When to Push

I try to remember the first time I thought that my kids might have learning issues. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the light bulb went off.

That’s the beauty of homeschooling. You figure out how your kids learn and you keep moving forward. At first it was hard for me because I’m a rule follower. If the instructions say to do it a certain way I tend to believe that’s how it must be done. I have figured out that instruction manuals are not always right.

I’m guessing it was around seven or eight years ago that it dawned on me that my teaching wasn’t the problem.  Well, I should say it wasn’t the only problem.

 

I’m a paper and pencil girl. I love to write. I think in words; short and sweet words, or long and lively ones. I learned to read before entering kindergarten. I any free time I had reading throughout my growing up years. I loved to practice handwriting for fun. Math and I have always had a tumultuous relationship, though. 

Reading made all of my children cry. All of them. It caused them great anxiety. For two of my kids writing is possible but laborious and not quite worth the amount of effort they have to put in. 

Dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia. We’ve got it all.

So how do you teach when learning is really, really hard? How do you know when to push, and when to back off?

First, observe how your child learns.

I was so surprised that my second daughter actually finds it distracting to be read aloud to, especially if she doesn’t have something to do with her hands. Her younger brother is the same way. We do read aloud with play dough, drawing books, and Legos. That’s also where audiobooks come in handy. They can do other things, and so can I, while listening to great books.

Another miracle came in the form of YouTube. There is total trash to be had there, for sure, but there are also some awesome learning channels. Spencer, my third child, takes in information best from videos or hands on learning. Then he dictates information back to me in a journal because writing is his mortal enemy. (We’re working on keyboarding and speech to text but this is a great way for me to see what info he’s taking in.)

If a certain curriculum that you bought because it was the best, or worked really well for someone else, doesn’t work for you DON’T USE IT. Or feel free to modify so that it does work for you. Ask your child how they think they could learn this thing.

Second, observe what your child is curious about.

 

My boy always has a frog or a lizard somewhere.

 

For kids with learning disabilities passion about a subject will always drive them over the speed bumps. It’s worth doing the hard thing if there’s a reward at the end. Plus, research shows that interest led learning is the way to go for children who learn differently.  My kids have taught themselves knitting, sculpting, chemistry, herbology, herpetoculture, drawing, cake decorating, ukulele…I could go on and on. I imagine that this goes for kids who don’t have learning issues, too. 

Don’t we all learn best when we’re excited about a subject?

Find what they’re interested and allow them to pursue it. Start with books at the library then try and find real life resources in your community. YouTube is an excellent source for this kind of stuff as well.

Build on their interests to teach them other subjects. Geography is not fun when you’re just memorizing things. However, when you’re learning where your favorite scientist or composer lived it suddenly becomes interesting. I tend to teach grammar through editing but we don’t get bogged down in too many details. If we’re feeling curious Purdue has an awesome website for that.

Thirdly, don’t feel sorry for them.

Frankly, this one was hard for me in the beginning. I still struggle with it a little now. Feeling sorry for kids who struggle with learning won’t do them any good. In fact, I look back I can see where I made some mistakes by parenting through guilt rather than compassion. There were times when I inadvertently gave my kids the impression that they were not capable of something hard. Then I had to do the  work of undoing that message.

The best thing I ever did was stumble upon Marianne Sunderland’s site Homeschooling with Dyslexia. I read a post about struggling versus stubbornness and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Knowing I was not alone, that I was not the only person in the world who had multiple children with learning challenges gave me courage. I re-evaluated how we had been doing school and I changed some things.

I’m still learning about education with my number 3 and 4 kids. I tease mine all the time about how it would be much easier for me if all their learning differences were the same. I do know now that to prepare them for the world I’ve got to teach them to work around their learning issues. We are realistic about what’s difficult but choose to focus on their strengths.

When my children were really little I used to say, “When things are hard we just try harder.” I DO NOT say that any more, partly because of this article. I have no understanding of how hard it is to learn to read and write with their issuesNow I ask them how we can work around it, what I can do to help. By allowing them to part of the solution I give their power back which helps negate the learning disability’s power in their lives. 

There are sometimes, though, that we take breaks from certain subjects. I do think that the brain needs time to process information. We don’t do spelling every day because 15-20 minutes three days a week is a lot of spelling for someone with dyslexia.  I’m using game schooling for math because paper and pencil just don’t work for Spencer.

To tell you the truth I quit doing spelling with my oldest two kids when they were in middle school. I didn’t know about All About Spelling back then, which is the best thing ever in my opinion. Every week the spelling list left them defeated because no matter how much time they spent trying to memorize their words it just didn’t happen.

If frustration levels are too high learning isn’t going to take place anyway.

Once we took the source of frustration away their spelling improved on its own. Texting, keyboarding, and speech to text apps were a huge part of that advancement. Some things you figure out along the way.

Asking my kids to explain to me what they’re learning about helps them, too. It’s called multimodal learning. Taking in information is important but so is relaying knowledge. 

Legos are an essential part of our homeschool.

 

Ultimately, figuring out when to push and when not to is about knowing your child.

I have to trust my kids when they say, “I cannot do this right now, Mom.” This requires me to take a step back from shoulds and have-to’s. I have to evaluate WHY I feel it’s important they learn this thing I’m pushing on them. Occasionally I’ve caught myself pushing because  I want to impress people with our homeschool powers.  I may have to remind myself (again) that education is not an emergency.

I don’t believe tears should ever be part of learning.*

I’ve learned that if I’m always pushing my kid they don’t learn to enjoy pushing themselves. I want them to enjoy learning for the pure joy of it, not because they have to. I’ve found thinking of myself as a guide helps. I’m not here to force them to learn things they don’t want to. Rather, I’m here to guide them toward the things they’re interested in.

Allowing my kids to be in control of what they learn has made them brave. They’re more willing to take risks knowing that ‘passing’ a class isn’t the goal. Although my second born loves to get A’s and complete assignments and make sure her grades are recorded. Still, she knows that’s not the most important thing in life, she knows that’s not what’s expected.

I think my kids are the biggest, best Brave Misfits ever.

I’m amazed that when I quit pushing they began to excel in certain areas. Sometimes I still have to nudge them along, and sometimes I have to say, “This is really important to me.” and we figure it out together. Overall, though, I’ve quit pushing. I’ve quit forcing, and we rarely have tears. I’m good with that.

 

Are there any areas you’re struggling with? Do you find it hard to know when to push and when not to?

 

*I am talking pre-school to third grade here. Sometimes as kids get older tears may be part of the process of finishing a project or a assignment. Tears may happen when you put down boundaries with them. I do not believe, though, that tears should be part of acquiring new information. That part should be fun and if it’s not I do think it’s important to take a step back and figure out the why of the tears.

Community Matters

A couple of days a month I drive to a house in a rougher section of town. I have friends who meet me there, some I know and some  are strangers to me.  We have coffee together, maybe share a meal . Sometimes we do art together. Sometimes my friends just sleep on couches  or the floor. Sometimes my friends need fresh clothes and a toothbrush. Sometimes my friends need hugs.

My friends have worked the streets. They may be addicted to drugs, or alcohol. They may be experiencing homelessness.

I volunteer with an organization called Natalie’s Sisters, a ministry devoted to showing the love of Christ to women who have been sexually exploited, either on the streets or in clubs. The Natalie’s Sisters drop-in center gives women a respite, a place to go  where they are safe and free from judgement. Food and clothing are available, as are other services to  help them.

My first experience with the group was meal drop off. I rode with two other women and a police officer to deliver meals to women on the street.

Poverty was not new to me and I knew about sex trafficking.

I had never seen it in action, though. I had never seen women getting into a car  and driving off to conduct their business. I had never seen a person so strung out on heroin that they could barely form sentences. I had never seen women so thankful to be treated with dignity.

When I came home, after that first night, to my warm house and full pantry and healthy children I cried. Hot, angry tears left my cheeks wet. It’s so confusing that a different world is only a few miles from my house. Suddenly everywhere seemed dark and dangerous. I wondered what happened in my own neighborhood that I didn’t know about.

I wondered how I can have so much while others have so little. 

I wondered how I would sleep knowing that my new friends might not be safe.

I wondered a lot of things.

I’ve only been volunteering for six or seven months but I am so changed. I have learned so much. Examining my preconceived notions of what it meant to be on the streets, what I thought prostitution looked like, was hard but important.

Pretty Woman is not how it is, in case you were wondering.

On of my first full days spent at the center I just sat back listening to some of the ladies chat with each other. We were making bracelets together outside. The sky was blue, the clouds white and puffy. From far away the noise was just women talking, laughing. Up close their words punched my gut.

Their lives were not safe. Some of them had lost their children. Some had been stabbed, others slapped and hit. Some needed to find a place to sleep for the night.

Still, they had room in their lives for  laughter. They made room to be caring. They took the time to  hug and ask each other to stay safe.

They have community.

I think that’s one of the most important things I’ve learned from Natalie’s Sisters. Community matters. Having people who listen, and have your back, people who will make things with you, and share a meal with you. That’s community. That’s important.

 

Community is essential, in fact, to being human.

Natalie’s Sisters is a bridge between communities that are separated only by social constructs.  Natalie’s Sisters is Jacob’s well.

Jesus met a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, breaking all the rules of Jewish culture. He sat at the well and offered her Living Water, so that she would never thirst again. The woman listened to him, shocked that he knew her sin. That used to be the part that got me, too. The disciples were shocked to discover the two of them in conversation.

This is my favorite New Testament story. There is so much happening here. It is not that Jesus knows her sin that is important. No, the important kernel here is that Jesus knows her. He knows the authentic her.  He knows each of us, the real us. That’s what’s important. 

 

“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” ~John 4: 23-24, The Message 

 

One of my favorite writers, Shannan Martin, shared on her blog about this, the importance of being known. Her life was forever changed when she learned the names of people previously only theorized about. She knew about them as a concept,  in the context of improving the lives of those stuck in poverty.

Shannan learned that poverty, when given names, can’t be looked as something to be fixed and she filled her blog up with words that left me hungry and knowing something new. Poverty needs relationship, shared meals,  and yoked shoulders. That’s where we’ll see change. (Go read her stuff. She’s amazing.)

I’m learning the same thing. My friends have names, they have beautiful faces, and unspoken dreams. Putting a list of shoulds and have-to’s on them won’t work because their system is broken. Their personal system is broken, and the government system they have to work within is broken.

I don’t know why there are the gaps that there are, no matter how much I read it about it. I don’t understand addiction, sexual trauma, or why change is so slow. I don’t know why it’s not just about providing money and food, but it’s not. 

 

What I have learned is this: the more time I  spend with my new friends the less space there is between us.

 

After these months I’m comfortable knowing that it’s not my job to fix their lives. I’m called to know them. I’m called to be their sister and love them just where they’re at. I love them addicted and strung out, and I love them clean and sober. I celebrate the triumphs in their lives whether it’s jeans that fit or the choice to go to detox.

Their lives matter just as they are.

What I can see is that my time at Natalie’s Sisters is changing me from the inside out, too. I see that I am becoming Jacob’s well, not just visiting. I am allowing myself to be a space where cultural barriers are broken, a place that Living Water can be offered from. I am becoming more like Jesus, able to see people for their authentic selves. I’m not seeing addicted people, homeless people, or bad people; I’m just seeing people.

See, you can’t be in relationship with people and not be different. I no longer avoid people pretending not to see them. I look them in the eye because being known is more important than food or water. I believe that.

Today I am convicted to pray to become Jacob’s well. I want to be a place where others can meet Jesus, drink of the Living Water, and never thirst.

I think it’s key to remember that the woman at the well didn’t leave believing. She left wondering. She also left cognizant of the Truth that she was known.  I believe that her questions caused her to seek answers. She went back to her village with her questions, but I also have no doubt that she was changed from what she now held in her heart.

Her heart held the treasure that she was known by the Creator of the universe, the Maker of all things good.

What is better than that?

My heart holds a new truth, too. I know that it doesn’t matter if people walk away from me believing. I used to think I was a failing Christian if I couldn’t convert non-believers. I know that it’s important that they walk away wondering, seeking answers. It’s important that they know  that I see them for who they are, their true self, and that I love them. 

That’s it.

Jesus will take care of the rest.

 

Be brave, misfits.

May you find Jacob’s well today.

 

Books That Changed My Life

 

Photo Credit: Pascal Rey Photographies Flickr via Compfight cc

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love to read. I was definitely one of those kids that always had a book in hand, or tucked under my arm, just in case I had time. I sat in science class with my textbook propped up on my lap and my ‘real’ book inside so that the teacher thought I was absorbed in the boring words.

I stayed up late, flashlight in hand, reading until the words blurred on the page. I suffered for reading a good book, but I would read bad ones, too. I’ve just always loved the written word.

In looking back on my life there are books that literally changed me, made me think differently, caused me to view the world from a completely different perspective. I consider this to be a great thing. I’m still adding books to this list, but here’s a start:

1. The Velveteen Rabbit -by Margery Williams

This is one of the first books I remember having read to me. I identified so strongly with the child who had to have their favorite toy taken away. I felt so sad for the bunny, too. Now, as an adult I identify with the rabbit. I have written about it before, but I believe that I have been loved into being real, too.

2. The Hundred Dresses – by Eleanor Estes

My second grade teacher read this aloud to our class and then gifted me with a copy. The ending surprised me so much. I’m not exaggerating when I say this book transformed how I looked at people, but especially immigrants.

3.  Rebecca’s World – by Terry Nation

This is one that I stumbled across in 5th grade. I used to go to our school library and browse for as long as I could. I found this book on the shelves and sat down on the orange vinyl cushions scattered about the library and read until it was time to go home. I think I got in trouble because I didn’t want to return this book.

4. The Hobbit – by J.R.R. Tolkien

Dad read this aloud to my brother and I, or maybe it was both of my brothers and I. What I do know is that we loved it. I looked forward to finding out what happened with Bilbo and Gollum every evening. I’d say it was also during this time that I knew I wanted to be a writer.

5.  Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret – by Judy Blume

I was in sixth grade when I read this and loved it. If you were a girl born in the 70’s you absolutely read this book. If you didn’t, you should.

6.  The Catcher in the Rye – by J.D. Salinger

I found a copy of this book in my Grandpa’s coat closet. I think it was during 7th grade, and I think it may have been right he after he died. The book had a picture of Holden on the cover, wearing his hunter’s hat. I loved everything about the book, even what I didn’t quite understand at that age. I read that book every year. I adored Holden and his quirks, I loved him for his weird vocabulary. I also couldn’t stand him and found myself squirming during some of his conversations  with adults. I think that’s why I liked this book so much. Holden isn’t completely likable but he’s recognizable in each of us. My daughters read it and hated it, so that stinks. I guess they’re a couple of phonies.

 7. Gone with the Wind – by Margaret Mitchell

I don’t know what possessed me to read this book in middle school. I’m sure it was to avoid doing school work. It was the first historical fiction I had ever read and enhanced my love of history. I’d also never gotten to know characters so well, some I loved and some I hated. Rhett and Scarlett’s relationship really confused me . That hasn’t changed. This book allowed me to see how description creates a strong sense of place when reading. It also taught me that the book is ALWAYS better than the movie.

8. Julie of the Wolves – by Jean Craighead George

I picked out this book because my mother’s name is Julie. It’s a very intense story that gave me a look at a completely different way of life. It caused me to see that we are each experiencing life in very different ways. Julie is 13 and I was probably around that age when I read the book.I think I’d probably always assumed that all of us humans had pretty similar life experiences.

 9. The Color Purple – by Alice Walker

I’d say this book is in my top 5 all-time favorites. The scope is incredible. I learned so much about slavery and racism, but also about how those issues are entrenched into our society.  The book also illustrates the deep cords of relationship. I used to re-read it every summer. It’s been five or six years, so it’s probably time again.

10. Lord of the Flies – by William Golding

I’m sure I had to read it for school. I know I stayed up all night to finish it, and it may be when I decided to homeschool my future children.

I’m kidding about that. But really, this book made me think about society, groups, and the behaviors that drive us.

11. The Princess Bride – by William Goldman

This was one of my best friend’s favorite books so I had to read it. It is so great, so funny. Again, better than the movie. I also learned how to use humor in writing from this book. I wanted to name our first son Wesley because of this book. Maybe I’ll get a puppy, or an R.O.U.S.

 

So that’s the top 11. There’s more to the list, but those are the ones I read between the ages of 10 and 18 that had the biggest impact on me. In high school I entered an embarrassing Harlequin romance novel phase that I’d rather not speak of. When I met my darling husband I began reading in earnest again. Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Tolkien were staples of the early years of our marriage.

What got me thinking of this list is the book I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak. It’s another life-changing book, at least for me. Zusak’s writing is amazing. It’s literary. It’s beautiful. The story is one that has stuck with me. I was taking a writing class at the time I read it and I felt so jealous that he’d been able to write all of this beautiful stuff. 

Speaking of the writer’s class, my big news I wanted to share is that an essay I wrote (in the writing class I was telling you about) has been accepted for publication in Mother’s Always Write, an  literary publication celebrating motherhood. The essays and poetry in MAW are inspiring as well as beautiful. Go check out their site and for any aspiring writers I highly encourage you to look at their Writer’s Boot Camp. This helped me take my writing to another level.

So, I’m curious…

Are there any books that have remained with you long after you read them? If so, what are they? I’d love to know. I’m always on the hunt for a good read.

 

 

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Antique Stores and Such

I’ve always liked to pilfer through old stuff. My mamaw’s Victorian house was chock full of amazing objects. There were old records, shoes, and pictures stacked under chairs and on window sills. Really any flat surface held something. A giant closet beneath the staircase filled with coats was at least 8 feet deep.  Untouched bedrooms held posters, board games, and clothes from eras gone by.

My cousins and I would sneak off to play hide-and-seek but then get lost in game of searching. That may have led to my love of antique malls and flea markets. Though I know Mom and  I spent many Saturday afternoons at flea markets. Perhaps it is just in my DNA.

At any rate, when we moved back to Lexington we discovered a little store called Feather Your Nest and fell in love. They have a collection of booths AND free coffee.

All photos by Kiley Shepherd

 

Hello?? Free coffee and antiques?

Yes, please.

There is just something comforting in history. I love imagining where items were before they ended up in the store. I enjoy wondering what stories a tea cup has overheard, whose fingers wrapped around it’s delicate handle. 

 

I have a jar of shells at home. We collected them on a trip to Dauphin Island a few years ago. I remember my toes digging in the sand finding shells, the kids coming and fishing them out. Mom held the bucket and they plunked them in. Liam and Spencer pretended they were money. Lee was out in the waves with Dad and Erik.  It’s one of my favorite memories.

I wonder if my jar of shells will end up in an antique mall one day.

Wandering around stores like this is like wandering around in someone else’s memories. I can imagine the housewife tying on her yellow apron, or a salesman putting on his fedora before he walks out the door. Their lives fascinate me but so do their dreams. What did they want out of life? Did they get it? Who remembers them today?

 

 

 

 

I’m not sentimental over objects, generally speaking. I tend to enjoy memories more. There are a few objects that I do love. My mother’s original wedding rings are special to me because they are one of my earliest memories. I remember watching her spin them on her ring finger with her thumb.  I also  remember the feel of the prongs holding the diamond as I played with it. I loved playing with her delicate fingers when I was small. I thought they were so beautiful. I still do, in fact.

My Dad had a nail brush, and still does. A thick white, two-sided brush. I still use it on my boys. I remember it sitting on the edge of our sink throughout my childhood. Dad likes clean fingernails but also hard, dirty work. He’d come in from outside, covered in sweat, and go straight to the restroom to clean up. Even then it reminded me of my Grandpa.

I also love my sweet husband’s journals. I tease him about them sometimes but they’re one of my favorite things about him. He is a poet, a real romantic, and has filled leather journals with his thoughts and prose. I adore how sensitive he is. His love of the written word was a surprise to me when we were young. 

 

Who knows where those things will be in 50 years. Who knows where I will be?

Today I am here, in my house, with my little boy and little dogs. I think we’ll go for a walk after we argue about Minecraft. Then we’ll all have dinner and it will be noisy and loud and I’ll wonder why I neglected manners so much.

Then I’ll realize it’s more fun to join in.

I can go to the antique mall for quiet.

 

Be brave, misfits.

You know where to go if you need a free cup of coffee and time to meander through a stranger’s memories.

 

 

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Sunday Thoughts

It’s a rainy Sunday here in Kentucky.

Perfect for staying in bed and spending lots of time with my thoughts. I find myself thinking a lot about God’s goodness,  his grace. I ponder how he loves completely even in the midst of this broken not-quite-right world.

Some days I find it difficult to reconcile.

A few weeks ago at house church we talked about struggle and what our struggle means in light of Christ’s struggle on the cross. I often compare my first-world struggles to those of people in war-torn, far away places like Aleppo or Nigeria. It fills me with shame that I lament the loss of a secure future when there are people starving to death. My worries over pension plans and 401K’s feel selfish, and I suppose that they are.

In American culture, though, that’s the thing, We work for security for ourselves and our children, and before we know it that’s where we’re putting our hope.

At least that’s how it is for me.

We’ve been hoping and praying for a new job for Lee. One that will fulfill his purpose and provide for our security. He suffered a blow this week when he found out that a position he had been working toward was given to someone else. He didn’t suffer alone. I hadn’t realized how much hope I had put in that job. It was going to save us, I just knew it.

In my sadness I often rail against the Lord. He can take it and I sure can dish it out. Then he always comes in with these quiet, convicting comebacks that leave my heart pierced. 

He told me, and I know it’s true, that we’ve been putting our hope in a new job, in more money. He talks to me in a quiet voice so that I have to listen. This annoys me. I like shouting and billboards and neon signs. Quiet requires quiet.

I think that’s his tactic.

Jesus is the best at behavior management.

He reminded me quietly, gently that my hope is in God. Period. That’s it.

 

“God is our refuge and strength,a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea.”   ~ Psalm 46: 1-2

 

Struggle is part of this world. In fact, Jesus promises us trouble. It’s how we respond to that trouble that makes the difference. 

We can’t deny struggle. That only delays the inevitable pain from it. We can’t make it too big, either. Giving struggle more attention than necessary causes it to grow larger than it really is.

Acceptance is the only way to go. Accept the struggle we’re each in, whatever it is. Then, knowing that the God of hope is with you, keep going. 

I know that sounds all footprints-in-the-sand, but Truth is Truth.

God doesn’t want me to feel ashamed of my response to struggle, either. He knows me, he knows how I work and he’s okay with it. He knows that each thing I move through softens me, makes me more like Jesus. He is patient and good and doesn’t push me along.

My walk with Christ does not need to be fraught with tension. There is no condemnation from Christ. If I’m feeling that I know it’s time to seek him and his answers.

He is teaching me so much about resting in him, knowing him, and trusting him. It isn’t the way I thought it would look at all.

Not long ago I fell back to my old way of thinking. The way that said I was in my position because of how God felt about me.

Believing that my circumstance are a reflection of how God feels about me is lie of the enemy.

That is not true. Where I am at physically, emotionally, or mentally or not an affliction that God has put on me. Yes, he allows me to move through difficult stuff. That’s life here on earth, though.

How God feels about me won’t change my situation. God’s feelings for me, should I choose to recognize them, will only change how I respond to my situation. 

The trap of the theology that God gives to those who deserve it is deep. If I believe that I am in my difficult situation because of something I have done, something I deserve, then what about those starving people in Africa? The children of Aleppo? The innocents caught in horrible places in my own city? What is that they have done to deserve their fate?

Nothing.

We were born where we were born and God loves us each the same.

He loves the people in Aleppo, Africa, cooperate America, brothels, and prisons. He loves everyone the same. It isn’t God’s love that’s confusing for me, it is the world that’s muddled. I get that mixed up sometimes.

There is no earning his grace, he just gives it.

There is no gaining God’s favor, it just is.

It’s all there for the taking waiting for our response.

Our pain is real, the battle will always be there. It will take different forms and shapes for every unique individual. Struggle will always be a commonality between us human beings.

Grace is bigger. Goodness is bigger. Love is bigger.

I like that commonality even more.

It is the Truth that God is bigger than all of the wars we wage that allowed Corrie ten Boom, Anne Frank, Dietrich Bonhoeffer to write words hope from dark places. It’s that Truth that pushes us to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and smile at a stranger. Those acts are responses to struggle AND the Light of Christ.

Maybe we need that combo?

Maybe struggle forces us to dig deeper?

Perhaps my struggle for security coupled with the Light of Christ is what allows me to my hope in eternal security. 

There is no shame in weeping or gnashing of the teeth. I believe that’s necessary.

How I respond inwardly to struggle though, there’s where it gets me.

Do I turn to God for answers or towards the  world? 

The big question, among the many,  I am asking myself today is this:

When people see me do they see my struggle or do they see Jesus?

More importantly, when the people I live with see me which do they see?

That last one gives me something to build my week on.

 

Those are my Sunday thoughts, the ones I caught before the rain went away. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these questions, too, or maybe you’d share your own Sunday thoughts?

 

Be brave, misfits.

Ask the hard questions.

Then wait for the quiet answers.

 

 

 

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Education is Not an Emergency

I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with a fellow homeschooler where the conversation doesn’t fall into our curriculum choices, where we’re at, and what we’re working on. It’s to be expected. I mean, we’re somewhat isolated, no one taught us how to homeschool, unless you count the school system you were educated in.

The best thing that ever happened in my homeschool life was meet homeschoolers who would tell me the truth. They didn’t give me the jive that you learn to give strangers in public. They were honest with me about how much time they spent doing seat work, what they struggled with, what they did well.

These other mothers choosing to be transparent with me made a huge difference in how I homeschooled. They all echoed the same thing: “It will come when it comes.”

Meaning, sure you can push your kids to read, write, memorize, etc., but they’re not going to grasp the information until they’re developmentally ready.

It took me a while but I finally figured out that education is not an emergency.

At the beginning of our homeschool journey 14 or 15 years ago I had the kind of confidence anyone who has done a lot of reading on a subject has. I was armed with books that told me what my child needed to know when and was prepared to stuff my little kindergartner full to the brim. By second grade she and I both felt confused about the whole ‘school’ thing.

For me, her education was not going the way the books said it was. For her, her education was not going the way her brain said it should go.

I suspected dyslexia was part of the problem, but my intuition also told me that there was something else at play. My little one had things to explore, things to do, and I was holding her back with seat work and hand writing. I was impeding her development.

So I let her go. She and her little sister spent most of their waking hours outside, creating an imaginary world, learning about how nature worked on their own, and climbing trees. I started reading Charlotte Mason and John Holt, but also just watching them. I answered questions as they came up. We learned to identify birds and trees together. We attempted to garden.

In fact we attempted a lot.

I have a headful of unfinished projects, and a handful of favorites that stuck.

I found that I was learning right along with them, and by the time our number 3 child was school age playing was a huge part of our homeschool lifestyle.

I wish I could say that it was easy, or idyllic.

It wasn’t.

I still struggled with shoulds and have-tos in my own life and I pushed that onto my kids.

Some of my favorite memories of learning at home with my children revolves around read alouds, impromptu puppet shows, tea parties, and breakdancing. Those times were punctuated, though, with moments where I forced things on them because I thought I should, or felt we had to have a certain subject mastered. There were tears, from me and them, and more than a little reluctance about school.

Some friends thought that tears were a normal part of learning. I wasn’t convinced.

Of course, sometimes you have to do things that you do not want to do. That’s part of life. Kids are natural learners, though. They are instinctually curious about the world around them, how things work, and want to get to the bottom of the great ‘Why?’ They also want to please their parents. Those are their two main drives. So why make them compete with each other?

On a side note, I was also coming to the realization that my kids had a learning issue that was keeping them  from moving forward the way the books said that they should. I had thought that perhaps my teaching was wrong, that I just needed to do it harder.

I learned the hard way that gentler was the way to go.

All of my kids have dyslexia, just like their Dad, and some struggle with dysgraphia and dyscalculia, too. Sometimes sounding words, decoding, came easily, and other times it was like they had never encountered the word before. Copying was possible but tedious. Painfully tedious. Memorization was impossible. My husband’s sad story of being the only child in his 3rd grade class to miss the ice cream party for not memorizing the multiplication tables breaks my heart.

I refused to be the one breaking my children’s hearts.

A friend said to me, “If they haven’t memorized the multiplication tables by fourth grade, they’re not going to. Just let them use the multiplication chart.”

In other words, give them the tools to succeed.

Over the last 14 years my whole educational philosophy has shifted. I rarely think of ‘school’ as sitting down at a table and doing worksheets. I’m not afraid to change things midstream or research other ways of doing something. This year chemistry has thrown my daughter for loop, something that I cannot really offer a lot of help on. I can encourage her, though, and enjoy listening to her excitedly tell me about a different way she learned of doing things.

What I’ve learned is vast. I’ve learned that when my kids make huge leaps in learning, like reading or math concepts, they need time to process and reflect. Mastering a concept does not mean it’s time to push them forward. They need to play with the newly acquired information, to feel it out and experiment. They need to learn what they like about it, what they don’t like about it, and where they can apply the information.

It felt scary to let them take the lead on some subjects, especially the ones that are the hardest for them. There are times that I have to force intention into our days. We are all happier with rhythm. That said, kids have an amazing ability to learn if we let them. I need to provide the materials but let them chart the course.

I’m loving history but Spencer, who is 13, was not loving it. After a couple of weeks of frustration I asked him what DOES interest him about history. He immediately answered that he wanted to learn more about inventors and scientists during the colonial period.

Of course that’s what Spencer wants to learn about. He doesn’t care about wars and battles and Kings and Queens. But he’ll learn that stuff as he learns about what he’s interested in because that’s how information is acquired.

All I had to do was ask. He already knew what he wanted to learn about. He didn’t need me to tell him what, he needed me to show him how.

Take some stress out of your life and remove the 911 from your homeschool. I know it’s countercultural, I know it feels like people are breathing down your neck waiting to see what your kid knows. It doesn’t matter what others think of you and your life.

Education is not an emergency.

Write it down, heck tattoo it somewhere if you need to. Know that they will get what they get when they get it.

Be brave, misfits.

Go learn some stuff together.

 

Home Again

Our family traveled a lot when I was a kid. We took short trips, long trips, and sometimes just day trips. I loved going, seeing new places, but also knowing that we shared the same sky, the same moon no matter where we were. I can sleep so well in a car, probably because of all that traveling. One of my favorite memories is lying in the back our big yellow van, my head against the wall so that I could see out of the window above my head. I would sleep that way, only waking when when we slowed down to turn into our neighborhood.

The big hill that leads to our house is lined with trees and streetlights and is as comforting to me as home. I would open my sleepy eyes and know exactly where we were, which neighbor’s house we were passing. As we pulled into the drive my parents would chant, “Home again, home again jiggity jig!” Even today I feel myself relax as I drive up that street.

It’s funny to me that I never wanted to move away from home. I mean, I wanted my own apartment as I got older,  but I never thought about living in another city. After Lee and I had been married for a couple of years a job opportunity came up that would require us to move. Every cell in my body wanted to stay in Lexington but I knew that Lee needed this.

So, we moved to Knoxville, Tennessee.

The first few months there were scary and lonely. Driving in Knoxville terrified me, and I learned lots of back roads to avoid the interstates and heavy trafficked roads. Because the radio in my old black Volvo didn’t work I had to sing loudly to distract my babies and myself from my panic at sharing the road with so many trucks. Old hymns, Mary Poppins, and Queen make up the soundtrack of those days.

Moving made me brave.

I was able to travel I-75 because I knew that home was at the other end. Going to visit my parents gave me courage. On the return trip knowing that Lee, our house, and our little life were all waiting for me made my goodbyes less bittersweet. It’s funny how fears abate when you have people waiting for you. They give you mission.

We moved three more times, twice two new town, and each place I fell in love with. I enjoyed learning the history of our new town, local favorites, and hidden treasures. I stopped thinking of Lexington as home and more as the place that I grew up. Two years ago when we moved back I couldn’t help but contemplate home, and what that means.

I was reminded of all the coming-of-age novels I read where the main character moves back home and embarks on a journey of self-discovery. I always wondered what it was like to move back home after redefining yourself in another place.. No one knows what you were like in high school, or about your brothers, or what you and your best friends like to do. You don’t run into people you know at the store, at least at first, and you can switch hairdressers easily. Everything is new, and that can include you.

Moving back home, though, was so different than I thought it would be. Living in my childhood home, roaming the streets of my neighborhood with my own children, is much more grounding than I had imagined. On our daily walks we step onto the same corner that was the meeting spot of the neighborhood kids. Even though someone else lives there the house across the street is still ‘the Leggett’s house’ to me and my parents.

My handwriting, in permanent marker, is in the closet of the bedroom my girls now share. My boys’ swing set is where me and my brothers played for hours. Neighbors who knew me from childhood stop me and we condense our lives into a ten minute chat. We wave goodbye, filled with memories of a picturesque past.

Moving back to the town where I took off my training wheels for the first time, where I learned to drive, and where I got my heart broken for the first time made me brave again. While a new place can give you the freedom to be someone a little different it can also sweep you up into a current that’s not your own. We’ve had some heavy stuff happen, which caused the shoulds and have-to’s to become even more weighted.

Sometimes you just keep functioning and don’t realize how big of an influence fear has become.

Moving home gave me the space to face that. Moving home gave me space to find my courage again, to remember that no matter what happens in my life I have a place within me that houses my ten year-old self. The me that knows riding down a hill with no hands is possible, the me that doesn’t care about skinned knees or climbing too high will always be there, waiting. Fearlessness that reins freely in our youth isn’t grown out of. Rather, it is covered up under the guise of maturity  and responsibility, making us think we’re grown ups.

Audacity is always waiting for it’s moment to shine, though.

Coming home made me feel that again. Watching my youngest learn to ride his bike with only two wheels on the same sidewalk I did unleashed it. I’m probably not going to ride my bike with no hands today, but my heart is lighter, more able to be in the world.

Life is short but fear makes it shorter.

Today courage means filling my life with relationship that make my life messy, embracing inconvenience and taking heart in the fact that Jesus has overcome the world. Pushing through the uneasiness that comes from going against the grain of this life is not always easy but my days feel longer when fear is not in charge.

God knew that I needed the shelter of home to find my courage again. It’s not about the place, or the house, or the neighborhood, either. Those things are nice but home is something inside, a notion that dwells within. It’s about being able to remember who Christ says I am, and for me that’s easiest to do when I think about who I was as a kid. I wasn’t weighed down by shoulds and have-to’s and didn’t hold back my love.

I am home, again.

Home again.

Jiggity jig.

 

 

I’m curious; how do you find home? Is it a place or a time? Does home make you brave, too?

 

Life is Good

So I went to see Twenty One Pilots with my girls.

As in my daughters, Kiley and Laurel. They’re 19 and (almost) 17.

We bought these tickets 8 months ago, paid entirely too much money for them, but it was so worth it. When we were feeling rough, or down, one of us would remember that we had a concert to go to in March. Back in October that felt so far away – last Wednesday I realized we were there, that it was time.

My most favorite part of the whole thing was watching my daughters. Observing them getting ready, putting on their make-up, giggling and taking pictures of each other.  I was even drawn into that world for a little bit. I put on eyeliner, which is a big deal for me. I will divulge the I had picked out a new flannel shirt so that I would look cool at the concert. Unfortunately it didn’t fit. I think I accidentally bought it in the juniors section. (Insert sad face)

I put in contacts and a applied a second layer of deodorant, and stuffed the essentials into my pockets: earplugs and extra poise pantyliners.

I bought earplugs for all three of us, though I was the only sensible one in the group. I went to a Garth Brooks concert almost 20 years ago and did significant damage to my hearing, as in I have tinnitus now. These earplugs, called Hearos, were a life saver for me at the concert. Because I’m familiar with Twenty One Pilots songs, and may have done an embarrassing amount of watching concert footage I knew that jumping was going to be part of the evening’s events. Thus, the extra Poise pantyliners.

Sadly, this post is not an advertisement for earplugs or pantyliners. I just want you to be in the know.

We found our seats, which took some doing, and then the girls wanted to wander around and spend some hard earned money on over-priced stuff. I sat in my seat people watching, eavesdropping on conversations around me, and smiling. That’s my new thing; smiling. I try and keep a smile on my face when I’m just sitting around. Laurel says I look creepy when I do that, Kiley says it’s nice. At any rate, I was just people watching and it was fun.

Whenever I’m in a crowd I’m reminded of the first time that I went to a concert. I was between 4 and 5 I think. It was a Kenny Rogers concert. I remember sitting in my seat and listening to the crowd and feeling like I needed to join in, so I muttered nonsense over and over, mimicking the sounds I was hearing. I also had my dad’s nylon coat over my head because my parents were worried about me inhaling the thick pot smoke around us. But I’m sure those two things weren’t connected.

At the Twenty One Pilots concert I did not feel the need to mumble non-words.

I reminisced  about my first concerts as a teenager. George Michael’s Faith tour was my first. I was kind of embarrassed to tell people I had gone to it the next day, but my friends and I had so much fun. The next concert I went to was R.E.M. and it was amazing.

Seeing a band you love in concert, in person, makes them seem more real. The band you love becoming more real makes their awesomeness seem like something that maybe you, a fellow real person, can achieve. Their art pushes you to dream, or at least that’s what it did for me, not just as a kid, but this time around, too.

My age didn’t matter at the concert. The lights were down, we were all listening to a beloved band sing beloved songs. We danced and sang lyrics together, bouncing our arms and clapping when instructed. It was more fun than I’ve had in a really long time.

It can be easy to believe that the world is a bad, scary place. It certainly can be. Looking around that giant arena, filled with people singing together, I couldn’t help but feel things aren’t so bad.

Go listen to some Twenty One Pilots, dance a little, and remember that life is good.

 

 

 

 

 

How I Added Hygge to Our Homeschool

Homeschooling in December is my favorite.

I enjoy the holiday routine of staying up late, sleeping in, and eating whatever food is available in the refrigerator. We tend to stay in our jimmies more, read more, and play lots of board games.

There’s a more relaxed feel in the air during December

January and February feel like slogging through wet mud. There is so much resistance, mainly from me, to get back to normal. The truth is I do not like schedules, I do not like lesson plans, and I do not like forcing the kids to do ‘school’ stuff.

During an avoidance session I joined a group committed to hygge, a Danish concept that kind of means cozy, but also lots of other things. It was just what I needed. People from all over the world share pictures of hygge and other sweet things. I could feel the calm rolling in. That’s when I knew our homeschool needed hygge.

Here’s what I did:

~ I added some fire.

Fireplaces and candles are essential to hygge, it appears. Here in KY it”s been too warm of a winter to have a fire going. Thanks to Netflix I can have one, complete with the crackling, right on our television and it won’t overheat the living room. Then the television isn’t for movies; it’s a fireplace and my people quit thinking about what movie to watch.

Win, win.

I can not believe how calm and sweet it has made our morning and afternoons. I sit on the couch and read aloud, Liam builds with his Legos or blocks and Spencer does what 13 year old boys do while their mother reads aloud. Some days it still ends in goofiness (wrestling, arguing, or spilled drinks) but I just close my eyes and remember that for a few minutes it was calm.

You can’t even tell that’s not a real fire!

 

I’ve become a huge Brave Writer fan. In doing so I discovered Julie’s Poetry Teatime philosophy. It has to do with a candle, a table, tea, and poetry. We don’t do poetry every day, but we do journal and read the bible and it’s usually with a candle lit in the center of the table. There’ve been a few times the candle had to be put away because my little pyro’s just couldn’t quit sticking stuff in the flames, but that’s just par for the course around here.

They also make battery operated candles just for families like mine.

I still have some of our Christmas lights hanging around so we plug those in, too. It’s strange how my piles don’t bother me as much with dim lights, a fake fireplace, and a candle.  The kids feel my calm and feed off of that.

~We do ‘projects’ instead of school.

My boys immediately turn into beasts when the word ‘school’ is spoken. They begin all evasion tactics in a full on assault against my desires. So I don’t call it school.

We do projects now.  Liam, who is 7, gets to pick his own goals. I’m encouraging Spencer to do the same but he’d always pick Minecraft so I’ve chosen some things for him to work on. Also he’s almost to the end of his current All About Spelling level and is pretty excited to get to the next one. If I suggest to work on our All About Spelling project, he’s there…if I say, “It’s time for spelling,” he’s in the bathroom for the next 30 minutes.

It was a little change but it’s made a fairly big difference, especially for me. I still struggle with public school mentality. Our projects have helped me not get so bogged down in the details. I’m focusing on the big picture and then figuring what areas need some focus.

 

~ I removed should-ing and have-to-ing.

You know this is an issue in my life. I am not pleased that it’s part of my kids’ lives, but it is. For along time we lived under the weight of shoulds and have-to’s but I’m just not having it anymore. I’m replacing those words with ‘I’d like to’ and ‘would you think about’. This is something I must be diligent about, my friends. It creeps back into my language subtly.

“We should be done with this by now.”

“We have to get this done.”

You get the picture. 

All of my kids have dyslexia. You would think that with the fourth one I would stop the worrying about where they were educationally speaking, but it’s a struggle. My sweet 7 year old still doesn’t know all of the letters of the alphabet. Typing it makes my stomach flutter, and if I’m not careful I can really make our lives miserable. I could get nutty about sitting down every day and forcing his brain to do something it’s just not ready to do.

Instead, I choose to follow his lead. We are doing All About Reading together and he loves it and is proud of his progress and that’s all that matters. As long as I keep the shoulds and have-to’s out of it we have fun figuring it out, and I know that eventually it will come. 

The system tells us otherwise but there is no should with children. They get what they get when they get it. Give them a chance to explore, to grow in their own time and they will excel at the their gifts. I’ve seen it in my others, and I’m seeing it in Liam, too. 

Children are natural learners. They are curious, insatiably so, and if we let that be the lead they are free to enjoy learning. Once I take the worry of where my child should be, according to ‘them’, once I remove the have-to’s from our path there are no more obstacles.

We just go.

That’s totally hygge.

~ I stopped scheduling.

First of all, I’m not realistic in scheduling. I always try to do entirely too much. For a few years now I’ve broken up our day into 25 minute chunks of time, which is so helpful. Last week I was trying to figure out how to solve my time problem (again), which is that I enjoy being spontaneous but I also need a small amount of structure to help me focus.

In thinking about my day there are four major sections that I can break down:

6 a.m.- 10a.m.

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

6 p.m. -10 p.m.

Once I broke those down I wrote down the things that need to be done in each quadrant; meals, appointments, etc. In other words, events with a fixed time. I’ve been keeping a running list of the things I want to do daily for our school  projects. It doesn’t matter which quadrant those go in, we can fit them where they’re more convenient.

I was happy to discover that our day already has a pretty solid routine built in. Morning is when my boys like to be busy outside, or inside just playing, or fighting and arguing. Spencer does better working a little before lunch, then a little afterwards. He needs frequent breaks and lots of physical activity.  Laurel, my 11th grader, likes to have slow breakfast and then hit her bookwork hard. She’s pretty driven academically, whereas the boys…well, they don’t have that focus right now.

Breaking our day up into quadrants has really helped me re-evaluate all that we get done in a day. A lot happens outside the traditional 8-3 school time.

 

~ I quit beating myself up.

Okay, that’s a constant work in progress, but it’s a priority. It feels like there is so much resting on my shoulders. Homeschooling is a huge responsibility. There is no time off. Mistakes will be made by teacher and student, parent and child. It is a completely different lifestyle. While it’s becoming more mainstream it’s still countercultural and can be a little lonely.

I can beat myself up over all of the things I didn’t know in the beginning. I didn’t know you didn’t have to do everything the books said. I didn’t know tears didn’t have to be part of learning. I didn’t know my kids had learning disabilities. I didn’t know I could talk to other parents about my struggles.

Now I do know all of those things and I can share my journey with other homeschooling parents. I will always believe that sharing the hard stuff is essential to life on Earth. There’s still plenty I don’t know, though, so beating myself up is pointless.

I do promise myself to the best I can every day.

Sometimes my best looks amazing, and sometimes it looks like day three without a shower, gray sweatpants and dark circles. Some days my best is not amazing…and that is just fine.

~ I added music, outside time, and tickling.

Good music, different music. I had forgotten how much we love spontaneous dance parties. I found a station on Spotify called Concentration that is very calming for us. I search for music from the period we’re studying in history. Music is important. It gives you space to think, a place where your creative mind can wander.

The boys have introduced me to some ridiculous YouTube music as well. All I can say is Lord help us all.

When I was in college working in the university’s early childhood lab one of the big take-away’s was outside time. The little ones went outside every single day, no matter what the weather was, for two 20 minute recesses. I think it benefited the teachers as much as the children. 

Walking, hiking, and being outside have always been a big part of our homeschool but I can get lazy. Sometimes I get tired of the arguing, sometimes it takes so long to find shoes and socks that I don’t want to deal with it. What I know is this: we’re all happier and healthier when we go on daily walks. 

Walking together gives us time to talk, or be quiet, to process information we’ve been gathering, and releases pent up energy. The weather has been amazingly, strangely warm here so we’ve been taking advantage of that. Even on cold, rainy days though it’s important for us to get out. 

Lastly, and I know this seems silly, but I am being more intentional about tickling my boys. They still need to be played with and loved on in that way. There’s nothing like a good tickle fight to break down a bad mood, and when I hear them giggling in glee I can’t help but relax a little bit, too. Playing together reminds all of us that homeschooling is not serious business.

 

That’s how I’ve added hygge to our homeschool.

I’m curious if you’ve heard of hygge and if it’s something that you think about. Maybe this has always been a part of your life, maybe this is (somehow) the first you’ve heard of this.

Either way, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear other tips on keeping homeschool relaxed.

As always, be brave.

And weird. Weird is important, too.

 

What My Brother Taught Me About Dreaming

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”   ~ John Lennon

 

Whenever Erik, my brother, comes home for the weekend or a night or just a day it’s hard for him to go back to his house. Erik is developmentally disabled and moved out almost two years ago. No matter how pleasant our time together has been the tension builds as he anticipates when one of us says it’s time to go.

His shoulders become tight, he starts working his jaw and tongue and his stimming behaviors are more intense. Erik verbalizes fears through what seems like violent talk. Sometimes I want to laugh over the bizarre things he says (this only disturbs him more), sometimes tears seem more appropriate.

Every time I want to tell him that he can stay home with us, that this charade of him living somewhere else is over.

But it cannot be that way.

Erik needs his own space and we need him to have his own space.

On one of our drives home he asked when Mom and Dad were going on a cruise.

To fill you in, sometimes I just chat to him as a way to distract him from his OCD thoughts. When we didn’t live together, my family and my parents and I, Erik would come to stay with us a few times a year. We came to call that time Camp Shepherd. He loved it, the kids mostly loved it, and I really loved it. Having Erik with us made it feel a little more like home.

Now, though, there is no Camp Shepherd. Camp Shepherd/Krieg (or Camp Shrieg as we call it now) does not hold the allure of the other. It’s not a vacation anymore. It’s just home, and home is the same.

At Camp Shepherd, Erik could ride his bike with his nieces and nephew, he could talk to people that he didn’t know, he could play the piano and preach in the empty sanctuaries of churches my husband was employed at. He was braver at Camp Shepherd, more bold, not nearly as afraid of getting lost.

He can ride a bike in our neighborhood, but home is boring. It’s something he’s known forever.

Camp Shepherd was a chance to be different, to be more free from his self-imposed constraints.

Erik had asked me when he could come to Camp Shepherd again, as he kept me company while I cleaned my boys’ room. Having him in there kept me from blowing my lid when I stepped the 17th Lego piece. I told him we’d have to send Mom and Dad on a cruise to Alaska to have Camp Shepherd. It was just something I said, not something I meant. He held onto that for a couple of weeks before re-visiting the idea.

It took me a few minutes to figure out why he was asking when our parents were going on a cruise. When I finally remembered I laughed because I’m always amazed at what he remembers, what he takes as fact. I told him I didn’t know, but that we’d look into it.

At the next light he said, “I want us to all go on a cruise.”

“You do?” I asked.

“Mm hmm,” he said, nodding his head. He does this a lot when he’s very happy or excited. He looks just like he did when he was a little boy. It’s one of my favorite Erik looks. “Yes, let’s all go on a cruise: Kiley, Laurel, Spencer, Liam, Lee, Mom, Dad, you and me.”

“To Alaska? That would be fun.”

“Around the world. I want to go on a cruise around the world.”

“Wow,” I answered, baffled at this newly divulged desire, one I think he had just given birth to in that moment.

“Yes. It will take us an entire year,”  he said with finality, like it was a done deal.

It struck me that this idea was not about our destination; it was about being together for as long as possible. It was about taking a break from the normal and getting to do something grand and different. A cruise around the world would be a chance to be brave and be together.

I told him I would get maps and we would mark with push pins where we wanted to visit. His excitement was contagious and I found myself getting into planning our world trip. We talked about which places we wanted to visit. He wants to go to Canada because the band members of Rush reside there.

It was easier for him to get out of the car after our day-dreaming. Erik was relaxed.  He only came back to discuss what concerts we could go to 6 times. Erik cannot leave without saying, ‘God bless you’ and if he thinks you missed it he’ll come back and make sure you did, sometimes over and over.

I drove off wondering what I would make for dinner, where I had to be next, and if anyone had fed the dogs dinner.

That trip and our cruise conversation took place a few weeks ago. I suppose both of us have moved on from that dream, or day dream, or pipe dream.

Except it’s not really moving on when our dream is forgotten. Maybe it’s left behind. Maybe it’s weighed down or maybe buried alive, just waiting to be unearthed again.

 

 


 

This morning I woke up thinking about our cruise. I woke up wondering what it would be like to visit another country by way of boat. I’ve traveled enough to know that while the landscape may look new there is also a familiar thread to be found. Maybe it’s the way certain food tastes, or a stranger will remind you of someone you know, but there is usually something that will remind you of home.

Erik teaches me so much about dreaming, but he also surprises me with it. It’s easy to look at someone like him, someone the world tells me is simple-minded, and fall into the wrong thinking that there’s not much to him.

There is a depth to my brother, though, that takes my breath away.

Photo Credit: rustyruth1959 Flickr via Compfight cc

His brain may not cooperate, it may be confused and betray him, but his heart is like the ocean. Erik’s heart, his soul,  is boundless and beautiful and deeper than anyone has ever explored. I’m embarrassed that it still shocks me to learn that there is more that Erik wants for his life, that the world’s short-sighted vision of good enough is not good enough for him.

Isn’t that true for all of us? Isn’t it our dream of what could be that makes the mundane, every day life bearable? Isn’t it that our dreams, our visions of an imagined future, lend color and passion to our current situation?

Isn’t it our dreams that tell us that this world is not the end, that there is more?

It dawned on me this morning that it is envisioning our wildest desires that fuels us forward, compelling us to continue on. Even as our mind tells us it’s impossible our heart cries out, “YOU CAN!”

 

“Dreams, if they’re any good, are always a little bit crazy!” 

~ Ray Charles

 

So today I’m going to get Erik a dream journal and we will fill it with pictures of places he wants our cruise ship to go. I’ll have the kids, Lee, and my parents help as well, so that bits of all our dreams are sprinkled on the pages. I’ll get his map, just like I said I would, and we’ll dream of our cruise around the world together.

It won’t just be his dreams, it will be our shared dreams, and when he thumbs through the pages he’ll remember that we dream together. Not alone. Never alone.

 


 

Just as I allowed the everyday to hide our cruise ship conversation we each can lose sight of our desires. It happens slowly, accidentally in most cases.

Sometimes it’s on purpose, though, that we allow our dreams to fade. Perhaps it’s too scary to keep a hold of them for fear of failing. It may be that your current situation feels so dismal that dreaming literally hurts. If that’s the case dig in, dear one, and be brave like my brother. In a world of no-you-can’ts he chooses to dream anyway – if that doesn’t stir your heart I’m not sure what will.

Dream even when it hurts.

Especially when it hurts.

What special thought swirls in your soul, what secret desire have you never told anyone?

Grab hold of it, nurture it. Allow it to grow. Feed that dream pretty pictures and sounds and words. Thanks to  YouTube all that is possible.

Maybe it won’t look like you thought it would when it comes into fruition, but I’m certain it will lead somewhere amazing. It may be that you’ll meet someone or go somewhere that you wouldn’t have if not for your imaginings.

Dreaming opens the door to action…and that’s when anything is possible.

I’ll let you know how Erik’s dream journal goes in a few weeks, and maybe you can share yours as well? I have things fluttering in my heart, too, traveling, writing, making our house pretty – all those things and more.

In the meantime, friends, be brave and dream a little.

Heck, dream a lot.

 

 

 

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