Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dancing with the Stars

Last night and tonight made up Week 4 of the 8th Season of Dancing with the Stars and was a double-elimination. Thankfully, the "right" people went home tonight: Holly & Dmitri and Steve & Karina. Last week, Denise & Max went home, and the first ones eliminated were Belinda & Jonathan.

Now that the dross is eliminated from the show (the two couples eliminated tonight were embarassingly bad, especially Steve Wozniak, or however his name is spelled), I am really looking forward to the rest of the season. The front runners are three couples: Giles and Cheryl who received the first perfect score, Melissa and Tony, and Shawn & Mark. The couple I like best is Ty & Chelsie who started the first week *very* rough and are improving so rapidly. We recognize Chelsie from last summer's So You Think You Can Dance and really loved her dancing. She's the second pro to come to Dancing with the Stars from Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, Lacey being the first. A rodeo star, Ty is married to San Diego native singer Jewel who had to back out of Dancing with the Stars with an injury before the show started. Ty has come along by leaps and bounds, and his shyness and humility are refreshing. Currently they are my favorite couple this season, and Shawn & Mark are my second favorite couple. There are other couples I like also, but these two are my favorites.

I really enjoy the dances, the music, and the couples who learn to dance well together. I miss dancing, especially the ability to do physical activities that I cannot do currently. I would LOVE to take ballroom dancing lessons - and with my husband who claims he has no rhythm. Aaah, one can dream....

But the next best thing is watching Dancing with the Stars and cheering on our favorites through the Viennese Waltz, the Samba, the Mambo, the Foxtrot, the Quickstep, etc. Whether Ballroom or Latin, all of the dances are fun to watch. However, we don't allow the boys to watch because of the rather revealing costumes (or the lack thereof). How ABC calls Dancing with the Stars a "family show" is completely beyond me with the vast majority of the women dancing around half-naked. But E and I try to ignore the immodest costumes and enjoy the dances and music.

So we'll continue enjoying the beautiful ballroom dancing this spring and also watch So You Think You Can Dance this summer. Dance, baby, dance!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Brave Writer vs. Other Writing Programs

I started working for Julie Bogart and Brave Writer, her language arts business for homeschooling families, in the spring of 2002 when I taught a poetry class. My health worsened immediately after the class and I couldn't handle teaching another course, so I helped Julie with the poetry portion of the Slingshot, a monthly language arts subscription for high school students. Later I wrote more of the Slingshot, the novel portion and the writing assignment suggestion as well as the poetry. As I have started improving in health in the last year, I picked back up with teaching the newer "One Thing" series of classes, including courses in Shakespeare, poetry, and grammar. Julie asked me to write the Boomerang this spring for her, the monthly language arts subscription for grades 7-9, and I'm enjoying writing it each month.

I've extensively used Julie's two writing guides, The Writer's Jungle and Help for High School. Both are really terrific in developing kids into writers. I love her approach: nurturing our children into discovering and developing their voice as writers. Because Julie comes at writing from the position of a professional writer rather than as a teacher/academic, her approach is very different from any writing program available. Julie's focus is the writer, not forms nor content ... both of which come into play once the writer is expressing him- or herself with relative ease and confidence.

After spending the weekend at a homeschooling conference, Julie addressed the differences between Brave Writer and other programs on the market. Her Brave Writer blog is a wonderful writing resource, even if you are using other programs (which can work with Brave Writer) and really is a not-to-be-missed home school resource. You may read her post by clicking here: Brave Writer vs. Other Programs. On the Brave Writer site are many FREE resources, including articles and her extremely helpful Yahoo loop which is really a FlyLady for homeschoolers.

If your family (like mine) has some reluctant writers, then Brave Writer may be the program for you. It's a wonderful way to teach writing that truly comes from the heart of our writers. That's what writing is all about in the end, after all. And the focus is on our kids first and the writing second which is exactly the way it should be.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Twilight: The Movie

I just sat down with E and watched Twilight tonight. She received the books (all four) for Christmas, either as gifts or with gift cards/Christmas money and has read them each several times already. I, on the other hand, have read nary a word of Stephanie Meyer's ever-popular vampire series although after watching the film, I would like to.

The film definitely possessed shades of the Harry Potter films, with Edward Cullen played by Robert Pattison who portrayed Cedric Diggory in the fourth HP film. And the young girl playing Bella kept reminding me of Emma Watson who played Hermione -- mostly in her facial expressions as well as the overall shape of her face and eyes.

But the film was very well done, although I understand that it is quite different from the book. I was captured by Edward's intense stares from minute one, and was engaged in the characters and the story immediately. The climax of the story was exciting and unpredictable, and the denouement was well-done.

It's a story that most adults would appreciate and most tween and teen girls swoon over (metaphorically, of course). But it's a fast-paced film with exciting twists and turns, good character development, and believable conflict left wide open for the following films. It's well-worth checking out from the library or video store. E received the first copy from our library, so we had a virgin DVD, and tomorrow night we'll explore the second DVD of extra features.

But Twilight is good. Very good. And the books have definitely moved up my list to the very top and I will start them as soon as I can procure them from the library. For some strange reason, E refuses to lend me her books as I tend to read them in the spa and get them all steamy and wrinkly. Picky, picky girl.....

Friday, March 27, 2009

What a Week!

Sorry I haven't been here -- I've missed writing my blog terribly but it's definitely been "one of those" weeks. The two middle boys in 6th and 8th grades had standardized testing as required by our private independent study program (PSP), Heritage Christian School. The Stanford Achievement Tests are required for all students in grades 4-11 unless high schoolers are taking either the PSAT (which E did) or the SAT (which she will in June). B is in third this year, so he won't be starting until next year, if he's ready. If he isn't (he's my latest reader thus far), then I can sign a waiver with the school and skip it again. But he may be ready by then -- a year can make a huge difference in reading ability.

So, anyway, we had to be at Del Cerro Baptist Church, our Class Day site, which is a 75-mile round trip from our house. On Monday we were to be there at 8:15 AM, and by 8:45 AM on Tuesday and Wednesday. So we're talking EARLY mornings for this night-owl family. And on Thursday we were back again at Del Cerro for our twice-monthly co-op Class Days. So today (Friday) is the first day we've had a semi-normal school day all week long. On Monday and Tuesday, B and I did his schoolwork while I graded Class Day essays at the nearest Starbuck's to the Class Day site. On Wednesday, we had all four kids with us and after dropping T and J at the testing site, B, E and I went shopping for T's birthday gift and then settled in at Starbuck's until the boys finished. From there we drove to the San Diego Zoo where the scooter once again was a huge blessing as I could motor around the zoo with no one having to push me up and down hills. Bliss! We met my parents there (they give us annual passes to the zoo and Wild Animal Park each spring which we use several times) and they took us to lunch. E bought T a stuffed animal of his choice as his gift. After the zoo, we came home and had Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches (such a treat!) and rootbeer floats to celebrate T's 14th birthday.

On Thursday we had Class Day, and I had all but one essay graded from my Starbuck mornings all week. Usually I'm grading 3-4 essays during my free period between classes, but not this time. I was sooo proud of myself. Or I was until I relized that I had left the Intermediate Writing essays in my *other* bag I had been taking to Starbuck's all week. I couldn't run all the way home and back in time for class, so the students will have to wait to get their essays back until next time. I've never forgotten essays before ... but it's been that kind of week....

Today I ran down to Alpine for the Friday Healing Mass with Father Acker. The quiet, the prayer, the Scripture, the Communion ... just what I needed. I came home by 10:40 and helped the boys through their limited schoolwork of math, grammar, spelling, writing, piano, guitar, and typing. I curled up on the sofa by 3 PM and rested all afternoon, if editing the 150 photos from retreat and the zoo and writing part of the Brave Writer Boomerang qualifies as resting.

And, thankfully, tomorrow is another day.

Another day to finish the Boomerang and complete my reading of Cry of the Peacock for Logos on Sunday. And REST some more.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

This Weekend....

... is Lake Murray's annual women's retreat at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center. I think this will be my 15th or 16th retreat, and I've enjoyed being part of the preparations. For the past six weeks or so, I've been helping taking registrations between services and after second service, keeping track of names, addresses, schedules, checks, and dates. I will also be leading a discussion group after our speakers ... which reminds me that I had better look back over that questions list before tomorrow night! And I also have the most important task of being in charge of the overhead projector with the praise songs and hymns on the screen for everyone to sing from.

But my favorite part of retreat is the balance of quiet time with God and fun time with friends. Our family will be here at Lake Murray Community Church for sixteen years this June, so these women are among my closest friends. It's often VERY hard to live so far away from them, and we always have. Most of the families at our church live in La Mesa or El Cajon, but for eight years we drove to church from North Park (20 minutes away) and for the over seven years we've been in our little mountain town we've been driving for 35-40 minutes to church (depending on who is driving, Keith or myself). So we've always lived outside of the main circle of church families. Facebook helps wonderfully in staying "in the loop" but the annual retreats are wonderful times to build friendships with these wonderful women, many of whom drove up the mountain to help clean my house weekly for several years after I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.

I also love time alone with God at retreat, especially time to write in my prayer journal. When I spoke at retreat several years ago on having extended time in silence and solitude with God, we spent several hours alone with the Lord over the weekend. We did the same the next year when Judith spoke, and this past year when Julie Hogan spoke. This weekend we have a speaker from the Navigators, and although I am looking forward to what God has prepared her to speak to us, I have really enjoyed the hours' long time along with God. I may stay after the group leaves with my journal, prayer book, and Bible and spend some time listening to Jesus. My Pine Valley friend Sheri may join me. She has attended our last two Lake Murray retreats, but this year she is unable to. We have enjoyed doing silent retreats at Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, in Alpine at the prayer labyrinth that is an outreach of Queen of Angels Catholic Church, and of course at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center.

So I shall "see" you all on Monday after I come back. I'm actually walking out the door this minute (3:00 PM on Friday afternoon), although B is in tears and T and J are both hugging me repeatedly. And E is moping around, saying she will miss her TV/movie partner. Keith and I had a short prayer time together and a chat before leaving this morning. I feel centered by the Holy Eucharist at Alpine Anglican this morning and ready for retreating!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's "Breastplate" Prayer

This prayer is often called "St. Patrick's Breastplate" because of those parts of it which seek God's protection.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the Judgment Day.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.


St. Patrick, British Missionary to Ireland

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Yes, March 17 marks the anniversary of the death of Patrick, British missionary to pagan Ireland. This morning as we gathered around our school table ready for another day of home education, I read aloud to my kids from one of my favorite books, Martha Zimmerman's Celebrating the Christian Year. Zimmerman, the wife of a Presbyterian pastor, has laid out the church year with much wonderful information about each celebration, plus crafts and food to go along with each. And her chapter on Saint Patrick's day is certainly one of her best.

Martha Zimmerman starts the chapter asking about what ideas we normally associate with March 17? Shamrocks? Leprechauns? Wearin' of the green? Ireland? And then she relates Patrick's story as taken from his Confessions, so much of the chapter is written in Patrick's own words, rather than relying on legend and hearsay. She relates that he was born around 389 AD of British Christian parents and was a Roman citizen when Christianity was the official religion of the Roman Empire which included Britain but not Ireland. Although his parents were Christians, Patrick was not a believer until extraordinary circumstances and the call of God revealed Christ to him.

When Patrick was about 16 years old, the Roman Empire was beginning to crumble, and Rome could no longer protect Britain from marauding Irish pirates who often kidnapped the British and kept them as slaves. Patrick was indeed captured by Irish pirates and was made to keep flocks of sheep more than 200 miles inland for the next six years. It was in those long days of solitude that Patrick heard God's call. Patrick wrote, "And there the Lord opened my perception of my heart's unbelief so that I remembered my sins even though late, and turned with all of my heart to the Lord my God...." While tending flocks, he used to pray "constantly" during the day and often during the night as well. He claimed, "the spirit was fervent within me." God gave Patrick a vision of his escape and return to England which he soon accomplished.

We are not sure how long Patrick remained in England before God gave him the dream that sent him back to convert the land of his imprisonment to Christ, but return he did. As Zimmerman writes, "Patrick stands out in history as one who recognized and accepted God's call, left family and friends, and took the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Ireland" (p. 119). Before Patrick returned to Ireland, this pagan country was ruled by magic and superstition. Under the influence of the Druid priests, the Irish worshipped nature: the sun, moon, wind, water, and fire. The common belief was that both good and evil spirits inhabited the hills and trees.

In an article entitled "The Saint Patrick We Never Knew," we discover the importance of Patrick's obedience to God in converting the Irish:
The inadvertent results of his conversion of Ireland, however, were equally astonishing and long-lasting. First, as Cahill makes the strong case in How the Irish Saved Civilization, it is Patrick's conversion of Ireland that makes possible the preservation of Western thought through the early Dark Ages by the Irish monasteries founded by Patrick's successors. When the lights went out all over Europe, a candle still burned in Ireland. That candle was lit by Patrick.... And since it was the Irish monks who served as the bridge between classical Christianity and the Middle Ages, medieval Christianity tends to reflect the celebratory nature of Irish spirituality rather than the gloom and sin-centeredness of its [Roman] predecessor.
So because of Patrick's obedience to the call to share Christ's gospel with the very people who had captured him years before, much of the literature of the classical and medieval periods, most likely including the Scriptures themselves, were preserved for future generations, including ours. A wonderful book of historical fiction that provides insight into Patrick's personality as well as the power of God in converting the entrenched Druid presence is Madeleine Polland's Flames over Tara which I read aloud to the boys last year as part of Sonlight 6's first half of world history. The back cover of the book reads, "The year was A.D. 432, and Patrick, first Bishop from Rome to Ireland, arrived in a pagan land whose spiritual life was completely in the power of the Druid Priests and their 'magic.' A mild, warm-hearted, humorous man, Patrick, with his handful of followers, began what seemed an impossible task."

Zimmerman tells us:
Patrick gave his life to share the good news of the gospel, laboring among the Irish people, who had originally kidnaped and enslaved him. With great faithfulness he shared Scripture and the teachings of the Christian faith, converting chieftains and their clans, winning the pagan population to Christ, baptizing hew believers, planting churches, and training leaders for those churches. When Patrick died on March 17, around AD 461, the church was firmly established in Ireland.
I have to admit that I have a very, very difficult time with the evangelical Christians I was reading on Facebook this morning who claim that they wear orange on Patrick's feast day, stating that green is for Catholics and orange is for Protestants. I fear that they are missing the point of this day. We are celebrating today a bold man who obeyed God's call with words almost identical to those of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:8: "Here I am, Lord. Send me!" Obedience to God should not garner "sides" but should be celebrated in unity. Hasn't enough blood been shed in Ireland between the green and the orange? We who love Christ and serve Him are on the same side; Satan is our enemy, not each other. Out of respect for and remembrance of Saint Patrick who apparently was the first missionary to take the gospel outside of the Roman Empire, I think that green should be worn on Saint Patrick's Day. Both Catholics and Protestants can take a leaf from Patrick's book and fervently lead others to Christ to the very ends of the earth, no matter the consequence. Wear orange on Reformation Day if you like, but not on Saint Patrick's Day which to me seems rather like a slap in the face of Patrick and other Catholic missionaries.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lenten Reading: Imitation of God

Over the past few years, I have joined the Father Acker and the Anglicans in Alpine in Lenten readings. Three years ago, I read Frederica Mathewes-Green's First Fruits, a book laying out the Canon of Saint Andrew over forty days. Last year I joined the Anglicans each Wednesday night as we discussed The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis following a vegetarian soup, salad, and bread dinner together.

This Lent I can't make it down to Alpine every Wednesday night for discussion with the Anglicans, but I am reading along with Father Acker's schedule of the classic medieval work by Thomas a`Kempis, Imitation of Christ which besides the Bible is the world's bestselling book. I fell behind last week with our Disneyland trip and busy-ness when we returned home, so I'll be reading double this week to catch up.

Here are a few excerpts from yesterday's readings of Kempis' masterwork:

You must first have peace in your own soul before you can make peace between other people. Peaceable people accomplish more good than learned people do.... But those who are honest and peaceful turn all things to good and are suspicious of no one. (Book 2, Chapter 3)
Humble people are always at peace, even when they are put to shame, because they trust in God and not in the world. So, if you wish to reach the height of perfection, never think of yourself as being virtuous until you know sincerely in your heart that you are the least of all. (Book 2, Chapter 2)
If all goes well with you on earth, how can you expect to be crowned in heaven for a patience you never practiced? How can you be Christ's friend if you will not be opposed? Therefore, you must suffer with Christ and for Christ, if you want to reign with him. (Book 2, Chapter 1)

If you have Christ, you are rich indeed, for only He can fill all your needs. He will be your provider and defender and your faithful helper in every need, so that you need not trust in any other. How quickly people change and fail us; but Christ abides forever and remains at our side until the end.... What are you but an alien and a pilgrim! Only if you are united to Christ will you have rest. (Book 2, Chapter 1)

I feel as if I am underlining the entire book as I read it. It's just one of those little wise books that reveals a gem in every sentence ... one that needs to be read slowly, thoughtfully, meditatively, searchingly. It can take quite some time to reach through the short three chapters each day, chewing on the ideas, attempting not to choke when the words and phrases become too complex to understand on a first, second, or even a third reading. I can easily see why it's the next bestselling book of all time behind the Bible itself. I'm only a third of the way through it at present, and I can't exactly say I'm "enjoying" it, for it is not a book to read quickly or "enjoy." It's a book to be pondered and prayed over as each sentence is read a first time, a second, a third before moving on to the next sentence.

Last spring at Lake Murray's women's retreat, Terry borrowed my copy of Imitation of Christ to read as a devotional book. She haded it back to me just after Easter, claiming that it was one of the best books she had ever read. I have a strong conviction that I will finish the book on Holy Saturday, the final day of Lent. with much the same opinion. if you haven't read it, I encourage you to locate a copy and prayerfully study it, searching your own heart and motivations as well as the will of God.

Wishing you all a Holy Lent....

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Return from Trip ... and Evangelical Culture

Well, we returned from our family trip to Disneyland late Tuesday night, and I had to get ready almost immediately for Thursday's Class Day ... a large stack of essays to grade and classes to prepare. The news then came that one of my dearest friends was in the emergency room and required an appendectomy, so much prayer and yes, some concern, marked the rest of the evening, making it difficult to concentrate on grading essays. After classes, we dropped a card and some mini-roses at the hospital for her.

Friday was taken up with a mad deep cleaning of the house as our doctor and his wife came over to enjoy dinner with us. Keith was a wizard in the kitchen, working his magic with his amazing tortilla soup, his mother's sweet cornbread, and his dark chocolate mousse with freshly whipped cream. The Ademas brought a wonderful green salad with a variety of vegetables, nuts, and berries and a bottle of Trader Joe's chardonnay. I scoured the wine at Trader Joe's following Class Day, and after consulting with their wine expert on what to serve with flavorful Mexican food, settled on a Viognier by Half Moon that the Ademas and I very much enjoyed. We lit the wood burning stove and many candles as we discussed politics, education, medical ethics, and the arts over dinner. Dr. Adema wanted to sneak away with the watercolor Keith's mom painted of Leed's Castle in England which hangs in our main room between two tall oak bookcases Keith made years ago.

So today I am curled up on the sofa with my laptop after sleeping in until 11 AM, resting up after a very busy couple of weeks -- catching up on Facebook, Twitter, and my Google Blog Reader which listed nearly 350 blog posts I'm behind on. I'm just glancing through most of them and am only reading ones that really appeal to me. I ran across an interesting paragraph written by Mark Galli in Christianity Today, quoted by Brian McLaren on his blog:

What I will do, to my dying day, is work with anyone who knows he was lost but now is found, whose Bible is worn because she repeatedly looks there for God to speak, who finds the Cross the most meaningful of symbols, for whom the Resurrection is not just a doctrine but a power, and who wants nothing more than to find new and creative ways to share the evangel of Jesus in word and deed. I'll work with these people no matter what scholars decide to call them.

Mark Galli's entire article can be read by clicking here. He also remarks that as the evangelical church begins to wane, many evangelicals are heading into the liturgical churches, specifically the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. Galli himself is an Anglican and mentions that there is still more outflow from the Anglican church to the evangelical than the other way around at this point, although that direction may change in the future. It's an interesting article in Christianity Today as Galli discusses the Internet Monk blog (Michael Spencer), whom I also read. I follow Galli's blog regularly as well as I find his writing very perceptive yet respectful.

I agree with both McLaren's observation and Galli's words that we need to put aside the labels we place upon other Christians, whether those labels be denominational in origin or more general (liturgical, Pentecostal, high church, low church, evangelical, etc.) and simply, as Galli stated, work with people who love Jesus, take Him at His Word, love and serve others, and who spread the Gospel. And if those people happen to be Roman Catholic, High-Church Anglican, Pentecostal, or whatever, that's not the important thing. It's the vibrancy of their faith, the eagerness to share Christ's Gospel, the passionate compassion for others, and the beliefs set forth in the historic creeds of the church -- Jesus is the Son of God, was resurrected from the dead, etc. It's majoring on the majors, not getting hung up on minor differences.

Yes, these are the Kingdom People I want to be working with, no matter how they are described by others.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Each March my parents give all of us a huge birthday gift: a family trip to either Disneyland/California Adventure or to Knotts Berry Farm, alternating years. This year it's Disney time, so we'll be heading up to the Magic Kingdom early tomorrow (Sunday) morning and will meet my parents and my brother and his two kids at the Holiday Inn closest to Disneyland. If one of our rooms is ready, we'll unload our stuff, but if not, we'll lock up our cars in the lot and hop on the shuttle bus that will take us right to the gates of Disneyland. Dad has already purchased tickets for us, and the least expensive deal for three days in the parks was a limited annual pass, so we'll be able to go to the parks again as long as it's not on a holiday or weekend. (J is already pushing for a Disneyland birthday trip in June.)

Keith won't be going as he needs to work on Monday and Tuesday, plus the rides make him rather dizzy and his back hurts after walking on hard surfaces for such a long time. It just isn't fun for him anymore, but I love it -- everything except the 2.5 to 3-hour drive. But we have multiple iPods synced with U2's new CD and the Mamma Mia! soundtrack, plus Harry Potter books on tape which Keith doesn't like to listen to, but we'll enjoy them very much. We'll miss having him along, but he'll love having a quiet house for three days, all to his highly-introverted self.

The cool thing about this trip is that Keith's aunt gave me her battery-powered scooter for navigating Disneyland. Keith got the long-unused battery charged, and the boys have been running it down all week to see how long it will last. It seems to be running quite well and should last each day (and recharge overnight) just fine. I'll bring my wheelchair as a back-up measure, but the freedom of being to navigate myself around rather than being pushed by increasingly-tired family members will be such a relief! My mom may need my wheelchair anyway as her back has been bothering her a great deal lately. At least it's red and black and looks rather cool ... for a wheelchair, that is.

Although we'll be back late Tuesday night, don't expect a blog post from me until probably Saturday as I'll be coming back to a busy, busy week. I'll have one day to prepare for Class Day (teaching two writing classes) and finish grading essays (which I'll start later today and work on tonight) for Thursday. Plus we have dinner guests (our doctor and his wife, the ones who ordered the Tiffany-style stained glass window) coming on Friday night. I have an odd premonition that Friday may very well be a "home ec" day in our home school with everyone pitching in to clean the house and tidy the yard before dinner that night. Keith will be serving his fabulous Tortilla Soup (with grilled chicken and freshly-fried tortilla strips) and his mother's amazing cornbread (baked in an iron skillet for a crispy crust), and probably Keith's dark chocolate mousse for dessert. And Dr. Adema and Marcia are bringing a green salad. They are really into wine, so I'll have to find a good match for Mexican food. Any ideas?

So this is "goodbye" for about a week. I'll come back with what I hope will be some decent photos and the kids will have such a wonderful time, especially the boys who are eagerly doing yard work for Judith and myself today in order to earn a little spending money for the trip. So, we'll be off to the "Happiest Place on Earth" at approximately 7:00 AM tomorrow, after losing an hour's sleep as the clocks "spring" ahead. See you all later, and I'll go on "It's a Small World" just for YOU.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The 15th and Final Season of ER, continued

I started watching ER in 1994 when it first started and was up against Chicago Hope in the Thursday night 10 PM time slot. We were drawn to both shows because as our perennial favorite Northern Exposure was finishing up, and a minor character from each ended up on the two hospital dramas in the Thursday night line up. I wrote about the final season back in January here if you'd like to read it.

If you aren't keeping up with ER this season, be aware that SPOILERS will be scattered throughout the remainder of the post. So stop reading now if you don't want to know what's going on....

We're down to the final five episodes of the fifteen-year drama, and Carter is back at County General in need of a kidney transplant as a result of the stabbing in which Lucy died and an illness he contracted in Africa. Last night's episode was his third episode back and he finally collapsed, and the closing scene saw Carter being transferred via ambulance to Northwestern, a nearby hospital, being watched by Frank, Jerry, Helee, etc., as he is driven away. Carter is returning in a season of comebacks -- Mark Green, Kerry Weaver, and Romano earlier in the season, and Elizabeth Corday more recently. Just a couple of weeks ago, Morgenstern (William H. Macy) popped up in an episode. Jerry also returned earlier in the season (after Men in Trees was not picked up for another season).

Next week we'll see Peter Benton and Carol Hathaway, presumably to help Carter with his transplant. There are also rumors of the return of Doug Ross (George Clooney), but we haven't seen concrete evidence yet. Susan Lewis is also scheduled to return as well, and Abby, who left at the beginning of the season, is also supposed to be back.

We've seen so many high dramatic moments throughout ER: the deaths of so many characters: Lucy Knight, Mark Green, Romano, Gallant, and even this season with the death of Greg Pratt. I am thinking that we may end up with another death -- Carter's. Hard to say ... will ER end on a joyful note or a sad one? I guess we'll find out as the Final Four episodes conclude the joys and drama that have made ER endure for fifteen years.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

About Blogging ...

Although I have been blogging for over two-and-a-half years (since August 20, 2006), I didn't install a hit counter until just a year ago. I was quite happy to see that over the past year, this blog has received 5,800 hits, not including me as I blocked myself so I would really know how many readers I have. Over the past year, this blog has averaged almost 16 people per day. The "page reads" are a little higher at 8,200 since March 4, 2008.

I love blogging. I have so little time for writing with all of the rush and busy-ness of my life as a wife, the mother of four young people ranging from age 9 to almost 17, homeschooling said four young people, tutoring four more on a weekly basis, teaching two co-op writing classes with a total of 15 students, working for Brave Writer where I facilitate three classes per year and am finishing up this year's monthly Boomerang subscription for a very busy Julie, volunteering with the art council in my small town, and facilitating the monthly writing group, part of the art council. Oh, and meeting with a monthly genealogy group, too, besides being actively involved in two churches.

So blogging answers a deep need for me, providing an opportunity to go beyond simple journaling and write about what matters to me: Anglican theology, writing, saints, literature, prayer, poetry, Scripture, gardening, music, U2, education, photography, the arts, etc. I look forward to blogging all day and find in the expression of my thoughts a stress-release, an unburdening of the soul, an artistic expression, a healing of body, mind, heart. And the icing on the cake is having people alongside me on my journey who read what I write and even comment upon it on occasion. One cannot ask for better than that!

I'm definitely not a Jen at Conversion Diary or an Internet Monk by any means, but I am quite happy to have some solid readers who read my blog regularly. I know some of you from "real life" and others from online and the blogosphere, but some of you I don't know at all. But to all of you, I have just one little message, right from my heart of hearts:


You guys are the best! (Excuse the Californication of "guys," but that's truly how we talk out here.) Thank you for reading and for commenting, for following my journeys in writing and in faith, and especially when they intersect. I appreciate you "guys" very much and am grateful that there are people out there who enjoy reading what I write, that may be encouraged by my journey or might think about life in a slightly different way because of something I wrote. So, once again...


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

U2's No Line on the Horizon

I had my first chance to listen to U2's new CD today after wresting it away from my 16-year-old who bought it for me in the first place as a late birthday present. I loaded it onto my iPod last night and lost the rest of my 1,000+ song library. Don't get me wrong -- I'm ecstatic to be able to listen to U2's newest offering at last, but am really bummed that all I have on my iPod now are the 40-some songs I've purchased from gift cards and only the two CDs I loaded last night: No Line on the Horizon and the Mamma Mia! soundtrack. That's it. I have a slight chance to reload it as I downloaded all my files, possibly including my iTunes library, onto an external hard drive. I'll have to see if Keith can do anything with it. But I will probably have to reload all of those CDs all over again. Sigh.

But back to U2. The boys from Dublin have put together quite an album with a lot of Christian overtones. Two of the song titles definitely bring up matters of faith: "White as Snow" and "Cedars of Lebanon." I have only listened once and mostly while I was driving (which with my old Corolla and a poor sound system meant I heard the tune but not the lyrics) or during J's guitar lessons (with three students plus Father Acker playing a variety of songs). In other words, I still have much to truly listen to -- but my impressions so far is that I ADORE this new CD that is novel and fresh yet totally and absolutely U2. I've heard "Get on Your Boots" a few times, including at the Grammy's, and it's a fun, rockin' song much like "Elevation" and "Vertigo." The song "Stand Up Comedy" is intriguing ... I just caught bits and pieces of it.

So far I really like this new CD ... and am thrilled that U2 is also releasing another CD this fall. The story was published today on E Online which details a Rolling Stone Magazine interview with Bono: Even More New Music Coming from U2

So I'll write more later about No Line on the Horizon as this CD, along with U2's other music, becomes part of my mind, heart, and soul.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Today Is My Birthday!

Today is my 43rd birthday, and it's also the day that my little brother turns 40. I had to send him a horribly mean card -- a family tradition -- and I found a stunner. On the outside it has an adorable little cartoon bird, and across the front of the colorful, cheerful card is written "A little birdie told me it is your 40th birthday!" On the inside, it says something to the effect of: "Or it may have been the angel of death. It was fluttering around, whatever it was." Perfect!

This morning my family gave me a lovely gift: two hours ALONE in our house. Keith took all four of the kids to his office for homeschooling rather than the older two who accompany him every Monday in order to meet with Johanna, my dear college friend who tutors them in algebra, which is so NOT my thing. So I have two hours of complete and utter and beautiful SILENCE this morning while I catch up on e-mail and Facebook after being offline yesterday, the first Sunday in Lent. Taking Sundays as a non-computer day may end up becoming a habit long after Lent is over. I liked the peacefulness of my day. The only thing I did all day was to type up and print the kids' new memory verses for this week's school.

After I finish writing this post, I will spend an hour in silence, actually having a QUIET "quiet time" with the Lord. Miracles can happen, you know. At 11:40, Judith will pick me up and we'll meet Kitty at an Italian restaurant in downtown La Mesa for a birthday lunch with my two favorite poets. I am SO looking forward to this wonderful lunch and spending time absorbing their poetic and godly spirits as we discuss almost everything under the sun. It will be lovely! I hope to have another couple of quiet hours after Judith takes me home, or I may ask her to drop me off at a Starbucks where Keith can pick me up on his way home. I love sitting in a Starbucks, sipping tea and either reading or writing. One of my favorite birthdays was a few years ago when I drove myself to Julian and parked myself and my laptop in the Julian Coffee House all day and wrote up my retreat talk. Just me, my laptop, and many cups of tea (and trips to the ladies' room). Aaaaah, bliss! ( - the tea and writing, not the ladies' room!)

Keith will be making my favorite dinner tonight: spinach-stuffed chicken with white wine sauce. It's a ton of work, pounding and rolling out the chicken and stuffing it with spinach, ricotta, and mushrooms, then making a delightfully light sauce that is spooned over the sliced rolled chicken. It's a beautiful dish and so wonderfully delicious that I can't help groaning in pleasure with every mouthful. Okay, out loud just for the first bite, then inwardly for the rest -- I don't want to annoy the whole family. I will enjoy a glass of pinot grigio with the meal, and I'm not sure what Keith is planning for dessert -- my favorite is Boston Cream Pie, but that's such a lot of work. He has made it for me in the past, so who knows?

Yesterday my Logos friends feted me with a lovely lemon cake after our discussion of Uncle Tom's Cabin (which I am still reading -- about 60 pages left!). They all sang to me, and we had a lovely little celebration with E (who attended in lieu of taking an essay exam on the book which I assigned her for American Lit), Linda, Lalita, Diana, Kitty, Judy, Lisa, and Nancy. Thank you, ladies, for the wonderful surprise, and thanks especially to Linda for bringing the cake! Lemon is one of my favorites.

I'm quite used to sharing my birthday. After all, my younger brother was born on my third birthday. My online friend Colleen was born on this day, the same year as my brother. And Denise, our former arts council director, also shares my birthday. But there is one very famous person (besides writer Tom Wolfe) whose birthday is also this day, and I noticed that Google is featuring his artwork today:

So Happy Birthday to the late Dr. Seuss, who spent his later years living in the San Diego area (La Jolla, to be exact). And thanks to all my friends who have wished me Happy Birthday via e-mail and Facebook! You all are the best! And Happy Birthday to Tom, Colleen, Denise, and Dr. Seuss as well!


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