Friday, May 30, 2008

Our Favorite Singer -- Katie Melua



A few years ago Keith ran across the music of British singer Katie Melua on an AOL promotion, and he immediately was hooked on the simple melodies and her gorgeous voice, and he ordered her two CDs right away. Both of them have become favorites of ours which is very unusual, for Keith and I have extremely different tastes in music which until now only encompassed John Denver and classical music in common.

Katie's music is global (which makes sense as she was born in Georgia and lived in Northern Ireland before relocating to London at age 14), bluesy at times (Eva Cassidy is a huge influence), in some ways like Billie Holiday and in some ways not. She sings about "Nine Million Bicycles in Beijing" as well as "Market Day in Guernica," the latter a truly haunting song both in melody and in the lyrics. I first learned about what happened in Guernica when studying Picasso's work for the art docent program at the local elementary school. While I didn't much care for the piece of art, preferring Picasso's classical period instead, the event stayed with me. But it was not until I heard Katie Melua's "Market Day in Guernica," sung in first person, that the true atrocity of Guernica was impressed in my mind and heart.

Here are some of the lyrics to "Market Day in Guernica":
My children played a skipping game
On market day in Guernica
On market day before they came
Before they came to Guernica.

I search my soul but cannot start
to find forgiveness in my heart.
My little ones no longer play
In Guernica on market day.

My father wore his linen suit
On market day in Guernica
He always sold the finest fruit
Before they came to Guernica

Now there's no way to let him know
How much I loved and miss him so
I watched as he was blown away
In Guernica on market day.

Away
Away
All blown away


I also like the video for one of her newer songs, "If I Were a Sailboat." We are definitely going to purchase her third CD, Pictures, which came out last fall.

Katie is little known in the U.S., but she is hugely popular in Europe and around the world, and I hope that she gains more of an audience here as well. As she is only 23, she sure has time on her side, and her amazing voice and strong lyrics (she's writing more of her own music with each CD) make her a very remarkable singer in our opinion, anyhow. (And besides, according to Wikipedia, one of her favorite songs is Jeff Buckley's version of "Hallelujah," which is definitely one of my favorites.) Both Katie's and Jeff's music are played here on my blog, along with a nice selection of my favorite U2 songs, so turn up your volume the next time you're here if you haven't already or just click on the song you'd like to hear, including "Nine Million Bicycles," of course....

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Parsley, Sage ...



... Rosemary & Thyme!

I first ran across this wonderfully fun series when I was unable to sleep because of my illness a couple of years ago when it played every night at 11:30 PM on our local PBS station. A British production, Rosemary & Thyme began in 2005 and involves two intrepid, middle-aged English gardeners, Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme. Rosemary was a university professor laid off due to an unscrupulous colleague in the first episode, and Laura Thyme, a former police officer and avid gardener, was left by her D.I. (Detective Inspector) husband for a much younger woman. Rosemary and Laura end up starting their own gardening/landscaping business and somehow end up finding dead bodies everywhere and sniff out the mystery each time with a sense of humor and many views of lush English gardens.

E and I happened across the set of Volume 1 DVD's at the local library and checked them out, and we watched the entire six-episode set in a single weekend. Even the boys liked it (and I didn't mind their watching it for the shows are quite innocent, except for the murders of course) and watched the vast majority of the episodes with E and me. I ordered the set of Volume 2 DVD's this week and hope they'll be in soon (we're third on the list for them) so we can catch up with the myserious happening of Rosemary & Laura and enjoy all of those dreamy English gardens that I so admire and can't grow in our nearly-desert Southern California climate.

If you're looking for a fun and innocent TV program, try out the Rosemary and Thyme series; you'll find them well-worth your while. We certainly have.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

St. Bede the Venerable


"The Venerable Bede Translates John" (1902) by James Doyle Penrose (1862-1932)

Saint Bede has always been one of my favorite historical saints. Here was an accomplished scholar, a true "Renaissance Man" living almost a thousand years before the Renaissance, and he isn't even known as just "Bede" but as "the Venerable Bede." When I looked up the word "venerable" in my Oxford Dictionary of Current English, the definition of "venerable" read: 1) greatly respected because of age, wisdom, or character; 2) (in the Anglican Church) a title given to an archdeacon. I think Bede easily qualified for the title under both definitions. I missed his Feast Day (May 25) by a few days but still wanted to honor him and share his story with you. Enjoy!

From AmericanCatholic.org's Saint of the Day e-mail list:

St. Bede the Venerable (672?-735)

Bede is one of the few saints honored as such even during his lifetime. His writings were filled with such faith and learning that even while he was still alive, a Church council ordered them to be read publicly in the churches.

At an early age Bede was entrusted to the care of the abbot of the Monastery of St. Paul, Jarrow. The happy combination of genius and the instruction of scholarly, saintly monks produced a saint and an extraordinary scholar, perhaps the most outstanding one of his day. He was deeply versed in all the sciences of his times: natural philosophy, the philosophical principles of Aristotle, astronomy, arithmetic, grammar, ecclesiastical history, the lives of the saints and, especially, Holy Scripture. From the time of his ordination to the priesthood at 30 (he had been ordained deacon at 19) till his death, he was ever occupied with learning, writing and teaching. Besides the many books that he copied, he composed 45of his own, including 30 commentaries on books of the Bible.

Although eagerly sought by kings and other notables, even Pope Sergius, Bede managed to remain in his own monastery till his death. Only once did he leave for a few months in order to teach in the school of the archbishop of York. Bede died in 735 praying his favorite prayer: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As in the beginning, so now, and forever.”

His Ecclesiastical History of the English People [from which I have read a few snippets here and there, and really should return to Father Acker soon] is commonly regarded as of decisive importance in the art and science of writing history. A golden age was coming to an end at the time of Bede’s death: It had fulfilled its purpose of preparing Western Christianity to assimilate the non-Roman barbarian North. Bede recognized the opening to a new day in the life of the Church even as it was happening.

Comment:
Though his History is the greatest legacy Bede has left us, his work in all the sciences (especially in Scripture) should not be overlooked. During his last Lent, he worked on a translation of the Gospel of St. John into English, completing it the day he died. But of this work “to break the word to the poor and unlearned” nothing remains today.

Quote:
“We have not, it seems to me, amid all our discoveries, invented as yet anything better than the Christian life which Bede lived, and the Christian death which he died” (C. Plummer, editor of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History).

Prayer:
From the Collect for All Saints' Day, 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
O Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect into one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Recent Art Council Events

We've had a busy week of activities for Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council (MECAC). If you'd like to check out what's been goin' on in the backcountry arts, check out THIS LINK.

Click above to read about our Featured Artist for May, a collage artist who has lived in our town for over thirty years, plus my report on the Wellness Fair which MECAC planned, promoted, judged, and presented awards for the art contest with the theme "The Art of Healthy Living." Come look at the winning entries (two of which were entered by our boys, J and B) and also take a peek down the sidebar at our Coming Events, including a performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night by our homeschool drama club in which E will be acting this weekend.

So check out what's been happening and what's coming up in our local arts group, MECAC.

Memorial Day


(The photo is from last year's visit to my grandfather's grave)

Although the observance of Memorial Day came rather early this year, we'll be celebrating on Friday, my grandfather's birthday, when we visit Greenwood Memorial Park in Southeast San Diego. My family has been buried there for generations. My four grandparents are buried overlooking the lily pond, as is my dad's brother; my parents will also have markers there. In another portion of the park is where my great-grandparents are buried, and in one of the oldest portions are the graves for the Quayle family, my great-great grandparents. I'll post more about my grandfather and his contribution during World War II after our visit on Friday.

But for today, here's the Collect for Memorial Day that Father Acker sent to us this morning:

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give thee thanks for all those thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence, that the good work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.

Update on Homeschooling in California

From the Home School Legal Defense Association and received on May 23:

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends,

On May 19 all the filings of the legal briefs to re-hear the case In re Rachel L. were completed.

The Court of Appeal, which made the fateful decision on February 28, 2008 to declare all homeschooling illegal unless the parent is a certified teacher, will now begin the process of considering the arguments. The current schedule anticipates oral arguments to begin this June.

HSLDA has been at the forefront of the process to defend the right to homeschool in California and across the country. In this case, we were able to successfully help Gary Kreep of the U.S. Justice Foundation, who represents the father at the center of this case, Mr. L., to prepare the arguments to grant the petition for re-hearing. When the Court of Appeal granted the petition for rehearing, the original opinion was vacated and no longer has any legal effect.

Furthermore, in the latest round of filings, we have also been able to provide substantial assistance to the Alliance Defense Fund, which is partnering with the U.S. Justice Foundation in order to make the strongest argument possible to preserve homeschool freedom in California. So much is at stake, and all parties involved have shared their unique perspective to present the best case possible.

HSLDA has also filed a friend-of-the-court brief in conjunction with Focus on the Family and Family Protection Ministries to show the benefits of a home education. These arguments draw on the extensive development of homeschooling and the successful track record of parents educating their children at home.

Also, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has filed a brief in conjunction with the Attorney General of California, which supports a parent’s right to homeschool. Their brief begins with this statement: “Recognizing that home-schooling has a long and positive history in California and across the nation, the State of California provides a broad statutory framework that authorizes and regulates the practice.” In other words, the Governor and Attorney General are strongly arguing for no changes to the current law. To read the brief click here.

While we do not know what the court will decide, you can be confident that hundreds of hours were spent by many different organizations to defend your right to homeschool.

We hope and pray for a successful outcome in this case.

Sincerely,

J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President


I ask that you continue to pray that the parental right to educate children at home without requiring teaching credentials for home educators will be upheld. The vast majority of home schooling families do extraordinary work with their children, and a few "bad apples" should not be able to disrupt the freedoms of all of the California home schoolers who work so hard and teach their children so successfully.

In fact, last week we received the results of our children's annual standardized testing. E, 10th grade, averaged in the 83rd percentile in all subjects and received a "Post High School" grade equivalency in every single testing area (11 total). In 7th grade this year, T averaged in the 69th percentile while still receiving "Post High School" grade equivalency in Science, Language Mechanics (grammar) and Listening (I wish he listened that well at home!). J (5th grade) averaged in the 73rd percentile, with Mathematic Problem-Solving in the 93rd percentile.

The only scores that were below average were the boys' spelling scores -- they did not inherit my good-spelling gene as E did. I'll be looking for a different approach in teaching them spelling for next academic year. Other than that one subject, every other score for all three students was over the 50th percentile, and therefore are considered "above average." I use these test scores each spring to gauge which subjects to put more time and money into for the following school year, so they are an excellent tool to use for planning. Besides, annual testing in grades 4-11 is a requirement of Heritage Christian School, our Independent Study Program (ISP) here in San Diego, along with quarterly report cards/progress reports and a Course of Study for each student to be filed at the beginning of each school year. The requirements are minimal but provide enough accountability to make sure that the students are learning well.

Homeschooling can provide an excellent education, and I pray that it will remain legal and unfettered as it is in California at present.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Return of Winter....



On Monday our highs in our town hit the mid-100's. Summer was here with all of its perspiration and heat. We changed our bedding to summer sheets and light quilts, erected our tall oscillating fans, and watered the rapidly-wilting lawn. The air conditioning at church on Sunday was refreshing and entirely necessary. We continued sweltering into Monday and Tuesday as the thermometer read around 104 each afternoon.

On Wednesday the thermometer suddenly plummeted to pleasantly "normal" perameters. And more changes were in store as on Thursday morning we awoke to drizzle and later experienced rain. As we drove home from San Diego after Class Day, we were warned via cell phone by Judith that our town was experiencing an extreme downpour of rain and hail. By the time we arrived home the flash storm was over, the trees dripping onto the lawn and the roof crevices filled with the whiteness of hail. Within half an hour another flash storm had descended into our valley and we were on the road again, driving out to the junior-senior high school's Wellness Fair in which our art council was participating. I passed Judith on the turn out of town, but as we ascended the hill toward the highway, the hail started in earnest. Before we had traveled for three or four minutes, the sides of the road looked as if snow had fallen and our Sienna was slipping slightly sideways as I navigated the road as best I could. Deciding against driving east on the freeway, we passed the on-ramp and proceeded on the back roads, passing a man slipping and sliding as he struggled to get into his van on one of the turnouts. We definitely prayed our way to the school in this winter weather, highly irregular for late May around here. Judith used the freeway and so arrived at the school ahead of us -- safely, thankfully.

This morning we awoke to more rain in our town, and the gray sky drizzled off and on while I was "down the hill" in the city going to church, seeing the chiropractor, and enjoying lunch with Kitty. Before I left Kitty's house, the rain really began falling, and I picked up the kids and drove us all home in Molly, my '91 Corolla, who took the wet roads very well for a four-banger of her age and stature. The high temperatures for the past two days have remained in the high 40's.

So despite all of the preparations for summer, winter decided to make one final fleeting (and sleeting) visit to Southern California. It's supposed to make itself welcome for the remainder of the weekend. We'll continue piling blankets on the beds, firing up the furnace in the mornings to take the chill off the house, and pulling back out our thermal PJ's and winter jackets. Who would have thought we'd be bundling up like this with only a week left until JUNE???????

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Signs o' Summer

While perusing blogs via my Google Reader (what a blessing that free reader is!), I ran across Julie's post about May and the coming of summer. She asked for what signs of summer we see in our lives, and I wrote her quite an extended comment. I though that I may as well post it here as well, with the same question: what signs of summer do you see in your "neck of the woods"?

Here's mine:

Over the past few days, the temperatures in Southern California have soared into the high nineties and low hundreds in the inland valleys and mountains. Last weekend I dragged out the tall oscillating fans, and with my youngest’s help, cleaned the blades, the “caging,” and the stands, and we placed them strategically in the living room and kitchen areas. One activity in our home always signals the coming of summer: stripping off the flannel sheets and down comforter in warm, soothing colors of cream, evergreen, and burgundy and pulling out the crisp, cool, white cotton sheets edged with delicate eyelet and the thin cornflower-blue and white Irish chain quilt that provides just the right heft for summer sleeping. Cornflower pillow slips cool my cheeks compared to the warm fuzz of the burgundy flannel I’ve been sleeping on since October.

We’re back to watering the flowers daily to avoid losing them in the heat, usually in the cool of the evening just before sunset, even if there is a chance of a stray mosquito bite. A friend gave us an armchair and table she didn’t want, so our dog-eared wicker sofa is now on the porch, its pillows protected from the neighborhood cats (and any other critters wandering on our porch, especially the cheeky squirrels). The sun doesn’t toast the wicker sofa until very late in the afternoon, so it will be a pleasant place in the morning and early afternoon to settle with a book and a tall, sweating glass of raspberry iced tea. This daydream can come twoo ("true," that is, Princess Bride style) as soon as school is finished on June 13 (but who’s counting the days (or hours), right?). I hope to spend many hours on the porch this summer, writing in relative comfort and, I hope, relative quiet.

The kids will be living in the tree house as soon as school lets out. They will drag their sleeping bags, pillows, backpacks, favorite stuffed animals, drawing paper, and Nintendo DS’s up the ancient Jeffrey Pine (the kind that smell like vanilla - yum!). Through the clear treehouse roof, they will stare up at the stars they can identify through the tree branches before dropping off to sleep. I will glimpse them briefly each morning when a few kids run a recon mission into the kitchen for breakfast rations, then they will disappear back up the ladder with their loot. I may see them before lunch. But probably not.

Anglican Missions

This morning I received two letters regarding the upcoming Anglican global missions conference being held in Jerusalem. Missions is also something near and dear to my heart; our family supports two missionary families (one local, one abroad) on a monthly basis and about a dozen in consistent prayer. I'm really excited about this upcoming conference and pledge to pray during these forty days. I've listed the prayers recommended by Father Acker in my calendar, and of course will add spontaneous prayers as well.

A letter from Bishop Richard Boyce:

As you know Father Will and I will be attending the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) next month. I hope each member of our church will join in bringing this historic gathering before God during the 40 days leading to our going up to Jerusalem (beginning Wednesday, May 21st). Our gathering as bishops and leaders from around the world is to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28.17) as the fellowship of faithful Anglicans worldwide. Pray, that having left the endless 'dialog' behind, we will work hand in hand to make the Love of God known in every part of the world that we might bring many to know Jesus to be the way, the truth, and the life. In addition to the Prayer Book collects for the Church, for unity, and for mission, you will also find additional material at the Common Cause Partnership prayer site for GAFCON. I bid you to ask Almighty God to inspire all who are gathered in His Most Holy Name to make Jesus Christ known in the mission work we plan as His Church.

Then Father Acker's call to prayer for the church family of Blessed Trinity:

Greeting in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Today is 40 days from the beginning of the historic gathering of the leaders of the Anglican Churches who are willing to move ahead rather than remain in the mire of endless talk. The mission is that given by Jesus…go to all the world…make disciple…baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The only way to salvation is in Jesus, so we need to pray for the faithful bishops (280+) and other leaders (1000+) who are willing to set in motion bringing the Gospel of Jesus to all places including San Diego, California, and all of North America.

This is important work asking God to direct the hearts and minds who gather at Jerusalem. I bid you to pray diligently: For the Church (BCP p.37) that we might be faithful to Jesus; For Missions (BCP p. 38;two prayers—a double share) that we might make Christ known; For the Unity of God’s People (BCP p.37) that Jesus might clearly be seen in our common belief; A Prayer for all Conditions of Men (BCP p. 32) that in the bond of peace we might make Jesus known; For Christian Service (BCP p.43) that we might carry out the work of making Jesus known by showing the Love of God to a lost world; and A Collect for Grace (BCP p.17) that the Power of God might move mightily among us to the glory of His most Holy Name. These seven prayers are to be a beginning for your intercession each day of the week during these 40 days.

Our bishop is asking us to pray. Forward in Faith is asking us to pray. We are joining with our Common Cause Partners to pray. The gathering at Jerusalem is solely to make Jesus Christ known. It is what we should expect of true leaders of Christ’s Church. It is what we ask God to make effectual as we are in communion in our one Lord, Jesus Christ.

In Jesus’ Name,
Father Keith
Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity


Whether or not you yourself are Anglican, I invite all Christians to pray for this missions outreach next month as the global (conservative/Biblical) Anglican Church mobilizes for greater missions in Christ our Lord. May the Lord Christ guide these Christian leaders from around the world as they gather in Jerusalem and follow His leading in spreading the Gospel of Christ around the world.

Totally Overwhelmed: Student Conferences

Sorry I haven't been around nearly as much this week. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday afternoons, I am meeting with students from my Intermediate Writing Course at Class Day. Their MLA research papers are due on Thursday, so I met with one student last week for a couple of hours, and then spent an hour each with three students on Monday and for well over an hour this afternoon (Tuesday). I have one final student I'm meeting with tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon, and then classes on Thursday in which my Advanced Class will be bringing in their rough drafts for a read-around and the Intermediate Class will be turning in their final papers. Then I have three weeks to grade their papers and also hold conferences for the Advanced Class; I just hope that more students show up for the conferences than the Intermediate Class -- only half of them made appointments which is unlike any writing class I've ever taught. Usually I have students and parents queueing up like crazy for the chance to have their rough drafts corrected by their teacher BEFORE it's due so they can make the necessary revisions and turn in a much better research paper. And, unfortunately, their grades will reflect not having me go over their essays with them, and they won't learn nearly as much compared to correcting it before the final papers are due.

Immediately after Class Day, we'll be driving up the mountain and heading to the Wellness Council Fair at the junior/senior high school. We'll be displaying the art contest entries at the Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council tables as well as the winning entries. At 6 PM, we'll be announcing the winners and giving out prize ribbons and prizes for Grand Prize, and then First, Second, and Third Place for K-3rd and 4th-6th grades. It will be a very long afternoon, but last year the boys walked away with their art prizes plus other drawing prizes including a scooter and a mountain bicycle! I doubt they'll win prizes like that this time, but they'll still have fun with the healthy snacks, the prizes and activities at different tables, and the climbing wall, as well as the art contest results, ribbons, amd prizes.

On Friday I have church early in the morning, then a chiropractic appointment, and then a tentative lunch date with my dear friend Kitty, then taking the kids home and finishing up school in the afternoon. We're starting the Reformation right now, and I'm having a hard time teaching the events fairly as almost every source I have on hand writes from the Protestant point-of-view. I sure wish that I could find a source for late-elementary to early-junior high level readings of the Reformation that covered the opposing side of the event. I'm using a book used in Sonlight 200 with lots of color and informative sidebars that seems fairly balanced. But it's still a lot to cover....

So that's what's up right now, and that's why I'm not posting much. It's 2:30 AM, and I just finished posting three new posts on the BraveWriter forums for the great moms in the class, and I'm heading to bed right after I soak in the spa for a few minutes and get my pain levels down a bit before bed....

Friday, May 16, 2008

Narnia: Prince Caspian -- Better Than the Book?



(NO SPOILERS)
This afternoon I took the kids to see The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. We don't often see movies on their release date, but we loved the first Narnia film so much that we really couldn't resist. E had a gift card for the theatre, and we went to a 12:30 PM showing (our homeschool schedule comes in quite handy when it comes to matinee shows), and I used my tutoring funds.

My favorite movie reviewer also happens to be one of my favorite contemporary authors: Frederica Mathewes-Green. I so enjoy her books on her conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy, and the articles on her website are really cool. I've seen her in person twice at Point Loma Nazarene University's Writers' Symposium by the Sea, and at the last one I had a chance to chat with her a bit. She's very funny yet very devout -- such a lovely mixture. Her humor is very self-effacing, and if she goes on and on about the superiority of Eastern Orthodoxy a bit, I don't mind much.

So I was thrilled when she branched out and started writing movie reviews for The New Republic from a Christian point-of-view. She's been spot-on many times, by which I mean that my opinion and hers have been just about the same regarding most films. I'm also on her e-mail list, and she sent out an interesting question earlier in the week that I responded to: When has a movie been better than its book? I replied with The Scarlet Pimpernel (Jane Seymour, Anthony Andrews, Ian McKellan), The Princess Bride, and the recent Masterpiece Theatre production of Northanger Abbey. (Can't stand the book; loved the movie.)along with a movie that I thought were AS GOOD AS the book: Pride and Prejudice (A&E, Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle).

Then when her review of the new Narnia film came out, I saw the reason behind her question: she thought that the movie was far better than the book. E, who is rereading Prince Caspian right now, strongly disagrees, and I can't say because I didn't finish reading the series, having gotten hung up in and not finshing The Horse and His Boy. Here's Frederica's thoughts on the movies that are better than the books in which she names the "Top Ten" responses she received from her question; you can read her article right here.

Unfortunately, I can't agree with the hype surrounding the film that claims that it's better than the first. Uh-uh. No way. It's very good. It's worth seeing on a big screen rather than waiting for DVD. But it is in no way pure genius as the first one was. Prince Caspian had its funny moments, its glorious battle scenes, its intriguing storyline, but the sense of wonder is gone. Lucy is grown up now -- no longer the adorable little girl with her jaw dropping open when she first experiences Narnia. The Pevensie children just accept Narnia now, of course, but it's the sense of wonder, of something new and unexplored, that made the first film so magical. And this story line simply couldn't support that sense of wonder; it feel too forced, too familiar. And it's not the fault of the production or screenwriting (although E told us where it differed from the book and how they tried to "beef up" the movie from the book and that was were it felt the most forced); it's just that we know Narnia now, even if it is a different "more savage" Narnia (one of the character's descriptions). So that new sense of the existence of an alternative "magical" world is rather worn-out, like my favorite armchair. And like my armchair, it definitely sags here and there. (Or lags here and there, if you'd like a more professional critical term.)

Back to Frederica's question: can you think of any movies that are better than their printed counterparts? Leave your list in the comments section. (BTW, I do NOT agree that the film version of Gone with the Wind is superior to the book. I read GWTW at age 14 and have reread it several times; it's always been one of my favorite books and definitely trumps the film any day, despite Clark Gable....)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council

As some of you know, I've been involved in our local arts council for the past couple of years. It started out as Judith's brainchild and me as her trusty sidekick -- a perfect marriage of the right-brained visionary (her) and the left-brained detail woman (me, obviously). Then we discovered that a very similar group with almost the identical name was already at work in Campo, fifteen minutes further east, and the arts family grew -- we now had a great four-person Board of Directors and many plans to make happen. Next, our new Director, Denise, had rubbed elbows with a visionary in Alpine, fifteen minutes west of us, and Stephanie and her already-established 501 (c)3 organization, The Southern California Center for Youth, Nature, and the Arts took us aboard as a DBA (Doing Business As), and without having to reinvent the wheel, we became a non-profit organization as well. And we also pulled in Myrna who works extensively with the local kids as an art docent and as a library volunteer as our Youth Coordinator.

So the Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council (MECAC) began to flourish as we pushed for some name recognition in the back country. Each month we asked a local artist to be "featured" and share his or her work with the group meeting together in the brand new library community room. We've held two Holiday Fairs in late November-early December to allow our artists to sell their work. We're sponsoring our second Wellness Fair Art Contest next week which involves kids in grades K-6 all over the back country. And we're working busily on our second summer art program for the community, for both kids and adults. We also try to foster art expression during our town's annual festival and with any other art opportunities that arise.

The last few months have seen some significant change: our dynamic Director is moving to Arizona as her husband has found a new job, and then our beloved Treasurer and his wife, Bob and Margo, have had to resign from the Board due to severe family issues. But we've recently added Stephanie on as Treasurer (as recently as today, actually!) and are checking into two or three potential board members as well. We have the art contest next week and much preparation for our Summer Art Program coming up in late June, so there's no dearth of work to be done, to say the VERY least.

We've also been discussing starting a website. We did start one at the beginning of our journey, but the web designer wasn't as dependable as we needed him to be. We've beeb in contact with another web designer, but although she was cutting us a great deal, our little bank account can't handle a steady draw of funds for a website. Today I asked about doing a blog -- and the idea was received very positively. I got it all set up tonight, and you may follow the link RIGHT HERE to see it. We have our Coming Events listed, our Board of Directors, our Mission Statement, a nice Welcome, our logo, and a great backcountry photo that Keith took of the meadow outside our gate. So we hope that this blog/site will be a great way to get our message out as well as to save some bucks on web design. I also have the link listed under "Web Sites of Interest" in my sidebar where it will be always available. Check it out!

NCIS



Our family's favorite TV show is NCIS. Now in its fifth season, the agents are better than ever. I started watching it in the middle of the second season and have watched it ever since, and the kids and I have obtained the earlier seasons from Netflix and have enjoyed them immensely.

Next Tuesday's two-hour season finale reportedly involves a death of a main character. We have seen many, many close calls for the agents, but not a death since Kate (Sasha Alexander) exited the show at the close of the second season. Our bet is on Director Jenny Shepard (Lauren Holly) leaving or being murdered because of the mystery surrounding the death of her father. She's coming back on duty as Director of NCIS after some serious accusations were bandied about and she was put on suspension.

Earlier this week I found a TV Guide poll speculating about who is leaving the show, and my vote went along with the 62% who thought it was Jenny leaving. Lauren Holly's career has been resurrected by the show and I think she's looking for greener pastures.

We don't mind if Tim McGee (Sean Murray) leaves, and we don't mind too much if Ziva David (Cote d'Pablo) exits, but it had better NOT be Gibbs (Mark Harmon), Tony (Michael Weatherly) or our all-time favorite NCIS character, Abby (Pauley Perrette). We figure that Ducky (David McCallum) isn't going anywhere since this is his best gig since his "Man from U.N.C.L.E." days. Our bet stays with the Director getting the boot or the bullet. We'll have to see....

While we wait for the big two-hour finale, here's a little something to keep you NCIS fans going. Enjoy!

Armstrong's "New Ecumenism"

John Armstrong's recent blog post spoke immediately to my "heart issue" of love and respect among Christians of ALL traditions -- C.S. Lewis' idea of "Mere Christianity." Few issues are more damaging to the effectiveness of the Church than the divisions, historical and present, that create unnecessary walls of separation among Christian brothers and sisters from the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant traditions. How can we expect to reach a hurting world with the Good News of God's forgiveness, grace, peace, and love when we tear each other down consistently with arguments regarding who is really a Christian???? How do those arguments sound to non-Christians? Can we truly model Christ's love while we criticize other traditions and sometimes even exclude them from the name of Christian?

I have been upset by the anti-Catholic sentiments I have heard in the evangelical church we've attended for fifteen years, but at least they rarely come from the pulpit as they used to under our former pastor. Those comments should indeed tear at our hearts, for how else can we effect change if we are so calloused to such comments that we don't care about unity of purpose and peace among Christian brothers and sisters? Just this week on one of my Yahoo loops, someone mentioned praying for some "devout Catholics" to "know Jesus." One Catholic member as well as myself gently corrected the poster, and she apologized immediately to the Catholic member and to the group. It's an easy trap to fall into when we hear so much negativity regarding the "true faith" of other Christian traditions. A "new" ecumenical spirit is greatly needed, especially for evangelical Protestants as most Catholics I know definitely consider Protestants as Christian brothers and sisters. (In fact, the official Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches just that: Protestants are considered brothers and sisters in Christ to Catholics.)

I appreciate Armstrong's delineation between the "old ecumenism" and the "new ecumenism." The following excerpt concludes his blog post:
The point is this—this “new ecumenism” does not center on liberal theological agendas or conservative political affinity, though this has contributed to it in the areas of abortion and stem cell research, to name just two current moral issues. This “new ecumenism” is primarily a response to John Paul II’s call for a “new evangelization” and the respect that both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have shown for the recognition of other churches that are seeking to complete this same task of mission. It has also arisen in the hearts of a multitude of evangelicals who, like me, believe that something has happened in our lifetime and fresh wind is now blowing in our churches that will help us all complete the task of evangelizing the world in the coming decades. We have come a long way since the Protestant Reformation. I am not ready, in the least, to jettison the great gains of that renewal of the Church. But I am prepared to seek unity in ways that help us liberate the Church to do its work with greater faithfulness to Jesus. For this to happen we must pursue one another in love and respect.

Amen and amen!

I strongly encourage you to read the entire blog post by clicking right here. We simply can't be effective evangelists to the secular world if we don't "love one another" (Jesus' command to us!) as Christ loves us.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Caroline's Surprise

Carmen and I go waaaay back, to graduate school in English at the University of San Diego from 1989 to 1991. Those two years were very busy years of graduate seminars on nature and American literature with Dr. Williams, on the works of Chaucer with Sister Betsy (Dr. Elizabeth Walsh), on "modern" (early 20th century) literature with Dr. Thurber, on Milton's Paradise Lost with Dr. Dempsey, and on gender and satire with Dr. Caywood, among others. We weathered late night seminars, all-day study sessions preparing for our comprehensive exams, proofreading Sister Betsy's book together, and the death of Dr. Joanne Dempsey over Thanksgiving weekend from a heart attack brought on by her severe diabetes; she was only 44.

Keith and I attended Carmen and Jeff's beautiful wedding in a lovely Catholic Church. As couples, we became even closer friends with dinner parties at each others' homes and later sharing with each other the joys and difficulties of parenthood. While Keith and I started our family, Carmen continued her education, receiving her doctorate at a SoCal University of California campus. While I taught at Point Loma for several years as an adjunct, she won a tenure-track position at a junior college in our county. We rejoiced when they had their first daughter, Caroline, born the same year as our third child, and soon the kids were seeing each other at birthday parties as well as the occasional dinner at each others' homes. Several years after the birth of our fourth and final child, C&J welcomed Jane to their family. And when we had to give away our dachshund, part of our family for ten years, because of out youngest child's severe allergies, Carmen and Jeff offered to take him.

Then a couple of years ago, we received the news that Caroline had been diagnosed with leukemia at age 7. We joined them in prayer for her complete recovery, and the women of Lake Murray sewed and the entire church tied knots and prayed over a special prayer quilt for Caroline. I kept our Sunday School class up-to-date on Caroline's progress as we prayed for her and several other cancer patients each Sunday morning. Caroline was doing well, and the end of her treatment was in sight this spring.

On March 10, Carmen and Jeff received the news they has been dreading: Caroline's leukemia was back. Since then, she has spent over a month in the hospital, fighting fevers and receiving intense chemotherapy. She is scheduled for a bone marrow transplant next month at City of Hope in Los Angeles, if all goes well physically and if a perfectly matching donor can be located as her younger sister is not a match. It's a privilege to pray for Caroline and for her family, and their faith in God is a testament to the Lord's grace and steadfast help in times of trouble, and their church, parochial school, and priest have been such wonderful support for them. Seeing the Body of Christ loving each other through hard times is a blessing that continues to encourage and challenge us.



But during all of these hospital stays and long days at home, Caroline has been busy. Her dream is to become a writer and illustrator, and she has written and illustrated over 25 books starring a horse named Fred. She draws Fred constantly and relates his many adventures in her books. I haven't seen the books (but would like to!), but Keith had a wonderful idea to cheer Caroline: make a small stained glass window of Fred that Caroline can hang in her hospital rooms. The window is approximately 12" by 14" and can be hung on any window with two very strong suction cups that can easily support the 2.5 pounds of the window (each cup supports 2.5 pounds, and it hangs on two cups). Keith thought the window would bring Caroline joy in seeing Fred each day she's in the hospital, plus she can bring him to City of Hope next month as well. We think Fred turned out well, even if the above photo isn't of the best quality.

So enjoy Fred, Caroline! And I'd love to see a Fred book sometime, too, if that's okay with you. Keep on, dear -- we're praying for you!

If you're intersted in reading Carmen's journal on Caroline's progress, you may click here.

Movie Review: Juno



Okay, I finally watched Juno. With my own sixteen-year-old daughter. And I'm really glad I did. (Warning: massive spoiler alert for the rest of the review, so don't read unless you've seen it or are still debating whether you will see it. I give everything away. So stop reading NOW if you want to be surprised by the film.)

Without being overtly spiritual, Juno packs a wallop. I find myself mulling over scenes days after seeing the film on DVD, thinking over the implications of its pro-life message, Juno's search for assurances that love can truly last a lifetime, and Jason Bateman's character being "too cool" to be a parent. The movie is quirky in the best sense of the word, yet deep at the same time. It's realistic without being ugly. It's depressing and uplifting at the same time -- just like life. After giving birth, Juno cries over the baby she's given up for adoption while being held by Beek, yet she also has a peace about her that comes from doing the right thing. Jennifer Garner's character strengthens as Jason Bateman's character weakens. Allison Janney is priceless as Juno's stepmom and utters truths right and left throughout the movie. Juno's parents are wise and loving, rolling with the punches of life without recriminations; they are people to look up to.

Juno herself is a study in contradictions: she desires Beek's love yet pushes it away at the same time. She's snarky and vulnerable at the same time. She's wise in dealing with the aftermath of the stupid decision to have sex at 16. Or perhaps she's wise *after* making that stupid decision. Juno cavalierly mentions "nipping the thing in the bud" when discussing pregnancy options with Beek, but when confronted with the uncaring people at the abortion clinic and the fact that her baby has fingernails, she can't go through with it. Wisely knowing that keeping the baby wouldn't be in anyone's best interest, she finds adoptive parents through the Pennysaver before even broaching the news to her parents. And the adoptive parent she gets along with so well, the one who is "cool" in his musical tastes and appreciation of slasher movies, is the one who can't hack parenthood and leaves his wife in order to live in a downtown loft and follow his dream of being a musician. It's the adoptive parent for whom Juno doesn't feel an affinity who is equipped for parenthood, who even without a husband goes through with the adoption despite her divorce after Juno drops a hastily-scribbled note on their doorstep the day that the prospective parents break up: "Vanessa -- I'm still in if you are. Juno." In one of the final images of the film, that crumpled note, written in red crayon on the back of a yellow Jiffy-Lube receipt, is framed over the baby's crib as Vanessa cares for her longed-for child.

Juno is a life-affirming, funny, poignant, quirky film. It gets across the dangers of teen sex and the moral wrong of abortion in a singularly non-preachy way and with enough humor and wit that I think that teens watching it will take notice. The film doesn't make fun of teen pregnancy (my fear), but addresses the issue head-on, with equal doses of reality and love. Juno makes the point to Beek that he has it easy as she must walk around school with the proof of their relationship sticking out under her shirt. Juno also doesn't mince words when expressing the downside of pregnancy physically, including upchucking into her stepmom's vase by the front door. (And it only gets more graphic from there.) The film does not make pregnancy seem funny or easy or cavalier -- Juno's reactions to situations and her quick one-liners certainly lighten the mood, but the seriousness remains just under the surface, popping up more often than not. Ellen Page is sheer genius, and the script even more so. All of those award nods were well-deserved.

I liked the film far more than I thought I would. I love quirky films, and this one was about as quirky as one can get. Juno is a keeper and is well-worth your time, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

House Season 4



House M.D. has been quite different this season with the addition of the new team winnowed down from a roomful at the beginning of the season after the firing of Chase and the quitting of Foreman and Cameron. Three finally made it on the team, with the runner-up, Amber (known by House as "Cutthroat _itch"), becoming Wilson's girlfriend. Foreman is back, leading the team as House's right-hand man while Chase works in surgery and Cameron in the E.R., so we see them from time to time but not as regularly as before.

But this week's episode ... and next week's as the story line continues ... is a edge-of-the-seat thriller. House is in a bus accident, ending up with a head injury and a nagging memory he can't quite grasp of someone who needs his help. The details of the evening upfold as House and his team work up the bus driver, and then, finally, during a reenactment of the accident during which House takes certain drugs that should stimulate his memory, the truth comes out. Throughout his hallucinations, a result of his head trauma and the drugs he's taken, clues keep coming to him -- a resin necklace with an insect in it and a red scarf. At the end of the episode and under the influence of the memory-inducing drugs that causes House a cardiac arrest, House finally remembers who needs his help: Amber. The resin necklace -- Amber -- and the red scarf that he took from around her neck and tied around her thigh above a bar that impaled her just above the knee -- and, on the very edge of our seats, we watch Wilson and Cuddy doing CPR on House as he comes back to tell them of Amber's condition -- taken to another hospital and without ID, she was only known as "Jane Doe #2."

Next week's episode will deal with Amber's case and House, still suffering from his head injury, will try to save her life. This is definitely some of the best stuff on TV -- and House is the only TV show we have ever purchased in its entirety. Each season gets better and better. Those writers -- and those actors -- are sheer genius on House M.D. And Hugh Laurie especially is pure magic.

Even if you're not a House fan, don't miss next week's episode -- Monday night, 9 PM, right after Bones. BE THERE. We will be. No. matter. what.

(My apologies for all of these TV posts, but when there are so many great great finales going on all at once, it simply can't be helped. And when we get closer to the finale for Dancing with the Stars, I'll have to post yet again -- go Kristi!)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Survivor Finale



Well, as much as we were rooting for Amanda to win, we were okay with Parvati winning Survivor Micronesia: Fans Vs. Favorites. We did NOT care for Natalie and her "stone-cold _itch" (her words) personality. And Cirie has been on our hit list ever since she got everyone to vote Yau Man out. Cirie's strength was in figuring out who was a better player, and then gunning for them -- which didn't endear her to us in the least; she plays a totally self-centered game.

We really admired Amanda's game. She desired to play a more honorable game this time and accomplished her goal very well. Ans she and Ozzy are so dang adorable together. I was surprised by so many on the jury (Alexis and Natalie, to name a few) saw her as being superficial because of her former profession as a beauty show contestant. Alexis' comments about laughing at Amanda when she was in tears over voting our Cirie were so annoying! Their mistrust showed what horrid people they really are -- and I had hoped to think better of Alexis than that. She was just angry over being voted off instead of Amanda when Amanda presented the immunity idol. (Sour grapes, imho -- and our favorite part of this season was that particular upset!)

Parvati played a smart game. She perfected the art of the blindside and managed to win over many of the people she blindsided, with the exception of the guys -- Ozzy and James were having none of it. She played smart, played both sides fairly well, brought in others when she needed them, and played with a terrific strategy. The fact that two of the strongest players, Jonathan and James, were forced out of the game by injuries certainly helped her on the way. Parvati had the perfect balance of numbers, luck, alliances, personality, and strategy made her a winner. We still preferred Amanda because we felt she played a cleaner, more honorable game, but we were okay with Parv winning. As long as the winners were not Natalie or Cirie -- we would have been throwing things at the TV screen if they had been even in the Final Two (which I was glad to see back actually).

The blindsiding and really unintelligent moves of this season were unprecedented. Ozzy finding the immunity idol and not playing it whehn he needed to. Jason making the identical mistake at the very next Tribal Council. Jason's finding of Ozzy's fake idol and believing it was real was classic! Of course, the most foolish move of all was Eric's giving Natalie the immunity necklace and then being voted out when he did so. Those girls must have messed with his head so much for so long that he just couldn't figure out which way was up. Literally.

Well, this season was exciting. The idea of having the Fans vs. Favorites was sheer genius, even if they brought back several of the most annoying "Favorites" like Johnny Fairplay (gag!), Eliza (Miss Bug-Eyes), Jonathan (who annoyed everyone, including us!), and, to some extent, Ami. Some of the Fans were far more annoying than the Favorites, however. I was rather glad to see them go rather quickly. The combination of seasoned veterans with star-struck Survivor fanatics created an intriguing dynamic for this season. It was a good outcome of outplaying, outwitting, and outlasting. And both Amanda and Parvati did the best job, Amanda playing a more quit and reserved game while Parvati was more "out there," changing up the game as needed. Their alliance started on the first day and they took it all the way to the end. Well done, ladies!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pentecost, also called Whitsunday



Today, Pentecost, is the fiftieth day after Easter, and in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistle Lesson for today in the Anglican tradition, we read:
1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.


The Collect Prayer for this day and to be prayed daily for the week following from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
O God, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia Online:
A feast of the universal Church which commemorates the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, fifty days after the Resurrection of Christ, on the ancient Jewish festival called the "feast of weeks" or Pentecost (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10). Whitsunday is so called from the white garments which were worn by those who were baptised during the vigil; Pentecost ("Pfingsten" in German), is the Greek for "the fiftieth" (day after Easter).

At Lake Murray, the only mention of this holy day was by me during our prayer time in Sunday School. The main focus at church today seemed to be Mother's Day. Unfortunately, the fumes from the new carpet are still too strong for me to worship in the auditorium/sanctuary. It's been over a month since I've been able to attend church at Lake Murray. I've been sitting on a small patch of lawn under a couple of young trees, reading my Bible Book Club lessons, praying through Morning Prayer and the day's Psalms as well as The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle. It's been very pleasant on the lawn; letting the fresh breeze blow my hair a bit, enjoying the sunshine or shade, depending on the weather, and listening to the praise music wafting down the stairs. I miss fellowshipping and worshipping with everyone, but I am also enjoying the silence, the solitude, the peaceful time with God on the lawn.

So a Happy Mother's Day to you moms out there, and a Blessed Pentecost to you all! Thanks be to God for sending His Holy Spirit to us, to comfort us, lead us, teach us, guide us, and counsel us. What a blessed, blessed Gift!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

2008 Home School Expo



This morning E and I met up with Dru (who met us at the Descanso Park-n-Ride with her 2008 Prius -- what a treat!) in order to venture all the way up to Escondido for this year's Christian Family Schools Home School Expo. For at least the last eight years, the CFS Home School Expo has been held downtown at San Diego's Golden Hall, but this year it moved all the way up into North County to the large campus of Emmanuel Faith Community Church. This year's Expo is Dru's first, and I think she found it helpful -- I'm judging that from the number of books she purchased. :)

On our way, we stopped by the new Starbucks in Alpine where Father Acker, Jack, and another member of the Free Teen Guitar Class that Father teaches in Alpine were playing for the Grand Opening. (I can't tell you how nice it is to have a Starbuck's a mere 15 miles from home -- it used to be a nearly thirty-mile drive to Starbucks, not that I drove all the way into the city JUST for Starbucks, and I don't even LIKE coffee... I simply love the coffee house atmosphere, one of my favorite places to write, read, study, etc.) They sounded great, jamming on their guitars. Hap and Alice were there as well, sitting in chairs and providing an audience. After a quick visit, it was off to Escondido, about hour's drive from home. We stopped in Escondido on the way to the Expo to drop off Caroline's surprise with Carmen, something I'll clue you all into in a day or two.

But getting from Carmen's house to the Expo site ended up being quite an adventure. I had brought along my trusty Thomas Brothers Map Street Atlas of San Diego, but when I saw that Dru had a GPS unit in her new car, I left it in my car at the Park-n-Ride rather than dragging it along. Mistake. Big Mistake. Dru's GPS wouldn't accept the address, wouldn't look up a church, and was less than helpful. Her Mapquest directions she had printed out weren't helpful either. We tried driving this way and that, up and down Felicita, trying to find the church where the Expo was being held. I finally called Keith who checked the Thomas Brothers Guide we had in the house, and he let us know that we were a mere three blocks from our destination. So it was with relief, and a far more thorough knowledge of Escondido than we would have liked, that we drove into the huge lot and parked.

In the past, I have enjoyed the speakers at the Expo, but lately I'm there for one thing: the Exhibit Hall full of vendors. And the other thing: running into homeschoolers whom I don't see very often otherwise. We strolled past exhibits by Bob Jones, ABeka, Math-U-See, Sonlight, ACE, Institute for Excellence in Writing (blech!), Lamplighter, HSLDA, Paul Tripp Ministries, Lamp and Quill, Teaching Textbooks (where our piano teacher, neighbor, and friend Teri and her daughters works each Expo), Tapestry of Grace, Usborne Books, Total Language Plus, Alpha Omega, and Area 127, plus others. We spent a good deal of time at Area 127 with their eclectic selection of books of every type -- I made quite a list of books to get from the library or buy later, like the boys' grammar program (Easy Grammar's red book), their logic or Latin program (they get to choose which one), and lots of readers.

My main reason to go was to look for something "cool" (T's stipulation) for the boys' science, and I found a really "cool" classical astronomy text that will be the basis for our study of astronomy next year. It's called Signs and Seasons: Understanding the Elements of Classical Astronomy, and it's published by a Christian company, The 4th Day Alliance. I was very impressed with the book and the breadth and depth of the study which doesn't require a telescope, although we do have one. But with the great night skies we have being so far outside of the city and at the altitude we are makes astronomy a natural choice. My brother is also very "into" astronomy, so I hope he'll perhaps help out when we get together. In addition to astronomy, we may do a semester of natural science as well if the boys get tired of one subject for science. Goodness knows we have enough science books in this house! So the astronomy book was my only purchase of the day. Don't you admire my restraint???????

E found a really great chemistry program -- much better than the ABeka-at-home and Apologia-at-Class-Day approach we had resigned ourselves to. Spectrum Chemistry is a high school level college-prep chemistry program with two days each week of text work and one day of lab work. EVERYTHING is included for the labs except distilled water. So E can do chemistry at home and NOT at Class Day as we had planned to do. The Class Day teacher uses the Apologia text, a series that E HATES (and I do not use that word lightly!), and she instead wanted to use the ABeka text, but their labs are designed for classroom settings and are far too complex to do at home. So the Spectrum Chemistry is something that is designed especially for home education, plus it is student-driven. That means I just have to check in with her once in a while, but she does all the text and lab work on her own -- the text is written directly to her (like the Apologia series) yet isn't nearly as subjective and chatty as the Apologia books. The program is expensive -- $300 -- and it will cost each of the boys around $100 to replace the lab consumables and get a new workbook each time. If we can afford it, we'll do it!

I appreciate the irony of talking almost exclusively about science programs when I'm an English/humanities person, but we tend to buy what we NEED help teaching, not what we already know. :)

I also found some great Usborne books that I may get when it's time to buy books: T would adore the Usborne Internet-Linked Complete Book of Chess! I talked Dru into purchasing the Usborne Shakespeare book -- it's brilliant, and I'm using it a great deal in preparing the Shakespeare workshop through Brave Writer that I'm currently facilitating. I could just buy all of their books ... fortunately, I already have a good number, and we use them a TON, especially for World History this year and next.

Overall, today was a very productive day, with many decisions made regarding our home school for next year. It was worth the admission fee just to see some of the books in person, to thumb through the pages and get a "feel" for it far better than choosing books from catalog descriptions only. Science is settled. Grammar is fairly-well settled. The boys and I have to decide if we want to pursue another year of Latin or try some classical Logic instead. They'll be doing ABeka Math (T will be starting Saxon for pre-algebra), Sonlight 7 for history, Bible, and literature (second half World History), Beginning Writing (curriculum I wrote myself), Easy Grammar, Astronomy, Sequential Spelling, A Reason for Handwriting (B&J), Explode the Code 6, 7, 8 for B, piano, and perhaps a music appreciation class. The boys will take art and P.E. at Class Day, and one additional class for "fun."

E's coursework and curricula are decided for her junior year: ABeka American History, SMARR American Literature, Saxon Advanced Mathematics, Spectrum Chemistry (most likely), and something for Bible that I haven't yet figured out. As of next month, she'll be finished with two years of high school Latin. If she's not taking chemistry at Class Day (a double subject -- two hours instead of one), she'll take Intermediate Writing with me at Class Day rather than doing it at home with me one-on-one, plus Driver's Ed. and something else "fun." She and Erika, Teri's daughter, are also curious about taking ballroom dancing classes at Grossmont (a junior college in El Cajon).

Well, if you're a homeschooler, then this post has been most informative, but if you're not, then I doubt you've read this far. These are big decisions for us: they cost scads of money and will be the basis for nine months of our children's education. These decisions are not taken lightly. And I still have much to weigh and decide about next year's schooling. But right now I also need to focus on finishing this year well -- shouldn't be a problem as they're all on track and are ready to celebrate summer vacation starting in mid-June (California schools get out very late and seldom begin before Labor Day). So it was a goooooood day, and it was fun to explore all of the possibilities with E and Dru. Thanks again, Dru, for driving!

Friday, May 9, 2008

My Other Favorite Magazine... Touchstone Magazine



Besides Victoria Magazine that is finally back after a very long hiatus, my favorite magazine is Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity. I first saw Touchstone at Carrie's cosy home in North Carolina before we left together to drive to our Internet community's retreat on Topsail Island last spring. When I spied it on her coffee table, I felt drawn to the cover immediately, and when I discovered that the journal consisted of articles written by Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox contributors, the content drew me in as well. The articles were thought-provoking, positive, encouraging, and ecumenical. Some were long, but others were short snippets just right for a busy homeschooling mom-on-the-go. And they also reviewed the best of the new books from all three Christian traditions.

The cost of Touchstone, however, was prohibitive, so I resigned myself to not being able to enjoy this journal which I was eager to read because of its ecumenical spirit and its emphasis on "mere christianity," the common causes that all Christian traditions can embrace. But then I discovered that my dear friend Judith subscribed, and she started passing me her copies when she finished with them. Thanks to her generosity, I am now a happy reader of Touchstone. I also love the emphasis on literature and philosophy, as well as theology, in the journal. I'm passing the issues when I finish with them to Linda and Kitty, so they are definitely making the rounds.

And the Touchstone blog is really cool, too. Called Mere Comments, the posts are intriguing and give me more to "chew on" besides the actual magazine itself. Check it out!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Note from John Armstrong:

After a very looooooong day "down the hill" in the city that included Bible study at Lake Murray, teaching B his homeschool lessons during the study and after in the fellowship hall, an impromtu prayer gathering in the church office, and an appointment with my doctor, I finally got home just before 5 PM. Upon opening my e-mail (which had blossomed to nearly 70 messages whilst I was away), I was thrilled to receive an e-mail from John Armstrong.

As readers of this blog know, John Armstrong is one of my favorite church leaders. His dream of unity among all Christian traditions has inspired me, as it is also a long-held hope of mine as well. As I posted earlier this week regarding ecumenism, I referenced John's blog and left a comment there for him. And I received this lovely e-mail yesterday in reply to my comment:

Susanne,

It was so neat to get your email and post your comments on my blog. I am glad you found me in this way. I went to your site and loved it. We share much in common it seems. I hope we find a way to connect more in the coming days. I will try to go back to your site now and then as well.

Please pray for me as I am writing a book on this very subject of "the new ecumenism." Zondervan will bring it out in 2009 if I can get it done by this summer. Perhaps we can talk someday, by phone or in person.

Grace and peace,

John


Wow, I feel as though I have been visited by a celebrity. :) I am honored by his kind response and continue praying for John and his Act 3 Ministry as he reaches out to Christians of all traditions, helping us to fulfill, through the Holy Spirit's movement, the prayer of Christ found in John 17.

Thanks, John, for noticing this little homeschooling nobody who has huge dreams and God-sized prayers for respect, love, and unity amongst the brethren of Christ.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

One Thing: Shakespeare



Good morrow, gentle readers:
Yesterday I started teaching a One Thing: Shakespeare workshop through Julie Bogart's excellent homeschool language arts resource, Brave Writer. I think we must have at least thirty families signed up (Lisa sent me a class list today) to explore Shakespeare together. My main audience for the class is the moms whom I will be teaching some cool ways to integrate the study of Shakespeare's works into their language arts programs, hopefully making the Bard's works fun and accessible for them and their students. This week we'll be focusing on background about Shakespeare's life (done in a treasure hunt format -- Julie's idea) and a creative family project on Elizabethan theatre. Next week we'll be tackling sonnets, and after that we'll be working with scenes from Much Ado About Nothing as well as watching the Branagh version of the play. It should make for a very enjoyable month.

Now that I finished with the grammar tutorials for the class at Cuyamaca and my Heritage students are working on their MLA research papers due in late May and mid-June, I have time for teaching Shakespeare, if only for the month of May. It's been a crazy semester with all of these classes going at one time or another, plus students to tutor and my own four to teach. But it's been good, too, to get back into teaching, to help students with knotty writing issues, to facilitate discussions and throw around ideas. I feel rather like I'm coming out of my cocoon of the past five years of illness, yet I'm also burning the candle at both ends with late nights, early mornings, and often no time for my late afternoon naps. (And that doesn't count the art council activities of the next two months, either!) I do admit that I'm looking forward to this summer very much ... a time to rest, relax, read, and, I hope, WRITE.

So I'll be enjoying the Bard very much as we will be working in rather close proximity during the month of May which is always Shakespeare month at Brave Writer. I'll keep you posted as to how the class is going, but I am very encouraged after my first official day as a Shakespeare instructor for Brave Writer (back as a full-fledged teacher there for the first time in five years, I believe).

Your "Lady Disdain," Susanne

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cool Posts on Ecumenism

Regular readers of this blog know that God has given me a passion for ecumenism, for if not unity, then at least a willingness for Christians to work together, despite denominations or traditions. As I perused the Internet Monk's site today, I found a great review of a blog post by the "restless reformer" (a.k.a. Travis Prinzi) that Michael was discussing. Several of the quotes he gave rang true to me, plus his own thoughts made me want to get off my chair and dance around the living room. Anyway, go ahead and read them and see what you think. (You can read Travis' entire post at this link and Michael Spencer's Internet Monk post here.)

Travis writes:
This is the Night of Weeping. It’s not a competition. It’s not a battle over who’s got the real church. We can only really discuss those matters when we quit excommunicating each other over them. The real church, the real pillar of truth, is the one that confesses Christ as Paul did. If we don’t weep together during this prolonged Night of Weeping - and weep over our own divisions and schisms and sins against one another - and vow to love one another and uphold the confession of Christ together despite our inability to come to agreement on so many theological questions; if we keep to our own sidelines, pretending we’ve nothing to weep over except the other church’s seeming inability to see how right we are about this or that point of doctrine; if we can’t love one another until everyone who’s “wrong” has repented and signed our confessional document, then the weeping will be greater than it need be.

Jesus is who we confess; He is the truth. Jesus is what holds us together despite our disagreements during the Night of Weeping. Jesus is the one who will return to show us how foolish all of our tightly-reasoned systems of theology were…but when he shows us how foolish we were, graciously and mercifully, there will be little time to weep over it, for the “Morn of Song” will have dawned.


In response, Michael himself wrote:
What’s missing in team-sport evangelicalism is any lament at all over the state of the church. There is no doubt in my mind that one of the primary responses of a follower of Jesus Christ to the current state of the church must be lamentation. Not argumentation. Not ranting polemics. Not denominational apologetics, but lamentation and sorrow that we have made so many things into separators, then exaggerated the importance of those things and insisted that coming to our point of view is the only way to confess Christ.

I think that Michael's response is right-on-the-money. I see little (really, NO) lamenting over the shattered Bride of Christ in evangelical circles. And very little willingness to work with other Christians. The usual response I receive when I mention a certain tradition (usually Catholicism) is that "They're wrong about THIS and THIS and THIS," rather than acknowledgement of our commonalities and a willingness to accept those similarities and view each other as brothers and sisters of Christ and perhaps even work together. I guess I'm a "the glass is half-full" kind of person when it comes to ecumenism. Let's "ac-cen-choo-ate the postive," you know....

At least our evangelical church has put its money and time into service despite (perhaps in spite of) denominational affiliation. Lake Murray is working monthly with a multi-denominational organization, God's Extended Hand, in which we provide an evening meal for the homeless in downtown San Diego, including praise music and a short message before we serve the clients and they eat. Our grilled hamburgers are a huge hit for the homeless population who come to God's Extended Hand, which was started by Anglicans and has churches of many denominations and traditions working together. I just wish that my strength allowed us to serve at GEH; we have helped out a few times, but living 50 miles away from downtown San Diego plus the physicality of the work, combined with my autoimmune challenges, makes it difficult. But my heart is there on the first Friday of each month (Lake Murray's night). One December Father Acker, his wife, and another Alpine Anglican Blessed Trinity member came with us to serve the homeless with Lake Murray. Father took his guitar and jumped right into rehearsing with the worship team while Alice and Martha helped out in the kitchen and with serving the trays to the clients. Ecumenism in action. Pure joy.

But I still see and feel so much resistance in the belief area between evangelicals and other traditions. Even yesterday at our Logos discussion of C.S. Lewis, some of the discussion centered around who believed what rather than how they loved and served God. I was waiting for that notorious evangelical litmus test peep its head around the corner: 1) young earth; 2) rapture of believers; 3) symbolic communion ... you know the rest. Not that these beliefs aren't important, but they are not nearly as important as: 1) loving and serving our risen Christ; 2) having our sins forgiven by His grace and mercy; 3) loving and serving others as a mode of evangelism. It grieves me when the differences rather than the similarities are stressed among Christian traditions. As even the "Bible Answer Man," Hank Hanagraff admits, evanglicals and Catholics who observe the official Roman teachings (the Magisterium) share over 80% of common theology, much more than evangelicals share with more liberal Protestant denominations, in fact.

[Just added a couple of hours later: And after all of this cool stuff on ecumenism, I checked John H. Armstrong's blog and found an excellent article on the "Oneness of Catholics and Protestants." Go read it by clicking right here.(You may have to scroll down to find it.) It's a "DON'T MISS" article, a post right after my own heart. As much as I write about ecumenism, Armstrong is DOING IT! GO, JOHN!]

Well, I had better get off my soapbox and get back to educating my kids. After all, we're just about ready to tackle that "bugaboo" of world history: the Reformation. I want to give the kids a balanced view, both from the perspectives of the Protestants and the Catholics. We'll see how it goes. Time to ring the brass bell mounted on the porch post, call in my squirrely students, and get back to "reality" rather than my hopes and dreams regarding ecumenism....

Logos Discussion: The Screwtape Letters



Yesterday our literary discussion group at Lake Murray, Logos, tackled C.S. Lewis' justly classic Screwtape Letters. I had the advantage of reading the book with Alpine Anglican's Wednesday night Lenten study group earlier this spring, so I have now discussed the book over a five week period (six chapters for each week) and then yesterday when we discussed the book in its entirety.

If you are a Christian and you haven't read Screwtape, hie thee to a library, bookshop, or online purchasing establishment, get a copy, and read it. It's one of the most important books a Christian can read. Really.

The book consists of fictional letters written from a demon, Screwtape, to his apprentice, Wormwood, regarding Wormwood's "patient," the man he's supposed to be keeping from Christianity and defeated in every way possible so that he'll go to "Our Kingdom Below" and thus into Satan's clutches, who is referred to as "Our Father Below." The whole book turns our beliefs about God on their head as we see life, God, and "the patient" through the eyes of demons -- disconcerting in the very least but very, very effective as a literary device. Christ is referred to as "the Enemy" who has "the abominable advantage" of being human. Screwtape is constantly advising Wormwood on how best to keep "the patient" as far from the "Enemy" as possible. But despite their best efforts, the "patient" becomes a Christian and dies in a state of grace which necessitates Screwtape's devouring Wormwood in the "patient's" place, which of course is a topsy-turvy retelling of Christ's willing sacrifice for our redemption.

While being fiction, the book is filled with true observations of our Christian lives which serve as warnings to us of how demons may work to defeat us and how we also defea ourselves and thus make ourselves less useful to the Kingdom of God. A definite thread of humor runs through the novel, making its seriousness a little easier to bear. For The Screwtape Letters is indeed a serious book and a wake-up call to complacent Christianity, to the church-hopping mentality, to much that is wrong with the church and with society. Written at the height of the Second World War in 1942, the war itself plays a part in the novel, almost like yet another character. It is war that brings fear that the demons try to use for their own purposes, and it is also war that removes "the patient" from their influence forever.

Following are a few quotations from the novel that struck me with their truthfulness and with their pointed critique of "Joe Christian":

-- "... you don't realize how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary." (Aren't we, though?)

-- "Do remember that you are there to fuddle him." (The demons' first job is to confuse us, to keep us from seeing and recognizing reality and truth.)

-- "One of our great allies is the Church itself." (Sad commentary, but still true at times.)

-- "The Enemy [Christ] takes this risk because He has a curious fantasy of making all these disgusting little human vermin into what he calls His 'free' lovers and servants -- 'sons' is the word He uses, with His inveterate love of degrading the whole spiritual world by unnatural liaisons with the two-legged creatures." (Yes, He does, thanks to His mercy and grace!)

-- "It is, no doubt, impossible to prevent his praying for his mother, but we have means of rendering the prayers innocuous. Make sure that they are always very 'spiritual,' that he is always concerned with the state of her soul and never with her rheumatism." (Something for us to learn about prayer here, right?)

I could quote on and on -- these are only from the first three chapters.

The discussion was lively and animated, as it is when we get Bill, Guy, Paul, Russ, Kitty, myself, and a few others talking spiritual things. We went through the book rather chronologically rather than our usual jumping about, but we definitely addressed the major points that Lewis brought up as we read short passages aloud and discussed their implications. We broke for dessert in the middle of a discussion of gluttony, an irony not lost on the group in the least.

I really love these monthly meetings in which we discuss literature, ideas, theology, poetry, words, our lives, our faith journeys. Kitty is a perfect hostess, offering us delectable fare (ribs,their baked beans, and freshly-baked rolls, Diana bringing strawberry salad and Linda the dessert) as well as her home, plus her incisive comments and observations. I always walk away from Logos meetings feeling refreshed in the pit of my soul, as if a hunger was satisfied or an itch scratched. That's the value of great Christian inquiry and discussion among dear friends, some of whom I've known for fifteen years. God's gracious blessing upon this group simply takes my breath away....

Later this month: Persuasion by Austen. (I guess we'll lose a good number of the guys for that discussion!) And we'll also be working on our reading list for next year, starting in July, Logos' first birthday.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Feast Day of Saints James and Philip, Apostles and Martyrs



In addition to being the Celebration of the Ascension of Christ, May 1 was also the Feast Day of Saint Philip and Saint James, Apostles of Christ. Just this week in our daily Scripture readings at the beginning of our homeschool days, we read the story in Acts of Philip and the Ethiopian, the first example (and I believe only) in Scripture of personal evangelism. What an example St. Philip gives us in Acts 8! As the Scriptures read in Acts 8:35: "Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture [from Isaiah] he told him [the Ethiopian] the good news about Jesus." The Saint James celebrated on this day with Philip is not Saint James the Greater, but James the son of Alphaeus, and we know little about him from the Scriptures.

The Collect from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Philip and Saint James:
O Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us perfectly to know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life: that, following the steps of thy holy Apostles, Saint Philip and Saint James, we may steadfastly walk in the way that leadeth to eternal life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The readings for today were James 1:1-12 and Saint John's Gospel 14:1-14. The words near the end of the passage from John stood out to me today when Father Acker, robed in the red of martyrs to remind us of their witness to Christ via their deaths, read them aloud in the service this morning:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and also greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

As the "Saint of the Day" e-mail from AmericanCatholic.org states:
"As in the case of the other apostles, we see in James and Philip human men who became foundation stones of the Church, and we are reminded again that holiness and its consequent apostolate are entirely the gift of God, not a matter of human achieving. All power is God’s power, even the power of human freedom to accept his gifts. “You will be clothed with power from on high,” Jesus told Philip and the others. Their first commission had been to expel unclean spirits, heal diseases, announce the kingdom. They learned, gradually, that these externals were sacraments of an even greater miracle inside their persons—the divine power to love like God."

May we all learn from, love, and serve Christ as Saints Philip and James modeled for us in the Scriptures.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ascension Day



According to the Scriptures in Luke and Acts, Ascension Day occurs forty days after Christ's Resurrection. Following forty days on earth during which He spoke with His disciples and was seen by hundreds of people, Christ ascended into the Heavens to the right hand of the Father. Ascension Day is considered a "red letter Holy Day" in the Anglican tradition, a day in which services are held to celebrate this amazing occurrence in Scripture, and it also begins the Octave of Ascensiontide.

The Collect for the Ascension in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Scriptures for this Holy Day are Acts 1:1-11 and Luke 24:49-53. From the Gospel According to Saint Luke:
Jesus said, Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

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

So a blessed Ascensiontide to all!

Twelfth Night



This spring our little town has been blessed to have a homeschool drama class at the community clubhouse which has a nice stage. We have a wondeful woman who has taught drama and worked on productions at UCSB and UCSD as well as at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre. Almost thirty students in grades 4-12 have taken part thus far, and today the parts were given out for an abridged version of Twelfth Night.

And E has been given the part of Olivia -- just the part she wanted! She gets to be beautiful, gracing the stage in her lovely ballgown and shawl. Our good friend Aubrey will be playing Viola, and our friend Olivia is playing Maria. So E will be playing in her very first play, portraying a great role. What fun for her! She's been wanting to try a little drama for such a long time, and these classes are FREE. Our only problem is that E can only attend every OTHER class because of Class Day, but I may let her miss a class if she needs to and nothing very important is going on in biology or self-defense.

She's so excited, and so are we. She's already highlighting her lines and writing down her blocking. They'll have lots of rehearsals outside of the usual class periods, so that will work well, especially as the clubhouse is within walking distance of our house.

What fun!

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