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!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bright bits

Even though I am still fighting that darn cold, spots of joy keep coming.

  • Today I get to do the Daily Office at my church a.k.a. Morning Prayer.
  • A friend of mine has started her own blog and put a link to mine on it.
  • Even better, she called me a "good" friend in it. (G)
  • My friend, Susan, has asked to use one of my posts in her Carnival of Hope.
  • A teacher who works with one of my students liked an idea I had for helping the student and we are in the process of implementing it.
  • I'm still getting warm fuzzies from the expression of love my cousin sent in his email.
Ok...that is more than the 5 blessings the book Simple Abundance suggested. The blessings journal, which Susan also suggested, falls in line with that thinking. And I have now finished another post for my blog which I always find a pleasure in and of itself.

Peace, Hope, and Joy!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Things in 3s & the importance of Love

Do messages come in 3s? I've heard that all my life. There's a book on my list of "to read(s)" because it came to my attention 3 times in one day. The book is The Road Less Traveled. I was redoing my bookshelves and it caught my attention as something I wanted to finish reading. Then my preacher mentioned it in his sermon the next morning. Later that same Sunday the Sunday school teacher also mentioned it. So I put it where I would be reminded to read it because it seemed that it might be important to do so. I kind of figured maybe God was trying to get my attention with it.

Lately, I think I have another set of 3s. My favorite cousin has been writing me and one of the things he made sure I knew was that he loved me for who and what I am and didn't think I needed any improvement or changes to be made better. Have I mentioned that I love this cousin unreservedly? He is always good to and for me even when we don't see or hear from each other for a while. Another part of this 3-some is having finished the book The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz. It tells me that I can love myself by getting rid of nasty "agreements" to believe what my "domesticators" told me when I was growing up. It says that I am lovable, unique and beautiful just as I am and don't need to punish myself for not being something I am not. Come to think of it, my spiritual director says the same thing. (g) The third part of this 3-some is the new book I am starting to read, from a Sunday school class, called Life of the Beloved by Henri J. M. Nouwen. It tells me God loves me just as he loved Jesus and I can think of myself as "the beloved" just as God declared Christ to be beloved when John baptized him.

When I see this kind of thing happening in my life I think God must be trying to tell me something. In this case the message seems fairly obvious. I am also wondering what this will lead to. Is it just to make a better and happier me, or do I need to love myself so that I might love others better? Probably both. Seldom have I seen God do something that didn't have multiple implications or affects. Sometimes I get kind of tunnel visioned so, if you think you see something else here for me to think about please feel free to contribute it.

In the meantime there are a lot of questions surrounding this. Is it important to love yourself? How do you know you are loved? What does it feel like? Where do you hear those messages that say you are loved? Those are questions that were raised in Sunday school. I am still working on an answer to some of them. And of course, I still need to finish reading the book.

For me being loved is kind of like sudden peace. I am relieved and don't have to worry about impressing anyone or doing something to earn it. Suddenly I can breath. It is kind of ridiculous to believe that you can earn love, or so I am told. Love is supposed to be a gift. But I was raised to be grateful for gifts and to give one back. Does an obligation negate the love? Is the obligation real or just a social nicety that can be ignored if necessary? Have I ever been able to earn love? Not that I can recall. What I recall from my efforts was imperfections that destroyed any good feelings I might have gained from them. That makes me ask, what is it about love that makes us want to do something to earn it? Why do we feel unlovable? The messages that say I am loved come from God, friends and family. Yes I think it is important to love yourself. If you don't how can you know that you are beautiful to anyone including yourself and how can you love anyone else if you don't know what it feels like? I once heard a definition of how love works. Not what it is but how it works. It said that love works like this: I want loving feelings from you so I am going to change my behavior and do the things that get you to do the things that make me feel loved. I'm not sure that has any part in a philosophical discussion on love. YMMV

Obviously I'm not going to come up with any great insights here. At the moment there are more questions than answers. Do I believe that I am loved? Yes, I do. I believe because I heard God tell me when I believed. Other people tell me they love me too. Do I feel lovable? That's harder to say yes to. I wasn't raised on unconditional love even though my faith tells me it exists and it is central to my belief system. So once again I ask, how do you know you are loved? And maybe more importantly, how can you know you are lovable? And please forgive me if I seem to have been repititious here. Things just keep circling back to how we define love and how we see ourselves.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Update on the cold cure thing

This morning I followed my friend Susan's suggestion and Googled the Echinacea Ginger Syrup. The only place I could get it was from the manufacturer. The syrup doesn't cost that much. For 4 oz. it was $11.21 USD which was cheaper than I paid for it at SunHarvest last time I could find any. Their shipping at first looked horrible until I found the US Priority Mail. That was under $7 so I will get well when the syrup arrives. The manufacturer is Nutrition World which is based in Florida. I didn't like their website much. No descriptions of the product. No offers of catalogs. The McAfee site rating gave it a red banner due to links to places which have spy wear. Nevertheless, they just sent me an order confirmation email. Checkout was encrypted once I reached the point of paying. It wasn't when I entered shipping info. So I hope this turns out ok. If you like their stuff maybe you can find it in a store. If you have had good experiences ordering from them please let me know. I could use some reassurance on this one.

Last night I went to bed about 7 pm and stayed there till I had to get up this morning shortly after 5 am. Hopefully that really long sleep will do a lot towards my energy level. In the meantime I am running behind in my reading for my classes because of this cold. So if I am in any of your prayers please add that to the litany about me. Thanks.

Peace, Hope, and Joy!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Cheerful bits

Yesterday I got a call from the Assistant Principal at an elementary school nearby. This is the school I was doing my "field experiences" in last spring. They have cleared me to do them again this semester. Yay! I am good to go!

The friend who I thought was leaving left an instant message apologizing. I am not so sure about the nicety of that particular mode but I will take one in any form as long as it is sincere. My question of whether he wanted to discuss anything was ignored in favor of giving me a suggestion on how to cure the cold I got from some students. His suggestion, "Fast for a couple of days." Does anyone have any ideas on how this would be helpful? Usually I take tons of OJ, zinc and echinacea. I would gladly do anything that has some hope of helping. I used to be able to purchase something called, Ginger Echinacea Syrup at SunHarvest. That really did work. It kicked a cold's duration from 10 days down to 3. Sadly they no longer carry it. If anyone knows where I can get some more of this pricey syrup Please let me know...I will order some.

When I find my schedule for church services that I am assigned to I will rejoice. I am once again serving communion some Sunday this month. I really like doing that. I also get one morning prayer service to officiate at. That is a really great way to start your day.

I heard from my closest cousin last night. He is doing ok. He worries about me. Now that is a good cousin. I've always liked this one. We are only a year apart in age. Jim would do just about anything he could to help make things better for me. I would do the same for him. My father has this strange attitude that relatives are to be avoided. With a cousin as good as this one why on earth would I want to do that? Family is important. To some extent I understand my father's difference here. He is a build yourself with hard work kind of guy. Don't take help. Don't give it because it won't be appreciated. I am different. I like to know where I came from. My family is part of my heritage, along with my life experiences. Being a future teacher, culture and my students' heritages are going to be important to me and hopefully to them. If they don't appreciate them maybe I can help them to do so. Hopefully that will give them stronger self identities and help them stand tall and proud.

And to work.