twenty years.
  • No lace, no lace, Mrs. Bennett, I beg you!
  • Are you in Meryton to subdue the discontented populace, sir, or do you defend Hertfordshire against the French?
  • Very ill,  Edward. No one knows what I suffer with my nerves.
    But then I never complain.
  • Other way, Mr. Collins!
  • And yet I am unmoved.

I do love the classics. I am also a huge fan of the BBC version of North and South with the beautiful Richard Armitage. I wish I could watch both of these series again for the first time.

Do you have a favorite?
Any other recommendations for me now that you know my preferences?