Thursday, July 31, 2008

Yay! Yay! Hip Hip Hurray!

Beedle the Bard will be published to mass-market audiences!!!!!! If I could turn cartwheels or somersaults, I would!

Yes, the five tales left to Hermione Granger by Albus Dumbledore in the final Harry Potter book will be published on December 4, 2008. On Jo's web site this morning she announced that the runes were translated by Hermione Granger, illustrated by Jo herself, and with notes by Dumbledore. One story, "The Tale of the Three Brothers" was revealed in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but the other four have never been revealed byond their titles: "The Fountain of Fair Fortune," "The Wizard and the Hopping-Pot," "Babbity-Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump," and "The Warlock's Hairy Heart." Jo created seven handwritten and hand-illustrated copies of the book, six of which were given to close friends and family. The seventh copy, with a moonstone on the cover, was purchased at a charity auction by Amazon for nearly $4 million dollars. It is this copy that is being published exactly one year after the auction, and all of the sales will again go to charity.

From the Guardian (U.K.):
The Children's High Level Group (CHLG), the charity Rowling co-founded in 2005, will now publish the collection of five tales in trade and "collector's" editions. The trade editions, retailing for £6.99, will feature additional commentary on each fairy tale from Professor Dumbledore and an introduction by Rowling.

In addition, Amazon is to produce up to a maximum of 100,000 collector's edition copies - which will aim to replicate closely the look and feel of the handmade original. These will go for £50, and feature 10 new illustrations by the author. All profits will go to CHLG, which works to improve life for children in residential care, currently focusing on eastern Europe.

So, yet another "Christmas present" from Jo will be given to children around the world this December. How many copies of the Tales of Beedle the Bard will be discovered in Christmas stockings? The pre-orders for the book make it the # 1 seller on Barnes and Noble today, and I'm sure the same can be said for Amazon.

No, I haven't pre-ordered yet. I'm waiting to see if there may be one more midnight Harry Potter party at Barnes and Noble before pre-ordering, of course. Jo continues to spin magic wherever she writes....

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Kindle Vs. REAL Books

(Cartoon copied from Sarita Holzman's blog)

I've never been the least entranced by the idea of downloadable "books." I ADORE the feel, the smell, the heft of real books, especially old books. One of my favorite places in the entire world is a used bookstore, stacked floor to ceiling with slightly-dusty tomes, waiting to be discovered by someone who will cherish them.

I have a good number of books that are over a century old; my oldest book is a Bible Handbook from 1864. I have some 1904 Shakespeare volumes that I still refer to often -- great notes! And I love the weathered green cloth and gold-edged pages. They were such a buy at $12 from Wahrenbrock's bookshop in downtown San Diego nearly twenty years ago. I have my grandmother's copies of Little Men and Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott that are barely holding together and have some definite water damage on the dark brown cloth covers, but I still cherish them. Only one book has been literally read to pieces -- my grandmother's copy of Caddie Woodlawn. I have purchased some older collections, too -- complete works of Robert Browning, Goethe, and Dickens.

Even library books have a certain je nais se quais (I don't know French, so I hope that's spelled right) -- simply the magic of passing a book from one hand to another, even if I don't own them, and especially if they are hardcovers. So I can't imagine EVER curling up with a cup of tea and a digital book reader. Never. Instead, give me a REAL hardcover with crinkly pages and lovely typesetting anyday. Even if it smells like peanut butter from the last person who borrowed it from the library.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Martha, Martha...."

(Icon of Martha)

I've missed a few Saints' Days over the last few days, all of which I wanted to post about here. Friday was the Feast Day of Saint James the Greater, the brother of John, the Bishop of Jerusalem and the first apostle to be martyred. Then over the weekend came the Feast Day for Mary's parents, Saint Joachim and Saint Anne. But today is the Feast Day of one of my favorite biblical people, Martha. Her name in Aramaic means "mistress of the house" or "lady."

I am SO like Martha that it isn't funny. I do have a Mary-streak, a yen for contemplation and simply sitting at the feet of Jesus, but it must happen after all the dishes are done, the house is vacuumed, and the garden watered. But as the author of the Saint-a-Day e-mails from reminds us, Martha also spoke one of the greatest affirmations of who Jesus really is.


Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus were evidently close friends of Jesus. He came to their home simply as a welcomed guest, rather than as one celebrating the conversion of a sinner like Zacchaeus or one unceremoniously received by a suspicious Pharisee. The sisters feel free to call on Jesus at their brother’s death, even though a return to Judea at that time seems almost certain death.
No doubt Martha was an active sort of person. On one occasion (see Luke 10:38-42) she prepares the meal for Jesus and possibly his fellow guests and forthrightly states the obvious: All hands should pitch in to help with the dinner.

Yet, as Father John McKenzie points out, she need not be rated as an “unrecollected activist.” The evangelist is emphasizing what our Lord said on several occasions about the primacy of the spiritual: “...[D]o not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear….But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:25b, 33a); “One does not live by bread alone” (Luke 4:4b); “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” (Matthew 5:6a).

Martha’s great glory is her simple and strong statement of faith in Jesus after her brother’s death. “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world’” (John 11:25-27).


Scripture commentators point out that in writing his account of the raising of Lazarus, St. John intends that we should see Martha’s words to Mary before the resurrection of Lazarus as a summons that every Christian must obey. In her saying “The teacher is here and is asking for you,” Jesus is calling every one of us to resurrection—now in baptismal faith, forever in sharing his victory over death. And all of us, as well as these three friends, are in our own unique way called to special friendship with him.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Book Review: Life of Pi

Kristen L., currently a missionary in East Asia, spent some time in our Logos Literary Discussion Group at Lake Murray before she returned to the mission field. I e-mailed her a couple of months ago and asked her for book recommendations for our next year of Logos books, and Kristen's #1 recommendation was Life of Pi. So, we read Life of Pi this month and discussed it yesterday.

Jody really liked the book, and the rest of us found it interesting but not something we would like to read again. The first third of the book covered Pi's childhood, and I found that portion to be my favorite part of the book. I most appreciated Pi's hunger for God, although I'm not into the Hindu and Muslim faiths myself. I found the introductory third of the book absolutely compelling, much more so than the rest of the book. Despite the intensity of Pi's story, I found that the long captivity in the boat was slow going.

The ending was surprising and problematic for me. At first I totally denied the second "story" -- the alternate story with the people rather than the animals. But the more I think about it, the more I believe that short, stark story of horrible events. It was one thing when animals kill each other, and something entirely different when people are involved. I think now that the alternate story was the truth, and the first story, with Richard Parker and the orangutan, hyena, and zebra, was an elaborate coping mechanism for the horrific events that occurred during the 227 days from the sinking of the ship until Pi's arrival on the Mexican shore.

However, the book is not a favourite of mine, and I doubt I will read it again. I'm glad I read it simply because it was a subject out of the ordinary, but I'm looking forward much more to the Shakespeare reading next month.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

PV Day Parade: Town Festival

Our town festival used to be a three-day event, with a town BBQ on Friday night, the parade Saturday morning, crafts booths and rides, along with a rodeo all day Saturday and half the day Sunday. However, with the loss of the meadow for the rodeo, this year we were down to a single day, Saturday. This year all the events except for a few kiddie rides were held in the county park, and the atmosphere was truly wonderful, very community-oriented, for the first time in our seven years in the town.

The highlight of the festival is the parade, starting at 9 AM before the heat of the day. Both sides of the main street are lined with parade watchers, and kids catch candy thrown by the parade participants.

For the third year in a row, some of our kids (just the youngest two this time) rode on the vehicles supplied by Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity.

The bagpipers supply my favorite music of the entire day (especially with the prevalence of my least favorite, country music, at the parade and played all day by the live band in the park's gazebo.

The Space Shuttle Cafe not only graced the parade route but also was to be found in the park afterward, serving up some lunch to hungry PV Day families. It was a bit of a shock seeing this thing coasting down Old Hwy 80 though....

The Clydesdales stepped into the parade route from the park entrance, pulling a steaming contraption, a dalmatian on the front seat. The horses were simply gorgeous -- I love their strength.

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile was near the end of the parade lineup, which is always finished off by our town's fire department, our special heroes, who defend our small town from the dreaded forest fires with only one paid fire fighter and the rest completely volunteer.

If you'd like to see photos of our Arts Council booth that we "manned" (or rather "womanned") all day, they'll be up on our MECAC site.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Treehouse Living....

The boys made trip after trip last night, moving items from their bedrooms up into the treehouse in preparation for living there for the remainder of the summer. Unfortunately, they got quite chilled last night as the temperatures dropped into the low 50's, so this morning they fortified themselves with the warmer sleeping bags and blankets.

Keith built the kids this treehouse when we first moved in. It was delayed in being finished by my illness, but all it needs now is an interior paint job and some carpet remnants. Not until Keith rigged them a long extension cord that provides them with light and a radio did they ascend the heights to sleep up there, the clear roof allowing them to see the stars at night as they sleep.

This is T's corner, his sleeping bag and blankets from last night somewhat neatly rolled up, his own chair and sandals handy.

J's corner includes a makeshift table holding the radio and electric fan, plus his own folding chair; his blankets and pillows are in the bin under the tabletop.

A door leads from the inside of the treehouse onto the deck where the boys took my good deck chairs for their own use. I believe they ate breakfast on the deck this morning after T sneaked into the house at 7 AM to make eggs and toast accompanied by fresh nectarines.

The view from the treehouse deck across the meadow, looking to the mountains across the valley...

I may have to spend a night up there myself sometime. I love sleeping under the stars, and to smell the vanilla scent of the Jeffrey Pine at the center of the treehouse would be heavenly!

Welcome Help

On Tuesday of this week, our Youth Pastor, Seth, and ten members of the Lake Murray Youth Group, including the three daughters of our senior pastor, drove up the mountain to our house and worked for three hours. Four of the girls took on the laundry room which has been dirty, cobwebby, and unorganized (and not thoroughly cleaned in several years), and led by Janelle, the senior pastor's married daughter, did a wonderful job of clearing every item out, cleaning the entire room, and organizing the room as they returned all of the item. It looks super-spiffy now, and I don't freak anymore if I happen to drop an item of clothing on the floor.

E and another young lady (who both don't care much for spiders) took on some deadheading of snapdragons, roses, and Sweet Williams in my rear flower garden. T and Bryan took on weeding the same area out and clearing the footpath of weeds by hand. Seth, the youth pastor, and Sean, the strongest of the young men, each took a weedeater to the perimeter of our half-acre and demolished the many weeds to nothingness. J and B cleared out the very back corner of the yard, taking down the lawn blocks and stacking them on the cement slab and clearing away all trash and mangled toys from the corner, and then Sean weedwacked the area, making our worst eyesore far more palatable. I directed everyone in what they could do.

In three hours, they couldn't accomplish everything on my list, but our own kids can do a little each day. Today the boys spread pine straw along the freshly-weedwacked side fence line which will keep the weeds at bay, we hope. They also cleaned the porch which wasn't cluttered but needed a good sweeping and cobweb clearing. I managed to deadhead a few areas that the girls missed on Tuesday while E will be cleaning the microwave before baking cookies for the bake sale she's organizing for our town festival Saturday to raise money for the new drama club.

We definitely appreciate the helping hands of Seth and the young people who came up to serve others, something they do each Tuesday for various families at Lake Murray. I also shared my book plans with Seth briefly as the teenagers downed pizza, lemonade, Dr. Pepper, and delicious M&M bars that Janelle baked and brought. Spending $50 on pizza was a small price to pay for three hours of work by over a dozen people (including our four kids). And it's SO NICE to have a clean laundry room!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stained Glass Progress

Keith is working on the last corner of the glass work. He will be trying some new techniques in glass fusing to create the red roses that will brighten up the final corner. But he still has a great deal of soldering on this, the back side, before turning this four foot by five foot window over (very carefully!) to solder the entire front side. He must also patina the solder black and clean the window thoroughly and then make a metal frame that will hold the approximately 100 pounds of glass. He still has weeks of work to go, even though it looks nearly done.

Isn't it gorgeous?????

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mary Magdalene

Saint Mary the Magdalene is, after Christ's mother Mary, the most important woman in the Bible. She was a great supporter of Jesus' ministry, thankful for the freedom she experienced from demonic possession as a result of Christ's power.

The prayer regarding Mary Magdalene from Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime reads:
Almighty God, you have surrounded me with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that I, encouraged by the good example of your servant Mary Magdalene, may persevere in running the race that is set before me, until at last I may with her attain to your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I always think of Mary as the woman who first saw our resurrected Lord outside the tomb on that very special Sunday morning. With what sorrow did she approach the tomb, and with what joy did she depart from it to tell the Eleven what had happened! Mary must have been so very well-beloved of our Lord to be given the first glimpse of Him after the Resurrection! And before she recognizes him, she questions him about the missing body, believing Him to be the gardener, until He said simply, "Mary." At that moment she realized several things: 1) Jesus was indeed alive! 2) Jesus had fulfilled His promises of rising again the third day. 3) God does miracles; He is a God of power and might!

Here is what the Saint A Day e-mail from stated today regarding Mary Magdalene and the misinformation about her that I heard even from my pastor on Sunday:
Except for the mother of Jesus, few women are more honored in the Bible than Mary Magdalene. Yet she could well be the patron of the slandered, since there has been a persistent legend in the Church that she is the unnamed sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50.

Most Scripture scholars today point out that there is no scriptural basis for confusing the two women. Mary Magdalene, that is, “of Magdala,” was the one from whom Christ cast out “seven demons” (Luke 8:2)—an indication, at the worst, of extreme demonic possession or, possibly, severe illness.

Father W.J. Harrington, O.P., writing in the New Catholic Commentary, says that “seven demons” “does not mean that Mary had lived an immoral life—a conclusion reached only by means of a mistaken identification with the anonymous woman of Luke 7:36.” Father Edward Mally, S.J., writing in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, agrees that she “is not...the same as the sinner of Luke 7:37, despite the later Western romantic tradition about her.”

Mary Magdalene was one of the many “who were assisting them [Jesus and the Twelve] out of their means.” She was one of those who stood by the cross of Jesus with his mother. And, of all the “official” witnesses that might have been chosen for the first awareness of the Resurrection, she was the one to whom that privilege was given.

Mary Magdalene is also one of the greatesy subjects of painters through the ages. If you would like to see an assortment, search "Mary Magdalen" with Google Images and see all of the amazing paintings that come up. The painting above is by John Rogers Herbert and is dated 1859. I debated about posting Dante Gabriel Rossetti's painting as I saw it a year ago at the San Diego Museum of Art's PreRaphaelite exhibit, but I liked this one better; she's calmer, more "normal" which agrees with the above opinion that Mary Magdalene was not the same Mary who was a prostitute.

May we all follow Mary Magdalene's example of love and devotion to Christ and support of His ministry as He gifted us with eternal Life and Love.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Joyous Wedding

At 3:05 on Sunday afternoon, Kimberly and her father Osman walked down the aisle of Rolando United Methodist Church (as Lake Murray was too small). Keith and I have known Osman and his wife Debbie for at least ten years at Lake Murray, and they accompanied us to Kauai a few years ago. Both of their children, Kimberly and Dylan, have been missionaries to East Asia, and we've supported Kim on her first trip. Before each trip, Kim drove up the mountain to our home for dinner and to present her ministry to our kids, who have been faithful in praying for her during her years in East Asia. After her first trip, she brought us back a pretty little round enameled dish and some bamboo placemats. After the last trip, she brought the kids chopsticks.

So it was with sheer joy that the kids and I watched Kimberly walk down the aisle on Osman's arm. We had been busy before the wedding; over at the reception hall at the La Mesa Community Center, E and I had helped place boxes of folded red cloth napkins on the creamy tablecloths. The boys helped put small chocolates at each of the 300 settings and later helped place small bubble containers at each setting as well. T helped to get a bubble toy working that blows 4,000 bubbles a minute which indeed provided a bubblicious goodbye to Kim and Paul as they ran to the decorated car after the reception. So after an hour-and-a-half of helping decorate the thirty tables, we ushered ourselves to the church ten minutes away.

We slid into a pew right behind Dr. Burns (my chiropractor and also Kim's as well), his wife, and his receptionist who has become a good friend of ours during the almost seven years that I've been seeing Dr. Burns. The thirty minutes before the wedding party started floating down the aisle flew by as we chatted together. But soon the guitarist and singers changed songs and the wedding party emerged, the guys in black tuxes, the girls in long champagne-colored strapless satin gowns. Then Kimberly and Osman appeared, Kim glowing and Osman vainly attempting to hold back tears.

It was a lovely wedding as they were married by John Hilton, once a Lake Murray associate pastor who now has his own church. The three lovely Rossitto girls made up the majority of the bridesmaids (including Andrea, the maid of honor), and their tiny sister, Wendy, was an adorable flower girl as she held Andrea's hand down the aisle. The two small ringbearers were adorably mischievous. E and I both loved Kimberly's dress -- so simple and classically elegant.

The reception was really fun -- we sat again with the Burnses and Dana and chatted while waiting for the wedding party to arrive. Once they did, we enjoyed a simple supper of chicken salad sandwiches, green salad, and fruit. Then the music started, and E and I were out on the dance floor for a few numbers, including "Love Shack" and "Dancing Queen" -- the latter very appropriate after just seeing Mamma Mia! on Friday. Can Osman and Dylan ever dance! Woo-hoo! E and I danced with Bonnie, a former Class Day student of mine and a former Sunday School teacher for the kids who is now living in Hollywood and is doing extras work on different TV shows (House, ER, Monk, Chuck, Law & Order, etc.) and films. She was complimented on her dancing while filming a high school reunion show of Chuck, and she was really fun to dance near. Whew! Talk about exercise! E and I helped get the cake slices out to the serving table while T helped remove the flowers from the cake earlier. At the end, we all blew bubbles as the happy couple left -- trailing bubbles in the twilight evening as they drove away in Kim's car. Aaaah, young love!

It was a long and tiring day, but joyful and great fun, too. We reported for duty at the reception hall at 1:00 PM after being at church from 9:00 AM - noon (and grabbing a quick Taco Bell lunch after church) and finally left the reception hall at 8:40 PM. We were gone from home for nearly thirteen hours, but all the work and energy expended was well-worth giving Kim the wedding of her dreams.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Day on the Computer....

Today was spent on the computer. It's amazing how much time I (and I'm sure many of us) spend on these machines, and how easy (or difficult) they can make our lives.

So this afternoon I wrote up a calendar of events flier for the arts council as I finish up my secretarial duties and prepare to give them over to Dianne Holly, a retired theatre arts professor from SDSU and UC Santa Barbara. She'll do the job extremely well, so I feel quite fine in handing over the responsibilities that have been mine for the past three years since Judith first started the arts council. I also have been working on ordering a banner for the arts council that will be here in time for our town festival next weekend -- and I found one online that not only works on Saturdays but also took our order, mocked it up on their computer, sent it to me for approval, which I received from our director and treasurer via e-mail, then I set up a PayPal account and was able to pay the company, and they e-mailed me a purchase invoice. Plus, the cost was less than $50, which was my approved budget from the art council, a price that several people didn't think was possible. All this was completed in the space of an hour. Computers are miracles.

I was also able to update the art council site, my remaining duty with the art council -- I think it looks really good and is an excellent representation of what we're trying to do in the community. I added in an arts festival in October, added the banner company to our associates list, found the web address of the local church so I could link it on our site (they helped out with sound and lighting at our theatre production six weeks ago), and made a few other small changes and updates to the site. If you'd like to take a peek at our art council site, click here. Computers are indeed very cool.

But then I wanted to throw my laptop through the window when I tried to untangle our iPod troubles. See, it started when Keith gave me an iPod as a surprise Christmas present a few years ago. Everything was fine until E bought herself an iPod and used it on my computer, but we didn't know that we had to make a new user ID or a new iTunes library or anything. And the iTunes software is strangely silent on this situation of two iPods using the same computer. I finally discovered how to create different libraries within iTunes, and then I tried to sync each iPod with its library. Somehow MY library seems to have disappeared from iTunes, and when I sync'ed E's library, her iPod was wiped clean of everything except the 45 songs she's purchased through iTunes; fortunately, she's not too upset about having to reload hundreds of songs from her CD's. (I got lucky with a teen not getting upset about extra work but will need to give up my computer for hours at a time for her to reload all the CD's.) I did get T's little iPod Shuffle up and running with his own library and managed to get his favorite songs sync'ed to his Shuffle. But now for some reason it's not playing the songs I loaded. Sigh. This whole iPod/iTunes thing has been a frustrating experience, to say the least. I would think that iTunes would make it MUCH EASIER to manage multiple iPods on the same computer, but that's not the case. Even when I called the help number when T first won his iPod (at the Wellness Fair -- not a bad door prize!), the girl at the other end of the line could not understand what I was talking about in the least -- like no one else in the entire world has more than one iPod per computer?????? So I think I *may* have the problem solved, but it's complex and confusing and I'm not completely sure I have it all untangled.

So that's what I've been doing all day -- on the computer who is a helpmeet-par-excellence one moment and a time-waster of epic proportions the next. It's definitely a love-and-hate relationship with computers, isn't it? I just pray that using a Mac will be far easier than this Toshiba has been ... and at last I can iron out our iPod problems on a Mac. Or am I only dreaming?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mamma Mia!

E and I descended upon the movie theatre -- our pastor's middle daughter happened to be in our row -- to see Mamma Mia! Hey, any movie starring Pierce Brosnan AND Colin Firth HAS to be good. And was it ever!

I mean, it's not Oscar material by any stretch. But it's good rockin' and rollin' fun, perfect summertime fare. Set on gorgeous Greek Isles that are the perfect setting for fun and romance, the songs all fit wonderfully well into the story being told of a daughter who isn't sure which of three men is her father so invites all three to her wedding without her mother's knowledge. Meryl Streep was wonderful, and Julie Walters (Molly Weasley in the Harry Potter films) was a hoot-and-a-half. Scene after scene melding one into another beautifully, and the dancing was professional but very loose -- fun and joyful, not pretentious. Pierce's voice was rather laughable, true, but it was campy ABBA 70's music all the way, baby. I was laughing until the tears ran -- several times. The final disco number during the closing credits with wild 70's costumes and eight-inch platforms worn by guys and girls was side-splittingly funny. (Were they able to pay Pierce and Colin enough to even think about wearing those costumes?????)

If you want some good fun (notice I didn't mention "clean," for it wasn't always clean....), plop yourself into a cool movie theatre on a hot afternoon, see Mamma Mia!, sing along to ABBA and laugh 'til you cry. It's the perfect summer fun movie. In fact, I want to see it again -- and E already bought the soundtrack at Walmart on our way out of the mall. So before the guys got home, "Dancing Queen" and "Mamma Mia" were being blasted throughout the house on E's boombox.

"Mamma Mia! Here we go again! My, my! How can I resist you?" Well, E and I sure couldn't!

Caroline Update

Update on Caroline from her mom, Carmen:

Day +1

Those beautiful, life-giving cells started to go in at 6:05pm and finished at about 10:35pm. The nurse said, "Now she has a second birthday to celebrate!" Just before the cells arrived at our room, Jeff was saying that to bring in the cells they should do what they used to do at Farell's restaurant/ice cream parlor when we were kids and it was someone's birthday. The servers would come running through the restaurant with all sorts of noise making devices and carrying a giant tub of ice cream. Oddly, right at 6pm the fire alarm started to go off and we joked that it was because the cells were about to be hung. There were two bags of cells and it once again struck me how generous the donor was to give of himself so unselfishly. They premedicated Caroline with all sorts of meds to avoid an allergic reaction or rejection and she handled the process extremely well. The benadryl they gave her put her to sleep within ten minutes and she continued asleep the whole time. Jeff and I sat by her watching for anything and everything. She did wake up around 10pm and she said she felt a little "funny," but she really couldn't describe what she was experiencing. Her blood pressure went up for a couple of hours, but by midnight was making a significant descent.

Once the second bag was placed, I started to pray the rosary and was so brightened by the idea that it was the day for the Luminous Mysteries. The first luminous mystery relates to Jesus' baptism and how we are reborn through Christ. I know that this refers to a spiritual rebirth, but in many ways Caroline's bone marrow transplant is also a rebirth, a combination of the spiritual and physical. The donor's generous spirit is what Christ wants between all of us and it is that spirit that has allowed Caroline a chance for physical well-being.

Everyone's prayers, love and support are such a constant reminder of God's love for us. Thank you for your continued prayers for Caroline. We now wait for 2-3 weeks until the cells engraft and pray for no more leukemia and controllable graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD). May it be God's will that Caroline live a long and healthy life to serve Him.

We continue our prayers for Caroline's body to take the cells well, that every single leukemia cell is history, and for no or mild GVHD. I admire this wonderful family's love for each other, others, and God. Their faith, hope, and positive attitude are truly inspirational, gifts from God during this difficult time. We send you all much love and many prayers, Carmen, Jeff, and family! (And we popped an envelope into the mail for Caroline yesterday.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Day 0: Caroline's Transplant

Today is it. The day that 10-year-old Caroline, who has been battling leukemia for three years this month, will receive the transplant of bone marrow. Her mom Carmen writes:

Just a quick update. Today is the big day. The cells have been harvested and are coming in from New York. They should arrive at LAX at 4pm and then they will come here to COH -- yes during rush hour! Once they arrive, they will go to the blood bank, they are checked there and then they send them up to us. I think they are hoping to get the process started around 6pm. Of course, it all depends on flight times and traffic.

I woke up this morning praying for the donor and that the process will go smoothly for him. I am still amazed by his generosity and willingness to do this for a little girl he doesn't even know. He must be an amazing individual. I pray that God grant him many graces for this wonderful gift that he is giving us.

Caroline is feeling great today and doesn't seem anxious about the process. Thank you to everyone for keeping her in your prayers. Every step is one step closer to her cure! Sending many blessings to everyone.

PS: We just heard the cells arrived here at COH about five minutes ago at around 4:15pm. I feel like we are waiting for the delivery of a baby.

This morning I looked out my bedroom window at the nearby locust trees, so deeply green with foliage, across the sandy-colored meadow to the grayish purple mountains, including Cuyamaca Peak, sprinkled with rocks at its craggy top. I prayed for Caroline, using St. Patrick's Breastplate prayer, adapted here especially for Caroline:

I bind unto Caroline today the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of our salvation; salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Christ be with Caroline, Christ within her, Christ behind her, Christ before her,
Christ beside her, Christ to win her, Christ to comfort and restore her.
Christ beneath her, Christ above her, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love her, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger [donor].

I bind this day to Caroline forever, by power of faith, Christ's Incarnation,
his baptism in Jordan river,
his death on the cross for our salvation,
his bursting from the spiced tomb,
his ride upon the heavenly way,
his coming at the day of doom,
I bind unto Caroline today.

I bind unto Caroline the power of the great love of cherubim,
the sweet "Well done" in judgment hour,
the service of the seraphim,
confessors' faith, apostles' word,
the patriarch's prayers, the prophets' scrolls,
all good deeds done unto the Lord,
and purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto Caroline today the virtues of the starlit heaven,
the glorious sun's life-giving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling of the wind's tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto Caroline today the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch. his might to stay,
his ear to hearken to her need,
the wisdom of our God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward,
the Word of God to give Caroline speech,
his heavenly host to be her guard.

Almighty Father, Lord of heaven and earth, we ask for your healing hand to be upon Caroline this day, even this hour, as the fresh, healthy bone marrow is to flow into her body. May Caroline's body accept the marrow, and may she experience no complications and no rejection. We pray for your guiding hands on the doctors and nurses, granting them wisdom and discernment as they transfer the new marrow into Caroline's body. Bless, O Father, the donor in New York who so generously provided his marrow for Caroline's healing. Grant Carmen, Jeff, their family and their friends peace and joy this day, and from this hour forward, may the news of Caroline's health ONLY be good news. Hear my prayers, O Lord, and fulfill them completely through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gardening This Summer

(a tree rose in my garden - taken this week)

My garden has been doing fairly well this summer, considering the benign neglect it has experienced as a result of my busy schedule. The roses are still blooming, and I managed to deadhead them on Saturday so we can expect another round of blooms in early fall before the frosts descend. I've also pruned back the snapdragons that overwinter so well up here in the mountains, sometimes lasting for three to four years before needing replacement; they'll also bloom a second time in late summer/early fall and don't mind the frosts a bit. I love their flexibility and the English-garden look they give my flower beds. They even seed themselves a little, surprising me by popping up in nearby planters this spring.

The orange California poppies are still blooming here and there, and the dianthus, commonly known by the endearing name of Sweet Williams, needs frequent picking of dead blooms. I've spent hours bent over these low-lying plants with their cheery white, pale pink, and fuchsia flowers, and they also survive the snowy winters here very well, but they are a bit of a pain (in a physical as well as a time-involvement sense). My lavender plants usually overwinter adequately, although they require cutting them to ground level early each spring and take a long time to grow back, usually reaching bloom stage just in time for the first frost.

On the other hand, the Mexican primroses, onithera, spread their delicate pale pink flowers everywhere -- I was warned when I purchased the six-pack at Summers Past Farms that they "take over everything," a fact I knew from growing them in San Diego. However, I wasn't sure how they would do in a colder climate, if they would completely die off over the winter or would survive the 20-degree winter nights and thrive. Well, they thrived -- throve -- whatever. Everywhere. They are so beautiful, and in the fall, their foliage turns a gorgeous red -- a favorite of mine in every way.

My herb garden is doing fairly well, except for the parsley and basil plants that the squirrels have also taken a liking to. I purchased a sage plant last spring, unsure of how it would do, and it has done very well, with its tiny cornflower-blue blooms and lavender-like foliage. The rosemary is doing very well - it overwinters perfectly here, and the peppermint and spearmint plants died off over the winter and then came back in little spurts all over a three-foot area.

The heat prevents me from caring for my garden the way I would like this summer, as does my health. On Saturday I spent just thirty minutes deadheading flowers and had three days' of lower back and upper leg pain to show for it. As much as I would adore spending hours in my garden, I am prevented by the heat, my health, and finances from making my garden all that I would like it to be. I will be getting some help next Tuesday when the Lake Murray youth group comes up to give us a hand with weeding and digging a new flowerbed. They offer their services for food and drink only as a service to church members; I'll help them out with some gas money as our home is 35 miles from the church. I am looking forward to the improved look of my garden, even if we can't afford the $500 gardener and the $500 water bill the previous owners paid to keep this half-acre in tip-top condition. I do my little best but am hoping that the help next week will be an encouragement as I continue to wage war for beauty in a yard being taken over by meadow grasses and 100-degree temperatures....

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Disappearing from Our Lives....

Today I read an interesting article on AOL about 25 items that are disappearing from our current lifestyle. Some I easily understood, some surprised me. Some of the items that are apparently on their way out are stand alone bowling alleys, incandescent light bulbs, land phone lines, answering machines (because of the disappearing land lines, of course), the Yellow Pages, classified ads, movie rental stores, dial-up Internet access, VCR's, ham radio, swimming holes (too many lawsuits), cameras using film, wild horses, personal checks, drive-in theaters, mumps and measles, honey bees (scary!), news magazines and TV news, analog TV, and, #1, the family farm. But one that is obvious yet sad to me is the disappearance of the written letter. The full article stated:

While precise statistics aren't available, common opinion strongly suggests the hand-written note has become the dodo of the communications species. If so, I'm saddened. The very act of writing by hand slows the mind, forces it into a more contemplative state in which precisely chosen words convey nuances of emotion that could never be captured in a quick "Wassup?"

Certainly, the barriers for a rebirth of handwritten notes are significant; postage, stationary cost, the lack of immediacy, and the time and care required in its preparation. For me, an additional hurdle is my hen-scratch penmanship.

Nonetheless, nothing expresses respect for another like a handwritten letter, and no love e-mail, text message or cell phone call will ever be carefully bundled into a memory box and savored for years to come. In a world that thrives on acceleration, the handwritten letter calls us to a time more deliberate, elegant, and gracious.

I know that many of the items on the above list are far more serious than the disappearance of the handwritten letter, but this one saddens me. The handwritten letter, even a handwritten note, is such a personal expression from one person to another. Although I e-mail many times a day, I try to take the time to drop a handwritten note into the mail every once in a while, just to let someone know that I'm thinking of them, praying for them, admire them, have been encouraged by them, or thank them. The time it takes to write such a note in my best penmanship, on a pretty card or piece of stationery, to put on a stamp (which I always choose carefully -- right now it's Frank Sinatra), take to the post office (no mail delivery or pick up in our town), and mail. The time taken is a gift to the person to whom I send it, and I consider the handwritten notes I receive in the same light: a gift of time and effort from someone who cares for me.

So if you really want to give a friend or family member a "lift" today, take out a blank notecard or piece of stationery and write them a short note. Doing so shows how much you really care.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Introduction to Victoria Forums

I found out that my favorite magazine, Victoria, has recently developed online forums. I know that another forum is the LAST thing I need as I can't keep up with the forums I frequent (or used to, anyway), but Victoria holds a special place in my heart as my "sanity break" through the baby years of our children's lives. On days when I didn't have time to shower, much less lead a life of grace and beauty, opening an issue of Victoria treated me to a short break and I was swept away to Cape Cod or the English countryside for a few minutes out of my day. So imagine my joy when Victoria returned this spring from their publishing hiatus. You may see my post here on the Return of Victoria.

So here is the "Introduction" I posted this morning on the Victoria forums. Enjoy!
I am Susanne, 42 years old, a native San Diegan. I've been married for 23 years to a wonderful husband and have four children: a 16-year old girl and boys ages 13, 11, and 8. I taught at a local liberal arts university for several years before stopping to educate our children at home -- a lifestyle choice we have been following for eleven years.

A dear friend gave me a subcription to Victoria very early on, and the magazine was my one connection to living a beautiful life while I was changing diapers and toilet-training our little people. Once in a while, the mayhem of a house with four small children would calm momentarily, and I would snatch up the newest copy of Victoria and find myself transported to English garden parties or the deliciousness of lemon tarts or the creative calling cards of creative women all around the world. Victoria truly helped me keep my sanity during those years of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers where my only physical outing each week was to the park or library, yet through the pages of a very special magazine, I could find myself on the beaches of Cape Cod or in a rose garden in Vermont or in an antique shop in San Francisco. I saved every copy and often pulled out a particular issue for decorating ideas as we restored a 1914 Craftsman near downtown San Diego -- a ten-year project we accomplished with little ones under our feet, even down to refinishing 50-year-old oak floors. During those years, I hied myself to the tiny garden as often as possible, teaching toddlers how to use a hand cultivator and to help with a watering can. Lavender, roses, calla lilies, bachelor's buttons, pin cushion flowers -- all thrived as I slowly returned the flower beds into areas of beauty after years of neglect.

Seven years ago, the Craftsman home finished and our family growing, we stepped out of city life and moved to the mountains east of San Diego, to a small town of 1200 people and a 1920's mountain cabin. I have room for gardening now with a large lot compared to a cramped city area: hollyhocks spilling up the back fence, roses running rampant, wildflowers popping up everywhere. Our children have space now to run and play -- and we all especially enjoy the original cabin living room with its large stone fireplace, Tudor-style beams running across the ceiling, and lovely pine-covered walls. The large picture window looks across a wide meadow, filled with snow in the winter, wildflowers in spring, and golden color in summer and fall. Living in a small mountain town is a perfect place to raise our children and a perfect place to inspire my writing.

So I was thrilled when Victoria returned -- an old friend whom I had missed dreadfully. Now I savor every page just as I did when the children were little. Although I now have two teens and two later elementary children to educate at home, I still need to slip into the world of Victoria - a miniature vacation from teaching math and grammar and from settling quarrels. Victoria encourages me in my writing as well - the quality of prose and the delightful quotations sprinkled throughout each issue inspire me to pick up my pen. I always savor the last page -- the prose of the resident writers over the years inspires me to keep on with my own work. I write best with a wooden pen made by my husband, tipped with an extra-fine steel nib, dipped into a glass bottle of sepia ink. The words seem to flow just ahead of the ink, issuing phrases and sentences that require the leisurely pace of penmanship. Composing on a computer doesn't give me the time to consider my writing, word by word and paragraph by paragraph as writing with a beautiful rosewood pen.

So welcome back, Victoria! I hope to spend some time here on the forums as encouragement for leading a Victoria lifestyle -- one of beauty and grace, with the sheen of antiques, the fragrance of old books, the scent of lavender, and the scratch of a metal nib filled with sepia ink across a parchment page.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Divine Hours

Dru of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity first lent me a book in the Divine Hours: A Manual for Prayer series (three books: Spring, Summer, and Fall/Winter) this spring, and I fell in love with it. Then she gave me the entire series, all in hardcover, when she cleaned out her bookshelves. What riches!

This series of prayers is ecumenical in spirit, for as the prayers for each day rely strongly on Catholic Liturgy of the Hours, many prayers are based on those found in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer while some of the hymns are definitely not out of place in evangelical churches.

Phyllis Tickle's series of prayer books lay out prayers for each day of the year: Morning Office (6 AM - 9 AM), Midday Office (11 AM - 2 PM), and Vespers Office (5 PM - 8 PM). For each month, Compline (bedtime) or Night Office prayers are included for each day of the week, Sunday through Saturday, so those prayers are prayed four times each or so until a new month occurs.

Here is yesterday's Morning Office:

The Call to Prayer
Let us give thanks to the LORD for his mercy and the wonders he does for his children.
For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
based on Psalm 107:8-9

The Request for Presence
Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my meditation.
Hearken to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I make my prayer to you.
In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for you.
Psalm 5:1-3

The Greeting
Out of the mouths of infants and children, O LORD, your majesty is praised above the heavens.
based on Psalm 8:2

The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I am small and of little account yet I do not forget your commandments.
Psalm 119:141

A Reading
At this time the disciples came to Jesus and said, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' So he called a little child to him whom he set among them. Then he said, 'In truth I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'
Matthew 18:1-4

The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I am small and of little account yet I do not forget your commandments.
Psalm 119:141

The Morning Psalm
The span of our life is seventy years, perhaps in strength even eighty; yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow, for they pass away quickly and we are gone.
Who regards the power of your wrath? Who rightly fears your indignation?
So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
Psalm 90: 10-12

The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I am small and of little account yet I do not forget your commandments.
Psalm 119:141

The Cry of the Church
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

The Lord's Prayer

The Prayer Appointed for the Week
O God, you have taught me to keep all your commandments by loving you and my neighbor: Grant me the grace of your Holy Spirit, that I may be devoted to you with my whole heart, and united to others with pure affection: through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. +

The Concluding Prayer of the Church
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me in the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. +

The two "+" signs at the end of the final two prayers signify making the Sign of the Cross. The Prayer of the Week is prayed at each prayer, Morning, Midday, and Vespers, from one Sunday through the following Saturday. The Concluding Prayers are usually the same for Morning Prayer each day, and another Concluding Prayer is used for Midday and another for Vespers, and they are based on prayers in the Book of Common Prayer. Other than the above repetitions, the Scriptures are different for every Office every day so one receives lots of Psalms and other Scriptures to pray and read four times a day.

Weather permitting, I pray and read The Divine Hours on my front porch where I can enjoy fresh mountain air and the cool of the morning, the heat of midday, the sunset of Vespers, and the crisp evening air of Compline (Night Office). I enjoy praying as I look across the golden meadow, spy stellar jays swoop into the treetops, and watch the stars come out in the deep midnight-blue sky at night. And it's quiet on my porch -- I'm away from the noise of the house, just me and my Lord for a few minutes several times a day. It's lovely.

Quite often The Gloria is listed to pray in the Midday and Vespers Offices: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. In the Vespers Office a hymn is usually written out to pray through, and if I know the tune, I'll sing it softly as the sun disappears behind the western hills that surround our little mountain valley.

I've found these books to be tremendously helpful for my private prayers and Scripture readings. They are far from the only resources I use, and praying each Office four times during day doesn't happen as often as I would like. But The Divine Hours: A Manual for Prayer is an excellent series of devotional books that brings me out of myself and puts me at the feet of my Lord more often than I would normally be. Dru purchased the set at Costco, but they are also available through as well. I don't know if I can thank her enough for giving me these lovely three volumes of prayer and Scripture. Thank you SO MUCH, Dru!!!!!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Prayer Request for Caroline

Carmen and I have kept in touch over the seventeen years since we graduated from the Masters in English program at University of San Diego. I started having babies while Carmen continued her education, earning a PhD. at UC Riverside and taking a tenure-track position at Cuyamaca College. Keith and I attended her wedding to Jeff, and our children attended each others' birthday parties when they were little ones.

Three years ago, their older daughter, Caroline, was diagnosed with leukemia. They jumped through all the hoops of chemotherapy and treatments and frequent visits at Children's Hospital. Caroline was nearing the close of her treatment; one more test and she would have been declared "cured." But that last test showed that the leukemia was back. The date was March 10 of this year.

Carmen and I were working together this spring semester on one of her classes; she taught the class while I wrote the grammar tutorials that were posted online. She also took me to a wonderful concert at her church for my birthday, just a week before Caroline's results came back.

So Caroline has spent a great deal of time in Children's with frequent fevers requiring hospitalization while the doctors and her parents discussed options. A bone marrow transplant at City of Hope in Pasadena seems the best direction, and, miraculously, a perfect match was found in their registry. An apartment was found near the hospital and furnished with love by friends and family, and they all moved up north last week. July 17 is T-Day - the day of the actual bone marrow transplant.

During Caroline's first round of treatment, Lake Murray made and prayed over a cheerful quilt for her -- every knot tied on it representing a prayer for her complete recovery. Once we found out that her leukemia had returned, Keith took time from his stained glass masterpiece to make a portable window for Caroline of Fred, her own cartoon horse whom she has featured in 25 Fred books. Now Fred can go with her to any hospital room, his bright colors cheering Caroline up wherever she is. Fred is at City of Hope now, a symbol of Caroline's hopes and dreams for wellness.

Today Carmen wrote on their Children's Hospital website:
Caroline has made it through the surgery to remove her port and put in her Hickman line, and through four radiation treatments. The radiation treatments started yesterday and knocked her down right away. I was amazed because she had always withstood really well even the "big gun" chemo they have given her. She has a hard time even getting up out of the wheel chair when they take her to radiation and has been nauseous frequently. In the past three years she has probably been nauseous 3 or 4 times and she has been nauseous that many times just in one day now. She is so strong though. I had a harder time seeing the Hickman in place than she did. She doesn't like it, but I thought I was going to faint. I keep hoping that if she is feeling this tired, the leukemia is feeling it even more. I just keep imagining any remaining leukemia cells getting zapped and evaporating. That is really the only way we can manage to keep taking her to the treatments....

Overall, it has already been more intense than I had imagined it would be at this point, but it is going as planned. All your prayers are helping her deal with it all. I keep telling her that if this is what we need to do to cure her, then we need to do it and put it behind us. Every treatment is another thing we can put in the past. With God's help, we will make it through one step at a time. So for now, Fred is hanging in a City of Hope hospital window.

I don't usually use this blog for prayer requests, but this is a special, special circumstance for a special, special young girl. Please keep Caroline and her family in your prayers as we pray for a successful transplant with no complications and a long life of wellness and serving God for Caroline. We also pray for strength for her in the days preceding he transplant as the radiation she's undergoing is affecting her greatly; we just pray that it's killing every last leukemia cell.

From the Book of Common Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd of the sheep, you gather the lambs into your arms and carry them in your bosom: We commend to they loving care this child Caroline. Relieve her pain, guard her from all danger, restore to her your gifts of gladness and strength, and raise her up to a life of service to you. Hear us, we pray, for your dear Name's sake. Amen.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Preconceptions of Writers

I've been following Kathy's 10 Minute Writer blog because once school starts, I will need some practical ways to get some writing done each day -- on my book, I pray.

She also posted this little freewrite on our preconceptions of writers. So here are a few of mine, which do repeat a few of hers:

I see a professional writer sitting at a beautiful cherry antique desk (not my war-scarred teacher's desk from the 1970's), laptop open while she drums away writing scene after scene, a view of a lake and lofty pines or an English garden in the picture window ahead of her. Cup of tea in a lovely flowered china cup at her right hand (unlike my 16 oz burgundy mug that was a Christmas present from my friend and the kids' math tutor -- refills not needed) at her elbow.

I don't write often at my desk because it's too cluttered for anything but blogging. I don't consider blogging REAL writing for some bizarre reason -- don't know why. I need a big clear space to write -- the pine school table that Keith built for us, or a table in a coffee shop, either in Julian or in San Diego and environs. I can't write well in our town's coffee shop; it's too cramped and too noisy and distracting. I like drafting pages in sepia ink or in pencil, and revise as I type it into the computer.

I also see professional writers as having nothing else to do but WRITE. The whole day is ahead of her, so she can leisurely sip her tea and plan the next chapter while I end up scurrying because writing time is so precious that I don't dare "waste" it. I try to plan out chapters or points while watering the garden or weeding/pruning. And I can't easily jot down ideas while doing those activities.

A professional writer also has QUIET and SOLITUDE in which to write -- and as a homeschooling mother of four growing kids, I rarely have either, much less both. I do need quiet, and I also need solitude, both of which are in short supply. I wrote some on Monday but it was while the boys were sorting recyclables in the patio, and I was constantly jumping up to referee quarrels and encourage work. I spent time taking away one child's Nintendo DS which he was playing instead of working. I stopped another boy from throwing recyclables rather than handing them to his brother. Etcetera. I had some solitude and moments of quiet, but also had consistent interruptions and constant noise while I tried to work. Introverts like me need QUIET and SOLITUDE and ORDER and PEACE in order to write.

Now in my current writing project I'm being stopped by the need to research, the blessing and bane of all nonfiction writers. I could research forever. And write never. So I have tried to divide my summer non-homeschooling days into writing in the mornings and research into the afternoons. We'll see how it works.

My life is very unlike my preconceptions of a professional writer. I'm no Jan Karon or Jane Austen. I feel more like a Virginia Woolf at times. But mostly I just feel like a homeschool mother who happens to write rather than a writer who happens to homeschool four children. I wonder what I can do to change my own perceptions?

10 Books to Read Before You Die

This header came up this morning on my AOL Welcome screen, and of course I had to check out the list, based on results of a popular opinion poll conducted by Netscape. I agree with a good number of the books on the list with one, perhaps two exceptions. Before I discuss, however, let's see the list:

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The Stand by Stephen King
Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Holy Bible

I have NOT read Lord of the Rings (not anything else by Tolkien), The Stand, or Angels and Demons. I personally do not think that Dan Brown's books should be on the list of the most important books to read before one dies. I can only speak for the Da Vinci Code, however, which I found to be an entertaining thriller but totally messed up theologically and historically. I've spent the last few years studying church history, and his plot revolving around the events of Christ's life were preposterous at best. I hope that they were the result of shoddy research and not the deliberate misconstruing of history. It also bothered me that although Brown protested that the novel was a mere work of fiction, the foreword stated that much of his setting was real, including Opus Dei. The Catholic Church is portrayed throughout the novel as "the bad guy," evil to the core, which also offended me although I am not a Catholic myself.

Instead of Dan Brown's thrillers, I would place on the list instead the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis and perhaps Les Miserables by Victor Hugo although the latter would break the 20th century list (excepting the Bible, of course).

I'll admit that I was pleasantly surprised to see the Bible on the list, very pleasantly surprised. I studied it as literature in my public high school senior English class where we read part of Genesis, part of Job, several Psalms, and part of John's Gospel. Our teacher, a non-Christian, believed that in order to be culturally literate people, we needed a knowledge of the Bible as it so often pops up in other works via literary allusions. Agreed. I'm reading through the entire Bible right now on a three-year plan with the Bible Book Club; even though I am a couple of weeks behind, I'm working to catch up. (I always get bogged down in Deuteronomy and Numbers.)

I agree totally with LOTR and Harry Potter -- both are fantasy series with universal (as well as particularly Christian themes) that are well-worth one's time. I agree with Ayn Rand, GWTW, Mockingbird, Catcher, and even The Stand (which I've been planning to read for years, but it's a monstrosity in length).

So take this list with a grain of salt when it comes to Dan Brown's works, but, otherwise, I can recommend it wholeheartedly. I don't think Dan Brown's works are bad necessarily, as long as one keeps in mind that his historical background is wildly off base, but I wouldn't include them in a list of "10 Books to Read Before You Die." No way.

Speaking of reading, I've just started Life of Pi for our Logos reading and discussion group at Lake Murray, and so far it's rather slow but intriguing. I'll let you know how it goes....

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

At Last.....

Aaaah. Finally. A chance to pull out a nice yellow legal pad, a bottle of sepia ink, and a wooden pen that Keith carved for me ages ago, complete with a shiny new fine-tipped nib. I am ready to write.

After desiring to write all year, I sat down yesterday and ground out four pages on the first chapter of my book. It won't be the first chapter organizationally, but it's the one I feel God nudging me to write first. After browsing through my notes, I realized that I have no information on this particular topic, so I also did some basic research yesterday as well.

I felt rather clumsy at first, dragging reluctant words from my mind onto the page. But soon they began to volunteer, lining themselves up nicely before dripping from the nib of my pen. I do miss my old nib terribly, rusty and clogged and worn past use. This new shiny one, though beautiful, doesn't flow for me the way the old one did although it does hold its ink well - always a benefit in a nib.

I know it's an odd way to write. But, somehow, the time it takes to dip the nib into the ink bottle every line or two gives me space in my mind to plan the next few words, the next phrase even, to shift direction if needed, to pursue the path of thought more deeply. The ink flowing from the nib as it scratches across the paper somehow keeps my thoughts flowing too. Yes, I can compose on my laptop, but there is something elemental, soothing to mind and hand, almost luxurious, in writing thus. Plus the pain I often experience from computer typing isn't an issue -- at least not until the second draft which I type into the computer. And with the ink effortlessly sliding from nib point to page, I don't have to press down while I write, saving me the pain in my hands I usually experience when handwriting.

So for these next four weeks I hope to have at least three days per week (four or five would be ideal) in which I can be at home and follow my little summer schedule which includes Morning, Noon, Vespers, and Evening Scripture and Prayer, gardening, and time to study and write on my book as well as time to rest and read something light and fun.

I also finished up some research for our Writers' Group meeting tonight in which we're working together on a sci-fi story set in our town. As the only non-fiction writer in the group, I did some preliminary research on the Laguna Fire of 1970 and the fire storm that descended upon our town as it forms a great deal of the setting. The fiction writers can take it from there....

I'll keep blogging a little, but I am really so excited to be working on a writing project again. My goal is to get at least one chapter into second-draft shape by the beginning of August, and I'm working on the Sign of the Cross, as directed by the Holy Spirit. This topic was definitely NOT the one I had planned on tackling first, but I'm certainly not willing to get in the way of the nudging of the Holy Spirit....

Today was not such a writing day, as T had a dental appointment in San Diego at nine this morning. We were done by 9:15 and debated heading straight home again, something I wished to do but the three boys did not. We decided to drive to Balboa Park since we were already more than halfway there, and we enjoyed a quick trip to the San Diego Zoo. There we visited the Reptile House, something that the Zoo has been too crowded lately for us to enjoy, and also stopped by to see the boys' favorite animals, the meerkats and otters in the Children's Zoo. T relieved me of my camera for most of our trip today and shot a good number of photos. We also rode the Skyfari across the park (I took photos of Balboa Park and the downtown skyline) to see the polar bears on the far side of the Zoo, and then rode back to the front of the Zoo. While the Zoo was blessedly empty, Balboa Park was jam-packed with kids' groups EVERYWHERE. We stopped for a visit in the Spanish Village, talking with various artists who were working on their crafts of oil painting, pottery, tile-painting with glazes, etc. Keep on eye out for photos on my photo blog over the next day or two -- T and I took some nice ones.

Now it's back to pen and paper, reading and research. And perhaps a nap, after all the walking I did today....

Write On!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Stained Glass Update

This photo celebrates the 20th week in the stained glass saga. Keith is easily 75% finished with the piecing; all he has to do now is find appropriate glass for the dirt path and experiment with glass fusing on the red roses. His piece of column glass arrived today so he can now finish the column on the left behind the roses.

Keith is now aiming for a September 1 finish date. He still has a good deal of soldering to do on this, the back side, plus he will have to *very carefully* turn the entire window over to solder around every single piece on the entire front side. Our previous estimates were off a bit; it now looks like Keith's original estimate of 1200-1300 pieces will be accurate after all.

He's out in his shop now, foiling pieces of the mid-ground beside the lake. We really like the depth that the design has developed since placing the hills and other mid-ground pieces. It looks as though one could simply step off the stones onto the dirt path and meander down to the lake, doesn't it?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Seventh Sunday after Trinity

The Collect for today, the Seventh Sunday after Trinity (and to be prayed throughout the week by all Anglicans using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer):

Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things; Graft in our hearts the love of thy Name, increase us in true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of thy great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Before leaving for Lake Murray this morning, I prayed the Morning Prayers for the Sixth Day in A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie. Following is a portion that is a wonderful devotional prayer for all of us on this Lord's Day:

Grant that the remembrance of the blessed Life that was once lived out on this common earth under these ordinary skies may remain with me in all the tasks and duties of this day. Let me remember --
His eagerness, not to be ministered unto but to minister:
His sympathy with suffering of every kind:
His bravery in the face of His own suffering:
His meekness of bearing, so that, when reviled, He reviled not again:
His steadiness of purpose in keeping to His appointed task:
His simplicity:
His self-discipline:
His serenity of spirit:
His complete reliance on Thee. His Father in Heaven.
And in each of these ways give me grace to follow in His footsteps.

Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, I commit all my ways unto Thee. I make over my soul to Thy keeping. I pledge my life to Thy service. May this day be for me a day of obedience and of charity, a day of happiness and of peace. May all my walk and conversation be such as becometh the Gospel of Christ. Amen.

Prayers and Myers-Briggs Personalities....

For almost ten years the Internet community I've hung around with has been very "into" Myers-Briggs personality tests. These rate whether a person is an Introvert (I) or Extrovert (E), Sensing (S) or iNtuition (N), Feeling (F) or Thinking (T), and Judging (J) or Perceiving(P). I'm an ISFJ which, according to the tests, means that I am a Nurturer. (Click on "ISFJ" for a full description.)

Then I ran across this hilarious set of prayers based on each of the Myers-Briggs combinations on Sister Spitfire's blog. See if you can locate your own personality in this list (mine is in bold):

ISTJ: Lord, help me to relax about insignificant details beginning tomorrow at 11:41:23 a.m. E.S.T.

ISTP: God, help me to consider people’s feelings, even if most of them ARE hypersensitive.

ESTP: God, help me to take responsibility for my own actions, even though they’re usually NOT my fault.

ESTJ: God, help me to not try to RUN everything. But, if You need some help, just ask.

ISFJ: Lord, help me to be more laid back and help me to do it EXACTLY right.

ISFP: Lord, help me to stand up for my rights (if you don’t mind my asking).

ESFP: God, help me to take things more seriously, especially parties and dancing.

ESFJ: God, give me patience, and I mean right NOW.

INFJ: Lord, help me not to be a perfectionist. (Did I spell that correctly?)

INFP: God, help me to finish everything I sta

ENFP: God, help me to keep my mind on one th - Look a bird! - at a time.

ENFJ: God, help me to do only what I can and trust you for the rest. Do you mind putting that in writing?

INTJ: Lord, keep me open to other’s ideas, *wrong* though they may be.

INTP: Lord, help me to be less independent, but let me do it my way.

ENTP: Lord, help me follow established procedures today. On second thought, I’ll settle for a few minutes.

ENTJ: Lord, help me slow downandnotrushthroughwhatIdo.

(And did I mention that Keith is an INTP? At least he'll finish the stained glass window!)

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Mountains, the Beach, and the Zoo

On Monday my parents, my sister and her family from Montana, and the kids and I all drove up to Julian via Mount Laguna. Julian is fun, with storefronts dating from the 1880's and the smell of Julian's famous apple pies wafting along the covered sidewalks. Most of the storefronts now house interesting shops, including one that sported a bird theme. On our way home, we drove through what's left of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, including the view above from the Stonewall Mine, the richest gold mine in the area. From the mine area we took photos of Stonewall Peak (above photo) which burned in the Cedar Fire of 2003. We used to climb it at least once a summer when we stayed at the horse camp as kids.

On Wednesday after Anglican chapel and a chiropractic visit, we headed down to the beach. It was very cloudy along the coast all day, a bit too cold for swimming, so we took a walk down the beach to the tidepools near Bird Rock. All eight cousins were together today at the beach, so it was fun to watch them run along the beach, gathering shells and interesting rocks. My brother Tom took the kids over to the tidepools where the kids examined crabs, hermit crabs, lobster and stingray carcasses, and sea urchins.

Then we braved the evening commute traffic to the San Diego Zoo which is now open in the evenings after dark for the summer. The eight cousins all posed for a photo in the Children's Zoo before twilight claimed decent light; it's not often we have all eight of them together.

T took my camera several times and took photos of his favorite animals: otters and meerkats. He did a very nice job with the photos in poor light. We stayed until after 9:00 PM after enjoying dinner outdoors. We explored the Children's Zoo, monkeys, tigers, hippos, pandas (no line for once!), lions, bears, elephants, and giraffes.

It's been a busy few days, but the kids are really enjoying the time with their cousins, both the two cousins who live in San Diego and the two Montana cousins. I'm looking forward to a few days of finishing up the kids' school grades and perhaps getting some writing done on my book. And also relax a little, too -- something I have had little time to do over the past few months.

A few extra photos will be posted on my photo blog if you're interested.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Family In Town

My sister, her husband, and their two children are in town from Montana, so we've been quite busy. Almost as soon as the Summer Art classes finished, we were at our former neighbors' 50th wedding anniversary party at which it was lovely to see so many friends from my childhood; we lived in that neighborhood from the time I was six years old until three years after Keith and I were married. Several of these neighbors helped with our wedding reception held in my parents' backyard at sunset 23 years ago. The Lanhams, who lived across the street and whose Golden Anniversary we celebrated on Saturday, were the family who took me to church when I was eight and first introduced me to Christ. Their youngest son, Scott, was my age exactly and we went through school together from first grade until graduating high school. He gave me my first kiss and we used to play tackle football on his front lawn on summer nights. We truly grew up together. And then we saw other families whom we knew as I grew up, including a neighbor whom I had a huge crush on when I was in 7th grade. It was great to see all the old neighbors, and fun for my sister and her family to be here for the special event.

On Sunday after church at Lake Murray and our Logos meeting to discuss Blue Like Jazz, we had a family barbecue down at my parents' place in Pacific Beach, complete with our aunt and her husband, our uncle, and Mom's cousin, his wife and tennaged daughter, plus my brother and his two kids, my sister, her husband, and their two, plus Keith, myself, and our four kids. The deck was certainly full as we enjoyed grilled chicken, ribs, and sausages with baked beans and coleslaw with strawberry shortcake for dessert.

Then on Monday my parents and my sister and her family drove up the mountain to our home, and from there the kids and I followed their Surburban with our Sienna to my parents' cabin on Mount Laguna for a quick visit, and then we caravanned into Julian, a charming goldmining-town-turned-tourist-attraction. We enjoyed lunch and wandered through a couple of shops, including our traditional stop at the Cider Mill which has all kinds of great things to eat along with samples of cherry apple cider. We drove home from Julian via Cuyamaca Rancho State Park where we stopped near our old camping spot at Los Caballos Horse Camp which burned in the 2003 Cedar Fire at the Stonewall Gold Mine to take photos of Stonewall Peak, which also burned in the fire, and the surrounding area which used to be on our favorite riding trail over to Lake Cuyamaca. I'll post a few photos later this week on my photo blog.

Today was an at-home day, and I played catch-up with e-mail, laundry, and gardening. Tomorrow after Anglican chapel and a stop at Dr. Burns' office for a quick chirpractic adjustment, we'll go down to my parents' house for an afternoon on the beach then an evening at the San Diego Zoo which is open at night during the summer. We don't have anything really planned for the 4th of July, and after this busy week, we may just stay home and rest.

More later, and more photos to boot....


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