Monday, December 9, 2013

Proposing To The Parents

11-23-2012

 “I’d like to marry your daughter.”  Those words slam like a gut punch, even when one is braced for impact, even after training and preparation, even knowing in advance--for years-- that this could happen.  When those words come – no amount of training can soften the blow.  It comes with the shock of a one-two punch.

Children do that, grow up, move on, and as a parent, one can only hope that they are prepared for the challenges of life, prepared to sustain a strong and successful relationship with someone else.  A parent hopes that a child has figured out friendship vs. love, but still we wonder. 

So, after reeling in shock, the critical question comes to the mind, “Why.”   

Now it is the fiancĂ©e’s turn to look flummoxed.  “Why?”  The question hung in the air and I clarified, “Why do you want to marry her?” 

The pain of my gut punch was still fresh and I wanted--no I needed--a salve, a balm of some sort, to soften the blow, to soothe the pain.  I wanted to hear something comforting like, “because I can’t function a day without her, ”or “When she is in the room I want to be next to her seeing what she’s seeing, feeling what she’s feeling, doing whatever she’s doing.” I imagined the quintessential, “My love is like a disease, pervading my every physical cell, overtaking my circulatory system, making my heart pump, my blood flow, my lungs heave, my breath shallow.” For was it not Plato that said, “At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.”  I never have, but Brian?  Hey, the man is an English major, a poet right?  This is what he does.
The guy’s been to college so I would have approved of a philosophical answer like Aristotle, “Love is composed of a single soul, inhabiting two bodies.”  Or something more in line with his Asian back story, perhaps from the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

All of these responses would have appeased my passionate nature, but instead I received the equivalent of  “because she and I work well together.”  “We feel strongly about the same things, that marriage is more than a contract, but that two people must have compatible goals, and an equal determination to work at marriage to make it succeed.”

“Really?”

I pressed him still, yet eased up, trying to give him an opening, an indication of what I was aiming for.  I said,  “I need to hear that you love her passionately, that you can’t live without her.” 

“Well,” in typical Brian fashion he continued,  “I’m sure I could live, but it would be really hard.”

I backed him into the corner with more jabbing, “But, she is the only one for you, your soul mate?” 

“Well...” 

Again?  Really!

He continues, “I don’t necessarily believe that such a concept is rational.”  

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I have heard the two of them discuss the philosophical nature of deep abiding friendships and eternal love and I don’t need an update.  

I press in now and I’m pounding relentlessly, “Then you could marry anyone and that would work fine,” and to his credit, much in his favor, he blocked the jabs and he did not cave.  

Again he was insistent, “I’m sure it would be possible to marry someone else and live life just fine, but I don’t want to, I want to marry Dia.” 

The passionate frustration in me peaked!  He was so being Mr. Darcey, both the literary protagonist and the physical man that I live with.  How do we do that—search the world over and marry our fathers?  He was also script perfect with Pride and Prejudice.  How does he seek to pacify and rationalize love and yet insult with intended generosity?

I’m unconvinced that this deep abiding friendship to which he alludes is enough to sustain a long-term relationship that must become what I feel is imperative--an unfeigned, relentless love.

Unfortunately, at that point, he opens himself up for the one-two punch. I  counter, “You’ve missed your calling, You should have been an accountant.” 

To be fair, he had, not more than ten minutes before, phrased his remarks for the benefit of the father of his love who is the critical analyst of the family and whatever was said,  Brian passed with flying colors.  The dear husband, Mr. Darcey (spelled correctly) was convinced.  He was All In, although he still could have waited until 2014 to hand his daughter off. 

But, I am not appeased for I am the one who remembers that little face from first grade coming to me and looking up, insisting that she was ready to get married.  I asked that little blond head beaming with the beatific smile the same question, “Why?”

 And what was her response?  “Because he likes my art and he thinks I’m smart,” –already, the grown-up answer.  Even as a little girl, she understood that friendship first creates a place where love can grow, flourish, deepen and become eternal.   

In the early years of Brian and Dia’s friendship (back when I really liked him), I recall her phoning me after a day of skiing, “Mom, we just clumped in the door, I made it as far as the bathroom before exhaustion cut me down. I am so tired.  Brian is in the kitchen after putting up the skiis, drying out the clothes and starting the fire; he is now fixing supper.  How can I not marry that?” 

And I agreed.   How could a girl not marry that?  That act demonstrated another one of the great and important traits of Mr. Darcey!  Skiing!  No, I mean thoughtful consideration of others.  

In addition, as I have met the Sabey family, it comforts me to see the example of the entire family in putting first the feelings and concern for other’s souls.  It is deeply ingrained in their psyche and that tradition, from Mark & Lisa, their parents,  Grandma and Grandpa, aunts and uncles, including the children,  that is a balm to my heart.

 “Who, if not him?”  That was Mr. Darcey’s counter to me while I was still reeling from the bout.  Indeed, as I sought more peace in my mommy mourning, I reflected on Brian and Dia’s relationship. Brian has time and time again, over the course of their courtship these past three? four? five years, demonstrated the deep friendship that first considers the comfort of the other.  When he sent her off on the mission that was her heartfelt dream since childhood with a “There is a family in Hong Kong who needs you,” and then fully supported her on that mission with his weekly pertinent tales of his own mission lore, or when he encourages her to follow her passion for English, these are proofs of that deep friendship. 

Brian has never--and I must state this emphatically, and not reluctantly-- Brian has never done anything that made me doubt his suitability as that guy, the one who likes Dia’s art and thinks that she is smart.  He gives one hundred percent  because in a great friendship, such sacrifice is reciprocal and from that effort grows deep and abiding love.

And that is when you recognize that you can’t live (the same) without them. 

Most importantly, Brian has worked hard to win me over and I must admit there was one maneuver  that got under the defenses and totally tipped the balance.

The guy does windows.  

Welcome to the family, Brian.

Zombie to Warm Body: Our Transition to Homeschooling

Last week I finally saw the movie Warm Bodies.  It was an assignment for my homeschooler—that he find and be prepared to discuss the thematic elements of the movie as it relates to Shakespeare.  

(Advanced work really—assigned to my daughter’s college class, Shakespeare in Film, but as homeschoolers, we supersede our eighth grade curriculum--often.)

In the film, the zombie teen is restored to human form.  The premise was not new to my husband nor I because we’d seen just such a change in our own son.  In the past year, our Zombie child morphed into a more self-directed teenager with greater confidence in his own talent and abilities—a phenomena nearly as incredible as that in the movie! 

It began last year when my husband and I pulled our pre-teen student out of one of our state’s best public schools.  He had become a problem.  I don’t mean at school, because over the past nine years he had finally perfected “normal studenthood.”    

He would consume copious amounts of information and produce admirable hoards of paper and his teachers were thrilled that he could finally sit still and shut up.

It was our problem.  When we recognized that our potential inventor/engineer had adapted by turning off his inventive mind to meet the expectations of a conventional education we panicked.  He had adapted a little too well and excelled at sitting still, staring blankly at the wall and uttering banal inanities.  ZOMBIE!  Dinner conversations were limited to a serving of, “I don’t know,” with a side of “Nor do I care.”  

The straw that shoved the camel through the needle’s eye was when his homeroom teacher said, “To help your son be more successful, I recommend that you come in each day after school and preview each of his six teacher’s assignments on their boards to make certain he has all the details of the work written down and then go to his locker and make sure he has all his books and papers necessary to complete the work at home. AND I DID IT!  For a week, then it dawned on me that for years I had been schooling during all of our home time and that home schooling full-time might take less time.    So, we left school with the hope that if we do this, he may “at least finish high school.”  What a dim view of his greatness.  

Instead we were granted unexpected benefits as we unwittingly set in motion five changes that modified the ZOMBIE child.  SKIP TO THE END if you are rushed to lasso answers amidst a whirlwind.    

Zombie Strategy #5  

SLEEP:  Rising at the crack of dawn to stumble to a bus that leaves one hour and fifty minutes before school starts.  Lack of sleep is the number one problem interfering with child learning, just ask any educator.   Hence the sunken dark circles and the vacuous Zombie stare.

Those wasted hours of bus time are about how long we spend completing our book-learning.  Now we have actual leisure time for his anti-zombie training, i.e., scouts, piano, robotics, tae kwan do...


Zombie Strategy  #4  

PURPOSE:     There can be nothing more difficult for a teacher than struggling to create interest in a subject with a ZOMBIE.  Until a youth can take power over their own education, forced learning remains an instrument of torture—for the child and the adult.  Then at least two hours of homework drudge were added on to the end of an already learning-deficient school day.

Right now my son splits Math Mondays between coding classes, (codecademy.com) and college algebra (udacity.com).  Many of these on-line courses offer free certification to students upon completion. 

Zombie Strategy #3
 
DE-STRESS:  Educators know stress inhibits learning in children.  And thus develops the callous sense of self preservation so apparent in Zombieland.

Herd learning is a schedule of strict classes on a tight schedule, of time consumed by the classmate who should be the subject of  (not a group member in) the psychology project.  After which, the teen then lumbered across campus in the seven minutes allotted.  He bypassed the locker book exchange and yet without text, still only staggered into the classroom by the skin of his teeth.  If he arrived late and slammed into a closed classroom door, he was rewarded with a half-hour long after-school detention with the same babbler from psychology class.  

We have gifted that teacher with less stress and that classmate with greater personal attention as his teacher now instructs only 149 students daily. 

Zombie Strategy #2 

CUSTOMIZATION OF EDUCATION TECHNIQUES:   Homeschooling relieves the burden of pressure when a child is not yet brain ready and prevents the schism in the parent/child relationship created by that failed expectation.

  Freed from the bounds of teaching with a text to a test, homeschooling offers classical learning in the world of Platonic (stories) and Socratic (questions) education through virtual situations, simulations and infinite questions.  Both are more effective than learning by rote repetition, lackluster lectures, and wearisome worksheets.  My rapidly morphing teen is learning how to think, not thoughtlessly consume and regurgitate.   In a workforce of ZOMBIES, his leadership skills will be invaluable.


Development or Drills?    I should own the patents to every math, science and reading skill-builder  known throughout the history of man. I had no inkling of developmental readiness because in public education, all children must progress the same--together, with none left behind—a common core.   He and I fought-taught spelling utilizing every culinary tool from soup to nuts and I promise you, Zumba’s got nothing on the athletic gyrations of a mom-bod in full-out alphabet spell.

SOCIETY:  No more school lines, a half-hour-long waiting zombie-like to shuffle into the restrooms alone (the new safety rule at school)—all part of that cool school social thing that home school deprives him of.   We don’t miss that, nor do we miss the isolation of that creepy counter-culture lunch crush.    

 We are now eligible for a myriad of home school groups that orchestrate field trips and social activities.  These occur so frequently that we find ourselves struggling to fit in content amidst the hands-on and on-site learning.  We find these groups to be diversely educated, multi-cultural, intergenerational bastions of children flourishing in alternate learning cultures; a society in which children are challenged—the antithesis of Zombie. 


Zombie Battle Strategy #1 

WE LOVE ONE ANOTHER!

WINNER!  Before home school, my son and I shared an autocratic relationship wherein I pressed him mechanically to perform.

We no longer live in a Zombie (parallel) relationship; we interact in a new way and I believe it’s because he exults in the exercise of control over his own education.  We trust him to pick, choose and direct his own path—which translates into confidence as a competent adult. 

 My heart warms when strangers admire and comment as they watch the new interaction between my young teen and me, (it happened twice in a month!)

THE WHIRLWIND ANSWER:

Back to the warm metaphor, I believe the zombie teen in Warm Bodies evolves due to an increased awareness of feeling—of my hope for him, and ultimately of love and self worth as he recognizes the value he offers the world.   I know that for our former Zombie, the most important change is that he knows there is an infinite world of knowledge out there and he is confident and capable of discovering his purpose in that challenge. 

If you think your child doesn’t know that, find ways to warm that body.   Zombie Attack!



If I Make You Angry, I Win

Children teach.  The very act of parenting is a daily dabble in the puddles of patience and long suffering, but there are moments when a child turns a shallow little dip into a complete submersion of a vast and spiritual depth.

My oldest son Ian, is inordinately bright, and that makes him an odd ball to his peers.  We have faced our share of challenges, like his response to the “bully on the bus.” He ax-kicked that kid in the head, but the driver assured me that the incident would go unreported because, in his opinion, the other kid had it coming. I still initiated the “turn the other cheek talk,” and I further explained that turning the other cheek was not in preparation to throw a 360 back kick. 
    
It was ten years later when Ian was a senior in high school that he came to me again.  “Mom there is this guy in AP World History that just won’t let up.  He trash talks me every day and it goes on and on until the girl behind me sticks up for me and tells him to leave me alone.  What am I going to do Mom?” 
I reminded him of the bus story outcome and I gave my best mommy answer, “respond politely.”  Long after graduation, he told me the rest of the story and his solution became one of those headlong dives into unplumbed depths.

Aside from (or perhaps due to) the bus incident, my son has become a person that is slow to anger.  Scripture encourages us to become so and gives many examples of Christ being slow to anger.  An example: The story of the woman taken in adultery and brought to Christ by adversaries with a hidden agenda.  He faces a lose-lose scenario; either answer he would give will be wrong.  What does he do?  He doesn’t flare out in anger, doesn’t protest in rage, doesn't let his temper rule, he simply crouches down and draws in the dirt.  And he thinks.  He becomes our great example of marshaling our thoughts and controlling our responses.  He is slow to anger. 

I am a passionate person, a drama queen and I love nothing more than a good argument.  My father assures me that it’s in the genes and I work to manage this character trait.  My son’s response to his World War History problem encouraged me to work at this even harder.

We live in Oklahoma where we really get to practice freedom of religion.  I am offered a blessed day when I leave Walmart, and when we moved there, one of the first questions was if we had yet found a church.  Practically every street corner offers one of a different faith.  As I drive down the street. the big posted church bulletins are thought provoking... “When you feel abandoned, it was not Christ that moved.” Another states, “If I make you angry, I win.” 

Wow.  “If I make you angry, I win.”   It could be my touchy neighbor speaking, my adversary at work, my spouse, or that guy in the passing lane on the freeway, or a random person at the supermarket.  He that provokes me to anger WINS!  Or it could just be Satan speaking.  “If I make you angry, I win.” 

Cleansing the TempleA quote from Thomas Monson states:  “To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan.  No one can make us angry.  It is our choice.  Anger, Satan’s tool, is destructive in so many ways.” 
From the Holy Bible, in Matthew 11:11, after Christ makes his majestic entrance back into the city, he goes to the temple and sees what is happening there.

In our minds, we have the artist, Carl Bloc’s depiction of what happens next.  In this painting, Christ is wielding a whip over his head and the animals are running amok.  There utter chaos in the frame, but in a talk Gordon B. Hinckley states that this “is not an outburst of uncontrolled anger.”   

So what really happened?  If I remind myself of doctrine, I know that Christ was perfect on earth, and so I reread the verses with added insight. 

Verse 11: Christ enters the city, visits the temple, views what’s going on and then goes with the disciples to Bethany.  Maybe he ponders on what is happening and gives himself time to marshal his thoughts?
      
Verse 12: It isn’t until “on the morrow,” that Christ goes back to the temple, and methodically--for the second time--casts out the moneychangers.  He upends the tables and the chairs and verse 16 says that he “would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.”

I have a new and enhanced view of the story--Christ was perfect, slow to wrath, and not dictated to nor governed by anger.  I am further convinced by what happens in the very next paragraph—he teaches.

Verse 17: And “he taught” and said to them, “is it not written that my house shall be a house of prayer, not a den of thieves.”  No one learns well when frightened and the ability to influence others is lost with anger.  Christ taught immediately after the incident, so he must have cleansed the temple in a manner that did not appear that he had lost hold of his senses, nor become “possessed” in anger.

My new son-in-law begins law school in the fall and he doesn't like to argue... with me.  He protests that I have just changed my mind, contradicted myself, gone off on a tangent and diverged too far from topic.  I protest that I’m not in it to win, I’m in it merely to argue. 

But Gordon B. Hinckley gave an example of truth as he related a story of a man that pitched a fit when he asked him to move a train.  The man ranted, screamed, stomped on his own hat and Pres. Hinckley couldn't help but laugh at the man.  He quotes Ecclesiastes 7:9:  “be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry:  for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.”  When temper gets the better of us, we lose the ability to convince, to teach or even to influence.   

 Verse 18 proves the efficacy of Christ’s teaching ability as “the scribes and chief priests heard, and sought how they might destroy him, for they feared him.”  It was not his actions they feared, but his impact on the people, “because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.”  Christ was effective just as the son-in-law will be as cool heads prevail.

In Priesthood talks given in conference in October, 2007 and 2009 respectively, President Hinckley and President Monson relate many heartbreaking stories of lives ruined by anger, the result of emotions ruling people who, upon reaching their breaking point, act.  Many later responded, “I don’t know what came over me.  I just went too far.”  I believe that the influence of Satan governs our actions more freely when we relinquish control and it does take only that small suggestion to push us over the brink. That is why we see good men doing really horrible things.  In Tulsa recently, one terrible story ended tragically when a pregnant woman in the midst of an argument pushed her husband through an eighteen story window.  Tragic and life altering consequences result when anger acts. 

The world would have us be true to our natural being—encourages us to disregard what it terms “old-fashioned convention” and to do as we feel—to act on our base nature—be authentic and real.  In contrast, the Lord and his gospel would have us marshal our thoughts and emotions and control our actions. 

As a teenager, my son, Ian really liked Chuck Norris—the jokes and stories and because he has an impeccable memory, he recalls them all.  When I asked him about how the situation in World War History resolved, he told me this story; it could be a fable, who knows. 

Chuck Norris was sitting in a bar and a man came into the bar up to him and said, “You are in my chair.”  Chuck looked at him, stood up and moved to another.  The other patrons at the bar said to the man, “That guy is Chuck Norris, he coulda trounced you.”  The man was prompted to go to Mr. Norris and ask why he hadn't stood up for himself—why he hadn't fought him.  

It's said that Chuck Norris looked at him and quietly responded, “It’s a chair.”

After relating that story my son said, “Mom” he said, “I figured it’s just a chair.”  

When I related the response to my husband, he responded the opposite of me. He said, “I have not paid for ten years of martial arts training for that boy to turn the other cheek.”

I must admit that I did think that if my son had taken his black belt to school and set it on the desk with the three gold stripes showing, the problem might have been resolved.
But in the big eternal picture, such action would have taught no eternal principle.  And with a worldly perspective, in the end my son would have gained nothing and his effort to become more like Christ may not have begun.

I have a testimony that our efforts on earth to marshal our thoughts, to learn to control our bodies—will help us emulate Christ. 

I know that these are mere tools preparing us for the eternities to come, for a time when we will be like unto God and we must train now at His feet.  I encourage all of us to further study these talks, to take these principles into our lives to become slow to anger and to endeavor to become more like the Master.

Redneck Piano Mover

My Dad is a genius!

"Dad, I just bought a piano.  Can you help me move it with your truck, or your trailer, or one of the myriad of moving menagerie you have?"

"We don't have brawn,"  he deadpanned.  "Let me think and I'll be over in a minute."

I returned to the garage sale site and patiently waited.

"My dad is coming."

"Just your dad?" the guy said.

"Yup, just my Dad."  I responded with complete confidence.    The guy is a product of a brighter age-- a guy who thinks the world needs what he thinks up next.  He is always the inventor, trying to do it better.  From backpacks, log splitters, diamond forging, to a better way to mold bronze, he has been there, built that and then tried to improve it.


We hear an engine laboring... what will it be, the ten-ton trailer he welded himself to move his heavy machinery?  Or the RV he rebuilt from his half-ton dump truck?  It could be the tool trailer he modeled from an old truck bed?  I could hardly wait.

And Voila!

Dad lowered it down, tipped it in, tied it down and drove through town.

Drove right to the back door, tipped it up and he, the son, the nephew, and weak little me rolled it in.

ThAT GUY is AMAZing.








If only my son could reignite the inventor mind that has been dumbed out of him by poor parenting practices that don't inspire greatness and the monotony of public school.

We can only hope.

The world needs more inventive minds like my Dad's.