Category Archives: Family

Shine On!

2015-02-07 17.32.11Last week, we went to my mother’s house in South Carolina, where most of my family was gathering to visit with my brother from New Jersey. We had all the usual family activities planned: playing bridge, walking my sister’s beloved dogs, and eating huge meals. Within the last year, though, a new business has opened up in Lexington that just demanded our attention: The Moonlight Distillery. Yes, makers of moonshine, that hitherto illegal brew tucked into a wooded holler and guarded from revenuers by shotgun. Despite its checkered past, however, legitimate moonshine distilleries are becoming quite au courant, at least in the South. Since we have such a close connection to this one— my sister’s next-door neighbor’s son’s wife’s parents own it—we had to have a look-see. And maybe more than a look.

2015-02-07 17.16.53Have you ever seen such a happy group of people? And we hadn’t even gone inside yet! It must have been the anticipation of tastiness that had my extended family looking so gleeful. That and the fact that we’d all been singing Earth, Wind, and Fire songs at the top of our lungs on the way over. We quickly discovered that we didn’t actually know the words, so we just faked it until we got to the brilliant chorus: “Ba-de-ya! Dancing in September! Ba-de-ya!” What in the world does that mean, anyway?

Once inside, and after license checks all around (even my white-bearded, 66-year-old brother), the owners poured out teeny tastes of all their many flavors for the whole crew. The most amazing, to me, was the Apple Pie flavor. It didn’t just taste like apple, it tasted like apple pie. My brother liked the blackberry, but brought home the Twisted Cinnamon for his daughter, since she loves spice. We bought a Fuzzy Peach, although I’m sure it has way more sugar in it than I should have. We haven’t opened it, but later we did taste some of my sister’s batch mixed with diet ginger ale. Yum! I can imagine this concoction in the summer with lots of ice and a mint sprig. We had received the plain moonshine for Christmas and I can attest that it is very good without extra flavors. Kind of on the idea of vodka, but with a hint of a sweet flavor that I can’t quite place.

The Moonlight Distillery website is under construction, and I have a feeling that you can’t buy it online. State laws, perhaps? Anyhow, you can ask your local establishment to get it for you. In the meantime, the website now boasts its first few recipes that look absolutely delectable. And just to prove that moonshine and moonlight lead to good things, here is what we saw written on an old loading dock door just outside of the distillery:

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The Goochland Inquisition

Spanish InquisitionIn one of the more outrageous examples of government overreach—and the field is crowded—the Goochland County, Virginia, school board decided to hold inquisitions for every fourteen-year-old homeschooler in their district. This story has me so incensed that I hardly know where to begin.

Virginia law allows parents to teach their own children by either filing a letter of intent or stating a religious exemption. I am not very familiar with Virginia law, but it seems that the religious exemption option would lead to less government oversight, whereas the letter of intent requires some reports of progress. Therefore, for those families who are religious, taking the religious exemption makes sense.

Doug and Carla Pruiett

Doug and Carla Pruiett discuss the homeschooling law with the Independent Sentinel

On January 9th, according to this article, among others, the Goochland school board ruled that when a child being homeschooled under the religious exemption reaches the age of fourteen, they have to make a statement of faith within 30 days of their birthday. If they do not comply, they burn at the stake. No! I made that up. Seriously, their parents can be criminally prosecuted. Furthermore, if the school board has any misgivings about the statement of faith, the child can be called to testify before the school board. In my opinion, it is cruel to force a fourteen-year-old to defend himself—and, by extension, his parents—in front of a bunch of adult strangers.

There are so many problems here. The first is that this governmental body seems to be under the impression that it owns this child, including his soul, and is only allowing the parents to be caretakers for the state. While I might, grudgingly, concede that there are truancy laws in this country, and that parents should make some assurances to the local school board so that they won’t worry, let’s keep in mind that compulsory education in institutional schools is a relatively recent phenomenon. It was not until 1852 that Massachusetts became the first state to pass a law requiring the towns to build grammar schools and force parents to send their children for at least 12 weeks every year—and the parents were not happy about it! Today, if anyone sees a child accompanying her parents anywhere during “school hours,” they will ask her, “Why aren’t you in school?” As if our children are born incarcerated.

Here is how responsible parents should interact with the local school board when they plan to teach their children at home.

Parent: “Hey, we’re going to homeschool Suzi Q. next year, so you don’t have to expect her at the local public school.”

School official: “Thank you for letting us know.”

That’s it. Just informing, not asking for permission, because they’re your kids!

The second, screamingly ridiculous problem is that the school board is setting itself up as a theological examining board. Is an M.Div. a requirement for Goochland School administrators? As I understand it, the point is to see whether the child agrees with her parents’ religious convictions, and if not, the school officials would probably consider themselves the great liberators of this child from her parents’ backward notions. If your fourteen-year-old has cemented his spiritual convictions already, he should go set up his own church. Most of us find this to be a lifelong journey. Furthermore, I’d give my last indulgence to watch the school board respond when the child stands before them and says, “My parents are paedocommunionists, but I have to confess that I am not sure that their position can be supported by Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.” If they could figure out what that meant, would it be grounds for terminating parental rights? Will they start in on straightening out all those quibbling denominations next?

It is so ironic that this is happening in Virginia, the home of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote, in a letter to the Danbury Baptists:

Thomas JeffersonBelieving with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

Many people misinterpret this “wall of separation” to mean that the church cannot interfere with the government, but it was obviously meant to affirm that the state cannot interfere with the church. Jefferson wrote this letter in response to one he received from the Danbury Baptists in which they worried that the state was going to collect taxes from them to support a state church, which would probably have been Anglican, but in any case would certainly not have been Baptist. Jefferson reassured them that this would not happen, based partly on the First Amendment to the Constitution.

It was announced Wednesday, after the case was taken on by the Home School Legal Defense Association and became national news, that the Goochland School Board suddenly realized that perhaps this was not such a good idea after all. We should all be alarmed, however, that this incredible bit of arrogance ever passed a vote by people who were at least respectable enough to have been elected to their positions.

I fear that the people of our nation have become too willing to surrender their rights to those in power—or if not their own rights, the rights of their neighbors. Perhaps they think that it could never affect them, but the government is a ravenous creature, ever seeking more power and never satisfied. Freedom of conscience and freedom of thought are enormously important to our liberty. In the same way that I do not have to enjoy Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons to support their right to publish them, we do not have to agree with our neighbors’ religious beliefs or educational choices to support their right to live according to their own values. Not only does the government have no right to decide whether our religious beliefs are correct, they have no right to even ask what they are! And they certainly have no right to question our children’s opinions about this or anything else.

Teach. Believe. Be vigilant.

__________________

Spanish Inquisition drawing from Getty Images.

Photo of the Pruietts taken from the Independent Sentinel website at http://www.independentsentinel.com/virginia-school-board-demands-home-schooled-teens-justify-their-religious-beliefs/, accessed January 14, 2015.

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Zoom Zoom Zoom

2014-12-25 18.44.56Sometimes, when we expect things to be really difficult, they’re worse. I knew my time between Thanksgiving and New Years would be challenging, since I had all of the usual holiday obligations and activities, plus our county’s annual booksale, plus our son’s move out of our house into his own house, but there was more! On Thanksgiving, the very first day of holiday festivities, my mom fell and broke her hip. It was almost eleven o’clock at night, and she just turned to get up from her chair, and over she went. We followed the ambulance to the hospital, where the staff very kindly ignored the fact that some of us had obviously been celebrating quite a bit and were wandering aimlessly around the emergency area. Everyone was fine by the time we left at six in the morning, and we all spent much more time over the next few days than we ever expected at the fabulous Parkridge Hospital (Resort & Spa?) while Mom had surgery. Seriously, I have never seen a hospital this gorgeous, with marble floors, fountains, and firebowls in the pools. Mom is still in rehab, but she was able to come home on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for all the festivities. Here she is on Christmas night, snoozing after a big day.

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Our county’s annual book sale took place two weeks later, and all the normally sedentary librarians had the experience of standing, walking, and carrying 450,000 books on a concrete floor all week long! We shared naproxen sodium tablets and tips for easing muscles. I began a love affair with Blue Emu. For those of us in administration, it was a fun time of customer service. Who doesn’t love a huge building full of readers?

2014-12-21 15.33.35Our son was happy to move into a new townhouse, and his realtor’s wife was happy to have a December closing!* His move was somewhat more stressful than anticipated, though, and was delayed several days. Here is a Public Service Announcement: When you buy a phone from AT&T and ask to make payments, they open up a $5000 line of credit for you! Our son did not know this, but his lender found out the day before closing. Even though the new phone was paid for, he had to produce a document that proved that the credit line was closed, and that document had to cross numerous desks before he closed. Because of that, he ended up moving the furniture in the middle of the week, when all of his helpers were at work. However! He now has a lovely townhouse located right near the city—just where he wants to be. First order of business: Get that NC State Christmas tree up with just a week to spare!

In the meantime, I now have a guest room and a craft room! We moved all of Michael’s furniture out of his office, along with three truckloads of furniture and stuff from the garage, and then we started cleaning. I took every single book off the three ceiling-to-floor bookcases, dusted them, and placed them on the floor. When each bookcase was done, I wiped it down, and then David pulled it out and vacuumed behind it. Then I put every single book back on the shelves. Ten thousand squats! I could hardly walk the next day. We cleaned up an antique chest of drawers and moved David’s grandmother’s dining room table in there. It had been in the garage for three years! Murphy’s Oil Soap is a wonderful invention. I spent some of the Christmas money I received from my mom on art supplies and moved all of my old art supplies and my sewing machine into that room. While I was looking for old paintings, I found a substantial length of dark red fabric, so I turned it into window treatments and a matching seat cover for the chair. I rounded up some favorite mugs and repurposed them, too. Here are some before and after photos.

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Like most of you, we also spent more time than we would ever want staring at the television screen, stunned at the news. People were in the streets in Missouri, New York, Paris…. The mind boggles.

Even with all the undecorating and return to work, we did find time to grill salmon in the dark,

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make the best New Year’s Day pork roast ever, thanks to Ina Garten’s Make It Ahead cookbook,

Make It Ahead and sip tea in our new teal tea pot,

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also compliments of my mom. I’ve spent some time on resolutions and plans, which I will share with you in another post, coming up soon. Here’s hoping for a nice, dull 2015.

______________

*Note: For those of you who didn’t know, my husband was our son’s realtor.

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Yew Might Be a Redneck…

2014-12-07 18.53.49We’ve spent two days here trying to get a respectable Christmas tree up. First came the fluffing of the branches: assembling my mom’s old artificial tree, with bits of greenery snapping off as we go along. We have a whole grocery bag full of detached fake spruce segments now. After that, it was pretty late last night when we were trying to string the lights. I said, “If we can just put the lights and the garland on, we’ll finish decorating tomorrow.” Michael was at a birthday party by this time, and David’s and my Christmas Spirit tank was on E. Plug in first set of lights: half-dead. Second set: ditto. We threw away three sets of lights.

Today, refreshed and renewed, we bought lights and all three of us gathered ’round. The lights and the garland are now on, but just as I pulled out the first package of balls, my son said, “But Dad! Shouldn’t we try to put it on the stand before we go any further, since the clamp broke?” Me, shrilly: “What? What clamp? What?” David, calmly: “No problem. I’m going to duct tape it.” And he proceeded to do just that, as you can see. Here’s hopin’.

However, decorating has come to a complete halt, since we carefully removed every hook from the decorations last year and sealed them neatly in a zip-lock bag. If you happen to see a zip-lock bag full of hooks, please let me know. We’ve searched all the way up to the attic, but my living room floor is still fully decorated with hookless ornaments.

Merry Christmas.

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Call Me Eowyn

House of HealingThis is probably the longest stretch between posts that I’ve ever had! We have been holed up here in the House of Healing for the fall. I returned to my doctor last week to receive a clean bill of health, although I have to remain on Nexium until the Saturday before Thanksgiving. If I have problems after that, it’s swallow-the-light time. However, I feel so much better that I hope for good things.

TrubioticsRight now, I am on a kick in which I eat everything with good bacteria in it, since I have effectively killed every bit of bacteria I ever had with nuclear doses of antibiotics. Eating bacteria on purpose has never been a goal of mine before, but now I can direct you all over the grocery store for gut-gratifying foods. The pharmacist recommended a 30-day course of TruBiotics, the One a Day brand probiotic supplement, so that was step one. I already eat Fage yogurt every day, and I decided that I would also drink kefir, since I used to drink that in my ‘70s health food days. GoatLet me just say that the fruity—obviously sugary—kefir that I drank then was much more pleasant than unsweetened kefir, which is a serious assault to the taste buds. I’ve tried sweetening it up with different things that are acceptable to diabetics, but , well, *shudder*. Sauerkraut that is found in the deli section, as opposed to canned sauerkraut with vinegar, is also filled with busy little creatures.  The hot dogs I’ve eaten it with are probably not so healthful.

A few weeks ago my son went in for some minor surgery, so we’ve been worrying over him and helping as much as we can. We are all getting better here! We have had flu shots! We have excellent digestive health—barring any unexpected Ebola outbreaks! Soon we will have our fireplace tank filled with kerosene, and we will be ready for the snowy winter forecast!

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Take Heart, by Mari Fitz-Wynn

Take HeartA couple of months ago, the adult nonfiction selector in our library system came over to my desk holding a new book, pointing to the author’s name. “Is this our Mari?” she asked. I looked at the name. “Well, I know that her last name is Wynn, and she did homeschool.” We were both amazed that a woman with whom we work every day had written a book and didn’t tell us!

Some of Mari’s older children had already started a traditional school when she and her husband decided that they want to teach their kids at home. Two of her children have learning disabilities, while others are natural students, so she has covered the gamut of learning styles and teaching methods. Take Heart: 26 Steps to a Healthy Home School is a gathering of much of the wisdom and knowledge of a mother of six over a span of eighteen years.  Mari takes the 26 letters of the alphabet and discusses a home schooling topic for each one. For example, C is for character, E is for expectations, P is for pitfalls, and S is for support groups.

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Mari Fitz-Wynn

This slender volume offers practical advice on many issues, such as burnout and unit studies, but it really glows when Mari offers support and assurance. I have to admit that I was surprised to learn that Mari has been a speaker at homeschool conventions, since she is probably the quietest woman I have ever met. However, she certainly has many valuable things to say! Her sweet, calm presence shines through these pages to offer guidance when younger moms might be frustrated or discouraged. Coming from a thoroughly Christian worldview, she offers prayer and scripture to lead moms through the tough times or to offer praise for the privilege of spending our lives with our children.

Testimony time! Two of Mari’s children, a son and a daughter, have worked with us at library administration. I knew them both years before I met Mari, and they are living proof of her success in childrearing. They were hard workers, kind, respectful, and reliable— everything mothers everywhere want their children to be. We sent them off with fabulous reviews. Her daughter went on to graduate school in Australia and is now an office administrator for a local health and nutrition company, and her son is finishing up his senior year in college and working as a tutor. They were both proofreaders and editors for Take Heart.

Congratulations, Mari! Beautifully done.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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Treading, Shredding, But Not Much Shedding

2014-09-06 19.24.05I know that all of my readers have been breathlessly awaiting an update since my August 13th post about our new treadmill and my resolution to Spartan Up! First of all, I want to let you know that I love my new Skechers Go Walks! They fit like a glove, and they’re as cool and light as advertised. I just pull them on and I’m ready to go. No socks, no lacing. I’m not sure whether I’ll want to switch back to socks and my big ol’ walking shoes when the weather gets cooler, but we’ll see.

Along with walking, I’ve been trying to do push-ups and crunches. I figure that aerobics and these two exercises will cover all of my needs. Since I’ve been working in an office, I’ve noticed a big difference in my arms. I’m sure that this has nothing to do with the years streaking by, but my forearms have turned to moosh. The only work my forearms do now is help to support my hand while it clicks a mouse—and that’s only my right hand. If you squeeze my forearms, you get moosh and bones, that’s it. After just a few weeks of push-ups, my arms seem to have more substance.

After a week or so, I realized that I wanted to make sure that I did my push-ups correctly, since I’m doing them lady-style, that is, from the knees. I went on YouTube and searched for “push-ups women,” and found a very informative video that showed me that, yep, I’m doing it right. I’m learning a whole new lingo, though. During the demonstration, the guy instructor said, “Remember that the belly-button is engaged.” I beg your pardon? My belly-button is not engaged. If it were, it would certainly have told me so. Legally speaking, my belly-button is married to my husband’s belly-button. I’m pretty sure that’s how these things work. In any case, every time I exercise, I stay aware of my belly-button. So far, it hasn’t tried to run off and elope.

2014-09-06 19.22.29I do my crunches on the exercise ball that my sweet niece gave me a couple of years ago for Christmas, which now has squatter’s rights on the seat of our family room rocking chair. When I do give it a shock by placing it on the floor, it makes it so much easier on my back. No more excuses to avoid crunches. I do have to put it beside the sofa, though, so that I can grab the arm when I’m losing my balance. So far, I’ve only flipped over once, although it was a terrifying experience. There I am, crunching away, when suddenly I’m seeing what’s behind me, upside down. Twirling my arms in the air didn’t help, but I finally found a way to twist to the side and slide off that way. I was so embarrassed, even though I was by myself! I will not be posting a video.

Treadmills are so awesome in one way, in that you can exercise like mad without leaving your air- conditioned home. I decided to walk for 30 minutes—about a mile and a half—on weekdays, increasing to two miles on weekends. I wonder what our hard-working ancestors would have thought about sweating through two miles of walking uphill, yet still remaining in the same place. What could possibly be the purpose?

2014-08-12 21.46.52David finally made it onto the treadmill last week, in the mornings while I was getting ready for work. Friday morning, a persistent noise was making its way through the floorboards, and as I went up the stairs, it became more and more distinct. Bap! Bap! Bap! “What is that?” I asked. “Oh, it’s nothing,” puffed David. But then I saw something whipping around the end of the treadmill, and he had to admit that the belt was shredding. Oy! There is some force in my house that targets and destroys treadmills. Fortunately, it is possible to purchase a new belt for this model, although it is not cheap. Naturally, we had to try that universal cure for all ills before springing for a new belt, so David coated the top and bottom of the tear with duct tape. I was downstairs reading yesterday evening when he was effecting this repair, and I looked up curiously when he came down the stairs and out the back door with a flashlight. After coming back in, he confessed that the treadmill did not appreciate the duct tape under the belt, and had tripped a breaker. Fortunately, it did not burn out the motor, so I was able to walk a bit today once he removed the bottom layer of tape.

Pink scale

How cute is that? I want one.

So, after all this effort, have I been dropping those pounds like mad? Not a bit. I dropped three pounds right away, put two back on, dropped one, gained it back, and so on for three weeks now. As of this morning, I had lost almost six pounds, but tomorrow morning I could gain it all back. Who knows? I’m trying to give myself that whole pep talk about how the exercise is causing me to build up muscle, and muscle weighs more than fat, so really I’m losing fat. Yeah. So really, I have gained forty pounds of lovely muscle, which will soon start burning all that fat, and I’ll look like a body builder overnight some night. I’m not sure that’s what I was going for, to tell you the truth. And no, my clothes do not feel as if they’re about to fall off, either. If I had wanted to maintain my weight, I could have done that while eating sugar-free homemade ice cream and snacking in front of the television every evening. Believe me, I know this from experience.

On the other hand, I do have another tool to measure my health: my glucometer. Every morning now, I take my fasting blood sugar, and it is doing soooo much better. I had gotten up to a morning bg (blood glucose) between 110 and 115, which is not where an unmedicated Type 2 diabetic wants to be. Since I’ve quit the evening snacks and started exercising, it’s usually around 100, and often in the 90s. Happy day. This is a better indicator of what’s going on inside than my scale. Once it even fell to 89, and my glucometer was so concerned that it asked me if I wanted to make a note. (This is what happens when you have smart appliances. They get all emotional.) Glucose Buddy logoI have also found a new app for diabetics that I like much more than the old one I had that suddenly got all nosy and wanted me to join a group. I uninstalled that one. This one is called My Glucose Buddy, and it seemed to get the highest reviews of all the Android apps out there. It’s free, too! It can keep track of all your stats, and it’s very organized and easy to use. If you have a smart glucometer, you can download your info directly into it, and when you’re ready, it will fax a report to your doctor. That’s great, because I never could figure out how to email a report to my doctor with the last app. I’m looking forward to the day that I’ll have a very impressive graph to show her. I downloaded it from the GooglePlay store on my phone.

My whole extended family is working out and getting fit. My son is running with the “Couch to 5K” app, and my sister has started a kick-boxing class. Not that she needed to get more exercise; she swims every day, walks, and plays tennis like a pro several times a week. We’ve been talking about how weak Americans are compared to, say, the Israelis. With this new class, though, she has a surge of confidence. If the terrorists show up, she can yell, “Look out! I can jump rope for three minutes!”

Skip, skip, skip….

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