Author Archives: henitsirk

Ancestors

Today we drove the 2+ hours to Salt Lake City to worship our ancestors.

Well, not really. However, that theme did come to mind. I’ve been doing some things with the kids recently about Chinese New Year–making Chinese food, crafting red paper lanterns, learning about the amazing terraced rice paddies, and even trying our hands at some Chinese characters.

I mentioned the other day to them that one important concept in Chinese culture, from Confucianism, is honoring one’s elders and one’s ancestors. They seem really fascinated with China right now, so maybe this concept will sink in and we’ll see more respectful behavior from them…. maybe.

Anyway, we had gotten a reference from one of Anthropapa’s co-workers to a good dim sum restaurant in SLC.

There is no dim sum in Pocatello.

So, we had to go. Had to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit by stuffing ourselves with shu mai, char siu bao, har gow, and chicken feet.

Yes, we ordered the chicken feet. I told the kids that there would be lots of bones and that they were honest-to-goodness feet of chickens. After confirming that yes, they do clean the feet before they cook them, we chowed down. The girl declared that the sweet bean-paste stuffed sesame balls, and the chicken feet, were here favorites. I declared that after my second taste of them, I can honestly say that while not horrible, they are not a favorite.

Then, I went to the amazing Family History Library, run by the LDS church, to do some genealogy research. I could have spent days there and only scratch the surface, but I had only a few hours this time while the rest of the family went to explore the Children’s Museum. I concentrated for the most part on the illustrious Blood family on my father’s side.

I discovered that Nathaniel Blood of Groton (1680-1756) was a member of the Expedition of the Showshoe Men during the French and Indian Wars, which “plodded up the valley of the Merrimack, up past the falls of the Amoskeag to the rendezvous of the Indians at Pequawkett” and brought back five scalps worth forty pounds apiece. Nathaniel and the other survivors of this expedition were later awarded land grants in Tyng Township, which is now Manchester, NH.

I also read of General Francis Blood of Temple, NH, who pursued some horse thieves to Keene, where they had stopped for the night. He planned to sneak into the barn of the inn, identify the horses, and at dawn apprehend the thieves. To his dismay, the innkeeper showed him to the very same room that he had given to the suspects. What to do? How to justify leaving the room in the wee hours without raising suspicions? Feign the onset of cholera, of course, with attendant “sighs and fearful groans.” The thieves were only too happy to see him stumble downstairs to fetch some brandy, and Gen. Blood was successful in identifying the stolen horses and arresting the criminals at daybreak.

This same General Blood was also recorded as one of only four people in the town of Temple to own an honest-to-goodness clock in the late 1780’s. “Most people used the hour-glass; all schoolmistresses had one; some of the masters carried those exaggerated watches. . . . Some people used sun-dials, and all had their “noon-marks.”

Another time, I will go to the Family History Library and look up much less colorful census, birth, and marriage records. Today seemed all about bringing some of our ancestors alive within the colorful history of our country.

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I Am Not a Perfect Person

This disturbs me as a parent. How am I to model the best behavior to my children if I do not have the will power to do it myself?

I was thinking about the phrase “will power” the other day. Everyone, even babies, have will forces. We will ourselves to move, to do things, even to get out of bed in the morning (although this last often takes me a while).

But “will power” implies something else: the power to channel and use our will forces in a conscious way. We say we have no will power when we know we would be better off not eating that piece of cake but eat it anyway, because we allowed a craving to override our “higher” intentions.

I see my children struggling with this, as all children do. They would eat chocolate all day long if I let them (I admit, I have done some poor modeling in this particular area) because the health effects, of which they have some idea, do not matter as much as the overwhelmingly good feelings that food gives them.

They also cannot control their physical actions quite often. I have observed them hearing us say, “Don’t do X again please,” and still doing X in that next moment because they were already in the process of doing it. They can’t stop themselves.

Most of all, recently, I have noticed that they are struggling with the same things I struggle with. Their playroom is a complete disaster most of the time. What we as parents need to do is create a daily habit of tidying with them. But tidying is not my strong point. I do it in bursts instead of consistently. I was in the middle of admonishing my son to put his books away instead of leaving them strewn about the living room, when I looked around and noticed how many piles of MY books there were.

This is not to say I don’t like a clean and tidy home. I do. I am just still in the process of getting myself to form the habit of cleaning and tidying. Making something a habit helps us harness our will forces when we cannot call up the will power from the start.

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Right Speech, or Lack Thereof

Today I fell victim to chose to succumb to the allure of gossiping and judgmental words. What I said was unnecessary, and potentially harmful, as I discovered a moment too late that the person I was speaking about was sitting just at the next table. I was assured by my table mate that the person didn’t seem to have heard as the next table was deeping involved in their own engrossing conversation, but still, I worry that I caused pain.

Gautama Buddha developed the Eightfold Path as a way to alleviate suffering and achieve insight. Rudolf Steiner spoke similarly of this path as a way to tame our astral cravings and unconscious desires and actions. Here is how he describes the fourth principle, right speech:

[A person] must strive to give true expression to what he desires to communicate to the world, having first acquired the right view and right judgment of it; not only his words but every manifestation of his being must express his own right view — that and that alone. This is right speech.
The Gospel of St. Luke, lecture three, 17 September 1909

I certainly failed to have right judgment, in my choice to make humor out of shallow judgments and useless talk,and to have right view, in displaying such antipathy toward the person and situation. I forgot the wise words of Steiner about truth and love:

[The] lie is the direct opposite of the actual facts and those who yield themselves lovingly to the facts are incapable of lying. The lie has its roots in egoism — always and without exception. When, through love, we have found the path to wisdom, we reach wisdom through the increasing power of self-conquest, through selfless love.
–“Love and Its Meaning in the World,” 17 December 1912 (my emphasis)

Clearly, I still need to work on that “self-conquest” part.

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Pardon me while I sigh with contentment.

This morning we woke up to a little bit of snow. The red apples still hanging on the tree out back looked like Christmas ornaments. We made pumpkin pancakes for breakfast, and immediately afterwards the kids ran out to shovel the front walk and sweep off the car windows. Without being asked. I’ve got beef stew in the slow cooker for dinner, and a cup of warm apple cider by my side.

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Why Am I in This #$*)&(% Lifeboat?

This morning in the car Anthropapa and I were having a discussion about affirmative action and the fact that there have only been 3 African American US senators since Reconstruction, and how maybe President Obama will be a positive role model to increase that number. Yes, at 7:45 am, we were discussing that. I guess the coffee had already kicked in.

Anyway, we were stopped at a busy intersection, and I made another comment in our discussion. Then I noticed that Anthropapa hadn’t responded. I said, “I’m sorry, are you trying to pay attention to the traffic?” He said yes in what sounded like a slightly annoyed tone.

I felt myself get angry all of a sudden. Like, hey–I was just continuing the conversation, why are you annoyed at me? I felt really irritated at how I thought he was judging me.

Then I stopped myself and looked at that angry reaction. What was that all about? Why anger in that moment?

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Recently my pastor lent me Donald Miller’s Searching for God Knows What. Miller writes in a sometimes profane, sometimes silly, sometimes profound way about how Christianity cannot really be broken down into bullet points and structured dogma without losing the fundamental purpose behind it: a relationship with God. He says that we all have a “lifeboat mentality”: constantly comparing ourselves to others in formulaic ways and placing value on transitory and truly meaningless things to see who comes out ahead and who gets thrown overboard. We do this because we have lost that sense of relationship and have forgotten the love God has for us. If he were Buddhist, Miller might have said the same thing in terms of attachment, and a skewed vision of self that leads to separation from the truth of oneness. There’s a fundamental human truth there, whatever the religion.

Whether you see it as literal or figurative, the Fall in the Garden of Eden presents a picture of that loss of relationship: one minute we had perfect, all-encompassing love, and then we didn’t. And since then all we’re doing is trying to get that love back. We somehow equate that loss of love with a lack of self, a judgment against us, an isolation and fear and trembling. We try to assuage that lack by buying things, judging others to prop up our self-image, even making checklists of things to do to be a better person. We feel so many things in life as tiny reminders of that huge loss, and so we act and react out of fear.

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As I thought about my angry reaction this morning, it occurred to me that it felt almost like what I imagine being a baby feels like. Have you ever seen the look of perfect outrage on a baby’s face when the baby feels pain? It’s an instantaneous, loud, and passionate response. It’s like a very primitive sense of un-rightness that neither I nor the baby could explain rationally, but surely feel strongly.

Then I thought about how the Christian answer to that moment of pain would be to remember that God’s love is sufficient. I’m not sure I can fully get there in my mind and heart, but I can at least realize this: whether Anthropapa was really judging me isn’t really the issue, but rather that I don’t need to feel fear or lack or low self-esteem in the face of any perception I might have. And there’s an important point: it’s my perception. My little ego gets in the way of my higher self and clouds my consciousness with such primitive reactions, regardless of what’s really going on. Anger like that is a semi-conscious reaction at best. There’s no higher self involved there.

The Bible gives Jesus as the model of the higher self, and here’s what he and his disciples say is the answer to pretty much everything: love. Love one another. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Of the highest virtues, love is the highest. Over and over again, because even the ones you would think would have totally understood, like St. Peter, needed a lot of repetition to really get it.

So, what it occurred to me to do is observe my anger, and see where I am lacking in love. Why am I feeling in that moment like I’m going over the side of the lifeboat? When did I put myself in the lifeboat in the first place, and why? Why do I perceive the lifeboat as limited–why isn’t there room for everyone in there? Why am I so busy staking out my spot in the boat that I can’t see the fear on someone else’s face, and another that is feeling so seasick, and another who’s worried about catching enough fish to eat, and so on? Why am I letting my little self get in the way, when I’ve got this marvelous higher self just dying to get out there and love my shipmates?

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Be It Ever So Humble…

…We’ve Finally Got a Home.

I’ve been feeling a bit too overwhelmed to create blog posts lately and have just been updating Facebook. Then I realized that not all of the people who read this blog are also on Facebook, so to update you:

We bought a house. It’s more or less right across the street from the kids’ school. It’s a tri-level, with 4 but technically 5 bedrooms (one room doesn’t have a closet and has a door to the backyard, but we’re going to use it as a bedroom). The yard has an ancient sandbox that needs some rehab work, and a mature apple tree that has lovely little sweet apples.

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By far the most unusual feature of the house is the finished crawl space in the lower level, which we refer to as the “play cave”. The previous owners had finished it with drywall and carpet for their kids to play there. We hope to do the same, but we’ll have to do some work down there first. Last weekend, when we got the keys, we found a wet area down there, around the furnace. We think that rain got in through an exterior vent that was pointed upward when the previous owners replaced the furnace for us. Anyway, we’re concerned about mildew and might need to rip out the carpet. And we’d like to put in a real wall and door under there to block off the furnace from the kids’ space.

The other lovely homeowning adventure we’ve already experienced was with the hot water heater. It sits in the downstairs bathroom in a little curtained recess in the wall beside the clothes washer and dryer. Yesterday we had the gas company come out to turn the gas back on, for the furnace and the hot water. Turns out the water heater violated city code in not being sufficiently separated from the living space, and the chimney that had been shared by the water heater and furnace was no longer up to code with the new furnace! At one point we had the city inspector and the furnace installer there; then a bit later we had two water heater installers plus an electrician to install a new electric water heater; earlier in the day we had two delivery men bring the washer and dryer! So it was a very expensive, Grand Central Station day at the Anthrohaus. We were also informed by the inspector that the water softener was cracked, so we’ll be buying one of those pretty soon too (we have incredibly hard water: Anthropapa told me that the existing water heater, which we think is only about 4 years old, literally had rocks in the bottom!).

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We took advantage of the $8,000 tax credit (or will, when we get the money) to either pay off credit cards or pay off the appliances we had to buy. I’m excited to think that by next year our finances will be much more positive and under control, even as we take on this larger debt. We can add value to the home, as the kitchen needs refinishing and the yards need work. We’re also excited by the neighborhood, which is quiet and has tons of kids. I am sad to report, however, that the neighborhood has CC&Rs that prohibit backyard chickens!

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Genealogy Mysteries

I’ve been doing family genealogy research for a few years now, though since the kids came it’s been only at odd moments here and there. Last night I came across this little gem while researching part of my husband’s family:

CHARLES ROYAL WOODS [Jr.]

Born at Cambridge, Mass., May 27, 1878.
Prepared at St. Mark’s School, Southboro, Mass.
In College: 1896-1900.
Married: Emma Seward, New York, N. Y., April 12, 1911 (died Nov. 15, 1919). Children: Elizabeth Katherine, June 20, 1915; Emma Seward, June 28, 1919.
Occupation: Leather salesman.
Address: Frank W. Hunt & Co., 118 Lincoln St. Boston, Mass.

Guess I am the Class “Rolling Stone.” Went to New York in 1900 and was employed by New York Edison Co. for a year, by New York Telephone Co. about three years, and left the latter to be secretary of Bates Advertising Co. Practically went broke in 1910. Was with the Fidelity and Casualty Co. until I bought a three hundred acre dairy and stock farm near Lynchburg, Va., where the war caught me with contracts for milk and a lot of young cattle on my hands. As feed and labor went up and all I had either stay stationary or went down I was shortly forced to sell out. I came back North and am now with the Prudential Life Insurance Co.

– Harvard College Class of 1900 Secretary’s Fifth Report, October, 1921, p. 498.

So much to ponder in this one little excerpt!

Notice that Charles’s wife Emma died after only 8 years of marriage, leaving a  four-year-old and a five-month-old behind. She died in 1919 — could she have been a victim of the Spanish Flu pandemic?

Then notice the reversals of fortune: Charles “practically went broke” in 1910, then again just prior to his wife’s death during WWI. Presumably he had come from at least a comfortable, if not wealthy family, having gone to Harvard (and other relatives through marriage were wealthy Harvard and Yale graduates, so we can assume a similar economic class). What inspired him to invest in a farm in Virginia after living his entire life in Boston and New York City?

I’m not sure what to make about his comment about being employed at Prudential Life while the summary states he was a leather salesman. Charles’s sister Hope married Merrill Hunt, whose father Frank was the owner of the Boston leather company mentioned. So it’s possible he got a job through that connection either before or after selling out his farm.

I’ve had so much fun over the years investigating these kinds of stories. I recently discovered that one of my ancestors, the charmingly named Abel Blood, is the namesake of a pub in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine. Abel was one of the first settlers of the Piscataquis area of Maine, and according to the pub’s web site, “a bit of a scoundrel.” I have no records of specific misdeeds, but he was a party to 6 legal proceedings in 8 years! His father was a town selectman and fought in the Revolutionary War at Bunker Hill, so the Bloods weren’t all that wild.

Don’t even get me started on the relatives who claim ancestry from Catherine the Great!

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Busy Kids

Here’s why SillyBilly has been busy lately:

We struggled with the idea of him joining scouts for a long time: the discrimination issue, the selling of things, etc. But in the end we decided the benefits outweighed those more abstract problems. He’s already had a lot of fun, gets to have time with his Papa every week, and will have lots of good adventures and learning from it. Now if only the meetings weren’t at 7 pm — that’s bedtime!

Here’s what’s keeping both of them busy:

They both are reading FIENDS. SillyBilly and Napoleona are both rather enamored of the Magic Tree House series — recently they’ve read the ones about Ancient Egypt, Pompeii, Mozart, and Leonardo da Vinci. When we took that trip to Montana, almost the entire 4-hour drive was completely silent — a first, I assure you.

SillyBilly is in first grade, Napoleona in kindergarten. They’re both reading at about the third grade level. It’s not the Waldorf way, but it also came relatively spontaneously, especially for Napoleona. And it’s just genetic — Anthropapa and I were very early readers.

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Mid-hiatus Montana Mini-vacation

or…Geology 101.

On the spur of the moment, we decided to drive to Montana this weekend. We had heard from another family about a fun destination not too far away (four hours or so), and with the long weekend, we went for it.

In order to prepare for the trip, we had to go to the Army surplus outlet in Idaho Falls (Curious yet? Keep reading!) One of the rest areas on the way there has signs for a “geologic site” that have always intrigued us, so in the spirit of adventure we decided to stop.

It’s called Hell’s Half Acre. You’re driving through the Snake River Plain, home to large, flat potato fields, hay fields, and more potato fields. All of a sudden, you’re in a region of chaotic terrain, with juniper trees and sagebrush. It’s so abrupt you can see the edge of it coming. The terrain was formed by a lava flow a few thousand years ago. It’s all cracks and boulders and little caves, with a paved path through a small portion and interpretive signs along the way.

What critters live in there?

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At the Army surplus store, we got a shovel, gloves, and some screwdrivers (Curiouser and curiouser!). The next day, we headed up to Montana. Once we got north of the Snake River Plain flatness, the landscape was really beautiful, with many cool rock formations and mountains.

Pipe Organ Rock, Beaverhead County

Pipe Organ Rock, Beaverhead County

Grasshopper Valley, Montana

Grasshopper Valley, Montana

We stayed overnight at the Elkhorn Lodge in Polaris.

See the steam? A hot spring-fed pool!

See the steam? A hot spring-fed pool!

But the main draw was the wonderful Crystal Park Mineral Collection Area in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest (now you see why we needed shovels). 220 acres of decomposed granite studded with quartz crystals set aside for public rockhounding! The soil is like very coarse sand, so it’s easy for kids to dig, and there are plenty of crystals even at the surface (literally: within the first 2 minutes I picked up two nice ones right off the ground by my feet).

Some serious digging going on.

Some serious digging going on.

The best of our loot.

The best of our loot.

We will definitely be going back there. It becomes a mildly obsessive activity: just. one. more. crystal! And we didn’t find any of the most prized “amethyst” purple quartz, or any really big specimens. We did find some nice clear, white, and smoky quartz, and some stained red by iron deposits. It’s really a miracle to be able to just dig these incredible forms right out of the ground. Plus when the kids got tired of prospecting, there were lots of logs to play with and chipmunks to chase. Next time we’ll camp nearby and take our time rockhounding.

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Pre-hiatus Update

Dear Bloggy Friends,

I must pause. Not to reflect, but to get everything else done.

We plan to close on our house on Sept. 8. Of course this has meant numerous phone calls, meetings, and appointments. We’ve got a lot of financial wrangling yet to do — buying appliances, applying for our government’s wonderful offer of $8,000, and much more. And at some point I need to start packing.

I’m registered for History 101, and have made myself known to much of the history faculty. In doing so, I got myself signed up to do a Public History internship, in which I will help research and fact check on an upcoming book celebrating the anniversary of the Idaho Museum of Natural History here on campus. In the future I might also assist with the scholarly journals the department produces. I saw the gleam in a few professors’ eyes when they heard I was an editor of scholarly humanities books, so that might be a source of future paying work, as well. And at some point before December I need to take the GRE and figure out who can write references for my grad school application.

The kids start school tomorrow. In trying to balance my work, my classes, and their needs, I’ve signed Napoleona up for after-care three days a week, so that I have the entire day free for work and my courses. But the other two days, I’ll be taking Anthropapa to work at 8:00, the kids to school at 8:30, returning to pick up Napoleona at 11:15, returning to pick up SillyBilly at 3:00, and picking up Anthropapa at 5:00. Clearly, we need a second car. And at some point I need to figure out when I can volunteer in the kids’ classrooms.

I’m plugging away on my current manuscript, an examination of the role of emotions in US history. Then I’ve got 2 or 3 more to do next month. The next few months will be a huge test to see who I can balance maintaining my work load along with going to school. And at some point I need to find some new clients.

I’m also volunteering as the Chapter Development Coordinator for the EFA. It’s not too onerous, but some days it seems to take up more than a few hours of otherwise precious time. I like contributing to the organization that has provided me with so many benefits, but right now it’s yet another thing in the mix. And at some point I need to write up all the policies and procedures that go with the job.

So, my friends. I can’t keep up. I can’t even get to read all of your wonderful blogs, no less comment thoughtfully. No less write my own blog posts. So I’m officially going on hiatus, until such time as I have enough time and energy to share. Retaining the right, of course, to pop up at any time randomly.

Love,

Anthromama

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