Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Recently Mike discovered online that a famous gun had sold to a collector - a gun that we had had the opportunity to see on a trip to the northeast about fifteen years ago to take care of a business matter. That was a very interesting trip in many ways. We stayed in the home of the man (and his wife) with whom Mike was dealing, and though we greatly appreciated their kindness and hospitality to us, it was very apparent that the purpose of their lives was to accumulate nice things. Their house, though small, was full of vases, and clocks, and knick-knacks, and other things about which they were continually saying "Oh, and let me show you this." Then we went through the storage shed in the back yard that was also full of items of various kinds. And then, they took us to the huge garage that they had rented nearby - also full of "stuff." That's when they showed us the historical gun.

I do enjoy seeing nice things, especially since knowing Mike's dad, who was a collector and a good judge of quality. (And I really, really wish I had taken advantage of his expertise when he was still alive - such a wealth of information in many areas went with him.) However, collecting "stuff" is not, nor will it ever be, our main focus. I remember going into those people's rented garage in a northeast town, to look at yet more things and things, and I thought of the Bible verse about the man who kept building barns to store his grain. Those people have barns full of "grain."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gamecocks Pulled It Out

Went to a USC football game last night with our good friends Ken and Rachel. I've never been to a USC game, or to any SEC game, and though it was a rough one, the Gamecocks won over Vandy 21-3. They should have won by a greater margin, but their offense was really weak. The defense carried the game.

The pageantry beforehand was even better than the game! And the USC band looks really, really sharp in their black and red uniforms. I got a pic of that but it turned out a little blurry.

Really interesting to watch Spurrier throw his visor in disgust, in person!

In the stadium, with Columbia in the background.

Our friends. We had a great time with them!

Stadium in the background--

Football under the lights!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Thanks to my colleague Kurt I now have a printer set up in my room - not nearly as many trips now to the printer in the library. This morning I tried scanning, and now for the first time I can take the star charts I've used for many years and run them through my computer to show through my projector. SO much better than using the dated transparencies I have for the overhead. These old star charts are the best I've ever used - much better than the ones included in the more recent editions of the book I use.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ups, Downs, and Neutrals of Our California Trip

There were a lot of interesting things about our California trip - mostly positive. I'll do an Ups and Downs post about it (kudos to Bet for the idea of Ups and Downs) for those who are interested in little details.

UP - Great views of the beautiful Pacific Ocean!
I also learned something new from a weatherman out there - There is a high pressure area in the middle of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and water flows clockwise around that high pressure. Therefore - the Atlantic gets warm water that is coming up from the equator, whereas the Pacific gets cold water that is coming down from the Arctic. That's why people don't swim in the Pacific like they do the Atlantic.

UP - Very easy flights. Four of them - two coming and two going. Granted we didn't face bad weather like some trips, but you hear so much about the awful service of airlines these days. All four flights were on time and there were no delays or headaches.

UP - Bob Hope Airport, Burbank. When we checked the map, and discovered that A)Burbank was much closer to our destination than LA International Airport, and B)flights into Burbank were comparable in price to flying to LA, we took the Burbank route. It is a small airport - smaller than GSP - and has a homey feel to it, much different than a large airport. Getting the luggage and rental car there were both easy to do, and we were only 20 miles from our hotel, with easy on and off the freeway. If we were ever to go out there again, we'd try for that airport if at all possible.

DOWN - Freeways are not well marked. If you miss the sign that says your exit or freeway change is one mile away, you may or may not have a sign at the actual turnoff.

UP - The regular streets are much better marked than the freeways. What I do wonder, however, is why a number of streets in the town where we stayed (Santa Clarita) were named "Avenue Stanton" instead of "Stanton Avenue," for example. Never seen that before.

DOWN - We missed the earthquake! Santa Clarita was hit with a 4.2 quake while we were gone to the Reagan Library, and they said our hotel got a good jolt. If we were going to be in California, it would have been nice to have been in an earthquake. A minor earthquake.

UP - Omelets to order every morning. That was a specialty of our hotel. Your choice of ham, bacon, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and cheese in an omelet. They were delicious. That was on top of a full breakfast bar, including waffles, breakfast meats, breads, and oatmeal. Every morning.

NEUTRAL - We got a taste of California-style life. I went into a grocery store for a couple of things we needed, went through the self-serve check-out, and there were no bags. Found out you can either pay a dime for a paper bag, bring your own cloth bags, or carry your stuff out bagless. No plastic bags allowed. Welcome to California!!

DOWN - Trash all over the roads!

UP - On Saturday afternoon Mike was about to die to see/hear the USC game (and I'm not talking about the Southern California team). Of course, nobody on the west coast cared a whit about the South Carolina game, so it wasn't on TV out there. We pulled up the local (as in our hometown) radio station on the internet and got the streaming audio, so he got to hear the entire game in our hotel room. He was a happy man, and I thought it's really something that we can get our local radio station in California and hear a game that nobody in that area really cared about. Technology is something.

UP - Beautiful fruit stands all along the road to Ventura. So much good stuff. Strawberries, melons, oranges, avocados. I can't imagine having access to fresh fruit and vegetables (as in not supermarket delivered) year round.

UP - The beautiful views of the desert mountains. Somehow we just weren't expecting the area to be that mountainous. Wherever we went, the view was 360 degrees of mountains. (Well, Mike corrected that - the view was only 180 degrees at the ocean.) All the towns are nestled in valleys between the mountains.

UP - Meeting people from all across the country. We talked Sunday morning with people who had been members at Grace Community Church for twenty years. We met people from Dallas (they had been on the plane with us as well), Tulsa OK, western Alabama, Michigan (same town as my sister, can see her condo complex from their home!), and even from our home area. (Their daughter had even played a volleyball game as part of the away team at our school the previous week.) Met a lovely young woman from Arizona named Lori. I told her on the way out the last night that if we lived in the same area I thought we would be good friends. She started to cry, because we really did have sweet fellowship even if it was brief.

And those are my mostly ups for our great trip!

Homemade Pizza MY Style

There is one thing that I confess I do like about having both kids not around. They always turned up their noses at my homemade pizza. Oh, they would eat it if there was nothing else around, but they've just been too spoiled over the years by Domino's and Papa John's. Plus, if they were here, I'd have to make it the way they liked it - pepperoni and cheese.

I make it, just for me, loaded with mushrooms (a full eight ounces of canned ones), a roll of browned sausage, and a package of mozzarella cheese. Plus a can of pizza sauce on a refrigerated pizza dough. I pre-bake the crust for about seven minutes before putting on the sauce and toppings. It was good for lunch today (Mike is at work), and it will be good in lunches for school this week. And it's made the way I like it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Teachers' Convention in Gatlinburg

This. . .

. . .was the view from my friend's and my bedroom balcony, in our lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains for the teachers' convention I just attended for three days. Not a bad view to wake up to!

We only enjoyed this porch the first day, as the temperatures turned cooler and we saw something unusual we are not used to at home. Rain. Steady, cold rain that fell all day. Seems like I have memories of that.

Interior of the lodge.

It was a nice conference. The speaker was focused on one topic, which was good, and his topic was beneficial. Our administrator went all out to make it a nice event for us and to show his appreciation for his teachers' hard work. And his wife cooked all the food - with five children underfoot. She is a saint!!!

We had some free time in the afternoon yesterday, and I took three other teachers antiquing. Nice time. The only bad thing about going to an antique store is that they know what they have and price accordingly.

And now - a weekend!!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sugar Cravings

Two and a half years ago I went off sweets. For some reason it wasn't too hard. Oh, I had occasional lapses - I remember well succumbing to the temptation of a bag of M&Ms in the Food Lion store in the middle of about June or July, but did realize that an occasional - a VERY occasional - lapse can sometimes almost help a person stay on a diet of no sweets. I also remember our neighbor, the manager of a restaurant we go to occasionally, giving us a free dessert one night when we were there. And I devoured the entire brownie covered with whipped cream, kiwi, and strawberries. Felt mild guilt but also enjoyment. After all, you can't turn down a kind gift like that.

And going off sweets, along with intensive exercise at the Y, led to a 20+ drop in poundage.

The downturn came about two years ago right now. It was my last year of directing the play, and the script called for a box of candy that was passed around the family from time to time. In the interest of maintaining cast unity, and making practices a little more fun, I kept the box full. I didn't eat any and truly didn't miss it. Until one day. I decided to take two pieces out of the box. One young man, Carl, actually fussed at me. (They knew I was off sweets.) "You can't eat that!" he said. Then he finally said, OK, I could eat them - but was limited to two pieces a day.

Believe it or not, that was the start of a downfall. Two pieces a day became a little more than that. Gradually. Then, it became easier to justify things. A long morning, with an hour to go before lunch? A Mr. Goodbar is OK for a little energy, because it has peanuts in it. And so forth and so on.

I have now been off of sweets, again, for three weeks. And it is much harder this time. I crave chocolate on a daily basis. I did eat a few plum-sweets yesterday, which really aren't bad for you (the name plum-sweets is a euphemism for "chocolate-covered prune pieces), but they also didn't really fill that craving.

So far I am hanging on. It is important that I do so.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

I Could Have Been There. . .

My planning period starts at 9:00. This morning I started to make a ten-minute run to the bank, two blocks away, as I am out of cash.

Awhile later we had a lockdown at school. No one knew why, but the teachers in the front rooms could see police cars on the road in that direction.

Then I read it on the internet: The bank was robbed, around 9:00, by a lady who said she had a bomb.

I'm so glad I didn't go to get cash this morning.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

California Fruit

One of the things that we really enjoyed seeing was the variety of fruits and vegetables being grown. We had a couple of hours when we first got there, and drove out the Ventura Highway to the ocean. Along the way we passed this fruit stand.
See those big boxes of oranges? $3 a box!!

Someone from the church has family that owns this orchard. Of course I didn't get the picture until all the fruit was gone, but these people donated boxes and boxes of peaches, nectarines, and plumcots (plum/apricot crosses, also known as pluots) for the attendees of the conference. I looked up their website and was surprised at all the varieties of plumcots that are available now. They are delicious.

All these small boxes were available for people to take with them. The green/yellow fruit in the back is an emerald plumcot (with a natural waxy coating). Delicious!
Oranges. The trees were loaded. On a forty-mile trip we went past miles and miles and MILES of orange and lemon trees.

These little fruit stands are everywhere and are loaded with fresh fruits that we either can't grow here or have limited growing seasons. Imagine getting fresh strawberries nine months of the year!

Isn't that pretty!

We also saw acres and acres of red pepper plants, tomatoes, squash, and pumpkins. Also some trees that we weren't sure about and thought they were olive or almond trees.

All this in the valleys in between the mountains.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Super Trip

Just got back from a great trip to the Truth Matters Conference in Sun Valley, CA. This will justhave a few pictures as an overview as I have more specific picture groupings in mind for the future.

We went to this conference because it was at Grace Community Church. The pastor, John MacArthur, through his radio program was very influential in Mike's early Christian life, some thirty years ago. This is a new conference for GCC and Mike really wanted to go. My administrator was kind enough to let me take the time off, even though the school year has just gotten started.

So we were gone for six days!

First day there - had just arrived, checked in to our hotel, and drove out to the Pacific Ocean in Ventura.

Tour of the Grace to You offices on day 2.

Also on day 2 we went to see the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. Well worth the time.
Air Force 1 - quite a sight. No pictures inside--

At Reagan's grave

This is the view from the front of the Reagan Library!!

MacArthur speaking at the conference

This is a retired astronaut who has a book out of pictures he took from space, with appropriate verses and commentary about the beautiful creation of God. He did a presentation as part of the conference that was very interesting.

Church choir

And us. :-)

More to come.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


When Mike was a new Christian, over thirty years ago, he didn't know anything about the Bible, or much about the life-changing decision he had just made. One day he stumbled over a program on the radio and thought "That man is a good Bible teacher." He continued to tune in, and his listening evolved into two years of sitting at his bachelor kitchen table every evening, notebook, Bible, and pen in hand, and studying the Bible with John MacArthur. He considers MacArthur to be his first pastor in a way, as Mike was still in his formal church and hadn't yet made the decision to go elsewhere.

For years he has wanted to tell Dr. MacArthur how much he appreciated MacArthur's early influence and help. Last night he got his opportunity.