And Mom Learns the Most–A Veteran Homeschooler Looks Back

Seven years after leaving home my daughter had room for all her books.  I was packing them up, so thankful that one of our homeschooling priorities had been the building of personal libraries for all.  I looked at the marvelous stories and thought:  here is proof of good parenting (at least in one area), here is evidence of a childhood well spent.  I remembered how the girls both loved The Sherwood Ring; I picked up Understood Betsy, smoothing the cover, recalling finding it in our small town library, where musty old books weren’t always thrown away.  I recalled Hannah’s eagerness when I assured her she would love this book. 

In thinking I would be the teacher, I was in fact the one who learned the most.  I learned to get in the way, and to get out of the way.  And I learned, as never before, to pray.  Because when there are humans involved and a cause and call from Heaven, there will be, um, difficulties.  There would be stretching and changing and growing up.

Beginning with me.  I knew, for instance, that I would teach my children to respect other people, and other peoples’ property.  I saw this as “socialism-proofing” as well as simply essential to convivial living.  What I didn’t see was how upside down and backward it is to do anything at all without the freedom found in love.  What I didn’t realize was how lacking I was in respect for other people and their most valuable property—their hearts.

My passionate child, Rebekah, at age four, had a very great desire to emulate me; this desire overrode the non-negotiable rule about staying out of my purse.  I turned my back and in the blink of an eye she had found her treasure—my brand new and quite expensive red lipstick.  It was ruined. I ranted, angrily, at this little adoring child.  Sobbing, she went down the hall.  “Whatsa matter, Bekah?” asked her big sister, Hannah (age 5).  “Mama’s mad at meeee.”

She didn’t hear a word I said–she only heard the anger. 

But my weaknesses always brought me to my knees, crying out, believing for what I would not and could not be without—Grace from God to pass on to my family.  And Grace permeates, perfumes and perfects all things.  Grace also sheds light on things dark—dare I say here, “Dark as in pre-packaged curriculum, scope and sequence guidelines, and tests.” 

I simply could not pick a curriculum, and the light came on when I saw that according to the scope and sequence of a very popular one, my son was “failing” on every level.  I walked away from the curriculum but the worry and confusion continued to plague me.  I prayed, persevered, and persisted.  And I learned.

I learned that even if a textbook was entitled “Adventures” in this or that, it was still a textbook, and thereby suspect of being what the great educator Charlotte Mason considered “twaddle”.  Agonizing over which curriculum to buy, I had one of so many lightbulb moments.  In discovering the meaning of “scope and sequence” I also discovered that my son wasn’t even close to being where he “should” be at age six.  The lightbulb revelation:  These textbook writers have never even met my son, much less have any knowledge of where he “should” be.  I would follow a different path.

Early on, and then continually as we went along, I had to choose between two paths:  Performance or Peace.  And somewhere along the way it became clear that the Peace path was always the way.  “Academics,” I said to my husband (who already knew this), “is the least important part of what we’re doing.”  Missing it at times, overall we were raising our kids to love learning, love life, and love God.

Math, not so much.  Realizing that even though I was always pretty good at math, I didn’t seem to have the tiniest bit of anointing to teach it. I got help.  I ordered The Great Courses math curriculum—this after using other highly-rated options through the years.  Still, math mastery wasn’t a hallmark of our homeschooling, at least not in all four of our students.

John was unconcerned.  “I learned more in one college math course than in twelve years of public school,” he said.  Not helpful.  After all, there were those pesky ACTs and SATs and opinions of other people.  There was that college prep and academic thing I said wasn’t the most important thing.  And one of our kids really excelled (like scoring way higher than friends in costly private schools, even).  I patted myself on the back a bit, and as usual a little child led me.  “Mom,” this test-acing child said, “You always say not to care about the opinions of man.  If you don’t care then why are you bragging about me to everyone.  It’s embarrassing.”

OK, so I do care.  So it does rankle to be judged (we did this when it wasn’t cool at all), and it is quite nice when your kids turn out nicer, smarter, and sweeter than their “properly socialized” peers; when they like you and want to spend time with you; and care about the world around them, and contribute thereto.  All these things are common in homeschooled kids.  Yes, of course you can find a train wreck among homeschoolers, but the results are in:  even done quite imperfectly, homeschooling beats public “education” hands down.

Another homeschooler lamented to me of his three grown homeschoolers (all of whom were homeschooling their kids):  “They don’t go to the same church we go to, they don’t much agree with our politics, they aren’t raising the grandkids like we think they should.”  I smiled.  “If you didn’t want them to think for themselves,” I said, “You shouldn’t have homeschooled them.”

That may be the best gift we can give our kids—the ability to think.  This requires time, and to best effect, including time in nature. We all need time alone—time to be.  Time to  become.  To be and become the unique-in-all-the-history-of-the-world miracles they were created to become. 

Created.  In view of my ever-increasing respect for His creations shared with me in my children, I gained an ever-increasing respect for living a creative life.  The memories of our creative times brings me joy.  There are the “paintings” they did on rainy days with homemade fingerpaints (on our living room walls); the wagon rides to shady spots in the woods for picnics and reading Timothy Tattercoat; the walks and talks, creekside rock skipping and stories.  Once our younger two had writing assignments and requested going to the creek to play instead.  “Take your writing things,” I said.  “Write something—a poem, story, anything.”  They came back with poems that absolutely delighted me—I still have them.  So many things I’ve kept—things created.

We still remember the many tea parties:  How we all loved History Teas, which often preceded and then followed museum visits.  Art galleries stimulated ever-changing art creations.  Knowing where all the best used bookstores were, and that Mom and Dad could always be counted on to buy books, went hand in hand with Dreams and Geography Teas.  Herein we talked about going anywhere and doing anything at all when you got there.  Especially in Etiquette Teas lovely classical music was played to go along with clean hands and faces.  If I dressed up a bit and put on some lipstick and earrings, so much more their delight.  Hearts were revealed, interests piqued, dreams encouraged.  Etiquette Teas were attended by the boys with a bit less enthusiasm than by the girls perhaps, but Manners Matter and The Art of Conversation were heard and heeded as cookies were munched and crunched.  Literature Teas were for talking about our current favorite books, reading passages–delightWhat’s your favorite part, your favorite characters?  Did you like the ending and what would you change?  What’s the author’s world view?  This would be a great movie—who should play the hero?

“Bookshares” were popularly attended by other homeschoolers, and followed a similar pattern.  The kids, even those who only brought favorite picture books, shared what they loved with the group, then went on to play as the moms shared.  What a joy one time when another mom brought the same book I brought—Freckles by Jean Stratton Porter.  There are great friendships to be made between homeschool moms—so much of such import is held in common in our hearts. 

But as much as is made about “socialization” and the supposed lack thereof among homeschoolers, we all need to get away to our own special space and place.  I can still hear John’s choking cry when he came home to see 8-year-old Hannah reading, way high in a homemade hammock tied to the uppermost branches of a hickory tree.  “Beverly!”  Seeing my disappointing lack of alarm he rushed into the woods and stood beneath the tree, commanding Hannah to come down.  She did so with a bit of a sigh.  She had found a place where no one would bother her, or so she thought.  It was hard having all these story-disturbing people about. 

Kids learn and make sense of life via creativity.  There is the time for hearing a story, for reading it for themselves, and then for acting it out in play.  For our kids there were treks alone in the woods, and treks together as “The John Wayne Club.”  The Club had rules and activities.  They built forts and created worlds.  There were destinations to be had via covered wagons, and those to be dressed up for because of train travel.  Trains could be made in the garage with folding chairs, and picnic baskets for eating ham sandwiches and apples during travel.  It was always messy, and sometimes painful.

As in the “Downhill Monster”

The Downhill Monster was a long bumpy trail through the woods above our house, then crossing the road, before going on down to the bottom of the hill.  The older three managed to sail down it in their bikes, leaving the ground at times, and arriving fully alive and well, behind their fort.  Seth, the youngest, was never to be left behind.  From climbing everywhere by six months and walking (running) at seven months, he was always where the action was.  One day when he was hot on the trail of the others flying down the Downhill Monster, John stepped outside to witness a spectacular crash.  Seth was tangled up in his bike as it rolled over and around him, skinning him from shin to chin.  Cringing, John started toward him, awaiting the wails.  Rather, Seth said, “ugh” and got back on his bike.  A man (at age 5) does what a man’s gotta do, right?

As in building with Legos.  Every parent of Lego-loving children has stepped on one of those fiendish little Lego pieces in the middle of the night.  But would we have it any other way?  Would we want to be a Lego-free house, or a mess-free zone?  (Yes, we taught our kids to clean their messes).  Would we exchange creative play for an always-clean dining room table?  No.  After all, we can laugh about it.  We can talk about the most challenging, fascinating and world-changing endeavor and privilege on earth:  raising children.  Learning how. 

How is not via electronics.  How is real.  I recently saw a little boy playing trucks with a Tonka truck game on his phone.  I was heartbroken.  “This is not how!” I wanted to shout at his parents who were blithely ignoring him.  How is learning how to be strong enough to say “No” to Tonka trucks on screens, and yes to playing trucks in the mud with real Tonkas.  Or, if you prefer as did I, have some cool cars and build curvy roads, tunnels, bridges, and A-frame houses.  I look back at such doings and am glad, so glad.  I am glad the dishes didn’t get done right on time, that dinner was probably late that day, and the laundry waited for me (doesn’t it always?) as I played with my child.  As we built strong and mighty bridges between our hearts.

Homeschooling families have to learn to get along (what else can you do with people you spend all your time with?), and the burden of that teaching falls mostly on the mom.  It takes much prayer, thought, consideration, journaling, Bible reading, and did I say prayer to do this adventure justice.  I did say adventure.   I hear tell that homeschooling is difficult.  But we do make it more difficult than it has to be.  There is a place where difficulty becomes rewarding challenge; where weaknesses become strengths, where defeat is annihilated by joy.

If we will see it, our little children will lead the way.  Or, if as was my case, we have a wise husband–we can be surrounded by people leading the way.  “He’s never gonna learn to read,” I sobbed to John as he hit the door after a long day.  For two years I had tried to teach our son Benjamin vowel sounds, and we weren’t past short “a” as in cat and hat.  “You just need to back off,” John said.  Fine lot of help you are.  I prayed and received the Grace to back off.

Six months later, I was having coffee with John’s aunt on a beautiful Sunday morning.  “Mom, what’s the Gay-Zuh strip?”  Benjamin asked.  “Gaza,” I corrected.  “What are you doing!?”  He was reading the editorial page.  A few years later I told Benjamin to put the book down as he was doing chores. John walked up behind me and whined into my ear, “He never gonna learn to read.” 

Thanks for the memories.  And thanks for the blessed future we have yet to see.  Amen.

Proverbs 14 – The Wise Woman Builds . . .

If you read the Proverb of the Day you’ll see today’s first verse (Proverbs 14:1) tells us that the wise woman builds her house. Digging into this we find “house” referring not only to a physical dwelling place, but also meaning “family.” The rest of the verse tells us that a foolish woman pulls her house down with her own hands, but let us now talk about how to build, how to be wise.

It always begins with humble and yet ferociously faithful prayer. Would you see your house as a strong and sure shelter for the hearts of all those you’ve been given to love? Do you want to build, nurture, partner with God Himself as a grace architect? Pray first. First pray. Pray, intercede, fight the good fight of faith for those you’ve been given to love. To Love.

This is serious business, this Love. This is God. We hear and say, “God is Love” and we go on and act like He’s a tyrant, not to be trusted. Well, there is one way out of that destructive thinking, and it begins with a determination to build, to obliterate the lies of the enemy, to be as Paul, “not unaware of his schemes.” In short, (this is too simple) read the Word of God.

You can begin with the Proverb of the Day–today’s the 14th, so read Proverbs 14, then get lifted with Psalms, taking your sweet time with sweet Jesus. Read some of His words in the Gospel of John, maybe try some GE Power from Galatians and Ephesians (I can’t ever read too much of Ephesians). And back to Proverbs for some scriptures on the power of the tongue, maybe . . . then full circle back to that house building.

Proverbs 14:11 tells us ” . . . the tent of the upright will flourish. Flourish–I like the sound of that, and find it defined thus in Strong’s Concordance: pârach, paw-rakh’; a primitive root; to break forth as a bud, i.e. bloom; generally, to spread; specifically, to fly (as extending the wings); figuratively, to flourish:—abroad, abundantly, blossom, break forth (out), bud, flourish, make fly, grow, spread, spring (up).

So, let’s go back to that “upright” business, as we surely want our tents to flourish. Again, from Strong’s: straight, upright, correct, right. It is straight, upright, correct, and right that we wise women build our houses–our beloveds–with faith-filled, Word-based prayer. We don’t need to talk about it, or plan ahead and dress up for it. Just do it right this very minute. Now!

“Father, I thank you for those you’ve given me to love. Let me Love as You Love. Show me how to build my house. Reveal any place I’m tearing it down. Teach me, reveal to me the glory and privilege of being Your ambassador to my beloveds. Help me to be wise. In You. Amen.”

Life is Good. Worry is bad.

I live with kind and undemanding folks, which sounds like a very good thing, right? But it can cause me to get a bit selfish and too into my own thing, which never seems to satisfy my soul. So, in my recent adventures in doing less and going my own way more, I am reminded of what I should KNOW by by: There is satisfaction in sharing, satisfaction in sacrifice.

And I am reminded of my mantra: A smart girl like you oughtta be able to figure this out. Of what am I speaking? I am speaking of the lack of shared meals happening of late at House of Parker.

We all have differing schedules, dietary preferences, and priorities–one person gets up at 3:30 a.m and is home any time between noon and 5:00; another gets off work at 11:00 p.m. The easy thing is to just say, “Who cares?”

The voice plaguing me says they don’t know or appreciate what it takes to put healthy meals on the table; it takes too much time; we’re in a new season and it doesn’t matter that much anyway. “Reason” continues: If I cook what they want it’s too hard to stay low-carb; let them cook their own–they know how.

And yes, they can and often do “cook their own” with the attendant continually messy kitchen, use of ingredients meant for other things, formation of unhealthy habits, and a general state of culinary chaos.

But that isn’t “the thing” really. The thing is that we no longer have “Table Share”. When I read a beautiful quote, or hear an amazing tale which simply must be shared for the joy and edification of all parties, for the common bond created via the ensuing good conversation, the best opportunity for doing so–while enjoying a meal–is unavailable.

What then shall a smart girl do? Give up? Sigh? Call someone and gripe (true friends share joys, not gripes)? No, she changes things here and there. She calls a family meeting first of all, enticing everyone with milk and no-bakes (chocolate oatmeal cookies cooked stovetop with plenty of butter, vanilla, salt, maybe some peanut butter and almond flavoring, and a bit more salt than called for).

In this meeting it is discerned that everyone is fine with her having more time to “do whatever” she wants, and that she should just “make herself happy”. And so . . . the hope that they will tell her what to do, how to solve this issue about which she is apparently the only one who cares, fades into more of the voices: It doesn’t matter; no one cares; you’re the only one bothered by this.

I own it. I am bothered by this, and that’s reason enough to do something about it, and I will find a solution.

So here it is: Breakfast together will be in the form of a weekend brunch; we’ll have dinner together (sort of–when it’s possible) and I will have beautiful times alone, as well as lovely times with only one of my beloveds at a time per their schedules, and on those marvelous times we’re all available, it will be all the more beautiful and lovely for the rarity.

And I will relax, and live in the unforced rhythms of grace given by my Creator. Because it always comes down to this: As smart as I am, He is smarter. He cares about what I care about, and He cares about me.

So rather than losing my creative juices via fretting, I will stop. Rest. And make my darlings happy by making myself happy. I will live each and every day without a plan or a goal, except to receive what God has for me–peace and love and joy–and pass it on. If that happens to be over a meal, so much the better.

Life is good. Worry is bad.

Wealth–It’s Not About Diapers or Tomatoes

In answering a question about my view of wealth, I once answered “tomatoes.” I was thinking of my grandmother’s adept peeling of hot-off-the-vine, sun-split tomatoes from her garden, and eating their sliced deliciousness with nothing but salt and myself. Wealth.

That same grandmother once said, “Well! He did that just right.” She was watching John carefully fold and gently apply a soft, cloth diaper to Rebekah’s baby bottom. Wealth.

Rebekah, like her sister Hannah, didn’t fuss or cry when her diaper was wet. She sent in my direction a businesslike grunt of sorts and I responded immediately. No soggy bottoms on my watch, no sir! Wealth.

A lovely woman once discussed cloth diapers with me, telling me how other moms thought she was ridiculous for using them. “I enjoy the extra time, the interaction,” she said. I knew what she meant. We shared something precious, an understanding of the beauty, the wealth found in taking that extra moment to make things “just right.”

It’s a matter of opinion and preference, of course. With our fourth child, when John was changing a smelly diaper, he said, “We are not this broke. No more cloth diapers.” I didn’t argue. There was a new wealth at this time, one made of cash, one not as rich.

I am not suggesting you use cloth diapers or grow your own tomatoes. I am simply suggesting that wealth is made of moments shared.

The Magic Homeschool Bus?

I’m doing a homeschooling article for American Essence magazine, and it’s developing into something about making homeschooling marvelous, enchanting, enthralling, exciting, even magical. Can you help? I have such great experiences and resources, but I’d like thoughts from currently homeschooling parents who realize that it’s really about so much more than academics, and that a facsimile of the traditional/public school classroom is not optimal, to put it mildly.

If you would like to add your thoughts, or know of someone who might, can you let me know?

Here’s my number, if you’d like to call: 970-556-2785.

Thanks!

Love is Success, Success is Love

I appreciate Grant Cardone because so much of what he wrote in The 10X Rule applies to success in the most important thing of all: family. “Pretend,” he writes, “you’re being recorded as a model by which your children and grandchildren will learn how to succeed in life.”

If you’ve read this blog for very long, you know I define success a little differently than most people–something like, “Success is being free from the approval of others, from the tyranny of selfishness. Success is being a homemaker.” It can also be being a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker, as long as in that role we are also the one who doesn’t pass by on the other side when we see the opportunity to give, the opportunity to sacrifice.

(I must pause here to say you don’t impress God when all your giving is done outside your family, and all you have left for them is impatience and unkindness. And judgment.)

Back to sacrifice–WE ARE MADE FOR IT! What story is better than that of the Good Samaritan who “took pity” on the half dead man? I’ll tell you one that is as good, but first a word about the Good Samaritan. He was on his way to somewhere and it was not in his plan, on his calendar, or convenient for him to stop. He was likely a man of affairs and means, as evidenced by his leaving the man at the inn, promising to be back, and promising to pay any and all costs. The innkeeper trusted him and I think that was because people who take the time to help others at great inconvenience to themselves–people who sacrifice–are trusted.

Now for another good story: Once upon a time there were scores and scores of women who “took pity” on their husbands and children, and cared for them, without access to success gurus, social media, nannies, new SUVs or throw-away diapers. They had to lean on the Helper, the One Who (if we will let Him) sticks closer than a brother.

In making such sacrifices they raised children also willing to sacrifice. They were rich inside.

We are created in the image of the God of Sacrifice, and apart from a life of sacrifice, we cannot ever be whole.

This is not a call to return to the “good old days” of twelve diapers and no washing machine, or of no central heating and running water, or having nowhere to go if married to a brute. In America, because of the sacrifices of those who came before us, we live in such a lovely world as regarding physical conveniences and social supports, but not one so lovely when it comes to sacrifice.

It’s time to not only be willing to sacrifice and give, but to be on the lookout for opportunities for doing so. And if you have the immeasurable privilege of having people living in your own house for whom you can sacrfice, it’s time to give thanks, not complaints. Just remember this when the doubts and self-pity come in like a flood: your reward is guaranteed, even if not immediately seen.

If you don’t believe me, read the New Testament. If you don’t believe that, you’re doomed–to the misery of a life without sacrifice.

Mama, You’ve Got the Goods

One of the reasons Satan hates mothers so much is because that’s who has always defeated him–mamas in the trenches, fighting the “good fight” of faith. We’re not on TV, no one knows our names. There are books about famous Christian women who changed history, but the fact is no one book could hold all our names. You and I, in prayer right now, are changing history. We don’t need other people to know, because God knows.

I am loving Colleen Mitchell’s words in Who Does He Say You Are?: “God designed as a first earthly home for himself the pefect vessel, the receptacle of grace without flaw, and it was a woman . . . “ We women, receptacles of grace and banded in prayer, are breaking the back of the evil that besets our children from every side. I, for one, am refusing the unending pressure to put anything and everything before prayer and warfare.

We begin to win when we defeat the lies of “feminism” and turn to our Maker, in perfectly lovely femininity, saying “Yes” to the lover of our souls. More from Colleen Mitchell: “We stand together under the shadow of the spirit, and the Most High God comes to dwell in us–in you and me. It only takes our yes.”

It only takes our yes. She continues, “And the yes releases the wild grace of growth, of swelling hope in us, of an intimate relationship with the one who is saving us even as we carry him.”

Father, help me to make you more at home in me. Again, Colleen Mitchell: “And when we have grown full and stretched wide to cradle this light, we open ourselves to its pushing, and it spills out of us, a love and a life that brings saving life to all who long for it.”

Ladies, we’re “it” and we’re here, to quote a marvelous man named Mordecai, “for such a time as this.” We’re here for “life that brings saving life . . .”

P.S. This aint for sissies, so don’t expect any of it, ever, to be easy. But do expect, and accept nothing else but, Victory!

P.P.S. All women are Mamas, even if our kids are grown, or don’t speak to us, or we never had biological children. As Christian women who hold Jesus in our hearts, we see all children as ours. We are Mamas, and we’ve got the goods!

Homemaking–A Bit of Vintage Thinking

In listening this morning to motivational speakers talk about achieving goals, dreams, and “God’s Purpose” for my life via morning routines, vision boards, affirmations, etc., it occurs to me I may not be as far behind the curve as I’ve been believing myself to be. It also occurs to me that a bit of vintage thinking might be in order. Again. Because this voice telling me that I “can be more” is all pervasive, ever insistent, badgering, pressuring, pushing.

Surely, I reason, the great, good, gracious and giving God I serve can lead, guide, and bless me without me constantly striving, trying and doing–what the world will call success. Surely He can be trusted, and as He’s shown me over and over again, to be with me, vision board or not. What if it’s as simple as “seek ye first”? What if, as is always the case, whatever society calls success isn’t that impressive to God? Could it be that there is more fulfillment of both His dreams and mine when we–He and I–are seated together in heavenly places, far above the noise of “purpose and performance”?

Just this morning I heard a speaker talk about the great success of a woman who was 58, that was 58! years old (it’s never too old!, I was assured) and who went to college and became a school teacher. She was a mother of five and grandmother of five, but now comes the lauded “success”. No longer will her kids get to call and ask for prayer, no longer will her granddaughters invite her to have tea with their dolls. Shall I talk about boys knowing there is one place on earth that is always and absolutely perfectly safe? That would be with Granny. You can tell her anything and she’ll give you good advice right along with hugs and milk and cookies. And readalouds–like Frog and Toad and Timothy Tattercoat!

Maybe on weekends? On weekends (when they used to pick strawberries and bake bread together) Granny will be grading papers, but perhaps she’ll schedule some time, sometime. (Yes, I’m quite and very well aware of the need for such teachers as Granny will no doubt be, and also aware that she may be exactly where God wants her. It’s the attitude here I question: Now she’s doing something worthwhile.)

And here’s a thought: What if all that “purpose and dream” stuff is for those who don’t already have the highest and best and most beautiful of all purposes on earth? Yes, I’m talking about homemaking, as it’s meant to be, and with God’s help is.

Also this morning was a phone call about a friend’s daughter-in-law who’s going to leave her two little ones and go to nursing school. Yes, the husband is very well paid, but “these days it takes two incomes.” No. It doesn’t. It has been proven over and over again that there is an overall loss in monetary wealth when both the parents of small children work. As to the real costs of moms not being on the throne in the home–immeasurable.

As one of the earliest victims of modern feminism (the last of the lucky generation whose moms kept the fort) I know of what I speak. I bought this lie and the costs are still being paid. Unlike so many, however, I got a second chance. I know of the innumerable ways to save money (kids not sick all the time is a big place to begin this calculation) when you make a home by staying home, when you build your house and everyone in it, as the Queen of the Most High Place, i.e., when you’re “just” a homemaker.

This idea that we need to “get out of the house”, that homemaking is “menial and degrading” is a LIE FROM HELL.

Consider this, in one of my all-time favorites, Sixpence in Her Shoe, written by Phyllis McGinley and published in 1960: I am one of an enormous, an antique sisterhood, each of us bent on much the same ends, all of us doing our able or our fumbling best to hold the planet steady on its axis by such primitive expedients as hanging window curtains, bandaging knees, or getting meals to the table on time.”

Proverbs 14:1 — “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands.”

The Art of Conversation Creates Art

It was a lovely morning yesterday. Seth and I tried a new LaVazza variety (falling off the wagon a bit on this aspect of Zero For Six-ing, but more on that later) on the balcony. We likened the rustling of the Aspen leaves to the feel of clean cotton sheets, the breezes in the pines and the birdsong to music.

The conversation went and wound its way here and there, and somewhere in there I had a fantastic idea–a doable, practical example of how to remind our government that indeed, they work for us. I won’t go into the particulars of the idea, because I want to talk about the power of conversation.

We’re meant to have it, and it’s meant to produce ideas, solutions, revelations. It’s meant to connect hearts and minds and put us in the creativity zone. So, if our conversations aren’t producing this magical marvel, especially when we’re talking with our adult children, we can examine ourselves.

Do we listen carefully and thoughtfully? Do we interrupt? Do we have to be right? Are we taking a parental role when our family members are not asking for that? Just as we’re extra polite and considerate in our conversations with non-family folks, are we also with our beloveds? Do we remember that sometimes hearts simply want to be heard–not to hear our opinion?

When we don’t know the answer do we simply say, “I don’t know, but I will pray for wisdom, and I will pray for you to have wisdom, and all will be well”?

It’s helpful to remember that those who talk the most and loudest are often drowning out the words of those with the deepest and best thoughts. Just in case you’re like me, and maybe are a bit chatty, it could be time to put some art into our conversation.

Zero For Six Going Strong

Mostly. I am not even missing non-essential viewing. Not one minute has been lost to TV since I began my four adventures. To re-cap, I began a quest on June 1: Let’s see what happens when (and if it’s possible) I attempt a six-month exit from the lands of: 1) TV watching; 2) fatiguing food consumption; 3) negative words; and 4) non-essential spending.

About that non-essential spending. Well . . . I bought two new outfits yesterday, and I won’t bore you with assertions of how essential these outfits are, of how long it’s been since I bought anything new, etc. I will say that John was trying to get me to go shopping for new clothes, and wasn’t giving up. I will say that there is no buyer’s remorse. I will say that I didn’t buy these clothes because they were on sale, which can often be likened to eating a bag of cookies because they’re low sodium. The satisfaction just isn’t there.

Moving on to what’s the toughest part–negative words. Boy, is this a process. It is helpful to me to keep on keeping on reading Psalms and Proverbs. Not only do I find therein continual evidence of the importance of words of life, of faith, but the help needed to stay the course.

And I pray. There are those tricky little areas that most people, including me, wouldn’t even notice as negativity. But upon further examination . . . when I think about the power of words, and that what I just said was a pronouncement of power, but not for good, I find so much of what I say is enforcing a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. “It is what it is,” is a dumb thing to say. It’s defeat. Talking the problem simply solidifies it in our minds as unsolvable.

I’d like to say, regarding consumption of fatiguing foods, that I’m doing soooo well, good, and fantastic! I’ll simply that that I’m making a bit of progress. My coffee consumption isn’t remaining at zero, but like the purchasing of those above-mentioned new outfits, I am making it special. For instance, yesterday. I split a piece of actually and truly made-from-scratch key lime pie with my daughter at Island Grill in Fort Collins, and had a cup of coffee that almost made me swoon when the server set it down under my nose. Since this was the appetizer and followed with a simply divine burger and cole slaw, I was not at all fatigued. Interesting concept: Food that is sometimes fatiguing can, done right, be energizing . . .

I am absolutely loving not watching. Not simply sitting and watching (and munching) I get a little more excited about life every single day. Might I suggest, ever so gently, that you consider a Zero For Six adventure quest of your own?

Thanks for joining me!