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.