Monday, October 31, 2005
"Psalms 23?" I asked.
"Yes!" she answered. " I couldn't remember how to say it!"
Sunday, October 30, 2005
The Weekend: Flying in a Bonanza, Shooting Skeet, Riding a Four-Wheeler, Shopping, Going to a Memorial Service
I've flown with PawPaw many times, and I never cease to be amazed at how things look from a few thousand feet in the air. First of all, on the ground it looked like a brilliantly clear day. At six thousand feet, the layer of haze and pollution is clearly there - definitely worse around Atlanta than more rural areas. The other thing that I'm amazed about is how orderly and beautiful everything is - like a giant crazy quilt of shapes and colors and patterns - constantly changing as we go. During part of the trip we were above the expressway I usually travel when I'm driving between Tennessee and Georgia. Everything looks so different from the plane. At one point I found I-75 and tried to figure out which exits I could see. Later, I was able to pick out I-24 as it curved through Chattanooga, and then the foundry plant next to the river north of town. Most of the time, though, it was difficult to identify familiar places on the ground.
A lot was crammed into a couple days. I went four-wheeling through the fields early this morning around PawPaw's barn. I had ridden with Scalawag last year when he first got his four-wheeler, but I had never ridden it by myself. What fun! Yesterday I went shopping with Meah while Scalawag and PawPaw hunted. We had such a good time talking and looking through stores at the mall. I loved being at the farm later when Scalawag finally broke his 4-year deer-hunting dry spell -- and being able to congratulate him on getting a 10-point buck. I had fun shooting skeet and Dr. Thunder cans yesterday afternoon. I FINALLY hit a can and watched as the carbonated contents exploded. PawPaw and Scalawag hit the skeet and cans almost every time. Out of all my shots, only one connected. I guess that means that the bad guys are fairly safe around me - but not when I'm with PawPaw or Scalawag. The cans were the most fun to shoot because Scalawag would shake one up first and then throw it in the air. When it was hit with the shotgun, the can would start spinning wildly in the air with Dr. Thunder spewing out in spirals. (P.S. Dr. Thunder is Wal-Mart's version of Dr. Pepper. A case of 24 is about $3.00 - cheaper than some targets, and definitely more fun!)
Then came the reason for the trip to Georgia. This afternoon we attended the memorial service for PawPaw's cousin, Kathy. The chapel was so crowded that people were standing outside, listening to the service. A wonderful soloist started off the service by singing "Amazing Grace" a cappella. Then Kathy's husband, in a breaking voice, gave a tender eulogy for his wife of 22 years. The minister that spoke next was the same one who had married them years ago.
One observation since I've attended two memorial services this week. In both services, the minister did what we used to describe as an "altar call" during the service - calling on the people there to give themselves to Jesus. Is that typical at funerals - to try to convert people? I don't know why it bothered me, but it seemed to take away from what I feel is the purpose of a memorial service - to honor the person who died. I wanted to hear stories about Kathy - things she did during her lifetime, the people she touched, her accomplishments. People can go to church for a regular church service if they're looking to be saved or if they want to hear a sermon. It seems unkind to play on people's already raw emotions at a funeral by trying to convert them. A funeral is to celebrate the deceased's memory. I'm sure others view the practice differently, but I thought it was tacky and opportunistic.
That pretty much sums up the weekend. Although the past three days have included two funerals, it has been an enjoyable time. I saw people I hadn't seen in a long time, I was able to get outside and have fun with some of my close family, and I got to fly in a small airplane twice.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Right after I left the service, I called PawPaw to tell him that I would get home later than I had anticipated. We had planned to get together tonight for dinner and to watch TV. He said he had very sad news to tell me. His cousin, Kathy - a bright, precocious eleven-year old when PawPaw and I got married in 1969 - died this morning. She was forty-five. Her teenage son had gone to tell her that she had a phone call, and he found her dead in her bed. Probable heart-attack. She leaves behind a husband and two teenage sons.
It seems almost like a season of mourning. Three times recently, tragedies have struck someone close to me. Hopefully, the saying that bad luck comes in threes is true. I'll fly to Georgia with PawPaw tomorrow morning in order to attend Kathy's memorial service on Sunday. There won't be any camping this weekend. The Median Sib will have no new posts until Sunday evening or Monday.
There is nothing like death to make one appreciate life - to see the value in each minute spent with loved ones.
I attended a conference on Thursday of the Alabama Reading Association in Huntsville, AL. It was a disappointing experience. Almost always I can gain something of value from attending a conference. Not this time. The conference planners could have written a book entitled WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN PLANNING A CONFERENCE. Here are the main points of their yet-to-be-published book.
(1) Obtain a nationally recognized speaker - one that is so well known and popular that teachers from surrounding states will attend the conference. That will get lots of people to attend the conference. Get so many people to register for the conference that the conference hotel will fill up quickly, requiring many participants to seek hotel accommodations elsewhere. Then, during the keynote speech, when you have the civic center auditorium filled with eager attendees, have an audio system so poor that the speaker's voice is distorted, and people can't hear the speech. Compound the problem by not having the speaker stand on the speakers' platform where she can be seen by all, but rather off to the side on the floor among the audience. That way only a few of the people present can see her. Have a large projection screen, but don't be a copycat and show the speaker on the screen like other conferences. Instead, show grainy images of the speaker's transparencies that can't be read by most of the people in the large civic center auditorium.
(2) Next, when planning the "concurrent sessions", have some of them lined up along the sides of that aforementioned large civic center auditorium, but separate the different "rooms" using only 8-foot high partitions. This will allow sound to travel so that participants can hear bits and pieces from several sessions at the same time. Then don't provide microphones for the speakers OR enough chairs for all the participants. That will ensure that, once again, most people are uncomfortable and won't hear the speaker. All those people having to stand up or sit on the floor are an indication of how successful the conference is.
(3) In planning where to have the more popular speakers conduct their sessions, don't put them in large rooms. Rather, put them in small rooms with only a few chairs. That way, people will have to stand up along the walls and sit on the floor in the back. It's a good way to test the determination of the conference participants and prove quickly who has the mettle to stand for an hour.
(4) To top off the day, put a 40-minute lunch break in the daily schedule. However, don't provide lunch for the conference participants and provide no information about possible places nearby where lunch can be obtained quickly. Instead, ensure that there is only one concession stand in the civic center to serve the thousands of participants. That way, the participants will enjoy the social opportunity of talking to other participants as they stand in line for over an hour to get greasy chicken strips and fries. As a bonus, the long lunch line also ensures that many participants will not be able to attend the session following the lunch period. That should help solve the over-crowding problem in the first concurrent sessions after the lunch break.
(5) To sooth any ruffled feathers, end the day with a popular author and have the sound system work well. He can be heard clearly, and his message is great. However, in order not to interfere with the general theme of ineptitude for the day, tack an interminably boring local honors and awards time at the end of the speech. That, along with all the other absurdities for the day, will keep the audience down to only the loyal few.
I hate to think that I missed a full day of being with my students to attend such a poorly planned conference. There were fantastic speakers - and the potential for a powerful and meaningful conference was there - but it was unrealized. If I were one of the speakers or presenters, I would be furious that my hard work and preparation were rendered useless and ineffective by poor event planners.
Rewind the clock to over 45 years ago when I was in the third grade. Mrs. Giles was my teacher. We were taking turns going up to her desk and reciting our multiplication tables. I raised my hand and asked to go to the bathroom. Mrs. Giles told me no. Soon it was my turn to come up to her desk to recite my multiplication tables. Standing there nervously, squeezing my legs together, trying to recite my math but with my mind on my bladder that felt like it was about to burst, I could hold it no longer. I peed all over the floor. Mrs. Giles didn't notice. I finished my multiplication tables and went back to my seat - humiliated and terrified of being found out. Another child came up to do the multiplication, and pointed out the puddle on the floor. Giggles filled the air. Mrs. Giles asked for the "guilty party" to raise his/her hand and admit to wetting the floor. I continued doing my schoolwork. Then she gave the class a sanctimonious lecture about going to the bathroom at appointed times so that accidents wouldn't happen. I remained quiet. There was no doubt that Mrs. Giles knew who had peed on the floor. It isn't something you can hide easily -- although it those days, girls wore dresses every day. So it wasn't as obvious as it would have been if I'd been wearing slacks. I guess I could at least commend her on not publicly pointing out who the culprit was. She let it go. Recess came soon afterwards. I ran outside and huddled behind some shrubbery -- embarrassed, but also furious. I had TOLD her I had to go. I was a good student - well behaved and respectful. Unless I was in an urgent situation, I would have waited till the next scheduled bathroom break. The situation should never have happened.
All these years later, I still recall the details of that day - what the classroom and Mrs. Giles desk looked like, what the lesson was at the time, the bushes where I hid out during recess, and the awful embarrassment I felt. When I became a teacher. I swore that I would never allow such a thing to happen to any of my students. Each year on the first day of school, I discussed our class bathroom guidelines with them, and they knew the procedures to follow, and they also knew that if they ever had an "urgent" situation, they just had to let me know where they were going and head out to the bathroom. I was a classroom teacher for 25 years -- and while I'm sure there are children who occasionally took an unnecessary trip to the bathroom, no child ever abused that plan.
As I listened to the teacher in the hall a few weeks ago, I felt bad for the child. I wondered if that humiliating experience would be something he'd still remember 45 years from now. Everyone has experienced times when, despite taking care of such things at the appropriate times, they have to go to the bathroom during meetings, during a class, or at other inconvenient times. I admit that I don't know any other details other than the overheard conversation. However, it is a conversation that should never have taken place.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE one old love she can imagine going back to...and one who reminds her how far she has come.
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...enough money within her control to move out and rent a place of her own...even if she never wants to or needs to.
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...something perfect to wear if the employer or date of her dreams wants to see her in an hour.
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...a youth she's content to leave behind.
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...a past juicy enough that she's looking forward to retelling it in her old age.
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...a set of screwdrivers, acordless drill, and a black lace bra.
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...one friend who always makes her laugh... and one who lets her cry.
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family.
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems, and a recipe for a meal that will make her guests feel honored..
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...a feeling of control over her destiny.
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...how to fall in love without losing herself.
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...how to quit a job, break up with a lover, and confront a friend without ruining the friendship...and how to change a tire!
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW... when to try harder... and when to walk away.
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW... that she can't change the length of her calves, the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents.
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...that her childhood may not have been perfect...but its over.
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...what she would and wouldn't do for love or more.
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...how to live alone...even if she doesn't like it.
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...whom she can trust, whom she can't, and why she shouldn't take it personally...
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...where to go...be it to her best friend's kitchen table...or a charming inn in the woods...when her soul needs soothing.
EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...what she can and can't accomplish in a day...a month...and a year.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
It's difficult to explain to modern children the tremendous courage it took for Rosa Parks to refuse to give up her bus seat to a white man. Nowadays we can't even imagine such a thing! I'm thankful that our children have role models from the past, such as Rosa Parks, who stood up for what was right, regardless of the personal cost. I wonder who their role models from today will be. It is often the everyday person - someone not in a position of prestige or power - who ends up being the most influential. An ordinary person, like Rosa Parks, doing extraordinary acts...and changing our world.
I am wondering if the families of each of those six others also received $15 million. Where does one find information such as that? I would think that surely they did, but you can never tell. The news report, of course, was only about Heinz Kerry.
A personal opinion and aside: Heinz Kerry was enough reason not to vote for John Kerry in the last election although he provided enough reasons on his own - and I haven't knowingly purchased a Heinz product since then - and won't in the future.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Life is short. There are no guarantees.
Later note: The official cause of death was choking. He died eating a grilled cheese sandwich. He had knocked over a chair -- apparently trying to do the self-Heimlich maneuver.
First there is old faithful - the ever-present goal. I will exercise each day - even if it's only getting outside for a 30-minute walk.
Second, eat reasonably and healthfully.
Third, go through one box of papers in the storage room.
The coming week will be unusual for me. I rarely travel for my job. However, I will be out of town at a reading conference from Wednesday evening until Friday evening. I'm driving my car to the conference, and three other reading specialists are riding with me. About fifteen of the twenty reading specialists in our school district are going. That's because Regie Routman is one of the keynote speakers. I'm really looking forward to hearing her speak. I've read her books - they're considered practically the Bible for reading education.
I feel fortunate that in the past year I have heard Ellin Keene, Shelley Harwayne, and Sharon Taberski speak. And now Regie Routman. Wow! These are all women who are well known nationally in the area of reading education. Ellin Keene was by far the most dynamic speaker, followed by Sharon Taberski. They both literally changed the way I teach.
Oops! Got sidetracked there! Back to weekly goals. The three I mentioned are it. I got sidetracked because I started to write that I would go through THREE boxes of papers, but then remembered that I would be at the conference and wouldn't be home for half of the work week. So I'll only shoot for one box.
So: exercise, diet, organize. The big three for the week.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
The original book includes things such as how to fend off a shark, how to take a punch, how to deal with a charging bull, how to jump from a moving car, how to deliver a baby in a taxicab, how to land an airplane, along with thirty-four other crisis situations. The authors take no stand on what could have happened to get you into one of the situations. It's simply that you're there - now what do you do? They've talked to "experts" in each particular field to develop their recommendations of how to handle each crisis.
The volume on dating and sex includes chapters on how to determine if your date is married, how to fend off an obsessive ex, how to escape from a bad date, how to deal with body odor, how to deal with a bad kisser, how to survive if you wake up next to someone whose name you don't remember - and about thirty other situations in the realm of dating and sex. They take no position about right and wrong. You're in the situation - now what do you do?
Both books are at times humorous, interesting, and sometimes informative. Definitely nothing deep - but a good read when you want something in short, to the point chapters. And who knows - there's a reader somewhere, someday, sometime who will find him/herself in the path of a charging bull - and having read this book will save the day.
The back cover gives the background for the story: "It was a simple incident in the life of James Clavell - a talk with his young daughter just home from school - that inspired this chilling tale of what could happen in twenty-five quietly devastating minutes. He writes: 'THE CHILDREN'S STORY came into being that day. It was then that I really realized how vulnerable my child's mind was - any mind, for that matter - under controlled circumstances. Normally I write and rewrite and re-rewrite, but this story came quickly - almost by itself. Barely three words were changed. It pleases me greatly because it keeps asking me questions. Questions like What's the use of 'I pledge allegiance' without understanding? Like Why is it so easy to divert thoughts? Like What is freedom? and Why is it so hard to explain? THE CHILDREN'S STORY keeps asking me all sorts of questions I cannot answer. Perhaps you can - then your child will . . . '"
Maybe it's unrealistic, unlikely, or simplistic. But, nevertheless, it's one of those rare books that really make you think.
I had hoped that Stinkeroo would bring Sweet Stuff and Sunshine over for awhile. I thought they'd enjoy roasting marshmallows over the fire and seeing the tent. However, Sunshine has been having a difficult time with asthma, and Stinkeroo felt the cold air and smoke would make it worse. Poor Sunshine -- it's so bad, the doctor wants Stinkeroo to call their office EVERY morning to give them an update on how she's doing -- breathing treatments regularly throughout the day, along with medication.
Tonight is another birthday party. Meah's birthday was Friday -- 26 years old. Her parents were in town and they all went out to eat to celebrate. So tonight is our family's turn to celebrate with her. She and Scalawag, along with Stinkeroo, SD, Sweet Stuff, Sunshine, and PawPaw will come over to my house later this evening for dinner. Meah requested chicken and dumplings for dinner, and coconut cake for dessert. I don't need a recipe for the chicken and dumplings, but I will have to look up a recipe for the coconut cake. Sweet Stuff hasn't designated yet what kind of party we will have. With her fixation on princesses, it is highly likely that Meah will have a princess party.
(Note from much later) Poor Meah - I didn't have time to make a homemade coconut cake - I had to unpack all the camping stuff and do some straightening up first. So I bought one. I sure hope it's good. Then, I make chicken and dumplings quite often, but THIS time, for some reason, the dumplings started dissolving in the chicken stock rather than keeping their shape. Now it's in a big crock pot, and hopefully it won't be chicken paste by the time dinner rolls around. I anticipate that this meal will definitely NOT be one of my better ones. C'est la vie. They're family, and it's a free meal. It's the fellowship and the intent behind the meal that counts... Right? I'm sure my throngs of readers will await anxiously for word later this evening as to how the dinner went.
(Note from much, MUCH later - after dinner) Okay - the chicken and dumplings turned out pretty darn good after all! Yea! Enough of the dumplings held their shape -- and the ones that dissolved just made the stock really thick. So it turned out well, and I made enough to have some for lunch a couple days this week. Now the coconut cake -- can't say it turned out that well -- it was mediocre at best. Maybe I'm wrong, though, because everybody -- even the girls -- ate some of it. I didn't realize that everyone on my little branch of the family tree likes coconut cake. So I promised to make a homemade coconut cake the next time we get together -- except when I said that, Stinkeroo and Meah both said they wanted an apple pie instead. OK -- that's enough written about that one meal.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
The first wish for this week was a thirty-something schoolteacher who found out, when her parents died a few years ago, that she had been adopted. She felt that her birth mother was still alive, but she had been unable to find out any information about her. The second wish was a young college student who had such a severe stuttering problem that he had difficulty in communicating. And finally, there was a woman who founded "Second Wind Dreams" which grants wishes for elderly people. She wanted to be able to grant MORE wishes for them.
It was interesting to follow along as Amy and a detective looked for the schoolteacher's birth mother. They found her, of course - wouldn't make a good TV show if they didn't. And the birth mother was thrilled to be able to connect with the baby she had given up for adoption so long ago. Turns out she had been unwed, and only 16 years old. The man was married and his wife was also pregnant - and apparently he offered no help to her. She was poor and had a bad home life and knew she couldn't provide for her daughter. So she gave her up without ever seeing her after her birth.
There were some quotes that were memorable.
Olivia, the young schoolteacher, said, "Not a day goes by that I don't wonder who my mother is and what's she like." She said this when she was first being interviewed - before the investigation to find her mother had begun. Alice, her birth mother said, "Not a day goes by that I don't wonder where my daughter is and what she's like." This was said before she knew anything about her daughter or before she had met her. Two people -- wondering the same thing about each other.
Anthony, the young man dealing with stuttering, talked about his grandfather who had died two weeks earlier. "My grandfather never saw my disability. He saw me as an overcomer." I LOVED that statement. It so much highlights the importance of having a family that supports, encourages and uplifts you. It reminded me of the Heller Keller quote I posted last week about how the world is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with the overcoming of it. The show taped him making a non-stuttering speech as he announced his candidacy for junior class president at his college. His mother remarked, "That's my son, and that's the young man that's going to change the world." High expectations, along with love and support. I was fascinated by the fact that after going through a battery of tests, he was fitted with a device in his ear, much like a hearing aid, that STOPPED his stuttering. Immediately. How phenomenal is that? Even though they explained briefly how it works, it was beyond my understanding.
Throughout the show they highlighted the different senior citizens whose wishes they granted. One was a 72-year old woman, Mary Nell, who had always wanted to be a flight attendant. So she spent a day as a Southwest Airlines flight attendant. Then a 73-year old woman, Daisey, wanted to do the weather on TV - which, thanks to a local TV station, she did. An 85-year old man, Ernie, wanted to play jazz piano in a club again - and as he played he commented that because of the experience "the years melted away." And then there was a 77-year old woman who wanted to ride a Nascar race car. When she introduced herself, she said, 'My name is Louise Jones, but here at the nursing home they call me Trouble!" (Note: My mother is 82 years old, and she looks FAR younger than any of the 3 women shown on the show who were in their 70's. Yea for good family genes!) Louise's sons cheered her on and she rode in a pace car - up to her requested 100 mph.
I've watched other wish-granting TV shows, but I thought this was the most authentic. There was no over-the-top game-playing and showmanship to appeal to the TV audience. It granted mostly simple wishes (relatively speaking) that everyone could relate to and appreciate.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
On my way home from work awhile ago, I stopped by Stinkeroo's office to mail Joan her winning BLOG HOG bag. I figured I'd get free postage there, they'd send it out with their daily mail, and I wouldn't have to fight the crowd at the post office. To my surprise, Scalawag was at the office, too! He's usually out on a job somewhere when I drop by the office. PawPaw had already left for the day. So I didn't see him. However I'm going to see a movie with him in awhile - so I'll see him later. How nice to spend some time with my two children! They're both so funny. We had a good time talking for a few minutes. Scalawag unknowingly gave me one of the nicest compliments imaginable. As I was about to leave, he asked me to come outside so he could introduce me to one of his employees who had just driven up. I was thinking as I drove home about how good it made me feel for my son to go out of his way to introduce me to someone. Maybe he was showing his employee off to me, but I choose to think that he was showing off his mother to the employee.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it...don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.
Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?
A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.
Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?
A: No, not at all. Wine is made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, that means they take the water out of the fruity bit so you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made out of grain. Bottoms up!
Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A: Well, if you have a body and you have body fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.
Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?
A: Can't think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain...Good.
Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?
A: YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!!! Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. In fact, they're permeated in it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?
Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?
A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.
Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: Are you crazy? HELLO ... Cocoa beans ... another vegetable!!! It's the best feel-good food around.
Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.
Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! 'Round' is a shape!
Hopefully, this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets and remember: Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - strawberries in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming ........
"WOO HOO! What a Ride!"
A fellow blogger recently celebrated having her 100,000th site visitor, and rewarded that visitor with a cool t-shirt. In that spirit, I will follow suit - in a way. The Median Sib's visitor count is almost at 500! Wow! That's 1/2000 of a MILLION! So if you happen to be the 500th visitor, I will provide you with a gorgeous BLOG HOG tote bag. Isn't it cool? I created a unique, one-of-a-kind design which I printed onto an iron-on transfer sheet and subsequently ironed onto the bag. I already had all the materials on hand from when I made bookbags last year for the kids I teach.
To find out what number you are, go to the bottom of this page and look at the site meter (yellow background, blue numbers & words). As I write this post, it is at 499. If the number is 500 when you look at it, then YOU are the winner. Send me an email and let me know!
Monday, October 17, 2005
Sunday, October 16, 2005
And so I went to bed at 8:45 p.m. That's when I discovered that I didn't fit my sleeping bag. I had selected my sleeping bag at the store the other day, and the clerk asked me how tall I was. Apparently the sleeping bag came in short, medium, and tall. She said the short one would fit someone up to 5'8". I'm 5'6", but I asked for the medium one anyway so I'd have a little extra length. I'm a firm believer in having "free feet" during sleep. She must have picked out the short one instead because it didn't fit. When I got in the sleeping bag my toes were crammed into the bottom. And when I say they were crammed, I don't mean they were simply snug. I mean it was doggoned uncomfortable! I knew immediately that I couldn't sleep that way. Sometimes I can be annoyingly indecisive, and other times I KNOW what I have to do. This time was the latter. I knew there was no way to solve the sleeping bag issue before the next day. There were no nearby blankets to use in lieu of the sleeping bag, it was too cool to simply sleep on top of it, and the night was just beginning.
At 9:01 (16 minutes after I went to bed and discovered that the sleeping bag didn't fit), I was in my car on the way home! Amazing how quickly one can take down the tent, re-pack the car and be off! Of course I didn't repack everything neatly in their bags. I just stuffed it all in the car to be sorted, folded and stored away later. I dumped what was left of the bag of ice on the coals of the campfire, checked the area with my head-light, and left. I was home by ten o'clock.
Earlier in the evening, when I was sitting by the campfire, I had made a list of what I needed to do differently next time. The first venture is always the test experience - the time to find out what works and what doesn't work. I loved my tent. It went up easily and quickly. No problem for one person. Apparently my trial run in my family room the previous evening had helped! I had remembered to bring a hammer for the stakes. I packed pretty well, anticipating what I would need. Next time I'll bring a broom to sweep the area where the tent goes. All the campsites were surrounded by nut trees (walnuts?) and there were nuts all over the ground. A broom would have been great to clear and smooth out the area before pitching the tent. Another item to take next time is a comfortable camp chair. I brought two little fold-out chairs that I already had - one to sit on and one to prop up my feet. They're great for a few minutes, but they're uncomfortable for long periods of time. I would have loved being able to really stretch out and relax and be comfortable by the campfire. Little things - a potholder (a wad of paper towels was fine last night, but a potholder would have been better), a pot with a lid (so I don't have to be concerned with insects getting into my food and water as they're heating on the stove). And finally... despite the fact that I can be a wimp about not getting enough sleep, if the sleeping bag had fit, I would have stayed all night and slept okay. However, I think I might get one of those aerobeds -- the ones that self-inflate. Since I'll be doing mostly car camping, it won't matter that they're bulky, and if I can sleep well while camping, I'll feel so much better. So I'm seriously considering adding an aerobed to my list of camping supplies.
Items that were useful/helpful: The head-light was wonderful. It was great for reading, walking to the bathhouse, and for doing things around the camp, and it was perfect to see in the dark as I pulled up the stakes and took down the tent as I prepared to go home. I adjusted it too tightly at first - resulting in a headache. I ended up making it so loose it kept slipping down - but no headache, so I kept it that way. Citronella candles and insect repellant - I had bought a citronella candle bucket that really helped with keeping mosquitoes away. The park is alongside a river, and so the mosquitoes and other insects were plentiful. That mini-stove - just love it! I used it to cook my dinner, and it heated the water for my chamomille tea in just a couple minutes.
So...first camping trip is now under my belt. I didn't spend the night, but that is insignificant to me. I set up camp, cooked dinner, built a campfire, and did all the things that needed to be done. Most importantly, camping alone no longer intimidates me. It wasn't scary. It was fun and relaxing. I'll go again soon...maybe next weekend. It was nice being outside, and the campfire was wonderful. What IS there about a campfire that is so relaxing? The only improvement (other than a longer sleeping bag) would have been to have someone there with me.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Friday, October 14, 2005
So I brought everything into the family room and pitched the tent in front of the TV. OH. MY. GOODNESS! I am so thankful that I tried it in the privacy of my own home before I did it in public. I can just see the people near me at the campground punching each other and pointing in my direction as I demonstrate my one-person imitation of the three stooges putting up a tent. When the people at the store demonstrated it, it looked so simple. Quick and easy - five minutes and you're done - absolutely no problem for one person to do. Wrong! Thirty minutes, and the sweat was pouring off me. Forty-five minutes, and I'm seriously considering packing it all up and taking it back to the store. A little over an hour, and the tent is up. . . incorrectly. An hour and a half, and the tent is up correctly. The directions apparently assume that the person reading them has a background understanding of how to pitch a tent. They were wrong. I will take the tent down later tonight and pack it away, and then I will put it up again. The second time HAS to be quicker. And then tomorrow when I put it up for the third time, it should be a piece of cake - hopefully. At least that's what I'm counting on.
I tried out my nifty little hand-size stove, too. Just screw the little burner into the propane canister (or some kind of canister of gas -- I guess it's propane) - and VOILA! A working stove. Of course after I turned it off, I started to fold it back up and burned my hand. Note to self: Let the stove COOL OFF before putting it away.
I taught a demonstration lesson in a second grade classroom the other day. The topic I chose for this first lesson on comprehension strategies was "metacognition" - thinking about one's own thinking and learning. When children become aware of the mental processes they're going through as they read, they become better learners. Plus, children love learning new words. They enjoyed saying "metacognition" aloud and practicing how they would answer the "What did you learn in school today?" question they'd most likely hear when they got home that afternoon. I chose the book Edward the Emu as the literature for the lesson, and I used "think-alouds" as I read the book to the class to highlight what I was thinking about as I read the story. We talked about predicting, questioning, and making connections. In the story, Edward kept trying to be something he wasn't. He learns that it is best to be himself. It is an obvious point that is made, but the story and the illustrations take it beyond the typical books that try to teach a lesson. I loved watching the children's faces as I read the story aloud to them. They were so into the story!
Thursday, October 13, 2005
…….Sydney J. Harris
I came across the above quote today, and I immediately thought of all the blaming going on about everything, it seems. When something goes wrong, the first thing many people think is, "Who is to blame?" A phrase I've heard used by educators is "boss your brain". In other words, instead of being a victim of distractions and circumstances, be the one in charge of yourself. Take personal responsibility for your actions and words.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Tragedies like that make me both thankful, and they also scare me. Thankful for my close family and for my healthy children and grandchildren. Scared because maybe my life has been too easy - maybe life is just waiting to whallop me with a major blow. That sounds pessimistic, but it isn't. I don't dwell on it. It's just a thought that goes through my mind at times. Is there such a thing as being too lucky?
After work yesterday, I drove by a house for sale - a GORGEOUS house - way out of my price range but still fun to look at. It was a for-dreams-only home - on 21 wooded acres - very scenic and restful looking. Just spectacular. I fantasize about living in a place like that. I saw deer along the road on the way there and on the way back.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
There are few things more satisfying than a great time being with family. I thank God daily for my family. I love being with and watching them all. Scalawag and Meah had work still to do tonight, and so they left soon after dinner. Stinkeroo, SD and the girls stayed awhile longer. Stinkeroo had brought the girls' pajamas so they could take their baths here before heading home. What is there about being naked that makes children want to laugh and run around? Both girls tore around the house with pure joy before finally getting into the tub. There is nothing in the world sweeter than freshly bathed children -- all sweet-smelling and cuddly. I enjoyed brushing and drying their hair. They had not brought socks, and so I gave them each a pair of my socks so their feet wouldn't get cold on the way home. They wore them almost like tights -- with the socks coming above their knees.
I'm sitting here at the computer, smiling at the memories from such a wonderful evening with my family -- Singing "Happy Birthday" to Scalawag, pirate costumes, Captain PotBelly, Spiderman masks, the story of Meah's first patient, SD teaching the girls to say "Go, Dawgs, go!", watching Scalawag grill the steaks, hearing Stinkeroo tell about her trip to Texas, and then watching each car drive out of sight with blown kisses and I-love-you's filling the air.
Not wanting to go to the store again today and being a little devious, I made a phone call. Perfect! Sweet Stuff answered the phone herself. It seems that when she answers the phone herself , she feels "in charge" and she carries on a great conversation. Often if I talk to Stinkeroo first and she asks Sweet Stuff if she wants to talk to Grandma Carol, the conversation is short, and Sweet Stuff's not into it very much. This morning she was INTO it. I wish I could relate the conversation word for word. I told her that we were having a birthday party for Uncle Scalawag today. That got her excited because she LIVES for birthday parties. I could hear her relating our conversation to Stinkeroo in the background. Then I told her that I'd heard she wanted to have a Power Rangers birthday party for him. Oh yes, she said - Power Rangers for boys. Then I asked what Power Rangers things I needed to get. "Cups....plates.... napkins," she replied, pausing thoughtfully between items. (I heard Stinkeroo talking to Sweet Stuff in the background.) Then "We'll get everything!" Those were the words I was hoping to hear! "How about party hats?" I asked. That, too. Then, since they had made blueberry muffins for breakfast, she said she wanted to bring Uncle Scalawag a muffin, too. I talked to Stinkeroo after Sweet Stuff and I were finished chatting. She said she was going to the store in awhile anyway and that Sweet Stuff would love to pick out the Power Rangers stuff.
So I'm all set. No need to go shopping again. I can have a nice relaxing day at home. The smell of the cake baking will be wonderful, and I'll have time to prepare for the party with no rushing. Yea!!!! It seems that often when I think I have EVERYTHING covered and everything planned perfectly, there's some little detail I've forgotten. It's nice to have other family members who can take up the slack.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
I enjoyed looking at all the possible things to buy. There was every gadget imaginable. However, the one thing that got me excited was the COOLEST stove! It's a small hand-size unit that screws into a propane canister - it has little arms that fold out and you set a pan on the arms. Easy, simple, probably not very steady -- but I loved it! The tents were interesting, too. If you haven't looked at tents lately, you should know that the designation of 2-person, 3-person, etc. is deceptive. The three-person tents would only be practical for three VERY friendly people. I believe I'd get claustrophobia in the one-person tents and even the two-person tents. The tent I will most likely buy is a 3-person tent. It will provide plenty of room for me when I go by myself, and if I find someone who wants to go with me, there will be enough room for two. I really wouldn't try to squeeze three in there, though -- unless two of them were Lily and Sophie. Which is actually an idea for maybe a year or two from now when they're a little older. They'd think camping was a big adventure.
Now that I know what I want to buy, I'll concentrate on where I want to go. It'll probably be a state park somewhere within a hour's drive of home - with lots of hiking trails and some pretty scenery.
Friday, October 07, 2005
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Here's the publisher's description of the book: Steven D. Levitt and co-author Stephen J. Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives - how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they set out to explore the hidden side of...well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.
It sounds fascinating to me -- and with all the press it has gotten, apparently it is fascinating to others as well. I'll report back here after I read it.
One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale
Thursday, October 06, 2005
One girl (I'll call her Karen) told me about how the picture reminded her of the time that she was trying to pull a piece of metal out of the ground and it flipped her up into the air. Then her sister tried to pull it out, and it flipped her into the air, too. And then her father tried, and it even flipped him into the air. Karen looked at me with wide eyes and a sincere expression as she related her tale. Karen wasn't lying to me. She was imagining pulling on something stuck in the ground, and then being flung into the air where she flipped around and landed softly back on the earth. I could see the excitement in her eyes as she visualized the experience.
In education we talk about connections - text to text connections, text to self connections, and text to world connections. Karen illustrated a connection that isn't in the books on teaching. She made a text to imagination connection.
And the thought came to me that such childlike IMAGINATION is what is seriously lacking in everyday life today. Creators of TV shows and movies have lost the ability to think beyond the ordinary in innocent flights of fancy, fun, excitement and adventure. Instead, their imaginations have gone in the direction of the dark, cynical, and sexual. And we're the worse for it.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
A great wordless (or nearly wordless) book for engaging children in creative writing is The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. This book contains fourteen black-and-white drawings, each accompanied by a title and a caption. The children are first intrigued by a mysterious introduction explaining how the incomplete manuscript had been found. Then they are invited to finish the stories.
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
My niece has a blog, Reasoned Audacity, and she is nearing the 100,000 mark for site visitors. Her blog is less than a year old. So I wondered how long it would take The Median Sib to reach such a number. If my weak math skills are correct, at the rate of the past two days it will take around 5 years! Obviously this isn't going to be a record-breaking blog - and it wasn't intended to be. This blog doesn't have a central theme. It isn't associated with any particular cause or organization. Most of the comments so far are from my wonderful family, although there are a couple non-family comments interspersed here and there. I have some friends who read my blog, too. And then I guess there are the other bloggers who are just surfing through blogs and see something here that catches their eye and they take the time to read it.
What's the purpose of The Median Sib? Not to get a lot of traffic. Not to make money from the advertising. Not to debate the important topics of the day. It's here as an outlet for me - a communication and expression tool. So to everyone who has taken the time to read The Median Sib - THANK YOU!
Hoppin' John with Sausage
3 cans black-eyed peas
2 cans Ro-Tel tomatoes w/jalapenos
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 pound Italian or summer sausage (I bought the lower fat variety made from turkey)
approx. 1-2 cups cooked rice (more or less depending on your preference)
Slice the sausage into bite-sized pieces. Throw everything in a saucepan and simmer. That's it - an extremely simple meal. You can make smaller amounts, but I deliberately made a big batch so I'd have several packages to freeze for quick meals later. It is mildly spicy but absolutely delicious!
1981-3 years old
1985 - 7 years old
2004 - 26 years old
My sweet baby boy will be 27 years old tomorrow. How is that possible? It seems like just yesterday that he was born. I remember the first Mother's Day after his birth when he said "ma-ma" for the first time, and then kept saying it over and over... All the fistfuls of flowers he has presented to me over the years...The cowboy boots he wore when he was a toddler -- even to bed...His determination...His kindness...His resourcefulness and ambition as he created his own lawn-mowing business in high school. He was, and still is, sweetness, ambition, toughness, mischief, strength and kindness mixed together in one multi-faceted and wonderful person.
I think most parents would agree that the driving hope of parents is to see their children grow up to be kind, responsible and happy adults. I have made mistakes in many areas of my life, but my two children are wonderful examples of where I succeeded. Scalawag has his own company that he started less than two years ago that is thriving and keeping him busy. He married Meah on a sunlit beach in Maui three years ago. They've created a beautiful home where they live with their two dogs, Hank and Mickey, and where they entertain friends often. Most of all, though, he is a good person. When I asked him to meet with me yesterday to look at that land, he was there. When I needed help with a project a few weeks ago, he stopped what he was doing, and he helped me with it.
We'll celebrate his birthday on Sunday with a family dinner. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my sweet baby boy!
Monday, October 03, 2005
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Front of the house - Doesn't it look inviting?
The Floor Plan - my favorite part
I'm so excited! I re-found my all-time favorite house plan. It isn't a log house, but I love it so much, it doesn't matter. I wonder if a log exterior could be put on it? Since it was designed to be a brick home, it probably would be better to stick with that - don't want to mess with something I like so much. And it's
not huge -- a little under 2000 sq. ft. It has everything I want - an open living area that is conducive for entertaining, a great master bedroom suite, front porch, covered back porch, and a layout that isn't all boxy. I would make some changes. I want a real fireplace rather than ventless gas fireplace. I also don't have a need for a "summer kitchen" on the back porch. Cooking over a stove outside in the summer doesn't sound very appealing. A gas grill is all I need for outdoor summer cooking. I'm not a big fan of hot tubs, either. By not having the hot tub on the back porch, it'll provide that much more room for things such as a hammock or a recliner.
I found a 5-acre lot for sale today that looks like a possibility. I have an appointment to walk around it tomorrow. It doesn't have any trees to speak of, but Joey has a landscape business. So I figure he'll take care of that.
A back view of the house
Changing topics briefly - I saw another family who was cooking dinner on a green Coleman stove -- very similar to what I remember my parents using on our camping trips when I was a kid. It made me feel rather nostalgic.