Sunday, November 22, 2015


It's not too often I finish two good books in one week.  But a wrong-number phone call at 12:30 last night led to a couple of hours of sleeplessness - so I finished reading Rosemary, by Kate Clifford Larson.  After that, relaxing was still difficult, because this book is so sad.

Rosemary Kennedy lived a tragic life.  She was the oldest Kennedy daughter, and she was slow.  Very slow.  Too slow to be successful in school.  She lived in a time period when developmental delays were not well understood, so she did not get the help she needed.  To compound the issue, she was born into a family in which the need to get ahead, to be successful, to look good at all times in public - all those were preeminent to meeting the needs of a daughter who was different.  And, being the oldest daughter, she had to watch her younger siblings catching up and surpassing her with their academic and athletic abilities.

So Rosemary was constantly pushed and prodded, and moved to different schools.  Her parents felt like if she just tried harder, if she just had the right school placement, or the right tutors, or whatever, that she could succeed.  All the pushing and prodding, for a young woman who simply did not have the abilities to be academically or athletically successful, led to understandably great frustration and anger issues.

The one time in her turbulent life when she was truly happy was while her father was the U.S. ambassador to England, when she was living at a convent school there.  She was trained to be a teacher's aide for preschool children, and she loved it.  That sense of accomplishment, coupled with being away from her demanding parents (her siblings loved her but didn't really understand the situation), led to that being a peaceful time for her.  Unfortunately, World War II loomed, and her family had to return to the States.  Her life spiraled downward after that.

Then, in her early 20s, came the cruelest decision--one in which she had no say.  Her father ordered a frontal lobotomy performed on her.  This was a new, fairly untested procedure that was supposed to help with her increasing depression, seizures, and anger outbursts.  It went horribly wrong.  She was never again able to walk or communicate properly.  She disappeared from the family, and her siblings were not given an adequate explanation for many years as to what happened to her.  So as not to have too much investigation into her situation, which might have jeopardized the political futures of the family in Massachusetts, Rosemary was settled into a large group home setting in Wisconsin run by a religious order.  Her father had a little house built for her, and she was cared for by nuns on the campus until her death in 2005.

Her mother did not visit her for 20 years.

The one good thing to come out of this mess is that, because of Rosemary, her sister Eunice, as well as many of her nieces and nephews, became advocates for disabled people.  They took a great interest in her, and in later years visited her often.  The Special Olympics program was one result.  Ted Kennedy's work in the Senate on behalf of disabled people was another.

Kate Clifford Larson has a good style and writes a book that is difficult to put down.  Part of that is due to the arresting subject matter.

Today there is almost an excess of help for special needs people.  For example, sometimes I can get irritated with the Americans with Disabilities Act, because it's frustrating to see a dozen empty parking places in a store's lot, when others have to park further away.  However, this book revealed another side to that picture - it showed what the days were like when there was little assistance for people who desperately needed help.  Rosemary Kennedy was one of those.  Reading about her difficult life has given me more compassion for those with special needs.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday's Fave Five, 11/20/15

 Link to Friday's Fave Five host blog

1. Last week was incredibly busy - I was once again assisting our school speech teacher with our annual play.  That meant two days of getting to the downtown theater for practice, and three straight evenings (after teaching all day on two of them) of sitting backstage and prompting.  And, foolishly, I scheduled a field trip for the one day that the play was not a factor.  But it was an excellent week - the students did great - and it was a fun production of Cheaper by the Dozen.

2. And this week has been incredibly productive.  I've had lots of projects going but have had the time to get them all done, and have enjoyed them as well.  I love to execute new ideas.  Too bad that most of life is spent doing more mundane things!!  :-)

3. I am down two more pounds.  Already I can feel the difference of 17 fewer pounds on my bad knee.

4. The piano tuner came this week and got our piano in good working order.  It hadn't been tuned in ___ years.  (The number is too high to admit it in public.)  The damper pedal had not been working right, which is what finally precipitated my calling a tuner and getting it fixed.  It plays great now, and getting a tuner has already forced me to also organize the pile of music that's been on the piano for quite awhile.

5. Mike has been home on vacation all week and has been getting much accomplished on the new patio out back where the pool was.  He's getting estimates right now for labor and materials.  When he does something like that, he always gets it done well.

It's been a good week!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Girls of Atomic City

In October, my friend Barbara reviewed this book on her blog, Stray Thoughts, here.   It sounded like a book I would like - and it was.

Thousands and thousands of workers were brought into a fenced-in and highly guarded area at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, during World War II.  They knew only that they were working on some kind of important project for the war.  Everything was very secretive, and anyone who speculated too much or asked too many questions, was quickly removed from the site.

Many of the workers were young women.  They were preferred for this project because of their youth and naivete.  Some were office workers, but many actually ran the machines that enriched uranium (although they were not told that that was what they were doing).  This book tells the stories of about a dozen of them - several of whom are still living and were interviewed for this book.

The workers at the plant were just as surprised as the rest of the world when the news of the bomb became public.  Some of them struggled with guilt for contributing to the project, but many of them were more stoic, accepting that what they did was necessary to end the war.

I prefer non-fiction books, and this was a good read--one of those books that's hard to put down.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


We lead such ordered little lives most of the time.  We cling to our routines and we see our lives as being good things.  We live on our isolated islands, not knowing or realizing the misery that is occurring in homes and lives around us.  We may even feel smug in what we are doing to make the world a better place, or what we are doing for the cause of Christ.

Then something like the massacre in Paris occurs.  We are re-awakened to the magnitude of the evil in the world.  We are forced to realize that the history we've read is not distant past - that the long-ago Crusades actually occurred to fight an onslaught that is just like the one that is beginning in the Western world now.  (Beginning. There will be much more on down the road.)  We see the carnage and the bodies, and realize just how bad, and just how horrifying, sin really is.

Then we put "Pray for Paris" on our Facebook posts, and our hashtags, and we talk about the horrible event for a few days.  And then our minds and hearts settle down, back into our routines and good works and ordered lives, to continue living in the same oblivious thinking -- until the next massacre occurs.

And we forget that we are really just as sinful and horrible as those ISIS gunmen.  That "all have sinned" truly includes us.  Each of us could be one of them.  Or Hitler or Mussolini.  Or whatever awful rapist or murderer has been in the news this week.  The world is a broken and dead place, and we are broken and dead sinners.

The only thing that has kept such murderous events away from most of us is the grace of God and the Holy Spirit, holding back sin in the world today.  And the only thing that has prevented us from committing just as horrible crimes as were committed in Paris last night, is the grace of God in our lives.  Events such as Paris show us just how stark the contrast really is, and what grace and mercy really are.  May we open our eyes, and our hearts, and fall on our knees in gratitude to a holy and loving God.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Ten Things To Know About Christian Education

A missionary friend directed me to a blog post that was called a "blog hop"--several Christian missionary women who each listed ten things on their blogs about the country where they are living and working.  Each lady had a link at the bottom of her post that would take the reader to the next blog.  It was very informative and interesting, and any reader of this blog can link here to "hop" on the reading.

I'm not a missionary, in the narrow sense of the word.  But it did get me thinking about ten things in the area where I have spent the last 35 years - at least as represented in my experiences.

1. Our student body is very diverse in the spiritual backgrounds of the students.  For a number of our students, the only Christian teaching they receive is what they get at our Christian school. These students are not troublemakers or cause undue negative influence.  But they are not from homes that place priority on Christian teaching and doctrine.  This truly is its own mission field.
2. Christian schoolteachers deal with the same problems that are prevalent in society today.  In recent months we've dealt with cutting, date rape, suicide, and a host of smaller problems.  Our young people are as conflicted in many ways as the average teen, and we are in no way immune from the problems of today.

3. I have complete freedom to approach any work of literature, principle, or question asked by a young person, from a Biblical perspective.  I don't have to "teach to a test."  As long as the basic outlines of the coursework are covered, the administrator allows me the freedom to accomplish the goals as I desire.

4. A good Christian school has a strong academic program and is not content to settle for mediocrity in teaching.  Teachers have to be creative, innovative, and know how to make do with fewer resources.

5. Most long-term teachers in Christian schools have some sort of break in housing or other expenses, a spouse or other family member with a good-paying job, or a second source of income.  To pay teachers what they should be paid would price many students out of the opportunity.

6. Over the years, the trend has been that there are many more enrollees from single-child homes.  Many families with multiple children homeschool.

7. I've also noticed in recent years that parents expect more perks than they used to.  They also expect to be able to take their child out for vacations or other reasons, much more often.  That used to be a rare thing.  It's not any more.  It's also a big headache to have students out for vacations.  Some are good about catching up with their work--others are not.  Either way, it increases the work.

8. A teacher in a Christian school needs to keep the perspective that even her students from Christian homes are from diverse backgrounds.  Some parents, who love the Lord and desire to rear their children well, may have somewhat different theology than we do.  But they are willing to abide by our rules and standards in order to get what we have to offer.  I cannot approach class with my own Christian "lists" or jokes or preconceived notions.  I have to be careful what I say about other denominations because one never knows what is in someone's background.  There is no need to create unnecessary stumbling blocks, especially to fellow Christians.

9. A Christian school had better be savvy with media or it will slip in public opinion.  Websites have to be up to date.  Sometimes prospective parents will visit a website only - and if it is poor, they will leave the site within ten seconds - and not give the school a second look.

10. Teachers and staff must approach the Christian school situation as a specialized mission field.  Who knows whom a teacher is influencing, and passing along the baton.  It is as critical a ministry as any other.

Some thoughts on a rainy Friday morning!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Loving Tribute--Elisabeth Elliot

My friend Barbara posted this on her blog during a series she wrote on Elisabeth Elliot.  This was shown at her memorial service in July, at Wheaton College.  It's well worth the reader's time to watch this 16-minute YouTube clip!