Friday, December 12, 2008

Prepare the Way for the Lord

Here is the second advent devotional I was asked to write this season:

John the Baptist Prepares the Way - Luke 3:1-6 (New International Version) In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.'

John the Baptist was called from his desert dwelling place to “prepare the way for the Lord.” What a tremendous responsibility fell upon this man; yet we are called to do the same. In the midst of our desert, we are called to prepare for God to use our pain for His glory. This is a conscious choice we make. John was called from the desert, but it was only by making the choice to heed the call and begin his ministry that John made an impact on the world. Through John’s obedience, the world was prepared to accept the Messiah.

When my spouse of 24 years died suddenly, leaving me widowed at 43 years old with two sons to rear; I entered the desert of my life. My identity changed in the blink of an eye. I was no longer married, no longer someone’s spouse and the secure identity I possessed for 24 years, was no longer mine to claim. A new identity defined me. I was a single parent; a widow and found these identities awkward and uncomfortable. Wandering the “crooked roads” and “rough ways”, I questioned whether life would ever be straight or smooth again.

In the midst of my hurt and disappointment, God began to call me out of the desert; urging me to prepare the way for Him to work through my life. I couldn’t change my life history. I couldn’t change my circumstances, but with God’s help I could change how the story continued. Making this choice freed my life to have new meaning. Pain no longer defined me, temporal titles no longer mattered; the mountains became low, the crooked roads I had been traveling grew to be much straighter and the rough ways became smooth.

It is while we wander in the desert of life that God often calls us. He calls us to prepare the way for His Son to work through our pain and be glorified in our surrender. Through our obedience in the desert place, God can use our circumstances not only bring healing to our soul, but to lead others to Jesus and his love for us. Just as John the Baptist was called to prepare the way for the Messiah to come and dwell among us, so we are also called.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

No Vacancy!

The NO vacancy sign is lit in front of our home. We are officially at full capacity. When I purchased this house three years ago, I had difficulty justifying the need for five bedrooms, but I always wanted a “study” and thought it was important to have a “guest room” for occasional visitors, so I was able to justify the purchase. Now I am sure why I “needed” to purchase a house too big for us at the time—to fill it up.

Two of my stepchildren came to live with us this past month. Though temporary, it has been an adjustment for all of us. I know that I have looked upon this new state of affairs pragmatically. I understood it would be difficult at times. I understood that there would be adjustments. I understood that everyone would have to be flexible. What I underestimated, but should not have, was the many blessings that often accompany graciousness.

One manifestation of generosity is evident in the loving nature of my family. They have accepted, valued, and even loved my new step family. My mother, as the matriarch, has covered our situation in prayer. Dad has been encouraging; always accepting as usual. The brothers have done what they do best—created opportunities for the Z and J to connect, with the family, with friends and with the church, of course this is accomplished through playing board games, but it works.

The outcome of embracing the boys into our lives has been that, though cumbersome at times, the transition has been smoother than I anticipated. Do I think this is it; that now we will live in some euphoric commune with little struggle? Not a chance. I recognize that we will be unable to circumvent frustration, irritation and confrontation. What I am hopeful of is that when confronted with these circumstances we will act in a loving manner that strengthens our character and fortifies our faith.

I have heard it said that when we become closer to God, we do not become more spiritual, we become more loving. Delving into the quintessence of God and who he is, radically transforms us and creates within us a less selfish, more generous, more productive and more loving spirit—the essential qualities that sustain us through ANY life circumstance--especially those that stretch us and those which call us to a sacrifice beyond what we ever imagined.

As a retrospect---this I know for sure...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Tuesday Triviality - Book Meme

I have been tagged by my brother Evan. This meme is unusual in that it doesn't follow the "normal" meme pattern.

Here's the way it works. Apparently, I grab the closest book to me, which happens to be Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups Edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith (sounds more theological than it really is). I then turn to page 123 and find the fifth sentence. After that, I post the three following sentences. Here goes...

"He was well versed in Greek philosophy, notably Platonism and Stoicism, but the basis of his thought was rooted in the Bible.
Gregory believed that the main use of the Bible was not for historical reflection but rather for growth in virtue. He and the other Church fathers used the Bible and its characters to teach us how to grow closer to God, how to "elevate" the soul to God."

This was an introduction to the author Gregory of Nyssa (331-396) and his collection of devotions. What's more--now I have to look up: Platonism and Stoicism in the dictionary. Maybe Wikipedia will do...
I am more of an "arm chair theologian".

I am not sure what the point of this meme is, but...

Now I am tagging: Tanja, Annie, Shelly and Rob

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent - Transformed Through Waiting

I was asked to write a couple of advent devotionals for our church this season--there is the first installment.

Jeremiah 33:14-16 (New Living Translation)

“The day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them.

“In those days and at that time
I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line.
He will do what is just and right throughout the land.
In that day Judah will be saved,
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
And this will be its name:
‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’

This time of the year often takes on a totally different sentiment than we intend for it to possess. Life gets crazy; we become busier than ever and somewhere in the midst of living our life, we forget that this is a season of great hope and anticipation. As followers of Christ, we want to believe that Christmas holds spiritual meaning, but finding the time to explore this significance doesn’t always fit into our busy holiday schedule.

As Jeremiah prepares God’s people for the eventual coming of the Messiah, he implies that waiting for the Lord’s coming is not a passive pursuit. We are challenged to an act of waiting that is fervent and active. Advent is not just about waiting for God to fulfill his promise. It is about being transformed through waiting.

The challenge this season is to not only understand, but also acknowledge the fact that God’s promises are true; that we can have confidence in His word as we allow this fact to restore us. Pain, disappointment, regret and heartache are aspects of life as we wait, but hope is alive within us because Jesus provided the supreme sacrifice on the cross. It is through His sacrifice that we are assured eternal life and afforded the opportunity to anticipate the day the Lord will return

“We must accept finite disappointment but we must never lose infinite hope,” Martin Luther King Jr.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Death at Walmart--So Senseless!

What have we come to? Stores open at 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning; only stocking 6 to 8 of the “bargains” advertised in the flyer—then we are SHOCKED when 2000 people await the opportunity to buy a big screen television at a bargain basement price, but what is the cost??—a human life??? How insane is that? Surely these people at Walmart feel all kinds of remorse – the kind that doesn’t allow you to sleep or even get through the day, but alas that isn't even the case. This Walmart worker was someone’s son—perhaps someone’s husband or someone’s father. What is WRONG with our society that someTHING is worth the price of some ONE?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happiness Doubled by Wonder

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
- Gilbert Keith Chesterton, English writer (1874-1936)

This Thanksgiving I am not only thankful, I am truly grateful. I say this at a point in my life when one stepson moved in a week ago and the second one arrives on Monday. That will make a total of 5 males and one female in this household--5 adults and one adolescent living under the same roof and I am “doubled by wonder”? Why? Because God has chosen me to find and experience another great love, He has offered up the opportunity make a difference in the lives of those around me and has given me some sort of supernatural energy that is, most definitely, a prerequisite for my predicament.

I have never been one to take the easy road—how boring that would be? I have been known to claim God’s promises and then “test” Him or perhaps it is God who tests me. Whichever is the case, this Thanksgiving I honor the love that permeates my selfishness and calls me to a higher plane—a love that is sufficient and graceful--a love that puts what I want or need in second place to the needs of the ones I love. A love that I am incapable of, but with God through me is totally possible.

"By HIS own hand he leadth me"... as nostalgic as it seems---"This I know for sure."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tuesday Triviality - Three Decades of NOT Being Cool!

Taking my lead from Annie at Anniegirl1138, here is the Tuesday Triviality...
I was NOT cool in the past. I was lucky that my high school was known for music instead of sports, so for that--I was fortunate.

In the 1970’s
I was a “yell leader” for my school. This was for the girls who didn't have a chance to make cheerleading.
I was the treasurer of the student body
I listened to the radio non-stop.
I weighed 135 pounds at 5’11” and thought I was fat.
I played with Barbies until moving to Hastings, NE where my best friend thought they were lame, so I quit.
I rode a purple Schwinn banana seat bike.
I lived in a small town in Nebraska and walked/rode everywhere in town—it was really awesome.
I was not allowed to wear a halter-top—so I definitely missed my chance.
I didn’t go to any high school dance, including prom because, at the time, it was “against my religion”—now I look back---how stupid.
I was NOT allowed to watch “Family”, but would sneak a peak every once in a while.

In the 1980’s

I was selected for an elite Madrigals group at my high school and then--we moved my senior year.
Graduated from high school and then university.
Voted for Ronald Regan (and would again).
Listened to the Doobie Brothers and Eagles non-stop.
Stayed up to watch Princess Diana’s wedding at 4 in the morning.
Watched Dallas and Dynasty and could tell you who killed JR in 1991.
I didn’t miss “Days of Our Lives”
Drove an ancient VW hatchback that didn’t have heat—I used a scraper to scrap the INSIDE of my front window.
Met Don and married him the same year as Diana married Prince Charles—I was much more successful with love, but ended up having to live the same loss.
Gave birth to my first child, just as the decade ended.
Graduated from college and got my first teaching job (which I still hold today).

In the 1990’s
I lived through the Midwest Flood of ‘93.
I became a mother for the second time.
I traveled for the first time in my life to Washington D.C with a group of 30 middle school students---TWICE.
I thought I knew it all…and maybe I did then????
I gained 130 pounds, but didn’t really have an image issue—go figure.

In the 2000’s
I got one master’s degree and then decided to get another one.
I had gastric bypass and lost 140 pounds.
I lost my husband and my identity.
I bought a home by myself for the first time.
I traveled a road I never intended to.
I began to write again by starting a blog.
I met and married my second husband.
I became an instant mother of six and a grandmother.
I took up running, biking and swimming—a healthy lifestyle for the first time.
I decided that it isn’t about me, but about my influence…geezz…it took long enough.

What about you?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cardboard Testimonies

Inspired by the "Cardboard Testimonites" at Hillside church, our local, ministry team created a similar experience at our church today. Kent and I could not pass up the opportunity to give God the glory for what has happened in our lives.

After you view the video, you will understand our testimony:

OUR plans shattered by the death of a spouse.
Living GOD’s plan for the future.

I wasn’t prepared for the wave of emotion that seemed to overwhelm my family, my friends and me upon experiencing this moving event. Kent and I recognize God’s hand in our situation, but have been hesitant to claim it—as we did today through the cardboard testimonies.

The biggest blessings came from my stepson, who came to live with us this week. I am encouraged by the possibilities this “new start” will afford him and the opportunities for growth it will afford all of us. On the way to get into the car after the morning’s service, he told Kent that he was moved by our testimony and that our words were not only our (Kent and my) declaration, but also that of the entire family. When Kent recounted this incident to me, tears filled my eyes and my heart was completely filled with the promise that we are not in control, but God is…what a relief! Blessings abound!

How about you? What is your cardboard testimony?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Everything I Know About Life--I Learned From a Middle School Basketball Game

Chandler’s first middle school basketball game was tonight. He started at center. On this, his birthday, Don would have been so very proud of him. Chandler had a cheering section this evening. Kent and I attended, Chad and Joy, Grandma and Grandpa Abla, and Charleen were all present for his debut. As I sat watching Chandler play, I was surprised to find how much the game resembled lessons I have learned in life, so in honor of Chandler’s first game, I bring to you…

Everything I know about life I learned from a middle school basketball game.

I learned that…
  • You wont always be first string, sometimes your job will be to come in after the all-stars are tired and take the game from there. There is no glory in this except the self-satisfaction of knowing that without you the game wouldn’t be possible.
  • You will always have folks to cheer you on, even if you totally mess things up.
  • You may have killjoys in your life who are pessimistic about pretty much everything—stay away from them—they affect your positive mojo.
  • Sometimes you have a good game where everything goes perfectly—you are in a zone; then there are other times when you couldn’t make a basket if your life depended on it.
  • Most of the rather big mistakes you make are soon forgotten by others, but remain in your memory forever--what good does that do?
  • Sometimes you get a “bad call”, but there is the benefit of the ability to blame someone else for it (referees).
  • Guarding yourself from injury is the first line in self-preservation.
  • You can’t make it to the end of the game without your teammates. It takes five to play basketball. It takes more to play in real life.
  • No one else will remember the score in a week, so perhaps you shouldn’t keep it. Sometimes we require more from others than we do ourselves. We remember the hurts and the offenses against us far more than they merit our time or energy.
  • Sometimes the game isn’t about the game. Chandler played a rather seasoned team tonight. He calls the Monticello Sages the Monti-steroid Sages because their 7th grade center is 6’2”. Anyway, after a crushing defeat he went to the concession stand and began to make friends with the other team—it’s his nature. For him, it is more about the relationships than the game – I couldn’t be more proud.
  • It is essential to have a strong coach, one who has played the game before you; one who owns the playbook; who encourages you; who calls you to discipline and finds value in who you are.
I am sure there are many more life lessons to be gleaned, but these are but a few of my personal insights. Care to add more???

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tuesday Trivialty is BACK--Take the Challenge

Complete the following task with a word beginning with the same letter as your first name—common—it’s just for FUN!!!

1. What is your name: Marsha
2. A four letter word: Mall
3. A vehicle: Mustang
4. A city: Madrid
5. A boy's name: Michael
6. A girl's name: Melinda
7. Drink: Mountain Dew
8. An occupation: Monk
9. Something you wear: Muffs
10. A Celebrity: Madonna
11. A food: Macaroni and Cheese
12. Something found in a bathroom: Make-up
13. Reason for being late: My car wouldn’t start.
14. Something you shout: My goodness!
15. An animal: Mongoose
16. A body part: Mind
17. Word to describe yourself: Meaningful
18. A favorite word: Miracle
19. A movie: Mama Mia
20. A book you enjoyed: My Sister’s Keeper by Jody Picault

Leave your answers on a comment or refer back to your blog!! Enjoy!!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Art of Racing Against the Wind

A couple of weeks ago Kent and I participated in the “Spooky-Du(althon)”. It was a 1.8-mile run, 20-mile bike ride followed by a 1.8 mile run. My initial intention was to complete the entire race myself. As has been chronicled here ad nauseum, running is not my forte; I don’t really even like it. So when I noticed there was a “team category” for this race, I jumped at the chance for my husband to complete the run and I would complete the biking portion of the race.

Though it was unseasonably cold the morning of the race, we were filled with anticipation . The 1.8-mile run curved through Weldon Springs State Park (a beautiful venue) while the bike portion of the race was twenty miles through the Central Illinois countryside balanced with hills, curves and flatland. I was confident about the ride, as I am a much stronger cyclist than runner, but when confronted with the added hardship of 20 mph winds directly in my face, the first ten miles was brutal and my confidence began to diminish. Even seasoned tri-athletes said it was a challenging ride. Many times during those first ten miles I simply wanted to quit, or get off the bike and walk. I can’t remember ever challenging myself as hard physically.

As I approached the turn around, the front-runners in the race passed me going the opposite direction. I looked up to find smiles on their faces and an occasional encouraging “thumbs up”. It was obvious that if I could simply make it to the turn-around I would find great relief. The race totally changed at the turn-around. Heading back to the starting line, with the wind at my back, I was able to ride effortlessly much faster than my average speed and I felt a smile replacing the scowl on my face. Crossing the starting line was sweet and more rewarding than I can say.

Often, our lives simulate a race against the wind. We find ourselves maneuvering the hills and curves of life that we never dreamed would impede our journey. Adversity mounts to the point of breaking our spirit and we simply want to quit, or at least get off the “ride” for a while. Facing life’s trials is not for the faint of heart. The knowledge that the “turn-around” is within reach, where the wind will carry us to a more contented place, somehow keeps us going. Finding the courage, energy and strength to merely make it to the turn-around is the challenge, but we do make it; where the road gets easier, and the ride sweeter, where the smile returns, and contentment rests…that is…until the next race.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Above the Fold

I know I have taken a hiatus from blogging, but I am back...

On the eve of what will certainly be the most monumentally historic election in our country’s history, our local newspaper has seriously missed the mark. There is a three-inch banner story at the top of the front page (no picture) about “Obama expanding ‘blue states’”—and that is the ONLY mention of the election on the front page. I am not kidding. The story covered on the rest of the front page with a 5 1/2” by 8” FULL color photo is entitled “Pennies from Heaven”. This story chronicles a family that is renovating an older home; who are finding pennies everywhere in the home and are sure that the spirit of their dead grandmother is leaving the pennies around the house. WHAT???? Just so you don’t think I am making this up, here is the link to the story:
Pennies From Heaven

In the graphic design world, there is a concept referring to the positioning of enticing news stories and photos placed above the fold on the front page. Supposedly, this is prime placement for articles that attract people to purchase the newspaper. Is the “ghost penny” story really what the editors of the Decatur newspaper think will entice intelligent people in our community to buy and read this newspaper, especially TODAY—the day before election day?

In the past, I have threatened to stop reading our local newspaper for a multitude of reasons, but this time—I MEAN IT. No longer will I patronize (vt. to be a regular customer of a business) the Decatur Herald and Review as long as they are determined to patronize (vti. to treat somebody as if he or she were less intelligent) me--and THAT you can print ABOVE THE FOLD!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

This is Why I Teach....Tuesday Triviality...

Though I KNOW this was scripted---it is still inspirational....

1o year old intellect...


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday Triviality-How I Have Changed Over Time...

I subscribe to Dave Bruno’s blog since I stumbled on his “100 Thing Challenge.” A few weeks ago he posted 10 ways that he has changed over time. I decided to do the same—read on and then participate yourself. How have you changed over time?

1. Once I spent most of my time shopping, now I hardly shop at all.
2. Once I never exercised beyond walking to and from my car at Walmart, now I exercise daily.
3. Once I laid out at the pool most of the summer, now I can’t stand to lay out and you can tell.
4. Once I thought it was important to be right, now I think it’s more important to admit being wrong.
5. Once I love McDonald’s Big Mac’s, now I haven’t eaten one in years.
6. Once I swore my kids “would never”… now I know they probably will.
7. Once I couldn’t sit still in church…wait…that one hasn’t changed.
8. Once I cared about religion, now I care about the relationship.
9. Once I read two to three books a week, now I am lucky if I read one every two weeks (this really has got to change).
10. Once I never watched much television, now I watch too much.

If I could steal one from Dave Bruno, it would be his last “Once I cared about being successful. Now I care about being influential”. That would be my ultimate goal...

Monday, September 29, 2008

At Three Years...

“Grief is the price you pay for loving someone.” Zig Zigglar

This is where I find myself. Three years has past and the grief still remains. Not in the same form or intensity that it has been in the past, but it remains a part of who I am, most likely in one way or another it always will be. I will visit Don’s grave today and especially honor his memory, but more than that I want to remember to pay tribute to his legacy.

I can’t believe it has been three years since Don was with us. The saddest part for me is the fact that I know other people probably won’t remember the actual day Don died. I don’t expect them to really. It is simply sad.

The brightest part for me is that we still speak of Don often, look at old photos and hold on tightly to the memories. We even laugh at things we know he would have found funny.

So many little things still remind me of Don. Things like every time I hear someone say, “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” or when Mythbusters comes on; when I see a Martin guitar or when I drive by a golf course. There is sadness in my heart, but I smile at the memory.

In a strange way, even my ability to remarry speaks volumes to Don’s legacy. It is because our love was so complete that I am able to love again. It is also his example of how to love that lives on in his sons—their future wives will be so fortunate. Yes, grief is the price you pay for loving someone and we will pay it---gladly because the love was worth it.

In loving memory:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The 1,000,000 Word Assignment

I spent my weekend reviewing an assignment that I gave to the parent’s of my students:

1,000,000-word assignment

I have read over 100 responses from parents who grasp the importance of introducing their child to me. The writings I received were as diverse as those writing them. I acquired compositions, poems, lists and even one 1200-word essay. Each response I read revealed the best qualities of their children, some that I may never have been aware of had I not had this “heads-up” from a parent. Often I found my eyes tear up at the beautiful words written by loving parents.

As I read each essay, it reinforced my belief that every child deserves to be perceived as their parents perceive them. Through these essays, I gained immeasurable insights into the children who visit my classroom each day. I know that I have always had my student’s best interest at heart, but it wasn’t until I had children of my own go through the education process that I “got” how important it is to reach those unreachable students. Many times these are difficult students who are often treated with disdain because of learning or behavior challenges. It was through parenting my own children and having to personally deal with educators who were inflexible, seemingly callous, and downright an obstacle to the learning process, that I realized how detrimental this type of teacher is to the profession. If your goal as a teacher is to engage students, how is it possible to do that without taking the whole child into consideration?

It is funny how when an idea or value comes to mind, it is often reinforced with something you are reading. While reading Brenda Dyck’s book “Rebooting of a Teacher’s Mind”, I was reminded of the times in my own life when home and school collided. It is because I have personally experienced these dilemmas that my classroom practices have been modified over the years. Life experiences like…,
¸ coming home late from work to a house that needs cleaning, laundry that needs to be tended to and a son with two hours of homework.
¸ helping my child with assignments or projects that had little to no direction from the teacher.
¸ the inability to help my child study for a test because I was just too exhausted to do so..
¸ single parenting….this is a huge one. I never understood how difficult this alone can be until I was one.
¸ rushing to get out the door in the morning and forgetting to sign something the kids needed for school.

There is no “child-mold” or a one-size-fits-all template for children. As I teach, I try to remember that each child in my classroom is someone’s prized possession. If naughty Nick were my child, how would I want a teacher respond to him, teach him or prepare him for life? All I know is that my role as a parent requires me to not only be the disciplinarian, but more often I am the encourager, organizer, manager, listener, and cheerleader for my children. It seems these are also perfect roles of a teacher. Who wouldn’t want this type of person interacting with their child every day?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tuesday Triviality!

Check out this article about social networking---leave your comments afterward:

Brave New World of Digital Intimacy

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Musings From the Finish Line

This morning Kent and I ran in a local 5K race benefiting the animal shelter. Our dogs came along and ran with us. It was a nice, low-keyed race for my first one. My goal from the beginning was to simply run the whole way (no walking) and to finish. Well, that I accomplished. I came in last, but attained my personal goals. Ironically, I ended up getting a medal anyway, as there were only three women in my age division. I took this as a gift from the running gods as a memento of my day.

Looking back, I am amazed at my journey from couch potato to runner. My best friend, Ginny started running earlier this year. We have always enjoyed the same things, but thought this would be the one thing I could never share with her. Kent runs as well, but I looked on it as a “guy thing”. Both Ginny and Kent encouraged me, challenged me and even pushed me to at least entertain the idea that I could be a runner. In early July, I ran out of excuses and decided to give running a try.

When I started, I couldn’t run to my mailbox. I remember the sense of accomplishment at each milestone; 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, 1 mile, 2 miles and finally 5K. I would call Ginny just to tell her I had reached the next goal.

Signing up for my first race was just the motivation I needed to get up every morning and train. I was hopeful that losing a little weight would be a natural byproduct of taking this healthy step forward, but as of today—I haven’t been THAT lucky. I found inspiration through reading (of course, my precursor to anything) “No Need for Speed” by John Bingham and “Slow, Fat, Triathlete” by Jayne Williams. Taking advantage of the tools for training, searching for inspiration and the encouragement I received enabled me to attempt something I never thought I could.

As I crossed the finish line today with cheers from those who finished before me, I thought of the students in my classroom who never have the opportunity to feel the victory of “stepping across the finish line” academically. They attempt to maneuver their way through school dodging obstacle after obstacle in their path. They don’t know how to “train” or they lack the motivation to do so. They don’t seem to have anyone in their lives to encourage them, push them or believe in them. Yet, we expect them to perform on the same level as those students fortunate enough to not only have one, but all of those affirmations in their lives.

Is it true students have to “want” to learn for us to reach them, OR can their reluctance to learn be overcome by not only offering the “tools” to “train” but engaging instruction as to how to us them? Do they merely need someone to believe in them, encourage them and push them? I realize this seems oversimplified, but is it? Nothing to do with becoming a runner has been easy. To this day, I don’t necessary like it, but today I feel like a runner. Perhaps not in an accomplished athlete’s eye, but in my own and in those who care about me. By the same token, reluctant students may feel the same—nothing about school is easy, but hopefully through dedicated teachers, encouraging parents and “training” they can feel the satisfaction crossing over the finish line can bring.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What Happened to My Life?

Here is why I have no time to write. This is a typical day in my life right now....

6:00 AM Wake up and run or ride for 45 minutes
7:00 AM Get ready for school
7:30 AM Go to school
7:40-4:00 PM Work
4:30-8:00 PM Chanman's bb game
8:00-9:00 PM Dinner with my husband--catch-up on the day etc....
9:00 PM Relax for an hour
10:00 PM Go to bed

HELP!! Where does writing fit in???? Where does ANYTHING else fit in?????

Monday, August 11, 2008

Letter to My Younger Self

In the new issue of Marie Claire, there is a special “promotion” section publishing selected letters written in a contest entitled “Letters to Your Younger Self”. After reading the letters, I thought this to be a valuable exercise on many levels. My challenge to you is for you to do the same. The rules (you know I hate them): choose an age in which you wish you could write a letter to your younger self and then publish it on your blog (but don’t forget to link back or at least let me know you accepted the challenge) or email it to me.

Marsha (Central Illinois), 46
Writes to herself at age 19.

Dear Marsha,
As you stand before the minister today and pledge your love to another, know that you are about to embark on a new and marvelous journey. It will take you to the heights of love and contentment. You will be fortunate enough to experience great joy, yet coupled with that happiness will come great sorrow. Your choice to marry young will turn out to be wise and providential, despite the reservations of others. Becoming a woman of strength and purpose will begin today; as you choose to unite yourself with someone else. It will be many years before you appreciate and honor the fact that your mate gave you autonomy to be yourself, even as you learned to be a wife and a mother.

The life you have been blessed to experience up to this point will simply be the precursor to the life you will experience from here. Choosing to covet the strength found in family, friendships and spiritual commitment will allow you to live within the parameters of some of life’s most cruel narrations.

You will find that values guide your life. Things like education, personal growth and a real need to make a difference will cause you to take pause and often take action. I know you have thought little about these things up to this point. You will not be forced to do so for quite awhile, but that’s ok. You are predestined to live your life by taking chances and encountering life’s curves as if you could withstand anything.

Your love for life must never fade away. Self-disciple may evade you, minor irritants may momentarily distract you, but pure determination will enable you flourish. Your life will be blessed, not more or less than anyone else’s, but you will consider yourself fortunate.

You must move on from today as if you never received this letter, as my wish for you is to simply experience your life—just as you were intended. Have no regrets; for then nothing in your life will have been in vane.

Many Blessings,

Saturday, August 09, 2008


KMY Tagged me from her Diary of a Nomad blog: I found this meme to be an interesting one...

The Rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Tell about six unspectacular quirks of yours.
4. Tag six fellow bloggers by linking them.
5. Leave a comment on each of the six blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

Unspectacular quirks:

1. I hate it when chairs aren’t pushed in under the table. I will go around and do this even at someone else’s house. I share this quirk with my good friend Ginny.

2. I am terrible at remembering birthdays, but get really upset if someone else misses mine (that’s why it’s a quirk—it doesn’t make any sense at all).

3. When I start a book, I have to finish it even if it is terrible. I am trying to break this one. No one should waste his/her time on BAD literature.

4. I have a decorative calendar in my kitchen that has to be changed by putting the new calendar in a picture frame---the one in there now reads – MARCH. This is sheer laziness.

5. I am an AMAZINGLY productive procrastinator. I work better and more efficiently if I wait until the last minute to complete a task (and often do).

6. I am a TV-aholic. I love watching TV. Most people don’t like admitting this, but I imagine there is many more of “my-kind” than those who swear off television.

I will tag....
Kent (just to get him to post something)
Rosanne (for the same reason as Kent)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Breast Cancer 3-Day

Today is the start of a great adventure for my friend Bear (Barry). He begins walking 60 miles in three days to benefit breast cancer research. The crazy part is that he plans to do this TWICE—once in Chicago and once in San Diego. I have often said that widowhood tends to be self-absorbing, but not for Bear. He is constantly giving whether it is in welcoming newly widowed to the Chicago dinners, or walking 60 miles for a great charity. I can't wait to hear the details of his journey and I am sure there will be stories. Below is a link to his “Blisters for Boobs” website where you can read about why he is so passionate about breast cancer research. I know breast cancer has affected many of your lives in one way or another and if you are compelled to donate to Bear’s walk, there is a place to do that on his site as well. As for me, I am so proud to call him my friend and wish I were there in person to cheer him on! GO BEAR!!

Blisters for Boobs

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Look Good Naked

To say that I have body image issues would be a gross understatement. Sometimes I think I felt better about my body when I weighed 300 pounds than I do now. I am not sure why that is the case, because since my gastric bypass I have gone from super skinny size 10 (on my 5'10" body), to normal size 12, to a few pounds more. All in all, I am still 130 pounds thinner than I was when I began. This fact alone should be enough to keep me confident with my figure, yet it eludes me on so many levels.

Tonight I watched Lifetime’s “How to Look Good Naked”. This is not your run of the mill “makeover” show. Instead Carson Kressley attempts to assist a woman who is dissatisfied with her “less than perfect” body. He then endeavors to create in her an acceptance of who she is. The poor woman must stand in front of a mirror in only her bra and panties, which of course, she has difficulty doing, but seems to humor him just the same.

One of the most interesting experiments occurs when Carson brings several women out in their underwear and the subject is to choose which ones are bigger and which are smaller than she. She appoints all the women lager, when in fact; they are ALL smaller than she. Chronicling the transformation of the woman from self-conscious to self-confident is quite astounding. Just being privy to the change in the way she carries herself is somewhat astounding. There was no liposuction, no “nip-tuck”, no drastic makeup or extreme hair makeover; she simply begins to accept her body--even appreciate it.

I know I have lamented ad nauseum about the fact that my newfound athleticism has not paid off with changes in my body. I find that I am much more confident on the bicycle, in the gym or in the pool, but that confidence doesn’t seem to carry over to the full-length mirror. How should I expect anyone else to think I am sexy, if I don’t believe it myself?

Why is it that women have such a hard time when it comes to our bodies? The men in our lives love them, why can’t we? Shouldn’t we afford ourselves the same admiration as those in our lives who love us? Even when I was obese by children would say, “Mom, you are not fat.” I would dismiss such comments as silly, when I should have embraced them as the truth.

In this episode of “How to Look Good Naked” the subject’s most significant "aha moment" comes with her words, “I feel liberated.” That’s what loving your body can do. It can make you not only confident, but liberated as well. So, take off your clothes and take a good look…liberate yourself---and---look good naked!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Catch and Release

Once again, this month’s church book club selection surprised me. I just finished “Same Kind of Different as Me: a modern-day slave, an international art dealer and the unlikely woman who bound them together” by Ton Hall and Denver Moore. Quite a title---quite a book. On the surface, it is a memoir about the friendship between a homeless man and an international art dealer. Along the way, the reader becomes caught up in the lives of three people. This book had me laughing one minute and crying the other.

How does an international art dealer (Ron) meet and befriend a modern-day slave (Denver)? Following a marital indiscretion and a renewed commitment to his marriage, Ron follows his wife Debbie’s lead and begins to volunteer at a homeless shelter in Dallas. It is through this active commitment to missions that Ron and Denver are changed forever. At one point in the book Ron asks Denver to be his friend. To which Denver answers his question by addressing his own bafflement with the “white folk” fishing practice of “catch and release”.

Denver went on. “I just can’t figure it out. ‘Cause when colored folks go fishin, we really proud of what we catch, and we take it and show it off to everybody that’ll look. Then we eat what we catch…in other words, we use it to sustain us. So it really bothers me that white folks would go to all that trouble to catch a fish, then when they done caught it, just throw it back in the water.”

“So, Mr. Ron, it occurred to me: If you is fishin for a friend you just gon’ catch and release, then I ain’t got no desire to be your friend.”

“But if you is looking for a real friend, then I’ll be one. Forever.” (p107)

Talk about powerful. How many times do we “catch and release” friendships? We excuse ourselves when friendships become difficult or circumstances change. We often expect more of friends than we require of ourselves. When complicated friendships begin to wane, we just let them go—release them. We invest time and energy into the lives of others up to a point, as long as the relationship is easy. I am not talking about unhealthy or abusive friendships; I am talking about choosing to disengage because the friendship is too demanding or we just don’t want the complication in our lives. In releasing these friendships, we rob ourselves the practice of grace and the blessings ascribed to such an exercise.

These thoughts force me examine my own “catch and release” track record. Am I requiring more of those I have released, than I do of myself? Have I made bogus excuses so that I can “feel better” about the release? Just as Denver, I am not interested in investing in a catch and release friendships. I don’t think anyone is. I want the integrity and courage to maintain friendships even when they may get difficult. I want the opportunity to practice grace and to work through the “hard stuff”. I want my friendships to be forever.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Motivation 911

OK—I signed up for my first ‘athlon event. It is a biathlon in Springfield in September. I hadn’t worked out in about a week—lost some motivation and quite frankly got a little scared, so I signed up for this event to get me motivated (peer pressure might have been involved as well). There is nothing consistent about my life than its lack of consistency. I began to enjoy swimming and biking (I tolerated running, but liked how I felt afterwards). So, what would make me simply stop exercising one day and then seven days later realize—hey, I haven’t been working out? It makes little sense.

Apparently, I need motivation and something more than just feeling better and having more energy (raise your hand if you think that is a good enough one on its own). I need to drop three dress sizes or win a medal or something to keep me on track and since that hasn’t happened yet, I am open to suggestions….motivation 911.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Answering the Challenge

My middle brother just began to blog again. I was glad to see him take the step back into the literary arena. He is a much better writer than he gives himself credit for, and the practice is good discipline. You can’t blog for long before you MUST write a blog—about—blogging. This week was his turn. Marc issued a challenge:

"So, here is my challenge – write in your Blog about why you do it. What are the 3 things that stand out when you ask yourself that question… I am curious to the different responses that will come out of this."

Here is my answer:

To hone my craft:
I am a teacher of writing and if I don’t do it myself I can’t imagine what I would teach. Many of the lessons for my students come from my own struggles and triumphs in writing this blog.

To share the journey:
Many titles define who I am (mother, daughter, sister, widow, wife, step-mother, teacher, Christian etc..). Each role is a fundamental component of my journey and the perspective by which I walk. I hope that through sharing the journey, I also connect with others along the way. I am thankful for my fellow travelers and the many ways they have, in turn, enriched my life.

To simply find discipline within my otherwise chaotic life
Anyone who knows me understands that I tend to live in the moment. I am passionate about whatever I do and tend to jump in with both feet without much forethought. Writing this blog, however is one of the basic disciplines in my life. I tend to write, re-write, revise, edit and re-write ad nauseam. I often go back to post made over a year ago and revise. No one, but me, would ever read them but I still amend.

I don’t believe it is essential that we have reasons for everything we do, but for those exercises in our life that matter---we should be aware of why. So, why do you----blog?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

…is rumored to be a short story by Ernest Hemingway. There are many legends concerning this story, but the most accepted one is that he wrote the piece to settle a bar bet for $10.00. Could be it was written as a challenge, but either way, it's a complete work of flash or micro fiction (a sudden, short-short, postcard etc.. story).

Smith, an online magazine conducted a reader contest that turned into a 500 submission per day fiasco. The most poignant have been compiled into a book titled, “Not Quite What I Was Planning”. What was the jest of the contest?

Your life story in six words.

Some from the famous:

“Former child star seeks love, employment.” (Justin Taylor)
“Well, I thought it was funny.” (Stephen Colbert)
“Brought it to a boil, often.” (Mario Batali)

Some from the ordinary:

Happy we couldn’t conceive our own. (KC Kerpatrick)
Learning to save money saved me. (Kenny Stapleton)
Couldn’t say it so I sang it. (Alli Gator)

My principal challenged 8th graders to create their own life story in six words. She told us that she had been working on hers for six months, yet the 13 year olds were given a few minutes and a piece of chalk (to write their story on the sidewalks of the school-cool idea anyway). They came up with some fairly adolescent ramblings, some goofy wordage, and on occasion some profound thoughts.

So I thought I would take my shot at my own life story in six words. Here are two of my attempts at posterity.

Faced darkest night. Activated hope, nevertheless.

25 years. Ended abruptly. Confidence renewed.

THE CHALLENGE: Create your own life story in six words and post it below.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Run and NOT Grow Weary!

While running, at times, it is impossible to find my “mojo”. Nothing seems to get me motivated, except music. I have several playlists for running on my ipod. They are categorized by genre, artist, even play-time. My favorite is “workout 2”, which is a compilation of Christian music. When I am to the point during my run when exhaustion set in, this song by Lincoln Brewster seems to find its way from the queue and into my headphones, giving me added motivation to finish.

I hate running. I like to ride my bicycle and I love to swim, but I really am not fond of running. Try as I may to acquire the “runner’s high” it eludes me…but running has become a matter of discipline. Not much in my life falls in that category—but running does…

When I run—I listen…

Isaiah 40:28-31
The Lord is the everlasting God,
The creator of all the Earth,
He never grows weak or weary,
No one can measure the depths of His understanding,
He gives power to the weak, and strength to the powerless,
Even youth will become weak and tired,
And young men will fall in exhaustion,
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength,
They will soar high on wings like eagles,
They will run and not grow weary,
They will walk and not faint.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cause for Immediate Action

What earth shattering event could compel me to pause, take stock and then pursue IMMEDIATE action?

Five words:

Four bathrooms --
NO toilet paper!


Surely you weren't expecting something profound today?

Monday, July 14, 2008


This is a different post for me for it poses no answers, no self-discovery, no “aha’s”. It is an appeal for insights, of which I am finding elusive at the moment.

Chandler came back from camp this weekend. Along with stories of cliff jumping, tubing, and extreme sports tournaments came accounts of spiritual growth. I remember returning from summer camp when I was young—the amazing spiritual “high” from that week would bolster my spiritual walk for several months. What I remember most was the compulsion to change my life in “real” and remarkable ways. I would make lists of what I needed to change to become a more dynamic Christian. On the list would be things I needed to stop doing, start doing, and augment to fit my new aspiration. My life would begin to transform and real change would take place. I had a mission; a purpose and it seemed effortless to act on its behalf.

These recollections, and yesterday’s sermon, got me to thinking about “change” in general. Change is difficult and the older we get, the more difficult it becomes. I have always enjoyed the stimulus of change, yet as I age it becomes less and less enjoyable. Conceivably this could be because I don’t mind change, as long as it is of my design and control, but if it comes from some external source--I tend to recoil from it.

When change is crucial, I don’t believe that it can be mandated. It can’t be browbeaten into submission. It can’t be preached at, coerced or commanded and expect to be effective. Change must come from within us. We must somehow make a choice to become the conduit. I do believe we can be led to change; motivated to change, and even inspired to change (as often was the case at summer camp), but our hearts must be open first.

My question is--how do you initiate change? How do you become, as Mahatma Gandhi believed, “the change you want to see”? How do you reconstruct that “summer camp” experience to inspire spiritual change? How do you reclaim purpose and continue with the excitement and hope that should be found in the Christian community and most importantly whose responsibility is it?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Give Small

Monday’s blog sparked quite a discussion in the Cuttill-Price household. My oldest son and I engaged in a conversation about how difficult it would be to volunteer for a mission/humanitarian trip of some type, but agreed that it would certainly be a life-changing experience for our family. Chad then went on to convey an experience he had at work last week that left a lasting impression on his heart and mind.

Chad’s job is “courtesy patrol” and that usually means taking care of the carts in the parking lot, helping folks to their cars and at times working as a cashier. It was in the later role he found himself last week, when an obviously needy family of four pushed their cart laden with home repair necessities through Chad’s lane. As he rang up the items, it seemed to him that this purchase would be a strain on their already stretched budget. Upon informing the gentleman of the total, a stranger from the queue stepped forward and told the family, “I don’t know why, but I feel God has asked me to pay for your purchase today.” Observably taken aback, the family was gracious and grateful. Chad was stunned beyond words, as the purchase was well over $300.00. In addition, the stranger handed the man $50.00 with instructions to take the family out to dinner.

Pausing long enough to reflect following the retelling of this story, Chad articulated, “Mom, I just want to make enough money so that I can help people like that.” Which got me to think—perhaps this is why more folks don’t give. Seems we have this illusion that in order to make a difference, we have to do something on a grand scale--that we have to give excessively in order for it to “count”. Discouraged at the inability to “GIVE BIG”, we often do nothing. What would happen if we began to give where we are, what we can, with the goal of becoming more aware of those around us?

Our conversation ended with the supposition that we could all begin serving others in small ways. Chad could save a few dollars out of every check and when he had $20.00 or $30.00, go to Walmart—eye a person of need, and pay for part of their groceries. We decided that for some people, $20.00 could make a huge difference in a weekly budget. So, the message is to give—give small, give anything, but give. Live outside your own existence. Look for ways to share. Not because of anything you might “get” in return, but because your life has been blessed and you can’t wait to bless another.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Bucket List

You know how when you cry---I don’t mean a few tears—I mean bawl like a baby? I recently watched “The Bucket List”—and that was just what I did. I had one of those “ugly cries” that I haven’t had in a very long time. I am not sure where this came from; it was either a natural response to a movie about inevitable death or vent up emotion that I had not released in a long time, but either way—I was moved.

At this point in my journey, I rarely visit those moments of my life that were immediately pre- or postmortem with Don. I do this—on purpose as to not unduly disturb the reality my mind has created since his death; yet, I have momentary lapses that coerce me to once again face the demons of mortality. Watching this movie was one of those times.

Both of the men in the movie (Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson) have only been given a short time to live. Freeman remembers an exercises he had to do in college where each student was to create a “bucket-list”—a list of things they wish to accomplish before “kicking the bucket”, so these two men create such a list and set out to complete it before their imminent death. Of course there is no happy ending in such movies, or in life for that matter, but I continue…

After viewing the movie—I asked Kent, “What would be your ‘Bucket List’?” None of his answers were a big surprise, but I did learn something about him. He wants to see the world. He would like to tour the continents or SUBA-dive the entire universe. I have thought about this notion for a few days and have come up with this preliminary list.

Marsha’s Bucket List
1. Tour the Mediterranean – visit Italy, Greece, the Egyptian pyramids
2. SCUBA dive in someplace exotic. (Grand Cayman, Cozumel Mexico 7/09)
3. Learn to speak a foreign language well enough to converse with the locals.
4. Serve on a mission trip with my family.
5. Participate in a sprint triathlon or 1/2 marathon.
6. Read all 100 books on the National Endowment for the Arts “Big Read” list.
7. Write something lasting for each person I love.
8. Teach in the inner city.
9. Name a star.
10. Memorize poetry so I will have it to recite at appropriate times (rather a romantic notion)
11. Visit the rain forest.
12 Zip line somewhere warm.(Jamaica 7/2009)
13. Have something I have written published for real.

Some find this a morbid exercise. I find it a hopeful one. It makes me aware of what is left to do and the fact that finding joy in the journey is as important as the journey itself. George Bernard Shaw wrote the following that sums up the…

True Joy of Life

This is the true joy of life.
The being used for a purpose
Recognized by yourself as a mighty one.
The being a force of nature
Instead of a feverish, selfish
Little clod of ailments and grievances
Complaining that the world will not
Devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life
Belongs to the whole community
And as long as I live,
It is my privilege to do for it
Whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly
Used up when I die,
For the harder I work the more I live.
I rejoice in life for its own sake.
Life is no brief candle to me.
It is a sort of splendid torch
Which I've got hold of
For the moment
And I want to make it burn
As brightly as possible before
Handling it on to future generations

Monday, June 30, 2008

Tuesday Triviality V

As per several of my blogging pals I am adding this as my Tuesday Triviality. If you take the challenge, let me know how you do by leaving a comment.

The Big Read, an initiative by the National Endowment for the Arts, estimates that the average adult has read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed. How about you?

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE. (can't underline here, so I capitalized them)

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 THE GREAT GATSBY - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy 25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (partly)
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 THE KITE RUNNER- Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding (I can still get nightmares of this one)
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 THE LOVELY BONES - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 ON THE ROAD - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

If I counted right, I think that's 47--not bad, but wish it were more. Now it is your turn...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

911 Fashion Emergency--Or Not Really?

I have noticed something lately that has given me pause for consideration. Fashion seems to have become a bit sexist, and here is why I am considering this notion. When we are at the movies or at a restaurant and observe a young couple (obviously on a date) the female is most always dressed in a cute skirt, pretty top, her hair is styled with obvious attention to makeup and accessories; some even look as if they have stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine. Subsequently, our critical eye views the male counterpart who usually is adorned with a baseball cap, an old t-shirt, a pair of shorts in need of attention, and flip-flops.

I am not sure what this means, but the couple appears terribly mismatched. Don’t get me wrong, I know “clothes does not the man make”, but why should the girl be expected to take pride in her appearance if her counterpart could care less. Maybe I am missing it all together. Perhaps in these relationships the male is so secure that he doesn’t feel the need to pay attention to his appearance; but if this is the case, then why does the girl feel the call to appear fashionable? Does this mean she is insecure?

Now, I was raised with boys and raised three (working on four more), so I decided to take a look around my own home for evidence of such fashion bigotry and sure enough—in strolls Chad’s girlfriend with the cutest top and Bermuda shorts for their day out. Chad enters with gym shorts, a plain colored t-shirt, and baseball cap. This fashion dilemma exists, even in my own home.

All this week, we have been watching old episodes of “Family Affair”. Our society sure has traveled far from the social dress “norm” of the 1960’s. It isn’t that I think men should have to wear a suit and women an evening dress to go out on the town, but it does seem the pendulum has made a huge swing into a somewhat laissez faire attitude about dress, not to mention this gender inequity between acceptable attire for young men and women.

Here is my quandary; I am having difficulty figuring out if this matters. Is it really a matter of sexism or is it simply a matter of societal customs changing over time? What do you think?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday Triviality IV

#1 Quotes I have come across this week and haven’t figured out how to include in a blog:

“I think it is like when you are in school and you think recess is NEVER going to get there.” Jody-Family Affair season one, disc 2.

“Learning is messy” – one of the tech. ed blogs I have been reading and for the life of me, I can’t find it again.

#2 A different prospective to the 100 Things Challenge that I wrote about last week. I think my sister-in-law is onto something here. I could do this one. The Great Summer Destrash 2008 In fact go ahead and sign me up.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Family Reunion Part I

Today I experienced one of those bonding events—Chandler, Kent and I attended the “Price Family Reunion” in New Castle, Indiana. I love these moments where I acquire snippets of Kent’s history. The day started by attending the small Separatist Baptist Church where Kent attended as a child. Upon arriving, I experienced an extreme wave of nostalgia. The church itself reminded me of the small Nazarene churches of my youth. Upon entering the church, we sang hymns—yes hymns—great hymns of the church. I miss them so much in my worship. I understand that “praise choruses” are all the rage and in order to reach out, we need to be contemporary, but I miss hymns: those robust songs with theology and truth embedded therein. I know Chandler was on the verge of sleep for the entire time, but I really was present and “in the moment”.

Once the minister began to speak, I was taken back 35 years or so, to the preaching of Nazarene ministers of my childhood. I must have had a crazy grin on my face—not because his words were earth shattering, but because of the memories released in my mind. Following the service, I met the minister—he was a “fill-in” as this church is awaiting the arrival of their permanent pastor in a few weeks. Anyway, upon more interrogation, I find that he is—indeed—a Nazarene minister (I knew it—I can pick them out in a crowd—LOL). He went to Olivet (as did I) and was friends with the man who pastured the church here in Decatur in the 70's before my dad. He also knew dad, as the Nazarene world is mighty small. I felt contented. I hadn’t worshiped in, what some might label “archaic” means, in years and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

Following the service, we headed to “New Castle Memorial Park” for the reunion and the quest to meet the extended family. I was impressed with the folks I met there. They are genuine, loving people who respect each other and serve the Lord with delight. The warmth I felt is something I will not forget. They welcomed me to the family and made me feel at home. I enjoyed the stories, of Kent’s past escapades—which participants were more than eager to share with me. This information certainly begins to fill in the mosaic that is Kent.

I hadn’t planned on being this content after today. I worried that I would “fit in” and that Kent’s family would “accept me”. So what is the result? Turn about is fair play-it will be Kent's turn next week at my family reunion in Arkansas? I can only hope he feels as fulfilled afterwards as I do this evening. Life truly is all about connecting….

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Celebrate Today

Kent and I are visiting my baby brother, Evan, this weekend. He has a cat and since Kent is highly allergic to cats, we got a hotel for the weekend. We got up this morning to run and it was the most difficult run I have ever had. There was no clear place to run, so we started following a sidewalk and it ended abruptly, so we turned around and treaded in another direction only to find overgrown shrubs, uneven pavement and other dead ends impeding our path—but we kept on going until we successfully ran the two miles we set out to accomplish. I hated it—it wasn’t a bit fun; however, when we finally ran into the hotel—I was so proud of myself for actually completing what I embarked upon and viewed as impossible. I promise, in the future, I will keep the running analogies to a minimum; but I couldn’t help but see the collation between this morning’s run and my journey as a widow.

When Don died, I thought it would be impossible to move forward. I started the journey and before too long I would hit a dead end, or some other impediment that threatened to derail my efforts. Truth be told, sometimes I did derail, but would get back on the path with the help of family, friends and faith. It isn’t fun, but there are times I do feel I have made great progress. I don’t believe I have reach the finish line, but I am proud of what I have accomplished thus far. I feel I am at a level place where my pace is comfortable and I am finding that my “second wind” prevails despite obstacles in the road. I realize the race is far from over, but also acknowledge how important it is to review where I have come from and celebrate where I am today.

Isaiah 40:31
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The IRONIC has come full circle

Don was one of the most “fit” people I know. He played golf several times a week, rode his bicycle, and ran. He also had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It never made sense to me. Even when I weighed over 300 pounds, I didn’t have these co-morbidities---until two weeks ago. I had my annual exam and low and behold---my blood pressure was high. I rushed to the appointment and dismissed it as a “fluke”. Then I had Ginny take it again this last week---it was high---then again two days later---high. DANG!!! So I made an appointment with my GP. After taking my blood pressure—yes it was high, he asked me about my family history. Well----grandmother, father, mother and younger brother are all on blood pressure meds—does this mean anything??? Apparently—it does. Did I get the skinny gene from my mother NOPE--I get the high blood pressure one.

I don’t want a “label”—dang it—for the first time in my life I am physically fit. I run 3 miles and bike 10??? WTH??? But because of my genetics I need meds—so—I started them today.

Dang it---

Tuesday Triviality III

First, let me say you MUST watch this all the way through. I know it is 10 minutes long, but worth the time. Tanja had an interesting post the other day about marriage/relationships the second time around that made me think about how much easier this marriage is (at least in the beginning) because of what we learned the first time around. When Kent and I watched this video he was a step ahead of Mark Gungor in his presentation, knowing what Mark was going to say next (like some male mind-meld). Apparently, Kent did learn much about the man/woman communication from his first marriage. So, gather your young adults around, this is perhaps the best video to explain the difference between men and women that I have ever seen.

And finally, I love words. I like creating them, changing them, exploring them and yes---creating something with them. Have a few minutes? Try creating your own Wordle: If you do, be sure to email me or post a comment. It might even let you copy the html and post your Wordle--which would even be better. My creation is to the right of this post.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What's the Big Deal About Social Networking?

I have had a Facebook account for several years, ever since Chad began showing an interest. I opened the account fully intending to use it as spyware to keep tabs on the content of my son’s cyber life. But let’s face it, spying is not what it is cracked up to be and sometime after signing onto Facebook I decided that Chad had never done anything to make me suspicious or to distrust him in any way, so there account rested - dormant until this week.

My decision to awaken my Facebook account came from a renewed interest in technology and its implication for education. I wanted to research the arenas where kids are connecting outside of school to understand how we can use this information to connect them INSIDE school. I know this isn’t a new pedagogical facet in education, but there are many new technologies that are simply not being utilized to reach kids. Social networking (Facebook, Myspace etc...) is one area that has grown tremendously in the last five years.

Shortly after reviving my Facebook account, setting up my profile and organizing my home page—I began to find “friends”. For those of you unfamiliar with Facebook, you can search for people that you might know, send a message you want to add them as a “friend” and once they accept—that’s when the fun begins. At this point you can look at their “friend list” and see if you know anyone, request to be a friend and within cyber-minutes you have your own “friend list”. It cuts “six degrees of separation” down to one or two. One of the amusing aspects of “friends” is finding folks with whom you have lost touch. With one click of the mouse, you are back in the middle of their lives. Within minutes you know if they are married, where they are living, if they have children, where they are working, if they had sushi for dinner etc….

I admit that I am far and above the average age of the normal Facebook client. Most of the Facebook population includes late teens and young adults. What was most surprising was that many of them have 200 to 400 friends! WOW! How can you have 317 “friends”? I have a hard time keeping up with the real ones that I actually see and meet for coffee on a regular basis (my generation is showing) or the few more who I email on a daily or weekly basis.

This got me thinking about what social networking means to this next generation (generation Y if you will). Keep in mind that you can’t complete any task on Facebook without the entire network knowing what you did. If you change anything, write anything, or navigate anywhere within Facebook, it is recorded it on your “mini-feed” for all to see – “Marsha, changed her weight to 130 pounds.” Which comes to my next question. Don’t these people care about privacy? In talking this over with Kent he brought up a great point. He said people of generation Y have a different concept of privacy than generations before. They view their life as an open book to be shared with any and everyone. It is more important for them to connect by revealing aspects of themselves that many of us “older folks” would never share, let alone print on a public page for all to read. The caveat is that a fair amount of information is, well less than truthful, so discernment becomes a skill necessary to cipher genuine intentions; a skill I am not sure most young people have fully developed.

Cataloging 317 friends on your Facebook account does not necessary signify popularity. It does; however, suggest that you are resourceful and there is a part of me that wonders, “Why can’t I have 317 friends, instead of my measly 27?” Fact is, I really don’t want 317 Facebook friends, but I understand why my younger cohorts would.

I enjoy the social aspect of Facebook. There are components of it that I find addicting. You truly could sit at your computer all day sending “flair”, “hugs” even “Iconograms”. You could play “text twirl”, “superheros” or find out “what Simpson’s character are you”, but in the end you eventually have to venture back out into the real world and develop real relationships---don’t you?

Until then—feel free to visit me—even become my friend.

Marsha's Facebook