Alexandra the Great's Private Papers

October 30, 2007

The Flood

Filed under: Kids,Memories — Alexandra The Great @ 6:20 pm

I’m not sure what brings it on, but occasionally I suffer from fits of nostalgia.  During these episodes my mind roams throughout my history in search of memories to latch onto. 

My most recent memory of choice is pulled from my childhood files.  Growing up, my family lived on a farm along the Kings River.  To those who live in the region surrounding the St. Lawrence, my river was a mere stream, or maybe even a small trickle of water winding its way through  the farmland of the San Joaquin Valley.  But to me, it was The River; the only river I knew.  I have many fond memories of playing with my brothers in, at, and around it; and of lonely, contented walks up the river to the weir through which the water came rushing on its way to some other place.

One year my brothers and I had the good fortune of experiencing a flood.  I can not recall why the river got so high that year, though I’m sure I was told at the time, but the water covered  the wide, hilly, sandy area which I could sometimes imagine was a desert.  After days of playing in the newly risen river we got the idea of going boating.  Now, my father probably had his canoe at this time, but a real sailing vessel would not do.  Instead, we found an old horse trough, big enough for two and a couple of oars.  Amazingly, it floated.  To an eleven and nine year old, sailing in a horse trough was funner than any toy we might have received at Christmas. Though I clearly remember the fun of sailing, I do not recall big events that were happening in my imagination.  Perhaps we were sailing around the world, or perhaps we were on a war ship, or even the Dawn Treader.  Whatever our horse trough might have been in our world, we were captivated.

Countless, carefree hours were spent in this activity.  As an adult, it doesn’t sound like anything special; but making wondrous times out of simple, makeshift toys is part of the magic of childhood.  Maybe it’s also part the lost magic of adulthood. Perhaps I should let my boys dig a lake in the back yard so I can have a second round of fun. 

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October 2, 2007

The Mom Song

Filed under: Videos — Alexandra The Great @ 7:04 pm

You’ve got to like this woman. 

September 22, 2007

A Post-Modern Moment

Filed under: Post-modernism — Alexandra The Great @ 2:32 pm

I had the strangest experience recently.  I have never had a moment like this before, fortunately, and I hope this is not the begininning of a downward slide into confusion.  This is laughable, but the strange thing that happened was a stretch.  Yes, a simple stretch of the arms.  Perhaps it happened because in my absent gazing at the flickering candle light I was too entranced to be aware of anything else; but raising my arms to stretch, I tried to clasp my hands, only to learn they couldn’t find each other!  My confusion was momentary, but I was greatly struck by the realization of not knowing where my own hands were and not being able to do what should come so effortlessly. 

After my fingers were safely grasping one another I realized I had just had a post-modern moment.  That sense of lost uncertainty must be what it feels like to believe there is no true right or wrong, no real meaning in life except for what one puts into it themself, nothing more important than nurturing one’s fragile ego. 

I usually refer to such ideas as having both feet planted firmly in mid-air, but I suppose flailing feet and lost hands result in the same consequence in the end.  Good old American rugged individualism seems to have evolved into a softer but more self-conscious individualism that has extended the boundaries of personal autonomy to encompass realms of ethics and morality to the effect that each person creates his or her own set of values which must not be reproached by others.  This is is often accompanied by a sort of free-form, ecclectic spirituality that both borrows from various traditions of choice and creatively invents ideas of some kind of god.  All this results not in a knowledge of God, or of right and wrong, or even of self; but rather, in a muddled confusion.

I do not think, however, that people want to be confused.  I think they want solid ground on which to stand.  However, finding solid ground is problematic when one’s self is the standard for measuring the world around them.  The real problem to recovering rich soil on which to place our feet, I believe, is the disdain for restraint.  For example, when people speak of rights, the topic is often something that was forbidden in prior days.  When is the last time people clamored for the right to obey authoriy?  But authority is the stuff dirt is made of.  There really is a God and he really has written laws of right and wrong into the universe.  He really did create us and therefore has authority over us.  We really do have to live his way because it is his world.  And as it turns out, seeking God-fulfillment is more rewarding than seeking self-fulfiillment.  When we live unto God we find our feet firmly planted on solid ground.  We also enjoy the added benefit of knowing where our hands are.

September 18, 2007

The Mad Rush of Time

Filed under: Living,Tyranny — Alexandra The Great @ 9:26 pm

Time is the one commodity we seem never to have enough of.  In fact, our lives are sometimes measured by our shortage of it.  How many of us when asked, “How are you doing?” respond with, “Busy!” 

In an age where information is sent around the globe in seconds, work is done mainly by machine, and people routinely travel at speeds undreamed of in other centuries, one would think that we would have an abundance of time for leisure, relationships, and rest.  On the contrary, we are arguably the most enslaved generation of freemen ever to walk the earth.  Our backs are bowed under the tyranny of expectations other generations had not the luxury of facing. 

We work harder and faster to gain more, the obtaining of which pushes us further into debt causing us to stretch even farther and suffer the anxiety caused by overextended finances.  We submit to the many social pressures that at one time would have been viewed as leisure for the wealthy but are now viewed by many as inescapable necessities.  I think of mainly of children’s sports.  Many families commit to sports all year round and devote two to three afternoons a week and every weekend to the pursuit of their child’s participation in this social requirement.  And to think that Caesar only required a pinch of incense….

Apart from the countless (and costly) events we parents are required to sign our kids up for, our lives are also hijacked by our own set of social necessities that require full allegiance in return for acceptance or respectability or a place in “Who’s Who of the Pond,” whatever the agreement was when we pledged our soul to the good cause. 

I just wonder what possesses is to over-extend ourselves so far that the only thing we can say in response to a polite “How are you,” is, “Busy.”  Is it possible to cast off the demands of others and reel in our lives just a little bit?  Perhaps if we could, our answer would transform from “Busy” to “Satisfied.”  Satisfaction, after all, is not offered to us by the mad rush of time, but by the slow enjoyment of things worthwhile, by a job well done, and by the investment of ourselves in relationships with others and with God. 

September 11, 2007

Toadstools

Filed under: God's Help,Living — Alexandra The Great @ 6:44 pm

Have you ever noticed how toadstools seem to spring up overnight?  One day the newly mown law looks almost perfect and the very next day its appearance is marred by brown growths.

Just today my daughter pointed out to me a colony of toadstools growing in our front lawn.  I hadn’t noticed them before, but that is no proof they hadn’t been there for a few days.  Looking at the intruders made me think of the unseemly things that spring up in our lives when we’re not looking; things that grow best in the dark, out of view, out of the sunlight.  Things like envy and resentment that start out small, but if allowed to grow will eat away at our soul and destroy our health.  In the same way that toadstools look like edible mushrooms, some things look healthy but hold a secret poison.  I’m thinking of pride, the very thing we’re told we must possess, yet the biggest barrier to experiencing the presence of God.  Does He not oppose the proud but give grace to the humble?

It takes a lot of diligence to keep a lawn free of dandelions and toadstools, but it is something we have to do if our lawns are to be healthy and presentable.  It takes even more work to keep our lives free of such toadstools as pride and the love of money.  Yet without diligence and great care our lives will easily and quickly be overrun by such things because they come so very naturally.   

But how are we to see clearly what’s growing our lives?  How are we to know a blemish from an adornment?  The only honest mirror we can turn to is the Word of God.  Any mirror of our own making will only deceive us because we will see ourselves as we want to, not as we really are.  Do we want the exposure?  The conviction?  Are we willing to part with our toadstools?  Are we willing to entrust ourselves to the Master Gardener?  He will cultivate better things in us than destructive fungi and weeds.  He said he would.

September 9, 2007

Dreams Come True

Filed under: Videos — Alexandra The Great @ 4:27 pm

Warning: This one might make you cry.

September 7, 2007

The Seven Foot Hole to China

Filed under: Kids — Alexandra The Great @ 12:35 pm

 My boys will tell you that I never let them have any fun.  After all, mom didn’t let them light fire to the small pyre they had built out back and I forbid them from shooting arrows into the neighbors yard.  What more condemning evidence could they need to convict me?

What they won’t tell you is that there aren’t a lot of rules at my house.  We used to have more, but when I realized I could no longer remember what they were, I quit making rules and just kept to the basics, which really simplified things.  I found that the three rules of Don’t be mean, Don’t call names, and Do whatever mom tells you, when she tells you regardless of whether you want to or not work pretty well. 

An unspoken rule at our house (an unintentional rule, not included in the big three) is: If it doesn’t irritate or make more work for mom, she probably won’t mind.  And so, quietly, my boys began to dig a hole.  I didn’t mind, as it was physically laborious and surely healthier than playing video games or engaging in other passive activities indoors, and so the digging continued.  As time went by, I passed from being approving of their activity to being forgetful of what they doing with those quiet hours spent outside, and so the work progressed.

Occasionally when I went to the back yard my attention would be drawn to the growing hole.  I would briefly look at its width and depth and be impressed with the amount of hard work the boys had invested.  A little more work, I thought, and they would surely tire of the project and fill in the crater.

I underestimated, however, both their resolve and the value they attached to this work.  Diligently they dug.  Eventually, the hole got so deep they had to construct steps to enable themselves to climb out.  This improvement came about when one boy left the other stranded in the hole by pulling out the ladder.  Being an infraction of rule one, a rigorous tongue-lashing followed this act.  Building steps into the side of the hole prevented further acts of malice, but I grew concerned for my boys’ safety when they began tunneling.  The beloved project had now become a problem, and certain of a cave-in, I demanded they fill in the hole.  The protests began.  Not only was their pit a great accomplishment, but so many hours had been invested they that could not bear to think of filling it in.  Gone would be their work, gone would be their fort, gone would be our yard’s most impressive feature!  All this would be gone if mother made them return the dirt to its original home. 

True, all this would be lost, but I had a growing concern more was being lost than that.  Rain comes, wind blows, and dirt vanishes.  If this hole was not filled in soon I knew it would be permanent fixture in our yard.  So, under compulsion, the boys reluctantly began to shovel dirt back into the hole.  Gradually the cavity grew shallower.  Gradually, the walk way was unearthed to reveal red cement.  Gradually, as they toiled, they grew more convinced that mom never lets them have any fun. 

The hole is now gone, and so is the mountain of dirt beside it.  I can’t say I mind my boys thinking me mean or cruel in my demands; they won’t always think me so.  One day when they have boys of their own they will gain the parents perspective,  and on that day I will be vindicated.

August 31, 2007

Building a Freeway

Filed under: God's Help — Alexandra The Great @ 2:33 pm

I recently made a 4AM drive to deliver my husband at the local airport.  We joked and complained along the way about a several mile stretch of freeway that is under construction and has been for quite some time now.  We wondered just what, apart from cement barriers, qualified this area as a construction zone if construction never, or seldom (to be generous), happens there.  We did happen see two workers along this stretch, but we didn’t actually see them doing anything.  We assumed they were construction workers by the evidence of their hard hats, but they weren’t working, and they certainly weren’t constructing.  We imagined that they were the only two who showed up for work every day, and overwhelmed by the prospect of building a freeway lane on their own, sat in their truck bewildered until lunch break, only to call it a day when their lunchboxes were empty.  We imagined also that these two were the only state highway employees who missed the memo that all Caltrans workers were excused from duty for a paid summer holiday.

I suppose it is characteristic of man’s sinful nature that the failures of others can loom large in our minds while our own shortcomings are easily dismissed.  Musing over the freeway frustration later, I recognized in myself the symptoms of hypocrisy.  I found it very easy to criticize the failings of the state (all too easy to recognize and they really do need to finish the thing), while being forgetful of my own failings.  How many New Year’s resolutions have survived beyond the new year? How many books were never finished?  And my biggest question, Why can’t I finish wallpapering the bathroom?! 

The good news for those of us who in ourselves sometimes have difficulty in seeing a thing through, is that with God there is hope.  We don’t have to build freeways on our own.  We may be limited, but he is limitless and his word tells us that he is able to fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power (2 Thessalonians 1:12). God can help even with the ordinary things such as wallpapering bathrooms, building ponds, and reading books if we include him in the project.  Now to find my resolve….  I suppose I’m going to need his help with that one too.

August 27, 2007

Too Much of a Good Thing

Filed under: Enjoyment — Alexandra The Great @ 7:12 pm

I should hope this is not a universal problem of mankind, though I suspect it is, but I notice that very often things do not turn out as planned. 

Several years ago my husband and I decided that in our back yard we would build a fish pond.  Please understand that I use the word “we” very liberally.  My part in building the pond was to embrace the idea whole-heartedly and to bring my husband lemonade as he worked in the sun.  His part was to dig for many hours, mix cement, and generally do whatever actually qualified as work.  The result hoped for would be a beautiful pond full of fish and lilies with other water plants, complete with a fountain and a redwood deck encircling the pond.  Also envisioned were wooden benches and tiki-torches to provide a warm glow by which to enjoy our pond on warm summer evenings. 

All my husband’s work brought about our picturesque dream.  Eventually, after many hours of his labor, we had what we hoped for.  In the center of the pond was a fountain surrounded by water lilies with large leaves and colorful flowers.  A stream coming into the pond had its source in the patio by means of another fountain which provided the sound of running water.  As well as lilies, we also had parrot feather and a third plant with pleasant, small, round leaves.  A couple koi and a few other pond fish completed the picture.  The combination of all these elements had a pleasing effect and we spent much time around our pond.  Our dream had been realized.  But that was the first summer and time has a way of changing things.

We soon found that the algae, which grew all too quickly, had a habit of clogging up the filter in the fountain causing it to stop flowing.  We were constantly cleaning it out and were eventually worn down by the project and defeated.  It now seemed a better idea to have no fountain at all.  We still enjoyed the second fountain that fed water into the pond via the stream, but that soon was to suffer harm (probably another dog incident) and quit working.

After several summers passed, the plants grew to dominate the pond, hiding the fish from view.  Not only did they overrun the water, but they also made their way up through the boards of the redwood deck which served as a barrier between water and lawn.  This was quaint for a while but soon the pond plants in the boards were competing with the bermuda grass which had overcome and annihilated the fescue and then sought to also overpower the pond as well.  Soon the deck was being overcome by plant life from within and without and even by kids who somehow managed to remove a board, causing a toothless appearance.  All this abounding goodness was too much of a good thing and we had to fight it back to regain lost balance. 

It takes a lot of work to have dominion over a small thing like a pond, or a yard or even an aquarium; but every other thing that is worthwhile requires work as well.  Not only must we work, we must have moderation.  If we have too much of a good thing, the goodness gets lost. Without moderation we soon loose our enjoyment of things.  What is meant to give pleasure can easily loose its gleam.  If every morning were Christmas, children would eventually cease to rise early in eagerness of ripping open presents and would complain of being pulled out of bed as though getting up for school.

Perhaps it is a mercy that the vast majority of us are unable to indulge every whim, for indulge our whims we would.  Most of us have to work pretty hard to earn the pleasures we enjoy and they are all the more pleasurable because of it.  It is true that much of what we work for does not come about as we plan in the end, but there is satisfaction to be found in our imperfectly realized dreams.

August 24, 2007

Speaking of Children

Filed under: Videos — Alexandra The Great @ 5:10 pm

You’re bound to enjoy this video.

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