Monday, February 29, 2016

Dangers of Coasting Downhill

As you may note from the labels, this is primarily a homeschool post, but it has many applications to real life as well, for those of you who haven't jumped on the homeschooling bandwagon yet (and may not ever).

The last few weeks, I've gotten busy with other things. We started out the "semester" strong after a short Christmas break. We finished up our first set of math books and fine motor skill books. My 5 year old's reading has blossomed without any help from me, and his social skills are improving everyday. I was doing very little planning for our homeschool and the co-op had been planned well in advanced. So, I could finally relax and enjoy the fruits of my labor of an easygoing homeschool lifestyle, right?

Then, the dreaded 3's hit our house a few weeks early. My adorable monster suddenly began demanding MY time and attention during our school day. He suddenly pushed his bedtime from 9:30 to 10:30 to 11:30 at night! Doesn't he know that I need sleep and coffee to function? Can't they just give their mom a break for a few more weeks?

The problem was, I wasn't investing what I needed to invest in my kids. At this point, I'm not talking about discipline (although we are re-upping our game for that as well). I'm talking about an investment. When I saw I could relax for a bit, I didn't feed into my kids or take the time to plan anything extra, I just sat around smiling to myself and thinking what a great job I did.

Why is that so bad? Let me list for you some dangers of coasting downhill...

  1. Going too fast. I've started to think in the past few months, that because my children are advanced verbally and intellectually, they are advanced in all areas, which is just not true. Sometimes my 5 year old will get frustrated and throw an epic fit, hitting his babysitter or parent, this has nothing to do with the fact that he can read on a 2nd grade level and everything to do with the fact that he's a tired, hungry, overstimulated 5 year old with sensory issues. Despite the fact that my 3 year old (as of tomorrow) can communicate stories with a beginning, middle, and end in complete 10 word sentences, doesn't mean he's physically ready for potty training or developmentally capable of sitting still for 30 minutes while I do independent work with my 5 year old. It's dangerous to go too fast and assume that my kids can handle it, instead of maintaining and working on growth in other much-needed areas.
  2. Blind corners. I have always said that 3 is much worse than 2 or 4 behaviorally. And yet, when it hit our house a few weeks early, I was entirely unprepared. The defiance, the ridiculous bedtimes, the epic fit throwing, they all threw me off my game. Now, I knew they were coming, but I had no plan in place when they arrived a bit earlier than I expected. 
  3. Patting your own back. When we're going downhill, we can go faster, and it's easy to attribute our success to our own efforts. But in all honesty, the size and steepness of the hill and gears of your bike are what determine your speed, not your own effort. Your own effort in the downhill stretch needs to be ensuring your safety, if you congratulate yourself on hitting 45 or 60 mph on a road bike by patting yourself on the back, you will quickly find yourself on the side of the road, injured and with a bike in need of repair. It's not your own effort leading to speed, but simply the factors involved in your current environment. 
  4. Ignoring the road signs. While coasting, especially at a high speed, you may find yourself ignoring road signs of all kinds. You may be going too fast for a turn, miss a scheduled rest stop, or ignore the upcoming uphill stretch. It's important to note, not only where you are now, but where you need to be. Don't give up on planning for potential changes, don't given up on self-discipline, don't overschedule next week because you "can handle it now".
In short, sometimes in life, when things are going well, it is okay to sit back and relax for a bit, but going downhill isn't always the right time for that, if you're not prepared for the road ahead. The best time to relax is when you're on the flat road. Doing a bit of work, knowing what's coming up, and not taking things for granted and relying on your current circumstances.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax Volume 10


DMB Live Trax Volume 10

1) Everyday
2) Dreamgirl
3) Crash into Me
4) Hunger for the Great Light
5) Louisiana Bayou
6) When the World Ends
7) Grey Street
8) The Idea of You
9) So Much to Say » Anyone Seen the Bridge »
10) Too Much
11) Sister
12) Lie in Our Graves
13) #41 »
14) American Baby Intro
15) Two Step »
16) Ants Marching
17) Gravedigger
18) Jimi Thing
19) Stay (Wasting Time)
20) Don't Drink the Water
21) Pantala Naga Pampa » Rapunzel

Volume 10 of the Live Trax series takes us to a concert which took place a mere two months after Volume 9.  This show, part of the 2007 Europe tour, was noted for the crowd.  The audience in Portugal was absolutely insane and the recording captures it.

This album, thankfully, is better than Volume 9.  Once again though, I'd put this one in the "historically significant" category rather than the "great" category.  It's not badly performed by any means (my favorite 2007 release), but it's 2007 and there's no getting around it.

The first half of the set is off to a slow start with Everyday, Dreamgirl, and Crash Into Me.  It doesn't take off with Hunger or Bayou or When the World Ends either.  Grey Street and The Idea of You, although good songs, don't necessarily work here.  By the time of So Much to Say to Sister, the crowd may have been in a frenzy, but I am pretty relaxed.  There are just no standouts of anything here, and the overall song selection is weak (in my opinion).

The second half of the set is better.  Lie In Our Graves is good, and Tom Morrello guests on #41 and American Baby Intro.  The Two Step and Ants Marching are both great versions and close out the first set nicely.  The first encore starts with a nice solo Gravedigger but then derails with Jimi and Stay.  Thankfully, the crowd was nuts and a second encore happens, this time with Don't Drink The Water and Rapunzel - a much better way to end the show.

This show catches a lot of grief because of when it came out and the time period it captures.  At this point in the series, we had 5 volumes from 2004 forward (representing 7 total shows) which is, again, not what the series was hoped to be.  Although this is not a poorly played show, the songs being played at this point and the energy behind them (crowd excluded) just isn't there for me.  It's not one I revisit all that often, although it does get occasional play from me for Morello's guest spots.

The crowd is really the highlight on this release.  There's nothing to be upset about with the mix otherwise.

I give this 1 of 5 stars.  Again, it's not a poorly played show, but I'd rather have Crush, Say Goodbye, Warehouse, Lover Lay Down, and Best of What's Around than Dreamgirl, Everyday, Hunger, Stay, and Jimi (at least at this point).  No matter how well played a show is, the set list is still a major factor.  If you don't have a 2007 release, I'd get this one.  Otherwise, save your money.

Recapping where we've been, in case you've missed a few reviews:
Live Trax 1: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 2: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 3: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 4: 3/5, skip
Live Trax 5: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 6: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 7: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 8: 3/5, purchase
Live Trax 9: 0/5, skip
Live Trax 10: 1/5, skip

Live Trax Overall: 3/5, 5 purchase, 5 skip
It's interesting to me to keep a running total as I do this to come up with a score for the overall Live Trax series.  (My average is per volume, not per show.    So far, I'm running exactly average.  Not bad.  I have a feeling, based on the shows upcoming over the next 10, that I'll be running a bit above average by the time I'm done with 20.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Problem With Snap Judgment

Today's society is all about the instant. Instantly fresh-brewed coffee in our Keurig, instant entertainment at our fingertips, instant change in society's viewpoint of what's right and what's wrong. Yet, we are still the same humans we were 200 years ago.

Recently a close friend made a comment when I told them someone I knew was illegally giving her daughter CBD oils and they saved her life. When I explained what CBD oils were, he jokingly said, bet she went to California. Actually, it was Colorado, I corrected. But the bigger point is, why are we allowed to joke about the marijuana plant. I would argue those people are the same ones who refused to eat tomatoes for 100 years because they came from the deadly Nightshade family plants. Heaven forbid anyone against marijuana use purchase hemp cord, maybe they will accidentally overdose.

Now, I'm making snap judgments and using hyperbole in the article above, but I don't truly believe this is what the friend thinks. My point is that in today's society more than ever, we make judgments about what we feel is right, and we want action "right now". We may focus on the marijuana aspect and miss the point in the story about the miracle of this little girl, whose parents pray for her every day, being moved off of hospice and actually getting to go on her Make A Wish trip, which had been indefinitely postponed when she went into hospice care. We miss the opportunity to dialogue about CBD oils and how incredibly much safer they are than all the other anti-seizure medications out there. We pull out judgment hats on and then miss the sunset and complain that it's dark.

On the other end of the spectrum, there's the insanity going on in Charlotte to completely avoid "forcing" anyone into the wrong bathroom by "forcing" everyone to accept whomever into whichever bathroom they "feel is best for them". I can tell you how much a load of bull crap that is. But first, I want to point out something simple, that I read in an article - which was essentially that they had no idea security on public restrooms was so incredible as to keep people out. My husband also made a great point, it doesn't matter what gender you were or think you are or how you identify, you need to "go where your pipes go" (if you have girl pipes, you don't need a urinal and if you have boy pipes, you do). End of discussion, no need to make it political or judgmental.

And yes, if you really cared you could probably walk in to the opposite gender bathroom and no one would say anything unless you were causing problems. I was in middle school, with my hair pulled back, wearing a very masculine looking practice uniform for the basketball team (I used to be tall until I stopped growing). I was walking into the girl's restroom and someone said, "You can't go in there, it's for girls". Obviously, I told her I was a girl and kept walking and proceeded to cry and get all hormonal because that's what teenage girls do, but the point is that what bathroom we use is a societal marker, not a policed or legislated area. It's ridiculous to try to police something that can't be policed (who's going to check whether you have the parts you say you do, and if you're showing them to anyone who doesn't have those parts, then yes you do deserve to go to jail for that one).

My point here is that we need to stop basing our legislative decisions (and please dear heaven stop basing our presidential candidates) on the immediate. We need to plan for the future. We need to shut up for a few minutes and think through the problem or issue in front of us. We need to stop legislating the immediate in favor of the important. Instead of snap judgments, let's all try to make well-thought out judgments.

If you don't have the time to make well-thought out decisions, I've made some for you below.

  • If you see a CBD oil bill in your state, please know that it's okay to grow marijuana plants, I promise they aren't selling them for people to get high off of.
  • If you have boy pipes, use the boy bathroom, it's okay. Even if you feel like a girl, you still have boy parts, and I promise that I will call the police if I see them hanging out in the girls room. Once you have your surgery, feel free to use the girl's bathroom and I won't say a thing.
  • If you have a primary coming up in your state, please go out and vote for anyone but Trump. You can say what you want about him "saying what he means" and "being willing to do something about the mess" but I can promise you he's going to make snap judgments if any, and it will not be good for our country. We must work on the important, not the immediate.
  • If you see someone dressed in something strange, acting weird, or with a Trump poster, go up and talk to them and be their friend. Maybe the only thing this world needs is a few more voices of reason, but the first step is not judgment, the first step is connection.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Tell Me a Story

As told by almost 3-year old J.P.C.

Daniel came in the sunroom. A chicken crossed the road. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And, some walls. Now, if a chicken crossed the road, he would eat a lamp. And now, the chicken got one of those (pointing to some circles on the keyboard) and peeked out of his hole and pressed "w". Uh-huh, duvvle u. Now, the chicken would like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

And Clifford. He jumps. Now, he does typing.


A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Hmmmm, Now, a chicken crossed the road and ate it.

Ummm, the chicken had a baby. Yeah, that what I said. And then he pushed numbers. 5885866565555555555554615555555555522222222222222222222222222222222222

The chicken typed. And then he pressed numbers. He got a phone and pressed numbers. He was calling 2222 and then a man hear him. And then, he pressed numbers again.

The End

That was my last story.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax Volume 9


There aren't many multiple night sets in the Live Trax series.  Volume 6, Fenway, is one of them.  Volume 9, MGM Grand in Las Vegas is the other.  That's the one I'm discussing today.

DMB Live Trax Volume 9
03.23.2007 & 03.24.2007

Night 1
1) Pantala Naga Pampa » Rapunzel
2) Satellite
3) When the World Ends
4) Time of the Season
5) Hunger for the Great Light
6) Dreamgirl
7) Say Goodbye
8) The Idea of You
9) Louisiana Bayou
10) I'll Back You Up
11) Down by the River
12) Crush
13) The Maker
14) Jimi Thing
15) Stay (Wasting Time)
16) Sister
17) Everyday
18) What You Are

Night 2
1) Crash into Me
2) You Might Die Trying
3) Grey Street
4) Sweet Caroline »
5) What Would You Say
6) The Idea of You
7) Seek Up
8) Still Water »
9) Don't Drink the Water
10 Dancing Nancies
11) Where Are You Going
12) The Maker
13) Louisiana Bayou
14) Stolen Away on 55th & 3rd
15) Down by the River
16) Too Much
17) Tripping Billies
18) Gravedigger
19) American Baby Intro »
20) Halloween

These shows were released in early June, 2007.  That's not a lot of turnaround time between when they were recorded and when they were released, considering all of the time it takes to mix, master, produce, and ship product.  But, you'd never be able to tell that unless you went searching for the dates.  The production on these is top notch.  From the crew notes for these days, we know the band loved these shows and felt very strong about them.  It's definitely a rarity to have a show from the current year in the collection.

That's about all I can say positively about this release.

Well, I take that back.  This is the weekend, if the rumors are true, that the band decided they were not going to break up.  They decided they were going to stick it out together.  There was a very serious threat of breaking up at this point and something about these nights in particular stopped that from happening.  That's a good thing.  2008 was a completely new sound to the band and set the stage for Big Whiskey.

Ok, now that's everything positive I can say about this release.

I just can't get into anything about this particular album, either night really.  There are four repeats, which although not awful, isn't great.  A lot of covers were played these nights too (Time of the Season, The Maker, Still Water, Down by the River, Sweet Caroline), and other than The Maker I could take or leave them.

Night one starts fairly standard with Rapunzel and Satellite.  The set is rather dull and lifeless to me.  Jimi Thing (again, tired shell of it's 2003 self at this point), Everyday, Hunger, Bayou, Stay...nothing stands out.  It's cool to bring back so many covers, but there's really nothing about the performances which stand out about them to make them worth revisiting with any kind of regularity.

Night two is better, but not by much.  Crash Into Me, as an opener, is good, and at least Still Water was a little different to hear.  Everyone loves Halloween at a show, but this one isn't very good.  It competes with Weekend on the Rocks for worst released Halloween.

I'm certainly thankful the band had a good time this weekend.  If they hadn't, we might not be hearing them tour right now, or they'd be touring as a shell of themselves (which, to some, they already are - I disagree).  For a quick mix too, the band sounds great - much better than they do on the Live at Piedmont Park release from later this year (WAY too much Butch on that one).

But as far as releasing the shows?  I don't get it.  I may put in one CD of this four disc set once a year, just to try it out, but I never get much past skipping through a few tunes and putting it back on the shelf.  It gets zero stars for me.  I'd skip it unless you're a completist like me or really like the sound of the band between 2005-2007.  For the majority of fans, they're probably in agreement with me on this one being subpar, even if they find a few more gems on this release than I do.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Anniversary and Marriage Advice

The blog has been silent the last few days, because I've been spending time on something a bit more important, time with my family and husband.

We just got back from a family trip to Maggie Valley for some fun in the snow and to celebrate Valentine's Day and the 8th Anniversary of our marriage. We followed that up last night with a dinner out at a "fancy" restaurant sans kids.

Why is this so important? Couldn't we have spent that money on feeding the homeless, or educating the poor, or worldwide poverty? We certainly could have done that with our $300 or so, but I think that money was well-invested in building a better relationship with my husband.

I love to read, and one of the books I've been reading recently is very negative towards the institution of marriage. They romance the idea of extramarital affairs and make committed couples seem boring and just another way to escape from real life. If you watch TV much, you'll see plenty of the same, if you even see a marriage at all on screen.

So, why is a happy marriage important?

As my husband reminded me during our adult conversation last night, marriage is a sanctification. No, I'm not saying as some people have erroneously said in the past that a woman has to be married to be "saved". I'm not even saying that a man has to be married to be saved. I am saying that our rough edges and irritating qualities don't have to be only that. If marriage is taken in the right attitude, you both can grow and learn from each other.

For instance, my husband has several irritating habits. I can choose to believe that I have no irritating habits, and I can get upset that he's irritated by my habits (because they aren't "as bad" in my own eyes). OR, I can recognize my own shortcomings in his, and work to change myself, not my husband. I can get upset at his personality differences and he can get upset at mine, or I can realize that his differences work in tandem with my differences. His strength can be my weakness at times, and his weakness may be an area of strength for me.

We can choose to take offense. We can choose to seek temptations. We can choose to sin. OR, we can fight for our marriage, choose the side of love over anger, avoid temptation, and draw near to the one we've already chosen.

Marriage isn't a battlefield against your spouse, it's a battlefield for the souls of you both. Which side are you fighting on today? Have you given up the fight and are waving a white flag of surrender to temptation? Have you taken up arms against your own spouse?

If you haven't taken the time lately, it doesn't need to be a date night or a weekend away, but it does need to be a choice. Once you've made that choice, while the road won't always be easy, I can guarantee the final outcome will be worth it.

As a side note, I realized last night that I really had not had a date night in a long time. I was trying to remember whether to put on eye shadow or mascara first, and then my 5 year old asked me what lipstick looked like. I'm definitely not some June Cleaver getting hair and makeup perfect at home for her husband, but I do make an effort to do other things that I know my husband appreciates. The point is not that you have to do something because someone else does in their marriage. You need to recognize the positives and negatives in your own relationship and work towards building each other up and supporting one another rather than tearing each other down and belittling the other person.

Marriage can be process of sanctification, and love is always a choice.

If you're curious, you can't sue your spouse (except maybe as part of divorce proceedings) because the law views you as one, and you can't sue yourself. Something to think about the next time you have a disagreement...

Friday, February 12, 2016

Guest Post - Fiction Friday - The Case of the Missing Meatballs

The Case of the Missing Meatballs

As narrated by DC

One day, I was in the kitchen in my house. And then, I wanted to go into the living room. And then, I gone back into the kitchen, and then I saw my meatballs. They were gone.

I’ll give you some clues:
  • His name is Algebra and he was a mean guy.
  • He liked meatballs and he would like 1,000 meatballs, and I had the mix for that.
  • And so he stole the mix.
  • So, I had to buy some more mix, and then he stole the mix again.
  • Again, and again, and again he did that.

Then I said, “Crazy typing!”

Then I wanted to do that…


We tried to kill Algebra.

And then, and then, he almost got dead.

But, he actually had a gun, and I died, because he shooted at me. And he shooted at mommy too.

And then, he shooted Daddy.

And then, he shooted our grandparents. So, Gran and Pa are dead.

A fairy came and got Daddy alive, because God helped him.

Then the police, which was Daddy, put Algebra in jail.

The end.

Bonk. I didn't want to say that.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax Volume 8


Another day, another Live Trax review.  Let's talk about Volume 8.

DMB Live Trax Volume 8

1) Hello Again
2) Granny
3) #41 »
4) The Stone
5) Crazy Easy
6) So Much to Say »
7) Super Freak [partial]  »
8) Too Much
9) Bartender
10) When the World Ends
11) Help Myself
12) I'll Back You Up
13) Joyride
14) Grey Street
15) Sugar Will
16) Ants Marching »
17) Everyday
18) Typical Situation
19) Warehouse

The series returns to summer 2004 for this entry.  The pick this time around is one of the most highly regarded shows of that tour.  The show has its high and low points, but on balance, this is a much better selection for 2004 than Live Trax 2.

Hello Again, one of the new summer 2004 songs, opens the show.  I'm not a huge fan of this song, but it works as an opener here.  Granny is fantastic, and a great one-two punch of #41 and The Stone follows.  So far, so good.  Crazy Easy, another of the new summer 2004 songs, is next.  This was it's first release at the time (having been absent from Live Trax 2).  It's a fantastic sound and, although the lyrics are a jumbled mess, works here.

One of the gems in this release is the So Much To Say >> Super Freak >> Too Much combination.  Too Much in 2004 was a monster with the 'Lil John interpolation.  Super Freak is played here, partially, to honor Rick James who had just passed away.  For likely rehearsing it a couple of times in the dressing room, it's very well done.  I love the saxophone on it too.  (Leroi is ALL OVER this show.)

Bartender through Joyride is a bit of a drag for me.  Bartender here has the drawn out piano solo that I don't like, followed up by two songs I don't care for at all - When the World Ends and Help Myself. I'll Back You Up has a bass solo and, although a good song, I don't think it needs the bass solo. Joyride, another new summer 2004 song, pops up and remains a throwaway for me.

The show begins marching to it's conclusion with a solid, if out of place, Grey Street.  Sugar Will, last of the new songs, shows up and was the second time to hear Leroi's extended solo (instead of Santana).  The first was the Stand Up Bonus Disc which had a version of Sugar Will from The Gorge of that year.  This version is inferior to that one, which means it's my least favorite.

Ants Marching serves as an introduction to Everyday to close the set, which is a transition I do not like.  Everyday should not close or open.  The encore though makes up for it.  This Typical is great, and Warehouse is a nice dessert after the main course.

The sound here is fine.  It's compressed, but it's fine.

There's such a long stretch of this show that is a drag to me, and the ending of Everyday is pretty bad.  But, the first half and the encore are very strong.  And, did I mention Leroi is all over this one?  He plays his behind off and I never complain about that.  I have to give it 3 out of 5 stars.  I purchased this one used on eBay several years after it came out on a whim - it had a coffee stain on the package and it was only a couple of bucks.  It's worth more than that.  I'd recommend a purchase for the strengths of the show.  The lows are definitely not keepers, but there's enough here that makes it worth it.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The Right Homeschool for You

I've been talking with a few "new to homeschool" mom's lately, and come to realize that, as overwhelmed as I am with all the curriculum choices, they honestly have no idea what type of curriculum they want or need.

The good news is that, with a little time and patience, you can figure it out.

I recently read one of Cathy Duffy's Top Pick books from the library. While it was helpful. and full of advice on choosing curriculum, I had fortunately already found the right curriculum for me and my kids. And my method didn't involve a whole bunch of charts or adding up percentages or open ended essay questions (because really, what homeschool mom has time for all that).

First, I heard about an all in one curriculum that a friend loved (My Father's World). But her kids weren't really learning quickly with that method, and my son already knew the integrated phonics. Plus, I felt the Bible was a bit more kitschy sayings than actual Bible verses. But I loved the idea of all-in-one (and my husband did too since he was "on the fence" about homeschooling, he figured if you finished a whole "curriculum" then you'd be covered educationally.

We briefly looked at Classical Conversations because of some friends, but quickly crossed that one off (too expensive and all the "bad" of formalized education). Having determined that my philosophy is more Charlotte Mason than Classical, but I need more support and structure than "read these books and do some nature walks" we finally settled on the Heart of Dakota series.

There were no checklists or charts, just trying out a few options recommended or used by friends and quickly seeing what worked or didn't work for me or my kids. I originally though Heart of Dakota was a bit silly with the rhymes and dramatic play, but those are exactly the things that my kids need to work on (since my Kindergarten son doesn't participate in group activities, and rarely did make-believe before starting this program).

We ended up joining a co-op, and while it's been a big time-consuming venture, it's also been a great stretch for me and the kids, and given us a bit more of a social outlet. With a little experimentation, experience, and a few schedule changes this spring semester, things are working out pretty well with that too.

So, am I saying not to read about all your curriculum choices, or don't attend curiculum fairs or homeschool conventions? No, I think those have their place as well. I'm suggesting that sometimes making a decision about curriculum can be easier than it seems. Pick something that feels right for you and your family, and then try it out. Don't be afraid to change halfway through, but don't change on a dime either. Give it a few weeks to percolate and work out the bugs so it works for your family and then stick with a routine for a bit. You'll be surprised how much you learn, and your kids will be fine in the long-run.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Life as a Reserved Extrovert

Lately, there's been an article going around on Facebook about what it's like to be an outgoing introvert. Since my husband is the person in the family with that personality, I already know a lot of what goes through his head. I thought, however, it might be nice to hear the opposite perspective, since I am a reserved extrovert myself. I'll try to keep all my other odd personality tidbits out of this, so maybe you'll recognize some other reserved extroverts in your life.

10 things you might see a reserved extrovert do or say:

  1. People watch. We watch people, all the time. It's not creepy or stalkerish, we just want to be involved in something, and if we don't know anyone, we can live vicariously through people watching. OK, so maybe it does sound a bit stalkerish...
  2. Eavesdrop. If you notice someone on the outskirts of your conversation, listening intently, they may either be the aforementioned stalker, or a reserved extrovert. We probably really want to join your conversation, but can't come up with a good conversation starter without you realizing that we've been listening to your conversation for 20 minutes.
  3. We seem bi-polar. You think we're the quiet one of the group, until you get us in a group where we are comfortable with everyone there. Then you get frustrated because there are too many loud obnoxious conversations going on because our mouths just will not shut up. I wish you could see the expression on my chemistry teacher's face in high school when she finally had to yell at me to get me to stop talking (I had been in her class for almost 2 full years before I got comfortable enough to reveal my hidden extroversion).
  4. We may seem cold or "standoffish". I can't tell you the number of times someone has said that I seem cold or standoffish. People have been offended by me, without even knowing me that well. I can put on a bubbly persona for jobs or professional activities, but in reality, my reservations about certain situations can make me seem distant (even my husband has accused me of this on occasion).
  5. We want to have friends, but we don't. I've been on the outskirts of deep friendships almost my whole life it seems. My extroversion causes me to crave connections with many people, but it seems that most of those other people aren't really looking for friends, because the people it's easiest for me to interact with are extroverts themselves, and they already naturally have a ton of friends. We are not living happy peaceful lives with one or two friends like an introvert might, but we crave those deeper friendships while lacking the forceful nature of an outgoing person to be able to start reaching out to those who might not have as many friends.
  6. We want to be good at direct sales, but we aren't. I was very successful at "shopkeeper" style sales (such as being a sales representative for a maid service company, or working retail jobs) but my personality just isn't right for starting up my own direct sales business (which I have tried and failed at several times).
  7. We put off phone calls. Once we actually make the phone call, we are fine. But if you are expecting a verbal RSVP, verbal invitation, Christmas present, or anything else that we need to do in person, you can expect it to be late or never.
  8. We can flirt, when the occasion calls for it. Of course, I'm married now, but I truly honed my flirting skills my senior year of high school (despite, or perhaps because of, a long-distance boyfriend at the time). I can't tell you how many boys thought I was really into them and were shocked that I wasn't (it almost led to an altercation between a friend I flirted with mercilessly in one of my more boring classes and my long-distance boyfriend who did come back to take me to prom - he was a giant teddy bear, so nothing would have happened violently, but I still laugh when I picture the look on my now ex-boyfriend's face as he faced down the 280 pound linebacker who said I was "his girl"). I did learn my lesson - so don't flirt unless you really mean it, it is fun and games, but people may get hurt, even if they don't reveal it.
  9. We operate better in the written world. We can text like nobody's business. We are on dozens of Facebook groups or Pinterest/Twitter, or blogs, and we participate actively in those discussions.
  10. We can get depressed easily. I am often frustrated by my own lack of friends, or close friendships. Yet, when opportunities present themselves for more, I often pass them by. Not because I want to stay at home and live vicariously online or through books, but because I'm just feeling a bit unsure and want a more outgoing friend (or spouse) to go along with me. Unfortunately, since my husband is outgoing, but not extroverted, he doesn't actually want to go the party, even though he can be the life of it. Fortunately for us, opposites attract, and we have a fairly social life for the both of us, probably a hint too social for him, and just barely not social enough for me.
So, what type of personality do you think you have? Are there some friends you may have passed over, just because they have a different personality than you? What personalities do you think they have, and how could you help them? Rather than just writing off "that awkward person" on the outskirts of a party, maybe we should be reaching out and bringing them into the fold. Didn't Jesus seek out the sinners and the outcasts?

And, if you don't know me that well yet, I can promise that I'm not a stalker, and I'm really nice once you get to know me!

Friday, February 05, 2016

Discipline or Personality?

Lately, I've been thinking about my own challenging children. I see parents who seem to magically be able to convince their children to obey with a whisper, while I find myself routinely bargaining, threatening, yelling, and all the other things you're not supposed to do when disciplining your children.

So, sometimes I do wonder whether my children are really just that challenging, or if there is a lack of appropriate discipline in my house. Obviously no parent is perfect, and maybe the people that I think have it all are just beating their children behind closed doors. However, it is difficult to determine whether or not your discipline is working when children have such different personalities.

My dad seems to think corporal punishment is the way to go, but I think he's forgetting when my brother turned 14 and there was essentially a knock down drag out fight in the hallway as he didn't want to be spanked (and he was never spanked again). I also think, that any discipline would have worked on me, so my "success" was not due to any one particular parenting or discipline style.

We've found a method that works for our oldest, and his behavior had been better for awhile, but he's also a 5 year old boy with sensory issues. He gets worked up at times and nothing will calm him down. We use a combination of consequences (usually sitting on a chair to calm down for a few minutes or losing a privilege, occasionally being sent up to his room if he can't calm down and obey. I feel like a failure as a parent at times, when I've tried all these methods and he's just gotten too overstimulated and I end up carrying a 45 pound boy up the stairs or out to the car while he kicks and screams.

So, the question is, is it a failure of our discipline methods, or just a consequence of an active 5-year old boy who ended up over-tired, over-stimulated, and is still at times unable to self-regulate?

It reminds me of the doctor appointments some of my homeschooling parents have been subjected too by well-meaning doctors who have met "those homeschoolers" who are apparently socialized and not teaching their kids anything. Haven't the doctors maybe considered that they are being homeschooled because they are autistic or learning disabled? Why do we excuse those personality or developmental problems at some times (public school) and not at others? Sometimes, we have children who aren't perfect, and today, I'm okay with that.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax 7

Guest post by TC

DMB Live Trax Volume 7

1) Seek Up
2) Dancing Nancies »
3) Warehouse
4) Say Goodbye
5) Satellite
6) Rhyme & Reason
7) Two Step
8) Crash into Me
9) So Much to Say »
10) Anyone Seen the Bridge »
11) Too Much
Set Break
12) Tripping Billies
13) Lie in Our Graves
14) #41 »
15) Minarets
16) Typical Situation
17) Ants Marching
18) All Along the Watchtower

I saw a message board post from a guy who is involved with the site, archiving and cataloging information about the live performances of DMB.  He said, essentially, that when the Live Trax series was announced back in 2004 there were three shows which came to mind that should be released: 12.8.1998 (Live Trax 1), 12.31.1996 (this show), and 2.19.1996 (Live Trax 23 - I'll get there).

When the series was announced, this show was one of the ones fans mentioned constantly as wanting to have it relased.  It is considered as one of the top 5 concerts from this band, ever, if not the single best.  Taking place on New Year's Eve/New Year's Day (technically), the band wore tuxedos and guested with the Flecktones for a lot of the night.  The performances speak for themselves.  It's definitely one of the great ones.

The beginning of the set through Rhyme & Reason is the band by themselves.  All of these are good versions of songs although I wouldn't call anything particularly a stand out.  Two Step brings Bela Fleck to the stage, one of his earliest guest spots, and Paul McCandless joins Bela and band for Crash Into Me.  This Crash Into Me is the highlight of the show as far as I'm concerned.  One small lyric flub, which really isn't all that noticeable, is the only thing keeping this particular version from being perfect.  Even still, it's the best Crash ever released to me.  The band finishes up the first set of the night with the relatively recently formed So Much to Say >> Too Much suite (see Live Trax 4 review for discussion).

I left the set break on this listing as the recording includes the audience counting down to 1997.  The band then is right on stage, with Bela (who stays until the encore), for Tripping Billies and Lie in our Graves.  It's hard to pick whether I want Leroi or Bela to solo on this song.  I go back and forth.  Bela here is perfect.  I can't chart music, but I can pick that solo out in my head note for note.  The rest of the Flecktones join in on the fun at this point and go through #41, Minarets, Typical Situation, and Ants Marching with the band.

The only knock on this show is this #41.  It drags a bit for me.

I so do wish that Paul McCandless was miked better during his Typical Situation solo with Leroi.  He's very hard to hear on the recording.  It's unfortunate, but he's there, and he and Leroi are fantastic.  The Minarets is largely considered to be the finest version ever recorded (again, I'm in the minority which says it's not), and Ants is one of the early extended outros to let Bela solo along with Boyd.  There is a loose jam session between Typical and Ants for 5 or 6 minutes which is captured on the recording but that I left off the setlist as it doesn't really develop into anything.

The encore is a single song, All Along the Watchtower, which pretty much closed out every show for the band at every major gig for several years.  It's standard to me.  It would've been great to have something very different close this show, maybe The Best of What's Around, but given the setlist and the time period of the band and the year that they had just had (Crash came out in 1996), there really wasn't any other choice to close the set.

The sound on this one isn't perfect.  Of course, there's 9 people on stage for a good portion of this show too.  I'm thankful the band listened to the fans and put this one out there even though it wasn't a perfect recording.  It's a fantastic show that should be in every fan's collection.  I know I listen to it frequently still and enjoy it every time.  Another easy 5 of 5 stars, and certainly a show I would share with friends who don't know this band and was curious as to why I'm into them so much.  If you don't like DMB after listening to this, then you don't like DMB.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Nickel and Diming Ourselves

I'm sure you've heard the phrase (or read the book) about "being nickled and dimed" by the small expenses adding up and costing a fortune. However, I'm going to come at this from a backwards perspective. Rather than worrying too much about the $5 or $10 transactions, maybe I should let those ride a bit and focus more on the bigger ticket items.

For instance, some of our neighbors were complaining to each other last fall about not watering the lawn or washing cars because they were watching their water bill. Considering that the water bill is likely no more than $50 or $60 (unless they have a leak in their house), this argument was over a relatively small amount, about $10 a month at most, or $120 per year.

Now, I'm not against conserving water from an environmentalist standpoint, but they were concerned primarily from a financial standpoint, based on the argument. As a counterpoint, they also shop at the most expensive grocery store in the area. So their focus is on saving $10 a month on water, when they could likely save $80-$100 a month simply by switching grocery stores.

The other day, I was wondering about our grocery bill, and decided to add up the dollar amount for the blueberry muffins I was making for group, to ensure it was a good decision to make rather than buy (if anyone is curious, even with 2 full cups of blueberries, they were only $3.72 or so for a dozen, or $0.31 each). So, as I noted the prices for where I bought everything (frozen blueberries were 33% off at Kroger, flour and sugar are cheapest at Aldi's regular prices, eggs have been going up, but the milk was on sale) I determined that in our current lifestyle, I truly can't save much more money on groceries. So why do I still worry so much about it? I already know the lowest prices on most items in my head. We stock up when our "regular" purchase items go on sale. I'll skip something at Aldi's or Kroger if it's on our list, but I know I can buy it cheaper at the other store. Why am I wasting my valuable head space on these small, regular items when I ought to be focusing more on saving money on the bigger ticket items.

For instance, we need to get our house painted relatively soon. This expense could be anywhere from $7,000-$10,000 including some wood repairs that we expect to have and depending on the company we choose to use. I have a recommendation for someone who does it relatively cheap and does a great job, but I know that since he's a one-man company, we may have to wait awhile. So why do I worry so much about the inconsequential ($10 a week on groceries), rather than taking some brain power and initiative to try to save thousands on our house painting and repairs?

I would argue that it's likely a combination of personality and humanity. My personality is thinking and judging, so I naturally sort things out and compare prices in my head. The price of our groceries is something I can control. On the other hand, I don't like to think about the bigger ticket items, because what if there's more wood rot than I think? What if we get a quote from someone that seems cheaper, but turns out more expensive because they aren't insured or didn't plan for the correct amount of repairs. My brain doesn't like to think about these things, because there isn't a clear answer, and the stakes are much higher.

I will try to get the number of the solo house painting guy, and give him a call to set up an appointment, but I also need to stop worrying about money - whether it's the nickles and dimes or the thousands of dollars. I know that with my personality, I will make the best decision possible, and my humanity will just have to deal with whatever underlying unforeseen consequences that may exist.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Teacher Pay Not the Answer

There has been some recent discussion lately about raising teacher pay. Especially since North Carolina has fallen to 42nd in the nation in terms of teacher pay. Unfortunately, more pay is not the answer.

When I worked in the Jefferson County School System, at one of the worst schools in the district, I talked with several teachers in different schools. I can guarantee you that private school teachers make 20%-40% less than public school teachers, and yet they aren't complaining about their teacher pay. What makes the difference?

I had the privilege of attending private schools as well as quality public schools. I can tell you that one difference is that at a private school either the child or the child's parents, usually both, want them to be there to get an education. Public school, on the other hand, is compulsory.

So, how do we fix this, while still prizing education as a nation? Is it okay to leave some kids behind, in the hopes of not leaving all our kids behind?

In our foster care training classes in Kentucky, they talked a lot about rights and privileges. Because corporal punishment isn't possible with a foster child, you have to take away some privileges as consequences, while still maintaining some "rights". As they put it, you don't want to use food because many times these kids have been starved before, but you can take away their privilege to go outside. I was a bit shocked, because to me, being outdoors is a right, not a privilege, but I do think that attending a classroom setting for your school should be a privilege.

As little as 200 years ago, education in itself was a privilege, and usually reserved for the wealthy. Yet now, we have children who are passed from grade to grade without learning to read, and left in the regular classroom despite daily disruptive behavior, because we want our school numbers to look "better". We have kids whose parents don't care what they do at school. We have what many researchers call a "school to prison pipeline" and yet we still want to call standardized education a right, not a privilege?

I agree that education is a right. However, kids should not have a right to disrupt a teacher's life, disrupt their classroom, or harm a teacher or student. So, what should we do with these broken children? Leave them in a system that's clearly not working for them? Or can we come up with some new solutions.

I think a combination approach is best, to try to reach as many of these kids as possible. By removing the 5-10% of routinely trouble-making students from buses, classrooms, gyms, and cafeterias, you're improving the quality of education for the remaining students, and the quality of life for the teachers. Any kids removed should have an individualized plan in place that allows them to get back into a classroom, if they so desire. They also should be given tools to education. Don't give them brand new laptops, but accept donations from businesses and charities of quality used computers and help the students set up Internet access in their house. Most school systems have an alternative school where kids are shipped off to a computer lab to take online classes, maybe they would have more supervision, but then you are just moving the problem from one school to another. The next step is to provide some additional help, a combination of counselors, social workers, and teachers need to visit these children in the home to help resolve any issues that have led to the child being removed from a school setting (i.e. provide information on employment opportunities for parents, childcare opportunities, food stamps, provide discipline training for parents, advice on reading with your child or adult education opportunities, mental health screenings for parents and children, one-on-one tutoring with the child and parent). In other words, all the money that would have been spent on teacher raises would instead be spent on those few children that the teachers don't want in their classroom.

What about group interaction? What about child care for working parents? Absolutely these issues would need to be addressed. However, I can tell you that most parents of these struggling students don't work during school hours, but rather 2nd or 3rd shift (or are in jail, out of the child's life, etc.). I would work with the local non-profit groups in the community to allow these children access to the same activities they had before they left the standardized school system, such as Boys and Girls Club,  Big Brother, Big Sister, Girls on the Run. As far as childcare, again these are usually parents working 2nd or 3rd shift, so after school style childcare would still be an option, for the few parents in this situation who work a traditional 1st shift job, or multiple jobs, the assigned team of counselors, social workers, and teachers can work together with the parents to find a mutually beneficial solution for students on an individualized basis, using non-profits, libraries, or new programs to help this small portion of the population.

Because the truth is, that students don't need to be in a group setting to learn. Some kids are never going to be able to learn sitting at a desk in a large classroom. I taught in a "small class size" setting (usually only 22-25 students) and I can guarantee that my job was harder than a teacher in a "good school" with 30-35 students in their classroom. I've physically broken up fights, and I've tutored a group of kids in my classroom because they weren't learning enough in class, so they skipped band to come get extra help. I can tell you that education is a right, not a privilege. So let's give all our kids access to the right of education, by taking away the privileges of those who make it more difficult.

Monday, February 01, 2016

When We Think We’re On Top of the World

I’ve come to a realization lately. One component of our human nature is a craving for success. If we’re not careful, we can attempt to fulfill this craving by being better than someone else, or accomplishing something on our own. As Christians, this human nature isn’t sin in itself, but we need to be careful to not allow it to become sin.

How many sinners have entered a church, only to realize that everyone attending that church is judging them? How many Christians have started to doubt whether God is real, because they are successful “on their own merit”? How many fresh, new, vibrant Christian souls are silently removed from Christian fellowship because of a difficult personality or lack of job, relationship, education?

Whenever I look at my own personality, which is somewhat fluid, the one standout marker is a big fat J for judging (if you’re using Myers-Briggs at least). Now, the Holy Spirit has convicted me over and over again not to use this personality trait against people, and this personality trait in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is a very useful personality trait in making decisions. However, if I’m not careful, that aforementioned human nature of mine can even take this minor success in not judging people and twist it around. My thoughts can sometimes be, Wow, that’s so amazing what God has done in my life. I’m so grateful that I’m not like those other people around me who judge each other all the time. Oops. There I go again, being the Pharisee and lifting myself up only to put others down inadvertently. The first half of my thoughts was exactly on target, so why did my thoughts lead me astray?

Sin is not a behavior issue, it’s a heart issue.

I can try and work and do and be as best I know how, but there are a few things to avoid, or my outward success is like filthy rags.

  1. Failure to listen to God's still, small voice. The Holy Spirit convicts, but doesn't change our behavior. We are responsible for that half of the equation. Yes, God has convicted me to change that one aspect of my thought life, but if I don't continue to work at it, if I think I've somehow arrived at success, sin will creep back into my life.
  2. Half-hearted faith, love, or obedience. You may have heard it said that the Crusaders were baptized with their sword arm out of the water, because they were not dedicating that part of themselves to God, but rather to violence and war. What part of your body, soul, or mind, do you try to leave out? Have you prayed for God's help with a sin, only to pick it up again a few minutes later, thinking that God hasn't helped you yet? Maybe the problem is not God's answer, but your attitude when you did pray. Did you not really want to give up this particular sin? Do you truly not believe it is wrong?
  3. Patting yourself on the back. There was one church we went to only once during our search for a church near our new home. The reason we didn't go back? The sermon wasn't about improving yourself or deepening your walk with Christ, it was a celebration of what had already been done. We raised 800 cans of food, look what we did! I have no problem with raising cans of food, or even celebrating what God has done, but when all our accolades are self-focused, then we've already received our reward. When we focus all our efforts on our own success and feeling good about ourselves, we completely miss what God has done and is doing in our lives.
  4. Relying on conviction rather than change. There is a school of thought in the church today that if we go to a good church service, get a good convicting sermon on what needs to change in our lives, and then continue in the status quo, we are still successful. If we're not careful, we can live off of those vicarious feelings rather than an actual change in our mindset.
  5. A broken relationship with God. Sometimes, the only thing that changes in our hearts is a broken relationship with God. Maybe we've been hurt and are taking our pain out on God. Maybe we have unresolved sin in our life. Maybe we've started to doubt. Maybe we've simply stopped talking to Him, because we've gotten to busy. Maybe we think He doesn't hear us, or we don't need Him. Whatever the reason, if you find your thought or heart life starting to stray towards self-centered thinking, check your relationship with God. Do you not trust that everything you have comes from Him originally? Do you not trust that He created you for good, and for a purpose? Do you not believe that He will answer your prayers and help to keep you from sin, if you ask with faith?
I hope that no one takes this article as me talking about what I have already done to find success in this arena. The reason for me writing this, is that it's exactly what I'm struggling with right now. All of the above apply to my current life. It's not enough for me to rely on the above for my success. I need to write off all my success as filthy rags, and work on the heart of the matter.

I need to listen when God's voice tells me to do what's right. I need be "all in" when He calls me, no matter my personal preferences. I need to ignore those well-meaning people who try to pat me on the back for the one or two things I've done right "on my own". I need to take the conviction I feel now and use it to create real change in my life, rather than just a blog post. 

But the first thing I need to do is fix my relationship with God. I need to fall on my knees and confess my doubts, my pride, my open defiance of His will in my life. I need to ask Him to heal my brokenness and focus my thoughts back on Him. I need to pray over all these things with faith, trusting that He knows what is good and will not lead me astray. 

So, when I think I'm on top of the world, what I have to realize is that my thinking is upside down. My position on the ladder of success in this world is not the prize at the end of the race. The prize for fighting, changing, and living a difficult life trying to stay on the narrow road, is the look in His eyes on that final day, and whether or not He will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." I don't feel that's something we can earn by being on top of this world.