Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Is Put Away--

Christmas is put away, and the New Year is here.  It always takes me several days to get Christmas put away, not because I drag the process out, but because I keep finding things here and there that didn't make it into the storage box.  The hats off the deer heads, the wreath on the back door, the little towels in the bathroom - little things that get overlooked every year because I've gotten used to seeing them and thus don't get them put up.

This year we have two live wreaths from our niece who was selling them for a fundraiser.  I'm leaving them up because of their great evergreen scent - which partially made up for having to live with that artificial tree.

Here are a few of the things I set out every year, for the few who may be interested in such:

--Little (naked) angel that ML painted in ceramics one year.
--Candle holder from my folks from even before I got married.
--Cheese spreader snowmen in a snowball from my sister-in-law.
--In the front:  "NOEL" figurines painted by two students my first or second year of teaching.  These sisters made them at camp one summer and gave them to me the following Christmas.  I still treasure them.

--Cotton snowman that Andrew made in kindergarten and that has survived all these years.
--Somehow the little naked angel made it in twice.

--Painted blocks from another student later in my career.  The kids had a great time with these when they were growing up.

--Nativity figurines that my sister gave me for several years.  They're a very pretty set.  I should remember the name of them but can't right now.

--Stuffed nativity set that my mom made for the kids when they were very young.  This too got much attention when the children were younger.
Treasured items that go in the box each year and are a joy to re-discover each December.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Take on LES MISERABLES

Andrew, my highly drama-motivated offspring, wanted me to go with him to see the opening of the musical on Christmas Day.  I very rarely go to movies unless they are really, really worthwhile ones (think COURAGEOUS and PRINCE CASPIAN), but since Mike was working, actually sleeping in order to work that night, and ML had gone off to be with cousins, I said yes.  It was quite a production.  It was a musical, which is a little unusual in this era, and though very different from most movies, it was good.  The overall production was huge, shocking in places, and makes an indelible impression on the viewer.

First of all, a true confession:  Until Christmas Day, I knew very little about LES MISERABLES except that it was written by Victor Hugo, was set in France, and was about a man named Jean Valjean who stole a loaf of bread and was unfairly imprisoned.  Someone who teaches English probably ought to have known more, but - it is what it is.

The movie was very close to the plot of the novel.  My friend Barbara reviewed the book here, and she gives an excellent plot summary as part of her review, for the person who may be unfamiliar with the plot.  There are several subplots, interwoven, and the themes of redemption, justice, and mercy are clearly portrayed in the movie just as intended in the book.

The camera work and the overall production were fantastic, from the macro to the micro.  The macro:  Huge scenes, very dramatic and very inspiring, both set the stage at the beginning (Jean Valjean and the other prisoners in the ocean attempting to right a tilted ship) and close the movie at the end (the beautiful sweeping scene of all the renegades on top of the furniture barricade, raising French flags - the camera swept in from an overhead angle.  Beautiful to look at.)  The micro:  The makeup was breathtaking.  The poverty of the lower-class people in France was eye-opening to the viewer, down to showing the poor condition of their teeth.  When Fantine loses her tooth, one almost feels like an intruder on her total helplessness and despair.

Now, I have to discuss objectionable elements.  A good English teacher wouldn't be doing her job if she didn't.  :-)

Gratuitousness:  The scene where the young woman Fantine, for lack of a better way to say it, succumbs to the low-life lifestyle of the area, in her attempt to provide for her child after she has been thrown out of the factory, was not gratuitous.  It was sad, it was sinful, but it was not gratuitous.  It had to be shown to show the shocking conditions of the time and the desperation that this young mother felt.  The battle scenes were not gratuitous either.  The only part that I felt was truly unnecessary was the dress of some of the women, particularly in the inn/tavern scenes.  The rawness of the time and the scene, in my opinion, could have been portrayed just as well without the amount of cleavage that was shown.

Explicitness:  The scene with Fantine and the man was briefly too explicit.  It was not hugely so, but to me was objectionable.  There were other brief places of explicitness in the inn.  Language issues were for the most part not present (that I could see), and the battle scene was not overly gory.

Moral tone:  There were no problems with this.  Sin was portrayed as sin, and the consequences of sin were negative.  Most books don't last as long as LES MISERABLES if the moral tone is not reasonably good, and that was true in the movie as well.  The themes were worthwhile and well presented.

LES MISERABLES was a great film.  I would not take a child or a young teenager; I would be cautious with taking an older teenager.  That's not because it's not a valuable portrayal of valuable themes; it is.  It's just because of the objectionable elements.  It was impressive; it was shocking; it raised great awareness of the hopelessness that some people feel in this world.  A Christian should particularly be impacted by this film to realize and remember the great sadness of the human condition.  It is a movie that will increase the viewer's compassion for mankind.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday's Fave Five - December 28, 2012

Link to Friday's Fave Five host blog is here.

I just realized it's Friday - I'm not in school - and so have plenty of time to do a Friday's Fave Five this week.

1. Christmas - with several Christmas celebrations with family members.  To me Christmas is a stressful time but it is also a good time.

2. This could have gone in last week's, but since it's a semi-Christmas present, as well as a birthday present, I got an iPhone with an Otter case!  Wasn't so sure I wanted it at first, but since it was a gift, and I've got it - am getting used to it and like it more and more each day.

3. The opportunity to host a gathering for some former students my son's age, who were here last night for a great time of catching up.  And then getting up this morning to discover that my son had done a really really good job of cleaning up!!!

4. Discovered Christmas Eve that my iPhone has an app that works just as well as a GPS, even "talking" the directions.  Therefore I returned the newly-purchased Garmin to Best Buy yesterday.  (It was from "Santa" to both Mike and me.)

5. Our schedule at school was very different this year.  We went all the way to Dec. 21, which made Christmas preparation very tight.  (I did feel for the mothers of young children who had much to do in a single weekend, which, if like our family, included the celebrations already getting started.)  But the advantage is that we do not go back until January 7.  In the past we've often had to go back January 2, which is almost cruel and unusual punishment and definitely takes the red off the candy of New Year's Day celebrations.  So, Christmas is done, and I still have over a week of vacation left.  That really provides some quality time for work around the house, and rest and relaxation.  Thank you to whomever did this year's calendar.

And sorry, but a sixth.  This cannot be missed!  6. We found out Wednesday that, if all goes as planned, in June my husband will be on a straight day shift job!!!  After 23 years, no more swing shift!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

President Bush

I am saddened to hear that President George H.W. Bush is not doing well in a Texas hospital.  We have our own special memory of him.  On our Maine trip in June 2010, we saw his home in Kennebunkport, ME.  We knew it was in the area, but there were many large homes along the beachfront road we were on.  So we asked a woman walking along which one was the Bushes'; her response was "Oh, keep going along this road, and you'll know it when you see it."  She was so right.  We went about another mile, then rounded a curve and this was the sight across the cove!

We stopped and looked for a few minutes from across the cove (many people do; there is even a resting bench along with a plaque there), when two boats - a large speedboat and a smaller grey one following - came roaring into the cove.  Someone near us could tell that the president was driving the speedboat (which in this picture has already sped into the cover and turned around).  The second one was the Secret Service detail.

It was very slow going for the former president to get out of the boat and up to his house.  This is blurry because of the focusing limitations of my point-and-shoot.  But he is the one in the rust-colored pants.

George Bush Sr. may not be able to walk well, but he sure can drive a boat!!!  We wish him well there in that Texas hospital, and pray for his recovery and for his spiritual condition at this time.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Letter 2012


Christmas 2012

2012 has proven to be a multi-faceted time for the Mike Bailes family.

Mike and I have had an eventful year.  We went to the College World Series in Nebraska in June to watch the Gamecocks in action – an unplanned but great trip.  Mike is in his 24th year at the nuclear station; I am in my 33rd year of teaching in Christian schools, though now in a slightly different role as an all-English teacher.  I’m brushing up on my grammar skills and it’s a new challenge.  Mike just returned from Canada.  He says this year was the crown jewel of 42 years of deer hunting – it was a trip that will probably never be topped.

Andrew has been traveling all year, first singing with the Promise Trio, and the second half with the Blackwood Quartet.  He has learned much and had many wonderful experiences.  He is now determining if he wants to continue in this long-term, or, if not, what he’d like to do as far as a direction in life.

Mary Lee continues at North Greenville University, doing well in her education classes, and last spring being inducted into the national reading honor society. She could possibly graduate with honors if she stays on course.  She works as an assistant in the administration offices, and they love her there.  She just took a weeklong education and missions trip to Guatemala and had a wonderful time.  Now she’s ready for Christmas break before tackling another semester.

The year has been colored by the loss of Mike’s youngest sister Jane in May.  The verses in Lamentations 3:21-24 have spoken to us many times since then:  “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.  The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.”

God bless you in this Christmas season and as we move into 2013.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday's Fave Five - December 21, 2012

Link to the homepage for Friday's Fave Five

The end of first semester means that a lot of things do not get done, such as updating blogs or contributing to Friday's Fave Five (last week). . .

Anyway. . .

1. All exams are written, given, graded, recorded, and grades averaged for first semester.  (Well, the computer does the averaging now, but it sounds good.) :-)  I counted them up yesterday, and this week, with some help, I've graded 16,000 exam questions this week!

2. Most Christmas shopping is done.

3. Mike comes off night shift this morning, for the weekend.

4. Family will be in this weekend.

5. Christmas break starts today at 11:30!!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Birthday

I had a birthday today, a half-decade birthday.  Saturdays are quiet but nice days to have a birthday.  It's nicer with FB.  I got a lot of birthday wishes from old friends, ones I don't see much of any more but are fun to keep in contact with on FB.

I haven't had to cook since Wednesday night.  Mom made a birthday supper Thursday night, Mike made spaghetti Friday night (as well as breakfast both yesterday and this morning), and we went out with our good friends Jack and Patty tonight.  It's going to be a weird feeling to have to break down and cook a meal tomorrow.

Yesterday a student and her mom gave me balloons attached to a 2-liter of Diet Sunkist (my favorite), as well as a gift card to Texas Roadhouse, including a coupon for a free appetizer and a $5 bill for the tip.  It was a very nice example of thinking of all the details.  It's nice to be remembered like that.  The mother said (in essence) "I just enjoy being a blessing to people."  She was!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Turkeys

I posted a photo of the turkeys in our back yard on Saturday night.  Today our neighbor sent me this one, which he took on Sunday morning on his way to church.  This is the side of our yard, a much better photo, and he counted 17 turkeys in all!

Monday, December 10, 2012

E.B. White writing CHARLOTTE'S WEB - We Were There (Location, not Time)

A former student, interested in the concepts of living and working in small spaces, posted on FB a pic. of E.B. White writing CHARLOTTE'S WEB in the little boathouse, overlooking the cove on the coast of Maine.  This is where he wrote the entire book - just him and his typewriter in the little building.  There's not much more to it than is shown in this picture.

And here we are in the same little building some 60 years later, on our trip to Maine two summers ago.  It was a big treat to get to sit in the same place - and now is special to compare it to the picture above, which I hadn't seen until Sunday.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Birds in Our Yard

You can see a cute little Carolina Chickadee at the tall feeder if you look carefully.  So far the finch irruption, other than the red-breasted nuthatches (which I have not yet been able to get a picture of), has not yet materialized.  But I've been doing some reading and many who are experts on birds in the south seem convinced that this may be a big year.

The red-breasted nuthatches are there every day.  I saw them often this weekend, and have seen them in the afternoons during the week also.  There are at least two coming regularly; this is new for our feeder this year.  Apparently it has been several years since they were in our area.  They are very tame and do not spook easily.

We also had a red-bellied woodpecker, Carolina wren, and goldfinches. as well as the usual tufted titmice and Carolina chickadees, who think they own the place.  They chatter noisily at me when I try to fill the feeders - they are unhappy that they have to wait.

I talked Mike into moving the bird bath out from the pool enclosure, which he has done.  There are a couple of suet feeders and I'm thinking about adding some other things.  I want to make this a buffet for any unusual birds that may pass this way!

Last night Mike went out to the grill to put some hamburgers on - and came back quickly with the news that "There are 22 turkeys in our back yard."  I grabbed the camera and this is what I got.  It's close to dusk, so the pictures aren't great, but you can see them.  The blurry places are birds that were spooked by the flash.

Quite an experience to see on a December evening.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thoughts of Christmas


Written by Mike on his birthday (today):
--------------------------------------------------------------          
    Ahh Christmas – the day/season of the year that evokes so many responses from us.

    We get fretful and anxious, stressed out and tired, disappointed and depressed. We look forward to it and are glad when it is over.

   Yet, we enjoy it as we see friends and family that we miss all through the year. Our spirits are lifted by the lights, the decorations, and the smell of evergreen trees. Childhood memories of the excitement brought on by Christmas meals and opening gifts swirl through our minds when we witness a scene that prompts such thoughts. We watch George C. Scott on TV and are reminded of the deeper meanings of life that are neglected through the rest of the year. 

    But why Christmas? Why does all of this not happen on Memorial Day or July 4th?

   I believe it is because deep down inside us, we know there is more meaning to it than what our physical senses perceive. We know that what Christmas has become is a colorful fa├žade, strategically hiding its true significance. Because of how we were raised we know the Christmas story. We heard it many times.

   And yes, we can enjoy certain moments during the season of Christmas. But we can also know the richness of its meaning if we will take time to look beyond the bows and tinsel. If we contemplate a manger scene in someone’s yard and realize the wonder of its purpose; if we seek out someone who is hurting and provide them with love and hope. If we think outside the box of self and live out our intended purpose in the lives of others; if we share the load of difficulties carried by ones who bear a greater burden than we ………………. I believe that we will be able to look back on this Christmas when it’s over and realize we have grown because of it, and anticipate the next one with a new hope and a new vision.

Friday's Fave Five - December 7, 2012

Link to Friday's Fave Five blog:

1. Today is my husband's birthday.  And HE cooked breakfast for ME.  What is wrong with this picture?!!  (or right, depending on one's perspective. . .)

2. ML is, as far as we know, safely in Guatemala and I hope having a wonderful trip that will mean much to her in years to come.

3. My folks kindly took her to the airport on Tuesday morning, very early, which helped me a lot since I had to work that morning.

4. An extension of ML's and my favorite thrift store has opened just two blocks from school.  It's run by  a Mennonite group and is always nice to browse in because everything is so clean and neat.  I hope the new one is as good as the one several miles from here.

5. Andrew was home until Wednesday again this week, and again was a big help, both at home and in volunteering here at school.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Minister as a Servant

John Macarthur, EPHESIANS commentary, p. 94:

"Then or now, the man who is genuinely called by God is in constant danger of losing his effectiveness by coming to think of himself as more than a servant.  When he loses his sense of servanthood, at that same time he loses his spiritual power and usefulness.  When he exalts himself and begins to work in his own human power and according to his own plans, he competes with God and forfeits his spiritual power.  To lose dependence is to lose everything, because everything that is of any value in our lives, including power for effective service, comes only from the Lord.  Among the greatest dangers to the ministry, and to all faithful Christian living, are the things that in the world's eyes are of supreme value - personal ambition, prestige, recognition, honor, reputation, and success.  God not only chooses weak and foolish people to save (I Cor. 1:26-29), but weak and foolish preachers through whom to save them (2 Cor. 11:30; 12:7-10).  For those not willing to pay that price, their seeking the position is illegitimate."