Saturday, May 26, 2018


words @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Language is magic.

If I say a word, an image or idea from my mind magically appears in yours. For instance, I can say (or write) the word "house," and the image/idea of house appears in your mind. But the house in your mind may look very little like the house in mine. What if I add vivid modifiers to the word house? With each modifier, the image in your mind more closely resembles the one in mine. Brick. Two-story. Colonial.

Alternatively, I can replace the word house with a more precise noun, the definition of which includes the idea of house + modifiers. Chalet. Mansion. Cottage. Yurt. Nest. Now a single word from my mind builds a vivid, precise image in yours.

Do you know how many words we have in the English language? Depending on the qualifications of "word," we have between 200,000 and a million words in English.

We use language to think about and communicate ideas.

The more words I know, the better able I am to think and reason abstractly. The more words you and I share, the better able we are to communicate, vividly and precisely.

Yesterday, my young son was feeling emotional about something. I asked him if he was concerned. He said no, that wasn't accurate. Stressed? Distressed? Worried? Apprehensive? On edge? No, those weren't strong enough. Panicked was the word that best communicated his emotions.

Give yourself the gift of language. Give your children the gift of language. Give your community and culture the gift of members who can communicate with others in a vivid, precise way. With knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. And heaps of grace.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Limits and Liberty ~ Chapter Three: You Cannot Have It All and Having It All Doesn’t Equal Happiness

Do, Be, Have, Know It All @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Today’s contemplation of libery and limits is a long one. If you haven’t read the previous posts, you may want to start here and then read chapter two.

Quite some time ago, I read The New Midlife Crisis at It’s long. And relevant.

Let me sum it up for you.

We (women in particular) have been sold a lie:

“You can have it all, and having it all will make you happy.”

At some point after that lie began, the ugly truth hit us.

“You are obligated to have it all, and you will be judged accordingly. You will always fall short.”

You must do it all, be it all, have it all, know it all. Everything is available to you so no excuses.

Options became obligations became oppression, and now we’re coming undone under the weight of it all.

You have 20 local gyms. You have countless excercise programs on countless platforms to stream to your television. Heck, stream them on your i-whatever, so you never have an excuse. Any time. Any place. Any weather. You must always be thin and sculpted.

You have a gazillion anti-aging products and procedures to choose from. You are expected not to age.

You have a gazillion beauty products to choose from, and a salon around every corner. You should look like you just stepped out of one.

Bronzed skin in February? Check. Precisely straight, unnaturally glow-in-the-dark white teeth? Required.

You can have any career you wish. It had better be impressive.

All the stuff? All the activities and vactions? That’s what credit cards, loans, and mortgages are for. No excuses.

Maybe, just maybe, we can shrug off the expectations. We can make a different choice for ourselves, self-limit, despite real or perceived judgment. But add kids to the equation? Mothers, in many cases, take a lion’s share of the child-raising obligations on their shoulders. Can we handle the judgment of others (including our kids) when we don’t provide or facilitate every possible opportunity for our children?

Speaking of children… No one has an excuse not to have children. And no one has an excuse to have more than two. Boy and girl, preferrably. Hair combed. Clothes clean. Top of their class. Leader of the team. All the activities. Best schools.

And, by golly, now that you have everything, you should be happy. Because we all know that independence, money, beauty, things, and success bring happiness, right?

A little over a month ago, I randomly stumbled on this raw-honest article written by Stacy London of What Not To Wear fame.

It’s worth reading, but I’ll sum it up for you.

Independence, money, beauty, things, and success don’t bring happiness.

Days before I read that article, Joshua Gibbs posted the following on Facebook:

"Money cannot buy happiness, but it can buy unhappiness."

One day prior, also on Facebook, a friend posted quotes from Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari.

“In 2012 about 56 million people died throughout the world; 620,000 of them died due to human violence. In contrast, 800,000 committed suicide, and 1.5 million died of diabetes. Sugar is now more dangerous than gunpowder."

"For all humanity’s astounding accomplishments in reducing the worst sufferings, our happiness levels really haven’t changed. Actually suicide is a greater problem, especially in developed countries."

I immediately grabbed Homo Deus at the library, and I’m riveted. For all of human history, we have battled three dominant problems: famine, plague, and war. Harari makes the case that we humans, in just the past few decades and for the first time in history, have transformed these “uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges.” Now that human striving has conquered these dominant problems, we have a new agenda which includes immortality and happiness.

On immortality:

“In truth they will actually be a-mortal, rather than immortal… So as long as no bomb shreds them to pieces or no truck runs them over, they could go on living indefinitely. Which will probably make them the most anxious people in history. We mortals daily take chances with our lives because we know they are going to end anyhow. So we go on treks in the Himalayas, swim in the sea, and do many other dangerous things like crossing the street or eating out. But if you believe you can live forever, you would be crazy to gamble on infinity like that.”

On happiness:

“On the psychological level, happiness depends on expectations rather than objective conditions. We don’t become satisfied by leading a peaceful and prosperous existence. Rather, we become satisfied when reality matches our expectations. The bad news is that as conditions improve, expectations balloon. Dramatic improvements in conditions, as humankind has experienced in recent decades, translate into greater expectations rather than greater contentment. If we don’t do something about this, our future achievements too might leave us as dissatisfied as ever.”

Anxious and dissatisfied. Not progress.

I’m only about 50 pages in, and the book is littered with sticky tabs. I’m curious to read his conclusions. I may have to purchase this one so I can highlight and underline to my heart’s content.

Then another friend (on FB) posted a quote from Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig.

“The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell and antiaging moisturizer? You make someone worry about aging. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind.

“To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own nonupgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business.”

I immediately purchased (ha!) Matt Haig’s book. It’s an overwhelmingly helpful and, in the end, hopeful book about depression and anxiety from someone experienced with both.

Just today, yet another friend posted this jaw-dropping article: “Torches of Freedom”: The Anti-Literature of Advertising at Front Porch Republic.

“The object is to associate the sandwich with “freedom.” The technique is always the same: associate some salable commodity with some ineffable quality, preferably something deeply felt and visceral: love, peace, attractiveness, status. We cannot purchase freedom by the pound, but we can purchase sandwiches and cigarettes, and if the one can be associated with the other in our minds, it is not necessary to discuss the advantages of the product. After all, you can choose your own vegetables and select one of a dozen pre-packaged dressings. What more could freedom want?”

What more could freedom want? Exactly. All those choices and we think they bring happiness.

“This “new man” created by consumer culture can have anything he wants, except happiness; he must always be wanting and never be content, because contentment would be the death of consumerism. He must always seek his happiness in things rather than in persons, and then seek it again in some other thing; but he must never be allowed to become content; contentment would destroy the consumer culture...”

What’s to be done?

“Teachers of literature must train their students to apply the same techniques of literary criticism they learn in reading literature to their reading of anti-literature… “

[Go read the rest of the article!]

I have a few ideas that I’ll be sharing in later posts, but I’ll share two counter-cultural links.

:: Just as I Am: Accepting Our Limitations by Jennifer Hesse (Jenn is a friend of mine and she posted this as a response to the Oprah article.)

“Whereas human nature constrains our time, energy, and strength, God by his nature is eternal, infinite, and all-powerful.”

:: The Economy of Kindness at Rabbit Room

"The Kingdom of Christ and its economy of grace run deeper. When we offer the token of kindness to others, especially when they expect an exchange of money, we let them know that they have verged upon another land. Here, their money can buy nothing, but if they offer their need, they can dine on the richest of fare."


52 Hike Challenge ~ Hike 22: Not as Planned

Let Go @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Our really ambitious plan was to park at Neptune Beach south of Yachats and walk to the Cook’s Ridge and Gwynn Creek Loop Trail. After hiking, I hoped to enjoy a sunny afternoon of playing at Neptune Beach.

First problem: Leif forgot his clothes and stuff in Russ’s car in Waldport.

Second problem: We lost Lola.

Third problem: The sun did not shine.

Let’s go back to the beginning.

It was supposed to be beautiful on the coast this past Wednesday, and our best friends invited us over to Waldport to go crabbing. I’m not big on crabbing but I really wanted to get in a coast hike, so we made plans to meet up. Russ was going to go over early in the morning with two boys to go crabbing with our friends. Then I was going to arrive later in the morning. The women and children were going to head down to Yachats to go hiking while the men stayed to crab. Russ had to head back home around 1:30 so he could coach that afternoon. I wanted to stay in Yachats and play on the beach after hiking and Char was going to head back to Waldport to crab with her husband after Russ left. Then I would bring the kids back after we played on the beach. Isn’t that a great plan? I thought so.

My morning started out smoothly. I arrived in Waldport with the oldest and youngest at about 10 am. The crabbing crew boated in and Char and I headed out with all the kids. It was cloudy and cold, but I was sure it would get warmer.

Halfway to Yachats, Leif realized he hadn’t grabbed his bag of clothes in Russ’s car (though he somehow remembered to grab the ipads, ahem). That meant he had only the jeans he was wearing for the rest of the day.

We arrived at Neptune Beach south of Yachats, and I had no cell service. I had forgotten to take screen shots of the hiking info, but we managed to find the trailhead and get started. In previous years, Lola used to drag behind the rest of the pack and whine. A lot. But lately she has been full of energy and excitement and running in the lead. That’s usually better than dragging behind and whining. She was ahead of Char and me as we labored up a hill. The other kids passed us as the trail started downhill because running down is the best part (if you aren’t old). Then we came to two forks in the road (in quick succession) and Lola was nowhere to be found. The kids hadn’t seen her.

She knows to stop and make sure we’re behind her. She knows to stop at forks in the trail.

But that day she didn’t.

And we spent the next however long trying to find her. She’s been lost many times before (the joy of fearless, independent, curious children), but this time we had too many directions to look. We needed to stay in communication with each other without cell phones. And we needed people to stay at the forks in case she turned up. A lot of time passed and we couldn’t find her. It had never taken that long. We were so close to calling in search and rescue because we didn’t know how to procede.

And then Char found her.

Lola was running and didn’t notice the fork. Then she heard Leif calling. That meant we were right behind her and she didn’t want to lose her place in the lead, so she kept running. Sigh. (The joy of competitive kids.) But she sat herself down and waited at the next fork in the road until Char found her.

We had been running up and down trails trying to find her. Everyone was tired. No one was in the mood to hike anymore. So we hiked back to the cars. [I’m still counting this as a hike, even though we didn’t finish the trail and I have not a single picture to commemorate it!]

The weather was still cold and cloudy, so we just drove back to Waldport instaed of staying at the beach. Leif was able to get his bag of stuff from Russ before he left. We ate lunch and relaxed at the dock.

Then I drove all the kids up to Newport in search of a beach while Char and John stayed to finish the crabbing.

It was not warm. It was not sunny. But the kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Leif, Luke, and Monet got completely soaked in the waves (insane). Lola had her suit on but only got her legs wet. McKinnon and Levi mostly stayed out of the water and enjoyed the rocks and sand.

Later we cleaned up and met John and Char at Mo’s on the waterfront for clam chowder.

It was a special time with great friends, and now we have more stories to tell.

[I did have a long chat with Lola about hiking rules, and she will stay completely in sight at all times for the rest of the year.]

Newport 4 @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesNewport @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesNewport 2 @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesNewport 10 @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesNewport 8 @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesNewport 6 @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesNewport 5 @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Monday, April 30, 2018

52 Hike Challenge ~ Hike 21: Return to Silver Falls

Silver Falls Return @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

[Hike #20 was a beautifully sunny afternoon with my four kids at Talking Waters on April 19th. This was our second “hike” of the year there. Next time I’ll have to snap a few pictures. I always post at least one picture of every hike on Instagram in “real time” if you want to follow along there.]

On April 20th I returned to Silver Creek Falls. This time I brought family and friends and we had no snow. [grin] Holly and I added Char, Monet, and Jake to our crew. Plus Ivy, Levi, Leif, and Lola.

Luke, Monet, and Jake had mock trial that morning (Char, Holly, Ivy, and I were there all morning observing), so it was a long day! We hiked the same 4+ mile loop with 7 waterfalls that I hiked back in February.

On our hikes lately, we’ve noticed so many new blooms. It’s fun to see the new life sprouting as the season changes.

Silver Falls In Bloom @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesSilver Falls in Bloom 4 @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesSilver Falls in Bloom 2 @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesSilver Falls in Bloom 3 @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

The kid crew:

Silver Falls Hiking Crew @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Classical Conversations | Challenge B | Mock Trial

Mock Trial @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I plan to share more about Luke and his Challenge B year in an upcoming post, but these are a few photos from Luke’s mock trial experience with his Classical Conversations class. The class was divided into prosecution and defense teams. Luke was assigned the role of bailiff for the defense team and prosecuting attorney with the prosecution team.

Most of the kids were able to attend and observe a high school mock trial competition early in their preparations, and a local attorney met with the kids to share his experience, answer questions, and inspire them. The teams met together outside of class for two months leading up to the mock trial competition.

Luke said this experience was his favorite class and activity of the year and he would consider joining a mock trial group in high school. That’s high praise from him. He also said he’d be interested in a career as bailiff.

Mock trial is an invaluable experience for these kids, and I am so proud of them!

Luke as bailiff:

Mock Trial Bailiff @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Prosecuting Attorney questioning his witness:

Mock Trial Prosecuting  Attorney @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Luke’s Challenge B Class with the judge:

Mock Trial Team @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Saturday, April 28, 2018

52 Hike Challenge ~ Hike 19: Return to Shellburg

Shellburg Return 3 @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

[Hike #18 was a return to Peavy Section 36 Trail with Holly, Ivy, Leif, and Lola on the gorgeous day of April 3rd.]

On April 9th, Holly and I returned to Shellburg Falls. This time we brought Shannon and her girls, Rilla and Sweden, so we had all three sisters and all our kids (minus Ilex and Drake, who no longer live at home).

We had 66 degree weather, and the hike was delightful.

Shellburg Return @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Ivy and Leif love getting wet. Can you see them at the base of the falls in the picture below?

Shellburg Return 2 @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesShellburg Return Greenery @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesShellburg Return 5 @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesShellburg Return 4 @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Friday, April 27, 2018

Easter 2018

Easter Girls @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

[Yes, Easter was almost a month ago, but I’m slaying the perfectionist-procrastinator demon today and just posting anyway.]

We had a lovely, low-key Easter celebration with my family. We had a bunch of things going on just before and just after, so it was a simple dinner. This year we also enjoyed the company of my best friend, Char, and her family. It was barely warm enough for a walk after dinner, but we got out there and enjoyed the fresh air.

The three girls are getting so big! I love their cousinship (it’s a mix between friendship and sibling rivalry—ha!).

Easter 2018 @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Limits and Liberty ~ Chapter Two: The Golden Mean (of Virtue)

The Golden Mean @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

[Read Chapter One here.]

“It is better to rise from life as from a banquet -
neither thirsty nor drunken.” 


I’ve started doing yoga. What I’ve learned is what looks so very easy can be so very difficult.

Even when I’m not moving (especially when I’m not supposed to be moving).

It’s the balancing that gets me. It takes so much muscle control to remain still. I have constant checks (small and large) in one direction and then then other. Sometimes I completely lose any semblance of form and have to begin again.

Let’s return to our pendulum from chapter one. It feels great, at first, to swing from a place of oppression to a place of freedom, but some of us may have discovered that the swing away from tyranny brings us to a different form of slavery on the other extreme. Slavery to an over-loaded schedule, closet, or body, for example.

Seneca, the famous Stoic, wrote, “So-called pleasures, when they go beyond a certain limit, are but punishments…”

The solution seems so easy: just shed a few activities, pairs of shoes, or pounds.

But it takes an extraordinary amount of muscle control (and willingness to live in tension) to find that place of equilibrium and remain there. It’s a constant effort of self-imposed limits, and we’re easily tired by constant effort.

We make decisions. We second-guess ourselves. We give in to pleasure or convenience. We punish ourselves.

Aristotle, writing about ethics, examined moral behavior according to the “golden mean of virtue.” He argued that virtuous living is a balance within a sliding scale of deficiency and excess (the extremes). The deficiency and excess are both vices, and the golden mean is virtue.

“For both excessive and insufficient exercise destroy one’s strength, and both eating and drinking too much or too little destroy health, whereas the right quantity produces, increases or preserves it. So it is the same with temperance, courage and the other virtues… This much then, is clear: in all our conduct it is the mean that is to be commended.” [Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics]

True liberty is liberty from excess.

True liberty is liberty to choose virtue.

Not cowardice or recklessness, but courage.
Not stinginess or extravagance, but generosity.
Not sloth or greed, but ambition.
Not bashfulness or flamboyance, but modesty.
Not apathy or aggression, but patience.
Not indecisiveness or impulsiveness, but self-control.
Not starvation or gluttony, but sufficiency.
Not cacophony or monotony, but harmony.
Not tyranny or anarchy, but freedom.
Not laziness or obsessiveness, but perseverance.
Not uniformity or eccentricity, but individuality.
Not false-modesty or boastfulness, but truthfulness.
Not chaos or reginmentation, but order.
Not self-deprecation or vanity, but confidence.
Not quarrelsomeness or flattery, but friendliness.
Not moroseness or absurdity, but good humor.

In our culture’s quest for freedom, we think in terms of “freedom from” rather than “freedom to.” We want freedom from limits (seeking pleasure and happiness) instead of the freedom to do what we ought (seeking virtue and character).

“Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” - Pope John Paul II

Do I have a handle on this in my own life? Absolutely not. I’m just a shaky tree pose over here. You’ll hear me chanting “I am, I can, I ought, I will,” as I wobble, fall, and start again.

In upcoming posts, I’ll be sharing how the “golden mean” applies to various areas in my life.

:: Charlotte Mason’s Students Motto @ Ambleside Online

I am, I can, I ought, I will.”

:: Stratford Caldecott, Beauty in the Word

We imagine that the more choices we have, the freer we are. In reality, a multitude of choices makes us no freer than we were before unless we have the freedom (that is, the power, the ability) to choose between the right action and the wrong action... A myriad of evil choices is no choice at all.

:: Letter 39: On Noble Aspirations ~Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

Utility measures our needs; but by what standard can you check the superfluous?

It is for this reason that men sink themselves in pleasures, and they cannot do without them when once they have become accustomed to them, and for this reason they are most wretched, because they have reached such a pass that what was once superfluous to them has become indispensable.

And so they are the slaves of their pleasures instead of enjoying them; they even love their own ills, – and that is the worst ill of all! Then it is that the height of unhappiness is reached, when men are not only attracted, but even pleased, by shameful things, and when there is no longer any room for a cure, now that those things which once were vices have become habits.

:: The Virtuous Life: Moderation @ The Art of Manliness

This is certainly the answer society gives us for our restlessness, our boredom, our anxiousness, and unhappiness. The answer is always MORE. More stimulation. More sex, more movies, more music, more drinking, more money, more freedom, more food. More of anything is sold as the cure for everything. Yet paradoxically, the more stimulation we receive, the less joy and enjoyment we get out of it. The key to experiencing greater fulfillment and pleasure is actually moderation.

:: The Stoic Range of Virtue: In Defense of Moderation @ The Daily Stoic

As a society we pride ourselves on extremes. We flaunt how few hours of sleep we maintain, how insatiable we are in our careers, and how comfortable our lives are thanks to an excess of luxury goods. But the problem is that when we aspire to extremes, we also run the risk of taking our virtues too far, which collapse into their opposite–crippling flaws in character.