I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

20 May 2013

Women of the wall - May Update

I wanted to give the latest update on Women of the Wall since the last incidents where they were met at the Kotel during Rosh Chodesh by rioting men and women. The ante has been upped now by vandals who have spray-painted slogans on teh home of one of the leaders of Women of the Wall.

Ladies, my prayers are with you.

Israeli police say vandals have spray-panted slogans on the home of one of the leaders of a liberal Jewish women's group that has angered ultra-Orthodox communities over its demands for equality of worship.
Women Of The Wall Leader Targeted By Vandals, Women's Prayer Group Angers Ultra-Orthodox, Huffington Post
Some of the graffiti sprayed on the door and stairwell of Peggy Cidor’s apartment read in Hebrew: “Women of the Wall are wicked,” “Peggy, your time is up,” “Peggy, we know where you live,” and “Jerusalem is holy,” according to the Women of the Wall.
The words “Torah tag” also were spray painted on the door of the apartment, calling to mind the phrase “price tag” used by extremist settlers and their supporters to describe retribution in the form of vandalism for settlement freezes and demolitions or Palestinian attacks on Jews.
Vicious graffiti sprayed on home of Women of the Wall board member, JTA

 Israeli TV footage showed black writing on the hallway and door of the Jerusalem home. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Monday police were investigating.
Vandals spray-paint slogans against liberal Jewish women’s prayer group in Israel,
Washington Post

Tzipi Livni and Naftali Bennet are now involved in the current proceedings with legalizing Women of the Wall's Activities.

Bayit Yehudi party leader Minister Naftali Bennett is working to redefine the “local custom” regarding tefilos at the Kosel. Bennett is reacting to the recent Jerusalem District Court decision by Justice Moshe Sobel in which the court stated that the women of the Women of the Wall (WoW) organization was not in violation of the Supreme Court decision’s definition of the “local custom” vis-à-vis tefilos at the holy site when the women wear tallis, tefilin and read from a Sefer Torah.
Livni Steps in to Protect Women of the Wall Organization & its Kosel Agenda

Until recently, however there was no such voice [for Haredi women who were against WOW]. Nearly all of those who were publicly critical of Women of the Wall were male - which made it easy to argue that if they simply kept to the men’s section of the Wall, there wouldn’t be any reason for them to complain about the WOW’s activities.
Woman vs. Women of the Wall, Haaretz Daily
(brackets mine)

16 May 2013

The German Homeschool Case - The Romeike Family

Photo by J. Stahl

I'm probably not going to earn any brownie points today from any of my readers or family after this post... and I'm sure I know why.

I have been asked repeatedly for my opinions on the Romeike family from Germany that is seeking assistance through the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) for asylum in the USA.

Many people think that because I am a former home-schooler, and especially because I live in Germany (I'll come home before my children go to school and home-school them, right?) that I will be incensed and defend the family.

However, since the story broke, I have pointed out several inconsistencies, as well as the fact that the Romeike family could pursue legal actions for the laws to change in Germany, take it as high as the highest courts in the EU and even go to another European country that is not restrictive towards homeschoolers rather than lying about Germany on their asylum application.

Many might think I'm overreacting by saying that they lied about Germany... especially since my children's foray into education is still very fresh and in the non-mandatory stages of compulsory education. Actually, I've spent many hours looking into their case (not just today!) and into the German educational system when I entered into it, as well as when I found out that I was pregnant. I've asked extensive questions and I've been researching all home-school cases friends and families send me that are out of Germany.

Here is the news that the HSLDA is disseminating about the Romeike family right now:

There are four articles I found that sum up every bit of the story very well in a nice tight bow. You can find them here, here, here and here.

You can also find a video in German from a show here that covered the Romeike's after they went to the US. This video is shared via the HSLDA, but is originally from a talk show in Germany, which tries to show both sides of the issue.

It bothers me terribly that the main thrust of the case all dependent on issues that just throw a monkey wrench in everything. If you want to make a good point, do not invoke Godwin's law.

I know Wikipedia is not authoritative, but honestly, it's the best write-up I've seen in a very long time (in English) about the German educational system. (see here) I love all of you, but Hitler was not the one who made school compulsory in Germany. Each of the Länder (German states) decided on compulsory education and all had different laws. The goal was that all children, whether poor or rich, had an equal chance at education in a time when many children were removed from school to work at home, or in the fields.

Germany wasn't really unified until around World War I. Even as the Federal Republic of Germany, each state has it's own government, laws and practical application until around World War II.  Compulsory Education was actually put into place by Napoleon and the Prussian Empire.  Some of the best minds about children's early Education came out of this market in Germany, Austria and Swizerland. (Friedrich Fröbel, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, Rudolf Steiner)

Yes, the Nazis used compulsory education to their own ends. I definitely do not dispute that. The least I expect is a bit of factual reporting. At this point, most of the information that has covered Germany and homeschooling has been full of holes.

School here is completely different. Government here is completely different.  I'm actually finding it very laughable that they are claiming Christian persecution. Germany is in every sense of the word a Christian nation, even if most/many of the actual citizens are not Christians, and the bulk of the Christians are "nominal" at best. (I really hate using that word.) Many are unaffiliated and therefore not even counted due to various reasons of theological difference and not wishing to pay a flat church tax out of their income. (You pay tithes and offerings, we pay church tax [Kirchensteuer])

All public holidays here that are not explicitly listed as Federal holidays, are Christian holidays. (see here) Most of the political parties have a Christian basis and base. (see here)  Many public schools and kindergartens still have religious symbols up. (Crosses, Crucifixes, Mother and Child)

As it stands, if one does not wish to use the public school closes to them, the following options are available:

I can semi understand the concern that the Romeike family may have in regards to sexual education... but at some point someone has to tell all children the facts of life, and about how babies are born, marital relations and that sort of thing. With the hours at school being as few as they are, parents have as much opportunity and much more obligation to disseminate this information than schools do.  I wish I could say all parents feel the same, but they sadly do not.

Depending on one's school district, what is covered in sex ed will vary from school to school, state to state. Most of the kerfuffle I've heard from the US or even the UK in regards to sex education in our schools here, actually center around older initiatives or books that are available in the library, but hardly ever checked out. It makes me wonder what the actual point is of those articles and what is covered in the sexual education. . . if anything much.

I do not understand their apprehension and statements about witchcraft and paganism at school. Neither are at this point recognized religions that have religious coursework in either state, but that could possibly (maybe) change in the future.  For now, you have Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Islamic studies offered. If you are non-religious, you can take a social ethics course instead.

I also do not understand their statements about indoctrination at school. The attitudes here as far as education goes is so far from indoctrination that I find it pitiable that such a statement has been made to American mass media, especially those with a religious bent.  As far as the quality of education, their home state is home to some of the most prestigious universities in Germany.  (I would love to know more, but I live in a neighboring state and am very happy with our educational opportunities.)

 There has also been brought up that the family may face fines or prison time for home-schooling. This is only a half truth. If the Romeike family sends their children to school, and  home-school after school hours or on the weekends; they will not be penalized. They also could move anywhere in the EU that home-schooling is still legal while still fighting for legalization here in Germany.

Another argument the Romeike family raises is that their human rights were breached. The current court decisions deny this, and I hope to discuss this further on my blog at some point in the future.

I wish their family no ill will, I only wish to present some facts unavailable to the American public in general.

My home-school experience wasn't the best, and I know that there are exceptional, awesome home-schoolers out there. I wish all of them the best, but I find cases like these certainly do not help ours, or for us to be better accepted or trusted by society at large.  As someone pursuing higher education at the moment, I find it difficult not to speak up.

UPDATED on 22.9.2013 with some additional information

09 May 2013

Unto the least of these...

Bee pollinating flowers - photo by J. Stahl

I've been mulling over how to answer the call to action for this month's syncroblog:

Whether we realize it or not, lots of people all around us are experiencing great pain and hardship. Maybe someone has lost their job, gotten a divorce, is going through depression, or worst of all, has lost a family member or loved one.
As followers of Jesus, how are we to respond in such situations?
... for the May 2013 Synchroblog, we want to invite you to write a “How to” post about helping Christians know what to do (or not do) and what to say (or not say) when others are going through times of personal tragedy.
Syncroblog: Being with those in pain

I think I mask it rather well, so a lot of people do not know that my face is the face of chronic pain and chronic unseen illness.  I've told a select few people outside of my support groups, especially a select few Christians due to the reactions that I often receive.

You probably know them. In case you do not, I'll illustrate some of the most frequent responses I tend to receive.

"You really should not allow a spirit of illness/fatigue descend on you. Rebuke it in Jesus name!!"
 "You will get better if you act better. Put on your clothes and get out of the house."
 "No matter what, you should ALWAYS be in the church, unless you're in the hospital or on your death bed. No excuses. Any staying out is backsliding."
 "That again! Aren't you over that?"
 "Can't you just take a pill or supplement or drink or something?"
My personal favorites:
"If you just get out to the gym and push through, you'll start having energy!"
 "But, you don't look sick!"
 "SMILE! It looks far better than a frown!" / "Time to turn that frown upside down!"

What these people do not know, is that I have lived my entire life with chronic unseen illness. It started as an infant with several tragedies spaced one after another.

In this entire ordeal I have learned many things, including several key areas that believers and churches in general need to really step up:

  • Remember the spoon theory when it comes to members that have expressed unseen illnesses and chronic fatigue disorders. 
  • Have compassion and be there for people who have chronic illnesses. We can't always leave our homes and go on fun activities with you all. BUT, we thrive on your friendship, prayers and compassion. 
  • For those of us with chemical sensitivities - please remember our requests for when you come over. We want to spend time with you, but not at the expense of a week long sinus flare and gut flare due to the chemicals.
  • For those of us with infertility issues, we want to celebrate with you and take joy in your lives! We thrive on the bit of sanity that comes from your love. Don't cut us out just because you are uncomfortable or have questions you are afraid to ask. If we let you in our secret, don't leave us hanging.
  •  For those of us with food related disorders, I would simply request that you ask what we need or that you can do, and help plan activities that we can also partake in. If there is one thing that causes us the most pain, it is the loss of friendship due to "complicated table fellowship". We want to participate with you. We do not want to break table fellowship. We didn't do this to ourselves, and it is in no way something we wished upon ourselves or that will simply heal away.
  • For those of us with chronic pain issues, know that we didn't do anything to bring this upon ourselves. We just need a listening ear from time to time and someone willing to spend time with us. 
  • For those of us undergoing a marital split, be an ear rather than a judge. You have no idea what happened behind closed doors unless you hear it from one of us.
  • If we have experienced a death in the family, be there. It takes time to process all of that grief.
  •  When we offload our "I'm fine" to you and explain that we are not really fine - believe us. Tell us you do. That is the one thing that we crave the most; someone who believes us. We trust you with this information.
  • Remember:  "...Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25) 

List of other posts in the link-up: 

06 May 2013

And now, for something completely different

"Haul" from Treffpunkt

So, I've been wanting to blog, but I'm processing some things and really just am not much in the mood to talk about anything other than light-hearted issues at the moment. . .  so to keep myself from going insane, or beating myself up for not blogging here - I've decided it's time for something completely different for today.

I've been wanting to go to a thrift store (Treffpunkt) that opened near us (if almost an hour away is equal to "near us") in Griesheim since it opened in the summer of 2011. For various reasons, we hadn't gone, but I kept the tiny article from our SüWo Zeitung in hopes that we would eventually make it out there. Every few months, I'd find the article again and move it somewhere else in the house after asking DH if he thought we could make it out there "today" or "this week".

I had my fill of kids being grumpy and nothing to do on Saturday, and since we needed to get out in the sun before the next storm came out, I figured "Fine, since I have to drive, I'm picking the place!!" and we set the directions on our Tom-Tom Navigational System and off we went.

The kids were asleep when we arrived, but I realized a little late, we did not have cash and might need it if we go in the shop.  So, I sent my husband in to ask if they take EC Cards (like Debit, except we don't do checking accounts here) and they did. He said it looked nice inside, and I couldn't help myself thinking "Gee, it looks bigger on the inside!" Kudos if you caught that reference.

I puttered around for about 30 minutes and found my "treasures" of the day. They ran at a little over 25 Euro, but I figure for a movie, three books, five audio books with songs, two serving plates for Thanksgiving (super hard to find!!) and a two quart Rubbermaid drink container - I had a "steal!"

I'd been looking everywhere for something I could use for Sukkot and Thanksgiving and I found two plates. I'd been hunting up something to send to a friend in the UK for Advent and found two quality CDs for her children. I also found that four of the items I have are filled with older Detlev Jöcker songs and aren't just stories for four and up!

If you don't know who Detlev is (and you probably don't if you haven't had a lot of exposure to German media for children), he writes these wonderful paedagogic  songs for children, and he had started collaborating with the German children's channel KiKa to produce a short series of videos called Tamusiland that consist of moving dances with easy to remember songs for kindergarteners.

Now, if you asked my husband what he thought of Detlev Jöcker, you'd probably get an eye roll, a head wagging and a long sigh that just says "ugh" and he won't say much more other than he doesn't particularly care for him (in not so many words) and that it's rather cliché.

If you ask others, especially mothers or teachers of small children - you'll hear something else entirely.  I'll let you make up your own mind. Below is a video from his Tamusiland series, "Freunde Spielen miteinander" (Friends play together)

Friends play with one another, friends hang out with another, friends listen to you, friends are people like me and you, friends share with another, friends stick together, friends give of themselves and my very best, my very best friend is you... (oder so ähnlich!)

*ahem* getting a bit dusty in here. Darn "F".... so big.. *ahem*

Anyhow, not all the songs are that cutesy, there are actually quite a lot that are religious, and I've been looking around and hunting them up rather slowly.

One thing I've been rather surprised at here in Germany is that audio tapes have not phased out, for adults or for children. A rather lot of audio books and songs for children are released on tape as well as CDs here, so I'm glad we were given a Radio/CD/Tape/LP player  by my husband's grandparents over the holiday. It gives us an opportunity to listen to them not only in the car, but also at home.

The kids had woken up by the time I was back in the car, and they were so very quiet listening to the tape "Wenn das Bärchen Bauchweh hat" (When the bear had a tummy ache) which has several stories that are read by Klausjürgen Wussow and then songs between the stories by Detlev Jöcker and sung by a children's choir.

So, all in all it really was a wonderful experience to go to this thrift store and not a disappointment like the three others I've been to since moving from Alabama. I guess I've been really spoiled by the variety of thrift markets in the United States, and this is the closest thing I've seen since being in Birmingham six years ago.

The really cool thing about Treffpunkt is that it is a consignment shop, and you can rent space to get rid of items that you no longer need, and the prices for renting these areas are on a sliding scale. You can set the time frame of rental (one week is the base price, but they recommend two weeks or longer) and all of your items will be processed and ticketed with a sticker that has your consignment number on it and the price. The owners take a 20% processing fee, which really isn't awful at all.

I know it sounds comical to suggest a thrift store on your visit to Germany, but you might find it interesting and you never know what kind of items ( new or old! ) that you will find while in there. There were quite a few vintage items that were tempting, but I'm on a budget and could not justify the expense of a knick-knack.  There are a great deal of books there as well, so you might want to think about it when you're in the Darmstadt area. :)

Hopefully next time I will think to take more photos, but we were in a rush to get out the door with the children so they'd sleep and the camera was the last thing on our minds. 

Have you ever found an unexpected treasure in your area? Would you like to share it with someone? Feel free to pop it into the comments below. Who knows, you might learn something new, or connect with someone traveling to or living in your area!

05 May 2013

Spank Out Day USA Musings

Hibiscus - photo by J. Stahl

In honor of the "Spank Out Day USA" theme, I can think of no other loving painting or photo to share, outside of perhaps some interesting "Old World" church art pieces.   I've wanted to post since the day before Spank Out Day, but I've been processing a whole lot of information and feelings - so it's waited until tonight to come together.

I do not plan on really talking out the issue, but rather sharing a variety of articles and blog posts that have been helpful to me, and may also help others spread the message for next year's Spank Out Day USA.  I did not share these (for the most part) with family due to the knee-jerk reaction I knew I would encounter, but I did share this on Google Plus with most everyone else in my circles, irregardless of their religious beliefs.

At the end of these links and images, I'll post some videos that will also give some food for thought.
Thank you for sticking with me, though I've been long absent.

All of these are in no preferential order, but gathered in reverse from my Pinterest collection of Gentle Parenting ideas. If you didn't already know that we've transitioned from a position of punitive and fearful parenting to one of grace-filled and gentle parenting; now you do. SURPRISE!

Before I do get started, I have something here For All the Non-Spankers!

Let's get started, shall we?

"When I was about twenty years old, I met an old pastor's wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn't believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time.

"But one day when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking--the first in his life. And she told him he would have to go outside and find a switch for her to hit him with. The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying.

"He said to her, 'Mama, I couldn't find a switch, but here's a rock you can throw at me.' All of the sudden a mother understood how the situation felt from the child's point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, it mkaes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone.

"The mother took the boy onto her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. Because violence begins in the nursery--one can raise children into violence."
~From a peace prize acceptance speech given by Astrid Lindgren, beloved children's book author

Crystal Lutton, who runs Grace-Based Discipline, one of several Christian blogs that oppose corporal punishment, said the danger with the Pearls’ methods is that “if you don’t get results, the only thing to do is to punish harder and harder.”  Preaching Virtue of Spanking, Even as Deaths Fuel Debate

“As 5-year-olds, the children who had been spanked were more likely than the non-spanked to be defiant, demand immediate satisfaction of their wants and needs, become frustrated easily, have temper tantrums and lash out physically against other people or animals”…Physical Punishment Increases Aggression in Children

“Physical punishment is also associated with a variety of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and use of drugs and alcohol”… Canadian Medical Association Journal: Long-term Negative Effects of Physical Punishment

“IQs of children ages 2 to 4 who were not spanked were 5 points higher four years later than the IQs of those who were spanked”… Research Shows Children Who Are Spanked Have Lower IQ’s

The use of guilt-inducing parenting in daily parent-child interaction causes children distress still evident on the next day, finds a new study carried out by Kaisa Aunola, Asko Tolvanenen, Jaana Viljaranta and Jari-Erik Nurmi at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Parent Induces Guilt, Child Shows Distress

“Dr. Brazy at Duke University and Ludington-Hoe and colleagues at Case Western University showed in 2 separate studies how prolonged crying in infants causes increased blood pressure in the brain, elevates stress hormones, obstructs blood from draining out of the brain, and decreases oxygenation to the brain.  They concluded that caregivers should answer cries swiftly, consistently, and comprehensively.” …Dr. William Sears: Studies on the Effects of Excessive/Prolonged Crying in Infancy

“Dr. Allan Schore (1996), of the UCLA School of Medicine has demonstrated that the stress hormone cortisol can damage nerve connections in significant areas of the infant’s brain. His research suggests that not only does stress damage connections in these areas of the infant’s brain but when the areas of the infant’s brain responsible for bonding, emotional control, and attachment are not nurtured in a healthy way, those areas remain undeveloped or underdeveloped”…Studies on the Effects of Prolonged Crying in Infancy (see bottom of article)

Time Out: Australian Association for Infant Mental Health Position by DrMomma
What's Wrong with Timeouts?
Positive discipline: Why time-outs don't work 
The Case Against Time-out
  Our Get Along Shirt Guest Post by Dr. Laura Markham

10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling At My Kids
Scream-Free Parenting

Beating Black Kids: We Turned Out Fine?
Jesus, the Gentle Parent
Is Spanking Your Child Ever Warranted? by denny hagel
Myths and Facts: Spanking
Spank Out Day: 3 Untruths and 11 Alternatives to Spanking
The Great Spanking Debate By Jeannette Moninger from Parents Magazine 
5 Reasons why you shouldn't spank your kids
What is Grace-Based Discipline? My Journey of Understanding
How Spanking Changed My Life by DrMomma
Plain Talk about Spanking
Why Spanking Doesn’t Work
Faithful Parenting – Is Spanking Biblical? Dulce Chale
I Don’t Know Much But I Know I Don’t Spank
Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter
Spare the Rod?
Question: What is the best way to discipline my child?
Dripping Water: Gentle Parenting
Respecting Yourself, Respecting Your Child
A Jewish Psychology of Motivation
The history of Spanking - Crystal Lutton
Spare the Rod - Crystal Lutton (please see her site for more great information!!)
Interview with Crystal Lutton
Parenting Methods And Alternatives To Spanking
National Spank Out Day: 10 Answers to common reasons parents give for spanking their children
National Spank Out Day: Where Do You Stand?

Spanking - right or wrong?
The Discipline of the Lord ~ Hebrews 12
Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

So I hit him by Jennifer McGrail
Why Punishment Doesn't Teach Your Child Accountability

Why Not Train a Child? (check out everything there. It's all good!)
The abusive teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl
How to Raise Decent Children without Spankings or Time-Outs
The Road To Nonpunitive Parenting
Changing Your Mindset
This Hurts Me More Than It Hurts You
When Positive Parenting Doesn't Work
7 Alternatives to Spanking and Harsh Discipline
My thoughts on Spanking
Reasons not to hit your child 
Terrific Toddlers; Tantrums and All 
National Spank Out Day
12 Steps to Gentle Parenting 
The New Normal  
Young People: What do think about spanking?
Killing the soul of Children–revisited

Other Helpful Articles:
The Age of Entitlement: Fact or Fiction? 
The Best Parenting Advice I’ve Ever Read
Faithful Parenting – Jennifer McGrail
10 Simple Ways to Slow Down & Make Your Child’s Day
Listen to the Little Stuff

10 truths you need to hear when you feel like a failure as a mom
5 Preventive Maintenance Habits to Keep Your Child Out of the Breakdown Lane
Magic Words – 10 Ways to Help Communication With Your Toddler & Preschooler
Mommy Fun Fact #17 ~ look kids in the eye
How to stop your child's irritating behavior
Useful phrases for Gentle Parenting
POYEL: More on Our Daily Routines
12 Steps to Gentle Parenting
How To Raise A Child While Disciplining Less
10 Dangerous Thoughts for Parents Who Want to Stay Calm 
19 things we should say to our children
Magic Words – 10 Ways to Help Communication With Your Toddler & Preschooler 
10 Ways to Protect Your Child From Stress
How To Get Rid of No 
When Food Dyes Color Our Child’s Behavior
The Gluten Made Her Do It: How going gluten free saved my daughter's mental health
Why Whining is a Win! 
An Alternative View of Tantrums and Emotional Upsets
How To Comfort a Tantruming Toddler  
End child nagging & negotiating with just three simple words
Relaxation on the Go!
VALIDATE FEELINGS - A Positive Discipline Tool Card
Helping Children Find Focus 
Gentle Parenting Ideas: Toddlers and Shopping Trips

A Parenting Moment: Eight Ways to Deal with Anger as a Parent
Need More Patience? Start With Yourself.
How To Handle Your Anger At Your Child
Attitudes About Naughty Children Make Parents More Aggressive
Building an Emotionally Safe Household 
I was spanked and I'm NOT OK: Why and what I do
How to Give Unconditional Love When You Didn't Get It Yourself
No more Guilty Mamas! Learning to “kick” the dark voices
Parenting Prompt
Prayer for Exhausted Parents

Last but not least, I'd like to invite you over to Gentle Christian Mothers Forum, Twitter or Facebook page; as well as Grace Based Living at Google Plus.

Other blogs I've found helpful can be found at Twitter: @RecoverGrace, @AbusedKids, @lisasunbury, @DefendTheSheep, @chfriendlyfaith, and @missmayim  I lost all my saved favorites, or I'd link to their websites directly. Another good reason for sharing twitter? Thoughts and processing that often does not make it to their blog is posted for you to interact with.