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 . . .