Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In Praise of Soap

Our daughter's...fiancé's...brother's...wife...(really, Bonnie?), is a soap artist.

I've been buying natural soap for a very long time, I won't even tell you how long because then you might know that I'm Pretty Old.  Several of my children would, every winter, get cracked, dry and sometimes bleeding knuckles.  After several remedies, I discovered that keeping some natural olive oil or coconut oil soap at each sink resolved the issue.  

 I stumbled across the Soap of Jen a few years ago, when my girls were off at college.
Two Trees Soap is located near the college my daughters have attended over the last five or six years.  The girls brought me soap home for Christmas from Two Trees.  And, insofar as it is possible to fall in love with soap, I did.

Thanks, Jen.

The Professor is going off to college this fall.  How fortunate for me.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Bronze Bow

A few months ago I read The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare to my four youngest children.  I have read it many times before.  My sixteen year old son asked if I could please not cry so much this time.

I did pretty good.  Until the end.

It's a story of a group of Jewish youth, raised under the shadow of the Roman Empire, raised to either hate or accept their lot in life.  Jesus, the carpenter, has begun his ministry.  The youth are elated by his bearing - he must be the one! -  and disturbed by his teaching.  They do not understand how radical love will overcome oppression.  Hatred.  Anger.  Despair.  Fear.  Worry.

Shame, envy, hurt, confusion.  Doubt.

Just like all of us try to grasp the idea of radical love on a daily basis.  How can this work?  You anger and hurt me and loving you will solve the problem?  HOW?

The following is a quote near the end of The Bronze Bow:

“Daniel," he said. "I would have you follow me."

"Master!....I will fight for you to the end!"

"My loyal friend,"he said, "I would ask something much harder than that. Would you love for me to the end?"

"...I don't understand, he said again, You tell people about the kingdom. Are we not to fight for it?"

"The kingdom is only bought at a great price," Jesus said. "There was one who came just yesterday and wanted to follow me. He was very rich, and when I asked him to give up his wealth, he went away."

"I will give you everything I have!"

"....Riches are not keeping you from the kingdom," he said. 

"You must give up your hate.”

And from this point, to the end of the book, I wept openly.  For my insufficiencies.  For my stubborness.

For Daniel Bar Jamin, for me.  For the fictional character who struggles to understand the power of forgiveness and for the flesh and blood me who struggles with it too.  Every day.  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Economic Decisions

Cost-benefit analysis.

This is a method used in business practice that speculatively determines the strengths and weaknesses, the pros and cons of a decision.  It's method of assessment.

I believe that much of the epidemic of our busy lifestyle is that we don't CHOOSE.  We don't DECIDE.  We don't stop to assess whether, on a family macroeconomic scale of things, the collective commitments we have as a family will affect the overall functioning of our lives.  Their is a tendency to assume that because something available to us is a good, that it must be good to do it.

Summer time is a great time to "take stock" of the needs of your family and actually decide how much activity is good for you as individuals and as a family.  It's important to remember that something that is objectively good (like team sports for learning life skills and for fitness) may not be good for your family, you or your child at this time.  It's not burdensome.  Some discussion as a couple or as a family, and some thinking...is this thing going to benefit our family.  Are these things all together, the Many Things, going to benefit us as a family.

Sometimes it is as simple as removing one activity from your life to move from frantic to composed.
There is a great quote from from Charles Dickens David Copperfield, that identifies the narrow margin that can mean the difference between joy and frustration:

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery."

Taking stock can simply mean giving some thought and consideration to what's on your plate.  How many days do you need at home to keep the household running without chaos?  What are the non-negotiable parts of your life?  What activities are optional?  Is the collective activity of our family in general adding to the quality of our family life, or detracting from it?

Everything has a season.  Determining that something isn't good for your family or you personally at this time doesn't mean that it never will be.  The state of the family is in constant flux.  What seems a burden or a problem at one stage, can, six months later, not even exist.  It can seem like when we are in the middle of something, a phase or stage of life, that is has always been that way and it always will be.  Remember the seasons.