Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Six-Point Plan

Mondays are always tough days: lots of homeschooling, an extra student to teach in the afternoons, and preparations to do write in the evenings for my Tuesday morning Bible study.

But two things make Mondays enjoyable: Dancing with the Stars and the arrival in my e-mail box of John H. Armstrong's weekly Act 3 op-ed articles.

Over the past three weeks, Armstrong has been writing up some advice he's given to seminary students. The last two weeks' stuff was okay, but this week's was absolutely extraordinary. It's good advice for every church, for every pastor. I'll rehash the main points but the entire op-ed article can be read here.

The six points Armstrong makes:

1. Understand and Teach the Plotline of the Bible
At Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity, Father Acker is doing exactly this at the opening of each service: going through the Scriptures chronologically. I think it's a great concept and a practical application.

2. Learn the Value of the Creeds and Learn How to Teach Them Well (This one is so important that I want to include the details -- it's something horribly overlooked in evangelical churches, unfortunately. I really love the emphasis placed on the creeds in the liturgical traditions:)
The earliest creeds were written to guide believers and congregations so that they would not stray far from the central message of the Bible. These creeds are distinctly Trinitarian in nature. Much of what we do and say in the Church today, at least in evangelical churches, is not deeply Trinitarian. The loss of perspective in spiritual formation, prayer, worship and right living is immense because of this flaw. A right use of the creeds can correct this over time.

Ministers ought to know the creeds and learn to use them well with their congregations. People should be taught to love them and learn them. A creedal church is a better taught church and one that can handle the important things of Christian thought and doctrine.

3. The Place for Catechism
Again, this is so very important, especially for the young people in the church, but also for adults as well. Our young people really need to understand doctrine, especially as they grow into adults. Armstrong makes a really good case for teaching via catechism.

4. The Church Must Become "A House of Prayer"
Amen! Alpine Anglican just started a prayer ministry, one that I'm excited about joining. Certain prayer requests will be prayed over daily by the members of the prayer ministry, whether those be requests from the church or from people outside the church.

5. Understand and Teach Epistemology
How we know is an important matter to study. We gotta know how we gotta know, you know?

6. We Must Love the Church
(This one is really important, too, so here's the scoop right from Armstrong:)
Most of you would expect me to teach this truth wherever possible. I believe Christ loves the Church and gave himself up for her. I believe he calls on us to love her and to live at peace with one another. This takes me to John 17 and the prayer Jesus prayed for us to be one. Too many ministers help foster divisions by their personal opinions and leadership styles. We must learn to cherish the bride of Christ, and the only bride we can now see is the visible church with all her flaws.

This is as much my personal passion now as anything in my life. I am writing my next book on this very subject: Your Church Is Too Small. I do not understand how you can love Jesus and not love his Church, not as a theory but as a real, visible and whole reality. I urged the seminarians to make this their life's passion as well.

I agree with Armstrong on all of these, but most especially on the use of creeds to unify the church in its beliefs and in the love of the church that also creates unity. I take Jesus' prayer of unity in John 17 VERY seriously and also lament the divisions between factions within Christendom that are fostered by sometimes well-meaning pastors but which definitely defy Christ's intention for the Church. As I assert often (climbing up on my soapbox...), we Christians -- whether Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, mainline, evangelical, charismatic -- are ALL ON THE SAME SIDE. Our enemy is Satan, not each other!!!! But one would think by the way Christians judge one another, treat one another, and have even killed one another, that we are enemies indeed. And meanwhile, our REAL ENEMY is laughing all the way to the underworld, reveling in our divisions and in his resulting power over the Church. But if we truly LOVED one another, as Christ prayed, then Satan would be powerless over the Church. And the Church could be a real agent for change in the world if we were all on the same side, working together, praying together, fighting the enemy together, and loving together. And that's God's will for His Beloved Bride....

(Stepping off the soapbox now....)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Magnificent Sunday

This afternoon I hitched a ride with my Lake Murray pals Kitty and Linda to Point Loma Nazarene University where they were performing Bach's Magnificat and Beethoven's Choral Fantasy with the PLNU Choral Union and PLNU Orchestra. What a magnificent way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

The words of the Magnificat, although sung in Latin, are very familiar to me in English as they are part of the Vespers service for the Anglican and Catholic traditions. The Magnificat is Scripture -- Luke 1:46+, to be precise -- the song of Mary after the visit from the Angel Gabriel and after she has given God her "Yes."

From the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, Evening Prayer Service:
My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me; and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen [helped] his servant Israel; as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.

Kitty and Linda were part of a large choir -- well over a hundred people from the San Diego area. There are no tryouts for the Point Loma Choral Union, just the desire to sing God's praises and the request that one sings the notes one can sing well. Linda and Kitty have been attending weekly practices for the past two months, and this afternoon was the big show. And was it ever lovely! I had shivers running up and down my spine as "The Magnificat" closes with the "Gloria Patri":

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

To hear over a hundred voices burst forth in glorious praise, backed by a full orchestra -- it was a little taste of heavenly joys!

Following an intermission, we listened to a string quarter play Grieg's Quartet in G Minor, Op. 27, which was lovely. After that the full orchestra performed Beethoven's Choral Fantasy (Op. 80 for Piano, Choir, and Orchestra), a prelude in a way to his masterpiece, the Choral Symphony (the Ninth). It began with piano, joined with the orchestra in the middle, and finished with the first the soloists and finally the full choir, all of whom sang auf deutsch. The final stanza, the one sang by the full choir along with the soloists, reads:

Grosses, das ins Herz gedrungen,
bluht dann neu un schon empor.
Hat ein Geist sich aufgeschwungen,
hallt ihm stets ein Geisterchor.
Nehmt denn hin, ihn schonen Seelen,
froh die Gaben schoner Kunst
Wenn sich Lieb und Kraft vermahlen,
lohnt den Menschen Gottergunst.

(Please pardon the absence of umlauts -- I don't have a German keyboard.)

In English:
Something great, into the heart
Blooms anew when in all its beauty,
Which spirit taken flight,
And all a choir of spirits resounds in response.
Accept then, on you beautiful spirits
Joyously of the gifts of art.
When love and strength are united,
The favour of God rewards humanity.

After the concert, Linda, Kitty, Kitty's husband Guy, and I enjoyed smoothies and other snacks at The Living Room, a cool coffee hangout/restaurant and discussed the performance and art, writing, and other topics. Kitty lent me a wonderful book, Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande, that discusses HOW to be a writer not in technicality or skill but in mindset. Sounds right up my alley.

The concert was a lovely way to end a lovely day which started at Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity as my Sunday School class at Lake Murray was meeting at Starbucks as the men were away at their retreat and Nathan, our new Sunday School leader, was preaching in Stephen's place. We were able to attend Rogation Sunday, the Sunday before the Ascension of Christ, and were surprised when the preservice music consisted of praise songs we often sing at Lake Murray: "Days of Elijah," "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High," etc., led by Father Acker and two of his guitar students. Then the service started with their "Walk Through the Bible" which covered the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, focusing mostly on the rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem under Cyrus the Great of Persia, complete with maps of the area. Following came the Communion liturgy from the 1928 BCP, concluding with the singing of the Doxology (which I understand Lake Murray sang today also, an extreme rarity!), prayers for and anointing of the sick, and after the service finished, fellowship and snacks.

We drove from Alpine to La Mesa for Lake Murray's second service, but the fumes from the new carpeting upstairs was still too strong, and Keith took the kids home while I sat under the trees on the grass and caught up my Bible Book Club Scripture readings and also read the daily morning devotionals in The Diary of Private Prayer, the 1928 BCP, and this morning and midday readings in Divine Hours. I was able to chat with a few people before and after the service on the patio outside the building, but I definitely couldn't go in. After the service, I stopped by Wendy's for a small grilled chicken wrap and mandarin oranges rather than fries. (Aren't I a good girl!) And I had a blueberry smoothie (all fruit and fruit juice) at The Living Room rather than cake, scones, etc., although Kitty, Guy, and I shared a slice of lemon tart.

So today was truly a magnificent day, with worship, Scripture, gorgeous music, and the fellowship of dear friends. A Sabbath can't get much better than this!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Books Have Arrived!

A surprise arrived in yesterday's mail: two large books in cardboard mailers. I was rather puzzled, knowing that I hadn't ordered anything for school yet, nor have I succumbed to half.com lately. Then I saw the return address and realized that they were HERE! The poetry book that three of the four kids had poems printed in. J was the only one whose poem was NOT chosen, but as he's living it up in Hawaii with my parents, he won't mind awfully. Plus I can make a big deal out of my published poets without J feeling left out. Here are the books:

I was surprised to receive two books, and opened the smaller one first. It contains all of the younger poets' work, grades K-3, for the whole country. The larger book was the California edition of the 7-9 and 10-12th grade poets' writings. We immediately checked the index in the back and located the kids' poems. It was really cool for them to see their poems printed on the page, along with their grade and school name.

E and T pose with their book -- E's is on page 87 and T's on page 152.

B has his own book where his poem is one page 124.

B points to his own poem, very proud of seeing his words and name in a real book. :)

Yes, I know that these books are made just to make $$$ selling the books to proud parents and grandparents. But they do select less than half of the poems they receive for publication, and they award monetary prizes for the best poems in each grade level (1st-3rd; 4th-6th, 7th-9th, 10th-12th grades). And the books weren't too awfully expensive -- $25 got us TWO books which isn't too bad.

And it showed the kids that their writing matters, that other people will read it, and that pride in their own writing makes the entire writing process so worth it, no matter what the assignment now. It's a real confidence-builder, so it's definitely well-worth the $25 in my not-so humble opinion.

There are more contests going on through Creative Communications, both for poetry and for essays. The last deadline just passed for this spring, but another one will be coming up in August. You can follow this link for more information if you're interested in entering your child's work, a cinch to do online. Really.

So congrats to E, T, and B! Good job, guys! Your mum is VERY proud of you three! (And J -- have fun in Hawaii for me, okay? Too bad your suitcase was too small for me to stow away in!)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Alan Keyes' Bid for Presidency Continues....

I voted for Alan Keyes when he ran in 1996 and 2000. I found him to be articulate (the word that always comes to my mind FIRST when I think of him), straightforward (a rarity in politics), and a man who spoke my truth. He is unabashed in his view of the issues of our time (click on this link to read his stance on the issues from his website) and his enthusiasm and passion have reminded me many times of Martin Luther King, Jr., even if his stance on the issues have been different in some respects.

Keyes' bid for the White House in 2008 has been passed over by the media, including Fox News, even though he accumulated more votes than many other candidates who received adequate media attention. I was very glad to find his name on the Republican ballot here in California, and voted for him a third time.

Keyes left the Republican Party once McCain's nomination was in the bag. Claiming that the Republican Party was hardly different from the Democratic Party (a parallel I've definitely noticed over the years), he has now joined the Constitution Party as one of their candidates. Keith called me from work this afternoon and asked me to watch his speech to the Constitution Party's delegates as he vies for their nomination for the Presidential Race. His speech was both powerful and empowering.

The argument against voting for Keyes in the General Election is the fear that the conservatives will vote for him over McCain and split the Reublican Party and thereby insure a Democratic victory. Of course, with Hillary and Obama still at bat in the seventeen inning, the Democratic Party is hardly united either. But the fear of having another Perot incident and thereby putting a Democrat in the White House(either of them would be bad news in my book simply because I disagree with nearly every item on the Democratic platform) may quench whatever chance Keyes has of breaking through and getting some solid support from conservatives disenchanted with the Republican Party.

From the Alan Keyes website:
Seasoned statesman. Former Assistant Secretary of State Alan Keyes spent 11 years with the U.S. State Department. He served in the U.S. Foreign Service and on the staff of the National Security Council before becoming Ronald Reagan's Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations (1985-88). In the interim, from 1983 to 1985, he served as ambassador to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, where he represented America's sovereign interests in the U.N. General Assembly.

Genuine conservative. Keyes was President of Citizens Against Government Waste (1989-91) and founder of National Taxpayers' Action Day. As the two-time Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Maryland, he challenged liberal Democrats Paul Sarbanes (1988) and Barbara Mikulski (1992). In the 1996 and 2000 Republican presidential campaigns, Alan Keyes eloquently elevated the national political debate as a candidate for president. With his unequivocal pro-life, pro-family message, he forced the GOP leadership to address America's moral crisis. His political views are consistently based on America's founding ideals, those in the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution.

Alan hosted his own syndicated radio show throughout the 1990s, America's Wake-Up Call, and a television commentary show, Alan Keyes is Making Sense, during 2002 on MSNBC. He is currently writing books and speaking publicly on America's moral crisis.

Well-educated leader. Keyes has a Ph.D. in government from Harvard and wrote his dissertation on constitutional theory. He served as Interim President of Alabama A&M University in 1991. He speaks French and has studied Spanish, Russian, and ancient Greek, and is the author of Masters of the Dream: The Strength and Betrayal of Black America (1995); and Our Character, Our Future: Reclaiming America's Moral Destiny (1996).

Pro-life champion. Keyes has unashamedly and consistently raised the standard of unalienable rights — and Biblical truth — in defense of the unborn. He confronts the culture of death with compelling and inspiring reasons why abortion must be banned from our land.

Dedicated family man. Keyes and his wife Jocelyn have three children: Francis, Maya, and Andrew. Alan's stated purpose in life, like that of America's Founders, is to provide a secure future for our posterity.

So we'll see whether his campaign will take off ... or not. Much depends on whether he receives media coverage in any way. I doubt that he'll be permitted at the forthcoming debates between McCain and the Democratic nominee, but if he does, it definitely could catapult him into a position that may sink McCain and allow a Democrat into the White House.

Obviously, my feelings are mixed. I love Keyes and think he would make an extraordinary president. He has much more extensive foreign policy experience than the other three candidates and has worked a great deal with the United Nations and therefore has relationships with major allies (and non-allies) that could be helpful in global politicking. He is plain-speaking yet articulate, passionate yet self-controlled, a Christian who recalls old-time preachers yet sounds a great deal like MLK Jr. in his views of justice and poverty. If elected, he would be the second Catholic president after JFK as well as the first African-American president.

So we'll watch and see how things develop over the coming weeks. I'm especially interested in seeing how mnay conservatives may bol with Republican Party and vote with the Constitution Party and the only conservative in the 2008 Presidential Election.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Warning: Rant and venting in this post, along with tears of utter frustration.

I received a disappointing e-mail today from the mother of one of my favorite Advanced Writing students at our ISP's Class Day program. She has decided to pull N., an A- student, out of the course with only four class periods left. Her mother was quite willing for N. to receive a 73% (mid-C)score rather than complete one more assignment (given, it is an eight-week assignment on the MLA research paper). I understand being busy as a senior, but no way would a regular high school student be able to just drop a class mid-semester without receiving a corresponding grade. Not that the grade I'm giving really counts anyway, according to our principal.

When I called the principal to see how binding my class grades are, I was extremely disappointed at the lack of academic integrity in our school. I understand that our ISP is made up of HOME schooling families, but when a student takes classes given through the school, it apparently doesn't count at all in their GPA, on their transcripts, etc. The parent can just ignore the grades given by the Class Day techers and award whatever grade they desire to give to their student. I feel like with all of the work I'm doing, totally unpaid, -- especially when teaching two classes when only one would fulfill my commitment to Class Day so my kids could continue taking their classes as well -- doesn't really matter in the long run. This year I've had many students turning in late work, and they don't seem to care that they're losing an entire grade each Class Day (every two weeks) an assignment is late. One student, a graduating senior, has been failing my class, but his mom has apparently given him a passing grade in English despite his lack of work -- he (as well as a few other students) hasn't even been using Spell Check before turning in what is supposed to be a final draft -- his best work.

Next year I am refusing to accept any late work -- it will receive a ZERO in the gradebook and I will not take my time to grade it. I am going to drop any student receiving less than a 75% at the end of the first quarter. I am going to highly recommend to the parents that the grades I give should be weighted as half of their English grade (but of course I have no way to enforce that recommendation although I believe strongly that the school should if they wish to maintain a reputation for academic excellence). Next fall I am going to have the parents sign a contract assenting to these terms before I'll allow their child to take my class. I've spent countless (truly, COUNTLESS!!!!) hours preparing lessons and grading essays that have not been taken past the rough draft form, even in my Honors Class. I have spent an hour grading several essays, each of which probably took less time than that to write. I have even tracked down students who missed a particularly important class and drove all the way into the city to their homes so I could teach them one-on-one so they could start their research project on time. I feel as though I have wasted so many hours this year for little reason since none of it counts academically.

This is the first and only year I have EVER had students who have not given me their best effort. I'd say that nearly half of my students have turned in late work at least once; several of them have been doing so repeatedly. And it's also nearly half of my Intermediate Class as well as several students in my Advanced (Honors) Class who are not showing adequate effort. I would FAR, FAR rather be teaching at Point Loma where the students complained somewhat but at least I had the support of the Dean behind me. In the past, I have said that I love teaching the home schooled kids because they are so conscientious and work so hard -- and are so much more mature than the university students I have taught. Well, after this year I can no longer make that statement truthfully. It's depressing to me. Very depressing.

So my classes don't count on transcripts or in the computation of student G.P.A.'s, and the parents can simply override my grades at will, unless the principal convinces them otherwise. I've never seen such lazy students in our homeschool group, and it simply doesn't seem to be worth my time to teach a bunch of kids who do not want to learn and then discover that they have absolutely NO consequences for NOT fulfilling the requirements of their courses. I would like to teach them the consequences in academics for not following through BEFORE they get to college and end up making major mistakes than can affect their futures (and give home schoolers a bad name). But it really doesn't matter, I guess. I just regret even teaching this year. It really doesn't feel like it was worth it.

Perhaps I'll just be a lunchlady next year or scrub toilets -- something easy that doesn't take ten to twenty hours a week of my time for almost no reward and certainly no consequences for dropping out mid-semester or for turning in substandard work.

If I wanted this type of frustration, I could work as a public school teacher....

Rant over. (I think.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Healthy Balance

It's difficult to balance life as to have enough time for balance of all aspects of life. I want to have time with God, time with my husband, time to be with and teach the kids, time to keep the house at least acceptable, time to water and keep up the yard, time to exercise and eat healthily, time to do my work, time to spend with others, time for volunteer work, etc.

Writing up the Lenten Rule and reading the Rule of St. Benedict this year has given me the idea to write up my own Rule. Of course, being the "Type A" personality that I am, I have found my Rule to be overly-ambitious and in need of some adjusting. But overall it does help me to balance doing the things I have to do and the things I want to do fairly well.

The most important part of my Rule is my time with God each day. I had planned to keep up most of the devotional ideas I did during Lent, but it's proving to be a bit much. Then Dru gave me the wonderful devotionals I had coveted -- um, liked very much, I mean -- a three volume set that has prayers and Scriptures laid out for morning, midday, and vespers for spring, summer, and fall/winter. I'm using those instead of doing so much reading and praying from the Book of Common Prayer. I want to keep the Bible Book Club readings as a priority, but I got a bit behind when we were sick last week, so some catch-up is necessary. I'm still part of the Lady Bereans Inductive Bible study at Lake Murray in which we're starting to study Jonah, as well as the One Anothers Sunday morning study in which we just finished Matthew and Jude and will be starting Hebrews, plus I'm still attending the Friday healing services at Alpine Anglican as well as Sunday worship at Lake Murray. Then there's the monthly Logos reading group from Lake Murray for which we read a classic or Christian work and discuss it in depth over and after lunch. Kitty is such a lovely hostess and such great support in opening her home and serving us a lovely lunch each month.

I'm also trying to become healthier on the physical level. My three of my four main medications mention weight gain as a possible side effect, and they are not wrong, unfortunately. Now that I'm in my early 40s, I'm finding it more difficult to reduce my weight as well. I've been part of a group of home schooling moms online for quite a while whose focus is healthy and faithful living. Recently a few of us have started some e-mail accountability that's a bit more structured, something I really need. I'm back to doing some yoga using Yoga Zone's Gentle Yoga for Beginners DVD, and I'm also trying to slowly and carefully work up my walking distance beyond 100 yards. Using Fitday.com is a huge help for tracking food (calories, fat, fiber, etc.) and exercise -- it's a free service and wonderfully helpful, if a little time-consuming. I'm trying to avoid as much gluten and sugar as possible and watch the calorie counts daily, keeping it around 1500, if possible. I also want to be out gardening often, even if I have very little money to invest in our yard right now. It's good exercise as well as being good for the soul.

And I also want -- no, NEED -- time to be creative - time to read, to write, to research for my book. Unfortunately, this creative time lately has been taken with teaching -- one of my great loves as well but one that leaves me with little free time after home schooling and my other commitments. At least the Writers' Workshop that has started recently in our small town has given me deadlines to work toward -- soemthing I don't presently have in the writing I'm doing now. In addition to a little poetry, I've actually finding myself writing quite a bit of prose lately, and not just on my book project. I guess I'm finding little bits o' time here and there that are leading to some new kinds of writing and expression for me. Rather cool. I'd also like to take a few "writing retreats" by going off and writing either for a day at the library or java place in town or even get away overnight for a writing/contemplative retreat. I've especially wanted to go to a retreat at a monastery -- monasteries fascinate me to no end.

So it's all about balance -- balance between home school and free time, balance between laundry and creativity, balance between eating healthfully and pampering myself a bit, balance between working and volunteering, balance between the intellectual and the spiritual. And that's what St. Benedict had in mind for his monasteries fifteen centuries ago: balance. And it's become my watchword for 2008. Balance.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Domestic Monastery

I ran across this site in the files for Sonlight Catholic Yahoo groups, and I remember finding solace in it before when the kids were little and we were at home a great deal of the time. Yet as homeschoolers, we still spend most of our days just at home and with one another. The most valuable aspect of this article is the fact that God underlined for me: MY TIME IS NOT MY OWN BUT HIS. My time belongs to the Lord. Not to me. So whatever I do, He has chosen it for me. An excellent and timely reminder as I struggle with having so little freetime, or rather, have my freetime swallowed up in teaching and volunteer work, all of which God has called me to do even if it keep me too busy for much leisure reading (but that's what summer is for, right?).

So enjoy this article, especially is you are the mother of young ones or if God has given you the blessing and vocation of home education: The Domestic Monastery.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ugh ... It's Caught Us at Last

Well, we're finally down sick. We've avoided the flu bug that made the round through our town and through church all winter long. But this week we finally succumbed to a cold/flu thing. B was first and just laid on the sofa all day Monday, not the usual behaviour for my active eight-year-old. He complained of a sore throat and soon was going through tissues by the dozen. On Tuesday morning it caught up with T and E, and by Tuesday night it was my turn. Today J (who has stayed well thus far and better remain well as he's leaving for Hawaii with my parents in a week) and B (who has recovered) did school work and I managed the reading aloud lessons of Bible, Bible history, poetry, literature, and history despite a very sore throat. My friend Judith stopped by today with an herbal antiobiotic cocktail for me that's especially for viruses that I hope will clear this thing away, and I am feeling somewhat improved tonight.

Normally a sick week would be just a sick week, no sweat. But this weekend we're having thirty-some people over to celebrate E's "Sweet 16" birthday with a barbecue on Sunday afternoon. I had planned to be out working in the yard and also doing some deep cleaning in the house this week, but none of that has been happening. We'll just have to lower our (I should say *MY*) standards a bit and just enjoy the celebration and not worry that everything isn't perfect.

Here's to Cold Eeze, lots of liquids, Chloraseptic Throat Spray, lots of citrus and strawberries, lots of tea, and to Judith's herbal antibiotics! I hope that we'll be ready to clean the house and get the yard in order on Saturday and part-ay on Sunday.

Monday, April 14, 2008

April 14: Feast Day of Justin Martyr

I've read Justin quite a bit. His writing to me is intriguing simply because of his witness of Early Church practices. And as one of the martyrs of the Church, he has an interesting story for us as well as his historical perspective. Here's a better summary of his life than I could write -- from earlychristianwritings.com:

One of the earliest and most eminent of the Apologists of the second century is St. Justin. Born between 100 and 110 of heathen parents at Flavia Neapolis—the modern Nablus and the ancient Sichem — he felt at an early age a strong attraction for philosophy. He received lessons successively from a Stoic, a Peripatetic, and a Pythagorean, but none satisfied him. Platonism seemed to afford him some peace of mind; but a venerable old man, whose acquaintance he had made (probably at Ephesus), pointed out to him the insufficiency of philosophy and urged him to study the Scriptures and the teachings of Christ. Justin followed this advice and was converted about A. D., 130.

As a Christian, he continued to wear the philosopher's mantle, leading the life of a lay missionary, preaching the doctrine of Christ and defending it as the highest and safest philosophy. Twice he came to Rome, where he spent a considerable time and founded a school which was quite successful. In the same city, most probably, he held, with Crescens, the cynic, the disputations which he mentions in his Second Apology. It is supposed that Crescens denounced him and had him condemned, but there is nothing to prove this. Justin was beheaded in Rome with six other Christians, under Junius Rusticus, prefect of the city, between 163 and 167. We have the authentic acts of his martyrdom.

St. Justin was always admired for the earnestness of his convictions, the nobility of his character, and the perfect loyalty of his dealings. He was an apostle and a saint in the true sense of the words, filled with an ardent desire to do good to those whom he addressed. The earnestness of the writer and the warmth of the discussion alone at times impart to his style eclat and life. From a theological point of view, however, the writings of St. Justin are exceptionally valuable. Not only is he an undeniable witness of the important dogmas of the Incarnation and the Holy Eucharist, but he is the first who carefully studied the relations between faith and reason and who introduced the Greek categories and a philosophical terminology into his doctrinal expositions. In this he is a true pioneer.

We are acquainted with the titles of nine or ten of St. Justin's authentic works: Eusebius mentions the two Apologies, a Discourse against the Greeks, A Refutation against the Greeks, a writing known as De Monarchia Divina, another entitled The Psalter, a treatise On the Soul, written in the form of scholia, and the Dialogue with Trypho.

Remarkable Women: A Series

As I have somehow survived the past few busy weeks (and have several more ahead of me), I've had a niggling idea that I've wanted to write about: the remarkable women in my life who have influenced me, loved me, taught me, laughed and cried with me. I am the woman I am because of them. And the best part is that all but my grandmother are still alive and still teaching me all there is about being the woman I dream of "growing up to be."

First on the list is my mother, of course, seen in the above photo I took last month, teaching two grandsons how to play a laser harp in the Discovery Science Center in Orange County. Her love of reading and gardening have definitely been transmitted to me as they are also my favorite ways to spend spare time (when I have some!). And her stories of family members of the past have also given me a great love of history, and the history of our family in particular; she always tells wonderful stories of her grandmother and her great-grandmother who lived long enough to hold me as a baby (died the year I was born), along with tales of other family members. The oral history of our family is something I want to pin down in writing as it's something I desire to pass down to my children (and grandchildren) as well. During my high school years, she worked on my campus as an aid to the "home ec" department, helping with the preschoolers, shopping for the cooking classes, running copies for the various teachers, etc.; I thought it great fun to have my mom on campus. When I was in college, she decided to go back to school as she didn't finish her college education because she married my dad. So while I studied at Point Loma, she attended Mesa Community College majoring in history. We occasionally attended each other's history classes, too.

She is an artist, finding peace in painting landscapes in her small studio overlooking the Pacific. Her passion for nature -- of mountains, rivers, wildlife -- has also taught me to love them, too. One of my favorite sounds in the world is the one we heard when camping in the Cuyamaca mountains each summer: the "music of the trees," as she calls the sound of the wind blowing through the branches overhead. She taught me to lean in to smell the vanilla scent of Jeffrey pines and to just stop and listen to silence. I remember the joy on her face as she sat on the shores of the Shoshone River just outside of Yellowstone, "watching the river roll by" on one camping trip in the mid-70s. And her love for music has also influenced my tastes as she raised us on John Denver, the Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Elvis, the Drifters, the Platters, Jan and Dean, the Carpenters, Neil Diamond, and other great groups of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Music was always playing in our house, and we'd dance around the living room or do our house or yard work to the good ol' 8-track tapes blasting through the speakers.

Her mother, my grandmother, died when I was pregnant with my first child, and I would have loved to have placed my daughter in her arms. Mae has also been instrumental in my life. Her love of poetry, the arts, and refined living have been instilled in my memory. I remember her teaching me the correct way to set a table when I was about eight years old and her thanking me in French, "Merci beaucoup, mademoiselle." When I, as a fourth-grader, asked her to sign my autograph book, she sat for a moment thinking, and then wrote some lines from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in her splendid script. I love having her Seth Thomas mantel clock on my own mantel, chiming the tones I know so well from childhood.

Her home was filled with refined things: old books, antique clocks, a grand piano topped with beautifully-framed photos of family, lovely china, glassware, and mahogany tables from previous generations, scratchy renditions of Caruso and other opera greats on glass records, and the portrait of Omar, a middle-eastern sheik, her great work of art, on the wall by the entry. Her easel stood in the screened-in patio, an oil painting of a ship at sea partly finished. I love having her portrait as a little girl on my mantel as well, a constant reminder of the little daughter of a German immigrant who grew up to speak French, adore poetry and music, and create lovely art.

Obviously my love of the arts (music, visual arts, poetry, writing) come from my family. My mother's sister was a creative writing major at San Diego State, and my great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother were both women who also loved art and the refined things in life. I love having some of their possessions -- pictures, photos, knick-knacks -- in my home as a reminder of them and of my artistic heritage.

I've had to change this post into a series, I think. I have a list of thirteen women about whom I'd like to write, so I think I'll take them two or three at a time. So having completed the family women, I think I'll write next about some very dear friends from waaaaay back. In the dark ages, you know. Stay tuned for the next installment....

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cool Music Playlist!

I was reading my blogs via Google Reader (such a great timesaving device for sure!), and I had followed Pam's link to a blog about a family who gave birth on April 7th to a baby girl who only lived for two hours. As I finished reading the entries (through my tears, I might add) I noticed something really cool: a playlist thingy on her sidebar that allows you to create your own FREE PLAYLIST and then put it on your blog's sidebar so that when people read your blog (and have their volume turned up) your special playlist plays for them -- and also plays for you while you write posts, too.

If you're interested, then you can click right here. And every time you visit me, turn up your volume! You can scroll down a bit and find my listing of songs which I've set to play at random so you'll get a different song each time. Know that U2 figures greatly in the list (like over half), so if you're a fan of the boys from Dublin, turn it UP!

ENJOY! (I know I will!)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cultivating Joy at Retreat

"For You, Oh Lord, have made me glad by what You have done; I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands." -- Psalm 92:4

"Cultivating Joy" marked the 14th (I think) Lake Murray women's retreat I have attended, and as always, the weekend passed by all too quickly with building friendships, quiet time with God, hearing Him speak through several women, making crafts, eating wonderful food (that we didn't have to cook!), studying the Scriptures, and singing His praises. As much as I adore my husband and kids, I treasure this time away from common activities to focus on God and His women.

We started off the weekend with a lovely dinner in our meeting place, Windfield Hall. After checking in and receiving our retreat packet, name tag, and goodie bag (including the very necessary items of pen, notepad, gum, and chocolate), we settled our things in our dorms and then joined the group in the hall to chat over sandwiches and salad. Below are my two friends from our town, Sheri and Teri -- Sheris' third year attending and Teri's first, catching up over dinner:

But before dinner was served, I crept into my dorm and left a little "joke" for my pal, Diana. She had asked me to save her a bottom bunk because her nightly need for the facilities was a priority, and she didn't want to wake the dorm mates by clambering down the ladder several times each night. So I left her a path to the toity, marked with encouraging notes on heart-shaped stickies (I hope she felt loved!):

The camp was lovely in the late-afternoon light. As the nearly fifty women arrived over the course of the late afternoon and early evening, I wandered in back of our dorms and snapped a few photos of the trees and fields in the early evening light:

The retreat committee did a lovely job of decorating Windfield for us. The subtitle for the retreat "Cultivating Joy" was "Living in a Cracked-Pot World," and the gardening decor around the room made the retreat all the more special, including the number of cracked, dented, broken, and even shattered pots that were displayed on the main table amidst the lush blooms and gorgeous arrangments of flowers:

We were also joined by a few young men whose company was very welcome:

Following dinner, we started off with an ice breaker: we were put into smaller groups of eight or so and were each given a small bag of M&Ms, and we had to tell something of ourselves related to the number of each color we had in our bag. We of course had to EAT the M&Ms along the way. Starting a retreat off with chocolate always bodes well. After a few issues with the sound system that our seasoned worship team managed to make the best of, we enjoyed Laurie Wortman as our first speaker on Friday evening as she spoke on God doing a work in each of us, despite all of us being "cracked pots." She stressed our effect on the rest of the "garden" -- the way our sharing of our brokenness and growth can encourage and help others. Our worship team got the sound system up and running for the most part, and we all worshiped the Lord through song. Free time was spent talking, snacking, and either playing or watching the game of Mexican Train Dominos.

The next morning several women came up for the day, joining us for a delicious breakfast in the dining hall where we sat according to placecards so that we had the opportunity to sit with different women at each meal. We clmibed back up the hill to Windfield to brush teeth and fill coffee cups before signing in worship. After worship and prayer, we listened to Leslie Dilbeck share on "Joy in Times of Desperation." Her main question was, "Is joy an emotion or an attitude?" She taught mostly through Psalm 63, reminding us that God is there for us in our aloneness; He is our help and He will indeed raise us up if we focus on Him and rejoice, no matter what our cirumstances may be. Her talk was followed by an extended Quiet Time, with many options available, including a list of suggestions on how to do a Quiet Time in the retreat folder with a Scriptural meditation on joy also available. Many devotional titles were also provided on the book table for reading during this time. Many women wrote in journals, studied, or prayed as we spread out across the camp, enjoying the beauty of God's Creation as we spent time at His feet in various ways. After a delicious lunch in the dining hall, afternoon free time ensued. Some women hiked around "the meadow" -- a five-mile trek around the town; others decided to hang around Windfield Hall or Altitude, the camp's coffee shop, while others shopped the small gift shop on the camp grounds. Plus, Rosanna was in charge of the ping-pong tournament:

And still other women gathered under the trees, chatting about this and that, enjoying each others' company:

Nine women came over to my house to see the stained glass window that Keith is working on, and another three stopped by on the hike to also see it. The group that I took over got one look at the treehouse and five of them were up the ladders and hanging over the balcony, enjoying the view of the meadow and all of us snapping photos of them:

I gave them a tour of the house and then we squeezed into Keith's shop while he explained the process of making a stained glass window and showed them the various pieces of glass, the copper foil, the soldering iron, and what he has completed thus far (about 25% of the possible 2000 pieces).

We retired back to the camp for dinner at 5 PM and met again at Windfield Hall for our evening program:

Earlier in the day we had also taken a group photo -- a few people are missing, but 46 of us (by my count) gathered on the front steps of the camp office building -- so here we are, the Lake Murray Women's Retreat 2008:

Once again we enjoyed singing hymns and praise sings with the worship team before hearing Doris Peacock, mother of Laurie, speak on "How God Taught Me to Abide in His Joy." She spoke about the difference between happiness and joyfulness -- happiness is to be pleased, free or worry and care, while joyfulness reveals strength, deep satisfaction, and abiding pleasure. Then we all became "crafty" as Camille Hyatt walked us through the creation of beautiful notecards and adorable gift bags:

Following the craft, we all decended upon the snack table as our free time began, involving chatting, snacking, and board games. Years ago we used to be up until 1:00 to 2:00 AM; now we're heading to bed between 10:00 to 11:00 PM -- I think we're getting OLD.

After our final meal in the dining hall for breakfast on Sunday morning, we settled down, coffee or tea in hand, to enjoy Julie Hogan "share" on "Growing in Grace Through the Knowledge of God's Word." She passed along the "yardstick analogy" that one of her disciplers had shared with her: when we start out in our Christian walk, we take up most of the yardstick while Christ gets 2-3 inches or so. But as we grow in our faith, we should believe along with John the Baptist in John 3:30, "He must become greater; I must become less." So He will slowly take up more and more inches on the yardstick as He fills our life with His Holy Spirit, and less and less of our life is untouched by His grace:

After Julie spoke, we gathered again to worship through song in preparation for Communion. The worship team was wonderful to sing with:

And we all worshiped the Lord with one voice:

The Communion time was wonderful -- each of us quietly took the elements from a side table back to our seat and partook after silent prayer together. We didn't have much time for sharing as the retreat closed, but before we knew it, we were packing up our bedding, taking down tables, chairs, and decorations, and preparing to go back to the real life of common days once again. As Oswald Chambers wrote in his classic My Utmost for His Highest, "The height of the mountain top is measured by the drab drudgery of the valley; but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mount, but we never live for His glory there." So it's down from the mountain top experience and back to our busy everyday lives, where we truly live for the glory of God.

Happy Sweet 16, Sweet Girl!

This week was an extremely busy one, with E's 16th birthday right in the middle. Keith took the boys for the day while E and I lunched at Souplantation (thanks to gift cards from my Secret Sister last year) and, after extensive browsing at Barnes and Noble, went to a matinee showing Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day in the theatre. (Really liked it -- but not necessarily a movie that HAS to be seen in the theatre). I had planned on taking her to see a different movie, one that MUST be seen in the theatre, but the local I-MAX cut the U2 3D film run short (they had advertised showings on her birthday last month, and now they don't, and it's not showing anywhere in our area anymore). We were both rather bummed about missing it.

On our way out of the mall and home to where Keith was busily making a wonderful birthday dinner, we stopped by Charlotte Russe, and E had fun trying on the dollar sunglasses and picking out a pair. I played papparazzi while she played starlet -- it was plain old silliness, and a perfect way to celebrate a 16th birthday. So here's our girl --

We finished up the evening with Keith's wonderful Chicken Parmigiana and homemade Boston Cream Pie before settling in to watch some TV for the rest of the evening. We'll be celebrating with a family party a week from this Sunday (the only weekend day my parents will be home before their annual six weeks in Hawaii), and we're inviting a few families from our town as well.

We're very proud of our girl -- she's such a wonderful person, and I love spending time with her. We sat at Souplantation, talking about her future plans for college, including her wish to try some drama (a class is starting in our town for homeschoolers next week, taught by an Old Globe alumnus). She's just a great person to hang with.

Happy 16th, E!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dancing with the Stars

E and I are once again entranced by Dancing with the Stars this sixth season. Our favorite couple is Shannon and Derek, followed by Kristi and Mark and Marlee and Fabian. We love watching the wonderful dancing, the lovely costumes (if sometimes too skimpy -- the boys aren't allowed to watch!), and the behind-the-scenes drama of learning the intricate dances.

At this point, Kristi and Mark seem like a shoe-in (pardon da pun), but last year's obvious choice certainly made an early exit, so anything TRULY can happen on this show. I love Marlee's pluck -- how a "profoundly deaf" woman dances so well to the music is beyond me. She brought tough Carrie Ann to tears last night with her performance. Len has a soft spot for Shannon, giving her his only "10" of the night and his first "10" of the season. Kristi and Jason may have received one more point each, but Shannon danced the best in our book.

We're really waiting for Marissa to get voted off -- she isn't a good dancer and she annoys the heck outta us. We would have preferred her going to Adam's exit tonight -- at least his unicycle routine was nothing if not entertaining....

It's just a fun, fun show to watch -- I just wish I could dance like that!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Been Gone This Weekend...

I didn't have time to post before I left, but I spent the weekend only a few miles away from home at the local Bible camp for Lake Murray's annual women's retreat, my 14th retreat with this church at this camp, I believe. We enjoyed four speakers who shared briefly about joy, a nice long time for meditation, silent prayer, and Scripture reading on Saturday morning, and lots of fun fellowship. I'll report more details and get some pictures up later today (since I'm writing at 12:30 AM, it WILL be later today). I also forgot to tell my students that I would be gone for a few days, and I had quite the stack of MLA research paper questions in my box tonight and a couple of concerned students as I didn't get back to them right away as usual....

Thursday, April 3, 2008


Winter is still peeping around the corners, leaving ice on my windshield every morning this week and freezing my cheery marigolds into sad brown clumps. But by the calendar, it's SPRING! And spring means GARDENING!

I didn't get to the garden during Holy Week, and the week after Easter, although vacation for us, held both a birthday and Class Day. So not until this week with short days due to standardized testing with our ISP was I able to survey my winter-worn flower beds and take a little action.

One of my problems is that I can only work about 20 minutes in the garden before my body starts to complain vociferously. It's the bane that accompanies my immune system issues: I must not overdo. But I did manage over a few days to clean out the front flower bed, discovering several snapdragon plants that overwintered well as well as my delphinium and shasta daisies. I unearthed my little birdbath from under the spent oak and Pippin leaves, pulled out the dead alyssum, weeded here and there, and planted one six-pack of Sweet Williams (dianthus):

The other half of this bed held all of my glorious daffodils -- over 50 bloomed this spring in a six-foot area. They were extravantly beautiful. But they bloom such a short time -- and endured a good snowfall as well -- so they're fading in upon themselves, waiting for the pregnant bellies of the purple irises to birth their spring blooms.

After dealing with the front bed under the porch, I moved to the back beds. One day was spent cleaning the perennials -- I lost the salvias (blue sages), but the honeysuckle did well and whatever the purple mounds are that Judith gave me last year, they sure are thriving:

I spent the next couple of afternoons in the next part of the flower beds that stretch along the back fence. I trimmed back the roses (rather late again!), weeded, dug out dead salvias, pulled up the spent gray stalks of last year's hollyhocks, and trimmed the dead foliage off the lavender plants, revealing new clumps of growth at the bases:

And I am rejoicing that three of my five tulips came back this year and even bloomed! Why the fuschia ones survived and bloomed and the red ones didn't, I just don't understand. But I'm glad to welcome tulips into my garden all the same. More than glad, actually; try enthralled! (And I'll get more for next year, too. when we can afford them.)

I have more of this bed to do as it stretches from the gate all along behind the house, but it will have to wait until I have time later on -- perhaps next week. But I love discovering the new green growth under the dead gray and black junk. It's definitely one of my favorite parts of spring: the gardening, the digging into the cool earth, even the stripes of black dirt under my nails. Aaaah, spring! It's puddle-wonderful and mud-luscious in every way.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Writing Kind of Day....

I write a lot on normal days. Blogging, posting on forums and Yahoo loops, composing e-mails, journal writing, keeping minutes as secretary of our area's art council, grading essays, etc. This semester I've also been writing weekly grammar tutorials that are ending up around 6-7 pages each for a class at Cuyamaca. Today I did all of that stuff (including finishing a tutorial on sentence components), but I also wrote creatively, something I don't usually do.

I write the occasional poem -- or start one, at least -- and that was my goal when I picked up my poetry journal and stuffed it into my bag this morning. The middle boys were having their last day of standardized testing in San Diego (E finished yesterday with the rest of the high schoolers), so after dropping them off at our Class Day venue that is doubling as our testing site, B and I headed to the Starbucks just up the street where we've spent a lot of time this week. B pulled out his schoolwork and jumped into his math book immediately while I read today's Bible Book Club reading (Leviticus 8). After I finished reading and pondering the chapter and as B moved onto his copywork (the "Venite" from Morning Prayer in the 1928 BCP), I pulled out my poetry journal and started writing in pencil about an idea I had. I thought first about fleshing out the details by writing in prose first, then reducing to a free verse poem, and then perhaps to a set poetry form. So I wrote and wrote the prose telling of my story: a young woman, a follower of Christ and what she saw and experienced on Good Friday -- her reaction to Christ (called only "He" and "Him" throughout the story) and her feelings as the familiar events unfolded. I got this idea from last weekend's Bible conference which focused on what first-century Christians would have known/noticed culturally about the Scriptures that we miss twenty centuries later. I wrote five pages of very cramped lines, and by noon when B and I had to leave to pick up the boys, B had been long done with his work (and was listening to my iPod for amusement) and I was only at the centurion claiming "This must have been the Son of God!" I perused the gospel accounts of the crucifixion, working in details where they seemed to fit while keeping my unnamed character's emotions expressed as each event occurred. I still have a long way to go with it, and now I also have a great deal of prose in my poetry journal (I don't like mixing genres!), but I have the beginnings of the first story I've written in a very long time. It will need a lot of work, but I think I may even be able to use part of it in my book. Perhaps. And I'll have something to "workshop" next month when our writing group gets together for an all-day edit-fest.

Then after getting home, as I thumbed through the final pages of my first Victoria magazine in years, I savored even the advertisements. One of my favorite parts of the magazine is the writing on the last page: always some wonderful musings on gardening, seasons, personalities, entertaining, etc. Delightful stuff. And although this particular final page was about chippers (the noisome things we feed our dead branches into to make mulch), the main point of the piece was that chippers, in her part of the country, herald spring. Another lightbulb moment struck me: I've been wanting to write a piece on our town. Actually, it wasn't my idea at all, but it's our "assignment, should we choose to accept it" from our writing group, with the chance of publication in our town's monthly newspaper. Aha! I can write about the arrival of spring! So I seated myself on the porch steps with yellow legal pad and my trusted mahogany dip pen and inspiration-giving sepia ink, and after selecting and copying a few choice quotes from my dependable Barlett's, I started in, writing of everything that came to mind: daffodils, flowering plums, purple irises, and the gardening discoveries I made this week when I finally took a gander into my winter-worn flower beds and returned with pruners in hand to rid the beds of winter and welcome spring. I have far more material than there is room in the paper, so I will need some judicious editing and revision. (And I will need to type it up and run copies for next Tuesday's writers' meeting.)

So I wrote a lot today. Two creative works in one day when I rarely write one a year? Extraordinary. But I hope it will be the beginning of a creative streak. I would love to have one of those. I've heard about them but have never experienced one. But with our school routine picking back up tomorrow with all four kids home and gathered around the school table, I may not have the time to invest into creativity. But perhaps I will. We'll see.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

New Amsterdam

I am the first to admit that I watch a lot of television. With chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia or whatever else I have been diagnosed with, the end result is that I come to the evenings too exhausted to do much more than curling up on the sofa with Dashwood, our mini-dachshund, and watching TV with E. In addition to our current favorites of House, Dancing with the Stars, Project Runway, Bones, CSI (original and Miami), Criminal Minds, Survivor, What Not to Wear, ER, and, of course, NCIS, we've found a new favorite: New Amsterdam.

The premise is an original take on the crime drama with a fairy-tale twist: John Amsterdam is a non-aging 400 years old and will not become mortal until he finds "true love." So while Amsterdam solves crimes as an NYPD detective, he's also having flashbacks to his previous relationships and professions along the way: he's been an artist, a doctor on Civil War battlefields, a businessman just before the outbreak of World War II, etc. One of the major characters in the series is his biracial son, Omar, a bar owner in his 60's, who is "in" on his secret immortality. When we are taken back to his life in the 1930's, one of his daughters works as his middle-aged secretary and also knew his secret. But with other past family members, he apparently did NOT tell of his immortality, including his family in the early 1900's which was portrayed in this week's episode.

Right now complications are arising as Amsterdam thinks he may have found "the one" -- the woman who will be his true love among all of the women he has loved and married over the past four hundred years. Sarah is a doctor whom he met in the first episode when John suffered from an apparently fatal heart attack; she was certainly surprised to talk to him after pronouncing him dead several days beforehand. When Sarah pushes him about his past (or lack of it after she "Googles" him), Amsterdam bursts out with the truth -- but she doesn't believe him. At the end of last night's episode, we see her softening toward him, apparently willing to become involved with a man either with no past or too much past. Their love for each other may make him mortal ... we'll have to see.

The story lines of his past are intriguing for this history buff -- and his family tree is really something else as he has fathered 63 children, all but Omar predeceasing him. Amsterdam is a man of truth and bravery who is forced into deception because of his secret immortality, and he is very conscious of the trail of pain he has left behind him. And besides the history, the flashbacks, and the love interest, his African-American female partner and his white female boss are wonderfully strong women -- his boss is a kick-and-a-half with her dry wit and observant cynicism. And then there's the crimes to be solved as well -- solid mysteries that are interesting to watch unfold and are often devoid of easy answers.

New Amsterdam is a clever show with intriguing people, interesting plots, and twists and turns galore. If you are the sort who like a good crime drama and deep characterization, you'll like it. It's so good that it almost makes up for Crossing Jordan being canceled. Almost.


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