Friday, August 29, 2008

What You May Not Know About Sarah Palin

CNN is reporting that Republican presidential candidate John McCain has chosen Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate for November's presidential election.

I haven't yet considered the political implications of this choice, or even the fact that McCain has chosen a female veep candidate. I'm more excited because Ms. Palin is the pro-life mama of adorable little Trig Palin, who was born four months ago and has Down syndrome. I'm picturing future photo ops and articles that will hopefully clue people in to the gifts that a child with Ds can bring to a family. What an opportunity! :)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Every Child Has Special Needs?

Got back from several days in Chicago yesterday, weary but happy. It was the first time I've ever taken a trip alone with dsds15, and it went very well. We stayed in a hotel near O'Hare with ds23, who was in town on business. This was a great help to me, as I could take a shower without worrying that my youngest was downstairs hailing a cab or something, because his big brother kept an eye on him for me.

Came home very tired, and found this in a homeschool email newsletter I receive:

Todd Wilson, Familyman Ministries

I have special needs children. In fact, ALL my children are special needs children. First, there's Ben (15) who really needs me to listen to him talk . . . because he talks a lot. Then there's Sam (13) who likes to tease but who needs me to know when it's time to stop teasing and be understanding. Katherine (11) needs me to be extra gentle during these "changing" years.

Ike (9) needs lots of one-on-one attention. Abe (7) needs snuggling and closeness. Maggie Rose (4) needs me to help her use self-control. Cal (2) needs me to read books to him and Jed (7 mos.) needs me to smile at him.

Now before I get an angry note from some well-meaning mother who insists that I'm making light of or minimizing special needs children, let me say that I am not doing that at all. I know some of you have children who demand incredible sacrifice and labor on your part. I know you lie awake at night wondering if you can make it through another day. I'm certainly NOT trying to equate my "special needs" kids with your "special needs" kids. But I am trying to point out that ALL of our children have special needs and that we've done our children and ourselves a disservice by labeling our special needs children as "special needs." They're just children like all the rest.

Yes, they have special needs, but as I've already described, all children do to some extent. Amazingly, God has given you the abilities to meet those special needs and has given your children the mom and dad just right for them. You don't have to feel inadequate or apologize for their lack of progress, or label them as a "special needs" child.

All you have to do is love, train, and prepare them for THEIR future. Oh, yeah, and one more thing . . . . . .
Be real,

Wow. That didn't sit real well with me yesterday. I pictured myself reading that back when my son was little and we were trying to adjust to homeschooling three kids while caring for a toddler on an apnea monitor who couldn't keep weight on because of severe reflux, and I think that attitude (no matter how well-meaning) would have really hurt me.

Also, having just seen family in Chicago who have a daughter (our niece) with delays of unknown origin and how they have to fight to get the right kind of education for her out of their local school district, and having some idea of the pain they have gone through with and for her, his message kind of got me going:

Hi Todd,

I read your column in TOS' THM occasionally, and usually find it amusing. But I've got to tell you that you stepped in it today. I get your drift about all of our children having special needs, but you're off track here, and I'm afraid you probably hurt some parents of children with disabililties.

We have four kids, currently 15, 17, 23 and 24. They were all homeschooled from birth. Like your children, they're all special. But our youngest has Down syndrome, and let me tell you, once you have a child with true special needs (i.e. mental retardation, not a need for extra hugs), your entire life changes, and it will never be the same.

Todd, kids with special needs aren't kids like yours (and my older three) who simply need to gab a lot or snuggle a lot. We're talking about kids with major physical and/or developmental issues. This is life-changing stuff, not "Love Language" preferences. Flip through an issue of the wonderful magazine NATHHAN puts out and you'll see what some families' daily lives are like. You might also want to read The Dance Goes on by Roberta Bandy for a true-life description of the joys, blessings and heartache of a Christian family whose oldest son was born with a chromosomal defect.

I'm certain you didn't mean to offend anyone, but some of your comments came across as a bit flippant, to say the least. Like you, we have a 15-year-old son who needs us "to listen to him talk...because he talks a lot." Of course, his speech is extremely delayed, so we have to work to understand him. He may well be telling us about what happened in one of his beloved Winnie the Pooh videos, which he's told us a hundred times before, but it's important to him, so we listen. BTW, at 15 he can't play outside by himself because he runs off and has no sense of danger. He was in diapers until he was almost eight.

We love him dearly, and are grateful that God gave him to us just as he is. But telling us or other parents that all we have to do "is love, train and prepare them for THEIR future" is incredibly naive. Newer parents of the disabled (who are still coming to terms with their child's disability) are likely to consider it insensitive, and I would agree.

Todd, be real: please consider issuing an apology.

Barbara Frank

Each of my kids is unique, no question. And they are all special and very dear to their dad and me. But one of them does have special needs. We didn't give him that label. He got it when he arrived with an extra chromosome. It is what it is.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dreadful Homeschoolers?

There's nothing like digging into a juicy article promoting school choice. Apparently, even the socialist-leaning Swedes have begun allowing it. But it's not permitted here in the Land of the Free, except in some areas where your only "free" choice is from among the public schools in your district.

After the article, one of the commenters got my attention by asserting that "Half of homeschoolers are dreadful. That's a fact." Then he made some Lutheran references. This lifelong Lutheran found the urge to respond to him irresistible, lol.

Feel free to have at him. Many others already have.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Homeschooling a 12th Grader.....Again

It’s a bittersweet fall for me, as I once again have a 12th grader.

The first time it happened, it was exciting: wow, we’ll soon have our first homeschool graduate!

The second time it happened, the very next year, it was still exciting, but it went by so fast I couldn’t believe it.

This third time is different. I now know firsthand how very quickly this year is going to pass. One of the great things about homeschooling for high school is that your teens can do it their way, which means lots of stuff going on. And we all know how time flies when you’re busy.

Reaching the end of 12th grade, no matter how gratifying, is tough on Mom. Another one ready to fly the coop. I miss the first two a lot; I can’t imagine letting go of this one. Let’s not go there right now, ok?

Instead I want to talk about homeschooling for 12th grade. When I was in high school, senior year was pure torture. It seemed like such an afterthought. After all, by December I’d already been accepted to the university. Hanging around high school seemed so….anticlimactic.

But there I was, marking the time until I was released.

My kids didn’t have that experience. Each one’s 12th grade year has been different.

Our eldest made it very clear that she didn’t want to go to college. So we used that year to do projects that would give her a leg up on the independence she craved so much. (They’re the basis of Life Prep.) She worked through a math-review-for-adults book from the 1960s (my dad had used it to prepare for his military exams, and for some reason I had it on my bookshelf.) She read some good literature. She put in many hours a week watching a neighbor’s baby while she was at work (and bought a car with her earnings). She ran a fundraising table for Rock for Life. She got into local concert promoting. And then April came, and we called it graduation for the one-woman Class of 2001. She moved out on her own two years later.

Number two was a different story. He wanted to go to college. He studied some subjects at home, plus took a noncredit Chemistry course at one local college and Spanish at another. The latter was at the community college, so he got college credit for it. He was on the board of our church’s youth group, a great job for someone with an eye for ministry. He also worked at a local grocery store. He spent the year after his 2002 graduation doing much the same things, except he didn’t study at home. In fact, he was rarely home! So 12th grade and real life a year later were very similar. And then he went off to college. Shortly after college graduation, he got married and moved to his wife’s hometown, ten hours from here. Another one flies the coop.

Now we come to number three. She has neither the fierce independent spirit of her sister nor the academic desires of her brother. But she is very creative and has many interests. This year will be spent exploring them further. Sure, we’ve got some formal studies planned, and she’ll continue to work her way through Life Prep, too. She’s also taking a few for-credit college classes (one online, one in person). And if there’s time, she’s going to enroll in a Christian Writer’s Program. But she’ll also be playing her violin in the county’s youth orchestra. She hopes to keep growing her craft business and her web design business. And she just got a new job in a coffee shop, where she’ll be working a few days a week. Before we know it, the year will have flown by, and it will be graduation time again.

Looking back over the 12th grade experiences of all three of my older children, I see that they look more like real life than a school year. That satisfies me. It means my kids weren’t marking time the way I did senior year. I realize they can’t appreciate that the way I do; from birth to age 17 or 18, all they ever knew was homeschooling. But it makes me feel good to know they had it better than I did.

Number three doesn’t want to leave home yet; she says she’ll still be around for a while. That should make this third high school graduation a little easier on Mom. :)

Still, in many ways, this year marks the end of homeschooling as we knew it. After number three graduates, homeschooling will be the day job of our 15-year-old with Down syndrome and me. He won’t ever need our very useful (if not always loved) copy of Saxon Algebra, or our A Beka High School Literature series. By the time he reaches 12th grade, he’ll still have many years of study left, and he’ll be nowhere near ready to leave home. That’s ok. His senior year will consist mostly of real life, just as it did for his brother and sisters. And like the others, he’ll be just fine.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cacophony of Curricula

Maybe I’m just getting old. But when I open the many homeschool-related e-newsletters I receive, and when I visit homeschooling sites, I’m often overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of curriculum now available to homeschoolers.

One homeschool magazine in particular sends me oodles of offers, to the point where my eyes start to glaze over. I wonder, does this cacophony of curricula overwhelm other people too? Or is it just me?

I run the risk of being seen as hypocritical here, because I, too publish homeschool materials. But I don’t work fast enough to produce anywhere near the vast amount of homeschooling products being produced elsewhere. (I’m still homeschooling and caring for my family, and those things have to come first.) I also don’t send out mailings every other day, because I don’t want to add to people’s already overstuffed email boxes. A good portion of Cardamom’s sales come from word-of-mouth recommendations anyway, as far as we can tell, and we’re grateful for that.

The bottom line? I’m glad I’m not a new homeschooling mom these days. Too many choices overwhelm me at the grocery store, much less when flipping through my doorstop-sized Rainbow Resource catalog. When I first started homeschooling, there weren’t that many choices of what to use, so I just used what was available. Since then, I’ve learned that what you use isn’t nearly as important as that you spend time working one-on-one with your children when they need it.

As children get older, they can be trusted to take on more responsibility for their learning. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t assign them things that we think will be good for them. But the mass quantities of curriculum available now could make people, and especially newbies, think homeschooling means buying a lot of stuff and pushing it all on their children. I’ll be interested to see how that works for them as time goes on.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Playing Catch-Up

I've been pretty busy lately, but I didn't realize how busy until I noticed that I hadn't posted here since Friday. Seriously, it seems like I just posted a day or so ago. Time flies when you've got a long to-do list, I guess.

So I had better get caught up here. First off, you won't want to miss this week's edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling, which is being sponsored by Janice Campbell, who very kindly parked the cover of my book next to my post. Thank you, Janice! BTW, you can tell that many people are getting back to homeschooling this time of year by the great variety of posts at the carnival this week.

Next, I want to thank Melissa Markham for the lovely review of my book. We're offering a special price on the book, but only for those who visit her blog and read the review. Again, thanks, Melissa!

I don't know where the time went since Friday, but part of it was spent shopping so I could do another round of bulk cooking. The nearest Sam's Club is an hour away, and just happens to be down the road from the community college where dd17 started classes this week (more on that in an upcoming post). It just made good sense to combine those two trips. After stocking up at Sam's yesterday, I spent today making red sauce (40 cups, now frozen in bags), chicken parmagiana (five dinners) and pork ribs with sauce (two dinners).

Before we went to Sam's, we went to JoAnn Fabrics, where I bought three yards of a layered set of fabrics called Warm Windows. It was $27/yard but I had one of those 40% off coupons. I'm going to make window covers for our bedroom. We just signed another year's lease on the house we're living in, despite the difficulty we had last winter keeping this house affordably warm (that was the only downside to this house; it's wonderful in every other way!) Since we're staying another year, I'm ready to make a few improvements.

In the coldest month last winter, it took $300 worth of natural gas to keep the house at 65 degrees. Not good! So the landlord is going to have the boiler tuned up, and we're going to try to make the house a little tighter against the cold Wisconsin winds. After I make the window covers, I'm going to hem the thermal drapes I recently bought to go over the dining room windows. The curtains and the Warm Window fabric are a creamy white, so we can take these window treatments with us to the next house, wherever and whenever that might be.

I'm hoping to get that work done over the next few days. Next week, dsds15 and I will be heading to Chicago, where we will visit with some dear homeschooling friends. Ds23 happens to be there on business those days, so we're going to meet up with him, too. It will be great to see them all!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Get Rid of Her

Here's a headline that caught my eye this morning:

When my little girl was born with Down's, I felt like I'd given birth to an alien and just wanted to get rid of her

Yow! Of course, I had to read it. I guess I was led by that same impulse that makes you look at a car wreck even though you're afraid you might see dead bodies. And I was prepared not to like this woman, just going by the headline.

But you know, it's actually a pretty poignant story (Kleenex alert!) I can't relate to her feelings when she first saw her little girl, because I loved Josh before he was born and my feelings only intensified when I found out about his spare chromosome. But I've known other moms of kids with Ds whose feelings more closely compared to this mom's than mine. It took courage for her to admit it.

Her little girl is absolutely adorable. I do hope this mom understands that God is using little "Grace" in her life to change her. I pray that she comes to know God, if she doesn't already, and that He gives this little girl the best medical care available.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My New Site, Plus Newsletter Update

My new Web site is now live! has many articles and freebies related to homeschooling, including two new articles, More on Bulk Cooking and Quiet Kids. C'mon over and check it out!

The site is designed and run by Mary, aka dd17. She worked on it diligently this summer, and I want to thank her for taking the time to do that for me. She’s a great girl (and I’m not just saying that because I’m her mom!)

BTW, her plan is to move this blog over to the new site very soon. But I’ve told her I want to take it slowly. All this change is a bit much for technologically challenged me.

Also, the latest issue of the “Imperfect Homeschooler” newsletter is now available. Most subscribers received it this morning. If you’re a subscriber and you did not receive it, most likely you forgot to renew your subscription when we changed over in June. Please reread your June newsletter to see how to do this (you’ll find back issues here), or just go here to subscribe again.

Please note: You won’t be officially resubscribed until you click the confirmation link we’ll send you. I hate to add in that extra step, but it’s necessary so we don’t get attacked by spambots again >:(

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Carnival of Homeschooling

The Homeschool Memories Edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling is now up. Sprittibee has assembled a lot of great posts that will get your homeschooling engine humming. Don't miss it!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Living in the Past

A while back I posted about Tasha Tudor, the artist and homeschool mom who lived as though it were the 1800s, shunning modern conveniences for most of her adult life. Of course the Amish are known for living the same way; a few homeschooling families I've read about have also made this choice. As much as I like modern conveniences, I find the lives of those who "live in the past" quite interesting.

But I found it especially fascinating to learn that there are young women in their 30s who shun today's culture in an effort to return to the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. They particularly revel in their roles as stay-at-home wives (though one does work part-time), but they also wear the clothes, use the appliances and drive the cars of the era they admire.

According to this article, their choice of lifestyle is a reaction to the problems in our modern culture as well as the vagueries of modern marriage and roles of men and women. One of the women says:

I admit I am in retreat from the 21st century. When I look at the reality of the world today, with all the violence, greed and materialism, I shudder. I don't want to live in that world.

I relate to that sentiment, but realistically, I can't help wonder what pushed them to this point. I mean, I've always had a fascination with the 1920s and 1930s (in high school, I had a crush on Humphrey Bogart, who died the year before I was born), but I live in the modern age, with a computer for each of us, a 2003 car and a couple of cell phones. What is it that makes a person retreat this far into the past?
Do check out the article, if only for the photos, which are really interesting.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Nannies 24/7: Why Have Kids at All?

The photo of the little munchkin that accompanies this article just breaks my heart. It's the middle of the night, and she's being comforted not by the parents she doesn't see during the day because they're at work, but by the night nanny they've hired so their sleep isn't interrupted by their adorable baby.

The article explains that Mom and Dad are tired from their day jobs and need their rest. Before Congress gets wind of this and votes to offer taxpayer-subsidized night care, I'd like to point out who's driving the demand for night nannies:

The bulk of Nocturnal Nannies’ clients are dual-career, professional families, Ms. Seveney said, and revenue has been increasing 25 percent a year.

So this is not an economic necessity. The fact that there are actually agencies with names like "Nocturnal Nannies" for the convenience of parents who don't have time for their kids at night much less during the day is really depressing. Poor kids. Why have children if you don't have any time for them?

(By the way, ours is not the only country where babies are often seen as an inconvenience. In Australia, they're saying that babies are a drag on the economy!)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Books I Wouldn't Sell, Part 2

Woman Reading
Woman Reading

Despite several reduction campaigns, my book collection is not small, thanks to homeschooling four children. Here are more of the books that I just would not sell:

Wisdom and the Millers: Proverbs for Children (Miller Family Series) was recommended to me by a homeschooling friend many years ago, and I'll always be grateful to her for that. This book is part of a series that uses the adventures (and mishaps) of a young family to teach children Biblical principles. Our kids loved these stories! There are workbooks that go with the Miller books, but we only tried one and, not surprisingly, it seemed to dampen my kids' enthusiasm. These books are best-suited for reading aloud or devotions. We also have Prudence and the Millers (Miller Family Series) , which humorously illustrates the need for wisdom. These books were published by and for Mennonites, which means you'll see women wearing headcovers, etc. They are charming books.

I really did try to make myself sell our set of McGuffey's Eclectic Readers/Boxed, but I just couldn't do it. These hardbound readers are reprints of the originals with which so many American children learned to read. The irony here is that I didn't use them to teach my children to read, although they did read these for pleasure. But they're such nice readers that I just can't let them go.

Speaking of reprints, two beautiful books that I will never give up are Aesop's Fables: Childrens Classics and Tales from Shakespeare: Children's Classics. I like these specific versions because they're hardbound, beautifully illustrated reprints from the 19th century originals. Tales from Shakespeare is especially good because it's a retelling of some of Shakespeare's works (including Taming of the Shrew, Romeo & Juliet, Pericles, etc.) written specifically for children.

Two books that were deservedly popular among homeschoolers when they were first published are The BOOK OF VIRTUES and The Moral Compass: Stories for a Life's Journey. Both were edited by Bill Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education. These are great read-aloud books, but I also assigned stories from them to my older kids. I've been known to sit down and read a few stories from these books for my own pleasure.

My husband loves history, and he asked me to hang on to our copy of The Bulletproof George Washington. Not a problem....we all loved this story of how God protected George Washington over his lifetime so that he could become the father of his country.

I got rid of most of our textbooks, figuring I wouldn't be using them with our youngest, who has Down syndrome and is more of a kinesthetic learner. But I kept Saxon's Math 54: An Incremental Development as a memento more than anything else, because we used the Saxon series for many years and it worked very well for my kids. I sold all the rest of the books we used, right up through Algebra 2, but this first one I can hold in my hands and remember all the hours we spent at the table doing math. :)

Before we got started with Saxon, though, we used Miquon Math All Six Student Workbookswith a set of wood Cuisenaire rods very similar to this one: CUISENAIRE RODS INTRO. SET WOOD 74/PK I don't have the workbooks anymore (they're consumable), but I saved some other books we used with the rods, including Lab Sheet Annotations (Miquon Math Lab Series:), Everthing's Coming up Fractions with Cuisenaire Rods: 6 Fraction Lessons with Blackline Masters (Grades 4-6) and Using Cuisenaire Rods: Multiplication and Division (Grades 2-4).

I also spent time with each of my older children using Winston Grammar, and those little cards hold a lot of memories for me, so I'm keeping it. My kids may not share my fondness for this set, but they are all good writers, so I think it was time well spent.

Finally, someone recommended a simple little book to me, and it helped a couple of my kids learn to draw and sketch. It's called Drawing Textbook, and despite its humble appearance, it's a really nice little program for budding artists or anyone who wants to be able to draw. My husband has artistic talent, which has shown up in our kids and will likely be present in some of our future grandchildren. So I'm hanging on to this one!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Books I Wouldn't Sell, Part 1

Books in Winter by Jessie Wilcox-Smith
Books in Winter

When we moved last summer, we ended up with two storage units full of stuff. Last fall, we pared down to one unit, overloading the nearest Goodwill store in the process. Forced to reduce my mountain of books, I pulled all the ones that were easiest to give up but kept my favorites from 20 years of homeschooling.

This spring, I went back to the storage unit for the first time in months and became completely depressed at how much stuff we still had. I decided I needed to be more ruthless about paring down our library. I went through all of the remaining books one more time, removing many wonderful books that I forced myself to admit I could give up.

One of my summer projects this year was to post those books to a blog called Used Homeschooling Books. It was a great success. Most, though not all, of the books have sold. The rest are still for sale there, in case you feel like browsing.

As for my favorites, some are back on my bookshelves, and the rest are in boxes here at the house, not in the storage unit. I want them to be where I can get at them.

Why am I saving them? Well, you never know, some of my grandkids (none of whom have arrived yet, of course, but I like to plan ahead) might be homeschooled and their parents might want these books. And even if my future grandchildren aren't homeschooled, we'll need some good books to read together when they come to visit.

So I want to share some of these titles with you, because we booklovers like to recommend good books to our friends.

The Eloise Wilkin Treasury is so beautifully illustrated. I love the way she depicts small children. We also have many of the Little Golden Books she illustrated, including my youngest son's favorite, We Help Mommy .

I'll bet I've read The Seven Silly Eaters aloud to my youngest son at least a hundred times. He likes the silly story and the cadence, while I just love (I know it sounds ridiculous) the house the family lives in. Illustrator Marla Frazee has captured my dream house in a dream location, which is why reading this book to my son is never a chore for me.

Like many homeschoolers, we enjoyed Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series. One of the versions I kept, Little House on the Prairie: Deluxe Edition (Little House), is particularly pretty, with beautiful borders and a nice hardbound cover.

Along the same vein, A Pioneer Sampler: The Daily Life of a Pioneer Family in 1840 is such a lovely book that I couldn't give it up. Each of my older kids went through a "pioneer" phase when they were younger, and books like this really helped them imagine what it was like back then.

History comes alive when you give your kids good historical fiction. Some of our favorites have included Matchlock Gun, Diary of an Early American Boy: Noah Blake 1805 (Dover Books on Americana), and anything by the D'Aulaires, particularly Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln.

A curriculum we loved, Literature Approach to Geography (History Through Literature), introduced us to the works of Holling Clancy Holling. We added the Holling Geography Map Packto the mix, along with Pagoo, Tree in the Trail, Paddle-to-the-Sea (Sandpiper Books) and my daughter's favorite, Minn of the Mississippi, and we not only had a wonderful learning experience, but discovered four books we now love too much to give up!

When I was a child, I inhaled every book of the Childhood of Famous American series in our school library. Once I found out they were still available when I had children, I bought quite a few of them. We're keeping them all, of course. The kids' favorites included Paul Revere: Boston Patriot (Childhood of Famous Americans Series.), Amelia Earhart: Young Aviator (Childhood of Famous Americans), Teddy Roosevelt: Young Rough Rider (Childhood of Famous Americans) and Ronald Reagan: Young Leader (Childhood of Famous Americans). My own personal favorite was Betsy Ross: Designer of Our Flag (Childhood of Famous Americans (Sagebrush)), a book I received on my sixth birthday and which I still own.

Wow, this post is getting kind of long, and I still have quite a few books to write about. I think I'll save the rest for the next post.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Advice from a Wise Man

Perhaps you've heard of Tony Snow. He was a journalist, a radio talk-show host, a musician and a past presidential press secretary. He was also a husband and the father of three children, and he died a few weeks ago after battling cancer for several years.

My husband and I admired Tony Snow immensely. His wit and charm made even his political opponents his friends, and he spoke and wrote clearly and winsomely about his life and faith as well as his political beliefs.

Here's a transcript of a speech he gave last year at a college graduation. I don't know of many people who could pack that much wisdom and love into one brief talk, but he could. One of my favorite parts:

American culture likes to celebrate the petulant outcast, the smart-aleck with the contempt for everything and faith in nothing. Snarky mavericks. The problem is these guys are losers. They have signed up for an impossible mission. Because they’ve decided they’re going to create all the meaning in their lives. They’ve either decided that no moral law exists or they will be the creator, the author of those laws. Now one road leads to complete and total anarchy. Life is solitary, nasty, brutish and short. The other is to insanity, since it requires playing God. We know in our hearts, intuitively, from our first years as children, that the universe unfolds with a discernable order and that moral laws, far from being convenient social conventions, are firm and unalterable. They predate us, they will survive us. Rather than admitting our weakness a lot of times, we just decide we’ll try to get by. And maybe rather than giving God credit, we’ll try to look for a cheap substitute.

Walk into a bookstore, you’ll know what I mean. The shelves are groaning underneath the trendy tomes promising salvation — medicine balls, herbs, purges, all sorts of weird stuff. In politics, there’s a variant that elevates government to the status of God. It says that it is the source of love. It ought to be the recipient of your tithes, but government, while it does pursue compassionate ends, cannot be loving and personal. It treats all of us as completely equal rather than uniquely divine. The point is you can’t escape the question of God and you can’t escape the question of commitments.

When it comes to faith, I’ve taken my own journey. You will have to take your own. But here’s what I know. Faith is as natural as the air we breathe. Religion is not an opiate, just the opposite. It is the introduction to the ultimate extreme sport. There is nothing that you can imagine that God cannot trump. As Paul said “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And once you realize that there is something greater than you out there, then you have to decide, “Do I acknowledge it and do I act upon it?” You have to at some point surrender yourself.

Do yourself a favor and go read the whole thing. You'll be glad you did.