July 16, 2009

The God Divide

I read a hilariously touching book in one sitting this weekend and knocked out another book on my Summer Reading Challenge list. (I have been reading quite a few books in one sitting lately. I guess that is what happens when your husband travels to another continent for two weeks.) I am afraid, however, that I will find it much more difficult to write about than it was to read. Kevin Roose's The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University challenged me.

The Unlikely Disciple is the story of Brown University student and Quaker Kevin and the semester he spent at Liberty, Jerry Falwell's shining University on the hill. I have to admit that I read this book with a "but for the grace of God go I" attitude. Years ago - twenty-two to be exact - I came under enormous pressure from leaders in my church and friends of my parents to attend Liberty. I didn't go, but it was interesting to see what my life would have been like if I had.

I've been a Christian for most of my life, and yet my Christianity has run the gamut of belief from hard-core evangelical to someone who believes that Jesus might just be a Democrat. I am not going to use this post as a place to enumerate my views, but I think your views will define how you see this book.

Some of you will think Kevin is an unsaved heathen. Hopefully more of you will see him as many of us really are, a good person struggling to find what he believes. I think that is what I loved about this book ... he was a reporter writing a story, but he really became part of the story.

Here are some of the great reviews I found:

Roose went to Liberty as an undercover writer, not as a seeker, though much of his book’s considerable charm comes from the fact that he liked a lot of what he found...[a] vivid, sunny and skeptical portrait of life among the saved.
— New York Times

The Unlikely Disciple serves as a refreshing cease-fire in the wearying culture wars, likely holding surprises for anyone — theist, atheist, or somewhere in between — who gives it a chance.
— The Onion A/V Club

Kevin Roose is a delightful writer, and this is a humane book. Read it and I predict you’ll have less paranoia, more exposure to ‘the other,’ and a larger dose of Roose’s generous and hopeful faith.
— Brian McLaren
Christian activist and author of A New Kind of Christian, A Generous Orthodoxy, and Everything Must Change

And yes, before I forget, Kevin Roose is a very good writer. I look forward to more from him.

July 15, 2009

Word of the Week

fet⋅ter  [fet-er]


1. a chain or shackle placed on the feet.
2. Usually, fetters. anything that confines or restrains: Boredom puts fetters upon the imagination.

–verb (used with object)

3. to put fetters upon.
4. to confine; restrain.

bef. 900; ME, OE feter; c. OHG fezzera, ON fjǫturr; akin to foot

Related forms:
fet⋅ter⋅er, noun
fet⋅ter⋅less, adjective

fetter. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fetter

July 11, 2009

Buzz Aldrin's Fatal Flaw

We went to the Musuem of Fine Arts, Houston last night for a talk and book signing by astronaut Buzz Aldrin. You know, he is the guy who was SECOND to walk on the moon.

My boys were excited. They watched From the Earth to the Moon
the night before. They gathered up all of their space books to read on the way down to the Museum. During a quick stop at the library to pick up some books on hold, they checked out more books on Apollo 11. They told the waiter in the restaurant that they wanted to ask Mr. Aldrin if he still likes to fly ... they love to fly. They were prepared.

They didn't complain that they had to wait in line for an hour to see Mr. Aldrin. It didn't matter to them that the microphone was malfunctioning. They didn't care that they had to wait another hour to get their book signed. This was one of their heroes.

Mr. Aldrin's assistant/bodyguard was rude. She was ugly. She snapped J's book shut and told him Mr. Aldrin would not sign his book. She interrupted a conversation I was having with my son.

Mr. Aldrin didn't even look up from the books. He didn't interact with the people. He wouldn't shake my sons's hand. He didn't even smile.

How sorry I feel for Mr. Aldrin. He is not one of their heroes anymore.

On the way home, J said he knows what Mr. Aldrin's fatal flaws are. As a matter of fact, J thinks Mr. Aldrin has two. (1) He thinks he is better than anyone else. (2) He is so obsessed with fame that he can't see anything else. He wants more and more and more.

"Dosen't he know, mom," said J. "Being famous doesn't make you a hero."

Oh, what words of wisdom. How right you are my son.

Mr. Aldin is working on his legacy. That is plain to see. He wants to explain away the years of alcoholism and mistakes and missteps. He wants everyone to see how important he is. He has met Presidents after all. He has met kings. He has walked on the moon.

When you are gone Mr. Aldrin, there will be a few people left who will care. Your vision is just that, a vision. And a vision is defined as "an experience in which a personage, thing, or event appears vividly or credibly to the mind, although not actually present." Don't you know, Mr. Aldrin that in the end, the only ones who will carry on your legacy are the children. Just not my children.

I feel sorry for you, Mr. Aldrin. You think you are a hero. However, last night you missed a chance to meet some real heroes. I know, I live with them every day.

July 10, 2009

A to Z and Love

I finished reading, in about an hour last weekend, CS Richardson's beautiful and elegant The End of the Alphabet. It is a story of travel and memories; however, as The Washington Post says, "Above all else this is a story about love, something longer than the alphabet and wider than geography." The writing is ethereal ... transcending the narrative to explain the relationship. And it is wonderful.

I have always had a list like Ambrose's. If I had a short time to live, I know where I would like to go. My list did not cover every letter of the alphabet from A to Z, but I have always known where I want to go before I die. After reading this, I decided to expand my list and include a place for every letter.

Here is my list:

Athens (on my original list)


Cairo (on my original list)

Denali National Park


Fez (C for Casablanca and M for Morocco were already taken, so this part of the world gets F)

Galapagos Islands

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Istanbul (on my original list)

Jerusalem (on my original list)

Kenya (I would love to take one of these safaris)


Machu Pichu

Northwest Passage

Oregon Coast

Plymouth Rock (I have stood in the church where the men, women and children worshipped before leaving for a new world on the Mayflower, but I have never stood where they landed. I would like to complete that journey.)


Rome (on my original list)


Taj Mahal





Yellowstone National Park

Zion National park

You might wonder why some rather obvious locations are missing from this list. Where, for instance, is The Great Wall of China or Bangkok. I have been lucky enough to live on 4 continents and have travelled extensively. A place that would have otherwise made my list - such as Paris - has already been checked off. That is also why there are a number of National Parks on my list. I have travelled the world, but I have not seen as much of my own country as I would like to.

I think my list looks like fun. However, as I was working on this post and dreaming of adventure I realized something. If I only had a month to live, I don't think I would really want to travel. I would probably spend most of my time planning for my boys life after me. I would write them letters and buy them presents for future events. I would spend every moment with them, and I wouldn't want to spend those moment stuck on an airplane. Boy-Oneder and Sonshine are my greatest adventure.

Now if there was a year ... I would stick to my original list. I would visit the centers of the great ancient cultures: Rome, Athens, Istanbul, Jerusalem, and Cairo. I would take the boys with me and take a million photos.

Where would you go ... from A to Z? Post on your own blog and let me know or post in the comments.

July 9, 2009

Books for Boys

I have read a number of articles lately about the dearth of books for boys, like this one in Education Week.

Authors Share Tips on How to Hook Boys on Books

Sorry, but I think these articles are missing the point.

There are some wonderful books for boys out there. Books with wonderful male main characters. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Nick McIver to name a few. We just finished The Call of The Wild and are quickly moving through Robinson Crusoe. The books for boys are out there. I will admit they are not as numerous as books for girls, but part of me says, "Thank goodness." I don't need a boy's version of Twilight or How to Be Popular or The Summer I Turned Pretty.

In my opinion the problem is not that the books aren't out there. I think the problem is that we expect less of the boys and they meet those expectations. I will never forget the day my son came home with a choice from the library, selected just for him by the librarian ... Captain Underpants. This for a boy who had already finished The Chronicles of Narnia (in their original order he likes to say). I personally returned that book to the library and suggested if the librarian needed help in the library during my son's library time, I would be more than happy to come and volunteer (she never did call).

Why aren't we reading to our boys like we read to our girls? Why can't we send our boys off with adventure classics and show them that classic does not mean boring? Why don't we have mother/son book clubs just like we have mother/daughter book clubs? Why don't you take your son to a book signing?

I don't think the problem is a lack of books for boys. (But go ahead and bring them on ... if they are good we will read them.) I think the problem is that we read less with our boys and expect less of them. Let's be honest, the problem starts at home.

Are you in need of some great "Books for Boys" resources? Check out the side bar with some of my choices from Library Thing or follow these links ...

Boys Rule Boys Read!
Guys Read
Book Club 4 Boys

July 8, 2009


Today I want to share something REALLY COOL that I learned. Did you know that Don McClean wrote a song about Vincent Van Gogh? Hello, it is named Vincent. I have heard it a million times, but I guess I never heard the name and never really listened to it.

We were crying at the end of the slide show, but felt better when we realized that today people pay millions of dollars for a Van Gogh.

We studied Van Gogh through a new art curriculum I am using this summer called Meet the Masters. I like that the program combines art history, technique, and activity. I usually have the boys in a summer program at the Glassell Junior School at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (which had traditionally focused on technique), but this summer I decided to try something different. We will eventually cover 35 artists including Monet, Picasso, Mondrian and O'Keefe. We have had an introduction and one lesson and if this quality keeps up I will be ecstatic.

There are different levels in each lesson for different ages ... something even for the parents. Our project today was fun ... and educational. Shouldn't everything be?

Here is the painting we studied:

Here is our work:

Discover more about Starry Night at the Van Gogh Gallery.

2009 National Book Festival

The 2009 National Book Festival authors have been announced and one of our favorites, Rick Riordan, will be there. Talk about a "rock star" lineup ... Kate DiCamillo, Lois Lowry, Judy Blume, Jeff Kinney, John Irving and Ken Burns just to name a few. This year, the festival is September 26 on the National Mall.

I want to go.

July 7, 2009

Are you Wearing Yellow?

Are you as obsessed with Le Tour de France as I am?

Are you ambivalent about Lance's return to professional cycling? Doesn't some part of you say, "Let someone else have the glory you media hound," while the other part says, "Wow, you rock!"

Do your kids say, "Why do we have to watch cycling again?"

Does Bob Roll make you laugh?

July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day

You can't see it very well, but this is what it says.

The Declaration of Independence

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

How long has it been since you have read the whole document?

July 1, 2009

Word of the Week

The Word of the Week is back after a short vacation hiatus.

mis⋅o⋅pe⋅di⋅a  [mis-oh-pee-dee-uh, mahy-soh-]


hatred of children, esp. one's own.

Also, mis⋅o⋅pae⋅di⋅a.

< NL misopaedia; see miso-, ped- 1 , -ia

Related forms:
mis⋅o⋅pe⋅dist, noun

misopedia. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/misopedia

If summer were any longer, I would become a misopedist. (just kidding!!)