Monday, September 29, 2008

Excuses, Excuses....

I apologize for neglecting this blog. Our lives have been crazy-busy and are just beginning to settle back down into a semblance of normality. I have so many items to post but no time to even download photos from my camera, much less edit and post.

Once the Brave Writer class finishes on Friday, my life will return to normal, but I'll also have essays to grade from my writing classes, too. So I may be posting short snippets, but at least I'll be back posting here on a regular basis.

Upcoming posts (I hope!):
-- Stained glass window transport and unveiling
-- Our field trip today to the San Diego Maritime Museum (and Star of India)
-- Angels (Michael, Gabriel, etc.) whose Feast Day it is today
-- Local writing group ideas
-- Logos discussion of Death Comes for the Archbishop
-- Mystery novels by Anne Perry and Victoria Thompson
-- Growing kids
-- Healthy living

I hope to get to some or most of these this week. Crossing my fingers!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Special, Special Day ... Especially for Grammar Geeks

Today is a day dear to the heart of all English teachers. Yes, it's (drum roll, please)...


First of all, YES, there is such a day. In fact, today marks the fifth anniversary of this blessed celebration. And to encourage all of you in the noble pursuit of correct punctuation, here is the official web site.

So, don't party too hearty, k? We still have teaching to accomplish tomorrow.

I've Simply Been Swamped....

I'm pausing from my whirlwind-of-a-life to say that, yes, I will write here again soon. We spent last week preparing for a weekend of afternoon visitors to see Keith's incredibly beautiful stained glass window that is displayed in our living room for a few days before final installation Friday in Dr. Adema's home. Because of the gardening and house cleaning and 40+ people who have stopped by to see the window, I didn't write my poetry assignments for Brave Writer over the weekend as I did last week so I've been scrambling and posting assignments after 1:00 AM this week! Add to that tutoring Monday and Tuesday afternoons, plus driving over 100 miles round trip to watch one of my best students ever receive a $10,000 scholarship from Nordstrom's today which was wonderful but conflicted with actually getting school accomplished today, and we have a running-behind Moi.

We got home from the scholarship presentation (will post more soon as it's a cool story!) just in time to gulp down a few bites of lunch after 3 PM, start tutoring at 3:30, and then have back-to-back visitors to see the window from 4PM to 9 PM. I love having people come by to see the window and to chat, especially Keith's sister who stayed for our Chicken Parmigiana dinner, but I am so worn out from the last ten days that I fell asleep while typing replies to Brave Writer families tonight. Yep -- dozed off with fingers still on the keyboard and everything.

I still have an entire BW assignment on Japanese poetry ("tanka," to be precise) to write early tomorrow morning and Class Day to prepare for Thursday. On Friday Keith, his brother, and a neighbor will be ***very gingerly*** transporting the stained glass window from our home to Dr. Adema's. It will be the longest ten miles of Keith's life, I think. And those last few hundred feet of dirt washboard road will be the most terrifying. We have the grand unveiling on Saturday night -- a semi-formal evening affair. I also am leading our Logos discussion on Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop on Sunday. (Which I still need to finish reading, of course.) So I suppose I won't really be able to flop into my favorite armchair and truly relax for at least another five days or so. At least.

But I really want to write about Tyler receiving his scholarship. And the interview I gave the Nordstrom's people was filmed -- I was "miked" for the first time in my life and apparently did okay as after the ordeal was finished, the director asked me if I had done televised interviews before as we had hardly a retake. So I will post photos and write about Tyler's wonderful surprise today -- as soon as I can write without falling asleep on my keyboard, that is....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Project Runway....

The fifth season of Project Runway is just as wonderful, if not more so, than the first. The designers are more "regular" people this time around -- Jennifer, Joe, and Leanne are all three perfectly normal. Leanne has really grown on me after winning two challenges in a row and was robbed of a win on the last challenge (the avant garde astrological sign) -- hers was really the only truly avant garde outfit, despite Kenley's bizarre self-assurance that her U-G-L-Y dress with uneven puffed sleeves and the combination of plaid and floral that didn't mix at all and definitely had NOTHING to do with Aquarius. Of course, then there's Stella the biker and Blayne with his "licious" fixation who are definitely NOT the usual neighbors-next-door.

I really liked Kenley at first -- I adore vintage 40's and 50's clothing, but she is getting SOOOOO stubborn! I think it was Michael Kors who made the comment last episode (the astrological challenge) that Kenley seemed more like a Taurus than an Aquarius with her refusal to take criticism and her stubborn sticking to her ideas. Kenley seemed even more stubborn tonight in refusing to listen to Tim, being abnormally obtuse about the strengths and weaknesses in her clothes, and her rude laughter at others' expense ON THE RUNWAY -- and more than once. She practically left the runway in tears on tonight's episode (mother/career daughter challenge) because she didn't win. Not because she lost, but because she didn't win. She says she "doesn't care what the judges think" but they're the ones who decide who wins and who gets the "auf wiedersehen," dahling. You are waaaay too young to be dissing Tim and the judges without listening to their suggestions. Get over yourself, honey.

Kato and Jerell have turned out some really nice pieces, and Jerell definitely won this week's challenge (career girl/mother) -- totally. Suede is another one, however, who needs to get over himself. Suede talks about himself in third person and really has not gained the type of reputation (despite his little blue mohawk) that allow Suede to refer to himself in the third person, something that Leanne mentioned also -- hilarious!

Everyone left at this point (after tonight's episode) -- Leanne, Jerell, Kato, Suede, and Kenley -- are all talented, very much so. Suede has almost gone home the last two episodes, but he may hang on. At this point, I think that Jerell, Leanne, and Kato are the strongest. Kenley can really only do 40's and 50's dresses, and Suede is on a downward spiral. Kenley has a great deal of talent, but she ruins it by her stubborn insistence on her way or no way. It will catch up with her soon... very soon.

So far I really like Leanne's designs the best. Unless she really chokes, she should make it to Bryant Park. She learned very quickly from her first time in the bottom two to self-edit, and she's done two or three absolutely brilliant looks since then. She listens. She learns. She's kind, although she doesn't allow Kenley to get on her nerves and dishes it back at her fairly well. Leanne seems like a very normal person, not the usual "original" type contestant on Project Runway, but she's quietly creative, very innovative, and gets along really well with everyone except Kenley who seems to be making enemies right and left, even among the judges.

So we'll see how far Leanne makes it -- I hope to Bryant Park and to winning the whole enchilada. I liked Jillian last summer for the same reasons. And we'll see if Kenley's refusal to take advice from Tim and the judges will be her downfall -- I think it very well may be. I'd love to see another woman win Project Runway; Chloe must be getting lonely.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Becoming as a Little Child

We hear that we should "become as little children" in a religious sense. But today as I exercised on my stationary bike, I read a little bit more of Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer. This book is not one that can be read quickly. It needs to be read in little snippets and meditated upon. Kitty's underlinings and notes make this little book all the more integral to my own writing.

Today's little snippet was about seeing all the events of life with the eyes, with the wonder, of a child. Brande writes:

"Merely deciding that you will not be oblivious is hardly enough, although every writer should take the recommendation of Henry James, and register it like a vow: 'Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost.' By the way of getting to that desirable state, set yourself a short period each day when you will, by taking thought, recapture a childlike 'innocence of eye.' For half an hour each day transport yourself back to the state of wide-eyed interest that was yours at the age of five" (p. 114).

A mere two pages earlier, Brande wrote:

"The most normal of us allow ourselves to become so insulated by habit that few things can break through our preoccupations except truly spectacular events.... This dullness of apprehension to which we all submit spinelessly is a real danger to a writer."

This is extremely important to remember as a writer, even as simply a creative person. We can't lose the wonder. None of us. The beauty of a newly-opened rose ... the laughter of a child ... the wind through the trees ... waves crashing on a sandy beach ... the scent of a newborn's head. We simply can't lose the wonder.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Stained Glass Finished!!!

Yes, it's finished and hanging in our front window, at least for the next eleven days. Keith hung it last night after dark with the help of our neighbor, Luke Martin. We admired it as best we could, with Keith shining a work light from the porch through the window, but even our 60-watt porch light made the window look softy beautiful.

But this morning, WOW! Seeing the window in the morning light was REALLY something. As the light changes throughout the day, the window is changing subtly as well. It will be at its brightest in the last afternoon when the sun streams through the west-facing window. The photo above was taken this morning, so the window is not at its absolute best; that photo will wait until we've had our Open House on Saturday and let our family and friends see the window before it's installed at the Ademas' home. All of our friends and family in the San Diego area are welcome to come to the Open House from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM this Saturday, September 20 -- please bring along a finger food to share. On Saturday, September 27th at 5:00 PM, the Ademas are hosting a more formal unveiling of the window for their friends and for MECAC, the Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council as well as all back country residents who RSVP through me. The Ademas will be serving wine and hors d'oeuvres and will feature a cellist, singer, and other musicians; semi-formal evening attire will be appropriate. I can't wait to see the window in its permanent home.

On the 26th Keith and our neighbor Scott Oliver will very, very, very carefully transport it to Dr. Don and Marcia's home in Descanso, about five miles away. Keith is planning a way to move the oh-so-delicate window in a manner that I call, to his chagrin, "Operation Chalupa." He will wrap the window vertically in a "taco" of foam padding, then kinda suspend it in another "taco" so the "taco" won't actually touch the bed of the truck as it's driven over rough road (yes, the last bit of the trip is on a "washboard" dirt road, one of the worst possible situations) and up the mountain. And yes, he'll be praying the entire way. (I'll lead the prayers at home.) Keith even said that if he could safely WALK it to the Ademas' on some sort of cart rather than driving it, he would....

But it's finished, and we get to enjoy the fruit of nearly a year of work for eleven days. And the boys have been warned to not even THINK of playing in that part of the living room. So, if you live nearby and can't make it to either of the stained glass window showings, give us a call and we'll invite you over to see it anytime we're home over the next eleven days. Here are a few stats:

-- Approximately 1532 pieces
-- Approximately 500 hours of glass work (does not count design time)
-- Keith cut the first piece of glass on February 15 -- 30 weeks of work, evenings and weekends
-- The window weighs about 50 pounds, and the metal frame probably another 50 pounds
-- The smallest piece is *half* the size of the top of a pencil eraser
-- Keith used mostly the copper foil technique, plus some zinc caming in the border
-- He used about 500 feet of copper foil

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Triumph of the Cross ... and Two Answered Prayers

Today, September 14, is the day we remember the Triumph of the Cross. Until today, I had never heard of this celebration, but the Saint of the Day e-mail from informed me of the historical and religious significance of this church feast:

Early in the fourth century St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ's life. She razed the Temple of Aphrodite, which tradition held was built over the Savior's tomb, and her son built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher over the tomb. During the excavation, workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman.

The cross immediately became an object of veneration.
[My note: Veneration is NOT worship. Worship is only for God! Veneration is simply paying respect to because it points to Christ and His Gospel.] At a Good Friday celebration in Jerusalem toward the end of the fourth century, according to an eyewitness, the wood was taken out of its silver container and placed on a table together with the inscription Pilate ordered placed above Jesus' head. Then "all the people pass through one by one; all of them bow down, touching the cross and the inscription, first with their foreheads, then with their eyes; and, after kissing the cross, they move on." [Another note from me: This act is worship of Christ Himself, not of the cross. By kissing the wood on which Our Prince of Glory died, they symbolically kiss Christ Himself. I've practiced a similar "veneration" on Good Friday each year, and it's truly an act of worshiping Jesus.]

To this day the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox alike, celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the September anniversary of the basilica's dedication. The feast entered the Western calendar in the seventh century after Emperor Heraclius recovered the cross from the Persians, who had carried it off in 614, 15 years earlier. According to the story, the emperor intended to carry the cross back into Jerusalem himself, but was unable to move forward until he took off his imperial garb and became a barefoot pilgrim.

The cross is today the universal image of Christian belief. Countless generations of artists have turned it into a thing of beauty to be carried in procession or worn as jewelry. To the eyes of the first Christians, it had no beauty. It stood outside too many city walls, decorated only with decaying corpses, as a threat to anyone who defied Rome's authority—including the heretic sect which refused sacrifice to Roman gods. Although believers spoke of the cross as the instrument of salvation, it seldom appeared in Christian art unless disguised as an anchor or the Chi-Rho until after Constantine's edict of toleration.

"How splendid the cross of Christ! It brings life, not death; light, not darkness; Paradise, not its loss. It is the wood on which the Lord, like a great warrior, was wounded in hands and feet and side, but healed thereby our wounds. A tree has destroyed us; a tree now brought us life" (Theodore of Studios).

It is quite fitting that today two major prayers were answered, both of several years' standing. Thanks be to God for both answers!

Firstly, when I first starting researching Catholic, Orthodox, and Episcopal/Anglican Churches, I discovered a church tradition that I agreed with completely: the Reformed Episcopal Church. This denomination had separated from the Episcopal Church back in the 1870s when they saw that the Episcopal Church (TEC) was becoming too liberal, too separated from the Truth of the Scriptures. The more I read about the Reformed Episcopal Church, the more I liked about them. The only point that I wasn't sure about was infant baptism, but as we were done having children, that one didn't matter as much to me. But as I researched, I found out that there was not a single Reformed Episcopal Church in the entire county of San Diego. The closest one was in Santa Ana, near Disneyland on the way to Los Angeles. "So much," I thought, "for the Reformed Episcopal Church."

Today Bishop Boyce of the Anglican Province of America is making his yearly visit to Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity. He will be confirming candidates, accepting members, doing baptisms, and generally taking care of bishop stuff. But Bishop Boyce also brings good news: The Anglican Province of America just completed a full merger with ... the Reformed Episcopal Church! I wasn't able to attend the services this morning to hear all of the details, but I do know that Bishop Boyce will remain the Bishop for Alpine Anglican. I'm thrilled at this news ... after all, it's only been eight years since I starting researching the Reformed Episcopal Church....

Secondly, as my post of last Saturday indicated, I have been praying for about seven years for Lake Murray to celebrate Communion weekly. Seven years ago, Lake Murray did not celebrate ANY Communion on Sunday mornings because our pastor at the time believed that Communion would be difficult for guests to handle. So Communion took place each month on Sunday evenings, which were an impossibility for us with small children, toddlers, and babies who would have dinner hour interrupted and would get to bed too late, plus no adequate child care was available, so I ended up in the crying lounge, tearfully watching everyone in the church partake instead of me. In fact, I went for three years with NO Communion because the only time I could receive was at our annual women's retreat, but I had nursing babies with me for a couple of years and they were too fussy during Communion for me to stay to partake. During our first nine years at Lake Murray, I think I received Communion fewer than ten times. Talk about being HUNGRY for the Presence of God! I was starving for Him.

After we elected a new pastor six years ago, Communion was celebrated on the first Sunday morning of the month ... definitely a vast improvement! Over the years I heard whispers of the possibility of weekly Communion, but it had not come to pass. Last Saturday I wrote a post about this very issue. I doubt my post had any influence, but the timing certainly was fortunate: this morning after Sunday School I saw Julie and Tom preparing the matzoh and grape juice in the kitchen. But wait Today is the *second* Sunday of the month, not the first. Then I heard the wonderful news: weekly Communion! If I had felt any better, I may have turned a somersault in sheer joy! Another answered prayer.

So, despite how tired and in pain I feel today, it's a joyful, beautiful day: two long-time prayers answered so wonderfully, plus the Triumph of the Cross. 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. (And hip-hip-hooray!)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Remembering September 11

Every American over twelve years old remembers what he or she was doing on the beautiful Indian-summer morning of September 11, 2001. For our family, it was a time of transition, a time of anxiety and hard physical work. We were moving that week out of our home of ten years located near Balboa Park in one of the older neighborhoods of San Diego. Keith had lovingly restored our 1914 Craftsman home, tearing off the back third of the house and rebuilding a gorgeous, sun-filled kitchen with a breakfast nook, a laundry area, and a master bedroom and bath. besides tearing down the old plaster of the other two bedrooms and refinishing with drywall and fresh paint, he also refinished the 50-year-old oak floors which he matches perfectly with new oak in the addition area. After a completely new roof and work on the block foundation, the house was painted a lovely grey with burgundy and white trim, and I re-landscaped the flower beds with lavender and roses, hollyhocks and wildflowers. We were leaving a labor of love behind but looking forward to our new home, a mountain cabin at the edge of pristine meadowlands, surrounded on all sides by mountains, with half an acre for our boys to run and play. After living for years in the city, Keith and I were both glad to return with our family to rural roots, how we ourselves had grown up in San Diego County.

Past midnight on September 10, Keith and I were finishing the packing and the cleaning before picking up our four sleepy kids (ages 9, 6, 4, and 18 months) from my parents' place and driving to Mount Laguna. My parents had a small 600 sq. ft. cabin on top of the mountain where we were planning to live for a week or so until we could move into our new mountain home in Pine Valley, at the base of the mountain. By 2 AM we were settling sleeping children into beds and sleeping bags and tumbled into bed ourselves around 3 AM.

At 6 AM, my dad called us, in tears as he related the news of the 9-11 attacks. We were out of bed in an instant, trying frantically to tune in a news station on the unreliable "rabbit ears" that was our only way of gaining a TV signal. We could tune in fuzzy images only, but through the static, we could see what was happening -- just as the second plane hit the World Trade Center. The kids slept on, exhausted by their interrupted sleep, while Keith and I watched what we could through the fuzz, listening more than watching most of the time. As the morning wore on, Keith got ready and left for work, and I took care of the kids, watching what I could -- learning of the Pentagon attack, and of the crash in the fields of Pennsylvania. I watched as the President visibly blanched when the news was whispered into his ear during a visit to a Florida school. As all flights were grounded, I wondered where my brother, a pilot, was; at least he didn't fly for the airlines that had been hijacked. I remember sitting in the red upholstered chair, listening and trying to make out images from fuzzy TV signal as I nursed B. Brushing my finger along his cheek, I thought of all the children who had lost a parent this day. I prayed, tears running down my cheek.

This week as the poetry class I'm facilitating for Brave Writer started, I asked the families to start our adventure of poetry with some song lyrics. Remembering those days after 9-11, three songs come to mind: U2's "Beautiful Day" and "Walk On" and Sting's "Fragile." The latter is the one I taught this week in memory of the attacks in 2001. Although it was written before 9-11, it was actually recorded in the UK on the very date of the attacks, and I think they are a fitting response to the nightmarish events of that day. We are all fragile, just bone and sinew held together by soul. Although it takes so little to destroy a human, it requires a great deal more to remove humanity from the hearts and minds that planned and committed these horrendous acts.

By Sting

If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one
Drying in the colour of the evening sun
Tomorrow’s rain will wash the stains away
But something in our minds will always stay

Perhaps this final act was meant
To clinch a lifetime’s argument
That nothing comes from violence
And nothing ever could
For all those born beneath an angry star
Lest we forget how fragile we are

On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star Like tears from a star
On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are How fragile we are

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Back to Class Day

Tomorrow we troop back to Class Day, our private study program's version of a home school co-op. We meet twice a month at the East County site which takes place at Del Cerro Baptist Church on the second and fourth Thursdays. Last year was our first year back at Class Day after several years away due to my illnesses, and I'll be teaching the same classes as last year: first period: Advanced High School Expository Writing (honors), for only juniors and seniors with only three students registered this year, one of them being E. I have second period free for grading or lesson prep, and then lunch. Third period is my "big" class, Intermediate Writing -- again expository writing for high schoolers, college prep this time, and right now I have 11 students registered which may change tomorrow. Many registration changes take place on the first Class Day, so who knows how many students I will have in each class by the end of the day.

As mentioned above, E in 11th grade this year is in my Advanced Writing class, and then she is taking chess and cooking. T, an 8th grader, will be taking volleyball first semester and basketball second, chess, and cooking, so my two oldest will be in two classes together as the 7th-12th grades are grouped together in several of the electives. In 6th grade, J is taking "Grossology," a science class dealing with all kinds of icky experiments that are far beyond my comfort level, plus PE and cooking (again). And B, in 3rd this year, will be taking art, math games, and PE. He is quite upset about the math class tonight and has come out to the sofa three times in tears, asking me to change his class. If he still feels like that after trying out the class tomorrow, I'll see what other classes are available for him.

Class Days are rather exhausting. The venue is 35 miles from our home, so tomorrow morning, after watering the garden, dressing "teacherly" (which definitely means make up and the whole "shebang"), packing five lunches, we'll leave at 8:30 at the latest so we can be at the site just after 9 AM so we can get the kids' name tags made (with all their classes and classroom assignments on the back), locate their classrooms, and get them settled before "Opening" (homeroom) starts at 9:30. First period lasts from 10 AM to 11 AM, and second period from 11 AM to noon. Lunch is from noon to 12:30, and hot lunches can be ordered, a certain lunch available each class: burritos, pizza, sub sandwiches, etc., plus snacks. The third period starts at 12:30 and ends at 1:30, with the last 10 minutes for cleaning up our rooms. Then we have to finish with our assigned clean up, gather up the kids, and drive home. As long as we are in the city, we usually run an errand or three before driving back up the mountain, getting home in time for J and T's piano lessons at 4:30-5:30. Then I can collapse. :)

We'll be leaving a bit later on this first Class Day as the writing teachers have asked the parents of all writing students (Joyful Writing grades 4-6, Beginning Writing grades 7-12, Intermediate Writing grades 10-12, and Advanced Writing grades 11-12) to stay behind for ten minutes or so. We teachers had a great deal of trouble last year with both writing students and their parents: substandard work turned in (not even spell-checked), late work turned in or work not turned in at all, resulting in low grades that several parents did not factor into their final English grades, absent students giving no notice and not getting the next assignments, students missing class to go to work rather than to class, and parents not keeping on top of their students and blocking out time for them to work on their homework. I had parents withdrawing students from the class mid-semester but not accepting the grade I gave for the missed work because my grade would lower their GPA's.

Every single one of these issues was completely NEW to me after taking several years off from teaching Class Day; I have NEVER, EVER dealt with irresponsibility from students and parents in my home school writing classes before, and I and the other three writing teachers are hoping that by talking to the parents we'll help avoid some if not most of these problems this year. If the parents don't want to support their students in the writing classes, then they should withdraw their students NOW so that we teachers don't end up having to do a lot of extra work for no reason.

I put my whole self into these writing classes: 30 hours a month of grading and lesson prep plus answering questions via e-mail is not unusual, and to have students and parents who don't take these classes seriously is very upsetting. This year I am not going to accept ANY late papers (they'll receive a ZERO) unless a family emergency comes up and the parent alerts me of the fact before the Class Day. I am also distributing a "contract" with my expectations that both the students and a parent must sign with all of this information. And I hope that the meeting will help to clarify the teachers' expectations to the parents and help them to realize that these homework assignments are SERIOUS and that these courses are NOT electives but require commitment. Real commitment.

So off to bed I go so I can stay awake while driving and be fresh and ready for teaching classes tomorrow....

Monday, September 8, 2008

One Thing: Poetry

Last night I crawled into bed at 3:15 AM, exhausted but very proud of the start to the poetry class I'm facilitating on BraveWriter. I taught one poetry class several years ago for Julie, but that was as I was beginning to be taken over by poor health, and much of the class (and that month) was a blur. But this class is quite different. Julie has devised a clever "One Thing" series that run one after the other, one month each, that allows home schooling families to concentrate on one particular element in language arts. Other classes in this series have addressed copywork/dictation, freewriting, grammar, nature journaling, art appreciation, and Shakespeare (which I taught last spring). I have about twenty families in the class, and it should be lots of fun.

In these courses, we basically guide the home school teachers in how to teach this subject to their students. Last night I wrote three posts, one on the "niggly details" of the class as far as expectations, assignments and due dates, what is needed for the class, etc., and another on "What is poetry?" with several definitions, a ton of quotes on poetry and poets, and an ee cummings poem to enjoy -- included were some optional assignments. The first assignment deals with four ways of appreciating poetry without having to know literary terms and technical stuff (which we'll start delving into later in the week), and some poems for differing age levels on which they can practice.

Being the kind of student/writer/teacher that does her best work under pressure, I didn't start writing the posts until almost 11 PM -- but most of the evening was spent in responding to the families who had introduced themselves on the "Welcome" post. I had planned to start earlier in the evening, but I got up from my nap feeling a little queasy, off-balance, and fuzzy-minded, so I watched an episode of Remington Steele with the kids while we enjoyed our Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream (our once-weekly dessert). I also responded to the families while watching the House marathon on USA, so it took a little longer than usual. Yes, I know that I had the entire summer to work on this poetry course, but I always do a better job when I'm right up on a deadline. That adrenaline rush somehow kicks my brain into high gear, and away I go.

I am looking very much forward to four weeks of poetry. It's like giving an alcoholic a bottle of expensive merlot or a diabetic a pint of Ben and Jerry's. I'm addicted to the written word in poetic form, so working on this class, although requiring a lot of effort, will fly by. I had no idea I was up anywhere near that late last night until I glanced up at the clock as the last assignment posted. When I'm so engrossed in something that time slips through my fingers, I know that I'm doing what I truly love and was gifted to do. And, best of all, I got to post one of my favorite poems for discussion, and I'm including it for your enjoyment as well:

"anyone lived in a pretty how town" by ee cummings

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)
they said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

(From Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage. Used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1923, 1931, 1935, 1940, 1951, 1959, 1963, 1968, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1976, 1978, 1979 by George James Firmage.)
So here's to poetry: that wild, wacky yet controlled way of scattering words on page like one sows wildflower seeds and then waits to see what will germinate, grow, and mature. Perhaps the poetry bug has already nipped at you, or perhaps you have dodged it thus far: either way, it just may get you in the end....

Saturday, September 6, 2008

On Worship....

(photo of Easter Vigil at Victoria House with Father Acker and the parishoners of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity)

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of the month which is Communion Sunday at Lake Murray. I will get up earlier than usual tomorrow morning so I can have some special time of confession and prayer before leaving for church. Being prepared for Communion is something that God has laid on my heart over the past few years.

Tonight I was reading "A Heart for God,"
the blog of David L. Hall, a former Brethren pastor who converted to Roman Catholicism. In one of his posts, he discusses the idea that I've heard in evangelical churches that having Communion too often makes it too commonplace, too boring, keeps it from being special, etc. He compares the joys of marriage -- how a husband and wife married 20 or 30 years still enjoy the physicality of their relationship, that it doesn't become "boring" the more often spouses come together -- to Communion, a comparison I've heard before and which has helped to clarify the concept of Communion for me. This is the closing of Hall's blog post:

Surely this is part of the mystery of husband and wife as a picture of Christ and his Church. "Innovative worship" seems to be to be a sign of misplaced focus, as if "worship" was about keeping us entertained instead of entering, again and again, into the age-old delight of the Lover of our souls and finding our deepest joy and hope in the wonder of a redemption that is beyond anything we could have imagined on our own. Love is what keeps "repetitive" and "mechanical" from displacing beauty and wonder. And like little children who cannot get enough of a father's playful attention, we go into the mystery of Communion with the need to say to our heavenly Father, "Do it again, Daddy, do it again."

This is not boredom with the "same old thing." This is entering the Mystery that cannot be exhausted. And until He comes, we need to do it again and again.

When true Christian worship (and by this I mean the forms passed down through the Church) is “boring,” the problem is not with the form of worship. The real problem is found by looking in a mirror. And then we need to find a time and place to pray...

I really like Hall's post as it expresses what I have attempted to express when trying to convince others in the evangelical tradition of the beauty of weekly Communion. Can we ever "communicate" too often or too much with our Lord? If Communion becomes boring or commonplace, then it's OUR spiritual problem, one that we need to bring before God and confess, asking Him to renew our hearts and minds with the joy of the closeness our relationship with God needs to have.

Father, forgive us for taking Communion for granted, for not using this time to draw as close to You as we possibly can. Help us to truly savor Your Word, desiring our hearts to become wholly Yours. We love You and we want to worship You, focusing on You and not on ourselves. Help us to do so, for Your glory, honor, and praise. Amen.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Holy Eucharist

Father Acker is back from his vacation and B and J accompanied me to the Friday morning Healing Service, Morning Prayer, and Eucharist. We slid into the pew just as Father joined us in the chapel. B and J lit the candles and we opened our prayer books.

The Scripture we prayed, the quiet of the small chapel, the mini-sermon Father gave, which is not usual but which fit perfectly with the Scriptures we've been teaching the kids this week on putting others first, the receiving of Communion -- all contributed to the feeling of peace I felt and still feel at the end of the day. I've missed terribly these Friday morning services in which we pray the Psalms, read several longer Scripture passages, pray the Venite (selections of Psalms 95 and 96), confess our sins on our knees, receive the wafer in our palms and tip the chalice of wine to our lips, and thank God for His great love for us.

I've been praying the Daily Office nearly every day in August, but praying it with two of my children and with Father -- in community -- is so much more powerful than praying it alone. I felt this sense of God's power also when we prayed the Apostle's Creed at Lake Murray this past Sunday. As the ancient words of our belief in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were read and prayed aloud, community was built, and God united our hearts just that much more closely as we affirm our faith together. Christian unity is so important -- and praying together corporately strengthens that unity, binding our minds and hearts that much closer in love for God and for each other.

Today we prayed together:
Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy; and because the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, 1928 Book of Common Prayer)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Stained Glass Window, Week 28

Last night Keith and some neighbors managed to flip over all 1,532 pieces of the stained glass window, so the image you see above is now facing down, and the front side, which is only foiled with copper tape and is not yet soldered, is facing up. It's absolutely disconcerting to see the window "backwards" now that the front side is up after spending well over six months looking at the back side of the window.

We're planning an Open House at our home on Saturday, September 20, from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM; the stained glass window will be displayed in our front window for our friends, family, and other interested people to view. Any of you who live in San Diego County are invited -- just bring along a finger food to share.

The window will be installed the next week in Dr. Adema and Marcia's home in Descanso the following week, and will be unveiled at a wine and cheese evening gathering in their home, September 27 at 4:30 PM. Semi-formal evening attire is appropriate. This unveiling is for Dr. and Marcia Adema's friends and family and for people associated with the Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council. Dr. Adema has arranged for classical musicians and quite a wonderful evening; we're really looking forward to the formal unveiling. The stained glass will be installed in a west-facing window where the sun will cause the window to alter subtly with changing light. It will be spectacular!

So just another few weeks, and the window will be finished! All 1,532 beautiful, brilliant, pieces.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Fall TV ...

Tonight as we watched the two-hour Bones season premiere, I find myself looking forward to the premieres of so many of our favorite shows. Last night we watched the final two episodes of this season's (soon-to-be last season's) of House and E and I are greatly anticipating the new season, especially Wilson's reaction after Amber's death. We are also awaiting the cliff-hangers of ER (who died when the ambulance blew up?), CSI (is Warwick really dead?), CSI Miami (with Horatio left shot and bleeding on the tarmac), NCIS (what will happen to the team after Jenny's death?), Criminal Minds (who got blown up?), and Ghost Whisperer (who will die?). Plus we are in the midst of the fifth season of Project Runway (go Kenley!) and are also a new season of Dancing with the Stars (with Misty May!).

Early September is always difficult, having to wait for all of the new seasons to begin, especially when so many of this season's programs ended in cliff-hangers that will definitely change the course of the story lines of the shows.

Part of me, of course, wonders why I am so interested in these shows, ALL of these shows. But with my illnesses, I tend to need a good deal of couch time in the evenings. As much as I would rather spend my evenings writing or reading or doing something constructive, I need to be prone and rest this tired body and these sore muscles if I hope to actually move the next day. So I try not to feel like I'm being lazy, but know that I am doing what I have to do to rest and happen to like to be entertained while I do so. And with the quality of TV lately, it's no wonder that we wait with anticipation for the new TV season. Yay! Some are starting now, and some in a few weeks, but it will be wonderful to be back with our favorite small-screen characters once again.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Homeschooling Adventures

This week we started our home school adventures with E's new Honors Chemistry curriculum, Spectrum Chemistry. She spent almost an hour opening the various boxes of supplies for her weekly laboratory experiments, locating the compounds and ingredients necessary for this week's adventure -- I mean, um, lab. She was certainly attired for danger with her protective glasses, special gloves, and long plastic apron as she worked with different compounds to see which ones dissolved the packing pellets (labeled "ghost turds" in our home -- our kids have had too much practice with these packing materials with all of the books shipped to us by different home education vendors each autumn).

E fell in love with the Spectrum Chemistry curriculum at last May's "Home School Expo," an annual event in San Diego County in which many home education vendors ply their wares to unsuspecting (and sometimes suspecting) bibliovores. Some families tend toward packaged materials, such as ACE Packets which contain workbooks for each subject. Others prefer the "textbook" approach of having "school at home" -- using traditional texts such as those provided by Bob Jones and ABeka, for all subjects in all grades, preschool through 12th grade. Still others like "hands-on" materials like Konos or Tapestry of Grace in which families study historical "units" with plenty of handicraft projects and playacting. Some families teach according to the Classical Approach, teaching Latin and Greek in early grades and following the Trivium: grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages of education. Others prefer teaching "whole books," following the educational philosophy of British educator Charlotte Mason in which teaching becomes a natural part of each day, with plenty of time for outdoor play with nature journaling, art and music studies, narrations of history lessons, and wholesome books read for literature.

Our family has tended to a rather eclectic approach to our home schooling, taking a little from the Charlotte Mason, Classical, and traditional philosophies. When the kids are little, we do a great deal of Charlotte Mason ideas with lots of art, classical music, nature study and drawing, narrations, and copywork. As the kids become older, we tend to utilize Latin and logic studies usual in Classical theory, and as they enter high school, we transition to a traditional approach with ABeka texts for most subjects as they are considered to be "honors" level.

Over the past several years, E has accompanied me to the annual Home School Expo so she could express her opinion regarding the direction of her education. I inform her of which subject must be covered in the coming year, and we discuss the various curricular options that will cover these required subjects. In May, the big question for E was her chemistry studies as she doesn't care for the most commonly used textbook line of high school science books (Apologia, to be precise). Last year for Biology she attended a twice-monthly Biology Lab at our school's Class Days using the Apologia text, but she completed her own study of the subject using ABeka's excellent Biology text. Although the same option was available for her with Chemistry, we had heard that the ABeka Chemistry book was extremely difficult. Needless to say, we were thrilled to come across Spectrum Chemistry which included every single item for all of the laboratory experiments with the exception of distilled water. And E was attracted to the colorful and clearly-written textbook.

So she's happy with her Chemistry curriculum this year, and I'm happy that she's happy. It's one less subject that I have to be concerned with since I've volunteered Keith to help her with the weekly labs. A home schooling teacher must have her priorities, of course.....


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