Sunday, June 28, 2009

DIY Church Service

Our church has been without a pastor for almost a year. Our long-time settled pastor left us a couple of years ago, and it took us a couple of months to find an interim. The interim resigned last fall, and since then we've been going it alone. We have a terrific team of leaders who have found pulpit supply, last winter we shared services with a sister UCC church for 2 months, and we've had a lot of lay-led services in between. Today was a real experiment. No pastors were available today --- our pool of supply pastors were either involved with General Synod, on vacation, otherwise booked, or no longer preaching. Our usual lay leaders were out of energy and ideas. So at council last week we decided to hold a very informal service. We had an organist to play some hymns, a soloist, and a reader to read the gospel lesson from the lectionary. Our fearless Nurture team Coordinator directed the proceedings. The lesson from Mark was read, and then the congregation was asked to meditate on the reading for a few minutes, and then invited to share thoughts. (Those members of the church who are in our church's on line "chat group" had been asked to wrestle with the passages during the week, so at least we knew that a few folks might have something to share.) This was a rather scary thing for us to do today ----- but it fit the "hope in the midst of fear" motif that Rev. Songbird wrote about over in her blog. The service was well-received. And we got good news today. The Search team has identified a candidate who will be preaching for us in mid July!!

Now the next challenge is the July 5th service. Again, we have been unable to find an ordained pastor to lead the service. I'm heading up a small group to lead this service. I found some terrific worship resources here and here. This last has some youth and adult Sunday school lessons, which we're adapting. We will give the congregation a copy of the Mark gospel reading and 3 questions to ponder, with room for folks to jot down thoughts. Then again, we will invite the congregation to share their thoughts. It's also a communion Sunday, and we will be adapting a communion liturgy. While we know this isn't exactly kosher, we also know that our congregation does not want to miss communion. (We did this once before when we could not find an ordained person to do communion.) So another scary moment. WE are so ready for a pastor! I hope we don't overwhelm whoever she or he is with our eagerness to hand over the reigns!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Book #63 -- A Rib-Tickler for Sure!

Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Stephanie Plum, #15) Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this one! Lots of trademark funny moments -- MULTIPLE car burnings, Grandma Mazur moments, a take-down at the funeral home, a fire-bombing, you name it, it's in here.

Lula witnesses a murder and now the culprits are after her. She's determined to find the murderers before they find her so she can claim the $1,000,000 reward. She goes undercover, along with Grandma Mazur, and enters a BBQ cook-off. Bur first, both of them need to learn how to BBQ ribs! I don't think I need to say too much more. Stephanie is working for Ranger in this outing, fighting off her attraction, while wondering if she and Joe will make up after a huge fight over peanut butter.

Although these books are predictable (will Stephanie ever figure out that it's a bad idea to let her FTA get dressed before handcuffing him), that's also what I like about them. I know I'll have a couple of hours of escapist fun.

View all my reviews.

Actual Knitting Content

I started the Twilight Short Sleeve sweater. Nothing to do with the book or movie, by the way. (I read the first one, and it just didn't grab me, so I think I'm in the minority). I'm using Valley Yarns Goshen in lake that I purchased at WEBS. I goofed when I bought the yarn about a year ago. I thought I'd bought 12 skeins, but eventually discovered I'd only bought 10. Of course I made this discovery just a week or so ago, and was quite concerned that I wouldn't be able to get more in the same dye lot. But WEBS had it, so I'm all set. I love this yarn. It has a great drape, it's easy to knit with, has good stitch definition, and feels good. I've used in a couple of other summer tops. Ut's a cotton, modal, and silk blend. The pattern is also a WEBS pattern.
It's knitting up quickly. I'm almost done with the back.

I have another project started also, a gift for someone, but I'm having trouble getting gauge, and it's a surprise, so that's all I'll say about it for now. I'm almost done with another jacket. All I have to do is pick up 349 stitches and knit the button band and shawl collar, but I've got that on hold til I get a longer circular needle to do that!

So that's where I am with my current knitting projects.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

#62 - Miss Harper Can Do It

Miss Harper Can Do It: A Novel Miss Harper Can Do It: A Novel by Jane Berentson

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Annie Harper is 25, teaches 3rd grade in Tacoma, WA, and her long-time boyfriend has just been deployed to Iraq. She copes by keeping a journal which she hopes to publish as memoir - "Wartime Alone Time: When Abstinence Fights for Freedom." ** Annie chronicles the pain of separation, the guilt of leading a "normal" life while a loved one is in danger, email fights with her boyfriend, the adoption of a pet chicken, making new friends in unexpected places, and life with her students. Over the course of the 392 days of separation, Annie experiences a revelation or two. This is very funny, quite realistic, and a page-turner! I especially enjoyed the very informative footnotes which provided much of the 'back story', and the appendices made me chuckle. I learned some interesting facts about chickens and about water too!

** Footnote: As Annie's life changes, the title of her proposed memoir changes in keeping with circumstances.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Book Review

The Big Over Easy (Nursery Crime, Book 1) The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
DI Jack Spratt is on the job in the Nursery Crimes Division. He's accompanied by Sergeant Mary Mary, and they are investigating the suspicious death of Humpty Dumpty. DI Spratt's department is in imminent danger of being disbanded due to his inability to get convictions for the 3 pigs accused of gruesomely murdering a wolf, and because he's responsible for the inadvertent death of at least one giant, although some say he killed more. Jasper Fforde's wacky sense of humor shines throughout this first installment of the Nursery Crimes series. If you've read his Thursday Next series, you will definitely enjoy this one.

View all my reviews.

Some Summer Goals

At last the school year is over and there is a breather. I know that a lot of folks think we teachers have it easy --- 3 months off, etc. but all of us who teach know that isn't really as true as it looks. We actually have 8 full weeks off, plus a few days on either end. In that time, yes, we get a chance to unwind, decompress, relax and have some fun. But most of us also have to get professional development training, new units prepped, old units modified for the incoming students, catch up on professional reading, and go in to our classrooms to prep them for the next year before we're officially on the clock. So while we may look like we're at ease, most of us have lots of professional tasks to do. We're just not inside the 4 walls of the building surrounded by our students. I think that was the biggest challenge to overcome when I first started teaching --- just how much work HAS to be done when students aren't in your classroom. My husband just rolls his eyes now when we are traveling on vacation and there's a museum or activity available "that's just perfect for my kids. Let's go check it out."

So on top of all the usual professional tasks that I have lined up these next 8 weeks, I have a few "personal" goals to accomplish.

1. Get started on renovating 2 upstairs bedrooms that are sorely in need of new ceilings, new wallpaper, new flooring. We live in a 100 year old house which we bought almost 30 years ago. At the time, the bedrooms were in okay shape, and we promised our boys that we would repaper their rooms with more boy-appropriate paper. They have grown up and left home, and the once pretty floral paper is way-past pretty. The plaster ceilings have cracked too. (It wasn't that we were ignoring the renovations, they just weren't the first priority - kitchen, bathroom, family room, garage collapse one winter, all were more pressing.)

2. Declutter the house as much as possible

3. Establish a new, organized office space for my husband's business, and for me. This included buying an ergonomically correct computer desk. I spend a lot of time at the computer both for the business bookkeeping, and for schoolwork. I realize half my back/shoulder issues are because the keyboard tray isn't wide enough to hold the keyboard and the mouse, so I spend too much time stretching between surfaces when I'm entering bookkeeping data.

4. Visit with my knitting buddy regularly and actually do some knitting together.

5. Find a regular, uninterrupted meditation time and get the practice firmly established so that I can keep it up when school starts again.

6. Finish watching Battlestar Galactica. I am only at season 2.5.

7. Get a handle on my diet/exercise routine. I have gotten way off track.

So those are my personal goals for the summer. It's a rather daunting list, but I'm optimistic!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

It's All Over but for the Shouting

Well, not exactly shouting! The last day of school for students was yesterday, and a longer last day I've never experienced, literally AND figuratively. The literal part was that we had a FULL day of school for the first time ever. I hope we never have to do that again. I'm not sure who found it more painful, the kids or the teachers. Those of you who teach know that the last day of school is like driving a car where the brakes are failing, or trying to stop a runaway stagecoach. Now imagine trying to hold the reins in for almost 7 hours. We had a lot of fun activities planned for the kids - A dunk tank, field games, a "daylight dance", karaoke, etc. The weather didn't cooperate. It rained (poured) a lot of the day so many of the outdoor activities had to be moved inside or changed. The dunk tank was supposed to be all set to go at 8 am but it didn't arrive until then. So for almost an hour we had to find alternative activity for our kiddoes to do while we waited for the dunk tank to fill. The dance was abbreviated because the music system decided to very uncharacteristically go on the fritz! Let's just say that by the time the day was over EVERYONE was exhausted!

We teachers have 2 more days of school --- workshops on Monday and Tuesday. This is also something very new for us. In the past we've always gotten out the same day as the kids. But due to the ice storm in December and all the days we missed, we ended up "giving up" 2 workshop days to have normal school days, plus we owed the district contract time. So that's why it's all over but for the shouting.

I have to say, I'm very glad this year is done. Although I had a great group of kids, this was an extremely difficult year. Aside from the unprecedented ice storm, I was teaching a whole new subject area for me, and one that I didn't want to teach, and didn't enjoy teaching. Of course that meant way too many weekends and evenings prepping for new material (and trying to "get it" so I could figure out how to teach it.) Unfortunately I have to teach this area again next year, despite the fact that I had been promised it would be for only one year. I am not a happy camper. We also had a member of our grade level team leave mid year as well as the principal. Very weird! I also had the new experience of having a student really hate me and do everything possible to fail. Fortunately everyone realized that the student had big emotional problems, so that made it easier to deal with, though it's awful feeling that you can't reach someone.

But. . . .all of this is now history. I am looking forward to Wednesday morning.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Book Review #60

I know that I set a goal for myself of reading more serious books this year, but I just can't do it most of the time. I think it has to do with the fact that I spend my day dealing with real-life issues, whether it be figuring out the best way to teach a difficult concept, or how to reach the student whose life is in shambles. So instead I revel in books like this one!

Plum Spooky (A Stephanie Plum Between the Numbers/Holiday Novel, #4) Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this "between-the-numbers" outing with Stephanie Plum. It reminded me of some of the early books, with a number of sheer belly laugh moments. Diesel is the featured male character in this novel, along with Wulf, his bad guy brother. Joe and Ranger are almost incidental although one of the funniest moments in the book occurs when Joe's brother Anthony is injured by an outraged girlfriend in a unique manner. (don't want to give it away!) Diesel is joined by Carl the Monkey as well as the troop of helmet-wearing monkeys Carl liberates. As usual, Stephanie's attempts to capture the FTA's lead her and Lula into danger and this time, Stephanie foils an evil plot to control the weather.

What can I say? I think this was one of the best installments in a while. The only thing I missed in this one was Grandma Mazur's direct involvement.

View all my reviews.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Annoyed with Myself

For some reason, I made two goofs with my knitting projects. The first goof is with a lovely sweater I started in late winter. I was going great guns with it, and I put it away for a bit while I feverishly knit a baby blanket with a deadline. I picked up the sweater about 2 weeks ago, only to discover I've run out of yarn. I'm not sure why this has happened because I am spot on gauge! That threw me for a bit, but with help from WEBS, and Ravelry I was able to locate 3 skeins of the color and dyelot I needed. Now I just have to wait for the yarn to arrive.

So, next I started a cotton blend sweater I've wanted to make for ages. I ordered the yarn from WEBS last summer, and had to wait for it because it was backordered. The yarn eventually arrived, but I put off starting it several times. I just started it yesterday. I have discovered that I didn't order enough yarn. I need 11 skeins, but I only ordered 10. I thought I'd ordered 12 (I usually order one extra, just in case) but after going through almost all my stash I found the order slip -- I only got 10. Now I have to see if I can match the dyelot. . . . Grr!!

Reading Reviews- Books #58 and #59

The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries (Victorian Mystery) The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries by Emily Brightwell

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Inspector has recently been promoted from the Records department and is now the "star" investigator at Scotland Yard. What no one knows, is that his skill isn't really his. His housekeeper, Mrs. Jeffries, is the the brains behind his success. This is the first installment of a very long series. It's set in Victorian England, and this first book deals with the mysterious death of blackmailing doctor. This seems to fit the cozy mystery category --- humorous, at times, and no overt blood and guts!

View all my reviews.

Bleeding Hearts (China Bayles Mystery, Book 14) Bleeding Hearts by Susan Wittig Albert

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Susan Wittig Albert has kept me glued to a book again. I really enjoy spending time with China Bayles and her family/friends. This installment turns a bit serious as China investigates allegations that the high school's football coach has molested female students. She also discovers a disturbing secret that changes what she knows about her family. "Smart Cookie" also reveals some information about Ruby's boyfriend that potentially threatens Ruby's happiness. This was a good one!

View all my reviews.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Knitting Project At Last!

Posted by Picasa

So this is what I've been working on for the last month or so. It's "Angel Wings" from the May 2009 Creative Knitting magazine, done in Plymouth Encore, in "Canteloupe". This was a pretty easy pattern, and would have knit up quickly had I not been contending with the number of knitting interruptions I encountered.
It knit up to about 36" x 36" (my gauge was a little off, but on a baby blanket, it doesn't matter!) The Encore is washable, and the color is exactly the color of ripe canteloupe.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Book Review - What Else is New?

The Ballad of West Tenth Street: A Novel (P.S.) The Ballad of West Tenth Street: A Novel by Marjorie Kernan

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
A very different type of book. The Hollander family consists of Sadie, the widow of a rock star, and her 3 children, Gretchen, Ondine, and Hamish, and they live in a fading brownstone in NYC. Sadie depends on vodka to get her through the day, Gretchen is in a "loonybin", Ondine is a budding concert pianist, and Hamish is a gangly growing adolescent. The story has the quality of a fairy tale: a rich eccentric moves next door and plays fairy godfather to the struggling family, a homeless Vietnam vet, a non-union plumber/handyman, a Guatemalan housekeeper, and an interior decorator. At times I was tempted to abandon the book, but something about the story kept tugging, and I'm glad I stuck with it.

View all my reviews.