Socially Speaking

January 26, 2013

Red bears a strong physical resemblance to his dad, but on the inside he’s all me: his penchant for perfection, his love of learning.

Report cards came home yesterday and while he continues to excel academically his social skills have dropped even since last term. We’ve been hit and miss with social skills for years. Moving to Texas was a big step forward but now that we are settled things are going south again.

Poor kid. I’m doing what I can but truth be told social skills mystify me. I feel his pain, there is no map to navigate the classroom cliques.


The Language of Play

January 25, 2013

In college I used foreign languages as a conversation starter. Everyone was either from somewhere else or had at least been somewhere else and learned the language. While I wanted to learn everything about everything that insatiable thirst for knowledge was quelled with a dabble of information. I set out to learn “I love you” in as many languages as possible. To this day I can still recall many of them. I’ve done few things well in the social sphere but that may have been my smartest ice breaker ever.

I love languages with the nuances and variety, a lyrical metaphor for the people of the world who may look and sound different from me but underneath it all we are still the same. Egomaniacs that we are, people were more than happy to share their knowledge, culture, and histories with me. Since I know of no casual way to meet new people I went in prepared with a task to fulfill.

I speak English and I used to be fluent in French. I know a smattering of high school German and college Russian. With the help of google translate and Red’s old assignments I have rudimentary Italian and by nature of my time in SoCal and the fabulous school we attended I have a basic comprehension of Spanish. Of course I understand music as well, the written symbols which translate to meaning and action and interpretation and so forth; yes music is a language too. I understand work, tasks, assignments, and goals. There is one universal language, however, which I lack.

I continue to struggle with social skills although I have finally stopped looking to media for my instruction and finally turn inwardly to my heart an my interpretation of the scriptures for guidance. Even more confusing to me than the rules of social engagement is the language of play.

I don’t know how to play.

As a kid I was the oldest of a large family, I was the little mama,I have always been a grown up. I didn’t belong with my peer group at school. My hobby was a solitary, task oriented one: piano. I function best in structured environments, I am a cheerful and hard worker. But I don’t know how to play. I can swim but I don’t know how to play in the water. I’m a good teacher but I don’t know how play with my children. I’m a capable pianist but I don’t know how to play without sheet music in front of me.

It’s a language that has eluded me my whole life, that of play. The closest I get to play is structured fun-based activities. Museum trips happen to be one of my favourite forms of “play.”

(If it sounds like I’m depressed I’m actually not. I’m just pensive while I wait for this virus to pass. There is very little filling my day between Theraflu for breakfast and NyQuil for dessert. I haven’t taken so many medications in years.)

True to Myself

January 22, 2013

It was the prevalence of guns in the US that worried me most about venturing to a new country for college. It kept me up in the night with fright. I would awake feeling “Don’t shoot — I’m Canadian!” burning through my body. Somehow I felt that being from a peaceful culture would protect me from the insanity of the gun toting culture in which I was about to immerse myself.

I never dreamed I’d be more than just a temporary visitor in this world. I didn’t know I’d live here, that when I’d teach in the schools I would see my students taken away in handcuffs, that I would hide my class in the corner behind the bookshelf during a lockdown, that I would send my own children to public schools in an age when people talk of arming the school staff. How could I possibly have imagined such a world? This is unthinkable stuff for such an evolved society. I weep at this very moment for my own loss of innocence and the current climate of this country. I want my 18 year old self to never know these pains. I want my own children to never know these horrors.

Many point to these events as the reason for homeschooling. Perhaps it is a valid reason for them but I am compelled to be a force for change in the face of fear. Shootings happen everywhere, not just in the schools. Over the past six months I have felt strongly that my family belongs in public school in part because we need to learn compassion and we need to demonstrate optimism, hope, and love. Those who are at risk for performing desperate acts are those most in need of help. What hope is there for the next generation if the happy, healthy families all remove themselves from the community schools? Who will demonstrate a better way to live? Who will reach out with love? When unthinkable things happen and my facebook feed erupts with [sometimes quite self-righteous] exclamations of “this is why I homeschool!” my soul bleeds. We should not be bickering between each other to justify the personal decisions we have made for our personal situations, we should be working together to heal these wounds and create a better world. As many if you know i have yearned to homeschool. The more I prayed the more I felt that schools need to be saved and that my family belongs in public schools. I would have fun homeschooling, and I am sure I’m capable of the job, but I need to expand my focus to more than just my two precious boys and make a difference in their lives as well as in the lives of their classmates. We need to demonstrate love and service and compassion to all. That is our calling.

Returning to the guns, I still cling to my strong feelings on the subject. I know they are not shared by everyone, even my husband and I do not see the subject the same. He tells me they are fun to shoot and that he could see himself owning one at some point. I hear “fun to shoot” as making a game out of killing, and it is not a game. While we see this issue differently we are both respectful of each other, and I believe we are both right. Pacifism is not for everyone but I would not be true to myself if I abandoned it. Just as a good soup requires multiple ingredients, a healthy relationship requires multiple perspectives.

I have friends who are avid hunters. I don’t ask, but I hope they use every part of the animal, and that they are respectful and grateful to the soul that gave it’s body for their food and their sport. Certainly there is a place for hunting in our society. Do I consider it a sport? No, but I respect it’s place in a responsible society.

I have friends who have armed themselves to protect themselves and their property. I don’t ask, but I hope they have followed all the appropriate safety procedures, in addition to the legal ones. They are within their constitutional right to own such things even though I will not, and I struggle to understand the desire. I will never own a gun. I will never shoot a gun. I hope to never hold a gun. I could never shoot another being. Many feel it’s important for their self-defense but I see it as a sure way to escalate a situation and ensure carnage.

I could never live with the grief of knowing I had taken another life, no matter how depraved. I would rather be shot than shoot, at least I’d go with a clear conscience. This is to say nothing of the countless accidental shootings. I could not handle the guilt of knowing that something I owned, even if I hadn’t pulled the trigger, had taken a life. I do not believe that we will create a greater society with more guns. I believe we need more education, more compassion. I believe we need to teach and practice tolerance. I believe we all need better coping mechanisms. Yes, I believe we need to take a much more invested look at mental health. If we can improve the lives of all our neighbours we can reduce our risks without holing ourselves up in a panic room and hiding from the world. We shouldn’t have to live in fear, but more guns doesn’t solve the underlying problem, and while it takes away the fear of some, it creates a greater fear in others.

This is not the world I want for my children. If I want a world of peace I need to demonstrate peace. I think we owe it to our children.

Sick Days

January 21, 2013

I am so predictable when it comes to illness. We are sick so rarely that when we do catch whatever’s going along I accept it easily. It’s our turn after all. Besides, how are our immune systems supposed to get stronger if they aren’t exercised? Like exercise, I may not like it but I know it’s good for me. (Also like exercise I know it’ll likely not last long before something changes.)

For a cold virus to run full course in my body take ten days to two weeks, although I think every time that I can speed the cycle by doing everything “right.” I welcome the virus with fatalistic stoicism and consider the silver linings that include movies, naps, and lots of steamy tea.

Like clockwork, at the one week mark when my sinuses and chest have been taken over by the viral squatters I’m much less patient. But I was so good at taking it easy! I was so good at slowing down! How did that not earn me some goodwill? Where is my early eviction notice?

And more importantly: when will this eeeeennnnnnnnnnndddd? (Obviously, if I’ve been tolerably ill for a week it means I’ll be terminally ill for ever.)

Compassionate Care

January 18, 2013

There is no monopoly on correctness, none of us are without making mistakes. I know I will continue to make mistakes, I know I will continue to be wrong. If I must err, I hope that I err on the side of compassion. I’m surely not even consistent in my quest for compassion but I use it as my guide. Ultimately many of my political opinions can be boiled down to my desire for compassion.

I do not believe that health is for the wealthy only. I could elaborate my thoughts on this but all half a dozen of you who read this already know how I feel. Will there be people who abuse the system? Yes. There will always be someone looking for a free ride. I would prefer to have my conscience clear, knowing I helped, than worry about making judgements about the intentions of others. I cannot see in their souls. I do not know what demons they are fighting. I only know that they can’t improve their situation without nutrition and health. I know that where there are some who are taking advantage there are so many others who truly need assistance. I won’t shun them because of the mistakes of others. I want to err on the side of compassion.

I believe that it is my duty to act as an agent for Christ and to show love to all. I know from my own experiences that it is hard to stand up and take responsibility for life when the basic needs are not met. I’ve been on the receiving end of aid and it is humbling, it is excrutiating, and more than once I felt the crushing beat of depression telling me I’d never be able to take care of myself without help again. Dependency is real but winning the fight does not include blame or abandonment. We do not fix our national problems of poverty and inadequate healthcare by blaming those who are stricken for not trying hard enough. We fix it with supportive, loving action. We fix it by seeing others the way Christ does. We fix it by getting over ourselves, our own egos, and our own ambitions.

There is no room for ego in war. Be ye not mistaken: there is indeed a war. The question you must ask your quiet soul is whether you are fighting your brothers and sisters, or fighting the situations that keep them down. As for me, I hope I’m always fighting with my brothers and sisters, and not against them. And when I am wrong, I hope I am on the compassionate side.


Eternally Indebted

January 5, 2013

The sermons describing us as unprofitable servants to Christ are enough to fill an entire book. I won’t rehash that here.

We are told these stories to deepen our affection for Christ. We are also told these stories as an example of how we should be.

I have several friends who give to me so freely that no matter how I try I can’t repay them. They are truly Christ-like and I am so enriched by their friendship. That is the kind of person I want to be. I want to be a Christ-like friend.

More Important Than A Shower

January 4, 2013

After I got dinner in the crockpot, breakfast cleaned up, and that phone call returned about tomorrow I told the boys I was going to have a shower. Midway through Blue came in (they never come in when I’m showering) and told me Red needed help. Oh no! I thought. What’s happened?

“Red needs help with the Burrow.” Blue explained. Only yesterday we had set up our Harry Potter lego sets.

I just stared at him. Is this happening? He’s interrupting my shower for this?

He stared back as though he expected me to hop out of the shower and fix the Lego before I even grab a towel. I explained that I’d help when I was dressed. Before I got out of the shower he had returned. “Red really needs help with the Burrow.”


“We accidentally broke it.”
“We accidentally kicked it.”
Makes perfect sense to me.

Now we know what happens when you kick a Lego house.