Saturday, June 30, 2007

I did it again!!! :-)

Today's mail brought a letter from the University congratulating me for making the Part-time Student Dean's List. Yay for good grades!

It wasn't always that way. When I was a young kid in college for the first time I made mediocre to horrible grades. It seemed as if I was constantly on Scholastic Probation. Part of that was the learning curve of needing to be responsible for making it to all my classes and getting all my assignments done. Once I found a major I loved my grades picked up until I was just about ready to graduate. Even then they hovered around average.

That was 30+ years ago. Now days I make straight A's in classes that are much harder than anything I tackled back then. What changed? Several things. A big one is my level of maturity. I've realized, and responded to, the need to work hard for what I want. Another part is I've acquired some goals. Determination to reach them is a key ingredient in being willing to go the extra mile. Additionally, I'm being challenged in my course work. This is incredibly stimulating and I'm always delighted when I meet that challenge with something that works really well. Last but not least, a few years ago I was diagnosed as being ADD. Having learned that, I was able to determine what I needed in order to succeed. One of the things I needed was to be on medication. That isn't a popular choice with many parents for various reasons. They have reasonable concerns but I won't go into them now. For me, medication was a lifesaver. Suddenly I went from trying to tackle my studies in 10 to 15 minutes increments (the amount of time I could maintain focus) to being able to concentrate and stay on-task for 2.5 hours. Yep...15 minutes to 150 minutes. That is a HUGE factor in academic success. All of this has combined to make me successful as a student and to have hopes of realizing my dreams.

Even knowing all that, making straight A's is still an awesome feeling. Every time I get a good report card I dance the happy dance. Yay for success! Peace out!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rain, Rain and More Rain

It's raining in the Texas Hill Country! It's raining all the way up to Oklahoma. There have been reports of flash flooding and 20 inches of rain in Marble Falls. It's raining here in San Antonio right now! Looking out my patio doors, I see water coming down heavily and being blown sideways onto my patio. The prediction is there's more to come. The images on the left are of Perdnales Falls, a lovely place in the Hill Country. The first one is of the falls at normal levels. The next one was taken 5 minutes later. That's flash flooding!

The stray cat living on my patio doesn't seem to like the weather much. The patio area is dry except for the occasional gusts of rain which get blown under the bamboo curtain I use for shade. Right now he is sitting under the rattan chair which is far enough from the porch wall that he probably doesn't get wet at all. He isn't happy about the weather because it is keeping him pinned to one location. So he is yowling occasionally in complaint about the situation.

I love rain. It's my favorite kind of weather. When it's misting I've been known to put on a jacket and walk outdoors. If it's drizzling I have no problem walking with an umbrella. If it is pouring down, as it is now, I do storm watches. This all dates back to my childhood.

When I was much younger, my dad, sister, and I used to do storm watches from our front porch. This was special unexpected fun. We'd put chairs out on the cement part which was barely wide enough to be a walkway. Then we'd all sit and watch the storm come in. First you smelled the water in the air. Then the wind would start to blow the tree tops. The temperature would drop quickly. Soon the entire tree would be waving in the wind. Occasionally, you'd see some lightning across the sky. That only made it better. You could feel the excitement in the air on your skin and the flash of lights was never the same. The huge strikes were awesome! The thunder boomed and you could tell how far away the storm was. Suddenly the weather held its breath for a moment and everything went quiet. It was as if the world was waiting for the music to start. The first raindrops would fall. Big fat ones widely spread apart. As the fall of raindrops picked up you could hear the tattoo on the street and rooftops. It would start pouring down and the trees would go back to whipping wildly and the lightning would once again crash across the sky. Now it was rain! Now it was a storm! God was cleansing the world! And you were there, safe and sound with your dad, watching it all happen.

When the rain started blowing under the eves we would grab the chairs and hurry inside. There we would quickly dry off any water and Mom was always waiting with something warm to drink. Or supper would be ready and waiting on the table. There were sliding glass doors on the back of the house so we could continue to watch the storm while we ate. It was an awesome time!

It isn't so awesome right now for the people in Marble Falls. There have been 11 people killed according to the news reports. I wouldn't wish that on anybody. And it seems as if the Marble Falls people are ill prepared for this type of event. This isn't a tornado. Those have warning systems and you can seek shelter in the center of your house. This is flash flooding (see above images) and there is no place you can get out of the waters way except for your rooftops if it catches you and that happens all too frequently. If you check out the news report I linked to you can also click on some videos that tell horrific tales of this. They show lots of water and cars that have gotten washed down stream, the most impressive of these being a stretch limo with at least 4 windows shoved up against some other cars and a telephone pole.

I admit this is sort of gawking on my part. Growing up in the very flat Rio Grande Valley there wasn't much flooding. Certainly not the kind we get in San Antonio. In fact, the only flood I remember as a child happened because the Rio Grande river overflowed its banks and filled the flood plain between Mercedes and Weslaco, TX in 1967. This happened because of Hurricane Beulah. It actually moved north up the Rio Grande river and brought torrential rains which flooded the river. Not even hurricane Carla (1961), which took down trees, brought that much water. My grandparents lived in Mercedes in 1967 and saw that flood. I lived in Weslaco on the other side of the flood plain and saw it too.

The picture on the left is a scanned newspaper image of the flood before that one in 1922. Among that group of men, standing up to their hips in flood water, is my maternal grandfather. It's one of the few pictures I have of him from before I was born. The building behind him is his Texaco gas station, the only one in Mercedes for many years. If you think you'd like to read the entire small town history report on Mercedes, TX, which that image is a part of, go here. The writing isn't great, it was a college report, but it's the story of my home town.

The rain has stopped outside. The rug on my patio is pretty wet. People are starting to move about. The cat outside would like to come inside. Too bad, he'll have to wait till I can get him to a vet for a checkup and bath. If more rain should come I will be inside safe and dry. I think I'll try to clear off space for a candle to light and keep me and the rain company. And life goes on. Peace, Hope, and Joy!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Personality Types and Spirituality

Psychological profiles seem to be cropping up a lot this month. My Diocese newspaper had an article on personality types and prayer. It tied the Meyer Briggs Types Inventory (MBTI) to different methods of prayer and suggested several for each type. I'm an ESTJ and it was suggested that I would enjoy body prayers in beautiful surroundings. Music was suggested and also incense and candles to create a sensual environment for prayer. This is a very accurate view of how I prefer to pray. When I am in the mood, dancing can be a kind of physical prayer, an exultation of life. Singing can do the same and, for that reason, I'm working hard to bring back some music skills I once had but have sadly let lapse for life style reasons. The Personality and Prayer article came out of a book on the subject, Prayer and Temperament: Different Prayer Forms for Different Personality Types. My PC recognized it when I brought him the article. I may get it someday. In the meantime I have the article to tell me more about something I was already somewhat familiar with...good ways for me to pray.

The other psychological profile came in the form of enneagrams. I'd never heard of them till I had a discussion with my PC on the MBTI. He told me about these and I looked for a page and took a test. The test was free and probably not the entire battery of questions, still I liked the results and learned a little bit more about myself. If you are interested in taking the same test I took go here. There are two different forms of the test on this page. One is the RHETI which may be the oldest version of the enneagram test and someone declared the least accurate (only 65%). I took it anyway. The second form is not labeled except as the New Test by Tal. It has a broader range of answers for you to choose which I thought made the results more personal. It also gives broader ranges of scores in each of the 9 types so it might conceivably be more accurate.

Among the 9 types, I turned out to be a peacemaker. From the page's description, "Peacemakers are receptive, good-natured, and supportive. They seek union with others and the world around them." That pretty much describes me. I'm accepting and accommodating. My secondary type is that of artist/romantic. For this one the site declares, "Romantics have sensitive feelings and are warm and perceptive." Well, I'm not sure about that description but the rest of the page told how to get along with a romantic and what was cool and not so cool about being one. Those bits I did find sensible and pretty much accurate.

Being the good client that I am, I took this new info about myself with me to the latest PC session and learned more. It seems that these types can be used to connect to faith functioning as well as life and social functioning. That was more interesting to me since I am trying to see ways to make my faith work better for me in both private and social areas. My PC gave me a web page which described that in some detail. If you are interested in reading more about that go here.

Did all this new info change me? Not really. But it gave me food for thought and plenty to discuss with friends and PC alike. It also gave me something in common with my sister. She too is a peacemaker. That's nice to know. What can come of all this? Well, if you want you can go find your type and look for ways to use it to make your spiritual life better or more conducive to growth. You can also try to use it to avoid the bad side that each personality seems to have. For me it is enough to learn a bit more about myself and how I function. Plus I plan to use the prayer guide a lot. That part of my life definitely could use some improvement. In the meantime, there is lots of cool stuff out there about enneagrams, and personality types that you can learn and connect to whatever suits you. Go ahead, find your personality type, and explore! And in the nature of my type, "Peace!"

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fighting the Flu Pandemic

My friend, Susan, tagged me to write about the flu pandemic. She finds it a serious subject. Me too! I can catch the flu and have done so lots of times. You can catch it too. It is never a fun thing to have.

Work places are good places to catch the flu. I'm not claiming any prizes for the education system here but schools are some of the best. Every year sick children are sent to school by their parents because the parent can't get a sitter and doesn't want the kid home. Kids don't know from hygiene. They cough and don't cover their mouths. They don't wash their hands frequently. They swap all kinds of things which can carry the flu virus on it. There is a persistent rumor in public schools that new teachers get sick the most frequently. That might be true. My first year in public education I caught cold after cold and at least twice there were flu symptoms.

There are things you can do to prevent the flu. You can get a shot. These used to require a visit to the doctor. Not anymore. I can get mine at the pharmacy at my local grocery store. Yep, run to HEB, pick up milk, bread, and a flu shot. There are free flu clinics if you are a veteran. Just go to your local VA clinic and ask about getting a shot. Lots of intelligent companies now get shots brought in to their employees. Many don't charge for this either as it saves them tons of money in absenteeism.

If you aren't sure where to go get a flu shot the National Lung Association has a web site that will help you find one. Just go here. To help you learn how to prevent the flu the Center for Disease Control has also put together a web site here. If you catch the flu there are some things you can do to help get over it more quickly and lessen the symptoms. Once again the American Lung Association comes to our aid with this web site.

There are lots of other things you can do to help prevent the spread of flu. Get your shot. Wash your hands frequently. This is always a good idea but especially if anyone you come into contact with is sick. Take a good multivitamin so that you don't get sick. My second year in education I took vitamins daily and hardly had a sick day that entire year even though lots of the kids were sick. If you get sick, STAY HOME! Don't go to the office where you can spread it around. Your body needs the rest and your co-workers will appreciate you more for not getting them sick than they will for you coming to work because you think your company can't survive without you.

Now a warning about getting the flu vaccine. Follow the precautions that the experts have announced and advertised. These are vital to your safety. An acquaintance of mine died from her flu shot. She was elderly, had just gotten her shot, and went to take her dance lesson which she loved doing. While on the dance floor with her instructor she collapsed and wasn't able to breath. The really sad thing was that no one at the dance center knew CPR so we were helpless to do much for her till the ambulance arrived. By then it was too late.

All that being said, please take good care of yourself, do what you can to keep from catching the flu and if you find the time and heart to be generous, help someone else get a flu vaccine too. They, God and the rest of the world will thank you for that act of kindness.

Now, in the interest of spreading this information and also in the interest of the health of our children, I tag my good friend JSD because she is a mother and her wife is also a mother and a teacher.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Prayer for today & Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's off to work I go.

Today I start a temporary job. I'll be scoring math tests for one of those major test publishing firms, Harcourt. The job is supposed to last about a week. I'm glad to have something to do and a little money coming in. Yay work!

Looking to start my day with prayer, I went to World Prayers, a new link on my sidebar. There I found the following under Celebrations. Let's all try to do that more.

Prayers of Celebration

Wage peace with your breath.

Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds.

Breathe in terrorists
and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.

Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.

Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.

Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.

Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.

Make soup.

Play music, memorize the words for thank you in three languages.

Learn to knit, and make a hat.

Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief
as the outbreath of beauty
or the gesture of fish.

Swim for the other side.

Wage peace.

Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious:

Have a cup of tea and rejoice.

Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Celebrate today.

wage peace - judyth hill - september 12, 2001

P.S. If you click on the arrow cross above the prayer you will be taken to the World Prayers index of celebration prayers. Please go and have fun looking through this all faith inclusive site.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

More Decluttering and a New Prayer Method

Yesterday, in the process of putting together a grocery list, I went through my freezer. While doing this, I took out a few things I couldn't remember when I'd bought them. I also threw away some I knew had reached the freezer burn stage (Never go shopping on an empty stomach). Suddenly I have room in my freezer. I also feel less burdened by the need to use something up and not knowing what to do with it. Now I understand why you often see suggestions to make a menu and shop from it. Yay for decluttering!

My spiritual director gave me a new way of praying which is supposed to be a favorite of Teresa de Avila. To do this put an empty chair in front of you. Sit in yours facing it. Imagine Jesus is sitting in the other and looking back at you with loving eyes. Meditate on this image. That's so easy! I've been doing the empty chair thing for years; I'd just never put Jesus in it. This will work almost anywhere. I tried it out on the drive home while sitting at a long traffic light. It felt so good that it brought a smile to my face. After trying the prayer I found my focus had changed. Things felt more connected, more in the moment. This is definitely something I want to do more of!

Monday, June 04, 2007


About a year ago, one of my Sunday school groups discussed the idea of unburdening ones life from the many possessions that we seem to accumulate. The primary reason presented was that when one trimmed down ones life one then gained freedom. Freedom from clutter was a biggie. Freedom from the need to clean and care for all of that stuff. The heavy theme of the discussion was the freedom to get up and go should the Lord call. I can think of a few other freedoms that getting rid of clutter provides.

Freedom from distraction. You don't have all these things calling you to do stuff because you haven't done them in a while. Suddenly you have time to mentally go places you haven't gone before because you had all these things to do with your stuff. A sense of calm comes over your space when it isn't filled to the max. Which leads me to...

Freedom of movement. You suddenly have space to move around in. And not just you but your possessions. Finally there is room to rearrange that shelf so that it looks better. You can set that prized possession front and center where it can be seen with nothing to detract from it pride of place. And let's not forget that, as stated above, going places mentally requires space too. So you suddenly acquire mental room as it were.

Freedom from stress. There is a sense of peace about a space that is simple in its design and content. That's why minimalism is often popular in decorating schemes. I think that organization of things both physically and mentally is stressful. Imagine how many things you actually own and then imagine the energy you expend mentally just keeping track of where they all are so that you can find them instantly. That's a huge use of mental resources. No wonder my ex was often lost among our many papers and the clutter on the desk. He was the one who had a mental list of store prices and a road map of which roads went where. I was the one who knew where and in which stack a paper or bill was and if it had been dealt with.

Freedom for spirituality. This is a biggie for me. When I see clutter I don't feel calm. And I need calm for the spirit to take over. Without that place, yes room, for spirituality I can't focus on prayer effectively and tend to pull back from the experience. This isn't something I want to find myself doing, so I really need the freedom of space for worship at home. I need it at church too.

My church, like many others, holds two services each Sunday. One is early morning, at 8:00 AM. The other is late morning and finishes about noon. The late service is big, most of the members attend this one. It has music, acolytes, more than one lay minister, cantors...all the trimmings. If you want to be in on the social world of my church you go to this one. In contrast, the early service is very small, fewer than 40 people. It has no music. There is only one lay minister to help out. It is also very short being only 40 minutes in length. This is the service I attend. And I pay a price for attending it by missing out on much of the social goings on. But this is the one where I can focus. It is quiet, meditative and the only thing missing to make it a Taize service is the music. When I first started attending this church I went to the late service. A month or so later I decided to try the early service to see who was there and how it worked with my schedule. I went once and never switched back.

One more freedom that lack of clutter provides is productivity. Suddenly you know where everything is and you have space to spread your projects out so that you can work in whatever fashion makes you most effective. And that is what I'm going to need this fall when I student teach. I've no real idea yet what all student teaching involves other than that I will end up managing a classroom for 4 weeks out of 12 without support. And I'm imagining all kinds of night time projects to keep the classroom activities going from day to day. I may be able to do this in the classroom I'm assigned to, but teachers have different styles and this won't be my space. I'm going to have to play it by ear, but I already know that having comfort in my own space will be important for me in being effective, productive and able to focus on the tasks instead of the search for resources and tools. That will come best from my own space at home unless the teacher makes me welcome in every possible way.

So, as I mentioned in earlier posts, I am starting the process of getting rid of clutter. All the freedoms I've mentioned will be then be added to my life. This past week I've done the more piles of clothes on counters. This week I am getting rid of magazines. The stacks will be gone when I am through...and hopefully the articles I cull from them will be read. Then I will start clearing out my files of unnecessary documents and keep only the most relevant and current. If I'm really creative I may find a way to get rid of some furniture. Then I really will have space to move around in, and I love to dance and stretch which is hard in the small place I rent.

Will this give me the freedom to go should the Lord call? I hope so. It will certainly make it easier to move should I have to pack up and haul my stuff elsewhere. If God calls, I hope it is to a nice place. I trust that when I start searching for that teaching position my prayers will be answered and I find a really good fit that allows me to grow and do my best for the children I will teach. Since I have been dealing with the stress of an unknown future lately, I think that getting rid of stuff will let me feel in control and at peace knowing that I can do what is necessary where I am or where ever I need to go. So here's to decluttering and peaceful places and paths.