Good Books, Peaceful Moments

From Art Journal

I’ve been relaxing and enjoying free time, time to pause, moments and glimmers of slow breathing peacefulness. Here’s some great books I’ve been absorbing:

amanda ∞

Chore Charts Begone

Chore charts have had an important part in the process of training the kids how to care for their own homes one day. As they have grown older, ages 12 and 14 now, we have reached a place in which the chore charts were actually working against the good of the family. While one child didn’t really care if anything on the chore chart was accomplished, the other child was becoming unwilling to help in areas that were not on the chore chart. I heard the phrase, “That’s __________ job, not mine.” While the chore charts did teach them how to do specific tasks well, and how to take initiative to complete their responsibilities, some changes really needed to be made. We were losing the family cohesiveness.

From Pigpen to Paradise

While I was growing up, my mom read and implemented the plan from the book, Sidetracked Home Executives, by Pam Young and Peggy Jones. She had a card file system, color-coded, organized by daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal chores. This worked very well for our family particularly when she re-entered the work force in my jr. high and high school years. As a farmer’s family, my brothers did the farm work and I took care of the house and the yard. The system worked very well.

When my kids were babies, I borrowed Mom’s book and made my own card file as an excel spreadsheet. This spreadsheet has been the basis of our chore charts since their inception, plus I knew what I needed to accomplish as well.

Well, towards the end of July, we chucked our chore charts and have been using this trusty old excel spreadsheet to get things done together. Although we are still adjusting, I must say our new way is working great. I print out the jobs that need done each week and post them on our bulletin board. After lunch each day, all of us take half an hour to work on the chores. We tackle a room as a team and actually have fun laughing and working together. We are all pitching in with our free moments to take care of maintenance issues, like laundry folding, dish washing, decluttering.

The removal of chore charts did have monetary implications as well. With the chore charts, each child had some jobs with and some without monetary reward. This was to teach them how to handle an income, and that some things just need done without payment. Now the kids get no money based on their chore performance. I give them a flat sum each month. They decided how the money should be spent. I encourage them to tithe and save, but don’t force them.

The greatest benefit of our new system have been a general cohesiveness as a family. We are now working together to accomplish larger tasks rather than micromanaging our own lists. The jobs are no longer “his” or “hers,” but rather “ours.” I’ve always emphasized that I need my children’s help, that the chores were not just busy work, but because I can’t accomplish it all without them. I need their help. Now we are able to prioritize and tackle the area of greatest need rather than ignoring a huge mess because it’s not on “my” list. Yay!

amanda ∞

Les Miserable on ?Contentment?

Les Misérables (Signet Classics)

Another favorite passage from Les Miserables:

Jean Valjean  Book First XVI: “There are people who ask nothing more; living beings who, having blue sky, say: “it is enough!” dreamers absorbed in marvel, drawing from idolatry of nature an indifference to good and evil, contemplators of the cosmos radiantly diverted from man, who do not understand how anybody can busy himself with the hunger of these, with the thirst of those, with the nakedness of the poor in winter, with the lymphatic curvature of a little backbone, with the pallet, with the garret, with the dungeon, and with the rags of shivering little girls, when he might dream under the trees; peaceful and terrible souls, pitilessly content.”

I find this passage even more intriguing after delving into Contentment myself. Biblical contentment is being satisfied with one’s state of being no matter what. It is, in a sense, being grateful, no matter the circumstances. The people described in the passage above are seemingly content. Victor Hugo describes them as “pitilessly content.” They have no compassion, so lulled with their own dreams and the beauty of nature.

Pondering why this passage struck me so, I think it’s from the fear that I would become such a person, so content with the happiness of my family and the ease of my life that I would forget the needs of others. God has created me in such a way that my heart grieves for those in need. And we have chosen to live in a part of our city that is not white-washed and beautiful. The need of mankind is evident here. But occasionally I do forget, or ignore the needs, so that I can just simply be. In this state, I have never found true contentment, but often depression as the my heart responds to the the cries of the people even when my mind does not.

amanda ∞

Artful Blogging

I have been enjoying my stroll through Artful Blogging, Visually Inspiring Online Journals, a great new publication from Somerset Studio. While I’m only a third of the way through this thick publication, I am enjoying both the writing and the art displayed on each page. Adorned with beautiful art and snippets from these artists’ blogs, this is simply a publication in which artsy bloggers share why they blog. I see a common theme of blogging to share, to create community, to connect. I have found it quite inspiring, and it has got me thinking about my own blogging journey.

I began blogging out of curiosity on March 1, 2006. I stumbled across the blogging world through Homeschool Blogger. Not really knowing what to expect, I posted my first entry. The blog did not really have a theme or pattern. It was randomness. Sometimes I enjoyed it, and sometimes I really did not. I often felt lost in a sea of bloggers with no real identity. My posts were sporadic. I almost quit blogging several times, but would be once again inspired by a fellow blogger.

God had been giving me a theme. He had created a desire in me to share my view of living life to His fullest in all the details. Much of this viewpoint is expressed in one of my favorite reads, The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer. The thoughts and ideas continued to grow, but I found no joy staring at the insane coffee cup on my other blog, and I didn’t dare change my template for fear of loosing the items on my sidebar.

I soon found that a couple of my favorite bloggers, Shanan Trail and Always a work in progress!, had started new beautiful blogs here at WordPress. As I began to wander around WordPress and Blogger, my flame was fueled. My world had opened up. I saw beauty and read inspiration.

Although my first entry on my new WordPress blog was about homeschooling, I find that this is not a “homeschooling” blog, but rather that the art that was hidden within me is revealing itself through this blog. This hidden art is something creative inside me, a tiny seed that had been patiently waiting for its time to sprout, now pushing life up through the crust of the earth. The roots are beginning to permeate every bit of soil, the little tendrils feeling for a deep source of water, a wellspring.

This blog is becoming a place for me to express my worship, my thoughts, my tangible art. As I find this place of comfort, I am thinking less and less about my “numbers,” comment volume, or popularity. I am learning to blogging for enjoyment and expression, and with a desire to help others find the art hidden within them.

And to inspire you, here are a tiny few of the artists featured in this premier issue of Artful Blogging:

Juju Loves Polka Dots
River Bend Ranch
Nicol Sayre
And an extraordinary poem at a sweet life

amanda ∞

Selective Viewing

From the viewpoint of adults that have experienced many things in life in ways that we wish we had not, my husband and I have become careful about what we read and watch and do. We have allowed our minds to be filled with all kinds of awful things. Although it has been years since we have allowed all things without discernment into our minds, the thoughts, images, and memories do not leave so quickly, some not at all. 

We have an underlying rule with all things, even the strange humor that we enjoy. We ask ourselves, “Is it edifying?”

Edify means to instruct and improve the mind in knowledge generally, and particularly in moral and religious knowledge, in faith and holiness.

Even with the religious aspect removed from this definition, our family rule would still function.

To put skin on this selection process, let me give you an example. Have you watched the 1962 movie with Gregory Peck, To Kill a Mockingbird? What a great movie. This movie handled some very sticky issues and violence in a way that allowed my imagination to fill in the blanks appropriately. Everything was not spelled out for me, but I got it. Because the movie was not so graphic and the mind had to be engaged, I actually recognized some very deep underlying meaning in the story while the movie was playing out. The imagery stuck, and yet I was not left with undesirable images in my head to deal with later.

An example of a book that I truly enjoyed that had very intense content would be Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. This book was about a girl growing up with a adulterous mother that gave up caring for her. This little girl was taken into a life of prostitution. Without revealing the story, I can say that this book was edifying. While it did dealve into her life as a prostitute, there was no pornographic imagery I had to deal with. Adding the sexual details of this girl’s life would have detracted from the story, not enhanced it. I was able to grasp the horrors of her life without having them graphically written out for me detail by detail. In the end, I was able to digest the horrors of being enslaved in a life of prostitution without having to eternally carry images in my mind.

We do go through this selection process with our children as well. We do not make choices as to what they can read or view without them. We want them to be trained and disciplined as to what would be good to let into the brain, so as adults, they will make wise choices for themselves. Take the recent library prize for example, my daughter said no before I did. She did not want her mind being taken places sexually that it has not been. Wise choice for a 13 year old, no matter how good the story.

Here is the big question: Does a great storyline make a book or movie worth the time even if there is some graphic imagery? And some other relevant questions: Am I missing out on what everyone else is sharing by not reading/viewing these stories? Will I be able to relate to others culturally without reading/viewing them?

Sometimes the selection process can be difficult. There are movies we would love to see, or books we would enjoy reading, if it were not for that one part they put in there. What our family has found is that there is so much good stuff out there, that the questionable stuff is really not worth the time to weed through even if the story is incredibly redeeming. We have found plenty of incredibly redeeming stories without the extra details that take our minds elsewhere. We have stacks of great books we desire to read, and not enough time in the day.

I have found that our family is not missing out and can relate to the rest of the world just fine as well. Many people have the viewpoint that since our children are home all the time, and since they are not allowed to view and experience what “all the other kids” experience, they will somehow not be able to function in society. My children are sheltered. This is a fact. They are not allowed to roam about the world freely at this point. By being sheltered do they miss out on what is going on culturally today? Not our kids. We live in the inner city. They are exposed to drug addiction, homelessness, mental illness, prostitution…daily. We have chosen to live here, and they are seeing first hand what most go to the movies to view. They are experiencing with us how to interact with society. They are learning how to set safe boundaries with people, yet how to approach those smelly people that most of society discards. We are investing our lives in these people, yet we get to skip the sex scenes, the violence, the drug usage. Instead we see the effects of it.

What do we censor from our home? The greatest censored item would be sexually imagery. My husband and I have regrets about our relationship. Most of these regrets have to do with allowing sexual imagery into our relationship, and making culturally acceptable sexual decisions before we were married. We can see how these images and decisions robbed our relationship of intimacy and value. We have found that the less we let the world into our bedroom, the more wonderful and intimate our bedroom becomes. I want my kids to know this truth, and I believe they can without having to experience these mistakes for themselves.  

How do we know what to allow into our home? Often the description of the story will lend itself to the answer. We read the cover and reviews online as well. But sometimes a story does make it into our home that we didn’t know enough about to make an educated decision. When we get to a part in a book, or in a movie, and we realize that it isn’t appropriate, we stop the story. If the storyline is going in a direction that leads our minds to sordid things, we stop the story. In both cases, we then talk about why we stopped the story. The topic is open for discussion.

amanda ∞

Disappointed in the library

My daughter won a prize! Both my kids enroll in the summer reading program at the library because they enjoy the coupons they receive as rewards. My daughter was also entered in a drawing for each hour she read, and she won.

Her prize was 4 Royals baseball tickets and the an autographed hardback, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler. On the cover of the book is a seal displaying the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature from the American Library Association. And the first three sentences of the book:

“Froggy Welsh the Fourth is trying to get up my shirt.
This is the third Monday that he’s come over to my apartment after school. Every week we go a little further…”

My daughter will not be reading this. We all agree (including her) that it is not worth her time, nor would there be any edification in reading it. 

My opinion is that the library could have done much better in their selection of literature as a prize. How about a classic? Or a thought provoking novel about current events that does not include some boy putting his hand up the girl’s shirt? I’m sure the library’s position is that this is the sort of novel to which teens relate. This in itself is a sad statement to the drivel our children are expected to read and are being raised to enjoy. And I am glad to say that my teen cannot relate.

So, I’d love to hear how you would handle this. I know what we plan on doing with the book, but would love to hear other viewpoints.

My Moleskine

I love paper. I love handwriting. Therefore I must journal.

My journal goes with me everywhere. It is available at all times.

My journaling is different than my blogging. It is personal, more specific.

Often what I write in my journal clarifies my thinking on a particular subject that leads me to blogging.

Often it is a prayer journal. When I write out my prayers, I am able to look back and see how God was leading even through my requests to Him.

A few years ago, I discovered the Moleskine (pronounced molaskeena) diary. There is a page for each day. While I may miss a day, or write more than a page on another day, the dated pages allow me to reflect on what was going on in my life at a particular point in time. The pages are also designed to allow use as a planner with a time index down the side, so in addition to my thoughts or prayers, I can see the specific events that happened that day.

DIARY
A new page for each day,
for notes and appointments.
Both pocket and large size.
380 lined pages.

Texture is a lovely thing. I absolutely appreciate the texture of the pages in my Moleskine. They are thick and thoughtful, inviting words to spread out on the page. Although the diary is lined, I have found myself sketching and doodling as well. I have entertained the idea of using the sketch book in place of the diary, but words are the primary source of art in my journal, so I doubt I take that leap.

amanda ∞