Thursday, June 28, 2007

Funny experience, tough day

I had a funny experience. My boys got the book Crane, by Jeff Stone, for their birthday, and I have been waiting for them to finish it before I read it. For some reason I got mixed up and picked up Snake instead. At the end of it, I was very frustrated because I had not learned anything new about the storyline! As I talked to my boys about it, it dawned on me that was not the book I intended to read. Major relief! The Crane was a much better book. I actually think it was better than Snake. So far, Snake has let me down the most because it didn't reveal much new. Necessary info, but a whole book for the ending?!

Red flag. Change of subject. Yesterday and today have been tough days. I don't know what is up, but my boys have definitely been on one. They don't want to do anything that they have to get done, and I'm about at the end of my rope with it all! They won't apply themselves to learning "hard" things, and I'm tired of trying new ways to approach it. It has been a not-to-repeat-week! Next week my folks will be here, and it will be good to have a change of pace. Thank goodness weeks like this don't happen all the time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Driveway done!

The driveway has been redone! I would probably hire the father part of the team again, but definitely not the son. The father made it right, and I suppose the driveway fix was worth it! I cannot move my car though. He came while I wasn't watching so it's stuck in the garage. For a mere $2000, he would redo the driveway. I'll pass, but I would consider using him if we ever do that.

He has built the curb in front of the garage up enough to stop all but the worst of flooding. In other words, all bets are off if a tornado comes into the area and the wind sweeps the rain in from the street. Sixty to 70 mph winds are not to be messed with! It would stop some of it, I think though. It should stop our typical downpours from coming in, though.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I'm ready to move on!

Hello! I think this week, or the first half of this week, will go down as "LeeAnn's Disasters". Hopefully it is done with and I have learned what I need to learn so I can move on!!! I am definitely ready to move on! I guess the blessing is that this too shall pass.

On the upside, we have resumed piano practicing. May's field trips as well as my draining energy wreaked havoc on our schedule. I am slowly coming back, I hope (one reason for the disasters was related to my seeming inability to make good decisions or at least take enough time to gather information). My latest was scheduling for a crappy driveway job that was not on the docket for a repair. True, it needed one but I never choose a contractor that fast! I know better. Now we have to get them to do a much better job than their initial attempt.)

A schedule of sorts is formulating although punctuated by rest periods for me. Dog Lover is enthused about reading aloud to me because she can get a free book at Barnes and Nobles if she reads 8 books. We also got the first set of Hooked on Phonics (for free!) and it got her going again. I think she has been surprised at how well she really can read. She also decided she was ready for another piano lesson, and that jump-started the piano. My boys are excited about the B&N reading program for the same reason.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Book progress II

I'm nearly done with the book. It is totally awesome! I have finally found an author that thinks about and wonders about the same things I do and answers them with real evidence. To top it off, it works. The only problem is that I'll have to return it to my folks! I want one; it's only $35! Unfortunately, I'm still picking up books for next year's history lessons---we'll be studying the Medieval period and investigating William the Conqueror (or is that later this summer?) Whoops! It's later this summer. He belongs to the ancient world. Nevertheless, we'll be onto the medieval side of the house next year.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Notes on Joseph Smith

One of my favorite quotes is found on page 129 of Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling. It is in a section titled, "Revelation", talking about how Joseph's revelations became accepted so quickly as religious canon. The author partially credits the voice in them, saying, "One rhetorical feature may partly account for their authority: the voice in them is purely God's. Joseph as a speaker is absent from the revelations, just as he is from the Book of Mormon." The author notes that, "When reprimands are handed out, he [Joseph] is likely to receive one."

The part I really enjoyed refers to a fallacy that we as humans forget is that God is God. The author says, "God pronounces what is and what will be without giving evidence. Hearers must decide to believe or not without reference to outside authority---common sense, science, the Bible, tradition, anything. The hearer faces the personage who speaks, free to hearken or turn away." The footnote to this statement said, "The voice is reminiscent of the distinction Soren Kierkegaard made in his essay on the difference between an apostle and a genius. 'An apostle has no other evidence than his own statement, and at most his willingness to suffer everything joyfully for the sake of that statement.' Kierkegaard, "Difference," 105."

Having recently read a former Mormon, now anti-Mormon and aetheist, pretend at a scholarly treatise demanding proof and Socratic reasoning for the Book of Mormon and even of Jesus Christ, this quotation was refreshing and reflected my feeling on the subject. God will never inflict his will upon us. Perhaps we would be more forced to accept Him if he did invoke Socratic reasoning. (Imagine---demanding that the Lord do things our way. :-) We in all our wisdom? Mankind {including women} have yet to go 20 years without war and intrigue in the world or our own neighborhoods! Laughable!) I don't believe he wants unthinking slaves, and he has promised to confirm his word to us.

Another quote that comes to mind is, "By their fruits, ye shall know them." That is a guiding light to me. Testimony is like that. (So is life.) Recently I heard someone refute claims by someone (they didn't say who) by saying, "Because of this, and this, and this, the Book of Mormon has to be true." Yes, but in spite of those proofs, "they" still didn't believe it. I don't think anyone ever built a lasting testimony on physical "proofs". Not because it can't be done, but because it isn't enough. There just has to be more. The Lord requires too much of someone who only holds physical "proofs". There must be a spiritual confirmation, which sometimes takes time to come, and often comes only after a "trial of faith" which allows the person time to see if the fruit is good.

Okay, there's my "rational", reasoned treatise. There is a reason I got my BS but went no further. I enjoy and appreciate others' work, but I hate thinking over and analyzing every word and trying to prove my objectivity. I am now going to debunk that hope of objectivity.

I was privileged to be born to a family with secure religious ties. I was taught in the "learning of my father," as Nephi says, and knew something of the "tender mercies of the Lord." I had the blessing of wonderful friends and an extended "ward" family in my church that was very important because of our distance to blood relatives. I had the opportunity to learn from knowledgeable and experienced ecclesiastic leaders who touched my life. Conversely, I was given obstacles and persecutions, the like of which I hope others do not have to endure. However, I have lived long enough now to know that others have endured like persecutions. (I am not equating them with being driven out of my home, although I was most grateful to leave Maryland. They were the kind calculated to make someone even slightly weak in their convictions conform to the world.) Most of those will never see print or oral stories from me. They were from a dark period that I care not to rehash. My previous post is not excepted. Since then, the darkness had gone. The only remnant was the memory of those days and the strength of character I had gained from them and the gratitude for every moment of light and joy that I had during that time.

Once all that was in the past, I remember vividly wondering if I really "knew" for myself that the things I believed and practiced were true. If it was worth it or if that was a "foolish imagination" as Laman and Lemuel put it. Now that the dark times were done, it was fearfully important to positively, unmistakably *know* that it had been worth the pain. I pled with the Lord for an unquestionable answer. I asked for something that I could not doubt myself on. I have the habit of making decisions and then doubting them. Commitment comes very hard to me. Just ask my husband!

Although I was struggling with this, I talked to no one. I did not want to be swayed by "reason" or sympathy either. I quietly pled with the Lord in my prayers about it. It wasn't that my life was lacking; it wasn't. In fact, it was rich. I wasn't rebelling or testing. It was just time for definite confirmation. I don't think I would have changed my life anyway; my way of life brought me happiness and peace. Then the miracle happened, and the Lord answered my prayer exactly. And I knew it was good. So I'm here as "proof" that sometimes we just have to say, "Lord, I don't understand, but I know you love me and want the best for me," just as Nephi did. I guess if that was good enough for a prophet, it is good enough for me. After all the reasoned arguments, He is God; I am not.

Change of goals

I am modifying my goal of reading a book a week. I might be able to do that, but there are several lengthier, heavier reads that I'd like to finish, and I am still responsible for my children's education!

Numerically, I haven't picked a goal but there are several books I need to/want to read. Right now I am reading Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, A cultural biography of Mormonism's founder, by Richard Lyman Bushman. What I really appreciate is the fact that he lets his readers know his bias, motivations, and sources. He holds no secrets, and he has studied volumes of materials in putting together his book.

I know that some have criticized his book for being too pro-Joseph Smith while others have criticized it for the opposite. Given that, I was optomistic that it would be reasonably objective without being an anti- piece of lit. (I have a serious disdain for anti-anything without a pro-something.) My cousin (an attorney and author) has also been involved in a massive research project regarding the prophet, Joseph Smith, so I am somewhat familiar with the quantity of scholarly material that is out there. This book has stayed true to the author's stated mission. He has not shyed away from topics nor does he feel he has to sum it up for his readers. I'm only to page 122, and I have learned much and gained much. I think he has actually attained a level of objectivity, which is pretty incredible given the subject.

I look forward to completing it. I have to have it read by July 4 so I can send it home with my folks. It's their book, and I have grown distrustful of the mails down in these parts. That gives me a chapter a day to read. Even with longer chapters, that's do-able.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Books, and lots of 'em

I have finished six books since last Friday. I am seriously grateful that I can, but I'm just as seriously ready to lay aside all books for awhile. At least the rest of the week. Yesterday, I reclaimed the living room, vacuumed it, dining room, kitchen, hallway, and bathroom. I also pulled off the register and air intake covers and vacuumed them out. No small task. The ones in the dining room were choked with dust, cobwebs, etc. I don't know that they have ever been cleaned! Their covers screw on and so they are a little tough to remove. I also pulled off the registers in the boys room and the bathroom.

After that, I changed all the sheets in the house and washed them and two blankets. Last thing I did was to sweep out under the boys' beds (fishing out all the dirty socks and so forth), and start the laundry. I got two loads hanging on the line last night. Since no rain was forecasted, I let them hang all night. Can I say I'm loving line dried clothes?! I got the rest of the laundry done today, and the last load is waiting to go outside.

My next major task is to clean out the office area. It shows that we were in and out most of last month with not much time home---just enough to mess up the house. I cannot find anything so it is time to clean! By Friday, I'm hoping to have gone through most of the house and cleaned and organized it. I have been dreading the office though. Too much stuff.

The family room is next. I have been dreading that too. I don't really know what to do with that room. Too many purposes for one small room. It's the dog's room, library, school room, TV room, file room, scrapbook room---all at once. It isn't that big!

By Monday, we will be back into school. We still have lots to cover before we call this year finished. Especially in history and math. The boys need to do much more writing too, but that is ongoing.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The grass is greener. . .where?

In case I have any readers out there (and I doubt it 'cause I haven't told anyone about this blog), I have wondered for a long time why people always think it's better somewhere else. I grew up in Maryland and was a member of a "minority" religion. I was the only member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (sometimes called Mormons) in my school for most of my growing up years. It was tough. Sometimes it seemed that everyone else smoked, did drugs, and partied on the weekends. Occasionally my very "straightness" provoked them and I would have much more attention than I wanted---in those cases, very negative. Funny---I had very little to do with those kids, but they seemed to sometimes get very vexed with me. I didn't get made fun of, but sometimes it was worse. Like the time I told the substitute bus driver where the next stop was. Was it really worth threatening my life? Gee whiz! Generally, I was quiet; rather shy (okay in a suffocating shell); a good student (waffled between honor and merit roll); had good friends usually among people like the student body officers, cheerleaders, sports players, everyone I went to elementary school with; got along with my teachers; other kids who didn't smoke, drink, or do drugs; and was generally thankful for Mutual night when I could be surrounded by others with my values and standards.

When I was 14, my family moved to Utah. It was wonderful. It was such a relief to be surrounded by others with similar values and standards. My restricting shell melted off. Occasionally I had some culture shocks like actually going to school with Mormons in my ward (congregation), something that had rarely happened ever before. Seeing kids putting on two faces---one at school and one at church. Eventually I accepted that they chose to be that way and got on with my life.

Coming from my background, it was a real shock to me in high school when a neighbor friend started complaining to me that she just couldn't wait to get out of Utah and away from all the "hypocritical" Mormons who tried to "look" perfect but weren't. (The 2-faced ones I mentioned above didn't help the situation, but those weren't the ones she complained about.) Funny, I knew the same people and saw very human faces on each one of them. Most were trying to better themselves and sometimes fell flat on their faces (just like me), but they kept trying. She was right; some just put on an act, but most of the girls she talked about really were trying. Today I understand my friend lives outside of Utah, wishes she could come back, but can't because of consequences of choices she has made that are limiting her choices today. (No, she's not in jail or anything like that. She is a good citizen.) I hope her life improves. I really do. She is a nice girl.

One thing I have learned though is to always accept where I am and take advantage of it to grow and learn the most I can wherever I am. I have yet to live anywhere that I haven't met some wonderful people and made terrific friends. I remember going back to visit my home in Maryland just a year before I was married. I remember people as being more distant, not as welcoming. Folks in the grocery store don't smile at strangers. When I went back, I took on the attitude of the total touron. I smiled, greeted people, made conversations, and made friends. That shell really hurt my experience in Maryland because I was closed, too afraid to be hurt to take a chance.

By and large, do I think people in Utah are friendlier? Yes, most of them. I don't think they fear as much. I think people west of the Mississippi are friendlier, and Utahns take the cake for that. Maybe sometimes they get busy and don't get as involved in their neighborhoods (esp. those not in their church) as much as they could, but they try. Regardless of that, I have found that if I smile at people, most will smile back no matter where I am. I think we all want friends. I think I shocked some folks in Maryland when I actually stopped and chatted with them during my visit. It was alien to their experience, but not one objected. I guess for me it is true that the world reflects back to you what you show it.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Another book

I just finished another book that I started a couple of weeks ago called, "Fine Old High Priests: A Novel About Friendship, Family, & Faith", by Donald S. Smurthwaite. Read my other blog for my review.

BTW, the weather has cleared and it has become a very nice, pretty day.

A friend of mine mentioned her goal was to read a book a week. Hmmmm. By that measuring stick, how am I doing? We are at week 22, and I have read 17. Jim (my husband) has probably read 40. :-P I think he has always smoked my numbers; he keeps me stretching!

It feels like summer!

Somewhere, we have crossed into summertime. Not that you would know it by the weather. We have rain, rain, and more rain on the horizon. Now that we are done with our nature trips, it is hard to settle back into a "school" routine. Today is being very quiet. It started with a thunderstorm and rain pelting down and me remembering I didn't get the garbage out. Argh! The boys slept way in, which was nice. I had time to get my day together.

Dragon and Monkey just finished practicing the piano. I haven't sat down with either of them much in the last few weeks---Monkey occasionally but Dragon hasn't had a lesson in probably a month. Oops! They are both progressing, however, and Dragon has new things to work on now. Monkey got a bunch of new songs from his teacher; hopefully we will make a lot of progress this summer so he is in the next level by fall when his lessons resume. That shouldn't be hard to do.

Sister Dog Lover gave the boys a science kit so I think we'll be doing that some today. It's Friday---more of our "fun" day than studious. Then hopefully I will get my quilt square put together that is due tomorrow. I got it cut out this morning. The boys want to make their coonskin caps that they received too.

Dragon and Monkey received two more of the Five Ancestors books, and they have had their noses buried in them. Every so often, they'll read an excerpt aloud that they think is exceptionally good. Last night, I finally decided to read them to find out if they are any good. I mean, really, I'm buying the silly books. I ought to know if they're worth the read! So I binged it, starting about 10:30 last night and going to bed after finishing Book 3 at about 4:30 this morning. They're pretty good, but I think the author is milking the series for all it's worth! The story line in the first 3 is basically the same but follows the first 3 individuals who are named after the tiger, monkey, and snake. Each book adds a few details and then finishes with a totally new event. They have become masters of their "animal's" type of kung fu. They all split up after their "temple" is raided and the monks destroyed. The 4th book is about the crane. It is a new release so we'll probably wait to buy it until it comes out in paperback so they all match. Hopefully they won't wait too long, although they have definitely priced it much higher than the previous three! Obviously it is a popular series! :-)