Thursday, February 26, 2009

Knitting (Not Much)

My knitting has slowed to a crawl with my shoulder/arm issues. I miss it! However, I am making very slow progress on this:

From Knitting Gallery

It's the Radiance Cabled Jacket from Melissa Morgan-Oakes. I'm using Valley Yarns Colrain and I got it all at WEBS, of course. I love the drape and silkiness of the yarn.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

February Flatness

I haven't had much to say lately. I think it's the February flatness. The weather is dreary, there's way too much school year stretching out ahead, I'm not sure what it is. Perhaps it's the tease of the light too -- the sun is rising as I go to school and it's still light at 5 or so. Yet then we get socked by snow and sleet, and you realize it's still winter.

It's been a tough few weeks. Our church secretary died very suddenly and unexpectedly. She leaves a HUGE hole in hearts, and in the life of our church. We are still pastorless, and she has been the constant presence and our glue, reminding us that it's time to do the Easter letter, it's time for the One Great Hour of Sharing offering, it's time to register for Annual Meeting, etc. etc. A group of members have volunteered to staff the office during office hours, and we are blessed that there are at least a couple folks who can access the church computer and do the weekly service bulletins. A couple of us (moderator, vice moderator (me), the treasurer, and a trustee) will meet later this week to go through the church office to "inventory" things --- our secretary was the person who knew where everything is.

School has been hard too. Morale is low due to some major budget cuts, and some other internal "politics".

I am on vacation this week, but we're not doing anything special. I do love being able to leave the alarm in the off position, and have the luxury of sleeping in. I will say that sleeping in nowadays, means to maybe 7 am! I've spent the last 3 days working on my husband's billing and bookkeeping, and starting the taxes. I've also read a couple of China Bayles' books, and a little knitting. I'm still having trouble with the knitting. My hand/shoulder isn't 100% so I can't knit for long. Physical therapy has definitely been helping though. I've been trying to persuade my other half to go to the movies and see some of the movies that were up for Oscars, but he really doesn't like to go, and I don't like going alone. I'm in the mood to go shopping, but my shopping buddy is on vacation out of state, I don't need anything, and I don't want to spend the money. . . . So . . . I've been spending too much time surfing the internet and Facebook, and I've been playing too many games of Super Mah Jong!

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Just in case you haven't seen these contests, check them out.

Over on Knit Purl Gurl you can win an awesome bag of WEBS goodies from Kathy Elkins.

And on Mommatudes you can win a gorgeous pair of hammered silver earrings.

Two great give-aways to brighten up a midwinter.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Middle School Historical Fiction

Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues by Harriette Gillem Robinet

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is excellent. Alfa is a 6th grader in 1956 Montgomery, Alabama. Alfa lives with his 15 year old sister Zinnia and their great-grandmother "Big Mama". They live in 2 room tar paper shack and need to find another 10 dollars for their rent. Alfa and his family are accused of stealing money from a "wealthy" white doctor's home. This book depicts quite realistically life for an African-American family during the 1950's. The bus boycott is 6 months old. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr has just become pastor of the Dexter Ave church and Alfa is trying hard to "walk the walk" and "talk the talk" of nonviolence.

I'm currently reading this aloud to my 6th graders to help lay some background for their novel study of Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963. They are really engaged, and we've had some good discussions about segregation and the differences in lifestyle. They are having a tough time understanding "having to work" and having to put whatever money Alfa earns toward food and rent.

View all my reviews.


The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel by David Wroblewski

My review

rating: 1 of 5 stars
This is probably heresy, but I didn't like this book. It was compelling however, so I guess that means it's a "good" book. I wanted to quit reading about 1/2 way through but I had to see it to the end. So, why didn't I like it? I think the first reason I disliked it was because I never felt connected to the characters. The third person "objective" narration kept me an observer rather than a participant in the story -- I never felt like I understood Edgar's motivation, and I especially felt distanced from any understanding of his mother's. The other reason I disliked it was the overall feeling of depression and doom that it left me with. I really don't like books that leave me feeling hopeless. Perhaps I missed the point, but that's how it left me.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009


1. I am constantly tired and sleepy. I've been going to bed earlier than normal -- between 8 and 9 pm instead of my usual 10 pm. I've been sleeping soundly and have had a hard time waking up with my 4:45 am alarm. I was home Thursday - slept soundly until 8:30 am, got up, dressed, and then napped for another couple of hours. Then up for a while, and another nap. ... Bed early on Thursday night too. Last night I hit the hay at 8:30, slept til 7:30 am. I'm feeling sleepy now at 6 pm. I'm not sure what's going on. . . .

2. I'm making progress with my physical therapy. . . Much fewer episodes of tingling and numbness, and aside from the development of "trigger finger" my shoulder is also improving.

3. It's amazing to see it still light at 5 pm. Spring is coming.

4. 6.5 hours of school work on a Saturday is too much.

5. My house is a mess. The kitchen table is covered and the floors need vacuuming and cleaning. I don't care -- much.

6. I haven't been knitting because of the above issues with my hand and shoulder.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

More China Bayles

Lavender Lies (China Bayles Mystery, Book 8) Lavender Lies by Susan Wittig Albert

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Let's see, a murder, a recuperating groom to be, the wedding cake baker leaving town, Leatha's arrival, a tea-room opening, and a hurricane, what else could go wrong in the week before for China and McQuaid's eagerly-anticipated wedding? The complications multiply but as usual the murder is solved and the other problems resolved, in this light-hearted installment of China Bayles.

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Mistletoe Man (China Bayles Mystery, Book 9) Mistletoe Man by Susan Wittig Albert

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I liked this installment too. Ruby has a big secret and China is sure she's done something to hurt her. However, China finds out that all of their friends are worried about Ruby. Meanwhile, her mistletoe supplier Carl Swenson, is killed ostensibly in a "hit and run" accident. The Fletcher sisters and their Aunt Velda (who's been kidnapped and returned by the Klingons) come under suspicion as all of the law enforcement folks try to figure out exactly what happened to Carl. And then there is Mrs. Kendall, the British cook extraordinaire who has come to China's rescue in the tearoom. But what mystery is she hiding??

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Little of This and a Little of That

It seemed like a very long week, but that's probably because we had FIVE days of school in a row! Next week things will get interesting as we add 30 minutes to the end of each school day from now til May 8th in an effort to make up time lost because of the ice storm in December. The upside is that we get 10 minutes added on to our core classes so that now I have an hour to teach reading/language arts and an hour for science. An hour is still not long enough to do everything I should be doing for reading and writing. When I started teaching I had an hour for reading and an hour for writing everyday. Then it was cut to 90 minutes daily. Then to 50 minutes. And guess what, our reading and writing scores dropped!! Does anyone but we RLA teachers see a correlation? Anyway, I'm not going there right now.

We had a very depressing school budget session this past week too. Our school board (all good people, all interested in providing a quality education for our kids) has faced some of the toughest decisions they've had to face in a long time. They have been forced to make significant cuts in programming that result in 4 teachers losing their jobs. At my school we are losing a guidance counselor. Aside from the fact that the person whose job is cut is the best guidance counselor we've ever had, the loss of the position will have a real impact on the support we can offer our kids. The plan is for the remaining guidance counselor to cover the 6th and 7th graders and one of the high school counselors will cover the 8th graders. It remains to be seen how effective that will be. Morale in the buildings is the lowest I've seen it since I've been teaching which makes it hard to go to school.

I'm struggling too with new curriculum --- I haven't taught science before, and I'm not a science person. I don't particular enjoy it either. I work really hard at bringing enthusiasm and energy into the classroom; the kids have no idea that I really don't have a passion for the subject. I also am working hard at figuring out how to teach the concepts that I have to teach. While I have a lot of cool projects and ideas for teaching ancient civilizations, I don't have a repertoire of science activities, so everything (including the concepts at times!) is new to me. February is a tough month even though it's short, and believe it or not, we have a vacation scheduled for the last week!

I am not doing much knitting because of my shoulder and pinched nerve issues. I started the Radiance Cabled Jacket by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. I'm using the Colrain yarn in steel gray. I love the way it has started out, and it's not a difficult pattern, but I can only manage to knit 3-4 rows a night before I have to stop. I love the way the yarn drapes and it has a nice sheen to it.

On the book front, I just finished this one.

Bones (Alex Delaware Series, #23) Bones by Jonathan Kellerman

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
This finally got interesting in the last few chapters. I was going to abandon it as a dull read but didn't have another book ready to replace it. I thought it was strange that although the story was told from Alex Delaware's perspective, he was mostly a "ride-along" through much of the book. I missed his personal involvement as well as the tension between Alex and Robin. I used to like this series, but I think it's time for Alex to retire.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Book Review

Burn Out Burn Out by Marcia Muller

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I haven't read Marcia Muller in a long time, so it was good to get reacquainted with Sharon McCone and Hy Ripinsky. I think I missed the book just previous to this one, so it took me a bit to get re-oriented. (It doesn't help that I've read so many series -- Kinsey Milhone, China Bayles, VI Warsharski,etc. - you have to keep complicated backstories in your memory banks). I liked this one. Sharon is recuperating from a traumatizing near-death experience, and is burned out. She's spending time at Hy's ranch in Lake Tufa. She gets drawn into investigating the disappearance of the ranch manager's niece despite herself. There were enough clues strewn about the story to have some good guesses as to "who-dunnit" but only if you wanted to work at it. I've missed this series.

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A New(ish) Adventure

I live in a very small town with TWO United Church of Christ (UCC) churches. Both are small churches (my church has about 90 "official" members, with average attendance around 40) and the other congregation is about the same. My church was actually "planted" by the original Congregational church (called what else, First Church) back around 1850. At the time, one end of town was mushrooming with mill workers. Some very mission-oriented members of First Church recognized that the distance from the "East Village" to the First Church was too great for many of the millworkers and their families to travel, so they petitioned the church to separate and plant a new church down in "East Village". And so they did. For about 125 years the two congregations, less than 2 miles apart, flourished. Both churches developed separate identities and focused on different ministries. At some point in the history of the 2 churches some "snobbishness" evolved and for some years there was little to no contact between the two churches. When I arrived in town, about 30 years ago, the 2 churches worshiped together on Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday services and also worshiped together as part of the community's Interfaith Thanksgiving service. And then as has happened with many main line churches, both congregations have fallen upon hard times --- aging congregations, diminished membership rosters, financial woes, and right now, both congregations are pastorless. Three years ago a group of lay leaders appointed from both churches started meeting together to brainstorm ways that the 2 congregations could help each other. Not by merging, but by collaborating where possible on mutual ministries, and even on more regular joint worship. This has been an extremely enriching experience (I'm one of the "ambassadors" as we're called). So for the past several years we've intentionally held regular joint worship services --- 7 or 8 a year. And now we embark on our newest adventure. For the months of February and March we will hold joint services every Sunday. Starting today my church will journey "up the road" to our parent church for all our February services. In March we will host all the services in our sanctuary "down the street." We are excited because each church is tired -- in my church we have had no pastor since September so our worship planners are exhausted from either finding guest ministers or planning and leading worship themselves. We also have no music leadership at this time -- there just aren't many organists available, or other musicians who are called to lead musically in a worship setting in our neck of the woods. So another benefit is that for two months we will have the benefit of the superb music leadership of First Church. We don't know where these experiments in mutually supporting each other will grow. While there are a few of us who are interested in the potential of merger, there are many more who fear that. Perhaps we will evolve into a yoked parish. We are all praying that we stay open to God's voice and willing to go where the Spirit leads. It's exciting!!