Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wednesday Misc.

--I'm doing verb tenses with the younger classes right now.  We were using the verb "see," and when I said "Okay, what's the plural of "you see"--one boy said "Y'all see."  Kinda hard to explain that one to southern boys. . .

--Monday night when Mike came in from work he said "There's a hawk in the yard."  It was almost tame - was in no hurry to fly off, and was not afraid of me coming out with the binoculars.  It was a red-shouldered hawk, which is labeled in the bird book as being uncommon for our area.  I had it marked as a "maybe" on my life list, so it was nice to confirm a sighting of it.

--I also put the feeders up on Monday.  The birds have yet to discover them, but it usually takes a few days.  There was a chickadee there this afternoon.  It may be a little early to put up the feeders, and I may regret the amount of birdseed it will take to keep them filled up for the next eight months or so--but no, in the long run I will not regret it.

--I went to watch the first game of the World Series with my dad last night.  I couldn't stay except for about half the game, but it was nice to watch some of it with him.  It's exciting this year with Kansas City in it.  That team has never been on our radar, but it's always nice to see an underdog, low-budget team do well against all those high powered teams!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Shawls and Hats

This morning I met with a local ladies' church group that sent a shawl and about 35 hats with me to China last summer.  This group meets twice a month to crochet these items as a group, and then give them away to whomever they think would be encouraged by them, to remind these people that they are being remembered in prayer.  Right now they are working hard on hats to give away at the Thanksgiving meal they prepare for people of the neighborhood each year.  (This is at a 100-year-old small inter-city church in our town.)  I teach the daughter of one of the members of the group, which is how they found out about the trip and sent some hats with me.

They wanted to hear how it went, and were glad to see the pictures of the people who received them.  Elsie (above) got the shawl, and a hat for herself and for her husband.  And the little blind girl got a pretty pink one.  The rest of the hats will be distributed through the coffee shop where contacts are made and channeled in Andrew's city.

This is a good outreach by some very nice ladies who desire to be an encouragement and blessing to people wherever and whenever they can.  In about a month they will have made shawl #1000, and many more hats.  That's quite an accomplishment.   

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday's Fave Five, 10/10/14

Link to Friday's Fave Five host blog

1. As written about on the previous post, I got to go to Illinois this past weekend for my Aunt Catherine's funeral.  It's always good to reconnect with family and friends, and I don't get a lot of opportunities to do so.  The midwest in October is beautiful.  Wish I'd gotten more photos of the harvest.  Someone here at school said "Did it look kind of like Denver Downs?" (DD is a nearby large diversified farm in a typical South Carolina valley, surrounded by woods and a pond.)  No, son, it looked nothing like that.  Imagine thousands and thousands (millions and millions?) of flat acres of Denver Downs, with people running huge combines, working as hard as they can to get the corn crop in.  It's a beautiful sight, especially to one who doesn't get to see it every year.

2. My folks and I had good flights to and from Chicago-Midway, and were able to wait with my sister who was waiting for her flight to Dallas.

3. We ate at Penn Station.  I finally found out what all the fuss about Penn Station is about, Rhoda!!  :-) And yes, it was very good - a sub sandwich place with very good bread and very good options.

4. I made it through this week fine, without the fatigue that sometimes comes after a whirlwind trip like this one.

5. Those who remember my China presentation remember the story of the little blind girl whose mother was expecting her second child when I was there.  Well, during the night last night, Andrew sent me a picture on WeChat of the new baby.  (Fortunately I was wide awake and therefore it did not wake me up.)  Here is the precious little sister of the blind girl.  Is that not the cutest picture!!!             
According to Andrew, right now the mother is on her "month of recuperation," an official Chinese time when she has no responsibilities in society and also receives no visitors.  But he has been talking with her on her phone.  I wish there were some way to give her a present, but it's not practical to mail anything to China.  Maybe I can send something back with him in January.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Trip to Illinois

When a funeral is held for a lady who lived a wonderful life, had a joyful spirit that everyone loved and appreciated, was ready to go, and who died quietly and peacefully in her sleep, it is an occasion for joy and remembrance more than great sorrow and sadness.

I was privileged to attend my Aunt Catherine's funeral in Illinois this weekend, and it was that kind of service.  She was a great lady.  She reared seven children, and followed her husband around the world on his adventures in the agricultural world.  (During his tenure in Washington DC, she got to volunteer at the White House during the Reagan and Bush administrations.)  She was the epitome of an example of being a support to one's husband.  

She smiled all the time.

I was glad to go to honor her and her life, and also to reconnect with family and friends who are much loved.

And, the cornfields are beautiful right now, and I loved seeing the harvest.  Everyone needs to see the midwest in October.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Easiest Vegetable Soup You Will Ever Make - And It Tastes Good Too!

 This is a super-easy vegetable soup that my sister-in-law showed me a number of years ago.  I just made a pot because Mike has a bad cold and asked for it.  This soup is easy because:
  • it uses very few ingredients;
  • most of the ingredients can easily be varied;
  • you can use up leftovers from your refrigerator; and
  • it's ready in half an hour.
The ingredients are:
  • 1 package frozen vegetable gumbo mix
  • 1 can northern beans, mixed beans, pinto beans, or whatever you have on hand
  • browned ground beef - however much you like
  • V-8 juice to whatever soup consistency you prefer.  

The V-8 juice is critical because it gives a better taste than plain tomato juice.  I think the gumbo mix is necessary because the okra in it adds to the soup consistency; however, if you are adamantly against okra I suppose you could use plain mixed vegetables.  And if you don't like canned beans, leave them out.  When making a lot of soup, use one bag gumbo mix and one bag plain mixed vegetables.  Or whatever you like.

Mix in pot; bring to a boil; put burner on low to low-medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, for a half-hour or so.  Quick, easy, and it is GOOD.
p.s. For a family member who likes things hot - he can add hot sauce at the table.  :-)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday's Fave Five, 9/26/14

Link to Friday's Fave Five host blog.

1. Great weekend last weekend at a conference in the beautiful NC mountains.  This was a missions conference with the organization that our son is with - but not a typical meeting of that sort.  This is all about the 10-40 window and all the challenges of going to such countries.  The speakers all challenge the thinking of those attending - there are no platitudes at all.  This was our second year to go, and we are always glad to attend and have our thinking stretched.  

2. Only 2 1/2 days of teaching this week.  The calendar said we were supposed to go to the annual teachers' convention this week; however, with several students being withdrawn right at the first of the year, the funds just weren't there for us to go.  So Wednesday afternoon we had security training at school; yesterday we had first aid and CPR training, and today we are off.  However, I got an extra day off due to a bad cold.  I got charged with a sick day, but I had to take it - just did not have the wherewithal to go in.  If you can't go, you can't go.  
And - the extra day off must have worked because I am feeling some better today.  Not all the way better, but some.

3. I am going to have some injections in my knee - some kind of a lubricating substance (WD-40 for the knee?) :-)  that is supposed to help the pain I am still having.  I have to get the shots sent from a specialized pharmacy to the orthopedist's office, and it has to be cleared through insurance, etc., etc., etc. - the typical medical stuff (that is going to get worse as we get more and more into Obamacare).  I got all those phone calls made this morning and got the appointments set up.

4. Had a nice phone call with an old friend that I hadn't talked with for many years.  One of the speakers from the conference is going to be at their midwest church this weekend, and I wanted to tell her about him.  It's amazing with old friends - you just pick up where you left off when you get the opportunity to connect again.

5. And - Mike fixed my elliptical this morning!  It had a problem in the linkage so that it knocked and made a loud sound with each go-around.  Now it is smooth as silk.  He is so good to fix things and I do not take it for granted!!

Quick bonus - just heard that my daughter's good friend, who does my hair, can take me this afternoon. So nice not to have to try to get in after school in the late afternoon!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ten Literary Classics That Have Stayed With Me

Most of these are from teaching.  I would be interested to know if any former OCS English students remember their recollections of these also.

1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.  I am reading this right now, with the seniors, for the fifteenth time.  In recent years I've read through it completely with them, taking a significant amount of class time to do so, but feel like it's worth the time and trouble so that they get the benefit of the themes and intricately woven plot.  This book has so many layers that I still uncover new ones every year.  The story of Pip, his immaturity, his snobbery, and then his maturing gratitude, is very good.

I do wish sometimes that someone could take the works of an author like Dickens, and, without changing any of his basic storyline or characters, just simplify the language somewhat.  The eighteenth-century style of fiction is so flowery and wordy, that today's high schoolers really struggle with getting something out of it - yet there is much depth there that they need to learn from.

2. Macbeth by Shakespeare.  This play is the perfect literary interpretation of James 1:15 - "Then, when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."

3. Hamlet by Shakespeare.  Another outstanding interpretation of a Biblical principle, that the sin of one man, in this case Claudius, sends out tentacles that end in consequences for many other people.

4. Works of Anne Bradstreet.  This Puritan author, the first poet in America (not just the first female poet), writes beautiful work, very readable, and very uplifting.  She was a Christian first, then a wife and mother.  Some feminists have tried to appropriate her and her work, because she was the first poet and wrote of desiring to have her work acknowledged by men; however, she was very devoted to her family and did not espouse the independence desired by most in feminism.  I wish I had paid more attention to my sister's graduate recital, about Bradstreet, a number of years ago!

5. Silas Marner by George Eliot.  I dreaded teaching this for the first time, two years ago.  I was pleasantly surprised, especially after supplementing this work with Focus on the Family CDs.  Although Eliot has the layers of wordiness like Dickens does, she has crafted a deep, complex, and beautiful story with a great theme of redemption.  I've really enjoyed reading this with sophomores.

6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Strong evidence that even authors who do not espouse godly principles in their lives, nevertheless have godly principles written on their hearts.  You can't repeat the past.  You can't find happiness in affairs or in huge parties.  Gatsby's funeral is a stark reminder of what is left after a shallow life.

7. Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.  Okay, I confess, I like the BBC film version of P&P, and the Ang Lee film version of S&S, better than the books themselves.  But I could watch them repeatedly.

8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Wow.  In spite of the language, this should be required reading for all young people, who have no idea of what stark racism was like in the 1930s.  Gripping and very heavy story, lightened by her device of telling it through the eyes of a humorous small child.

9. Canterbury Tales by Chaucer.  I've only read two of them, "The Nun's Priest's Tale," and "The Pardoner's Tale," but we read most of the prologue about the characters.  Chaucer was known for his understanding of people, his storytelling ability, and his humor.  All that comes out in what I've read - and his style is very readable.  He may be studied in depth on a higher level, but he is very enjoyable for regular people to study also.

10. Works by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  It's easy to see why he was called "The People's Poet," because of his readable poems and narratives.  He suffered greatly through the loss of his dear friend, and his poetry not only tells good stories, but also gives much food for thought.  I especially like "Ulysses," "In Memoriam," and "Enoch Arden."

Other classic writings we read with more enthusiasm than some pieces, just not on the previous list:  The Scarlet Letter, Julius Caesar, Ethan Frome, Huckleberry Finn, The Importance of Being Earnest, works by Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Burns, and many other poets!

My tastes do not run to fantasy or science fiction.  I prefer realism in readable packages.  And all of these have stayed with me for many years now.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday's Fave Five, 9/19/14

Link to Friday's Fave Five host blog

It is a rainy, cool Friday morning - the first time that the weather has really felt like autumn at all.  I'm ready for it.

1. We went to a beautiful wedding last Sunday night.  The bride is the daughter of good friends, and the officiating minister is our assistant pastor, who is not only a great preacher during normal sermons, but also ties a fine knot at a wedding.  I've been married 29 years but still got some great food for thought at this wedding.

2. Just got a text from a missionary friend in Beijing whose stateside van was stolen about six weeks ago - it's been found and had been used all this time by a ring of thieves who used it as a getaway car for burglaries.  The friend's daughter had to have transportation due to being a nursing student, and now she has her van back - and it still works fine.  Glad to have this taken care of for them.

3. We are going to a great conference in North Carolina tonight, with the organization that our son is teaching in China with.  Looking forward to the conference and to the time away.

4. Daughter still enjoying her job and doing well at it.  She's finding out all the "funnies" that elementary students can come up with.

5. Good week.  I had a lot of papers to grade, but was able to stay on top of them, and should go home today without much to do!!  That's so much better than the weekends where I feel covered up, yet want to get away from schoolwork at the same time.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Introduction to Classics List

I want to do one other list - Classics that have stayed with me.  Most of these are books/works I have taught over the past fifteen years of teaching English rather than read on personal time, but, regardless, they are works that make an impact.

In the book Twelve Trademarks of Great Literature, J. F. Baldwin lists the things that make a work of literature great.  The ones that I have noticed the most are:
  • The work moves at an appropriate pace - not too fast, not too slow.  (It's the fast pace of so many modern fiction works that keep them from lasting.)  
  • The work shows rather than tells.  --I used to get weary of books for children that told a cute little story and then threw in a moral at the end.  That is a poor style of writing.
  • Re-reading is rewarded.  There are many layers to a good work.  I'm reading Great Expectations with the seniors this year, for the fifteenth time, and still find things I haven't discovered before.
  • At least one character is sympathetic.
  • Moral tension drives the plot.  To quote Baldwin:  "The form of a book will suffer if the author forgets to rely on God's moral laws to create the tension in the story."
Herman Melville said "To produce a mighty work, you must start with a mighty theme."  Baldwin says "If the author seriously elevated the trivial or denigrated the profound, readers would find themselves disagreeing with the author's entire framework.  For example, a serious novel based on the theme that a preference for chocolate ice cream over vanilla is an abomination would be ignored or ridiculed by the general public."

I would love to be a thinker on the level of the above writers, and on the level of the writers of great works, but am merely a mediocre absorber of some of the truths that they state.  But there is much to learn. I do not have time right now, but either later today, or tomorrow, or the first of next week, will get the list of ten classics written out.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Influential Books

Well--with all those reading friends out there--NO ONE has tagged me to do the "Ten Books that have Stayed With You" list.  So I am doing it anyway--but am dividing it into two lists:  books from adulthood, and books from childhood.

These books from adult years (of course the Bible also) have stayed with me.  There are others, but like the others who have done this list, I could go on and on.  This does not include the classics that I have read with literature classes.  That's an entirely separate list.
  1. My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers.  I still remember studying this book with my dear college friend, Barby, night after night, in our summer staff dorm room.
  2. Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot.  Barby and I devoured this one also.
  3. Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
  4. A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent
  5. To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson, moving and thought-provoking biography of Adoniram Judson.
  6. MacArthur commentaries - several of them.
  7. A Garden to Keep by Jamie Langston Turner, my favorite, for deeply personal reasons, of her many novels.
  8. Musings of a Mother by Doris Coffin Aldrich - taken from her magazine columns ("Out of the Mixing Bowl") and now out of print; her lovely devotional style of writing as the mother of nine in the early '60s is worth trying to find a copy on eBay, Amazon, or elsewhere.
  9. Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose - outstanding missionary book.
  10. Birds of Eastern North America by Roger Tory Peterson.  My go-to book for birds for 28 years now.
These books from childhood or young adulthood have stayed with me:
  1. All the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  2. Separate Star, The Edge of Time, The Years of the Locust, and others by Loula Grace Erdman.  She was a fiction writer in the 40s and 50s, and her characterizations are outstanding.
  3. The Cherry Ames series by Wells and Tatum.  Standard young adult series fare, but I loved them - especially Cherry Ames, Flight Nurse and Cherry Ames, Chief Nurse.  These books captured for young adults some of the timeline, and some of the horror, of World War II.
  4. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  5. The Peggy series by Dorothy Martin - Moody Press around the same time as the Danny Orlis series.  There were about eight books or so in the series, such as New Life For Peggy, Open Doors for Peggy, and so on.  
  6. The Bible in Picture for Little Eyes by Ken Taylor - we read one of these stories every night when I was a child, and the illustrative paintings are classic. Also Stories Jesus Told by Butterworth/Inkpen - actually from my children's childhood.  Great re-tellings and artwork of Jesus's parables.
  7. Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories - loved by my siblings and me, as well as my own children.
  8. Not My Will and Light In My Window by Francena Arnold.  These are still favorites and were more from young adult years than childhood.  She was an early novelist for Moody Press.  I think many of today's modern popular Christian fiction writers need to read Not My Will and take a lesson from Arnold's outstanding pacing in her plot and character development.
  9. Favorite Poems Old and New by Helen Ferris.  As a child, I loved reading this, or hearing my mother read this.  I also remember Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses.
  10. Grosset and Dunlap Signature Series biographies such as The Story of Edith Cavell, The Story of Florence Nightingale, etc., and many other The Story Ofs. . . . These were the go-to biographies when I was young, and there are many historical titles.  Two of them are the middle picture above.
I'll think of many more later.  That's just the way it goes.  But here they are for now!