Monday, December 31, 2007

A Family Reunion for Christmas!

Christmas in the Rio Grande Valley is not your white Christmas. Instead it is almost warm. Because the Valley is semitropical, the temperatures were in the high 60s. My sister, nephew, Dad and I went to the high school tennis courts Christmas afternoon. I'm not a tennis player but Dad won awards when he was a young man and my sister played with him and then with her kids for many years. It is a pretty good way to spend an afternoon.

The trip down to Weslaco was not as long as I had thought it would be. Instead of the 5 and a half hours I predicted it was just over 4. Stopping by the grocery store after gassing up, I left town at 7 AM and was home by 11:30. Was Mom ready to feed me? LOL No, she and Dad had eaten early and she was getting ready for her afternoon nap. Never the less she managed to get out some cheese and slice it for me and I added some bread with butter to that. A light lunch to be sure but I had snacked on a couple of candy bars on the trip down and wasn't ravenous.

My sister and her kids, having flown in from Asheville, NC, were shopping at a local outlet mall that has opened up since the last time I visited the Valley. They spent way too much on gifts for an aunt they hadn't seen in quite a few years but also got stuff for Grandmom and Granddad. I was surprised when I looked out the window to see their rental vehicle park near Mom and Dad's apartment. My nephew has his Dad's profile but my sister's eyes and smile. He had grown so much. The last time I saw him he was in elementary school. Now here he was at 20, a tall, handsome young man. If I start to sound like a proud Aunt forgive me. I come by that pride rightfully. My niece and nephew are both smart, fun young people and absolutely the most beautiful kids I've ever seen. I'm not exaggerating. They could model for a living. My nephew has this wonderful magnetic personality and a great sense of humor. My niece is a quiet leader who has lots of friends and a nice way with people.

Dad took us on a nice tour of the retirement community they live in. It isn't your typical retirement home. There is a very active community of intelligent senior citizens there and most of the residents have either apartments or small houses to live in. The community is owned by the residents and their new manager is doing a lot to make the place lively. They are having a New Years Eve dance tonight with a band. Here's a picture of Dad.

For gifts this year I couldn't spend much but got the kids Barnes & Noble gift cards. Jill received a hand held labyrinth that duplicates the one my church just built. That went over well. Dad received a new computer from Jill and I helped by getting him the dial up modem he needed. Apparently the Rio Grande Valley is hurting for high speed connections in many of its smaller towns. I wouldn't have called Weslaco small but I guess compared to McAllen it is. That's the town we go to when we want to do large city shopping. Mom got sweet smelling bath and foot stuff from her grandkids and I got her a bit of quality chocolate. What I got for Christmas was a great time with my family, some candles from my niece, a huge bottle of this nice liquid scent diffuser from my nephew, some cash from Mom & Dad and an absolutely great digital camera from my wonderful sister. My family is also in the habit of sharing books with one another so I went home with two more to add to my reading. These are books of a meditative nature and I'm sure I'll enjoy them very much. Dad gave my sister and her kids the tennis ball machine he had which shoots balls across the court for you to hit. They will put that to good use.

Here is a picture of my beautiful sister and her handsome son. It was dark in the living room and I don't think they expected me to be taking images that quickly. The camera came with a really tiny memory card. A bigger one is on order thanks to the great post Christmas sales and some good advice from David McMahon of authorblog. While we were spending time together I got to teach Nate how to work Sudoku. He really likes them so I hope he keeps doing them. It was so wonderful to find out that he and I have lots in common. Jill took time to teach me how to hit a tennis ball. Maybe on the next visit I can improve on what she started.

Monday night we had a wonderful family music session. Music has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember. My sister has a new electric guitar at home but brought Dad's old folk guitar with her. My nephew received Dad's soprano Ukulele and we played and sang a few well remembered folk songs from when Jill and I were teenagers. Tuesday night Dad brought out his slides from when the family backpacked and sailed. We all enjoyed revisiting Colorado and the Bahamas thanks to his good photography. Because Dad's new computer came with an all in one printer I hope to be able to get some copies of his slides. There were some of the beautiful sunsets and scenery that I'd love to share.

The early mornings were quality time between my sister and me. One of us would go down to the cafeteria and bring back coffee and we would sit on our beds, reminisce and catch up on what was going on in our lives. I missed that from when we were growing up in the Valley and it was so special to be able to do that again.

This one on the left is my niece. Isn't she gorgeous? She plays soccer and also field hockey at her local high school. She has spent time working in her fathers veterinary hospital and loves animals as much as she loves people. I think she plans on going into some medical field but at this point I don't think she knows which one she wants to practice in yet. No worries, she is a sophomore and will have several years before she has to decide.

Last but not least, here is the reason for the visit to the Valley, my wonderful Mom. She is what makes our family the close knit and caring group it is. She was a teacher when she was younger and is responsible for my love of books. She is also a really good cook and sewed most of my clothes for many years. Mom can paint, do counted cross stitch, and plays a mean hand of bridge. Her present memberships include weekly bridge games and a monthly study group which she is preparing a presentation for in a few months.

My sister and I have decided to try to stay closer to home since this visit went so well. That means that I should be able to see her and various parts of my family from time to time. I'm really looking forward to the next trip. Nate said his Mom had to bring him down too so I think that everyone will be benefiting from this time we shared together and life will just get better for all of us from this point forward.

Merry, merry Christmas to all and may your New Year be all you could hope for.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Eh? Too

Yesterday Susan posted that her status in The Truth Laid Bear (TTLB) ecosystem had suddenly jumped several levels. She'd risen from being a flippery fish to being a large mammal. There seemed to be no explanation for this. Today she is an adorable little rodent. Eh?

A while back I too joined the TTLB ecosystem. I didn't figure I'd rank in as much, probably an insignificant microbe. I was somewhat pleased to not be in the bottom rank. I entered as a multicellular microorganism. Today however, I have jumped up significantly, just like Susan did. I'm a lowly insect. This is a jump of 3 levels and my inbound links don't seem to have increased any. So like Susan I'm saying, "Eh?"

All confusion aside, I'm tipping my hat to the Asian Pop with YeinJee blog where I found the above image. It's Japanese insect origami. How cool is that?

There is a message in red at the top of the home page of TTLB. It says that an error is corrupting the ecosystem ratings and that a fix is in progress. I guess I'll be back to my multicellular microorganism level tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Taking It To a New Level

My father used to play the ukulele. He was pretty good at it and many nights he would sit at the foot of my sister's and my twin beds and play for us. We would sing along and learned many songs from my father as he passed on a musical legacy. As my sister and I got older we picked up guitars and Dad switched over to that instrument to keep us company. We had some really great family music sessions when I was a teenager.

Since I'm going home for Christmas I'm taking my guitar with me. My father has declared that he has no idea where his baritone ukulele is and I think he gave away his guitar. So I'm also taking a second guitar.

While goofing around on the computer I decided to check out YouTube and see if there were any ukuleles being played these days. As it turned out there are tons of them. There are even ukulele orchestras in Europe. I listened to a few and then found this one very excellent duet by a couple of guys. The piece is an original of their own design. If you keep an eye on the guy on the left you will see that he not only plays the ukulele well, he plays it like a classical artist. So here you go with a really nice ukulele duet. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Best Christmas in Quite a While

Two weeks ago, David McMahon of authorblog asked in his Weekend Wandering, "What was the best Christmas present you ever received?" I didn't have an answer then, but I do now. This Christmas is the best gift I've had in a long time. And the thing that makes it the best Christmas are the gifts that have nothing to do with wrapped packages and everything to do with family and friends.

For many Christmases I've had a pretty solitary time. I didn't travel anywhere. My family is lives elsewhere. I got checks and gift certificates in the mail from my family instead of wrapped presents. Sometimes I had nowhere to go on Christmas day. This year, that has all turned around.

The biggest and best gift, one I listed on my wish list last year, is that my sister is flying into Texas to see our parents and has asked me to come down and share a room with her. This is really exciting. I envision it being similar to when we were teens and bonded closely after both being away from home at different boarding schools. Even better, she is bringing my niece and nephew with her.

Spending time with my folks is gift number two. Especially the time with Mom. She and I were always really close when I was young and still are. She is the one I call every Sunday.

Gift number three is also coming from my sister. She has offered to buy me a digital camera. I've asked for a Canon PowerShot A570 IS. I hope she can find it at a good price.

Gift number four is coming from God through friends. I've suddenly got a Holiday social life. My church has formed groups labeled "Dinner for 6 to 8" and my group is gathering tomorrow night. The next Friday my Cursillo reunion group will be getting together at one of our houses to have dinner. Even David is having an Aussie Christmas Bash and it starts the day after I get back from seeing my family. Last but not least, two weeks ago my newfound friendship with San Meredith of A Life With a View moved beyond cyberspace with a phone call.

One more very special gift is that for the 3 Saturdays leading up to the holiday I'm scheduled to officiate at Morning Prayer. Looks like God is keeping me close this season!

So, while I've had other good Christmases in the past I've not had one so filled with God, family, and friends since I was a child. And that's the best gift of all. A happy, shared holiday season. I'm counting my blessings every night.

Merry Christmas all!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Don't Blame the System. Blame the Part.

In his latest Weekend Wandering, David McMahon asked the question: Have you ever sworn at a computer?

My answer David's question is, "No. I've worked far too long in the IP industry to ever cuss at a machine for mistakes that were the result of something other than its functioning." You can stop here if you don't want to read a litany of things that can go wrong in computer systems and why it isn't the machine's fault.

Computers today are a collection of systems, part mechanical, part software, and part human operator. A computer traditionally is just the hardware, useless without the rest of it but still, just a machine. Something other than its mechanical functioning is what most computer mishaps are. If the system crashes it is most likely the software design and not the equipment. If the browser crashes after opening a webpage it is most likely a bug in the browser that doesn't work with something on the webpage, again, not the computer's fault. I don't want to think about how often Firefox has crashed after I viewed one of CNN's videos.

Or it could be my fault. If my work gets lost because of a crash this was not the machine's fault. It was mine because I didn't save it early or frequently enough to protect myself. If I get a bug, worm, or virus and whatever else there is out there today it might be because I didn't take proper precautions or opened an email without thinking. But it might also be something new or a trusted friend who accidentally sent me the little nasty.

What a lot of people choose to forget is that computers aren't smart. They are very dumb, fast machines that need specific instructions to do what you want them to do. If I tell it to do something in a way it doesn't understand I can almost guarantee you that the machine will give me an error message or, thanks to the OS designers, ask for more instructions.

Yeah, I know, Microsoft bashing is a popular sport these days. But, for all its problems with security, Windows designers are first and foremost programmers and they know so much more than the rest of us about how to protect themselves that they have forgotten more than we will ever know. They are also human and get used to having those protections in place which is probably why they forget to give them to us. They also know how often they have to recode a piece of software which is why they put in so many "are you sure" and "give me more info" messages that pop up all too frustratingly at times. They were trying to be kind to the novice and even the intermediate computer literate when they did that. If we really hate the company we should probably stop supporting it with our dollars and change machines or the OS. There are other options out there.

All of the above doesn't mean I haven't cussed at a situation I found myself in because of something that happened with the computer. I just know better than to get mad at the dumb machine. Chances are it was that old infamous, "operator error" in the first place. This means, "I'm a dummy too."

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Hilarious Memory

David McMahon in his latest post used part of the lyrics from the Purple People Eater song. That was a memory from my childhood. It came out in 1958, so I was all of 6 years old at the time. Strangely, I remember singing the lyrics later in life when I was a teenager living in Weslaco. We must have had a record of it at one time. If you've never heard the song, please take the time to listen to it. It is hilarious and so outlandish that it is no wonder I still remember it almost 50 years later. (G)

Additional thoughts:
It occurred to me that this is a bit of pop culture from my early years. They have whole games devoted to this kind of thing. Perhaps this song played a part in some later pop culture memories. When I was listening to it I thought I heard part of an old commercial that came out later. Does anyone besides me hear a line or two from "We wear short shorts"?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Alternative Gift Giving

For the past two Sundays my church has been holding its annual Alternative Gift market. What this does is provide our members with the chance to help out others in a global way. You can pick your charity or country of need and write a check which will be used to help individuals or communities in need. Of course you can do this giving either in your own name or in the name of a friend.

When I looked at the catalog I noticed that the offerings were broad in nature and in price. This assures me that even a small gift will be helpful to someone in a life changing way. So, in the interest of helping this organization out I thought I'd post a link to their website. From there you can either do a contribution or find other ways of helping. The site goes a long way in making one aware of all the many areas that are in need and connects with some really effective charitable organizations. The image is the cover of their 2007-2008 catalog.

So, if you are interested in making the world a better place this Christmas, or for any other occasion or reason please go to Alternative Gifts International.

Peace, Hope, and Joy this holiday season!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Trinity Christmas Concert '07

Last night I had the rare opportunity to go out with friends for a festive evening. Every year at this time Trinity University's Music Department puts on a Christmas Concert and offers it free as a gift to the San Antonio community. Some of my friends from church and I went to the show. While this was only my second time, Trinity has been doing this for 14 years now, and they are very good at it.

Most of our group decided to eat out first at La Madelaine before going to the campus. La Madelaine is a French restaurant chain which started in Texas. After some good food and conversation, we carpooled over. Finding ourselves arriving slightly late to get parking garage space, we went to one of the surface lots and walked across the lovely campus to Laurie Auditorium. The weather was misting but not cold so the walk was pleasant. Everyone headed to the concert was in a festive mood.

We got seats in the back of the auditorium but this didn't prevent us from seeing the show well or enjoying the sound. The auditorium has excellent acoustics, the stage was brightly lit, and the various groups were arranged for optimum viewing from all corners. I say groups because the program included performances by the Symphony Orchestra, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, the Parker Handbell Choir, the University Chorus, and the Trinity Choir. At two points in the performance the audience was asked to sing along with the combined choirs as they performed Jingle Bells and Joy To The World. The show lasted just about an hour and there included a combination of both classical pieces and traditional Christmas music for which the MC gave us a brief bit of history.

After the show, the friends I had ridden with took me on a tour of some of the nicer parts of the neighborhood surrounding the university. This is a place in San Antonio where the houses become mansions and the yards are huge and well landscaped. Christmas lights were already out on many of these properties so there was lots to look at. It was a nice way to start the Christmas season.

I got home just before 10:00 pm and my cats were glad to see me. The Mormons across the hall from me were saying goodbye to fellow elders and they said hi to me so even my arrival home was friendly. The whole evening had just gone right. So much so that I feel it was a gift in itself. Thank goodness for a community rich in culture, a church with people who like the arts, and friends to enjoy them with.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Walking Side by Side

When I was a kid, Mother did her best to shelter me from the hardships of life. She really loved me and wanted to make my life as pain free as she could. Sadly, this isn't always possible. Even sadder is that, sometimes, it isn't the best way to bring up our children. Life is hard and that hardship toughens us and makes us better prepared for the next struggle we will encounter. My father knew this and was often frustrated with my mother's over sheltering of me. I'm sure it was the cause of many arguments between them. There was one time however, that Dad has his way and I'm the better for it.

In the late 60's backpacking became popular as a vacation activity. My folks decided to take my sister and me to Colorado and we spent a couple of summer vacations in the San Juan Wilderness area. The summer I was 17 my family decided to see the continental divide and view the start of the Rio Grande River. I wasn't as physically prepared for this journey as I should have been. But, we didn't have anyone at the base came to leave me with and I really wanted to go. So my parents, with some misgivings, helped me assemble my pack and off we went.

We took the narrow gauge railroad from Durango to Silverton and then headed out into the wilderness. At some point early in the hike we came to a mountain which wasn't climb worth but was steep enough that it had many switchbacks on the path up it. This turned what might have been less than a 3 mile hike into a very difficult 5 miles. With 25 additional pounds on my back, and being very out of shape, I became exhausted quickly. About half way up I sat down in the middle of the trail and wanted to quit. It didn't help that all around us were some younger boy scouts running up and down the incline. I was tired!

Dad had a goal in mind for the day and it didn't include camping in the middle of the path. He also knew I had been allowed to quit too many times and would do so if given the chance. This wouldn't work for us. I know he was very concerned. He also realized that yelling at me, his usual response, wouldn't help here. So, for the first time in my life, Dad took charge of my upbringing.

He sat down beside me and we talked. He told me he knew I was tired and that the path was steep. He also said he knew I could do this hike. I almost certainly expressed my doubts about this. He promised me he would be with me every step of the way. Then he told me his plan. We were going to sit there for a few minutes and let me catch my breath. Then we were going to stand up and walk 100 steps. When we got to 100 we would stop and, still standing, rest for a minute or two to catch our breaths again. Then we would walk another hundred steps. Then once again we would stop and catch our breaths. We would do this the entire way up that path. And so we did. Dad may have held my hand during the first few hundreds, but soon I found it easier to walk without his hand in mine. And you know what? When we reached the top I flew down the other side. I felt awesome!

That was the first and only lesson my father was ever allowed to give me in perseverance, but it stuck with me. When I was in the Navy Reserve and had to take a fitness test, it came into use. I was again out of shape and had to run 1.5 miles in something under 17 minutes. This shouldn't have been hard, but for a sedentary person it was very difficult. To prepare for this I found a fitness program that I could do inside my apartment. It included running in place for a short period of time and then slowing to a walk and then running some more. Sounds similar to the 100 steps doesn't it? I did this program for two weeks before I was able to run nonstop for 6 minutes.

When the test time came around I ran with my best friend and her boyfriend; nothing helps you stay motivated like companionship. Because she knew about my training program, we ran in bursts when necessary. One hundred steps, then walk, run another hundred, and then walk again. As we moved forward I started increasing the steps. It reached the point where I was running 300 steps at a time. I passed the test with flying colors!

When it was all done, I remembered my experience with Dad. That night I called him up to thank him for that lesson in perseverance. It is one of my best memories of Dad and I love him dearly for it. Throughout my life that lesson has been useful. It helped me pass college algebra. It helped me keep on trying when all I could see was failure in my future. It will help me over the next hill. So, when I hear about parents who get frustrated because their kids won't cooperate, I remember my Dad and determine that if there is one thing I want to pass on to my future students it will be that lesson he gave me so many years ago. Don't quit! And I'll do it the way he did it, not by dragging me along, but by walking with me, side by side.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Keeping JS Company!

Now that JS has taken the Dante's Inferno test I can breath a sigh of relief and post my results. I got Purgatory too, although I am somewhat lustful. Well, thank goodness, I'd hate to have a boring life. I wonder what those last two creatures are.

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Low
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Test

Sunday, November 25, 2007


San's friends have been having fun, she joined in and decided to tag a whole list of folk, including me. :) I'm glad to tag along so...

Two names you go by (besides your given names)?
1) Rinkydink (my dad's nickname for me when I was a child)
2) Sunshine (nickname given by an old flame)

Two things you are wearing right now?
1) Timex Expedition wristwatch
2) Green knit top w/ cowl neck which is one of my favorite winter tops

Two longest car rides?
1) San Antonio, TX to Asheville, NC. It was the first vacation my ex and I took when we were married.
2) The trip to my first boarding school. I was kind of nervous, it would be my first long stay away from home.

Two of your favorite things to do:
1) have a good massage (it's been a while)
2) give a good massage (this too hasn't been done in a while) :(

Two things you want very badly at the moment:
1) a digital camera
2) a good nap to get rid of my headache

Three animals you have or have had:
1) Sissy Puppy Paws - dog my parents had when I was a child
2) Sam the Siamese - first cat, also when I was a child
3) Hyram & Hooboo - cats I have now

Three things you ate today:
1) breakfast at church consisting of a donut, a banana, and coffee
2) coffee before church along with several daily pills
3) it's too early for me to have eaten anything else

Two things you are doing tomorrow:
1) See my PC
2) wash some clothes

Two favorite holidays:
1) Christmas
2) Thanksgiving

Two favorite beverages:
1) Coffee with Irish Cream
2) Glass of cold milk (w/ Oreos)

I tag: Susan Palwick
David at authorblog
anyone else who wants to play along.

Weekend Wandering Response: Answer My Cellphone Where?!

David McMahon, in his Weekend Wandering post asks the following question: Have you ever answered or made a call on a cellphone while you were in a toilet? (Or even wanted to and thought better of it!)

My first thoughts were, why the cellphone? You can do this on regular portable home phones too. But perhaps it was asked about cell phones because they have a much better pickup on their microphones since they are often used in noisy areas like airports, restaurants, or moving cars.
Then I wondered why he'd ask something so personal. Maybe it was a guys question? Whatever the reason, I don't spend that much time on my cellphone but as a subject for a discussion on phone etiquette it is excellent. So, here's my answer.

If it is a business call it won't last long enough for this type of incident, and I certainly wouldn't pick it up unless I was headed out of the necessary. Just call back quickly and apologize, explaining you were busy. If it was a friend I'd also decline to pick up until I was headed elsewhere, this is assuming a public location. If I'm at home however, it's a different case. My best friends tend to call and talk for a really long time, sometimes two hours or more. If I need to do that kind of thing, especially if it is their dime, I just discretely let them know or find a way to let it not be known. They've certainly done the same thing to me. I'd rather embarrass myself by acknowledging a bodily function than to be rude to a friend who'd called and ask to interrupt our conversation.

And now I'm going to try that method Terry told us about to make a backlink. If it works this will be all the notification you get. If it doesn't I'll have to comment elsewhere. Update: It worked! :) Yay, Terry!!!


Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Good Use for Solitude

It was my turn to do Morning Prayer (MP) today. I like doing it because it helps me start the day, or the week, right. At my church, it's usually a solitary event. That's because we do it early in the morning and no one in their right mind would think of getting ready for work early just to attend. At least not if they weren't the officiating LEM.

The weather is cold and nasty down here this weekend. We have rain and temperatures in the low 40's. Inside the sanctuary, although it was nice and warm, I couldn't completely escape the weather. During the service I would hear the rain picking up force as it beat a soft tattoo on the roof. It was a quiet, intermittent reminder that it was just me and God in there.

When I do MP there's a set pattern I follow. Upon entering the alarm needs to be turned off. Then I walk down the hall and turn on the sanctuary lights. These take a while to come fully on so, while that's happening, I walk a circuit of the sanctuary turning off the outside lights. Then it's into the vesting room for a copy of the prayer list. That in hand, I head over to the acolytes bench, drop my gear on the cushions, and set up the books for the service (it takes 3). Once that's done, I go back into the hall, get the matches, and light the candles. Just before starting, I kneel at the altar railing for a moment to collect my thoughts.

After MP is done, I backtrack turning off the sanctuary lights and signing the log book on the way out. Today however, it was my Altar Guild team's turn to do set up. They weren't going to be at the church till later. I didn't really know when they were arriving because Carol Ann forgot to tell me. She just asked if I could help with the 8:00 AM service.

Because the weather was nasty, I wasn't thrilled about the idea of driving home and coming back. I'm still in training and not supposed to do anything unsupervised, but Carol Ann had said she has faith in me. So today I broke from that routine. We have a notebook with very complete instructions and I decided to step my way through them to see if I could figure things out. Maybe it's just me, but sometimes I do better when I'm all on my own. Such was the case today.

So, after I put out the candles I'd lit for MP, I opened the sacristy and got started. First, I went down the list and took out everything I knew how to find. Then, I went looking and found the other stuff. After that, I started putting it all together. If you've ever done altar guild then you already know that you have to count wafers, measure water and wine, put together chalices, and lay out cloths and other paraphernalia. By going up and down the list several times I think I got everything done and in the right place. The only confusing part came when I couldn't remember which direction North and South were. I had to use my watch compass to figure out where to put the boxes of hearing devices. This all took me a little under two hours.

The home communion kits were left for someone else to do. I've never done them and by this time I was getting pretty hungry. There is also this huge robe/poncho thing (I don't remember what it's called) that the priest wears during communion. That was supposed to be placed over the rail. I forgot to do that, but I've seen it done just before service too so I'm not worried. I left a note telling whoever showed up what was done and to please double check my work. Then I went home.

It gave me a warm feeling thinking someone might have some extra time for themselves because the work was done. I hope there wasn't anything that needed fixing. And now, if I did it all correctly, I can say, "I'm trained." (G) Or at least in the major part of it. I should still learn how to do the home kits but that can come later. Happy Saturday all!


Friday, November 23, 2007

Shawl Pictures

JS and her family invited me to Thanksgiving dinner at their place. I had a great time. My contribution to the meal was green bean casserole. One set of grandparents was visiting so I got to meet some of her family. We all played games, ate a great meal, and watched the Detroit - Green bay game.

Between games of memory tiles and dominoes, JS broke out the kids digital cameras and took some pictures of me in the shawl Susan made. I'm not that photogenic but I hope the shawl shows up nicely.

These were taken in their kitchen using two different cameras. I need to see if I can't get me one like theirs. The nice thing about the kids cameras, besides the price, is they plug into the computer using a USB cable. No fancy card reader to buy. That would work really well for me. Earlier this year I bought a USB cable so that I could use my new pocket drive. I have an older machine which doesn't have front port access.

As I mentioned in an earlier post the shawl's color is hard to describe. It changes depending on how you are looking at it. That's the reason it looks like two different shades of blue in the upper and lower picture. The vanity in me wishes I'd spent a little more time primping before we took them. Oh well, we can't look good all the just isn't like that.

So there you are! The shawl and me. :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Shawl and Ohmygosh!

Yesterday, Christmas came early. The shawl Susan knitted for me arrived. It came in this big box and I rushed inside with it. Upon opening it the first thing I saw was 2 kitty toys. Susan had graciously thought of my feline family and included gifts for Hyram and Hooboo. Next was this large, silky, purple bag of lavender. Wonderful fragrance surrounded me! Finally a layer of tissue and there was the shawl, lying neatly folded beneath it. It's a beautiful blue with hints of green and lavender. The exact shade is hard to label because Susan used a variegated yarn which creates a unique blend. When I put it on it fit nicely around my shoulders with a little extra to hold onto. The whole thing has a nice feel to it and the pattern she used gives it substance. With the shawl wrapped around me I went to view myself in the mirror. Women in shawls look ladylike and romantic. I'm delighted!

With the shawl still around me, no way was I taking it off, I sat down to open the kitty toys. They came with catnip to put inside. The first one was a frog and once assembled I tossed it to Hooboo, who'd been napping in front of the sofa. He bounced up, looked at it suspiciously, took a good sniff, grabbed it, and immediately rolled over on his back where he tried to dismantle it with his hind feet. OK...that was a success! (g) Then I put the lamb together and took it into Hyram who was sleeping on top of my chest of drawers. Waking him gently I put the toy in front of him. He sniffed it and kept on sniffing. Then he started giving it some licks along with those, "oh this smells wonderful" sniffs. Success with kitty gift number two! (g)

The bag of lavender has ties which are loops of ribbon, so it was meant to be hung pomander style. Into the closet it went. Now my clothes will smell wonderful and soothing. Susan tells me lavender discourages moths so I'm doubly glad for the bag.

With the shawl still on, although pushed a bit higher because, as Susan suspected, it's a bit warm for my climate right now, I sat down to email her. Then I wrote a couple of friends to brag about how lovely it looked. JS has agreed to help with the digital photos. So, I'm taking it with me to her place for Thanksgiving. If the pictures are clear I'll post them when I get home.

In the mean time, I'd like to thank Susan once again for her amazingly generous gift of time, effort, and love. When it comes to friends, I am blessed to count her as one!

Peace! Hope! & Joy! and Happy Thanksgiving!


I forgot to mention the lovely card Susan included with the gifts. (sheepish grin) That was a gift in itself. It was practically a letter as she used both sides of the card to write. The front of it has this lovely artwork that looks like a hand painted watercolor. It was signed by the artist. Of course she wished me well in it and sent love for me and mine. Care directions for the shawl were included. The thing that dropped my jaw was that she even gave me a guarantee. If the shawl ever falls apart she has promised to knit me a new one. Wow! Susan, I love you too!!! Thank you!


Sunday, November 18, 2007

My All-Time Favorite Quiz

Everybody seems to be posting links to quizzes to take. They come up with really great ones. But, a long time ago I took a test that just had me laughing in delight. It was the How Old is Your Inner Child? quiz on Quizilla. There aren't many questions in it. The answers allow you to use your imagination. You feel good about yourself at the end. How much better could a quiz get? So, to take the quiz go here.

How Old is Your Inner Child?

My inner child is six years old!

Look what I can do! I can walk, I can run, I can read! I like to do stuff, and there's a whole big world out there to do it in. Just so long as I can take my blankie and my Mommy and my three best friends with me, of course.
Take this quiz!

Friday, November 16, 2007

And Now the Results of the Movie Test

This one I took three times. Each time was longer than before and each time got different results. Apparently my answers are borderline. The first time I took it the results said, Wuthering Heights. The next time they said, Schindler's List. The last time was with 45 questions and you can see the results below. A lot of the questions on this test and the previous one are the same. If you get bored with repetition take them in a short version.

My Results on the Leaders Test

You can take this test in various lengths. I took it twice. The first time it had 27 questions, the next time it had 45. Both times the results were the same. I knew I was a perfectionist, didn't know Gandhi was one.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pleasant Things to Come Home To

Wow, while I was out working everyone else was home happily blogging away. San put up 2 wonderful posts each accompanied by an exquisite painting. David shared one of the best pictures I've seen on his blog.

What was I doing for work? Not much and it lasted less than an hour. A company I do business with is doing advertising research and I was asked to sit in on a focus panel. There were 3 of us in this particular group. We talked about the company and then discussed some ads and how we felt about them. It was kind of fun. I've taken online surveys before but this was my first live panel. For my time and opinions I got paid very well. More than I'd make for a full day of substitute teaching. This was a pleasant experience and I'd be glad to do it again.

Looking over at JS's blog I see she has been posting tests again. Looks like there are two more I need to take. Movies and World Leaders huh? This should be interesting. (G)


Two New Links

Two new links have been added to my sidebar.

One is under Photography labeled Nick Brandt. I discovered his work while stumbling. Brandt does some amazing photographs of animals. If the link doesn't work for you please let me know. I use Firefox and have to open it in IE Tab mode because it uses Macromedia Flash.

The other one belongs to a new friend, David McMahon's authorblog. David's blog is one of the friendliest out there. He's a journalist/author/photographer who, in addition to keeping us entertained with his photographs and fun sense of humor, tries to help others find success in doing the same things he does so well. Now that's a nice guy!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I Took the What kind of Liberal are You? Quiz

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Peace Patroller, also known as an anti-war liberal or neo-hippie. You believe in putting an end to American imperial conquest, stopping wars that have already been lost, and supporting our troops by bringing them home.

That rather surprised me. I'd known I wasn't in favor of our present involvement but I also thought I was more ecologically oriented than I am. So sure of my own self determination was I that I tried the test several times changing one or two answers each time. The results were still the same. Oh well, I guess peace might save us tons of money so that we could start using it towards healing the ecosystem.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Response to Weekend Wandering

David McMahon of authorblog asks the following question: How would you cope if you had no way to use the Internet for a week?

You mean after I went frantic? The web is my chosen tool for communication, banking, bill paying, appointment setting, entertainment, and encyclopedia. Sometimes it is even my muse in that it gives me ideas on what to write about. When my computer goes down I rush to get it fixed. This isn't as easy as it once was. My favorite computer guru is often too busy to deal with my problems anymore. Thank goodness I have a nice stable machine.

If I couldn't do the things I do on the web I'd have to revert to the old fashioned methods. I'd pick up my phone and call people, maybe drive over to see them face to face. I'd pay bills by check and postage. I might have to go to the store to buy things I needed. Life wouldn't be as quickly accomplished as it is now. Things might slow down. I'd have to plan ahead more. Paying by web is instant, by snail mail isn't and you have to trust the generosity of companies to honor the postage dates. Thankfully most companies still honor those. To get entertained I'd have to read, something I do anyway, or watch TV. It used to be considered graceful and gracious to communicate by hand written letters and cards. In many cases it still is. I'd miss the frequency of emails from friends so I think my phone bill might rise or my calling hours would change (cell anytime minutes).

Would I like being webless? No! Could I manage? Yes, I was born when there wasn't any web. Would I be happy? That's hard to say. I worked for many years in the Information Processing industry. Some of my friends use me as a resource to tell them how to do things on their computers that I learned many years ago. Its a source of interaction but not our only one. My friend might be just as frustrated as I would be. Conversation would probably focus on the sudden lack of web.

Mind you the question was only for a week. If the webless state extended beyond that the communications industry might have to step into the hole and create the ways of using technology that we now take for granted. Imagine AT&T providing camera phones when we are used to doing that for ourselves on our computers. Video calls would be very expensive. The world might have to get innovative with other forms of technology...satellites might get more usage than they do now. Would TVs get cameras? In all of the technology questions this is raising in my mind one thing that has nothing to do with technology stands out. Would people be more polite to each other if instant gratification through the web was no longer available?

Peace! Hope! & Joy!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Aural Memories - 100 words

Saved messages on the answering machine. Message one, "Atta girl!" My old friend deby. Now deceased but long remembered. Voice gravelly. Just like mine. Total approval. No qualifiers. Guarded like it was gold! Message two, "Lee, this is Abbie McLennon, You're Lay Eucharistic minister for Sunday. This is your first time. Congratulations!" Shy smile. Someone noticed. Also treasured. The memory of a mile stone. The start of service. Aural memories. Wishing for a way to preserve them against possibility of loss. Praise digital clarity, they're as clear as the day they were recorded. Synaptic responses bring visual memories. Smiling heart.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Celtic Mass Impressions - 100 words

Celtic Mass, different, meaningful, wonderful prayers. So many prayers. Anglican Rosaries come to mind. Trying to fit phrases with beads, now being seen in some songs, wondering, "Will cadence work?" Songs, soloist, synergy. Efforts with others to make harmony from strange melodies. Four gates open to usage. Four directions to go in and go out. Which direction will I take? Will you be there? Friend. Circle. Reaching up. Bread served with love. Quenching wine. Five priests, five servants, five sayers. One speaker with humor. One voice from another land, enchanting, encouraging. Beautiful face, harmonious spirit which calls. Soul reaching out.

Monday, November 05, 2007

In Support of Right Brain - Left Brain

JS's post of the Right Brain - Left Brain test really got me thinking. I went to the website and played with the spinning image and the text. What I found out was that if I looked at the text on the side of the page and let my brain become aware of the spinning image out of the corner of my eye I could occasionally see a change in the direction of spin. This intrigued me enough to try it several times. I wasn't always successful. It seems that the more I tried to look at the image the more right brained I became. But if I worked at reading the text I became left brained. That will probably be food for thought later. Surely this has something to do with how children learn to read and maybe there are ways to use the right brain - left brain thing to help them be more successful at it.

This morning on "Meditations for Women" the weekly article was about, you guessed it, being right brained or left brained. The article told of a story the author had read about how a woman who worked out of her home had found her daughter's art supplies in the kitchen before she went to her office and started to work. She sat down and started playing with the glitter, markers and other supplies for about 30 minutes. Then she got up and went into her office and started to work. At the end of the day she was amazed at how much she had gotten done. The creative activity at the beginning of the morning had helped her kick into full right brain mode. She decided to do it every morning and she attributed her success to the practice of 30 minutes of creative activity. The author of the article said she tried the same thing with similar results. She also commented that a friend of hers who is very creative and needs to be more analytical will do something structured...she counts tiles in the ceilings when she needs to turn on the logic juices.

So...maybe that is something I can use in my work. Maybe you can too. I wonder if writers, like my friend Susan, do this kind of thing when they get writers block? There may be entire studies out there on how to use strategies to activate the necessary side of your brain when you need it. If so I haven't read them, but I can see the potential. Yet another sign of being right brained. (G)

Peace! Hope! & Joy!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Update on Pete's Pond

While sharing this link with a friend I discovered that you can change the viewing mode. I'd been seeing greenish night stuff. When you put your cursor over the screen of the webcam a couple of icons pop up. You can then select Real Theatre mode. This mode lets you do full screen or you can set it for small size and then stretch the view. I also get better color in theatre mode. Instead of the weird green lighting I get shades of brown. Worth trying. I can't wait for tomorrow morning to check on the daytime view.


A Gift That's Kept on Giving

Earlier this year, my sister gave me a subscription to Spirituality & Health magazine. It has turned out to be a blessing. Coming out only every two months, this thin magazine has between its covers articles from Thomas Moore who wrote Care of the Soul, suggestions on how to open yourself up to the spiritual moments in your life, ways to live healthier, goals for a better life, all of that and more. The latest edition just arrived and among the titles are an article on How to Die Laughing and another on how to relieve stress. I'm going to focus on the relieving stress.

The very short quarter page article is entitled, "Feeling Stressed? Peek at These Wildlife Webcams". I've looked at web cams before. Some of them are very interesting. We have several in San Antonio that can be accessed via the web. One notable one here in town gives you a view across the center of downtown. The city's webcams however, don't show wildlife. They often show haze. Animals are so much more fun.

The webcams listed in the article totaled nine. Not all of them worked. Here are the ones that did work.

Pete's Pond is from the National Geographic website. When I accessed it there was lots of green, bird and animal sounds. From the shaking of the camera, I suspect an animal was rubbing up against it. Shortly I saw some kind of deer arrive to drink.

The Outer Bay Cam was the next one that would work. I saw lots of fish swimming in water that was tinted pinkish purple by the light. Some of them were sharks. Sharks swim in a beautiful lazy manner until they need to move fast. It can be mesmerizing.

The Tiger Cub Cam at the National Zoo is full of information on the tigers. Although the tigers weren't active when I visited the website they will be at other times. There are plenty of other animal cams there also.

The Sandhill Crane cam is temporarily offline but will be up again early next year thanks to National Geographic.

The Wolf Cam at Bays Mountain Park in Kingsport,TN is pretty. I didn't see any wolves when I visited but there are probably select watching times.

The Peregrin Falcon Cam at the Standard & Poor Building in Manhattan was offline. They promise to be back online next spring. I've been to that cam when it was online. Yes you can see real falcons.

For a generally fun time and lots of animals at almost anytime of day I recommend Pete's Pond. If there is technology in the classroom I eventually teach in I'll take my students on a safari to Africa and let them write about what they see. Mixing science and geography with writing. Yes!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Moving Days!

We are moving the church services back into the sanctuary today. The repairs are almost done and the pews and carpeting look so much better. There is still some painting going on so the place smells a bit like paint but that will be gone shortly.

Altar Guild members came in and started to work getting the place clean and ship shape as early as 9 AM. When I got there about 10 AM there were a couple of people at work. More showed up slowly. I think every one will be trickling in all day as their individual time allows.

So far we've dusted the pews and woodwork including the altar, narthex and southex shelves, the pipe organ, and the window rails. The kneeling pillows have been put back in place around the altar rail. While all of this was going on our sextant was vacuuming. A good start has been made towards putting books back into the pews. Even our pastor showed up to put his garb back into the correct closet and make sure all his shawls and what not are in the right place. From the way things are going we should be all moved back in by day's end. Tomorrow a team will be setting up for Sunday services in the sacristy. They will enjoy having a ceiling fan in there. It makes it much more comfortable.

Our flags have been put back on their poles and will be in place by the time the 8 AM service rolls around. Our Altar Guild head is ex military, as am I, and we worked at getting those symbols back on correctly. She had taken them home and washed them. It was a trip down memory lane watching her roll the flags and take a pair of scissors and trim off the occasional "Irish pennant". I've no idea why loose string ends are called that, I learned the name in the military.

You can already tell how much better the sanctuary looks. The woodwork gleams. Working on the sanctuary makes you feel good. When you get down on your hands and knees to dust inside the trays that hold the hymnals you learn a lot about the pews you sit in every Sunday. I'd never given them much thought before today. Now I know where all the dust nooks and crannies are and which legs weren't completely bolted to the floor. I also know which pew has a small slit in the wood where two boards were pieced together. Usually there is a nice glue plug, but for some reason there wasn't one on one pew. I don't think it affects anything. It is just that I know it's there and will always wonder about it. After all the work I did in there today it feels more like home, like I own a piece of it. I have vested labor in it and have come away rewarded.

On Sunday morning, I'll show up a little early because my team is doing set up for this weekend. I was asked if I could help on Wednesday night when we are holding a Celtic Mass. This is a really big deal and we want everything to be perfect for it. I have friends who may be coming into town to see this so I had to give a tentative "no." But if they cancel on me, as they did the last time I invited them, then I'll definitely show up to help.

Tomorrow I'm headed over to a friend's house to help her family clean up after their move to an apartment. This is only the first of several moves they will be making over the next few years. I don't envy them the task of packing up again and again. The only good thing about that is you get to keep your clutter to a minimum if you are smart about it. I may be moving myself in April. I need a less expensive apartment and will probably be ready to find one by then. A couple of weeks ago I signed a new lease on the one I'm presently living in. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Rents are going up in San Antonio and the new lease kept my rent from rising drastically. So, if you dislike moving and all that unpacking as much as I do please keep me in your prayers. It would be really nice to not have to move.

All grumbles about moving aside, there have been some good things that came out of my church's temporary move out of the sanctuary. We learned the joys of coziness when doing the Healing Eucharist service on Wednesday nights in the church library. We also learned the pleasure of standing in a line and walking up to our pastor to receive communion instead of him going around the rail. We had the joy of sidewalk cafe dining while the weather was nice. Now we will be able to enjoy once again the wonderful meals our breakfast teams prepare for us every Sunday morning. Change is life and sometimes, life can be good!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

They're Done!

For the upcoming week I felt I should write lesson plans for each subject. It is supposed to be the start of my full teach, a three week period in which I take over as much of the classroom responsibilities as possible. My CT hasn't been indicating that she is ready to let me do this and after checking with my supervisor I discovered that this is actually OK. She and I can team teach if she feels it is in her students best interest. But, since she gave me the chance to show what I could do with the day she is to be absent, I decided to go ahead and make lesson plans for the entire week just in case she decides to let me teach everything.

So, after working on this for the past 2 days, all lesson plans are complete. At least they are on the submission form. I have the required two 5E lesson plans included. Actually I think I have 3 of them. Now I can rest a little bit. I still have to think about the questions and expectations I need to give the children. Also if I need any extra supplies or media readied in advance. But some of that has already been done. I've been waking up in the middle of the night again dreaming of giving lessons and talking to the students. Wow, I wonder if I am ever going to reach a point where I don't do that. I'm not sure I want a career where I don't get a good night's sleep for the rest of my life. I'm kidding! I think that after a few years I'll be very good at teaching and able to do the job with much more ease than I have now. My confidence will grow as my cache of strategies and understanding of how my students learn best increases. :)

And for the next few hours before I go to bed, I'm going to treat myself to a bit of well deserved rest and recreation. I'm not sure if I want to read, watch a movie, watch TV or just veg on a computer game. But...I know I'm going to do something fun.

In addition to the regular lessons I was also assigned to come up with a fun art activity. I based my choice on what I saw at the Fall Festival we held on Friday. What I plan on doing is teaching the kids the term "avatar" and have them decide what they would like for one and then draw it. I'll probably get a lot of transformers and princesses but still those are their dreams and what they want to be when they go out into the world. So I think it will be fun for them. I'll print out and take in two copies of different ones I've used for myself to give them a visual example. I hope it will be fun.

Peace, Hopes for a great Monday & Joy that I can now rest for a few!

New Meditation Link

I was looking for some peace this morning and started browsing through my own meditation links. Hamish Fulton seemed to be soothing but also not quite what I wanted. It was just a little too busy for my present need. So I went to handy old Google and typed in Meditation. Now my Google has Stumble Upon links to show what pages others have liked and a friend of mine had reported on two as being helpful in his meditation practices. So I went to them. The first was just a page on how to meditate and looked rather nice but not what I wanted. Then I found his Zen link.

Zen is a cool little website whose purpose is to teach you the beginnings of Zen and meditation. It is interactive and you just click your way through it. You should allow pop-ups for this site because they are part of the instruction and not harmful in any way. I found a couple of them amusing. Have your speakers on because this site also has sounds, such as those you might notice only in meditation and also a really nice gong you get to strike at the end of the process. I found this site soothing and helpful. There is even a short part on breathing where you can practice. If you are looking for a peaceful site please go check this one out. The link is on my side bar under Meditation at the top, "Zen".


Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Somewhat Nervous Time

My CT is going to be absent on Monday. When I spoke with her about it last week I made a promise and also got some directions. I promised her that if she told me what she wanted done it would get done. That's pretty reasonable. I actually expected a list of directions. Last time she was absent she wrote out 2 or 3 pages worth. This time she gave me just one page and told me to come up with activities for Reading, Math and Art. Wow! That's handing over responsibility. My stomach is tight again, I'm thinking nonstop about what I need to do. And I woke up thinking about giving a lesson again. A sure sign that the stress is on.

Math won't be too hard. The teacher who wrote the lesson plans gave an activity and it was fairly easy. The kids need practice doing place value settings. I'll just follow the lesson plan.

For Reading I chose a story from the basal text and asked her if they had done it. They hadn't so, we are reading "The Legend of the Persian Carpet." The book has lots of ideas to work with. I may use a few for a little direct teach, but most of it is going to be practice. I'm thinking characters, settings, and sequencing with cause and effect. Example: Tell me 3 things that happened on these 5 pages and for each thing that happened tell me why it happened. I think I'll break them into their reading groups to read the 5 pages. That means I have to manage 3 groups from one spot because the weakest group works with me at the table. The other 2 groups are on the floor at different ends of the room. Note to self: query children on the directions after you give them.

For the Art activity she requested in the afternoon I'm going to have them do an acrostic poem on their name and then publish it on a half sheet of manila paper and illustrate the poem. I asked the kids I sat in with during recess yesterday if that would be a fun activity and they said yes.

So this weekend I'll be writing lesson plans and rehearsing what I want to do and say. What my CT did, when she left me in charge of these things, I see as a vote of confidence and a challenge. I want to do well and am determined to put forth my best efforts. I just wish my stomach didn't hurt quite so much over the wanting of it all to go right. Prayers for calm and that all goes well would be appreciated.

Peace! Hope! & Joy!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Another Puzzle to Share

Jigzone had another cute kid appropriate puzzle today and I feel like sharing it. As a reminder if you go to the web page to work it you can change the number of pieces and also their shapes to make it more fun and challenging or easier. Hope you or your kid enjoys this one - Butterfly.

Click to Mix and Solve

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pleasant Close to the Day

The school library is setting up for the twice annual book fair. I think that teacher browsing starts tomorrow but lots of folk are sneaking in, as I did, to check out the shelves. While I was wandering through the place I ran into a student and her mother. The child had been in the kindergarten class that I worked with when I was doing my first set of "approaches" which is to say I got to gain experience in a classroom and teach 2 or 3 lessons.

We said, "Hi!" and the little girl, not quite so little now, remembered me as the lady who read "The Dragons Are Singing Tonight" by Jack Prelutsky. This is one of my all time favorite children's books and it always delights the kids too. They ask for certain poems over and over again. It felt really nice to be remembered for this. The child told me she had heard it not only in kinder but also first grade. Then the mother mentioned that they had borrowed a copy from someone else too just to read at home. This felt so good that I took care to thank the child specifically for remembering me that way and told her how good it had made me feel. We all smiled then and went on our ways.

It probably isn't an everyday occurrence when something like that happens. But, I hope that, as I become a teacher and get to work more and more with children, this type of moment will continue to happen. It was a really nice way to end the day. I left with a smile on my face and in my heart.

Joy all!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Almost Day

Sunday I missed church. All 3 sessions of it. I woke up stressed from struggles with student teaching. I decided I needed to work on lesson plans rather than go to the early service because I had plans on attending the later, 4:00 PM, dedication of our labyrinth. During the morning I did some lesson plan writing, tried to eat (somewhat unsuccessfully), and cleaned up my apartment. It is much less cluttered now.

There was supposed to be a new friend coming down from Austin to get together with me at the dedication but God had other plans. The friend called and canceled for the best of reasons, financial survival. And it turned out he was right to do so. God put in his path 2 jobs for the afternoon and he made some much needed cash from this. I'm thinking that God had other reasons for this too.

After the cancellation call from my new friend I took a nap. It was about 3 or 4 hours long. It didn't help with the stress but it did give me more energy to express it. I then called 3 people looking for support and was rewarded with responses on all counts. My friend JS's wife called and we chatted briefly but she is dealing with her own energy stuff thanks to a cold. I still appreciate her calling and listening for a bit. Thanks! My friend Jerry, a nurse, called and gave me a pep talk and some good advice. After his call I took an extra anti-anxiety pill, a hot bath, and a cup of tea. I was then able to finish working on the plans I had neglected for most of the day. That evening as I was getting into bed my sister returned my call too. She gave me some more good advice and loving emotional support. She has been where I am and knows how hard it is to grow in a situation you are having a hard time with.

Now that's a new, but echoing JS's, response to perseverance. It is indeed as hard as hell but I'm keeping on. I can't do anything else. To do less would be to admit and accept defeat. It's scary but sometimes I see bits of things I'm proud of. Now if only I could get that long vision to shine like those little moments of pride. :)

Peace & Hope everyone! And Thanks for the support my friends!

Oh, the reason I titled this The Almost Day is because everything I attempted "almost" got done...never completely finished but almost is still progress. It is also a bit of frustration with myself showing my own perfectionism. I really need to stop doing that. God has been showing me lessons against perfectionism for over a year now. Time to move one from that message. Ah well, changes come hard. :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Puzzling Scripture

Based on a post written by Martin, I'm revisiting an old assumption/belief that I acquired concerning the sanctity of unbelievers. The scripture in question is in 1 Corinthians 7: 12 through vs 14. And it is in vs 14 that I run into a problem between me and what I'm assuming is mainstream thinking.

You see the verses in question talk about marriage to a unbeliever or one how isn't Christian. But it cautions the believer to stay married to the unbeliever because the unbeliever is sanctified by his marriage to the believer and their children are considered holy too because of this union. If they don't stay marred the children become unclean.

I've always assumed this was an extension of the goodness of God towards those who are loved by the believer whether they believed or not. I'm sure there are all other kinds of structured rules such as who in the family is responsible for those under him/her be they slave, servant, or children, and so on.

It seems to me that if the children and their father are holy because of their connection to a believer then perhaps it can go farther. Perhaps anyone who is loved by a believer is in a state of grace as long as the relationship exists. No one can guarantee this is or isn't so. The scriptures don't exactly say, or at least no to my uneducated years. But if God loves us, and he loves those in our family that we love, then what's to say he doesn't love anyone we love and are busy praying for. I don't think this stops with immediate family. I'm not even sure that it stops with those we consider extended family. What I do think is that if you are in love with and loved by a Christian, then you are given a grace which will make your life better and, more importantly, make it into heaven.

Now, I'd love to hear other people's opinions on this subject. I don't profess to be all knowing or even scholarly. But if you have an agreement or argument and scripture or really sound logic to hold it up then I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Peace! Joy! & Hope!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Riffing With My Friends

Riff-Raff Tag-about

Original: Vineyard, Root, Rescue, Perseverance, Divided

Vineyard: Memories of scraggly plants in dry soil seen while on vacation as a child. Thoughts of sour wine when a winery didn't have good grapes planted in the vineyard. Also the movie "A Walk in the Clouds" which is one of the most romantic movies I've ever seen.

Root: the root word of a multisyllabic word which has a prefix and a suffix. Longest word I know is "antidisestablishmentarianism" which was popular among the hippies in the 70's. It impressed me simply because it had so many letters and I was actually able to decode it without looking in the dictionary because I had been listening when they gave us roots, prefixes, and suffixes in English class. The reason I listened was because I liked Greek mythology and there were lots of Greek and Latin words in these lessons. If you want to look at it a different way when I learned this word I was rooting about in the letters, and meanings. (g)

Rescue: a sometimes word. Sometimes you should rescue and sometimes you shouldn't.

Perseverance: sticking to it. Doing it till you get it right. Fortitude and/or stubbornness. Determination!

Divided: my feelings about spelling in 3rd grade right now. Kids did horrible on Friday's spelling test. I checked the words in the sentences I used online. They seem to be in line with appropriate grade level vocabulary. I repeated each sentence at least 7 times. More than half the class failed. I'm wondering what I did wrong and why they didn't get it. I forgot to say, "practice your words at home." Mea Culpa! But some kids did it anyways! Good job! So my question to the class will be, "How can I help you learn to spell the words?". Maybe they will have some ideas. Of course one child is in big trouble with me. She didn't follow the given procedures for a spelling test. She decided to push the limits and only write the word she thought was the spelling word. Sometimes she was right and sometimes she was wrong. Sometimes the word was spelled correctly and sometimes it wasn't. But, whether she spelled the word correctly or not, she got a zero for not following the procedure for taking a spelling test. I plan on keeping her in from recess next week and giving her a sentence to write over and over again. "I will follow the rules in school." Of course this child may say, but you didn't give those directions. I think she should already know the procedure and will be held accountable for doing what she knew she should be doing instead of what she did. The rest of the class did it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Debit Card Fiasco Update

The awful experience of finding my debit card had been charged twice continues. I never heard back from the store on Sunday. So on Monday I called the store the second time and spoke to a different manager. This one looked and couldn't find two charges on his records. He only found one. So at his request I brought down copies of my bank records showing both charges. He believed me and graciously credited back one of the charges. I went home happy and thought that would be the end of it. It wasn't!

When I got home from school today I checked my bank account again expecting to see the charge credited back. It wasn't. I called the store again to see if there was to be some delay in the refund. The manager told me it usually takes about 24 to 48 hours. He asked me to call my bank and see if there was anything coming through. This is where it got horrible.

On contacting the bank I discovered that there wasn't a credit coming through. Instead there was the 3rd time they had tried to run the card and that charge would hit my account tonight. I panicked and asked for the Dispute department. They got on the line and a nice lady told me what was going on. She also told me she didn't see the credit coming in but she could dispute one of the charges for me. I was happy with that idea but also concerned that my account would go overdraft in the mean time. She told me that sometimes companies take a couple of days to credit refunds and sometimes up to 10. That last was totally unacceptable so I asked her if she could call the manager at the store. She said she would. After I gave her the info I had a better idea. Would she set up a 3-way call so that I could talk to him at the same time. She did and he was very gracious about the whole thing. After she explained to him how the 3rd charge would come through tonight, he told me to come down to the store and he would credit the me the other extra charge and hopefully that would take care of matters. I asked the bank lady if they could do anything to insure that my account didn't go overdraft tonight. She said she would make sure that didn't happen. Whew!

We all hung up and I headed straight down to the store. The manager was as good as his word. We both seemed to feel rather sheepish about the whole thing. Refund in hand, I thanked him and left. Home again, I checked my bank records. The lady from the bank had refunded both charges. Whew! My account now has a nice safe balance. The actual transactions will still take a couple of days to hit my bank. No matter how fast electronic banking is, human handling always slows things down. That's fine with me. The manager did his job. The bank lady did hers. I did what I needed to do and am now feeling in control of things somewhat. Yay for knowing who to call and how to deal with this. Boo for having to make 3 trips to the store for one purchase. Oh well, life goes on.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Lucky Shopping Trip....Or Maybe Not

To complete my classroom lessons for the upcoming week I needed some things so I went down to Office Max to get them. One of the things I wanted was some thick construction paper or something else to mount some pictures on. I didn't really want to deal with poster board. I liked the idea of card stock better but it wasn't the right size and was kind of expensive. What I ended up buying wasn't much cheaper but I think it will work wonderfully well. I found in the art supplies a pad of watercolor paper. This is really thick and the dimensions are big enough that I can easily mount a full page magazine photo on it to show the kids. Yay!

When I got to the register they were having trouble running my card through because of network problems. So finally they just ran it and I signed for the stuff. More on that later...

Then I went across the street to Barnes & Noble. I was sort of nervous about going in there because I had just spent a bunch at Office Max, but I had a coupon I wanted to use so I bolstered my courage and went in. As I wandered down the aisle I came across a display that had books for teachers. There was a lady looking at them and I stopped to look and we chatted for a moment. Then I noticed it. Just the book I needed. They had copies of 6 + 1 Writing Traits. The school district I'm student teaching in uses this book. So I slapped my coupon sticker on it and delightedly walked off with a copy. As I thumbed through it I found tons of ideas to write into my lesson plans. Yay! Teaching just got easier!

Then I ran by the grocery store on my way home where I bought some much needed supplies. Some of them were paper products. I've been fighting a cold all last week. I'm finally getting better now. Praise God! My debit card didn't work at the register so I had to use my credit card. I was worried about that because is should have. I hadn't gone over the balance in spending. At least I didn't think I had. I decided I'd check the bank balance online when I got home. On the way out of the store the carryout help turned out to be a real klutz. He ran the cart into the back of my ankle. I wasn't badly hurt but it wasn't a pleasant experience. He tried to make nice all the way back to my car. He even held the door for me and shut it after I got in. Nice kid. Then he tried to take the cart between the cars promptly running it along the door so I have a few new scrapes on the trim. Sigh! They aren't horrible but it doesn't help that I can't afford to get them fixed right now. I hope a good wash and wax will take care of it.

When I got home I checked my banking as I'd promised myself I would. Sure enough, with all the trouble running the card at Office Max the charge had gone through twice. No wonder my card got declined at the grocery store. So I called the store and the manager is going to look into it and see if he can't get accounting to reverse the charge. He is supposed to call me back. I hope he does. If he doesn't I'll have to call my bank and have them take care of it. I'm really lucky to bank with a good one. They've reversed double charges before. It's pretty obvious when the charge is the same amount at the same store and goes through twice within something like 15 to 20 seconds.

All in all it hasn't been a bad day. I found out earlier this week that I can't go to the retreat next weekend. I need to have access to a computer and the web to do lesson plans. They don't have that kind of resource at the retreat and I don't have a laptop to take with me to use the ones they do have. Oh well, I'll take myself on a different retreat later after the enormously stressful semester is over. Hopefully I'll have a job by then or at least the makings of one. Now, I'm going to go and heat up one of my frozen dinners the purchase of which got me a free half gallon of really good ice cream. Yay for sales!

And now that I've gotten this post written I have one more thing to do. Blogger has put up a link on their blog page which plays the pictures that are being loaded to the web in real time. As they so accurately said, "It's pretty cool and endlessly fascinating." I'll put a link on the side bar to it. It will be under the Links heading and will be entitled Play.

Happy Sunday and have a good week all!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Winging It

I was Lay Eucharistic Minister (LEM) at tonight's healing service and it was my first time. Even though I'm familiar with all the other services, I almost never attend the Wednesday Healing Services, so I was totally unprepared for it.

When the priest appeared, shortly after the 6:00 PM starting time, he gave me hurried instructions on what to read. He also gently guided me at certain points in the service. It went fairly smoothly. It wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Instead it had one of those feelings of comfortable familiarity, as in a group of old friends who have known each other for years and don't have a problem with minor changes in the routine. I liked it. So did everyone else.

As I was driving back home after the service it occurred to me that I had "winged it." I knew the general direction I was to go in, but the path I followed was one of faith and God's will. It occurred to me that it was very similar to what was happening in the classroom I'm student teaching in. It is something all teachers experience. We make our lesson plans, prepare our props, script our lines, and when push comes to shove sometimes you just get off script. Things usually work out anyways. You can always go around again in the classroom. So sometimes, as my CT does, I'll be winging it in the classroom. That kind of idea used to make me squirm. I don't feel like that now. In fact, I feel pretty calm. Maybe this experience with the service was a gentle reminder from above to "go with the flow."

Peace! Hope! & Joy!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Repairs on a Church - Repairs on a Life

Because we are doing some much needed renovating of the sanctuary, we have moved our church services to the fellowship hall. We will be there for 6 weeks. A lot of planning and work went into this move. Normally the fellowship hall is used for breakfast this time of year. We serve the best breakfast you can find for the requested offering in town. Now the food has gone continental and so have the dining arrangements. To make room for the chairs in the temporary sanctuary they moved the food outside to the walkway along with tables, chairs and the coffee and whatnot. It is really quite pleasant. The new breakfast area feels like a sidewalk cafe and everyone seems to be enjoying the setting. It doesn't hurt that our gorgeous prayer garden is right beside the walkway and all the lovely trees and water feature keep the place cool and calm. I'm hoping that they take photos of this new arrangement of things and post them on the website.

While at church this morning I got some reassurance from more experienced teachers and friends about my stressful situation at school. I asked and my priest gave me a blessing and a prayer. My friend Ella talked to me about gathering resources among the friends I have both at church and on campus. My Alter Guild head talked to me about how different reality can be from the classroom and she should know, she's a nurse. My friend Wilma, a retired teacher, looked over my basic plans for the first subject which I will pick up in a week and said they were okay and that I seemed to be on the right track. I have enough material that I'm ready to type up something for my CT and will ask her to try to help me gauge if I have enough to fill an hour of teaching time for the subject. I'm supposed to be over prepared for time filling. I've really tried on this. I even downloaded a cute power point presentation on finding the adjective in a sentence which is adding in technology, so I feel fairly well prepared. Friday's are the assessment day and I have a 10 question quiz in mind with an extra point question which will let each student take off one wrong answer if they attempt it and get it right. So going to church this morning was definitely the right thing to do. I feel much better. And that's enough sentences starting with the "I" word. Peace, Hope & Joy and may you have a Happy Sunday.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Latest in Car Repairs

At 9:00 today I went down to the dealership, cold and all, and turned over the keys to my car. About an hour later they come and tell me that it is a couple of codes dealing with the emission system. The bill would run $279 but they would give me a 10% discount. I was very grateful for the reduction in price. With tax that turned out to be the entire amount. So once again the check engine light is back off and we will wait and see if it comes on again.

I really hope it doesn't. This past month I've spent just over $1000 on this little warning light. I know that if I keep the car in good running condition it will save me money. I just wish all of this would happen when I'm working again and not student teaching for free.

I'm back home now and getting ready to head to bed. San, I took your advice and brought something fun to read with me. I never got around to that book though because I first worked a sudoku and then started putting together lesson plan ideas. At least I have something I can put down on paper later. Now the trick will be to make those single ideas into a weeks worth of lessons...with more than just one activity per lesson. Keep those prayers ascending please.