Saturday, December 30, 2006

Spicey Decadence

Ah, Chocolate! My favorite food! It soothes my soul, calms my spirit, indulges me, takes my mouth on an exotic vacation, and I'd probably wear it if I could.

There's something spiritual about my love of chocolate. So it seems totally appropriate that Body & Soul has a wonderful chocolate recipe on their website. I want to share this recipe with you. Like Emeril, it kicks things up a notch.

Linking to the recipe didn't work. Apparently a login process took place when I clicked on my email. Copy and paste doesn't space quite the way I want but I'm not experienced enough with html to change the table structure. Please forgive the lengthy scroll and Enjoy!

Spiced Hot Dark Chocolate

Serves 4; Prep time: 5 minutes; total time: 10 minutes
By swapping soy milk for regular, you ensure that dark chocolate's antioxidants will be more fully absorbed.

1 quart soy milk

6 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

teaspoon coarse salt

1. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients and whisk over medium-low heat until the chocolate has melted completely and the mixture is steaming hot, about 5 minutes. Serve.

Per serving: 327 calories; 14 g protein; 17 g fat; 38 g carb; 6 g fiber.

html and speed don't mix

Yesterday as I was finishing a post, I checked the preview and it didn't look right. I had copied and pasted from a web page and along came some html. What was nicely spaced on the website stretched forever on my blog. So I looked at the code and tried to take out the last part of it, erroneously thinking that it was just spacing. That's when I was reminded that html has a beginning and an end and in cutting out the part that looked like spacing I had taken the end. It wouldn't save. Because I was rushed at that point I wasn't thinking clearly so I closed blogger in frustration and gave up. Sigh! Today I am remembering I could have pasted back the cut out part. Oh well, guess I'll have to start again.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Linking to New Worlds

Sometimes I get pulled into a new website by an interesting title. That's why there's a new link on my sidebar today. When going through the Yahoo Picks page I found this story about "the most dangerous roads in the world." So I went to look. It had pictures from all over the world and they are scary enough...I certainly wouldn't want to drive any of these roads.

I was going to just look at the post and then I noticed the cool SciFi links that were on the web page. This page is now beginning to look VERY interesting. So I added the link and hope to spend some time exploring. And that brings me to one of the neat things about blogging. You can find yourself almost anywhere by clicking on interesting links.

A long time ago...on a website far, far away...there was a online SciFi convention at Being new to the web and loving all things SciFi, I attended from my computer. My friends came over to attend this live online event with me. This would be oh...'95 or '96 (g) One of the cool things they had at that online convention was a pretty good art. The piece of art that wins the novelty award hands down was this picture of nothing but worlds all over this canvas. These worlds were really colorful and came in all sizes. Sometimes they overlapped too. I don't remember the artist or the title of this piece but I kept it bookmarked for a long time. You see, when you clicked on the worlds in this picture you went places. Each and every globe in it was a different link. There were enough of them that you were never sure just where you were going to end up. It was a cool way to surf. And to me blog surfing is kind of like that. You never know what you will find when you connect to something interesting that someone else wrote.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Weeding the bookmarks or Forgotten Treasures

How big is your bookmark collection? How many sub files does it have? Mine is prolific. I'm not sure that's a correct usage of the word, but I suspect that my bookmarks are generating new ones when I am not watching them carefully, which is most of the time.

Today I decided to weed them out and rid myself of ones that were no longer useful or interesting. So far I've gone through two category files. First was the Art file. During that I got to remember who I liked in art. Then I went down to the "Educational and Interesting" file which is a catch all for anything that doesn't generate a file of its own. Its the biggest file. After getting rid of the dead wood I moved a few links into their proper categories.

Hidden away in that file were two more links to decent photography sites so I put them into the Photography file. Those links are: and These two sites have quite a lot of good photography on them. Both of them seem to focus on the digital camera which is the popular format today if you can afford one and know how to use the software to crop and adjust your pictures to your satisfaction. They have forums and enough informative articles that they can be instructive to the up and coming photographer.

Other rediscovered photography sites were more art galleries than teaching and support pages. Here are a few of those: Sensitive Light, Robert Cable Photography, and Greg Downing Photography. These pages by individual artists are beautiful works of art in and of themselves. I enjoyed exploring them again. About the last one, I used to know a guy named Downing. He married a college friend of mine. This guy isn't him but possibly a brother or relative since he photographs some of the same area we both grew up in. Any way, feel free to explore these sites. I hope you gain as much pleasure from them as I did.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Small additions

There are two new links in my sidebar now. One is a link to the American Photojournalist website. It is there as a gift to a friend who is really into camera work. The other link is to Sacred Space. It is a place where you can go and do daily prayer. Run by a group of Irish Catholic Jesuits, the entire website has a meditative and purposeful feel to it. From it you can go on a virtual retreat or just find a few moments of guided meditation. I hope you'll take the time to check them out.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Images of Christmas

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping on your nose,
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe,
Help to make the season bright.
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow,
Will find it hard to sleep tonight.

They know that Santa's on his way;
He's loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh.
And every mother's child is going to spy,
To see if reindeer really know how to fly.

And so I'm offering this simple phrase,
To kids from one to ninety-two,
Although its been said many times, many ways,
A very Merry Christmas to you

Christmas memories are so poignant that there are probably more well remembered songs about them than any other holiday. Every year we make memories of the season and the day to carry on to the next. We create family rituals around it, entire cities celebrate in nationally broadcast parades, all the media is doing shows about how to make it the best ever. And in all of this we find time for quiet contemplation of the meaning of the holiday. We go out of our way to give to others as we do on no other holiday. Everybody has a dream of the perfect Christmas.

The fact that part of this season's tradition, in the ending of one year and the start of the next, arise from old pagan images isn't mentioned often. The idea of a Christmas tree didn't arise from the Christian church but from ancient rituals of the green man and mother earth being honored. Most of the major religions do something to celebrate this time of year. When it all gets added together year after year, and century after century the season builds its own mystique that is self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating. It would take a lot more than a Grinch to kill Christmas.

We all have favorite memories of Christmas and often find ourselves trying to recreate them year after year. Some want a white Christmas. Some want it all sparkling and wrapped brightly under the tree. Family is often involved. One of my favorite memories of Christmas is not so much a memory as a family photograph. The photo shows me and my grandfather sitting close to one another on Christmas day and if you look closely, from the angle of our heads, you can tell that I inherited my grandfather's ears. Until I saw that photo I hated my ears. I'd even thought about having them altered someday. But I love my grandfather and would never think of disrespecting something he gave me. So now that photo and my ears are loved. And that was a gift received long after the holiday when it was taken.

I wish I had a scanned copy of that photo to share with you. It isn't very interesting but it has a lot of sentiment for me. Yesterday I was looking anxiously all over the web for the perfect Christmas photo to put with this post. I didn't find it until today and so this post is being written a day late. Although I will change it for traditions sake, I don't think the date matters so much. You can celebrate Christmas anytime of the year. We don't really know when Christ was born. It is the spirit that counts.

So, in the spirit of the season, here is another of my favorite Christmas poems, a handwritten copy of which was recently sold to a private buyer, who read it to his company at their annual Christmas party. If you are interested you can read the article here.

'Twas the Night before Christmas' Poem

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Friday, December 22, 2006

Amazing Beauty

Have you ever seen something so beautiful in someone that it took your breath away? A friend did that to me today. Two actually. One listened carefully and then thoughtfully provided a light for the path. The other looked, saw, reached out, and loved selflessly. What she saw, God has been trying to show me for some time. I am blown away! Now the path is a journey and I have the heart glimpses of friends for perspective when my own fails. Words can't express what I am feeling.

Today I am loved!

Thank you!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Holy Longing

For the past two Sundays, a class called "Holy Longing" has been going on at church. It has been wrapped around the scripture, "As the deer longs for the water-brooks, So does my soul for you, O God." Psalm 42:2. This beautiful verse talks about the desire of man to know and draw closer to God. And that is what we discussed in class. Our longings, our desires to know Him, what made us on fire to know God, all were shared in that room of church family.

There are a lot of different ways to see God or to be on fire for him. In the last class we listed some of the ways we felt that longing, or what set us on fire. Answers received were, "Wild Joy", "Awareness of life together", "Passing on_____ (to ones children)", "Wholeness", "Connection", "Be the prayer", and on and on. We had the entire board filled with responses by the time we were through.

Some of it was delightfully amusing. One man, happily married for many years, said that to name 3 ways he was set on fire he would have to say his wife's name 3 times. While we were talking he expressed a love of growth through learning more about communion. I felt a connection to that reasoning. My service as a Lay Eucharistic minister is a function of my desire to understand more about the ritual, sacrament and mystery that is Holy Communion.

We then started talking about knowing Jesus and seeing him in our longing. It was brought to mind that Jesus looked at each person with love and knowledge. For some reason that inspired me. I started writing down a poem/prayer. I don't do poetry often but I thought I might share this one because it describes what I hope to see in others as I strive to know Christ. It doesn't really have a title so I am giving it the title that was the question we were answering at the time.

What is the pattern of Jesus Christ?

Learning of others,
a longing to know.

Communion of spirit,
a meeting of soul.

Love reaching out,
heart knowledge grows.

Christ brought to life
in the you that I know.

May the spirit of Christ be with you through this holiday season and all the coming year.

Peace! Hope! and Joy!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Woo Hoo!

What a GREAT way to start a day! Carnival of Hope is up at Rickety Contrivances of Doing Good and one of my posts is in it. Thank you, Susan!

I get such a kick out of being included in Susan's carnival. Part of it is the being included. The other part is that she seems to think my writing is good enough to use. Two of my strongest desires met in one fell swoop. Does everyone that gets included in a blog carnival get the same reaction?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving & Memories of rituals past

How was your Thanksgiving?

It was quiet at my place. Sometimes it's like that when you're single. The brightest spot in the day was when I called and talked to Mom. We spent almost 40 minutes on the phone together. It was one of those good conversations that you really enjoy having. That made it special. It also brought back memories.

Mom brought me up to be an optimist. When I was a child, we always looked for the positive in things. Because she was so optimistic then, we coined the label of being "pollyannas" for ourselves. Life has a way of beating that out of you and these days, when I talk to Mom, she often finds more things to worry about than to be thankful for. She worries because I am worried. I love her and want to be able to share with her the hopes I have, which I of course worry about because I haven't achieved them yet. When that happens, it means she won't sleep well that night and I will have fretted because she worried. Right now part of me is wondering if expressing things positively so that your parents don't worry is part of growing up and cutting the apron strings. The child in me is reluctant to hide anything from my parent but the grownup in me wants to help Mom be happy with my life. I guess it is time to start sacrificing the childhood image for love of my mother.

My Thanksgiving meal was nothing to brag about. I baked some chicken but ended up eating something else because I was hungry by the time it was half cooked. The bright spot in dining came from the cookies I baked. They were chocolate, chocolate chip. Enjoying them with a glass of milk brought back warm memories of afternoon snacks with my mom and grandmother. I managed not to eat them all and can have the chicken today. (g)

The rest of the day was spent doing laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, and watching a little TV. I wrote to and heard back from a few people online. Most notably my friend, Susan, but also others from various places I've lived. One friend sent me a lovely powerpoint about the worth of women. I'll have to figure out who I want to share it with.

When I got into bed I read for a bit. A very short bit as I got drowsy pretty quickly. I have two books open on the spare pillow in my bed (my stash place for books in progress). One of them is Storm Thief by Chris Wooding. That's the one I read last night. The other is Sex With Kings by Eleanor Herman. I'm working my way through each of them a few pages at a time. So there you have it, my Thanksgiving day. Nice and quiet!

Thanksgiving hasn't always been that way. I remember, with fondness, childhood Thanksgivings when the whole family gathered around my grandmother's table. Even my uncle and his family, who lived in another state, would be there. I'd like to say we had friends in, but my family never did that. Friends I have now, from time to time, invite me to dine with them on Thanksgiving and I always appreciate it. I guess the question of why my family never did that is something I should ask my mom. Part of the answer may have to do with the fact that most of our neighbors were comfortably set and didn't need to be invited over. They would drop by on Christmas day sometimes if they had a gift to give but Thanksgiving was a day for family.

The only memory that comes close to those holidays is the day Granddad would go hunting, the opening day of the annual White Wing Season. We always had a family feast that evening. My granddad was a good shot. My sister, Grandmother, and I would go along with him on his outing. Grandmother was there to watch us kids. My sister and I were there to play bird dog for Granddad. His pouch would be full when we went home. The four of us would then sit in the backyard around a huge galvanized washtub plucking the feathers off of all those doves. Grandmother took care of the rest of the cleaning ritual and the family would show up to help with the preparations. My favorite part of the bird was the heart so Grandmother would set that aside as a special treat. When everything was ready we would all sit down at the big table to eat. I still have that dining table and chairs. Grandmother gave them to me as a gift when she decided to move to a nursing home shortly after Granddad died. It holds all the memories of dinners past, sewing lessons, and getting homework done. When I sit at it I feel connected to them in a way that nothing else could match.

Those memories of family gatherings are the spiritual part of the holidays for me. They're what make them special, our family's ritual of being family. Thank God for them and for the hope of being able to recreate those rituals and build memories of my own someday. May all your holidays be so blessed!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The perfect Christmas list

One of my favorite songs is "My Grownup Christmas List" sung by Amy Grant on her "Home for Christmas" album. I can't get you a soundtrack of that but I can send you off to You Tube to hear Kelly Clarkson singing a very acceptable rendition of it. Just click here if you want to hear it. Those lyrics always get to me. I believe what they say so much. Yet every year I want something nice and pretty cool wrapped up under the tree just for me.

What do I want for Christmas? As the title suggests, let's make the perfect list. I'll borrow from the song first.

1. World Peace.
2. No more hunger.
3. No more poverty.
4. A stable economy, world wide. (actually if you have achieved #3 you probably got to #4 along the way)
5. Everyone would have a friend. (so no more loneliness - that would be nice)
6. Everyone would have good health and good medical care if needed.
7. Everyone would be polite to one another. (this might go a long way towards creating #1 and #5)
8. Jobs for everyone and everyone in a job. (again, this might be part of a stable economy)
9. Education for everyone and no illiteracy.
10.Everyone is committed to making their community the best it can be and actively works towards that. (that probably means no more pleading for volunteers, everyone would already be doing that)

Ok...that is the national/global and good will part. I want everyone happy, safe and loved!

Now let's do the presents under the tree part.

11. A cutting edge (so sharp you bleed) state-of-the-art laptop computer. And the wireless network to go with it. The fastest web connection you can get and all the services you would ever want set up and paid for up front. In short be connected! Oh, and lets not forget the all in one printer/fax/scanner/copier. Connections for your phone to it as well as your mp3 player and on top of that the system would never crash or have software or hardware problems.
12. Straight A's on the report card.
13. A years supply of dark chocolate.
14. A down comforter w/ 3 covers in navy, rose and green.
15. A bigger apartment that never has to be cleaned.
16. My Mom in good health again.
17. My sister visiting me for Christmas.
18. My new career as a teacher already started (i.e. I have that first teaching job)
19. My friends are sitting around my living room and we are drinking mulled cider, we all brought food and it was a wonderful feast, and we are singing songs and laughing together.
20. A perfect snow falling outside making the world white for just long enough to enjoy that white Christmas and leaving none of the clean up that goes along with snow. Oh, and a crackling fire in the fireplace!
21. A certificate showing me registered in a really great creative writing course with a really great teacher.

That's the best part of my Christmas wish list. There are other things I could add but I'd rather know what you want for Christmas. What would make the world perfect for you? Go ahead! Wish!

And my wish for you? Peace! Hope! and Joy!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Upgrading the Template

Being the curious person I am, I wondered what I would get if I upgraded the Template that the beta blogger is offering. So I tried it. It went very smoothly and the only thing I lost was the site meter which I then went and reinstalled.

You won't see much of a difference because I kept the same template design I originally chose, Son of Moto. What I got was drag and drop functionality when I want to rearrange my side bar. This is much easier than cutting and pasting things. I haven't explored the options on the add a page element menu but it looks enticing. That was where I went to reinstall the site meter and it was very easy. Then I just dragged the meter to the place I wanted it. Now it is on my side bar instead of the bottom of the page.

Some day I may try out other colors and such. Right now I like it the way it is. (g) There are only a couple of things I would like to add to my blogging tools. One is the ability to underline words in the blog and I don't know how to do that yet. I would also like to be able to put the occasional emoticon on my page. They don't seem terribly popular in blogs but I got so used to using them in email that I miss the ease of smiling at people for expression. If you know how to do either of these things I'd appreciate a pointer or two.

Happy Mid-winter Break!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ok...maybe just one more quick comment

Yay! Republishing after template changes is gone. The republish buttons didn't appear after publishing the last post. That is good!

Even more interesting to me is how fast the new blogger seems to publish. Has anyone else noticed this? If this is from a software change I'm impressed. If they added on extra memory I'm still impressed. Good job Blogger!

Changing sidebar test plus odd bits

Today I rearranged the side bar just a bit. I wanted to put the blogs I read in a separate section. As my friends, Susan and JSD, assured me it was a simple matter of copying and pasting. After viewing the results in preview I saved the changes. What I then expected to see was a republish blog screen. This didn't happen. Since I am now in the new beta blogger I wondered if this was no longer necessary. Probably the easy thing to do would have been to go over to the help section and do a search. Instead I decided to simply make a post announcing the change and see if the republish didn't show up when I was done. So that's the main purpose for this post.

Little bits of news...My Dad has a birthday coming up this week. He will be 84 on the 25th. My Grandfather would have been celebrating his on Thanksgiving day if he were still alive. My mother's family never did the saving of info so I am slowly gathering the details of what my mom can still remember of my closest grandparents. I don't expect to do a family tree or anything like that. I just want to know and remember all the things I didn't think to learn as a child.

In the schooling category, the semester is almost over. I have one more lesson to do in my practice classroom. We aren't having final exams so the teachers are doing something early. I'm a bit nervous. I have a lot to do this week and some of it is catch up work. This keeps applying the stress and preventing comfortable sleep. It woke me up 3 times last night. Even though I have a cold and really need the rest I should probably close this post and get busy. I think if I don't do at least one or two things today towards my classes I won't be able to sleep tonight.

Hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Carnival of Hope - very belated notice

The most encouraging blog of the season is, in my not so humble opinion, the Carnival of Hope. It is up in it's third edition over at Rickety Contrivances of Doing Good. Susan chose one of my posts for it. Thank you, Susan!

Reader's Digest does something like this with short blurbs about heroes. It also has some pretty encouraging stories. This magazine has been around since I was a child and I'm dating myself to say that, but it is one of the few magazines I read from cover to cover. Rickety Contrivances affects me the same way, I never miss a post.

Posting in the new blogger

Switching to the new beta blogger was a bit scary until I did it. I had read so many cautions on the blogger knowledge page that it sounded horribly complicated. Then my friend, Susan, did it and I took heart. It really is easy. Susan answered my nervous questions about her experience with the process and was very reassuring. I know how busy she is and yet she always has a kind word or support to give. I love buddy blogging. (g) Thank you, Susan!

After changing over, I tried to comment on another friend's blog. She hasn't changed over to the new beta and it wouldn't let me. Sigh! So I wrote and asked her to change too. I hope she does it soon.

I have a few impolite comments running through my head on systems that force you to change when you aren't ready in order to gain the convenience you once had. It isn't nice. I've seen this in banking services and now in blogger software. Instant messaging doesn't seem to have this problem. I can message anyone I like in YM no matter what version of the software they have. Why can't other companies be as considerate? My bank wants me to change my accounts over to a version that gives me points, kind of like mypoints, instead of earning interest. No way! I like my extra few pennies every month. Why should I give up that for some point system that might not offer me what I really want to get or only at a huge amount of points that I might never reach. Yeah, I'm sometimes resistant to change. I also refuse to buy watches with gimmicks that don't meet any of my needs and I think that cell phones are getting way too complicated. Ok, I'm a scrooge. LOL

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A step in the right direction!

When it comes to complicated issues I am lost. This is especially true of political and religious issues. I like my politics clear cut, honed down to the main points, given in an orderly fashion. Additionally, while I am a centrist on most current political issues today I am old enough to be rather conservative about the original ideas behind our country's most famous historical attitudes.

Our country has tried for many years not to get into religious wars. Even though we are a nation of believers in God we don't hold to any one faith. Still for all intents and purposes we can be called a Christian nation. That being said, no matter what the reasons for the War Against Terrorism were, when you listen to people talk about the faith of those who attacked America on 9/11 we begin to sound like we are in a religious war. I don't like that. That kind of war never seems to end. It's scary!

Today, looking over the election results, I find room for hope. There has been another first in our history. A Muslim has been elected to the US Congress. You can read the article here.

This is a good thing. It means that our government will continue to represent us in all our diversity instead of focusing on just the majorities. I don't know how many Muslims there are in the U.S. but there must be quite a few. Being a teacher who is trying to teach kids right from wrong, and not just what I believe in, I find this heartening. It encourages me to research the faith and learn more about it. Because there is separation of church and state I have no idea how many children in my classrooms are Muslim, but I want to make sure that as American citizens they and their beliefs are honored where I teach. Go America! You just stood tall and proud again! You just showed once again that we ARE a great melting pot whose shores welcome everyone and give freedom to all!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

...and still more books!

I thought I was finished with buying books for awhile. It seems I was wrong. In the mail today was a shipment from Quality Paperback Bookclub. This shipment was unexpected. They are supposed to send me an email asking me if I want the current selections. I don't remember any email. So today I had two books in my mailbox.

This club sells better quality literature than the stuff you get from browsing the stacks at most bookstores. That's why I joined. These two books will probably fall in line with the quality of the ones I've ordered from them in the past, but since I didn't know what had been sent I went online to check out the order before I opened it and couldn't send it back. The books that I received are: For One More Day by Mitch Albom and The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis.

I know the name of Mitch Albom. I regret to say, I've never read any of his books. They made a movie out of his Tuesdays With Morrie, and The Five People You Meet In Heaven was on the bestseller lists for a really long time. They apparently made a Teleplay out of it too. With all of that to say about his books I have no doubt I will enjoy reading his latest work.

I've never read any of Kathyrn Davis's books either but the description, on QPB's website, was appealing and on the back of the book are reviews by other authors, usually a good sign. One of the praising descriptions is a little intimidating. Mary Gordon describes it as "metaphysically exploratory, psychologically questioning, and full of suspense." She says the book "combines elements that ought to be unmixable." Wow! After reading the first paragraph of this one I can tell that I will probably not put it down for awhile.

Yes, I opened the package.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Books, books and more books!

It's been way too long since I last posted. If you read this blog regularly I apologize and plead heavy classwork and chaotic workplace situations.

This past week books have been brought to my attention. Fate and my own inclinations made this happen. Book stores are dangerous places for me. Getting lost for hours among the stacks isn't productive and can be very expensive. If you are on a date and he isn't into books as much as you are then the date is pretty much over. Since I have been absent from the public library and the bookstores due to my college studies these two fine establishments seem to have missed me. They are reaching out to me, calling me back. I got a letter from Barnes & Noble telling me that Laurell K Hamilton's latest book can be pre-ordered if I wish. I haven't gotten around to that but I fully intend to. I love her work. My good friend, Susan Palwick, has been posting about her 4th book Shelter and I am eagerly looking forward to that one coming out as well. Being a SciFi/Fantasy fan I put myself on a list and now get updates on the writings of J.K. Rowling from Mugglenet monthly posts. Along with all the other Harry Potter fans I am waiting for the 7th and final book. I am also eagerly looking forward to the next Harry Potter movie which won't be out till July 13th.

Those are just the potential books. I have the fortune or misfortune, depending on your take on the matter, to work at a public school whose library, twice annually, holds Scholastic book fairs. This is an event that goes on for about 2 weeks and is prone to empty my pocketbook. Not only do I love good fiction, I like good children's fiction. So on Friday before last I walked into the school office looking for my cooperating teacher and found a book fair going on. My thoughts ran something like, "Oh! I'm early so I can just take a quick peek!" I looked and got hooked. The teacher and I went back together during her conference period. We put books in bags and stuck our names on them for purchase later. I chose 4 because district staff get one free if they buy 3. Over lunch it was learned that we needed to fill a period of class time in the afternoon because a science lab was canceled. I suggested Sudoku and with encouragement from the teacher went, added a book of those to my bag and purchased $35 worth of books.

That should have been enough, but when I showed up this past Friday, with my paycheck freshly deposited, I found the book fair still going on and this time I purchased 6 books. Another $35 towards public education and the support of authors, publishers and anyone else who gets a fraction of the small price I paid for those wonders of story and imagery. I tell myself that these books are for my future classroom, and they will be. But when I shop I tend to do a classroom library "no no" by purchasing books for MY tastes in literature and not those of my future students. I should really be buying a few books for those kids who are only interested in cars, soldiers or sports. Eventually I will do this. Till then, oh well.

What books did I buy this semester? Here's the list. My descriptions don't do them justice. Click on the links to go to and read the publisher's description.
1) Children of the Lamp by P. B. Kerr - this is about two kids who find out that they are descendants of djinn and end up having all kinds of cool powers.
2) Inkspell by Cornelia Funke - this is book 2 in a series about characters from books coming to life and swapping places with someone in the real world. Book 1 was Inkheart.
3) The Living Rain Forest: An Animal Alphabet by Paul Kratter - lovely artwork and educational.
4) It's happy bunny does SUDOKU by Jim Benton and Rafael Sirkis - I can copy these no end for my classroom to work. My students will learn good problem solving skills and logical strategies while having fun.
5) Storm Thief by Chris Wooding - This is by an award winning author. The story includes probability storms which are violent tempests which change whatever they touch. Definitely SciFi.
6) Peter and the Starchatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson - a pirate adventure in which two children are the heroes and go about having all kinds of great adventures while trying to save the world from evil.
7) Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell - an old book still in publication and a Newberry Medal winner.
8) Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles - this book, written in 2005, is a National Book Award finalist.
9) A Dog's Life: The Autobiography of a Stray by Ann M. Martin - The back cover proclaims it to be heartrending and hopeful. I liked that it was written from the animal's perspective.
10) Princess Academy by Shannon Hale - a lowland girl goes to school to learn how to be royal in case the Prince wants to marry her. This book is a Newberry Honor book.
11) Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver - the adventures of a 12 year old boy and his wolf-cub companion in a time six thousand years ago. It's a national bestseller.

Each and every one of the above books will be getting in the way of my finishing the other new book I'm reading, Sex With Kings by Eleanor Herman. And I wonder why I never get any textbook reading done. LOL I doubt I will get to them all during Thanksgiving due to college course work that needs to get finished. Looks like I have my Christmas and summer reading list.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Analytical thinking?

The Episcopal Church of Reconciliation, which I attend, started a new adult education class this morning. The course is entitled, "Following Jesus: Vocation, Discernment, and Discipleship in the Letters of Paul" and is being taught by a pair of very reputable ordained ministers, Jane Patterson and John Lewis, who also happen to be Greek scholars. That makes this course very attractive and the first class was well attended. One of the really cool things I get to look forward to is that when Jane & John start quoting scripture they don't just quote from some version that is presently in publication. They actually go back to a reliable Greek text and translate from scratch. So what we get isn't homogenized. They also show us the usage of certain key words which helps us focus on the intended meaning that might otherwise be lost in the many layers of translation the Christian Bible has gone through.

Today they started with a discussion of what was actually happening in scripture when it was being created. Debate was talked about a lot. It was pointed out that when debate happened in the times of Jesus it wasn't over belief but over practice. We kicked off this discussion by trying to define what inerrant means. We could easily define God as inerrant. However you see him, God's perfect. Inerrancy isn't so clear cut with scripture which has been written, lost, found, copied, translated and argued over many, many times. Then we talked about what we recognized as the characteristics of Pharisees. Pharisees are basically legal experts in how to interpret scriptural law. Do you know a lawyer who isn't good at debate? I certainly don't. Maybe by now you can see where they were headed with this.

What followed next was the question, "Who is "right" amidst contradictory views, all attributed to Jesus." Somewhere in the middle of our discussion, on what Paul meant when he labeled people false brothers and even labeled Peter and Barnabas behavioral hypocrites, the definition of orthodoxy and heresy was given. Originally there was no orthodoxy, which means "right glory/praise", or heresy, which means "choice". The matter of "right" belief evolved into or became a distorted concern unique to Christianity. I liked what was pointed out next. "Our tradition is one of vitriolic debates over practice and the debates are among those who share much in common."

This strikes close to home for me. I came to faith in a nondenominational church that was determined to stay nondenominational because of their belief that, "Denominations divide the body of Christ." It's true. Most of our many Christian denominations exist today because of differences over how to practice. These differences don't make any of the churches more or less faithful but we treat each other as if it does. If you look on a broader canvas at the major faiths you might find that this still holds true. I don't know enough about the various faiths to argue about this, nor do I want to argue. I'm frankly tired of arguments that belittle others and don't make a bit of difference in whether they are going to heaven or not. I learned early in my walk that I can say I love a church or a person and want to help them grow but I can't really do that until I have joined them and made their concerns my own. So here I am sitting happily in an Episcopal church and working hard to make their growth reflect my belief in the worthiness of all mankind and their inherent right to worship as they wish. Based on where we have gone so far, I'm really looking forward to the rest of this course of study.

Am I immune to arguing? Not hardly! In the middle of all of the discussions one of our members declared, pertaining to the idea of absolute laws, that you couldn't make a circle into a square. So help me God, I thought of a way to do it. I didn't argue the point with him. The class needed to move on. But I wanted to. My theory was that when you look at a circle it is basically a continuous line surrounding a specific amount of space that is in a certain shape. What would happen if you started pushing that line out of shape closer and closer to the traditional square? If you did that and then pinned down the corners you might indeed have turned a circle into a square. Would it make a bit of difference? I don't really think so. It would still be a line enclosing a specific area of space and only the shape would have changed. Its purpose wouldn't have.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

On being a friend...

Friends have come and gone in my life. There's a sense of longing when I hear people talk about holding onto friends forever. Those kinds of relationships are blessings. When you keep friends for life you get to watch them grow and change as they experience it. Often, you change with them. When people pass out of your life, depending on how close you were, something goes missing. It can be as simple as good company and memories of conversations shared or as important as knowing that someone who helped you grow, or maybe you helped them, is gone from your life.

A while back, my church was having a small group discussion on what it meant to be a friend as Jesus had been. This was surrounding the story where Jesus tells the apostles that he had been their friend as the Father had been his by laying out his plans and life for them to see. At the time I was frustrated with having few friends in my church and had said so to the body in general. There was, however, one person who had recently made a difference in my life.

We weren't friends in the traditional sense. It was more of an acquaintance in that we had been attending the same church for 3 years. When this person's actions in church created a change in my relationship with God, I decided that I should start acting like a friend but didn't know how. We barely knew each other. When we tried to talk the conversation was either horribly stilted or inane and not conducive to getting to know one another better. About this time he started pulling away from the church and heading towards life someplace else. So even as I was imagining a new friendship I was losing the opportunity. It occurred to me that if there was one thing I could do before he left it was to let him know that he had made a difference in someone's life.

I really didn't know what else I could or should do. Isn't knowing that you've done some good one of the things people want to know before they die? At least that is what I've been led to believe. I don't think I was being very imaginative at the time. It is frustrating seeing a potential friendship go before it has come. Anyway, I ended up trying to tell him. It didn't quite get the reaction I had hoped for but it did seem to please him. Did it make us friends? Not exactly. It might have opened a door for the future but we aren't bosom buddies or anything like that.

Since then I've gotten more creative in my being a friend efforts. When I get the chance, which isn't often these days, I ask how he is doing and what his plans are. He has been added to my prayer list. I let him know he is there and that his concerns are going from my mouth to God's ears. While all of that hasn't made for closeness it has opened the door to communication and provided the opportunity to do so on occasion. More importantly, I know that in some way I am hopefully returning the good he did with some of my own.

Recently when Lynn Johnston, who writes For Better or For Worse, put a story line in her comic strip that helped me through a difficult time I found a way to let her know. It wasn't exactly easy to do. I had to use the "ask a question" feature on the FAQ part of her website. It's kind of sad when public attention causes a person to need to insulate themselves from people who really like them for what they do. I don't expect a letter in reply although that'd be nice, but I feel better for having done it. In the same way, I returned the favor of being thoughtful when a coworker had been caring and gone out of her way in a gracious manner towards me.

My friend, Susan , says that she places the label "friend" on people who treat her well. If they don't then they aren't friends. This is a very realistic and practical attitude towards defining friendship. No one should have to put up with friends who treat them badly. I'll go one step further. Your friends should make you feel valued. Hopefully, you make them feel the same way. Some of the ways that my friends make me feel valued is by putting up with my not catching their jokes, not understanding when they are talking about something that is not within my realm of experience so that I don't immediately commiserate, and my getting distracted in the middle of their talking and popping in with a subject of my own which has little or nothing to do with whatever the conversation was about. They accept me for who and what I am, faults and all.

Another way that my friends help me is by teaching me their sense of humor. Humor is so unique and personal a perspective that it can be really enlightening when you see it in action. It can also be educational. There were occasional jokes told at home when I was a kid but most of them I learned at school. It wasn't over the dinner table. My grandparents weren't into joking either although they had wonderful senses of fun and humor. I've learned about humor from books, TV shows with comedians, my ex, friends, and now my students and web pages. The lessons haven't always gone smoothly. When I focus on subject matter I often miss their humor and my friends stop and explain it to me. Anger was such a serious matter at my home as a child that it was a real shock when a friend yelled at me and was joking the whole time. It was the same when another friend insulted me and expected me to catch the joke.

It took me a while to realize the gift they were giving me. They expected me to understand that they thought well of me and that the insult that was the joke was to be understood as not how they saw me. They saw me as strong and confident and not the kind of person who would be devastated by being insulted casually. It was eye opening when I finally realized that. They were delighted when I made tentative efforts to return the compliment. I'm not good at it yet but I'm getting better. More importantly I'm getting stronger; and because I am stronger in my self-view, when someone actually does insult me, I no longer fall apart. So to the friends who have taught me humor...Thank you!

If you are reading this and have something to add on how to be a friend or how friends help you grow or make a difference in your life I hope you will take the opportunity to share. Friends are too valuable to lose and when one does go I hope you or I have left them with the knowledge that they were gold and had value in our lives.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Comics and Comfort

In an earlier post, Comics and Ritual, I mentioned reading comic strips to start my day. Usually it's 3 of my favorites: For Better or For Worse, Rose is Rose, and Luann. Lately, For Better or For Worse has been putting out a story in which Jim, the grandfather of the family, has had a stroke and how it is affecting everyone. This isn't a cheerful subject for a comic strip to write about but, one of the things I like about For Better or For Worse is that it gives me insights into family dynamics, feelings, and how these can interact. The story line today was about how April, the granddaughter who is still at home, was worrying about her grandfather all day while she was in school. She was constantly seeing pictures of him in her head. The closing frame expressed, in the loveliest way, how simple a prayer can be. And how meaningful.

If you've been keeping up with this blog then you'll know that my best friend, deby, recently passed on. Today's comic went a long way towards making me feel better about missing her so much and remembering her a lot. Knowing that my remembering her echoes the thoughts of her friends and family, and that these thoughts don't go unheard, is also very comforting. Spiritual reminders like this are another reason I choose to make a ritual of reading the funnies. Plus I keep learning from them and that makes me feel good too. To read today's comic on the official web page go here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Small Pleasures

This is going to sound awfully silly but, I have just discovered the joys of color transparencies. Tomorrow I am giving a lesson on climate to a group of 4th graders. During the lesson we will be discussing weather, natural resources such as rivers and other water sources, elevation, landforms and industry. When looking for the definition of climate it surprised me to find that it was weather over a period of 30 years. So I went looking for a weather database. I found one and was delighted with all the different types of information I could gather from it. Then, because we are looking at the different regions of Texas I went looking for a map which showed them. I found wonderfully colorful maps of Texas showing all kinds of stuff. So I printed a couple to see how they looked on paper...and promptly decided they would look cool on an overhead projector. So I made copies of no less than 4 different maps all of them in color and a copy of one data chart so that I could show the kids how to pull the information we needed from it. Now I am ready to go and in glowing greens, blues, yellows and browns. I even have some pinks and grays thrown in somewhere. (g)

So what are the maps I'm taking into the classroom going to show?
1) the Texas River Basins and streams, bayous, and coastline,
2) the 7 different travel regions of Texas - these are similar to the geographic regions
3) the natural regions as well as the river basins and such.
4) the precipitation in Texas.

When I get this all put up there for the kids we will discuss them and have tons of fun as I turn two of them into imaginary rain gauges so that we can measure the rain in Texas. We will research our regions by looking up the data for one city in each region. We will then compare the weather of these areas and discuss what it might be like to live and work there. Hopefully all of this color and make believe will hold their attention long enough for the ideas to sink in. And I get graded on this so I want to do my best.

Another small pleasure today was the purchase of a microcassette recorder. I need to record a student reading to me so that was the excuse for this purchase. I figured that later I could use it for recording class lectures at college. In reality I just liked the idea of going small instead of borrowing one of those shoebox sized ones from the library. So now I get to go armed with technology and some really cool looking maps. Who said there was no fun in teaching?

From Grace to Chaos

Yesterday I officiated at the performance of Morning Prayer. That is a pleasant time for me because it is solitary and gives me much needed, and often neglected, time with God. As it turns out I really needed that time. Some of it was spent in prayers for others but some was spent asking for healing for me. I'm still hurting over the loss of my friend.

When I was through with Morning Prayer I thought the day would go well. Instead it was almost total chaos. The teacher in charge had a meeting to attend so she left 3 aids in charge of the classroom. During that hour and a half we had: 2 students who hurt each other's feelings and thus weren't cooperating with each other in loud angry voices, one student who just totally refused to cooperate with the aid's requests and left the room twice without permission to go wandering the halls thus requiring an aid (me) to leave the others in charge and go following him around to be sure he didn't run off the campus, yet another student was so late from a quick trip to the restroom that she was given a "tardy" thus destroying her perfect record (they get rewards for this) and later that day she made a rude hand sign to another student and was put on report by the teachers who caught her in the act, and to top it all off I got to watch eight 8th graders retake a history test which they had all done poorly on and the administrator of this test gave them the answers as he was reading the questions to them. Now where is the education in that? Heck, where is the plan?

Saving grace? When the teacher got back and heard what had happened she went on discipline mode and had a long talk with the kids. The end result is that they are assigned the homework of writing letters of apology to each aid. I was pleased to hear the lecture. The apology letter makes me squirm almost as much as Susan's evening made her uncomfortable.

I'm not sure why this assignment embarrasses me. The students are certainly going to think about what they have done when they write it. It is a good learning activity. The aids are definitely entitled to the apologies. Maybe this is my old "could I have done things differently and better" alert system raising its head. When I watched the student who roamed the halls walk into our Spec. Ed. Clerk's office and talk to her and a teacher I watched compassion in practice. They recognized he was having a bad day. They tried to joke him out of it. I guess I was too far along to have seen it till it was shown to me. That makes me feel so guilty because all of my career as a teacher I am going to run into kids who are having bad days. One of my jobs is going to be to teach them how to handle that kind of thing. I don't think I did very well yesterday.

The day closed better than I hoped for after that. A teacher friend gave me the needed transparency film thus saving me a trip to the store. I have written a letter of sympathy to the teacher who was in the meeting because during her lecture to the students she mentioned having a friend who was probably going to lose a family member to illness. This was the same teacher who went out of her way to write me a sympathy card earlier. I want to show her the same care and consideration she showed me. And so I grow even as I struggle. Are we back to Grace? Not quite, but we are getting there. Now if only I could think of a way to teach my students what I learned from yesterday, which is that even when you are struggling with not having done well in areas that matter you can still find some places to redeem yourself.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Prayers for the Anglican rosary

My friend JSD has posted about her discovery of praying through the use of the Anglican rosary. It is a lovely way to pray. I was given a set when I went through my Cursillo. Mine wasn't as fancy as JSD's were but they are filled with sentiment. I promised some of the prayers that came with mine so here they are:

Prayer of Oblation
Cross: And here I offer and present to you, O Lord, myself, my soul, and body, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice to you.
Invitatory: Accept, O Lord, my offering.
Cruciform: All from you, O Lord, and all for you.
Weeks: I give of all the days and hours of my life.
I give of my strengths and of my weaknesses.
I give of my talents.
I give of my treasure, the work of my hands.
I give of my joys and of my sorrows.
I give from the places of darkness within me as well as from the places of light.
I give of my whole self, holding back nothing.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving
Cross: For every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh from the Father.
Invitatory: Thank you, God, for the many gifts you have bestowed on me.
Cruciform: I give you thanks, O Lord.
Weeks: For the beauty of all creation - for earth and sky and sea.
For home and family, friends and loved ones.
For work to do and for time to rest and play.
For food and drink and all the bounty of the earth.
For the freedoms that I enjoy.
For the gift of health and for the patience and strength to bear weaknesses.
For the examples of the saints of God now and in the past.

A Prayer based on the Hymn of St. Patrick
Cross: I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

Invitatory: I bind this day to me forever,
By power of faith, Christ's incarnation.
Protect me, Christ, till thy returning.

Cruciform: Christ be with me.

Weeks: Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Cross: Amen

A Litany for Lent
Cross: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Invitatory: You desire truth in the inward being; therefore, teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Cruciform: O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise.

Weeks: Cleanse me and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you alone have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out my transgressions.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore me to the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Cross (last time): Amen

Making connections with others a.k.a. networking

Yesterday I met my pet's future veterinarian. This nice young man, who just started his practice, used to be my rector's neighbor and was at our "Blessing of the Animals" service. While talking to him I asked where he got his degree from. His reply, "Texas A&M." The man is an Aggie. Yes! I say that proudly because I have a brother-in-law and sister who are Aggies. I also have many friends who are Aggies.

Aggies have a great tradition of going back to their alma mater every year or so and renewing friendships they have made while attending there. My brother-in-law graduated in the 80's and still goes back each year for football games and to see his buddies. What I've learned from watching my Aggie friends do this year after year is, "No one networks like the Aggies." This is part of what makes Texas A&M a great school. This is community at it's finest. It is not only good community but good business.

There are lots of excellent and well known colleges out there. Many of them have reputations that guarantee an open door and a high salary if you can legally put their name on your resume. The people I know from some of them are all brilliant at what they do. If I had the grades and money to get into these fine schools I would be proud to do so. But Texas A&M is a state supported college so it doesn't cost a fortune to attend and you don't have to be at the head of your graduating class to enroll. So, if you want to make life long friends and get a good degree in one of the fields that Texas A&M teaches, please consider going there.

My pet's future vet eagerly took down my brother-in-law's name and promised to look him up the next time the school had a veterinarian gathering. I've no doubt they will find one another somehow. Afterall, they are Aggies.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Technology upgrades and dreams of glory

When I was young I used to declare boldly, "I believe in the future of technology." At the time I was saying this I was more into Science Fiction than actual technology. I'm not sure I had ever seen a real computer although my father's company claimed they used one. Still it sounded cool at the time. Now that I am a good bit older and have spent many years in the working world of computers I still can say boldly, "I believe in the future of technology." I can also say, "I believe in our technological future." While the difference between those two statements is not as clear cut as I wish there is still a significant difference between what is obviously the computer version of the industrial revolution and what humanity decides to do with it.

Sometime during the night my keyboard died. It had been part of one of those nice cordless mouse keyboard combos by Logitech that were rather exciting a few years ago. Now they are old hat. I had lost the cordless mouse earlier this summer due to water leaking through my ceiling. That was an a/c horror of apartment living experience that is best told on days when you are totally bored. When that happened I pulled out the spare mouse, a corded optical one, that I'd gotten a while back just in case. That was a nice tiny upgrade. The optical part meant I no longer had to clean the mouse. I could just merrily run it over any flat surface and it would work. I didn't find the cord upsetting although my cat, Hyram, objected to his not being able to shove it to the far side of my desk when he decided to usurp its considerable surface by turning it into his lounging place. For those interested, Hyram is a male flamepoint ragdoll who weighs almost 20 pounds.

My keyboard died at just the wrong time. I had classroom assignments consisting of 2 journal/reflections on teaching and a lesson plan to write. First it was limping badly. The keys, when struck, would do nothing, or something, or way too much of something. I stumbled through the journals cutting them in size by half and went to class feeling unprepared. When I got back I decided to take the keyboard apart and try cleaning it. It didn't appreciate my efforts and bit the dust entirely. Realizing it was time to buy a new keyboard and I thought I'd go online to find a good price inconveniently forgetting that I needed the keyboard to type web addresses into the browser. Out came the seldom used on screen keyboard which let me type in a hunt and peck fashion using my mouse. I located the nearest BestBuy and headed off to shop.

What I found at the store was that there were two major manufacturers who put out most of the mouse keyboard combos and these were quickly going the way of the cell phone. I haven't got a Bluetooth yet and didn't think I wanted one on my keyboard. So I gladly and frugally avoided the $179+ offerings which included more extra buttons than I would have been able to keep track of. Even avoiding most of the fluff I still had to upgrade. I didn't like the feel of the Microsoft mouse scroll wheel which was smooth. Logitech's clicks. I didn't need a gaming keyboard because I don't do first person shooters. I wasn't adding this to a laptop so I didn't need extra security. Eventually I settled on a Logitech LX710 Desktop. I'd like to say that it was the cool design of the mouse and keyboard which sold me on them but what really clenched the deal was the length of time the batteries would last and the 5 year guarantee. Yeah, I know...practical and boring. Still it is really frustrating to replace a mouse because a button dies and I've done that way too many times. So boring and guaranteed is preferable to flashy gizmos that stop working with frequent use.

Now I'm home and the new hardware is installed. All is safe again and I am working at my usual speed. But the trip to BestBuy gave me food for dreams. I saw a really nice Gateway that had an AMD chip and almost 3 gigs of memory. It looked so cool and was only $1100 on sale. And then there was the Sony Vaio to match or beat Susan's baby. I can't afford it now but maybe in a year... Oh well, I have tons of time to dream. I do like technology and when I get my first teaching job I am going to reward myself by getting that longed for laptop with a really good screen, lightning speed and I might even get the fingerprint security to protect it. I even know somebody who will help me set up the wireless network in my house. Wifi here I come.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

My cup runneth over

If you didn't read the previous post this one might not make much sense. That post is the tribute I wrote in honor of my best friend who passed away last Sunday.

Outpourings of prayers and expressions of sympathy have filled my days for the past few. They truly help. One that surprised me was a sympathy card from a teacher I work with. Apparently she is on my prayer group list which was the only place I had mentioned it at work. I hadn't known. I felt really blessed by that surprise. People care. I've had others express sympathy even though they don't know me well and didn't know my friend. It is a blessing.

The process of mourning is new to me. That might sound strange coming from someone who has lost both sets of grandparents, an aunt, an uncle and a marriage. With the relatives I have a long history and can easily visualize them as having gone on an extended visit to heaven. I will see them when I get there. They are so set in my heart that they aren't really gone. The marriage was, I think, the pain of rejection and fear. This loss is different. This is the knowing that I can't reach out to someone easily. It feels somehow different although the symptoms are the same.

The question, "How are you doing?" has taken on a different connotation. A few times when people have reminded me by asking I've come close to tears. That probably made them uncomfortable. I wish it didn't. I am grateful for the times I cry. When I am at work I am busy focusing on someone besides myself. When I am at home and alone, I am scared to think about it too much. Crying about things that hurt is a way of starting the healing process. If you find yourself needing to express sympathy to a friend please don't be afraid to talk about their loss to them. It might be helping them. If they don't want to discuss it they can say so.

When I wrote my second post on this list I talked about my receiving the Holy Spirit. During that experience I learned the meaning of the scriptural phrase from Psalm 23, " cup runneth over." I am learning it again. God is putting reminders in my path that he is still active in my life even though I am mentally and emotionally absorbed with other things.

So to my friends and others who have expressed sympathy and extended comfort I want to say, "Thank you!" It is much appreciated and my cup runneth over because of your kindness.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Winning battles!

Yesterday I had one of those calls you don't want to get. It was the husband of my best friend deby telling me that she had passed away. For all that I knew she was almost certainly terminal this took me by surprise. She'd beaten cancer twice. It still hasn't finished sinking in. We met through an internet list/post and got in touch by phone. The first time she called we hit it off and talked for almost 2 hours. She called twice more before the day was over. In total we spent 4 hours on the phone that day. After that the calls were daily for over 2 1/2 years. It is hard to think that I will never hear her voice again.

When she was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer, soon after we met, she started on a long hard battle. She was one of those people who fight hard and use every tool in their arsenal to win. She did win! Twice! She was told two separate times that she was free from the disease. It came back the first time. Last time I heard she was still free of cancer when she passed away. What took her was the damage to her body the battle left behind. She had liver damage, heart damage, bone damage, diabetes, pancreatitis and brain damage too. Still she battled. Her motto was, "Do the next right thing!" How could she not?

Because the list we met through was a spiritual list and our faith was important to us, she and I soon discussed faith and found ourselves praying together. Turned out we were good prayer partners. She was the kind of prayer who would tell God what to do. I reminded him of needs and asked for them. Even though our styles of prayer varied when we started we could feel the syncing of our souls. When one's request faltered the other would pick up and then turn it back over a little later. Finding a prayer partner is hard enough. Finding one that can pray with you long distance is even harder. The experience was awesome.

Over the course of the 3 years I knew her I learned the names of her kids, family members, friends and old flames. We left almost no conversation stone unturned. We shared books and dreams. We talked about cooking. The last gift I sent her was a cookbook with recipes from the south called Bayou Cuisine. She loved it. The thank you call took over two hours as we explored our respective copies together. If I said her last gift to me was a subscription to Guideposts I'd be lying. Her last gift to me was her last phone call. Nothing could have let me know more how much she loved me.

She was always there to support me. When I was struggling and when I was scared she believed in me. When I needed to get my head on straight she was the one to ask the guiding questions that helped me do that. For my part, I learned how to listen well when she had things she desperately needed to talk about. I learned to hear beyond the words with her.

She had a doctorate in psychotherapy. She was clever and creative. She had a heart as big as the sky. She fought for children's better treatment. She fought for affordable health care for women. Children who have gone through abuse are better treated by the authorities today than they used to be thanks in part to her efforts. The world is a better place for having had her in it.

Towards the end of her battles with cancer she got angry with God. She knew this wasn't the way she was going to stay. She kept saying she would fight her way back from the anger too. And she did. She left a church that denied her basic rights to worship in a house of God and found another that honored her faith and taught her new ways to pray. She first walked the labyrinth (maze) on crutches. She was amazed at how much it did for her. She had always had a solitary bent and this answered to that. She was also a perfectionist. Finally she and God could commune with action and be precise about it.

This past summer was the worst. My going to school was keeping me so busy that we didn't have time to call. Before that we had shared the courses I was taking in education and answered the homework questions together. She was a good sounding board. Then I suddenly had time for calls. Summer school was over. But she wasn't calling. I wondered but knew that we had nothing bad going on between us so I figured she was taking a short hiatus and dealing with life. That had happened a few times in the past but we always got back in touch. So time passed and I didn't hear from her. I called and left messages. I emailed. Finally she got in touch through the list. She had been in and out of the hospital twice since we had talked. Part of the time she was in a coma. They don't let you call from ICU and her husband was too busy working and visiting her in the hospital to take time to call or email. So when she wrote again I was thrilled and also horrified. I called and the phone message didn't sound like her. I emailed and finally she called. We talked for about an hour. That was a little over a week ago. It was so good to hear her voice that I felt at peace. She sounded calm. She even pointed this out to me. I think she was telling me she was at peace and was ready to go. I also know that she was probably on heavy medication doses. She told me what happened and we covered some of the old topics about her family. Except for the really slow pace of the conversation it sounded almost normal. So I wrote her 3 days later. She didn't write back. Instead, her husband called.

I know she is in heaven now. I can feel her hands on my shoulders sometimes when I miss her the most. God's hands are there too. He put us together and he wants me to know that he has her and will keep her safe till it is my turn to go home. Because I have a few pictures of her I have an image of her standing strong and happy by her man. I also have one of them snuggling on a sofa. She's smiling in each of them. Those will have to sustain me till I see her face to face.

What I would like to know is something I never got the chance to ask; "deby dear, what are you going to do in heaven? In what ways are you reorganizing it? I know you far to well to think that you will leave it alone. Will you marshal the angels to take care of your family and friends? What saints are you going to encourage to greater works for the downtrodden and abused? And when are you going to place one of those dream calls to me? Never fear Honey, I know you are looking in on John and me and will work to keep us safe. Until I hear from you, and ever after, I will hold your smile in the center of my heart and persevere. I will continue to do the 'next right thing,' because that is what you taught me to do. I'll never forget you, deby. You're my hero."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Further thought...

After a day of thinking further about California suing the automobile industry I still don't have any conclusions. Wishful thoughts are probably more like it. This is going to sound as if I am having second thoughts....and I am. California's lawsuit is seen by many as a nuisance suit. It probably won't get anything accomplished except for filling the pockets of the lawyers...or so says a close friend. The fact that lots of other things in the world put out CO2 is true and that was also pointed out. I went and looked up the levels and what I found seems to say that Americans do put out more CO2 than other nations. Here is the article I found on the subject of Global Warming. What I don't know, and I doubt that anyone else does either, is if car emissions are a large enough part of the cause of global warming to be seriously considered as being "at fault". There are lots of contributing factors. Environmental Science is, I think, still a relatively new science and we are still learning how things work.

So! Can anything good come out of California's lawsuit? I don't know. Since I admit to being a bit of an optimist and a rather hopeful (naive) one at times, if anything good could come from it I would like to think it would. What I would like to see happen is for all of the US to stop using fossil fuels and find a renewable source of energy to run our cars, boats, lawnmowers, and all the rest on. But...being a responsible and caring person I worry about wishing that on us because if that happened what would all the people who work in the oil industry do for jobs? Still, it would be nice if we didn't need oil from other countries. From there this goes into Science Fiction land, which is more my friend Susan's bailiwick than mine. I wonder how a story like that would read...(g).

Progressive Environmentalism?

This morning's news alerted me to the fact that California has filed suit against the automobile industry in an attempt to force them to pay homage to their new global warming law. This got me thinking. I know this isn't the first time a major industry has been targeted for good reason. The anti-cigarette ad campaign and the lawsuit that went along with it comes to mind. I like breathing clean air and also love the natural beauty of our country. I also loath having to buy eye drops when I visit someplace else and find that pollution is higher than I am used to. So I really don't have a problem with the California movement towards a better environment. In fact, I applaud them. I would love to applaud other states for being as forward thinking. Since I am not as up on this subject as I would like to be I hope you will enlighten me. Are there other states that are doing similar things? If so, who and what?

On a totally unrelated note: Last night I watched Criminal Minds and when the show was in the last scene they played The Riddle by Five for Fighting. Click on that link and you can watch a video of them performing the song. I just bought the album Two Lights a few weeks ago. Hearing it on TV was way cool!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Reflections on Life of the Beloved

Please don't expect any great insights on today's subject. In school I am doing reflections on things that have to do with teaching. So it seems logical to reflect on what I am learning in church and Sunday school. That's all this is, a reflection with questions being more readily available than answers.

Today my Sunday school class continued to study Life of the Beloved by Henri J.M. Nouwen. The lesson covered the first chapter and part of the second in which the author talks about quieting those voices which say to work harder, accomplish something, make a difference and then you will be loved/lovable. Nouwen tells us that when we listen closely to that still small voice we will hear that we are the beloved and need not do anything extra to become that person to God and others.

That is so hard for so many of us to accept. When I started sharing with the class on my upbringing and how it said to work harder, show what you could do, be right or be a failure (no grey, only black and white views here), I saw many heads nodding. It seems I wasn't the only person to be brought up with messages that said I had to work hard to be worthy.

Earlier, during the sermon and lesson, the scripture was about giving up our lives to gain them. I found myself asking all kinds of questions about what this meant. I feel loved by God. He keeps giving me gifts and blessings which speak of his love of me. What I don't have is the feeling of having made any real sacrifice. In light of what Nouwen is saying, that is probably my parental voice saying, "Work harder. Be worthy. Make a difference. Sacrifice!" In reality my sacrifice is already made. I did give up my life. It doesn't seem terribly sacrificial to me when I think about it. But when I chose to follow Jesus' teachings and considered what God wanted me to be doing when making choices in my life that is exactly what I was doing. I sacrificed my self control for God's. Since giving up my choices to God, he has chosen to reward me with signs of his favor and love.

"That's too easy!" a guilty voice in my heart whispers. Why is it so hard to give up the idea of a heavy burden when making a sacrifice to God? Why can't we easily still those voices when listening to God call us the beloved? Someone in class said that being the beloved doesn't mean a life free from pain and struggle, and while everyone agreed with that we also agreed that it does mean a life filled with bright spots that give us moments of Peace, Hope and Joy.

It occurs to me that if we listened more to that still, small voice we would have lives filled with joy. Susan, of Rickety Contrivances, left a lovely comment on my last post about love in which she talks about how she knows love from other people and God. It took me two readings of her comment to realize that she did indeed say that God tells her she is loved. "Sorry, Susan!" In Sunday school one of the members spoke humorously about how she is her own worst enemy when it comes to seeing the love of God in the actions of others in her life. Another member of the class asked a question that indicated his processes were all logical on this subject. When I hear from God that I am loved it has little to do with logic. For me, love is a feeling, and I have spent way too little time analyzing feelings logically. Was it the logic in Susan's statement that made it hard for me to hear? Whatever, it is her ability to analyze feelings that makes her such a good writer. Perhaps it is time for me to start doing that. Would that make me a better listener?

So, as stated in the beginning of this post, no conclusions. Just more questions. But this subject is an ongoing study and will probably be revisited. Peace!