Thursday, April 30, 2009

American Individualism?

As I experience different areas of the world and of my own city, I am often struck by one similarity that seems to cross every culture except America (and perhaps Western Europe): the ubiquitous mobs of family groups. 

Puerto Ricans, Middle-Easterners, South St. Louis Bosnians- they travel in age-defying herds. Sometimes segregated by sex, sometimes not. To me, it's a wonderful thing to see all the generations loudly and openly interacting- the parents not acting like the children are a burden, the teens not acting like they're too cool, the grandparents shuffling along and realizing they're the most important person around (and the rest of the group acknowledging that reality).

I really don't want to rant about how, despite our frequent shouts about emphasizing the family, we continually deconstruct the family through almost every institution we have- the very fact that we have to 'emphasize family' shows that we don't, indeed, emphasize family- but I just want to know how we got here? These other cultures are our heritage; we were melted together from the hispanics, the Africans, the eastern and western Europeans, the Asians- and all these cultures, for the most part, still expect to see children with parents, grandparents with children, aunts and uncles with everyone else. When did we lose that? Was it the industrial revolution (my personal scapegoat for most of America's ills)? Was it the very act of crossing the ocean, then crossing the prairie, that demanded rugged individualism and a split from the security of family?

There are some good things about us being this way... the boldness to make decisions, despite what our family and friends think, for one. But I believe we lose a lot when we further separate ourselves into generations, as well as ethnicity and economic station.  It's just one more barrier that we build between ourselves and the people around us- which in this case, are our past and our future.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Afternoon, fading rapidly into evening

Listening to the Psychedelic Furs and frying up quesadillas for dinner.  I've been cranky today; I'm not sure if it's a result of my too-high expectations for the day, or if the children really have been awful. Or both.  And I shouldn't say awful- it's rare for my kids to be horribly misbehaved for long periods of time. Demanding? Yes. Quibbling? Disobedient? Lazy? Yes, yes, yes, and thus my crankiness. And tonight our prayer group meets at our house, so we have to at least pretend to clean, and not-just-pretend to clean out the 'gagsome' (Malachi's adjective) chicken coop. (Oh, I can't wait until those fowls are outside!)  Anyway, we won't get much praying done if we're passing out from the overpowering smell of three half-grown chickens.  Lord knows we all need prayer, too. I could use an entire prayer group devoted just to myself, in full-time supplication that I keep my mouth shut, stop judging everyone, start cleaning my house, stop worrying about money... so cleaning the chicken coop it is.  Thankfully, God's ears are open despite the stench. It is only our own shortcomings that necessitate the removal of all distractions so we can take a few moments of our lives and concentrate on something outside of ourselves. And chickens are a serious distraction... BAWK! B-GAWK!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Something Deep

I feel like I should post about something deep. But nothing is coming to mind (my hair is deep blue now; does that count?)  David at this point will throw in a bawdy comment, but I'll ignore that.

The kids and I are on a two-week school break and I am trying to get everything done that I've neglected for the two previous months but instead am just digging myself in deeper (there, something deep is mentioned again!) to the black-hole known as my 'to-do' list.

That could be something deep to talk about... why Americans are so caught up in productivity, getting things done, racing from place to place as quickly as possible so they can have more, do more, be more, probably from an innate desire to find meaning in life when they really believe themselves to be nothing more than random acts of chance... while merely perpetuating the cycle of meaninglessness and producing some decent cups of coffee (there's something to be said for that, now that I think about it.)  But I just don't feel much like analyzing and criticizing tonight, so I'll ignore that train of thought. Besides, it would be hypocritical of me, considering how many years I've worshiped the gods of productivity and efficiency. How much time I've wasted, accomplishing rather than enjoying! Rushing instead of appreciating!  Blogging instead of cleaning!

So... nothing deep tonight. I look forward to starting school again next week.  I miss it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Everything my kids know, they learned from the Far Side

Stuart impressed an adult yesterday. This dad at a birthday party, while the cake was being prepared, yelled out 'Let them eat cake!'. Stuart started laughing hysterically and said, 'That's mean!' He and Malachi then went on to call for a guillotine.  The dad was flabbergasted that Stuart had caught the reference, and thoroughly impressed at how smart all those homeschooled kids are (though he didn't state that directly, I just know that's how he feels ;) I, of course, kept my mouth shut, since I knew that Stuart's awareness of the French revolution has nothing to do with intense and demanding history courses for elementary-aged kids and everything to do with his passion for the Far Side.
You've maybe seen it... Gary Larson's typical chubby, pointy-headed woman being led to the guillotine, surrounded by an angry mob, and she's yelling out: 'I said let them eat cake and ICE cream!' Stuart read this and was like, huh? Mom, what in the world is this talking about? So we had a nice little discussion about the grisly period of time known as the Terror, and being an adolescent boy, he was all over it. '50 people a day!? Oh, wow, can I build a guillotine?' Yea. If you've had an adolescent boy, you understand. They just love gore. The end result? Stuart now understands subtle party references to Marie Antoinette.
Of course, I'm going to let everyone keep assuming that it's my adept teaching style that causes my children to be so smart, while amassing large quantities of Far Side, Calvin and Hobbs, Non Sequitur.... who knows, maybe I'll even start my own homeschool curriculum, based entirely off comics!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Pitter-patter of little carbon footprints

Because of our interest in, ahem, 'unique' organizations we receive literature/updates from a wide variety of fringe groups that are scattered across the various points of the political spectrum. I noticed years ago that the alarmist-type groups all really have the same basic tone: send us money now, or the world will end. Or... call your politician now, or the the world will end. Or.... drown yourself in the Mississippi now, or the world will end. The only true difference is the particular issue that is going to cause this world-ending catastrophe: the impending ice age (you old folks will remember that particular fear), pornography, the extinction of a certain tree frog that lives only on one acre of land in South-eastern Asia,  the destruction of the family because of day-time soaps, and so on and so forth. 
Population growth is a big one for all these various political-spectrum points. On the one hand, I read Rushdoony ideas about how Christians need to have huge families so we CAN TAKE OVER THE WORLD HAHAHA!  Which actually raises an interesting point, since the other side of this issue is the zero-population growth crowd, who is going to breed themselves into extinction, deliberately. Oh, please don't leave us with just the Rushdoony dudes!
I have lots of opinions about both sides of this argument with which I won't bore you, but I do feel the need to point out that our our family of six has less of a 'carbon-footprint' than Al Gore. Part of the reason for this is that yes, we do care- very  much- about being good stewards of our resources, but mostly it's because we live very frugally and don't give a flip about what the neighbors think (sorry neighbors, it's true). Mowing? What's that?