Wednesday, March 24, 2010

TOS Review: Children's Bible Hour

Do you ever grow weary of the super sappy, upbeat drivel that passes as kid's devotional materials. Tell me that you do. Tell me I'm not alone.

Is there a place for all of the "God is AWESOME!" stories? Oh, yes. Praising God is one of the most important things we can teach our children to do, in my opinion. But what about ...

when life hurts?
when people fail you?
when you just can't seem to obey?
when someone's sick?
when God seems distant?

What do we feed our children with during those times?

When life--and faith--have their rough spots, where can we turn to nourish our children's souls and bring them back to the basics of knowing that God is good, ALL THE TIME?

If you're looking for something that will shore up a child during a bruised patch, I highly recommend the Children's Bible Hour Seasons of Faith series. These beautifully illustrated books and CDs offer children a glimpse into what they already know to be true: sometimes being a Christian hurts. Sometimes big questions beg answers. And sometimes, God asks you to step into aching places and be His light.

All five of my children were entranced by this series--even Jo, who is technically "too old," and Mani, who is technically "too young." The sweet, slightly familiar voice on the recordings was comforting to listen to, and the stories, while simple, were not so syrupy as to turn into sermons that leave kids picking their fingernails. The characters, too, were kindly but not saints--a nice change of pace from so many Christian books for children, where any admission of flaw is a big no-no.

These books are real, they are gentle, and they offer a glimpse into a rarely probed part of the experience of cradle Christians. Each of the four titles retails for $10, or the set can be purchased for $40.

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this product for review purposes. Refer to my general disclaimer for more information on my policies regarding reviews.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When you're more than a customer

In this post, I will sound like a spokesman. Please know that I'm aware of how gushing and touchy-feely that what I'm about to say sounds. I'm well aware that such ringing endorsements usually come with a price tag attached; Be assured that there is none. I am receiving absolutely nothing in exchange for what I'm about to say, other than the satisfaction of being able to shine the spotlight on a company (and it's employees) who have gone above and beyond yet again.

I'm talking about Sonlight, of course.

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know that a good chunk of our homeschooling history has revolved around the elements of Sonlight Cores. You also know that I don't use their materials exclusively. I've combined Sonlight with other programs, added additional books, decided against some resources altogether, and even moved Jo to a different program entirely this year.

But if you were to ask me to define, in a nutshell, our philosophy of homeschooling and line it up with something that others could easily grasp, I'd point you in the direction of the Sonlight catalog. There, in its pages, you'll find the essence of what I think of as education--as it pertains to giving a child the tools to be inquisitive, answer questions, and engage the world. While each Sonlight Core has not fit our family with the custom-fit I'd love to claim, I have found that there's plenty there to qualify as the backbone of what I want my family to be learning. The specifics are up for negotiation. But the meat ... it's all right there.

We've been a Sonlight family since the spring of 2003, when I finally got my hands on the Core K IG and set about trying to convince my husband that a completely Christian education was not, by definition, and academically inferior one. (My, how times have changed. That very same husband recently challenged me on a history book I was looking at--demanding to know if I had made sure there wasn't a more "Christ-centered" version available!) Prior to actually teaching the materials in my home, I became a lurking member of the forums that the company maintains. Within a very short space of time, these forums became--literally--my homeschool support group as I struggled to make peace with what I knew from my own history of schooling and what I wanted for my own family. It was here that I learned that, yes, it's o.k. to ditch phonics when your child is reading at a fourth grade level but still only in kindergarten. It was here that I found lists for extra books, recipes for new treats to share, and encouragement when balancing school and toddlerhood seemed impossible.

Through it all, the IG and the forums held my hand. In such a crucible as the homeschooling life, a certain loyalty was born. I identified with being a Sonlighter. I was proud to wear the sweatshirt. I looked forward to seeing the photos in the catalog each March. I coveted the next Core.

With so many products, or corporations, or organizations, that kind of loyalty is seldom rewarded. Sure, there's the self-branding that goes on, making you feel like you're part of something bigger. But how often have I--a Coca-Cola snob since elementary school--received an unsolicited pat on the back just for drinking their soda? Ummmmm ... never. How often has our cell phone company of 7 years written to thank us for our business? Never.

Those are just companies, you say. All they do is sell you something. They want your money. They don't care about you--you're just a customer.

To be a customer means to exchange money for a product, good, or service. Rarely in today's word is anything else implied. Think about your relationship with the company that you bought your homeschool supplies from this year. I bet it went like this:

You pulled up a website. Filled a cart. Checked items. Hit purchase. Entered credit card information. Hit confirm. Waited for boxes. Received boxes. Checked contents. Moved on.

And that was it, wasn't it? You were just a customer. No more, no less. There was probably a small "Thank you for your order," printed on the bottom of your invoice ... but that was it, I'm betting. And you didn't feel cheated because your transaction was complete. The contract initiated through your purchase had been satisfied. You had what you wanted, the company had what they wanted, and your dealings were done.

If that was the extent of my relationship with Sonlight, truth be known, I would be satisfied. When I send them money, I expect to receive the books, IG, whole Core, whatever. Beyond that, they owe me nothing. And yet ...

With the purchases I make, I have access to the forums they maintain. I know that they used to be free, public forums. I'm not debating that. What I'm saying is that nowhere, in my purchase of a catalog item, did I expect to get a free forum subscription. One simply does not equal the other. But Sonlight provides this. And I am grateful.
The forums continue to be a source of fellowship and on-the-job training for me. In my life, they are an integral part of homeschooling.

But Sonlight does not stop there. In October of 2007, after Logan's tonsillectomy, I received a note from Sarita Holzmann saying that my boy had been prayed over during one of their meetings. Seriously. The staff at Sonlight took the time to pray over my son! I was floored. Here I was, just a customer--and yet, somehow, my purchase had brought us into a relationship that now involved praying for my boy's health?

Last September, it happened again. This time, someone had brought our unfortunate Oli-flood to the attention of the people who run Sonlight. Within a few weeks, I received a personal email with their regrets over our losses, as well as a generous gift certificate. It brought me to tears. I called my husband and cried into the phone, praising God for the people who work on His behalf even in the business world. Have you ever heard of this kind of customer service? Would you expect this kind of response to an unstated need, just because you'd hit submit on an order?

This past week, I gained an entirely new perspective for the people and the heart behind Sonlight. As if it wasn't enough to have these amazing evidences of a company whose prime motivator is not profit but praise, I must tell you this:

After a particularly hard day of grappling with the "Why, Lord?" of Bee's not being home with us, I came downstairs to find my husband sitting on our couch, tears in his eyes. This wasn't particularly striking, since he'd been wrestling with his hurt and disappointment all day, trying to make sense of it all and trying to maintain a focus on God's sovereignty. As I sat down beside him, he placed a lovely notecard in my hand. I opened it, and was blessed. There, Sarita Holzmann had once again reached out to our family. This time, the topic was Bee, and she offered the balm that our hearts needed: said the Sonlight family was praying, encouraged us to keep moving forward, and offered us a word on the goodness of the Lord.

I ended up crying, too, of course. Mr. Blandings and I sat quietly on the couch, blessing those who had responded to God's urging who knows how many days before--not knowing that the simple act of writing a note would bring such comfort and such joy into the hearts of grieving parents and hurting fellow Christ-followers at just the right moment. That card was what we needed to keep going that night. Who knew that a curriculum publisher would be the one that stepped into the gap?

Sonlight is just a company. I am just a customer. But because we both serve the same God, what stands between us is, I think, so much more. I expect nothing but books and memories in return for my money, but what I get is prayer, support, and generosity. They expect nothing but prompt payment in return for their intellectual property and books, but what they get is my loyalty, word of mouth advertisement, and yes, prayer.

So, thank you, Sonlight, for thinking that I am more than just a customer. And thank you for acting like so much more than just a corporation trying to sell me something. Even if we had never had any dealings beyond the superior materials you provide, I would feel that I had stumbled onto a gem of a company well worth patronizing. As it turns out, I now know that the homeschool community has been blessed with more than just a single gem--you and your employees easily constitute an entire mine of precious stones, each one shining forth for the glory of God as you serve His people, one book at a time.

Monday, March 22, 2010

TOS Review: Pandia Press

I have talked with a good number of homeschoolers over the years who fret and fret over the cost of giving their children the kind of deeply engaging, academically rigorous, yet doctrinally sound kind of education that they fell called to provide. It's true: many, many curriculum cost upwards of several hundred dollars. And while you can most definitely homeschool on the cheap (or for nearly free) so many of us feel that we need a guidebook of sorts. Something to hold our hands as we work to give our kids the education we didn't have. Why, oh, why, we wonder, do those guidebook have to cost $80, $100, $150 dollars? And they don't even come with the books we need to execute the plans!

I've pondered this myself, and come up with the only answer that makes sense to me--you are paying for someone's intellectual property, years of hard work, and knowledge. The "expert" author sets the price. And from there, it's up to you to decide whether it's worth it or not.

I personally steer folks away from pricey guides that give only skeleton outlines, a book list, and suggestions. There are tons of those out there, and frankly, I don't know of many active homeschoolers who can afford the money/time combo required to keep such a plan afloat. In my mind's eye, you either go with the whole she-bang (an instructor's guide, and all of the books in one package) or you go with the nitty-gritty (the plans and a book list). I'm willing to pay for books and all to be delivered to my doorstep. But when it comes to just the guide , I think paying over $50 is steep. Especially when you take into account that those kinds of guides rarely come with detailed lesson plans.

Up until now, I've not been aware of any high quality, low-priced options that provide that hand-holding approach so many moms are looking for. Finally, I have one in hand. It's from Pandia Press and yes, it is a gem.

I received a free copy of History Odyssey eBook Ancients Level 3 (retails at $33.99 for a download) and I can attest that this is not a vague outline that lists a handful of books and some potential activities, along with some comprehension questions. No, this is the real deal. In addition to a structured reading plan and some thought-provoking, detailed questions, map work and other activities are included. There are actual lessons to be followed. And yes, additional resources are listed for further study.

There is no parent guide for the History Odyssey eBook. Designed to be printed and slipped into a binder, these pages are student consumables. Buying the download gives you the option of using it for more than one student, and teaching your whole family around the spine of one topic. The studies are divided into levels one, two, and three (loosely centered on grades) and seem to be appropriately targeted to their audiences. Other areas of study include the Middle Ages, Early Modern, and Modern Times. All have the option of Try Before You Buy on the website, so you can wrap your head around the levels and types of activities included.

Pandia Press has filled a niche long in need of attention: reasonably priced, well-researched, quality instruction without all the bells and whistles that add to the bottom line. A family with an active Paperbackswap account or decent local library could potentially provide a year or more of instruction in history for less than $40.

Finally. A budget-friendly, literature-based history curriculum centered around in-print books! Thanks, Pandia!

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this product for review purposes. Refer to my general disclaimer for more information on my policies regarding reviews.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Homeschooling is cool like that

I read this post over at A Baker's Dozen today and found myself grinning from ear to ear. Why? Because this, to me, is one of the best parts of homeschooling: with the doors to personal interests left open, and not restrained by a set curriculum laid down by a bureaucrat whose prime goal is to secure state and federal funding, our children can accomplish and experience so much more than we've ever imagined.

Listen to the interests God has placed on your child's heart. Follow their calling. And let them dream big--God-sized dreams!

Homeschooling can be about freedom and true, eye-opening education. Or it can be about getting the job done and checking off the boxes. As the song says ... free your mind, and the rest will follow.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What it is, and what it's not

Parenting a large family is not easy.

I have learned this the hard way, after years spent reading blogs writ in soft focus, bursting at the seams with all of the sugary sweet goodness that is the perfect day with the perfect children in the perfect home with the perfect schedule and, dare I say it, the perfect mother at the helm of it all. I have learned this after watching, doe-eyed, as a beautiful family passed by me in the grocery store, at the fair, or on the street. I would count the little heads as they paraded--obediently, meekly-- past in their matching polo shirts and jumpers: one, two, three, four, five, six--no! seven!

Parenting a large family, it turns out, is not easy. There are so many things you do not see, so many blips on the radar screen that make the days and the nights more complicated then you might imagine as you gaze longingly at a whole row of well-groomed little ducklings waiting patiently in line at the library counter.

There is laundry. Lots of laundry. Currently, ours rocks to the tune of two loads per day, plus diapers.

There is food. Lots of food. No sooner is one meal cleaned up, it seems, than someone needs a snack, someone else wants to experiment in the kitchen, and someone else is complaining that there's no room in there to unload the dishes--which we desperately need unloaded because holy cow, it's almost time to get cooking again.

There is a lack of space. Personal, physical, emotional, you name it.

There is "bedroom bingo." In our house, this is exacerbated by the fact that we're top-heavy on boys and have run out of years where we'd feel comfortable bunking an almost-teen girl with anyone but a wee baby brother.

There are logistical puzzles. "You're going where, with whom? O.k. Can you also take this child? He needs new shoes." "You're moving car seats in the van? Why? Don't you realize how long it took me to come up with the perfect configuration?"

There is a time crunch. I am only homeschooling three, and I can already feel the coming pinch of balancing algebra and phonics in the next few years.

There is a stigma. Ask anyone with a "larger" family (set your own definition here) how many times they've been asked about their reproductive lives in public. You will be shocked at the lack of polite borders that exist in this area.

There is a financial burden. I'm sorry, but I can not fathom why some people insist on saying that it's no more expensive to raise five kids than it is to raise two. It's just plain old not true. Trust me on this one.

There are limits. Guess who won't be making any fabulous week-long getaways to locales exotic or otherwise for the foreseeable future? Aside from the fact that most hotels frown on more than four people sleeping in a room (fire codes, apparently), there are also things like admission, meals out, gas, etc. to consider. It's simply not doable for most large families to enjoy, en masse, some of the more pricey vacations that many others enjoy.

So, if raising a large family has so many downsides, what's the point? Why bother? Why not mandate a two-child policy and save the world the stress and trouble of raising a family that's not so easily fit into a standard restaurant booth?

Every day, I die to self. I suppose I could have done this when I just had one child, but the fact is I did not. I was still far to self-absorbed to live outside of my own needs. It took getting to the point where I could not "have it my way" to recognize that in truth, I should not "have it my way." At least, not all the time. Tending to smaller, needy people pushes me outside of my ego zone and into the trenches of loving on others ... not just me.

I am more creative because of my limitations. I thought that struggling with a budget of $20 a week for foodstuffs stretched me to be a more creative chef. Turns out, that was nothing compared to trying to balance the preferences and medical needs of seven people, all the while keeping it nutritious, all the while keeping it fresh. And oh, yes ... the fact that I now have very little in the way of "free time" has made me more creative as well. You'd be amazed at how much I can get done in twenty minutes when it's just me, some yarn, and a pair of needles.

There's always someone. It's insanely hard to find time to navel gaze and otherwise mope when you're constantly being hugged, encouraged, and asked to read books. The social network within these four walls keeps us going in amazing, uplifting ways.

I appreciate the little things. When you go out to eat on a weekly basis, you take it for granted. When it's an all-out treat to seat everyone around the table for a meal you didn't cook, it's nearly sinful how much you'll enjoy that food.

My kids have learned compassion first-hand. Since they are not anywhere near the center of my universe, you'd be stunned at how patient, giving, and supportive of one another my children can be. Do they do this at all times? Of course not. They are kids. But I am constantly impressed at the little things: Logan waiting in the wings as I explain a math problem to his older brother, and Jo noticing and stepping in to ask if she can be of assistance to Logan. Atticus seeing me packing things into my backpack in the van, and deciding to get Oli out to save me the trouble. Logan carrying Manolin on his hip to make sure he can see the garbage truck out the window. Good stuff, that.

We have seen God's provision. I know that this isn't the case for everyone, but with the addition of each child, we have seen God's hand as He has provided: be it in terms of hand-me-down clothes, a raise for Mr. Blandings at work, an offer of a loaned baby swing, whathaveyou. We have never felt alone on this journey--and when you know you're at the end of your means, you are more able to see this work as it takes place.

It really is "the more the merrier." You've heard it, and it sounds trite ... but it's oh-so-true. I can't imagine a moment without any of my children. I never look around and think, "One less person would sure make this dining room table a whole lot easier to navigate." I never load one more child into the van and wish that I was still driving my little Volvo station wagon.

Truly, for me, this is the life I was meant to lead. One with trade-offs, no doubt. But one that stretches me, affirms my faith, and leads me to be the woman that God always intended for me to be. I have very little time to chat with friends on the phone, to relax at women's retreats, or to ponder what book I'll read next. But I have conversations about eternity with my seven year-old, a pre-teen daughter that will happily hold my hand as we worship in church, and a three year-old who calls me, "Mama-mooo" and then breaks down into giggles. My children are not the perfectly dressed, sweetly docile little darlings that line the covers of Quiverfull magazines. I don't own a denim jumper, and I buy as much bread as I bake. No one will ever mistake us for the perfect large family. But hopefully, what they will see in us is happiness instead of harriedness, joy instead of burden, and acceptance rather than conformation.

That's worth it. Warts and all.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

You've come a long way, baby

In the process of putting together Atticus' 10 year video, I've found myself lost in a sea of memories. Really, it's taken me months to even get past picking the music, let alone sorting through so many images that beckon me back into the early, early years of my family.

The photo above is one of my absolute favorites. It was taken just after midnight on January 1, 2003. Mr. Blandings and I had relocated our family three short months before from the balmy climes of Georgia into the wilds of Western Washington. That New Year's Eve was one I will never forget. Turns out, it's only in the Deep South that people fire shotguns to celebrate the launching of a new year; I could have just gone to bed. But instead, Mr. Blandings and I sipped red wine, played UNO, and finally, in the 11 o'clock hour, harkened to the calls of two little ones who were restless. On my lap is Atticus, 2 years and 7 months, and Logan, my whomping huge 7 month old baby boy. A little nursing session and general mommy time had settled everyone back in by the time that the magic hour struck, but still, it's preserved for posterity's sake: I started 2003 with my arms full of baby boy goodness.

Not much has changed after all, I guess. :-)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Review: Homeschool in the Woods maps

Truth: I love Homeschool in the Woods. In my dreams, I can draw like that. I can create elaborate line figures with grace and form, and craft beautiful font types to tie it all together. I can make gorgeous, elegant things. And they are useful, and well-loved.

But, as I said, this is only true in my dreams. Which is one reason why I'm so happy that the fine people at Homeschool in the Woods have my creative back. The reality is that I can draw about four things well, and not a single one of them has any application to homeschooling. Trust me on this. I've tried.

I've reviewed some of their products before. Being given the chance to review yet another was like homeschool gravy for me; I couldn't wait to find out which of their stunning products I was going to get my hands on. Timeline figures? More Activity Paks? Time Travelers History Paks?

Be still my heart: OLDE WORLD MAPS.

Little-known MG fact: I adore maps. Not quite as much as I love books, but give this girl a nice map, and I'm all aflutter. So you can only imagine that when the soulful art of Homeschool in the Woods was combined with a $28.95 downloadable combo-pak featuring 180 hand-drawn maps of the world and the United States ... I was hooked.

The maps are available with or without labels, certain borders, or other identifiers, depending on what you're studying. There are also more recent political maps included, as well as geographically-based maps of ancient civilizations.

And, of course, it's all gorgeous. Stunning, black and white line drawings that feel as if they've been torn from the pages of a well-respected geography book from the 1800s. All living inside your computer, if you opt for the download option. (CDs are also available at $29.95.)

I loved this collection, and found uses for it well beyond what one might ordinarily think. Sure, while studying Ancient Greece, it's nice to have some maps on tap. But during the Winter Olympics? How about for charting where the food on your table came from? You know, I even gave Logan several that I had accidentally printed and found them later, stapled into a book he was writing and labeled with fantastical names.

Maps. They open the world up wide for homeschoolers. And with these beautiful maps in your collection, you're going to find even more ways to enjoy them.

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this product for review purposes. Refer to my general disclaimer for more information on my policies regarding reviews.

Friday, March 12, 2010

TOS Review: Homeschool Library Builder

Last year, I reviewed Homeschool Library Builder. In a nutshell, this site is an online bookstore that specializes in low-cost, homeschool-friendly books that making educating your kids that much easier.

Prices are low, and I do mean low. Most items are 50% or more off the retail price, with many bottoming out at what I consider yard sale prices--$1 a book. The site is easy to use, memberships are free, and, best of all, the books are sorted into logical categories. Two homeschool moms run this site, and it's obvious: the selections are well defined, and there is surprisingly little "fluff" rounding out the offerings.

The downside, however, is that when I started typing in my own personal wish list, I couldn't find a single item I was hoping for. Perhaps because my shelves are already crowded with the basics, I came away empty-handed. Paperbackswap treats me the same way, though, so I didn't take it personally.

I do think that this is a wonderful, free resource that all homeschoolers should keep bookmarked. You never know when you'll make a true find!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A life well lived

Grandpa Logan--the man for whom we named our second son--is dying. Maybe today, maybe next month ... we don't know the date, but we know his time is very short.

We are sad for what will be an immense loss to our lives, but rejoicing for these reasons:

Eighty-six years of walking faithfully with the Lord.

Honorable service to his country in World War II. Grandpa Logan took very seriously the responsibility for home and hearth placed on his shoulder as a U.S. Marine.

Over fifty years of marriage to the wife of his youth, who left us three years ago.

Three children--and not one divorce among them, even though they came of age as Baby Boomers.

Ten grandchildren.

An even dozen great-grandchildren to date.

Many years of dedicated service to his community and church.

A lifetime of love, laughter, and Bingo games played while sipping Cold Duck.

This is truly an example of a life well lived, isn't it? Grandpa Logan--Mr. Blandings' maternal grandfather--is one of those men in whose presence you want to stand a little taller. From the day Mr. Blandings and I married, I was never a "granddaughter-in-law" in his eyes; I was, simply, yet another granddaughter whom he welcomed and adored right alongside the others. I'm sure the man has his faults, but I tell you ... they're shockingly few. In a society where men routinely shirk their responsibilities, whine for "me time," and put their careers first, Grandpa Logan shines as an example of what true manhood is, and what its fruits are.

It's an honor to have known you, Grandpa Logan. Pass in peace into the arms of the Savior you have loved and served for so long. Look forward to the reunion you'll have with Grandma Betty. And know that we will see you again. For if your life accomplished anything, it is this: generations of followers of Christ, all of whom desire to follow in your footsteps for His glory.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Long-haried freaky people need not apply

Twice in one week--
twice--someone has taken it upon themselves to point out that Atticus, my oldest son, has hair that they deem "too long." Twice.

What. in. the. world?

I live outside of Seattle, easily one of the most liberal, non-conformist, come-as-you-are places in the U.S. This is the area that gave the world Kurt Cobain. Coffee house chic. And as much plaid as the Jacobite Rising.

And yet ... my son's hair is too long?

I admit--it miffed me. I happen to like Atticus' hair. The truth is, it softens his hyper-focused, ├╝bersmart persona just that tiniest drip, and makes him seem a bit more like the not-quite-ten year-old boy that he is. His hair is a startled shock of strawberry blond locks that cascade into his eyes when he reads, smooth against my cheek when he hugs me, and stand up angrily first thing in the morning.

Atticus without long hair is somehow just not Atticus. Never has been. The truth is, the boy has only had a truly short haircut once, and that was when he was 2 and decided to butcher himself with a pair of Play-Doh scissors, of all things. (On the flip side of this coin is Logan, who generally sports a buzz, thanks to inheriting more cowlicks in his blond hair than his mother can bear to tame at any one time. )

I really, really thought we had gotten beyond hair as a symbol of anything much more than personal preference. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe by not forcing my son to sport the same bowl cut that every other boy his age seems to be stuck with, I'm somehow breaking a rule. Perhaps people are deeply offended when they see a whole head full of those reddish-blond waves float into a room. Maybe there are special police officers out there, waiting to write a ticket for Possession of Unseemly and Unkempt Hair.

Or maybe some people just need to mind their own business.

You think? ;-)

Monday, March 1, 2010

"What's the point?"

An acquaintance who is--admittedly--just a tad confused by just about everything my family does, contemplates, or stands for found me in the fabric aisle of the local craft store recently. She asked to hear the news: was Bee home with us, or still in Kathmandu?

I filled her in. Beside me, Atticus scratched his neck uncomfortably, thinking of his downtrodden daddy and sister back home, and the one in Nepal whose hugs he couldn't yet receive.

Her face shifted only the slightest bit, revealing much more than words ever could. I could have told you this would happen, her eyes whispered. You just don't know when to stop, do you?

Finally, she composed herself. Placed a consoling hand on my shoulder and gave me a squeeze.

"Sometimes you have to ask yourself, 'What's the point?' huh?" she asked.

I rustled in my backpack and found my iPod. With a couple of quick clicks, I found an answer that spoke volumes, despite the dead silence all around us.

Bee and Jo, KTM, Feb. 23, 2010

What's the point?

Simply put, this:

God sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6)

If that's not a reason to fight on, I don't know what is.

What's the point, indeed. (harumph)