Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Liturgical New Year and Advent

Today, the First Sunday in Advent, is the official "New Year" of the Church Calendar. At Lake Murray we lit the first Advent candle, the Prophecy Candle, and heard the reading of Isaiah 40:1-5 which contains the prophecy of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

The following is from the today's edition of the Beadle's Report of
Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity, with apologies to the Beadle for different paragraph breaks due to wonky copying into my blog. So all credit goes to Hap, the Beadle, for his wonderful explanations of the liturgical year and the season of Advent.

Liturgy-based Christian churches who consider themselves catholic, or universal, use a Christian Calendar which has a pre-set annual cycle of liturgical seasons which determines when Feasts, Memorials, Commemorations, and Solemnities are to be observed and which portions of Scripture are to be read. Distinct liturgical colors are used in connection with different seasons of the liturgical year.

The dates of the festivals vary somewhat between the Western (Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Protestant) churches and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, though the sequence and logic is the same. The dates of many feasts vary from year to year (Moveable Feasts) due to the variation in the date of Easter, and all other dates follow from that. The extent to which the fasts and festivals are celebrated also varies between churches; in general Protestant churches observe far fewer of them than Catholic and Orthodox churches, and in particular are less likely to celebrate feasts of the Virgin Mary and the Saints.

The liturgical cycle divides the year into a series of seasons, each with their own mood, theological emphases, and modes of prayer, which can be signified by different ways of decorating churches, vestments for clergy, scriptural readings, themes for preaching and even different traditions and practices often observed personally or in the home. In churches that follow the liturgical year, the scripture passages for each Sunday (and even each day of the year in the Anglican tradition) are specified by a list called a lectionary.

Anglicans and Lutherans have traditionally followed the lectionary since the days of the Protestant Reformation. Since the 1960s, the adoption and use of lectionaries in other Protestant churches (Methodist, Reformed, United, etc.) increased. This has led to a greater awareness of the Christian year among Protestants in the later decades of the 20th century, especially among mainline denominations.Biblical calendars are based on the cycle of the new moon.

The year is from the first new moon on or after the spring equinox to the next new moon on or after the spring equinox, rather than an arbitrary starting point like the modern calendar. Western Christian liturgical calendars are based on the cycle of the Roman or Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, including Lutheran, Anglican, and Protestant calendars since this cycle pre-dates the Reformation. Generally, the liturgical seasons in western Christianity are:
• Advent
• Christmas
• Ordinary Time (Time after Epiphany)
• Lent
• Easter
• Ordinary Time (Time after Trinity)

Advent From the Latin adventus, "arrival" or "coming", the first season of the liturgical year, begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Historically observed as a "fast", its purpose focuses on preparation for the coming Christ. Although often conceived as awaiting the coming of the Christ-child at Christmas, it also points towards the final coming of Christ.

This period is marked by the Advent Wreath, a garland of evergreens with four candles. Traditionally, the wreath is made of four candles in a circle of evergreens. Three candles are violet and the fourth is rose. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent. Although the main symbolism of the advent wreath is simply marking the progression of time, the church attaches themes to each candle, most often 'hope', 'faith', 'joy', and 'love'. Color: Violet or Blue. On the third Sunday of Advent, also called Gaudete Sunday, Rose/Pink is used.

Historically, the primary sanctuary color of Advent is Purple. This is the color of penitence and fasting as well as the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the King. Purple is still used in Catholic churches. The purple of Advent is also the color of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week. This points to an important connection between Jesus’ birth and death. The nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the crucifixion. The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world, of the "Word made flesh" and dwelling among us, is to reveal God and His grace to the world through Jesus’ life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection.

To reflect this emphasis, originally Advent was a time of penitence and fasting, much as the Season of Lent and so shared the color of Lent. In the four weeks of Advent the third Sunday came to be a time of rejoicing that the fasting was almost over (in some traditions it is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for "rejoice"). The shift from the purple of the Season to pink or rose for the third Sunday Advent candles reflected this lessening emphasis on penitence as attention turned more to celebration of the season. Churches other than Anglican have changed colors and emphasis on the whole wreath, we remain true to tradition.

The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival. " The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate.

Scripture reading for Advent will reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment on sin, and the hope of eternal life. In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. That acknowledgment provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live "between the times" and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people.

So, as the church celebrates God’s inbreaking into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which "all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption," it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to "love the Lord your God with all your heart" and to "love your neighbor as yourself

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I DID IT!!!!!!!

I hit 50,157 words tonight!!!!!!!!!!

By the sheer grace of God, I did it. Twelve chapters. The novel isn't finished, but I have my 50,000 words and am thrilled. Woo-hoo!

And more to write in days to come... and much, much revision. MUCH revision

I can't believe it. I've always said that I couldn't write a novel. Never. Not possibly. But I have twelve chapters down in a very ragged format that needs much work, much polishing. But I'm on my way

And it was fun. Hard work, but fun.

Thanks to all of you who have cheered me on this month. Especially Dru and Kathy -- thanks for the encouraging e-mails. You have NO idea how helpful you were. And are. Kathy -- I do still want to read yours!

I'm still pinching myself....

NaNoWriMo Update....

As I head to bed this Friday night, I reached 46, 151 words -- I have fewer than 4,000 words to go over the next two days to finish NaNoWriMo. Very do-able, dontcha think?

I doubt I will be able to officially "win" at the NaNoWriMo site simply because my novel is on my computer with no Internet capabilities, so I can't exactly upload it into the site for confirmation. Perhaps we can try a dial-up connection for a few minutes, but that's my only hope.

But even if I don't get the "winning" prizes like little widgets for my blog, if I reach 50,000, I'll still have the satisfaction of achieving a goal. I doubt that my book will actually be "done" at 50,000 words, which is like 110 pages, but I'll have a good amount to revise and edit in subsequent drafts.

3,849 words left, and I have all morning and evening tomorrow (Saturday) but very little time Sunday with church, Logos, and school planning. Plus, if I finish tomorrow, then I should be able to have Keith figure out a way to get my laptop online Sunday.

3,849 words. That's it. I think I can; I think I can!

Friday, November 28, 2008

With Advent Appoaching.....

... here is an excellent article on the Advent season, written by Michael Spencer, known as The Internet Monk in the blogosphere. Advent tells us one important fact that we cannot, must not forget: we need a Saviour. You may read it by clicking here.

Advent is my second-favorite season in the Church Year, behind Lent of course. Both seasons remind me of my own sin and my need for Jesus on a minute-by-minute basis. And both require a time of penitence, a time set apart for prayer and thanksgiving to Jesus Christ.

Advent begins this Sunday. I pray that we all prepare our hearts for the patient waiting that is Advent, waiting for the Light of the World to dispel the darkness of sin. I'll write more about Advent on Sunday. I already have my Advent candles ready for our family devotions, and at Lake Murray we'll be setting up the beautiful Advent wreath built by Keith several years ago and I'll also contact families to light the candle(s) and read Scripture at each service.

I can't wait for our own family devotions of reading Scripture by candlelight, singing carols, and praying together around our own Advent wreath. I love Advent -- and I'm so glad that Pastor Rollo started the tradition of celebrating Advent at Lake Murray. It's a blessed, blessed time to worship together as a church family as well.


Okay, we're in the final days of the National Novel Writing Month -- it all ends at midnight on Sunday, November 30. I've written just over 41,000 words, so I have 9,000 more words to go over these last three days. Fortunately, I got some new ideas last night that I hope will carry me through these last few thousand words, most of which I need to write today.

Tomorrow (Saturday) E and I will help decorate Lake Murray for Advent and Christmas, starting at 2:00, so I'll have the morning and evening to write. On Sunday after church our Logos group will be meeting for lunch and discussion of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, and the kids also want to decorate for Christmas. Plus I have school planning to do. So with little to do today, I'd love to get 5-6K into my laptop before bed tonight.

And after NaNoWri Mo, I want to start going some genealogy work. This past week I attended a genealogy workshop at our local library, led by a resident of our town who is also a member of the San Diego Genealogy Society. I discovered that our library has the research site available for free, and in just a few moments I located my great-grandfather's World War I draft registration card in his own handwriting, plus his family information in the 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930 census, including where his parents were born (Germany) and where my great-grandmother's parents were born (MIssouri), and where my great-grandfather was born (Kansas -- I thought *he* was the one from Germany). In the 1900 census I found out that his household had two older siblings ages 18 and 16, and he was five while a younger sibling was 1. No mother was listed, and with the age spread between the groups of siblings, my guess is that my great-grandfather was the product of a second marriage, and that his mother may have died in childbirth with his younger sibling. I need to take better notes when I go next time and perhaps have my dad invest in a genealogy program where I can enter all this information. It's really cool, and I can't wait to do more research, even though I will have to do it all from the library. So we'll see what I can find out about my family over the next few months. Ken, our genealogy guru, is willing to meet with our group again just before the next writing workshop. I'm really excited. Research is my life, you know. :)

So I'd better stop procrastinating here and get to writing my novel. I always dread getting started, but once I sit down, I don't want to get up. Only 9,000 more words to go -- I can do it! (Right?)

Have a blessed weekend, everyone.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

"Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;make music to our God upon the harp." -- Psalm 147:7

I wish you all a wonderful day of Thanksgiving with your families. May God's love abundantly bless you this day as we thank Him for His bountiful graciousness, everlasting mercy, and, most of all, for His gift of eternal life through His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.

We will be spending the day in Ramona where Keith's brother, sister-in-law, and their five children live next door to Keith's dad. Keith's older sister, Karen, will be joining us, but none of her grown kids will be this year as Connie is in India on a photography trip with Brook's Institute where she is a student. Scott, Beth, and their kids just moved to Georgia where Scott is becoming active duty in the military again, and we just received the wonderful news that they're expecting child #4! And Steven is in the military, currently stationed in Hawaii after a recent deployment in Baghdad. And Keith's younger sister, Karla, her husband, and their three girls who all live in Arizona may come out in a couple of weeks for a visit, halfway between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So it will be a rather small gathering compared to other years. My parents are in Montana, spending Thanksgiving with my sister Tracey's family, and my brother Tom spent time with his kids today as it's little Tommy's birthday today. So with Keith's family today there will be only fifteen of us, most of them (like nine!) kids. We're taking along our favorite game, Apples to Apples and Keith made two gorgeous pumpkin pies as well as an apple and an apple-blueberry. He's definitely the Pastry King of both sides of the family. He'll be making another apple pie this weekend for his dad's 77th birthday on Sunday.

So, Happy Thanksgiving! God's blessings to you, dear friends and family!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dancing with the Stars: The Finale!

Yes, Brooke and Derek, the leaders of this seventh season of Dancing with the Stars indeed walked away last night with the gaudy mirror-ball trophy. E and I were quite, quite disappointed that Warren and Kym came in second as their technique is extremely weak and we felt that Lance and Lacey really deserved at least second place as Lance is definitely the most improved dancer in the finals.

But Brooke and Derek started out strong from week one and they came in first 80% of the time throughout the entire competition. Really, they only had two weak dances out of the whole thing, one of them in the semi-finals. But their freestyle was agreed to be one of the best freestyle dances in the history of the program as they danced to Grease's "You're the One that I Want." Brilliant.

Last night, each of the three final couples danced their favorite dance from the competition: Warren and Kym danced their hustle, Lance and Lacey their jitterbug, and Brooke and Derek their Viennese Waltz. Of course, their dances followed dances by the majority of the eliminated dancers, with Misty and Toni unable to dance because of recent surgeries. It was a fun evening, full of great dancing and great music by both Alicia Keyes and Miley Cyrus (whose dad was on the show a few seasons back).

So now Brooke joins the past winners of Dancing with the Stars: Kelly Monaco, Drew Lachey, Emmett Smith, Apollo Anton Ohno, Helio Castronedes (spelling?), and Kristi Yamaguchi. And now Derek Hough gets to join his sister Julianne (who won twice with Apollo and Helio) and his best friend Mark Ballas (who won with Kristi) -- the only other professional dancers to win are Cheryl Burke (twice with Drew and Emmett) and Alec Mazo (with Kelly). So congratulations to Derek as well -- he's a wonderful teacher and a great dancer.

So congratulations to Brooke and Derek -- they earned their win last night on Dancing of the Stars! With Brooke's win this season, and Kristi Yamaguchi's last season, the ratio of female winners to male winners is catching up: three women winners to four men. Go, ladies! Let's see if we can tie it up next season!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Lovely Bones

I finished Alice Sebold's novel The Lovely Bones last night, and it is indeed a strange and haunting novel. Sebold's writing is harsh at times and infinitely gentle at others. Her idea of heaven is strange and Godless and perhaps very comforting to non-Christians who would desire to maintain connections with their loved ones still on earth.

Here's a quick summary: 14 year old Susie Salmon was raped and killed by a neighbor at the beginning of the story, and we see the shock waves of her disappearance affect her family: her father (who has strong suspicions at to the identity of Susie's murderer, and he is right on the money although no one believes him or can find proof until quite some time later), her mother (who ends up having an affair with the detective on the case then runs away to California for years), her younger sister and very young brother, her grandmother who comes to live with them when her daughter leaves her family, as well as her school friends, her neighbors, and, most intriguing of all, her killer. Susie observes all that we see from different levels of heaven, and she, as our first-person narrator, even comes to see into the minds and hearts of those she loved as well as her murderer. It's a fascinating look into life in the 1970's and how grief affects people differently, including Susie's own grief at her life being cut so violently short.

I didn't much care for the scene in which Susie enters Ruth's body and Ruth goes to heaven while Susie and Ray make love. That was simply too weird and too blatant for me. But the look into the 1970's cookie-cutter suburbia was fascinating -- how dysfunctional families attempt to function, how grief both tears people apart and brings them together. I thought that Sebold's examination of the minutiae of life was intriguing and was the strength of the novel. Her writing is evocative, pungent, yet gentle and patient at times. She has deep insight into grief and how different people respond to the death of a loved one.

Sebold draws characters with realism and sensitivity. Ruth, a girl who did not know Susie well, seems to have perhaps the closest connection to Susie after her death. Ruth is sensitive and intriguing, a loner who is a deep thinker and a highly intelligent young girl and woman. I like the character of Ray as well, the boy who kissed Susie a few days before her death and who bonded with Ruth after Susie's death. But Lindsey, Susie's younger sister, ends up becoming the strongest character. She does not become angry like her younger brother, or broken like her parents. She triumphs somehow, using her grief to both unearth Susie's killer and later to become a psychiatrist so that she could continue to help people through grief. She marries her high school sweetheart who is indeed an upstanding young man and ends up stronger, more sensitive, more intuitive, as a result of losing her sister. I couldn't help both being angry with and totally understanding the actions of Susie's mother and feeling great sympathy for Susie's father who nearly went insane with his grief yet who rightly knew the identity of Susie's killer long before the police had any evidence. The characters are quite real and are drawn with such a delicate hand that we can't help liking them even if we don't like or approve of their actions.

Even Susie's killer is written to be somewhat sympathetic. While he commits horrible crimes as a serial killer, we learn just enough about him to not see him as an absolute monster. It's interesting, intriguing. Only the finest of writers can create that balance of horror and empathy. Sebold truly is a master, even if she didn't publish her first book until age 39 -- something I sympathize with as I'm working on my first novel at age 42.

I was quite surprised by how much I liked this book and how, once I started it, I couldn't put it down. Usually I'm finishing up the books for our Logos discussions, our monthly literary group at church, the night before we meet, but I finished The Lovely Bones with nearly a week to spare. I can't usually handle violence toward children, but somehow this book wasn't just about Susie's rape and murder -- it was about so much more, and it all intrigued me. So I do wholeheartedly recommend it and do agree with many of the reviewers who believe that The Lovely Bones will become a classic along the lines of Beloved and To Kill a Mockingbird. We will indeed have an interesting discussion on Sunday afternoon....

Monday, November 24, 2008

NaNoWriMo Update

I've just reached 35,000 words tonight -- I have 4,000 words to go to catch up tonight. According to my own schedule, I should be at 39,000 words tonight, so I have a ways to go.

But after hitting a slow spot, I'm finally getting on a roll again. I wish I could transfer some stuff in from online -- history on the Anglican Church, etc., but I'm using my old (1989) Encyclopedia Brittanica in order to fill in the gaps. It's an interesting way to approach my non-fiction research, but again I'm trying not to self-edit, evaluate, or critique any part of the novel so far -- I just need to write 50,000 words by November 30. 15,000 words in six days. I really hope I can at least do that -- finishing is the only criteria of success for NaNoWriMo. Not quality. Not if it "works." Not if it's good. Just that it has 50,000 words.

The kids and I are taking the entire week off of school, so I should have plenty of time to get it finished. I also have the end of a Brave Writer discussion to finish this week also. And I have a few things I'd like to do around the house, like clean out my closet, the linen closet, etc. But getting those 50,000 words completed is my main deal.

35,000 words. I'm 70% done. And I've never written a novel before -- never even started one. Just finishing will be a triumph. I hope I can indeed do it.

PS I reached 38,000 words tonight after all. Cool!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dancing with the Stars Finale

So it's been a very exciting season of my and E's favorite dancing show, Dancing with the Stars. Early on we were big fans of Misty May Treanor whom we watched win the gold medal for beach volleyball in the Olympics last August. But Misty was out early with an injury. We were ever so grateful to see 82-year-old Cloris Leachman leave ... it just should have happened perhaps five weeks earlier than it did. We were glad to see Susan Lucci leave -- she tried too hard, although we felt quite bad for poor Tony who always gets stuck with the older women like Jane Seymour, Liza Gibbons, etc. It was definitely time for Maurice to go before the semi-finals, and Cody was a bit young and green, so it was time for him to go before the finals.

But really the finals are between two couples: Brooke & Derek and Lance & Lacey. Brooke has the most natural talent, but Lance has grown the most as a dancer, and he was downright incredible in the semi-finals this week. His and Lacey's mambo was stunning, and their jitterbug was nearly as good even though it was scored higher by a point. But their mambo was a work of art, truly. I've never been into NSYNC, but Lance has earned my respect as a dancer who is willing to work very hard and take some hard knocks along the way. And I remember Brooke from her Rock Star: INXS gig a couple of years ago, but I haven't seen her do much else. Brooke choked on her first dance, a jive, and redeemed herself somewhat with her samba, but Lance has truly transformed, and I find myself rooting for him to win. We've voted for both of them throughout the weeks, but we watched Lacey on Fox's So You Think You Can Dance so she's quite a favorite for us even if this is her first season on DWTS.

Don't miss the Final Dances on Monday night on ABC and the Final Result Show on Tuesday. We'll be fine as long as Warren doesn't win -- he's a ton of fun (quite literally) but his content and technique simply isn't in the same league as Brooke and Lance. So we're okay if Brooke wins, but I think that, underneath our "girl power" thing, we're both kinda hoping Lance wins. He's earned it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

New Movie on Homeschooling

As a result of Henry Cate's kind comment about my computer woes, I looked up his blog site and discovered this U-Tube preview of a film documentary on homeschooling. Many families new to the homeschooling movement may not be aware of the severe legal issues the homeschool pioneers faced in the early 1980's which is documented in this film. Assuring the legality of home education in all fifty states was far from an easy task, and one that can be taken for granted, although not nearly so much after our "scare" here in California earlier in the year. And families in Europe, and Germany in particular, are currently undergoing similar legal battles, including having children removed from their homes simply for homeschooling.

The film will be released sometime in 2009. Since I'm still posting from the library, I'm having problems embedding videos, but here is the link to the preview:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Quick NaNoWriMo Update

Well, last night Keith got my novel off of his computer and I was able to load it onto my laptop. So although I can't get online with m,y laptop, at least I can write my novel and get out of the corner where Keith's PC is. I felt rather trapped there in that corner of the kitchen, and last night it felt so amazingly wonderful and freeing to be able to take my laptop to the living room couch and work on mu novel. Because of the busy-ness of yesterday and all the computer issues, I didn't manage my full 2,500 words yesterday, but at least I'm less than 500 words short.

The cool thing is that I passed the halfway mark yesterday -- yes, I hit 25,000 words! I made it slightly past 26,000 words actually, and if I manage to write at all today and tonight despite a VERY busy schedule of kids' art classes, writing classes (which I teach), piano lessons, and theatre rehearsals, I hope to reach my goal of 29,000 words. I'm amazed at how naturally the words keep coming, how I see it in my imagination and translate it to the page. I've never written fiction before, and I've also never written with such abandon and with so little planning. Perhaps it's all crap. But at least I'm enjoying the process, even if it is very hard work.

Veneta called this morning, and she (bless her!) is willing to drive up the mountain with her laptop and see if she can get her laptop to work with our system. If it does, then we'll know that the online problem is indeed with our computers, as our ISP believes. If she can't, then it is indeed our ISP or the hardware -- routers, modems, etc. I have managed to keep up with my e-mail and Brave Writer class from the library over the past few days, but having the Internet available from home would simplify life amazingly....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Even More Computer Blues

My blessed husband very kindly sat down last night on the phone with our church secretary and computer guru, Veneta, to try to get my dinosaurish laptop to be able to log onto the Internet. After a couple of hours, they gave up. But then, something even worse happened. HIS computer wouldn't log onto the Internet either! So he called Veneta back and she was kind enough to work with him for well over two hours, and they STILL couldn't get his computer to log on.

So I'm writing this post from the lovely county library which has four computers dedicated to the Internet. They have a half-hour limit, but if no one else needs a computer, one can stay on indefinitely (or at least until the library closes).

So, as I'm still teaching an online class with Brave Writer, that's where the majority of my online time will have to go. Then it's e-mail, then my blog. So if this blog is a wee bit spare over the next couple of days (I hope it only takes that long to fix the problem, but I am probably being insanely optimistic), you'll know why. And getting images up on this blog will be next to impossible. So it may also be a bit boring in appearance -- but certainly not in content, right?

At least I can continue NaNoWriMo on Keith's computer as I don't have to be online to write the novel -- that is, as long as he doesn't have to take the computer to the "shop" or something. I may not be able to upload it to get a final count and all the expected honors on November 30, but I will at least be able to continue writing. It's going fairly well -- I missed my 2500 words last night by only 300 or so -- not too bad! I'm at 23,700-something. Nearly halfway. And it's still going really well; I'm still having fun, anyway, even if my hands, neck, and shoulders do protest most vociferously.

So, I hope that at least Keith's computer, if not my laptop, may be restored to Internet-readiness. If not, the librarians in our small town are going to be seeing A LOT more of me than they want to....

Monday, November 17, 2008

NaNoWriMo Update and Etcetera

I've written slightly over 19,000 words on my novel. Yes, I'm lagging quite a bit behind where I should be, but I wrote out a schedule on Saturday that requires me to write 2500 words per day, which I managed (barely) both on Saturday and Sunday. It's easier to write during the week because I have more computer time when Keith is not home. I rose early this morning to write but had a MECAC blog update to write and wrote a note to a friend whose husband has cancer and who is having a rough day. I'll write during the kids' break and lunch and also after tutoring, and I hope I can get to 21,500 words by the end of the day.

I'm in a fairly easy part of my book right now, describing my character's first Anglican service. It's what happens afterwards that I'm not sure about. I've not given this novel a great deal of thought; I've simply let events unfold organically and it's worked out well thus far. (My criteria of "well" being that I'm still writing it.)

Yesterday after church I started reading The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold for this month's Logos reading and discussion group. It's a book I had never read, and I don't remember who had recommended it. But I was somehow captivated by the very first lines: "My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." I read ninety pages yesterday and could barely put it down before bed. I had expected not to like it; the murder of children really bothers me. But it's the utter detachment of the first person narrator, Susie, who somehow makes her own rape and murder digestible. It's not an enjoyable book by any stretch, but it is an intriguing and very well-written one. I can see it joining Toni Morrison's Beloved in high school reading lists. It's a remarkable book with a very interesting, though hardly Biblical, idea of heaven being tailored to our own dreams -- different heavens for different people.

My heaven would have English country gardens with no weeds, and I would never be tired while working it. IN fact, Jesus and I would work in it together, planning borders and training wisteria, honeysuckle, and morning glories over arches and fences. I'd have a thatched cottage with lots of books, bottles of ink, nib pens, and a huge stack of thick parchment paper that would never run out. Neither would my ideas. I would garden and write all day, and my hands and neck would never hurt. I would never be in any kind of pain in my new body. I would gather flowers from my garden into vases each morning and have the scent of fresh flowers permeate the cottage. I would write evenings on a wooden desk under a window, a roaring stone fireplace at my back and the only light from candles, or read curled up in a comfy old armchair next to the fire. That's what "my heaven" would look like. I think I'll ask the group what their "heaven" would look like when we have our discussion.

Back to reality: Keith is now doing handyman work for friends and family, so he's busy with quite a few little jobs and a big one or two. So for now things are okay for us while we wait for God's direction for our lives. Those of you who know our situation, thanks so much for your prayers! I am not as fearful as I have been, thanks be to God. So, THANK YOU for praying!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Our President-Elect

I've been thinking a great deal about the recent election and its repercussions over the ten days since Barack Obama was elected by an electoral landslide yet only a 4% margin by popular vote. It wasn't the double-digit win the Democrats had been hoping for, but obviously it's still a convincing margin.

Although I'm far more of a Palin supporter than a McCain fan, I was still quite pleasantly surprised by the narrower-than-projected popular vote margin. I think that McCain and Palin did extremely well, considering the anti-Bush environment and severe economic problems as well. To lose by a mere 4% is still a loss, but in some ways, it was quite remarkable that the Republican ticket did so well in a year in which every issue was stacked for the Democrats. It would have been shameful had the Dems lost. And, yes, despite the media's blatant attempts to destroy Sarah Palin (meanwhile ignoring Joe Biden and even Obama to a certain extent), I do hope to see her running in 2012 -- and perhaps even gaining the nomination. And perhaps even winning .... But that's four years in the future, and I want to talk about the present.

Either way, history was going to be made. We were either going to have our first African-American president or our first female vice-president. Yes, I was hoping and praying for the latter, but now that President-Elect Obama will be taking the Oath of Office in January, I strongly believe that all of us Christians have the responsibility to pray for and support our new president.

I have no problem with having an African-American president -- I just didn't think that this particular African-American had the experience necessary nor did his beliefs mesh well with mine. In fact, I voted in the primary for a different African-American candidate, one for whom I voted in the 2000 primary as well: Alan Keyes. In fact, I very nearly voted for him on the November 4th as he was listed on the California ballot under the American Independent Party. But I had done too much volunteer work for the McCain/Palin ticket to not vote for them. And McCain lost by only ten percentage points in California -- much closer than anyone thought it would be -- and I wanted to be a vote for McCain/Palin even here on the Left Coast. ;)

So my Democratic friends (and I do have quite a few of them, and they are lovely people -- we just don't talk politics) who think I didn't vote for President-Elect Obama because of the color of his skin are quite mistaken. I have voted twice for an African-American candidate, one whom I would LOVE to see in the Oval Office. I simply didn't care for Obama's policies, especially his anti-life votes that sadden me greatly. I am also not against this war as so many of my friends are. I am not against Bush, although I do believe mistakes were made. Three of my family members have been stationed in Baghdad during the course of the war, and one may be returning. They have been safe -- thank God! But I also hear from them what the media doesn't often tell us: the positive things that are coming from this war. The little Muslim girls who are now receiving an education for the first time. The modern hospitals and schools that are being built. Etcetera. Is it worth American lives for these things to happen? I can't say, for my family members have been safe thus far. But good things are happening, not just bad. And we don't hear about the good things nearly enough.

But as I stated before, I believe that we Christians have the responsibility to pray for our President-Elect, and for a successful presidency for him. For his safety and for his wisdom. Since 9-11, I have received weekly prayer requests from the Presidential Prayer Team, outlining specific requests for our president: places where he is visiting, world leaders with whom he will be meeting, disasters and issues in our country and around the world for which I have felt honored to pray. When I offered to forward this site to a Democratic Christian friend of mine, she refused, saying that she couldn't, in all conscience, pray for George Bush. Her answer ripped at my heartstrings. We as followers of Christ have no business refusing to pray for our leaders because we disagree with them. The Scriptures command us to pray for our leaders, and state specifically that each one is chosen by God to lead. How can we possibly refuse to pray for the person God has chosen to lead our country?

So I will pray for our new president. President-Elect Obama has a very hard road ahead of him: dealing with the current economic crisis which some say may parallel the Great Depression of the 1930's; the war in Iraq and preventing future Al Quaida attacks; the issues with North Korea, China, Pakistan, and other countries hostile to the US, and many other issues of lesser, but still great, importance. We Christians should pray for President-Elect Obama and for his staff and Cabinet. If we care at all for our country, we must indeed pray for our leaders, no matter which side of politics they represent. We Christians are supposed to be about love, not hate. About prayer, not prejudice. For many of us, our candidate of choice did not win. Yet, God has appointed Barack Obama to lead this country, "for such a time as this."

Here is the prayer I am praying for President-Elect Obama, cobbled together from two prayers for "The President of the United States and all in Civil Authority" from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

O Lord, our heavenly Father, the high and mighty Ruler of the universe, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth: Most heartily we beseech thee, with thy favour to behold and bless thy servant Barack, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and all others in authority; and so replenish them with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that they may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness; and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

I usually insert prayers for Arnold, our Governor, for Congress and the state legislatures, and for all judges from the local, state, federal, appellate, and Supreme Court levels.

Praying for our country is a privilege for all Christians, and one that we should exercise despite party lines or our personal beliefs. The fact that we are free to pray and worship as we see fit in our country is a precious, precious thing, one that is increasingly rare across our globe. So, I urge you, take it seriously, and pray for our President-Elect, whether you voted for him, or not.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Busy Week....

Well, I haven't been able to keep up with NaNoWriMo as much as I would have liked this week. I had a stack of essays to grade for Class Day on Thursday; in fact, I was up until 2 AM on Thursday morning grading essays. I left a few to grade during my free period, but one of them took nearly an hour to grade, and I had to cobble together mid-term progress reports while in class. Out of the class of ten students, I had three A's, four B's, two C's, and one D. One of my tutoring students segued into my Intermediate (college prep) class yesterday, and she had one of the A's, just barely. Fortunately, my Advanced (honors) students didn't turn in any essays last time so I only had to do their progress reports: two A's (the two students I moved up from the Intermediate class), one B+ (E's grade), and two B's. They all work so hard, and I'm quite pleased with them.

I was also back to tutoring this week, meeting with J on Monday and M & M (sisters) on Tuesday, both of whom are going through the Beginning Writing program that Becky Winn (the founder of our private school home program) and I put together. They're all working hard. And I do really enjoy one-on-one tutoring. I am also back at
BraveWriter, substituting for Becky whose husband was injured in a motorcycle accident last month. I'm leading the Boomerang (7th-9th grade) literature discussion; last month I helped with the last week of Jane Eyre, and this week we're discussing The Eagle of the Ninth, a novel about a Roman soldier in Britain. Becky should be back for the December novel.

I also had to prepare the boys' progress reports which I did last night while watching Survivor, CSI, and ER (with Anthony Edwards returning! It was also cool to see Weaver and Romano, although they looked SO much older!). I have to mail them off today before the post office closes at 5:00 PM.

Sears is having a BIG sale today and tomorrow, and although our funds are quite limited, I needed to get T a few things. Being the oldest boy means that I have very few hand-me-downs for him, so I stopped by Sears without him (he refused to go) and managed with a 15% off coupon to purchase a pair of jeans and three shirts (two long-sleeved) for less than $30 all together; the jeans were only $8.50! (I love coupons that can be used on top of clearance prices!) Plus as B and I were walking out, I spied some men's shoes on sale. T only had summer shoes: a pair of sandals and a pair of thin canvas slip-ons. Sears had some very nice (and cool!) leather skateboarding shoes marked down from $65 to $20, and with my coupon which can be used over and over, I got them for $17. They only had three pairs left: 7, 8.5, and 9.5, so I bought the 8.5 and prayed they'd fit him. And they do! And (miracle of miracles) he likes everything I bought, including the red polo shirt for less than $3.50. I adore Sears for the boys' clothes. Plus if the jeans (or any other clothing or kids' shoes) wear out before they are outgrown, Sears will replace them for FREE with the same size. I usually replace the boys' jeans at least once, if not twice, and same with the shoes. SCORE!

It hasn't been easy sharing Keith's computer with him and E, so I have had little time to work on my novel. Today I should be at 22,000 words, but I'm only at 14,000; I hope to catch up tomorrow when Keith is working at my parents' cabin further up the mountain. My computer is still being stubborn; Veneta has spent hours and hours trying to straighten it around, but it won't access the Internet. Keith tried working with it last night but gave up in disgust. I think that Veneta is going to help him on the phone tonight as we have to have it up here on its own network. We'll see how it goes. (Crossing fingers and praying HARD!)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Death in the Family, or Pets Are People, Too

E's beloved pet rat, Ronald (Ronnie), was found dead in his cage this morning. We knew something hasn't been right with him and that he probably had tumors, but we didn't realize he would go this quickly. He didn't eat much Monday night, and last night when he didn't come out of his little house, E assumed that he was just sleeping, although he was most likely dead then.

This morning she saw that his food had not been touched and tried to wake him. And he was stiff. Keith made a little wooden coffin and E painted his name in orange across the top. We had a little ceremony in the backyard, just the kids and me. T and B dug a deep hole (thank goodness for rain this last weekend that softened our clay soil); I read the 23rd Psalm and prayed, and each of the four kids and myself laid a wildflower on top of his little casket before T filled in the 12-inch deep hole. We placed a large white quartz rock on top, one that sparkles when the sun hits it.

Ronnie was a fun rat -- his reddish coat made him seem more pet-like than a white, brown, or black rat would have been. He had quite the persnickety personality. hissing when life didn't go his way. Quite often, though, I'd spy him cuddling up in E's arms as she walked around the house with him. He gave kisses and had definite curiosity -- his quivering whiskers and wiggly nose checked out everything.

When I get my computer back, I'll post a photo or two of E and her Ronald. T has some great photos of E and Ronnie on the school computer (not hooked to the Internet) that he has displayed as wallpaper right now so we can see Ronnie every time we walk though the living room.

Ronald will be missed. In pace requiescat!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

NaNoWriMo Update

Wow! I've passed the 12,500 word mark, and am thus 25% of the way to the 50,000 word goal for November 30. It's been pretty darn amazing -- nearly miraculous -- to get this far while sharing Keith's computer not only with Keith but also with Elizabeth who has essays to type, e-mail to keep up with, and a blog she tries to update at least a few times per week.

I need to switch up my plot a bit. I was thinking about going for a romantic angle, but I think I've decided not. I'll have to revise, or perhaps even omit, the dream sequence, but it's short and I can revise it fairly easily.

The sheer lack of outline -- or even planning -- with which I am tackling my approximately 2000 words per day is unsettling to me. I am a write-by-the-outline kind of of writer -- expository writing is my thing. With tons of research. Loads.

But, in considering my nonfiction project I've been working on for several years now, I think I've hidden behind my research. It's so easy to convince oneself that more research is needed in this or that area before starting to write. Thus drafting is put off again. And again.

I have a very thick binder chock full of research. Yet because I feel woefully inadequate to tackle my subject -- I'm no church history expert or liturgist -- I keep finding reason after reason to continue reading and researching, rather than tackling my subject head-on and researching as I go. As necessary.

So this NaNoWriMo novel project is forcing me to see that I can indeed write "on the fly," so to say. I've allowed this story to develop organically, springing forth ideas as it grows, sending out shoots this way and that, climbing a trellis here and there. So far, so good.

I can't put into mere words the freedom I feel as I write this way. Usually we ISFJ's (the Meyer-Briggs personality delineation) need closure in everything we do. I'm not sure how this work is going to end. I'm not sure where it's going. I have an idea of where I want to take it, but it's more taking me along for the ride. I have little control. And it's immensely FREEING.

When I sit down to write, I don't pause to think: I just let words and phrases, sentences and paragraphs, flow from my fingers to the keyboard and then to the screen. I can not go so far as NoNoWriMo suggests and turn off my spellchecker -- I must have words spelled right -- but I am writing more freely than I ever have before. I'm allowing very little self-editing, and once a paragraph is there, it stays. I don't second guess myself or analyze -- that's for December and January when I plan to edit. I'll take some with me tonight to our monthly writing workshop group -- I'll have to e-mail it to Keith so he can print it up as his computer doesn't interface with the printer.

Speaking of computers, Veneta called a short time ago and said that she may have my laptop fixed! I'll check it out after Class Day on Thursday. She took off *thirteen* trojan viruses and put on some good protection that will keep 'em off. She also took several programs off the start-up menu so my computer will no longer take 15 minutes to start each morning. I'm looking forward to getting my computer back -- I'll then be able to type in the evenings when Keith is home and I'll be able to catch up on NaNoWriMo. Although I've written for a short time this morning and passed the 25% mark, I should be at the 16,000 word mark by the end of the day. I doubt I'll catch up that much, especially with writing group tonight and essays to grade for Thursday, but I should be able to make some excellent headway over the weekend.

And if I have my laptop back, I'll take it to the library and write there. I always write best away from home, away from, ringing phones and children who need this or that. And Keith's PC, nice as it is, is not portable in the least so I've been tied to his desk since the beginning of the project. Think how much I'll get done when I become FREE of this darkish corner of my kitchen and can work anywhere. I can't wait.

So NaNoWriMo is far more successful than I thought it would be for this nonfiction writer. Who would have thunk?

Monday, November 10, 2008

All Work and Some Play

Yes, life has been very busy for our family lately. We have four grades in our home school: 3rd, 6th, 8th, and 11th. J (6th) plays two musical instruments, so he has piano lessons on Tuesdays (here in our town, fortunately) and a guitar class with Father Acker in Alpine on Wednesdays. He and E (11th) have also been cast in our art council's new theatre group's Christmas play where they portray two parts each; they have rehearsals twice a week. T (8th) is helping with sets, so he'll be spending Saturdays at the workshop, building, painting, etc. He may also help with lighting.

The three boys are also involved in a weekly art docent class for homeschoolers that meets each Thursday morning at the library; they're studying Georgia O'Keeffe over the next six weeks. B (3rd) is especially talented artistically, as is T (8th) who has been working with animation lately on his own, both stop-motion and pencilled comic strips with a small turtle as his main character. The Adventures of Larry the Turtle is heavily reminiscent of Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield, the two comics the boys read the most. E (11th) is also looking to work at the Bible Camp, cleaning cabins on Saturdays; she has been helping a disabled friend with housecleaning since late summer, but that Tuesday job has been cutting into her schoolwork too much. She's learned a little about jewelry-making from her cousins and has been making wonderful earrings that she wants to give as gifts and perhaps also sell. So that's the kids' balance or work and creativity.

Keith, meanwhile, is looking for work as his self-employed business of nearly 25 years has dribbled down to nearly nothing -- the building industry in San Diego has pretty much given up the ghost. He and his dad, a civil engineer, are planning to close their office in January. Keith would love to devote himself to his artwork, especially stained glass, full time, or at least part time. Right now he's doing some handyman-type work for people at church which pays three times what he would make at Home Depot or Costco, plus there's no overhead. It will at least fill in the gap and help pay the bills while we wait for God to reveal His plan to us. Keith is so talented, so artistic -- and has such a heart for helping people. We are praying that God will place him somewhere that he can use these gifts and desires God has given him. Right now he's repairing a window for Dr. Adema, the same one who commissioned the huge window that was installed in late September.

In addition to homeschooling four kids and getting them where they need to be (at least their activities are almost all in our small town so they can walk to many of them), I've also started working more at
BraveWriter, a one-stop language arts curriculum for home schoolers. Julie comes at writing from a professional writer's point of view, rather than from an academic slant like most of the other writing curricula out there, especially IEW. Last spring I taught a one month workshop to homeschooling moms on how to teach their kids Shakespeare and really have fun learning about the Bard, his time, and his works. This fall I taught a similar workshop on poetry, and in February I'll be facilitating another one on grammar. Right now I'm also filling in for a friend whose husband was in a serious motorcycle accident, so I'm leading a book discussion group for junior high students. I finished the last week of discussing Jane Eyre in October, and today I start discussing Rosemary Sutcliffe's Eagle of the Ninth, a historical novel set in Roman Britain around the year 150 AD.

I'm still teaching two writing courses at our private school program's Class Days, one for college-prep high school students, and one for honors students; E is in the latter class. I don't get paid for doing these, but the school has been gracious in helping us with tuition during this downturn, so it works well for both the school and myself. They get a former college instructor teaching the students, and we get a break in our tuition. Plus the kids get to take fun classes like cooking, PE, and chess, to name a few. Definitely a win-win, but a lot of grading for me, of course.

I've also expanded my tutoring this year to help bring in more income. I'm going through the Class Day Beginning Writing curricula, written by Becky Winn and myself, with one 10th grade boy, a 10th grade girl and her 8th grade sister, plus a class of junior high students, two of which are my boys, plus a 6th grade girl. As of last week, another 6th grade girl in the class went back to traditional school, and the one senior student I was teaching my Intermediate Writing course to has caught up with my Class Day course and will be in class this Thursday, having written all the essays needed to join. So I've lost two students this past week, but the rest should be able to stay on for quite a while. The writing class meets on the Thursdays we don't have Class Days (every other Thursday), and I meet with the other students weekly. I really enjoy tutoring one-on-one and always have; I've worked as a classroom aide/tutor since I was in 7th grade. So between working for BraveWriter and tutoring, I've been able to help with the bills a little bit while still keeping our home education lifestyle intact which is very important to both Keith and me.

So, all this work! How do I play? By adding more "work," of course. Joining NaNoWriMo is work, yet it is also the creative outlet that I have been looking for. Needing, really. And our art council has some great things in the works that will provide more creative outlets -- painting classes with Norm Daniels, a writing workshop with Judith Deem Dupree, and perhaps a photography workshop with my dear husband (if he want to do so -- I need to ask him about that one!). I may not be an "artist," but I would like to learn more about it. And, as my dear doctor says, "Everyone needs a creative outlet!" In fact, he asks his patients about what their creative outlet is, and if they don't have one, he makes them find one and report back to him!

So my creative outlets consist of gardening (I love nothing better than having my hands deep in the moist soil, dirt under my nails), writing (my blogs, NaNoWriMo, my journal, prayer journaling), calligraphy (which I am teaching myself but could really use some lessons from Keith's sister), and photography (with help from my semi-pro husband). We all need some way to express ourselves creatively, or we end up depressed workaholics.

So, what is YOUR creative outlet? Are you a beginner or more experienced? How do you find time for it? What creative "art" would you like to learn more about? Let's chat about it. ;)

Friday, November 7, 2008

NaNoWriMo Update

After finishing writing today, I'm at 8187 words -- not bad for only four days of writing. I had planned to write at least 2000 words per day, and that's exactly what I've averaged so far.

I like where the novel is going so far. I'm happy with it. Quite happy.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Challenges of Writing

Writing is hard work. I tell my writing students at Class Day and tutoring sessions this fact often. As I've tried to carve out an hour or so a day to pursue NaNoWriMo, I've once again realized how hard it is to get 2000 words out of my brain, through my aching fingers, and into a word processor each day.

And that doesn't count the writing I do with a third-grader at my elbow, wanting help with each and every step of long division. My typical writing scenario looks something like this:

Me: [Typing: "As she turned her back..."]

B: "Mom, how many times does two go into thirteen?"

Me: "What do you think?"

B: "Seven times?"

Me: "Try again?"

B: "Six times?"

Me: "Is that a question or an answer?"

B: "I think it goes in six times."

Me: "Good. Write it above the three." [Where was I ... oh yeah ... {types:}"she began to..."]

B: "But it doesn't go in evenly."

Another math book is thrust into my lap by my 6th grader, J.

J: "Mom, how do I estimate these decimal things?"

B: "Hey, I was talking to Mom! I'm in the middle of a problem!"

J: "You ARE the problem."

J gets sent back to his desk to think about what he just said to his brother.

The front door slams, and T, my 8th grader, comes in from taking the dog out and tosses a stiffened alligator-lizard tail onto J's math book. (I'm not kidding -- this happened as I composed this post.)

J: "Cool! Where did you get it?"

T: "I almost caught the lizard outside, but all I got was his tail."

J: [in a sing-song voice] "Oh, Moh-om! I have some word problems I can't do."

He tosses his book on top of B's book then tells B to stop getting in his way.

Me: {SIGH}

B: "Mom, Jonathan needs help."

Me: "I get that."

I write out an entire word problem into logic boxes. Meanwhile J is singing his version of "In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight" which mentions B being eaten by said lion.

J removes his math book off of Benjamin and goes into the next room singing the song for T's benefit, and B follows to protest his inclusion in the song. I call to everyone to sit back down and get back to math. B comes back to sit at my elbow, reporting that T gave him a wedgie. T plays innocent, bent over his pre-algebra book as if nothing happened. He loses ten points.

B now has the dog on his lap, his front paws on the math book. B sets down the dog after a minute and tells me that he doesn't like "big math."

Where was I again?

So the fact that I have averaged 2000 words each day so far for NaNoWriMo can be considered a miracle. I don't get to write in the evenings because my computer is down for the count and Keith uses his computer in the evenings. So my writing needs to be completed by 6 PM at the latest.

Well, life is an adventure. And writing is even more of one, at times. And J did finish his math while I've been composing this post; the other two are still at work.
Homeschooling is wonderful, but not particularly conducive to writing with three boys between the ages of 8 and 13 all tackling math at the same time.

Where was I again?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

NaNoWriMo -- I'm Gonna Do It!

This November marks the tenth anniversary of NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month. Yes, there's a website -- click on the underlined word above and you can check it out.

I sent an e-mail out to our little writing group in our small town; I have no idea if anyone will join me, but I did let them know about the "event."

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. The stress is on QUANTITY, not quality. It's all about dumping ourselves into writing a novel without worrying about cohesion, spelling (okay, I can't let the spelling go, but I'm not revising anything else as I go), revision, self-editing, etc. It's rather like freewriting a novel, "upchucking" it onto the page -- or online, as the case may be.

The cool thing about NaNoWriMo is the support. A few years ago several of my online friends gave it a whirl, and this year two or three are doing ti again. I was reminded of it when I perused the 10 Minute Writer blog. And although NoNoWriMo goes against the grain of her ten minutes a day, she decided to give it a whirl.

Now, those of you who know me know all too well that novel writing ain't my deal. I much prefer non-fiction and poetry. But as I thought about NaNoWriMo, the idea came to me to parallel my current nonfiction project with this novel. So I've developed a character who will be going through what I've gone through spiritually and who parallels me a great deal -- to a scary extent, actually. It may very well be complete crap, but at least I shall be productive.

The left brain, logical side of me gave many reasons for not jumping into NaNoWriMo. First of all, I was starting several days too late (Nov. 4), so I would have to write about 2000 words a day to be done by November 31. Secondly, my laptop is no longer usable, so I'm stuck sharing Keith's computer which means that I can only write when he's not home (or is in bed, as is the case at present at 1:17 AM). Thirdly, I have an unexpected job to do this month with BraveWriter plus homeschooling plus grading plus Class Day plus art council meetings, plus....

But I'm trying it anyway.

And today my total is 2544 words. Not bad for a first day.

And I actually like what I'm writing. It sounds not so much like crap in several places.

Anyone care to join me?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day at Last!

It's here. Finally. After two years of campaigning, advertising, and story after story after story on Fox News, it's Election Day at last.

E and I drove down the hill into El Cajon to join in making last minute calls for McCain/Palin, Yes on Prop 8 (traditional marriage amendment), and McCann for California State Assembly. We were calling registered Republicans who haven't been consistent voters. I made it through ten sheets of names and numbers, and E made it through eight. After two-and-a-half hours, my neck was really hurting, even though I tried to get up and walk around every twenty minutes or so.

I got into my first big debate over the phone last night with someone who was planning to vote for Obama. He was complaining about his 401K shrinking and how things had to change in Washington. I gave him some food for thought, enough so that he was "going to have to think about it." I'm not one for confrontation at all -- I hate arguments. But I may have made some headway with Michael which is rewarding for a non-confrontational person like me. Usually I feel fear creeping up on me each time I dial a number and relief flooding me when I get an answering machine so I don't have to talk to a real, live person. I much prefer leaving a message. I know, I'm a chicken. And making calls is very hard for me. But I did it, for hours at a time, because I really, really, REALLY don't want Obama as president. I've had three nephews in Iraq, so walking away without winning in Iraq is not an option in my book. Nope.

So although the odds are very much against a McCain/Palin win today, I can only hope and pray that the polls are wrong (as they have been so often before -- Kerry was ahead by six points in the polls last election day and he managed to win) and that Republican turnout will be high and that people will see the truth about Obama. I can only pray.

Monday, November 3, 2008

All Saints and All Souls

Two of my favorite holy days occurred over the weekend: All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Originally the two were one celebration of the martyrs of the Christian faith, but at a later date the two celebrations were separated with November 1 as a celebration of ALL the Saints -- ALL who had walked the "pilgrim pathway" in faith and hope, providing examples to us and encouraging us that though the path may be challenging, it is indeed possible with God's help. November 2 then became a remembrance of All Souls -- all of those Saints who have come to the end of their journeys, and also of the martyrs who gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

When I think of the celebration of All Saints and All Souls, I can't help but think of the future return of Our Lord. I imagine the scene described by St. John in his Revelation:

“After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.... [One of the elders] said to me, ‘These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9,14).

And I also remember the wonderfully encouraging words in the Epistle to the Hebrews:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted" (Hebrews 12:1-3).

So I take joy in knowing that I am surrounded by the Saints. I rather imagine them grouped on the sidelines of a loooooong marathon course, cheering each of us over that final finish line into Heaven. Yes, it can be easy to stop along the course and take a sidetrack that ends up distracting and misdirecting us, but we try to keep to the "narrow path" that leads to the ultimate finish line. We may not be moving fast; in fact, we may only be crawling our way forward. But every inch along that pilgrim pathway that Christ first trod perfectly is a movement in the right direction, a direction pleasing to God and helpful to us, even of we're rather stuck in a valley for the time being.

From my devotional book The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime that Dru gave me, I've been praying this prayer during the Octave (eight-day celebration) of All Saints:

Almighty God, with whom still live the spirits of those who die in the Lord, and with whom the souls of the faithful are in joy and felicity: I give you heartfelt thanks for the good examples of all your servants, who, having finished their course in faith, now find rest and refreshment. May I, with all who have died in the true faith of your Holy Name, have perfect fulfillment and bliss in your eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. +

So I do wish you all a belated but joy-filled All Saints and All Souls Days, remembering those who have gone on before us and taking note of the warnings markers and words of encouragement they left behind them along the way. Let's celebrate that this path, well-worn by the Saints, is that much easier to follow because they walked it first, giving all glory and praise to Christ our Lord and Saviour.


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