Friday, December 31, 2010


We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day. ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

If, in fact, New Year's Day is chapter one, then tonight is the preface. The space where we gather up our thoughts about what is to come, an opportunity to serve notice regarding my head about the year to come. #1, do not procrastinate. About anything.

Since June I've been working on an integrated teaching unit about New England's Women Writers. It's supposed to be a minimum of 60 pages with no fewer than 8 technology components integrated throughout. It's due today. And I'm not quite done, much to my chagrine. I started off with grandiose plans. I was originally going to have mini units for 15 authors, and had made good progress by mid-July when all of a sudden everything about my life changed and I've not done anything since then until this week. Sigh.

I've been in Maine for the past week. Before that, I was in Massachusetts for a week. It's been so good to be here with family! And even with the blizzard on Sunday-into-Monday, I've enjoyed every minute. Tomorrow I go back, back to the Valley of the Sun, back to work, back to the solitary life for another 5 months (solitary meaning without family, not friends). I go back, though, with renewed determination to do all the things I should be doing on a daily basis rather than sporadically. I know I can do it because I am claiming the assurance that "I can do all things through Christ."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Christmas Carol

by G. K. Chesterton

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all alright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,

And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Hymn

A stable lamp is lighted
Whose glow shall wake the sky;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
And straw like gold shall shine;
A barn shall harbor heaven,
A stall become a shrine.

This child through David’s city
Shall ride in triumph by;
The palm shall strew its branches,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
Though heavy, dull, and dumb,
And lie within the roadway
To pave His kingdom come.

Yet He shall be forsaken,
And yielded up to die;
The sky shall groan and darken,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
For stony hearts of men:
God’s blood upon the spearhead,
God’s love refused again.

But now, as at the ending,
The low is lifted high;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
In praises of the child
By whose descent among us
The worlds are reconciled.

-- Richard Wilbur

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Between Darkness and Light

This is the perfect Winter Solstice poem!

From The Winter Solstice
by John Matthews

It is within the darkness and the silence
That the magic of Christmas starts;
Somewhere between the glimmer of lights
And the first breathless moment
When children come
Stumbling like new-born angels
Into morning light.

Within the darkness and the silence
We sit, watching wonder
Evolve into form; where we
Enter the ringing silence
In which the first bells of Christmas
Sound the music of the soul;
Where the morning joy begins
With a single carol
To a half-forgotten tune.

It is here, between the darkness
And the light,
That we wait, uncertain,
Seeking the moment
That challenges us to believe
In a freshly minted miracle
Born every Christmas Day.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Western Town

You know you are in a western town (as opposed to a New England town) when cowboy boots beat out Bean boots. Friday, I decided to explore Old Town Scottsdale while hunting down some Arizona-ish stocking treats.

This was the first touristy thing I've done since I moved to AZ 5 months ago. Having started work the day after I arrived in August, I've not had the time to look around me until Friday. And even then, I didn't have much time to give it. Still, it was enough to enjoy. And I found the stocking treats I'd hoped for. Not a bad couple of hours!

There were many art galleries and jewelry shops with beautiful offerings I could not afford. There were quite a number of sculptures of horses, cowboys, and indians and a couple of real horses as well.

Venders were friendly, and even helpful. One lady gave me a great stocking stuffer idea (which I can't share at the moment since I followed up on it).
I wanted to get some native pottery, but didn't find anything I liked (that I could afford). I didn't get to all the shops, though, so maybe I'll find something when I go back (and I will).

Friday, December 10, 2010

What Sweeter Music Can We Bring

For journal writing this week, I've had my students writing about and around Christmas. One day I asked them to write about their favorite Christmas carol. Today, I played some Christmas music (Chris Botti's Christmas album) and asked them to write where the music took them. At school, I don't play music with words because I want the students to use their own words and not be influenced by those of others. But at home, and in the car, it's a different story. Nothing says Christmas to me like Christmas music. And nothing says Christmas music to me like John Rutter's Christmas carols (unless it's the Carpenters Christmas albums...).

One of my favorite John Rutter carols is actually a setting of a poem by 17th century English pastor and poet Robert Herrick. His "What Sweeter Music" describes exactly the power and purpose of music to express our love and gratitude for the gift of the Christ child. (I wrote about this carol a couple of years ago, too, and you can go here to read more about the poem and hear a nice setting of it.)

A Christmas Carol, Sung to the King in the Presence at White-Hall

What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a Carol, for to sing
The Birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the Voice! Awake the String!
Heart, Ear, and Eye, and every thing
Awake! the while the active Finger
Runs division with the Singer.

From the Flourish they came to the Song.

Voice 1:
Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honor to this Day,
That sees December turn'd to May.

Voice 2:
If we may ask the reason, say:
The why, and wherefore all things here
Seem like the Spring-time fo the year?

Voice 3:
Why does the chilling Winter's morn
Smile, like a field beset with corn?
Or smell, like to a mead new-shorn,
Thus, on the sudden?

Voice 4:
Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
'Tis He is born, whose quick'ning Birth
Gives life and luster, public mirth,
To Heaven and the under-Earth.

We see Him come, and know Him ours,
Who, with His Sun-shine, and His Showers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.

Voice 1:
The Darling of the World is come,
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome Him.

Voice 2:
The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the Heart,

Which we will give Him; and bequeath
This Holly and this Ivy Wreath,
To do Him honor; who's our King,
And Lord of all this Revelling.

Robert Herrick (1596-1674)

Friday, December 03, 2010


"Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments." If I've heard it once, I've heard it 60 times. Minimum. "My Mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun." "Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds.""I think my love as rare" "I scorn to change my state with kings."

I've been hearing kids say quotes all week long. We are in the midst of the Renaissance period in British Lit and I had my 60 students memorize 6 fairly substantial quotes from some of the best poems of the period...including their choice of four Shakespeare sonnets. Alas, none of them chose my personal favorite, Sonnet #29. Most chose the famous Sonnet #116 or the infamous Sonnet #130. Many of the boys claimed they could not, absolutely could not memorize a sonnet. "It's too hard," they'd say. Their mean old teacher was merciless and heartless. As a result, the majority of them can now claim they know a Shakespeare Sonnet by heart. And I know three.

OK so they are right. It is hard. But oh so satisfying =)

When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least,
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


I'm on my lunch break. Normally, I don't take one, as I have so much to do, so much "Ed-line" to keep up with (our school's on-line grade book program). The only time I take "off" for lunch is when I have meetings. Such was the case today. A student senate meeting led by a mature and responsible young lady whose grandfather is an icon in the world of religious/ inspirational art. But that's a story for another day. I only mention it because I came back from the meeting and decided to take the rest of the lunch period for "me" before I went back to grading, recording, posting, and, finally, teaching.

So I'm on my lunch break and I think maybe I'll try to write what's been on my mind since before the break: Robert Bolt's "A Man for all Seasons," the movie I'm showing to my AP 11th
grade English Lit. class. I told them yesterday that this was possibly my all-time favorite movie. Then I thought of all the other movies I love (including one I shared two weeks ago with the sophomores--The Mission) and I amended it to be "one of" my favorites. Regardless of where it ranks on my list (at least in the top 5), it is a favorite. Amazing. Powerful. Inspiring. Memorable. Challenging (as in challenging me to do and be better). And funny.

Yes, funny. You wouldn't expect funny when talking about a 15th-century setting with religious and political...and philosophical...themes criss-crossing through it like a maze. But there are definitely funny spots in it... like Sir Thomas calling his wife Alice "Chick." The first time I heard that, I thought I had miss-heard it. I thought "chick" was more of a "modern" term of endearment. Not one issuing forth from erudite Renaissance mouths!!! But there it was again today, plain as day (and the close-captioning words on the screen). It made me laugh all over again, right along with my students.

What they will discover, however, as we progress through the movie, is that one's conscience, and the keeping of it, is no laughing matter. It is, quite clearly (at least here), a matter of life and death. I asked the students if there was any belief they were willing to give their life for. Most of them "hoped" they'd die for their family or religion. But several of them were unsure. It's a scary thing to deliberately choose death over life for the sake of principle. Maybe they're a little young to be dwelling on such things. I'd like to think that I at least gave them something to think about. Because there will come . . . a day . . .

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I've been enjoying a new blog, Good Light Comfortable Chair. I especially enjoyed yesterday's entry, "The Stacks in My Study" about magazines and torn-out magazine articles.

I, too, have had stacks. Stacks of books, stacks of magazines, stacks of articles I've torn out for reading and filing. Yes, filing. I have had great plans to be organized. Someday. Meanwhile, I moved this summer and had to seriously consider what to do about all my stacks. Family members who were helping me move of course thought I should just throw things away. Why would I move stacks of magazines and articles I've not read in years? Just throw them out! Start all over in a stack-free house!!! (Notice they did not say that about the books).

Well, I ended up moving some of the magazines, but all of the torn-out articles. Four months later, they are still in stacks in my new study. Waiting for a rainy day to come along so I can go through them, sort them, and file them for future reading/use. Maybe. Consider, though, that I now live in Phoenix where it rarely rains...

Thursday, November 25, 2010


For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I went south for Thanksgiving for the first time in my life. Normally this day would find me with 2-3 dozen family members and friends somewhere in Massachusetts, but this summer--within the space of 2-3 weeks--our family somewhat combusted (not in a bad way) and moved to the far corners of the country: I moved to Phoenix for a new teaching job; a niece moved to Loma Linda, CA for medical school; my youngest sister and her husband moved to Charlotte, NC for a new teaching/principal job for him; and a nephew moved to Collegedale, TN for college.

This was a shock for a family that has been within 2 hours of each other for the past 18 years or more and has managed to spend every holiday and every birthday together during that time. While I've been lucky to see everyone at least once between September and this week, we won't be all together until Christmas now. Still, the seven (out of 11 core members) of us have enjoyed this Thanksgiving break together in Charlotte.

I do have much to be thankful for, in spite of the distance that has come so suddenly upon us. And it has been good to contemplate it all over the days.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

100 Books

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. I've read the ones that are bolded. What ones have you read?

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (Which movie version do you like better...Colin Firth's Darcy or Kiera Knightly's Elizabeth?)

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible (I'm enjoying The New Century version right now.)

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott (have read this many times. Also played "Jo" in a faculty production at Cedar Lake.)

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy (wrote a very long paper on this book for a doctoral class at UNH...60 pages...)

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (took a seminar in Shakespeare with Ottilie Stafford. We had to read every play we hadn't already read/seen!)

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier (loved this book. Lauren, Jerry, Connie and I read it back to back to back to back one summer in Loma Linda)

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk (This was really lived the horrors of war in this book.)

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger (I read this on a student's recommendation. He thought every English teacher should read it, even if I couldn't teach it.)

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot (I still have a book report I wrote on this in 11th grade. Don't ask me why)

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald (beautifully written...)

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (taught this one year for Honors English)

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma - Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen (my new favorite Austen book)

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden (this was fascinating)

40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (loved this)

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery (I know this almost by heart)

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan (amazing movie)

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens (I love teaching this as a parable on salvation)

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (a beautiful book...haunting...I was lost in it for days after I finished reading it on the plane to and from Russia)

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck (this book was edited in the old GBA library...literally words were blacked out!!!)

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (I've been to the island prison off the coast of Marseilles)

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding (gotta love the movie)

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville (the unabridged version!)

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker (this was for the same doctoral class at UNH. I would not have read it otherwise)

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (many times...the movie too)

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Inferno - Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (I've enjoyed it best in live theatre)

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro (I loved this. It has one of my all-time favorite quotes at the end where it talks about the remains of the day)

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert (In French)

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie is better...and a favorite to share with seniors)

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (also in French)

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (my favorite Shakespeare tragedy and the one I teach instead of Macbeth)

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (in French, and three times in the live theatre and also as a movie. The musical is wonderful)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Beaver Moon Antics

"When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator." ~Mahatma Gandhi

November's full moon is the Beaver Moon, so called by Native Americans because it was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze. This is also the time when the beavers are getting ready for winter. It is also called the Frosty Moon. I'm paying attention to the moon tonight because I realized, after a challenging day with one of my classes, that we are nearing the full moon for November. And in my experience the couple of days surrounding a full moon usually bring challenges to the classroom.

Some people laugh about this, but ask any ER worker, any insurance agent, or any experienced classroom teacher and you will hear the same thing from them: people get squirrelly around this time of month. I am always relieved when I see that full (or near full) moon.. There's a reason for the behavior...something outside of the classroom =)

Gandhi would have it something other worldly. And of course I believe that, too. I love what he says, in fact. But somehow I don't think my experience today was of a heavenly nature. Possible what Dickens called "the other direction." Ha!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mission Minded

I love how a powerful story can transform even the most reluctant learner. I love when students look forward to coming to class, to talking about what they are learning. It's what teachers long for and only periodically experience. This school year I've had the pleasure of introducing a new group of students to some of my favorite literature and movies. And what I love most about it is not just sharing stories alone, but sharing the meaning and message of the stories. This week, for example, I've been watching/ studying The Mission with my sophomores. Set in 1750s South America, it's more than a historically accurate story. It's a profound story of forgiveness and redemption, beautifully filmed and acted. The sound track alone will move you if nothing else does.

The first time I saw this movie, I was with a small group of students on a retreat. It was the evening of a full day and we were looking forward to relaxing with a good movie. We were unprepared for the effect this movie would have on us. As the story unfolded, we become more an more attentive, more and more focused on the images, almost to the point of being oblivious to anyone else around us. When it ended, we sat there in stunned silence for a full eleven minutes (one of the boys timed it). No one wanted to speak. No one wanted to break the spell. In spite of the discomfort for some (boys), it changed us. As individuals and as a group. We will never be the same for having gone through that experience together.

I don't know if this new class will feel the same way tomorrow when we finish the movie. I hope it makes an impact. But the fact that it happened even once is enough.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cultivating the Family Garden

To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there. ~Barbara Bush

“Your family and your love must be cultivated like a garden. Time, effort, and imagination must be summoned constantly to keep any relationship flourishing and growing.” -Jim Rohn

My sister spent the past three days in town (her husband was here for a medical conference). I took Friday off and enjoyed a spectacular day with her and my nephew who was also here. We gardened, sat by the pool, went shopping, talked a lot and just hung out. Thursday afternoon and Saturday was more of the same. I haven't done anything like that in some time. It was good to relax with family. I love the garden she made for me on the back patio with bouganvillia and a hummingbird bush. The birds do, too! The front patio is more of an herb garden with French and Spanish lavender.

In the evenings, we had fun discovering authentic places to eat --including two visits to a delicious pizza place, Grimaldi's, located in what seemed to us an out-of-the-way corner of Scottsdale. We've been to the Brooklyn version of this place twice (the original one). It's located right under the Brooklyn Bridge and usually has a wait time of more than an hour. Here, we waited about 2 minutes each time. Shows you the population difference between the two cities =)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Place You Were Called To

"The place you were called to is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet. . . . When you experience your deepest gladness, you experience life's abundance, God's abundance." --Randy Roberts, August 21, 2010, Loma Linda University Church

"If you want to experience abundance at work, do what you were made to do. Do it for theOne who made you to do it (Colossians 3:22)."

Randy Roberts is one of my favorite speakers. I've never had the privilege to hear him live, in person. But I've watched him on the internet (live streaming) dozens of times. He is pastor where my niece now worships out in CA where she is in her first year of medical school. She is active in the musical life of the church and I've had the pleasure of seeing/hearing her minister to the congregation twice already in the past two months and will again this weekend (she's the cellist here).

It's a wonderful thing to be able to do what you love and know it is also what you are called to do. Every day when I wake up I say a prayer of gratitude for the opportunity I have to do what I do. I know I am fortunate. Not everyone is happy in what they do for a living. Truth to tell, I haven't always been happy, even though I knew I was doing what I was called to do. So the two don't always go hand in hand. But they are working well together right now. Can't complain about that!

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Lesson(s) Done

"This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight Into the wordless
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best.
Night, sleep, and the stars.~Walt Whitman, "The Clear Midnight," Leaves of Grass

I've had this poem saved on my computer for several weeks. Not sure what prompted me to set it aside, but tonight it spoke to me again. "Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done." It's been a long day. Mondays I'm at school for 12+ hours, arriving around 7 and leaving well after 7. I often don't even get out of my room once I go in.

Teaching 6 high school English classes is beyond time consuming. The prep alone is exhausting, never mind the actual teaching. And yet, I love it. Even the classes that challenge me. I greet each day with joy knowing that not only will I be pondering themes I love, but, with any luck, so will my students.

But for now, night, sleep, and the stars.

Photo: campus at dusk

Sunday, November 07, 2010

For the Birds

I am having fun attracting birds to my little patio out back. During August and September, I had a plethora of hummingbirds.

Then all of a sudden bees took over the feeder, keeping the hummingbirds at bay. So I removd the feeder until I can figure out how to keep the bees away.

I put up a finch feeder and have been inundated with cheery little house finches.

But that's not all. I have had a verdin visit, several mocking birds (including a cute chubby one),

a chatty gila woodpecker,

a pair of curve-billed thrashers,

and a dark-eyed junco. My cats are fascinated by all the birds on the other side of the glass =)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Gathering Leaves

by Robert Frost

Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight;
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who's to say where
The harvest shall stop?

I have become increasingly negligent with this blog. I'm not sure why. I think about it quite a bit. I am constantly looking for things to blog about. I even have the time. I just haven't done it. It's not that I'm not interested in doing it any more. I am. It's just that sometimes I wonder at the weight of what I write. Like Frost's poem here: Next to nothing for to nothing for use. I want what I write to have some weight, some merit, some use...for myself if no one else. But that's a pretty heavy demand, especially if you're going to write every day. I ask my students to write five times a week in their journals. I give them writing promts 2-3 of those days, but they are supposed to come up with something worth writing down the other 2-3 days. An even heavier demand of reluctant writers I'm realizing.

But...a crop is a crop, according to Frost. And who's to say where the harvest shall stop? Who's to say what's meaningful? What seems lightweight to one, might make all the difference to another. And so...I'm determined to do what I ask my students to do: write at least 5 times a week here. Don't hold me to it. But I will try...

Photo: an impromptu sketch one of my seniors made of me yesterday afternoon.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

God Speaks

This song has been on my mind since sometime yesterday morning. It was written by Mel Rees and was on an LP Record that we used to listen to Friday nights and Sabbaths when I was young. The lyrics are most comforting...

God speaks in the stillness of the night
God speaks in the days so warm and bright.
the flaming sunset paints the sky
And sets the clouds ablaze
God speaks in all these wondrous ways.

God speaks in the mountains and the plans
He speaks in the scent of autumn rains,
In mighty rivers rushing in their haste to reach the sea,
God speaks to you and me.

How can we feel alone with Him so near?
Lift up your heart, He'll see and hear.
When things go wrong and no one seems to care,
Just look around, He's everywhere.

God speaks in the whiteness of the snow,
He speaks and the flowers begin to grow,
His voice is hear in chapel bells
And in the peaceful doves,
God speaks in every heart that loves.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reading Recommendations--a meme

This post has been sitting in my drafts since March 2009. I'd forgotten all about it and just now discovered it unfinished and, obviously, unposted. I finished it this morning and am sharing it in the hopes that some of you will do your own version, sharing books you love and recommend. Thanks in advance for the new reading material!

Four Childhood Books I've read (and re-read):

1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (plus all her other books)
My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead, Green Grass of Wyoming by Mary O'Hara
3. All the
Anne books by L. M. Montgomery and the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Winnie the Pooh and House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne (plus When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six...the poetry books)

Four “So-Called Classic” books read and never forgotten:

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (and, a new favorite, Persuasion)
  2. A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt (play about Thomas More)
  3. Hamlet by William Shakespeare (my favorite Shakespeare to teach)
  4. Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (an achingly beautiful book, first read in college, another favorite to teach)

Four personal modern “Classic Novels” favorites:

  1. The Chosen by Chaim Potok
  2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  3. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  4. Anything by Elie Wiesel; ditto for James Alexander Thom
  5. (These are random picks as I have many favorites)

Four authors I've read again and again:

  1. Chaim Potok
  2. William Shakespeare
  3. Louisa May Alcott
  4. Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  5. Jane Austen
  6. Soooooooooo many more!!!

Four authors or books I'll never read again... ever:

1. Bram Stoker's Dracula
2. Charles Darwin's
Origin of the Species
3. Can't think of any others right now...
4. ???

Four books on my To-Be-Read list:

1. Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold (a novel about Charles Dicken's wife)
2. Symphony by Jude Morgan (a novel about the inspiration for Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique)

3. An Altar in the World--A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor
4. Wormwood by Susan Wittig Albert (from the China Bayles series)

Four Non-Fiction Books I’d take to a desert island (instead of 2 fiction and 2 non-fiction):
  1. The Bible
  2. Gifts from the Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh
  3. Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
  4. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
Four Book recommendations I have followed (and loved):

1. Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody mystery novels about a 19th century Egyptologist and her eccentric family (a librarian friend got me started reading this amazing series)
2. Stephen King's On Writing (a former student (turned English major) recommended this fantastic book about the craft of writing...I loved it and have used it for my honors composition classes. They, too, love it. And I've never read any of his other books!)
3. Louis L'Amour's westerns, another student recommendation (this time by a reluctant reader)
4. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (first in a lovely, lovely series!)

The last lines of one of my favorite books:

It is now some twenty minutes since the man left, but I have remained here on this bench to await the event that has just taken palce--namely, the switching on of the pier lights. As I say, the happiness with which the pleasure-seekers gathering on this pier greeted this small event would tend to vouch for the correctness of my companion's words; for a great many people, the evening is the most enjoyable part of the day. Perhaps, then, there is something to his advice that I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day. After all, what can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as we might have wished? The hard reality is, surely, that for the likes of you and I, there is little choice other than to leave our fate, ultimately, in the hands of those great gentlemen at the hub of this world who employ our services. what i the point in worrying oneself too much about what one could or could not have done to control the course one's life took? Surely it is enough that the likes of you and I at least try to make our small contribution cout for something true and worthy. And if some of us are prepared to sacrifice much in life in order to pursue such aspirations, surely that is in itself, whatever the outcome, cause for pride and contentment.
~ from The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (the third to the last paragraph)

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Come, Rest Awhile...

Come, rest awhile, and let us idly stray
In glimmering valleys, cool and far away.

Come from the greedy mart, the troubled street,
And listen to the music, faint and sweet,

That echoes ever to a listening ear,
Unheard by those who will not pause to hear

The wayward chimes of memory's pensive bells,
Wind-blown o'er misty hills and curtained dells.

One step aside and dewy buds unclose
The sweetness of the violet and the rose;

Song and romance still linger in the green,
Emblossomed ways by you so seldom seen,

And near at hand, would you but see them, lie
All lovely things beloved in days gone by.

You have forgotten what it is to smile
In your too busy life. Come, rest awhile.

~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

I blatantly stole this poem from a blogger friend, Gracious Hospitality. I know she won't mind. It says exactly what I've been feeling for the past two months or so. I have needed to rest awhile for so long, I almost didn't know how to do it once I got the chance. I truly had forgotten what it was to smile. My life was too busy. Busy doing God's work, albeit. But too busy all the same. I had been ignoring the part where Jesus Himself says we need rest. Of course the only true place to find rest is in Him:

"Come unto Me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."

Why is it that it seems wrong to rest sometimes? When you're involved in the Lord's work, it seems as if there is never enough time to do all that needs to be done. There is always one more meeting, one more activity, one more phone call to make. One more, one more. And you feel guilty if you don't do that one more thing. Trouble is, it begins to add up...and take its toll.

I spent 17 years at my last job. 17 years that were exhausting and draining to the point where I felt empty, dead inside and out. Everyone wanted something from me and even though I gave them my all, literally, it was not enough. Couldn't possibly have been enough for all they wanted. Towards the end, I didn't want to answer my phone, open my e-mail, go to church, go anywhere except to my family's homes. I went to work because I had to, and I did my job because it was there, but I knew I was spent. And I knew I had to go.

I didn't know where I was going to go, or what I was going to do, but having spent my entire life serving the Lord, I knew He would give me something else to do. Somewhere fresh and new, something I could do while at the same time be renewed myself. It took a month and a half for something to come along. In the meanwhile, I rested.

I took a workshop, visited a number of literary "hotspots," wrote, spent time with my family, and walked. A lot. I lost 20 pounds, recovered my perspective, and felt happier than I have in years. And then came the new job. In Arizona. Just teaching. Amazing.

God knows. He knows what we need. He knows how and where we can best serve Him. He knows long before it ever happens. And yet He lets us figure it out for ourselves. That, too, is amazing. That He knows, and yet lets it be our choice.

As I write this, I am sitting on my back patio, listening to a church service, surrounded by bird song, interrupted by the frequent hummingbird buzzing in for a refreshing dip into the feeder just feet from the table where I write. Three months ago I could not have foreseen this. I could not have, not even in my wildest dreams, imagined myself in Arizona, back in a boarding school, enjoying every minute of my day. True, I am thousands of miles from most of my family, and that has been very hard, but I feel alive again. I am well-rested every day. And I'm smiling again. Yes, smiling.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My Heart Awakening

When morning gilds the skies
my heart awakening cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Alike at work and prayer,
to Jesus I repair:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

The night becomes as day
when from the heart we say:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
The powers of darkness fear
when this sweet chant they hear:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Let all the earth around
ring joyous with the sound:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
In heaven's eternal bliss
the loveliest strain is this:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Be this, while life is mine,
my canticle divine:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Be this th' eternal song
through all the ages long:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

I woke up early this morning and decided it was as good a time as any to start an early-morning walking routine. I thought it would be fun to see what I could see... I have just moved to Phoenix, so have been exploring what's around me. I have a walkway outside the gate of my back patio that leads to a golf course. I decided to explore this path this morning. All during my walk, this hymn kept resounding in my head. Let Jesus Christ be Praised..