Find Joy. Seek Truth. Be Kind.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Clarification on book lists.

So, for all two of you who read this, I'm going to clarify my rules for my lists "What I'm reading" and "What's on my shelf".

See last night a certain friend told me I couldn't possibly have read or been reading all those books because she knew for a fact that one of the books on the list I didn't actually have in my possession at the time she read the list. (She knew that 'cause I was desperately begging for it, but that's another story.) The insinuation being that there might be other books on the list I wasn't actually reading, hadn't read, and, might never read. Because NOBODY, I'm told, could read all that in a month.

Actually, it's only the 19th. The month isn't over. I suspect I'll add more books before it's March. There's an extra day in February this year, after all. Also, did you check out what some of those books were? Dude, 2 hours tops for Kenyon. Vampire romances are, like, a quickie. And don't ride me about romances. There's broccoli, rice, and chicken, then there's dessert. Romances are a cheap candy bar. Sometimes you just have to have one.

Thus I see the need for clarification.

"What I'm reading this month" is a list of, wait for it, what I'm reading this month. It's either books I plan on reading, have started reading, or have finished reading. I knew that I would read this book in question because it was for a book group I attend religiously, thus it made the list, even though I didn't own the book, was 4/6 on the library wait list for it, and after hitting 4 bookstores in town had to pay $25+ for the last copy the day before book group (that's that other story, I could have bored a library copy from a friend, but... oh, it's just complicated). At the beginning of the next month I will copy the list on to a post labeled, excitingly,"February's books". If I haven't finished the book, it will also be added to the current list. If I never started the book it will NOT be included in that post but listed to the current months list, or I will list it on the "On my shelf" list, newly created for this purpose.

The "On my shelf list" is literally a list of books I have waiting for me, but that I don't currently have any other relationship to. It includes books from the library that I may not give a thorough read, and books that I don't read per se, but do reference or browse on occasion. There's a few that I started, haven't finished, aren't actively trying to finish, but haven't quite given up on yet. It also includes, at the moment, some lovely thick Charles de Lint that I got from my sweet heart for my birthday months ago, but have been too busy to let myself indulge in. (Those I do seem to be evolving a relationship with, but I'm a little ambiguous about where we're going.) Also, having lived with this list for only a few minutes, I'm not sure what I'll do about those books that never seem to want to move on to some other list. I'm not into punishment. What would be a natural consequence for a book that refused to be read? I'll work on that.

I have to say, so far, my list of books is what I like most about this blog. I started it just to figure out blogging. I've done a couple of posts to help with that problem I have. (You know, where my mouth runs, but not much comes out, then later I think of something brilliant at 3 am? Please let me think I'm brilliant at 3 am, I've pretty much proved I'm not at any other hour.) But the list of books, (loving sigh here) the list of books. ... it's like putting my memory somewhere where outside my head. It's a list of friends and acquaintances I might otherwise forget the name of at a party, only to embarrass myself "Oh, we have met before". I can look at that title and remember the gentle midnight caress, the rough repartee, the hands held walking in the rain. I can be reminded of how great it was to start a book and discover that I loved it.
Or not, as the case may be.

The only thing better than an ongoing list of my book-affairs, would be a Netflix-like list for books. I would love to have an ever-increasing list of books I'm interested in, that I could place in order of my current enthusiasm, and have delivered when I'm done with what I'm working on right now. Wow, I'm melting at the thought.

Heart, Mind, Soul, and Sex

The most sex and least titillation I've ever read in a book, "The Abstinence Teacher" is hardly worth talking about. And yet...and yet...I keep thinking about it. Why wasn't it interesting? The characters were well modeled, the situations tense enough, the setting realistic. It did meander. It didn't have a coherent theme or moral. That might have been intentional in order to accent moral ambiguity. But that wasn't what kept it from feeling true and important.

Thinking about it, what it lacked is the same thing that the main character's first sex ed class lacked. Heart. Her class, which was factual, scientific, and comparatively rigorous, was replaced with a fear based abstinence program that shared the same deficiency. None of the sex acts described in this book (and there were plenty) involved the individuals thinking only of each other in a loving and kind way. (Save perhaps for those of the gay couple, which were only mentioned, but not actually in a scene.) None of the sexual relationships shown in this book involved people who were respectful and present with their partners.

A sex ed class can tell you the way the human body functions, what diseases it can suffer from, what physical consequences the act of reproduction can have. Using a program like OWL, it can encourage you to respect yourself and others as you make decisions about exploring your sexuality. This is useful information, most necessary. But it's not the end of what I want my children to know.

I want my children to know that sex is a powerful creative act that creates a bond between two people. Sex can change the world, and will change them. I want them to recognize the holy human beings that they share their bodies with and to care about that person in that moment as much as they care about themselves. I want them to recognize their place in the sacred space of the world and how sexuality is a way to connect to that.

There's nothing wrong with consensual adults playing barley break. The spirit revels in play as much as in prayer. What should always be remembered though, is the person one is playing with.

I would give my children a recognition of sex, not solely as reproduction, not just as a perfectly fine bodily function, but as a unique way of connecting two human spirits.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Interdependent Children

I've been reading "Kingdom of Children", which is a sociologists' report on homeschooling. In combination with the homeschooling info meeting I'm organizing this month, and an educational round table I'm presenting at in March, it's gotten me thinking about my educational and parenting philosophies. In our local inclusive homeschooling group I'd be considered "unschooling" in our local unschooling group, I'm not unschooly enough. Why is that and where do I fit?

Mitchell L. Stevens, in his book "Kingdom of Children", found a description of the two basic divisions he found in homeschooling: "heaven-based" and "earth-based". Heaven-based refers to Christian homeschoolers, who tend to use a hierarchical model for both organization and family life. Earth-based refers to inclusive homeschoolers, who tend to use a "consensus" based model for both organization and family life. I found the descriptions revealing, and his book insightful, if necessarily over generalized. Using his descriptions, again, I don't quite fit.

I'm also reading Forrest Church's "The Seven Deadly Virtues", and that has helped me see how and why I'm not quite in either category. I haven't finished processing it all yet. (I haven't even finished the Virtues book.) But I'm getting a sense that it has to do with how I weight the importance of the individual with that of the community.

Growing up in 20th century America, I was taught, and believed, that an individual should be independent, strong, and free. Certain factions of my family worked hard to socialize us that family was above all, including self. Given the destructive tendencies in that bit of family, I rejected their perspective. I grew wanting to be independent and free, wanting no part in the servitude I paid in my youth to my family.

As an older parent, I rediscovered servitude. :-) And community. And interdependence.

Now as I parent my own children, avoiding the land mines laid by my past, I discover and create new ones. Yes, I want them to be independent, strong, and free. Yet, I also want them to be compassionate, involved, and reliable. I want them to be aware of how they are tied into the community around them, and how their actions affect others. I don't want them to blindly place a community above their own survival, but I do want them to see that for the good of a community, individual sacrifices are sometimes necessary, that this can actually protect the individual from a greater loss.

In a healthy community individuality is respected and protected. In a healthy individual the good of the community is considered. If individuals are greatly restricted within a community, the society as a whole will eventually suffer, and disintegrate. If an individual cares only for himself, without a sense of responsibility to those he shares a community with, eventually the individual will suffer the loss of the community resources, and the loss of the community itself. The scale of this could vary. The individual could be a person, a family, a smaller community within a larger one. The community could be a family, a congregation, neighborhood, city, state, country, even the planet.

So as I homeschool our children I have an unsteady balance to strike - the drunken walk of interdependence. Yes they should be free to explore their world in the way that suits them best. They must also learn to consider the needs of those around them, and have respect for others. These two things often collide. There is only so much time in one day. Our resources are not without limit. We must learn to wait our turn, to share, to negotiate and compromise. There are times when health, safety, or general consideration, don't allow time or resources to use the consensus model to reach an agreement. Someone has to make a decision, and others must follow it.

Who am I to think I can expect that of my children? What am I thinking? Our leaders can't do that! Who am I to tell them that they can't always have what they want when they want it?

I'll tell you what I tell them.
"The mother. That's who I am."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Strawberry Economics

A dear friend (uncharacteristically) complained, asking "Why do strawberries have to be so expensive out of season?" "It's not fair that only rich people get strawberries in the winter!" I didn't have much of an answer for her. In my usual style, I'm not so brilliant off the cuff. After a little thought, here's my answer.

I'm pretty sympathetic to the desire for fresh fruit at all times. If you substituted sweet cherries for strawberries, I might be up in arms myself. ;-) We are lucky to live where it is possible to have fresh fruit and veggies year round, almost irregardless of the season. But, there is a price to pay for this, and not all the cost is financial.
(Can you tell I've been reading Kingsolvers "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle?", well worth the time! )

There is a pretty clear reason strawberries and other fruit is more expensive out of season. There is less of it available locally, so supply and demand would easily explain the extra expense. In addition, most of the fresh produce we eat out of season is actually shipped in from elsewhere, where it is in season. So we are paying not only for the food, it's production, harvest, and packaging, we are also paying extra for fuel and man hours to ship it from whatever gorgeous, warm clime it grew in.

Indeed, the money we pay for our food is only a fraction of what the farmer and farm workers who worked so hard to grow it receive. If we want to support safe and healthy food production in our country, thus improve our local economy, our environment, our homeland security, and our own health, there are many things we can do. We can grow our own food, buy locally, use community supported agriculture, frequent farmers markets, and recognize that it is, indeed, a great treat to be able to eat fresh fruit and vegetables year around. (Ya, ya, again with the "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle"! LOL You gotta read the book.)

I grow strawberries in our yard. There is nothing quite like the taste of a vine ripened, sun warmed, fresh picked, strawberry. I'd go pretty far to get one. I'm glad to have some right outside my door. Considering that berries are among the produce most treated with pesticides, growing your own, if possible, is a no brainer. Still, it's not completely without effort. After a day of weeding, mulching and picking, my back feels stiff and tired, my legs can get shaky. I'm lucky, I get to rest when I need to, and I can come and go as I please

Our family doesn't depend upon this physical labor for our livelihood. My gratitude goes out to those whose livelihoods include growing, harvesting and processing our produce.
Thank you for the food I eat, each and every day.

January's books

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver
The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt, by Eleanor Roosevelt
Throne of Jade, by Naomi Novik
The Black Powder War, by Naomi Novik