Thursday, April 28, 2005

God's Country

Ginny had a good picture on her blog the other day of a bumper sticker that does a good job of expressing my sentiments: " I LOVE MY COUNTRY -- It's our thieving, lying, cheating, defrauding, corrupt Liberal government I can't stand!"

The other day I was returning home from an appointment that was a half hour west out of town. Prince George city proper is in a "bowl". It is located at the junction of the Nechako and Fraser Rivers, and no matter which direction you come from, you have to descend into the bowl if you are going to pass through the city. As I was driving from the west towards the city, just before I was to descend into the bowl, I had the most fantastic sight spread before my eyes. The day was beautifully sunshiney and clear and in the far distance, I could see not only the gentle rise of the Cariboo Mountains, but beyond that the sun-kissed snowy peaks of the Robson Valley and possibly even the Rocky Mountains. It was utterly amazing!

The trees are leafing out, the grass is turning green and the balsam willow is scenting the air with a delicious fragrance that someone ought to turn into a perfume. The wind was a bit cool today, but the sunshine combined with the emerging greenery caused my heart to feel glad that it was spring and I live in such a beautiful country.

My husband is working in Victoria on Vancouver Island for the time being, and he jokingly told some of his co-workers who live there that when they die they are destined for hell since they are already getting to spend their time in Paradise now. We had contemplated having me go down to see him and have a few days of R&R without the kids, but a 12 hour drive both ways is a bit beyond my stamina now that I am in the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. Something about being pregnant combined with driving a vehicle always makes me want to go to sleep, which is decidedly not safe. Instead I am going to take a few days next week and go south about an hour to the little town of Quesnel and hole up in a motel by myself so I can rest, read, veg out and pamper myself with sleeping in, long baths, a pedicure and walks along the river, and just doing what I want while my daughter and son-in-law ride herd on the kids at home.

When I return home, it will hopefully be to a newly painted office that will again make my heart happy and glad that I didn't have to do it myself. And school will be done soon. And baby will be here soon. Then comes a trip to Edmonton to see friends I haven't seen in a long time. Am I happy? You betcha.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Anti-Frump Clothing

Thanks to Sora for this link. There are a number of cool skirts and dresses here, as well as scarves that I wouldn't mind wearing.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

More Thoughts on Homeschool Accountability

What follows are more comments and thoughts I had in response to some who questioned my intial premise in what I had written in the previous post.

We are, to some extent, creatures of our environment. The American model of rugged individualism and independency has helped to form the mindset of much of American Christian homeschooling. I am disturbed by trends in the Christian homeschool community that elevates the family over all other forms of gov’t, including church gov’t to the point that we see homechurches who are independent of any Church mushrooming on the landscape. This is denominationalism to the extreme.

We are not merely individual families engaged in an individual pursuit, and sometimes I think we homeschoolers lose sight of the fact that we are part of the larger society which requires a lot more cooperative and collective organization to function than we are willing to admit. Case in point: I live in northern British Columbia. The public highways are maintained in part by my tax dollars and serve as an important part of the infrastructure. Without these roads, transport trucks, which carry much of the produce and goods that service this area, would not be able to reach our community. The raw resources of natural gas, petroleum products, and timber that service all parts of the Canadian and US economy would not reach you fine folks to the south. This is a service that benefits all people in society, not just church goers.

Here is my practical question: exactly who is supposed to govern the construction and maintenance of these roads? Family gov’t? Church gov’t? Civil gov’t? These roads are there for the common benefit of all people, whether they are church members or not. So which level of gov’t is best suited for over-seeing this function? Surely not the family or church! And yet this falls outside the narrow role of only bearing the sword, forcing restitution, and protecting private property that some have proscribed as the Biblical role for civil gov’t.

The underlying assumption of many Christian homeschoolers is that it is the responsibility solely of the Church to administer discipline and oversight in Christian homeschool families. Somebody supply me the chapter and verse for that, ok? As well as pertinent passages that we could deduce the proper discipline to be used against recalcitrant parents. The main disciplinary tool that the Church has is to bar people form the Lord’s Table. If that doesn’t work, what then?

The benefits of children who are raised well and who are productive members of society does not accrue merely to the Church, but to society in general. Again I ask, what of the families who are not members of *any* church? Who is to give them oversight or should we be happy with a vacuum in this area? Do we really believe that these families would submit to church elders in this matter?

Everyone is up in arms over the idea of civil gov’t stepping in and seeing to it that children are provided an education and I want to ask you, if they don’t do it, who will?

It is no secret to those who know me that I am *for* an established Church — namely a covenanted reformed presbyterian one and that we should have a religious test for public office for civil gov’t officials. I believe that there is to be One Lord, ONE Faith, one baptism, and that denominationalism is a blot on the face of Christ’s Bride. I don’t think this will happen in my lifetime but it is something I have given my life over to working towards. If it were the case that we actually had a united Church body in our respective nations and if this was reflected in the direction that civil gov’ts took, I think we would be a lot less upset (unless you are a non Presbyterian Christian ) about the notion of civil gov’t supplying some direction and a minimal level of oversight to the educational efforts of families. In the meantime, I think maybe we need to think a little harder and a little more broadly about some of our own thoughts in this area and not be so quick to assume that the workable Christian position on spheres of authority and application have been nailed down for all time and circumstances. A lot of the time the Levites rendered judgements in the OT economy of Israel. Were they acting solely as church elders or did they also function as civil authorities? I don’t know that the lines are drawn as hard and bright for the Levites as we would like to think they were and maybe we need to quit drawing our lines so hard and bright as well.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Are Homeschoolers Accountable to ANYONE?

The following remarks are my response to other comments on a blogpost done by Carmon, but from which I was not able to post my comments because of the spam filter. So I am posting my remarks here, with a bit of editing for clarity's sake.

One thing that I, as a presbyterian, am conscious of is the fact that I am not only saved as an individual, but also saved into a community and therefore answerable to that community. I see a lot of Presbyterians, self included, who act as practical independent Baptists though who are not accountable to anyone outside their family/church.

Molly, one of the commenters, has hit on what I believe are salient points regarding the hostility that many Christian homeschoolers have regarding outside authorities butting in and asking if we are doing a good job in our education of our children. Most of the hostility is directed towards gov't officials who would dare to ask if we are actually doing anything with our kids or just keeping them home to provide domestic cleaning services. We *could* substitute the words "elders" or "sessions" or "local church leaders" for civil government and declare that God gave the authority to educate children to no one but parents and therefore the elders, sessions, local church leaders have no right to see if we are doing our job in educating our children properly. Catechizing them, yes. Teaching them their times tables, no. This does not belong to the sphere of the church. The church has nothing to say about times tables.

True, this world is not our home. But if a man doesn't work, he shouldn't eat. If a man fails to provide for his own, he is worse than an unbeliever. So does society have a vested interest in whether or not our children are educated, not only as godly people, but also as productive citizens? If we want a society whose citizens are not dependant on state welfare and handouts, do we collectively have an interest in seeing that people are equipped to provide for themselves and their families? Have we done our job as parents if our children can recite the catechisms and Bible verses forwards and backwards and can show people the way of salvation, but can't function as future homemakers and providers because we neglected this part of their education? This of course, is being extreme, but the point I am trying to make is -- do we have to answer to ANYONE? Does anyone have the right or authority to make sure we are doing our job?

Just as it is possible to be a professing five point Calvinist and yet act as a practical atheist in terms of applying the faith to our lives on a daily basis, I think it is possible for us to mouth the words of spheres of authority and accountability and yet be practical anarchists and antinomians because we haven't thought through all the ramifications of what we are saying. (And btw, this is NOT directed at Carmon or anyone else -- these are just my general thoughts that I have been having on this subject for the last year or so.)

You know, the longer I am a Christian, the longer I see just how realistic and practical the Lord is in how He provided for His people. God not only recognized and encouraged the standard of mature Christianity and economic prosperity through independant thrift and hard work, he also recognized that not everyone had it in them to be an economic risk-taker and so a man could become a slave for life. His ear was bored through with an awl and he had to work for a master he had voluntarily chosen. His economic and social needs were looked after by another. Was this sinful, or was this mercy and provision for those who don't have what it takes to be a master?

The highest ideal economically is every man under his own fig tree and vine, but those who didn't make the grade or weren't blessed with the gifts and abilities for it were not to be looked down on and discriminated against in the assemblies. (James 2:1-9) Likewise, the highest ideal educationally is that every family be able to provide a high standard of education for their children. But if the gifting and means are not there, is there a place for ANYONE to provide help for those who want better for their children but who are not able to provide this for them themselves? I often get the feeling that we look down our educationally sophisticated noses at those who aren't the educational equivalent of the pioneers of New England who were able to carve a nation out of raw wilderness.

Here is a question I would like someone to answer: if a "homeschool" family is not providing any education at all to their children, WHO is supposed to call them on it? Church elders? What if they aren't church members? Or are we to shake our heads sorrowfully and just let those particular kids go and claim it wasn't our sphere of authority and then go on our way like the Levite or the Priest in the Samaritan's parable?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Importance of Mothers

If you are expecting one of those sentimental essays on "Mother, thou, Wiper of my tired brow" you are likely to be disappointed. But then again, maybe not.

I am not one who goes in for the sentimental as a means of motivating and inspiring myself in the task of mothering. I realize that some women like that sort of thing, and no doubt, it is likely due to some sad character defect in me or a form of mental under-development that I don't. Rather, I tend to get my motivational kicks to keep on with the task from the more scientific end of the spectrum.

Lately I have been getting my affirmations in the form of two books, both written by the same author, Dr. Gabor Mate, M.D. Dr. Mate is an east-end of Vancouver physician, psychotherapist, and author who used to write medical columns for The Vancouver Sun and The Globe and Mail. His book, Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder, is one I determined to read after reading another of his books, When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection.

Those of you who have been reading this blog lately know that I have developed a recent interest in the topic of ADD, especially as I learned that this is something that I have and which some of my children have some traits. A few of my clients also struggle with it. If you do any reading in this field for any length of time, you soon learn that ADD/ADHD may be multi-factoral in how it develops. IOW, poor nutritional habits, food allergies, systemic candida over-growth, and environmental toxins all appear to play a part in its development. If you have followed the development of modern industry and modern agricultural methods, you can almost chart a corresponding rise in the number of people and children afflicted with ADD with a drop in the quality of the food we eat and the amount of toxins that have been developed and released into the environment since WWII.

There does, however, seem to be another component at work with the development of ADD, and that is the way that society has developed and motherhood and mothering has been devalued and under-practiced. Mothers have been told that they have an important role to play in the lives of their children, but that this important role can be done while supplying baby with a bottle, pursuing a career, and spending "quality time" with baby at the end of a work day after baby has spent most of the waking hours with a nanny or in a daycare. The result has been that the generation of children whose mothers swallowed the feminist egalitarian bait is also the generation of children in whom we see more and more dysfunction in terms of development of ADD and other learning disabilities.

Let me, or rather Dr. Mate, explain. What follows is a summation of what he has to say on this topic as it relates to mothering.

Attention deficit disorder results from the miswiring of brain circuits, in susceptible infants, during the critical period of growth that takes place in the first nine months following birth. An infant's individual experiences in the early years determine which brain structures will develop and how well, and which nerve cetners will be connected with which other nerve centers and establish the controlling centers of the brain.

A sort of neural "survival of the fittest" contest takes place in infancy with circuits, networks, and systems of networks form or die off, based on environmental factors. Nerve pathways that are not maintained wither and die or will develop dysfunctionally when they lack the full conditions that are necessary for their maintenance. Stores of neurochemicals that are under-utilized diminish as well and the brain's capacity to make them declines. By the elimination of unused cells and synapses, and by the formation of new ones favored by the environment, specialized circuits gradually develop that conduct the varied and multiple activities of the human brain. The genetic potential for brain development can find its full expression only if circumstances are favorable. Infants who are understimulated in certain areas grow into adults who remain under-developed in those particular areas of function. Attention Deficit Disorder is an example of how neural circuitry and biochemistry of the brain may be held back from developing optimally when appropriate input from the environment is interfered with.

Three conditions are necessary for healthy growth. The first is good nutrition, the second a physically secure environment with an unbroken relationship with the mother, and the third is a secure, safe, and not overly stressed emotional atmosphere.

A large proportion of the North American pregnant and newly delivered women eat the Standard American Diet (otherwise known as SAD) of processed, refined, and prepared convenience foods and therefore are providing less than optimal nutrition for their infants, even if they breastfeed. The proliferation of bottle feeding with formulas that often cause allergies including eczema and asthma as well as other forms of detached parenting (soothers, swings, play pens, etc.) as well as infant and toddler daycares mean that mom has more and more opportunities to spend time away from baby. The third prime requirement of a non-stressed and emotionally secure atmosphere is the one most likely to be disrupted in Western socieities.

Human infants are neurologically and biologically underdeveloped in many ways. The first nine months of extrauterine growth could be considered, according to anthropologist Ashley Montagu, as a second part of gestation. The security of the womb needs to be replaced by the security of the parenting environment. To allow for the needed maturation of the neurological and brain development, a process that generally takes place in utero in other species, the close physical attachment that was present before birth needs to be replaced not only with continued physical presence, but emotional presence as well. Physically and psychologically, the baby needs to be held as securely after birth as he or she was before birth.

The best near substitute for umbilical connection that can occur following birth is that of breastfeeding. Apart from the nutritional and immunological benefits of breast milk is the fact that breastfeeding serves as a transition from unbroken physical contact to complete separation from the mother's body. Babies need to be held close to the mother's warmth while they are nourished by suckling. Breastfeeding also enhances the mother's attachment and bonding with her infant. The fact that 90% of women who begin breastfeeding are no longer doing so within the first three months of their infant's life could well be a contributing factor to the emotional insecurities that are becoming so prevalent in industrialized countries.

In view of the above, it should be apparent that the nurturing role of mothers is an important one that needs to be guarded and nurtured if we want to raise emotionally secure and properly developed children.

More will follow on this topic.
Why the US is Not Universally Loved the World Over

Something that often has many Americans scratching their heads is the animosity they meet up with whenever they travel outside their own shores. What many of these tourists don't realize is that their government has done a lot to create that animosity, along with special interest groups and industries who are all too willing to use other nations for their own profit and who love to skew the rules of trade or ignore them at will.

I haven't read the following book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins, but the interview with the author and this book review have intrigued me enough that I am going to get it from my local library.

For a small taste of what you can expect in this book, here is just one quote from his interview:

Well, really, over the past 30 to 40 years, we economic hit men have created the largest global empire in the history of the world. And we do this, typically -- well, there are many ways to do it, but a typical one is that we identify a third-world country that has resources, which we covet. And often these days that's oil, or might be the canal in the case of Panama. In any case, we go to that third-world country and we arrange a huge loan from the international lending community; usually the World Bank leads that process. So, let's say we give this third-world country a loan of $1 billion. One of the conditions of that loan is that the majority of it, roughly 90%, comes back to the United States to one of our big corporations, the ones we've all heard of recently, the Bechtels, the Halliburtons. And those corporations build in this third-world country large power plants, highways, ports, or industrial parks -- big infrastructure projects that basically serve the very rich in those countries. The poor people in those countries and the middle class suffer; they don't benefit from these loans, they don't benefit from the projects. In fact, often their social services have to be severely curtailed in the process of paying off the debt. Now what also happens is that this third-world country then is saddled with a huge debt that it can't possibly repay. For example, today, Ecuador. Ecuador's foreign debt, as a result of the economic hit man, is equal to roughly 50% of its national budget. It cannot possibly repay this debt, as is the case with so many third-world countries. So, now we go back to those countries and say, look, you borrowed all this money from us, and you owe us this money, you can't repay your debts, so give our oil companies your oil at very cheap costs. And in the case of many of these countries, Ecuador is a good example here, that means destroying their rain forests and destroying their indigenous cultures. That's what we're doing today around the world, and we've been doing it -- it began shortly after the end of World War II. It has been building up over time until today where it's really reached mammoth proportions where we control most of the resources of the world.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Today's Observation

"Children are a great incentive and impetus for parents to learn about themselves, about each other, and about life itself. Unfortunately, much of the learning may occur at their expense."

Scattered Minds, pg. 28 by Gabor Mate, M.D.

Monday, April 18, 2005

A Gibbering Ape

Topic: Chrestomathy
"Christian parents (and particularly mothers) must recognize that the temptations to lust comes down to us from our father Adam, from our members which are on the earth (Col. 3:5). They do not originate with the world or with Hollywood. The world can and does enflame these lusts, but the world does not create them. Thus, a young boy who has been kept at home, far away from the corrupting influences of the world, will still discover, after thirteen years, right on schedule, perhaps to his dismay and perhaps to his delight, strong sexual corruptions within him. This will happen whether or not he is regenerate. These corruptions will act, as one Puritan put it, like a gibbering ape within his loins" (Future Men, p. 137).

Posted by Douglas Wilson - 4/15/2005 2:30:44 PM

I think the above post, which I copied and linked to from Douglas Wilson's blog is a reminder that Christian parents, and particularly Christian homeschool parents, need to pay heed to. It is easy to think that if you control access to the television, videos, internet, books, and outside influences through carefully screened friends and acquaintances that your children will be able to escape from sexual immorality and corruption. But the world outside is not nearly so dangerous to their souls as the world inside their own hearts. All the perversions that the world has ever known existed before the technological age made it so accessible so easily to so many. By all means, guard the entry-ways to your home, but don't neglect to clean out the closets of the heart of your children. THAT is where the real problem lies.
Wide Open Horizons

Have you ever been in a situation where you were surrounded by foothills, mountains and other things that impeded your view of the horizon, only to find yourself suddenly breaking through the hills into a wide open vista? I feel like that has happened for me the other night.

My dearly beloved and I went out for a rare night on town together. In the course of our conversation, I wistfully said that if I had had another life I would have liked to have become a naturopathic doctor. My d.b. replied that I could still do that if I wanted. Hmmmm.

We have a university in our town, one moreoever that has a medical school attached to it. Because I don't have to go anywhere and pay dorm/living expense costs, I could easily take a course at a time and pick away at things. Not only that, some reputable distance education courses are available for a BS program in Holistic Nutrition and Doctor of Naturopathy through Clayton College of Natural Health. I don't know that I would make it all the way to actually becoming a full fledged naturopathic physician, but I can certainly get more of the training and education that I crave, and do it from home at my own pace without shortchanging my d.b., the kids or my household duties. I'm trying not to get too excited about the prospect, and I don't intend to move on it in a precipitous way, but it is definitely one I intend to take some time to think about!

Friday, April 15, 2005

I Have Just Become Super Efficient.... websurfing.

My brilliant other half has just finished hooking me into our wireless high speed connection after years of using dial-up and tying up the phone lines for hours. Now I can spend less time loading pages of my favorite blogs that I read on a daily basis and waste time spent on the net at four times my usual speed thus making me more available for housecleaning and other projects.

Or... Maybe I could just add more blogs to read instead. :o

Which would you choose?
As Good as Chocolate

Did you know that a genuine smile has the ability to stimulate your body with the positive force of 2000 chocolate bars? These results were determined by the British Dental Health Foundation after they measured brain and heart activity in volunteers after they were given money and chocolate. Not only that, smiles produce the "halo" effect whereby you not only benefit from it yourself, but those who are in close proximity to you and are the recipient of your smiles. It causes you to remember other happy events more vividly, makes you more optimistic, more positive, and more motivated.

Those who cultivate the attitude that produces genuine smiles are more likely to live longer as well. "The research is very clear," says Christopher Peterson, Ph.D, a University of Michigan professor who's been studying optimism's link to health for over two decades, "This is not some social science generalization. There is a link between optimistic attitudes and good health. It has been measured in a variety of ways. Overall, we have found that optimistic people are healthier. Their biological makeup is different. They have a more robust immune system."

But those of us who actually read our Bibles already knew this, right? "A joyful heart is like good medicine" according to Solomon the kingly sage.

Something I intend to blog about in the coming weeks is the connection between the psychological/emotional aspects of our lives and how it impacts our physical well-being. There is a whole new branch of discipline out there that studies these connections called Psychoneuroendocrinology that, in part, deals with the links between chronic stress, mental health, and immune and endocrine imbalances in the body. When it comes to illness, it can truly be a case of mind over matter.

Most Christians have, unknowingly, adopted the Cartesian model of human health which dissects the human experience into a bunch of different parts and examines each in isolation from the other. If, for example, you get a diagnosis of heart disease, you are likely to be put on a bunch of pharmacological agents and told to change your diet and exercise more, as though this is a purely mechanical problem. However, humans are integrated beings and what you do on the physical impacts the mental/emotional and even the spiritual life and vice versa.

In some respects it all comes down to the question of the chicken and the egg -- which came first? Do mental/emotional conditions and thoughts start the process of ill health, or are they the result of ill health? I tend to lean towards the former (though it can flow in both directions) and I hope to show you why in coming blog posts.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Wise Words from a Midwife I Know

"The biggest reality that we all need to face when be become adults is that we are not in charge here. If I had been running my life to suit me, lots of stuff would have been really different. On the whole, I'm glad that I didn't get my way, but that is from a perspective of having lived half a century. "

Monday, April 11, 2005

Not Such a Failure After All

My "Littles" report cards arrived via email today. They received A's and B's in all the important subjects and are doing extremely well. The teacher commented favorably on the "rich" learning environment in our home and I am mentally and emotionally relieved.

Ok, you radical, do-it-yourself homeschoolers are probably sniffing to yourselves and wondering why I need the validation of an outside teacher telling me that I am doing a good job with my kids. Well, my confidence in my ability to mother and teach received a severe blow about five years ago and I don't know if it will ever recover. No doubt this is one of those things that call for some intense navel-gazing to determine the roots and find a way to circumvent, but right now I don't have the time. It *is* on my agenda, but at the moment, just doing all the necessary day to day things and keeping my head above water is all I have the time and energy for.

At any rate, despite my other areas of lack, at least I can be confident that the kids aren't being short-changed as far as their education goes.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Thoughts on Baby

Some may think that this is not an appropriate post for the Lord's Day, but wait til you get to the end before making that judgement.

I have been contemplating my thankfulness in this pregnancy for how things are this time around, despite advancing age, varicose veins, and round ligament pains.

My pregnancy with Elodie was a trial on many levels. She came at a time in my life when I had wrongly imagined that I was likely through with babies and was looking forward to entering a new stage. She also came at a time of great stress due to various goings on in the family. She was the straw that broke this camel because the physical stress of pregnancy on top of all the emotional/mental stress finally broke my robust and supposedly invincible health. Instead of breezing through pregnancy in a relatively easy manner that I had with the others, I was reduced to being sick in bed for almost a month with an intensely itchy candida-induced rash that covered me from my neck to my knees. I say my bed, but the truth is I spent half that time in the bath soaking in witch hazel, olive oil, and anything else that might help make my life less miserable. There were many sleepless nights, many associated food allergies, and many tears for the rest of that pregnancy.

Tears -- I cried my way through that entire pregnancy. Mostly they were tears of fear. I had just had all my naivety about life ripped away from me and all the things I had been building in the prescribed manner (strict guidelines, homeschool from the get-go, pretty approved books on how to raise charming Southern Belle Christian daughters ala Elsie Dinsmore style) only to see what I thought was all my work being undone. In short, I thought my heart had broken when my dreams got broken. And here was another hostage to fortune coming my way, to smile and coo her way into my heart, only to turn on me in her teen years and make a mockery of all I valued. I couldn't bear the thought.

I was also horribly guilty over the fact that I had such reluctance over having this baby. After all, it wasn't the poor baby's fault that she was here. So I cried and fretted over not wanting this baby, and then cried and fretted because I knew it was wrong not to want her and felt guilty that I was damaging her psyche in utero by my thoughts and emotions.

That reluctance to give birth translated into several weeks of going post-dates and walking around dilated to 7 cm the whole time. Near the end of the second week when they were threatening hospital induction, I took castor oil and went to bed, to wake up in labor and have an unassisted homebirth after only 12 minutes of labor. I don't think I will ever forget the sensation of feeling her head being born into my hands while simultaneously feeling her descend inside, nor the instantaneous feeling of love that, thankfully, flooded through me as soon as I had clasped her warm wet body to mine. The love affair with Elodie still continues almost three years later despite, or maybe even because of, some of the rascally things she does.

In the intervening time, a lot has happened to me internally. The last few years have been ones of great change, mostly of the internal sort where God has used his hammer to reshape a lot of my ideas about Him and about life. Having a baby at 41 didn't end my aspirations to do something with myself. I was able to become a certified biokinesionics practitioner, and I am still taking courses to improve my level of learning and understanding of health and the human body -- even some university courses. My kids are all still being homeschooled, the business I have with my husband is flourishing, and in some ways, I have become a victim of my own success as I am now booking clients two weeks in advance now solely on the strength of referrals, and no advertising.

This pregnancy has been a breeze by and large. I got through the first 12 weeks without realy knowing I was pregnant due to a lack of symptoms (other than missing "Aunt Flo" which could have been the onset of menopause, especially as it followed on the heels of two negative pregnancy tests). My rash made an initial appearance and still threatens to break out from time to time if I am not careful about my diet, or allow my immune system to get down but by and large, I am not suffering much at all with it. I am able to go for a walk most days, which in itself is quite an accomplishment, given the state of my round ligaments. In short, I feel pretty good.

My tummy is getting round and there is lots of activity going on in there. But rather than provoking fearful anxiety of the future, I find myself curiously happy with the thought of a new little person coming into my life. It is a pleasant change to feel no sense of worry, to not care what others think, and to have a sense of anticipation that is unclouded by negative thoughts.
In short, the lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places.

I am content.

Friday, April 08, 2005

My Favorite Son-in-Law

Okay, okay, so he's my only son-in-law. For the moment. But the other as yet unknown future son-in-laws are going to have to work hard to top Adam.

Yesterday I walked out of the house with most of the kids and left behind a mess. When I got home, my downstairs hallway had been transformed into a wonderful light sage-green, Martha Stewarty effect. It looks so classy, and I have Adam to thank for it.

I usually get an urge to repaint and redecorate the house whenever I am expecting and this time is no different. HOWEVER, this time I am being smart about it. I looked at my walls which had been smooshed a darker shade of green, and was feeling rather fed up with them. I had done them a few years ago, but all you amateur decorators take note: Smooshed walls and children do not mix! Smooshing does a wonderful job in hiding handprints and dirty marks if you choose the right color, but if the walls get dinged and chipped by children careening off them as they make their way down the hall, you have no way of repairing the damage short of repainting the whole wall. The benefits of having just plain paint is that if they do get chipped, you can do spot repairs.

Getting back to the smart part, instead of taking on the task of painting the walls myself, or giving it to some adolescent boys who are sure to put paint all over the carpets and hardwood floor, I asked Adam if he would mind doing it for me instead. Next thing you know, he is over here earlier in the week, wall repair mud and spatula in hand and gets busy fixing all the holes and taping what needed taping. Thursday is my town day, so I loaded up the van with all but two children and left Adam and my daughter, Trista at the house along with Elodie and Ben who were there to amuse Keiannah and help Adam. My downstairs walls are beautiful! A work of art, by a young man who spent some time learning to do this professionally with one of his uncles. And I can't believe how painless it all was! Next week he is coming back to finish the upstairs hallway. [Cheryl does happy dance!] My office where I have my clinic is also on the schedule somewhere.

In return, I get to ship my teen adolescents over to Adam on the weekends so that they can assist him with some renovating projects he has going on over there. (Why do I feel like I am getting the better end of the deal? heheh)

Anyhow, I have come to appreciate this remarkable young man who married my daughter and is the father of my two grandchildren, not only for his helpfulness, but also for the spiritual maturity and just plain old niceness that I see in him. He's a gem.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Whole Brain Thinking, or How to Make a Mind Map

It has been a busy week with homeschooling, clients, painting, errands and such, so I haven't had much time for blogging. I hope to make up for it though with this entry.

I have had several inquiries about mind mapping and was delighted to come across the book, How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci recently. It was written by Michael Gelb, and in it he describes the rules of mind mapping. Mr. Gelb also has a two audio tape series called "Mind Mapping: How to Liberate Your Natural Genius." What follows is a distillation of what he says in his book.

Much of our traditional educational methods tend to be left-brain dominant. That is, they tend to focus on the logical, analytical thinking processes and less on the imaginative, big-picture right side of the brain. However, the best way to learn about a particular subject is to attempt to use both sides of the brain. You get both the big picture and the details, the analysis, but also the creative side of how to use the facts.

Leonardo Da Vinci demonstrated this in how he accomplished his many activities. For instance, he emphasized that the ability of the artist to express the beauty of the human form should be based on the science of anatomy. If you don't understand bone structure and muscular relationships (analytic detail), your picture of a person's form was apt to be wooden and graceless. Thus he married the analytical, logical, structured part of the brain to the creative expression of what he learned through his drawings and paintings.

Da Vinci was one of the first "brainstormers" One of the things he urged his students to do was to stare at stones, smoke, embers, clouds and mud, and clutivate their ability to see in these mundane forms the "likeness of divine landscapes... and an infinity of things." In short, he was one of the first people to discover the power of creative thinking as an intellectual discipline.

So what is mind mapping? It is a method for cultivating whole brain thinking for generating and organizing ideas which was originated by Tony Buzan and inspired by Da Vinci's approach to note-taking. It can be used for personal goal setting, daily planning, and interpersonal problem solving. One of the greatest benefits of it is that it trains you to be a more balanced thinker like Da Vinci. The best thinkers are those who can balance analysis and intuition, seriousness and play, planning and improvisation, art and science.

Most people when they want to generate and organize ideas will try and do so using a traditional outline, complete with Roman numerals. The problem with it is that it tends to stifle creativity because you feel constrained to be neat, and thinking through things is often very un-neat and doesn't lend itself well to being organized in this fashion. Outlines shine in their usefulness after you have generated the ideas that need to be presented.

Outlining and other linear-forms of note-taking systems exclude the right brain's ability to see color, dimension, synthesis, rhythm, and image. In short, it wastes half your brain. Mind mapping, on the other hand, frees you from the tyranny of premature organization which tends to stifle creativity and the generation of ideas. It balances generation and organization while encouraging the full range of mental expression.

Our brain is a vast network of interconnecting neurons which branch off in innumerable directions. Global telecommunications networks do the same, as do the roads and streets that connect main arteries with side roads. The structure of communication in nature is not linear, it is a series of networks, connections, and systems. A mind map is a natural expression of this natural pattern of the brain. When we think of a story we have read or a movie we have seen, we tend to think of it in a wholistic fashion through key words, images, and impressions that float through our mind with the thoughts associated one to another. Mind mapping is merely an extension of this natural process on paper.

So how is it done?

To mind map you need a topic, a large sheet of paper, and a few colored pens or markers.

  1. Put a picture or symbol of your topic in the center of your page. This opens up 360 degrees of association. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so use the power of pictures and symbols to express and enhance your ability to think creatively about your subject.
  2. Write down key words. These help you recall and create associations you can expand upon.
  3. Connect the words with lines radiating from your central image.
  4. Print your key words -- it is easier to read than writing
  5. Print one key word per line. This helps you to focus on the most appropriate key word which removes clutter and enhances the precision of your thinking.
  6. Print your key words on the lines and make them the same size as the line to encourage economy of space and maximize clarity of association.
  7. Use colors, dimensions, and codes for greater association and emphasis. You can highlight priorities and illustrate relationships between different branches of your mind map by color coding, highlighting in yellow, using secondary colors for secondary points, etc. Pictures and images in vivid colors should be used where possible because they stimulate your creative association and enhance your memory.
Mind mapping can be taught to our kids as a study tool as well. Some kids are more logical and disciplined in how they do their work while other kids are day dreamers, and artistic but seemingly unfocused. Mind mapping can allow your dreamer to maximize his potential while playing to his strengths and it can liberate your left brain dominant child and allow them to experience greater creativity in their work.

At this point, I had a picture of a mind map that I was going to upload to show you an example, but I have temporarily misplaced the cord I need to download images off my camera and onto my computer and I don't know how to work my scanner yet.

Here's a description of what I did: I pretended that I wanted to give a talk about the Reformation. In the middle of the page I drew a picture of an open Bible and put "The Reformation" over it. On lines radiating out from it, I had the following:

  • A picture of a pope's mitre and crook to represent the Papacy. I drew a big red "X" through it and I then branched off that and wrote that the temporal power of the papacy was broken.
  • Another line had "People" on it and then I listed some key Reformers, including Calvin, who had another arm radiating off of him with "Institutes" followed by another arm with "5pts. of Calvinism vs. 5 pts. of Arminianism on it
  • Another major branch had "politics" and from here I drew a picture of Swiss Alps with Calvin's Geneva under it. Another branch had a blue banner with "Crown Rights of Christ" on it vs. Divine Rights of Kings which showed an imperial crown tipped and falling. Underneath the Blue Banner was written "Covenanters and under neath the Crown was written James I , Charles I & II. Another branch had "Civil Liberties enlarged".
  • A major line had "Creeds and Confessions" written on it, and from that I listed some of the major catechisms, creeds, and confessions.
  • The last line had "martyrs" written on it and I drew a little figure of a person being burnt at the stake. From this I had lines radiating off to represent the Scottish Covenanters, the French Huegenots, (sp?) and the English martyrs.

You can see how it would be easy to do more word associations for each branch or even to add other key words to what I have written there. Once you have generated enough material through key association, look at your result and you should see some relationships that will help you organize and integrate your ideas into themes. Connect these related parts with arrows, codes, and colors. You can pare off anything that is extraneous and then sequence your ideas with numbers or by redrawing your mindmap in a clockwise order.

How do you know when you are done? Theoretically you can keep going forever making associations since everything is connected to everything else. However, you can consider it finished when the information you have generated meets your objectives for the task at hand.

If you have the interest, time, and money, you can buy courses online on how to mind map by Tony Buzan, the original creator of the concept here. You can see examples of mind maps online here and here.

If you ask me, this is one great way to stimulate some creativity in your homeschool kids.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Gloves are Off

This has been a momentous week and it isn't over yet. Terri Shiavo has been publicly executed in what one person has called the longest public execution ordered by the State ever. Will this finally awaken some Christians to what our society has become? Though I write this in Canada, I am under no illusion that this sort of state sanctioned killing can't happen here. It probably has already happened, though not in the public's eye.

Step by step our society has moved towards a more utilitarian, Darwinistic view of life where only the fit survive, and away from the humane and Christian society that cared for the weak and defenceless. Starting with the idea that there is such a thing as an unwanted life, we have aborted and birth controlled our children out of existence because we think they will prove to be too great an imposition and burden on our lifestyles. It was only a matter of time before we moved on to others who were unable to defend themselves.

It is only a matter of time before we see the sanctioned killing of babies in hospitals who have been deemed by the authorities and medical staff to be too ill or disabled to deserve life. This is already happening in the Netherlands, and is often done against the will and authority of the parents!

The generation who pushed so hard for these things should beware. You are now part of an aging population of people with few young people willing to support your declining years of retirement and dementia. Don't be surprised if these young people have absorbed the lessons you taught and instead of being the strong and dominant, you one day find yourself at the mercy of those who now view you as a useless eater and inconvenient burden.

The demographics have shifted and soon we will have one of the largest aged populations in the world. The pressure on socialistic systems like Medicare, Medicaid, Old Age Pensions, etc., will grow as the pool of money from young people grows less. Just wait. The right to die will become the duty to die and nursing homes will be depopulated of those who are unable to care for themselves as the gov't trains its sites on those with no defenders. And don't look for help from the evanjellyfish community either. They'll be wringing their hands and weeping but also sadly conceding the cruel necessity of such an approach.

"But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" (II Timothy 3:1-5)

Terri Shiavo was only the beginning.