Nourishing Attitudes

Oklahoma has never, in recorded history, had temperatures below freezing for eleven days in a row. We have weird weather, and we are used to changing conditions. This Arctic blast brought us a layer of ice and about eight inches of snow. All classes were online. All meetings were online. We’ve been stuck mostly inside and mostly together more than usual because even long walks were difficult. We got on each other’s nerves. In my house, I think the man and mancubs would all award me a medal for being the Crankiest. Aside from having our routine disrupted, I’m not sure I had anything to be cranky about. Between all the other craziness in the world and a project list longer than my arm, I was suddenly overwhelmed.

I usually manage overwhelm by taking a walk in the sunshine. But it was too cold and slick to walk for long, and the sun was absent. Sometimes I can beat overwhelm by picking a couple of short and simple tasks from my list and doing them to build some momentum for the next thing. But I just couldn’t wrap my head around any of the small things that needed doing.

Then, a young friend called me to say that she had offended someone accidentally and though she had apologized and received forgiveness from God and from the offended, she was having trouble forgiving herself and moving past it. Umm… I know that feeling, and I understand that one even though I didn’t understand my own stuck-ness. I could tell her that she’d have to take her thoughts and turn them in the way she wanted them to go – to take the lesson from the situation but stop replaying it; to do something different – walk, run, clean, sing, whatever would help her to be physically active and to literally move on; and to be intentional about gratitude.

Choosing Gratitude helps us to not focus on the things that we don’t like. Instead, we can focus on the things that we are grateful for. In the recent weird weather, we were blessed to never lose power, and we haven’t had any broken pipes so far, though things are still thawing. We have plenty of food and water. We are so thankful that even our biggest problems caused by the storms were small: trash couldn’t be picked up, the mail couldn’t always get through, and some packages were late, and produce delivery was delayed. As I focused on these things, my crankiness improved.

Friday afternoon, I went to pick up groceries from Sprouts and Aldi. I came home and was putting things away when I discovered that I didn’t have the pasta and such I’d ordered for dinner, but I did have one and a half pounds of scallops and some other things I hadn’t asked for. I messaged the store, and they refunded my account for the things I was missing and said to keep the mistakes. I ordered my necessary items again and worked until time to drive back to pick them up. I came home with my own groceries.

I fought the urge to be cranky about having to go back and get the things that should have been right in the first place. In reality, someone had stuck my name on the wrong grocery bags. It was an accident. Also, while I did have things to do, none of them were timed commitments or emergent problems. I could easily go back and try again. There was no reason to be angry, and extending kindness helped out everyone involved and got the problem fixed quickly.

I best nourish attitudes around here when I am in control of my own. Whether I like it or not, I set the atmosphere in this house. Other people’s attitudes will follow mine. Reflecting on things I can be grateful for and taking my thoughts captive makes my home happier for everyone who walks in the door, not just for me.

THIS WEEK IN THE kitchen

The unexpected pound-and-a-half of scallops sent me looking for a new recipe, since I don’t usually buy scallops at all, and I wasn’t sure that everyone would eat them. HalfBakedHarvest didn’t fail me. I found this recipe for Browned Butter Scallops and Burst Tomato Pasta that was delicious.

This week in the library

I didn’t read all of each of these books this week. I read FROM all of them. I finished one (noted below). *

*All links are Amazon affiliate links.

Nourishing a Marriage

I’m nervous about telling anyone how to nourish a marriage. Marriages are as unique as the people in them, and ours is no exception. We’ve stood together for moments on the top of the mountain surrounded by a splendid view, moments in the deepest, darkest of valleys, and many, many days of blessed ordinary time. We generally like each other and have been together since we were teenagers. 

Understand how you compliment each other

We don’t compete because we are good at different things. He listens to my historical tales, and I listen to his scientific stories. I learn languages faster and am more interested in linguistics, but he puts me to shame in math. I’m the chef, but all computers obey his command, from the alarm and sprinkler systems to the TV, our laptops, and our phones. We both write – about significantly different topics and very distinct arenas – and we’d both love to try new things in that arena.

Understand your similarities

In other areas, we are very similar. We both need our quiet, but we love our people. We love our books, so we own a library. We like our home, but we also like adventures. We are good at working. We are bad at resting (though we are working on that). We try to be good children and helpers to our parents, good parents and leaders for our children, and good to each other. We love Jesus and chase hard after Him while following His lead to serve, teach, and give. 

Understand Your Differences

That isn’t to say we don’t have disagreements. Blessedly, he is giving when I am being stubborn, but occasionally, he puts his foot down. I ignore things that bother me, like stuff laying around long after he’s done with it and just put things away because I’m the one who notices until I hit a breaking point and ask him to take care of it. We have an agreement to clearly ask for what is needed so that we don’t leave problems brewing. I’m more likely to let things brew than he is, and I’m more likely to have an expectation he doesn’t know about. Since we know all these things, we tend to them regularly. 

Be Willing to Change Your Heart

Jesus makes our marriage work. We’ve both had to ask forgiveness regularly, serve each other instead of ourselves, give when we don’t feel like it, accept love when we think it isn’t warranted, and change our hearts and minds and plans. Sometimes we get answers in reading Scripture or through prayer that helps us course-correct before we have a large issue. 

Be Intentional about Being Together

Nourishing a marriage takes effort. We have different jobs and volunteer responsibilities as well as various functions in the household, so we aren’t always together. We have dinner together most evenings. We stop together at the end of the day and just hang out a bit. We usually go to bed and get up at the same time, though sometimes I need more rest and get put to bed early. We typically walk together sometime during the day since we are often both at home. These small, ordinary moments allow us to stay connected.

THIS WEEK IN THE kitchen

The combination of the delivery of our supply of beef and Valentine’s Day meant that I cooked some steaks for my men. I think I finally found an indoor steak-cooking method that I like. I’m currently working with an electric stove, so adjusting the heat quickly is difficult. I heated the cast iron skillet until it was hot on one burner and put a big skillet on medium heat on another burner with butter, garlic, and rosemary in it.

I seared the steaks in the hot skillet and then moved them to the other pan to cook to the desired medium-rare. It worked beautifully, and I’ll do it again. We also had baked potatoes (yellow and sweet) and roasted broccoli. And I made an Instant Pot Chocolate Cheesecake, which tasted ok, but wasn’t terrific. I won’t share the recipe because I won’t use it again.

This week in the library

I didn’t read all of each of these books this week. I read FROM all of them. I finished one (noted below). *

  • Francis Schaeffer’s The God Who is There (finished)
  • Kristan Hannah’s The Four Winds (finished; a compelling story of an unprecedented time; read in one day because I had to know what happened)
  • Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which has been making it into our pastor’s sermons this month. (finished; interesting, lots of words for small but important concepts)
  • Matthew Pollard’s The Introvert’s Edge: How the Quiet and Shy Can Outsell Anyone (finished; only headings really needed)
  • J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science. (so interesting; it’s a textbook for chefs; summer science/life skills curriculum?)
  • Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet (beautiful; I’m savoring it, but I’ll finish this month and move to the next volume of her journals.)
  • Vishal Mangalwadi’s The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (such an intriguing work. Completely worth the time and maybe free from Audible?)
  • Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (via audio, but I have a pretty copy, and I’m on page 231/1358)
  • Schweikart & Dougherty’s A Patriot’s History of the Modern World, volume 1 (on page 273/424)

*All links are Amazon affiliate links.

Nourishing the Soul

The last event we went to before the world shut down was Courtyard Theatre’s production of Bright Star. It was a beautiful story of redemption, and I wound up going to all three showings. My then-senior was the lighting designer, and he and his class were sad to be doing their last performance together and excited by the thought of their next endeavors.Then the world shut down, and everything stopped, leaving our Class of 2020 unable to take ACTs, visit colleges, finish their classes in person, or celebrate their accomplishments with hundreds of friends and relatives. Their normal was stolen.

But this past weekend, Courtyard returned to the theater, in a musical called Curtains. Some of my students were in the cast, and my now-college son helped train a new lighting team. I was thrilled to see all of them display the skills hinted at in the classroom. Mostly, I was thrilled to be doing something normal. Well, it wasn’t completely normal. The audience was distanced by more than six feet between family groups, and masks were absolutely required. No congregating was allowed in the aisles or lobby. But our community was gathered for the purpose of enjoying a story and some music together. The kids and their directors killed it, and Curtains was hilarious. But mostly, it was a taste of the future, when the world recovers and the theater thrives again. I needed a taste of normal.

Speaking of things to come, this bush that lost its leaves months ago has new buds. Oklahoma is swathed in ice this week, but once it warms up, we may be free from freezing temperatures until late November. Spring will come quickly, bringing thunderstorms, flowers, and windy warmth, and we’ll all be tempted to plant annuals before Easter. The promise of Newness is good for my soul.

However, this very cold week, I’m breaking my step streak. I’m not equipped for walking in slick streets, freezing temperatures, and colder windchills. My wardrobe doesn’t accommodate that, and it’s so rare here that it doesn’t make sense to buy appropriate gear. I’ll try to get some exercise inside, and I’ll get back to the habit of walking when it warms up.

This week in the kitchen

I like recipes from both HalfBakedHarvest and A Spicy Perspective. A few weeks ago, I made this Chopped Steak with Mushroom Gravy and mashed potatoes for my men, and this weekend I used the same meat mixture to make stuffed peppers for the Super Bowl. The meal of the week was a super-sized version of this Sheet Pan Salmon. The men loved it, and the picture doesn’t do it justice. It’s what I snapped while the boys were running down the stairs to dinner.

This week in the library

I didn’t read all of each of these books this week. I read FROM all of them. I finished one (noted below). *

*All links are Amazon affiliate links.

Nourishing the Mind

I started my week with fruit strewn all over the kitchen counter. The onions and potatoes were in their usual bowls, but ripening bananas and pears were just laying around and the kitchen felt chaotic. A friend of mine contained it all in a pretty white bowl and order descended. Why didn’t I think of that? I’m usually quick to containerize.

It’s amazing to me how quickly the atmosphere of our home falls apart when chaos reigns. I live in a normal house with normal humans. Shoes and jackets are left in living room regularly. There are often dirty socks under the couch. Random glasses sit around. Things pile up until I deal with the mess or make other people do it. I’m the one that is actually bothered by clutter, but everyone else appreciates the absence of clutter once it is gone because the room feels more peaceful.

Another way to care for my mind has been to avoid reading the reports of sensationalist media. I’ve long read news from multiple sources, but following @allsidesnow means that I can get the news from left, right, and center all in one space. Of course, they are still choosing what to show me, but at least it’s easy to find them all. Also, @sharonsaysso is a breath of fresh air on the internet, discussing issues in government in a way that explains the thinking of multiple viewpoints. She makes me think that Americans aren’t as far from agreement as it seems, but that we are being intentionally divided by sensationalist media. It’s easy to act on emotion instead of facts. Finding the facts allows the engagement of rational thought.

John of Damacus, a seventh century scholar, monk and Eastern Orthodox priest, writes

“Nothing is more estimable than knowledge, for knowledge is the light of the rational soul. The opposite, which is ignorance, is darkness. Just as the absence of light is darkness, so is the absence of knowledge a darkness of reason. Now, ignorance is proper to irrational beings, which knowledge is proper to those who are rational.”

(quoted in Mangalwadi, The Book That Made Your World 86)

Obviously, I read a lot. Reading grants me both Truth and new information, delivers new ideas (or new views of old ideas) for me to think on, or gets me lost in another world for a few minutes. If I walk by myself, I listen to an audiobook. I read myself to sleep at night. I read for a half-hour in the morning, and I have a book in several strategic locations in my house that make it as easy to pick one up and read a few pages as to scroll through Facebook or Instagram. And Saturday morning is for reading.

BOOKS I READ THIS WEEK

I didn’t read all of each of these books this week. I read FROM all of them. I finished one (noted below). *

*All links are Amazon affiliate links.

Nourishing Good Habits: Literally Nourishing

I’m typing this while Oklahoma delivers us a thunderstorm in January. While I thankful that the warmer afternoon means we aren’t getting an ice storm, it’s weird to see lightning flash in January.

I spend a lot of time feeding people, with the goal of nourishing them in both body and soul. Most of the time I’m just feeding the giant boys who live here. We have dinner together about five nights a week. Sometimes the college student can’t join us, but we make a plate for him to reheat when he gets in. We talk about all sorts of things around the table – economics, current events, politics, history, books, and almost always Truth. We tell stories about the day, give each other advice, and pray together. These are moments I wouldn’t trade.

It’s hard to get meal prep in, but it’s always worth the effort. This morning, while we were out, the crockpot cooked up a southwestern hash brown and egg casserole – thanks to Jon helping me brown sausage and veggies while I dried off thawed hash browns, grated cheese, and whisked eggs. This evening’s meatballs were made weeks ago at a slower time and frozen for later, and Jon washed turnips and potatoes while I made a soup for us for another meal and more to share with friends. Then he left with the boys, and I sliced and stirred scalloped potatoes (with hidden turnips) and prepped some broccoli to roast. But when we all set down to eat, we chatted for an hour.

Our summer time gluten free sourdough experiment continues, with us making a loaf of sandwich bread twice a week and using sourdough in things like pancakes, waffles, rolls, naan, and tortillas fairly regularly. Since we don’t use gluten in our kitchen at all, this has made the best tasting and nicest textured bread we’ve had in a long time. The sourdough baby gets a scoop of GF flour and an equal-amount of water every day, and he just keeps on raising our loaves. Bread is such a simple staple that is now seems strange that I had adapted to life without it for years because most gluten free bread isn’t worth the calories. Honestly, a pieces of hot buttered toast is just comfortable on a cold morning.

Among feeding the people, I got all my steps in this week. One day I walked in the mist, and another afternoon I watched the blue sky push away the grey, leaving me wishing for sunglasses. I walked twice with Jon, once with my mother, once with Drew, and several times by myself with an audiobook.

Books I Read This Week

I didn’t read all of each of these books this week. I read FROM all of them. I finished two (noted below).

  • Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet
  • Kristin Harmel’s The Book of Lost Names (finished; page-turner)
  • Mark Buchanan’s The Rest of God (finished; still didn’t make it to the stack)
  • Stixrub and Johnson’s The Self-Driven Child
  • Willa Cather’s Death Comes to the Archbishop (almost done)
  • Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (via audio, but I have a pretty copy)
  • Schweikart & Dougherty’s A Patriot’s History of the Modern World

Nourishing Good Habits: Consistency

Once I’ve started a good-for-me habit, keeping it going is difficult for a little while. But doing that good-for-me thing every day soon becomes second nature so that I miss it when life causes me to skip. And consistency in one habit can easily lead to consistency in another habit. I’ve enjoyed snapping pictures of the beauty of my neighborhood and visiting with my husband as well as extra reading time.

Lately, I’ve been working to get my 10,000 steps in every day. You see, two years ago I had a Hashimoto’s flair that left me until to walk long distances (or do much at all) for months. I was just miserably exhausted all the time. Since then, I’ve done what I can medically by switching doctors and using different medications that are more carefully monitored and by making good sleep and diet choices. Since my thyroid is much happier, I can get back to better exercise habits.

In March, Jon and I started walking in our neighborhood every day that the weather was reasonable. We’d stay within my body’s limits, increasing the distance we walked as it became easy again. (The summer in northeastern Oklahoma is not reasonable. It’s so hot and humid, and hard to breathe.) We’ve finally reached 10,000 steps a day. It isn’t easy yet, but it’s quite do-able. As long as I make time for it.

But making time for anything extra that is just for me is hard. Most days, Jon goes with me, but some days our schedules don’t align. Sometimes, a boy or three will join me. This week, I’ve often walked alone. I’m not usually a fan of audiobooks, but I got started on two different ones thanks to some of my favorite podcasts (Circe Institute’s Close Reads and How to Eat an Elephant from Center for Lit). So, walking has led to shoring up my listening abilities and a lot more reading.

BOOKS I read from THIS WEEK:

Note: I didn’t finish any books this week. But I read.

  • Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet
  • Gerda Weissmann Klein’s memoir All But My Life
  • Mark Buchanan’s The Rest of God (which didn’t make it to the stack)
  • Willa Cather’s Death Comes to the Archbishop (via audio… but it’s what the backward book represents)
  • Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (also via audio, but I have a pretty copy)
  • Schweikart & Dougherty’s A Patriot’s History of the Modern World

Nourishing Ourselves: Cultivating Good Habits

I’ve spent a decent amount of time musing about and reporting on how we are educating ourselves and these boys. What we really found is that education goes far beyond just learning what you have to know to graduate high school.

Education is really all about choosing carefully what you put into your mind body and spirit. These choices that we make, sometimes hurriedly or out of desperation, have a lasting effect on the health of a whole person. Education is made up of habits. If I have a habit of reading, it’s easy to choose to read. If I have a habit of choosing to wonder at things I don’t understand, I come to understand them. If I have a habit of whining when I don’t understand, I’ll never learn the subject at hand.

I developed a rather useless habit of solitaire last year that led to many wasted hours. I downloaded the game because I needed a problem that I could solve. The world was going crazy, and everything felt hard. I couldn’t solve any of the problems of the world, so I solved card games. Jon plays video games occasionally. The boys constantly ask for more game time. I might as well join them. The outcome of that habit is that I read half the amount of books I usually enjoy in a year. I also wrote almost nothing, aside from what was necessary for HSOK’s social media. There is nothing wrong with those games. But they kept me from both productivity and rest. At first, solving meaningless problems helped me to process the crazy changes that were taking place outside of my home. But then, solving those puzzles seemed just as necessary as solving the actual problems that were mine to deal with. I deleted the Solitaire, FreeCell, and Tri-Peaks apps that I was using at the end of the year, along with Sudoku and Words with Friends.

The right habits to help me deal with things I don’t control are reading Scripture and praying, studying subjects I love and those I need to know, taking long walks, and escaping into good books. Those are things that restore me. I want my children to learn to work hard when it’s time to work and to rest intentionally when it is time to rest. And so, first, I have to learn it. That’s how parenting (and homeschooling) works: everything that the kids need to know, the parents have to understand first.

Jon and I both spent the last year burning the candle at both ends. While we did prioritize sleeping for at least seven hours a night, we haven’t taken any days off in months. We used four of his vacation days between Christmas and New Year’s so that we had an eleven-day weekend with the bank holidays and such. Those days were lovely. We thought we’d be bored after a couple of days of rest, but it turned out that we needed the whole chunk of time to see what changes we need to make.

Believe it or not, we can’t work all day and into the evening every day and maintain our sanity, whether that work is his full-time programming job or my tutoring jig or just homeschooling, parenting, and housework. Working around the clock just doesn’t work, so we are creating a habit of rest that gives us both time to read, write, think, and be.

Books finished this week:

(Some of these were started months ago, so don’t think I read every bit of all of them in a week.)

  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (Fascinating story.)
  • Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (Fantastic! Highly Recommend!)
  • The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (Thought-provoking classic)
  • Switch On Your Brain by Catherine Leaf (Interesting)
  • Practice Perfect by Lemov, Wooley, and Yezzi (I read all of the headings and summaries, but not every word of the book.)

2020 Reflections

I all-but-abandoned my blog in 2020. Managing all the extra drama and responsibilities brought to us by the Pandemic meant that there was no time or brain space for writing, very few moments for reading, and a lot of solving of solitaire boards. I spent a lot of time on problems I could resolve while all of the ones I can’t solve rolled in the back of my head. I cooked, organized, ran laundry, walked, talked, and parented. I tutored, scrolled, and planned. We took a lot of sunset walks, so I have more pictures of the Oklahoma sky on my phone than photos of my children. I didn’t write for myself almost at all. I did write some for Homeschool Oklahoma.

Over here, I have a herd of mancubs who don’t want to be talked about in public. Most of them don’t want to be photographed and don’t want to have silly stories told about them anymore. They are in that space between childhood and adulthood where their bodies are growing rapidly and they aren’t sure who they are. They do their schoolwork mostly independently, though we check in together regularly to make sure they stay on track.

Micah is now eighteen and a freshman at ORU. He completed his first semester of formal school successfully and is excited for the second. Overall, he is happy with his home education experience and uses the skills he learned in all of his university classes.

Josiah is fourteen and over six feet tall. He is working his way through CC’s Challenge 1 and reforming his way of forming an argument. Since he needs to argue regularly, I’m glad he’s learning to form reasonable discussions instead of just saying that everything he is arguing against is “stupid.” He still does Latin with me every day, and he still thinks it’s stupid to learn a dead language. But he hasn’t chosen a living language yet, so he can’t see the connections he will see later.

Gideon is thirteen and mid-growth spurt. He is in Challenge B and learning logic, which is also making him easier to argue with. He gets the most supervision because he’s had the least time to develop good habits. He does Latin with me every day, but he complains less because he has seen how the vocabulary translates to other languages he plays with on Duolingo.

Jon is writing new books and publishing them through BPlearning. He’s also working full-time in digital research and development for Specialized Bicycles as well as writing for Mind Matters and serving as a Fellow for the Discovery Institute, a teacher at Asbury UMC, and a Trustee for Homeschool Oklahoma.

2020 feels like a wash to me. It was a year of showing up, doing things as fast as I can, and escaping into solvable puzzles. A few notable good things that came out of it were our first homeschool graduate and three boys being baptized into the church.

So, we stand here, in our vacation week, on the threshold of 2021, waiting to see what comes next.

Rule of Seven 2019: #7 Restore

Currently, I’m sitting with my husband on the patio at a Starbucks. We are both working while we sip cool drinks and watch people. We are waiting for another couple that we need to have a meeting with. But I’m thoroughly enjoying the breeze. Usually, in late July, Oklahoma is blazing hot and steamy with humidity. Today is too beautiful to be inside. It feels more like our beloved Rockies than the plains of Green Country. 

We haven’t take a big trip this summer. Last summer, we spent the whole summer flipping our old house and moving to our new one. We finally ran away to the mountains to ski in February. Right after school let out, the boys and I made a fast trip to my brother’s house outside of Denver with my mom to celebrate Mother’s Day and to meet a new cousin. 

Since then, we’ve been at home. My dad has been sick, and so we’ve been doing his sizable amount of mowing. We’ve hung around the house and swam in our pool. We’ve had friends over often, and we have cooked many burgers and had long conversations on the back porch. We’ve sat in our library and discussed books, played games around the table, cooked new recipes, and hung out with grandparents. The boys have had way more screen time than I’d like. It’s been a good summer.

So, Restore looks very different right now than it has in the past, but we are starting our school year next year somewhat refreshed and very much ready for a more consistent routine.

Rule of Seven 2019: #6 Record

I haven’t recorded as well as I’d like in the past year. I have barely written anything except Instagram posts, and those have gotten trickier as the boys get older and have opinions about what I should and should not post. I’m happy to honor their wishes, but I do wind up with fewer things that I can write about in public. I have many other ideas for posts that aren’t just about my family, but I don’t have very many moments for writing them. This cartoon is my sermon notes from a month or so ago. I produced something imperfect, but I produced something. If the summarizing doesn’t seem quite right, just know I was capturing the big idea of the sermon in a tiny space.

They have all continued to produce something almost every day, though their media change regularly. Micah is a fan of Instagram and runs an entertaining account about being a musician and a theater tech guy. He does far better at editing photos than I do. He writes stories, poems, songs, musical compositions, and the required essays. Josiah and Gideon write their required essays and also are producing video game videos and other streaming shows. I don’t understand why anyone would want to watch someone else play Fortnite on YouTube, and I have strongly suggested that they NOT use their limited screen time that way. But they do use their screen time to make videos for other mothers to complain about. They have grandiose plans for international fame as video game designers.I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around a world where the money is made in ani invisible world that you can’t find on a map. What kind of weird world are they inheriting? 

Jon is writing on and off, though the Calculus book is finished and published.  He’s writing at Mind Matters, Blythe Institute, and other places. So, things are being recorded and ideas developed – daily – we just aren’t all writing in the same way that we were three years ago. I supposed it would be stranger if we were still doing everything the same way now that we were then.