Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Art of the Written Missive

I spent time in the last week renewing a snail-mail relationship with a dear friend. She has just published her second book on Catholic unschooling, and we e-mailed a bit, chatting about our different projects since I just finished editing a book project as well (The Book of Common Prayer 2011).

Over ten years ago, when my friend lived in Virginia, we "met" on the old Sonlight forums and immediately discovered much in common, including our names: Susie (me) and Suzie. We christened each other "Anne" (me) and "Diana" after the two kindred spirits in Anne of Green Gables.

So I dusted off my wooden writing desk, pulled out my antique-parchment stationery, picked up my beloved fountain pen, and wrote a long letter--both sides of the page even!

Writing a real letter is so much more personal than shooting off an e-mail or sending a text or a Facebook message; when we read someone's handwriting, with all its imperfections and quirks, we possess a window into the writer's soul; personality shines through the crossed t's and dotted i's and weird q's.

This is a lost art--the handwritten letter. We may handwrite a thank-you note from time to time, but how often do we sit down and write a multiple-paged letter to a dear friend? And what an investment in friendship such a letter is!

And then there is the sheer joy of writing such a missive...for me, anyway. Of ink gliding across parchment, of scratch of nib and flow of idea, of careful expression of words and phrases. Writing a letter is a lovely way to spend an hour as well as a wonderful way to rekindle a friendship or even start one.

It's a lost art, the handwritten letter.

Is it an art you would like to help revive? Just pick up a pen and allow heart to flow like ink across the page....

With writerly affection,

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Walking Humbly with Our God

Keith has promised to make me one of these "personal kneelers"--called a prie-dieu, which means "before God."

Because, for me, it's all in the position.

I pray best on my knees.

It isn't comfortable for long prayer sessions, granted--especially for me whose knees give way at the best of times. But there's just something about kneeling that sets my heart in the right place for prayer.

When Father Acker was Rector of Christ the King in Alpine, my favorite part of Friday morning worship was the kneelers. Oh, I loved the beautiful stained glass windows, the majestic altar, the scent of beeswax candles, the fragrant fog of incense, the simple white adobe walls hung with icons beautiful. But for me, it was all about the kneeling.

It's akin to taking off shoes on hallowed ground. Kneeling is about prayers holy--set apart--beyond the ordinary.

It's not about groveling. Not when He bids us to "come boldly before the throne of grace." No, there's no groveling in prayer. Humility is not groveling.

But in prayer there's mercy and grace, love and confidence, and when we bend the knee, we worship Him with body as well as with mind, heart, and soul.

Kneeling for me means worshiping God with all that I am, recognizing the glimpses I see of all that He is--He who is the great I AM. He is God ever-present, ever-ready, ever-willing to hear and love and answer and advise and comfort.

Kneeling reminds me of who I am--creation--bowing before who He is--Creator.

So how can I not kneel?

I am reminded of the sung words to Micah 6:8:
"He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."

I am also reminded of one of my favorite Collects in the new Book of Common Prayer 2011:

For Confidence [Note:In Latin, con=with; fide=faith, so confidence means "with faith"; I love that!!]
O GOD of peace, you have taught us that in returning and in rest we shall be saved, and in quietness and in trust we shall be strengthened; By the power of your Spirit, we ask you to bring us into your presence where we may be still and know that you are God; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And of course, I am further reminded of my favorite line from my favorite Christmas carol, "O Holy Night":
"Fall on your knees;
O hear the angel voices!"

So as we walk humbly and with confidence before our God, He reveals glimpses of His glory to us--and how can we not respond by falling to our knees in humble worship before Him?

Kneeling before the King this day,

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Carry On Tuesday Prompt #109

It has been many months since I wrote a poem, and even longer since I tackled a prompt from Carry on Tuesday. But over the last week I have worked on a poem from a prompt now two weeks old, the title to a song that saddens me greatly. The prompt, #109 is the title to Abba's song, "Slipping Through My Fingers," a song I know well from Mamma Mia!, a favorite movie of mine and Elizabeth's.

As a mother with three teens and a "tween," I am all-too-conscious of the slippage of time. I recall too easily our children's baby-days, their toddler years, their early school lessons. Veggie-Tales and Magic School Bus has been supplanted by Call of Duty Modern Warfare and Battlefield: Bad Company.

Last week I took the kids to my parents' beach house, half a block from the Pacific. While E walked with my mom to her hair appointment, I escorted the three boys to the beach. I sat in my beach chair, Kindle in hand, while J took out the boogie board to ride waves and T and B created sand sculptures, digging a protective ditch against incoming tides with a long-handled shovel.

The Carry on Tuesday prompt came to mind, and, grasping pen and notebook, I scribbled rough words, a draft of sorts, trying to pin down images before brisk breezes and faulty memory could tear them away. Following is the third-draft product:

beach day
in this light diffused
glowing beyond shifted cloud
above the glistening curl of waves,
he totes seaweed--
a head of hair rank,
spindled from ocean floor
woven onto firm shingle.

with perimeter of uprooted grasses
and oblong ditch dug deep,
he guards his delicate sand creations
from dervish of encroaching fingers,
a deathly shiver wracking.
but this mass of brownish-gold,
pointedly bulbed, thick-skinned and slippery,
cannot halt the immutable tides--

as i discovered for myself,
far too young on similar sands--
when innocent kisses, tentative touches
were shielded from prying parental scrutiny--
lacy foam, salted shockingly cold,
surging above bare ankles.
it all tumbles back in rough surf,
memory upon icy memory,
despite the years that slipped
through our fingers....

Copyright 2011 by Susanne Barrett

I'm not completely happy with this poem...yet. My mind creaks with disuse, verse awkward at the tip of my pen, tap of my keyboard. For once I am accustomed to writing fiction--perhaps the first time. Prose is the skin I fit in best right now; poetry stretches.

But how can I not reach, stretch, when opportunity allows? A rip here or there will not matter much; needle and thread are ready at hand, even if mending is untidy.

One must try to fit, after all. Writing should never be comfortable but always a reaching--a stretching--painful at times but how growth happens....

That's how writing becomes life.

Poetically yours, as always,

Monday, June 27, 2011

Another Multitudinous Monday

With the arrival of summer comes the reading.

This past week I made time in the late afternoons to take my beach chair out onto the side lawn, placing it under the ancient Jeffrey Pine that holds the kids' tree house, and settling into dappled sun/shade with writing desk, journals, Book of Common Prayer, Kindle, and Ann's One Thousand Gifts.

After praying and reading God's Word, I read a chapter from Ann's wise book, soaking up God's Truth through her poignant writing.

The best writing seems to come from the deep places of pain and suffering--in which God reaches in, transforming sorrow into a joy so profound that it rocks our comfortable little worlds.

This morning I was reading from another favorite devotional, John Baillie's A Diary of Private Prayer. From the Twenty-Seventh Day, Morning:

...For all suffering freely chosen for noble ends, for pain bravely endured, for temporal sorrows that have been used for the building up of eternal joys, I praise and bless Thy holy Name.

O Lord my God, who dwellest in pure and blessed serenity beyond the reach of mortal pain, yet lookest down in unspeakable love and tenderness upon the sorrows of earth, give me grace, I beseech Thee, to understand the meaning of such afflictions and disappointments as I myself am called upon to endure. Deliver me from all fretfulness. Let me be wise to draw from every dispensation of Thy providence the lesson Thou art minded to teach me. Give me a stout heart to bear my own burdens. Give me a willing heart to bear the burdens of others. Give me a believing heart to cast all burdens upon Thee.

So with thanks for all things, the beautiful and the painful, I add to my journey to One Thousand Gifts with the Gratitude Community at Ann's A Holy Experience these gifts:

541. ...for the reading and the learning and the growing as I journey this path of gratitude, and the joy of discovery that infuses Ann's little book, One Thousand Gifts

542. ...for the gift of words flowing through pen onto paper, formed I know not how, both of prose and poetry this week

543. ...for the writing of the first poem of this calendar year, the ending of a too-long dry spell

544. ...for the gracious art of stained glass I watch as Keith works on this new commission, an Arts and Crafts-style for a 1915 Craftsman bungalow in Los Angeles

545. ...for the joyous play of ocean waves on gray days, toes dug deep into warming sands, boys boarding and digging nearby

546. ...for the delight of books and friends who also delight in discussing them, too, and who challenge me to read outside of my comfort zone

547. ...for peace of candles and icons, praying of Psalms, the anointing with oil and laying on of hands in prayer at Victoria House that sustain me in His grace another week

548. ...for lovely responses to my writing from friends and strangers, for words that encourage and uplift and inspire

549. ...for sweet, cold summer plums, juice running down my chin

550. ...for this day, my parents' 47th wedding anniversary, for a marriage strong and deep as a model

So as I walk with gratitude this day, I pray for our needs, knowing that God hears and answers, and thanking Him for the many blessings, the little graces that color our days lovingly, if we but look and see....

With gratitude, this day and always,

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Quotation for the Week

One of my favorite devotional books is Phyllis Tickle's three-volume set of The Divine Hours. I saw them at Costco several years ago but didn't have the money to purchase them; I just drooled rather unattractively as I turned the pages, knowing that I would readily pray from these books if I owned them.

Several months later, a friend from Alpine Anglican, whose son I was tutoring, mentioned owning the series and not liking it; she offered, and I joyously took them off her hands.

And I haven't stopped using them since.

The books cover the entire calendar/liturgical year, with a volume for Springtime, one for Summertime, and one for Autumn/Winter. Each day contains prayers for Morning, Midday, and Vespers (evening), basically Scriptures and a few Collects from the Book of Common Prayer 1979. Then at the end of each month are the Compline Prayers (bedtime), a week's worth of prayers that can be used four times in each month.

I have set my phone to chime at 9:00 in the morning, 12:30 in the afternoon, and 6:00 in the evening to remind me to go upstairs to my prayer corner and pray the appointed Scriptures and prayers. The Holy Spirit speaks to me wonderfully during these times, as if the Scriptures were chosen especially for me to address an issue I'm dealing with, or the emotions I'm feeling, or the discouragement I'm facing.

Each Vespers set of Scriptures and prayers usually includes a hymn--some I know, but most I don't. But last Tuesday's Vespers hymn caught me and held me, especially the third stanza:

O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not in vain
.....That morn shall tearless be.
.....That morn shall tearless be.

--Rev. George Matheson, from "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go"
in Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime, p. 115
As I, and many of my family and friends, live each day in pain (whether that pain be physical like mine or emotional which can often be worse), we can indeed open our hearts to God who allows us to indeed "trace the rainbow through the rain"--to see the good behind the pain, depending on His promises that the morning shall bring relief.

For me, mornings are very painful. I dread waking in pain so much that I almost fear sleeping. When I wake, my joints are swollen and stiff, my muscles ache, and I move extremely slowly. At times, the simple, ordinary task of taking a morning shower can sap my strength for hours, if not for the entire day.

But the promises are there, and I grasp them hard with hope, not willing to let go.

Thankfully, rising each morning "is not in vain." There is a day ahead, with work to do and people to love and God to worship. And there is indeed joy--even if it "seekest me through pain." We have to wait through the rain for the sun to shine, lighting the prisms of color through the rainbow--beauty from the rain...from the pain.

Memorial stained glass window by Keith Barrett

And then I think of C--the girl who loves rainbows, adores God, and is with Him now. We left-behind-ones grieve for her, missing her, but know that she has escaped the pain and grasps His sheer, heavenly joy.

Waiting with you for the "tearless morn,"

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Poem to Consider

USS Ward (

I have many friends and family members who are either currently in the military or who formerly were; my grandfather made history as an officer on the USS Ward, the destroyer that shot and sunk a Japanese submarine just outside Pearl Harbor before dawn on 7 December 1941, thus alerting our military of the coming attack. The Ward, with my grandfather as captain was hit by a kamikaze on 7 December 1944, three years to the day after Pearl Harbor; my grandfather was able to evacuate all hands safely before the Ward was scuttled.

So with a history of military service in our family, plus having all three of Keith's sister's children serving at one time or another, and living in San Diego, a true Navy town with many active servicemen and -women in our church, in our neighborhoods, etc., praying for our military is very important to me.

Each I pray for those who are deployed, using my prayer list and the following Collect in the new Book of Common Prayer 2011:

For Those Serving in the Armed Forces
LORD God of hosts, stretch forth your almighty arm to strengthen and protect the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guards of our country; Support them in the day of battle, and in times of peace keep them safe from all evil; Endue them with courage and loyalty, and grant that in all things, they may serve without reproach; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Why write about the military today? I receive the Poem-A-Day e-mails from, and this poem really brought home what our men and women experience when serving in the Middle East. Earlier this week President Obama announced the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq--which I hope is a wise move. But the military and their needs surround me. One of my friends from church, a Harvard grad in English Lit, is in the Navy, and her husband was just deployed; they recently welcomed their first child, James, into the world. My grown nephews have served in the Middle East, and sons and daughters of church friends are also in active service on the other side of the earth. I think of them, pray for them, and, although I shouldn't, I worry for them.

And this poem powerfully expresses what I pray they won't experience.

by David Hernandez

The donkey. The donkey pulling the cart.
The caravan of dust. The cart made of plywood,
of crossbeam and junkyard tires. The donkey
made of donkey. The long face. The long ears.
The curled lashes. The obsidian eyes blinking
in the dust. The cart rolling, cracking the knuckles
of pebbles. The dust. The blanket over the cart.
The hidden mortar shells. The veins of wires.
The remote device. The red light. The donkey
trotting. The blue sky. The rolling cart. The dust
smudging the blue sky. The silent bell of the sun.
The Humvee. The soldiers. The dust-colored
uniforms. The boy from Montgomery, the boy
from Little Falls. The donkey cart approaching.
The dust. The laughter on their lips. The dust
on their lips. The moment before the moment.
The shockwave. The dust. The dust. The dust.

I'm not sure why this poem hit me so hard. Perhaps it's the simplicity. Or the vivid imagery set up as visual glimpses. Or the power of destruction in the middle of an ordinary day, ordinary happenings.

And I pray my own prayer for our servicemen and -women this night:

Keep our men and women safe, Lord. Surround them with the hedge of Your protection; envelop them in Your loving Presence. Bless them, Lord, as they selflessly serve our country, allowing us to live our lives in safety and freedom. Keep their families left behind safe and well. Preserve their relationships despite the physical distance and time spent far apart; may absence indeed make their hearts grow fonder. May we be grateful for their service as we surrender them into Your safekeeping, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the One Who Saves. Amen.

Prayerfully and poetically,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Meandering Meditation....

The meadow outside our gate, Pine Valley

This afternoon I sat out in our yard outside our converted mountain cabin and spent time with God, read from a couple of different books (including the excellent 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp), and wrote in my journal. After I wrote about what happened over the last week, I wrote this meandering meditation and thought I'd share it here....

Here in dappled light, the sunlight shyly peeping around and now beneath curving arms of the vanilla-scented Jeffrey Pine, I hear the laughter. The whirr of bicycle tires wheeling across dry dirt, sun glinting off metallic helmets as Benjamin and Jonathan disappear out the fence to the library in a rising puff of dust. Timothy and Elizabeth follow leisurely on foot behind them, trailing elongated shadows in the pale afternoon light, the powdery dirt road snaking through heat-sucked meadow grasses.

They wave cheerfully as they go, riding and strolling through the meadow, across the charcoal asphalt of the post office parking lot, through the secret gate only known by locals into the verdant county park. They'll cross the emerald lawns, traveling beneath centuries-old oaks with their wise, spreading branches, then across the dry creek bed--the one that only runs with winter rains but used to flow year-round in my childhood forays to this little mountain town.

My brother, sister, and I (usually accompanied by neighbor Scott) played in this same park, the boys catching tadpoles in the creek between games of football and frisbee, riding bikes and roller skating gracelessly while my parents played tennis on the same courts my kids now play, cheap gas making such Sunday drives to the mountains a frequent treat.

Once across the creek bed, memories running more fluidly than water, dry here but still trickling gently on the other side of the valley, a fact I note when driving Elizabeth to work at the Bible camp, the kids reach their destination: the library. This social hub of our small town recalls an earlier time of living when children were free to ride bikes to friends' to skate to the community garden to lend a hand, weeding and watering and watching living things grow nurtured.

As I sit here and write, the soft hootings of a neighborly owl greets early evening, and the young birds nestled in the eaves of our screened porch chatter incessantly, teens no matter the species. Stellar jays, midnight blue with cockiness, shatter silence with scoldings as they wing above in reaching treetops. The low moans of a lawn mower interrupt nature's concert, ripping through grasses, complaining loudly.

Creation may seem harsh, but she never complains.

As I write, a round red ladybug alights on the back of my non-writing hand, skittering past my wrist, over watchband, up cardigan sleeve as I watch nearly-invisible feet grasping white cotton, hanging almost upside down, defying gravity and nature herself.

So I write, ink delighting in shadowing journal pages, fountain pen nib glinting in the same sun's warmth, suffusing my bare shins and toes. The light shifts as afternoon falters, inexorably pushed aside by evening's arrival. Even my fountain pen creates shadow as word by word skims across page, captured from sound, image, merest touch, into permanence of written expression--almost like pinning a live butterfly specimen, but not quite as cruel....

All summer's beauty,

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Couple of Days Late...

This morning I opened my Book of Common Prayer as usual, preparing my mind for prayer with candles burning and the silence of my prayer corner, upstairs and away from household noise.

In the Book of Common Prayer 2011, the Psalter reading for Day 22's Morning Prayer consists of Psalm 107 which begins:

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble....

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man.
For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry he fills with good things.

(Psalm 107:1-2; 8-9, ESV)
So although I'm not posting on the usual Monday, we can (and should) thank God for his goodness all the time.

But what about when His goodness doesn't seem "good" to us?

Pastor Rollo, now senior pastor at La Vina Community Church in Miami, always repeated this modern antiphon:
Leader: God is good, all the time.
People: All the time, God is good.
Sometimes, when pain wracks deep, hands ache from writing, God's all-the-time goodness seems more obscure.

Sometimes, when bills mount and cash flow trickles, when pantry empties and fridge bares white shelves, His goodness is more difficult to see, more difficult to believe.

Sometimes, when boys argue and feelings are injured, when chaos seems to reign rather than peace and order, God's goodness shields itself behind noise and angry words.

But in these "sometimes," faith builds, flexing muscles and strengthening. If God's goodness was always under our noses, vivid and obvious, would we truly see it? Or would it be all-to-easy to ignore, to put off for another day?

It's when we have to peer through the obscuring fog of pain, through the financial struggles that seem to dim His light, through the loudness that appears to veil His gracious whispers.... It's when we seek His goodness that we truly find it, recognize it, celebrate its surprising arrival.

Obscured. Dimmed. Shielded. But there. Oh, so there.

So as "he satisfies the longing soul," we offer our thanks along with the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience on the journey to One Thousand Gifts.

With gratitude to God for...

531. ...the grace of the handwritten letter, time and love invested into envelope, stamped with blessing

532. ...the freedom of summer--classes over, grades submitted, long-neglected books begging to be read

533. ...rebuilding relationships with old and dear friends via Facebook and e-mail

534. ...the apparent need for ordering a second printing of the Book of Common Prayer 2011 and the joy of sharing the praying of God's Word with those within and without Anglican practice

535. ...the flicker of candle, prayers rising gently with transparent curls of lavender-scented smoke

536. ...bunches of apples, quarter-sized, maturing on our Pippin apple tree

537. ...the return of parents after two months away out-of-state

538. kids who laugh and joke, fuss and fight, stretching and teaching my mothering mind and heart

539. ...the grace of time and rest and, yes, even triple-digit summer heat

540. ...the burgeoning of slivers of colored glass slowly gathering into stained glass beauty, capturing and splitting light and warmth as Keith works the new window

So as God's goodness creeps into dank corners, bringing light to darkness and joy to sorrow, we can offer raised hearts of thanks and praise, recognizing and basking in the glorious obscurity of His Grace.

With gratitude, this day and always,

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Quotation for Fathers' Day

My dad at his birthday celebration in April, wearing the traditional birthday hat that we kids have tried to destroy, maim, burn....

In honor of Fathers' Day, I jotted down a few new quotations about fathers; some were amusing, others poignant, still others logical.

The quotation-collector in me wants to post all five of the quotations I deemed good enough for my Quotation Journal (a nearly ten-year project), but I need to practice some control, both for your benefit and my own discipline...and so that I'll have something to post here next year as well!

My dad has a definite silly side, as evidenced in this most recent photo of him on his 69th birthday in April. He's retired...which means that he now works only forty hours per week doing consulting work in the utility industry. He and my mom have three homes: their main residence within half a block of the Pacific Ocean, just south of La Jolla; a small mountain cabin atop Mount Laguna; and an even smaller studio-apartment-sized condo in Waikiki with a view of Diamond Head. Yet the total square footage of all three homes is less than our own converted mountain cabin. It's all about location-location-location for them.

We called Dad today from their beach house to wish him a Happy Fathers' Day. Elizabeth cleaned their house from stem to stern while the boys watered and pulled weeds, all in preparation for my parents' return tomorrow from two months on Oahu. Last spring's trip was more dramatic with Dad needing a double bypass surgery while there, but this spring's trip was much more normal, peaceful, and restful, thanks be to God! They also spend about a month in Hawaii in the fall as well; I think they'd move there if we didn't have so much family still in the San Diego area.

Dad is always puttering around at one of their places: working on their ancient mountain cabin, making improvements to their beach place, utilizing space-saving measures in the Hawaii condo. But over the years he has learned to relax, and with eight grandkids to keep him on his toes, he had better rest while he can!

Here's the quotation I chose for today:

"Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad."
--Anne Geddes, Photographer

So, Happy Father's Day, Dad!!! Hope you enjoyed those Hawaiian beaches today before flying back home tomorrow!!!

With love,

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Writing with Friends

This afternoon about twenty residents of Pine Valley and environs gathered in the Community Room of the Pine Valley Library for a presentation by journalist and author Joe Tash on his book Dear Guests, Beware of Wild Monkeys.

Joe, his wife Alicia, and their daughter Salome traveled around the world in 2005, home schooling then fourth-grader Salome as they traveled through South America, Europe, India, Cambodia, Thailand, and Japan over a nine-month period.

Joe's book gives practical advice on traveling with a family, dealing with insurance and medical needs, plus what and how to pack and prepare for such a trip. The book is sprinkled with journal entries written by nine-year-old Salome as Joe re-created his own journal and e-mails. In more recent trips to Africa and other places, Joe has blogged along the way at Beware of Wild Monkeys

We very much enjoyed seeing the map of their travels, watching a slide show of their spectacular photographs (taken with a compact point-and-shoot digital camera), and hearing both Joe and Salome read from the book. Joe was generous with his time, answering questions that ranged from home schooling to specific locations to language barriers to types of food eaten (crickets were rather weird!). Joe and his family were warm and personable, and although I couldn't afford a book at the moment, I hope to read one of my friend's copies when they finish...not that I don't already have a sizable reading stack building up for this summer! Joe cheerfully signed books and chatted with attendees, even staying late to take a look at one of our writing group member's illustrations for her book.

After the Tashes left for the long drive back home to Oceanside, our Writing Workshop held a rather impromptu build-your-own-blog workshop on the library computers as I helped Betty and Teresa start their own writing blogs. If you would like a peek and perhaps follow them as they continue their journeys as writers, you may check them out here: Betty's Blog and The Silver Shell. It took us about ninety minutes to build both blogs, one of them on each computer with me hanging over their shoulders, directing them through the process.

So today was a lovely writerly day, admiring a local author's completed project and helping two writing friends into the blogosphere as they continue on their journey to publication.

Wishing you many writerly days,

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Celebrating 26 Years

A rare photo together--we're both photographers (Keith's a pro; I'm strictly amateur) so we have few photos of both of us.

(And I found tonight that I can get around the Blogger image issues by using Internet Explorer rather than AOL...a pain, but it works...thanks be to God!)

Today, June 15, marks 26 years that Keith and I have been married. Yep...26 years. Earlier today I computed that I've been married to Keith for 57% of my life...and I'm so glad I have!

We married when I was 19 and he was 25; we met when I was 17, were engaged at my senior prom less than six months later just after I turned 18. With a 19-year-old daughter now, I give total respect and awe to my parents for NOT freaking out (at least in my presence!) over how young I was. I think it helped that Keith was older and already set up in business. My parents did make us commit to two promises: 1. I would graduate from college (and I overachieved and received my Master of Arts...and still dream of a Ph.D. some time), and 2. We would have a year-long engagement. We kept that one too, marrying a year and a week after Prom night.

That Prom night remains a blur to me...mostly because I was far too vain to wear my glasses, so I truly saw everything in a blur. I wore my mother's prom dress from the early 1960s, a beautiful white satin and tulle with a sweeping pink bow and rhinestones; it outshone my wedding dress for certain. My parents took picture after picture before we left for the prom, my ring firmly in place (despite the fact I secretly wore it throughout Grad Nite at Disneyland a few weeks previously).

My English teachers were there at the Prom checking tickets, and their shock made a memory, but not in a good way. Their fear seemed the same as my parents': if I married, I wouldn't graduate from college. But being a married college and graduate student was far easier for me than living in the dorms. Keith worked so hard to enable me to complete my education, and I so appreciated his doing so, both then and now. And when the stress of classes overwhelmed me, he'd let me cry on his shoulder, or he'd kidnap me for a day at Disneyland so I could de-stress a little.

We waited until our seventh year of marriage to start a family...only a week after I completed my Master's degree at USD, in fact. I worked at a downtown bookstore both before and after my Master's program, until PLNU had an adjunct instructor position ready for me. Keith again helped me to balance teaching and parenthood by working at home, watching Elizabeth while I taught. Then he would go into his office when I took over at 11AM, grading essays feverishly during the baby's afternoon nap. I still remember Keith's drafting board with the pack-n-play next to it, both set up in our dining area so that Keith could work from home three days per week while I taught.

As more babies joined the family, I felt the pull to stay home full-time, but I've kept busy tutoring, home schooling, teaching online and at our Class Day co-op throughout the years, and Keith has always supported my teaching. Although I'm sure he would like me to slow down from time to time, he has given up holding me back as a "lost cause."

I also have supported Keith in pursuing his artwork, especially his stained glass and photography, in addition to his design and drafting of custom homes (which unfortunately has disappeared over the past three years). We've always been each others' best cheerleaders and support systems, a fact that has kept our marriage strong through the years.

So here's to the past 26 years, and to at least 26 more!!

Celebrating tonight,

Monday, June 13, 2011

Continuing the Journey of Thanks

It's been a long semester...a long school year.

Each Sunday night as I wrote down the next week of lesson plans for our three boys, the week moved forward: Week 1...Week 7...Week 16...Week 22...Week 29...Week 36. At last we tackled the 36th week, accumulating 178 days of schooling.

Now I need to scrabble together the boys' final semester grades, plus finish grading the research essays from my honors writing course at Class Day. But the Brave Writer classes are complete, and my college prep writing class has received back their final research essays and course grades.

So the school year, for all intents and purposes, is finished. And I am thankful that it is.

The summer spreads before me, and there are many projects looming...things I want to accomplish. But I feel that I need to put my own long-neglected needs first, for once. My need for quiet prayer. My need for daily exercise and eating right. My need to write daily, beyond blogging--writing in my journals, composing new poems, inventing new stories. My need to sit in the sun and read mystery novels. My need to allow a beautiful story take up my day while body rests and soul delights.

I hope that the long-neglected garden will be tidied, that the MLA research guide for high schoolers will be drafted, that the many serious books stacked next to my bed will be read, that my desk and books and homeschooling materials will be cleaned and organized. But I need days like today when a lovely story delighted my heart all the day as I laughed, cried, and lived vicariously in 1918.

May this summer be one of rest and relaxation, and may the essential things be accomplished as well.

So with this summer ahead waiting to be filled, I join the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience in the journey to One Thousand Gifts, thanking God for:

521. Beautifully-crafted stories with compelling characters that teach and delight--the true meaning of literature

522. Freshly mown lawns

523. Pincushion flowers and Mexican primroses in full bloom, despite the weeds.

524. Crisp summer mornings and warm, drowsy afternoons

525. The graded essays behind me this year, with only a few more to do

526. The helpfulness of boys who clean house and manicure garden

527. The lazy drowse of hovering bees

528. Unread books waiting so patiently for my time to clear

529. For the celebration yesterday of 14 years with our middle son, the "cool kid" of the bunch

530. For the celebration on Wednesday of 26 years of marriage with the man I love

So on comes summer, with its warm winds drying the grasses grown high by spring showers, bringing lazy days of rest and relaxation.

Starting summer this day,
Susanne :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

New Quotation of the Week

For some reason beyond my control, Blogger isn't allowing me to post images, boldings, italics...nothing from the control bar. Don't know why; it could be an AOL thing. It's getting very annoying...that's all I can say.

Now that school is done for the most part, I can actually breathe. The big class' research papers have been returned and final grades computed, and all Brave Writer classes are finished. I have a few research papers to grade and mail back to my honors writing students and our own boys' final grades to add up, but then I'm completely finished for the summer.

And my summer project? (You knew I had one, right?) Complete the first draft of the MLA Research Report book for Brave Writer by the end of July.

But as I enter summer, a time to rest and relax after my most stressful school year yet, I wanted to ponder a quotation or two about rest.

“Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest.”
--Ashleigh Brilliant (1933--)

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
--John Lubbock (1834-1913)

“Rest when you're weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.”
--Ralph Marston (b.1907)

Wishing you all a blessed, restful summer ahead!

Resting in God's grace, this day and always,

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A New Quotation of the Week

Blogger is still refusing to post photos and links (or even italics or bold) for me, so please excuse the lack of bells and whistles as I post today....

Each Sunday I very much enjoy thumbing through my worn Quotation Journal, seeking a quote that encapsulates my feelings about the week past or for the coming week. And tonight I keep thinking of kindness. An old friend has posted some very kind notes and remembrances to my Facebook Wall this weekend which have cheered my spirits considerably as this past week has been a very difficult one for me.

The final two weeks of our school year require much work from me: last week I had to complete all the lessons for the Shakespeare Family Workshop at Brave Writer and respond to all assignments, plus start grading final essays, and home school the boys. Now this week I must face the completion of the Shakespeare Family Workshop I'm extending through Friday, the MLA essays I need to finish grading and then computing final grades for my Intermediate Writing course at Class Day, the MLA rough draft conferences I'm holding this week for my Advanced Writing students, and the final week of home schooling for our three boys (grades 5, 8, and 10).

This past week's stresses have hiked my pain levels to the highest they've been all year. I've been struggling to push myself through my days, getting done all I can to finish our school year and my outside classes well. And the kindness of my friend has helped to lift my spirits this weekend as I face our final week of homeschooling and so many looming deadlines for my other classes.

So, on kindness:

"The best portion of a good man's life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love."
William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850)

"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."
Aesop (620 BC - 560 BC), "The Lion and the Mouse"

So as I reflect on the kind words of a friend, I pray that kindess will also follow you throughout this week, blessing you as you bless others with kind thoughts, words, and deeds.

With kind thoughts,

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Home Schooling Plans....

NOTE: Blogger is being a pain today, refusing to upload photos or bold/italic anything or provide links. I've been trying to make this post work ALL DAY, and I'm just going to post it as-is and edit it later to add photos, italics, links, etc.

This week has been incredibly busy, hence my lack of posting. I have a teetering stack of final MLA research essays to grade and return by Thursday, plus final grades for my Intermediate Writing students to post by then. I am also holding rough draft conferences for my Advanced (Honors) Writing students who are submitting their final essays on Thursday; I'll grade them and return by mail as Thursday is our final meeting.

The Shakespeare Family Workshop that I'm teaching at Brave Writer should have been finished yesterday, but several families have been ill or have had issues with keeping up, so I extended the class through next Friday, June 10. I have posted all the work but will need to continue responding to their assignments. It's been a wonderful class; I'm so glad that I reworked it this spring even though it was a HUGE time investment, but now it's done and can be retaught in future years with ease.

Next week is our final week of homeschooling as well. The boys are in fairly good shape to finish on time; J may need to do extra algebra over the summer with our tutor, depending on how well he does this week with his final lessons. I thank God for Johanna, my college friend (roommate of my roommate once I married) who teaches the kids algebra and etc.--anything past sixth grade math is beyond me!

And with the used curriculum sales going on last week and this week, I am of course planning our next year of home education. I'll be teaching the same courses at Class Day thus far: Intermediate Writing (college prep expository writing for grades 10-12) and Advanced Writing (honors level expository for grades 11-12); if I don't have enough students for the latter, I may just do Intermediate although we're technically supposed to teach two classes, but as I teach it without a team (most classes are taught by teams of 2-3 moms) and invest so many hours into grading, I think they'll let it pass. Or, if nothing else, I could cobble together a poetry or a Shakespeare course, I suppose. We'll see....

I found the boys' literature books at the curriculum sale on Thursday, and I just made arrangements on Facebook (of all places!) for T's chemistry book, so all I need are a reading and a math workbook for B, and we should be set for next year. Here's my plan for the boys:

Timothy (11th grade)
Bible (family prayers and lectionary from the BCP 2011)
Chemistry (Apologia Lab at Class Day)
American History (ABeka)
American Literature (ABeka; plus Merchant of Venice class with me at Brave Writer in May)
Intermediate Writing (I'll teach him my usual class at home)
Algebra II (Saxon with Johanna Vignol)
Computer Programming (online--have to research)
PE (at Class Day: volleyball and basketball)

Jonathan (9th grade)
Bible (as above)
Geography (Mapping the World by Heart at Class Day)
Health (ABeka)
Introduction to Literature (Bob Jones or SMARR; Merchant of Venice in May)
Not sure what we'll be doing for writing...
Algebra I (Saxon with Johanna Vignol)
Physical Science (ABeka, no lab)
PE (at Class Day: volleyball and basketball)

Benjamin (6th grade)
Bible (as above)
World History (Sonlight 6 with Story of the World)
Literature (Spectrum Reading workbooks, some Bob Jones Lit 6 and some Sonlight readers)
Daily Grams 6
Spelling Power/Spectrum Spelling
Brave Writer freewriting prompts
Math (ABeka 6)
Usborne Science Encyclopedia (selected units)
German in 10 Minutes/Day

At Brave Writer this next year I'm picking up two new classes: six-week literary analysis classes for books I adore: Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. I'll also be teaching the MLA Research Essay course in the fall, the Groovy Grammar and Playing with Poetry family workshops in the winter, and the Merchant of Venice high school Shakespeare class along with possibly the Shakespeare family workshop again. I'll miss teaching the Just So Stories class in the fall: a story writing class based on Kipling's animal stories. It's so fun, but I think with my new courses, it will be too much. I also hope to finish writing a book for Brave Writer for high school students writing the MLA research essay.

So as this year winds down, I feel fairly confident about our plans for Year 15 of home education.

And now I have no excuse to keep me from starting to grade that teetering stack of research papers, so off I go. I probably won't have time to post much until we're done with the school year, unless I raid my archives.... ;)

Schooling-ly yours,


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