Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Final Art Class.....

Our final "Taste of Art" class today featured Julanna Loveberg, an watercolor artist in her early 80s, who came up to our town and taught eighteen students from age six to adult. Julanna is amazing -- she's taught art for fifty-some years and teaching painting techniques of all kinds is one of her passions; intercessory prayer is another.

E came as a helper, but she ended up bent over watercolor paper, creating a wash of yellow ochre and crimson. Her final product is below....

Much of my time this summer has been devoted to these art classes for our backcountry community. Our fledgling arts council sponsored summer classes in two small towns featuring courses in music, writing, woodworking, and now watercolors. All together we've had nearly thirty participants each week, so I'd say that our first foray into providing community classes has been a success. And the small fee we charged ended up covering all our materials and also put a little money into the kitty as well.

As much as I've enjoyed these classes, both as a teacher and as a helper, I'm looking forward to these last three weeks (including this one) before we resume our home schooling and before my "free" time will be at an end. I hope to get back to writing and research over these last few weeks; I haven't accomplished very much at all this summer as far as working on my book. I'm also hoping that the accountability that comes from our new writing workshop will help me keep my nose to the grindstone a bit more. With the boys gone for three hours each afternoon this week for Sports Camp (our small town church's version of Vacation Bible School), I'm hoping to pull out my laptop and at least get my introduction sketched out this week.

But I'm thankful for these art classes; I've learned at least as much as the participants, which is always, always, a blessing.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Saturday Simple Pleasures: Town Festival

The last weekend in July is always our town's festival. After a community-wide pit BBQ and dance in the park on Friday evening, the parade starts at 9 AM on Saturday morning. With over sixty extrants and lasting almost an hour, the town parade commences with the local high school's drill team and concludes with our town's heroes, the mostly-volunteer fire department (one full-time paid fire fighter). In between are more fire trucks from surrounding communities, floats and trucks from local businesses and churches, antique cars from Model A's and T's to classic Mustangs, clowns, tractors, gunslingers on horses, the high school marching band and cheerleaders, llamas, army tanks and military transports, bagpipers, jugglers, Miss Alpine in a convertible, well-digging trucks, pick-up trucks filled with girl scouts and hair dressers, medieval knights and ladies on their steeds, and just about everything else you can imagine.

Many parade participants toss candy and small toys from their floats and trucks; tiny kids (and not-so-tiny ones, too) dash out into the slow-moving parade, collecting treats and toys into baggies. Some of the fire trucks squirt water on the parade-watchers (my own son soaked me on purpose, the little wretch!), and one never quite knows what to expect during that delightful hour of enjoying the parade with one's neighbors and friends as we shout to the parade participants whom we know. It's simply delightful.

After the parade, we usually have both rodeo rings going, but the meadow behind our home changed hands this year and the purchaser wouldn't allow the rodeo to proceed on his land, thus breaking a 36-year tradition of rodeo fun. So without the rodeo and kiddie-rides, the craft area and the county park, which hosted family games such as three-legged races, etc., were the places to be. I sat all day at our creative arts council's information booth in the craft area, selling tote bags and art cards created by Judith and to-die-for brownies baked by Margo. But mostly we spread the word about our arts council's activities, trying to get more exposure and participation in the arts here in the back country. So many artists live in the far-flung corners of the eastern San Diego county, and we'd love to band together to network, to share, to enjoy, and to learn together and really build up an extensive arts community.

So our town's festival wasn't quite all it usually is, minus the rodeo and other activities that are possible with the money the rodeo brings in (like kiddie-rides), but it was still a time of bonding with neighbors we don't see daily, with friends who live near but the daily drudge gets in the way of chatting with. The festival is just a good time to come together physically as a community and to realize once again that we live in a truly great place.

Friday, July 27, 2007

"Hockey Puck" Season

July is one of my least favorite months. Humid, hot weather and a fading garden that I need to water sometimes twice a day take the joy out of life sometimes. but the hollyhocks are always at their loveliest in late July.

The "hockey pucks," as Keith calls them, joyfully and abundantly reseed themselves each year along our front fence. Hollyhocks are biennials which means that they require two growing seasons to bloom fully. The first season they remain green and close to the earth, hiding discreetly behind cosmos and herbs in my flower beds. But during their second season, they soar up to heights of six to eight feet at times, and then they bloom, starting at the bottom of the plant and slowly working their way up until finally the very tippy-tops of the tall stems are showing off their colors to the bumble bees. My garden hosts a variety of colors, from white to pale pink to bright pink to an almost fuschia color.

Around this time of year I have to tie them to the fence for support or else they tumble over, bent in half by the weight of their blooms and the height of their stems. I crowd them together, staking them in groups so that they bunch up into bursts of bloom. Hollyhocks are such lovely, old-fashioned flowers -- they remind me of English cottage gardens and of whispered wisdom passed down, mother to daughter, through the generations. They are sentinels of holy living: held up together from drooping with heat and with burdens too much for their slender stalks, hollyhocks support each other while still blooming extravagantly.

And isn't that exactly what God calls us to do?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Traveling Mercies...

I'm currently rereading Anne Lamott's brilliant Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith for the premiere of our first Logos discussion. Logos is a dream-come-true for me; I've been wanting to start a Christian book club through our church for a while, and my friend Kitty, an accomplished poet in her own right, is hosting the discussion and lunch for the group after Sunday's services.

After seeing Lamott in February at Point Loma's Writers' Symposium by the Sea, I find her work even more wise and brilliant. I have also read the two additional "Thoughts on Faith" collections since this one which appeared in 1999, so I haven't read this first collection of essays in quite a few years. Once again, her terse style truly emphasizes the almost brutal way she unfolds her testimony of alcoholism, drug abuse, and general dysfunction of her life both before and for a few years after her conversion to Christianity. But underlying her brutal honesty is a dry sense of humor that laughs at herself in a way that allows us to lighten up and laugh at ourselves as well. She just writes bluntly what most of us have thought but haven't had the guts to express.

I have much to read and ponder in the days before the discussion on Sunday afternoon, which I pray will not only be well-attended but will also provide a great discussion of our own faith and values as well as of this brilliant collection of essays that explore faith in ways that we conservative evangelicals may not always feel comfortable. But it seems to me that we need to hear Lamott's perspective in order to be able to reach out to others who haven't experienced the privilege of (most of) our sheltered backgrounds....

So this week I shall be reading, underlining, chewing, and writing about Lamott's "thoughts on faith" and the manifold mercies of God as revealed through His very imperfect works of art, His people. Truth is spoken through us, no matter how leaky His vessels may be....

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Art Class Today....

Today twenty-one kids and several adults assembled in our town's community "clubhouse" for the third of our creative arts council's "Taste of Art" summer program lessons. After learning a bit about music and writing in previous weeks, today's program was woodworking; the kids made bird houses and also participated in a castle-building contest, with the winners' photos to be displayed at our town's annual festival this Saturday. We'll also display some of the kids' work in our booth as well.

In the photo above, the girl whom E tutors during the year is intent on drilling her nail holes as she assembles her bird house. After assembly, the builders were able to paint their creations, and then build castles from scrap pieces in a contest while their bird houses dried.

The "Taste of Art" classes have been a huge success in our small town and in another area even further east. It's been a real joy watching my own kids as well as other children discover their possible future passions. Today I watched the kids' faces light up as they finished their bird houses. Sometimes they struggled with nailing and construction, but overall, they had a great time, as did the adult helpers.

Special thanks to Mr. Marshall, who did all the prep work and teaching, to Mr. Charley and Mrs. Jenny who helped, and even greater thanks to Judith, who masterminded our backcountry creative arts group in the first place! Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council is just getting started, and I pray that we'll be a resource both for backcountry artists to network as well as to share our artistic talents with our small communities, especially with the kids who receive very little art instruction in the schools.

Next Tuesday: Watercolors!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

DONE!!!!!!! (no spoilers)

Sorry to be away so long, but I didn't want to have the plot for the seventh and final Harry Potter book spoiled for me. See my 365 photo blog and Extras photo blog if you'd like to see photos of our adventures.

Keith dropped E and T off at B&N at 9 AM on Friday, and E got #81 on her wristband. She also purchased several HP bookmarks and a posterbook from the first five films, plus her own copy of Looking for God in Harry Potter which outlines the Christian themes and symbolism in the series. JK Rowling has stated that understanding her faith (a practicing Presbyterian) is key to understanding her books, and I've always felt the faith/Christian values underlying the books.

Anyway, I picked up E & T from the bookshop after Friday morning church, and we went home and rested up. After dinner, E donned her Gryffindor costume (again, see photo blog) and she, T, and I drove back down the hill to B&N. We arrived at about 8:45, and the crowds were enough that maneuvering my wheelchair wasn't easy, so we found a good spot by the new Scene-It game after E bought me a Dumbledore bookmark (my favorite character). T wandered off to explore while E made immediate friends with another Christian girl who is as devoted to the series as she is. E called Dana, our chiropractor's receptionist, from the party as directed; Dana will borrow E's copy on Monday afternoon when I go to see Dr. Burns next.

Many costumes came parading by my corner of the store: Mad-Eye Moody, a couple of Tonkses, two McGonagalls, one Dumbledore, many Hermiones, some Harrys, one toddler as a sleepy Hedwig, one Greyback, two Rita Skeeters, a Professor Trelawney, two Molly Weasleys, two Ginnys with bright red hair, one uncomfortable-looking Snitch, and a bunch of Quidditch players, mostly in Slytherin green. Plus a B&N staff member had dressed as Hagrid for photos with which E got a picture and a cardboard frame. Lots of people wore HP t-shirts: "I Speak Parseltongue," among others. Along with HP crossword puzzles and word finds, we were given glow-in-the-dark Harry glasses, small posters of the book cover, temporary tattoos in the shape of a "7," and small red and gold tasseled keychains with the date "7-21-07" hanging. E and I immediately added these Gryffindor tassels to our keychains. T made a wand at one of the stations.

So half-listening to E and her friend's conversation, keeping an eye on T, yelling out Scene-It answers, and people-watching kept the time moving. My friend Julie from Bible study at Lake Murray showed up with her daughter and daughter's friend, and after visiting for a little while, they left for WalMart where they could get the books cheaper, and she gave us her B&N wristband marked #44! At 11 PM we were shooed out of the store to line up by number in single-file (like that really happened!), and we counted down the seconds until midnight. We were inside the store by 12:05, bought the book by 12:08, and were outside and driving out by 12:15 at the latest, even after photos in by the car before we left.

Lit by her iPod, E read aloud the first chapter of Deathly Hallows to T and me, and when we got home, I soaked in the spa, E reading aloud chapter two. I retired to bed while she stayed up reading until 3:15 AM, waking again at 8:15 AM to continue reading until 2:30 PM when she finished.

My book was in my PO box by 11 AM, and I brought it home and started reading. Once E was done, she hung around, looking all SMUG while I bit my nails, moaning and groaning in fear and trepidation as I read through the 784 pages in 36 chapters. I found myself crying with joy in some places, in fear in others, while Keith and E laughed at me. (I could have teased E when I heard sobs coming from behind HER closed door one point in the late morning, but I refrained in the spirit of motherly love.)

I finished it at 11:30 PM Saturday, quite satisfied with this final installment of Harry's amazing epic. I hated seeing some of the characters die -- but it worked. There are casualties in great battles -- it's to be expected. I'm rereading it now to the boys, and my voice is going quite hoarse from reading five chapters since coming home from church....

So, yes, it was everything I had hoped for. And more. Great going, Jo -- you wrote an unforgettable epic of good vs. evil, one that is amazingly constructed and perfectly characterized. Perfect. Practically perfect.

I'm just sorry it's over. But being a real part of the release of the seventh book helped assauge the feeling of NO MORE. Yes, there will be two more movies, but the story is OVER. It's DONE. There's no more wondering how it was all end-up, something we've all been pondering for several years. I can't help feeling sad, but I'm also enjoying reading it aloud to the boys (although E leaked A LOT of details to them, the rat!). Anbd it will some day be new to grandchildren, and E, T, and I will be able to say, "We were there for the release of the last book." And then we can tell them all about the events of the last few days....

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Only 60 Hours ... and Counting

My mind is reeling with anticipation such as I've rarely experienced. In two days and twelve hours (or so), the seventh and final installment of our beloved Harry Potter series will be on sale. After rereading the first five books over the last couple of months, this week I'm finishing rereading the sixth book so that I'm fully up-to-speed and ready to start Deathly Hallows when it arrives in our post office box on Saturday. At least, I'm desperately HOPING it will appear in our box; the last time we ordered online with Barnes and Noble, Half-Blood Prince was indeed in our box on the very release date. But E, however, is not content to wait until Saturday morning to open Deathly Hallows and read the first words.

Her plan is as follows: On Friday morning, Keith will leave for work a half-hour early and drop her off at B&N around 9:30 AM, half an hour after they start giving out wristbands that will place her in the line on a first-come-first-served basis. Then she'll browse through the store, purchasing a few more books on HP like the poster book from the films that she had her eye on the other day. When my morning church service is finished, I'll pick her up at B&N around 10:30 AM and we'll head home to rest up. E, dressed as a Hogwarts student, along with myself and possibly T will return to the store around 9-10 PM and enjoy the costume contests and festivities at B&N, and they'll start lining us up at 11 PM to actually purchase the books which go on sale precisely at midnight. E will purchase her reserved copy and home we'll go. (I don't envy those poor bookstore clerks; in my ten years working in bookstores, there was NOTHING like this that required staying up all night to sell books!) I imagine she'll stay up all night reading this last book and keep reading into Saturday, and she'll definitely finish it before I do, perhaps before I even get my hot little hands on my own copy. Our plan is to stay offline and away from all TV and radio coverage until we've both finished the book because we don't the ending spoiled for us (and she's not allowed to blab or even tell T until I'm DONE!).

So that's how rabid fans of these books are. And really, when one considers that literary history is in the making, I think participating in the hoopla over the seventh book is not a bad idea at all. We all want to be part of Harry, Ron, and Hermione's wonderful fight against evil, and banding together for this last book release is a great way to share in an event that I think kids will tell their grandkids about. Can you imagine standing in line for the final Lord of the Rings book? Or for the final Chronicles of Narnia installment? The Harry Potter books will definitely possess a similarly beloved place in children's literature, and most deservedly so.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Writing Class

Today the writing class that Judith and I are teaching as part of our creative art group's summer program "A Taste of Art" was held in our own town, and we ended up with nearly twenty participants, including one adult. The kids were much older this week, with most of them around age 8-10 or older. Last week was difficult with young kids ages 5-8, so today's class went far better.

The kids enjoyed talking about writing, looking at the natural objects, sketching, brainstorming, and then writing either their poem or story. It was a good exchange of ideas, and a lot of fun making their final books. Some of the writers allowed me to read their work at the end of the class, but some were too shy to do so. Most asked me not to read their names.

Overall, I was impressed with their creativity and their ideas. Several of the stories would make great kids' picture books. I'm glad that this was the last class we have to teach; Judith and I will only be helping the other artist teachers in woodworking and watercolor classes for the rest of the month.

Tonight at our monthly creative arts meeting we also enjoyed hearing from Stephanie Wells, who wrote and published her own book on our inner genius. She encouraged us in publishing our own works, so we had a really good discussion on the best ways and means to go about publishing the books several of us are working on. She also gave us permission to take her materials to our next writing workshop meeting.

So today was another writing day, and I even had time to work on my talk for Thursday night on England. So I managed to get more writing accomplished in the midst of teaching writing and hearing about writing as well.

Monday, July 16, 2007

This Week....

We have a busy week ahead of us. Today was a fairly restful day, which was good because I didn't start feeling human until well after noon. We only had to drive into La Mesa to see Dr. Burns, my chiropractor. Before the boys' swim lessons, I stopped by All Things Bright and British to get items for my England table for Thursday: clotted cream, lemon curd, blackcurrant preserves, and a Union Jack (British flag). The kind lady working there also provided me with several free British newspapers, some British flag stickers, and some small flags on toothpicks. Then a quick stop by Barnes and Noble to get info on their Harry Potter prty and to pick up a birthday gift for my friend Sheri. Then we were racing up the hill to swim lessons in Alpine (and passed Keith on the freeway; he passed us just before our exit).

Tuesday Judith and I are teaching a writing class in Pine Valley with about sixteen kids; the class will last about two and a half hours. Then Tuesday night we have our monthly creative arts meeting with a writer who has been recently published as our Featured Artist; our new writing workshop group has been invited as well. On Wednesday, I'll probably take the kids down in the afternoon into the city to swim at a friend's pool, and then we'll go to swim lessons after that. On Thursday we have our creative arts board meeting at 12:30, and then I'm doing my presentation on England (British literature and the Anglican Church) Thursday night at church.

On Friday, Keith will drop E off at B&N on his way to work so she can get her wrist thingy that will allow her to line up for her pre-ordered seventh book in the Harry Potter series. I'll pick her up after the healing service at Alpine Anglican, then go see the chiropractor again. We'll rest up Friday afternoon before going back into the city to B&N for all the partying as we wait for the books to go on sale at midnight. My copy won't come until Saturday at least; E is purchasing her own copy of Deathly Hallows; I suppose that she'll be reading ALL NIGHT and I certainly can't blame her. Once I get mine, I doubt I'll put it down except for church.

So we have quite the busy week ahead of us. I'll be glad to be only helping to teach art classes after this, and we only have one more week of swim lessons after this one, and only one more week of our Thursday women's summer series. August should be a bit calmer, and that's when I hope to get back to my writing....

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Anglican Moment: Morning Prayer

Morning Prayer has long been one of my favorite aspects of Anglican worship. Even before I stepped foot in an Anglican church, I had discovered at the bookstore in which I worked an English 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) illustrated with illuminated manuscripts, and immediately I felt myself drawn to the Morning Office. The Te Deum Laudamus has long been a favorite, as has been the Collect for Grace. If you opened up a BCP and looked at the Morning Prayer Office, you may feel more than a little overwhelmed. But not ALL the prayers are used every week. So I will outline the order of service in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer as practiced each Friday morning before the Healing and Communion Service at Victoria Chapel, the weekday meeting place for the Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity:

-- The Minister reads one of the many introductory sentences of Scripture to start the service, such as Psalm 43:3, John 4:23, Psalm 19:14, or the verses designated for certain holy days.

Then we open with praying Scripture:
The Minister prays: "O Lord, open thou our lips."
The Congregation replies: "And our mouth shall show forth thy praise."

Then we pray the Gloria Patri:
Minister prays: "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost."
Congregation replies with him: "As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, amen."

Then Minister prays: "Praise ye the Lord."
Congregation replies: "The Lord's Name be praised."

Then in unison all pray the Venite, which is a combination of Psalms 95 and 96 (Ps 95:1-7; Ps 96:9,13).

Then the appointed Psalm(s) from the Psalter are prayed. The Psalter is within the 1928 and 1979 BCP, with the entire book of Psalms divided into morning and evening selections for thirty days. Thus one can read the whole of the book of Psalms each month in one's morning and evening devotions. I absolutely love becoming so familiar with the Psalms by reading such a goodly chunk of them each day.

At the end of the reading of the appointed psalm(s), then the Gloria Patri is prayed again (see above).

Then, according to the "Psalms and Lessons of the Christian Year" near the beginning of the BCP, a member of the congregation reads aloud the Old Testament reading for the week and day of the service. For instance, today we would read the Scriptures for Morning Prayer for the Saturday after the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, where both an Old Testament and a New Testament reading are listed.

After the Old Testament reading, we pray the Benedictus es, Domine:
Blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers: praised and exalted above all forever.
Blessed art thou for the Name of thy Majesty: praised and exalted above all forever.
Blessed art thou in the temple of thy holiness: praised and exalted above all forever.
Blessed art thou that beholdest the depths, and dwellest between the Cherubim: praised and exalted above all forever.
Blessed art thou on the glorious throne of thy kingdom: praised and exalted above all forever.
Blessed art thou in the firmament of heaven: praised and exalted above all forever.

If the day of our corporate Morning Prayer is a holy day, then we pray the Te Deum Laudamus (in English, "We Praise You This Day, O Lord") instead of the Benedictus es, Domine above. The Te Deum is far too long to type out here but is my favorite prayer in the entire BCP. I'll type it out on another day -- it was the first prayer that really drew me into Anglican worship.

Then we read the New Testament reading from the "Psalms and Lessons" list from the front of the BCP. We follow the Scriptures with the Benedictus which consists of Luke 1:69-79 (Zechariah's song).

Then the Minister states: "The Lord be with you."
The Congregation replies: "And with thy spirit."
Minister: "Let us pray."
Then together we pray the Lord's Prayer aloud.

Then the Minister prays: "O Lord, show thy mercy upon us."
Congregation prays: "And grant us thy salvation."
Minister prays: "O God, make clean our hearts within us."
Congregation prays: "And take not thy Holy Spirit from us."
(The above are all from the Psalms.)

Then the Minister prays the Collect for the Day, which is listed in the "Collects, Epistles, and Gospels" section of the BCP which change with each succeeding Sunday in the Church Year and may also be special on certain holy days besides Sundays.

Then the Minister prays the Collect for Peace:
O God, who art the author of peace and the lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom; Defend us, thy humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. [All say:] Amen.

The Minister then prays the Collect for Grace:
O Lord, our heavenly father, Almighty and everlasting God, who hast safely brought us to the beginning of this day; Defend us in the same by thy mighty power; and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all our doings, being ordered by thy governance, may be righteous in thy sight; through Christ Jesus our Lord. [All say:] Amen.

[Then follow other Collects that I tend to use on my own, but we don't use corporately in services: "Prayer for the President of the United States and All in Civil Authority," "Prayer for the Clergy and People," "Prayer for all Conditions of Men," and "A General Thanksgiving."]

Then the Morning Office of Prayer is concluded with the Minister praying from the Thirteenth Chapter of the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, the Fourteenth verse, over the Congregation:
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. [Then all say:] Amen.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Price of Home Schooling

Keith got paid this week, so I got to purchase the curricula that I've had organized and in long lists for two months.

Spent at Sonlight (boys' world history, readers, literature; everyone's Bible; boys' language arts and handwriting; E's Algebra II and Latin) ... $568.35

Spent at ABeka (math for boys; E's world history and biology) ... $426.19

Spent at Exploration Science (boys' physical science) ... $163.07

Spent at Smarr Publishers (E's world literature, grammar, and writing) ... $173.53

Total spent on books and curriculum today: $1331.14 (which does not include tuition for our private school group, online classes, or co-op class fees)

Spending the next year at home educating our four kids (grades 2, 5, 7 and 10)... ABSOLUTELY PRICELESS!!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Order of the Phoenix -- Wow!

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix opened today at midnight, and twelve hours later, the six of us were seated in a theatre watching the opening scenes.

I had a lot of criticism for the fourth film, Goblet of Fire, but the fifth really captured me, much as the first (and best) did. Harry's angst, his worry at becoming like Voldemort, was very real. His struggle with caring for others, and his fear of losing them, was quite poignant. The acting was superb, and the screenplay was an excellent adaptation. It's no easy task to put the longest of the novels (thus far) into the shortest of the films, and overall, I think it was tremendously well done.

This book was the most difficult to like, both for me and for the fans in general. The distance between Harry and Dumbledore (my favorite character) is hard to overcome, but this film captures it and resolves it well. Order of the Phoenix is also a darker book, and in the film the reserve displayed in NOT making Hagrid a laughingstock for comic relief this time was very refreshing. This is a serious film about serious subjects: the effect of evil on those fighting it, the need for friends especially when one feels most isolated, the goodness of love for family, friends, and mentors as a power which defeats evil. Although it is a departure from the book, the scene where Harry is possessed by Voldemort and declares that he feels sorry for Voldemort because he is unable to love is extremely touching. And true.

E and I will go see the film on our own again in a couple of week; she has a free ticket from her Nintendo DS Order of the Phoenix game that we couldn't use for today's tickets which were purchased online. I'm looking forward to seeing this film again and absorbing it more fully. Order of the Phoenix takes the Harry Potter film series to new heights as the young actors mature and as the fight between good and evil becomes more and more focused. I had anticipated this movie far less than the release of the seventh book in ten days and rightly so, but this film was everything I had hoped it would be. And more. And I know that the seventh and final book, preordered months ago, will be even more so.

What a stunning month in literary history! And we are enjoying it to the fullest.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Writing Sort of Day....

Writing dominated my day today. Judith and I drove out to Lake Morena today to teach the first of our creative arts council's "Taste of Art" classes. Six kids and several adults showed up for our writing class, while about sixteen kids attended the music class in our own town. Next week we'll switch and have music out east and writing in our own town.

Judith and I took the kids through the idea of "seeing" and describing what we see. We used Julie's "Keen Observation Exercise" from The Writer's Jungle as well as sketching and poetry exercises. Each of the kids went home with a book they made containing their writing exercises, their poems or stories, their drawings, and poems by Judith and Longfellow. Teaching such young kids, most of whom couldn't really physically write yet, was taxing but rewarding. Judith and I both headed home utterly drained.

After a couple hours of resting, Judith and I headed to our town's library for the first meeting for a writers' group. Eight writers attended in all, including a woman from the UK, several teachers, and a scrapbooker. Two are writing novels; three are poets. Two are writing essays/sketches. Three are writing nonfiction. One has written articles for a nearby town's newspaper, while another is the co-editor of our own town's monthly newspaper (Judith). Two are writing children's books. I'm the only blogger thus far. So lots of different writing is being produced, and we'll meet again next month and bring along some writing to share with each other, ten to fifteen minutes each. I'm looking forward to meeting with these seven people next month and sharing my writing with them, looking for some encouragement and constructive criticism, a new experience for me.

So today was all about writing from one end of the spectrum to the other, from teaching the rudiments of writing to six-year-olds to actually sharing my own work with a group of other writers. Next week Judith and I will be teaching writing to a larger and older group of kids (and some adults) in our own town, plus we'll be hearing from our creative arts council's Featured Artist, a writer who has just published a book. Our writing workshop who met tonight will also be attending. So even if I haven't had much time to work on my book this summer, at least I now have to discipline myself enough to have something to share each month at our new writer's workshop. And discipline is exactly what I need right now with my writing....

Monday, July 9, 2007

Summer Swim

This summer our friend Sheri recommended a swim instructor in nearby Alpine for us. Coach Wes is the swim and water polo coach for a local high school, and both J and B are benefitting greatly from his instruction.

For this two-week session, which meets twice a week, J is receiving one-on-one instruction from Coach Wes. His freestyle has definitely cleaned up, and he's learning the breast stroke and starting diving from the side of the pool today.

And today B swam cross-wise across the pool on his own! This is the boy who a week ago claimed that he couldn't swim! Miss Erin, whom I assume is on Coach's high school team, is doing a great job with the younger kids. B has been practicing jumping into the pool, swimming under water, backfloating, and freestyle. I'm thrilled to see him swimming independently!

Both boys have had water incidents that scared them in recent years, J with some friends in another friends' pool, and B at a church-sponsored pool day where his older brother accidentally knocked him off the step and into deep water. They both seem to have finally overcome their fear of the water; B was refusing to swim at a pool day only a couple of weeks ago. They've both made major strides, and I'm very proud of them both and thankful for great teachers and wonderful grandparents who pay for their lessons.

T will join them for the next session starting next week. He's an adequate swimmer but needs help with his breast stroke and with diving. It won't hurt to neaten his other strokes as well. We won't have such small classes in the next session; I'm sure that there will be four kids per class rather than the two in B's present class and the one-on-one instruction J is now receiving. Sheri and her family had issues with signing up, so it's their empty spaces we're enjoying right now.

Suumer swim is always the core of our PE program in homeschooling. PE is the one subject we don't do so well at, mostly because we're not organized sports people; we hate giving up family time to rush off to practices and games and such. All four kids will be taking PE next year in Class Day (E is taking Self-Defense, T volleyball, and the younger boys general PE), so when Class Days are added to Summer Swim, I think PE will be taken care of. (E is doing her "Dancing with the Stars" video for exercise both this summer and into next year; it provides both excellent exercise and the opportunity to learn a few ballroom dances.)

Summer Swim -- what summer is all about!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Fifth Sunday after Trinity ... and UNITY

As the temperatures soar this week, we continue through the long Ordinary Time of summer and fall. The Collect from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer for today reads:

Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Today's Epistle reading is from the third chapter of the First Letter of Saint Peter, starting in the eighth verse:

Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful [full of pity], be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it....

I was thinking about this very issue this morning before I read the today's Epistle. I find it so very difficult to understand why some Christians feel the need to tear down other Christians. I hear anti-Catholic sentiments and I just don't get it. I've heard the word "evil" thrown around in describing Catholic doctrine. But, for goodness' sake, we are on the SAME side; we have a common enemy: Satan. So whether we believe in asking the Saints for prayer or in the Rapture, in infant baptism or in symbolic Communion, we need to bind our hearts together and unite against Satan and his demons who delight in our divisions, who rejoice in our rejection of each others' spirituality. We are all Christians, and the Scripture quoted above doesn't merely ask us but instead COMMANDS us to "be of one mind," to have compassion on each other and to love one another, to be kind and courteous to one another, to bless each other. Drawing lines in the sand regarding beliefs about Mary, or the saints, or end times, or sacraments (or the lack of them) promotes disunity, division, and "railing for railing," to quote again from St. Peter's Epistle.

As long as we love Jesus, acknowledge that He is indeed the Son of God who died and rose again the third day to free us from the bonds of sin, then we should "major on the majors," as the old saying goes. Abraham Lincoln's remark, "A house divided against itself cannot stand" is as true for the Church as it was for our country. Civil Wars between Catholic and Protestant have only brought havoc and suffering throughout history, and as recently as IRA bombings within the last twenty years. We both, Catholic and Protestant, need to come together, and beyond that, need to WORK together in order to be truly effective against our common enemy, who is prowling, roaring, and waiting to devour us.

And especially in this day and age, when Christianity is belittled and abandoned right and left in nearly every public arena, we Christians need to "be of one mind" more than ever. We evangelicals need to realize that our closest ally in the pro-life cause is indeed the Roman Catholic Church; we can and need to work together in crisis pregnancy centers, in pro-life walks, in pushing forward legislation that protects the unborn. And Catholics need to realize that not every evangelical is going to accuse them of "not being a Christian" and that we're "safe" to be around, even if we're not in full communion with the Roman Church. Both sides need to put aside what we "believe" about each other and realize that we're much closer in life and doctrine than we think. I've discovered in conversing with Catholic homeschoolers that so often we possess the same beliefs, but those beliefs are couched in different terms which cause misunderstandings. And underneath all the rhetoric, we're really stating the same doctrines which we didn't realize we held in common.

Even the "Bible Answer Man" claims that evangelicals and Catholics who ascribe to the Magisterium (offical teachings of the Church) share 80% of the same doctrine. 80%! So it's more than time to put aside what we think we believe about each other and obey today's Epistle reading in "refraining [our] tongue[s] from evil" and "seek peace" with one another, whether Catholic or Protestant. When we set aside minor differences and decide to serve and obey the Lord our God side by side, Satan will be vanquished as the Lord's army goes forth, in His might and power. So, in the words of today's Collect, may "thy Church ... joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness, through Jesus Christ our Lord." And may we do so in unity and godly love for one another and for our Saviour, which is a powerful witness to an unbelieving world.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Simple Pleasures ... Harry Potter Weekend

This weekend ABC Family has been showing the first three of the Harry Potter films, with the deleted scenes added in the proper places. Last night we curled up and watched Sorceror's Stone, and I marveled at how young these three actors were. The first film premiered in 2001, and we've watched Dan, Emma, and Rupert grow up before us on film. They've not only grown physically, but they've also grown as actors, honing their craft more and more as each film progresses. And then there's the amazing adult cast members, a true "who's who" of British stage and screen: Richard Harris (in the first two films before he passed away), Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith (one of my favorites), Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, Robby Coltrane, and more.

Tonight we'll watch Chamber of Secrets which introduces Kenneth Branagh, another favorite. I'm not nearly as impressed with Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, but he'll have to do after the death of Richard Harris. Tomorrow night Prisoner of Azkaban will be shown, and we'll get to see Gary Oldman and Emma Thompson, as well as David Thewlis. On Monday or Tuesday we'll watch our DVD of Goblet of Fire, which will showcase even more talent from the UK; in fact, the additions to the cast for the fourth film are quite tremendous.

And right now, as I type, six tickets to Order of the Phoenix reside in my wallet. I ordered them online last week and picked them up on Thursday evening for the noon matinee for Wednesday. We'll miss out on the midnight madness for the film's debut on Tuesday evening, but Wednesday will do just fine. We're looking forward to the fifth film with baited breath, especially for the addition of Imelda Staunton, among others, and the return of Gary Oldman, Emma Thompson, and David Thewlis.

As E reminded me this morning, we have a mere THREE days left until the movie, and only THIRTEEN days left until the seventh and final book. (And yes, I'm rereading the series in anticipation of the last book; I'll have to hurry through Half-Blood Prince.) I also know I'm going to be very upset when the final book is read, done, and finished; the amazing phenomenon of these books and the final answers to Harry's story will be concluded. I'm absolutely dreading that moment when it's ALL OVER. Yes, two more movies are on the way, but it won't be the same as the suspense of the last ten years, waiting for the answers to all our questions about Harry and his friends. These books are true literature in their concern with eternal values, good versus evil, woven into great plotting, themes, mythology, history, characterization, and all elements that make literature LITERATURE. And as much as I'm looking forward to getting my hands on Deathly Hallows, I'm dreading it as well. The end of an era is at hand.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Crazy, HOT Week!

We came home from the 4th to find extreme heat in the mountains: 112 degrees on our front porch! We arrived home at 11:30, and with the kids pitching in greatly, we had the luncheon meeting for the creative arts council ready at 12:30. The meeting lasted until nearly 3:00, and within the hour we were heading to Alpine for the boys' swim lessons. After swim, I met Keith at the small grocery store in Alpine and handed off the boys to him to take home while I drove on into town.

There I stopped by the mall nearest church and picked up our matinee tickets for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for next Wednesday. After grabbing a quick chicken taco at Rubio's, I headed over to church for our women's Summer Series.

We're studying Our Heritage in Christ. This night the Americas were our focus, with women presenting tables laden with food, decorations, and stories of their heritage or missions service from the countries of Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay. We sampled chicken tacos, Peruvian caramel cookies, pasty-like treats filled with VERY spicy meat, and a type of savory corn bread. We were also given recipes for all the treats, with prayer requests for that particular country on the flip side of the card. Next week is Africa/Middle East, then after that Europe (I'll be presenting England) and East Asia. It's been a great Summer Series so far.

Next Tuesday starts our creative art council's "Taste of Art" series, held in our town and a neighboring town, with art classes in music, writing, woodworking, and watercoloring. I'll be teaching the writing component, along with Judith, and we have all the other teachers lined up and ready to go. I'm also handling the registration for our town which has been a bit complicated but is coming along.

So with the Summer Series on every Thursday night at Lake Murray, the art classes in our mountain area on every Tuesday afternoon, art council board meetings every other Thursday, the boys' swim classes every Monday and Wednesday afternoon in Alpine (halfway to the city), Friday morning Anglican services also in Alpine, and our new Logos reading group meeting the last Sunday of the month (reading and discussing Traveling Mercies), July may just be a very busy month. I'm still hoping to rest and work on my book, if I have time, that is....

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Birthday, America!

Happy 231st Birthday, America!

The kids and I are heading to the beach, along with 75% of San Diego County. You see, the beach highs are supposed to be around 75, while we're expecting up to 110 at our home in the mountains. Plus it's the 4th of July, and in San Diego, the beach is where it's at.

From the roof of my parents' home, which is half a block from Pacific Beach, we'll be able to see multiple firework displays, the best being from Sea World. The rest of my family is already at the beach, but we're heading in later this afternoon, hoping for a parking place. I'm not feeling my best, and we're entertaining the next two days. A slower start is all I have in me right now, unfortunately to the kids' disappointment (and my promise that we'll go next week when it isn't nearly so crowded and dangerous). In addition to the crowds, the beaches today are expecting rather high surf (seven feet plus) and there have been some horrific rip currents; a Marine drowned two days ago swimming in such an area.

But we'll be able to enjoy family, food, and fireworks tonight, and we'll also stay the night to avoid the nasty traffic jams that can last two hours or more just getting to the freeway. We'll buzz home tomorrow and get the house and food ready for our creative arts meeting at 12:30. Then Keith's sister, brother-in-law, and their three girls who live in Phoenix will be stopping by on Friday to visit on their way back to Arizona from a short business trip to LA. Busy week! Good thing I decided to rest this morning and not get to the beach at the crack of dawn, like the rest of the county....

A prayer for our country, from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Happy Independence Day! May God bless our country this day and forevermore!

Monday, July 2, 2007

A Delightfully Delicious Film

I was not thrilled with the idea of waiting for two hours in the late-June afternoon sun of an outdoor mall with a couple hundred people in order to see a movie about rats. But when Keith was given six free tickets to the special premiere of the latest Pixar offering, I was hoping that waiting in the long line would be worth it. And it was, truly.

We arrived at the theatre two hours before show time, and within twenty minutes, the tickets were gone. We whiled away the time and were unfortunately seated in the first three rows in the very front of the theatre. But even cricks in our necks were of minimal concern while watching this great movie.

I mean, how often can one watch a children's film that contains lessons for all ages: "Not everyone can be an artist, but an artist can be anyone"? How often can one watch a children's film that is rated "G" and contains NO potty humor? (Why do the people who create most children's movies think that jokes about fecal matter are hilarious? They're not. One more reason NOT to see Evan Almighty.) Keith and I enjoyed Ratatouille just as much as our kids did. The animation was gorgeous, the conflict believable, the plot twisty and turny in all the right ways, and the characters endearing yet complex. And the food -- ooh la la! The dishes practically sizzle on the screen; I wish "smellivision" were possible (except for the garbage scenes, of course!).

Ratatouille is a must-see, for all ages. Don't miss it -- it was even worth spending a summer afternoon waiting in line.


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