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Sierra Highlands

And thou hast not shut me up in the hands of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a spacious place.

Last Build Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2018 02:29:26 +0000


Post Randomizer

Mon, 07 May 2012 04:43:00 +0000

I blog over at Take Up and Read now, but I found this post randomizer and thought I would put it up here. It makes it more fun for me when I occasionally browse through my old posts (which I do) and if you happen to visit this blog maybe you will want to try it too.

I like randomizers! ::puts on geek glasses::

Blessings! Willa
(Note: I put the randomizer on the sidebar to make it easier to use)

Catholic Media Awards

Thu, 04 Jun 2009 21:43:00 +0000

Just one more post in which I shall mention that this blog has been nominated for a Catholic Media Award in the category of Best Written Blog. I will not and in my opinion OUGHT not win when pitted against the likes of Jen of Conversion Diary, Elizabeth of In the Heart of My Home, and my own daughter (just to name a few!) but it still makes me feel really good.

Thank you most heartily, whoever nominated me.

I would like to point out that Anne of Under Her Starry Mantle was nominated for Best Blog by a Woman (my daughter's blog has been nominated in that category too) -- it was Anne's blog that gave me the tip-off about my own nomination. Thank you, Anne!

Being nominated gives me the right to post a cool graphic:


and gives me a warm happy feeling as I post what I really intend to be the last post on here! (If you happen to be curious and want to check out my new blog, it is here: Quotidian)(image)


Mon, 01 Jun 2009 18:35:00 +0000

I'm going to move to a new blog address. It's still on blogger, just a different blog and different name. Why? Maybe you caught my post before I deleted it trying to work out why and if. I'm still not exactly sure. But in moving blogs once in a while, I'm in some good company : ).(image)

Bluejay Babies

Mon, 01 Jun 2009 18:21:00 +0000

The Steller Jay eggs in our garage hatched while I was in Alaska. Here's a couple of pictures I took today, so they would be what? a week and a half old? The pictures are dark because I didn't want to blind them with the flash:

They are very silent considering how loud their parents are. When we go out through the garage the parents fly out to the nearest tree and squawk abrasively, but you would never guess that the babies have this potential. A book I read recently, called "Mind of the Raven", makes the point that the loudness of the babies, or lack of it, depends upon nesting conditions. Baby ravens are very loud, because their nests are in inaccessible places. I conclude that corvids who nest in places like boxes on top of garage shelves, or on porch lights, will tend to have silent babies. I wonder when they get their voices?(image)

Hatcher's Pass in May

Mon, 01 Jun 2009 15:17:00 +0000

I didn't take very many pictures in Alaska but here are a few, mostly of Hatcher's Pass and my mother and daughter:

(image) I love the way the mountains looked.

(image) (image)

Requiem for Friendship

Sat, 30 May 2009 19:52:00 +0000

The link to the First Things article by Anthony Esolen I posted last time doesn't work any more, more's the pity. If you happen to read this and know of a substitute link please comment and I'll put up a replacement. It was a good article.

While I was googling for that one, I found this interesting article also by Anthony Esolen called A Requiem for Friendship. ...Why Boys Will Not Be Boys. Basically it's about the loss of the concept of true friendship and the presently fashionable lit-ana tendency to recast legendary friendships in terms of homosexuality. Using Frodo and Sam's friendship as an example of the modern tendency to cast deep friendships as perverse and odd, the article goes on to make points about the value of language to express concepts and how the language of friendship and the concept of it have become attenuated these days, to our loss:

It is one thing to say that it has made friendships among boys more distant and difficult, and to suppose that that is a bad thing for the emotional lives of those boys. It is quite another—and it takes someone willing to see through our jaded dalliance with androgyny—to see that the loss of such friendships stunts the boys intellectually and goes a long way towards depriving everybody of the benefits that such intellectual development used to provide....

Our boys are failing in school. Has it occurred to no one that we have checked them at every turn, perversely insisting that they must not form brotherhoods, that they must not identify their manhood with practical and intellectual skills that transform the world, and that they must not ever have the opportunity, apart from girls, to attach themselves in friendship to men who could teach them?

For good reason boys used to build tree houses and hang signs barring girls. They know, if only instinctively, that the fire of the friendship cannot subsist otherwise. If the company of girls is made possible, then the company of girls becomes a necessity, if only to avoid having to explain to others and to oneself why one would ever prefer the company of one’s own sex. Thus what is perfectly natural and healthy, indeed very much needed, is cast as irrational and bigoted, or dubious and weak; and thus some boys will cobble together their own brotherhoods that eschew tenderness altogether—criminal brotherhoods that land them in prison. This is all right by us, it seems.

Freedom and Giving

Fri, 29 May 2009 16:00:00 +0000

The subject of freedom and self-donation has been coming up in my life recently, so I want to link to this article at the First Things site that someone sent to the Unschooling Catholics list. The Freedom of Heaven and the Freedom of Hell. A quote:

the community of the blessed saints, for whom freedom means the grace-filled incapacity to will anything but the good for themselves and for one another. Thomas Aquinas steps forth from the constellation of the wise to express this freedom as the now utterly natural and supernatural virtue of love.

Aquinas says to Dante (in the Divine Comedy)

When the radiance
of the Lord’s grace, which lights the flames of true
love and by love still grows in eminence,
With such multiplication shines in you
it leads you up these stairs no man may take
descending, without climbing up anew,
He who’d deny his flask of wine to slake
your thirst would not be free, would have such power
as rivers not returning to the sea!

Fri, 29 May 2009 02:38:00 +0000

Baby Faith Hope went to be with God on May 23rd, the day of my Dad's funeral service. I only just found out now, since I haven't been checking blogs regularly. Faith's mother writes:

And I can't wait to see her again... I don't know how she could get any cuter but I'm sure she is even more beautiful now that she is living it up in Heaven.
I am grateful to Faith's mama Myah for sharing her daughter's short, beautiful life through story, video and photo.(image)

Utrum Siestae Necessae sunt pro salute...

Wed, 27 May 2009 03:30:00 +0000

and cute Paddy pic, too.(image)

Liam's Graduation

Mon, 18 May 2009 15:01:00 +0000

Clare took a few pictures of Liam's graduation.




Unfortunately my camera was acting weird -- at first I couldn't take any pictures at all, then I ended up with some purple-tinted ones , as you can see below.

It was a beautiful day, though.

(image) (Paddy, Liam and Clare)

(image) (The chapel of Our Lady of the Trinity)

Wed, 13 May 2009 14:36:00 +0000

My father passed away the morning of Monday, May 11. He had been struggling with cancer for several years and had some heart issues but the timing was unexpected and we are all still stunned. I had called home on Mother's Day and gotten to speak to him briefly the evening before. I can't express how much he meant to me.

I and my two brothers and mother would be very comforted by your prayers in this time. Liam's graduation is this Saturday and after that I will be flying up to Alaska for my father's service.

Article on his life at the Anchorage Daily News.(image)

Picture Search

Mon, 27 Apr 2009 23:19:00 +0000

Can you locate Liam in the dedicatory mass on March 3rd at TAC's new chapel? Probably not, huh, unless you just happen to know us IRL -- that would be you, Chari and kids, and just a couple of others.

(image) Detail, Liam foreground and just left of center,, with the dark grey suit. The seniors got to be part of the dedication ceremony. In the bigger picture he is on the left, towards the back, behind the doors. He's also quoted in a Ventura Star news article on the subject. LOL, since this blog is the closest to a scrapbook I ever get, I hope you don't mind this : ).

He is graduating May 17th, exactly one month before his birthday and just short of one month after we visited the TAC campus for the first time.(image)


Thu, 23 Apr 2009 19:38:00 +0000

Off blogging for the time being... just to let you all know. No great crises at the moment, so those who have been through the Aidan-roller-coaster with us don't need to worry, but there are a lot of things going on that need my focus.

If you feel called to pray, my father has some concern that his lymphoma has recurred, and my son Sean is having chronic debilitating abdominal pain. Nothing really that can be pinpointed right now. So prayers for healing and/or effective diagnosis and treatment of both these conditions would be much appreciated.(image)

Prayer and Planning

Mon, 20 Apr 2009 15:34:00 +0000

On this thread on planning with a large family I posted a link to my Considerations which I wrote out a couple of years ago and use for planning for each child for each year.I also linked to the Mercy Academy quiz on what type of homeschooler you are. I THINK I linked to it before on here, but it's worth reconsidering. I wrote over there,To measure what I as mom am prepared to do, I take this Mercy Academy New Homeschooler Test every year or so. It pinpoints your teaching style -- whether you're a "design your own" "tweak someone else's" or "stick like glue to a planned curriculum" type person. I find that sometimes I come out as someone who wants to mostly design my own and some years I come out as someone who wants to take something pre-made and tweak it just slightly. I've never come out as a "stick like glue" If you just have a clue what kind of teacher you tend to be it's easier to search out resources and know what will work and what won't. A person like me could not easily "stick like glue" to a programmed curriculum. The only exception would be if my husband REALLY thought that was best or if I had some legal issue that required staying with the letter of the curriculum."Considerations" is consciously Catholic traditional language in mental prayer. I find that Catholic spirituality is often based very acutely on human psychology, though I want to make the point that in spite of what some Jesuits and others seem to imagine nowadays it has NEVER been thought to be CENTERED on human psychology. There is a difference as vast as the one Chesterton describes by picturing the ball and the cross.But that's not the point here. The point is that I find that sometimes I can take methods from spiritual practices, like those of St Ignatius and St Francis de Sales, and employ them in my vocational life. That is because they are sound and effective and also, I find, using them in my quotidian life reinforces my habit of operating that way in my devotional life and helps me integrate the two. Homeschooling planning becomes, as it should, infused with prayer and search for God's will. I sincerely hope it is not an irreverent use of the hallowed practice of prayer; Ignatius used a mixture of practicality and spirituality in his exercises, for example. As he said -- Everything for the Greater Glory of God. After Considerations come Affections and Resolutions. I try to do something like these in my homeschool planning. After thinking about the child I try to make my considerations accessible to my whole being, my heart as well as my mind, in light of that child's importance as a unique individual made in the image of God. Since I find that I follow through on things much better and they are more likely to truly be effective if they are lit up to me personally rather than just dry "shoulds".The Catholic Encyclopedia article on prayer says that the considerations and affections lead naturally to resolutions.The conviction that we need or should do something in accordance with our consideration begets in us desires or resolutions which we long to accomplish. It we are serious we shall admit of no self-deception either as to the propriety or possibility of such resolutions on our part. No matter what it may cost us to be consistent, we shalladopt them, and the more we appreciate their difficulty and our own weakness or incapacity, the more we shall try to value the motives which prompt us to adopt them, and above all the more we shall pray for grace to be able to carry them out.So once I have considered the child and the situation and pictured how our individual family might work with his needs, I try to write down some specific things to put into place[...]

Is Camp a Corruption of Beauty or a Commentary on the Lack of It?

Mon, 20 Apr 2009 07:23:00 +0000

"One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art."- Oscar Wilde, Phrases & Philosophies for the Use of the YoungStill thinking about this article Beauty and its Corruptions, which I blogged about before. I haven't gotten very far but here it is so far.I've noticed a lot of a kind of popular art that is not quite kitsch but definitely not great art either. It doesn't even purport to be great art. It seems to be kitsch but with a satiric edge. I would call it "camp" but on googling the term I find it has various meanings some of them unsavory. Still, it's the best word I know for what I mean, so I'll define "camp" here as either intentional or unintentional kitsch with an ironic and subversive twist that brings it outside the category of kitsch proper. For unintentional camp, you have to think Ed Wood. His life and work themselves are admittedly weird kitsch, but the attitude of his present-day viewers is ironic and affectionate. So it becomes total camp. Bohemian Rhapsody is as campy as it gets, though you may have taken it seriously back then, and I don't have a clue what Freddy Mercury thought at the time. My guess is that like Ed Wood he just LIVED camp, may both their souls rest in peace!Some people intentionally do camp and actually succeed. Monty Python perhaps fits into this category. Here is an admirable production which has to fit into the camp category -- where else could it go? Star Wars -- John Williams' the Man. That's as good as it gets, and it's intentional, and it's camp, so it has to be good intentional camp.We have distinguished between intentional camp and unintentional camp. Now let's make a distinction between "good camp" and "bad camp". An increasing number of commercials are bad camp. Their intent is obviously campy but they have no talent for it. We may call bad camp "trash". Much of the later Saturday Night Live is like that too. Unintentional camp, that is, solemnly meaningful for the originator but kitsch/camp for the audience, can be good or bad camp, and so can intentional camp. Some of the articles I read said that all camp has to be unintentional to the creator in order to be good, but I wouldn't go that far.Now, is "good camp" actually GOOD; that is, is it allied with the forces of good or evil? This is probably the biggest question on my mind. Does it fit into the "corruption of beauty" category? Or somewhere else? Does what the article says of kitsch apply to camp as well?Simply put, kitsch is a disease of faith. Kitsch begins in doctrine and ideology and spreads from there to infect the entire world of culture. The Disneyfication of art is simply one aspect of the Disneyfication of faith -and both involve a profanation of our highest values. Kitsch, the case of Disney reminds us, is not an excess of feeling but a deficiency. The world of kitsch is in a certain measure a heartless world, in which emotion is directed away from its proper target towards sugary stereotypes, permitting us to pay passing tribute to love and sorrow without the trouble of feeling them.The easy road would be to say that it's a corruption.... somewhere in the continuum between kitsch and desecration, a kind of deficiency of reverence and sincerity. And in a way, I agree. Susan Sontag's "Notes on Camp" are interesting to read in that light. Camp originated in an urban clique environment and was essentially sterile in that it fed off of bourgeois culture even while deconstructing it (that's not what she is saying, exactly, but what I gathered from some of what she was saying).Perhaps one could say, though, that it's a desecration or reversal of kitsch, and thus, the[...]

Where Were You.....?

Sun, 19 Apr 2009 19:41:00 +0000

when you heard that Cardinal Ratzinger had been elected Pope?

I was in the same Suburban packed with a family of nine, pulling into the TAC campus for the first time.

Habemus Papam! I'll never forget it!

(I remember the radio broadcaster was trying to make sense of the Latin proclamation:

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum;
habemus Papam:

Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum,
Dominum Josephum
Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger
qui sibi nomen imposuit Benedictum XVI

and saying "he's going to call himself Dominic? would that be Pope Dominic I??")

(photos by Liam Ryan)(image)

Education Inflation

Sat, 18 Apr 2009 23:42:00 +0000

When my oldest three now-grown children were babies several people asked me how we could afford to have more than 2 children when projected college costs were so high. Some people told me that they stopped at one or two children for that reason. I think it is at that point that I started being consciously skeptical of the idea of college as a necessity for everyone. I think our country has pulled an interesting sleight of hand on us. They provide our children primary and secondary public education at taxpayer expense. Then they propose a system by which no child, no matter how uninterested or unacademically inclined, should ever be "left behind" from a K-12 education. That means that education isn't based on a "progression through mastery" system but is based on a lockstep age-based system where, in order to give the slower ones a chance to catch up to age mates, the quicker ones are held back while the slower ones are made to feel ashamed. The uninterested or unacademically inclined, no matter how good their reasons are for being that way, are stigmatized and offered no viable alternatives to the system's norm.Now, increasingly, 4 years of college is being held up as the norm for every student. The end result is inevitably a sort of educational inflation. What used to be an 8th grade education is now in many cases drawn out into the freshman year of college. There are ways to get around the sheer ponderous inefficiency of this mode of education -- homeschooling, dual college/highschool credits, CLEPing, merit scholarships, Great Books colleges are some things that come to the top of my mind as shortcuts through the maze -- but often they take money or at least intensive research and planning (and of a procedural, logistical sort, not straight intellectual). Many of these also require a pretty clear and usually family-supported effort to swim against the cultural current.The good thing is that in the US there is hardly anyone who runs into an iron ceiling with regard to education. You can get a degree late in life, you can get a degree over the internet, you can sometimes get your employer to pay for your further education, you have any amount of access to "the best that has been thought and said" -- the only limits are the amount of time and energy you are willing and able to put into it.The bad thing is this softening and dilution of education. One thing it means is that often you need a doctorate for a profession that doesn't really intrinsically require one. For example, just to take cases I have heard about personally, increasingly an occupational therapist needs to get at least a Master's Degree, and a physical therapist chooses between a doctorate and a master's. When a bachelor's degree is the norm, it becomes little more than a prerequisite for further specialization. This seems unnecessary and a sort of indirect, postponed punch of personal expense, the corollary of a purportedly "free" but extremely institutionalized and rigid (AND expensive to the country) K12 system. Many kids are going out into the working world saddled with large debts.In that context, here is an interesting article: Are Too Many People Going to College? by Charles Murray. I rather disliked this article of his called "Intelligence in the Classroom" (we talked about it here) but I did think this college one made some interesting points.The points seem to be:MORE people should be getting the basics of a liberal education.The core of this should be taking place in grades K-8.It should not have to wait for college.High school should be a place for survey classes and courses sl[...]

another loss

Sat, 18 Apr 2009 16:44:00 +0000

Liam told me that Father Wilfrid Borden, former assistant dean of religious affairs at Thomas Aquinas College, also passed away last week. He had suffered a severe stroke in the fall of 2006 and in spring of 2007 retired to his order's convalescent home in Canada. Please pray for him too.

From the linked article:

Dr. Dillon spoke a few words of tribute to Fr. Borden and gave him as a parting gift an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, saying,

“As you have faithfully tended to your flock here at the College, may Our Lady of Perpetual Help intercede for you in all your needs. We pray that God will abundantly reward you as you continue to inspire us now with your example of great patience and fortitude. We shall miss you, dear friend.”
We have lost some good, good people in this past couple of weeks but I think we have gained some intercessors in the "cloud of witnesses" that surround us.

Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,
cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,
quia pius es.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Kitsch and Pseudo Art

Sat, 18 Apr 2009 10:40:00 +0000

Hey, maybe the kitsch part of this is part of what's wrong with Haugen and Haas and their ilk. Think so?

Kitsch deprives feeling of its cost, and therefore of its reality; desecration augments the cost of feeling, and so frightens us away from it. The remedy for both states of mind is suggested by the thing that they each deny, which is sacrifice. .... Sacrifice is the core of virtue, the origin of meaning and the true theme of high art.

Sacrifice can be avoided, and kitsch is the great lie that we can both avoid it and retain its comforts. Sacrifice can also be made meaningless by desecration. But, when sacrifice is present and respected, life redeems itself; it becomes an object of contemplation, something that "bears looking at", and which attracts our admiration and our love.

Sacrifice can be avoided, and kitsch is the great lie that we can both avoid it and retain its comforts. Sacrifice can also be made meaningless by desecration. But, when sacrifice is present and respected, life redeems itself; it becomes an object of contemplation, something that "bears looking at", and which attracts our admiration and our love. This connection between sacrifice and love is presented in the rituals and stories of religion. It is also the recurring theme of art.

from Beauty and its Corruptions, and another HT to Running River Latin School.

In somewhat the same line, Cavarnos in Fine Arts and Therapy:

"To properly understand Plato's teaching on fine art as a means of therapy one must be aware of one further element in his philosophy: his sharp distinction between true art and pseudo art. True art is governed by the principles of idealism, rationality, simplicity, clarity, organic unit, appropriateness, measure, proportion, harmony, rhythm. It is guided by wisdom, that is, by knowledge of man's true nature and ultimate aim in life, by knowledge of Divine and man's proper relation to it, and by a clear apprehension of the true hierarchy of values that should be the object of man's aspiration. Such art seeks to convey this wisdom....

Pseudo art, on the other hand, is not guided by wisdom, but is directed by personal or public opinion, by conjecture or imagination, and gives expression to wrong forms of character and action. Pseudo art presents what is ugly as though it were beautiful, disease as if it were health, and it praises evil under the guise of good. Thus it has the effect of suggesting, and hence inclining people to do, what is ugly instead of what is beautiful. And it results in their developing various forms of ugliness or disorder of the soul and thereby of the body. Pseudo art addresses itself not to the highest part of the psyche, but to the lower parts. It strengthens these, weakens the intellectual power, and thus leads to the disruption of the hierarchical structure of the psyche.

Smashed Toys, Superheroes and Education

Sat, 18 Apr 2009 00:44:00 +0000

Two on Spiderman at Inside Catholic linked to this essay called Toyland by Steve Ditko, who is one of the creators of Spiderman. It was really interesting to read a kind of Aristotlean philosophy in this context -- I guess because he is a follower of Ayn Rand who considered herself a follower of Aristotle-- the whole essay is good reading but this part particularly related to education:“Asked point blank by a fan if things in the Marvel Universe will ever go back to normal after being ‘screwed up’ by House of M and Civil War, Joe Quesada said, ‘These toys are meant to be broken. If we just told stories that kept the status quo, nobody would be in this room, and I’d be out of a job. They’re meant to be thrown against a wall, smashed together, and built back up again.’” (“Baltimore 06: Cup o Joe”,, 10 September 2006.) First, let’s examine and understand a necessary and fundamental distinction: The natural (disease, germs, etc.) and the man/mind made (science, medicine, cars, computers, etc.). Everything man/mind made serves some purpose of being useful, good, practical or mistaken, useless, bad. And almost everything man/mind made can be used to serve some purpose that it was not originally, purposefully made for: Airplanes are made, used, for air transportation, a human good, a value for living. But they were used as a deliberate terrorist weapon for the destruction of a life-serving, economic creation and for the deaths of innocent lives. Every mind can identify the authority and the license involved in that destructive action. And words can be and are used for all kinds of negative purposes, for excuses, lying, rationalizing, propaganda, ideologies, pseudo-sciences, prestige, etc. With that, let’s examine that Joe Quesada sentence and some key words in the full context of comic book characters, stories, editing and publishing. “These toys are meant to be broken”, “smashed together” and “status quo”. “Broken” and “smashed” are not creative concepts but aggressive and destructive. Next, there are two definitions of a toy: (1) “…a thing of little importance; trifle” and (2) “a plaything especially for children.” So the purpose of a toy can be useless, negative or useful, positive depending on the particular context and on the toy’s purpose, function, of why it was made and what the end or goal it serves. So a super hero comic book, a super hero, can be seen, held, as a “toy”, a “trifle”, of little use, value, to human life, so only fit to be “smashed”, “broken”. Or the comic book, the “hero”, can be seen, held, as important, useful, a real value for man/mind and life. It all depends on the evaluating, judging mind, the degree of rationality, reasoning, and what is believed, accepted, as a valid standard of value–the intrinsic, subjective or objective– that is used, operating. A toy as a plaything for a child can be for a purpose of activating, stimulating, broadening his mind toward new experiences, discoveries, opportunities, benefits, possibilities, etc. A toy doll can give a young girl all kinds of new experiences, of playing at being a friend, a sister or even a parent, etc. A toy game for a young boy can be used to play with learning various skills, being adventurous, competitive, competent, even suggesting a future career. A further elaboration on toys is with the Montessori School for young children (3-6 yrs.). The Montessori teaching method is teaching with toys. A young mind implicitly learns identity–A is A,[...]

stuff is not valuable anymore

Fri, 17 Apr 2009 22:13:00 +0000

This seems so very true -- especially the part about too much food and "stuff" being more the province of the poor than the rich in our society (HT Running River Latin School).

I've now stopped accumulating stuff. Except books—but books are different. Books are more like a fluid than individual objects. It's not especially inconvenient to own several thousand books, whereas if you owned several thousand random possessions you'd be a local celebrity. But except for books, I now actively avoid stuff. If I want to spend money on some kind of treat, I'll take services over goods any day.

I'm not claiming this is because I've achieved some kind of zenlike detachment from material things. I'm talking about something more mundane. A historical change has taken place, and I've now realized it. Stuff used to be valuable, and now it's not.

In industrialized countries the same thing happened with food in the middle of the twentieth century. As food got cheaper (or we got richer; they're indistinguishable), eating too much started to be a bigger danger than eating too little. We've now reached that point with stuff. For most people, rich or poor, stuff has become a burden.

Poetry as Health for the Soul

Fri, 17 Apr 2009 16:43:00 +0000

Fortify your inner life -- at Here in the Bonny Glen-- about the poet Seamus Heaney. In a recent interview, Heaney said he was often asked what the value of poetry was during times of economic recession. The answer, he explained, is that it is at just such moments of crisis that people realize that they do not live by economics alone. “If poetry and the arts do anything, they can fortify your inner life, your inwardness,” Heaney effort to “fortify your inward side,” Heaney explained to another questioner, can act as a kind of “immune system” against material difficulties. One of the times that Aidan went to San Francisco for a month (to treat bile duct problems) and I was with him, I found a tiny Orthodox storefront barely visible between, I think a new -age shop with crystals and dragons, and a Goth-style clothes store.Walking in there off the busy SF street, the hush closed around me like a blanket. There was some kind of Byzantine chant playing in the background and I could smell incense. Icons were all around.Anyway, I picked up a book called "Fine Arts as Therapy" by Constantine Cavarnos. It turned out to be a treasure, though somewhat different than what I expected when I bought it. The subtitle is "Plato's Teachings Organized and Discussed".He says that to Plato, "music" (a broader term in Greek education that included poetry and literature as well as music proper)"is concerned with the soul, with its care, harmonious development and purification from every defect or evil. It seeks not only to develop properly the potentialities of the soul, but also to prevent disorders or defects from arising in it, and to correct any that may be present."also"In their true form, the fine arts constitute an important kind of education. Their aim... is the harmonious development of man, the promotion of health of body and soul. They are intended both as ways of preventing disease or deformations of soul and body, of remedying those that have arisen, and also of developming man's higher potentialities."That stay in San Francisco was quite stressful since I was worried about Aidan and also worried about how long they would keep him there (I remember one doctor proposing blithely in August that they keep him for another month to monitor him -- I flipped, since September was approaching and I was thinking about my poor kids at home with their dad and the school year starting!)I took up my old hobbies of calligraphy -- mostly of poetry, prayers and scripture -- and origami during that time, and also made a habit of nature study out in the courtyard in the middle of the hospital. My father sent me tapes of classical music (Vivaldi, Corelli, Mozart, etc) and Aidan and I listened to them over and over again, along with a tape of Irish harp music. The music not only soothed Aidan and myself, but it was surprising what an impact it made upon the doctors and nurses who were constantly entering the room. They usually slowed down and became just slightly more ceremonious and one nurse once breathed a sigh of relief and said "this room is SO relaxing to come into!" I think these fine arts, poetry and music among them, provide the contemplative space that a soul needs to flourish and become itself -- so often especially when times are hard it's easy to compress our spirit into a tiny compartment so we can more conveniently go about the day. Having that peculiar combination of endless time and high stress at the hospital taught me the less[...]

Joy, Hope, Sorrow, Fear

Fri, 17 Apr 2009 01:16:00 +0000

The Circe Institute announced that Marcus and Laura Berquist have been named the winners of the 2009 Russell Kirk Paideia Prize for Lifetime Contribution to Classical Education. (HT: Quiddity)

I was just reading an article on "Joy in Homeschooling" by Laura Berquist in The Latin Mass magazine. I like the distinctions she made in this passage.... very helpful to me:

"...Joy is a passion we experience with respect to a good we actually possess. Hope, on the other hand, is the passion we experience with respect to a difficult good we wish to possess, but do not yet have. Hope is what we feel when the children are young and we are working toward the goals we want to achieve for and with them. Sorrow is the passion felt regarding an evil actually existing, while fear is the passion we experience regarding an evil not yet experienced."

If you pull out these emotions you have a pretty fair range of what I can experience as a homeschooling mom within, say, five minutes. Or maybe less.(image)

staying home sick

Thu, 16 Apr 2009 20:58:00 +0000

I had one of those wrenching mom-decisions this morning. Sean had stayed home from school yesterday (Wednesday) after getting sick Tuesday afternoon. This morning, he still looked and felt sick – had some abdominal pains. No fever, no real exterior symptoms. So I sent him off on the bus.

I called the doctor and scheduled an appointment for 10 am. The doctor’s going to refer him to a GI specialist (actually, Aidan’s very GI doctor, so that’s nice). She prescribed a muscle relaxant for the pain.

Kevin and I dropped Sean back off at school. Sean obviously didn’t want to go.

I went to the Post Office and when I came back I got a call from the school office, from a lady I know who goes to our church and is a friend. She said Sean was in the nurse’s office sleeping. He had left Geometry complaining of dizziness and stomach pain. She asked if I wanted her to put him on the early school bus but I said I’d pick him up and save him the 50 minutes of lurching and loudness.

So Kevin and I picked up our sleepy, slow moving teenage son in the van. Meanwhile, Aidan, who was in the car, was heating up with a temperature. He seems to have the cold that Sean had last week.

I don’t know — I told our friend at the school that I hated making those judgment calls. You just don’t have to do that as a homeschooler. You can let the kid have a day off. I remember that was one of my reasons for starting homeschooling. Should I support Liam’s teacher when I thought she was wrong? (for example, when she kept him in at recess because he had been too slow at finishing his class work?) Should I spend two hours in the evening with him helping him to complete homework that was essentially busywork, or should I just slough it off in order to have a bit of family time and thus send the message that homework wasn’t important?

Well, I did ask the doctor what to do when Sean got these episodes — they seem to hit about monthly — and she validated my instinct to keep him at home. I abrogated that instinct today and look what happened. But then, I don’t always want to be the one encouraging him to take it easy, either. Sigh.

I think if he has to stay home tomorrow though, the school staff won’t be surprised.


the journey

Thu, 16 Apr 2009 16:05:00 +0000

and all his menLook'd at each other with a wild surmise—Silent, upon a peak in Darien.I don't usually get topical on here. But yesterday, April 15, was a day I shall always remember on the media and public arena front. I wanted to record it because even the most vivid memories get overcast and recast by future events.First, when we drove Liam down to the AMtrak station we passed the central valley Tea Party and there were many, many cars there at the Savemart center. Our state of California has its own deficit crisis and is proposing measures like making businesses pay punitive rates if they move their business to another state -- basically an economic iron curtain to keep people in who are tempted to leave because the taxes are escalating to such giddy heights.Then there was the news about Dr Dillon. Though we have never met him, we grieved personally for his loss. We've seen him around the TAC campus and his presence was certainly felt in a lot of the things we loved about the college. Studeo is collecting news stories and remembrances from alumni on Thomas Dillon. Quiddity has an In Memoriam including a speech Thomas Dillon gave for convocation in 2005, which was the year Liam first went there as a freshman. And Love2Learn's collection of tributes includes one from my daughter. The excerpt that Clare pulled out from Dr Dillon's 2005 address is well worth pondering:"the true, the good, and the beautiful have much greater reality than do the false, the evil, and the ugly, which latter are too often idolized in the larger world. So I urge you to bring reality to that world - to take whatever you have grasped here of the true, good, and beautiful out into that larger world, so much in need of what is real rather than what is illusory."While I was still in tears and shock over the news about Dr Dillon, Kevin called me into his office to show me a YouTube video which probably most of you have seen already. On the video I saw Simon Cowell in the judges' seat along with a blond movie star type lady and someone else, and a frumpy-looking lady appearing on a stage in front of them, and the title, Britain's Got Talent, and honestly, wasn't in the mood to see something silly or undignified, which is what I expected. It would be hard to imagine someone less interested in the "Got Talent" genre than I am. But this was something far different, as I'm sure you know – anyway, there's a link here that gives some background story and also has a link to the video clip that seems to be everywhere. It really is an extraordinary story. Seriously, watch the video.This is a disparate bunch of memories, but they are all linked by the public element and also, by some mystery of the spirit that kept me awake for a good part of the night. The human being is a wonderful, wonderful thing. Even a sort of hokiness about the civil protest and the instant stardom of an unlikely talent doesn't detract from that. When reading Johny Tremain to Kieron I was very struck about how easy it would have been for some British aristocrat to be quite cynical about the Boston Tea Party. Civilians wearing Indian paint dumping tea, forsooth. But something happened there, and the Bostonians recognized it – the novel describes hundreds of silent people standing at the pier, watching, watching. The world changed right then.I also thought – not related directly to anything else, exce[...]