Wednesday, September 29, 2010

An Angelic Day

(Icon of St Michael the Archangel from

Today in the Anglican tradition we celebrate St. Michael and the Archangels. Angels are seen throughout Scripture, as today's Saint of the Day e-mail from notes:

Angels—messengers from God—appear frequently in Scripture, but only Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are named.

Michael appears in Daniel's vision as "the great prince" who defends Israel against its enemies; in the Book of Revelation, he leads God's armies to final victory over the forces of evil. Devotion to Michael is the oldest angelic devotion, rising in the East in the fourth century. The Church in the West began to observe a feast honoring Michael and the angels in the fifth century.

Gabriel also makes an appearance in Daniel's visions, announcing Michael's role in God's plan. His best-known appearance is an encounter with a young Jewish girl named Mary, who consents to bear the Messiah.

Raphael's activity is confined to the Old Testament story of Tobit. There he appears to guide Tobit's son Tobiah through a series of fantastic adventures which lead to a threefold happy ending: Tobiah's marriage to Sarah, the healing of Tobit's blindness and the restoration of the family fortune.

Each of these archangels performs a different mission in Scripture: Michael protects; Gabriel announces; Raphael guides. Earlier belief that inexplicable events were due to the actions of spiritual beings has given way to a scientific world-view and a different sense of cause and effect. Yet believers still experience God's protection, communication and guidance in ways which defy description. We cannot dismiss angels too lightly.
This morning I turned to the Propers for Saints' Days and prayed with the boys this Collect for today:

O EVERLASTING God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant that, as thy holy Angels always do thee service in heaven, so, by thy appointment, they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Then we read the Epistle from the Twelfth Chapter of the Revelation to Saint John, verses 7-12:

7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
I read also from Saint Matthew's Gospel a longer passage, but the pertinent part was in the closing verse:

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven." (18:10)
And although it wasn't listed in the Propers for this day, I thought of the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews and read a little to the boys as well:

3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
So while angels are indeed "ministering spirits," they are created beings, set below the Lord Christ, despite the Hebrews' apparent culture of angelic worship and often a near-worship of them in our own culture. Christ remains at the right hand of the Father on High, and angels, though they fight battles against every kind of evil, bring messages from God to men, and bring help and comfort to Christ when in His human incarnation and to us when we have need, rank below Him yet above us.

I have friends who have encountered angels--angels who have saved their son's life when he nearly-drowned in a neighbor's pool, angels who have spoken audible messages and carried on audible conversations--but I have yet to see or hear one. But angels do the work of their Heavenly Father without notice the vast majority of the time, guarding our little ones and helping us to turn to our Father and to His Son and to the Holy Spirit throughout our lives. For that's what angels do best: they worship!

May we worship Him as the angels do.

Wishing you His Grace, now and always,

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Collecting Quotations

I love quotations. I started jotting them down in this journal in 2001 when we first moved into this home up in the mountains, and I enjoy thumbing through my little collection.

Tonight I copied down a few quotations on...quotations. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do.

"Proverbs are mental gems gathered in the diamond districts of the mind."
--William R. Alger

"Most collectors collect tangibles. As a quotation collector, I collect wisdom, life, invisible beauty, souls alive in ink."
--Terri Guillemets

"I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself."
--Marlene Dietrich
Quotationally yours,

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Joys of Grading Essays

I wrote a little about grading essays yesterday in my Friday Quick-Takes, and as I have quite the stack of essays to grade, both online at Brave Writer and for my co-op writing classes, it only seems fitting to further procrastinate and write about grading rather than grade the essays themselves. Just for a little while....

You see, grading is difficult. But you knew that already.

In my current Brave Writer class with younger students (ages 7-14 right now), I'm not so much grading as providing feedback and asking questions to help these young writers expand their writing. It's a gentle, careful process of wheedling more writing from writers who are not used to writing multiple drafts, who assume that as soon as they lay down their pencil after the first draft, they're finished. So they are understandably reluctant to have to return to a project that they consider complete.

Grammar and spelling aside (which we deal with right before turning in the final story next Thursday), my object is to persuade them to write more, to fill in gaps in logic and description. If a character chops off the head of another character while inside a whale, where did he get the hatchet? What does a particular animal look like and act like if it's one I've never heard of? If two characters have a conversation, dialog might be an excellent idea.

I'm usually asking questions--lots of them--to draw further writing out of young writers, to get them to show rather than tell. And the questions need to be sprinkled with encouragement. Lots of it. When writers know that they are being understood and are doing some good work, they are more apt to keep writing. Aren't we all? :)

I step into definite grading when I tackle the writing of my high school co-op students. They've just turned in their first essays: the college prep class has written a Keen Observation Exercise from Brave Writer's The Writer's Jungle (my absolute favorite book on teaching moms how to be writing coaches for their kids!) and the honors class has submitted their first formal essay, a personal narrative. In grading these essays, I strive to balance critique with encouragement, noting not only errors and suggestions for improvement but also what the writer has done well so he/she can continue doing it.

Grading is gut-work. I stick to the old-school way of grading: A=excellent; "B"=good; "C"=average; "D"=below average, "F"=fail. I can't tell you exactly what separates an "A" essay from a "B" essay, but I know it when I see it. It's that spark of intrigue, a desire to keep reading the students' work after the essay has ended, a clarity and originality of expression, a permeation of true excellence throughout the paper--that's what gives me that "A" range--and the personality of the writer being revealed, no matter the essay topic. And I don't give "A"s lightly. Once I get to know each students' work, I grade them against themselves--when I see improvement, their grades go up, and when I see work that doesn't measure up to previous essays, grades go down.

Grading takes all of one's attention and concentration. It's truly hard work. As a grader, I have to tunnel into each writer's mind and try to understand how his/her mind works and evaluate how well they express their ideas. And the majority of teaching writing does not happen in the classroom; it happens in my (copious) comments on the essays. I note strengths and weaknesses, and then I hope to see the writer using these comments to the best advantage by shoring up strengths and addressing weaknesses. I base my grades on how well they apply what I teach in those comments.

I used to grade essays with a purple ballpoint, as seen in the above photo. Now I use a Waterman fountain pen which is much easier on my hand, allowing me to write in much more comfort as I don't have to press down while writing. First I used sepia ink that I refilled myself from a bottle of ink. Then I changed to a sea blue with commercial refills which stands out nicely against the typed pages. At the end of each essay, I write a personal note to the writer, sandwiching comments about areas needing improvement between positive notes. I find this method of teaching works very well.

With my online classes, I make comments in bright blue or purple fonts in a quoted reply so that I have their essay right there in the Brave Writer Classroom. The advantage of the online classes is that not only can students read their own comments, but they can also read other writers' rough drafts and my comments to them as well. So they learn a great deal about writing in a short few weeks as I comment and ask questions almost line-by-line through their stories/essays.

If you're a home schooling family who is struggling with providing feedback to your student's writing, I am available to grade essays online. Just check out my web site right here: Susanne M. Barrett: Online Essay Grading and Language Arts Tutoring. I also list my materials for my Class Day courses on the site which I can also teach long-distance via e-mail.

So speaking of grading stories, that's what I need to be doing this afternoon as I comment on the first rough drafts of stories based on Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories. So, off to work I go....

On the writing journey with you,

Friday, September 24, 2010

After a Long Hiatus: Quick-Takes!

It's been a looooong time since I've done Seven Quick Takes, but I read Jennifer's at Conversion Diary today and just had to post my own quick-takes....


I am soooo excited about Part 1 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows which is due to be released November 19. If we don't do the midnight movie thing, we'll probably slip into a Friday morning matinee. Harry Potter film releases are one (minor) reason I adore home schooling so that we can watch matinees while the rest of the Potter fans are in their respective schools.

And here's the brand new trailer for Part 1.


Speaking of movies, I am still sooo enamored of the third film of the Twilight Saga. Eclipse is my favorite of the four books, and after seeing it four times in the theatres (a new record...never have I seen a movie four times in the theatres!) So in addition to the countdown to Deathly Hallows Part 1, I'm also excitedly counting down the December 4 release of Eclipse on DVD.

So excited!


It's TV week. The fall line up is debuting shows old and new. And I admit it: I watch a lot of TV. With my chronic health issues, I am good for only the sofa from about 5:00 PM onward. So...I watch TV. And movies. And read. But TV is just good stuff...the shows I watch, anyway. These are the ones I tend to watch:

Sundays: Paranormal State (when it starts in October!)
Mondays: House, Dancing with the Stars, Castle
Tuesdays: NCIS, NCIS Los Angeles, sometimes The Good Wife
Wednesdays: Survivor, Criminal Minds, The Whole Truth (new)
Thursdays: Bones, CSI, Grey's Anatomy, Project Runway, The Mentalist

(BTW, Jennifer Grey is my favorite on Dancing with the Stars. She can win this thing, especially with Derek as her partner--his first time with an "older" woman!.)

And on weekends I watch the shows that we tape when other shows are on, basically the ones that E asks us to record so that she can keep up with her favorites despite living in the dorms. I'm still acclimating to the balance between new and old. Two new ones I really wanted to watch are on at the same time: The Whole Truth with Maura Tierney (ER) and Rob Morrow (Northern Exposure, Numbers) and The Defenders with Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell (Crossing Jordan). I stuck with the former this first week and was totally intrigued.

The Rachel Zoe Project just finished this week. And I still have to watch the final few episodes of Rizzoli and Isles with Angie Harmon (Law & Order) and Sasha Alexander (NCIS) on TNT. Perhaps I'll do that this weekend....


So to switch gears from movies and TV, I'm going to be leading the discussion of two very different books for Logos, Lake Murray Community Church's's monthly literary discussion group. Because only two of us could meet last month, we'll have a short discussion of My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, followed by a discussion of Part 1 of John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress.

Talk about two very different books--one about two sisters, one of whom has cancer while the other is her sister's donor, and the other about the allegorical journey of "Christian" on his way to the Celestial City. I think there are some very intriguing parallels between these two very different books written several hundred years apart....


Now that my first essays at our co-op Class Days have been turned in, I'm back to grading papers for the first time this school year. It's been a nice break, but I'm actually itching to get back to grading...which I predict will last only until I've graded my first two, or perhaps three, essays...depending upon how many serious grammatical issues I find.

Grading essays is gut-work...rather like detective work, really--abeit not-so-glamorous. One can have all the rubrics at hand, but assigning an objective grade to a subjective piece of writing that both point out errors so the student can remedy them while encouraging the student to keep doing what is done well is a fine line to walk. And I walk it with a blue Waterman fountain pen which allows me to write copious comments in relative comfort. My new blue Waterman ink refills arrived yesterday at Staples just two hours after my last refill ran dry. Perfect timing.


This weekend I'll also be tackling rough drafts from the Just So Stories I'm teaching at Brave Writer this fall. They'll finish pouring in today, and then I'll make suggestions of areas to narrow (not so many of those) and of areas to expland and explain through the asking of questions.

This class is full of younger writers, ages 7-14, so I need to find the perfect balance between encouragement and requiring real improvement. So by asking questions, I can find that balance...questions like: "I love your main character. Bob is a hoot! Can you describe him for me a little more so I can picture him better in my mind?" and "I love the interactions between the kangaroo and the joey. Could you write a conversation for them? I'd love to hear what they might say to each other."

It's a gentle drawing-out of ideas from students who are not used to writing multiple drafts of a story. It takes some delicacy and tons of encouragement, but it works. But I admit it: my passion is truly for teaching high school and university-level students which I do at Class Day and will be doing with my upcoming MLA Research Essay course at Brave Writer which starts in October.


I am addicted to Trader Joe's Maple Leaf Cookies. Sandwich cookies in the shapes of maple leaves, filled with vanilla frosting. Aaaaah...autumn decadence!

And YES, I know how many calories there are in each cookie. But I ignore it. Just this one time.

Wishing you all a Happy Friday,

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Seeing Christ in Joy

Our First Day of School This Year at Sea World

He's the family clown. The joy-bringer. The one who makes us crack up at the dinner table, food nearly falling from our mouths as we laugh. His face is so expressive, so flexible, so changeable, as he pulls it into one expression after another...sad, joyful, angry, excited, silly. Always silly. We laugh some more.

Tonight he crawls into my lap, this our youngest, almost eleven. Curling into a ball, he settles into me, asking me to pray for him. I pull him more firmly into my side, my free hand upon his soft red hair. He lowers bright blue eyes, ready for our bedtime prayers and my blessing.

This boy brimming with joy, the one who invokes laughter, is studious. He works hard, methodically checking his way through his assigned work each day of our home school. He's driven...much more so than his elder brothers. His focus is incredible. He impresses me. He is a late reader, but was an early writer, printing his entire eight-letter name by age three, writing it in perfect slanting cursive while still in first grade. He is justifiably proud of his penmanship.

Two weeks ago in our Morning Prayer time, we read Jesus' parable about the mustard seed in the Gospel of Saint Luke, about how it grows into the largest plant in the garden despite its being the smallest seed...practically microscopic. After we finished discussing the passage and praying, he came to me in tears.

He was afraid that he doesn't love God enough.

His face suffuses red, embarrassed but confiding. I bring him to the stairs leading to our second-floor bedroom where I settle him in my lap as I sit on the steps. He cuddles into me, seeking reassurance. His blue eyes swim with sadness and fear. We talk in quiet voices. I share with him; he listens, eagerly taking in the Truth that we sometimes cannot wrap our minds around.

How can Jesus love us so much? And how can we believe it?

I ask him if he wants me to pray for him; he nods his yes.

He trusts me to tell him Truth.

I hold him close, drinking in his sweet still-little-boy smell, praying for him.

And tell him Truth.

I see Christ in the blue eyes swimming in tears. I see Christ in his joy, in his diligence, in his love, in his trust.

I see Christ in my youngest child...and in all four of our children.

I pray they see Christ in me.

I remember Saint Patrick's "Breastplate Prayer"...and I pray part of it:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I pray for Christ to shine through me as He shines through our youngest, our joy-bringer.

Praying for our children, this night and always,

holy experience

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hip Homeschool Hop for 9/21/10

Welcome to New Friends and Current Friends on this week's Hip Homeschool Hop!

I'm Susanne, on our fifth week of Year 13 of homeschooling! We have graduated our eldest who is attending Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego (near where we live), and have three boys still at home in grades 5, 8, and 10. We educate through Heritage Christian School and attend their East County II Class Days where I teach Intermediate and Advanced Writing for high school students.

A former adjunct professor in the Literature, Journalism, and Modern Languages Department at Point Loma Nazarene University, I quit my dream job of university teaching to educate our children at home, and, yes, sometimes I miss working with Chaucer's Canterbury Tales versus teaching phonics. But most days I'm content to slog through the multiplication tables (yet again!) and read California History aloud (once more!).

We use mostly Sonlight until grade 8 and then mostly ABeka for high school, along with Smarr Literature because I hate snippy anthologies. I also teach online writing courses at Brave Writer to families all across the globe; in fact, I have students from Singapore and Russia in my current class.

Our homeschooling story is on a separate page just under the header if you'd like to learn more about our educational philosophy. I also homeschool with chronic illness, and there's a page for that, too. And I, an evangelical, have fallen in love with the ancient church and with liturgical prayer and worship...and guess what? I have a page on liturgical prayer, too, if you're interested. :)

So thanks for stopping by! I'll be stopping by many new blogs today, of my favorite things to do!

On the home schooling journey with you,

Monday, September 20, 2010

Continuing on the Pathway to One Thousand Gifts

This week I continue on the path to One Thousand Gifts with the Gratitude Community....

At times the journey seems easy; at times we seem to be going uphill more than down. Last week felt like an uphill battle. This week seems more...even. And that's a good thing.

This week I'm thanking God for....

326. ...the joy of fresh new journals just begging to be filled with words from my pen.

327. ...the simple joy of pen scratching across a blank page, dipped into inkwell, and back to the page again.

328. ...for a better week this week, with less pain and an improved outlook.

329. ...quiet late nights after the house is tucked in for the night and peace fills heart and soul at long last.

330. ...the start of new fall television. I know, not a very spiritual "gift" but one that helps to distract me from pain in the evenings...especially with Dancing with the Stars tonight.

331. ...a lovely weekend with my girl who was home from college for the first time in two weeks (and who is texting me after each new contestant on Dancing with the Stars while I type this).

332. ...finding a wonderful web site for online grading for my co-op writing classes, Engrade.

333. ...the precious joy of praying the Scriptures on Friday mornings with the Anglicans at Blessed Trinity.

334. ...a wonderful date with my husband, with a dinner out and another viewing (the 4th for me) of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. And he liked it. I know he loves me when he accompanies me to Twilight movies. :)

335. ...having the soundtrack to the above film stuck in my head since last Thursday night's date. ;)

So with grace showering down, and gratitude peeping around the corner as autumn arrives with a touch of frost and the promise of tart Pippins on our tree,

holy experience

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Quotations for This Week

Some people collect art. Some collect rare books (not that I would mind, but my current budget won't allow for books at all, much less rare ones!). Others collect figurines, or chess sets, or automobiles.

Me? I collect quotations.

They're well within my budget. I can find them anywhere, and all it costs me is a little time and a smidge of ink. I copy them into an inexpensive journal I found at Ross for $4 back in 2001 when I started my collection.

And I love them. I hold them close to my heart and thrill to them.

This week's quotations are all on the subject of prayer. I located these at my favourite quotation website, Quote Garden.

"The value of consistent prayer is not that He will hear us, but that we will hear Him."
--William McGill

"Prayer does not change God, but it changes him [or her] who prays."
--Soren Kierkegaard

"And help us, this and every day, to live more nearly as we pray."
--John Keble
Praying with you, this Lord's Day and always,

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Writing Has Got Up and Went

I love writing. Or used to love it.

I haven't felt much like composing poetry. Or writing in my journal(s). Or blogging. My sincerest apologies to my dear friends who follow along here. But I just haven't been in the mood.

But it's more than just not being in the mood.

Part of my writing blues is a result of the e-mails and forum posts I've dealt with about being a "contemplative Christian." I don't deal well with confrontation; I just want everyone to get along, especially other Christians. But to have my friends' faith in Christ and mine to be questioned because of being "contemplative" deeply disturbs me. Rocks me to my core, in fact.

Especially when the soul of my contemplative journey consists of God's Word.

So I've been reluctant to put myself back out here, in both verse and in prose. I know that nothing could really happen by my posting here, but I suppose that I am a bit gun-shy, for lack of a better word. I am working on...praying to...regain my enjoyment of writing--the sheer joy of playing with words and phrases. I miss the adventure, the way minutes and perhaps hours escape as I draw words from my depths and splay them across the page, seeking the expression of Truth.

I miss it. A lot.

So I hope to be "back"--fully back--very soon. Whole-heartedly back.

Very soon.

Pen in hand, and perhaps even keyboard ready, prepared to share from my heart and soul again.

I'll keep posting...but what I truly need is the JOY. And the absence of fear.

From my depths,

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Favorite Poem

I've been thinking about poems this week, and this poem keeps coming to me. It's long been a favorite of mine; I wrote a paper on it in college.

Why am I so comfortable in the seventeenth century?

"Huswifery" by Edward Taylor

Make me, O Lord, thy Spinning Wheele compleat;
Thy Holy Worde my Distaff make for mee.
Make mine Affections thy Swift Flyers neate,
And make my Soule thy holy Spoole to bee.
My Conversation make to be thy Reele,
And reele the yarn thereon spun of thy Wheele.

Make me thy Loome then, knit therein this Twine:
And make thy Holy Spirit, Lord, winde quills:
Then weave the Web thyselfe. The yarn is fine.
Thine Ordinances make my Fulling Mills.
Then dy the same in Heavenly Colours Choice,
All pinkt with Varnish't Flowers of Paradise.

Then cloath therewith mine Understanding, Will,
Affections, Judgment, Conscience, Memory;
My Words and Actions, that their shine may fill
My wayes with glory and thee glorify.
Then mine apparell shall display before yee
That I am Cloathd in Holy robes for glory.

Spinning the wheel for His Glory,

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Extending a Helping Hand

Image Attribution Tile Mosaic at God's Extended Hand, designed by Jeremy Wright, 16th and Island, Downtown San Diego

It's a long drive to downtown San Diego from our humble mountain home. On this first Friday of December, it was nearly dark when we pulled into the metered parking spot less than a block from our destination. In the van were our four kids, plus Father Acker and his wife Alice, and their neighbor Martha, from Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity. We were joining our evangelical church, Lake Murray Community Church at our monthly dinner and worship service at God's Extended Hand, the oldest homeless mission in San Diego.

Father Acker unpacked his guitar while the boys unloaded my wheelchair, and this motley assortment of priest, women (one in a wheelchair), and kids entered the mission building on the corner of 16th and Island near the new Petco Park, home to the San Diego Padres baseball team.

Alice and Martha were quickly assimilated into the kitchen, helping to cook the dinner that would feed several hundred hungry souls this cold December night. Guitar in hand, Father Acker disappeared into the worship team practice at the front of the room, and the older three kids were given various tasks to do to get dinner ready. The blankets and jackets that had been collected all month, along with toothbrushes and toothpaste in small "goody bags," were lined up by the door for the end of the service, after the meal.

Our youngest clung to me in the large room with rows of long tables already filling an hour before the service was scheduled to start. He clambered onto my lap as I wheeled my chair out of everyone's busy way in the small kitchen/serving area. Soon I was given a job: to read the Scripture passage before the sermon--a job I could do, and gladly.

Men, and a very few women, ambled in, found a seat at a table in the warm room, and listened to the worship team practice Christmas favorites. Some chatted with neighbors at their tables; others remained locked in their own worlds. Some sang along with the practice songs. Several smiled at me, and I shyly returned their smiles; others looked right through me as I attempted to remain out of everyone's way.

At six the service began in earnest. It was strange and so very wonderful to see Father Acker playing with Lake Murray's worship team: a melding of the two churches I have attended each week for the past few years. We sang the Christmas standards, most of the mission's guests joining in with gusto. As the songs ended, I wheeled myself forward (having divested myself of our youngest for a short while) to read the verses from Isaiah the Prophet:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
After the sermon on the coming of the Christ Child, the retelling of the Story that never loses its power, our four children, along with children of other Lake Murray families, served the guests with trays of food piled high: meatloaf, mashed potatoes, vegetables, rolls, fruit, Christmas cookies. As the adults filled each tray down an assembly-line (I added the fruit), the kids took them to each person, serving them with a smile.

The servers and workers gulped down a little dinner after all the guests were fed, and we sat amongst the guests, chatting with them, getting to know them. My kids were a little shy but soon stepped out to talk while our youngest remained close to me.

As eight o'clock chimed from a nearby church tower, we were loading up guitar and wheelchair and heading back up the mountain. Somehow the Christmas Spirit had infected all of us, even this early in December...the Spirit who loves and serves, who feeds not just food but the Word and a listening ear.

Listening for His still, small voice,

holy experience

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Silence. I Need It.

This is going to be one of those posts where I write in three-word phrases.

I need quiet.

Silence, actually.

REAL silence.

You know...the quiet kind.

The really, really quiet kind.

The kind with peace.


Wow. What a lovely word.

I need some of that.

Perhaps tomorrow I will slip over to the nearby Bible camp, pull up an Adironack chair, and curl up with my journal and prayer book and Bible.

I'll be only three minutes from home, so B can call me if he needs me...while playing X-Box 360. I doubt I'd hear a peep. He's old enough to handle an hour or two of solo X-Box. He doesn't need my help with Lego Indiana Jones. Nope.

So that's my plan.

A lovely September afternoon on a lush lawn under lovely trees with my journal, writing desk, and private devotional books.

And perhaps my latest Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mystery.


Hold me to it.


Off to bask in silence...

(The quiet kind...the kind I NEED),

Monday, September 13, 2010

Still Trudging up the Path....

On a day when spoons are scarce, I keep on keepin' on, trudging uphill (both ways) along the pathway to One Thousand Gifts with the Gratitude Community. On days like this, when strength seems a distant daydream and energy a thing of the past, I can only try to put one foot in front of the other, leaning heavily on my cane, trying to find silver linings in the dank, dark clouds swirling around me.

So, in other words, I need chocolate.

Serious chocolate.

And about seven episodes of Grey's Anatomy so I can realize how good I really have it.

In the meantime, I'll keep on the lookout for silver linings.

I thank God for....

316. ...Grey's Anatomy reruns.

317. summer nights that relieve the hot days.

318. ...boys who, while avoiding their school work, at least make me a fruit plate with vanilla yogurt for lunch which almost (but not quite) bribes me.

319. ...books that distract me from the pain, especially those by Anne Perry and Stephenie Meyer.

320. ...the dream of taking my husband out to dinner and to a movie this week so I can talk to an adult without kids present.

321. ...that our college-aged daughter is coming home this weekend after staying on campus last weekend.

322. ...this blog and the occasional (very occasional, I promise) need to get all sarcastic and Grey's Anatomy-ish when I don't feel well.

323. new cell phone and the new delights of texting. I feel like I've finally caught up to the 21st century.

324. ...fall. is. coming.

325. new Alice Twilight choker with the Cullen crest, my new three-inch Shakespeare bust atop a tiny little box that holds all my pen nibs, and my new Shakespeare/Old Globe key chain.

It's sometimes the little things that reveal the silver lining....

Grey-ish turning silver (and I'm not talking gray hair...much),

holy experience

A Shakespearean Quotation...or Two

In light of my Shakespearean week, I thought I'd post a few of my favorite quotations of the Bard to take us through the coming week.

"We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep."

--Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act IV

"The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."

--Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act IV

"What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?" --Benedick

--Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, Act I

I hope that you enjoy these quotations as much as I do. :)

Your own "Lady Disdain,"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

King Lear at San Diego's Old Globe

On Wednesday evening I drove fifty miles to the coast where I met my daughter on the Point Loma Nazarene University campus where we boarded the university shuttle with about twenty-five students to Balboa Park. Our tickets for San Diego's Old Globe Theatre's production of King Lear were hot in our hands.

The shuttle driver, who was also attending the performance, drove us along beautiful Harbor Drive at 6:30 in the evening as the sun glinted off San Diego Bay which was dotted by multitudes of moored sailboats, my uncle's boat which he lives on full time, among them. Grey clouds puffed and roiled just off the coast, ready to engulf downtown San Diego as soon as temperatures cooled sufficiently. The driver made the turn onto steep Laurel Street, and we gripped the supports near us, bracing ourselves for the uphill charge from harbor to the top of Banker's Hill where Balboa Park spreads out in green splendor.

In the shadow of the magnificent California Tower nestled The Old Globe Theatre, first built for the 1935 Exposition as a perfect model of Shakespeare's original theater across the Thames from London proper. Now a complex of three theaters and including a lovely cafe for refreshments and a small gift shop (which I must visit each time I see a performance, adding a Shakespeare/Old Globe key chain and a small bust of Shakespeare to my collection, and flanked by beautiful gardens, the Old Globe is a treat in every way. After meeting up with the Literature Department Chair, Carol Blessing, we were ushered toward the Lowell Davies stage, an outdoor theater used for the Summer Shakespeare Festival.

Elizabeth and I were seated amongst a bevy of PLNU lit majors, many of whom had never been to the Old Globe before. We settled in very soon, observing the unusual stage: a raised platform extended into center stage only ten feet from the front edge, rather like a long fishing dock. A balcony flanked each side of the stage a floor above us, with stairs coming down to stage right and stage left. The rest of the stage below the raised dock was scattered with silk autumn leaves, and a large chair, almost throne-like, was perched exactly in the middle of the raised dock. Then, as the play progressed, the back "wall" of the stage ended up being wooden gates that were opened to reveal well-lit trees, some on the park side and some on the zoo side of the boundary of the neighboring San Diego Zoo.

What I love about the Old Globe is its partnership with the University of San Diego MFA Program, a program that my now-defunct MA in English used to take classes with. The actor portraying Cordelia was an USD MFA student, along with several other major parts.

The entire cast was incredible. Robert Foxworth played the aging King Lear to perfection. (I knew I recognized him, but it wasn't until I just checked IMDb that I realized where I saw him recently: as Uncle Jerry in the second Librarian film with Noah Wylie.)

But the standout of the performance was the stage effects. The storm was amazing! Remember, this is an outdoor stage, and the lit trees when the large wooden gates were opened were spectacular, lending an eerie feel to the play. During the storm, the huge lights flashed for lightning, and thunder rumbled so realistically that my seat seemed to tremble. But, most effective of all was the snow storm, made of a bubble machine spewing conglomerations of tiny bubbles into the night air where the spotlights illuminated them from above. When the evening breeze occasionally caught the minuscule bubbles, they drifted out across the audience, landing in my hair, on my sweater, disappearing with the slightest touch of warm fingers. It was truly a chilling and awesome effect.

We walked out of the theater, slightly chilled by the night air, toward the beautifully lit California Tower rising above us in the dark evening sky. We were silenced, moved and awed, by the performance. Good Shakespeare does that to a person.

So we very much enjoyed the play, although several of the neighboring students were complaining about how depressed they felt, especially with still having homework to face after the three-hour performance. The shuttle ride home through the dark San Diego streets was far quieter than the noisy excitement of our arrival while I shared with Rachel, the Lit Department assistant, about books to use for tutoring a reluctant 5th grade student.

After the shuttle dropped us back on campus, I drove E down to her dorm where she made me a PB&J to eat on the way home since I had skipped dinner. I arrived home just at midnight, then had to prepare the handouts Keith had copied for me for our Class Day co-op the following morning. I finally crawled into bed at 2:00 AM, praying I would be able to drag myself out at 7:00 AM to get ready for driving back into San Diego for our first day of Class Day for the school year.

With the grace of God, I somehow made it through the day's teaching and errand-running and back home to collapse into a muddled-puddle of exhaustion.

But Lear was soooo worth it...especially because I was able to see it with my girl.

Admiring the Bard more than ever,

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Another Hip Homeschool Hop!


It's Tuesday, which means another Hip Homeschool Hop!

Welcome, kind home schoolers who are stopping by my blog to wave "hi." I've set out a pot of my favorite British tea from Taylors of Harrogate and a virtual plate of my husband's excellent (and exceedingly fattening) snickerdoodles for you--hey, virtual cookies are calorie-free!

So sit down, make yourself at home, and stay a while. It's a lovely summer afternoon here in the mountains of Southern California. A delicately pine-scented breeze is nodding the heavy heads of hot pink hollyhocks along the back fence, and the lemony snapdragons are blooming a second time this summer. We can settle on the wicker sofa on my front porch and look across the autumn-tinged meadow toward the purple hills that ring our small town. It's the perfect time and place for tea, cookies, and good conversation.

Please note the Home Schooling page under my header if you'd like to know more about our school as we start our thirteenth year of home education, and our eldest begins her first year of college at Point Loma Nazarene University.

And also note the link in the sidebar to my website that assists homeschooling families with essay grading and language arts tutoring, all from the comfort of your home computer: Susanne M. Barrett: Online Essay Grading and Language Arts Tutoring.

Passing the plate of cookies,

Monday, September 6, 2010

On the Journey to Gratitude

As we journey the pilgrim pathway together, I thank God for His gifts, little and great, that keep me ever hungering and thirsting for His Holy Spirit guiding my life with the Gratitude Community.

And thus I continue on the journey to A Thousand Gifts, thanking Him this day for:

306. ...the path He illumines for me, lighting one step, the next step, at a time, so that I may walk forward in faith, loving and serving along the way.

307. ...when the cookie jar lid breaks--my favorite Classic Pooh--it breaks into two large pieces that are mended easily with Super Glue, with only a small fissure showing.

308. ...when a friend is injured deeply, she tells me, sharing her private heart o' hearts. While my heart weeps for her broken heart, broken spirit, we draw near to the One who calms the storm, heals the wounds, resurrects the dead. Our hearts entwine in prayer for His miracles. He is there, in the midst of unspeakable pain, knitting hearts together, mending what has been shattered and seemingly destroyed beyond repair.

309. ...a daughter who delights to come home from college...a family apart for the week reunited for the weekend, laughing over the dinner table. My chicks are back, nestled under my mothering wings.

310. nights when searing days seem endless.

311. ...His Holy Word, whispered lovingly into my ear, when others refuse to understand.

312. ...hope, despite all that strives against it.

313. ...a new class starting at Brave Writer this week; the joy of teaching story writing to young persons from here in Southern California to on the other side of the world (Russia and Singapore, thus far).

314. ...starting our co-op Class Day courses this Thursday. While I teach writing to high schoolers, our boys will be taking classes in Biology, Fine Arts, General Science, Chess, PE, California History, and Lego Engineering.

315. ...sweet friends who support, encourage, nudge, exhort, advise, and, most of all, LOVE--friends online whom I have never met, friends who live far yet remain close to heart, friends who live near and reach out with open arms and open hearts to love, challenge, and pray.

Walking forward in gratitude,

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Quotations from Mother Teresa

This day, September 5, is a remembrance and celebration of Mother Teresa of Calcutta: the thirteenth anniversary of her death.

From's Saint of the Day daily e-mails:

In 1946, while riding a train to Darjeeling to make a retreat, Sister Teresa heard what she later explained as "a call within a call. The message was clear. I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them." She also heard a call to give up her life with the Sisters of Loreto and, instead, to "follow Christ into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor."

After receiving permission to leave Loreto, establish a new religious community and undertake her new work, she took a nursing course for several months. She returned to Calcutta, where she lived in the slums and opened a school for poor children. Dressed in a white sari and sandals (the ordinary dress of an Indian woman) she soon began getting to know her neighbors—especially the poor and sick—and getting to know their needs through visits.

The work was exhausting, but she was not alone for long. Volunteers who came to join her in the work, some of them former students, became the core of the Missionaries of Charity. Other helped by donating food, clothing, supplies, the use of buildings. In 1952 the city of Calcutta gave Mother Teresa a former hostel, which became a home for the dying and the destitute. As the Order expanded, services were also offered to orphans, abandoned children, alcoholics, the aging and street people.

For the next four decades Mother Teresa worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor. Her love knew no bounds. Nor did her energy, as she crisscrossed the globe pleading for support and inviting others to see the face of Jesus in the poorest of the poor. In 1979 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On September 5, 1997, God called her home.

So on this day, I gathered a few words written by this incredible woman of God who recognized Jesus in every face her eyes saw.

"Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing."

"In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."

"Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness."

"Sweetest Lord, make me appreciative of the dignity of my high vocation, and its many responsibilities. Never permit me to disgrace it by giving way to coldness, unkindness, or impatience."
Trying to "do small things with great love,"

Friday, September 3, 2010

My Head in the Sand...

For the first time in four years of blogging, I simply haven't wanted to write much here for the past two weeks. It's an emotional thing.

See, I've been called to the carpet by an acquaintance from my home school co-op.


For this blog.

Specifically, for calling myself a "contemplative Christian" in my Blogger profile.

This person has written me that being a "contemplative Christian" is, in her words, "an oxymoron." The e-mail strongly implied that if I regard myself as a "contemplative," then I'm not a Christian.

I am a thin-skinned person. Very much so. I cry at e-mails rejecting the publication of my poems. I even cry at AT&T commercials.

Critique of any kind is difficult for me as I tend to beat myself up about anything and everything. And receiving what I consider to be a rather harsh e-mail questioning my faith from an acquaintance is world-rocking for me.

I know...I know...grow up, right?

But the whole thing makes me want to pull back and do my ostrich imitation--burying my head in the sand and vainly attempting to ignore the situation.

I am sooooooooo NOT a person who deals well with confrontation. To tell the truth, I run from it. Or, at least I use my cane at a much quicker pace than usual.

So, in addition to being busy-as-all-get-out with homeschooling and preparing for teaching my new courses at Class Day and Brave Writer, I have been in knots over the e-mail that still is burning a hole in my inbox.


I know. If I just deal with it, it will make me feel much better. And I will.



With head firmly entrenched in the sand,


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