Friday, July 31, 2009

Ay, There’s the Rub!

At 4:30 am the night after posting that last post, I woke up thinking about another quote from L'Engle's "Circle of Quiet" (sorry folks, Madeleine is in me; plan on hearing about her for a while):

"You are basically not teaching a subject, you are teaching children. Subjects can probably be better taught by machines than by you. But if we teach our children only by machines, what will we get? Little machines. They need you, you as persons." And I quoted Emerson: "What you are speaks so loudly over your head that I cannot hear what you say."

So I know, with a sense of responsibility that hits me with a cold fist in the pit of my stomach, that what I am is going to make more difference to my own children and those I talk to and teach than anything I tell them. (156)

If my goal, then, is that my children are often coming face to face with greatness, I need to do what I can to become great. Ay, Hamlet, there IS the rub.

This reminds me of Mrs. March in Little Women telling Jo, "I must try to practice all the virtues I would have my little girls possess, for I was their example. . . The love, respect, and confidence of my children was the sweetest reward I could receive for my efforts to be the woman I would have them copy."

Back to Madeleine (feel free to substitute "teacher" with "parent"):

All teachers must face the fact that they are potential points of reference. The greatest challenge a teacher has to accept is the courage to be; if we are, we make mistakes; we say too much where we should have said nothing; we do not speak where a word might have made all the difference. If we are, we will make terrible errors. Be we still have to have the courage to struggle on, trusting in our own points of reference to show us the way." (181)

(Sidenote: I LOVE everything she said about points of reference. Get the book and read the rest.)

This "become what you want your kids to become" IS NOT EASY! Mrs. March was apparently excellent enough at it that her girls didn't believe she ever had any faults. But she is a fictional character, and you and I are not. It's a comfort to read all this greatness from Madeleine, yet have her confess things like "When I scrubbed the kitchen floor, the family cheered. I couldn't make a decent pie crust. I always managed to get something red in with the white laundry in the washing machine, so that everybody wore streaky pink underwear" (21).

I know I have plenty of areas to improve, things like personal discipline, housework, consistency, not procrastinating, housework, and housework among many other things. Madeleine gives a few others to add to her list as well. "I would, quite often, like to be grown up, wise, and sophisticated. But" she adds, "these gifts are not mine" (42). That brings out something I love about Madeleine - her word choice. She is excellent at finding just the right word, and I never would have thought of those things (except maybe being wise) as gifts. But if they are, then other things I wouldn't always see as gifts are also gifts. Like maybe the ability to play!

I've been trying to wrap things up for this post off and on for a while now but it hasn't happened yet. I will have to tie things up in another post, if even then.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Face to Face with Greatness

I have been feeling very uncreative lately. Like someone stuck a cork in my bottle of creative juices. I was blaming this on Madeline L'Engle's "Circle of Quiet," which I am currently reading. Hands down one of the best books I've read. Beautiful and inspiring, full of greatness and truth, but maybe my head is so full of that that until I'm done with it my own thoughts won't flow as freely. Or maybe it's something else entirely. Maybe I just have nothing to say.

Because of that I'm going to share some of Madeline's greatness. There are so so many things I could share (and I'm sure you'll be hearing more of her), but there is something that makes me say "YES!" every time she mentions something about it, because it's something I strive for and is a goal in teaching my children as well - coming face to face with greatness.

Oliver DeMille states that "reading and working with greatness inspires selves to become greater," and "who we are changes as we aspire."

Madeline L'Engle talks about it in this way:

"When we talk about ourselves as being part of the company of such people as Mozart or van Gogh or Dostoevsky, it has nothing to do with comparisons, or pitting talent against talent; it has everything to do with a way of looking at the universe. My husband said, "But people might think you're putting yourself alongside Dostoevsky." The idea is so impossible that I can only laugh in incredulity. Dostoevsky is a giant; I look up to him; I sit at his feet; perhaps I will be able to learn something from him. But we do face the same direction, no matter how giant his stride, how small mine" (38).

When she was being rejected by publishers, "It was great writing which kept me going" (39).

And more:

"Nobody can teach creative writing--run like made from anybody who thinks he can. But one can teach practices, like finger exercises on the piano; one can share the tools of the trade, and what one has gleaned from the great writers: it is the great writers themselves who do the teaching" (61).

"A great painting, or symphony, or play, doesn't diminish us, but enlarges us, and we, too, want to make our own cry of affirmation to the power of creation behind the universe. This surge of creativity has nothing to do with competition, or degree of talent. When I hear a superb pianist, I can't wait to get to my own piano, and I play about as well now as I did when I was ten. A great novel, rather than discouraging me, simply makes me want to write. This response on the part of any artist is the need to make incarnate the new awareness we have been granted through the genius of someone else...

"It is beauty crying out for more beauty" (147).

I actually feel terrible in a way for sharing this now, knowing that she'll be dropping more gems on this through the rest of the book. But here I go to hit the publish button, all in the name of sharing greatness.

I am loving learning from Madeline.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Feeling Adventureous

Wanted to share, I just made myself a green smoothie with spinach and frozen pie cherries. Wow. It's very different. I doubt my body will know what to do with all this wholesome goodness.

Sammy and Erin had some too (less than an inch in their cups) and both said it was good. Erin wanted more, Sammy didn't.

I thought about chasing it with a brownie, but decided that would defeat the purpose.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Help Me Help Myself

Given that scout camp is coming up and I always go crazy with some project while some of my men folk are gone, I've been trying to decide what to do this year. Here is a list I've been putting together of possibles, and I would love to have some input. An informal poll, if you will. I was going to include pictures, but just imagine the worst and you'll probably be close, so please chime in and let me know what you think I should do and why.

* Basement clean out (again)
* Paint (this would include areas of the kitchen and hallway especially)
* Garage clean out
* Sew my sister and brother-in-law's awesome quilt that I owe them for last Christmas (no, sis, you aren't allowed to vote)
* Our bedroom (let me just say ugh right now - ugh)
* Lay around, read, eat bon bons, and watch movies.
* Oh yah, and play with the kids (pretty much a given, as if they would let me leave them alone)

If I think of any more I'll add them on. Feel free to come back and vote more than once, because unless your really persuasive, it will probably be whatever I feel like doing when I wake up that morning, or after the kids go to bed and I can really get things done.