Monthly Archives: February 2013


The baby girl was baptized in a small town Presbyterian Church by the Reverend. It was an act of faith and tradition on her parents’ part to have her consecrated and included in the covenant community of the followers of Jesus Christ. She was under the age of consent. The minister wore his long, black robe with a colorful stole, and the baby was dressed in a white lace dress twice the length of her body. It was clean but smelled faintly of aged cedar boards. The Reverend asked the parents a few questions, which they answered in an acceptable manner, and the congregation chimed in with their consent to help raise the child up in the faith. The Reverend then took the babe from her mother’s arms, prayed for her, dipped his fingers in water from the special basin. and anointed her forehead with the sign of the Cross, baptizing her in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Three older siblings, in their Sunday best, watched. Some other babies went through the ritual, and by the end of the service most of their diapers needed to be changed.


Escape from Facebook

I should have listened to my inner voice when I first visited Facebook and decided it wasn’t for me because of privacy issues. But I was excited by the prospect of connecting with old and new friends, and feeling some pressure to get signed up to I could access information that wasn’t coming in email any more. I gave in, signing off my rights to images, posts and information I might share on the site. It was so fun to post this and that, to get attention and “likes” to use the timeline to organize my whole life like an album, but for what? So I’m searchable? I do love the web, love the instant access to information, cross-referencing what I think I know, the chance to say something that people may find helpful or interesting, and another way to connect with people that matter to me, without interrupting them. But as for Facebook and such, I kept coming back to that agreement I’d made giving up privacy rights, as well as the issue of being barraged with ads. I tried getting rid of those, clicking “not interested,” but the flow was infinite. Every word and expression was used to find out my market niche.

I decided to look for a social site that would let me own my information and be in full control of privacy levels, then I’d switch. I tried to delete my account, but “close account” was the only option listed. Facebook informed me that they and my friends would miss me and that even though I was closing my account and my posts no longer visible, it would all still be there for me if I chose to come back. Eery.Then I accidentally reactivated my account by I clicking a link to find out more about 4-H in my area, and voila, Facebook welcomed me back. If it hadn’t been the end of a long day, I probably would have started scrolling down that page without any end, scanning updates, glassy-eyed. Finding out who’s sick, who’s cooking something yummy, and who likes Mitt Romney, whatever.

I decided to remove posts one by one, and was apparently successful at deleting a good number, except my birthday and any posts having to do with schools I’d attended or former employers. My son suggested replacing those with fictitious entities, but I didn’t want my friends to get false information. Finally through a web search I located the delete account link (which I could not see on Facebook itself) on the My Digital Life website. I completed the security check and Facebook promised my account would be deleted in two weeks, as long as I didn’t log on in the meantime. Good bye Facebook. If I can find a way to use the site without feeling so used myself, I might be back some day.

Reminds me of the weeds I pulled today–just had to keep following each root running underground, gently loosening the soil so as to get the whole without breaking it. Otherwise, as soon as it rains, up they pop and spread again.


Posted by on February 23, 2013 in Technology


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Schooling versus education

Schooling versus education

Within minutes of telling my son JP to go ahead and get some fresh air before starting his math speed drill, I switch the plan and let him record some spontaneous rhythmic poetry he’s making up. Then at his reaction to being interrupted during his recording, I’m disciplining him for insubordination. It won’t work if he isn’t respectful to parents, I tell him, as he frowns and sets his jaw, and I know it’s not just for me I’m trying to help him master this one–he will need this skill to succeed. I give him some time to consider; likewise myself. Yes, I believe it, but I think the timing was poor, and the job of enforcer fits me ill.

I started homeschooling partly because I don’t believe in a coercive education system. Yes, my first year teaching was largely a struggle to take up my authority as a teacher, and probably nothing else would have worked under the circumstances. An inexperienced teacher with thirty students at a time, students conditioned for ten years to expect a boss–what chance did we have? I dream of something different, to be an empowering teacher, a facilitator, a midwife of student self-education and self-government. Like a homeschool parent ought to be.

My parents weren’t authoritarian–why would they be? I went to school, and they knew I was made to do things I didn’t want to all day by the authorities there, and peer pressure, and needed some freedom at home to pursue my own interests, projects and friendships, in my own timing. There was discipline, though. I remember a few times my dad spanked me, for example–it was for willful dishonesty, I think, or extreme sass, and I do believe I deserved it. But, knowing him, he must have been thinking, “Shit, why do I have to resort to this? This is stupid–can’t we just all be reasonable?” It was so uncomfortable for us both–nothing to do with physical pain, either, because when I have my back up, I can take it. Just humiliating enough, awkward enough, to try to avoid in the future.

Coercion had no part in my parents’ approach to learning. That was a school thing, though I hope that all the same, my best teachers were also thinking, “Shit–why do I have to make them do this for grades, and not let them learn what they want to? Can’t we just all be reasonable?” Fortunately, at home, in those days, there was time at home to run and play, make stuff, catch frogs, read lots of books and do crafts. At least for me there was, but that might have been because I tended to leave my “homework” to the last minute so I could do something more interesting. And as I said, my parents never asked if my homework was done. Should they have? Or might that have given me the impression that it was more important than it really was?

My two homeschooling kids, the younger of four, have little in the way of externally imposed deadlines, grades, and peer competition. Up to about age nine, all four children had lots of freedom, with frequent library visits, no television, little access to computers, and opportunities to serve and work in and out of the house. I was bolstered in that approach by research that showed that for children from non-deprived families, there was no discernible advantage to formal schooling before age nine, and some disadvantages. But now the younger two are expected to be ready for school at any moment (can’t make long term plans these days), and so I try to keep up with the state curriculum, which has a set scope and sequence and is more testable. I try to beĀ  structured, try to make things more like school, while my mind is muttering, “Shit, I can’t do it this way–can’t we just all be reasonable? No, I’d better be tougher–it’s for their own good.” No time for Latin anymore, or long days hanging out in the woods or at the beach.

My two public high schooling children get their homework done, with some urging at times, and are quickly learning to make the grade despite no formal schooling until ages thirteen and eleven–and that was in a second language, with few academic expectations. But I grieve that they hardly ever read outside their lists, hardly have time to do anything but school stuff, and their one sport a season, with careful organization and weekends to catch up. The only free and personal stuff they can wedge in is staring at their web-enabled personal devices, and I’m even trying to limit that. What can I expect? Thank God for summer vacation, but of course they have to earn some money for college, get volunteer experience, do leadership training, fill our their resumes, so not much time to find their own flow, reclaim their love for reading again, let alone writing. Meanwhile, I bought a copy of The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn and leave it lying around…


Posted by on February 17, 2013 in Education, Parenting & Family


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Cheesecake with variations, an aid to building community.

Cheesecake with variations, an aid to building community.

I’m not very fond of sugary sweetness, but I do like creamy (fatty) desserts. Cheesecake is one of my favorites. In college I used to post a sign-up sheet shaped like a cheesecake cut into slices, and when all the pieces were claimed, make the cake in the dorm kitchen and deliver for $4 per slice. Now I make them when I have extra time, freeze, and take out when I need to come up with something delicious on the spur of the moment to share with friends. Fatty desserts freeze well. With a good arm, you can even slice a cheesecake that’s fresh out of the freezer, and put it back for later. By the way, I’ve cut down on the sugar–add some back if you like. I recommend that all cheesecakes be served with whipped cream as an option.

I buy a big 3 lb block of cream cheese and either use the whole thing to make two 9″ cakes, or two pounds to make one 10″ one. This recipe is for two cakes.

Shortbread Crust

(I usually don’t keep on hand graham cracker crumbs, the mainstay of most cheesecake crusts–they’re expensive and go stale. To heck with that–this crust is homemade, and tastes so good, you’ll eat it too.)

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 egg yolk (2 if they’re small)

Take the bottom off the springform pan. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Mix the above ingredients together with a fork and then with your hands (or a nearby child’s hands) until it starts to hold together. Don’t knead it or it will be tough.

Press about half the mix onto the pan bottom. Place on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes, then cool on a rack. Put the pan back together, and press the rest of the dough up the sides of the pan. It will only reach part way. It may be yummy, but who wants to eat lots of crust, anyway?

In a pan or in the microwave, melt 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips with 4 Tbsp whipping cream until spreadable. Spread over the bottom and sides of the crust.

Turn the oven to 475 degrees F.


  • 2 lbs softened full-fat cream cheese
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks

In a large bowl (standing mixer works best), beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, salt, whipping cream and 2 eggs until smooth. Add remaining eggs and yolks and mix well. Choose a variation, below:


  • Pour about two thirds of the batter into the crust. Melt more chocolate (bittersweet, semi, to taste and stir into the rest, then spoon it onto the plain batter in globs, gently swirl with a knife to make a pattern. Or melt more and stir into the whole batter for a uniform chocolate cheesecake. A bit of strong espresso is good here too.
  • Sprinkle the top of the cheesecake with sliced or chopped almonds, hazelnuts, or macadamias.
  • Make a sweet-tart raspberry sauce thickened with cornstarch, and swirl into the plain batter
  • Add 1 tsp vanilla for a plain cheesecake, to be served with or without toppings.

Cover the top of the pans with foil and bake in the 475 degree oven for 25 minutes (20 in convection oven). For one cake in a regular oven, make it 20 minutes (convection 15-17 minutes).

Uncover the cake, reduce heat to 300 degrees, and bake 1 hour more (50 minutes in convection).

Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecakes in with the door partly open for 15 minutes. Remove onto cooling rack and run a sharp knife around the edges. Cover and refrigerate when cool.

To freeze, cut cardboard circles the size of the cheesecakes, cover with foil (from the top of the cake), remove pan sides & loosen the cheesecake bottom with a metal spatula, then slide it onto the cardboard circle (the crust will be firm enough with the chocolate). Cover with foil and/or plastic wrap, put in a large zip plastic or similar bag, label & freeze.


Posted by on February 4, 2013 in Food & Recipes


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