Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tolling Bells And Sleeping Well

A few days ago on Facebook I shared the John Donne meditation often referred to as "For Whom The Bell Tolls".  I was prompted to do this when a heterosexual male friend informed me that gay marriage was not his fight. I haven't thought about the meditation since high school but it keeps repeating in my mind as I am inundated with the media storm surrounding the Chick-Fil-A public stance on Gay Marriage. I respect that Chick-Fil-A chooses to run its business based upon religious (Christian) principals. I wish morality were more prominent in corporate America. I'm proud that in the USA individuals and groups are free to express opinions. More so I'm relieved that people are encouraged to respond with their own statements and actions.

There are many ways to interpret any document, especially the Bible. Chick-Fil-A representatives have the right to their dogma. Like the company’s president, I am a practicing Christian. My understanding of most major religious doctrine is that they state that humans are obligated to treat all creatures with dignity and fairness. I work hard to uphold these standards. Basic equality issues are my fight. However, there’s no need for me to babble about this when John Donne and the United States Supreme Court eloquently have stated my feelings.

This year we celebrate the 45h anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the definitive answer to the constitutionality of mix-race marriages. In the 1967 case the United States Supreme Court declared Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, unconstitutional. By doing such the Court overturned Pace v. Alabama a precedent setting case on the topic and ended all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States. In its decision, The Court wrote:

“Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very
existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so
unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these
statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality
at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's
citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment
requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious
racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not
marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be
infringed by the State.”


Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions

Now this bell tolling softly for another, says to me, Thou must die.

PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill as that he knows not it tolls for him. And perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head too, and ingraffed into that body, whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me; all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another; as therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come; so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.

There was a contention as far as a suit (in which, piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled) which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell, that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours, by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him, that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute, that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? But who takes off his eye from a comet, when that breaks out? who bends not his ear to any bell, which upon any occasion rings? But who can remove it from that bell, which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbors. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did; for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath afflicion enough, that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current moneys, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell that tells me of his affliction, digs out, and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another's danger, I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

*Thank you Wikipedia for the source material used in this post

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Griots & Ancestors

Two days ago my son Paul recommended in his blog post that today’s parents learn from Colonial Native Americans. He suggested that we verbally share our family histories. . That’s sage advice.

I grew up hearing stories about living and long departed family members. Some of the escapades are legendary.  A lot of this oral tradition occurred over Sunday dinner.  However, some verbal documentation came in the form of random conversations, inspired by anything from television shows to clothing.  As a result I’ve always known that I belong to something larger than my immediate family. I’ve been compared to relatives who left this earth decades before I was conceived and inspired by the strength of others. The dreams and accomplishments of previous generations is a part of each of us.

As a child I assumed that all families passed down inherited history. Unfortunately many don’t. That’s why people feel disconnected. It’s neither technology nor global communities. People don’t have a sense of belonging to something greater than the present. It’s wonderful to learn about heroes but true inspiration comes from those closer to you. Knowing that you’re made of the same stuff as your ancestors and can carry forth in their traditions is priceless.  No matter who and what you are you stand on sturdy shoulders. Your people may not have ruled countries but their labor built them. Your great uncle my never have become rich and famous but his humor sustained his family emotionally during struggles.  Each story has a message.

What happened fifty years ago is relevant today. The past can be kept within historical and cultural context and still teach lessons. The world may look different today but valor, strength, silliness, joy and love haven’t changed.  We all have stories. Please collect and share them. Understanding where you come from is as important as academic training. Every piece of information contributes toward a whole person who is equipped to leave a positive imprint on the world.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What To Do With Colonial Native Americans?

Today this Try Hard Mommy and her son finally found computer time and endeavored to draft a joint blog post. After considering various potential topics like the differences between the sexes, vacation memories, books we like, and other mundane subjects Master Paul decided to discuss Colonial Native Americans. Yep. You read correctly. There’s not much that I can add to his below post without investing hours of research and writing that you don’t want to read. All I can do is say that they kid never ceases to surprise me. Please enjoy Paul’s second summer blog post.


Hi it’s me, Paul. I’m back again. It has been two weeks. Two weeks ago I talked about babies. Now I am here to talk about Colonial Native Americans. I would like to learn as much as I can about Native Americans, especially Colonial Native Americans because I am studying Colonial America next school year.

I already know a little bit about Colonial America.  So I would like to share some facts with you. The Colonial Native Americans were an interesting race. They would grow their food with nothing to preserve it except salt. And the way they would teach themselves was fascinating too. The men would learn how to hunt from their fathers. The women would learn how to make clothes and other stuff like that from their mothers. There was no school. They learned their history from parents telling stories. There was no electricity. They had to use other means for light and transportation. Here is a list of things that they might have used for light: torches, furnaces that burnt coal and large flat rocks that would reflect the sun. Here are some examples of what they might have used for transportation: a ship, a fishing boat, a horse drawn wagon, a donkey cart and horse back riding.

If you would like to learn more about how the Native Americans lived you should try some of the following activities with your kids. Why don’t you try to make a model horse drawn wagon or why don’t you see if you can try to teach your children some of their history the way that the Colonial Native Americans did for their kids. I think that this is a good way to teach kids about Colonial America.

Again, this is Paul. Thanks for reading my blog post. See you next time. Goodbye.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bullying Is On Summer Break

To the dismay of many students recently there has been a lot of media emphasis on closing the summer learning drain. In addition to academics, maintaining social navigation skills should be a summer priority. Kids learn more than the three Rs in school. They also figure out how to be members of social constructs.

As families move away from neighborhood schools toward private and specialized ones a student’s crew can be from anywhere in the locality. For the summer break children are removed from familiar surroundings and placed in summer environments: camp, community programs, neighborhood recreation centers and swimming pools. During the summer school friends are separated and forced to find their individual places in foreign environments. As members of these new social formations jockey for popularity and power bullying can occur.

Within summer groupings counselors don't know each child and have little time to acquaint themselves with their precious personalities. Often group leaders, even those who are trained educators, make snap judgments about youth which contribute to hastily established hierarchies. Kids rush to find a prime place within these pecking orders, often battling for roles; a ripe environment for bullying.  However we must be careful. Bullying is today's catchall for anything kids do that adults don’t like. Bullying is a widespread and serious problem yet it is not the only cause of unacceptable actions. Bullying Involves:

·      Imbalance of Power – people who bully use their power to control or harm; people being bullied may have a hard time defending themselves
·      Intent to Cause Harm – actions done by accident are not bullying; people bullying have intend to cause harm
·      Repetition – incidents of bullying happen to the same person over and over by the same person or group

There are four primary types of Bullying:

·        Verbal – name calling, teasing
·       Social – spreading rumors, leaving people out on purpose, breaking up friendships
·       Physical – hitting, punching, shoving
·   Cyber – using the Internet, mobile phones or other digital technologies to harm others.

Other conduct may have similar characteristics but is not bullying. Summer camp usually doesn't last long enough either to sort out the difference or to address all of the reasons that children engage in anti-social behavior. How should camp directors ensure that they are providing welcoming communities?

Summer program administrators must set expectations ahead of the first day of camp. Codes of conduct should be integral parts of camp registration material. Older campers should sign community agreements. During the first few days of a program sub-groups should draft a document that addresses how participants will treat one another. Everyone must be clear about what is expected and how infractions will be handled.

Summer is a break from the rigors of school not from social contracts. Families must have purposeful dialog around the issue of bullying. Topics may include discussing possible positive and negative social scenarios. Who should do what? How summer interactions may be unique. Or any number of conversation starters.

Learning is ongoing. One of the best aspects of the 10-week break is that children are able to explore untapped parts of themselves. In addition to discovering extracurricular activities they can choose to be born again. This is a great time to practice new or rusty social skills. Summer is the golden season for making changes. Adults should take advantage of the opportunity to introduce children to the idea of self-improvement. If all goes well the coming academic year will begin with renewed, refreshed students who are academically as well as socially prepared for school.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Things I've Learned

In no particular order here is the beginning of a list of things that I’ve learned from other people. Many were spoken. Others were observed. A few I figured out by myself. Some I’m still trying to master.

I wish I had:
  • Spent more time with family
  • More children
  • Relaxed more
  • Given people my full attention
  • Appreciated the miracle of a functioning body
  • Spoken up for myself
  • Taken more risks
  • Spent less and saved more
  • Kissed more often
  • Lost more marital arguments
  • Entertained more
  • Traveled more
  • Explored my home country
  • Stayed in school
  • Finished my degree
  • Waited to have children
  • Drank / smoked less
  • Listened
  • Worked less
  • More sex
  • Appreciated my spouse

Please remember that:
  • Cleanliness is not next to Godliness; kindness is
  • There is always room for one more
  • Quiet voices speak louder than yelling
  • Children are like all products. You get out what you put in
  • It’s not fun being upset
  • Being nice is better than being right
  • Less is more except when more makes everyone happy
  • Reading is a necessity not a luxury
  • Experiences outweigh possessions
  • Spirituality comes in many forms

  • Be yourself
  • Choose priorities. Having it all at once is exhausting. A bit at a time is satisfying
  • Be kind to you. Take care of your physical and emotional health
  • Have something / someone to care for - child, parent, plant or pet
  • Give your family your best. Stop saving it for strangers and acquaintances

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Introducing Paul The Baby Whisperer

Hi. My name is Paul. I am 8 and I know a lot about electronics and robots. My favorite book is Harry Potter 7. I like to play video games, read good books, scooter, skateboarding and eating. Before you think that I am fat since I like to eat, no. I am not fat.

One day I went to church to help out in the baby nursery. I am writing this blog because I would like to share a story about a baby named Leo. So anyway, I was in church. I went to the baby nursery. I went in and waited for a while, while I set up. And then finally two babies came. Leo and Lewis. At first I started to play with Lewis. At first I started to play with Lewis but Leo was crying. Then Lewis left and I went to calm Leo down.

I managed to stop Leo’s crying and got him to relax. By putting a lot of soft stuff around him and giving him some toys. He played with them. He especially liked the green and purple spiked balls. The people who run the nursery and I fed him. He ate Cheerios and avocado, mostly avocado. Afterwards we had to clean him because Leo was drooling and he avocado all over his face. Cheerios were sticking to the avocado. The avocado was like glue. So then we had to clean the floor because he had drooled on the floor not just himself. Then Leo’s mom came. And Leo left. Then we cleaned up the room because there were lots of toys out.

I like babies because babies are cute and playful. I go to the baby nursery so that I can help babies. We also get to take of care of the babies for about three hours. This is fun because I get to do it with no parents telling me what to do. This is a nice and fun thing to do because you are helping other parents by taking care of their children like your parents take care of you.

Try Hard Mommy’s Note
Paul is the pen name of my youngest son. This is the first entry in his summer blog series. Paul’s mother hopes that he sticks with this fun writing project – a stretch for a S.T.E.M. oriented child. Please wish us luck. The summer fun has begun.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Additive-Free Food Equals A Happy Child

(Mint chocolate chip ice cream, a favorite in our house, should NOT be green. The color is fake)

This post is a follow up to my essay on the Natural Parents Network website Thank you everyone for the abundance of support as well as the well wishes for our son. For some readers my revelation regarding the danger of AFC (artificial food color) was new information. For others it was familiar and you welcomed us to the awareness club. My family’s world is expanding. We are now a member of Feingold as well as pertinent list serves.

I heard from a few people that reading our story alerted you to the realization that AFC intolerance also may be relevant to your family. Intolerance of AFCs, preservatives (BHA, BHT, TBHQ), artificial flavorings and sweeteners (Aspartame otherwise known as NutraSweet) affect most of us. Did you know that these additives are petroleum based? However, their effects are pronounced in allergy children, especially boys. Parents of these kids report the strongest reaction to food additives. Responses can range from hyper activity and focusing issues to aggression, stomach problems and a host of other symptoms.

Since AFCs and the other culprits are legal in the U.S.A. families must be vigilant about avoiding them. If you’re unable to shop at grocery stores that ban artificial food products, stick with organic, preferably locally grown foods. For your aesthetic pleasure there are commercially produced NFCs (natural food colors). If you can’t travel abroad to purchase healthier versions of food products made in the U.S.A. there are brands of naturally flavored / colored and chemical free treats. Take the extra time to cruise the Internet and health oriented stores. We’re having fun creating homemade versions of popular treats. Next on the agenda is experimenting with NFCs.

I told our story in such a public way because I have always believed that knowledge must be passed along. I’m grateful to those who pointed us in the right direction as we traversed this foreign territory. They helped our family solve a mystery. It was hard for our son to go global. After time he realized that he wanted to help others. He also acknowledged that we found his solution because others shared with us therefore we are obligated to do the same.

This is not the end of our AFC story. The journey is just beginning. In addition to modifying our diet and spreading the word, there is advocacy. The FDA and food product corporations need to do the responsible thing. Until they do they’ll be hearing from me.