Reflective Moments on Compassion: The Brave Writer Retreat

 

the squares

the squares

Ruckkehrunruhe. n. the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness—to the extent you have to keep reminding yourself that it happened at all, even though it felt so vivid just days ago—which makes you wish you could smoothly cross-dissolve back into everyday life, or just hold the shutter open indefinitely and let one scene become superimposed on the next, so all your days would run together and you’d never have to call cut.      —The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (John Koenig)

Julie greeting her people

Julie greeting her people

Eunoia is a noun and a word I very rarely use. The word means beautiful thinking or a well mind. Eunoia (yoo’-noy-ah) is the state I find myself in after the retreat with a slight fear of ruckkehrunruhe. Okay, I do know that The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is totally made up but I have experienced many of these feelings and I think they should be adopted into our everyday usage. Just sayin’.

I arrived a scared bundle of nerves. Could I really just be myself amongst these women? I’ve felt rejected by other groups before. I 20160713_205413 (640x456)usually just do not fit; like a misplaced puzzle piece longing to find the box of home I belong to. As a family we have completely given up on homeschool groups. Many are just so clickish and refuse to accept others (I’m always an other) or we just do not love Jesus in the same manner as the group. By that, I mean my hair isn’t long enough, my skirts are not long enough (God forbid, I actually wear jeans!!!), I value 20160713_190013 (640x480)individuality over obedience, and I just refuse to be “evangelical”. I had a long conversation one night with Adam about that very subject. He worked the night shift at the hotel I stayed at for the retreat and was homeschooled through tenth grade. He shared his story with me and had some interesting insights into the emotional and social needs of homeschooled kids who do not 20160715_080458 (480x640)fit the surrounding social group. Chatting with him for a couple of evenings (or early-early in the morning) was just as eye-opening as the retreat conferences. I’ll likely never meet Adam again but I am glad we momentarily connected in life.

However, I must confess the Brave Writer Moms welcomed me with open arms and I totally love them all. I found my peeps, my tribe…the box of puzzle pieces I “fit” with comfortably. These ladies totally understood why I was proud of my Littlest when he

an evening of laughter and connection

an evening of laughter and connection

was removed from his homeschool co-op class! Nobody made me feel judged…just accepted. We all felt that same sense of freedom and connection with each other…well…that is my impression anyway. Julie built this Brave community and infused us with an atmosphere of trust and acceptance. Julie claims she is not an artist but I must disagree. Her medium is composed of hearts and 20160715_075610 (480x640)souls and she wove a beautiful, brave community of mothers (and their families) together. There is only one other place on this earth I have ever felt safer and that is in the comforting arms of my husband.

We all cried together and we laughed together. I have not laughed so unself-consciously in years. I wept bitter but cleansing tears. I’ve messed up as a mother sometimes…but I left the retreat with the knowledge that I can embrace my faults, share my fears, hug my kids and move on to better days. I have the tools and knowledge I need to be an 20160714_140031 (480x640)intentional mother and educator. I left the retreat content, calm…maybe slightly emotionally high, and ready…ready to fall in love with my family all over again. To observe my sweet children and be the mother they really need and not the image of motherhood I think is required.

I was so privileged to meet my hero Stephanie (Homeschool Alliance coach). If I can be half the awesomeness she is then I will be so happy! I just want to sit at her feet and soak up her wisdom…a wisdom that at times seemed to 20160714_092522 (480x640)be hard-earned. She could have let bitterness overtake her but she chose to remain open and honest- cultivating a peacemaker’s heart. That is my impression of her. She also taught me that I can home educate my kids through highschool…the idea isn’t so scary anymore. Alex taught me that we can just appreciate nature. I do not have to know the name of every plant and creature to do nature studies with my crew. Nature study isn’t as complicated as I’ve made it out to be…we can go on scavenger hunts, watch clouds 20160714_153133 (480x640)and draw in our journals and it is enough. Melissa taught me that I do not have to prescribe to any particular educational philosophy. I can borrow unapologetically what my family requires from each method and adapt as our needs ebb and flow. What matters the most is our relationships to one another.

Julie taught with her tears, laughter and open vulnerable heart. She explained how to bring the Charlotte Mason philosophy into our century. “Charlotte is awesome”, she said “but not more awesome than YOU!” She shared with us the importance and sacredness of home…and compassion. I think she could write a 20160715_120434 (480x640)book on the importance of compassion in everyday relationships…with our spouse, kids and even ourselves. Our home atmosphere matters far more than the curriculum we use. If our homes are safe places to be creative, take risks, receive compassion, communicate openly and respond with consistent intention then, we’ve created an atmosphere where learning takes place continuously. Letting all of this knowledge flow from my mind to my heart is gonna take a little time…maybe more than a little.

20160714_082145 (480x640)The place for the retreat was lovely. I tried to arrive early each morning to walk the Franciscan community’s grounds. The flowers and sculptures were beautiful. The place felt sacred even though it was in the middle of a large city. I spent part of one of my morning strolls chatting with Sister Karen. I met her returning from the outdoor Way of the Cross Stations and walked her to the chapel for prayers. She explained the history of their community, grounds and gardens. Later, I walked up to the sister’s cemetery and read 20160714_081959 (480x640)some of the names and dates on the stones. Every stone represented the life and dedicated service of a precious person. Women who consciously set out to make the world a better place. I thought about my own time in the monastery and what those years mean to me. I realized just how much strength I’ve drawn from my time in the cloister. I thought about my young and naïve thoughts on being a “bride of Christ” and realizing the truth is actually being a bride of humanity. A calling that I still feel sometimes and that manifests itself in compassion. My life made some sort of connecting loop in the sister’s cemetery (Oh, the tears!)). I am still called to a life of compassion…

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

—Wendell Berry

Look what he learned while I was away

Look what he learned while I was away

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Sunday Journal: Waiting, Inspiration and Something Beautiful

my fellas at the creek

my fellas at the creek

I’m not really sure how to describe this past week. In some ways the days were really good and other moments were not so pleasant. The tougher moments this week involved observing Sparkles trying to come to terms with her illness and general friendship troubles. She is emotional, confused, a little scared and trying to be brave.

I didn’t really realize just how hard this has been on her until I took her to the library. She loves books…she is Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She was so overwhelmed at the library that she did not

Sparkles

Sparkles

have the mental ability to pick out some books. After picking out a pile of books for myself I found her sitting in one of the chairs trying not to cry. I noticed she didn’t have any books and she just wanted to leave. She didn’t know how to choose a book. This is the girl who would check out ten books a week!!! I offered to pick some books for her and she thought that would be okay. I charged her with guarding my pile and wandered around the children’s section trying to remember some authors I loved at her age…I loved the Nancy Drew books so I grabber a few and some Susan Cooper and Madeline L’Engle. I was a total die-hard for Asimov, Clark and Heinlein around the same age but I’m not sure she would enjoy those as much…

one lazy Sunday

one lazy Sunday

Waiting for test results to come in is hard. Tomorrow I will pick them up so we can give them to the specialist on Tuesday. Maybe we’ll have some answers…just maybe I’ll feel like I can breathe again.

On a brighter note I found the most amazing homeschooling group called Wild+Free. I feel like I have found my tribe and have

at the creek

at the creek

spent a couple of mornings listening to podcasts and reading through the free sample magazine. This group is…just wow…I cannot find the right words without sounding like a crush stricken fifteen-year-old. I also finished up Teaching from Rest this week and plan to rewrite some of my notes. I’ve felt so inspired this week and even wrote out a first draft of a homeschooling mission statement. Well, it started out homeschooling based but morphed

Littlest resting at the creek

Littlest resting at the creek

into a family statement but I’ll have to send it to my husband before adopting and sharing. I think such a statement is a great way to keep your purpose and focus…especially when relationships get hard and doubts rule the mind.

In the midst of reading and absorbing all this goodness I found the inspiration for my art assignment for the Brave Writer retreat

bee and flower

bee and flower

next month. I filled up about twenty post-it notes of phrases and sketches trying to capture the feeling and image that filled me.

Our family is truly blessed. So many people are praying for Sparkles and the rest of us. I receive emails and texts everyday asking about her. She received several cards, an anonymous gift (Wow! You are amazing and thank you mystery person with a heart full of love!!!), a couple of packages, calls and a super awesome pen-pal. She is super excited about her pen-pal!! Like over-the-moon excited.

these two guys know how to cheer up neighborhood kids

these two guys know how to cheer up neighborhood kids

I didn’t expect any of these responses. Family and a few friends of course but not this…something beautiful that happened. The world was full of terrifying and very sad news this week…too much pain and hatred. All that sadness was in my thoughts as we continued to receive compassion and love from people of various faiths and backgrounds. I feel so tiny and humbled…and my heart is full to bursting.

Linking up with: Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Sunday Journal: Adventures in Travel

Cincinnati in the morning

Cincinnati in the morning

The last couple of weeks were busy. We traveled to western Kentucky last weekend for the kid’s Hymn Fest piano recital. We visited with friends and some family members during our stay. Visiting our former church was a highlight for me. The Easter service was beautiful but left me feeling lonely for a church family where we felt safe.

On the way to western Kentucky we met The Joseph Sisters in Leitchfield at Subway. We were all there for dinner and extended our stay a bit to let a nasty storm pass through before hitting the road again. They were returning home to West Virginia after a

poetry tea time

poetry tea time

“long radio tour”. The young ladies were really sweet and chatted with the kids about music, math and Angry Birds. I really should have taken a picture because it turns out they are a sweet all sisters country music band. You never know who is at the next table…

This past week is a bit of a blur. I attempted to prep and clean the house for our next trip and squeeze in a bit of schooling. Our co-op voted on classes they would like to have the next semester and so I had to admit we would not be returning…blah.

Russ and Josh setting up the booth

Russ and Josh setting up the booth

Thursday afternoon Oldest and I left for Cincinnati to work with Russ and Josh Berg of Beautiful Feet Books at the homeschooling convention. Oldest road shotgun (for the first time ever with me!) and read the directions off to me. We stopped at the monastery where we were staying and visited with the nuns a bit before heading to Cincinnati. The sky stormed most of the day! Fortunately, the rain let up during the times I was on the road…someone was praying for me.

Oldest and customer

Oldest and customer

I enjoyed working at the booth this year and chatting with a few of you who stopped to say “hello!” I also met a few fellow Brave Writer fans, sweet friends from our Lexington days, my neighbor (I was so shocked to see her that I couldn’t place her for a moment!), and my roommate for the retreat in July. Oldest did his best to help at the booth and talked with parents. Some people were not sure what to think of a twelve-year old boy working the convention and other’s took advantage and asked him for book recommendations for their

with Mr. Demme from MathUSee

with Mr. Demme from MathUSee

own children. I was both surprised and pleased by his performance. I wasn’t sure how things would turn out and I know he was very nervous too.

Oldest looked up to Josh like a hero and missed him terribly during his lunch breaks. He felt very accepted even with his twelve-year old antics which the Berg’s graciously found amusing and I found sooo exasperating…boys. I did nick-name Russ “Houdini” since he possessed the amazing skill to completely vanish from view in the time it would take to just greet someone. I would turn to finish a comment and he was simply gone! He’s like

Josh, Oldest and Russ with Middle Boy and Littlest in background

Josh, Oldest and Russ with Middle Boy and Littlest in background

a genie, cross his arms, nod his head and poof–vanished. There are moments I could benefit from such a talent.

On Saturday my husband and the rest of the crew came up to see the convention. They wondered the vendor hall a bit and then invaded the booth. Littlest and Middle Boy took turns playing the iPad, making a nuisance of themselves and using Russ as a prop for their Lego dinosaurs. I should have taken a picture of the moment. My children do not have a grandfather. In those rare instances when an older gentleman interacts so naturally with my children I find the moment wistful.

Littlest is glad I am home

Littlest is glad I am home

Anyway, a few people have asked what I brought home from the convention. Not much, since most of it had to be ordered. I purchased The Dangerous Journey and study guides from Memoria Press, Fix It from IEW, some movies study guides from Zeezok, Foundations from Logic of English and Early American history for both intermediate and junior high grades from Beautiful Feet Books. Now, I just have to wait for all of my goodies to arrive…

Today, I took Littlest out for ice cream. He missed me so much while I was away. I asked him what he did and he said, “Wore Daddy out. But now I can go back to wearing you out.” Sounds about right…

Linking up with: Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Sunday Journal: One Hundred…Finally

Middle Boy

Middle Boy

Wow! This week was busy…or so it seemed. The new routine I put into place last month is habit now and our days run smoothly and rather quickly. Before I know it the day is done! The only wrench in our week right now is co-op. We enjoy the co-op but having it in the middle of the week just slays out flow and brings more dissonance than harmony to our week. The kids feel it too so unless the group changes to a Monday or Friday we will not join back up in the fall. So we will enjoy the group while we are around. I’ll be a little sad since I’ve already gotten attached to a few of the cuties in the nursery.

Boots says, "How ya doin'?"

Boots says, “How ya doin’?”

This week Middle Boy’s Wacky Revision project was posted on the Brave Writer blog. He strutted around like a pretty peacock for a while. He thought it was pretty cool to be featured on someone else’s blog! I was slightly mortified that I had type “through” instead of “threw” in the revised portion of his paper. My kids were delighted to see my dictation mistake available for all to see on the web. Everything Middle Boy does is illustrated…even his math.

Littlest and friend. They are the same age and look how much smaller he is!!!

Littlest and friend. They are the same age and look how much smaller he is!!!

Our sweet little neighborhood friend came by this week to play with the kids. She loves to draw on my school board and usually asks me about whatever is on the board and then erases it and draws pictures. I left her to her fun and went to work on dinner. When I peeked in to check on her she was writing words on the board and quizzing Littlest to see if he could read what she had written. Thankfully, he could read all of her words and even spelled a word or two for her. The neighborhood kids get a real kick out of the school room.

Get your donuts here!!!!

Get your donuts here!!!!

Yesterday we celebrated 100 days of school…finally! The move and illnesses put us about a month behind schedule. Last month we started schooling on Saturday in order to finish this school year out in a timely manner. After a couple of hours working on math and finishing up a few read-alouds we went to Best Donuts in Lawrenceburg to celebrate. If you are anywhere near Lawrenceburg KY you must make the effort to get to this family run donut shop and indulge in their treats!!! They gave us a few fresh warm donuts while we

donut time!

donut time!

were waiting! Their filled donuts are awesome and they do not pipe in the filling until you make an order. Yum! Yum! Yum! We’ve always gone out for donuts on our one-hundredth day of school and I am glad to have found a wonderful place to continue our family tradition near our new home town. We then went to Bardstown for shopping and lunch at one of our favorite restaurants.

poetry tea time fun

poetry tea time fun

Next week I have two reviews due (Faith Builders Bible and The Dragon and the Raven) for the TOS Review Crew at the same time. (Yikes!!!) I’ve been busy in my spare time trying to get those reviews started so I am not frantic when the due date rolls around. I also hope to have my next post for our Beautiful Feet Books Medieval study up this week too. The kids are currently working on new reviews for MathUSee and Logic of English and we received a new review from Memoria Press this week as well. Fun times! Oh, and we have another coming from Apologia soon…

Linking up with: Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

 

 

 

 

Sunday Journal: Kentucky Moments and Best Gift

watching the parade from home

watching the parade from home

Kentucky’s Gubernatorial Inauguration was this week. We watched a program on state history and then viewed the parade on live television. In general politics does not interest me. This week’s event interested me for two reasons: our Lieutenant Governor is Jenean Hampton an African-American woman (a first for this state) and our governor is a homeschooler. While we watched the parade and listened to the speeches we discussed the significance of the events.

Oldest at Rupp Arena

Oldest at Rupp Arena

My husband was given a couple of tickets to go to the UK-EKU game at Rupp Arena. In case you do not know, basketball is THE SPORT in Kentucky and Rupp Arena is holy ground. Oldest went with my husband and had a marvelous time. They were high up in the stands and couldn’t see much. I’m not sure that mattered much to Oldest, he was at Rupp. Awesome-sauce for him and I’m glad it wasn’t me!

all dressed up for an evening out

all dressed up for an evening out

This weekend my husband and I attended his workplace’s Christmas party. The party was at a casino about an hour or so north. I had never been to a casino before so everything was new and fun to me! The dinner was fantastic. The crème brulee and cookies also fantastic! I enjoyed meeting several of my husband’s co-workers and their spouses. We walked around the casino and I won a few bucks on the slot machine! The night was fabulous

Littlest refused to let go

Littlest refused to let go

and to top it all off…it was also my birthday. The best gift of the evening was the gift of time. Our friend stayed the night with the kids and spoiled them silly. Without her we could not have enjoyed that time together. This was the first time in eleven years of marriage we have ever spent the night away from our children. The kids had so much fun I think they were a little disappointed to see us! Littlest begged her not to leave.

Thank you for the gift of yourself Lady C!

Linking up with: Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Sunday Journal: Butterfly Funerals, Addictions and Hello Fluffies!!!

my mother is visiting this week

my mother is visiting this week

We opened a bunch of boxes this week…and still have a ton to go. I worked with the kids in their rooms on the days I could concentrate on unpacking. Their rooms are slowly coming together. Sparkles bed was broken during the move so she just has a mattress on the floor. Her room is a bit of a mess until we can get her a bed frame. My plans for toy storage was to just use bins under the beds. Oldest’s room is coming together. We need to hang window treatments and pictures to complete his room. Middle Boy and Littlest are sharing a room and are having a grand time together. Their room is the most organized and completed other than window treatments. We did order blinds and bookshelves so hopefully by this weekend we will have their rooms in final order…if everything comes in this week.

I did have to take a break from unpacking this week due to an unexpected antihistamine addiction. I only take the medicine during ragweed season which is only about eight to ten

my Angry Bird boys

my Angry Bird boys

weeks in late summer and early fall. This week when I went off of the pills my body didn’t take it very well! My body itched like crazy for a few days. I also alternated between feeling sad and irritable. My mind was so scatter-brained that concentrating was just impossible. The day we went to purchase blinds was my worst day mentally. My poor husband was just on his own with all the decisions that evening!

My crew enjoyed a fun week with the neighborhood kids. I’m not sure why but Sparkles and her friend were just determined to save any butterflies they saw with torn wings. The two of them spent a couple of days chasing butterflies. They would carefully collect them and house them in an insect habitat. All of the wounded little butterflies ended up dying despite the great and tender care they received. So, naturally, the neighborhood kids got together and held a funeral service. They lovingly made and decorated paper coffins for each little creature and buried them by the maple tree. Sparkles has also developed a stormy friendship with one of the boys. They had a

hunting for butterflies

hunting for butterflies

bit of a scuffle when they first met but seem to be buddies now. His grandparents told me that all he talked about one evening was my sweet girl. Why do little boys show affection with aggression? I wasn’t too sure if I should feel parental pride that some little boy is smitten with my daughter or…maybe we do need a ten foot fence with razor wire.

I’m sooo not ready for the impending teenage years. Just no!

The kids and I worked for a while in the school room. We couldn’t do much without book cases but those will arrive soon. The room is ready enough for us to start back tomorrow. We’ll begin  with just the basics and history this week.

Skyping with Mrs. S...they were delighted to talk with her this week

Skyping with Mrs. S…they were delighted to talk with her this week

Hopefully we will locate our poetry books sometime soon so we can restart our weekly poetry tea time. I’m not sure about the kids but I am looking forward to getting back into routine with school. I am also going to restart my exercise time and developing healthy habits again. I let too much slip during the craziness of this move. I think I will better serve my family by taking care of my health than unpacking boxes.

This weekend my husband drove out to our former home to finish up a few projects. He also dismantled the bunny cage to bring it here. My lovely friend (you know our friendship is true and deep since she agreed to care for our two bunnies for an indefinite period of time!!!) brought the bunnies to my husband so he could bring them to our new home. We worried over how they would handle the long trip here but they made it just fine. I’m very happy to see my sweet fluffies again!

Linking up with: Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Journal: Road Trip with Bill, Homeschooling Regrets and Chocolate Gravy

working on scrapbooks

working on scrapbooks

This past week was our only week of summer break from school…after two days I remembered quite well why we do not take an extended vacation from formal schooling. They get into a fair amount of trouble with too much free time. They did have fun spending a few hours each day working on their own photo albums from our Disney trip last year. I’ve never allowed them to use my scrapbooking supplies in the past so they were really excited to touch all the forbidden paper, stickers, and sharp cutting tools! My husband and I just loved how their scrapbooks turned out. I enjoyed learning about the trip from each of their view points. I plan to let them make more scrapbooks in the future.

friends

friends

I think Littlest has struggled the most with the break from school. Nearly every day he begged to do his school work. He is very proud to be a Kindergartener. He really wants to learn to read and loves math. I just want him to enjoy being a little boy. He is only four and there is plenty of time to learn to read. In the past, I was so excited that Middle Boy was such a quick study that I pushed him too early to learn to read (and he is doing just fine now). Four years later I feel guilty about pushing Middle Boy into academics too soon…even though he was and still is perfectly capable. I think I felt the pressure to prove that we were not crazy to homeschool and I pushed all of my children too

schoolhouse in Bardstown

schoolhouse in Bardstown

hard. I regret that now. A few years ago I felt I had to prove to family that we were making the right decision. Today…well…it does not matter so much how others view us.

I used to have romantic notions of what it meant to be a part of an extended family. I used to dream of having nieces and nephews. I wanted to make biscuits and chocolate gravy like my Aunt Opal used to make and tell bedtime stories like my Aunt Pauline (but not about ghosts…why did she tell us scary ghost stories?!).  I’ll never be an aunt…an awesome auntie like the ones I had. And that is okay…it is now anyway. I’ve cried my tears and let it all fade. During my years of dreaming I never dreamed about being a mother. I desperately wanted

Littlest and host taking a nap

Littlest and host taking a nap

to be a mother but never thought God would allow me to possess such reality. I always believed that I did not deserve my deepest desire and never allowed myself to openly acknowledge such yearnings.

Right now…the dreams I feared to acknowledge are my daily life…

I’ve never made my Aunt Opal’s chocolate gravy (she taught me how to make it). I guess I’ve been waiting for those nieces and nephews that will never be. I think I will surprise my own children one morning and make it for them…yes…I will do that soon.

competitive game of Apples to Apples

competitive game of Apples to Apples

We went on a little road trip this week to Lexington and stayed with friends. Our travel time ended up coinciding with Tropical Storm Bill. It rained everywhere we went! On the way to Lexington we stopped in Bardstown and went to the Civil War Museum. The museum is fabulous and if you are nearby sometime you should consider visiting. They also have several buildings on the grounds from the colonial time period. I think it was once a living museum but has not been active for the past few years. There is also a Women’s Civil War Museum nearby and a Mid-America War Memorial. Bardstown is a really beautiful town and I hope to explore it a little more someday. My two favorite items on display were General Robert E Lee’s amnesty oath signature and a Colt

Sparkles and Sisters

Sparkles and Sisters

42 belonging to Sargent York.

In Lexington we had a blast staying with dear friends. (Thank you for hosting us!!!)

On our way home we stopped to visit my former home at the monastery. I had the most wonderful visit with the sisters. I love then so much and I am the mother and wife I am meant to be because of my time with them. They gave Sparkles a lovely sewing machine! Tomorrow she will write the best thank you note of her life!!! I am blessed to call them my sisters and doubly blessed they are still a part of my life today.

Sparkles learning her new machine

Sparkles learning her new machine

My sweet friend Mama Quilts came over and spent the morning teaching Sparkles how to use her new sewing machine. Afterward, I took my sparkly girl to the store to pick out some fabric for a small quilt. She is so excited!

Tomorrow we will begin our summer session of school…

My Aunt Opal’s Chocolate Gravy

Sift 2 tablespoons of cocoa and 2 tablespoons of flour into a bowl with one cup of sugar. Add I&1/2 cups of milk, just a bit at a time until the mixture is smooth. Pour it into a cast iron skillet on a hot stove. Cook and stir until the mixture is smooth adding some water to keep it from getting too thick if necessary. Serve over hot biscuits. Yum!!! Kids will love you…guaranteed!

Linking up with: Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers