Saturday, January 31, 2009

Math Girl

Quick update on Deborah's trip to math field day. They had the competition today. Last year she made it to the competition, but did not advance on to the regional competition. I don't want to be a low-expectations kind of mom, but I was mostly just hoping that she'd make it as an alternate this year (among the top five).

We all went to the awards ceremony. Even my parents who came down for a quick visit stopped by to see how Deborah would do. When they announced the first child from her school and it wasn't her, I was a little nervous. But when they got to the third place, it was my daughter's name!!! I was so excited for her! We're all so loud -- she got a huge cheer from our row. And when the cheers were over, James was still excited and he said, "That's GREAT!" Which, of course, got a big laugh from the rest of the audience.

So Deborah was ranked third in the county in fifth grade. At the end of March she'll get to compete at the regional level. Amazingly, it's still here in our county, so we won't have to travel much for that. I'm very excited for her though. Jason is going to keep on coaching her and I'm sure she'll still have practice at school as well. Her school did very well overall, which makes me feel good once again about moving her back over for middle school and high school.

Okay, brag done! Have a great day!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Perpetual Workday

I'm posting this just to help out a couple of friends. They've done some flash animation in the past, but it just didn't ever quite take off, even though it was quite funny. They already had this one in the hopper when they planned to quit, so they went ahead and finished it as kind of a going-away present. And it's done really well!

Anyway, I'm trying to spread the word -- see if we can't make this thing viral! So go check out Perpetual Workday. I'll warn that it's a pretty strange kind of humor, but if you know me, that's to be expected. And if you like it, please pass it on to your friends. Nothing bad will happen if you don't. Probably.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Musical Monday

I've been sitting on this since last Tuesday during the inauguration, when I heard one of the most beautiful pieces I've heard in some time played! Regardless of political affiliation, I have yet to speak to someone who didn't enjoy John Williams' "Air & Simple Gifts." Some hated the prayers, some the clothes (or hats), some the speeches, some the poem, but all enjoyed the quartet (if you're one of those folks -- don't post here! No one is allowed to burst my bubble about this!).

The lyrics to the Shaker hymn Simple Gifts already move me. My primary goal for 2009 has been to try to declutter various aspects of my life. Some are going well, some less well, but this lyric is a great reminder of that as well.

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.


I think so often we think that the more we have, the greater freedom we have. And sometimes there is some truth to that. But in general, the more stuff that we have, the more obligations we have. The more we need to take care of our stuff. The more we need to get more stuff so that the stuff that we have works even better. But so often, the things that we remember more clearly are simple things. A family camping trip. A moment of solitude in the woods. An afternoon drive with a spouse. A day spent cleaning a basement with a friend. A funny story about a child. A piece of music that touches your soul. So often, these simple gifts stay with us much longer than most of the things that we accumulate.

My challenge for myself (and by extent, for my readers!) is to find a way to enrich someone's life in a simple way this week. Maybe sit and listen to a friend who needs a sympathetic ear. Maybe plan an evening out with a loved one (and do what they want instead of what I want). Maybe sit and play a board game with my family. Maybe sit down and write a real letter to someone. Something simple that shows another person that they are valuable and loved. Be blessed and be a blessing!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Headline: Torture Bad Again

If I had to choose a single issue for voting for Barack Obama, this would be it. Nothing has disappointed me more about the previous administration than even a limited tolerance of torture. I am so thankful that this will no longer be allowed under any circumstances.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Same Speech?

I've had several friends today mention to me that President Obama is advocating that we move away from personal responsibility. I have to wonder if they were listening to the same speech that I heard.

A portion of yesterday's inaugural address:

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

I do understand that there may be some disagreement on the role of government in the lives of the citizens of America, and President Obama's actions may not bear out what he has said here, but I do find it frustrating when people are claiming that he has advocated one thing when he has quite clearly said something else.

I think what I liked most about this particular portion of the speech was that while I encourages personal responsibility, it also encourages our need to care for one another. Certainly we need to be accountable for our own actions. But the "I'm not my brother's keeper" argument didn't fly way back in Genesis and I don't think it flies very well today. We do have a responsibility to one another -- to serve and to care for those around us. Those people may be your family. Or your neighbors. Or members of your church. Or your best friend.

They may also be people with whom you strongly disagree. Or who are dirty. Or not really worthy of your help. Or your enemies.

President Obama isn't saying anything new here. He's simply telling us that the parable of the Good Samaritan still has merit today and that the Golden Rule should still be one of our guiding principles. And regardless of how you voted, that seems like a message with which we can all agree.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History


Today we had the privilege to witness history. Often, we don't know that we're seeing something significant until it has already passed. And sadly, when we do know that we're watching something that will be remembered, it's a negative event. The start of a war. A terrorist attack. A race riot. Too often the large events are something that are painful or shameful. Rarely do we have the benefit of watching something positive that we also know is historical.

But today our country that enslaved a group of people swore in an African American to the highest office. Today our country that called a black man three-fifths of a person has as its president a man of color. Today our country that segregated its schools, its bathrooms and so much of daily life had people of all colors, creeds and ages together in one place celebrating the inauguration of a man who has spoken loudly and eloquently about the need for us to unite as Americans.

I am grateful to be a part of this country in its good times and its dark times. To wake up in a place where I can worship as I choose, share my opinion no matter what and be able to pursue any opportunities that I desire is an amazing gift. And today, we were blessed to watch one of those very, very bright moments in our country's history.

May God grant President Obama a blessed term in office.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Musical Monday

There's so little I can write about today. Being a pretty mainstream white woman, I've experienced very little discrimination in my life. So it's very difficult for me to understand what people of color have felt in the past, and to some degree still experience. I know that we've come a long, long way from the time of Martin Luther King Jr., but we certainly have a journey ahead of us, not only with the rights of people of color, but also of those in the gay and lesbian community. I know that there will never be a discrimination-free world, but I do hope that we continue to move along the path of justice for all that Dr. King embraced.

For today, I'm posting U2's song for Dr. King -- Pride (In the Name of Love). The video is from their Vertigo tour (an awesome DVD -- I highly recommend it) and the lyrics have been amended to reflect the correct time of day of Dr. King's assassination.

One man come in the name of love
One man come and go
One come he to justify
One man to overthrow

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love

One man caught on a barbed wire fence
One man he resist
One man washed on an empty beach.
One man betrayed with a kiss

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love

(nobody like you...)

Early morning, April 4
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love...


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tea Time


I have to share this while our tea is brewing...

I've gotten into the habit of sharing a cup of tea with my daughters every night. It's just a nice little habit we've gotten into. They like trying different flavors and switch it up most nights.

Tonight I'm having the Sweet Dreams tea that a tea buddy from PBS sent, Faith is having Stash Blueberry & Deborah asked to try Twinnings Taste of Summer tea.

My youngest daughter heard that her sister was having Taste of Summer and she said, "What is the taste of summer? Sweat?!?"

I'm sure Twinnings would be thrilled to hear that one! ;-D

Friday, January 16, 2009

It's so cold out...How cold is it?


I'm always whining about the weather, but dag! The picture to the left is our indoor/outdoor thermometer. And if you look over to the left on the top pic, you'll see a little minus symbol. Yes, right now it's showing a -2.7 degrees Farenheit measurement. Yikes! One of my favorite things about living in WV is that we get all of the seasons, but we don't often see much in extreme weather. So any time the temperatures rise above three digits or sub-zero, it's really quite a momentous occasion!

The kids were home from school all day yesterday and are home all day today as well. Since Monday is Martin Luther King day, they've got a nice long break here. Everyone is wearing lots of layers of clothes and spending lots of time curled up under blankets. But it's actually been kind of fun. When it's all cold like this, it causes a lot more cuddling together. Kids snuggled up with other kids, kids with parents and Mom & Dad together. It's all very nice. As much as I dislike the way the cold locks us in the house, I am enjoying the closeness that our family is experiencing during this little snap.

And in these times, everyone here is all jazzed that they have a mom who knits and crochets! Everyone has been wearing the new slippers I made for Christmas and Jason (who has had to walk to work most of this week) has been bundled up in the big hat that I made him last year. Right now I'm knitting myself a pair of wristers for when I'm working in my cold house!

I hope it's warmer where you are, but if not, keep warm and safe!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More Ironic than Alanis Morissette

Since Alanis chose to play fast and loose with the definition of irony in her (actually, ironically) song titled "Ironic," I'm going to do the same.

I'm sure I've mentioned in the past how much I loathe training for new jobs, particularly in the unskilled department. I get the point that, while this isn't rocket science, it's necessary, so I try to lower my expectations for what I have to do and just plow through it. But sometimes the incompetence is just overwhelming and I have to share.

Yesterday I was doing training for my new job with Citi. I think I'm really going to enjoy this new job, and since this is self-paced, I'm trying to get through the training as quickly as possible. One of the aspects of the training are several 3 hour long conference calls or "webinars." Basically we all log into a common server and are all able to see the same material in real time, even though we're scattered across the country. I find that aspect of it absolutely amazing, but that amazement is usually quickly lost in the midst of people who can't seem to tell the difference between their own desktops and the host's desktop for the webinar. It's hard to maintain a sense of wonder about how we're all connected through our computers when people are just being morons.

ANYWAY. The webinar started 40 minutes late, which already put me in a lousy mood, because, while I'm great at wasting time, I hate to have my time wasted by other people. Plus, the hold music while we waited for the leader was just awful. So we finally get started, and, as usual, it's just mind-numbing in it's repetitive nature. I just finished reading all of this material and now it's being read to us again. If I'm going to spend 3+ hours on the phone, I'd much rather it be to sit and run some simulations. But instead, we'll go over the exact same material we've just read and have that interrupted countless times by people on the other line saying that they can't see what she's reading (there's no screen for it, she's just reading) or they want to know how to schedule hours (we haven't even finished training AND that's not the purpose of the webinar) or they want to make sure she knows that she's doing a good job (she's not because she's answering all of your stupid, off-point questions!!!!!).

So it goes on, and I admit, I'm completely zoning out. I do NOT process information very well if I can't write it down or have notes to read along. I'm not someone who learns well on a strictly aural manner. Then all of a sudden, I'm jarred into the discussion about phone manners by one of the most entertaining ironies I've come across in some time.

The leader is telling us how to present ourselves to the client. And one of the points is that we're to enunciate clearly. Only she didn't say enunciate. She said "ee-NOON-i-kate." Yes, she mispronounced the word enunciate.

Jason thinks that the new motto needs to be, "Don't outsource to India, we have people that your customers can't understand right here at home."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Musical Monday

So I'm finally getting around to my first Musical Monday of the new year. Nothing like putting off one of the staples of my blog!

To start off the year, I'm using an older song by a band that I really, really wish would come out with something new (their most recent cd was in 2006)! But their music is really amazing, so I suppose I'm okay with what I have.

Anyway, while it may seem morbid, this is a song that both Jason and I would like to have played at any memorial service that may happen after we've passed away. This is the title track of the first cd Jason ever gave me when we started dating and it references one of my favorite Psalms. Aside from the lyrics, I find the melody to be absolutely spectacular. When Jason and I watched Return of the King the first time, we thought this song would have been beautiful in the final scene when Bilbo & Frodo sail to the Grey Havens.

So for my first Musical Monday for 2009, enjoy Iona's "Beyond These Shores."

Beyond these shores
Into the darkness
Beyond these shores
This boat may sail
And if this is the way
Then there will be
A path across this sea

And if I sail beyond
The farthest ocean
Or lose myself in depths below
Wherever I may go
Your love surrounds me
For you have been before
Beyond these shores

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Swedish Chef

My BIL sent me this link and we've been enjoying tons of Swedish Chef vids. This one is still my favorite (though the kids seem to like the Banana Split clip).

I miss Jim Henson.

Resolving

Okay, so we're a week and a bit into 2009 and I still haven't written my resolution post. So much for the resolution to update my blog more often!

Honestly, my primary goal for this year is to bring more simplicity to my life. There is a lot of clutter in most areas of my life. In my physical surroundings, I'm swamped by it. Over the holiday break, the kids and I did a lot to try to bring some order to our surroundings, but there is a lot more to do. We're working as a family to reduce some of our stuff. It's not easy, because we all like our stuff, but we need to really treasure what we have, and when we have tons of stuff, it's difficult to really treasure much of anything.

Our family life has some clutter that needs cleaned up as well. We've gotten away from eating dinner at the table (due to that first clutter problem!), and we're making a point of moving back to eating at the table so we can get to know one another better. We're also going to make a point of playing games together more often (and not just on the Wii!). Last night we played WV Monopoly and just had a blast. I want to be more intentional in my time with the kids. More talking, more listening, more tea parties and make believe. Now that my time with all of the kids is much more limited, I want to make better use of the time that we do have together. I also want to be more intentional in my time with my husband, though right now I do feel like we're in a pretty good place. His new schedule cuts our evenings a little more short, so we will need to stay on top of things to make sure that we keep that relationship strong.

I also want to tighten up some other relationships. I spent a good 90 minutes or so on the phone yesterday with a wonderful friend, and it was just such an awesome discussion! I've gotten into the habit of checking Facebook and reading status updates, or sharing some little blip, but not really connecting with friends. Don't get me wrong, I love the ability to see what is going on with friends from all over, but I want to get more than the surface stuff. I need to be more diligent in caring for the deeper issues that my friends deal with, rather than just finding out what they ate for lunch.

I also need to declutter and prioritize my time. I have a tendancy to fill time with things that don't stimulate my brain in any way. Sometimes I think I can feel my brain atrophying! It's frightening! I need to be a little more curious about the world around me. Sure, it's fun and necessary to turn off your brain and just play Mario Galaxy every now and again, but when things like good literature or exceptional music or scientific discoveries or major world events go by with nothing more than a cursory glance from me, that's a bad thing.

Part of that prioritizing also needs to spill over into my spiritual life. Having the kids gone in the morning has improved my quiet time a little bit, but overall, I don't think I've been connecting with God that much -- it's mostly just been putting in my time. Yesterday really openned my eyes to that. I've been kind of skating by, doing the bare necessities, but not really putting the time in that I need to foster that relationship either. I do want to be more mindful and spend a lot more time listening, instead of just doing.

And yeah, I do hope to write a little more often about how this process is going. I haven't posted my "measurable goals" here, but I do promise that I have them (vague stuff like this would never work for me). I thank all of my friends who read here and who respond. Your feedback is a major encouragement to me and I have no doubt that it will continue to encourage me as I tackle these new goals!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Surprise!

I don't have much time to write, but I wanted to make sure I noted this for my own self.

A friend of mine is looking to download some new music, so I started digging through our library to make her a few cds of some of my favorites, and God just totally met me here this morning. It was a really sweet time of private worship this morning.

One of my goals for this year was to spend more time listening to music instead of watching TV. So if I have a quiet time while I'm knitting or crocheting, I want to pop on a cd instead of the television. While I haven't watched much TV so far, I've been mostly just knitting in silence. That's not all bad, but it's just not what I was wanting to do.

Anyway, this morning was unbelievably refreshing. I haven't spent nearly enough time just soaking in the presence of my Lord lately, and this was just what I needed. It's a relationship that I've really neglected lately, and I'm so thankful that even when I wasn't looking for Him, He met me here.
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I'm a wife to an amazing man, and mom to four incredible kids. I'm a Christian woman who sometimes struggles with doubt. I'm a musician and a writer who is sometimes afraid to play and write. I'm trying to be more authentic every day.
 
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