Monday, July 13, 2009

The Habits and Their Owners

This little story will be included in my upcoming book, "The Little Folks Companion"~

The Habits and Their Owners

By a Lady

Once upon a time, there was a pair of jolly twin boys, named Robbie and Georgie.

On their first birthday they received a visit from their fairy godmother. She was dressed in a long green gown and was very beautiful. At first the boys were afraid of her, till she began to speak in a sweet voice.

She called them by their names, and said, “Today, my dears, I am going to give you each a special gift, that will be your very own for as long as you live. This gift is called a habit, and it is special because you get to decide what kind of habit it will be. If you always obey your parents as they teach you good things, your habit will make your life easy, no matter what hard things you have to do. But, if you are careless and do not learn to obey, your habit will make your life very hard indeed.”

With these words, the fairy left as quickly as she had come. Robbie and Georgie were quite astonished, but could not tell anyone what had happened. One-year olds are too small to be able to speak, you know.

As frequently happens, the two boys grew and grew, and learned many new things. They had forgotten all about the gift they had received on their first birthday, but their gift had not forgotten them.

Although both Robbie and Georgie were dear little boys, if one closely observed them in their daily life, a marked difference between them would be seen.

Robbie was quick to obey, and did so cheerfully, while Georgie would take his own sweet time to do what Mother or Father told him to do.

Robbie put his things away, and was able to find them when he wanted them. His face was contented and sweet, and his body full of energy, for he learned that: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

Georgie, poor boy, was constantly losing his playthings, and even blamed Robbie for taking them sometimes! When his mother asked him to perform a simple task, he would say, “I’m tired!” much to her dismay.

And dare I say, the reason was, that Georgie would not and could not bring himself to go to bed on time, for he was just too busy playing.

Well, habits grow as quickly as little boys, and my goodness, if there was not such a difference between our little twin’s habits when they were eight years old! If we could put on our fairy glasses, we should see the strangest thing, for Robbie’s habit had grown into a sort of golden bubble, and seemed to be almost lifting him off the ground. Georgie’s habit had the appearance of a leaden octopus, holding him down with its tentacle-like arms.

On the very day of their eighth birthday, they were visited again by their fairy godmother, this time wearing a gown of glowing white, and even more beautiful then before.

“Well, Robbie and Georgie, let us see what has become of those gifts I gave you!”

And with this, she pulled out a magnificent mirror, and showed the boys their reflections. Each was quite surprised by what he saw, and Georgie began to weep.

“Oh, Fairy Godmother, is there no hope for me, that I might be rid of this horrid thing?” he asked.

“Yes, my dear Georgie,” the fairy responded, “ ‘Where there is yet life, there is yet hope’; but I must warn you that the only way to be rid of a bad habit is to replace it with a good habit! It took a long time for your habit to become what you have made it, and may be a long while before it becomes a helping thing such as Robbie’s.”

“I believe in you, however,” she continued, “And know that you can do it if you will try very hard. And you will not be alone in changing your habit, for if you ask for help, your loving Heavenly Father will send you all the help you require.”

“Oh, thank you so much!” cried Georgie, his eyes shining through his tears.

“And I will help you, too,” promised Robbie, in his sincere way, for Georgie was not a bad boy by any means.

So our story ends, and I will let you, dear reader, decide what happened to our little Georgie. Did he change his habit from a bad one to a good, after all? What do you think he did?

The End

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why Poetry?

(This was originally published in the book "Charlotte Mason Philosophy: Creating a Happy Home Atmosphere" compiled by Chris M. Peterson. I was honored by Chris in being invited to write about something so close to my heart.

Why Poetry?

by Marqueta Jonas Graham

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem,

see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable


-Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

In our hurried, “entertain me” world, we might question the need for poetry studies in the education of our children. Why should they be exposed to it? What are the lasting benefits, if any? It is my wish to present a case for the daily indulgence in poems, and to share how I have personally used them to enrich my own life.

Poetry as our grandparents knew it has, with the emergence of movies and television, declined greatly in popularity. It is no longer considered by “educators” as a very important part of education, and hence is given lip service and perhaps a portion of one semester in literature class. The enjoyment of poetry must, therefore, as with many of the fine arts, be preserved within our families, if it is to be preserved at all.

When considering the usefulness of poetry, as well its role in the home school, I believe one must resolve to make it a joyous part of daily life, or not use it at all. If poetry must be forced upon children to fulfill certain curriculum requirements, it will do more damage than good. I can recall at an early age being quickly bored in English classes in which poems were as brutally dissected as the frogs in Biology, and were about as lifeless. Fortunately, I knew the real way of enjoying poems, as I was blessed to have a mother who could recite such gems as “The Road To Raffydiddle”, “Out To Old Aunt Mary’s”, and “The Pied Piper of Hamblin”. This is a gift which we all can bestow upon our children, simply by reciting or reading many kinds of poems, from a young age.

I was born into a family whose love for poetry was part of each day’s experience. There was no need for formal training, any more than there was need for formal training in the loving of our many pets. It just came naturally. My grandmother, who was my sole babysitter, loved reciting and writing it. My father wrote western-flavored poems and ballads, giving us an early appreciation for the history of the west. My eldest brother writes deep, sometimes hard to understand poems, while my youngest brother pours out sadness and regret through his pen. My middle brother carries on the cowboy poetry tradition, while my sister writes poems dealing with people and memories, much like my grandmother’s. Although my mother does not write poetry, she loves reading and reciting it, and one of my most valued books is one of children’s poetry which she hand-typed from an old copy her mother had as a child.

When I became a parent, I instinctively shared poems when my young ones, Mother Goose as well as other treasured favorites. When the moon was spied through a window, it was natural to say, “I see the moon, and the moon sees me, God bless the moon, and God bless me!”, until my little daughters could say it themselves. When toweling off the girls after bath time, we would all say together, “After a bath I try, try, try, to wipe myself till I’m dry, dry, dry. Just think how much less time I’d take, if I were a dog, and could shake, shake, shake!”. What glorious fun it was when we obtained a puppy and they could see how a dog indeed does shake, shake, shake! And when we moved into our first real home, it was also natural to inscribe on the front door Christopher Morley’s “Song for a Small House” (I’m glad our house is a little house, not to tall or too wide. I’m glad the hovering butterflies feel free to come inside...). A recent popular poem is “Which Loved Best?”, by Joy Allison (“I love you, Mother”, said little John, Then forgetting his work, his cap went on, and off he ran to the garden swing, leaving his mother the wood to bring....). This poem does wonders in reminding of the children of their responsibilities!

Poems are the happy companions of the Nature Journal, preventing it from becoming dull and spiritless. If you are familiar with Edith Holden’s Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, you will understand what I mean. Her well-chosen poems make us feel more fully the changes in he seasons, and balance the scientific nomenclature of birds and plants.

Poems provide a connection with the great souls of the world, many who have passed on hundreds of years previously, in a way similar to great music connects us to the great composers. Poems are fluid, much as music is, and can evoke deep emotional responses. When just the right words are needed, usually a poem can be found to fit the bill. Poems share our joys and soothe the soul, depending on our need. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put it so eloquently in his poem “The Day is Done”:

The day is done, and the darkness

Falls from the wings of night,

As a feather is wafted downward

From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village

Gleam through the rain and the mist,

And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me

That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,

That is not akin to pain,

And resembles sorrow only

As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,

Some simple and heartfelt lay,

That shall soothe this restless feeling,

And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old master,

Not from the bards sublime,

Whose distant footsteps echo

Through the corridors of Time,

For, like strains of martial music,

Their mighty thoughts suggest

Life’s endless toil and endeavor;

And tonight I long for rest.

Read from some humbler poet,

Whose songs gushed from his heart,

As showers from the clouds of summer,

Or tears from the eyelids starts;

Who, through long days of labor,

And nights devoid of ease,

Still heard in his soul the music

Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet

The restless pulse of care,

And come like the benediction

That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume

The poem of thy choice,

And lend to the rhyme of the poet

The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music,

And the cares, that infest the day,

Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,

And as silently steal away.

I must admit I harbor fantasies of happily doing needlework as the children play quietly on the floor and my husband reads Shakespeare by the fire!

Although it is not necessary to write poetry to enjoy it, I have found that it does increase an understanding of the process which the great poets employ in their craft.

For me, being of a rather shy nature, writing my feelings has always been easier than speaking them. Throughout my teenage years, countless heartrending sonnets were written by me for boys who hadn’t a clue of my affections. Now, as a mother, I write occasional poems for my daughters and husband, and others concerning the simple life. The following is an example of the latter:

Just a Few Days

Just a few days,

That’s all there is left.

A few days of clear golden skies,

Of naked children in cool water,

Of sun-tanned skin,

and sun-kissed hair.

Just a few days linger before

woolens replace sandals and bare feet,

Before leaves begin to fall,

Before the warm sun on the backs

of our necks is a memory;

While we harvest summer’s bounteous pleasures,

Then bid them goodbye until next year.

Poetry is not, perhaps, necessary in the same way that the “Three R’s” are necessary, but it is necessary in the same way that music is necessary. Amid the desolate wasteland of radio jingles and television sitcoms, isn’t it wonderful to refresh one’s mind in an oasis of beautiful words? Poetry fills the void left by our Humanist society, for it connects us to the Great Mind who inspires all that is good and worthy. Let it into your life, and the life of your children, and you will find it a most welcome guest.

Monday, July 6, 2009

"Frodo's Three Partings"

This is a silly song about Frodo. It is to the tune "There is a Tavern in the Town." (following is a video to remind you of the tune)~

"Frodo's Three Partings"

Verse 1
There was a hobbit of renown, of renown
One night the Nazgul tracked him down,
The Witch King wounded him mortally,
So to the elves he did flee.

cho: Fare thee well, for I must leave thee,
Do not let this parting grieve thee,
And remember that the best of friends
Must part, must part.

Adieu, adieu kind friends, adieu, adieu
I can no longer stay with you, stay with you,
With Elrond in Rivendell I will be,
And may the world go well with thee.

Verse 2
One day while camping in the woods, in the woods,
Boromir was up to no good, to no good,
From Frodo he did try to take the Ring,
To Mordor Frodo went with Sting.

Fare thee well, for I must leave thee,
Do not let this parting grieve thee,
And remember that the best of friends
Must part, must part.

Adieu, adieu kind friends, adieu, adieu
I can no longer stay with you, stay with you,
With Sam and Smeagol and Gollum I will be,
And may the world go well with thee.

Verse 3
Although the One Ring was destroyed, was destroyed,
His wound poor Frodo still annoyed, still annoyed,
So off he went where the good ring-bearers go,
With Gandalf, the elves, and old Bilbo.

Fare thee well, for I must leave thee,
Do not let this parting grieve thee,
And remember that the best of friends
Must part, must part.

Adieu, adieu kind friends, adieu, adieu
I can no longer stay with you, stay with you,
With Gandalf in the Grey Havens I will be,
And may the world go well with thee.

~M. J. Graham