Sunday, July 29, 2012

It is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer...

One of my favorite probability demonstrations is a "magic trick". Ask a group to flip a coin 100 times and record the results in order - H for heads and T for tails. Half of the group uses a physical coin, and the other half imagines they're flipping a coin. Shuffle the results, and, with surprising accuracy, the brilliant teacher can separate the fake results from the real ones. The fraudulent results will not include long enough runs of consecutive H's or T's.

I've decided that doing local missions with kids is similar. If you're doing it for real, there will be some stretches unpleasant to the eye - things that make you want to tweak reality to look more like a "Serving the Community as a Family" brochure. I want to get out there and serve other people with my boys. Truly, I do. But, the real life version often looks nothing like what I played out in my mind. Sometimes it's better than what I imagined - grittier and less eloquent, but true-er. Other times, it's just disastrous.

Our project for the summer was to gather children's books for a local mission to needy families and then foster a two hour story time and book distribution for children whose parents were waiting in line for services. Wait, you might ask, don't you have a toddler? Isn't two hours kind of a long time for a two year old? Thank you! After four boys I don't understand why that doesn't occur to me until 45 minutes in. Friends, it was a humiliating experience. I had the loudest, screamingest child there. One of my kids kept asking why he couldn't take a book home. Another one complained when I declined his repeated suggestion of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as a read aloud for the preschool children waiting patiently for a book. Another one of my offspring kept goading Rand by notifying him every time he picked up one of Rand's favorite books. One of the boys kept trying to crawl on my back - not my activity of choice when I'm STRESSED. By the time I finally admitted defeat, recruited backup and bailed on this absolute fiasco, I think the people in line would have pooled their assistance money to just pay me to leave, which brings me to another fun math item.

In an upper level math class in college, a professor taught us a very useful and colorful phrase to be used in place of a formal proof of an obvious (or particularly difficult to prove) assertion: "It is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer". It even has an abbreviation: iottmco.

So, it is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer that a passive, sedentary, two-hour service project with four boys in a public place IS A BAD IDEA. In the future we will be moving boxes, packing canned food, riding bikes for Living Water, delivering food...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Nanny Whitten

Nanny Whitten with her parents shortly before her mother died 
Vivian Adele Earp was born on November 13, 1912 in Okra County, Eastland, TX.  Sixteen years later Adele attended a cookout at the home of John and Kate Whitten.  "John told David, who was not at the party, that if he were him he 'wouldn't let any grass grow under his feet until he met that girl.'  David waited outside the Baptist Church that Sunday night to meet Adele Earp, the daughter of Gus A. Earp.  They were married on the 26th of June, 1929."*
Nanny Whitten holding me beside her father
David and Adele had five children:  Wilma Wayne, Mary Nell (my sweet Gran), Anna Jean, David Earl and Billy Jack.  When his children were 16, 12, 7, 5 and 3, David Heron Whitten was killed in an automobile accident.  Adele faithfully fed, reared and educated her five children in the midst of overwhelming circumstances.  She clung to the Lord and worked her behind off.  (Maybe I should go into the business of writing epitaphs.)  I love the picture of her holding me above.  You can see such gentleness and love on her face.  You don't see bitterness.  I love hearing her children and grandchildren talk about her.  They loved her.  She delighted in them.  I want to be this to my boys and to their wives and children.  I want to have released the hurtful things that life has, and will surely continue, to throw my way, so that I'm free to love them without strings and without demandingness.

Nanny Whitten's children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren gathered a few weeks ago to enjoy a beautiful and really miraculously pleasant Texas July weekend.  Sixty-two of us were there.  Nanny would have been so proud of her cowboys waking up with the sun to cook breakfast for everyone, of all the happy, loved children running around, of her children gathered together.

"I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a THOUSAND generations of those who love me and keep my commandments."  Exodus 20:5-6 
I'm so thankful to be living under the umbrella of Nanny Whitten's faithfulness, and also a little ashamed of my whininess given that at my age, my great-grandmother was scraping out a living by the sweat of her brow with five children to feed and a ranch to run.  I'm thinking that the stress of her life did not include whether to enroll her children in karate, boy scouts, or flag football.

* From Direct Ancestors of David Heron Whitten and Vivian Adele Earp by my fabulous aunt, Jean.  Thank you so much for your hard work.  This has been a joy and treasure to read.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Battle of the beach...

Rules of engagement

1.  You may not fire on the enemy until hostilities have been formally and mutually announced.
2.  If you hit anyone (especially your mother) you have to run to the ocean and back before firing again.  Hostilities will continue in your absence.
3.  No whining when your buildings explode.
4.  No whining for any other reason.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Twelve years...

When you pass through the waters,
   I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
   they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
   you will not be burned;
   the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God,
   the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Isaiah 43:2-3

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