Monday, May 31, 2010

Laps Around the Track

I keep having these good ideas about finishing one project before I dive in on another one. I know, I doesn't usually work that way, but I find myself wishing it was that tidy! I keep thinking how nice it would be if I could finish one lap before the next one started. Instead, I often feel like there are three or four of me running around the track at the same time (waving to myself as I pass by...yes, I've definitely been pondering LOST too much this week).

My goals over the last couple of weeks seemed simple enough. I was going to finish reading and responding to seminary student papers and submit my grades. THEN I was going to spend a few days doing all the paperwork for the school district and for the sweet girl's insurance renewal. (Read: I'm a PA homeschooler with a kid heading for the magic number of 8 years old; and I'm a thankful recipient of state assistance for my child's health care but that means every year I have to prove again just how poor we are so we requalify.) So yes, this paperwork is all necessary and important, but it's still officially paperwork, with all the attendant drudgery of gathering and filling out forms. THEN I was going to do wrap-up notes for our grammar 2 year, for my own evaluation purposes. And THEN I was going to do some work on writing projects and start hunting for more writing and editing work. And THEN I was going to figure out precisely what I need to order, curriculum-wise, for grammar 3 and how we were going to pay for it. And THEN I was going to start planning the sweet girl's birthday party. And THEN...

Okay, you get my drift. It's all the "and THEN's" that are turning out to be impossible, because I can't seem to sustain enough time or momentum on one project before I have to go on to at least part of another one. Some of this is due to the fact that more projects keep coming up. First there's all the daily ongoing stuff of life (housework, cooking, schooling)! But there have also been ministry commitments: finishing up Alpha, coordinating the missions prayer stations for our church's Pentecost service, pulling together the monthly church newsletter. I had to try to re-find my review reading and writing rhythm at Epinions, since my income share has been down. I also decided it was worth the effort to try to submit a guide to (Epinions' sister site) in an effort to try to win some more cash that will help us buy said curriculum. And given my love of planning a new school year, I've done a bit of diving into that already.

We're also trying to plan another trip to see my folks. Dad is stable but not strong. He has another echocardiogram scheduled for tomorrow. And continuing to process all the emotions about his illness is taking inner time (again important and necessary, but not anything I foresaw going into this month).

We also realized we were long overdue getting out our family's regularly (supposed to be quarterly) prayer and support letter, something we feel is very important. So I spent much of the last week working on that and the church newsletter, with the end result being that it's Memorial Day and I've yet to submit all my grades. I'm really hoping to finish those up tonight!

And THEN... :-) I need to dive headfirst into the insurance renewal papers, since the deadline is fast approaching. If I can get through those things, and make at least a decent start on the homeschool paperwork, I will consider this week a completed lap.

For at least one of me...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wilder Land

We've been languishing a bit in read-aloud time recently. After the sublime heights of The Magician's Nephew, we came down with a prosaic thud. I let the sweet girl choose our last book, and she went with one of the Boxcar Children sequels.

Now I don't mind the Boxcar Children on principle, and even thought the first one was a pretty good story. I also think kids should be able to indulge in a little light pulp reading now and again, just like grown-ups. But as read-alouds the sequels are mind-numbingly boring. Benny and Henry are particularly grating on my nerves; I begin to have sympathy for readers who found Bobby Belden's character so thoroughly annoying. Puh-leeze (as Bobby would say) let these kids grow up!

But today we moved back into literary territory, brighter and wilder terrain. Literally Wilder terrain: we're up to the fifth book in the Little House series with By the Shores of Silver Lake.

And I'd forgotten what a whammy those first two chapters give us. A couple of years or so have passed for Laura and family, still living on Plum Creek in these opening pages. Pa has that wild glint in his eye which can only mean one thing: time to pack the wagon and head west again! The family has weathered scarlet fever and Mary is now blind, a sad and sobering fact that seemed to hit the sweet girl hard. We talked a bit about how Laura "became Mary's eyes" (as the story tells us) and how that might be one reason why she grew up to be such a fine writer of description.

And then came the death of Jack. Dear old Jack, the family bull-dog, the one who has stood by Laura and the rest of the Ingalls through wolves and fires and grasshoppers and who knows what all else. I always forget this is coming, and I always have the hardest time in the world reading the description of Jack's last hours over the lump in my throat. How poignant that he lay down and died on the night before the wagon was to pull out and head west again, after all the many miles he walked.

When it comes to read-alouds, I like being back in Wilder Land. Even when it makes me cry.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pentecost Sunday

"When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance."
~Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)

The whole passage from Acts 2 is such an exciting one. As our preacher said this morning, upon reading the next part when the people gathered together all hear the Gospel preached in their own native languages, "Wow." And then he repeated "wow," and again "wow." Yes.

We are so blessed to be loved by a God who loves all people everywhere, loves them so much that he longs for them to hear and know him, loves them enough to speak his Word to them in the languages of their hearts.

Isn't the incarnation itself about God finding a way to speak to us in a language and a way we could understand?

And today was a blessed day at church as we celebrated this story and the ongoing story of God's love for the world.

We processed around to prayer stations for each of the six countries where we support missionaries or where we focus our prayers for the persecuted church. We prayed for Brazil, Mexico, Uganda, Nigeria, Belize, and the United States. (And I was blessed, as missions committee chair, to have put together the prayer stations). And after church, my dear husband got to make a presentation about the new Catechesis/Mentoring program for young people in our parish, into which he's been pouring so much of his his heart and soul lately.

Indeed a day to celebrate. And a day to be grateful for the life of the Holy Spirit poured out in our hearts.

LOST in Thought...One More Time

Since my husband and I watch LOST episodes a couple of days behind the rest of the world (you could say we’re untethered from time!) I always feel behind the curve posting my thoughts and reflections. By the time I can get anything up, much wiser and creative minds than mine have already weighed in. And yet… it’s so much fun. I’ve so enjoyed thinking and conversing about this show, I can’t quite resist the opportunity to put my thoughts down one last time before we reach tomorrow night’s finale.

And yes, we will miss it, not watching it until probably around Tuesday night. I am pretty sure I am putting myself on a media blackout until then, including not checking Facebook (I know too many of our friends will post status updates with their reactions). It’s not unlike what I did when Deathly Hallows was published. I basically went offline the day before the book came out, taking special care to avoid any HP related websites for even longer beforehand, and I didn’t go back on until I’d finished the book. Once again, I find myself not wanting to be spoiled in any way.

D. and I keep talking about what we think will happen, what we hope will happen, what might happen. We’ve actually compiled a list of things we think the show’s writers need to do. We split the page in two, making separate lists for what needs to happen in Sideways world and what needs to happen in Island world. When you put the lists together, it all comes to about three dozen items, which sounds like a lot. But they do have a couple of hours (feature film length!) and we’ve agreed that some of these things don’t need to be given a whole lot of time, but could be hinted at. In fact, we figure some of them will need to be given that sort of treatment, given what’s left to accomplish to bring this amazing and convoluted story to a satisfying conclusion.

D. keeps joking that the writers have a dream assignment – they get to kill lots of characters off in heroic battle, and yet they also get to write them their happy ending (in sideways reality). I think he’s on to something there. Although most of my energy at this point is moving toward mining this story for grace moments and character transformation (and has been tending that way for a long time…see my earlier LOST posts) I do find myself still really intrigued by the whole conceit that has made this last season so interesting, the two branches of reality.

And that’s what I’m seeing them as right now – two branches, one tree (or river, whatever metaphor works best for you). The Jughead moment at the end of last season was far more crucial than ever we realized. “It worked” said Juliet, from the grave, and that’s a pretty amazing thing for them to have told us right off the bat. Our castaways, those who heard that news, couldn’t comprehend it. How could it “have worked” and yet “not worked” at the same time? For obviously there they were, still on island, still struggling with the same old stuff. I still don’t understand it myself, but the way I look at it now, when Juliet (the true heroine of this epic in many ways) detonated the bomb, the explosion seemed to accomplish the splitting of reality. Remember that our castaways were actually fugitives in a time in which they did not belong. So the explosion, on the one hand, jarred them from one record groove to another (to use yet another Daniel Faraday expression) and at the same time, shut down the 1970s reality and changed that timeline from that time forward, so that their plane accident never happened. Reality, for these people, moved in two directions, and we’re going to see those directions meet back up and merge.

But first there’s the matter of unfinished island business. I think one reason that my hubby and I feel confident the writers can pull off most of what they need to in the short time left is that really only two big things need to be accomplished (though in bits and pieces) in the two realities. I looked back over our lists and realized what they each boiled down to. In Island reality, we need to see a victory over Smokey. In Sideways world, we need to see resolution – major resolution within characters (as they become Island enlightened, their current stories merging with the stories/relationships/wisdom gained in their Island reality) and between characters. In fact, almost our whole Sideways list had to do with characters resolving relationships, or at least us being given glimpses that such resolution was on the way.

The victory over Smokey will not come without great cost. Desmond the “fail-safe” is going to be key (pun intended) as I think we all agree. But I think what will turn the tide for the side of right is the willingness of the characters to do whatever they need to in this battle. Choice has always been a big LOST theme, and it’s been shining like a lighthouse beacon lately.

Can I tell you how proud I was of Jack when he stepped up and said “I’ll do it” when Jacob finally came square on what he was asking the candidates to consider? My friend Erin talked about what a wonderful Frodo moment that was, and I loved that comparison, since I’m pretty sure Frodo’s “I will take the ring” would figure into one of my top ten most loved story moments of all time. And I certainly see the comparison. (I also liked her idea that the cave of light is going to be our “Mt. Doom.” Who might be our Gollum, hmm?)

But for me, Jack is so Harry right now. I think it’s partly because both Rowling and LOST are working out of post-modern frameworks, though Rowling’s single-author epic vision seems a lot more cohesive and thankfully a lot less monistic. But consider if you will, with your spello-taped Harry glasses on:

--Jack’s willingness to step up and meet his destiny, even though he has no clue if he’ll survive (and probably doubts he will)

--Jack’s growth from loner guy with a “saving people thing” complex to a man who understands his need for community and family

--Jack’s struggle to have faith, especially when not given complete (or fully honest) information from a mentor figure who has, at times, infuriatingly kept his distance

--Jack’s anger at Jacob for not telling him what Jack thought he needed to know and when (remember the Lighthouse smashup? That immediately called to mind Harry in Dumbledore’s office)

--Jack’s mentor being a wise and powerful yet flawed and broken man who has spent years trying to make up for past mistakes, hoping and praying he’ll find someone who will be the “better man” and be able to do what he can’t

--Jack’s walking away from “ordinary” love and life (in the Oceanic Six storyline, when he sabotaged the good relationship he had going with Kate) and realizing he has a destiny

--Jack constantly being looked to as the leader, and yet powerless in some situations and having to watch the people he loves die

Like Harry, I think Jack is going to have to be willing to sacrifice himself. My husband thinks that the cut on his neck – the one we’ve seen getting worse in Sideways world all season, the one Sideways-Jack doesn’t seem to have a clue about? – is the mark of the fatal wound he’ll receive from the ceremonial knife. He’s the island protector now, and that seems to be the only way a guardian of the island can die.

I think Jack will die, but like Harry, there’s protection in place, a safeguard, something that “tethers him to life” (to use the Rowling phrase) and in this case, it’s the reboot, along with the willingness of the other castaways to do what they need to do, especially Desmond.

In case you can’t tell, I’m loving that there’s not just one hero in this piece. The more we unpack what’s been going on, the more we’re “enlightened” as to the overall story, the more we see how crucial so many people’s actions have been. Jack and Desmond are our key players now (not surprising we lingered so long over their meeting, is it?) but so many others have played crucial roles. Juliet and Daniel, yes, but others too. Sayid, who gave the castaways one more day with his heroism. Ben, broken as they come, and yet I still think deep-down on the side of right, and conning Smokey right up to the finish. Even Kate, whom I know has not gotten a lot of fan-love, has been there at crucial times. Let’s not forget she saved Ben’s life in one reality. I’m also thinking especially of the many times she has been there when Jack, needing reassurance that whatever crazy thing he was about to do was the right thing (or at least that he wasn’t alone in doing it, even if it wasn’t) turned to her. How many times did Kate say “I’m with you,” or “I’ve always been with you” right at the crucial moment, looking him right in the eyes? I can’t help but want them to be soul-mates in the end, mostly because of that.

Oh and John Locke. Beautiful, real John Locke, flawed and lovable. John who wasn’t right about everything, who got played by the Smoke Monster (who seems to thrive on holding people in his thrall – I do so hope that in defeating him, the tortured soul of MIB, used all these years, will finally be able to rest in peace) but John who was right about more than anyone might have guessed. While it’s true that John’s own destiny was not as he wished, and that he made a lot of mistakes based on listening to the wrong voices, John’s simple and unwavering trust that life must have meaning and purpose (despite all evidence in his own life to the contrary) was a huge witness to Jack. It’s what got Jack back to the island, when all was said and done. And if Jack hadn’t gone back – no reboot, no Sideways world, no final battle with Smokey. So John too had his role to play, and I’m so glad that in Sideways world he and Jack can finally like and respect each other, and Jack can do something beautiful to help John heal.

I think it will be fascinating, when this whole story is over (except for the conversations!) to look back over the epic and pull out central pieces. In other words, to look back over the story and ask ourselves, what would it have been like if ______ had not been part of the story. Fill in the blank with the character of your choice! I think we will discover just how important they each were in the unfolding of events.

Ah…so much more I could say. So many questions I still have about the theological ramifications of all this (particularly pertaining to fate and free will and providence) and so many questions about how all this might play out. I find myself curious to know (and a bit worried) about the protection extended to the candidates. Does it vanish when Jacob does? Of course, if Jack gets to make? inherit but bend? the rules now, then I think it’s likely all his friends are still safe, because he’ll do anything to protect them. Yes, I know…I love Jack and it shows. I always have, and I’ve always resonated most profoundly with his struggles and journey, so I’m glad this has turned out to be more his story than anyone else’s – perhaps not too surprising given that our opening moments were literally seen through his opening eyes. (Has this whole story been about Jack’s eyes opening? I think I read that somewhere, and I love the thought.)

I am hoping that Jack will be like Harry in one other profound way too – that he will get his chance at ordinary life and love.

I’ll stop for now. And like I said, I’ll be tuning out a bit until I’m able to tune back in (hopefully unspoiled) a couple of days after the finale.

See you in another life, brotha.

Friday, May 21, 2010


With everything that's been happening in my extended family of late, plus just one of the busiest few weeks I can remember, I've fallen out of my regular blogging rhythm. I'm hoping to remedy that beginning now.

One of the most overdue of my posts (and I've got more in the pipeline) is the exciting news that Pachunga has been published. What is Pachunga? Glad you asked! It's a mid-grade Christian fantasy-adventure novel written by my friend and seminary colleague John MacDonald. A true labor of love, John has been working on this novel for many years -- it had its genesis back in the 1980s when he was teaching a class of sixth graders. He was finally able to bring it to fruition/completion, and it was published via iUniverse just a few weeks ago.

My involvement with Pachunga came late but was a happy one. Beginning last December, I was able to work with John in the final stages to help edit the book. That included copy-editing but also some development/story editing, an experience I thoroughly enjoyed, and one I'd love to repeat.

Pachunga is an interesting tale set in an African landscape. Readers 9-12 will especially enjoy it. John plows some familiar ground -- the Lewisian echoes are quite strong in places -- but he puts his own special spin on things, especially drawing on his cross-cultural experience. I especially like the ways he was able to make this as much (or more) an inner adventure as an outer one...the most important journeys are the heart journeys of the characters, especially Pachunga himself. You can read my review of the book on Amazon. I especially think Pachunga could be a welcome addition to the bookshelves of homeschooling families!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Perfect Timing (& and a Patchwork Post)

It's been a busy, tiring week: end of semester work (all those papers coming in for me to read! did I really assign them all?!); back to regular homeschooling days; planning a special mission-themed prayer service for our church for Pentecost; never-ending housecleaning; trying to re-find my writing rhythm. And of course, continuing to follow my mother's daily email updates on dad, and keeping him and my mother in prayers, even as I try to assimilate my own feelings and concerns about dad's illness.

I was so tired this morning that I told the sweet girl we were sleeping in. We do "relaxed Fridays" in our homeschool anyway, with a focus on art, music and poetry each week. We usually have our homeschool group meetings on Friday afternoon, but we're winding up the year and took the day off (many of the folks involved are seminarians, and it's graduation weekend for them or for their classmates) and I was grateful for that today.

We sort of oozed through our morning with no set agenda. Woke up late after a blissfully good night's sleep, despite my ongoing ear problem. Did chores. Did a few extra chores. Giggled a lot with the sweet girl, who was in a hug-giving mood. Plopped down on pillows in her recently cleaned room (which looks so spacious with most of the floor clutter put away!) and read lots and lots and lots of Jack Prelutsky.

Prelutsky is the sweet girl's favorite poet at the moment, and I'm enjoying him too -- his outrageous sense of humor and his utter delight in wordplay. He is a *terrific* poet for visual learners, since he loves making shape poems, and there are several great ones in It's Raining Pigs and Noodles, our current volume. Our favorite right now is "I Am Winding Through a Maze" where the words themselves wind through a maze, while the poet tries to find his way out. Last year I wrote about Prelutsky's book A Pizza the Size of the Sun (link to my review) but I think Pigs and Noodles will need a review of its own soon.

One of my favorite moments this morning came as the teakettle began shrieking as we were in the midst of a poem. I paused, then said "hold on" as I scrambled to my feet to go turn off the burner. "Whew," my little poetry-loving girl said, "good thing we were at the end of a stanza!" I laughed. Perfect timing.

We spent the rest of the morning drawing while listening to Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, then making paper doll bunnies based on Amelia and Susannah, the rabbits in Marisabina Russo's new picture book A Very Big Bunny.

This afternoon's agenda includes a toe-nail painting session (the sweet girl knows it's sandal weather!) and the making of a (very) belated birthday cake for my husband. Plus all the paper reading and grading I can squeeze in. Then tonight, dinner at the annual Nationality Days street fair. And after S. is in bed, her dad and I get to watch the latest episode of LOST, which came via mail today, courtesy of Erin. Definitely a Friday!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

LOST and Letting Go

Well, folks, we're in the homestretch. Only three episodes of LOST to go, counting the two-hour finale. By the end of this month, it'll be all over...except for the countless hours of talking we'll get to do about how it all ended.

"The Candidate," last week's episode of LOST, would have been emotionally wrenching any time, but given what I've been going through with my family in the past couple of weeks, it hit me at an especially vulnerable time. I confess I cried, and I don't often cry over television shows (the final episode of MASH being one major exception). But good storytelling is good storytelling, and I found the tears cathartic.

If you've been following my on-again/off-again LOST musings this season, you'll know that I found Doc Jensen's quotations from Flannery O'Connor a great springboard for some reflections on the show's creative artistry. I ended my last LOST ramble by saying that, thanks to Flannery, in these final weeks of the story I would be on the lookout for:

"mustard-seed gestures, invisible lines of spiritual motion, the action of grace (no matter what the body count), and the revelation of essential and indispensable qualities in characters faced with violent situations who just may be on the verge of eternity."

It was hard to keep those glasses on as I was bawling my way through the deaths of Sayid, Sun, Jin (and possibly Frank) but as I reflected in the calmer hours and days afterward, it hit me again what a terrific narrative lens those things provide.

Let's talk about Sayid. First of all, I found myself so relieved that he was back (albeit so briefly) really and truly back. "Sayid is himself again!" I said to my husband, almost in tears of relief, and of course that should have been my warning.

But we really did have a brief, shining moment when we looked in Sayid's eyes and saw the man we'd come to know...the flawed, broken, but loving man, not the zombie-man he'd turned into when stuck in the service of darkness. And in that moment, we saw the choice Sayid was making as he made it, the choice to die for his friends, and we honored him for it. What better way could we have seen the essential and indispensable qualities that Sayid was carrying with him into eternity as we saw him grab the bomb and make a dash for it, a soldier on a final, merciful mission, giving his comrades one more day and one more chance to defeat the darkness? Even his final instructions to Jack, letting him know about Desmond's whereabouts, were part of a loving act on the side of right and hope.

It's harder with Sun and Jin. There's a part of me that felt like raging "not again! It's just like Charlie!" Their deaths felt so unnecessary. After all they've been through and survived (remember Sun's dash through the jungle with Smokey in pursuit?) to see them defeated by the crush of metal furniture dislodged in a bomb blast, and a roar of rushing water, felt painfully unfair and prosaic. It felt, in fact, like a stupid, senseless casualty of war, which is what it was. And when Jack swam away with the unconscious Sawyer, you saw he knew it for what it was and that it grieved him to the heart.

And what a hard moment that had to be for Jack, the man we know best as a "fixer," the hero who likes to make everything all right and save everyone. He's been slowly, painfully learning that he can't always make everything better. But how difficult this must have been: Sayid just blown apart, Sawyer's life hanging in the balance and dependent on Jack getting him safely to the surface, and then Sun tragically pinned down, helpless. For a surgeon, it must have felt like triage on the battlefield. I suspect swimming away was one of the hardest things Jack ever did.

And yet...left to themselves, with the water pouring in, there were those invisible lines of spiritual motion there, and the grace of Sun and Jin holding onto each other in the final moments, after all those years apart. I will be forever thankful that LOST gave us the earlier scene, when Sun slipped Jin's wedding ring back on his finger, a sort of renewal of their vows to one another. One of the vows in my own wedding service contained the line "until we are parted by death" and it was the line that floated to the surface of my memory as I watched their hands loosen and come unclasped. Jensen, in his recap/commentary, seemed oddly disturbed by that image, angry at the writers for emphasizing their "apartness" after all the time the show took to bring them together again, but I found the image beautifully right. It reminded me, poignantly, weepingly, that the *only* thing that had the power to part these two people now was death. "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the flood waters drown it."

It also served as a poignant reminder that death is real. (Let's lay aside, for the moment, the fact that Sun and Jin, Sayid too, continue to exist in sideways world, in another dimension where they are themselves but not quite themselves, living their stories but not quite their stories, on a different trajectory.) As we experienced the very real deaths of Sun and Jin, characters we've come to love, we realized anew that it's very hard to "let go" -- of one another, of loved ones, of this earth that isn't our home but is a beautiful, broken and blessed place in which to sojourn.

The whole "letting go" theme was perfectly played in this episode, first in the image of Sun and Jin's hands, and then in the scene between Sideways John and Jack, in which they tentatively explored the theme of letting go of the things in life which hold us back from living fully. Jack, newly wise in this particular reality, seems to get that completely, and is just looking for the courage (and camaraderie) to go forward and do it as he knows he needs to do. John isn't quite there yet, but then John's always had a hard time letting go -- of good things, and of things that hold him back. He tends to be a wallower and needs some help getting unstuck.

Of course, the letting go theme has another dimension for us viewers too -- pretty soon we've got to let go of this fascinating story. I'm not quite ready to do that yet, so I'm glad we've got a couple more weeks before we have to.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Every Day a Gift

Well, we've not only turned the corner on April but moved a full week into May. I apologize for disappearing, but sometimes life becomes full-steam ahead and there's just no time to reflect! (Or to sit down at the computer to blog.) Full-steam ahead is a good way to characterize what's been happening with me in the past ten days or so.

My 77 year old father became suddenly, unexpectedly and quite seriously ill, going into congestive heart failure. The past week and a half were full of phone calls, worries, prayers, struggles, conversations, unexpected angels, and some tiring travel. Dad was in the hospital for several days. He's now home, though weak and tired, being nursed by my wonderful mom, and we're not yet sure just what lies ahead for him. There have been some painful and emotional moments as I contemplated the possibility of losing my dad, now or in the near future.

One blessing (among many) was that myself and my three siblings plus most of our families (almost all of my parents' grandchildren, and all of their great-grandchildren) were able to make visits to Virginia. Over the course of about a week, we had family gathered together from Virginia, Connecticut, Illinois, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Texas, Iowa, Montana, and Minnesota. The impromptu family reunion, even or especially in the midst of such real worry and potential sorrow, was a beautiful thing. And my dad, graced in a special way by the Lord, just seemed to brim with joy and contentment to have his loved ones gathered around him.

Just a few weeks ago, before we knew my father was sick, I had called home to wish my parents a happy 56th wedding anniversary. Dad and I talked for a while, and one of the things he said to me then, which came back to me with a lot of force this past week, was how blessed he was by his long life. His father died of congestive heart failure at the very young age of 61, one reason my dad always seemed to struggle (in his forties and fifties) with worry that he might not live past that age, and one reason that he's spent the past twenty years eating healthily and exercising. What he said to me was "I've already lived much longer than I ever thought I would. And every new day I have is a gift to enjoy."

That truth seemed to radiate from him at the hospital -- in his humor, in his graciousness to the nurses attending him, in his joy in seeing his far-flung family. It made me realize anew just how much I want gratitude to permeate my life: now, every day, for as many days as I'm given.

So anyway...that's what's been happening with me. It's end of semester and I'm behind on paper grading, so I'm fairly certain that May is going to be a slow blogging month, but I can tell I am also longing for writing time, so you never know! I've got reviews dancing in my brain, and I still have some poetry posts I'd like to get up, ones I'd hoped to post at the end of April -- but I don't mind extending the poetry celebration into May and all year round. And as I begin to plan homeschool studies for next year (grammar 3/3rd grade) I will likely have some school posts in the pipeline too.

It's good to be back to "ordinary" life and blogging. With just a twist of extra gratitude.