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Archive for February, 2010

FYI on WEM

Since today (Sunday) is my sweet, amazing, wonderful, unbelievably kind, sexy husband’s birthday, I’m going to hang out with him tonight instead of working on the WEM post for tomorrow.  You gotta have priorities, people.  So the discussion on Chapter Four will be posted hopefully sometime tomorrow night/Tuesday morning.

See you on the flip side.  🙂

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The Agony of Defeat

Something about watching the Olympics while suffering from stress-induced insomnia makes one extremely introspective.  Just getting that out there.

Yes, I haven’t been sleeping.  Or rather, no.  No, I haven’t been sleeping.  Why, you may ask?  I’ll answer with a question:  Have you ever noticed that when something bad happens, lots of bad things tend to also happen at the exact same time?  “When it rains, it pours”… my mom claims this as gospel truth, and I now know there is a reason behind the cliche.

So almost four weeks ago we found out that Annie had an uncommon, but not rare, kidney condition that explains her small size, poor appetite, and muscle weakness.  We began a 4x/day regimen of a ridiculously high amount of oral medication to supply what her kidneys as yet cannot… and each day it has gotten more and more difficult to administer.  We have tried everything — and I mean everything every doctor, nurse, mother, web site, Facebook friend, and random person on the street has suggested — to help her take the medication, but nothing has worked.  We did see some benefits in the first couple of weeks:  her appetite had improved a bit, and she seemed to have more energy… for example, she could now (finally!) do this:

(Yes, I know she’s almost 11 months old, and pushing herself up on her hands for an extended period of time is something that most babies can do at like four months, but until now the muscle weakness kept her from doing much on her stomach other than laying flat and screaming.  So believe it or not, this was a huge step forward.)

But as the days wore on, she fought harder and harder against the meds, somehow scratched her throat so badly that it bled, and developed what the pediatrician called an “oral aversion” to not only the meds, but — you guessed it — food.  You know, the thing the medicine was supposed to help?  Yes, that.  I finally called the doctor in mommy-desperation begging for answers, alternatives, anything that would help.  And today, we got the news that (1) her lab results were probably wrong, creating an artificially low bicarbonate level; (2) she’ll have to get blood drawn AGAIN, probably at Children’s Hospital, so they can conduct a more sensitive test to confirm the RTA and have a better understanding of the amount of meds she actually needs, if any; and (3) if the RTA and need for meds is confirmed, we’ll likely have to put in an NG tube to make sure she’s getting the right amount… and who knows how long that will be needed.  Frankly, at this point, if she still needs the meds Bryan and I would welcome the tube… and Annie probably would, too.

Now, I know there is much to be thankful for.  There are so many families out there who get horrible news every day about their children’s health, and what Annie is dealing with is minor compared to their trials.  And I do thank God every day that it wasn’t worse… that it’s not even the type of RTA that will be of a lifelong concern.  But for this season, for all of us, it is still difficult.

So that’s been going on.

And then last week, Bryan found out that his (and his entire office’s) hours were being cut to 60%… accompanied, of course, by a similar cut in pay; he’s a structural engineer, and the entire construction industry (as many of you know) has been hit hard during these challenging economic times.  We had been working and living at 88% pay for the past year and a half, so we had already taken any and all “fluff” out of the budget… so this hurts.  A lot.

And in case you’d forgotten, we were planning to start the adoption process ASAP… in fact, we were planning to use our tax refund to pay for the application, the first agency fee, and the homestudy.  Now we need that money just to survive through this season, and my momma-heart is broken.  Completely and utterly.  Yes, I know this is only a delay, that God’s timing is perfect, but still… my heart aches for my baby girl, even though I haven’t yet seen her.  Somewhere in my heart I feel that she’s already in the world, growing in her first momma’s belly, and I long for her.  That may seem strange, but that’s where I am, what I’m feeling.  Just being honest here.

And then we all got sick.  The boys first with bad colds, then we think Bryan may have had H1N1 flu, and I got a similar bug that has lasted this entire week. Puking while shoving a syringe down a screaming infant’s throat… not a grand combination there, let me tell you (sorry for the TMI).  Again, not a huge deal in the big scheme of things, but it all piles up.

I guess what I’m trying to say — and the reason for the post title — is that I’m feeling pretty defeated right now.  Hence the insomnia.

Yet I know — as I alluded to above — that our God is good.  All the time.  Despite, and through, our circumstances.  He is all-knowing and completely sovereign over the highs and lows of life.  And I do trust that our present trials are working for our ultimate good… somehow, some way.  I just wish I could see a glimpse of the end of the tunnel, a small peek at the victory that is to come.  Is that to much to ask?  (rhetorical question… I know, I know.)

Thanks for listening to my venting.  I shared because I appreciate your friendship — from near or far — and would covet your prayers for our little family.

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“Once a day… call yourselves to an account what new ideas, what new proposition or truth you have gained, what further confirmation of known truths, and what advances you have made in any part of knowledge.” -Isaac Watts, from Improvement of the Mind

Wow, it has been a ROUGH week around here.  But bad news, medicine struggles, sickness, and sadness aside… I’m here, you’re here, and we’ve got a brand spankin’ new week ahead.  God gave us this week to glorify Him in word and deed… so let’s get cracking.  In other words, let us rejoice and be glad in it.  🙂

In Chapter Three, Bauer focuses on journal keeping as a means of self-discipline, a way not only to keep track of your reading but also to track your thoughts, ideas, and criticisms of it.  After all, this educational journey is not meant to be merely a mental check-list, crossing off books read as we cross off our daily to-do lists; it instead is meant to generate action in our minds: active thinking, evaluating, understanding, and use.  We’re not just reading words on pages; we’re reacting to them, putting them in their proper place in our minds and hearts.

According to Bauer, the ideal idea journal combines both the objective (memorable quotes, facts, summaries) and the subjective (observations, evaluation, and reaction).  As Bauer writes:

“The goal of classical self-education is this: not merely to ‘stuff’ facts into your head, but to understand them.  Incorporate them into your mental framework.  Reflect on their meaning for the internal life.  The ‘external things’ – be they Platonic philosophy, the actions of an Austen heroine, or a political biography – make us more conscious of our own ‘reality and shape.’  This, not mere accumulation, is the goal of self-education.  The journal is the place where learning happens.”  (36)

So it’s now official:  we’re going to be writing this stuff down.  Don’t you feel all academic right now?

Our action step for the week is to practice taking notes while reading, then summarizing what we read.  That sounds simple enough at first glance.  Heck, I even started my own idea journal a few years ago, using a small five-subject Mead Five-Starr notebook to jot down quotes from my reading… as well as menus, schedules, daily workouts, and ideas for my own writing.  I like it because it’s portable (at least it fits in my huge momma-bag that I call a purse), it’s cheap, it’s durable, and most importantly it does what I want it to for minimal fuss.  I’m ahead of the game.  Right?

But herein lies my problem: at some point during the pregnancy/child rearing craziness (“haze” might be the most appropriate term) of the last ten years, I lost confidence in my ability to retain and truly understand “difficult” reading.  I found it hard to concentrate effectively, to formulate thoughts into any kid of intelligible whole for any real length of time.  Perhaps you can relate.  So while I have kept an idea journal of sorts for a while now, my journal more closely resembles the “commonplace journal” of Jefferson’s day — the recitation of facts, nothing more.  In fact, I even quit paraphrasing at one point… I had — have — so lost faith in my own ability to understand the difficult, to correctly deduce the intent of the author or what my thoughts on that intent should be.  So the reading portion of my journal is filled with quotes, and only quotes, some of which are quite lengthy.

This is my challenge and my main reason for diving into serious reading again: to find again some sort of intellectual capacity beyond simple math and Veggie Tales.  I used to be smart… or at least smart-ish.  And I’d like to be able to carry on an adult conversation that doesn’t revolve around the color of my baby’s poop (as endearing as that may be) for once.  Please tell me I’m not alone in this.

So, friends, let us rediscover our brains together.  For this week, our assignment is this:

1.  Read through Chapter Four without stopping.  Jot down ideas/phrases/quotes that leap out at you.

2.  Divide the chapter into sections and summarize each section in your own words (shudder).  Leave large margins, and then…

3.  Use a different color pen to comment/react to your summaries in the margins.

Deep breath.   Now go.  Read.  Enjoy.

Oh, and we start Don Quixote next week (this is the version I have… it looks like it’s back in stock at Amazon).  Are you as nervous as I am?

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Annie’s First Words

“Annie, say Mama.”

A:  “Mama!”

“Annie, say baby.”

A:  “Ba-be!”

“Annie, say Daddy.”

A:  (sticking tongue in and out) “Bla-la-la-la-la.”

“Annie, can you say Daddy?”

A:  “Bla-la-la-la-la.”

“Annie, please say Daddy.”

A:  “Mama.”  (smile)

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(or, as it is more commonly known back where I grew up: “Wrassling”)

Much of what Bauer had to say this week concerned slowing down, to read not only to gather data but to also seek wisdom and enlightenment… in her words, “to understand an idea (justice, or charity, or human freedom) and use it to make sense of the facts you’ve gathered.”  Again, this is completely contrary to how I was taught for my entire life.  That includes law school.  Especially law school.

Anyway.

The following passage really resonated with me:

“Technology can do a great deal to make information gathering easier, but it can do little to simplify the gathering of wisdom.  Information washes over us like a sea, and recedes without leaving its traces behind.  Wrestling with truth, as the story of Jacob warns us, is a time-consuming process that marks us forever.” (25)

… types she who is sitting in front of the computer for the umpteenth time today.  And who checked her email 8,000 times last week.  Yep, I didn’t do so well on that whole not-checking-my-email-first thing (hangs head sheepishly).  I have a new strategy for this week, and I’m hoping — praying — it will help break my habit.  I sure hope so.

Some of you have looked at the reading list and been overwhelmed (all of you?).  Some have wondered just HOW long this is all going to take (all of you?).  Well, me too.  I am the queen of “get it done and get it done now”.  When God handed out patience, I must not have stuck my hand out far enough.  I want to accomplish, to get through, to check off my list… and quickly.

But the thing is, I don’t want to feel like a washed-over beach anymore.  I don’t want to be a “fount of useless knowledge”, good for nothing but Trivial Pursuit glory (I do play a mean game of TP, mind you).  I want to make the effort, to struggle and prevail.  I want to Deepen,* to sink roots down into knowledge and let it grow and bear fruit.  I want the truth to mark me forever rather than just sliding off, serving only as some surface-level exfoliation.  And to do that, I’m going to have to take the time.  And so will you.

Whew.  That sounds intimidating.  But that’s why we’re all in this together, right? Right?

So I’m going to say something, and I want you to repeat it.  Out loud.  Several times.

Perhaps it can become our mantra of sorts.

There is no rush involved with lifelong learning.

Breathe.  Repeat.

Again.

Let’s just start with that, shall we?

So, what did you all get out of this week’s reading?

(*thanks to Madeline L’Engle’s “A Wind in the Door” for the analogy… beautiful book, by the way).

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You know how I said in my first-ever post that anything I could write would pale in comparison to the lovely folks out there in the blogosphere and beyond?  Just in case you didn’t believe me, take a gander at this splendid piece of literary genius.  She’s writing a book, and you’d better put it in your Amazon shopping cart as soon as it’s available for pre-order.  I’m just sayin’.  Girl can write.

Oh, and this encouragement from one of my used-to-be-local-and-hopefully-one-day-she-will-be-again peeps.  That is exactly what I needed to hear today, of all days, for many reasons.  Thanks Joanne.  🙂

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My little princes

… are famous (at least, if you know at all about these great people and their way-cool ministry).  Check them out in the crowns they received at Christmas!

BTW, Annie’s getting a “Leah Rose” doll from this group for her first birthday.  It arrived last week, and gosh, it’s just beautiful.  🙂

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