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atlas3I don’t remember when the name Ayn Rand first came on my radar, but I’m guessing it was some time around the turn of the millenium. (I love writing that. It sounds so much cooler than ‘the turn of the century.’ No, I lived through the turn of a millenium! But I digress.)

As I was saying, I first heard of Rand when I was in my early twenties. I didn’t really explore any of her writing until I was nearly thirty. And the first (and only) book of hers that I read was Atlas Shrugged. (If you’ve never read the work, you can see a summary of it here: http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/atlasshrugged/summary.html) As I read the book I kept thinking, “Yes! Yes! Yes! This lady really gets it. She really gets the problem with progressive thought processes.”

However, there are some glaringly obvious problems with Rand’s concept of morality throughout the book – not the least of which is her notion about opposite sex relationships. She obviously believes that a relationship can be traded in at will just like your old Chevy when the engine is blown – or, more to the point, when you just decide that red really isn’t your color anymore. Then, there is the long, complicated speech at the end by main character John Galt, who trumpets such misguided sentiments as, “If you give money to help a friend, it is not a sacrifice; if you give it to a worthless stranger, it is.” and “Accept the fact that the achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness-not pain or mindless self-indulgence-is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values.” He winds up the whole speech by proudly proclaiming, “I swear-by my life and my love of it-that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

I finished the book with mixed sentiments. I was raised in an ultra conservative home. My parents (who have variously worked for others and also owned several businesses) definitely raised me to believe in this basic concept taught by Ayn Rand – that men should “deal with one another as traders, giving value for value.” I believe that this concept is also Biblical (Romans 4:4, Leviticus 19:13, James 5:4, Jeremiah 22:13, 1 Timothy 5:18.) The Proverbs 31 woman is highly praised for many things including her ability to make a profit on her trading.

Quite a few modern conservative leaders, among them many who are professing Christians, highly praise and revere Ayn Rand. Paul Ryan said in 2005, “I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are … It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff.” (To be fair, Ryan has since distanced himself from Rand. I’m always willing to give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to growing, learning and maturing. Perhaps Ryan has matured past his Rand loving days.) The problem with all of this is that Christian conservatives, by embracing Rand and proselytizing for her for so long, have injected into the modern Tea Party and many other conservative and libertarian groups, the idea that it is every man for himself – that a person’s happiness should be his loftiest goal. And, as Christians, they should know better. Jesus came to turn the world upside down. To take what seems right to man and turn it on its head and prove the ridiculousness of it. Jesus the Messiah was a suffering servant (Isaiah 52:13—53:12) who called his followers to serve others no matter what the personal cost.

At first I was stunned and confused when I began to read all of the nasty recent protests against Glenn Beck and his mission to serve the large illegal immigrant population (a large portion of which are children traveling alone) which is being settled all around our country by the current administration. My heart hurt as I read conservatives and libertarians who are claiming to be in my ‘camp’ decry those efforts as misguided and even stupid, possibly treacherous. Well, perhaps it has come to that. If it is treacherous to care for those less fortunate than ourselves, to give succor to children and needy, dare I say even share a warm hug and a warm meal with a person who might be a gang member (and likely was drawn into gang membership by a need to feel accepted and even loved,) then traitor I shall have to be. Because, after all, I serve a different Kingdom.

Glenn’s mission is NOT to naturalize these people or to make them citizens of the US. Indeed Glenn would be among the first to tell you that their being here is evidence that our system has become disastrously broken and that that is likely to have dire consequences for our nation as a whole. Glenn’s mission IS to share love and hope with people who desperately need to hear that message.

Ayn Rand’s message has been heard loud and clear by the ‘conservative right’ in our country. Every man for himself. Serving others be damned. Especially serving others by whom we feel threatened or whom we deem to be worthless. But this is, quite obviously, the opposite message of the Christ that so many on that far right claim to serve. He said, in John 15:13, ”Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And then he went even further and said, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

I hope that one day soon conservative leaders will lay down the bible of Ayn Rand and pick up the Bible of Christ. Perhaps the words contained therein can actually change a nation. Thank goodness my hope doesn’t lie in the preservation of any earthly nation!


Who is in a Name?


Let’s see now. Who is that? Give me a second. I’ll figure it out.

Really, I don’t mean to tread on Shakespeare’s “What’s in a name” theme, but we have a family of little imagination or much imagination (depending on which way you choose to look at it) when it comes to names.

Consider my cousins (one from Aunt Pat and Uncle Loren and the other from Aunt Sue and Uncle Ken) named Pam and Tam, respectfully.

Then there are my cousins both from the aforementioned Aunts and Uncles named Bart and Brad.

How about the offspring of my cousins Pam and Debbie named Jenny and Jeanie?

Then let’s go on to my own daughter named Tonya Renee’ and my cousin who is only a couple of years older than Tonya. Her name? Well Sonya Renee’ of course.

There are a lot of us who share names with our parents, children and grandchildren, but I guess in the scheme of things that is to be expected.

Yet, the two cousins which set me to thinking about this whole issue are Rob and Rob. Yesterday my cousin Rob Dodson celebrated his birthday. Today my cousin Rob Cusenbary is celebrating his. Happy, Happy Birthday to Both of You!!!

Family names – you gotta love ‘em. That doesn’t mean you have to remember which name really belongs to which person though, does it?

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This isn’t a Yarn, This is Real


When I see the marvelous things my daughter creates with a bit of yarn, a hooked stick, her hands and her heart I’m spun off into a realm which defies the sting of death, wipes out the boundaries of time, and gives me unmeasured and unmeasurable pleasure.

Pretty heady, huh?

It’s not just the fact that Tonya can and does produce toys, hats, clothes and any number of other items with her deft fingers, it’s also the knowledge that she received her first taste of the crochet bug while sitting hip to hip with my mom.

Did you just hear a ding?

If not, then just go ahead and insert the ding into your thoughts. Because this article isn’t about crochet. It isn’t a brag spot concerning what a wonderful person is the woman I call daughter. This article is about lifestyle. It is about a lifestyle called multigenerational living.

Multigenerational living is more than it first appears

I firmly believe Tonya could have learned to crochet from any source. But no other source would have given her not only time and knowledge but also the very realness of loving hands guiding her first halting steps with yarn and a hooked stick. And lest you think my hands could have done the same for her, you need to know my crochet skill is limited to making very long chains – which I gave up a few years ago because no one seemed to be all that impressed.

Mom taught Tonya more than just how to hold the yarn and hook. She taught not only how to create various stitches, not only how to read the shorthand of crochet instructions, not only how to keep the project from unraveling, not only how to purposely unravel to correct a misstep, not only how to decide if correction was necessary but also how to keep going, how to finish what was started, and most importantly how to enjoy the time spent in creating.

Living with the instructor makes a difference

The reason Tonya and Mom had so much time together for the exchange of knowledge and love is because Mom and Dad lived in the guest house just feet from our own home. If her Gramma wasn’t already sitting in our living room with her own project in hand, Tonya had only to walk across the yard to ask her question, receive comfort in a bad moment, or show off her completed project.

The love and skill Tonya exhibits in her crochet wasn’t taught in a few Grandparent weekends or even in a summer of fun with the “old folk.” Her joy in sharing a love of crochet with her Gramma is built on years of discussions, of companionship, of shared learning and of real knowledge of one another. A knowledge which can only be gained by living together.

Multigenerational living is about flourishing

This is only one of many stories I can tell about how choosing to live in a multigenerational household isn’t about simply surviving but of flourishing. The small things like shared pastimes, like cleaning the kitchen together, like learning with each other, like shopping together allow another generation to show you a realm which defies the sting of death, wipes out the boundaries of time, and gives you unmeasured and unmeasurable pleasure.

Oh yeah, I learned something from my mom too. Living with your grandchildren is a blast!


Away We Go!


After hastily packing both toys and clothing into our luggage (white, drawstring trash bags) we were confronted with the obstacle of leaving the bedroom located through the arched and open door at the back of the Mexican Restaurant and Bar. It was extremely hard to get past the police officers who were raiding the place as we were trying to leave on our little surprise vacation.

Yet, once we explained to the officer in charge we were only on our way to a trip with our young daughter (who had somehow already left the premises) it was smooth sailing. That is, it was easy to leave and head out onto the sidewalks on the outskirts of Las Vegas.

From there, things became uncertain and edgy. My carpet covered phone no longer contained any of the numbers I needed to get in touch with the people who might know where our daughter was located. Jack was insistent that carrying our luggage was no longer necessary. He assured me that when we got “there” everything would be OK.

We run-walked for several blocks while I intermittently tried to call someone with the phone which kept changing sizes each time it was removed from the bag at my side.

Then suddenly, we were “there.” We approached the darkened alcove at one side of the airport where my Mom and Dad (who both died a few years ago) were waiting with said daughter in tow. All three surged to greet us.

Almost instantly, I realized the train we were to board was approaching and we needed to dash. All remnants of the former “there,” (the airport) were gone and we were listening to the rush of cold air brought on by the train rolling into the new “there” (the open air platform of the train depot.)

As we charged toward the opening doors of the train, I drew up short and began shouting there was no way we were going to be able to complete our trip as the train would be crossing into Canada in only a few minutes and I just remembered we didn’t have our passports.

My Aunt Pat (who died only months after my mom) came scrambling to the rescue and declared that Jack and I would be able to borrow her and Uncle Loren’s passports.

Yes, I thought that might work, but then maybe it wouldn’t work because someone might compare the contents of the passport to our driver’s licenses, or they might notice the pictures inside didn’t look a thing like us, or it could be possible that we would be unable to borrow a passport for our young daughter, or it might even be that we didn’t need one for her because, after all, she would be traveling with us, or would we be in violation of some law that . . .

At that moment I awakened wondering where the heck our passports are and if we will ever need them again.

Why do we tell our children to have sweet dreams, knowing what we know about dreaming?



bleachI have heard all the horror stories from other moms about poopy baths and quickly removing siblings, toys and other objects from soiled waters. I have read blogs and facebook posts and smiled softly to myself in the glorious knowledge that none of my little angels had ever seen bath time as an opportunity for relieving their bowels. Yes, I will admit, especially with the boy child, there have been a few peeing incidents. But never, EVER, pooping in the bath. Not until this week.

It happened on a Monday. On Sunday evening there had been some discussion and some searching for a foot bath that I could have sworn my mother recently brought to our house. My husband didn’t remember seeing it arrive. I thought my mom and I discussed that she was bringing it. After a fruitless search Sunday night, the decision was made that the plain old bathtub would have to be utilized in the prepping of my feet for a home pedicure the following day.

I, in my typically brilliant way, thought it was a perfect solution, really. Why not let the baby (let’s face it, she’s 15 months old and started walking when she was 9 months, so toddler would probably by more accurate, but she is the youngest and therefore stuck with the moniker baby at present) frolic and play in the tub with her toys while my feet soaked and were scrubbed with my favorite rosemary mint sugar scrub.

Come Monday mid-day I gathered all of my tools and potions. I ran the warm bath, rolled up my pant legs, undressed the baby [click to continue…]

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missingmysisI was pretty sure that it would happen. I wasn’t exactly holding my breath or anything, but I was pretty sure it would happen at some point. And it did last night. I dreamed that my sister Yvette was with me. Dreams. They can seem so real and, simultaneously, so surreal.

This has happened for me each time that someone close to me has died. In fact, I often dream more about people after their passing. But, some dreams about them stick out in my memory. I vividly remember a dream I once had about my Gramma in which we were riding together on a bus and she and I were laughing and playing with the crowd of people on the bus. In another dream my Grampa and I talked and laughed and cried over the passing of my Gramma. Once, not many days after he died, I dreamed that my brother Chris and I were in an apocalyptic type world where everything was being destroyed and he and I were racing to get out of the path of destruction.

What I find interesting is that in each of these dreams a portion of the character of the person that was most vivid to me in real life is now brought out starkly in the dream. Let me try to explain. [click to continue…]

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outdoor table games

Going beyond standard terms of endearment (honey, sweety, babe, dear) and into the realm of nicknames.

Having a name which isn’t your given name, bestowed upon you by family or friends is delightful. Perhaps, it is similar to having an inside joke. It becomes one of those things wherein you can simply say a word or a short phrase and the insiders “get it.” Maybe it is sort of like a secret handshake or a special password into a “members only” location.

Having a nickname sets you apart. It gives you a touchstone, a point of contact, a connection that is private, yet public at the same time.

Often there are stories which accompany the nickname.

I’ve been Bebe Bon, because an uncle only 2 years older than me couldn’t say Yvonne (pronounced Yuh-von.) I’m still Aunt Von to my nieces and nephew and I think that also had to do with early pronunciation problems. In high school several of my friends called me Mrs. Beasley after a rag-doll on a popular TV sitcom of that era who wore glasses shaped much like mine. You can find pictures of her here

I’ve also been Onne (pronounced Own-ee) because of a mishap involving Jack:
1. tipping over our 18-wheel truck with me in the sleeper
2. seeing me off to the hospital
3. doing the laundry.

When he came to visit me in the hospital he explained that my new T-shirt with the name YVONNE emblazoned across the front had shrunk in the dryer. Now there was only room for onne on the shirt. My father-in-law never called me by any other name.

Where do nicknames come from?

Sometimes the making of a nickname takes a bit of progression before it arrives at it’s final destination. When I was pregnant with our youngest daughter, Tonya, her dad said it looked as if a pumpkin was growing in my tummy. The tummy had the original nickname of Pumpkin. From that start and in some convoluted way which is hard to understand the nickname progressed to Punkin Seed to Punky Dude to Dude. Dude is still the name I use with this child when I’m in a whimsical and loving mood. We’re pretty sure her maternal grandfather didn’t know she had another name because he always referred to her as Dude.

My brother, who was named Zearl Edward at birth and called Eddie when he was young (Dad’s name was also Zearl) progressed to Ed then to Zed and is now called “Z”.

A nickname mishap.

Jack has a strong propensity to give people their nicknames by simply taking the first syllable of their names and lopping off any further syllables. It works OK for our son Traves who becomes Trav. But it was a disaster when he used the same technique for our friend’s daughter Aspen.

Nicknames are cool, what is yours?

Do you have a nickname, or have you bestowed one on someone you love? Fess up. We want to hear all about it. What is the nickname and how did it come about?

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Blame it All on Common Core

When I came across this post the other day on the Kim Komando facebook page I was excited to share it with my husband, who is more of a visual learner, and excited to use it as a fun way to teach my kids about multiplication – a subject about which our oldest daughter has just recently begun to learn.

But I was dismayed to read quite a few negative comments on the post decrying it as ‘common core.’ I am a loud and ardent common core dissenter. I am a member of an online group whose original purpose (although it has since evolved a bit) was to seek out which curriculum publishers are aligning with common core so that homeschoolers can make informed decisions when choosing materials.

Two things initially surprised me about the large number of negative ‘this must be common core’ comments. 1. I was surprised at how many people were reacting negatively about common core. I am glad that it is apparently getting so much attention and that a large number of people are recognizing it as a bad thing. 2. I was surprised at how many people equated this very good alternative method for learning as ‘common core’ and therefore bad.

Apparently the message that common core is bad is getting through to a large portion of the population. Apparently the reason it is bad – the dumbing down of our kids and the forcing of them all to learn in exactly the same way – is the part that most people are still not understanding.

According to the corestandards.org website (the website provided by the National Governors Association (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to explain common core) what Common Core means for students is: “Today’s students are preparing to enter a world in which colleges and businesses are demanding more than ever before. To ensure all students are prepared for success after graduation, the Common Core establishes a set of clear, consistent guidelines for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level in math and English language arts.”

As someone who has been a near life-long student of learning styles and student readiness, I cringe as I read that statement. Every person inately understands the truth of what I am about to say – that each person is unique and individual. As unique and individual as a snowflake. We all know that, no matter how deeply and intimately we find ourselves connecting with any one other human there will always be at least one (but really many, many) areas in which our thinking and understanding differ with that other person.

In other words, I love my husband dearly and he and I not only enjoy a very similar sense of humor, but we also have similar musical tastes, political views, tastes in food, etc. But among those things there are slight differences of taste and thought. He likes The Three Stooges. I can’t stand ‘em. I like the music of Queen. He hates it. He leans slightly more libertarian than I who consider myself very conservative. I love fish. He won’t touch it. I could go on and on.

To put it in a different light we can examine the learning trajectories of my three children. My oldest daughter learned to walk slightly after she turned one year of age. My son and second oldest walked right at one. My youngest daughter took her first step on her 9 month birthday. However, my oldest was speaking words rather clearly before the age of one and the youngest is already 15 months and still has quite the limited vocabulary. There are so many factors that play into each of those and many other learning scenarios.

One of the major problems of common core (and many other types of standardized learning and assessment programs that have been around in the public school system for years) is that not only are the teaching methods geared to only one or two of the learning styles, but the assesments also only test for limited types of intelligence. Dr Howard Gardner Professor at Harvard University theorized that there are actually at least seven (and likely quite a few more) intelligences that could and should be assessed and that our culture tends to emphasize certain types of intelligence over others, holding them in higher regard – to the detriment of people who are highly intelligent.

We know that both Einstein and Edison received at least some of their schooling at home and that both of them were once thought to have learning issues. It was a mistake then for it to be assumed that they were of little intelligence and it is a mistake today to assume that of any of our precious little ones simply because they don’t read at a certain age or because they can’t seem to understand a certain math concept.

As a largely institutionalized society (most American adults have attended an institutionalized school whether public or private) we now assume that if a math problem does not look like this: 2X2=4 that it is not being taught correctly. But, I know quite a few people who would find this an easier way to visualize the problem:

Multiplication Table

I also know quite a few people who would benefit from the method outlined in the above video. We all learn different things at different times and in different ways.

Yes, we should all be standing up and saying we don’t want the ridiculous common core standards forcing us all to learn exactly the same things in the same way at the same time (it won’t ever work that way, anyway – ask quite a few educators I know that work in the institutional system.) But, we should also not take institutional thinking (it must be done the way I did it) and apply it instead. What we ought to be doing in this country is assess the underlying cause of our massive amounts of educational failure and attempt to correct the problem by recognizing the value and style of each individual and teaching each one in the way that God intended for him or her to learn.


A Mother’s Day Visit I Would Like to Make

4 generations

A question which I see raised often is, “If you could go back in history and visit with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?” When, this morning, I was again presented with the question my first thought was of Momma because I truly miss her love infused, quality advice.

Then I thought the person I’d rather choose at this moment is my mom’s mom.

My “Grannie” was a woman with a formal education which ended at third grade. Yet she had an auto-didactic education which would challenge most college graduates. She was a homemaker who gave birth to 6 children. She and Papa buried one of those children at birth and raised the other 5. There were 3 girls and 2 boys. The oldest girl was my mother.

After Grannie’s mom died when Grannie was only 12 her father remarried. And by the strange ways of small Kansas towns at that time my grandmother had a step-mom who was also her sister-in-law. Yep, you read that right. Papa’s sister married Grannie’s dad.

It took me a while to figure out why my friends and I had grandparents with names like Grandma and Grandpa, Nana and Papa, Grannie and Gramps when my mom called her grandparents Grampsy and Aunt Anna.

Grannie, who was shy, was none-the-less a bit of a challenge to Aunt Anna I’m sure. Grannie was a tom-boy in a time when tom-boyishness was frowned upon. She collected frogs in order to give her own grandmother a frog-legs-treat on a regular basis. She (shame of all shames) pulled her knickers above her knees when she roamed the countryside on her horse. She would rather be in the field helping her dad than in the house cooking and cleaning. And, she fell in love with a man who happened to be her step-mother’s brother.

She loved dogs. She once shoplifted a bit of jewelry (and was caught.) She refused to go to school. She was a voracious reader. She had her hair cut at a barber shop rather than a beauty salon. She had enviable nursing skills. My brother, my cousins and I all agree she was the best cook we ever met. She had a nervous breakdown when her husband was shipped off to fight during WWII leaving her with (at the time) 4 children to raise alone. As a side note: Papa was sent home immediately to help her. She enjoyed sitting and watching her grandchildren play and often laughed aloud at our antics. She once borrowed my Mach 1 Mustang and ruined the engine. (No kidding!) She sipped tea in the quiet mornings as she and Papa shared scripture and prayer time. She was so deeply in love with my grandfather that she literally mourned herself to death soon after his passing.

Yes, the person I’d like to go back in history to spend time with is Granny. I want to learn more about her spunk. I want to hear about her dog, Cookie. I want her to remind me what her favorite horse’s name was. I want her to retell her story of witnessing a murder with my mother (still a baby) in her arms. I want to get her recipe for fried chicken and dumplings.

I want to tell her how much I love and miss her. I want to touch her and again be touched by her.

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Sugar Free Gluten Free Almond Butter Cookies

Sugar Free Gluten Free Almond Butter CookiesWe’ve been on this journey to better health for a couple of years now and it has been an interesting ride. Kind of like a roller coaster. Ups, downs, loop-the-loops and even some screams. Literally. A couple of years ago I decided that we were going to go full out GFCFSF (gluten free casein free sugar free.) My husband was out of town on a two week long fishing trip, so I took that opportunity to make a gigantic change that affected all of our lives – making the decision all on my own. As you may have guessed by now – that went over like a big lead balloon!

The one good thing that came out of that failed experiment, though, was that my husband was able to clearly see what a big difference it made in the life of our oldest daughter. She went from being covered in eczema, being constantly bloated, always having a tummy ache and being completely unable to control her emotions to [click to continue…]