A Soldier Coming Home

“What it takes to survive war makes it so hard to survive living after war.”

Angelina Stanford

I am currently reading The Odyssey in a class with Angelina Stanford of House of Humane Letters. The stories and books we are reading this school year all use the journey motif and have characters on an identity quest. The Odyssey tells the ridiculous story of a soldier taking 10 years to return home from war. Ah, but is it really ridiculous? Angelina told us in class last week that she has had several old soldiers tell her that it is not at all outlandish to say that it could take 10 years for a warrior to adjust to civilian life. This is what is happening to Odysseus on his tangled journey home. He is learning about who he is and what he needs to be in order to return to his life as a son, a husband, a father, and a king in a time of peace.

Most of it is about letting go. Letting go of the Warrior and the quest for Glory in victory. In the different episodes of the story, we see Odysseus (and his men, when he still had them) reacting like soldiers and suffering consequences for it. They have to learn that the rules of the battlefield are not the same as in the rest of life’s arenas. Vaunting, a part of the Warrior’s code of glory, where the victor will shout out his name and homeland, causes Odysseus a lot of grief when he reveals himself to the cyclops Polyphemus, son of Poseidon. Not good to make the god of the sea mad when you’re headed home by sea.

Odysseus being tempted by the Sirens to return to past Glory

So just how hard is it for a soldier to stop being a soldier?

You’ve been trained and have consistently put into action — for years, at times — being on constant alert, being on the front line of defense, being the one expected to respond first. You knew who your comrades were, and that there definitely was an enemy and who that was. How does all that training work in civilian life? Odysseus and his men had spent 10 years in the war with Troy using as their battle tactic skirmishes with retreats to the beach. It had been their custom for 10 years. It doesn’t work out so well in a few of the episodes on their attempt to get home. They’ve got to stop thinking like soldiers. But how in the world do you get 10 years of the demand to think and act in this way out of your system?

And how do you get out of your memories the horrors that you saw? We used to call it shell-shock; now we have PTSD. I believe my WWII vet Dad had it. My Korean vet Uncle was treated for it pretty much up until his death in 2020 at the age of 92. The writers J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis both served as soldiers and saw horrific things in the Great War (WWI). While in the trenches in France, Lewis saw his comrade next to him blown to bits by an exploding shell, which put shrapnel in Lewis’ own body, sending him home from the war. How do you get over the horror of seeing this happen, and knowing that the same shell that killed the man next to you saved your own life for the moment by sending you home and away from the battles? Understanding what Tolkien and Lewis did and saw in war brings much more meaning to their stories of Middle Earth and Narnia.

My soldier dad, Bedford Davis, during WWII
Uncle George Ritter, veteran of the Korean conflict

Somehow the blind poet Homer understood. He knew that there are things a human has to go through to learn about who he is, who he ought to be, and how to get there — and he understood that this is an especially hard task for a warrior. So he told his story over and over, and if we are really thinking and allowing our hearts and minds to be transformed, we become more understanding of and of more assistance to those soldiers coming Home. Even when Home and civilian life outlasts Warrior life by 60 or 70 years.

Dad (upper right) and Uncle George (lower left) in the late1990s on civilian duty. (To be replaced if I ever find that @*%^ picture of them in the vet parade in 2000something.)
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Why I want to teach Story, Rhyme, & Song

Our world is becoming more and more chaotic. Without getting into too much political theory, let me say that I believe that there are some who are glad to see this and are working for this culture of disorder. The story at the beginning of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, as well as other mythologies, tells of order (cosmos)being brought to chaos, and that this is a very lovely way to live and for a society to function. Why would anyone want it any other way? I’ll leave that for you to ponder.

In Al Pacino’s 1996 film “Looking for Richard”, he involves several American & British actors in discussions of Shakespeare’s play Richard III and in filming many scenes from the play. He also goes out to the street and interviews random people about their knowledge and thoughts about Shakespeare. From my memory (maybe one day I’ll hunt down the scene on my VHS tape) he talks to a man on the street who has the appearance of living on the streets. I remember that the dental work seemed to be lacking. But this guy spoke very eloquently. He spoke about how kids don’t have language anymore. He said maybe if they knew some Shakespeare, they would have words to express their feelings, and there would be less physical violence going on.

Words. Words with meaning. Phrases and sentences with rhythms to communicate clearly their meanings. Words and rhythms of stories and songs that touch our hearts, souls, and minds. Stories and songs of fiction. Stories and songs of history. Stories and songs of heroes. Stories and songs of the Everyman like you and me. They touch our Minds. We know we can be better —- kinder, more honest, more giving, more gracious. They touch our Hearts and Souls. We want to be better. We want to live in community where each part does its work and looks out for his neighbor as he does himself.

The guy on my old VHS is right —kids don’t know Shakespeare. Kids don’t even know standard nursery rhymes, folk songs, and folk tales. I’ve learned this through decades of teaching piano. I learned this as I listened in on my husband’s public speaking class for teens. As he was trying to find something they could relate to for whatever his purpose of the moment was, he listed song after song, tale after tale, rhyme after rhyme, and this table of about a dozen homeschool(!) kids said, “Nope, nope, nope, didn’t know it.” I’m over there thinking, What a waste of homeschooling!

My friend Angelina has a Master’s degree in Literature. (She dropped out of a PhD program, weary of an academic world that really doesn’t care about the material.) She teaches Literature classes to middle school, high school, and adults. She also hosts, along with her husband Thomas Banks and Cindy Rollins, a weekly podcast called The Literary Life. Angelina’s main mantra is Stories Will Save the World. I highly recommend going to the podcast and finding the episode on “Why Read Fairy Tales?”, as well as others of this general nature. You will find her on a few other podcasts speaking about the importance of story — fairy tales and myths. (For starters, see here and here.) She believes that a child needs a foundation of these stories. I love to hear her stories about the connections that her middle school students are making with other stories as they are understanding the elements of story under her instruction. And it doesn’t stop with story. They relate what they learn through story to what they see going on in the world around them. And having been transformed by story, they are resolved to live rightly in the world.

My friend Cindy raised and home-educated 9 children. She speaks of the poems that they read and memorized together, and how some of those poems have strengthened her adult children as they remembered phrases from the poems in their times of need. They began with nursery rhymes, as we did in our family. Many of the rhymes I will be doing with my pre-school class are ones that my husband and I chanted over and over with our son. “Diddle-Diddle-Dumplin’, my son John….”  So fun. So easy to learn and remember. Wonderful rhythms. And did you know that these rhythms aren’t just in poetry? You find them in prose and in the spoken word. I often notice the rhythm of my son and husband’s speech. They use a lot of triplets! These rhythms of rhyme and song get inside of you and help you to be a more effective communicator. It is not just about the right words but how you deliver those words. Who in the world wants to speak empty words to the wind? Don’t you want what you have to say matter?

When it comes to folk songs, in my world no one is more a champion of singing and singing these songs of work and play and history than my friend Wendi Capehart. Wendi is a founder and advisory member of the curriculum we have followed since my son was a toddler. (He will be a high school graduate in May.) AmblesideOnline has “folk songs” as part of the curriculum and gives monthly suggestions for your students to learn. Wendi often writes about the history and meaning of the songs on the Advisory blog. As I related in this post, her soulful rendition of “The Happy Wanderer” that she taught at the AO retreat was one of the most moving moments of that event for me. What singing does for a person has been well-documented. And singing in community is even better. Singing songs that bring joy just with their rhythms, singing songs that move us with their sad, cautionary tales, singing songs that tell of historical events that inspire us to be brave and stand for what is right.

Over these past several years I have been inspired by the words of Angelina, Cindy, and Wendi, and it occurred to me as I approach my retirement as a home-educator, that I want to be a part of filling this void in the life of the children around me, and where better to begin than with some of the youngest of the children. Thus was created from my heart — “Story, Rhyme, & Song” for 3 to 6 year olds. I’m really looking forward to this — part of this is fulfilling a wish to “do over” (with one child, I only got to do this once, and I’ve learned so much through these years). I’m hoping to inspire families to make these stories, rhymes, and songs part of their family life. We did, and I know it has had a huge impact on our life as a family and in our care about and work and communication with the world around us.

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Bringing up liars

Of the three sorts of knowledge proper to a child, the knowledge of God, of man, and of the universe,––the knowledge of God ranks first in importance, is indispensable, and most happy-making. Mothers are on the whole more successful in communicating this knowledge than are teachers who know the children less well and have a narrower, poorer standard of measurement for their minds. Parents do not talk down to children, but we might gather from educational publications that the art of education as regards young children is to bring conceptions down to their ‘little’ minds. If we give up this foolish prejudice in favour of the grown-up we shall be astonished at the range and depth of children’s minds; and shall perceive that their relation to God is one of those ‘first-born affinities’ which it is our part to help them to make good. A mother knows how to speak of God as she would of an absent father with all the evidences of his care and love about her and his children…We recollect how ‘Arthur Pendennis’ walked in the evening light with his mother and recited great passages from Milton and the eyes of the two were filled ‘with tears of holy joy,’ when the boy was eight…

https://amblesideonline.org/CM/vol6complete.html#6_1_10_01

You see my title and then read my quote and may wonder what in the world is the connection. The thought I intended to share is from the title, but this morning the quote above came up in my FB memories from a query I had made a year ago about Charlotte Mason quotes concerning ‘what a mother can do’. So let me address this quote and then ease my way into the title topic.

Not at all in the spirit of current congressional shenanigans of erasing gender-specific terms, I would like to substitute ‘parent’ for ‘mother’, or let’s just add ‘and father’ because I believe both parents have a significant influence on the heart of their children. Parents know their children — or they ought to know their children. They certainly have more opportunity than the children’s teachers. Knowing the mind and capabilities of children — and their children in particular, a mother or father does not talk down to a child, nor does he play manipulative mind games with a child, nor does she show disrespect for the child as a fellow human being in any way. Parents and children share their hearts and thoughts about the realities of life, seen and unseen, from the get-go.

I’ve been observing children and the effects of their relationship with their parents my whole 59 years on this planet. I grew up in church where parenting standards varied even amongst a people that claimed to be following the same ‘blue-print’/manual. I saw children very close to their parents, who would and could talk to them about anything, and others that seemed to have very little connection to their parents. Long before I read any ‘Charlotte Mason’ I had determined that children were quite capable, but very few parents knew those capabilities nor saw their own responsibilities for being involved in directing the hearts and minds of their children toward the good. When my husband and I became parents relatively late in life, we both had many adults years of observing various parenting and were determined to practice some intentional parenting. We’re not done yet, but I believe our ‘experiment in parenting’ has been quite successful as we near the eighteen year mark. We 3 are quite the team. We have respected the personhood of our son from birth, and he knows it.

Several days ago I noted to my husband that I believe people train their little ones to be deceitful by making ‘getting in trouble’ be a scary thing. The child develops the habit of immediately trying to hide the fact that they did the deed, they blame someone else, they make excuses, hide the evidence, claim ignorance. Why? What is so horrible about owning up to it and taking your licks? And how does this little game prevent the child from doing ‘the bad thing’ again? From the first ‘ooh, you’re in trouble’ (adding in the taunting of the other children) the child begins the practice of ‘fixing things’ to avoid the punishment. The poor child doesn’t get to experience grace because this idea of the punishment is so huge and scary. And note the word Habit. It becomes his unthinking practice to immediately deny responsibility. And so the child grows into a deceiving adult with this automatic response of denying responsibility.

As we were traveling home from our recent cross-country road trip, we drove through yet another fast-food establishment. It was very early morning and yet the line seemed to be moving slowly. We got to the second window, after paying at the first window, and all our items were given to us except one. The window closed and the person disappeared from that spot. Perhaps she was retrieving that last item. But she didn’t reappear for many minutes. The item was a bottle of water; how hard could this be? Were we going to have to wait for her to reappear as she was delivering the items for the car behind us? Still not there, still not there. Jack finally resorts to the horn. She appears at the window. He explains we still had one more item, and she says, “Oh, I was in the back.” What did that have to do with not completing our order in a timely fashion —- before you went to “the back”? None of us recall her even saying “sorry”; she just spit out what she thought was an excuse. As we drove away, I thought (and said out loud) how this was a good example of how some are trained to deceive — it’s an automatic, unthinking response to make an excuse without any indication of sorry —and to people she will never see again. What’s so hard about saying, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I hadn’t completed the order before I left this station and went to the back for something. My apologies.” Most likely whatever frustration/inconvenience we were feeling would have been alleviated by this simple show of humility and honesty. But you see this kind of thing everywhere. Why are people afraid to own up to the least little thing, over which the consequences would be so tiny, and maybe even disappear with the simple act of honesty? It really is an unthinking habit. What a ridiculous way to live. And it starts from the stupid manipulative games parents, siblings, and teachers play with kids.

On our trip to the other side of the country, we had the chance to visit with my niece and her family. Lovie is the mother of two boys, age fifteen and nine. Without giving away too much of family talk, a comment was made along the way in discussing dynamics of cousin relationships, that the nine year old often went to his mother crying about some situation. One relative said that he does this because he is trying to overcome whatever temptation for bad behavior/retaliation. I believe this. I am confident that Lovie and her son have this kind of relationship, and that the boy sincerely wants to do what’s right and understands the struggle that it is. I know that Lovie (and her husband) practice intentional parenting. I’m also familiar with the books and studies that the boys do in school because I have used the same with my son. It is possible to use this curriculum (just follow the book list) and fail to fulfill the aim of the education, but I know that Lovie gets the whole picture. The books and music studies and nature study and art study are used with the goal of touching the heart of her children. She gets that it is not about how much do they Know, but how much do they Care when they finish their education. I was extremely encouraged by my great-nephews in the week we got to spend with them. I’m very proud of the standards of my niece and her husband, and their honest relationships with their sons. You can see results already, and I know the years will show some unusually (for this culture) honest and caring men.

We recollect how ‘Arthur Pendennis’ walked in the evening light with his mother and recited great passages from Milton and the eyes of the two were filled ‘with tears of holy joy,’ when the boy was eight..

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Here is a post to say

My blog, as well as other family websites, was down with malware for many months. My husband recently rescued this one, and now I can write again. This post is to explain my absence. Also, I’m testing some new look here of writing and editing with which I’m uncertain. So here goes. Where’s Publish?

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Look Out!

Turn you eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace   ~Helen Howarth Lemmel

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Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ~the author of the letter to the Hebrews

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Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.

If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.

When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

~from Psalm 73, a psalm of Asaph

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“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O YHWH, open his eyes so he may see.” Then YHWH opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  ~as told in 2 Kings

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I saw the light, I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord, I saw the light.  ~ Hank Williams

 

Me, Looking Out,  circa 1990

 

 

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My Obsession, Regrettably

Parking this thought here for now. Something I want people to know, but holding back from posting it on social media.

When you pull away from me and/or my family, it hurts. It says you don’t like me or us, and you do not wish for you and/or your children to be influenced by me and/or us, nor to be like me and/or us at all.

I suppose I am to just brush the dust off my feet and move on. But I obsess.

I do the logical (and rightful) thing to ponder if I or we are in the wrong. How might I and/or we have have wrongfully offended? And the very great majority of the time, I’ve got nothing. Note that I said wrongfully offended.

But even when my conscious is clear, I obsess. I try to make sense of a senseless thing.

So, as I said in this post, I resolved this year to #GetOut, mostly to deal with this obsessing. And I explain how that works in that post. I should step away from this screen right now, but I have too much work today to do here that must be done before this afternoon, so I remain. Not being as efficient as I should be and could be. Because my mind and heart are obsessing.

What a sad world. Where is the honor? Where is the care for getting better at this being human thing? The Creator did indeed fearfully and wonderfully make us. When are you ever going to live up to all that human potential?

And so I bear this weight of sorrow over the state of people and, as I often do, I revisit this post from a similar emotionally weighty time for me and remind myself that ‘you ain’t so bad’ and decide that I Will overcome and continue to do the good that I know that I Ought and Can do.

“I am, I can, I ought, I will.” This was the motto she gave us. ~Michael A. E. Franklin, one of Charlotte Mason’s students; from “In Memoriam”

Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?
~the apostle Paul to his fellow-believers in Galatia

For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. ~ Jesus

Why the Gehenna do the people not Care, God? ~ Kay Pelham

 

 

 

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I’m Not Sorry About My Parents

My mother was a teenage bride. My mother was a teenage mother. Yes, in that order.

Life came full circle in some ways for my parents. In 1987 they returned after more than 35 years in Illinois to the Ritter farm in Tennessee and built their own house. Mom still lives in that house. It was to that farm that Bedford Davis drove on this day (April 5)  70 years ago  to take Edna Ritter away as his teenage bride. (Although, at the time, I think the idea of  a “teenager” was just beginning.)

I’m sort of playing around with my post title because of this post that I wrote after Dad’s passing in 2015. Sort of. Because I really am not sorry about my parents. I’m not sorry that they “ran off” to Kentucky, without a formal wedding ceremony, to get married.  I’m not sorry that they spent their first night together on the floor of his sister’s house. I’m not sorry that they had to leave their Tennessee home and go to Illinois for work. I’m not sorry that my biggest sister was born before their first wedding anniversary. I’m not sorry that they made Illinois their home (except for one brief return to TN before baby #2 when Dad was laid off) for the next 37 years. I’m not sorry that Dad was an excellent and faithful factory worker all those years and that Mom was always there when I got home from school. I’m not sorry for the peanut butter and syrup sandwiches in my school lunch. (I told my son James about this, and he said, “Yum!” Growing up, I didn’t know it was because we were poor. I thought it was because Mom and Dad were country). I’m not sorry for all the bowls of tomato soup. I’m not sorry for all the singing in our house, at church, at the nursing home, at funerals, and on the road. (Dad wouldn’t let us turn the car radio on while he was driving.) I’m not even sorry for the raised voices in frustration or anger I would hear from time to time. Only because at the end of those “discussions” were people who stuck it out because of a promise they made before God and the witnesses there on that day 70 years ago. She was his Dearie. He was her Bedford.

They were completely faithful to each other. I know this for a fact. And they were committed to their five children.

Until death parted them.

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth ~ Solomon

So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. ~ Jesus

To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up. ~ Ogden Nash

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved. ~Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

 

Celebrating 65 years

Celebrating 30 years

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Trophies and Foundations: Guest Post by Jack Pelham

TROPHIES AND FOUNDATIONS

If you experienced even one highly-excellent event in your schooling years, you can probably relate to what I want to say here. For some, it might have been winning the big game. For others, putting on a great play or musical. For others, winning the Spelling Bee or the Brain Brawl, or getting a Superior rating at the Band Festival. I trust you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Well, there’s a difference in what people do with those excellent schooling experiences—whether they experience many or few such things. Some people take those experiences as trophies—as things to be remembered—as high-water marks of life. They are the sort to say, “Hey, do you remember that time that such-and-such happened?” A lot of people are like this, and draw joy (whether much or little) from these schooling-years experiences throughout the rest of their lives.

But there’s another kind of person that’s worth mentioning. It’s the one who takes those excellent experiences and who doesn’t only use them as trophies, but as *foundations* for the rest of his or her life. That is, having learned what it took to win the big game, people like this keep on applying those winning habits and become very successful in other accomplishments. Or remembering how the drama club had really pleased the audience with that one show, they continue on to mastering that kind of excellence, and using it repeatedly to do similarly-successful things. Or remembering how they had to push and push themselves to develop the skills that won them some award in high school, they continue to push themselves in their adult years, and they end up as avid life-long learners who remain engaged in the world, at the very time in life when so many others are eager to withdraw from the world as often as they can.

I think there are many more people for whom these early experiences in life are mere trophies than there are those for which they are foundations. For whatever reason(s), they are not now going after things as they did in their youth. And that’s a very sad thing to me.

I’m not writing this to point a blaming finger, but to appeal to the “what if?” of life-long learning and engagement. What if *everybody* kept on learning and stayed engaged? What if everybody got BETTER at things in their adult years than they had been as teens? Would that make for a different society than the one we have now?

I think so.

And on the other hand, what if *nobody* kept on learning and stayed engaged? What if we *all* shut down and retreated from the world? Then we’d be without those precious few who make such excellent teachers and leaders and parents today. And would THAT make for a different society than the one we have now?

Indeed, it would. Even those who think our current society is rather lousy, should readily admit that there are enough difference-makers in it to make for an obvious decline if they should stop making those differences.

I’m not entirely sure why people shut it down, rather than firing it up even hotter than before. But I’m pretty sure that they don’t HAVE to.

What if someone were to turn it around, and start getting deliberate again about excellence in this or that?

Well, I think that’s a pretty hopeful idea. And even if that individual doesn’t “change the world”, he’s changed his OWN life for the better. And what if EVERYBODY did that? Would that change the world? Yes, quite obviously.

I think that so many underestimate the power of personal and proactive choice—and the opportunity that it presents. And I doubt that very many people at all get to the end of life bewailing their lives thus: “If only I had learned less and been less engaged in the world!”

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Get Out 2020

Oh, my people, I have so much to be writing about. As always. It is overwhelming. Thinking and wondering and making connections, or trying to, all the time. It is tiring, actually. My son and I are reading so many thought-provoking works of fiction and non-fiction together. I’m really backed up with all that I could write about. But let me at least explain my word for 2020 that I have hashtagged often on Facebook since January.

#GetOut

Okay, that’s two words. I know.

Basically, I mean Get Out of the House. I really don’t have to go far. Some of this is for my physical health, but the biggest part is for my mental health. In 2019 I was becoming increasingly overwhelmed and depressed, and by the end of the year all I wanted was to complete whatever outside the home tasks each day, such as teaching 40+ piano lessons, and just come home and sit on the couch and watch Hallmark and British TV. I couldn’t even focus on reading any of my many beloved books — although, I did manage to meet my Goodreads goal for the year by some miracle. I had decided for my son’s new school year in the fall (he’s now an 11th grader in our homeschool) that the word would be Chill, and that had been and has been going well, but the rest of my life, not so much.

Have you heard of hygge? Go look it up; I’m not taking this space to explain it. That concept was like an answer to an introverted reader’s prayer. And I still think there’s a lot of good to it. As a Montanan, I appreciate the Dane’s concept of enjoying the potential coziness of winter. But how easy it is, at least for me, to take this permission to retreat to an extreme. “Avoid all extremes”, the writer of Ecclesiastes says. And then near the end of the year, I watched a friend making a decision to cut off relationships and out-of-the-home activities, and I felt very sad for her and then took a hard look at myself.

I had been trying to come up with my word for the new year and suddenly I had it. Well, them.

Get Out

I seem to stay in a constant state of disappointment over people and their thinking and actions, and over the past few years, major conflicts have happened about every six months. My Facebook friends can tell. I start posting stressed posts and quotes and memes and scriptures. I wrote about the weariness I felt after a particular event here. I occasionally get a little PTSD and have flashbacks, as evidenced by yesterday’s Facebook posting of witnessing my brother’s bloody death in 1998. I realized that when I stay at home — where there is plenty of chores to do — have you seen my stacks? and the dust? — I tend to obsess over the foolishness of people. School planning, piano planning, balancing my checkbook — those get done, but the stack of books and papers and dust and dishes remain. And my obsessing gets me no where. But if I get out — physically leave this place, I am instantly better. Go to my studio to teach, I am better. Go to the gym, I am better. Go to the store, I am better. Walk to the chiropractor, I am better. Walk to the bank, I am better. Go to Monday music classes at We, Montana’s Great Room, I am better. Meet a friend for coffee, I am better. Sit in my camp chair while Jack, James and friends play Ultimate, I am better. I don’t need to go hiking in the mountains, but it sure is nice seeing them in the distance when I Get Out.

I love Montana’s big sky and wide open spaces. I can breathe here. Just by walking out my door. And I need connections in the flesh. I’m grateful for my students and their families, all the kids and parents that participate in Jack’s We, Montana! classes, my local CM friends. It seems that when you lose some friends, more come along. I’ve had a couple of local CM friend’s (if you don’t know what that means, you haven’t been reading me), who have been especially encouraging to me when I wanted to give it all up.

And I’m especially grateful to my husband Jack, who never gives up on me. He understands depression and disappointment and encourages me in all my endeavors, weak as they may be at times. His tenacity and faithfulness are unbelievable at times.

Yesterday I posted this on Facebook, provoked by thoughts of people saying, “Nobody can tell me how to….” :

I have been a human being for 58 years, but I’m still learning to be a better human being. I’ve played piano for 51 years, but I’m still learning to be a better pianist and musician. I was taught about God and the Bible from birth and made my own decision to follow Jesus 48 years ago, but I’m still learning about God and the Bible and how to be more like Jesus. I have been teaching for 37 years, but I’m still learning to be a better teacher to all my students, including my son. I have been a wife for 18 years, but I’m still learning to be a better wife to Jack. I have been a mother for almost 17 years, but I’m still learning to be a better mother to James. I am learning (and often doing some unlearning — I’ve been wrong about many things) through reading and listening and seeking the advice of others further in their knowledge of all these areas of my life. And I am putting my learning into practice. I am not done. Are you?

I’m Out!

And with people!

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Review: Little Women (2019)

The following represents my feelings and thinking just after watching the Little Women film on its opening, Christmas Day 2019. My feelings and thinking, as they are wont to do, may change over time.

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When I was in 2nd grade, my Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Romberger awarded me a copy of Little Women for having memorized and recited Psalm 23. I read the book immediately, and then over and over during my childhood. I was fascinated by the connection to the author’s real family, and so read biographies of LMA and her family. I have visited Orchard House, the Alcott home in Concord, MA three times. Even though in recent years I’ve been less involved with all things Alcott, that book and the history around it have remained near to my heart.

In the early 90s there was a movie adaptation of Little Women starring Winona Ryder as Jo, which I found to be a very good rendering — well cast, well told, well directed. But since that time, I’ve ignored any ensuing theater or television productions. So why I decided to give this new one a try, I don’t know. I don’t even like going out to the theater anymore. Maybe it’s because my husband likes Hermione. (Emma Watson plays Meg.)

So, we went on the day of its opening — Christmas Day.

Because I should probably tell you the good things first, I will tell you that we both agreed it was a beautiful production. I was particularly delighted that they got hair and dress appropriate for the period. The color and mood in general had the effect of the period and the March family’s living circumstances. The roles were cast well. I’ll save a couple of exceptions for later. The acting was for the most part perfect to me. One of the things that bothers me in modern productions (and a reason I avoid them) is that they tend to make the feelings, language, posturing of the characters be contemporary to us. That did not happen here. The Marches (and the real-life Alcotts) were very “progressive” in their ideas of race, women, education, etc. and this movie portrayed that well.

And as the story has always done, I cried all the way through.

But here’s what bothered me. And here be SPOILERS. But then, because of what they did, the movie itself was a spoiler. Confusing even this LW veteran, they started at nearly the end! I’m serious – I nearly came out of my seat at one point and wanted to scream …at the screen, the projector, the universe. But I was a good little woman and stayed seated. The opening scenes give us a glimpse of all 4 March sisters (in their separate locations) at this later stage in the story, and then appears on the screen “7 Years Earlier”, and we are taken back to Orchard House (but still not the opening scene of the book). The movie continues to move back and forth in time with no further screen words to tell us when or where we are. Again, this LW veteran had to work it to figure out where in time it was. My poor husband was lost, but still enjoying the beautiful production. I was frustrated that I couldn’t explain things to him in the crowded theater. I felt a wee bit of outrage at what they were doing to my beloved story, even though each scene was acted and directed so truthfully. It was this whole arrangement of back and forth in time. I was put out that….here be SPOILERS again, but like I said, the movie did it…..we know that Jo rejected Laurie even before we meet Laurie in the “7 years before”, that Meg marries Mr. Brooke even before we meet him in the “7 years before”, that Beth is very sick and….SPOILER doesn’t make it to the end of the story.

Through it all my clueless-to-the-March/Alcotts husband enjoyed a beautiful production, but at the end was unclear just how many March sisters there were, and that the old gentleman next door was not *their* grandfather. Does this matter? We both agreed that the movie was written for those that already know the story, and I came out of the movie knowing I was going to tell everyone just that and never recommend it to someone who did not already know about Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy and how they grew. But maybe it’s okay to pay your $15 and just enjoy a beautiful but confusing production. I don’t own the story, after all.

Just be careful, it’s my heart.

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