Reflections on Only the Lover Sings, Chapter 3

Continuing the conversation as I read Only the Lover Sings, by Josef Pieper.

Thoughts about music

What do we perceive when we listen to music with the ‘right ears’?”

I have been married five and a half years. My husband is a musician. He is the kind of musician who breathes music, who writes music more fluidly than he writes English, whose vision and life goal is to be an old man with a beard, quietly writing music in his study, preferably at the top of a tower. For at least three of these years I have nagged him with the question, why does music strike the listener so?

As a lover of the field of psychology, the words of “why” and “human” come together so frequently, it is for me as musical sounds are for my husband. In the invaluable Hitchcock movie, The Wrong Man, Manny says he likes to figure, like many musicians, he seems to be good at numbers. That’s the type of musician my husband is.

From The Wrong Man

 

So when I ask the questions, “why does ‘Let it go’ capture so many people?” “Why does ‘O God beyond all Praising’ give me chills?” “Why does —- sound so ugly?” he gave answers here and there, but it never quite satisfied. We were both looking at the music through a theoretical-scientific approach. I even thought it would be good to research the brain studies done while listening to music. That might open the door.

Along came Josef Pieper. It appears, it is not a scientific question at all, but a philosophical question. After all, if it can give you chills, if it can make you weep, if there is just that something about it, it must speak to that something spiritual, where no mathematical or scientific instrument can reach. For this we need, philosophy.

“…thus has the nature of music variously been understood in Western philosophical tradition…as wordless expression of man’s intrinsic dynamism of self-realization, a process understood as man’s journey toward ethical personhood, as manifestation of man’s will in all its aspects, as love.”

This is a revelation to me. Pieper puts into words so perfectly the sense that was just beyond my grasp.

Continuing, because music also involves the role of the artist performing the music, it cannot be divorced from that personhood. We do not only have the potential of music to do that which he describes above but we see music is capable of other things:

“Thus the musical articulation may include a shallow contentment with the facile availability of the cheapest “goods”, the rejection of any ordered structure, the despairing denial that man’s existential becoming as a goal at all or that such a goal could be reached.”

And the other instrument in this dynamic? Music also involves the role of the listener who receives it.

“We now realize why and to what extent music plays a role in man’s formation and perfection—as contribution or hindrance, and both, once again beyond any conscious efforts toward formation, teaching or education.”

I give you the conclusions he reaches, you’ll have to obtain a copy of the book to see the steps yourself. I will have to read this at least three more times to understand them myself. We learn from Pieper that music is related our quest, our movement whether towards perfection or destruction. His next step fascinates me all the more.

“…prompted by the disturbing observation equating the history of Western music with the ‘history of a soul’s degeneration’.”

He references a claim that we can see the development of Western music with the degeneration of the spiritual domain of the person. I’m fascinated by the influence of marketing in American culture for those who do not take their primary culture from their religion or ethnicity. What happens when Black Friday and Superbowl Sunday become the two biggest holidays of the year?

My mind is struck silent and requires meditation to ponder this question. For those whom mass marketing fills the cultural vacuum, what will the impact be with the only music they encounter is that which has been turned out through a marketing machine?

Certainly part of the answer will connect to the “shallow contentment with the facile availability of the cheapest ‘goods'” in this culture of instant gratification. Marketing deepens as music is never waited for. We don’t need people to play before us, we don’t need disc jockeys to hear our song requests. We download it and play it when we like. We don’t need speakers or sound systems. A person’s phone could have better speakers than anything else in their house. He or she can listen anywhere, any time. Instant gratification.

And because music is digital and personalized, it does not require any community to hear it, I can listen on ear buds. I am an island unto myself. When I am lifted up, I am lifted up alone, my feelings are witnessed only by me, they are not shared. And so they need never be defended.

The music of “Let it Go” was transcendent and uplifting. So often popular music is trite or banal or ugly. The message of the words resonates with the anxiety of the age. We are overwhelmed by our world and our responsibilities. Contemporary Christian music is sickly sweet and all to often high enough to make a contra-alto’s vocal chords bleed (or so it feels should I ever attempt to participate through singing). In the anxiety of our age we look for comfort, we want to know we are loved, we are perhaps too anxious to allow ourselves to be accused.

Have you ever heard “God of Mercy and Compassion“? An exquisite rendition can be found on Lent at Ephesus by the Benedictine Sisters. This is amazing stuff. But culturally, we want what is easily accessible. If we are content with that, we will accept what the marketers push at us, and so it deepens.

Click here to read my reflections on Only the Lover Sings, Chapter 1 and Chapter 2

Click on the Literature Tab at the top of the page to see my reflections on other works.

Unfriending the Stranger: on the need more stratification in relationships

Have we lost the distinction between friend, stranger and acquaintance? It seems like it goes without saying, yet I wonder if the value of boundaries is becoming more and more lost in our culture.

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Real Simple panelists proposed five “old-timey” traditions they would like to see brought back. One panelist while proposing the return of titles to identify distance where distance exists snuck in a secondary proposal to bring back the handshake and hug a lot less. Hugging. I enjoyed youth group as a junior high student because it provided me the opportunity to hug the cute freshman in the group. As I grew older, I liked hugging less and less and found it more and more in all circumstances. My hairdresser, who I like very much, gives me a hug as I leave and while in experience it doesn’t seem so bizarre, saying it out loud points out the strangeness of it.

We call random connections on Facebook our “friends.” A friend denotes an intimate, someone with whom I share similar goals, views and confidences. On Facebook, these are merely connections who see what I post. It’s like we opt to be bodies occupying a room where I can hear and see what the other does. I can choose to leave the room anytime. Online we call that “unfriending.” Whether we like it or not, “unfriending” becomes laden with emotion. Rather than “unfriend” someone, which rejects the person, I can just choose not to “follow” him or her. On other social media sites I have “followers.” At best a follower denotes someone who follows me around. Some would see it as a disciple. As I said before, it’s merely being in the same room, or in terms of blog websites, becoming a subscriber. The terms make it so very personal.

Boundaries are diminished. Couples couple on their first date or even without a date but at a party. Rather than going out on dates to get to know people, we “go out” and enter a committed intimate relationship in order to get to know the person.

If everyone is my friend, if everyone is in my intimate circle of hug receivers, then I must up the ante to show those who are truly on the inner circle. I will have to marry an intimate friend, opposite sex or not, or even myself, because we must be allowed to love. We must be allowed public recognition of our uniquely close relationship.

If I referred to acquaintances, or they referred to me,  by my title (Mrs.) then an intimate would be indicated by calling me by my first name. Friendships would be indicated by first name + spending time together. Deeper friendships would be indicated by first name + spending time together + spending time with my family + a hug upon greeting or saying good bye. Marriage would be indicated by all those things and so much more.

Legally society is not greatly stratified. There is marriage. There are civil unions in some cases. There are common law marriages. And then there is nothing. I read once (I apologize for not remembering the source, though I believe it published through First Things) a proposal for legal recognition of more types of relationships, without the need to call it marriage. If two sisters live together and care for each other in their old age, there is no legal recognition given to that relationship. If one sister has an estranged child, that child has more claim than the sister who has done everything for her.

So I am proposing more steps. They need not all be romantic as in marriage because not all intimate love is romantic. Our society is hyper-sexualized and would question the nature of the relationship between those two sisters. They may just be intimate friends sans physical intimacy. Such a thing does exist.

Now, I live in California. I know my ideas/discussions here reflect that. The coasts strive to be avante garde. California is both cutting edge on cultural trends and extremely casual. I recognize what I see taking place in cultural trends does not reflect the whole of the United States, although I do think times are a-changin’ and we’re all affected to some degree, the coasts (and college towns) likely being the most extreme.

It starts with one person and how he or she builds their relationships, then teaches a group, perhaps a youth group or their group of children. Christianity has, throughout history, functions as a subculture, something counter-cultural and a little underground. We’ve tried courtship (which in this discussion means you are either my friend or marriage potential, little in between), and for many, it has been found lacking. Maybe a new approach is worth looking at.

Reflections on Gift from the Sea: The final sections (6, 7, and 8)

When I was in 8th grade, I fell in love with Christ. Every year following that was romance, beauty and yearning for his battlefields. When I married, my world became smaller. The trials we experienced were pressing and though a part of me still looked out to the larger world, planetal awareness, as Mrs. Lindbergh calls it, my attention was necessarily focused, and is still focused, towards the little world of our family.

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I recall the lesson of Mother Teresa. How to change the world? Drop by drop.

I asked a priest once, can one still experience total union with Christ if one is married? He answered, yes, all three of you.

How does it all happen? On a practical level, how does it happen?

We don’t often hear these stories and even if you do, is it ever really enough to fully fit the image into your psyche?

Anne Morrow Lindbergh has painted a picture for me. Shell by shell, step by step, she opened up my awareness to the beauty of alone time, of creative work, of alone-togetherness, of the middle functional period of marriage, and the evolution that takes place so that slowly we become whole persons able to give like we’ve never given before, because we’ve never been so complete. And now what?

Two sections ago I was thinking, these are good things I am working on. I feel so good, so satisfied. Each week I read a little, write a little, do some craft or design. And I feel good. I’m spending more time with my eldest, delighting in her a little more, missing her when she is at my parents’ home for a visit. Then I thought, this is all well and good, but shouldn’t I be working on my spirituality too?

If it feels good, just don’t do it, eh? I’m told that’s an old Irish philosophy. If I feel this happy, I must be missing something, right? (My low self-esteem talking)

Then comes the last section, “The Beach at my Back.” Here are the quotes:

Modern communication loads us up with more problems than the human frame can carry.

It is good, I think, for our hearts, our minds, our imaginations to be stretched; but body, nerve, endurance and life-span are not as elastic. My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to whom my heart responds.

Can we solve world problems when one is unable to solve one’s own?

If we stop to think about it, are not the real casualties in modern life just these centers I have been discussing: the here, the now, the individual and his relationships.

The here, the now, and the individual, have always been the special concern of the saint, the artist, the poet, and—from time immemorial—the woman. In the small circle of the home she has never quite, forgotten the particular uniqueness of each member of the family.

The path to holiness that I must walk takes into account the world in which I live, a busy, chaotic world, where we are informed nonstop of the plight of others and not just the masses, but human, personal stories of individuals. And it’s painful to bear it.

Start at home. Start with one’s community. We are here given permission to let go a little of the troubles around the world. We are not meant to bear all these crosses.

The feminine genius, according to St. Pope John Paul II, possesses a particular openness to the person. This genius acts as a light to guide mankind back to its center. The ebb and flow of life. We can be go out but must return inward.

Perhaps it feels good precisely because it is right. As Mrs. Lindbergh says, I must take these seashells with me, for me these are these reflections I have written, let them be the eyes of the sea for me, reminders, guide posts of what matters, in order to point me on my way.

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Reflections on Gift from the Sea: Part Three

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Part 3: Below are more quotes and reflections on this section in Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

Words on how now we need never be alone – truer now than ever before. So many distractions, we have endless distractions to keep us occupied. Her writing calms my breathing. I feel I am at the ocean, with the sounds of the waves in the background.

I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before.

  • I love my work but I feel drained. Drained from being with people all day, from being “on,” from giving and thinking and perceiving. Drained from being in an office, the appearance of which I cannot alter beyond a program poster I find attractive and a little postcard of Van Gogh’s “First Steps.” I come home and although I ache to be with my children, I seek asylum. But then I err. Instead of seeking prayer or reading in order to be truly alone with myself, I go online, pinterest, facebook, hostess with the mostess. I find I am not refreshed.

The need to fill the pitcher to the brim, rather than spill out in driblets.

The artist, naturally, always resents giving himself in small drops.

  • I feel so selfish. I gave in driblets, again and again. Yell at the child, step away, pray for patience, come back ready to be calm and controlled. Another incident, another whine, another act of toddler resistance, ahem, toddler independence and I fall right back again. I have not thought of this act of allowing the pitcher to fill to the brim.

I believe that what a woman resents is not so much giving herself in pieces as giving herself purposelessly.

  • I find some comfort in that I do give myself purposely. I am trying to make things better. Intentionality drives me. Putting together the home, creating routine, establishing discipline.
  • Yet still, I have been purposeless these days. I have felt buried under it all. The constant whining, the battles, the inability to please and motivate.

We do not see the results of our giving as concretely as man does in his work.

  • I feel this. At work, the impact is very clear. My clients are very open to what we are about. At home, progress is so…so…spiritual, intangible. Beyond maintaining hygiene and decency, I do not feel like I see progress. I hear others praise my child, but feel she gives the worst to me. So it is draining. That phrase makes so much more sense in the context of what the author writes about. Going down the drain. Purposeless, driblets.

Purposeful giving is not as apt to deplete one’s resources; it belongs to that natural order of giving that seems to renew itself even in the act of depletion. The more one gives, the more one has to give.

  • Yes, I feel that at work, and I feel it with my younger children because it is so easy to delight them. My eldest needs my attention. She needs more purposeful giving. I can get away with driblets with the infant and the toddler, they need only my body (or so it feels) for nursing or reading or play. The boy is so unaware. It takes so little to amuse him. But the eldest, she needs companionship, someone to talk to, to smile at her. If I could just get some time alone with her.
  • I went to mass today by myself. I entered aching, ready for tears but resistant because I will no longer cry in public, scolding myself that I have a good life, a light cross and no excuse to indulge public tears, making others think, I don’t know, that someone may have died. When the Liturgy of the Eucharist began, my heart opened up. Christ was coming. I felt renewed by the end of it all, albeit not magically.

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No longer fed by a feeling of indispensability or purposefulness, we are hungry, and not knowing what we are hungry for, we fill up the void with endless distractions, always at hand—unnecessary errands, compulsive duties, social niceties.

  • She wrote this in the 1950’s and yet it more true now. We have truly endless distractions. We look for meaning in projects. Or worse, we look for an endless supply of criticisms of self for all the things I cannot do. Have I not engaged in that here? We should be realistic. We should not coddle ourselves. I hate the self-esteem movement. But we should not waste time. We should look at the source.
  • We need to see solitude as necessary.

Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray. But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of the whole web of human relationships.

  • So what if I allowed myself to heal? What if for one hour a week I took my child out for a coffee (milk in her case) and we chatted as only we ladies can do. What if I finally took the time to go to adoration. I never desired alone time before I had children. I embraced marriage and the constant companionship. I struggled when my husband needed his time alone because I then felt lonely. But I had no project, nothing to create or to love.
  • I see better now. Now, I say with smile, that I have begun writing again.

The problem is more how to still the soul in the midst of its activities.

  • I knew reading would quiet my soul, my anxiety. I know it still. Writing, thinking, laying out my thoughts as I have done here, that has really reached into the depth and brought me to life again.

Mechanically we have gained, in the last generation, but spiritually we have, I think unwittingly lost. In other times, women had in their lives more forces which center them whether or not they realized it… their very seclusion in the home gave them time alone…Nothing feeds the center so much as creative work, even the humble kinds…must have been far more nourishing than being the family chauffeur or shopping at super-markets, or doing housework with mechanical aids.

  • I have never thought of this before and so it amazes me. My husband seeks creative pursuits in all corners: gardening, bread baking, composing, teaching our children. I see his delight in it and understand that he loves to see the finished product. Yet still I never personally derived the same pleasure from those things. My creativity centered more on aesthetics: the home, the flower arrangement, the table setting. With my engagement online I am challenging myself to use my camera properly again, to write poetically again.

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  • We have become the chauffeur. The eldest goes to preschool every day for three hours each day. We take her to and fro. I feel better now that I am using a bike and trailer for some of it. I can see what the author is saying.
  • Yet still I fear the time alone, the time without distraction because it is so difficult to get my mind to work again. I am sleep deprived. For the fourth year I am sleep deprived. Because of anxiety it is difficult to fall asleep. Because of my nature, being easily stimulated, after 4am it is difficult to stay asleep. Nursing and oxytocin act as a drug to induce me to sleep. Sometimes I cannot fall asleep until I have nursed her. I am sleep deprived. Some days I look for passive engagement. I claim I seek intelligent thought. Perhaps all this time, it is time alone I seek to allow my thoughts to full develop. Passive engagement was only a mere distraction.

She must consciously encourage those pursuits which oppose the centrifugal forces of today… it should be something of one’s own. Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day—like writing a poem, or saying a prayer. What matters is that one be for a time inwardly attentive.

Don’t I seek a magical solution? I think: what if this is it? What is some time alone were the secret to being happy and fulfilled? I know I feel something more complete in my since I began to write more seriously. I am motivated when I see more people following what I write.

This book is opening doors.

I am an extrovert. I was lonely as a child, living in the country, always alone, a latch key child. I wrote, I thought, I imagined. When I did missionary work I discovered so much about myself. I loved to be with people. I was not an introvert but felt energized by company. I was an artist, more at home with host-families in Oregon than my less artistically-inclined, albeit wonderful, teammates.

I’ve taken this for granted. I do not want to do so anymore. Time alone, to think and to write. My first love. I wrote short stories in grade school. I began “novels” in sixth grade. I completed my last work at age 19. But writing has ever been one of my great loves

So here we are, the book and I. Something strange and new is opening up for me. I am excited to reach Part Four.

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  • Tomorrow she and I will have a painting date after preschool.

 

Reflections on Gift from the Sea, Part Two

With a small group of ladies, I am reading Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. We begin by noting the quotes that resonated with us and why. I will share them with you now.

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I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core of my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can.

  • This is my desire as well and has been for some time.

I mean to live a simple life…but I do not. I find that my frame of life does not foster simplicity.

  • I struggle with this. I want a simple, uncluttered life, yet I grew up surrounded by the act and encouragement of accumulation. I want it, but I always want things. I am attached to things. Then I struggle not to condemn myself for that (condemnation was a toxic struggle for me when I was younger). When I read this woman, who I know nothing about, and hear her voice the same desires and the same yearnings in a poetic voice that resonates with me, saying, I am like her, she is like me, and then I hear her say her frame of life does not foster simplicity, then I hear her say “it is okay. You desire it, but it is okay that you do not possess it in the way you think you should.” With the review of just a few pages, she became a comforting mother for me. I did not expect to find that in these pages.

Her description of a life of multiplicity. “And this is not only true of my life, I am forced to conclude; it is the life of millions of women in America.”

  • What is this? Am I not alone in this longing and in this struggle?

But how? Total retirement is not possible. I cannot shed my responsibilities. I cannot permanently inhabit a desert island. I cannot be a nun in the midst of family life. I would not want to be.

  • Again I read her example to me and it is a consolation. I would not want to be. It is true. I desire it and yet I do not want it fully. Because I want my shell to be beautiful. She describes her actions to make her “little seashell house” beautiful. It is a simple beautiful. We can be active to do this, but in a simple manner, with that spirit of the sea.

Yet the problem is particularly and essentially woman’s. Distraction is, always has been, and probably always will be, inherent in woman’s life. For to be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, like spokes from the hub of a wheel. We must be open to all points of the compass…how desirable and how distant is the ideal of the contemplative, artist, or saint—the inner inviolable core, the single eye.

  • It is something true to woman. And when I read this I feel that I can I see myself more clearly. Yes this is something about me, deep at my core. My interests, my many, many interests which cannot be expressed in a single profession or project. My visions blurs a little less. It is something of woman. And isn’t it? I look around me and see the women in my life in a new light, a little more clearly. This facet of my personality, that it is multi-faceted it not something that sets me apart, but is something that helps me to be part of something greater.

It is not limited to our present civilization, though we are faced with it now in an exaggerated form. It has always been one of the pitfalls of mankind.

  • Ah how true this is! And now that many years have passed since she wrote this how much more painfully true this is today! We not only have a multiplicity of things, we are enslaved by them, compulsively checking and checking and checking. Bored, and so we check. A dull moment, a thought, a question comes to mind, and so we check. A ping, and then we check. It helps with directions, it simplifies life. But it increases the buzzing and the distractions and harms in the way it is meant to help us. We are even deeper in this sickness than in her day because of our glorious technological revolution.

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“To ask how little, not how much, can I get along with. To say—is it necessary?”

  • Thus I come to the conviction I feel most deeply from this passage. These last words echo in my mind. “Is it necessary?” I read a spiritual exercise online wherein a woman laid out the opposing vision to the woman of Proverbs 31. What stayed with me is the description of the woman who spends the money her husband has earned. I spend too much money. I want things, distractions. I want to take my worth in what I wear. I want to be beautiful. I do acknowledge I enjoy the art of fashion and some things are simply the artistic exercise of putting things together, much like I enjoy in my home or on a table for a party. But if that were all I would be more content than I am…always looking, always distracted, always wanting more.
  • And with the urge to condemn myself I might have stopped there, but I come back to the act of decorating her seashell home. I do not have to live the life of a nun when I am a wife and mother. Elizabeth Scalia, who I read devotedly, debated over the purchase of a purse and the struggle of desire and materialism. She comes to a conclusion. She purchased two purses. If one were perfect, she would simply return one and keep the other. Neither are perfect, and rather than continue searching for the perfect one, she accepts this. She will use one for summer and one for winter. They have a function. They cannot be perfect. She is not absorbed by materialism feeling they will answer every need.
  • I have to remind myself it is okay. There is a middle road and that is what I am called to. I am still learning. In a few years I will come back around again and need to hear these words again, because I will have forgotten them once more. To me that is grace, for the author, it is the call of the sea, bringing us back to where we belong. It is a gift from the sea.

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Woodland Tea Party-Birthday Party

For my daughter’s fourth birthday party, a milestone in my eyes (goodbye toddlerhood?) I wanted to do something very special for this little girl. Inspired by this crafty and enchanting floral fox birthday party, I decided on a woodland tea party in my parents’ almond orchard.

IMG_5448Armed with orange balloons, pink balloons and a helium tank, the grandmothers set the stage.

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Literally. My father moved the dance floor he built for our friends’ wedding two weeks past into the orchard. Brought out some rounds and folding chairs and viola! we have a setting for our darling dear. I brought out my mother’s wedding china (easier since the party was at her house), some rustic orange fabric circles for the centerpieces, and flowers I arranged from two large bouquets my mom acquired at a retreat.

IMG_5440We added little felt fox clips to the center piece, and paper cut outs with a sleeping fox made, by a good friend, at each place setting.

IMG_5444The focal point of the party was our special gift to the girl. A dollhouse!

IMG_5424Plus delicious food. On the menu: granny smith apples, Caprese salad (tomato, home-grown basil, and fresh mozzarella drizzled with olive oil), and a ham with Cajun mayo, pickled vegetables party platter featured in Real Simple.

IMG_5425The cake is a bittersweet chocolate cake, also featured in Real Simple, which we served with homemade pumpkin ice cream. It is decorated with one real homegrown pumpkin and assorted sugar cookies made by my mom.

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We served a Citrus Lavender Sage herbal tea, another tea mix and hot spiced apple cider.

The kids had an opportunity to paint birdhouses and play bean bag toss.

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IMG_5487After that everyone got balloons and wagon rides!

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IMG_5623As the evening progress the white lights were the finishing touch to a perfect evening. A great thanks to all those who made this birthday vision a reality!

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A B.A. in Home Economics

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What if we brought back home economics courses (culinary design anyone?)? What if there were a degree in home economics. I thought of this some time ago and wanted to share it here today. As a young adult I knew many women who did not attend or finish college because there was never a string enough desire to choose, major in, sweat and bleed for a given career. The work of academics was uninteresting and the labors more costly than their worth. These women took a few classes and then dropped a view classes. Perhaps many times. While they waited, wondering what God would call them to, they continued to pursue the path society laid out as the path of bettering themselves. Their desire to grow in virtue pushed them to consider the question. In their hearts they knew they were called to marriage and called to motherhood. Yet the waiting made necessary by our transient, community-less society made the waiting longer and more difficult.

What do you think? The university I attended required 132 credits (4 credits per typical course). 28 of those credits were specifically major requirements. The list I’ve compiled totals to 135 credits. It it meant to address the who person of the individual who takes them. It is designed to be totally useful for the student who desires to spend his or her career primarily in the home. Music and language courses which fulfill many college requirements are selected to be foundation, so the individual is better situated to help his or her offspring in their choice of music or language studies. Of course, Latin will be no help if the offspring chooses to study Japanese, but by and large, most student seem to choose Latin-based languages. Philosophy courses are selected to help the individual develop a solid belief about the human person and personal growth. As a Catholic program, theological courses are part of every major, and here at selected to direct the individual towards knowledge of the Truth and how to teach it to others. The course of study is lab-heavy, because students in this major are more interested in application than academics. The desire is to have an in-depth approach to an application driven vocation.

Please note: I am not saying any of this is required for being a good stay-at-home-parent. But I think such a course would be enriching and help those who see the advantage of higher education but are not motivated to complete due to a lack of desire for a particular career path.

So here we go:

  1. Philosophy: 12 credits
    1. Philosophy – anthropology and virtue focused
    2. Logic, include research methods/evaluation
    3. Rhetoric, include leadership/organization skills
    4. World Religions (a survey of various cultural worldviews) = diversity component
  2. English: 8 credits
    1. English (literature)
    2. English grammar and composition
  3. Foreign language: 12 credits
    1. Latin 1
    2. Latin 2
    3. Latin 3
  4. Mathematics: 8 credits
    1. Applied mathematics: algebra and geometry (no imaginary numbers here)
    2. Financial planning
  5. Religion: 12 credits
    1. Theology
    2. Catechetical studies
    3. Gender studies = historical overview, Catholic perspective – 2 semesters
  6. Psychology: 16 credits
    1. Early childhood education
    2. Child development
    3. Cognitive-behavioral psychology (psychotherapy)
    4. Marital and family therapy (relationship enhancement therapy) with lab
  7. Music: 8 credits
    1. Music Theory 1
    2. Piano 1
  8. Application courses: 59 credits
    1. Nutrition
    2. Health – with CPR certification
    3. Etiquette
    4. History of design, include basic art introduction
    5. Interior decorating with lab – 5 credits
    6. Woodworking lab – 5 credits
    7. Basic home repair lab – 5 credits
    8. Auto shop lab – 5 credits
    9. Sewing lab – 5 credits
    10. Culinary arts 1 – 5 credits each
    11. Culinary arts 2 – 5 credits each
    12. Agriculture for the family farm (square foot gardening, eco-friendly practices)
    13. Horticulture for the family farm

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thinking about ambition.

Thinking about ambition. I grow eager to move on to the next thing once I feel the challenge of the present has been met. I may still have room to grow, but I no longer feel stressed or challenged by the present circumstances. What is the next thing? I shared feelings with my mom like this when I was a senior in high school. That was the first time she seemed to fully understand. She was just the same. Ready to move on, to a new field or up in the present one, but on…anywhere…on. I would experience this again and again. What is the next thing? Ever ready for diversity. Missionary work, college, Minnesota winters, marriage, full time work, Virginia, graduate school, a baby in graduate school, one baby, two baby, three babies under age four, low income. What is the next thing? What challenge can come next?

I’ve compartmentalized my life. Here is my work, my professional life. I’m looking for networking, for opportunities. I want to progress, want to do more, want to be more. I’ve honed my skills, ready for the next challenge. But I can’t. I’m stuck.

I’m stuck because I have three little miracles under three feet running amok in my beautiful home. The youngest does not yet run, she merely reaches, but she’s definitely on her way, ready for the next challenge. I’m stuck because I am living the greatest call imaginable. We came together and made little people in the overflow of our love and they have to be raised, reared, taught the ways of the Lord and civilized society.

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I’m stuck and I compartmentalized. But I was wrong to do that. If I feel like I’ve overcome the difficult, stressful part of my wonderfully important job, isn’t that a blessing? Because the constant challenges of parenting tell me I have not yet overcome that battle.

So some things will have to wait for now. If I can see my life as a whole, integrated, the waiting will not be so difficult. I get up, get dressed for work, dress little people before work, go to work, meet with clients, come home, nurse a baby, put a toddler down for nap, eat something delicious prepared by my debonair husband (actually, geeky-awkward-amazing husband), go back to work. I stop at home before going to meetings in order to nurse the baby. I work only two days a week and I will not work back-to-back days.

My life is one. My vocation is one. I do not need to separate them into two separate lives and think one is utterly challenging and I’m failing, and feel “what’s next” in the other. If I see it as one, there is enough for me to apply myself. I can love those children better. Good gracious, I could start cooking again. That’s challenge enough.

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“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” Matthew 6:34

Challenge enough.

Life in Balance

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For me, life is about balance. Just as in family systems therapy, I see life as a child’s mobile. Each piece is weighted strategically to create harmony as a hole. Were one piece to take on additional weight, or be robbed of its proper weight, the entire mobile would wobble and shake, attempting to find it’s proper balance and proportion. It could adjust, but it might look disfigured. To remedy it, other pieces could take on additional weight, say if the wounded string was cut. Or perhaps if the wounded string weight more than its fair share, the others would have to sacrifice. This is life to me. A series of checks and balances. This, for me, since I struggle with anxiety, is the way to survive.

What are the components?

–       The physical – which includes exercise, adequate sleep, good food and emotional wellness

–       The psychological – which includes a well-formed conscience and rational thinking

–       The social – familial, friendship, and communal ties here

–       Intellectual – learning, the acquisition of knowledge and practice of creativity

–       The environmental – clean surroundings that have some bit of silence

–       And the spiritual – communion with God, living in a state of grace, practicing devotions, living life with a sense of wonder and awe of the beauty of God’s creation, being in nature.

If we had that we’d have it all.

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I am the mother of five children: three born, two in heaven (see my blog “The Madness of Miscarriage”). My first daughter will be four years old in October, my son will be two in November, my youngest reached three months of age yesterday. “Wow, you really have your hands full” is the mantra I hear repeated to me at the grocery store. I don’t mind it or see it as a sign of an anti-life culture because it’s just…so…true.

After our first was born, the physical weight was wacked like it’d never been wacked before. You can imagine. The social weight, however, was miraculously expanded by our becoming parents and learning to live for another person. It took creativity (the intellectual weight)

I see the same occurred as I reflect on the birth of our son. The social weight expanded and the physical deteriorated following his birth.

And what took place between the births? A slow, uphill climb to rebuild the spiritual, which needed a new location on the mobile because the social expanded so much, depleting my alone time and rigorous schedule; the environmental, learning to be a wife and mother with babies that have their own “stuff” and grow to make their own messes; and in time the physical . The psychological weight, for me, could be maintained by finding creative ways to support the physical weight (ha! In more ways than one, I had some weight to lose postpartum) and develop a routine for our family.

“Routine is beauty,” said Mark Berchum as he trained a new batch of missionaries to serve with the National Evangelization Team in 2003. Routine (a predictable order of events, not a schedule) gave me a sense of peace, expanded the hours of the day and helped me feel a sense of accomplishment. I had one chore a day. As a morning person, after cleaning up from breakfast, I completed my chore. My children learned to expect I would not be available for play at this time and seemed happily occupied while I worked.

Our routine was as follows:

–       Wake up and dress

–       Breakfast

–       Clean up

–       Morning chore

–       Lunch prep

–       Nap time – a project or more chores or nap to be completed here

–       Snack

–       Play time/walk with stroller

–       Dinner prep

–       Bedtime

 

My most recent pregnancy was the most physically difficult. I lost of my proactive chore schedule and was too tired to walk on most days. We also moved to a new environment that lacked signs of nature, felt unsafe at times, and was very noisy compared to our home in the country. Walking was unpleasant and tiring.

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So now with three babes in tow, I’m still trying to learn. Instead of walking as my exercise I try to do some exercise routine first thing in the morning. I’m gradually coming back to doing chores and keeping the house clean (difficult though, because we moved and are still settling in). We have a beautiful, albeit small, yard and my parents’ house with their almond orchard is only two miles away (so we have some nature). Silence is the most difficult to come by these days, and probably the area that makes my husband and I suffer the most. I put a lot of my energy into making this house our own, making it beautiful by painting and decorating…for my sake and my family.

 

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So life is always a work in progress. I believe if we’re living right, our life will keep changing and we’ll have to keep balancing. With each step, I ask God for guidance and grace. We’re getting our flow again, though I wish I could help my husband more with cooking. We’ll get there. Salads help.

What do you do to maintain balance in your life?