Carrying Aunt Karen Out

She helped bring him into the world. I thought it appropriate that he should help carry her out.

It is true. I wish I had pictures of my childless sister Karen as she stayed in the delivery room with me, making her usual jokes, and watching those machines to tell me when to push. The pictures were in my mind as I read all the machines she was hooked up to in her last weeks on this earth. What an honor it was to have her in the room helping me birth my son 21 years ago, and what an honor it was to sit with her in her final hours, and what an honor it was to see him carrying his Aunt Karen out.

I wanted to share some other things I observed while sitting in Karen’s hospital room with my sister Rita, brother Mike, sister-in-law Judith, niece Lovie, and in that last hour, our cousin Laura.

I have developed in the past few decades a distrust of those in the medical profession, but what I witnessed in that room gave me a glimmer of hope for that profession. With each of their visits they treated Karen with such respect. I watched them look at the machines, talk about the numbers, use all the big words, but then physically reach out to Karen and speak so tenderly. There were doctors who stopped in to check on Karen who had been with her for many years in this battle with her blood disorder. They showed me a wonderful blend of science and humanity. Often the nurses would reach out to lift Karen’s gown back up to her shoulders even after she was heavily sedated with either the oxygen mask or the tubes down her throat. They really cared about her dignity even in her condition. I pondered the contrast between this care for dignity and “the freedom” to show skin in the world outside that room.

I was raised in a very strong spiritual family who has always handled death in an emotionally and spiritually stable way. Along with the death of grandparents, we have lived through the loss of our youngest sibling at age 31, our dad at age 97, my daughter at 3 weeks (as well as other pre-birth losses amongst us), and all of our uncles and aunts and several cousins, and friends outside the family. I’m not saying it was not hard to watch Karen die — when they first unplugged all the machines that were keeping her breathing (as we had planned, so I knew it was coming) I let out a gasp which was followed by the tears and hugging of family in the room. When the monitor turned off because her heart had stopped beating, I felt mine would stop, too. She will be so missed, but she’s done with suffering, and we are secure in knowing she is in a better place, and we all imagined her being greeted by Dad and James and Grace and cousin Wanda and….

I realized also in this time what a difference my last years of studying Story has made in my spiritual stability, especially these past two years in the House of Humane Letters Fellowship. It is through the stories told in the literary tradition and being exposed to the thoughts of literary critics like Northrop Frye, C.S. Lewis, and Tolkien that I have come to believe more strongly in the transcendent, the unseen world. To be enchanted by story is to be granted a deeper insight into reality. I felt even more connected to my sister Karen because of her love for stories, and I’ve grown to appreciate the story-telling of her favorites like Andy Griffith, Perry Mason, and all the westerns, especially, of course, John Wayne. I could be at peace that it was Karen’s ‘time to go’ because I had watched her live life to the full here, and I’m confident in that ‘other world’ waiting for us. No, not back to Eden, but on to the New Jerusalem.

At Karen’s funeral I spoke about favorite memories from childhood to adulthood. Karen was there for me always, whether we were sharing that groovy basement bedroom or living across the country from each other. I read two poems from Karen’s favorite poet Emily Dickinson. (We got to visit Dickinson’s home in Amherst, MA together .) And then I sang Wonderful Words of Life, with many voices in the room joining me. (I realized some days later I had just done Story, Rhyme, & Song! How appropriate for Karen and for me.) I was blown away by some of the people that had travelled quite a distance to remember Karen with us. So many childhood memories with friends and cousins in the room. I felt like Karen was blessing me all over again when a mutual acquaintance, whom Karen had worked with locally in music and I had only met online, said to me, “You changed my life” (not in regards to music, but to educational philosophy). So many parts of my whole life came together in that room, and it was because of Karen.

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Emily Dickinson

Sing them over again to me,
Wonderful words of life;
Let me more of their beauty see,
Wonderful words of life;
Words of life and beauty
Teach me faith and duty.
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life;
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life.

P. P. Bliss
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Love Day and Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday coming on the 14th of February this year has brought to my mind the connection between the Gospel — humanity’s fall and separation from her Father and her Groom, and then the rescue and reconciliation by that Groom — and the images in story.

In the story of Cupid and Psyche, images taken from Greek mythology and used in a fairy tale fashion by Apuleius in the 2nd century A.D., Psyche has incurred the wrath of the jealous goddess Venus (think Satan as he looks upon the innocent Adam and Eve in the Garden), and Venus assigns her son Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with some ‘low, mean, unworthy being’. Cupid ends up falling in love with Psyche himself, and….stuff happens. Fast forward to near the end, where we are at the bottom of the U shape of our story. Due to a couple of acts of disobedience (the short version), Psyche has fallen ‘down in the midst of the road, a sleepy corpse without sense or motion.’ Cupid, in the meantime, [you’re just going to have to read the story linked above to know what all happened between his falling in love with her, secretly marrying her, keeping himself secret from her, then her disobedience to the one restriction and wounding him…] ‘being now recovered from his wound, and not able longer to bear the absence of his beloved Psyche…flew to the spot where Psyche lay, and gathering up the sleep from her body closed it again in the box, and waked Psyche with a light touch of one of his arrows.’ And then they really get married, and she gets immortality.

So here we have the god of Love, rescuing his bride, even though she had been unfaithful in her promise to him, and in that disobedience had actually wounded him.

I think of what this day, Ash Wednesday, means to many Christians around the world. It is a day of humbling, to remember that from ashes we came and from ashes we will go. It is a day to remember that it is our sin, our disobedience, that put Him on that cross.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. ~ Isaiah 53: 4,5

In the story of Snow White, after her death and the dwarfs placing her in the glass coffin, a son of a king comes to the dwarfs’ home, seeking shelter, and immediately is taken with the beautiful corpse in that glass coffin. He asks to be able to take the corpse with him, but the dwarfs refuse at first, but after his second appeal — ‘I cannot live without being able to see Snow-White. I will honor her and respect her as my most cherished one’ — he is allowed to take her home with him. In our modern sensibilities this seems kind of freaky —- Dude is in love with a corpse and wants to take it home. But here is where we must all learn how to read metaphorically, and when we give ourselves time to contemplate this image, we remember —

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ ~Ephesians 2: 4,5

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8

On this day devoted to Love, remember that the true God of Love, looked at us ‘fallen asleep’ because of disobedience, ‘dead’ because of sin, and Loved us. Though we deserved to die, he became a substitute on the Cross, successfully harrowed Hell and rescued his Bride (unlike Orpheus), and brings his Bride home to his Father’s house.

Please remember that reading metaphorically is not operating with an equal sign. Most certainly the Cupid of story is not exactly Christ. Allegory shows us images that are like something else — in some way, not completely. When we relate the images to other stories or things we know about nature, we can take that understanding of the real thing or event deeper. Jesus knew the effect that parables would have on our hearts and minds. ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like…’ It is in looking at the images that are like in some way to Christ, such as the story of Orpheus, which I related here, that my knowledge and gratitude for the reality of what we have in Christ grows deeper.

Happy Love Day! And may you always remember with humility that we were loved even in our ashes.

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What you and your children are missing out on by not reading pagan myths

There are disagreements in the Christian education and parenting world, especially in the homeschool world of which I’ve been a part for two decades, about the exposure to stories of pagan gods and demi-gods and heroes of the various non-Christian mythologies. I am here to tell you that there is no harm in your children knowing these stories, and in fact, in my opinion, you are doing the opposite by withholding these stories from them.

This is not a promotion of pagan myths, as you might find in certain Christian and Christian “classical” curricula, for the sake of “cultural literacy” or scoring high on the SAT, or even for getting the allusions in classic or modern literature. I don’t do that modern, progressive, utilitarian, mechanistic….stuff.

I’m about to tell you some things that you’ve most likely never heard before, and if you’ll pay careful attention, it may blow your mind and expand your heart.

Let’s start with some things on which we do all agree.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. ~ Genesis 1:27

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:11

For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
~ Matthew 13:17

The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people ~ Deuteronomy 7:7

In the beginning God created humans — all humans — in His image. We know that soon things didn’t go so swell — Adam and Eve had to leave Eden’s garden, and by Genesis 6 humanity had become so corrupted that God chose to wipe them all out and reboot with the eight that He put in Noah’s ark. These and the generations that would follow were still made in His image, were they not?

So let’s consider this reboot of humans on Earth. Scattered about the planet, after the Babel incident, they have hearts in which He has set eternity. (Contemplate that. That’s what is so cool about metaphor — it gives you something to contemplate.) They look about them and see a nature with order, and then sometimes seemingly out of order with storms and such. But they see consistency in the sun ‘coming up’ and ‘going down’, seasons coming and going, new plant and animal life, and plant and animal death. There is life and growth and death all around them. Right now I don’t want to get into what interaction and instruction they may have had with spiritual beings, whether good or evil; I just want to consider what a basic human, made in God’s image, with eternity set in his heart, and a mind that has amazing abilities to imagine might be ….. imagining.

At some point, out of all these humans living and dying, contemplating the cosmos and learning how to function in the cosmos to survive, God chooses a particular people to be ‘his own’. We know them as the Hebrew people, the nation of Israel, descendants of Abraham. He tells Abraham about this, and part of that telling is that 400 years later He would be bringing these descendants out of a land in which they had been enslaved and really making a nation of them in ‘the promised land’. So what was so special about these people? Why did they get to have teaching directly from the God? Why did they get to establish a civil government and a structure of religion designed by the God? Why did they get the true lore of humanities origins to pass down for generations? What was so special about them? Were they better, more righteous, people than the other nations? Just after God brought them out of Egypt, they are told that He did not choose them because they were especially mighty in number (and I just know there is another place —- feel free to help me out — where it is said that it was not their goodness that made them stand out to him). It was grace. They were certainly not more deserving than the rest of the world, what has become known as the pagan world. (The purposes for which God chose a people, such as them being a type for the Church, as well as the nation through whom Jesus would come, is for another article and another day. Although, I do want to add that these images do come up in story, including pagan myths!)

So what is this ‘pagan’ world to do, not being ‘chosen’ by God, not getting the lore, the laws, the prophecies? The Bible stories are big in our (us Christians’) minds, but really, those events were probably barely felt…..well, that Flood was probably a big deal (which appears in their stories, hmmm)…..by the rest of the planet. The ‘pagan’ people were humans of various intellectual and physical abilities, raised in class systems that developed over time. Again, whether or not they had spiritual encounters is beyond the scope of what I want to address here. I just want to think about these people, really on their own, contemplating, teaching, writing —whenever that got invented, thinking of stories, telling stories that would pass from generation to generation. What about this longing in their hearts? What about that eternity set in their hearts? What about the physical hardships they dealt with here? Did they long to be rescued from these things? Did they long for a redemption?

When the early and medieval Christians looked at the myths and folklore of the pagans they were fascinated by what they considered fragments of the gospel. Because of all the truth they were finding in their writings, they began to consider philosophers and writers such as Plato and Virgil as ‘pre-Christian saints’. Dante shows this metaphorically in his Divine Comedy by having Virgil as his guide through Hell (Inferno) and Purgatory (Purgatorio), but having to leave him to Beatrice at the gates of Heaven (Paradiso). The medieval Christians considered Virgil’s Aeneid a story of the soul’s journey to God. They reflected on pagan myths as they did the Old Testament stories — they were seeds of truth, the fullness of which was found in Christ. “All truth is God’s truth,” they believed. When whole civilizations were being ransacked in the Middle Ages, the monks were saving the myths and stories which they considered part of our Christian heritage, and often laying down their lives to do so.

So you may be thinking, ‘Thanks so much for the information. That’s interesting, I guess. But I’ve got the Bible; I’m good.’ But I’m here to tell you that it is not enough to have received this information (been there, done that); in order to really know this, you must experience it (also now been there, done that). I’m here to testify that my God has become so much bigger since I have learned to see Him in these pagan stories. He is their Creator just as much as He is mine. He did indeed create them in His image and set eternity and a longing in their hearts. Let me tell you a couple of stories about stories. (This is stuff I paid money to learn and am now getting money to teach, and you’re getting it for free. You’re welcome.)

The Greek myth of Orpheus tells about a couple in love who got married, and then one day when the happy bride is out tip-toeing through the tulips, she is bitten by a snake and dies. (Tons of Bible allusions here, but that’s for another day.) Orpheus is so distraught over the loss of his bride that he heads to Hades with his lyre in hand. He negotiates with Pluto, and it’s agreed that he can take the wife back on one condition — he cannot look back at her until they reached the upper world. Yep, he fails. She’s gone. But do you know who did not fail to rescue his bride from Hades? That’s right. Christ, our Lord and Savior. The pagan Plato wrote that Orpheus failed because he wasn’t willing to die. It’s as if Plato was foreseeing the One who would be willing to die and go to Hades to redeem his bride. When I went over this story with my class of middle and high schoolers this past week, I drew the shape of this story on my whiteboard, starting with the wedding at the beginning, and then the descent to Hades…..with no upward movement to follow. One of my students who is familiar with the U shape of a comedy/fairy tale, with its upward movement and ending with a wedding, feast, and/or dance, said, “Oh! that’s the opposite of the other with the wedding at the top at the end.” I had not drawn that one yet, but she remembered that image from the previous semester. I promise you that images like that make an impact. Knowing that others have told stories of a longing to be rescued, but only knowing failure, makes the fulfillment in Christ so much more meaningful. The wow of that connection, seeing that downward movement with no upward movement, should not be missed by any Christian child or adult. They longed for what we have seen. Never take that for granted.

This weekend as I am preparing to teach this same group of students about the patterns and images in fairy tales, I am returning to the story of Snow White. The origin of this story, as with all folklore, comes from the oral tradition and has no known original author. (You’ll have to take a class from Angelina Stanford, or one of mine if you’re local to me, to get more details about that.) The version that I linked above is from the collection of the Grimm brothers. (To find out more about them and their work, again, take a class from Angelina, and me for what I’ve learned from her.) The story of Snow White possibly comes from a Christian culture, but even if it did not originate there, Christians have certainly passed down the story continually since early times. The story is full of Bible images from Genesis to Revelation, with the image of pre-fallen innocence in Snow White, the jealousy of the evil queen and her tempting and attempts to kill Snow White, and the eventual awakening of the princess (“Good heavens, where am I?”) and the prince’s response: “You are with me…..I love you more than anything else in the world. Come with me to my father’s castle. You shall become my wife.” Gives me chills every time. We (the whole body of believers, his bride…but I kind of take it personally, too) wake up after death to Jesus saying, “You are with me. Come with me to my father’s house.”

A very Christian story, indeed, but here’s an interesting twist (for some of you, at least). After Snow White’s death at the third temptation, the dwarfs (oh, you really need to understand the image of dwarfs in this story) cannot bear to bury the beautiful princess, who still “looked as fresh as a living person”.

They said, “We cannot bury her in the black earth,” and they had a transparent glass coffin made, so she could be seen from all sides. They laid her inside, and with golden letters wrote on it her name, and that she was a princess. Then they put the coffin outside on a mountain, and one of them always stayed with it and watched over her. The animals too came and mourned for Snow-white, first an owl, then a raven, and finally a dove.

An owl, a raven, and finally a dove. It is no accident that these birds were chosen for the story, and for this image of mourning over this dead princess. The owl is Athena’s bird; the raven, Odin’s; and you Christian must know who the dove represents. (Think of who descended on Christ at his baptism.) All three birds represented wisdom in their mythology. What we have here is an image of Greek wisdom, Norse wisdom, and Christian wisdom all mourning, and longing for resurrection. They are together doing this. Christians did not separate themselves from pagans in the telling of stories and its accompanying metaphors and images. We all are joined in our humanity, longing to be saved from this mortality. It is only by God’s amazing grace that any of us have found the door and the way in. Never forget that.

 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.

Learning to read stories metaphorically has rocked my world and drawn me closer to my Creator. My God is indeed so big. All truth is God’s truth, and thanks be to God that in His wisdom He has given us story. I’m grateful that he allows ‘the Muse’ to speak through story-tellers of all cultures and traditions. Stories told in this fashion, in the same way as Jesus told his parables, give us so much to contemplate. Our minds and our hearts grow bigger and bigger. God knows this about us. He made us….in His image. He tells us about Himself through story — “In the beginning….” The metaphors and images are everywhere in the Bible from the histories to the poetry and prophecies, the gospels and letters to the final Revelation. When I see the gospel in myths and fairy tales, I know even more that he has indeed set eternity in the hearts of mankind.

Whenever I’m in a class with my teacher or I’m preparing my own class, I am so blown away by what I’m being shown, and I want every person, Christian or not, to see these things with me. I find it very, very sad that any believer would withhold this experience of the goodness of our God from themselves and their children. All creation has longed for salvation.

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

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To Be Enchanted By Story

I’ve had the wonderful experience these past 10 weeks of reading story to four-year-olds, taking things a little deeper with my 6-9 year old group, with telling back what we saw and what it reminded us of, and then with the age-10-and-up group, teaching story patterns and images. (You can read about my classes here.)

For that oldest group, I prepare each week by relistening to segments of the How to Read Fairy Tales class that I took with House of Humane Letters in the summer of 2021. I add to my notes in my notebook and in my copies of the fairy-tales that I am reading with this oldest group. I do some editing of words and illustrations that I’ve put on the whiteboard. Each time that I listen to my teacher going through the story on the recordings, I find myself going to the board and considering the big picture and finding that universal story becoming clearer and clearer to me.

Frankly, I am becoming enchanted by story like never before. And that deeper insight into reality is very much connected to that universal story.

A couple of weeks ago, our story was The Frog King, or Faithful Heinrich. It is a story of a not-so-nice princess who, right at the beginning of the story, is playing with a favorite ball that rolls into a well. The ball is recovered by a frog.

Blah-blah-blah you might think as a modern reader. But as it turns out, that image of a little girl playing with a gold ball was huge in the medieval world. They understood that ball to represent the whole cosmos. (Let me say right here that we have lost so much by losing the knowledge of these images, and not seeing the world metaphorically the way that our ancestors of too many generation ago did.) So when a hearer of that folk tale centuries ago told or heard that story, they totally saw that scene as a fallen cosmos that was brought back up by this frog. Of course, that’s not the end of that story, nor is it the end of our story if you make the connection to something that happened to our fallen world about 1,993 years ago.

Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm were collectors of stories. Like, really intense collectors. When publishing their collection, they put The Frog King (Der Froschkönig oder der eiserne Heinrich) first. I spent a lot of time contemplating this last weekend as I prepared for my class, and then shared these thoughts with my class on Tuesday. It seems to me that by purposely placing this story first, the brothers Grimm were introducing us to what all story is about. Every mythology that I know tells of a fallen world. Often we are told of a previous golden age of whatever length, and then something happens to precipitate that loss of innocence and safety. Think Adam and Eve in the Garden. Think Pandora and that box. Literary critic Northrop Frye believed that every story is about an exile from home, a paradisal place of innocence and safety, and a longing to return to that home.

Number 50 in that Grimms’ collection is Little Brier-Rose, or what we know as The Sleeping Beauty. Interestingly, it is a frog that comes to tell Brier-Rose’s mother that she will have a child, and it is said many listeners of this tale would associate that frog with the frog of the first story. But there is another connection that I’d like to address at this time. You are probably familiar with the tale of a curse being put on the baby by a disgruntled fairy (Disney version) or wise-woman (traditional and Grimms version), and that curse being put into effect on her 15th birthday when she pricked her finger on that spindle. Not only does Brier-Rose sleep for 100 years (the softening addendum on the curse by the 12th wise woman), but the entire castle, including all the bugs, sleep as well. The whole castle is under the curse. During that 100 years thorns grow around the castle, keeping every one else out, and causing the death of many princes who come to wake the princess. There are a few things that these thorns could be an image of, which I won’t give away here. (Hey, take my class, or HHL’s fairy tale class!) But the other day as I stared at my white board where I had written the word whole cosmos, and I considered those images of the golden ball and that castle completely surrounded by thorns, I was overwhelmed at the similarity of those two images. That castle, enclosed in those thorns, represented an entire fallen cosmos. They all slept. To fall. To rise. To sleep. To wake. To die. To be resurrected. Death to Life. The true Prince didn’t just make it through those thorns ….well, actually this is what happened: When the prince approached the thorn hedge, it was nothing but large, beautiful flowers that separated by themselves, allowing him to pass through without harm, but then behind him closed back into a hedge. Pretty cool, right? He was the True Prince, and he came at just the right time. So, anyhow, he didn’t just wake one person; he brought the entire castle (cosmos, my friends) back to life. Don’t tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about. That’s right.

So here’s the deal: You must enter story and take story at its own terms. Enter. Look around. It’s quite enchanting. What do you see? What does it remind you of? What do you wonder?

To be enchanted by story is to be granted a deeper insight into reality.
~Stratford Caldecott

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Kay’s Story, Rhyme, & Song Interview. 15 October 2023

This is an interview with Kay and her husband, Jack, who had thought it would be good if people in our local area could hear a lengthy conversation about what makes Kay’s Story, Rhyme, & Song classes special. It’s split into 5 segments, the first one being a short introduction, and the others getting more into the details.

Segment 1. Introduction to the 3 Levels of Story, Rhyme, & Song
Segment 2. More About Kay’s Journey and Education
Segment 3. On Losing Our Humanity and Finding It Again Through Story
Segment 4. More about Narration
Segment 5. More About Level 3–Middle and High School
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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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