Lessons of Integrity from Fathers

For many years my two favorite literary dads have been Atticus Finch and Pa Ingalls. This year I was introduced to Charlie Moody in his son Ralph’s memoir titled Little Britches. I loved just about everything about this man as remembered by his son, and have found someone to place up there with Mr. Finch and Mr. Ingalls. Here is an excerpt from Little Britches:

While we were milking that night, I told Father what Lucy said about her father, and asked him why he didn’t try to do the same thing.

I only saw Father mad two or three times, but that was one of them. He jumped up off his milking stool and came around behind Brindle. His face was gray-white—even his lips were white—and his voice was shaky when he said, “Don’t you ever talk to that girl again.”

He just stood there for a minute, as if he didn’t know what he was going to say, then he put the stool right down in front of me and sat on it. He reached out and took hold of my knee hard. His voice didn’t shake then, but he talked low. “Son,” he said, “I had hoped you wouldn’t run into anything like this till you were older, but maybe it’s just as well. There are only two kinds of men in this world: Honest men and dishonest men. There are black men and white men and yellow men and red men, but nothing counts except whether they’re honest men or dishonest men.

“Some men work almost entirely with their brains; some almost entirely with their hands; though most of us have to use both. But we all fall into one of the two classes—honest and dishonest.

“Any man who says the world owes him a living is dishonest. The same God that made you and me made this earth. And He planned it so that it would yield every single thing that the people on it need. But He was careful to plan it so that it would only yield up its wealth in exchange for the labor of man. Any man who tries to share in that wealth without contributing the work of his brain or his hands is dishonest.

“Son, this is a long sermon for a boy of your age, but I want so much for you to be an honest man that I had to explain it to you.”

I wish I knew how Father was able to say things so as to make you remember every word of it. If I could remember everything the way I remember the things Father told me, maybe I could be as smart a man as he was.

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Two Kinds of Hypocrites – Guest Post by Jack Pelham

The following was a post Jack made at a discussion forum this week. For a simple post in an ongoing discussion, I thought it made a pretty complete article on the subject. And so I present it to my friends here.

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There are two kinds of hypocrites:

The Accidental Hypocrite.  Those who are not yet aware of discrepancies between their stated paradigms/values, and who have not yet corrected themselves because they haven’t yet realized their fault.

The Deliberate Hypocrite.  Those who do not care about the discrepancies between their stated paradigms/values and their behavior.

The second are the sort to come up with all manner of justifications for themselves, while the first will diligently correct whatever faults are exposed.  In other words, the first continue along the road toward perfection, while the second find excuses to stay more or less where they are.  The deliberate hypocrite does not reach excellence, for he has erected a wall made from the excuse of his own imperfection.  He hides behind that wall, refusing the excellence he COULD reach, on account of the perfection that he theorizes is impossible for him to reach.

It is very likely that in making this choice, he forfeits promotion to the Holy City—all in the name of what he THINKS is a “humble” saying, “nobody’s perfect”.  While he clings to his worldly status quo, he claims to be “seeking God”, whom he believes to be “perfect”.  Yet he will not cross the wall into the humility of trying and failing until authenticity is attained.  He irrationally considers not trying at all to be the nobler course, as if God no longer expects mankind to strive for righteousness.

He enjoys the company of others who prefer to live to the left of the red wall in the image above.  Those who would cross that wall, they discourage by any of a number of dishonest means.  Things like “you think too much” or “what are you going to do, start your own church?” or “you’re prideful” and so on.  They do not realize that this makes them so dysfunctional that they can scarcely correct themselves of ANYTHING.

Such hypocrisy is for cowards and liars.  Brave and honest people will have none of it.  Even if they must travel alone for lack of willing company, they cannot stand to stay in the self-enforced confinement of the deliberate hypocrites who excuse their sins in the name of Jesus Christ.  These brave ones are the sort to believe Jesus when he said  that only those who “endure to the end” and who “overcome” would be worthy of the Holy City.

Indeed, there are a great many deliberate hypocrites who hope that Jesus will forget ever having said such things, and will heap upon them a profusion of “grace” in return for their stubborn insistence on persisting in their own sin.  This is what they promise themselves during their present impunity on the earth.  But they seem not to really believe that each one will meet God to be judged “for what he has done while in the body, whether good or bad”.

It will be amazing someday if I get to watch someone try to justify himself before God by claiming to be a hypocrite.

Jack

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Neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead

Often when there is a death, whether it is a well-known person or someone that my family or friends knew, I ponder what would that person have to say if they could come back and speak to us. Here we would have someone who has been to “the other side” and could tell us about it. And just this morning I was doing that very thing. Then I remembered these words that Abraham spoke in Jesus’ story of  the rich man and Lazarus:

“But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”

In the story, the rich man has died and from his torment in Hades he cries out to Abraham to send Lazarus to cool his tongue, and when that request is denied, he begs for Lazarus to be sent to warn his still living brothers. He believes that if someone came from the dead, they’d believe them. Abraham says not so. I don’t know if Abraham’s statement here is meant only for these brothers, or if he knows that this is how all humans operate. If so, then this is an amazing thing about us human beings. And it also says something about the power of the words of Moses and the prophets.

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Why we school the Charlotte Mason way

As we begin our new school year and I also make attempts to get back into blogging about our life and learning, I thought I would post about some things that we love about the Charlotte Mason philosophy, and why we choose to follow her ideas in our schooling.

Ideas — that’s the thing! Ms. Mason believed that children should not just be taught facts, but the ideas behind those facts. How could we not love this? Who chooses learning dry facts over reading rich stories that tell you about the ideas that accompanied this or that battle or exploration or life? Ideas you remember for the rest of your life and actually affect your mind and heart; facts are remembered for the test and occasional trivia showing off. Look! Grandma show them how you can still name all the state capitals! And so because we want to know the ideas that accompanied the signing of the Declaration July, 1776,  we spend time reading biographies of the men and women of that time. We don’t hurriedly read through a little inset in a history textbook, but spend weeks reading just a little bit each week. Then we tell back what we read and we discuss what we read and we relate it and connect it, and what needs to become a part of us will become a part of us.

Charlotte Mason had a great deal of respect for children and, after years of teaching and observing, she understood that they were created by God to be whole persons from their birth. Jack and I respect children and believe they have way more ability than most folks make it out to be. We never talked down to James. He was included in our family conversation from the beginning. We taught him language by example, speaking to him and expecting him to join in. Ms. Mason knew the best way to teach children language and the proper use of language was obviously to have them surrounded by it. Speak to them as if they were intelligent human beings (!) and read to them rich, beautifully written stories and poems. She didn’t believe in shoving information and facts down poor little ones throats, but to present them with a great banquet of ideas and thoughts through books and pictures and music and nature, and let the child feed what they will and make the connections for themselves.

We made the decision when James was a toddler to follow this philosophy, and have continued to learn through the years more about it and how to implement it in our lives. I am grateful to not just be using a curriculum, with a list of books for each subject, but to be following a philosophy of education — and really a philosophy of living. What I get in the package of a Charlotte Mason education is a community of families that are also living and learning in this way. I would say that with the friends I have made (mostly on line — yay! 21st century!) through following a CM approach, we spend more time talking about lifestyle and “training” the heart and character of our children than we do talking about what books or math curriculum, etc. to use.

The question is not,––how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education––but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?

This is the goal — for my child to care. I know that other parents in our CM community feel this way too. I can tell it from the things we talk about. I know that they too want their children to have a large room and a full life before them because of their time as a student in their parents’ home.

A Charlotte Mason education is not just for the schoolroom — it’s a way of life. And you can quote me on that 🙂

Ready to go!

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Recent ramblings on the passage of my time on this planet

Here are some status updates from my Facebook page during the month of June. And to these I’ve added another thought in this category.

6/30/12

I realize that if we stay on this planet long enough, it happens to us all, but it is still really weird to me that memories of things well into my adults years are now at least 20 years ago. If you were born in the 90s, or even 80s, it may not be so weird to you to think that the 90s were 20 years ago, but I keep thinking those things are 10 years ago because that was the 90s and now we’re in the 2000s. But then I realize adding 10 only gets me to one of the first 10 years of the 2000s, and now we’re in the teens of the 2000s, so suddenly 1993 becomes nearly 20 years ago! Jane! stop this crazy thing!

6/25/12

Someone asks “can women have it all?” and I’m wondering what “it all” is. And then I’m wondering can Men have “it all?” and is their “all” the same as our “all,” and if it’s not, well then we can’t have “it all” because they’ve got some All that we don’t have. Have you ever heard anyone ask “Can Men have it all?”? Do we assume they already have it? And what exactly is it? It seems to me that we want what they have (or at least, think that they have), AND what we have. Are they hankering for what we have along with what they have (or think they have, or are told they have)? Well? Anyone? What’s IT all about, Alfie, anyways?

6/23/12

I was standing over the stove, thinking about some things I’ve learned recently in a field that I’ve been involved in all my life, and I thought, ‘it’s hard to believe I spent 60 years not knowing that,’ and then I remembered that I’m not 60, and I cannot tell you what a relief it was to get back those 10 years.

6/14/12

As I was making the eggs and the coffee and then looking at the scene out my back door (as seen in my banner thingy up there on the timeline), and enjoying the peace of the morning, I felt very blessed that I can say that the best days of my life are right now. There’s no need to be nostalgic about the past and long for any good ol’ days. The good ol’ days are right now, and I’m very grateful for that.

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It occurred to me recently that I’ve sort of been “given” the opportunity of a fresh start in my life. And perhaps you could look at it as if I’ve been able to live two distinct lives on this planet. (Will there be a third?) I often wish that I had married earlier and had become a mother sooner (and thus, more children), but I realize that I lived a life from 20 to 40 that my friends who married “young” will never be able to live — even in their empty nest years. And now for 10 years, and hoping for 10 to 50 more, I’ve been living this married/mom/educator/really-having-a-home-to-make life. (I mean no offense to my single friends on that last one. I’m only expressing how I felt as a single person.) Sometimes my 20 to 40 years seem like only yesterday; but most times they seem like a lifetime away — someone else’s life perhaps. I’m very grateful for those years and all that I got to do and see and learn. I assume that those opportunities wouldn’t have been there if I had been married and raising a family. And now I get to live and learn and grow with Jack and James. These are indeed the best years of my life. And perhaps it is that all that Jack and I experienced and learned in our other lives have made these years of 40 plus even more awesome than they would have been if we had been walking and parenting together in our 20s and 30s. I’m having a lot of fun. My 40s were quite challenging, but also full of so much joy and adventure. The 50s are looking to be the same and so much more. I’m grateful that I can live in and relish the here and now.

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Today you are 9

You’ve made it! You’re half way to legal maturity. From my point of view, you are much more mature than many 18 year olds. I am honored to be your mother, and there’s no place on earth that I would rather be than with you — teaching you, laughing with you, and being encouraged by your courage and love for truth and fairness. My prayer is that I get to see you through the next 9 years. And if I get to see you with your own family, I will be extremely happy. You will be an excellent husband and father.

You are like Shadrach, who wouldn’t go with the crowd and bow down to images. You love truth, and will not chant along with untruths. You can’t stand the least sign of foolish bullying, and will speak up. You’re unafraid to ask adult or child to clean up their language. Your dad and I have worked purposefully to instill godly values in you, but you seem to have come to us already with a desire to know and practice right living. I wonder at the ways that you are way ahead of me in courage.

You are a good student. I love to watch you interacting with your other teachers. I’m sure you bring them joy when they get to spend time with a kid who loves to learn what they love to teach. You show them respect, and you’re very funny, too. Yes, you are the munny fan. You have great wit, and there’s nothing like a fella who enjoys his own jokes.

These past 9 years have been the best of my life. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead on our walk through this life together.

A wise son makes a glad father. ~ Proverbs 10:1

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Going on a Bear Hunt

Jack found scat one day last week, and suspects it might belong to a bear. I’ll spare you the pictures of that, but I will share pictures of the camera and bait that he and James set up to see what might be lurking out there in our back yard. The day after their set up, all three of us took a long walk up and down and around to check on the bait and camera.

James and I started reading The Bears of Blue River this week, which has made the possibility of a bear(s) living in our backyard even more interesting to us.

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Wanting to Belong II – “House Rules” by Jodi Picoult

Emma Hunt is a single mother of two teen-aged boys. Jacob, the older of the two, has Asperger’s Syndrome. Fifteen year old Theo does not. Their mother has established “house rules,” which include “Tell the Truth” and “Take care of your brother; he’s the only one you’ve got.” Because of his syndrome, Jacob likes and needs rules and is very, very good at following them. At one point, Jacob asks his mother if she also has to follow the rules, and she says Yes. Being literal, Jacob responds, “But you don’t have a brother.”

Jacob’s tendency to see the world in black and white, and being very literal, is a big part of the story of Emma, Jacob and Theo. The three of them, as well as Rich, a detective, and Oliver, their attorney, share the events of “House Rules,” along with other background material from their lives. Jacob’s involvement with a “social skills” tutor and his obsession with crime scene investigation leads to his arrest for murder. Jacob’s inability to go beyond answering questions only specifically, not being able to perceive what you might really need to know, makes the investigation and trial last a bit longer than they ought. The truth is revealed at the end, and again, all’s well that ends well. I was reading hurriedly through the last few chapters, longing for everyone to know the truth. I did, however, find myself missing the reactions of the judge, prosecutor, detective, parents of the deceased, etc. to the true story. Maybe Ms. Picoult was just tired of writing, and decided to leave that to our imagination. I’m sure there would have still be doubts and questions by everyone involved.

The most interesting part of the novel is Jacob and Emma and Theo dealing with Asperger’s on a daily basis. I actually found myself relating to Jacob from time to time. He also reminded me of the two fellas I live with. I also wonder if the Jacobs of this world aren’t really the “normal” ones and it is the rest of us that have issues. Emma, as the mother, definitely had her struggles, but so many of those were brought on by the reactions of those around them. Jacob made me laugh often at his very reasonable responses to what he was being taught was proper social etiquette. He did frustrate me when he wouldn’t tell them the complete story of what happened when he got to Jess’s house. But they didn’t ask, did they?

After Jacob’s arrest for murder, Emma homeschools both boys. The coolest part for me, being a homeschooling mother, was that the boys both loved it. Jacob says, “I wonder why we never thought of this before: learning without socialization. It’s every Aspie’s dream.” That made me smile and cringe at the same time, knowing that anti-HSing people love to bring up socialization. Theo begins his chapter on their new life with “If a school day is seven hours long, six of those are eaten up by blocks of time that are full of nothing but crap: teachers yelling at kids who misbehave, gossip as you walk to your locker, recap of a math concept you understood the first time it was explained. What being homeschooled has taught me, more than anything, is what a waste of a life high school is.”

Perhaps “House Rules” is really Theo’s story. He’s the one dealing with a brother with Asperger’s, being shut out by normal kids who don’t want to be around him because of his brother. Theo has to deal with the unfairness of all that, and has a love/hate relationship with his brother. In the end, however, you see that both Theo and Jacob have obeyed the rule to take care of their brother. Jacob is proud that he has shown that an “Aspie” can feel empathy and think of someone other than himself. I think I would like to be friends with Theo and Jacob and would definitely be proud to call them my sons.

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Wanting to Belong — Brat Farrar

On the suggestion of a friend who said, “I can eat her books like jelly donuts,” I brought home two Josephine Tey novels from the library and another is on its way from Amazon. I chose Brat Farrar for my first week of 52 books in 52 weeks. I knew mysteries would be a great way to hold my attention and get me back into reading a book from cover to cover; and would also most likely be a quick read. And this story proved to be so. I enjoyed reading it from the very beginning. I was pulled instantly into the lives of these characters.

Brat Farrar grew up in an orphanage where he had been left on the doorstep as an infant. After leaving the home at around age 13, he set off for adventures in England, as well as America. By coincidence — or was it providence? —- upon his return to England, he meets a man that is startled by his resemblance to someone else. Together they plot to deceive a family and their attorneys, as well as their friends and neighbors, by Brat posing as a twin that disappeared, and believed to have committed suicide, eight years before. Brat is at first reluctant to play this part, but when he does agree to it and meets the family, he finds himself very drawn to them all — except for the living twin, who is not very accepting of this returned prodigal.

One of my favorite lines from the book has nothing really to do with the main plot, but I love these little observances that witty authors add to their stories. Brat is visiting church with the family for the first time and the author tells us that “Brat…listened to the Rector’s unemphatic voice providing the inhabitants of Clare with their weekly ration of the abstract.”  The Rector is actually a very good man who helps Brat in the resolution of this very sticky situation that he has gotten himself into; but I did find this observation of church ritual quite aptly put and it made me chuckle.

What really happened eight years ago is revealed at the end, as one might suspect of a mystery. Another mystery is resolved as to why the family is also drawn to this impostor. All’s well that ends well, and after not knowing who he was or where he belongs, Brat Farrar eventually does find home.

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A Resolve for 2012

I have realized through the years, as others would marvel at my knowledge of movies and books, that I mostly had spent time reading about movies and books, rather than actually reading the books or watching the movies. When I began earning money, I purchased several books about movies. I recall a particular one titled “50 Years of the Oscars.” I read every word of that book. I don’t know how one would analyze my psyche — being someone who prefers to read about things more than just experiencing them. I enjoy Prefaces before non-fiction and fiction works. I enjoy the analysis of a work that might be included with a novel. A few days ago I found myself reaching a new low. I was reading someone’s blog entry about their Top 10 Fiction and Non-Fiction picks for 2011. I read the first entry and then the reader comments that followed. On the second blog entry, I chose to go to the reader comments first. I laughed at myself. The blog entries themselves were About books. But now I found myself attracted to read first what people were saying About what the writer had said About the books they had read.

My office has two windows. One looks out onto our front yard and my bird-feeders. Ninety degrees to the right is the other window looking out to some pine trees and a lovely uphill path. I especially admire the second view and find myself swiveling to the right often to look out that window. Once again, though, I realize that I spend more time admiring the view rather than being drawn to be out and be a part of the scene and truly experience it. We have been blessed with 20 acres of our own to roam around, yet I stay in here. I’m sure the mountain lion(s) and rattle and bull snakes have something to do with that.

At the risk of completely boring you, I’m going to share a few other stories of my past life to show how long this quirk of mine has been with me. I was in England many, many moons ago. I made my way up to Cambridge one day and immediately went to the bookstore. Wow! the Cambridge University bookstore. I found myself at a table of large picture books of local scenery. Then I said to myself, “Self, you have spent your whole life looking at books and dreaming of seeing these places. Now you’re in one of those places and here you are looking at books about it! Get out of here and go look at the sights!”

A few years back, my family gave me a mandolin. I bought a few books to get me started and then didn’t really stick to playing. I was traveling with my sister and brother-in-law across state and we stopped in some kind of country store. I headed to whatever books I could find, of course, and found some mandolin book. As I made my purchase, my brother-in-law said to me, “So you think the more books you have, the better you’ll be able to play?” His point was well taken. Stop buying books and just get down to it. If you’re not already using the ones you have, are you thinking one more will work the magic?

I am very attracted to books and the idea of reading and knowing, but I haven’t for a long time really read them. Now that I’m teaching my son, I have read several from cover and cover. And in the spirit of Charlotte Mason, James and I have really lived with these characters. Now to do that on my own.

So my resolve for 2012 and beyond is to really enjoy life and all that it has to offer for me. I need to not just know about things, but really know them from having experience them. I’m even going to challenge myself to enjoy some “meaningless” things — read some books, see some movies simply to enjoy them.

To get out and just go on my own is a bit challenging for me these days. In my single years, perhaps having no choice but to be, I was pretty independent. I used to drive all on my lonesome from my home in NY to visit my family in the south. Now it’s strange to go to the grocery store all by myself. For several years now our little family has owned only one vehicle, and so my independent lifestyle was altered. Staying put, making no plans, has become a habit for me. Now I have my own vehicle, yet I stay inside. As soon as I remember what all there was to do out there, and that I want to do those things, I’ll be back to living life out there.

As part of my 2012 goal to really experience things, I have joined an online challenge to read 52 books in 52 weeks. I will not just know about these books and their authors; I will actually have read them! In getting back into reading for fun, I will be reading a lot of mysteries. I recently asked on Facebook for suggestions and I made a list and brought a stack of books home from the library.

I’m also going to make this the year I learn to knit. Okay, that’s not really an outside activity, but it is a creative one and creativity scares me. It’s really all about being able to relax and enjoy.

I grew up with a notion that life was really all about being good and being safe and secure. This paradigm has prevented me from enjoying life and made me a rather dull person. I’d like to be very different by the end of this year. Why should the bad guys get to have all the fun, anyhow! And I know one little boy that will be happy to have a mother that really enjoys life.

Feel free to send any suggestions my way.

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