Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Book Review: The New Good Life

John Robbins set out, according to his subtitle, to tell us how to live better than ever in an age of less.  His life story plays heavily into his definition of better living and adds interest and understanding of Robbins' perspective and ideals.  By helping us understand our money type and explaining the steps of financial freedom Robbins sets us on the road to a new life.  He then helps us understand how our current life is less than best and what we can do to improve our lives according to his standards. 

Robbins calls for a return to a simpler time.  He is an advocate of all things green.  His book is a trumpet call for reducing our carbon footprint as a way to redefine what is  good.  According to Robbins, good is no longer defined by material possessions or means.  Good is defined by taking care of the environment and, as an extension, ourselves.  It's what we do not what we have that counts in this new good life.

Much of what Robbins says is common sense.  We do need to learn the difference between wants and needs.  Eating low on the food chain is a healthy choice.  Children are expensive.  However, his rationale for making change is not always so clear.  His choice of good assumes that everyone will be happier if they adopt his definition.  It also assumes that his personal choices are the good choices. 

I found the chapters on eating and cleaning to be the most helpful.  I've made some steps in those areas so affirmation and ideas for further progress were appreciated.  The chapter about children was the least helpful and was borderline offensive.  As with all self-help books, I'll take the good and move on.  I do agree with Robbins that, as a nation, our method of determining success by Gross National Product (GNP) is a misleading and dangerous standard of measurement.  Also, thanks to Mr. Robbins I'll be taking some time to learn more about Bhutan. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bearing Witness to Blessing Part 2

During part 1 of this post, we were waiting with expectation for an acceptance of the offer on our dream farm.  In a morning, Wednesday morning to be exact, everything changed. 

The offer on our home was withdrawn and R and I spent much of Wednesday praying and talking about what our next step needed to be.  We both believe that this farm is the right place for us.  We also both believe that making a financial commitment on two houses is not in our best interest.  We've done that before, it was really, really hard.  We are in a better financial place, we could do it.  Unfortunately, with maturity comes the realization that just because we can do something doesn't mean we should.  R and I have come a long way.  Even now, sometimes the mature choice is really not the choice we want to make.

We spent this weekend under self-induced stress.  Time spent apart and disappointment over the loss of our sale took their toll.  We didn't manage to talk out our frustrations and find a place of mutual support until the weekend was almost over.  Even this is a blessing.  Many couples are never able to talk out their frustrations and find support. 

In all the confusion and sadness, I keep coming back to this truth...my God will supply all your needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus.  - Phillipians 4:19

Perhaps that beautiful piece of property with the lovely white house will be the way God chooses to supply all my needs.  It's possible that my needs will be supplied in a totally different manner.  I do know that God is aware of my needs and that they are being supplied.  I just have to wait and see what happens next.  I also know that I don't need to wait idly. 

I am waiting with anticipation and trying to live out this verse... Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  - Phillipians 4:6

Weekly Recap 11/15-11/19/10

This week has been full of emotion and, as a result, the review was especially hard to accomplish.  Thankfully, there were no house showings and we had an opportunity to remember our blessings by participating in Operation Christmas Child.  If you are interested you can see that activity here

On the academic front we progressed on course in all subjects.  We even found time for extra Viking reading,
a special Viking project with Dad

and the opportunity to build our own barometer.


Operation Christmas Child 2010

We were blessed to host an Operation Christmas Child shoe box party again this year.  With having our house listed for sale, I found myself, perhaps counterproductively, praying that there would be no showings on Wednesday or Thursday.   The children and I set up tables and sorted through items on Wednesday then hosted our friends for a box stuffing extravaganza on Thursday evening.  Here are some of the highlights from the preparation, event and drop off. 

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We packed 66 shoe boxes this year.  God has blessed us in so many ways.  Hosting this event and giving a small portion of what we've been given is the beginning of our holiday season.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanks Grandmomma & Grandpap

Yesterday, I posted this picture for Wordless Wednesday.  It's my children wearing their newest set of holiday clothes.  My parents are a blessing to me in so many ways.  This week they've blessed me, as they do every Thanksgiving and Easter, by providing beautiful new clothes for each of my children.  Each holiday, a box arrives with a new dress outfit for each of my darlings and I don't have to do anything but enjoy.  I can think of no better gift my parents could give me.

You see, I'm not a shopper.  I don't love stores.  I've learned to cope with them but would rather take four children to the grocery store than one child to the clothing store.  In fact, I'd rather take four children to the grocery store than go clothing shopping alone.  It's that miserable for me.  I don't like looking for something, trying on, purchasing.  The entire process is painful to me.

My parents, knowing this, use the talents they have and take joy in picking an outfit for each of their grandchildren.  They shop at places that are easy for us to make exchanges is sizes or colors happen to be wrong.  They rarely are.  My parents love a sale.  They love the thrill of the hunt.  They love me.  They love their grandchildren.  Each dress and tie through the years reminds us all of their love.  We are, literally, clothed in it.

I wonder how I will show my love to my grandchildren.  Unless something changes drastically, it probably won't be in the form of new clothes.  Perhaps, my love will be displayed as my Grammy displayed hers, in baked beans, potato salad, pepperoni rolls and apple dumplings.  Or maybe I'll be more like my Grandmother and show my love with cereal boxes of their choice opened from the bottom because figuring out which way is up is a silly waste of time when either end works just as well.  However my love is displayed, I know my grandchildren and my children will be loved and will be aware of my love.  I've had some great role models.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Working Together for Good

I spoke to a dear friend last night.  In the past six months she has gone through a divorce, a move and a job change.  Now, she is  losing her father to stage four cancer.  It is devestating.  The blessing?  Earlier this year, before his diagnosis, my friend moved back to the area where her father lives.  Instead of living half way across the country from her father, my friend is now able to visit with him daily.  She's there for the good days and the bad.  She is able to be there for her mother and for her father.  These are moments she may not want to live but I am certain she will never regret the fact that she was able to be there instead of hearing about the struggles over the phone.

I have another friend who was in a car accident earlier this year.  She was on her motorcycle and hit by a drunk driver.  At first, it was doubtful she'd live, then function normally, then walk.  Today she is back at her dog sitting business though she only takes five dogs (!!!) at a time.  The tragedy and following blessings are easier to see.

I read reports about famine, devestation in Haiti and all kinds of difficulties and I'm left wondering where the blessing is.  In my own situation right now, I find the blessings raining down.  Once we began to pray for a stable family life, R was able to find a new job quickly.  Our move is going so much better than I ever expected.  For me, God is good.  What about for others?

Then is occurs to me that the questions I've been getting from friends indicate that my situation may not look like a blessing on the outside.  I am moving for the tenth time in twenty-one years.  My husband left a perfectly good job and is making us all uproot ourselves.  We are going to a rural area, even more rural than the one we are in.  I have four children.  I homeschool.  Many people looking at my life from the outside would judge me to be bereft of blessing.  They probably even judge me to have lost my mind. 

The difference seems to be in perspective, not outside looking in but blessed and seeking blessings.  I know that God has a purpose and a plan for me and that God's plan, no matter what it is, is for good.  God has enabled me to see through the eyes of one that is blessed and when I use the blessing vision I've been given, I am able to glimpse a bit of the vast goodness God desires for each of us.  The blessings aren't always found at first glance but they are worth searching for.  The effort of recognition makes the blessings all the more valuable.  God's plans may not be mine and I may not understand God's plans but I am a part of those plans.  I have chosen and been chosen and that is for good.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.   - Romans 8:28

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bearing Witness to Blessing

Things have picked up speed in the last few weeks and I don't want to miss the opportunity to breathe in deeply and thank God for the blessings we have been witness to during this time of change.

After a crazy year of R's almost non-stop traveling, we are moving toward living together as a family.  We aren't there yet but we are moving in the right direction.  The process began in August with several job possibilities and culminated in a job change.

On October 15, R returned from Australia after a month in Brisbane.  He had one final week at work. We began laboring in earnest to get the house ready to sell.  On October 25, R was unemployed until he began his new job on November 1.  We listed our house for sale on October 29.  The listing went public on the MLS on November 2.

R left for his new job on October 31 and started his new job on November 1.  We had house showings on November 4, November 6, November 10, November 11 and November 14.  We had three offers for the house, two of them full price, by November 14. 

On November 2, the children and I traveled to our new area to look at houses with R.  We'd looked at more than 15 houses during previous trips.  None of them were our house.  R and I looked at five houses on Sunday with no winners.  The children and I looked at five houses on Monday and fell in love.  R looked at the same house on Tuesday and came back with a list of concerns about the home the children and I had started calling "The White House".  We were crushed.  Thursday, he went to look at the house again and returned dreaming dreams.  By Friday, we were in agreement on the house.

After accepting an offer for our house on Monday, November 15, we put in an offer on the dream that God is growing in us.  The White House Farm. If all goes well, we will be moving in time to put a Christmas tree up in our new living room. 

These past few weeks have taught me a lot about what is mine and what is not.  They have also taught me about being specific and asking.  The last time we moved, I was angry about the house.  I was angry that something so precious to me wasn't precious to all.  I felt that I wasn't being compensated for the love and devotion I'd given the house and I felt cheated by potential buyers.  I totally lost perspective in the process of giving up something that I felt belonged to me.

With this move, I've been able to recognize that the house I live in is not mine.  It is God's house and it is God's gift to me.  I love this house because it shows the generous nature of my Heavenly Father.  I know that there is nothing here to cling to or feel resentful about because it's all a good gift.  When we move this home will be God's blessing to another family.

This time I've been praying very specifically about this move.  R and I began to pray about the amount we wanted for the house.  The first offer we received was for that exact amount.  The second and third offers were for more.  God has a way of giving us what we never dare ask for.  I've also been praying for a specific time frame, feeling bold and brassy all the while.  God must have chuckled as my prayers for within three months turned into within three weeks.

The final prayer that we've added during this move has been a prayer for the family that is going to move into our house.  That family has been prayed over daily for more than a month now.  I only hope I get to hear, someday, how the move and the house has been a blessing from God to them.  It's been our prayer and I have every confidence that God has heard it.

During our last move, I had a very difficult time seeing potential in new houses because I looked at them through the filter of what I was giving up.  Again, I spent a lot of time feeling the loss of my possession rather than the joy of what was to come.  Even in my stubbornness, God provided a beautiful home here. 

My prayer for house hunting this time has been that God would allow me to see our new home without the filter of the old.  That I would be given clear vision and a sure knowledge of the blessings to come.  God was gracious and I didn't spend a single moment feeling regretful or short changed as we looked at new houses.  Our new life is going to be much different from the life we are leaving here.  I can't wait to see how all of it works out.  

I feel that a large part of my responsibility during this time is to bear witness.  It's mine to pay attention to the blessings, the miraculous and the improbable along with the mundane, and to record them in my mind and share them with others.  I join a long heritage of people that bear witness and say,

"Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
For the Lord is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

You are Amazing (and Beautiful and Accomplished) by Smrt Mama

A fellow homeschooling mother from the Well Trained Minds boards shared this on her blog and I decided that the exercise was definitely worth the challenge.  It's great to have such smrt womn around to keep things in focus.  Thanks Smrt Mama!

Make a list of five amazing, beautiful physical qualities about yourself.
1.  my legs
2.  my hair
3.  my dimples
4.  my arms
5.  my hands

Make a list of five amazing things about your mind.
1.  I love learning
2.  I share what I know with others
3.  I love to read
4.  I love trying new things
5.  I am constantly thinking/planning/preparing/plotting/scheming/making lists

Make a list of five amazing things you have accomplished.
1.  I have a successful business and a team that produces over $250,000 in retail sales yearly.
2.  I gave birth to four amazing children.  (This could actually take up numbers 1-4 but that seemed a bit cheatish.)
3.  I can make my own pasta, whipped cream, cheesecake, pizza and a large variety of other tasty dishes.  I love being a great cook.
4.  I have a M.A. in counseling which has been a definite benefit in my life.
5.  I have been married for 21 years. 

That all being said, I want so spend a moment acknowledging how thankful I am to God for the gifts I've been given and for the opportunity to use my talents in ways that benefit those around me.

I'd love to read your lists!  Please add them here or share a link so I can read them on your blog.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Weekly Recap 11/9-11/12/10

We spent the beginning of the week looking at new houses.  That has to count for homeschooling under some kind of creative curriculum.  We've also had four showing for our house over the past week.  That may not count as homeschooling but it sure has encouraged us to maintain discipline and practice neatness.  I have been truly blessed and impressed by how helpful and cooperative the children have been.  This is a stressful time for all of us.  There's a lot of uncertainty and waiting.  It would be easy to dig in and be difficult.  Heaven knows there are times when I'd like to do just that.  The children seem to be taking it all with good attitudes and, for the most part, thankful hearts.  They are inspirations to me. 
During the trip to and from house hunting we listened to The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey.  Even M6, who normally fusses about our listening books, was hooked and is excited about the next book.  The other book we listened to and enjoyed was Call it Courage.  We'd listened to Hatchet earlier this year and the children found a lot of similar themes in the two books.  It was an interesting discussion.  I especially enjoyed it because I wasn't the one that initiated it. 

 Our other highlight for the week would be our math lessons.  Last week, S8 picked up on division quickly.  We started with bugs and have progressed to single digit denominators with any place value numerator.  He's very impressed with himself.

This week we spent some time reviewing money.  M6 and S8 both enjoyed playing with the coins. 
M6 especially enjoyed identifying and sorting. 
S8 enjoyed making different combinations to fulfill my requirements.  For example, give me $0.78 using only two quarters or give me $0.17 using only 4 coins.

After playing with money for a bit we moved on to telling time.  M6 is great at the o'clocks and the thirties.  S8 has any hour or minute down with no problem.  I can't wait to see what we learn next week!

H11 is working on NaNoWriMo.  She met her word goal last week and is only about half way through her novel.  She's loving this exercise.  In another triumph, she's on lesson 9 in Analytical Grammar and I've only heard minimal complaining.  She feels confident and grammar has become a tool rather than a curse.  WAHOO!

She decided to go back to Life of Fred Fractions and give it another try now that she has a better grasp of her multiplication tables.  So far, she's doing beautifully.  She's passed the first two bridges on the first try.  We are both pleased.

H11's other big accomplishment is that she cooked dinner tonight with minimal assistance.  Spaghetti and meatballs.  She even baked her own bread. The meal was delicious and I think she especially enjoyed all the compliments she received.

K14 is still working on her campaign to go back to public school.  We may give it a try with our move.  She's done really well in her current classes (French, algebra and band).  Also, if we buy the house we are discussing there would be fewer than two hundred students in her high school.  That seems like  pretty safe situation with a pretty good student to teacher ratio.  It's certainly worth considering though I still can't figure out why she'd want to get up that early!

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo: A Month of Insanity

I discovered NaNoWriMo a few months ago while searching for something to engage H11.  She loves to write and wants to be an author.  What better for a budding writer than the challenge of writing a novel?  We were both thrilled.

H11 worked diligently during the month of October to complete the Young Writer's workbook.  She had a wonderful time dreaming of characters and plot lines.  November 1 was intended to be the beginning of a grand adventure.  Instead she woke with a headache and upset stomach that quickly progressed from upset to upsetting.  Once the mess was cleaned up H11 only wanted to go to bed and sleep.  After a four hour nap, she felt well enough to read a bit but not well enough to write.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day for her.

As for myself, I am successful on day 1.  We'll see how well I fare on day 30.