Potpourri: Singleness, Clotheslines and Loss at Christmas

How Not to Help All the Single Ladies: I am a single lady. The summer I graduated from college I read John Fischer’s booklet A Single’s Personal Identity. I had dated someone in college that ended after college. That booklet helped me understand my role as a single woman. I read it again as I got older and was still single. In the years that followed, I continued to teach, attend a great church, be involved with my family and had close friends. In my 30’s being single was hard at times but I was given many opportunities to use my gifts and life was fulfilling. Now I am much older and still single. My family is close and I have encouraging friends. I have a full life caring for my mother with Alzheimers and teaching at a homeschool tutorial. I don’t go around thinking about being single. I live my life and I am content. I have met other singles in my life who have struggled with being single but I have also met married folks who struggle being married. Life is not always easy, but I learned a long time ago from Elisabeth Elliott, that sometimes you just need to “Do the Next Thing” and not worry about things. This article has some good counsel on dealing with singles in your life.

The Politics of the Clothesline: Growing up we had a clothesline in our backyard which we used when the weather would allow. Later when I had my home in South Carolina I also had a clothesline. There was always something satisfying of getting the freshly dried clothes off of the line and them smelling so good. We live in a culture that often wants the easy way, even if it costs us more. Read this article and maybe next time you will hang out those clothes to dry.

Dealing with Loss at Christmas: My father died right before Christmas. It changed things. That year the family, grandparents, all 7 of his brothers and sisters, their spouses and 12 cousins came to our house rather than the farm-house to celebrate Christmas. They were sensitive to my family, realizing that we might want to stay home. It was tough that first Christmas and to this day,  Christmas still has difficult moments for my family. We tell stories of Christmas’ past, sometimes laughing and sometimes crying. A friend lost her child a few months ago and trying to maneuver through the holidays is tough. Steven Curtis Chapman knows about loss, and how difficult the season can be since he lost his daughter, Maria. He shares here about loss at Christmas and writing a Christmas Card, a song for his new Christmas album, Joy.




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Holiday Turkey Hunt: Win a Scentsy

If you don’t want to fight the crowds of Black Friday, sit at home and enter The WIC Project Holiday Turkey Hunt.  There are great prizes packages and gift cards s well as a Amazon Gift Card Grand Prize. Enter the grand prize at WiC Project. The grand prize is open to eligible US and Canada residents (excluding Quebec) and is (currently) a $120 Amazon GC.

Thank you to WiC Project for organizing this one! Please enter my giveaway for a Scentsy Bluster plug-in and 2 Scentsy bars: Peppermint Dreams and Festive of Trees. (a $30 value). This is would be a great addition to your Christmas decorations or the perfect gift for someone on your list.
Thank you to my sponsor Light Your World.
Use the easy Rafflecopter form below and do it before December 7 at midnight EST. I will select a winner via random.org and they will have 24 hours to respond. Please leave your email address so I can contact you! Continue reading
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Hurricane Sandy: Photographs

I live on the East Coast and was all ready for Hurricane Sandy. We were told there would be power outages so be prepared. We stocked up on food, water and batteries. We got the candles out. The rain came and there was wind but in my part of the mid-Atlantic there were only a few trees down and power outages. We awoke and started watching the TV as the storm moved north. The tri-state area was really hit and these photographs capture some of that damage.

Burned houses are seen next to those that remain in Breezy Point, a neighborhood located in the New York City borough of Queens, after it was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, Oct. 31, 2012. New York City and the sodden U.S. Northeast began an arduous journey back to normal after mammoth storm Sandy swamped coastal cities and cut power to millions. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Rescue workers walk past homes destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, Oct. 31, 2012 in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

It reminds me of a kid’s building set that someone stepped on. These are people’s homes. I saw on the news as families went back trying to find keepsakes. A woman was in a marsh area, her home nowhere in sight and she found a photograph of her mother in her wedding dress. It was the only one she had. Others just stood there crying over the lost but holding on tightly to each other. At times like this we realize what is really important.

I know someone who grew up on Long Island and still has family and friends there. She has collected gift cards and other things to send. Others there have shared how they are opening up their homes to those around them who lost their homes or who can’t get back in yet. Donations are being accepted at the American Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy Relief.

These pictures came from The Big Picture and there are 46 unbelievable photos available there.

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Political Thought by Hunter Baker

Crossway has recently started publishing a new series of books called Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition. Over the coming months I plan to read each and review them.

I started with Political Thought: A Student’s Guide by Hunter Baker as we are in the midst of a presidential election. I teach a high school rhetoric class and an omnibus class both of which are looking at and analyzing political commercials, blogs, debates and the candidates websites among many other things. They are using what we have learned about rhetoric skills in their analysis. I used some of the material Hunter Baker presented to explain to both classes what is meant by political though.

The book is well-organized and presents three famous social contract philosophers: Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke. These are definitely summaries but Baker articulates clearly the philosophies of each and  focuses on their dominant themes of order, equality and liberty. For me, this was worth the price of the book. When I shared this, students understood the concepts and were drawing examples of these themes being used by the presidential candidates. They laughed when I read from the Locke section, “Their rights come from God”, as the night before they had heard Ryan use a version of that phrase in the vice presidential debate.

Baker goes on to further develop the themes by giving each of them a separate chapter. On the section of freedom he shares John Mill’s utilitarian concept, and in each section he gives examples that students will understand. He then looks at justice and ends the book by addressing what is good politics and the contributions of Christians.

I recommend this book for students who want to understand politics and the foundational principles on which our country was built. There is a glossary, index and questions to help students reflect on and process the material. This is a guide, a total of 121 pages so it not meant to be a tome but an introduction for students.  I think it does that well but would have liked to see a bibliography included so students could read further. Political Thought adds to a better understanding of the Christian intellectual tradition and I look forward to reading other books in the series.

You can follow Hunter Baker on Twitter @hunterbaker and read an article he has written, The Soul of Liberty, at Touchstone.

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Jacques Barzun: His Writings Influenced My Teaching

My sister, Karen introduced me to Jacques Barzun on a summer vacation in 2001. She had picked up his book, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western  Cultural Life 1500 to the Present at Bethany Bookstore and thought I would like it. She shared his views on Martin Luther and the Reformation, something I have studied and have strong views. I started to read her copy and kept reading. I couldn’t wait to go to the bookstore and get my own copy so I could write in it. I went and they had the hardback copy on sale and so the rest of that week I was reading this book and having discussions with my sister about it. The rest of the family on the vacation got tired of us discussing it. I was hooked on Jacques Barzun and wanted to get a hold of everything he wrote.

At the time I was teaching third grade and went back and shared the book with several teachers. I also found out more about Barzun. I love baseball and his famous quote about the sport caught my eye. Then I found out he wrote a catalog of mystery books, another interest of mine.

Thus began a love affair with the writings of a man who was born in France in 1907. It was in France that he rubbed shoulders with many modern artists such as Marcel Duchamp. His father thought an American education would be good to him so he came at a young age to America and later entered Columbia University where he was part of the debate club, and became the valedictorian of his graduating class in 1927. He later got his Ph.D from Columbia and taught history there from 1928 through 1955. He continued at Columbia as a dean and later provost.

He worked with the poet W. H. Auden and Lionel Trilling on a book club. He wrote over 40 books dealing with William James, writing, detective fiction and cultural history. He was as an art and theatre critic.

The book he is most known for, he wrote when he was 84 years old and it was over 800 pages long: From Dawn to Decadence. I now use that book in my class as a text and use so many of his other books to reinforce what I am teaching in history and writing.

Jacques Barzun died this week at the age of 104. While I don’t agree with everything Barzun says, including Martin Luther and the Reformation, I appreciate his insights. He has made me understand the history of Western Civilization from a cultural point of view. He has helped me explain some historical periods to my students. He has given me some great writing examples. He also has made me appreciate even more two things I love: baseball and detective fiction.

Here are some of my favorite of his quotes.

Anybody who has ever taught knows that the act of teaching depends upon the teacher’s instantaneous and intuitive vision of the pupil’s mind as it gropes and fumbles to grasp a new idea.  Begin Here: The Forgotten Conditions of Teaching and Learning, pg 20

The measure of a man’s education is that he takes pleasure in the exercise of his mind.

The truth is, when all is said and done, one does not teach a subject, one teaches a student how to learn it.  Begin Here: The Forgotten Conditions of Teaching and Learning, pg 35

Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game – and do it by watching first some high school or small-town teams.

In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.

First Principle: Have a point and make it by means of the best word.  Simple & Direct

No subject of study is more important than reading…all other intellectual powers depend on it.

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Here are snippets of reviews I have written for some of his books.

The Culture We Deserve: A Critique of Disenlightenment

Barzun has keen insight into our culture and shares it in 12 essays that deal with history, fine art, the humanities and so much more. If you loved From Dawn of Decadence, you will enjoy this book too.

Classic, Romantic, and Modern

Originally written in 1948, Barzun added a new forward and chapter in 1960. As a cultural historian, he understands the philosophy of an age. He helped me understand what is meant by romanticism and its influences on modern times. He also noted trends and his insights proved to be right on. If you are interested in history and how we got where we are today, this book will make you think.

The Use and Abuse of Art (A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts)

Barzun has an acute sense of culture and history and is a straightforward writer. The six chapters in this book were originally given as part of the A. W, Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts. Barzun has insights into the development of modern art. I teach an omnibus class (integration of English literature and history) that discusses art and I learned so much by reading this book that I have shared with my class. I wonder what further insights Barzun has about art since 30 years have passed since he wrote it in 1973. If you are interested in the start of art and wonder how we got to the point we are today, read this book for some thought-provoking ideas.

Simple and Direct

Barzun has written dozens of books and so because of that writing he has given insights into developing your style and keeping your writing clear. He gives many examples, some literary, and has exercises that I have used with my 10th and 11th grade classes.


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Potpourri: Caught My Eye This Week

Man Recycles Old Door Knobs into a Sparkling Replica of Van Gogh’s Starry Night – I love old door knobs and have some from the house my parents lived in after they were married and from the farmhouse of my grandparents. What a clever way to recycle them. Click on the article to see why he did this.

Question of the Week: Favorite Children’s BookCiRCE Institute is a wonderful resource for those interested in classical education. They have insightful articles, audio tapes, a classical schools database, informative newsletter. They recently asked for your or your kid’s favorite children’s books. Some folks gave lengthy responses while others only named a few. Some of my favorites were listed but I also saw some new titles I will need to check out.

Ordo Amoris – I have been fascinated with politics since I was a youngster. I remember watching the Kennedy-Nixon debate at my grandparent’s house. I now teach rhetoric at a tutorial that has all students debate in grades 7 – 12. I teach Lincoln-Douglas style debate in my class but at the school, policy debates, legislative, public forum and mock trial are all taught. Presidential and vice-presidential debates are discussed. This site offered a Presidential Bingo and gave things for students to look for. They did the same thing for the Vice-Presidential debate also. There are funny items and thought provoking items included. Why didn’t I think of this?



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Mom, Alzheimers and Imago Dei

I have been absent from this blog for over a month – and what a month it has been. I started back to school teaching at a classical homeschool tutorial. I love my job and teach two classes: rhetoric and omnibus at high school level. These are the smallest classes I have taught and sometimes I have to work hard at the discussion but it has been great getting to know them.

About the same time that school started Mom had an incident which later we realized was a TIA (transient ischemic attack) and we visited her Alzheimer’s doctor. Her doctor explained about the stroke-like symptoms and scheduled mom for some occupational therapy. We were told that she could have more TIAs.

Within a week, Mom was not feeling well and wouldn’t get out of bed. The next day I got my sister and her son to come and help me get mom up and moving. Mom was responsive and we got her up, dressed and off to visit my other sister. We arrived there and Mom seemed really out of it again though communicating with us. The next morning mom was not talking right and we called an ambulance. She was admitted to the hospital.

They thought it might be a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) or a stroke but wouldn’t give her any medication. Mom was incoherent and we explained she had Alzheimers. They took blood and then more blood. After about three hours a doctor came in and explained in broken English, the situation to us – they knew nothing.

But then, she stretched her arms out over mom and shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, she is old and what are you going to do?” There was silence. The impression given was, why don’t you go ahead and buy the coffin and throw her in the ground. It was like she wanted us to take mom home and let her die, though we had no idea what was causing her problem. Someone said we want to know what is going on, if it is UTI let’s give her an antibiotic, if not do the tests to determine if she had a stroke.

You see, we value life and though mom is old and sometimes has trouble communicating clearly she is still a human. She enjoys good food, she tells stories – majority which make absolute sense, she laughs, she sings, she gives great hugs and encourages people. Yes, sometimes she gets agitated, she doesn’t always remember my name or recognize me. These past five years that I have been her primary caregiver have not been without difficulty but I would not trade them. I love her, more today than I ever had.

We stayed at the hospital for five days and she had tests but the result was inconclusive. She was put on an antibiotic and tests were preformed to determine if she had a stroke. She has a pacemaker, so she can’t have an MRI, but other tests showed she had no blood clots or blood on the brain.

Mom was sent to a home that specializes  in dementia patients for rehab. Therapists are working to bring Mom back to the baseline she had before this incident. Her family loves her and we are committed to having her back at home. As this is Alzheimers month, I read an article, The “Toxic Lie” of Dementia about the view that loss of rational thought means loss of self. Christine Bryden who wrote a book called Who Will I Be When I Die? in 1998 had been diagnosed with Alzheimers and was asking of questions from a Christian perspective about identity, about how people were now viewing her. This quote from Bryden resonated with me given how some, including medical personal view those with Alzheimers:

—I believe that I am much more than just my brain structure and function, which is declining daily. My creation in the divine image is as a soul capable of love, sacrifice and hope, not as a perfect human being, in mind or body. I want you to relate to me in that way, seeing me as God sees me. I am confident that even if the continuing damage to my temporal lobe might diminish the intensity of my God-experience, there will be other ways in which I can maintain my relationship with God.

My students have learned about Imago Dei, the Christian doctrine that humans uniquely represent the image and likeness of God. Yes, at the fall that was marred but it was not destroyed. We have dignity as His image bearers and our value is not dependent on utility or function. May we always value human life.

Imago Dei
Mom smiling, being silly and making her family laugh.

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The Birth of a Book

When I was a librarian at a PK – 8th grade school back in the late 80’s I went with another teacher to an area school about having students writing, illustrating and then presenting their own book. We saw how this school did it at one grade level with 6 classes and we came back inspired to have our school do it 1-8 grade.

Most grade levels were already writing stories, and some were doing illustrations. But now we wanted every class to participate. We were going to make this a special event, with a schedule for the entire school with stories being read by students from 8:45 to 3:00 except during an hour period for lunch. Teachers were excited about incorporating the writing skills, the art teacher was going to help with illustrations, parents were going to help with the binding of the books and a committee was set up for refreshments. This was planned for the first week of May giving teachers and students ample time to get their ideas and then write, revise, and correct their stories.

Illustrations were left to student with the art teacher’s guidance – some going all out and others keeping it simple but effective. As the books would be stitched everything was based on multiples of 4. A page was folded in half so you get 4 sides. Younger students used 12 by 18 inch paper and older students used 8 by 12 inch. The school had a laminating machine so colored paper was used for the cover, illustrated by the student and then laminated. I brought in my sewing machine and several parents helped, some taking books home to stitch them.

Not only did teachers get to teach writing school now they also got to teach presentation skills: reading loudly and clearly with expression, using proper phrasing in addition to showing pictures, and having eye contact with the audience. After each story was read there would be comments and questions from the audience so students also had to be prepared to answer questions about their book, illustrations and the process.

Classes would come to the library and I had a schedule for each story that was 10 minutes for younger students, 15 for older ones. Parents, friends and sometimes other classes would come and listen to the stories. After each class was finished I would dismiss them along with their guests for refreshments in the lobby. I built in a 10 minute time between classes for people to come and go and in case some class went over the time limit.

It was a wonderful time, and students got dressed up for their presentations. We had visitors sign a guest book which was an encouragement to everyone involved and showed the School Board how important this event was. It was tiring especially for me as I introduced each student and the entire school took the whole week but it was definitely worth it. Years later student still say what a special time that was for them.

I left that school and when I moved to South Carolina I started this tradition with my third grade class. We focused on fairy tales. We read some together and many individually. After talking about the elements of those tales students wrote their own tale. This tradition continued the 14 years I was there and it was a favorite of students, parents and guests.

Books can be a thing of beauty especially when you have written it. I haven’t written any books but I have antique books that are beautifully made. Now we are in the age of the ebooks with less physical books being made. Many publishing companies take shortcuts so that books aren’t as solidly made as they once were. While in Williamsburg we visited the bookbinder and saw the beautiful books that were created. Books were a beautiful thing not just because of what was on the inside but the outside was a work of art too.

Some still follow those time-honored traditions. Here is “a short vignette of a book being created using traditional printing methods.” Enjoy!



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Beautiful Norway Photography

This summer I went to Young Life’s Lake Champion Camp to spend a week as a guest. My sister, Diane was the camp director for the month of June. It was a family affair as my other sister and her husband were also on that assignment and my nephew was working on the outside work crew. Thor, from Young Life Norway was there and kept telling us about the culture of Norway. My brother-in-law and his wife have been to Russia with Young Life but not Europe. They talked about how great a trip to Norway would be. I have been to Europe with my sister Diane, though we never visited Norway. These pictures show the beauty of Norway.

Golden Blizzard (Arild Heitmann)

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.
1 Chronicles 29:11

The Troll’s Tongue (Till Hanten)

God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
Genesis 1:31

Bryggen In Bergen  (Tord Andre Oen)

I can see why Thor loves Norway. After my brother-in-law and sister see these pictures I think they will be planning their trip. Check out more beautiful photographs at Norway in 50 Stunning Pictures.


What country would you like to visit if you could?


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If You Love to Read (Sarah Ada sings Adele’s There’s a Fire)

I love books and think Adele is a great singer so I loved this video.

The singer, Sarah Ada @SarahUkulele describes herself on Twitter as: “Ukulele playing, English teaching, hedgehog snuggling, bacon eating, book reading, koopa stomping, craft crafting, life living… all the best things!” You can find more videos of  her playing the ukulele at Sarah’s Ukulele Delights on YouTube.

I don’t know Sarah but there was an instant connection as we both teach, love books, hedgehogs and bacon. I sing Adele too but Sarah sings her better than I do.

What was your favorite book you read this summer?




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