Sunday, July 30, 2006

Cats got my tongue =)

After three interesting trips in a row followed by an intensive weekend of writing, I can't seem to find anything to write about in my real life. It all seems kind of humdrum to me after the excitement of travel. And yet, this past week has been a lot closer to what my "normal" life is like and, in truth, there have been things to write about, they just don't seem as interesting as a trip.

Last Sunday, I left the writers' retreat, drove straight down to Stoneham to pick up my sister and her co-eader of the Home and School so we could drive up to Lake Winnipesaukee to Linda Barrows-Stacey's house-near-the-lake for a board meeting (she's our board chair). It was intended to be a social occasion for members and their spouses...and I think it was for everyone but me. I was coming down off the adrenaline high that I always get when I write for a sustained period of time. We had a good meal, and accomplished some good things in our board meeting, but it definitely put an end to my two weeks of relaxation!

The drive home was spectacular. I wish I could have taken pictures. It was just about sunset and the lake and the mountains were absolutely beautiful! But there's no taking pictures when you're speeding down the highway...

After a week of long hours at school (still trying to find a math teacher), I spent Sabbath morning at two different churches. I went first to my own (Stoneham) church to hear Julie play one last time (most likely) before she goes off to college. That girl has a gift! She plays with such emotion and passion and sensitivity. She played the same medley that she played for her brother's baptism...and once again it drove me to tears. I had to leave as soon as she was done. I was going anyway, but my own emotions made for a hasty exit.

I drove up to Dracut to the Merrimack Valley Church to see a former colleague and her daughter, who was a student of mine several years back. I also wanted to meet the new pastor and see if we couldn't strengthen their connection with GBA. I had taught his daughter my first year at GBA, but half way into the year, she got pregnant and left school to get married and have the baby. He did not remember me...and I did not remind him we knew each other.

Now, today, I have spent the entire day working on this little house of mine. I would so love to actually own a home, but know that my current lifestyle would not let me take care of it sufficiently. It's all I can do to take care of a condo. In truth, if I did not have two teenager cats, my cleaning wouldn't take as much effort. But I have them, and would not trade them for all the tidy houses in the world. Still, they bring me to my knees, literally, to clean up ofter them. Tonight, the result is so satisfying! I am sore and tired, but much closer to being ready for company should anyone decide to drop by!

I did go out shopping for a few hours. I was inspired by Patty's discussion about French women and cooking as well as her salad plate method of portion control. I decided to try it, and found some lovely dishes at Home Goods for just $2.99 each. I bought them and when I got home, searched out the five other pretty plates I already head. Three are from my dad's mother and two were given to me by some students along the way. Now, all I have to do is find interesting recipes to try and see if I can't find satisfaction in a pretty little plate of food... No guarantees, except that I'm going to try it.

The photos here are 1) Pillows on my couch: The sunflower one is filled with lavendar from Aix-en-Provence; The tapestry one with the standing man is from Windsor Castle; the smaller one is from Paris. I bought the top and made the pillow myself. 2) May was a little disoriented when I filled her favorite perch on the couch with the above pillows and had to settle for the seat, like any normal cat. 3) Teddy on his favorite perch--the back of my rocking recliner. 4) New plates (except for the cream colored one that belonged to my Grandmother). 5) Old plates (bottom two were my Grandmother's. They depict scenes from Dickens novels. I have no idea why she had such plates, but I think they are kind of cool).

Monday, July 24, 2006

Where I am From

I attended a Writer's Retreat last weekend at a Bed and Breakfast in Rockport. This is the first thing we wrote as a sort of introduction to ourselves:

I am from wisdom
and Godliness--pioneer
stock and patience.
Scattered wide across the
plains; travelled far across
the sea.

I am from peace-making,
peace-loving, pieced-together
moments of sheer joy
Intertwined with intensity and
purpose and God-centeredness.

I am an educator's heiress--
Twenty-nine years between occupancy,
Destined--perhaps--to follow
in footsteps I can only
occasionally fill.

I am the result of a healer's gentle touch
and example as well. Destined--at times--
to need that touch even as I give it.

I am from music--composer
and composed--making merry
measure, singing soulful songs.

I am from travelers--grandparents
who left home for this
better land; parents who
took me back just last year.

I am from leaders. I have walked
in their shadow and those of others
for years.

Fifty one years in the making
I am from strength and vulnerability
rom longevity and commitment
and from love.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Two Night Stand

Well, this time I'm home for two nights before I'm off again! I worked 10 hours at school today without taking a break until I got home fairly exhausted. It's not always like this, but you sure do pay for taking a vacation!

I have repacking to do and some house cleaning, so I'll just post a few pictures from the weekend in the mountains on the lake and the next 4 days in Acadia. I will try to catch up next week.

At the top is one of my all-time favorite sunset views. If I have one picture of this, I have a thousand. No joke. OK. Maybe not a thousand, but at least a hundred! The lake is Mooselookmeguntic in Rangeley, Maine. The dock is that at my middle sister's family cabin and site of many happy memories over the past 22 years.

Next is my dad praying with Christopher and David after he baptized them. We had a beautiful consecration service up in the cabin, complete with instrumental music by the cousins (cello trio, vocal and cello duet, cello and flute duet) and singing, as well as a litany I wrote and a homily my dad shared. Then we adjourned to Jewel Cove, site of four previous baptisms a few years ago (the other cousins in this tight-knit group of six).

Hope for the Flowers comes next...butterfly and bee on cone flowers out in one of the several gardens around the cabin. Lauren barely planted these flowers. She said as soon as she walked away from planting them, there were butterflies all over them!

Next is the rugged beauty of the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. We camped just around the corner from here, and took a cruise out in the ocean to see what wildlife we could find on a rather foggy day. I'll post those pictures next week.

The last picture is what I keep coming home to: May and Teddy. They do fine while I'm gone, but I know they are lonely and miss me. Poor cats!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Home again--Briefly...

I'm home again, after a fairly full day of travel. This time, though, there were no snags, no delays, just a long trip home via Houston. What I like about flying is the interesting people I meet, and the opportunity it affords me to read or doze without guilt =)

This time, the woman I sat next to from Houston to Boston was traveling with her husband and another couple to celebrate the other man's 70th birthday. "We could have gone anywhere," she said. "But he wanted to go to Maine." They are spending a couple of days in Boston, then driving up to Camden where they've rented a cottage on the ocean. I can think of few better places to stay for awhile in Maine than Camden (and I'm headed to one of them tomorrow), and I told her so. She had been a little apprehensive, but she seemed happier about it after we talked awhile.

I'm just home for the night, though, because in the morning I'll be off for Maine--first to Alfred to meet my parents; then to Rangeley for the weekend (and my nephews' baptism in the lake; then to Bar Harbor until Wednesday, then back home for a couple of days before going off to a writing retreat in Rockport for the weekend.

Whew! It makes me tired listing it out like that. But I am looking forward to each stop on this multi-faceted vacation.

Pictures are of a wild flowers near the Discovery Canyon Campus in Colorado springs.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Garden of the Gods

I visited a valley near the base of Pikes Peak known since the mid-19th century as the Garden of the Gods. It is a garden not of flowers, but of rock - of kissing camels and stone toadstools and mammoth sandstone walls tilted upward toward the Colorado sky. Travel-writer Ernest Ingersoll once called this garden "a gigantic peep-show in pantomime." Novelist Helen Hunt thought it "the very climax of some supernatural catastrophe." And all-American hero Charles A. Lindbergh was fully convinced that he had never seen "a more spectacular and magnificent place."

According to a pamphlet I picked up, "Geologists claim that the story of the Garden of the Gods began nearly 300 million years ago, when sediment from the Ancestral Rockies was carried eastward and spread out into great alluvial fans. This sediment was then reddened by ferric iron and long covered by a shallow inland sea. Some sixty million years ago - when the modern Rocky Mountains began their upward thrust - the horizontal sedimentary rocks were elevated and tilted skyward. The forces of wind and rain then gradually stripped away the softer layers, sculptering each rock into the form we see today: Gateway Rocks, Tower of Babel, Balanced Rock, Cathedral Spires, Three Graces, Sleeping Indian, Siamese Twins, Scotsman, Pig's Eye."

I don't know if I buy the 300 million years or even the 60 million years part, but I will say that the Garden of the Gods is a pretty spectacular sight. I went there today after getting out a little early from the workshop and spent a couple of hours driving through the park and looking at these amazing formations.

Standing there, gazing about me, I tried to imagine what it must have been like to see these mountains and rock formations for the first time. What it must have been like to live here, hunt here, pass through here on the way to somewhere else equally unknown. If those great rocks could but speak, what stories they might tell! Stories of native Americans, pioneers, mountain men, gold miners, explores. Of men and women, families and loners. Some with altruistic purposes, others just trying to survive. I ate

supper in a little cafe that had Native American music playing softly. I was transported, in spirit at least, to another time...a time without the stress that fills my every day existence. I couldn't be further from living the lifestyle of any single person I listed above!!! There are days I'd give a lot to live any of those other lives...but...since I can't, it's nice to imagine it now and again!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Colorado Springs

I'm writing tonight from Colorado Springs, Colorado. I'm here for a Fred Jones "Tools for Teachers" 3-day intensive workshop. This is what I was supposed to attend three weeks ago in Santa Cruz, CA but couldn't because of airline complications... I don't know if I'd have been happier at the beach than I am in the mountains, but one thing is certain: I wouldn't have had much time to enjoy the it. We have very full days (8-4) and there's not much time afterwards to do anything but collapse.

Still, I managed to cram a couple of hours of sightseeing in this afternoon...mostly to the United States Air Force Academy. I couldn't go into much because I had all of 1/2 hour by the time I got across the valley to the Academy. But I got lucky at the Chapel and got in even though it was supposed to be closed already. I also spent 15 minutes in the Visitors' Center...enough time to watch a video about the Academy, which was actually interesting.

I arrived yesterday in rain after a long trek from Boston to Houston to Colorado Springs. My companion from Boston to Houston was a real Texan, with the big cowboy hat, the cowboy boots, the jeans, and the western-style shirt. He was quite nice...and talkative. I enjoyed our conversation, talking mostly about small town politics and schools and school boards. His name was Luke. He seemed like a real gentleman. When we got off in Houston, he told me where to go to find my connection and then went off to his family. I rushed over to my new terminal only to find that my plane was delayed for an hour...then two. Sigh. When we got on the plan at long last, we sat on the runway for nearly another hour! By the time we finally took off, I counted more than 50 plans waiting in line behind us. Don't know what was wrong.

My hotel is high on a hill with the mountains rising behind it. Last night when I was talking with my mom, I was looking out th window of my 9th floor room and I suddenly realized that I was seeing three coyotes just running around in the scrub below me! There are large magpies flying and hopping around as well. It's very different terrain from what I'm used to...

Friday, July 07, 2006

In my life

Last week in church the pastor gave us the assignment to complete the following statement and be prepared to share our answers in church this week. "I believe God is working in my life because..."

This has been on my mind all week. First of all, I do believe that God is working in my life, and a myriad of things prove it to me over and over. But if I had to choose just one instance to share, I have no idea what that might be. Some of the things that stand out most to me are things I wouldn't necessarily want to stand up in church and share with everyone. Not that they aren't worth sharing, but they are just so private. And even though I know many in my church, I'm not the kind of person who gets personal with just anyone.

So, the dilemma persists. I could say generic things that many others could also say: good health, great family, loving and caring church, good job, ad infinitum. But I'm pretty certain that's not what the pastor meant.

I believe God is working in my life because...every time I look back I see how He has intervened in a way to keep me safe and away from potentially harmful or toxic situations...

I believe God is working in my life because...well...I just can't find any single stand-out event besides my whole life. I have felt this same lack of specifics when people want to hear my "conversion story." I don't have one. There was no strike of lightening or big reveal when I all of a sudden knew that I would walk with Jesus for the rest of my life. I've just always been walking. That simply.

When I was younger, I used to feel as if there was something missing in my Christian experience because I'd had no Damascus Road experience...until a classmate commented one day that I was lucky that I had always known Jesus, that He had always been important in my life. She did have a conversion story to tell, and she was grateful for it, but she thought it would have been wonderful to always have been in such a relationship.

Well, it is. I know that now. And I feel fortunate that I work in an environment where it's OK, even encouraged, to have open conversations with my students about their relationship with God, and where we can pray whenever we feel the need, silently or out loud, privately or corporately. And maybe that's the answer: I believe God is working in my life because He's given me the opportunity to work closely with young people and encourage their walk with God on a daily basis. It is the nicest work (although I sometimes think it is the hardest). And faith is strengthened each time I share it with others as we study and learn together.

Pictures are of this year's graduation weekend. The seniors asked me to give the Commencement Address, which was a real honor and privilege. I came to the school their first year there as kindergarteners. I have been to each of their graduations (K, 8th grade, and now senior), and I was their class sponsor for all four years of academy. We've been through a lot, including the 10-day mission trip to Peru. So we've had many conversations together, and prayed many prayers together.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Overture for the Fourth

I'm listening to the Boston Pops play the 1812 Overture as it's prelude to the fireworks over the Charles. They are at the part where all the instruments go crazy, just before the cannons go the orchestra and out over the Charles. I've been there live several times, probably not countless, but enough times to know the excitement and anticipation in the air out there right now. And enough times to have favorite memories.

Twenty three years ago tonight, all my family--immediate and extended--were there... It was right in between my two sisters' weddings (they got married two weeks apart). We were packed into our little square of real estate enjoying the music and each other. I don't remember who performed. I just remember being there with a huge family group.

Another time I was there with a girlfriend, her boyfriend and some friend of his. That might have been the most awkward time I've been there, as I didn't know this guy...and don't remember his name or what he looked like now, I'm embarassed to say. I'm sure the music was fun, though, all the same.

I remember a time when the Empire Brass were the featured artists and we were there early enough to enjoy their dress rehearsal as well as the concert. And there was the time I went with two friends and we sat along the Charles on the Cambridge side and heard Sandi Patti as clearly as if we had been sitting at her feet.

[Here go the cannons! And the crowd is roaring and there go the fireworks! The first time this Overture was ever played for a 4th of July concert was there in Boston on the Esplenade... (a little tidbit Jack Williams just told us).]

One of my favorite times of listening to the Pops was almost disastrous. I was with Bryant and Kevin (two colleagues from school) planning to watch things on TV at their place when we got the bright idea to go out behind the old GBA to the hill that overlooks Boston and watch from there. So we got Bryant's boom box (and some fireworks he had) and went out behind the school and climbed up the hill to a clearing where we could see everything clearly. We were hanging out, listening to the simulcast and enjoying the view. Then Bryant made the mistake of lighting one of the (weak) fire crackers which somehow caught the attention of a bored woman in a police car...and she literally tracked us down and tried to arrest us! She said we were trespassing and also setting off firecrackers illegally (never mind that they only fizzled). Thankfully, we were able to talk our way out of it, but it was a little unnerving for a bit. That's the closest I've come to having a record (I think)...

We've celebrated at my sister Lauren's for the past several years in a much calmer and roomier environment. That's what we did today. I went home around 7 and started watching at 8. But watching on TV just isn't the same. You do hear better, though.

One of the thrills tonight was hearing former student Renese King sing. She is a "Pops Favorite" and often performs both on the 4th and in Symphony Hall. I am always proud when I see and hear her. She represents her school and church well. Tonight she sang Amazing Grace and a beautiful negro spiritual Over My Head. A few years ago, she sang to accompany Peter Jennings who was reading a number of famous American speeches and documents. Keith Lockhart really likes Renese and has even taken her with the Pops for a 17-city tour. You go, girl!

Well, the telecast is going national a few minutes. Too bad the nation didn't hear what came before. Now, all they have to look forward to is Aerosmith!!! (I just heard their first set...and it was...awful. Really awful. And I had just called my dad to tell him to watch! Ah well. There's bound to be something better in a few Souza...)

Photos from Boston Globe archives and Boston Pops publicity.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Catching up with "old" Friends

I love catching up with "old" friends, and I've been doing a bit of that lately.

Reconnecting with academy classmates Patty and Mary Beth via our blogs has been a joy. I am being reminded of things from years ago as well as discovering new things by seeing the world through other equally-but-differently experienced eyes. It's brought me out of my GBA cocoon and put me in touch with other parts of the country and other ways of life. Most of my friends are somehow connected with the school either through work, children, or church so we have a rather narrow focus to our lives. Finding other things to talk about that have nothing to do with work has been a healthy thing to do and has helped me realize there really is more to life than EW/GBA, no matter how important that work might be.

Sabbath, someone came up behind me while I was talking with a colleague (even at church!). My friend said "I think someone wants to talk with you." I turned around and there was a long ago friend that I spent 3 months travelling through Europe with exactly 30 years ago this summer! He and I and 3 others from the EW/GBA/AUC area joined up with 45 others from all over the country to go on an incredible journey through more than a dozen countries on one of the Andrews study tours. We were pretty much inseparable those 11 weeks, but have hardly seen much of each other since. I had two more years of college, then took my first job out to Michigan. Coincidentally, his youngest sister was a senior at the academy I went to, so I saw him again at her graduation. We've lost touch since then except for now and again he resurfaces when his folks come to visit him and he brings them to church. But he's been on disability (he has AIDS) since 1994 and his mother has passed away, so he doesn't get out much. He looked good, although he was struggling with bronchitis and had to leave shortly after because he obviously wasn't doing very well. He's written a book about his fathers experiences in WWII. Sounds interesting!

Other old friends I've reconnected with are much younger. One of my students from Michigan faithfully calls me every few months, and has done so since I left 23 years ago! He just cazlled me a few weeks ago. Things are still the same with him. He's still a car detailer with a boat on Lake Michigan. He filled me in on all the "kids" from his class. In the same vein, I discovered a few months ago that designer and foreman of the new Floating Church on Lake Titicaca in Peru was another Michigan student of mine and yet another one, who is now a doctor, was on the medical crew there leaving just a week before the GBA seniors and I arrived. So, while I didn't not seem them face to face, I did come face to face with their work. What a small world!!!

A week ago Sabbath, I had lunch with another former student, this time from my SLA days. He and his wife and new baby were visiting (from CA) his parents so he invited me to join them so we could catch up with each other. Another SLA student has a new baby and we've been writing back and forth via his blog, where I also have enjoyed seeing pictures of his new son. One of my early SLA students is now teaching at AUC and he brought the AUC scholarships to graduation. It was quite delightful to see him doing so well. One of his good friends is the boyfriend of our new English teacher (who is also my second cousin). I am looking forward to reconnecting with both of them.

Much of this reconnecting wouldn't be possible without the internet. You can "Google" just about anyone you want and find out something about them. And so many have Blogs now. It's not only interesting but fun to hook up with people you used to know.