Friday, August 18, 2017

From the archives: Churchill and magnanimity

First posted July 2011

Seen in the New York Times Book Review: Harry V. Jaffa's review of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (translated by Robert C. Bartlett and Susan D. Collins, The University of Chicago Press).
"Some time in the 1920s, the Conservative statesman F. E. Smith — Lord Birkenhead — gave a copy of the “Nicomachean Ethics” to his close friend Winston Churchill. He did so saying there were those who thought this was the greatest book of all time. Churchill returned it some weeks later, saying it was all very interesting, but he had already thought most of it out for himself. But it is the very genius of Aristotle — as it is of every great teacher — to make you think he is uncovering your own thought in his. In Churchill’s case, it is also probable that the classical tradition informed more of his upbringing, at home and at school, than he realized.

"In 1946, in a letter to the philosopher Karl Löwith, Leo Strauss mentioned how difficult it had been for him to understand Aristotle’s account of magnanimity, greatness of soul, in Book 4 of the “Ethics.”

"The difficulty was resolved when he came to realize that Churchill was a perfect example of that virtue. So Churchill helped Leo Strauss understand Aristotle! That is perfectly consistent with Aristotle’s telling us it does not matter whether one describes a virtue or someone characterized by that virtue. Where the “Ethics” stands among the greatest of all great books perhaps no one can say. That Aristotle’s text, which explores the basis of the best way of human life, belongs on any list of such books is indisputable."

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Today is National Thrift Shop Day (and here's the new Project 333 page)

I just finished putting together my seventh seasonal #Project333 page. Out of 34 pieces of clothing and shoes for this fall (yes, I went over 33 this time), 24 are from thrift or consignment stores. So about 3/4 of my clothes, and most of my extras like belts and scarves, are on their "second life."

If you've followed us for awhile, you'll know that some of our furniture (like our dining room table) also came from the thrift store, and so did many of our books, records, baskets, craft supplies, toys (when the Squirrelings were younger), homeschool materials (ditto), and small appliances. It's also, sometimes, a source of items for Mr. Fixit to repair and restore.

These are the things we know about thrift stores: You can get nice things, sometimes unique or scarce things. You can pay less than retail. (Hopefully always, but even thrift stores do get mixed up or carried away on prices.) You can find wool sweaters when everything in the regular store is acrylic, and mixers with glass bowls when everything else is plastic. You can find the exact not-made-now model of bread machine that matches the previous one that conked out.

However, the benefits of thrift stores go beyond what you take home yourself.

Sales at our local MCC store benefit Mennonite Central Committee projects around the world, including disaster relief.  The store is also a great volunteering opportunity for many people (Lydia's experiences volunteering at a thrift store may have just helped get her a part-time job.) Shops representing other non-profit organizations will have similar goals and benefits. When you donate items, you're helping. When you shop, you're helping.

Would it work just as well to close down all the stores, have people just donate money instead, and send all the old stuff to the landfill?

Maybe. But it wouldn't be half as much fun.
Bead necklace, found at the MCC store today

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Back to the Wednesday Hodgepodge



From this Side of the Pond

1. Do your actions match your words? Elaborate.


Does anybody ever do everything the way they want to and say to? I know St. Paul had a problem with that.

But probably yes, more or less, because I hesitate to blather about things I haven't tried myself. Like parenting boys.

2. Sick as a dog, go to the dogs, dog days of summer, dog tired, it's a dog's life, every dog has it's day, can't teach an old dog new tricks...now doggone it which saying could most recently be applied to your life?


An old dog, new tricks: I am looking at furthering my own education in the near future. I am not worried about the course content as much as I am about handling assignments online. If that sounds funny, considering that I have done other computer tasks like formatting books, just figure that every "old dog" has her particular cyber-bogeys.

3. Your favorite book featuring a dog in the storyline? What makes it a favorite?

I couldn't choose between


a) Mine for Keeps and Spring Begins in March, by Jean Little. Who wouldn't want a Westie after reading those?

b) the Mitford books, even if I can't imagine owning a dog as big as that.

c) The Ark, by Margot Benary-Isbert. Lots of dogs in that one.

4. What's something you hope to one day have the confidence to do?

Take a plane across the ocean. So far I've only gone as far as Texas.


5. August 16th is National Tell a Joke Day. So tell us a joke.


Knock knock.
Who's there?
Billy Bob Joe Penny.
Billy Bob Joe Penny who?
Seriously, how many Billy Bob Joe Pennys do you know?

(From Knock-Knock Jokes for Kids, by Rob Elliott.)

6. Insert your own random thought here.


The other night I had a dream that I was chasing three people through our apartment parking garage...I'm not sure whether I thought they were villains or whether I was just trying to get an interview with them. I woke up suddenly and thought, "I know who they are! They're the three women from A Wrinkle in Time, and the three weird sisters from The Prydain Chronicles. They can't fool me." I was hoping I would get the better of them or at least find them in the next dream, but they didn't reappear. I was disappointed, especially because my dreams aren't usually that archetypal (or even coherent).

The other funny thing about that dream is that one of the mysterious people was wearing the same grey poncho I bought recently. So I thought maybe I was trying to catch up with myself.

Which is what I seem to be doing a lot of lately, anyway.

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge, at From This Side of the Pond.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

When we get clouds (#2)...

...sometimes we get hot-air balloons too.

Preview of my fall Project 333 page

"Perfection is highly overrated and you are working with pieces you love, so it will be hard to pick the wrong items." ~~ Courtney Carver
Who's counting?

I've gone back and forth on the question of whether to set a number limit on clothes. Thoughtful people have pointed out that it's more important to have a functional wardrobe, one that meets your needs and that you're happy with, than to limit yourself to a predetermined amount of clothes; or not to wear something nice that you own just because it's not in this season's capsule. 

Clothes from last spring's 10x10 Challenge

Still the questions keep coming. How do some minimalists manage even less than 33 items, jewelry and sunglasses included? Is resistance to fewer clothes a fear of being stripped down of my protective layers, in the same way that I want to turn the radio on when the room is too quiet?  Is my problem that I need to let go of too-comfortable excess? Or just that I can't decide on pink over green? 

I'm still working on those.


Life as it is

I try to stay honest about my typical day and week, and say no to clothes from some other life (one in which I'm taller, younger, and dress up for work). I admire Downton-Abbey-style vintage hats, but they would be a bit odd to wear around the apartment. I also don't have any real use for a new travel satchel, although I enjoy thinking that I'd like to pack clothes and go somewhere more often. I'll probably be away overnight just once during the fall, for a weekend retreat on Lake Erie.


“Is there not glory enough in living the days given to us? You should know there is adventure in simply being among those we love and the things we love, and beauty, too.” 

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

A Treehouse summer quiz: Answers


1. The last thing Mr. Fixit fixed was

a) Mama Squirrel's favourite Charlotte Mason souvenir pen that needed refilling
b) a little RCA Victor transistor radio that Grandpa Squirrel gave him for his birthday

He worked on both of these: the radio works fine, but the pen won't click. (We need another size refill.)

2. This week Lydia reached what milestone?

a) She got her first driver's license

It took visits to three different testing offices, due to crowds and cutbacks; but when she finally got to write the test, she aced it.

3. Who/what does Mama Squirrel have a ticket to hear in Toronto at the end of August?

b) Courtney Carver on The Tiny Wardrobe Tour

4. Lydia's school robotics team was one of 150 local individuals and groups that received awards from a Member of Parliament at an open-air ceremony this week. When they got to the 125th award, what happened?

c) A thunderstorm drenched everyone

5. Better late than never: which Star Trek series are we finally getting around to watching?

a) Deep Space Nine

6. Who made Mr. Fixit's birthday cake?

a) Mr. Fixit (second one, for a family party)
b) Mama Squirrel (first one)

7. The high school course Lydia is most looking forward to in fall is:

c) enriched drama

8. Which of these things did come with us when we moved?

a) a complete set of Three Stooges DVDs
c) a coffee mug shaped like a Polaroid camera

9. Where does Mr. Fixit make hamburgers now?

b) around the back of the building

10. Why can't The Apprentice take the ferry to the Toronto Islands this summer?

a) flooding
b) nasty mosquitoes

Both: the water from the flooding caused a rise in virus-laden mosquitoes. Maybe next year?

Sunday, August 06, 2017

A Treehouse summer quiz

By way of catching up, here's a quiz for you to take about the new Treehouse and the Squirrels who do or don't live here now. See how many of these you can guess right. Answers will be posted soon.

1. The last thing Mr. Fixit fixed was

a) Mama Squirrel's favourite Charlotte Mason souvenir pen that needed refilling
b) a little RCA Victor transistor radio that Grandpa Squirrel gave him for his birthday
c) Muffin's leaking water bottle

2. This week Lydia reached what milestone?

a) She got her first driver's license
b) All her wisdom teeth came through at once
c) She got a job teaching swimming to small children

3. Who/what does Mama Squirrel have a ticket to hear in Toronto at the end of August?

a) Coldplay
b) Courtney Carver on The Tiny Wardrobe Tour
c) The Prime Minister of Canada

4. Lydia's school robotics team was one of 150 local individuals and groups that received awards from a Member of Parliament at an open-air ceremony this week. When they got to the 125th award, what happened?

a) They passed out popsicles to everyone
b) They called a break for everyone to do some Swedish Drill
c) A thunderstorm drenched everyone

5. Better late than never: which Star Trek series are we finally getting around to watching?

a) Deep Space Nine
b) Enterprise
c) Voyager

6. Who made Mr. Fixit's birthday cake?

a) Mr. Fixit
b) Mama Squirrel
c) He didn't have one because he hates cake

7. The high school course Lydia is most looking forward to in fall is:

a) co-op accounting
b) accelerated biology
c) enriched drama

8. Which of these things did come with us when we moved?

a) a complete set of Three Stooges DVDs
b) a vintage toboggan which we are using as wall art in our bedroom
c) a coffee mug shaped like a Polaroid camera
d) A and B
e) A and C

9. Where does Mr. Fixit make hamburgers now?

a) in the bathroom with the fan going
b) around the back of the building
c) on the balcony

10. Why can't The Apprentice take the ferry to the Toronto Islands this summer?

a) flooding
b) nasty mosquitoes
c) they doubled the fare
d) she is not in Toronto anyway, she's touring Scotland