Art for Art’s Sake

I was just about to write about “For the Love of the Art or the Love of the Utility?” (stay tuned for that), when I see the following Facebook post from my husband with an accompanying video. I’m going to share his post first because he says several things very much related to my thoughts this morning and what I was wanting to write about. And then I’ll get to writing the little bit he’s left me to say. (By the way, the younger of the two people that he speaks of in paragraph 6 is our son. More about that in my coming post.)


This jibes with research on rationality tests, where people with high IQs score only slightly better on average than those with lower IQs. It’s not a matter of one’s processing speed, but of one’s willingness to apply effort to the problem at hand.

High-IQ people still have to CARE. The caring is the CORE need. And if you frame somebody’s life—anybody’s life—as being about being gifted/talented, you’re sending a signal that that’s more important than their willingness to TRY.

And think about the danger of taking a view that everything in life is about ME and about being praised/noticed/acknowledged, or about ME being sharp/keep/alert/smart/gifted/talented. This tends to distract people from the beauty of the things being learned or of the solutions being devised.

It’s not a fulfilling/rewarding way of life, and the small lift one gets from such praise/attention can either be deflating to some (compared to appreciating the beauty of the non-me thing we were working on), but it can also become addictive, causing a constant drive to get more and more of it.

But when people can be outward-focused, whether it’s about appreciating the complexity of a problem to be solved or about the beauty of a book or a piece of music they’re working on, that’s such a different psychological exercise than the me-focused talk about how smart I am.

I’ll never forget seeing two very special geniuses sit at a table discussing high-end math one day. Both were fascinated with the subject matter and how it works. They were 30 years apart in age, and both were quite energized in the talk. Neither had anything to prove, nor any position of rank to establish with the other. No, it was just a genuine fellowship of two math-loving people. And because of this quality, they are two of my dearest life-long friends. (I know I can trust them to decouple from self in order to consider something outside of themselves honestly, rationally, and responsibly. And that means that I can pretty much talk with them about anything—whereas not just anybody would be trustworthy and useful in such a talk.)

This video will really make me think about how I praise my students and friends. I do have some friends who are highly capable people, and who are probably fighting inner “voices” that say otherwise. With those, I definitely tell them that they’re capable, because it’s the truth and they need help countering the voices. But it’s the TRYING that’s the real goal. And the students that can decouple from the voices long enough to do the trying—they get to participate in the beauty of the art (or the subject), and are rewarded by the participation itself.

It all brings to mind so much of the discussion of Narcissus I’ve been paying attention to for the last year or two.

Is there nothing in this world that may be appreciated for what it is, without having to stop and focus on SELF, and how great we are???

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Recent Stuff (Fall classes, Fellowship Retreat and maybe more)

I’ve been working some on this website since my last blog post in May, so I thought I should make another post here since all my work doesn’t show up there in the sidebar.

I’ve added Course Descriptions for my Story, Rhyme, & Song classes. Click on the ‘What I Offer’ tab above, and on that page you’ll see the link to the descriptions. So exciting! It’s like a treasure hunt!

For five days in July I was in mugglicious North Carolina for our HHL Fellowship retreat. The weather was hot and sticky, but the learning and fellowship was even hotter, and I hope most of it stuck. It is such a privilege to be in this company of women, and I am honored to have been asked to come back for another year. We’re all already mourning that there will not be a third — they just must allow another group to have their chance — but we are plotting ways of staying together and continuing to learn and encourage each other on this journey full of delight and intrigue. What a Fellowship!

Hmmmm….what can I add for the ‘maybe more’? I’ve been enjoying some of the ‘time off’ from more intense readings (although I have a hard time staying away from that) by reading detective novels. I’ve been getting a kick out of how all my ‘how to read’ instruction from Angelina and Kelly is making the images and metaphors just fly out of this lighter reading, the best of which is written in that great literary tradition.

I’ve still been teaching piano this summer. Pray for me as I do my fall schedule. I might have gotten myself into some trouble taking on several new students with hopes to shove them and my returning students into those few after school hours. It always seems to work out; hopefully, my luck hasn’t run out.

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Recent changes to my blog (subtitle: please click on Welcome)

In the past month I have been redesigning and restructuring my blog to facilitate my new ventures since my retirement as a homeschool mom. It’s still a work in progress, particularly with my course descriptions.

In case you came here via a link to a specific post, you may want to click on Welcome at the left of the menu bar to learn more about me. Under that heading are a few other pages, but clicking on Welcome itself will take you to my main front page.

I will still be writing thoughts inspired by my readings and discussions of educational philosophy. I just can’t stop even though I’m officially retired as a homeschool mom. I do remain active in teaching piano, and I am hoping to grow my story and reading teaching life. My intent is to focus more on posts inspired by my readings and discussions of the literary tradition, as well as my continued involvement with music.

So please click on Welcome and tell me if it makes you feel that way.

A terribly unflattering picture of me with my successfully schooled son, enjoying our more free time since his graduation. That is, until he became gainfully employed, being both a blessing and a curse of our successful Charlotte Mason education. I really miss spending all day with him.
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Plans for fall 2023 classes

I am currently working on course descriptions, scheduling days and times, and lesson planning for my Story, Rhyme & Song classes that will be held at my studio in Laurel. The information about the classes will be found under the ‘What I Offer’ tab above.

My decision for providing these classes is motivated by my desire to make sure that children experience the building blocks of story (Bible stories, myths, fairy tales, fables, and legends), as well as the songs and poems that connect them with their own heritage and cultures from around the world. I do not wish to replace the rightful role of the mother (or father) in all of this, but rather I hope to inspire and give direction to parents to make story, rhyme, and song a regular part of their family culture.

In order to facilitate both the teaching of the children and training of the parents, I am revising the structure of my Story, Rhyme & Song class to include any parents that would like to join us. And I would hope that most would.

No day of the week has been chosen at this point, but you can expect them to be morning classes since my afternoons are filled with teaching piano.

The children should have the joy of living in far lands, in other persons, in other times––a delightful double existence; and this joy they will find, for the most part, in their story books. ~Charlotte Mason

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Because Look

Sometimes, perhaps most times, plain descriptive words cannot express an idea well enough, and so we use metaphor and images, or word pictures, to convey our thoughts. In my previous post, I shared how when my son was very young, he would often end a discussion with “…because look!”, showing how even then he knew that he had ideas in his head for which he didn’t have words, but he wanted to find a way for his hearers to see what he meant.

The Bible ends with a document we call The Revelation, but really that is what is happening from the first words in Genesis until those final words of The Revelation — a revealing, an unveiling, an apocalypse. Through the narrative from beginning to end, we are getting to see ‘behind the curtain’ to much of what we would have missed even had we been there ‘in the beginning’, or with Joshua at Jericho, or in Bethlehem circa the year 0, or at that Pentecost 33 years later, or with John on Patmos.

Literary critic and teacher, Northrop Frye, did a series of 25 lectures in the early 1980s at The University of Toronto titled The Bible and Literature, in which he shows, amongst many other things, the Bible’s use of narrative and metaphor and images, universal ideas that can be found in much of literature and other mythologies. In his book The Great Code, made from the lecture series, Professor Frye says:

Traditionally, the Bible’s narrative has been regarded as “literally” historical and its meaning as “literally” doctrinal or didactic; the present book takes myth and metaphor to be the true literal bases. (p. 64)

If the Bible is not a history, or a doctrinal or morality guide, what is it? I believe and have become convinced even more through listening to and reading Professor Frye that its purpose is to give us eyes to see. To see a reality that is beyond our physical world. To see a reality that is existing with us right now in this physical world. The Bible doesn’t argue. It shows.

From Professor Frye’s final words in the lecture series:

The Bible is not interested in arguing, because if you state a thesis of belief you have already stated its opposite; if you say, ‘I believe in God’, you have already suggested the possibility of not believing in him. …..

What I think it divides are the two elements of reality as they are exhibited in the New Testament, the elements that we call heaven and hell, the kingdom of life, the kingdom of death. It is that which is divided, and divided by an eternal separation. That means that the language of the Bible has to be a language which somehow bypasses argument and refutation. And again, it is very like the language of poetry, because, as Yeats says, you can refute Hegel but not the Song of Sixpence. You can’t argue the poetic statement because it is not a particular statement. It is not subject to verification. So that is why, I think, the Bible presents what it has to say within a narrative and within a body of concrete images which present a world for you to grasp, visualize and understand. The end that it leads you to is in seeing what it means rather than in accepting or rejecting it, because by accepting it you have already defined the possibility of rejecting it.

So the Bible uses the language of symbolism and imagery because the language of symbolism and imagery, which bypasses argument and aggressiveness and at the same time clearly defines the difference between life and death, between freedom and slavery, between happiness and misery, is in short the language of love, and according to St. Paul, that is likely to last longer than most other forms of human communication.

Many in the Christian world have reduced the Bible to a logic study, or a means to hone their debating or proving skills, often showing off their students that have been trained in ‘defending the faith’ with oratorical and rhetorical flair. They, sadly, miss the whole point. Ever hearing, but never understanding. Ever seeing (it is before their eyes), but never perceiving, never really seeing.

Open my eyes that I may see
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He Went to My School!

James after the first day of our Pre-K

I want to tell you a homeschool success story about a perfectly normal student who was born ready to learn, and turned into an amazing young man—under the tutelage of an imperfect and inexperienced homeschool teacher. (That’s me.)

When my son James was preschool age and developing his verbal communication skills, he made it clear that his mind was already busy with reasoning, because when he was telling us his thoughts about some object, he would often end his story with “…because, look” as he gestured to the thing in question. Obviously, his mind had long been at work with processing and reasoning, even if his spoken words had not yet caught up. It seems he knew that something in the ballpark of reasoning or proof or demonstration was part of discussion, so when his words had run out, he would simply point to the evidence supporting his claims or observations! “…because look!”

“…because look!” James would frequently explain.

And now let’s fast-forward to a few nights ago, when my soon-to-be twenty-year-old son was standing before my husband and me as we sat on the couch. James was going on about a particular computer programming matter that he and his dad had been working on. Well, that’s where he started, at least, but before long he had moved on from there, waxing philosophic about how things and people work in general, throwing in some excellent illustrations from higher math and programming.

I sat there just listening to the words coming out of his mouth. And I must admit that I was not understanding most of it. But I sat there in amazement, thinking, “He went to my school!”

Seriously! I often marvel at the fact that I gave birth to this person. I mean, Jack and I did a lot of imperfect work with James, but he is far more than can be explained by just being like his parents. He is so obviously his own unique person, knowing and caring about so many things that are so far out of my lane. And now here we are two years after he has graduated, and I’m already seeing big evidence that we did indeed choose the right educational path for him. He’s such an impressive and good man. And he went to my school!

James at about 17, discussing programming and math with a high-end IT Security expert (family friend). It was a beautiful conversation to witness!

But I have to reiterate: “My school” was far from perfect, and hardly Instagram-worthy—ever! But even so, here’s this intelligent young man who cares about many things and is making his way in the world, and still learning today on his own, and probably at the same rate as in the schooling years, if not faster! And he went to my school!

As much as I think I messed up over the years of James’ homeschooling—and believe me, I do have a few regrets—here are some things that I think I got right. Brought to you by some selections from Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles, along with my comments:

1. Children are born persons.
A child comes with all the mind he needs to learn and a hunger for knowledge. Just watch the newborn exploring the world around him. He is looking and learning with those eyes and ears and those first movements of his arms and legs. I never treated my son as incapable of learning. He was not ignored, and it is hard to remember a time prior to him being a part of the family conversation.

4. These principles are limited by the respect due to the personality of children, which must not be encroached upon whether by the direct use of fear or love, suggestion or influence, or by undue play upon any one natural desire.
The principles referred to here are authority and obedience. As best as I could, I allowed natural rewards and consequences to occur with both his school work and home life. I did not coax or manipulate with prizes or ‘make mommy happy’ or ‘you don’t want to see mommy mad’. (Well, it was ‘mom’ by the time he was 4.)

James and his most excellent violin teacher, circa 2018

6. When we say that “education is an atmosphere,” we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a ‘child-environment’ especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child’s level.
This is self-explanatory, and it has one of my favorite lines. ‘It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child’s level.’ There’s no stultifying in this house!

11. But we, believing that the normal child has powers of mind which fit him to deal with all knowledge proper to him, give him a full and generous curriculum; taking care only that all knowledge offered him is vital, that is, that facts are not presented without their informing ideas.
‘Living books’ was the majority of our curriculum, though we used textbooks for math and some science. Living books are in a narrative style, generally written by one author who has an obvious love for the material. The full and generous curriculum was not hard to come up with, thanks to the work of AmblesideOnline.

20. We allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and ‘spiritual’ life of children.
I don’t know what else to say about this. It’s just the way our family of three lives.

If you are curious about the principles that I didn’t mention, you can find them here. But before I finish, I would like to highlight one more principle because I think this may be the place where most of ‘the magic’ happens. I had considered it my job simply to provide the wide and generous feast. And that really was simple, especially with the help of AmblesideOnline having already gathered so many of the resources for me. I did not have to spend time planning unit studies, nor did I have to put out big money buying them. Rather, unit studies had absolutely no place in our school, because, as Charlotte Mason said,…

12. “Education is the Science of Relations”; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts…..
This goes back to Principle #1 — ‘Children are born persons’. They come equipped with a mind that naturally makes connections between things. Constantly in our readings and looking at art or listening to music or being in nature, my son would say ‘this reminds me of…’ or ‘this is like….’, often referencing something else he had read, seen, or heard. Charlotte Mason said several times, in one form another, that all education is self-education. The child must do the work. And they will do it! That is, they’ll do it if allowed—if we get out of the way, and if we don’t stultify with a “childish” atmosphere—if we don’t do the thinking work for them by planning connections or pushing them to make judgments with leading questions typical of Sunday School lessons.

I spent way too much time worrying about my own shortcomings in James’ homeschooling. I had been told in the beginning, but truly am seeing now, that humans are fearfully and wonderfully made, with minds that are willing and able to do the work. And when they do that work, what needs to stick in their minds and hearts will stick! And that practice of making connections will be there for life. Having provided that wide and generous feast, the home educator’s work is done, and the student’s mind has lifelong access to all that richness as they go on with life, experiencing new people and places and ideas.

One of my ‘proudest’ achievements is that I taught my son to read and write. Other than that, I mostly let the books (and art, music, and nature) teach him. As a young mother I had been encouraged to be confident that I would be making a huge difference simply by bringing his education home, and building the bond between us, and now I see how right they were….because look!

…because look!
James and me, 28 April 2023 [photo credit to ‘the Dad” who apparently couldn’t photoshop out my extra chin. Maybe I should grow a beard, too.]
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Lose Yourself, Find Yourself

Quick thought that will maybe get fleshed out or expanded or whatever you want to call that. Here’s a couple of quotes from some great minds:

But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do. ~C.S. Lewis

It’s magic, really. Don’t go looking for yourself in a story (mirror, mirror on the wall), but in losing yourself in the story, you end up finding yourself better than you would have had you gone in making it all about you.” ~the not as eloquent Kay Pelham

There is a modern trend that seeks to find one’s self in a story. It’s practically become a mania to be represented in story. And then there are those that are madly looking for ‘what can I learn about myself’, even the seemingly noble ‘how can I be a better person?’, from this story.

But that’s just not how story works. Real stories, that is. Not that propaganda not well disguised as story. Real stories have never worked that way, and never will.

This PSA brought to you by this guy

and this girl…..still learning…

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It really is all about the Caring

Stopping to wonder on one of our cross-country trips.

Recently, while doing a crossword puzzle, of all things, I thought again about the big picture of why we studied geography in our homeschool, and how that really applies to all the studies. Here’s what I shared with one of my Charlotte Mason moms groups:

It [the study of geography] is about being aware that there are humans living all around this planet in different cultures and climates, and when we hear current stories about events there we can make a connection and feel a connection. It opens our world, keeps us from being self-centered, and helps us to remember that God so loved the whole world that he sent his Son.

Charlotte Mason said that the study of modern foreign languages is in order to communicate with people. It’s all about loving your neighbor. Students in her schools studied French, German, and Italian, the languages of their neighbors. It was not about looking good on the transcript (for the student or the school) or for high scores on vocabulary tests. The study of Latin was not even for that. It was to be able to read classic works in their original language. There’s a love connection there, too.

I suppose I’m a big picture person and wonder if I annoy people when they ask for help with details, and I keep bringing them back to the philosophy, the Why. I just feel strongly if we keep in mind that none of it (the History, the Literature, the Math, the Science, the Grammar, the Music, the Art) is for passing tests or getting scholarships, but it is for Caring, for Love, for being fully Human, then it helps with making those schedules, carrying them out daily, being at peace when it all doesn’t all get done, being at peace when your extended family criticizes your choices and results that they are seeing (or not), that they think you ought to be achieving, being at peace when other children are exhibiting skills that you don’t see in your own students.

I know that’s hard to see when you are in the midst of the daily grind. I know; I was there. I wish you could see things from my vantage point now. If I could do things differently, it would be to listen and believe the words of those having gone before about what really matters. It would have saved me a lot of grief and personal anxiety. But the good news is that “however imperfectly” I did it, I didn’t give up in laying out the feast for my son, and I am already seeing the fruit in a very caring young man about to leave his teens. In my early years of mothering and teaching, I didn’t have a lot of those experienced homeschool moms in my life, but I did, and still do, have Charlotte Mason. Although never a mother, she spent years examining and reexamining her educational philosophy, applying it in her schools, and observing children in school and at home with their families. Here’s what she said in her third volume (of six) of writings on education and the raising of children:

Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking––the strain would be too great––but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest. We cannot give the children these interests; we prefer that they should never say they have learned botany or conchology, geology or astronomy. The question is not,––how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education––but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him? I know you may bring a horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink. What I complain of is that we do not bring our horse to the water. We give him miserable little text-books, mere compendiums of facts, which he is to learn off and say and produce at an examination; or we give him various knowledge in the form of warm diluents, prepared by his teacher with perhaps some grains of living thought to the gallon. And all the time we have books, books teeming with ideas fresh from the minds of thinkers upon every subject to which we can wish to introduce children.

For an interesting study, you should do a search on words such as wonder and care through Charlotte Mason’s volumes (free online at AmblesideOnline), and you might find yourself overwhelmed by how important these ideas were to her.

Where science does not teach a child to wonder and admire it has perhaps no educative value. (Vol 6, p. 224)

Jack and James, circa 2012
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And Grace Will Lead Us Home

On Thursday I watched the funeral for my friend Lynn Bruce, and today I watched her graveside service. On this day 17 years ago, also a Saturday, we had the graveside service and burial of our daughter Virginia Grace, who had died the day before at 3 weeks old, almost to the very minute.

AmblesideOnline and our daughter Grace, they keep being connected. Last year on the 3rd of February, her 16th birthday, I wrote about how Grace brought me to AO and Wendi Capehart, who had died 2 days before. And now Lynn and Grace are ‘laid to rest’ on the very same day.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come:
’tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.

James at not-yet-3 and his daddy helping to bury his baby sister Grace
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Remembrance and Liturgy ….and (Surprise!) Refinement

Every year I remember our daughter Virginia Grace Pelham (February 3 ~ 24, 2006) on her birthday through social media posts and sometimes a blog post here, and most every year I think that it should be the last time that I publicly do so. Aren’t people tired of it? Isn’t it time to put this memory to rest? But then I will have people thanking me for allowing them to remember Grace with me, and others that feel permission to tell me about their own losses. And I still feel the determination to make Grace’s life matter. Last year I wrote this, which records a major way that Grace made a difference in the life of her family.

During the past year I had a new epiphany (or as some of my friends would say — apostrophe) about why it is okay, and that I actually should remember Grace privately as well as publicly on her birthday. And that comes thanks to the influence of my friends Cindy and Kelly, both of whom I’ve known for more than this past year, but whose recurring talk of remembering and liturgy came together for me in a way that “gave me permission” to continue doing as I had been doing.

I was not raised in a religious tradition, nor am I a part of one now, that practiced any kind of “church year”. Our one ritual was weekly communion or Lord’s Supper, remembering the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. We did no special Easter service, for every Sunday was a memorial of Easter Sunday. (Although, I do remember getting new dresses for Easter Sunday when I was a little girl.) We definitely didn’t have a special Christmas service. No tree or any other holiday decorations in our church building. And definitely no icons! From my friend Kelly I have been learning about the church calendar, as well as other ways of “going with the flow” of the calendar year, including times of needed rest. Kelly also didn’t grow up in a liturgical church but came to this as an adult and has taken a deep dive into the meaning and value of it all. Interestingly (to me, at least), the topic of the church calendar isn’t what Kelly came at me first with, but it came out as I sat in on her 3 mini-classes on medieval cosmology, as well as her year long class on The Faerie Queene. This year I am in the House of Humane Letters Fellowship with her, and some of us non-liturgical fellows had become so intrigued by the things she had said here and there over the past few years that we bought our own copies of The Book of Common Prayer and had Kelly explain some of it to us at our retreat last summer.

Cindy Rollins is the author of the wildly popular memoir Mere Motherhood, to which she added the subtitle Morning Times, Nursery Rhymes, & My Journey Toward Sanctification. And concerning ‘Morning Time’, Cindy has also written Morning Time: A Liturgy of Love. Although I wrote this review [well, it turns out my review, which must have been really good for all the Likes I kept getting on it, has disappeared from Goodreads, hmmmm….] of Mere Motherhood when it was first published in 2016, I spent the next few years puzzling out the sanctification part of the subtitle. That’s not a word I used (or apparently understood) much in my growing up years. Sanctification to me happened because Jesus died on the cross, and I ‘got saved’ at age 11 when I was ‘buried with him in baptism and raised to a new life’. To talk of a continual sanctification was just not in my vocabulary, nor I assume in that of my family and other church members. (But I’ve often found I’ve been wrong about assumptions about my family and other church members.) And then there was that word liturgy in the Morning Time book. I’d been hearing Cindy use it for several years —- I’ve read Cindy since around 2005 and have been in her classes and discussion groups for around a decade — but still wasn’t quite at home with the term. Had I been following a liturgy all those years with my son and our morning times (or whatever time of day it happened)? Me liturgical?!

So what does this all have to do with my annual remembrance of a daughter who was with us only 21 days? I realize that Grace was no saint, and she doesn’t make it on the church calendar, but through learning how important it is to remember (Cindy loves to remind us that Stratford Caldecott preferred to call the first part of the Trivium remembering) and how the year, and obvious changes in seasons, gives us things to remember annually in their time, it seems that with Grace’s birth and death occurring in February, that is the time to remember her, to go back and revisit that February of 2006, and to rejoice and to mourn. It is not wrong or bad for me to remember her, the joy and the sorrow.

And to be refined. Sometimes that indeed feels like fire to me. Is this some of that sanctification that Cindy talks about? Let me tell you about this year.

I started this post on her birthday two days ago. I knew what I wanted to write about and typed in the title Remembrance and Liturgy, and then put the writing task aside. As the Facebook memories were coming in the few days before, I was already struggling with my feelings of guilt and hurt that I hadn’t been good enough to have a daughter. Although the counselor at Vanderbilt was amazed at how Jack and I were dealing with this news that our daughter would not live long — we did not know about her genetic disorder, Trisomy 18, until her birth — in the aftermath, as I watched other mothers with daughters, other little girls getting to grow up, my demons of insecurity haunted me with the notion that I had been punished because I was unworthy to raise a daughter. You know it’s crazy talk, but it is was it is. Well, it is what I is. It’s not the only thing I feel unworthy or punished for.

Okay, I don’t want to bore you with the details of other insecurities and disappointments of my daily life, and don’t really want to give time to them in writing, but just know feeling punished by being daughter-less was just another in a pile of feeling overwhelmed and judged in life. And then a major (to me) financial blow came on her birthday, and I crashed. Saturday morning, feeling justified that I’d had a night to sleep it off, I began cancelling and removing myself from various accounts, subscriptions, groups, and commitments. I felt I’d been foolish that I could give my time, money, and attention to the Fellowship. Who the smell am I to think I could aspire to such higher and beautiful learning? I’m certainly not worthy, and I can’t keep up with those younger (the other 14 are all younger) than me with their fast reading, thinking, and making connections. And here I am surrounded by all my books I’ve acquired over these past couple of years — all my Fryes, Lewises, and Tolkiens. They’d have to go. I couldn’t have them staring me in the face, showing my failure. So, yeah, Saturday was just about as groovy as Friday. Maybe more so.

And then Jack talked to me. And then Kelly. And some of my fellow Fellows. And maybe I started to see a little hope.

Oh, and Jack wrote about me. Here’s what he told our Facebook world yesterday:

My wife, Kay Pelham, has got a dozen or two really great friends, and they have got her back when times get tough!

Kay believes in some really important things that are not commonly understood, and she’s working really hard to learn more and more on her own time so that she can be an effective teacher (and just as much, so that she can be a better human!). She’s in a literary fellowship learning from some masters about the importance of “story” and “image” and such, and about how conventional teaching methods leave so many of the student’s needs unmet.

But it’s a lonely life because so few are in search of such excellence as they educate their kids. In a world of worksheets and unit studies, there is so much more to be had, yet there are so few in search of it! And yet, she keeps plugging away anyway, for the love of the game, even though it won’t be earning her any money anytime soon—and even then, it won’t be much.

But one day soon, she’ll be teaching literature, and her students (and even some of their parents) will be in her classes, and can start to benefit from what all she’s been learning (really since she began to study in preparation for homeschooling James, who is 19 years old now.)

It’s going to pay off. It will be so obviously “worth it” later, even if it seems bleak now. And when people wonder how she succeeded, she won’t be able to explain just what a big part of the recipe it was for all those years that she LOVED words and truth and wisdom and story and image. That’s mostly what it is, along with the practicals about how to teach it in the best possible way—how to stay out of the way of the student’s mind, to let it do its natural work.

She’s a champ, and I can’t wait until her first class starts! She raised a Class-A son in this literary/educational philosophy, and soon, she’ll be ready to help some other folks raise their kids in good literature, too.

Did you see that lonely life part? Yeah, that’s part of my pile of doo doo, and what I mean when I mention disappointment. It is so frustrating to me to be learning so many beautiful things and to find that so very, very few care. What I long to share with my world, maybe two or three want.

But Kelly helped me with that some yesterday. Kelly is good people. Her life is a reflection of the choices she has made about her life, in spite of how much of the world says we ought to live. Thank you God for Kelly. I really mean that. Now I just need money to get to spend another year learning from her. And about so much more than books.

So, yes, it felt like fire. And I’m still feeling the burn. But there’s a little shine of gold and silver here and there. And, now, here on a Sunday, two days after my crash, I added to the title of this post and told more than I planned two days ago.

On the Death of the Beloved by John O’Donohue

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts
Where no storm on night or pain can reach you.
Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives,
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of color.
The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.
Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the alter of the heart,
Your mind always sparkled
With the wonder at things.
Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was alive, awake, complete.
We look toward each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.
Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our souls gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.
Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Besides us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.
When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.
May you continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.

That poem came up in my Facebook memories on Grace’s birthday. Cindy Rollins has shared it last year in memory of our friend Wendi Capehart. As I read those words — ‘may you continue to inspire us to enter each day with a generous heart. To serve the call of courage and love until we see your beautiful face again…’ — I knew I had to pull through this. For Wendi and Grace. For my Creator and my Savior.

count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
~James 1:2

Oh, boy, Joy? We’ll work on that.

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