Monday, August 31, 2009

Quotation of the Week

I was so incredibly out-of-my-mind busy last week with a Brave Writer deadline and starting our home school on Tuesday (and not having half my books -- what I wouldn't give for a Sonlight Brit Lit Instructor's Guide and an ABeka Economics and American Government set! Poor Elizabeth is functioning with only one class right now for her senior year until I can get her books. The boys' math workbooks can wait as they can finish their workbooks from last year, even though they're rather drowning as Jonathan gasps through algebra and Benjamin flails his way through fractions and double-digit multiplication with NO gentle review that allows them to slide slowly into the mathematics whirlpool to acclimate. Nope, they've been flung into the deep end with nary a floatie. Poor babies).

Anywhoooo, I was so incredibly busy that posting my usual Quotation of the Week never happened. And this week as I thumb through my quotation copybook, I am drawn to quotations on art. So here they are -- enjoy!

"I don't paint things. I only paint the difference between things."
-- Henri Matisse

"Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather seen."
-- Leonardo da Vinci

"Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does, the better."
-- Andre Gide
I love quotations. I love reading them, and I love copying them into my little copybook. When I find a sentence or two that sparkle on the page -- or on the computer screen -- I suck in my breath and reach for my rosewood dip pen with the steel nib and my bottle of ink. Removing the cork of the glass bottle of sepia ink, I carefully dip the nib into the swirling ink to the precise depth of maximum writing without blots, bring the nib to the thick white paper, and start letting ink flow into words and letters. The satisfaction when the quotation is copied in old-fashioned sepia ink sends wriggles of joy up my spine. Joy. Yes, joy.

Words are my tools, and I love them -- when they are assembled into the perfect order, it's simply magic.

An Interview with Dean

My creative writing professor from Point Loma Nazarene University (and who kindly shared his office with me when I taught there as an adjunct) was interviewed on Friday by a local news station regarding his new book, God Hiding in Plain Sight. Dean is the founder and director of PLNU's journalism department and the man behind the Writers' Symposium by the Sea each February.

My internet service is being pokey tonight, and it wouldn't let me upload the video, but at least I have a link for you. You may watch the interview here: Dean's Interview

I am looking forward to reading it -- I adore the topic of examining the seven sacraments in light of discovering the sacred in everyday life. Perhaps I can sweetly beg for an autographed copy?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Middle Place

Warning: The review below contains a few mild plot spoilers, but no more than one would gain from reading the dust jacket.

When our Logos Reading and Discussion Group at Lake Murray Community Church recommended books for our third year, my friend Kim highly recommended The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan (2008). It was one of the few books on our combined lists with which I was not familiar, but I took Kim's recommendation quite seriously and, after checking that our library system had adequate copies, put it on the schedule for July. The discussion was moved to August when Kim's nursing schedule conflicted because we really want her to be present as she has recommended the book so highly. And it's actually the first book in about a year that I haven't spent all of the Saturday before our meeting frantically finishing; I completed it last night and am feeling rather smug, thankyouverymuch.

I started the book just last weekend and was immediately sucked into Corrigan's easy-breezy, humorous prose that sparkles despite the serious subject matter: cancer. Kelly Corrigan, a mother in her mid-thirties to two girls three and below, finds a lump and walks us through diagnosis and treatment with a tone of humor, reality, and poignancy. Intermixed with her present experiences of wife, mother, and cancer patient are scenes from her childhood as George Corrigan's daughter -- growing up with a bubbly Irish Catholic lacrosse coach who cheered his children constantly, always looking for and seeing the best in his children as well as in everyone he meets.

Kelly Corrigan examines "the middle place" where she is both child and parent, telling stories of her childhood fraught with joy and hilarity juxtaposed against her diagnosis and treatment for bre*ast cancer which she attempts to handle with her father's positive outlook and his unfailing support. She leans on her father almost as much as her husband, sometimes wishing her husband to be as supportive as her father, but they come behind her in different and helpful ways, and she learns to value and love her husband even more as she endures treatment. Corrigan's writing sparkles with details that make her writing ebb and flow in just the right places, transparent in a human way that almost everyone will be able to relate to.

Her writing reminds me of Anne Lamott's -- that self-deprecating humor, the transparency, not concerned with making herself "look good" but wanting to not only remove the mask we all hide behind but stomp on it with ecstatic joy in our humanity. I found myself laughing and crying as I read, especially as Kelly struggles with her dad's diagnosis of prostate cancer shortly after her own diagnosis. Living on opposite coasts, they pull together in their common treatments, George Corrigan relying on his robust, devout Catholic faith and Kelly relying on friends and family as well as on her father's faith, a faith she seems close to embracing by the end of the book -- although I may be reading between the lines a bit too much.

The genre of the memoir is one of my favorites which can be seen in my list of favorite modern writers: Anne Lamott, Kathleen Norris, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Fr. James Martin, Peter Gilquist, Donald Miller, Scott Hahn, Thomas Howard, especially when these writers are focused on the development of their Christian lives. Kelly Corrigan falls short in this one area of not writing about her faith (although she does discuss her father's faith), but I still absolutely enjoyed The Middle Place and look forward to what Kelly Corrigan might be working on right now. I can't wait to discuss her book tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon with my Logos friends, especially as we have some new people coming over the summer.

And next month: Les Miserables! I'd better start reading NOW....

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Baptist Discusses Communion

(Father Acker and Benjamin as Acolyte prepare the Eucharistic elements in Victoria Chapel)

This afternoon while consuming some delicious leftover Chicken Parmigiana (one of our family's specialities), I scrolled through Facebook and discovered a new post from Michael Spencer, a.k.a The Internet Monk on a Baptist Concept of Communion. Intrigued (especially as our Evangelical Free Church is quite similar to the Baptist denomination in many ways), I started perusing the article, gearing up in my mind to disagree with the Baptist professor Michael has interviewed. Imagine my pleased surprise in finding myself "Amen"-ing Dr. Timothy George in my head as I read his reply to Michael's question. I reproduce the question and answer below in their entirety:

[Michael writes:] ...Dr. Timothy George continues to serve as the founding dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham and a senior editor of Christianity Today. He is a participant in the project known as Evangelicals and Catholics Together and also serves on the International Baptist-Catholic Dialogue team.

I recently wrote Dr. George and asked for his comments on this question: “How can Baptists respond to Catholic and Orthodox Christians who challenge our view of the Lord’s Supper as having no deeper historical/Biblical roots than Zwingli?”

Dr. George was kind enough to send along this reply. I’m deeply appreciative of his generosity.

Among many Baptist Christians there is a growing awareness that the Supper of the Lord should have a more prominent (and frequent) place in the life of worship, as it certainly did in the early church. There is also the realization that a more robust doctrine of (what Calvin called) the real spiritual presence of Christ in the Supper is called for by the participationist language of the New Testament itself and is in keeping with the best traditions of Baptist life. No less a figure than Charles Haddon Spurgeon portrayed the Lord’s Supper as nothing less than an encounter with the living Christ himself: “At all times when you come to the communion table, count it to have been no ordinance of grace to you unless you have gone right through the veil into Christ’s own arms, or at least have touched his garment, feeling that the first object, the life and soul of the means of grace, is to touch Jesus Christ himself.” [Note from Susanne: This quote from Spurgeon deserves copying into my Quotations Journal!]

For most of our history, Baptists have been more concerned with the externals of the Table—grape juice or real wine, who may preside, who may partake—rather than with the question of what actually goes on at this sacred meal. It is well known that Luther and Zwingli differed strongly, and actually broke fellowship with one another, over the meaning of the words of institution, “This is my body.” Historically, Baptists have belonged more to the Reformed (whether Zwinglian or Calvinist) side of that debate, but it is important to realize that all of the mainline reformers reacted against the displacement of the Lord’s Supper as the central focus of Christian worship in medieval Catholicism. They criticized the fact that the Eucharist had become clericalized (the service in Latin and only bread for the laity), commercialized (votive masses used as a fundraising scheme in much of the church), and scholasticized (the dogma of transubstantiation and the view of the mass as a sacrifice).

The reformers harked back to the teaching of the New Testament, the practice of the early church, and especially to the theology of St. Augustine. Augustine argued that in the sacrament the sign must be identified as a sign by a word spoken about it, thus making the sacrament itself a “visible word.” In commenting on John 6:50, Augustine wrote: “ ‘He who eats of this bread will not die.’ But that means the one who eats what belongs to the power of the sacrament, not simply to the visible sacrament; the one who eats inwardly, not merely outwardly; the one who eats the sacrament in the heart not just the one who crushes it with his teeth” (In Ev. Joh. Tract. 26.12). While Luther could speak of the manducatio impiorum, “the eating of the ungodly,” the Reformed tradition picked up Augustine’s distinction and emphasized the cruciality of faith for the proper reception of the beneficium of grace in the Supper. This same theology they found echoed in other pre-reformation figures including Ratramnus, Wycliffe, and Hus. What they rejected, in keeping with Luther, was an understanding of the sacrifice of the mass as an expression of works-righteousness, a theology which seemed to them to undermine the all-sufficiency of Jesus’s once-and-for-all death on the cross—where, as Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer put it, he offered “a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.”

Since the sixteenth century, and especially in the liturgical renewal stemming from Vatican II, many of the changes called for by the reformers have been accepted in the practice of the Catholic Church. Yet important, church-dividing differences still remain and I think the Church of Rome is right to resist the kind of easy-going ecumenism that would ignore such differences in order to achieve a false unity. In our discussions with our Catholic brothers and sisters, we Baptists and evangelicals must learn to distinguish the unity we are called to affirm and the divisions we must still sustain. But this we should do in the spirit of Jesus’s high priestly prayer for his disciples in John 17—“that they may be one, Father, as you and I are one so that world may believe.”

Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers
Steve Harmon, Towards Baptist Catholicity
Geoffrey Wainwright, Eucharist and Eschatology
I agree with basically everything that Dr. George writes above which is quite remarkable given my Anglicized view of the Eucharist. I only hope that more Baptist, other evangelical denominations, and non-denominational pastors/churches take heed and follow through on Dr. George's views of both Communion and ecumenism; I truly appreciate how he writes of Catholics as our "brothers and sisters" as he strives for respect and unity within our catholic (universal) Christian Church.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Serving God by Serving People

(Image from

In 2006 our church of sixteen years, Lake Murray Community Church in La Mesa, California, (San Diego County, in case you're not a local) sent a team of 21 adults and young people to Seneg*al, West Africa. I already have a homeschooling e-friend living in that country who has been part of several online communities and Yahoo Groups (currently a prayer group) serving as a missionary with her family in that country, so I possessed some familiarity with Seneg*al. Our team helped missionaries in the country and also went out to the villages to serve.

Why Seneg*al? One of the leaders of the 2006 Seneg*al group from our church grew up in the country as the child of missionaries and now is seeking to return there as a missionary himself with his wife and two sons. As they finish raising the requisite support and then attend foreign language training, our church desires a closer relationship with the Seneg*alese, especially those in villages outside the big cities.

Our church has the idea of supporting a single village over (at least) the next five years, helping them with needs for clean water, for education, for medical care, for nutritious food, etc., sending smaller teams to Africa every 12-18 months, with the first trip planned for March 2010. We will build relationships with these people and help supply some of their physical needs as well as their spiritual need for Christ.

I'm really excited about this opportunity. Our church already supports another missionary family in North Africa who came from Lake Murray and are good friends of our family. In addition, over ten years ago, our church adopted the Turkm*en people group, and our former pastor is still quite active in serving the Turkm*en people in the several countries in which they live. Several of our church's young people have served in East Asia, with one just returning to continue to serve in a predominantly Musl*im area.

Our church also supports missionaries serving here in the the States -- a family in Idaho/Wyoming who minister to migrant farm workers, another family who trains missionaries in Wisconsin, plus two local families in which the husbands serve as Kaiser hospital chaplains (unpaid positions). Each month a group from Lake Murray fires up the grill to serve dinner to the homeless in downtown San Diego, with everyone from the pastors to small children helping make the venture a success on the first Friday of every month.

I love seeing God use His people to help others in need. We all need a hug from "Jesus with skin on," as we sometimes call our Christian friends. We are knit together, heart and soul, by the One who created us and who is glorified as we serve in His Name. I am looking forward greatly to seeing how His Will shall unfold in the days and weeks, the months and years to come.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. (The Gloria Patri)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Liberals and Conservatives

(Image from

As I type this, I just heard on Fox News and CNN that Senator Edward Kennedy died this evening at age 77 from brain cancer after serving in the US Senate since 1962, one of the longest-serving Senators ever and the youngest of the nine Kennedy offspring. As a conservative-leaning person, I have disagreed far more with the late Senator than I have agreed with him, although I have found myself on "his side" in a few issues.

The "rivalry" (for lack of a better word) between liberals and conservatives is something that has deeply troubled me. Tonight I read an article that quite nicely summarized many of my experiences on the university campuses (campii??) at which I have taught. You may read it here: Perspectives: Republicans Are Evil.

I grew up with my father's staunchly Democratic parents on one side and my mother's conservative family on the other, despite the fact that my staid, proper Democratic grandparents looked down upon my mom's rather wild "hippy" Republicans -- rather an upside down situation. Later (probably after his father's death) my dad changed his party affiliation to Republican, and myself, my brother, and my sister remain committed to conservative values of small government, the value of small businesses, states' rights over government control, lower taxes, etc. Even though I didn't find John McCain a true fiscal and social conservative, I and our four children volunteered in the local Republican Party office because we believe strongly in small government and states' control rather than a large federal government.

At age 18 I voted proudly for Ronald Reagan. I gritted my teeth through Clinton's eight years yet found myself frustrated with George W. Bush for not taking a more conservative stand on national safety at our California/Mexico border, of which I live a mere 17 miles north. I greatly admire Alan Keyes whose articulation of the conservative platform and lack of politico-speak led me to vote for him in the primaries of 2000 and 2008; thus, I voted for an African-American candidate eight years before Barack Obama and again during Obama's campaign as well.

But the utter hatred I have experienced because of my rather conservative views has shocked me. The first semester that I taught at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego was the fall of 1992 when Bill Clinton was elected President, and California also ushered in two Democratic female Senators: Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both of whom remain in office nearly twenty years later. The majority of students in my classes were upset on the morning after the election, but the majority of the Literature Department Faculty were ecstatic. One female professor asked me happily, "Aren't you thrilled that we've elected two women Senators?" I replied, "Not those women." She looked shocked, her smile disappearing. Somehow, because I was an educator, it was assumed that I was liberal. I have nothing against the idea of female Senators; I simply agree with very little if anything that Feinstein and Boxer support.

I was still teaching at Point Loma during the 1996 presidential campaign and was berated by a beloved literature professor for supporting Dole over Clinton. I was accused of wanting to take school lunches away from needy children, and when I asked in disbelief if this professor truly believed that Republicans were "out to starve children," he banged his fist on the secretary's desk and cried, "Yes! They are all rich white men who are greedy warmongers and who enjoy nothing better than starving poor children!" I tried to explain that with lower taxes, our family's small business could actually support our children so we could pay for our own children's lunches, but he insisted that Republicans indeed were evil.

But one can indeed be a "compassionate conservative" who wants to be a good steward of our environment (but sees that balance is quite possible and desirable between being "green" and being a member of PETA). One can support Welfare reform and still be compassionate toward the poor -- such as serving dinner at a local homeless shelter, a monthly event that our church does monthly. One can indeed support education choices ("school vouchers" and home schooling) and be an educator. One can support private, faith-based programs for caring for the poor rather than the government. One can be against abortion and not support government-run health care but still be a caring person ... one who values life and health but doesn't want the same government that is almost twelve trillion dollars in debt and charges $500 per toilet seat to attempt to run our health care system. Canadians with a similar system who can afford to do so often creep over the border and pay for their health treatments in the US, but the poor up north are stuck with the Canadian system with insanely and dangerously long waits for treatment. A friend who admires Obama likened health care reform to school choice -- but with school choice, only the rich can afford private schools and everyone else is stuck with public education unless one is willing to give up a career and home school their children ... and still pay full property taxes. Not much of a choice, really.

The article's point and mine: Republicans really are not "evil people who wish to starve poor children." Our family income is well below average; small business owners get short shrift when it comes to our federal government, so for our benefit, we see that less government is better government. The federal government should protect our borders, provide national defense, and keep to the simple stuff that the Constitution permits them to do. Even the federal income tax is technically illegal, a fact that FDR admitted at the time he proposed it. Let the federal government take care of what it is supposed to, and allow the states to deal with the rest. And that's certainly not an "evil" idea ... although I am sure some will indeed call it (and me) so. And it will be far from the first time, unfortunately.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Recap of God at Work!

Last night Elizabeth treated the two of us to dinner at Taco Bell and then to another showing of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to cap off our Girls' Night Out. It was the perfect way to finish off a day of blessings.

Most of you know about our financial situation. The state of the economy has greatly impacted Keith's custom-home drafting business of 25 years. Over the past few years it's been shrinking and shrinking until it basically came to a screeching halt last September. My medical debts made our situation even more formidable. Keith's dad has been helping us most generously, and my parents have been employing Keith to make improvements to their mountain cabin and install an elevator in their beach house. Friends have been asking him to do various jobs around their homes -- handyman work stuff: retiling bathrooms, redoing windows and doors, fixing furniture, painting interiors and some exterior trim, etc. But it's been very tight financially and especially so this summer when the food stores got low and we got behind on bills.

Trying to plan for homeschooling our four kids has been difficult with NO money for books. We've been part of the same home school private satellite program since 1997, Heritage Christian School, a group of hundreds of families with Class Day co-ops meeting in at least five locations in San Diego County. Being enrolled in Heritage also requires being enrolled in the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) which we have also belonged to for twelve years. All summer the $150 re-enrollment fee for Heritage and $95 re-enrollment fee for HSLDA have been hanging over our heads. When I received the latest e-bill from Heritage, I wrote back, relating our situation and assuring them that we would pay when we could (and hoping their would let my kids start co-op classes anyway). The accountant e-mailed me, advising me to check with HSLDA and ask if they would consider waiving the re-enrollment cost. I e-mailed them on Wednesday afternoon.

Around 11:30 on Thursday morning I received a phone call from a represenative from HSLDA (fewer than 24 hours after my e-mail), informing me that "an anonymous donor" had offered to pay our $95 annual fee for this year. I was in tears of joy and relief, and the sweet woman from HSLDA was, too. I could barely tell the kids the good news because of the huge lump in my throat. A huge burden had been lifted!

Within an hour I received a second call, this one from Heritage, telling me that "a family who wishes to remain anonymous" paid our $150 re-enrollment fee. We will still have monthly tuition to pay, but that re-enrollment fee had been hanging over my head since June. Again tears of joyous relief flowed!

Earlier this week I received a Sonlight box sent by a e-friend/blog reader/writer extraordinaire containing two books we really needed: a Saxon Algebra I test booklet for Timothy and the one book for Elizabeth's Sonlight British Lit program that I didn't own and wasn't available from our library system. This sweet woman prayed when I asked her to, and God told her to send books! We are so grateful!!!

The same day a longtime friend from Heritage (her daughter and Elizabeth started off in Kindergarten together and are both high school seniors this year) sent us a check for our needs. It was sooo wonderful to receive help from the family of God like this. And just a couple of weeks ago when our food pantry was quite low, someone in our church slipped an envelope with $50 in it onto my seat during our greeting time. Another friend is sharing her lit curriculum with us so our boys can have literary discussions together. And yet another friend is sending Timothy a few pairs of pants.

We still don't have all the books we need for school this year, but we have enough to get started. If anyone happens to have the Sonlight 530 (Brit Lit) program that I can borrow until we can purchase one, please let us know.

Also on Thursday, Keith's sister let our two older boys go through her son's closet (he's in the military and doesn't want the clothes anymore), and they came home with a backpack and four bags of clothing, including four pairs of jeans that fit Timothy, our tall boy! I'm so thrilled. And Elizabeth and I went shopping for our Girls' Night Out and she bought a few things for herself since she received her paychecks earlier in the day from her job at the Bible Camp. She's so sweet to treat the two of us to dinner at Taco Bell, candy for the movie at Target, and then a second viewing of one of my favorite Harry Potter movies.

We have been showered with blessings lately! God is sooooo good, and His people are incredible! Thanks be to God for His generous people!!! We love to give, and have done so in past years, and now it's our turn to receive. I'd much rather be on the giving end, but seeing God work out our problems through His people is truly awe-inspiring! Thank you so much -- you know who you are!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

(Image from

St. Bernard of Clairvaux was a medieval abbot who did much: he helped heal a schism in the medieval Church; he helped reform and revive monasteries by bringing almost the entire male side of his family into monastery life and in his life as a reform-minded abbot; he wrote beautiful hymns that survive to this day and are still sung in modern churches; he wrote incredible theology treatises still referred to today; he preached impassioned sermons to nobility and commoners alike. St. Bernard was a man used by God to reform and heal the fractured Church of the medieval period.

Born and living in the first half of the twelfth century, Bernard as a very young man was passionate about following Christ. You may read more about his biography below in today's "Saint of the Day" e-mail from

Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But the “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days.

In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light.

His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know.

Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope.
Bernard also wrote several hymns that survive to this day. The one I know best from its inclusion in my favorite hymns CD, 4Him Hymns, is "Sacred Head Now Wounded," but I also like the one I post below, copied from net hymnal:

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest Name,
O Savior of mankind!

O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.

Jesus, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize will be;
Jesus be Thou our glory now,
And through eternity.

O Jesus, King most wonderful
Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou sweetness most ineffable
In Whom all joys are found!

When once Thou visitest the heart,
Then truth begins to shine,
Then earthly vanities depart,
Then kindles love divine.

O Jesus, light of all below,
Thou fount of living fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire.

Jesus, may all confess Thy Name,
Thy wondrous love adore,
And, seeking Thee, themselves inflame
To seek Thee more and more.

Thee, Jesus, may our voices bless,
Thee may we love alone,
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.

O Jesus, Thou the beauty art
Of angel worlds above;
Thy Name is music to the heart,
Inflaming it with love.

Celestial Sweetness unalloyed,
Who eat Thee hunger still;
Who drink of Thee still feel a void
Which only Thou canst fill.

O most sweet Jesus, hear the sighs
Which unto Thee we send;
To Thee our inmost spirit cries;
To Thee our prayers ascend.

Abide with us, and let Thy light
Shine, Lord, on every heart;
Dispel the darkness of our night;
And joy to all impart.

Jesus, our love and joy to Thee,
The virgin’s holy Son,
All might and praise and glory be,
While endless ages run.

-- St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Some of my evangelical friends ask me why I am so interested in the saints. I love reading their stories because they were people just like me -- rather more talented, yes -- but people who strove to live this mortal life to the glory of Christ our Saviour. They may have done great things with vast love and humility, or they may have done little things with great understanding and devotion, but either way their lives shine with the infusion of the Holy Spirit. I wish my life to shine like theirs for the glory of God.

St. Paul stated in his epistle to the Philippians, "What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me -- practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:9, ESV). We are to imitate those whom Christ has placed in our lives as examples. The beauty of the catholic (as in "universal," not necessarily Roman) Church is that we are not limited by time and place in imitation of those who have walked the Pilgrim Pathway well. The stories of Biblical people such as Silas, Barnabas, Luke, Paul, Peter, John, and many others are infused with God's leading Spirit, and so are the stories of the saints who follow after them through the 2,000 years of Kingdom history. We can be inspired by their lives, their sacrifices, their martyrdom, their very words that survive to this day -- inspired to live our lives more fully devoted to Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour who lived the only perfect life upon this earth and is the One most worthy of our emulation.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Book Review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

Something about the antique look to the cover of this brand new title and the thin but perfect old-fashioned sepia script of the inside covers persuaded me to scoop it up and attempt to read it in a week, as is required of all Reader's Express books at our library. I completed only half of the book in seven days, and reluctantly returned it, only to go back the same evening and check it back out so that I could finish it. And it was well worth the wait.

The first novel by Katherine Howe, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane chronicles the tale of Connie Goodwin, a Harvard doctoral candidate in 1991 (the year I completed grad school, BTW), who must clean out her grandmother's deserted New England home and discovers a piece of paper that possesses ties to the Salem Witchcraft Trials. Two parallel stories emerge as Deliverance's very real powers are misconstrued and she is hanged as a witch, with repercussions to her daughter Mercy and granddaughter Prudence. As we follow Connie's uncovering of the truth as she exercises her formidable researching skills, ties between her research and her own life are slowly unearthed. Meanwhile, her Harvard advisor is strangely putting a great deal of pressure on her, even threatening her, to discover the book of recipes and herbal remedies written by Deliverance Dane, a book that was passed down through the generations of the Dane women.

Through the several stories bridging the generations, Connie discovers the power of the Dane women and her own powers as knowledge and even a little romance lead her to the truth, her truth. The search for the Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is a compelling tale, half Salem Witch stories and half a modern telling of a young grad student discovering much about her family and herself as well.

Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club (which I very much liked), wrote:

"A fresh present-day story infused with an original take on popular history. Forget broomsticks and pointy hates; here are witches that could well be walking among just today. This debut novel flows with poetic charm and eloquence that achieves high literary merit while concocting a gripping supernatural puzzler. Katherine Howe's talent is spellbinding."
This book is brand-new and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's a good summer read, especially for those who enjoy history and research as I do. It might feel a little "slow" for some accustomed to John Grisham or Sue Grafton, but if one is more of a Dorothy Sayers or P.D. James fan, then one will recognize the mastery of suspense without gratuitous violence and/or gore. It is well-worth slogging through the detritus of academia in order to get to the heart of the matter, to the Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Quotations of the Week: The End of Summer

(Image from

This week marks our final week of summer vacation. A mere week from today we'll be starting our 12th year of home education and our last year of having all four of our young people in our home school as Elizabeth will graduate from high school in the spring.

It's been a quiet summer, a summer of staying home and spending time together. The boys have just about worn out their ancient X-Box, purchased used with their own money a few years ago. Often the kids laze around in their pajamas for the majority of the day, watching movies, reading, playing on their Nintendo DS's, making up card games that they then teach each other. In the late afternoon when the mountain temperature drops below 100 degrees at last, the kids venture outside, back into the tree house where the boys sleep each night, over to the park to play tennis, out bike riding to the library or to the playground. We've had a few beach days, a few trips into San Diego, but mostly we've been at home.

The summer has slipped by so quickly, time sliding through our fingers like beach sand. We have a few plans for this final week: a beach day with my brother and his two kids (J's and B's ages) at my parents' place, a "girls' day out" with Elizabeth to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince again and do some clothes shopping with her earnings from the Bible Camp, and perhaps something else "fun." The kids spent this past weekend with my dad and brother and their cousins at my parents' mountain cabin 2000 feet above our mountain town, only a 20-minute drive. They've had fun this summer, even if it hasn't been all that they've wanted to do.

So in this light of this summer almost past, I post my Quotations of the Week:

"There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want."

-- Calvin and Hobbes

"There is nothing like staying home for real comfort."

-- Jane Austen
Both are so true. And especially true of the lazy days of summer.

My Favorite Place to Study...

(The Immaculata, University of San Diego, image from

I attended the University of San Diego (USD), a Roman Catholic university, for graduate school in English from 1989-1991. I immediately bonded with department chair, Dr. Elizabeth Walsh, who received her PhD from Harvard. A tiny nun with a gentle voice, Sister Betsy, as she insisted we call her, was a medieval scholar of first rank, and as the medieval period was my biggest "hole," i.e., the area I had studied least at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU), I took a whole year of Chaucer with Sister Betsy plus a couple other classes in medieval literature; in fact, because I took so many medieval lit classes, I chose that time period to be the focus of my comprehensive examinations (comps) which the USD English Department required instead of a Master's thesis at that time. Later I found out that the reason for this no-thesis policy was that so many students who had completed their coursework did not finish their thesis and thus did not receive their degrees.

(Copley Library at the University of San Diego, image from

During my two years at USD, I spent the vast majority of my time in Copley Library. Because the English Department would not accept my Spanish courses as my foreign language -- Latin, French, and German were the only acceptable languages -- I took four semesters of undergrad German while in graduate school. And because of these four extra courses, I had to take extra grad classes in the summer and during Intercession (between semesters in January). So, I rarely had a break from study during those two years. I also worked as Sister Betsy's research assistant -- USD has no teacher's assistants (TA's) as all professors are required to teach their own classes. So I spent hours in Copley Library, researching for Sister Betsy as well as studying.

(The Reading Room in Copley Library, University of San Diego, image from

The Reading Room pictured above became the English grad students' favorite place to study, especially when our comps were hanging over our heads. We spent hours each day after classes in the balcony area, spreading our books and notebooks over the large tables, sitting near the open windows that allowed in the rose-scented spring breezes. The beautiful weather, the light winds from the east tossing the the multi-colored roses on their slender, thorned stems, the occasional sea breeze from Mission Bay to the west, all called us out of the library, beckoning us to close our books and enjoy the gorgeous outdoors. But we resolutely turned away from the arched windows, concentrating instead on the list of 19th century British novelists, on the stack of medieval dates to memorize, on the poems to be read and analyzed as we spent hours each day preparing for our six hours of comprehensive exams. Passing meant we would receive our Master of Arts degrees; failure meant we wouldn't.

I still like to return to the Copley Library Reading Room when I have some heavy-duty studying or writing to do. The large, sunny room is always silent except for the whisper of pages being turned and the scratch of pens and pencils across paper. Occasionally a student or librarian walks across the room, their heels echoing on the hardwood floors between the thick area rugs, but it's the loudest sound one hears in the room. Ever.

I wrote a significant portion of my retreat talk a few years ago in this room, clicking away on my laptop's keyboard. That's a sound I'm not accustomed to in this room; when I was in grad school, laptop computers were unheard of. One might type up essays on a PC or on a typewriter, but computers were not used at all the way they are now. I took up an entire table myself -- ignoring the other five chairs and spreading out my books and notes as I composed the three talks that would make up the Lake Murray weekend retreat on contemplative prayer that I was leading. It felt wonderful to be back in the Reading Room, feeling the silence nestle into mind and soul as words began to flow so freely that my fingers blurred in my attempts to capture each thought.

Some places are just perfect for writing, for me at least. I need to get away from home, from chores and children and to-do lists and phones, in order to write freely, and the Reading Room is my favorite place to do so. When I can't drive all the way to the coast, a Starbucks or other coffee shop will do in a pinch. The Julian Coffee Company is another place I worked on the retreat talks, writing all day with a large green tea within easy reach. Writing is hard work and requires for me a detachment of place - a place where I won't be bothered and where my concentration is uninterrupted. Beautiful surroundings are definitely a bonus. And the Reading Room at the University of San Diego is just such a place.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Favorite Place to Browse...

Bookstores have long been among my favorite places to spend a few moments, or hours, of relaxation. The connection between "bookstore" and "relaxation" is a rather new concept in my life as I worked in bookstores on and off for ten years during high school, college, and grad school, first at B. Dalton mall stores in El Cajon (Parkway Plaza) and La Mesa (Grossmont Center), and then at the HBJ Bookstore in the basement of the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishing Company in downtown San Diego. The HBJ Bookstore was the largest non-university bookstore in San Diego County in the late '80s and early '90s until the "big bookstores" started moving into our area: Bookstar, Barnes and Noble, Borders.

But during my breaks from the HBJ Bookstore, I often trotted over to Seventh and Broadway to browse to my heart's content in Wahrenbrock's Bookstore, San Diego's oldest bookstore (opened in 1935) -- three stories of used books with that wonderful musty-dusty used bookstore scent that immediately relaxes the stress in my neck and shoulders upon entering a used bookstore. The late Chuck Valverde and red-bearded Jan of Wahrenbrock's knew me as "the girl with the golden hair" -- I suppose from the sun glinting off my auburn hair as I stepped into the store at least once per week.

Over the years I have browsed in many a San Diego County used bookshop, from the rightly famed Adams Avenue Books (where my former student Erin works) to little hole-in-the-wall shops in Alpine. But my favorite used bookstore is found in Old La Mesa: Maxwell's House of Books.

Craig Maxwell is the grandson of the original owner of Wahrenbrock's, and his store is light, airy, and well-organized, all quite the opposite of my frequent Wahrenbrock's forays. Craig and his wife Lynn are lovely people, and the musty-dusty used bookstore smell is far less pungent than my memory of his grandfather's establishment, but it's still there, faintly noticeable when I pull a book from the Shakespeare section to peruse.

Maxwell's House of Books boasts a wonderful literature selection, a respectable literary criticism section, and an entire bookcase devoted to Shakespeare, the backside displaying nicely assorted shelves of playwrights and theatre arts. As I follow the "More Books" sign painted directly on the back wall, I find myself in another well-organized book-filled room in which I find shelves devoted to the study of theology, mostly Christian. Craig and Lynn are Christians; I first met them at Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity, and they currently worship at Holy Trinity in Ocean Beach, another conservative Anglican Church that pulled away from the Episcopal Diocese in San Diego. So their Christian theology section is well-stocked with books on church history, CS Lewis, theology, studies on specific books of the Bible, etc. With chairs scattered throughout the store, Maxwell's House of Books provides a very pleasant place to wile away a couple of hours of delightful reading.

Maxwell's House of Books is located on La Mesa Boulevard midway between Palm Avenue and Spring Street on the south side of the street next to a travel agent. Parking can be at a premium on the metered streets of Downtown La Mesa, but on weekdays shoppers find parking to be a cinch. So if you live in the San Diego area, stop by Maxwell's House of Books. It's truly a dangerous place for my budget, but I try to escape with only one title rather than the teetering stack I often desire, a circumstance for which Keith is quite thankful as I've maxed out the eight book cases in our home. Come by Maxwell's House of Books for a leisurely browse which will be be well-worth your time and your wallet.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Health Care Reform?

The health care debate raging right now among both Democrats and Republicans ignores a growing component of health care: Christians sharing each other's burdens instead of insurance.

Keith has been self-employed for over 25 years, and obtaining health insurance when one is self-employed can be likened to climbing K-2. As a couple back in 1990, several plans wanted $800 per month for just the two of us. So you can compute how much insurance for self-employed costs now, almost 20 years later, plus adding our four children? Most health plans are way out of reach for the vast majority of the self-employed.

We had catastrophic coverage only for the first seven years of our marriage. Just as I was pregnant with our first child, the publishing company where I worked part-time offered us full coverage which we gladly accepted only a week before severe complications occurred in my pregnancy, necessitating several hospital stays and a C-section birth. I experienced further complications soon after Elizabeth's birth with the C-section itself. After months of painful cortisone shots that didn't help and months of being unable to stand up straight because of the pain of the scar, I finally begged my way to surgery to clear out the scar tissue. I was on the phone day after day, unable to work, tearfully begging paper-pushers to approve my surgery. It was humiliating, but it was the only way to move the system forward.

Once I was working at Point Loma Nazarene University, we had different coverage that was a slight improvement -- but once I quit to stay home with my kids and our COBRA option ran out, we were once again stuck with no health coverage we could afford except Kaiser, an HMO that proponents of government health care hold up as a model of what the government system will strive to be. Kaiser was great with pediatrics as the kids grew up and with my complicated pregnancies except for Benjamin's birth. Both of us were endangered by Kaiser's shortcuts of not doing an ultrasound before inducing labor, an oversight that almost cost Benjamin's life and necessitated an emergency C-section to remove him because of severe decelerations of Benjamin's heartbeat, down into the 50's (normal is around 150). During the C-section, they had crash carts ready, one for me with my erratic and uncontrolled heart rate and one for the baby. It was terrifying.

After I finished "birthin' babies" I was still having occasional problems with erratic heart rates and chronic pain, all of which were dismissed by my Kaiser nurse practitioners and the occasional doctor -- it was rare to see an actual doctor at Kaiser. After seeing an out-of-service chiropractor (paid for out-of-pocket) who sent me immediately to my medical doctor, I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia by a doctor who "specialized" in the chronic pain condition; a third of her patients were diagnosed with the condition. Within six months of my original diagnosis, I was wheelchair-bound and in so much pain that I was basically bedridden. The doctor tried prescription after prescription, but nothing helped. She referred me to pain specialists who dismissed my pain because I "smiled too much to really be in pain" so the pain must be "all in your head." After over a year of useless experimentation, my "specialist in fibromyalgia" finally referred me to the psychiatry department because she couldn't do anything to help me and "they have more meds." Now wheelchair bound everywhere but home, I wept, totally disabled by pain that no one understood, not even my doctors.
So I finally started to see an osteopath -- a full M.D. with additional training in "blended medicine." Again out-of-pocket. And the first words he said to me was that the pain was NOT "in your head at all -- it was REAL; it was physical, not psychological, and it could be treated." He advised our family to leave Kaiser "before they convince you that your pain is imaginary" and to join a Christian medical sharing plan called Samaritan Ministries. He had just shifted his own family over to this sharing plan in which we pay the bills of other Christians. Each month we receive a packet in the mail with a list of prayer requests and the newsletter listing one family whose name, address, and health need is given. We are to write a note of encouragement along with our check to this family, and we are to pray for them for the next month.

It wasn't until my osteopath stepped outside the bounds of my diagnosis and followed the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis given by my chiropractor, a diagnosis not supported by my medical tests, that I finally experienced some pain relief. Despite mostly negative tests, Dr. A. treated me according to the protocol for rheumatoid arthritis with prednisone and extremely strong narcotic meds (fentanyl patches, to be precise) that the pain finally began to be controlled. However, with my condition pre-existing and thus not covered by Samaritan, my patches cost us $950 per month, not including other medications and supplements. We quite often totalled medical bills of over $20,000 per year for several years in a row. Because of these medical bills, we've been on the brink of bankruptcy, but I am somewhat functional again now that my pain is mostly controlled. Dr. A. shifted my meds from the expensive fentanyl patches to inexpensive methadone a couple of years ago which work better and have fewer side effects.

But my doctor did what the HMO's would never do: he treated me according my symptoms rather than my test results, something that almost certainly would never be allowed by managed health care, much less government health care. We will almost certainly lose freedom when the government takes responsibility for America's health care because doctors will be bound even more than they are now by the HMO's. And that's a scary thought. If I hadn't left managed care behind, I would not be having quite the financial difficulties that we are currently experiencing, but I also wouldn't be walking, either.

Some people I read talk about how we will have more freedom with the addition of government health care -- how it will be just another option as it is in schools with private and home schools being options providing choice. However, according to sections of the health reform bill I have read, no new patients may join private practices by a certain year. So, governmental health care is not at all like school choice ... unless private and home schools are going to be prohibited from enrolling new students in a few years also.

(Kerataconus cornea)

I have seen many failures of the Kaiser Permanente system of managed care. In addition to our "scare" with Benjamin's birth, a frightening and life-threatening turn of events that would have been avoided by a simply ultrasound, my own grandmother's as well as Keith's mother's cancers were not caught early enough to ensure their survival despite complaints to their doctors of extremely suspicious symptoms for months if not years before their diagnoses. Kaiser also missed Elizabeth's diagnosis of kerataconus (an eye problem that prevents perfect vision) for five years despite seeing Kaiser's optomologists every six months during her childhood. One eye doctor thought there could be a problem and sent her to a specialist who found nothing, except that her eyes couldn't be corrected to 20/20. When we returned to our private eye doctor, she saw the problem, ran two diagnostic tests right there in her office, and had Elizabeth diagnosed and under treatment within 45 minutes, but much damage had already been done to her eyes by not having the condition caught at an early stage. She will most likely need a double corneal transplant when she's in her late twenties because of Kaiser's missed diagnosis.

If health reform is really to work, is really to help the uninsured, then provisions need to be made to help self-employed Americans obtain private health care premiums in an affordable range and to help small businesses provide health care for their employees -- perhaps both could be accomplished through tax breaks or some other means besides a complete takeover of the private health care system by our government.

Managed care itself doesn't work well. Doctors need the freedom to go outside of usual medical parameters at times so that patients can be treated like people and not like numbers. If these private companies cannot manage health care well, how can the government possibly do so? The $1,000 government toilet seats that made the news years ago could become $10,000 flu shots in a few years. Currently our government can't keep track of itself in the least. Do we really want to hand over our medical care system to them as well?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tennis, Anyone?

(image from

Last weekend Elizabeth and I held a yard sale "down the hill" at Keith's sister Karen's home in El Cajon, a major suburb east of San Diego. We didn't do all that well financially: Karen made $18 and we made $45, enough to mostly fill up the van with gas for the coming week at least.

When the kids were pulling out all the yard sale items which had been stored in my closet in the boys' room (we have no closets in our sloped-ceiling attic bedroom), they unearthed a couple of relics of my high school and college days: our bowling balls and tennis racquets.

During our engagement, Keith and I bowled in a league with his brother, Kevin, and Kevin's girlfriend at the time each Sunday night before Keith drove me back to my dorm at Point Loma Nazarene University. It was my freshman year of college, and I was sort of living "on my own," if "on my own" means being squashed into one dorm room with three other young women. My dad picked me up from the university late every Friday afternoon and drove me home to El Cajon -- about a 45-minute drive -- so that I could work Saturday and Sunday at the now-extinct B. Dalton Booksellers. After Sunday dinner with my family, Keith and I headed to the bowling alley where he was bowled in the 170's while I dragged us into the losing column week after week with my sad 135 average. But we laughed and had a good time despite our dismal win/loss ratio. After bowling, Keith drove me back out to the coast, barely getting me back before the 11 PM freshman curfew at my dorm.

Last week we put the bowling bags with our oh-so-attractive bowling shoes and personalized bowling balls (his silver and black swirls, mine midnight blue) into the "sell pile" - my fingers are too swollen from arthritis to fit into the custom-drilled holes, and we haven't used the bowling balls since about 1990. They didn't sell last week -- I hope they do this week.

The tennis racquets, however, are another story. I greeted my old wood-framed tennis racquet as it emerged from the back corner of my closet as an old friend. Nearly every summer day during high school I hopped onto my yellow three-speed bicycle, tennis racquet and a can of fuzzy neon balls sprung onto the bookrack behind my seat, and pedaled to the courts at Kennedy Park, midway between Montgomery Middle School and Granite Hills High School. There I met Catherine, also on her bike and also armed with her racquet and tennis balls. We usually had our choice of the six tennis courts, two of which were colored with green courts and red out-of-bounds, a nice change from the remaining four blacktop courts. There Catherine and I played for hours almost every summer day, I imagining that I was Tracy Austin whom I had seen play once.

Temperatures in El Cajon summers often spiked over 100 degrees, but we still played through the heat of the afternoon, stopping once in a while to rest in the shade. I often won the match, and was a fairly sore loser when I didn't. After playing a full match of the best of three sets, Catherine and I would either bicycle to her air-conditioned house or to my un-air-conditioned house with the saving grace of a kidney-shaped swimming pool and cool off after a couple of hours on the sweltering courts. Biking, playing tennis, and swimming were wonderful ways to spend the hot summer days, ways to remain active without feeling like it was work. It was PLAY, and the best kind.

(image from

I also played tennis with my high school boyfriends -- with Leigh first, who was good but not toooooo good, so I could and did beat him often. Bob played a little but badly, and I enjoyed trouncing him. But when I met Keith, I also met my match in more ways than one. He was good player, and his strokes were powerful. His strategy was excellent, and I rarely won a set, much less a match. But it was good for me (although I wouldn't admit it then) for me to lose at tennis once in a while....

But now that our kids have unearthed these tennis relics, they wanted to learn to play. So on Monday I accompanied them to the single tennis court at the county park, a five-minute walk from our home. I taught them the rudiments of serving, of forehand and backhand strokes, etc. We'll work on keeping the score later; right now we're working on the fundamentals. They've played a fair bit of badminton, so teaching them to follow-through on their tennis strokes has been a major component of their lessons. I demonstrated a few serves and strokes for them, and it felt wonderful to be on a tennis court again, something I haven't done since the early days of our marriage. The racquet nestled into my palm as if it had never left, and the heft of the old wooden racquet felt right somehow. Stroking the ball both forehand and backhand felt wonderful, and my left hand immediately joined my right for my two-handed backhand without conscious thought on my part.

I didn't play more than a few minutes because I knew I would be sore. Because of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, I can do activities for a short while, but the pain of overdoing arrives later. But those few minutes on the court felt absolutely wonderful -- freeing, in fact. I felt as if I were sixteen again, judging the neon green ball coming toward me and automatically taking a step back to align racquet to ball.

The boys found an old, mostly dead tennis ball in the park on Monday that we used for several evenings until Keith brought home a can of generic tennis balls last night. The boys went to the park Tuesday night and met up with our piano teacher's husband who had been the tennis coach at Sports Camp last week, and he gave them some pointers and practice. On Wednesday evening, Keith and I walked over to the park to see how the kids were progressing in their tennis adventures, and Elizabeth was now involved with Timothy teaching her how to serve. Keith joined the kids almost immediately, playing for fifteen minutes with each of our four kids and teaching them a few finer points while they played. I joined in and played for a couple of minutes (which I am still paying for now on Friday afternoon). The kids had SO much fun playing tennis with Keith; in fact, Timothy said that it was the most fun he had had all summer! (Either that comment marks how much fun he had or how little we've done this summer, but at least he had a wonderful time.)

Keith and I walked over last night again, and, sitting, I leaned against the chain-link fence on the sun-warmed pavement and watched him teach Elizabeth how to serve and hit the ball while the boys joined the local youth group on the soccer field for a four-team capture-the-flag game. When the boys finished running around on the grass, they plopped onto the pavement near me, each waiting for his turn to play Keith as the sun sank further and further behind the western pines. While one boy played with Keith, the others were "ball boys," one standing at the net to run across and grab any balls and the other poised on his bike to chase down stray balls that flew over the chain-link fence. Benjamin is only nine and a small nine at that, but his unique power-serve is excellent, and he's learning quickly. Jonathan is really good, getting into a couple of lengthy rallies with Keith; he's the natural athlete of our family. Timothy enjoys the strategy of the game; he's learning very quickly that the game is played 75% in the mind and 25% on the court.

At 7:30 when the park closes, the kids rode their bikes home, tennis racquets and the can of balls stuffed into Jonathan's backpack with the grips poking up. Keith and I walked home slowly behind them: across the deep green park lawns, through the pedestrian gate next to the post office, across the post office/charter school parking lot, then home through the large expanse of brown-gold meadow as the sun crept further and further behind the mountains, the gloaming marked with a few birds and bats fluttering above our heads as we trudged homeward along the dusty road.

It's been a wonderful week, seeing my kids with my old wooden tennis racquet in hand, learning the game that consumed so many summer days in my teen years. With this being our last school year with Elizabeth at home, how many more of these precious family evenings will we have together with all four kids playing tennis with their dad, their mom watching proudly from courtside?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Third Anniversary of Blogging

Today marks the third anniversary of my adventure in blogging. Yes, it's been three years and nearly 800 postssince I started blogging. I don't have a huge following (yet) but I am extremely grateful to those who read here consistently, and especially to those of you who comment. So....

Each day I look forward to writing on this blog. Yes, my topic choices are rather
eclectic; you may read thoughts about faith, gardening, family, worship, U2, Anglican Church, TV programs, books, movies, writing, home education, genealogy, favorite writers, photography, art, travel, poetry, small town living, the weather and seasons, and so on. I love writing about the subjects about which I am passionate.

So thanks for reading and commenting, and thanks for recommending me to other blog readers. And please hang around for the next year and keep reading and commenting!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Queen of Awesumm

My new blogging friend Anne at Imprisoned in My Bones bestowed this wonderful Queen of the Day: Awesummm! award upon me last week, and I've been so busy that I haven't had the time to thank her. So, Anne, THANK YOU!

Now, two conditions accompany this award. To quote Anne's blog: "One rule is that I am to list seven things about myself that make me awesumm. This is hard, but even harder, I am to list and tag seven fellow bloggers who are also awesumm." Like Anne, I prefer to list the awesumm bloggers first and hope you run out of time or the timer on your cookies goes off or something else interrupts your reading of this post before you scroll down to the second half of the "deal"

So, I tag the following seven awesumm bloggers -- you amuse me, challenge me, inspire me, keep me writing when I would much rather quit, and help shape me into the likeness of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. So check out these amazing, awesumm women:

1. Ann Voskamp at Holy Experience writes some of the most scintillating prose I have ever read and accompanies her words with stunning photos. She is simply incredible, and her blog is my absolute favorite at this time; I read it daily with real anticipation. Don't miss it!

2. Katharine at 10 Minute Writer gives great advice and encouragement to busy moms who attempt to write novels whilst force-feeding toddlers green beans and who compose poetry whilst teaching four levels of math at once. Her dry sense of humor makes writing/publishing while raising and homeschooling within the realm of possibility ... and, on good days, perhaps even a probability. Plus, Katharine's encouragement helped me to survive and succeed at the last NaNoWriMo. She's the real deal, Katherine is.

3. And I must present the Queen of the Day Award to the one who gave it to me -- to Anne at Imprisoned in My Bones - Releasing My Inner Jeremiah. She's absolutely wonderful -- a great writer and one who shows me who Jesus is by living out her faith so beautifully and extravagantly. Her faith is infectious -- very much so. She deserves this crown and has many more waiting for her in Heaven.

4. Sarah is a poet of depth and craft, and she writes at knitting the wind. A New Zealand home schooling mom, Sarah writes about her beautiful land, the sea, and her lovely daughter. Her writings are well-worth reading -- free verse ponderings on grace.

5. Jane at Trying to Find Me writes about her life in England as a Children's Pastor in the Anglican Church. Jane and I have a great deal in common, including our physical challenges. We also love gardening and many other similarities ... kindred spirits, we are.

6. Deborah at Journey of a Soul also relates details of her Catholic faith, deep and wide in His Holy Spirit. I'm rather new to following her blog, but every post is used by the Spirit to burrow more deeply into my soul as we walk this Pilgrim Pathway together, seeking His face.

7. And, finally, Jen at Conversion Diary, a former feminist atheist who is now a Catholic wife and mother as well as a perceptive and humorous writer. Working on a book while raising little ones, Jen writes insightful posts that help me grow my faith more deeply, anchored to the One we love and Who first loved us. And her scorpion and Yaya stories bring a little laughter into my world.

Okay, now onto the "seven awesumm things about me" --- gotta think about this for a minute or two....

1. I have an awesumm family -- a genius of a husband and four incredible children.

2. I attend two churches, Anglo-Catholic (Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity) for five years, and Evangelical Protestant (Lake Murray Community Church, Evangelical Free) for sixteen years. I love the commitment to Scripture I find in both churches, even more so in the Anglican Church much of the time.

3. Old movies are one of my passions -- give me Cary Grant, Clark Gable, or Myrna Loy any old time. Black and white movies are so cool!

4. I had my "dream job," teaching English at a Christian liberal arts university. I hope to return to college instruction sometime in the future -- perhaps after getting my doctorate, if I do.

5. I own close to 3,000 books and my husband hates the very thought of the possibility of moving. Perhaps working in bookstores for ten years wasn't the best place for a book addict to work.... ya think?

6. I am a native San Diegan -- my family came here in 1900 and designed many of the landmarks of this fine city.

7. I enjoy genealogy research -- I just filled in my chart with ALL of my great-great grandparents, born in 1850's and 1860's -- will now work on the preceding generation. :)

So now I have passed along the crown of Queen of the Day to seven worthy recipients, and I have related seven awesumm facts about me, so I think that's it. Again, I want to thank Anne for bestowing the crown upon me ... and now she has it back [grin]. Sorry, Anne, I couldn't resist....

Poem: In the Confessional

Last night our Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council (MECAC) Writers' Workshop met for our monthly gathering to share our work and encourage/critique each other's writing. Seven writers attending our workshop in the summer is a very respectable number, and I very much enjoyed our ninety minutes of "shop talk."

I shared a sheet of online sites with the group, including writing contests, publication opportunities, the upcoming Writers' Weekend at Sacred Rocks Reserve in Boulevard which will be facilitated by our own MECAC Director Judith Dupree, plus additional opportunities for local workshops, etc. I encourage local and other writers to check out our MECAC Writers' Workshop blog for some helpful information I've gathered for our local writers.

Judith also shared about her week in Santa Fe at the The Glen Image Journal Christian Arts Workshops which sounds absolutely wonderful. She enjoyed the playwriting workshop very much, a change from her usual poetry workshops. If only we all could go!

Then we took turns sharing our work and receiving feedback. Norm read us an essay about questions and answers revolving around the ideas of time and heaven. Betty read us part of a story about rockclimbing in Idyllwild, and Maureen shared some backstory of her Children of Cain novel that held us spellbound. I shared the poem below and appreciated the ideas presented to me which really helped put the finishing touches on it. Teresa read aloud a poem a la Tennyson about the Sirens, and although Judith didn't have time to read the scene from her play Rebekah's Children, she gave us the scene to take home to read, and we'll discuss it next time. It was a very productive, affirming, yet helpful gathering of writers last night.

I've been working on this poem to submit to a Christian journal; the theme of the next issue is "confession," so this is what I've done with it. A few parts are still a little rough, but I wanted to put it up as doing so often helps me to revise a problem line or two, or replace a word with one that works better, etc.

In the Confessional

Fear tastes metallic.
Eyes clenched, lowered,
I whisper the litany of my sins.
My cheeks redden --
a badge of transgression
unseen by all but the confessor.
Kindly he averts his gaze,
granting grace as I gather
breath and composure.
He has heard it all,
I scold myself.
He won't think less of
the bared soul before him --
I hope.

But shame envelops my tongue,
now dry as cotton,
choking words back into
my drought-scorched throat.
I vainly regather shreds of dignity,
desperately trying to cover
my exposed soul.

In this sacred space
my Lover cups my face
between His shattered palms,
gazes heart-deep
into my tear-stained soul,
looses my tongue from warp and weft
of imagined bonds.
My voice restored,
I raise my eyes to
meet the confessor's gaze...
At Last.

copyright 2009 Susanne Barrett
So it was a wonderful meeting, and I thought it was one of the best workshops we've had this year. And the Genealogy Class that preceded the Writers' Workshop was also helpful as I finally filled in all of my great-great-grandparents in my pedigree chart with some helpful information on Google genealogy searches. So the evening was an extremely productive few hours of genealogy and writing in the Community Room of our little local library.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Home Schooling Plans for This Fall

In fewer than two weeks, we'll be starting our twelfth year of home education with Heritage Christian School, our final year of having all four kids home as Elizabeth is a high school senior, and Timothy is starting high school. Jonathan is in 7th grade, and Benjamin (above) starts 4th grade. I have my plans drawn up fairly well, but I can't complete my planning due to our lack of funds; fortunately, I already have the vast majority of what we need for this year on my bookshelves.

Benjamin and Jonathan (pictured below) will be studying American History using the Sonlight (SL) 100 program over two years. Benjamin will be using Sonlight 3 this year for literature and reading and SL 4 next year while Jonathan will be doing SL 100 for literature over two years. Both boys will listen to history together from SL 100 which uses the Story of US series by Joy Hakim. They will also use ABeka mathematics at their respective levels, along with Spelling Power, copywork, and Bob Jones Writing and English for Jonathan, and Benjamin's Spectrum Spelling, copywork, and Daily Grams 4. They will both be studying science with ABeka as well, although I may use some junior high textbooks that Keith's sister Karen used when she taught middle school science for Jonathan. Benjamin will be taking California History, PE, and Cooking at our twice-monthly home school co-op Class Days.

Timothy, now starting high school, will be using mostly ABeka books for Health and Geography, a revised schedule for Sonlight 200 literature and writing -- only half the 22 books. He'll continue with Saxon for Algebra I and will finish the Easy Grammar Plus book that he half-finished last year, along with Spelling Power as spelling is his weakness. Both he and Jonathan are taking double PE at Class Day -- volleyball in the fall and basketball in the spring plus chess. Timothy will be studying German with the Barron's Mastering German CD system which I purchased years and years ago when the HBJ Bookstore closed and all items were 90% off. I'm not sure what we will do for his second year; I would much rather use Rosetta Stone German for both years. If we can afford it later, I'll get Rosetta Stone for him. So his schedule will be quite full for his freshman year of high school.

On the other hand, Elizabeth has a much lighter load for her senior year which should give her plenty of time to study for her SAT exams this fall. She took them in the spring without having adequate time to prepare so she will retake them, hopefully boosting them up quite a ways. She is taking British Literature from Sonlight (530), including writing -- although she took my honors-level Advanced Writing last year at Class Day so she's well-prepared for college. She also needs a workbook for Consumer Math -- just so she's prepared for the practicalities of living on her own. In addition, she will be studying Church History (Sonlight 200) and at Class Day, ABeka Economics and Government, plus choir and drama/oral interpretation. She may intern at the local paper, The Valley Views, helping Judith and Cherry produce the monthly newspaper.

I'm not sure what precisely we will do for Bible -- we do Morning Prayer and Bible together each morning before the kids go off to do their own assignments. I may use items from Sonlight 100 or 200 -- I'm not sure yet. And we'll continue reviewing English from the Roots Up I and II vocabulary cards so that the kids get a good bit of Greek and Latin root words -- they really like doing them. So I need to schedule out their days, go through their books, and plan reading schedules, etc.

We still need to buy E's Government and Economics books, plus the British Lit Instructor's Guide, and T's ABeka quiz and test booklets for Geography and Health, and the younger boys' math workbooks. I hope that I can somehow order them later this week, but funds are so tight that I just don't see it happening right now. So I shall keep planning with what I have and keep praying for God's provision for our needs. Please join me in prayer? One sweet reader here has purchased two items we needed very much - and you know who you are! Thank you.

Today I received information regarding a new study on homeschooling from HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) that is quite interesting: Home School Study.


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