Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Pilot

Tuesday morning, our chaplain gave the staff an assignment. He read the familiar Shepherd's psalm to us (Psalm 23) and asked us to write it in language and imagery that speaks to us more personally. He gave us about 10 minutes in which to do it before we shared what we had written. Here is my contribution to the morning's creativity:

The Lord is my pilot; I will never be lost with Him at the wheel.
He takes me to the greatest heights; He lands me safely at all my destinations.

He puts my mind at ease; He protects me from evil doers. Even when there is turbulence, I am calm because He is with me.
That comforts me beyond words.
When I am hungry, He feeds me. When I am hurt or sick, He heals me.
Blessings abound under His watch and care
and I am grateful to be on this journey with Him.
All this makes me a loyal follower and supporter.

I will fly with Him anywhere throughout eternity.

The paintings here were done by Nathan Green, one of my students my very first year of teaching. I knew then that he had a special talent, but none of us had any idea how he would go on to become one of the nation's most popular nature and inspirational artists. You can read about him and see more of his paintings here and here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

And the winner is . . .

My sister just called to say that her daughter, the cellist, just won her audition to play in the concerto competition at her university! I am so thrilled! She will be playing the Lalo Cello Concerto at the end of this Tennessee =( I would so love to go hear her play. She is an amazingly passionate musician who has been in love with the cello since before she was born...literally. Both her parents play cello, and her mother was in 4 orchestras during the pregnancy, and actually played in a concert the day before my niece was born! It was destiny, wouldn't you say?!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Feast for eyes, ears, nose and throat =)

Our traditional family gathering was held in a new house this year. There are three core families who spend the day together at one of three homes. This time, we went to the new home of the sister-in-law of one of my sister's. There were a couple dozen of us, plus a dog, two cats and the new kitten (who was a big hit with everyone).

All the ladies are good cooks, so we had lots of good food. All the children and most of the adults are good musicians, so after we ate, we had good music. In between and all around, we had good conversation, as all of us are good talkers.

These famlies have known each other for ever and ever, going back to the college years of the oldest. All the middle agers (myself among them) went to college together as well, which is why the families remain connected and always gather together at Thanksgiving.

Music brings us together, too, as the oldest is also the director of the orchestra that all the middle-agers and collegiates have played with. My sister's husband and his sister are founding members of that orchestra, the internationally renown New England Youth Ensemble. It was only natural, then, that we indulged ourselves in music for awhile after we finished our food.

After the kids played, we prevailed upon the director to play. Now, this woman is a true musical genius, and really is known all over the world. She debuted in the Capetown, South Aftica City Hall when she was just 11 years old, and has been a prodigious force in the music world ever since. She is a pianist, a violinist, and a composer as well. Her oratorio debuted in Carnegie Hall a few years ago to rave reviews. It is an amazing privilege to know her, never mind perform with her. Her great gift to musical kids has been the travel. Oh, the places we've gone with her: China and the Far East, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, South Africa, Australia, Europe, Poland, Russia, Scandanavia, Brazil, Rwanda, Jamaica, the Virgin Islands...quite literally all over the world.

Anyway, we begged, and she sat down and played for us for about 20 minutes. We were mesmerized. She played Bach, Mozart, and then a composition of her own. All of which served to remind me of yet other blessings in my life: music and travel, and the person who made it possible for me to combine both.

Photos: the pie table, one of the table settings (there were three), Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse playing her own composition, the mesmerized audience of young and old alike.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving gratitudes

I'm thankful for so many things. There are the more abstract things that include purpose and contentment, but there are very tangible reasons for them. Among these are...

1) My parents, who are still in relatively good health at nearly 80 years old and who are active leaders in their church and community.

2) My sisters, who are my best friends, and who are actively making a difference in young people's lives through their work in Christian education.

3) My nieces, who are beautiful, smart, creative Christian collegiates.

4) My nephews, who are smart, funny, talented, young Christian men.

5) My brothers-in-law, who are good fathers, good providers, good Christian husbands.

6) My colleagues, who are excellent, interesting, and dedicated Christian teachers.

7) My Bible study group that supports and challenges me on a weekly basis.

8) My friends, some of whom I've known for more than 35 years.

9) My two furry house compansions who make me laugh and feel important every day.

10) My health and peace of mind and soul.

11) The beauty that surrounds me here in New England.

12) Days off from work like today that afford me the opportunity to reflect on the blessings in my life, and then later join many of them at a big family dinner.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Take Nothing for Granted

To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.
~ Albert Schweitzer

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Meet Dustin niece is home...and the kitten has a name. I went over for supper and to welcome her home. After we ate, we tossed around some names for the new kitten. We knew it would have something to do with the Red Sox. We all are huge we tried out Fenway, Manny, Jacoby ("Jake"), and Ellsbury. But we finally landed on Dustin (Rookie of the Year), "Dusty" for short. It suits him.
He's adorable...and playful...and fits right into this household of cat lovers. There are two other cats already there (Misty and Shadow), and they aren't the happiest that there's this tiny little animal running around, but they are growing to accept him. Soon, they'll be a happy family.

Friday, November 16, 2007

New Kitten

A month ago, the cat my sister has had for 15 years, ran out the back door and down the driveway to explore the yard. She has not seen him since. Mittens was a present for my niece the Christmas before her brother was born and he has been a pal ever since. The family is devastated at his disappearance, but last weekend, my sister and I went to visit a cattery to see about getting a new kitten. Not for a replacement, but perhaps as a distraction.

If you've ever visited a cattery where there is at least one (potent) male, you know what I mean when I say you can smell it before you see it. Whew! But...seeing the adorable kittens makes you forget what you're smelling as you enjoy their playful sweetness.

These are ragdoll cats. My sister already has one bluepoint ragdoll. My own is a seal point mitted. They are hilarious, friendly, laidback, soft-as-a-rabbit cats. They make excellent pets, and if I had more space in my condo, I would have brought home one myself. But then I remember that the two I have are already a handful. Best leave well enough alone for myself. My sister? This afternoon she brought home the little boy here in her lap. He will get his name when her daughter comes home on Tuesday.

Technical Difficulties

I've been having technical difficulties for the past month at least. It started with my laptop crashing on a fairly regular basis, to the point where I had to final admit I needed a new one. There were a few hoops to jump through to get the new one ordered and then the two-week wait for it to be assembled and shipped.

In the mean time, a friend loaned me his brand new HP laptop that was fully loaded with most of the programs I use regularly, but not all. This limited me in what I could do, never mind that most of the people I work with don't have the latest versions of Word or Publisher, or other things I use to communicate with them. Still, I appreciated the generosity of this friend to let me use his new toy before he even got to do much with it. Limited or not, it was far better than not having anything at all, which is where I'd have been without it.

When the new laptop finally arrived on Wednesday I was all excited. Imagine my shock and dismay when I discovered that there was no software loaded or along with the computer rendering it useless to me for anything except e-mail. I am still waiting for that to arrive.

Then there's the fact that my several-times-dropped digital camera quit in the middle of an event at the end of October which forced me to buy a new one (which I got at a bargain, but hurt all the same). Add all this up, and you have a rather expensive reason for the lack of recent posts here. I hope to be back on track by next week.
All this adds up my not being able to do much with the blog, what with having no programs to work with, or no camera, or no way to edit, etc. I expect to be back to normal sometime next week. I can't wait until I have everything all together in one place, working (I hope) at optimum speed and quality.

Meanwhile, here are some interesting (to me) pictures that have been collecting in the new camera until I could download them today. The first picture is of the ivy that grows on the gymnasium wall at school. I think it looks pretty cool in it's fall colors. Next is a collection of basketballs in our gym waiting for the kids to finish their warmups so they can do drills. Again, it just looked cool to me. Then, there are my two funny housemates, May (the calico) and Teddy (the fluffball). The final two pictures are of birds lined up on the top of two stores that I visited on Sunday last. I just thought it was interesting how they all gathered up there in a row like that. It's too far away to see what they are, but I just liked the idea of all those birds lined up, looking down on all the shoppers =)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Adagio for Students

I like to play music--classical and instrumental music--in my classroom during quizes, tests, and writing periods. Over the years, classes have latched on to a specific piece, requesting it over and over until it becomes their signature music. They have fallen in love with such things as The Mission soundtrack, The Sage of Lamborene from "The Innovators" CD that I received as a promo at a WordPerfect seminar in 1993, anything Enya, anything classical piano, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, and this year, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings.

It all started with a conversation about the new music teacher and how he doesn't do anything like the last music teacher. I reminded them that anything artistic is organic, that it is constantly changing and growing with each new reading/viewing/hearing/performance. I told them about a radio show I heard when I was their age where all they did was play the same Brandenburg Concerto but each time it was a different conductor. And each time it was entirely different.

That was the first time I remember thinking about the interpretation of a work of art, but ever since, I've had a fascination about it, and have made a point of paying more attention to the subtleties of interpretation. When I was in college, I took a class in Oral Interpretation and later, I taught it for several years as a senior elective. More recently, as part of my Hamlet unit, I take a class period to show the students a series of interpretations of several scenes: the "To be or not to be" soliloquoy, the "Get thee to a nunnery" conversation with Ophelia, the scene with his mother after he kills Polonius, the grave diggers scene, and the final duel and ending. I use versions with Derek Jacoby, Kevin Kline, Lawrence Olivier, Mel Gibson, and Kenneth Branaugh as the Hamlets.

The conversation about interpretation has spawned other conversations about knowing the author, knowing the context, so you can know where and how to place emphasis. But it's also about your own experience, your own emotions when you are meeting a particular work of art. It's about what you bring to the piece as much as what the original author, artists, or composer brought to its inception.

Last week, I brought a CD to class that has 8 different versions of Barber's Adagio for Strings ranging in length from 4 minutes to 9 minutes, with various instrumentations ranging from the original strings to clarinet, brass, flute, and even voice. One student was so profoundly affected, that he wrote a page and a half about it in his journal. Another went out and bought the CD. Another downloaded his favorite version to his phone. Another googled it and found a crazy jazzy version on UTube and sent it to me. And the seniors have actually relaxed about the new music teacher and are open to his interpretation of the music and are encouraging the others to do be the same.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Two Old Chestnuts

I treated myself today to two of my favorite TV adaptations of great books: The Scarlet Pimpernel and Christy. It all started because I forgot about turning my clocks back, resulting in my getting up before 7 this morning. It was awhile before I realized my mistake, too late to go back to bed, so I decided to take advantage of the extra hour by curling up in my recliner and watching a movie I've shown so many times to students that I know much of it by heart: the Anthony Andrews/Jane Seymour version of The Scarlet Pimpernel. It's been several years since I last saw it, though, so even though I knew exactly what was going to happen, I enjoyed the anticipation of certain scenes or lines.

Later in the afternoon, I watched the first installment of the TV series Christy. The book by Catherine Marshall is one of my all-time favorite books about teaching. I've read it numerous times and have loved it every time. The TV show wasn't exactly like the book, of course, and you miss out on a lot of the subtleties that the book affords, but it's still nice and uplifting. It was a good way to recover from all the hustle and bustle of last week and to refocus my priorities. When Miss Alice asks Christy why she came to Cutter Gap, she replies that she wants to give her life meaning and purpose. Teaching definitely does that for was good to be reminded.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Wild Winds at Old West

This afternoon I participated in an education rally held at one of Boston' s venerable old churches. I didn't know that's where I was headed when I got in my car this afternoon. I had an address, and a rough idea of location, but no one told me I was going to end up at the Old West Methodist Church. Instead, I wandered up and down the street until I finally parked and walked so I could get a closer look at the buildings and street addresses.

If you hadn't heard, Boston was supposed to be in the middle of a Nor'easter today. Luckily, it hadn't reached peak conditions at this time, but it was windy and rainy, and the longer I walked, the wilder my appearance became. My umbrella turned inside out a couple of times, and my hair was flying all around my face. I felt like a leaf being tossed about by raucous winds!

I finally just stopped walking and just looked around me. I studied each building on either side of the street and even took a picture of one of them, a beautiful old New England church. While I was watching, I noticed a young man rushing through the rain, up the steps of the church and it hit me...that maybe, my meeting might be in that church. I hurried across the street, up the stairs, blew into the entrance, right into the pastor I was supposed to be meeting! I couldn't believe it. Happily for me, they were just getting started, so I didn't miss anything.

When I left, I got to thinking that there might be more to this lovely old church. Sure enough, as I went out the gate, I noticed a plaque stating that in 1776, the British removed the steeple of the church so the patriots could not use it for signaling or spying. (The Old North Church was not a similar worry because that congregation was largely Tory. Those of you who know history, though, know that Paul Revere had a well-placed friend in the sexton who did use that steeple to signal if by land, two if by see...). You can read more about the fascinating history of this church here.

One side-note to this whirlwind visit (literally) is that in my haste to find where I was supposed to be, I parked in a city parking lot near to where I thought the church should be. As I was leaving 2 hours later, the pastor asked if he could validate my parking ticket. When he saw the ticket he said "Oh, you should have parked in the underground, lot." He stamped the ticket anyway and gave me $20 to "help with your parking fee." Wow! I thought. That's going to be an expensive 2 hours! When I gave my validated ticket to the attendant, she looked at it and said that this lot wasn't eligible for the 50 cents parking fee. I explained I was a first-time visitor and had no idea even where to park. She told me I'd have to pay the full fee, which ended up being $22. I tried to give her the money, but then she picked up the phone and called someone...resulting in her saying she'd take just 50 cents this time but next time to park underground. Wasn't that nice of her? The pastor will get his $20 back next time I see him!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Autumn Hornet's Nest!

Some of the 1st-3rd graders came running to the office after their recess yesterday to tell me about a hornet's nest in the maple out front. They thought I might like to take a picture of it. They were right =)

Sunrise this morning

Prayer pulls the rope down below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly; others give only an occasional jerk at the rope. But he who communicates with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously with all his might.
C.H. Spurgeon