Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat

October 31, 2007

Good news! There's plenty of chocolate in the house again!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Something Nice Happened Yesterday

October 30, 2007

I think most homeschooling groups--except those fortunate enough to have their own facilities--have experienced the "great church search" phenomenon. In 8 years I've been part of our support group here, we've had our enrichment classes in five different churches. The first two were willing to host us but just too small. The next one--my church--we were at for three years. The facilities were wonderful, and our members really considered this church as home base. But from my side of things, they were very difficult years. While the church leadership was always kind and willing to work with us, a handful of church members were adamantly--and often loudly-- opposed to homeschooling itself and homeschoolers just because. They made things very unpleasant for those of us on our support group's leadership team. I learned all kinds of ugly truths about how Christians can behave. I did some bad behaving myself. Fortunately, few of our group's members knew the behind-the-scenes grief. But it was exhausting and heart-breaking, and it was time to move on to our next facility.

Our support group currently has 220 families, and about half of those take part in our weekly enrichment classes (4 hours' worth of classes on one weekday). The process for finding a weekly meeting place for what amounts to around 150 kids per hour is arduous, to say the least. One of our enrichment team members called and visited dozens of churches that spring. Too small, too few classrooms, preschool programs, and just plain, "No, we are not interested." We always have several churches say that hosting a homeschooling group would be offensive to the public school teachers who attend their church. There is really no proper response for that one, other than, "Huh?"

But at last, a wonderful facility opened up for us. And we made it a policy to only stay at a church for two years, so as to avoid wearing out our welcome. Year 1 at this church was wonderful. Year 2 brought all kinds of conflict, again instigated by just a couple of the church staff--not the church leadership. And the search began again. We always go to our membership when it's time to look for a new church, and ask if they have a church that would be willing to host. This time another enrichment team member checked out all the members' hot tips and came up with a bunch of "no's." She then began calling through the Yellow Pages and visiting churches. Again, a series of closed doors.

And then, the unimaginable happened: A church offered itself to us. A church that not even a single one of our 220 families attends regularly. One of our members visits there sometimes, and she mentioned the need to the pastor. And the congregation voted us in, without us even asking.

They told us to use anything we want to. While other congregations say it, this one truly believes that "it's only a building." The church wanted to reach out to the community. What a novel concept! And when we gave them a check for facility use for the first 12 weeks of classes, they said, "Oh! We didn't expect you to pay us!" The pastor pops his head in frequently just to say hi. The secretary smiles at us. I am seeing a beautiful display of love in action.

And yesterday? Yesterday they baked us cookies. Trays full of perfect chocolate chip cookies. Yesterday, something nice happened. A church said to us, "We love you. We're glad you are here." And wow--that did my heart some good.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007 - Amen....

Posted by fyftn (

... to Christians behaving like we Christians say we should. I'm so glad to hear that they are so welcoming.

And imagine my surprise when you told me they had a link to Feed Your Faith and our logo on their web-site. I've been inside that church only once (for a BHEA event) and have no idea what prompted it.

Glad they did. =)

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Thursday, November 1, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by jennfromtenn (

I must be really hormonal today, but that brought tears to my eyes. How incredibly kind! What a blessing. I had no idea it had been so difficult to find churches willing to open their doors. Thanks, Sarah, for sticking it out and helping to get the group where it it today.
Have a great day!

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Thursday, November 1, 2007 - That brought tears to my eyes, too!

Posted by QueenoftheHill (

I had the pleasure of meeting these people before we committed to going there and truly kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. It never has. They view us as a ministry (I think most of US do, too) and really do think their building is a blessing that must be shared and used.

The cookies were soooooo nice, too!

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Thursday, November 15, 2007 - Beautiful story!

Posted by HomeschoolCPA (

Thanks for sharing your beautiful story. I know the search for a church for a large group can be tiresome. My co-op of 60 families (120 children) has had 4 host churches in 6 years.

We've run into "our public school teacher members wouldn't like you meeting here" also. When will people see that the choice to homeschool is not necessarily a criticism of public or private schools? Its simply another choice. That's like saying I have something against all other men because I chose my husband to marry! Silly.

Maybe someday more churches will be like your new host church!

Carol Topp, CPA
Helping Homeschool Organizations

Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday Memory: The First Pumpkin Season

October 29, 2007

It seems only appropriate that this week's Monday Memory should be about pumpkins and fall festivities. The photo above was taken at my oldest brother's orchard near Ithaca, NY, when Jesse was 18 months old. At the time, we had just moved to Iowa, and Jesse and I flew out to New York for a visit. I remember the weather being perfect, and there is just nothing like the smell of an apple orchard in October.

And back in Iowa, this was Jesse's first trick-or-treating experience. We lived in the perfect neighborhood for trick-or-treating, and Halloween in Iowa is just like I remember it from when I was a kid growing up in NY: you have to wear your parka under your costume, leaves blow in whirlwinds, and you may even have snow flurries. My mom made Jesse's bumblebee costume, and Laurel and Duncan wore it for their first Halloween.

And the question is: what possessed me to give that costume to Goodwill? That is one thing I should have saved for posterity.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

On Pumpkins. Gallbladders, Soup, Friends, Football, and What-Not

October 28, 2007

Jesse finished painting the front porch just in time for our annual Soup and Pumpkin Party. This is our Big Event of the year. Even Christmas with my entire family pales in comparison to the party also known as the "Stupid Pumpkin Party" and the "Super Pumpkin Party."

The party has grown to outrageous proportions from its humble beginnings with just a few families. We topped out this year with 22 adults and 41 kids. We would have had more, but two of our usual guests were, well, in the hospital. One was having his gallbladder removed. We missed him and his wife and entourage greatly, but we have saved him several bowls of creamy, sausage-ridden soups to aid in his recovery. The other was demonstrating what happens when one blogs too much, sleeps too little, and perhaps has one too many cups of coffee... (But we did get the little redheads, and for that we are grateful.)

So. The theme of the party is: eat soup and carve pumpkins. But until everyone arrives and the dinner bell rings, there's a whole lot of action going on. Traditionally, part of the evening includes a contest in which guests build trebuchet or slingshots with which to launch pumpkins. This year, the highlight was a tennis-ball launcher. Some of the kids wanted to try pumpkin guts in the launcher, but that didn't quite happen....

The tree-house saw lots of action. Sometimes too much action when a couple of boys who-shall-not-be-named thought they needed to jump from it....

The air hockey table was in constant use...

And at last, all the soups are ready and my kitchen becomes a mass of people holding styrofoam bowls and plastic spoons. Gumbo, black bean, broccoli, potato, minestrone, tortellini, chili, chicken--coming back for seconds and thirds is a requirement.

After the food has settled and the kids are once again running wild, the real business of the evening gets underway. Extracting pumpkin guts requires a certain love of goo which my children seem to have in abundance...

I noticed in pretty much all my pictures that the Dads are doing the actual carving. The moms are busy having coffee in the living room or walking around with boxes on their heads (also known as, dodging Chris Milne's handful of pumpkin slime)...

he pumpkins are all unique. I love the moment when we line them all up and light the candles. It's beautiful to see a few dozen smiling kiddos with their creations all in a row.

And this pumpkin was especially perfect for this evening:

Because after all that pumpkin-carving, the Dads ended up on the couch, watching the UT game...

Yep, they worked hard, and they earned their spot on the couch. And the rest of the evening involved collecting kids, pumpkins, and crock-pots, and a whole lot more laughing.

After such an event, our hearts are very, very full. And our house is very, very clean. Dr. H and I invariably sit on the couch together once the guests are all gone and the kids in bed, and just look at each other with goofy grins. Life is good.

(Next year, perhaps the kitchen will be painted and the shelf hung.)

Post A Comment!.....


Sunday, October 28, 2007 - What fun

Posted by ComfyDenim (

What a lovely holiday tradition!!!
I particularly love the boxes on head. Very wise.
This sounds like it would be fun to have here, too. I wonder if we could franchise it?

Thank you for sharing your happiness. Life is good.

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Monday, October 29, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by chickadee (

your front porch looks great!
i love the pumpkin with the cat face. so cute! looks like a very fun party.


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Monday, October 29, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by skdenfeld (

Your Porch makes me want to stop by for a visit. Or at least sit on your stairs and watch people walk by.


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Monday, October 29, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by anotherblogonthefire (

Sure looks like it was fun! Too bad we couldn't get down there for it... Kristina loves wearing boxes on her head.
We had to settle for eating pumpkin pie (and other stuff). None of it got chunked or chucked where we were.

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Monday, October 29, 2007 - I thought the porch looked particularly nice

Posted by QueenoftheHill (

This was such a great evening and so well organized. I love what you do as far as divvying the kids up by age and sending them to different areas. I suspect it is a great help to their socializing.

Next time, we'll send Baby to Grandma's so he's not so underfoot.

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Monday, October 29, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by DrHibiscus (

you just HAD to get a parting shot in about the shelf didn't you...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday Memory: Chrysanthemums

October 22, 2007

I've heard people say they don't like 'mums, but I think they are one of the best parts of autumn. During our years in Ames, Iowa, I spent lots of time on our flower beds. When we first moved into our duplex, the flower beds surrounding the house were a mass of jungle-like ferns. I like ferns in the forest; I do not like them up against a rickety white house. Spooky. So I ripped them all out and began planting things I liked. And in Iowa, anything that you put in the soil grows outrageously fast and lush. In late September, the front of our house was a palette of the brightest colors. Blue morning glories climbed up the porch, mums of every color were taller than toddlers, and the marigolds were enormous.

The picture was taken during our last of 5 falls in Iowa. That is my bald-headed little girl. I miss babies and good black dirt.

The Last Chrysanthemum
by Thomas Hardy
Why should this flower delay so long
To show its tremulous plumes?
Now is the time of plaintive robin-song,
When flowers are in their tombs.

Through the slow summer, when the sun
Called to each frond and whorl
That all he could for flowers was being done,
Why did it not uncurl?

It must have felt that fervid call
Although it took no heed,
Waking but now, when leaves like corpses fall,
And saps all retrocede.

Too late its beauty, lonely thing,
The season's shine is spent,
Nothing remains for it but shivering
In tempests turbulent.

Had it a reason for delay,
Dreaming in witlessness
That for a bloom so delicately gay
Winter would stay its stress?

- I talk as if the thing were born
With sense to work its mind;
Yet it is but one mask of many worn
By the Great Face behind.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Why I Procrastinate

October 21, 2007

Because somehow, procrastination simply works better. Take this weekend, for example. I decided not to procrastinate. So yesterday I got my lessons plans for Monday's American Lit class 75% ready. Let me explain that I think about lesson plans all week, so I am actually planning in my head throughout the week. I just don't put anything down on paper (or in a Word doc, rather) until Sunday afternoon. But Randy and Jesse were away at Boy Scout camporee, and we had Duncan's Upwards Soccer awards ceremony this afternoon (Sunday) during the time in which I usually write my lessons, so I thought I'd be extra productive and work ahead.

Yeah. So working ahead doesn't really work well for me. Because wouldn't you know that I planned for next week's class. You know, the one in 8 days, not the one tomorrow. Does that make me an overachieving nonprocrastinating procrastinator? So I spent my afternoon frantically working on the lesson plans for the real tomorrow, not next week's tomorrow.

Yes, I know I should be happy that next week's is 75% done. But what I'm really happy about is that I feel strangely justified in my procrastination. Being early really throws me out of balance.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Big Bully

October 19, 2007

I have no explanation, no reason as to why I feel like a snapping turtle today. But I do. Some days are like that. Some days, I want to move to Australia. Some days, I am pretty sure I look like Linda Blair in The Exorcist at least once per hour, especially when anything resembling a whine comes out of a child's mouth. (Any child. It doesn't have to be mine.) Some days, I picture myself looking like Dawn McNamara, who was our neighborhood bully growing up. She was big and mean and stomped around in a threatening way. She stole Barbies and threw them in the creek. I think her hands were always clenched.

Yeah. That's what I was today--a big bully. A scowling, snapping, head-spinning bully. I shall find comfort in a good book and bed and heed the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Book Review: The Way They Learn

October 18, 2007

I picked this book by Cynthia Tobias up on a whim at the library a couple of weeks ago, thinking that it was one of those often recommended in homeschooling circles that I'd not yet read. Subtitled "How to Discover and Teach to Your Child's Strength," the book begins with several chapters on the Gregorc Model of Mind Styles which put me right back in Abnormal Psych class twenty years ago. I have a switch that automatically shuts off part of my brain when I start reading/hearing abbreviations: AR--abstract random; CR--concrete random; ARC--abstract random concrete; BB-blahblahblahblah. When I have to keep flipping back to see what the abbreviations stand for, I know I am in trouble. I couldn't help but wonder frequently, if this is a book about learning styles, why doesn't Tobias realize that this kind of mass of abbreviations is impossible for some of us to decipher?

She then goes on to talk about kinesthetic, visual, and auditory learners. If you aren't already familiar with learning styles, this section of the book is useful; however, this information is readily found on dozens of websites in a more readable format with more practical applications. I did actually enjoy the section on analytic vs. global perspectives, but I got more from it as an adult dealing with adults than I did as a parent educating my children.

Perhaps I am too concrete random to appreciate this book. Or too abstract random. Or too sequential. Or just too random. (I never could figure out who I am!)

Post A Comment!.....


Thursday, October 18, 2007 - SO GLAD

Posted by onfire (

you have no idea how long I have waited for someone reliable to critique this book that has consistently made me feel less educated and more confused.
I know I am big time global, but I thought this book was supposed to be a TOOL, not another coaster.
wait until someone reviews MY curriculum ...

Saturday, October 20, 2007 - THANK YOU!!

Posted by ComfyDenim (

I could not get my brain around the first half of the book. I felt like I needed to be sitting in a library or something where I couldn't see distractions - -like Dishes. Because there was just too much. I'm sure that's because my brain fits into a category that I didn't understand. *LOL* (Mainly it means I"m sanguine and highly distractible.) So THANK YOU for letting me feel much better that I don't like this book....

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

In Memory

October 17, 2007
Bryan Raymond Sanderson, July 27, 1964-October 17, 1987
I understand the term paradigm shift as it applies to the human experience. It’s not a phrase I ever use in speech and rarely consider, but today the term came to mind. Paradigm shift: “a popular, or perhaps, not so popular shift or transformation of the way we Humans perceive events, people, environment, and life altogether.” Twenty years ago today, I experienced loss. Swift, unexpected loss. That kind that leaves one gasping for breath and grasping for meaning. And revision. Almost immediately after the initial phone call came the paradigm shift. At one level, the shift involved something along the theme of “indestructible youth” evolves into “nothing gold can stay.” But at the true heart of things, this was that point at which I began to realize the seriousness of life and the impact of decisions. Something very Big had happened. Something much bigger than breaking up with my boyfriend (that was Randy). Something bigger than my student teaching. Something much bigger than where the next band was playing or how to deal with my alcoholic suitemate. It’s the moment when you say to yourself, “I must grow up now. I have a grown-up thing to do.” Bryan was my first boyfriend. I was 15, and 16, and 17. For our first Christmas, he gave me a monogrammed stick pin. For my 16th birthday, he sent me a rose. The card read, “Love allways, Bryan.” I remember feeling a twinge of guilt that his misspelling annoyed me. He sang badly. He smelled good. His voice cracked. He was a great runner. He and his twin brother fought furiously but were rarely apart. He broke my heart on a regular basis. And I loved him. In the picture above, he is about to go away to college and I was about to spend most of my junior year of high school in Germany. And so we moved away from each other, and back again, and away again, until I made a clean break. I had a new boyfriend. I went to college. I had another new boyfriend. And another. (This one, I told Bryan, I was going to marry. And eventually, I did.) On holidays and college breaks we always saw each other at least a few times. You have to. When you have spent over 1,000 days pondering a person, you cannot flick them away so easily. And so. On October 17, 1987, my brother called my dorm room to say “Bryan is dead.” He was killed in a car crash, instantly. He was the driver. The other people lived. The call came early in the morning. I suppose I packed then and drove the 15 hours home, although I don’t remember any of that. I just remember being there, in my hometown. My brother and I went to the bay of the lake, where we’d often had bonfires in high school. He played his guitar. He said, “Bryan was just like you.” I never asked him what he meant by that. I wore a brown suit to the funeral. His casket was closed. I hated his brother for not having the foresight to bring me any of the things I’d given Bryan over the years. I loved his brother for wanting to throw his ashes in the ocean. I kept a blue ribbon from his casket. His mother held me, and I her. And then I returned to my regularly scheduled life. Except that nothing was normal again. Everyone has that moment at some point in his life, sometimes several times. A birth, a death, an accident. A being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Or the right place at the right time. A betrayal. That is the human paradigm shift, when the shadows change. When what once mattered becomes minutiae and other things loom large. I became both reckless and independent. I came back to college and continued doing my student teaching at a local high school. “You seemed to have lost focus midway through the semester,” said my education professor at the end of the grading period. Yeah. Whatever. I halfheartedly did my work study as an English tutor. “You turned a whole pile of papers in a week late! I was frantic,” said the chair of the English department. Whoops, sorry! My first boyfriend died and I am experiencing a paradigm shift. Whatever. There are some things you just can’t explain. I trudged. I flew. I prayed. And ultimately, you go on and tuck this portion of your life away for safekeeping. And, trite as it sounds, you are stronger. Twenty years have passed, and now my oldest child is the age that I was when I first met Bryan. I remember the way he watched me. And his crooked teeth.

Post A Comment!.....


Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by hsmomof2 (

Beautiful. Yeah, I have one of those too. Somewhat different. But the phone call... you never forget the phone call, do you?

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Thursday, October 18, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by Suzanne (

Thanks for sharing this.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007 - I'm glad...

Posted by DrHibiscus (

... that you don't remember the morning you left TN to drive back to NY. I do, and it wasn't pretty. We had just broken up for the 17th time, I think, and I wasn't all that good a friend when you needed it. I still think about that sometimes and regret it. Anyway, that was a beautifully written post.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007 - interesting

Posted by onfire (

the thoughts that come unawares when you read a certain post. this has never happened to me. ever. and what gets me pondering of late is this, whatever will I do when I do loose someone I love, and have no village to help me through it? it isn't as though death looms around the corner waiting ... or is it? it is all part of the cycle of life. I remember when my Mom's Mom died. I was pregnant with Jonam. Only my Dad, my brother, my Mom and Neal were there for the funeral. I was struck by these lyrics just this morning, Dr. H would know them, I believe ... It is better to burn out than fade away ...

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Thursday, October 18, 2007 - You made me remember...

Posted by LaDonna C. (

the day I got "the call" about Justin's friend. We were re-furbishing FCC's playground. And everytime we pull into your church parking lot, I remember that day. This was so beautifully written, I want to share it with his friend's mother, with your permission.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007 - Hi there

Posted by Bahamahomeschooler (

this is a beautiful post. So very real and true. So it was nice to meet you and I am glad I found your blog. Stop by anytime.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007 - Great post...

Posted by Learn4life (

You're a great writer and I love this post!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Manic Monday

October 15, 2007

This morning was one of those mornings that Dr. H and I looked at each other and said, "Can you imagine?" Translated, that means: imagine having to get the kids ready for school and out the door every morning. Manic Mondays are just another, but very big, reason that I am so glad we homeschool.

On Mondays we have our co-op, and no matter how organized I am, we always end up rushing out the door, sweaty and stressed, just in time to make it to our first class at 9:30. It doesn't matter that our bags are packed the night before and clothes are laid out. I know all those tricks of the trade, but there is a stress that is inherent in getting everyone out the door.

Years and years of relaxing mornings. It's a good way to spend a childhood. I can handle 24 Mondays each year and an odd early field trip every now and then, when I know the rest of the mornings we can ease into the day.

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Monday, October 15, 2007 - thanks...

Posted by DrHibiscus (

I'll be singing the Bangles all day now...

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - I'd bet...

Posted by anotherblogonthefire (

Dr. H can walk like an Egyptian, too!

Monday Memory: Apple Picking

October 15, 2007

Seems like everyone in BlogWorld has been apple picking this week except us. Living in Tennessee does have one or two drawbacks, and apples would be high on that list. You just can't get them here like you can in the north. If you don't know this about me already, I grew up surrounded by apples. Apple seeds, apple seedlings, apple rootstocks, apple diseases, apple orchards, and just plain apples. My father has spent his life either growing fruit or doing groundbreaking research in fruit breeding and nursery production. Before him rest five generations of Cummins apple growers. My brothers are the seventh generation, and two have orchards: Stephen (above) has Indian Creek and James has Bittersweet, both in or near Ithaca, NY. Stephen and my Dad also run Cummins Nursery.

But I have no apples to pick here. No orchards laden with fruit so heavy the branches sweep the ground. No collecting bruised drops beneath the trees, no dizzying odor of the cider press, and no promise of cider. My children don't know the flick of the wrist and gentle twist needed in apple picking or the weight of a picking bag upon the shoulders.

Dad, Peeling Apples

The color of wheat
bread speckled
like the skin of a Golden Delicious,
freckles on top of freckles
and tiny nicks
from his knife, dots of blood
turned to brown scabs.
My father’s hands

have never changed. Every night
a different apple
skinned naked,
split and seeded without him
ever looking down, loving the fit
of apple
in the left hand, brown-handled
knife in the right.
He licks the tip of his finger
where the juice runs clear
and skewers a slice

for me, which I take
of whether I want
an apple or whether
the flesh has begun to brown
around the edges. When he is done,
knife set down and fingers wiped
clean against the legs
of his beige corduroys, I will take
the leathered back
of his hand to my cheek
and hold it there, begging
his weathered roots to spread
their soil-caked fingers
long and strong
as deep as the generations will go.

(By Sarah Small. Copyright 2000. First published in The Yalobusha Review.)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A True Confession

October 13, 2007

Every October, our city has the three-day Foothills Fall Festival. It's huge. Thousands--and I do mean thousands-- of people come from all over the country for this extravaganza, which includes a weekend full of concerts, an arts and crafts fair, and a Children's Adventure Land. Everything is free except the concerts and the food. The weather is perfect. Our city is beautiful. REO Speedwagon played last night.

The day before the festival began, our American Heritage Girls were busy helping with festival preparation, in service to the community and to our chartering church.

Above, they are helping to decorate the Arts and Crafts area downtown under the guidance of one of the festival organizers.

Our chartering church is right across the street from all the action, so two other groups of girls spruced up the grounds of First Christian in preparation for the festival. Since our parking lots is in a prime location, our youth group parks cars for a donation. Jesse and a couple of his friends helped with that yesterday for a while.

So the festival is in full swing now. The city is bustling with excitement (and traffic). The weather is absolutely beautiful. And the kids are asking, as they do every year, "Are we going to go to the fall festival?"

So here's the true confession: I don't want to go to the fall festival. The thought gives me a headache. I am so happy to have something like this in our area! It is great for business and really unifies the community. Everyone is out there doing something, it seems. I love that our AHG troop can be a part of this.

But I don't want to go. It's all about the crowds and the lines. The word "throng" is entirely appropriate here: a large, densely packed crowd of people. The incongruity gets me every time: a beautiful fall day should not be a mass of bodies, long lines waiting for a turn at the giant inflatables, and noise. A beautiful fall day should be filled with the silence of the mountains or the swishing of leaves.

I am a bona fide curmudgeon. If anyone wants to take my poor children to the fall festival, please come and get them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why This Morning It Actually Feels Like Fall

October 10, 2007

In the great silence of my favorite month,
October (the red of maples, the bronze of oaks,
A clear-yellow leaf here and there on birches),
I celebrated the standstill of time.

~Czeslaw Milosz

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Field Trip: The Symphony

October 9, 2007

Today we were privileged to hear the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra perform its Young People's Concert, "Made in America." Each year the KSO performs two sets of educational concerts with a goal of introducing kids to classical music. The music is often familiar and always has a theme. The conductor explains and elaborates upon each piece, and the whole experience is enhanced with soloists, dancing, and audience participation. It is a wonderful experience, and today's show was sold out.

I am thrilled that the KSO has this introduction to classical music as part of its vision. To think that thousands of kids each year are being exposed in this way to the beauty of symphony thrills me. I grew up in a home that valued classical music. My mother had an extensive album collection and enrolled us in piano lessons at early ages (I was four). She often had music playing while she sewed or went about her day: Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Beethoven. But best of all, we had season tickets to the Smith Opera House, which usually featured either the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) or the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra.

That is one of my loveliest childhood memories. We would get quite dressed up to go to the symphony, and my mother would always wear one of her fur coats and my father would wear a tie. I believe this is the only time she wore a fur coat, and my father didn't wear ties too terribly often. Our seats were always in the balcony. The Smith Opera House (then the Geneva Theatre) is a gorgeous old theatre, one of the oldest operating in the U.S. The ceiling is blue velvet covered in twinkling stars. The seats were red plush and perfectly musty smelling. And in my mother's pockets were lemon drops. Like the fur coat, my mother seemed only to have lemon drops at the symphony.

And so the music would begin. It was all very exciting, and it was also way past my bedtime. Inevitably, I would end up curled in the aisle, asleep on my mother's fur coat. Let me tell you, there is absolutely nothing like falling asleep on a bed of fur to the sound of violins under a velvet blue, twinkling sky. One cannot possibly have a more delicious introduction to orchestra than this.

In my teens, the symphony became an outdoor event. Our local community college had a wonderful outdoor amphitheater, which was the summer home of the RPO. I spent many memorable nights on the lawn of Finger Lakes Community College with picnics, blankets, and friends, soaking in the RPO. The 1812 Overture with fireworks on Independence Day rivals the fur coat and velvet sky.

I have carried the love of the symphony with me into adulthood, but it has been a quiet love. Alas, symphony tickets are expensive. But every year when the KSO Young People's Concert rolls around, I am determined that I will take each of the children to one symphony performance each year.

Somebody remind me, OK? It's a precious memory to have.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Monday Memory: Bob

October 8, 2007

This is Bob. He was part of our family two years ago. Jesse used to write this newsletter called "The Freakshow Weekly" (or sometimes "monthly"), and Bob was the cartoon character he created. Each issue Bob was featured as a different character. There was Goth Bob, Darth Bob, Hippie Bob, and many others. Bob appeared on t-shirts ("Vote for Bob") that Jesse actually sold and gave as Christmas presents.

And then, one day, Bob was gone. I miss Bob. Perhaps someday Jesse will have a renewed interest in Bob and make a lot of money marketing Bob paraphernalia. I am sure that face is worth a million dollars...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Opening the Window

October 6, 2007

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

I've been over at JenIg's blog reading about ankle monitors and such. On the surface, the discussion over there has been about dating vs. courtship, and somehow a comment slipped in about ankle monitors. ("Pam" wrote: "We have also put ankle monitors on our daughters, not that they would ever sneak out. But just in case something were to happen, we could locate them within the hour. You can never be to [sic] cautious!") Other commenters on Jen's blog assumed (hoped) "Pam" was being satirical; however, as it turns out, the poster is dead serious ("I am no fake. And I kind of resent being labeled as such. With the sexual predators EVERYWHERE these days, with abductions, robberies, etc. my husband and I must be sure to protect our children. I may have confused you all: my children only slightly protest at the arranged marriages, however, they are ALL FOR the safety ensured by the ankle monitors.")

Kind of makes me feel all squeamish. But really, the post isn't about ankle monitors or courtship vs. dating. It's about dealing with the stronghold of fear. We all experience fear and anxiety. At its most basic level, fear is a God-given emotion that alerts us to danger. But it can also be a a device that paralyzes and controls us.

I know fear. I know common fears like crossing over a river gorge on the thin plank of wood. That kind of fear doesn't control me; I can just say, "No. I do not wish to cross over a rapidly moving river on a thin bit of railroad bridge." Enough said. But that fear does not keep me from hiking or being in the outdoors.

I know that flicker of fear when my husband is 22 minutes late coming home from work, and my mind flashes to Car Accident. When he comes through the door then, I am so grateful that he is home that I forget to be peeved with him. That is a fear that quickly vanishes, and it does not control my life. The next morning he heads off to work again and I trust that he will return safely. That fear does not keep my husband from driving to work each day.

I know the fear of one of my children being hurt. I have held my breath as they swing high, legs pumping, heads leaning back. I wait for that moment when one loses his grip and flies out of the swing. It hasn't happened yet and still might. But that fear doesn't keep me from pushing my kids in the swing and standing back to watch them fly.

And I know the fear that Jen's commenter has: the fear of predators--the possibility of abductions. I know that moment when you can't find your child at Walmart, and the tremendous relief that comes when you find him hiding in the middle of the clothes rack. I dislike watching crime shows in which a child is abducted because that fear takes root like a black knot in my gut, and I have two choices: I can let it go, or I can feed it. That is a fear I do not feed.

But I am not immune to the stronghold of fear. For much too long I have held tightly to a fear that is rooted in a real event, not a hypothetical "it could happen." I know the meaning of the cliché, "the icy grip of fear." It is something I don't talk about, ever. Really ever. But here it is: 17 years ago a drug addict crawled through my living room window while I slept alone. My husband was gone for the weekend. I was just a random open window; he'd already walked into the apartment next door and stolen a few items. It could have been an unthinkable scenario, but by the grace of God I awoke to his threats, and I screamed and ran. As did he.

This is what makes sense, what is rational: that I should have been so grateful that I escaped that I would just move on. But on that morning in August 17 years ago, I lost much that I never understood that I had. I lost the innocent conviction that nothing bad could ever happen to me. I lost the most basic feeling of safety and security in one's home. I lost the joys of solitude and independence. The joy of being in one's house by oneself. For years, I had to go spend the night with a friend when Randy had to go away to conferences. It has only been in the past 5 years that I've been able to sleep through the night when he's gone without going to sleep in a panic and waking with a feeling of dread. I lost the freedom of sleeping with the windows open, even when he is here. I still have moments of absolute panic sometimes when I am showering, imagining someone breaking in and getting to the children. But with the years comes a daily leaning on the Comforter, and a zillion fervent prayers. And, eventually, the anxiety lessens as the stronghold is knocked down.

A few nights ago my daughter asked me if I would leave the window open in her room at night, and why, she wanted to know, do I always shut the windows at night? This is an answer I cannot give her: "because you just never know when someone might randomly decide to come through the window." That is the only reason that I have, and when asked, I cannot explain this to my child. I cannot pass my fear, however grounded in reality, on to my children. That is the moment when you realize it is time.

Rosa Parks once said that "when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear." And this is something that I had to do because it is not right that my children do not know what it is like to fall asleep with an autumn breeze blowing through the window. It is not right that the morning birdsong is always muffled by the closed windows. And so I opened her window, very wide. I left it open all night, in spite of my niggling anxiety. (I was cheating, probably, because I know that our dog will bark loudly at anything.) An ordinary night for most. For me, a victory.

I hope that lady takes the ankle monitors off her children. There is no freedom in fear, and it is no gift she is passing on to her girls. Have you ever listened to the Dave Ramsey show when people call in and yell, "I'm DEBT FREE!"? That's exciting enough, but it's what follows that always gets to me and gives me goosebumps: "FREEEEEEEEEEDOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!"

That's what I want to be shouting.


Sunday, October 7, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by Anonymous (

Wow Sarah, great post and such a tremendous victory! I do hope Pam has the opportunity to read your your thoughts.

Some Assembly Required.

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Sunday, October 7, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by JenIG (

thanks for freaking me out royal. i will never sleep with my window open for as long as i live. just kidding. that was actually a tremendously inspiring post. what an incredible thing to go thru. thanks for sharing your story. i hope pam makes it over here -- this was all really well said.

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Sunday, October 7, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by chickadee (

that was a great post!
i'm glad you were able to open a window.
and something you said about passing on your fear to your children, i'm afraid i've done that too often.


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Sunday, October 7, 2007 - I love it

Posted by cricket313 (

Well said! I have issues with fear...I have not had an experience.. I have always had a nighttime fear! I am going to have to pray on this! I do ask for protection over us at night--it eases my fear but doesn't completely subside it!

We have had a slight detour on our way to finacial freedom..but it is getting closer! Just slower than we first thought. Oh, how I long for the day to yell, "FREEEEEEEDOM" You'll have to let me know when you guys get there and I'll do the same. I need some encouragement on the debt-free journey.

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Sunday, October 7, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by Anonymous (

As always, a fabulously written post. And GOOD FOR YOU! So happy for your victory.

And no, I didn't know about Milligan Mellancamp! :)

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Sunday, October 7, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by anotherblogonthefire (

Well, I feel especially honoured now that you allowed us to come and crash at your place - and I am very happy to hear of your victory!

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Sunday, October 7, 2007 - thanks for the reminder

Posted by onfire (

there really can be victory over our fear.
just two summers ago I had the break through I needed to be able to enjoy the dark of night.
it is amazing the stronghold we can allow from events decades old ...
I won't go into mine, but I certainly know fear, and fear entrapped me for a time.
your post was a balm of gilead.

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Monday, October 8, 2007 - Thanks

Posted by srostollan (

This was an awesome post!


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Monday, October 8, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by foxvalleyfamily (

Wow - what a horribly frightening experience, but how wonderful that the Lord has given you freedom from your anxieties!


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Tuesday, October 9, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by GAMama (

Yes! Thank you.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007 - FEAR NOT

Posted by debbiecorley (

What a great post! I, too, have wrestled with fear over the years. I now wear a silver ring on my right hand that says FEAR is a reminder to me that He is my shield and my protector. I do not need to be afraid!

I also agree with the importance of not passing fear on to our children. An abundant life is a life lived by one who moves in faith and steps into whatever God is calling them to. We cannot do that if we are bound up by the "what if's"!

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007 - Good post, but a thought to share about open windows

Posted by CaliCarolina (


My parents used to live next door to a North Hollywood PD Detective (at least I think that's the dep't.). Anyways, he told them that after the sun goes down, they should lock up all ground floor openings. Now, my parents did not live near N. Hollywood. In fact, I grew up in a pretty safe place, but he still gave them that advice. Sorry to be a dissenter on such a great topic, but I wanted to pass that along. Other than that, I totally agree with you. :)

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007 - A whole new side of you I didn't know!

Posted by QueenoftheHill (

I'm so proud for you, Madam Smallworld! That IS freedom. I'm going to keep mulling this over, because I'm guessing I have about a hundred metaphorical windows that I need to fling open in full view of my children.

I don't think it is cheating that you know your dog will bark. But I might be biased, since I already confessed I couldn't sleep without the King until I got Sally (who can look pretty vicious when she wants to impress).