Monday, November 30, 2009

Great pairings

peanut butter and apple slices
donuts and cider
ham and horseradish
chocolate and coffee
cold turkey and sweet pickles
water chestnuts and bacon
warm apple pie and vanilla bean icecream
refried beans and cheese
toast with cheese and tomato slices
cheese and crackers
popcorn and rootbeer
mashed potatoes and gravy
fish and chips
hot dogs and mustard
corn chips and guacamole
vegetables and ranch dip
cantaloupe or honeydew melon and prosciutto
poached eggs on toast
chili and cornbread
kahlua and cream
strawberries and whipped cream
tea and shortbread
bubble and squeak
corned beef and cabbage
bagels and cream cheese
raisins and peanuts
macaroni and cheese
shrimp and cocktail sauce

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday Musings

One out of three people
Are out at the mall.
So says the papers
If you believe them at all.

The ads showed great bargains
Of things to be had
And for those who get them
I am exceedingly glad.

They stood out for hours
In lines without number
Waiting for cool stuff
More important than slumber.

They played by the rules
And did their line duty
To earn their whatever
That was the prize booty.

Am I missing something?
What is it I don't see?
There is no appeal in this
For a person like me.

I don't like the crowds
Or searching to park.
I don't like the noise
Or getting up in the dark.

I don't like long lines
And standing long hours.
To put up with all that
Must take super-powers.

So until someone shows me
Just what I can't miss
I think I'll just say,
"I'll pass on this dish."

I'll stay home in my bed
Where it's warm as toast
And get up at seven.
I like that the most.

I'll be glad for the people
Who don't want it that way.
I'll do what I like
And they'll do as they may.

I won't rant about greed
Of the other side
'Cause that might reveal
My own earthly pride.

So if you enjoy shopping,
Then go have a blast.
And I'll stay at home
Till this hour is passed.

And when you get home
I'll feed you your dinner
And we can discuss
Who's the biggest winner!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Marshmallows and Marbles

If you microwave a large marshmallow for thirty seconds, it gets the size of a softball, is soft and gooey and shrinks as soon as you open the door. Makes a nice little sweet tooth snack it you're into marshmallows--which I am currently. Microwaving it for thirty-five seconds makes some of the sugar caramelize on the plate that you had better have put it on first, and then when you open the door and it starts to shrink and cool, it also hardens like concrete on the plate. You can only get it off by letting it soak in water. I'm going to try thirty-two seconds next!

Marbles are very handy for science experiments, especially when you are trying to teach Newton's three laws of motion. I made some ramps out of some one-inch wide curved trim to run marbles down. If you set the two ramps up facing each other, you can get some really nice illustrations of "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

Marshmallows are great for science, too. I used big and little ones together with toothpicks to makes models of water molecules. Then it's easier to explain chemical bonds, hydrogen bonds and why the heck ice floats. And when the explanation is over you eat your demonstration.

I'm very happy at the moment. Today I taught three sciences classes and a logic class. They all went well. The balloon rocket rocked, the tennis ball really pinged the ping-pong ball, and the marbles stayed on track. Now I am on a teaching break for one full week. It's enough of an excuse to microwave another marshmallow to celebrate.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bathrobes and Slippers

In the clamor for excitement, fame, and wealth embedded in our culture, there is a still small voice whispering for peace and comfort. I'm not talking about hedonism here, but simplicity, tranquility, and time for reflection. If we don't plan time in our day for this, the voices of the urgent must-dos will drown out this plea. I never get enough of it. I think that is the bottom line about why I don't like getting dressed in the morning. It signals the beginning of the mad rush and bustle, which won't end until I slide under the covers and reach for my current book projects in the evening. There is something inside me that resists plunging in, and holds it off until I can delay no longer. It is a battle, and the armor to fight it is a thick, warm bathrobe and fluff-lined slippers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sleepless in Ypsilanti

My eyes are wide open,
And I just can't sleep.
It's no use groping
For those woolly sheep.

They just jump the fence,
Whate'er their number,
And I lose the chance
To get some slumber.

There is no caffeine
That's keeping me up.
I swear you've not seen
Me slug down a cup.

I didn't doze off
Through the afternoon,
Which would be enough
To seal my sad doom.

I don't have a book
Too good to put down.
Perhaps there's a crook
Stealing sleep in town!

So I'll write my rhyme.
The dull hours tick by.
Perhaps in good time
I'll figure out why.

Pilgrim Reflections

Shiv'ry bony fingers clasped together,
Shawls tucked close to shield from blasts of weather,
Huddled heads bowed down to give thee due praise,
As well as hope for brighter, future days.

Some still weak from sickness and starvation,
Some oppressed by death's heavy oblation,
Many lives gone for the sake of others,
Hoping for freedom to worship as brothers.

Pilgrim settlers and the noble red man
Gather together as one united clan,
Sharing meager crops grown with native skill,
Venison and turkey, to eat their fill.

The starving time is behind us now.
For what lies ahead will be grace enou'.
Look not to the graves of friends departed,
But on this endeavor which we have started.

Trembling with fear, hope, anticipation
At wond'ring weakness of an infant nation,
Hoping for justice, prosperity and peace,
May our longing for righteous life never cease.

Only with you, Lord, guiding our fragile lives
Will we run the good race and win the prize.
Your vast blessings may we never forget
So that our newborn land may please you yet.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lamborghinis, Lions, and Prayer

I often think about the sign over the chapel at Domino's Farms. It says something like, "Prayer takes time and saints pray and get more done in less time." That is my lifeline these days. God honors that. I give him time I don't think I can afford for prayer, and he inspires me to do better in less time than I thought possible. Today was a good example.

Last night a slogged through creating an exercise for the students to practice identifying direct objects. It was woefully, grindingly, wearisome to write and equally dreadful as a boring grammar lesson. It will have to do, I concluded, and went to bed.

This morning I woke up and began my prayer time. As often happens, right in the middle of prayer, I got the inspiration I needed for direct objects. Who would have thought that God cared about making direct objects fun? My first thought was whether I could get it prepared on time, but my second thought was that it was inspired and I could figure it out. I wrote out most of it while I ate my breakfast, instead of reading the Wall Street Journal, which didn't happen to be available that day because Jack had already taken it with him to work.

I was easily ready by class time, energized to teach, and eager to see the surprise and delight on each students' face. I announced that for each of the 26 students, I had 26 sentences with direct objects in them. I was going to go around the room and read a sentence for each student. They were to identify what the action was (the verb), who was doing the action (the subject) and who or what was receiving the action (the direct object). The response to these directions was less than enthusiastic, but within three sentences the whole class's attention was riveted on what the next sentence would be. It was hard to wait for their turn.

So what was inspired about that? Well, each sentence made a story, and the students were included in it. And of course Star Wars blasters, a mountain lion, and a Lamborghini helped. God does care about direct objects, and he does have a sense of humor.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Speaking of an avalanche of whoas, where did the week go? Whoa. Slow down. But it's been a good week--busy, productive, not too hassled. And the best part: I hardly have any homework to correct! That means, yes, you guessed it. I have time to rake the leaves. That might not sound so hot to some of you, but I've hardly been outdoors since September. Today, I walked the dog for the first time in about two months. It was a glorious sun-shiny day, which is remarkable in November in Michigan. I'm hoping for the same tomorrow.

Monday, November 9, 2009

An Avalanche of Woes

Did you ever notice when things begin to go wrong, how hard it is to get things going right again? It's like a little meter that usually points straight to "honky-dory", but then you get close to a "shit happens" anode and you can't get the little bugger to swing its arrow back around to happy-go-lucky again. The harder you try to restore the machine to its smoothly running purr, the more it coughs out breakdowns, puss and irritating little hassles. You turn to something else and that bolts into confusion, disorder and outright rebellion. By this time you're ready to kick somebody in the nuts, but there's no one available, or they don't have the appropriate body parts.

If you're in command of yourself at all by this meltdown, you will remember that you have a lovely assistant standing by: grace. She doesn't get bothered by stinky excretions or look for victims to assail. She doesn't use words like "shit" or "nuts", but calmly soothes the annoyances and coaxes the nerves to stop jerking like they're electrified. She is never out to lunch, but is standing quietly by, shaking her head in amusement that you have once again forgotten her.

There is always enough that can go wrong. If you are in an avalanche of woes, grace can turn it to an avalanche of whoas.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I Should Be Outside

Balmy November days are hard to come by. I did get outside for a few minutes, but it wasn't long enough. It felt good though, like getting dressed after a long illness and tottering around the house. You realize how much you miss small things when you've been knocked out for a while. I haven't been sick, but I have been way too busy--not taking time for inner renewal, although daily prayer is what keeps me going.

It makes me realize that it's not too late to enjoy today. So this is all. I'm going out before the sun goes down.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It Ain't Easy...

to be a Michigan fan.
to write poetry.
to be unique.
to juggle work, home life, recreation, and the unexpected.
to balance the budget.
to get older.
to take care of myself
--to eat right, to exercise regularly, to get enough sleep.

to cope with dreary November days.
to be creative.
to correct homework.
to remember birthdays, other than my own!
to find the perfect gift for someone I love.
to make a phone call when I don't hear well.
--not to mention watch a movie, follow a conversation, or keep the kettle from burning dry.

But I'm not complaining. Challenges are good.

This post ain't much, but my well's dry. See ya.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lovin' Those Students

I made them write poetry this week. In iambic pentameter. One young man submitted a piece that was all "shoot 'em up" and blowing things to smithereens--in the land of Iamb. I made only one comment. See below:

You made me laugh!
You made my smile.
Your verse is half
Nonsense and guile.

(His poem made my day.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Four Minutes and the Clock is Running....

Another dash around week. The kind where using the bathroom is what you do in your spare minutes, and you stop having hot drinks because you know you won't have too many spare minutes. And where you start deciding what just won't get done, instead of when it will get done. The kind where you pray that you won't forget to bring so much that you don't have enough to work with to improvise around the stuff you forgot. It's one of those weeks where each day is crammed so full, when you think back on what you were doing in the morning it seems like three days ago. And now I only have one minute left out of the four I decided to devote to my blog. Just enough time to proofread. Gotta go.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Reaching for the Sky

As I look out my window into the woods I notice a tree that has annoyed me for years. It was pushed over by a storm so much that instead of standing at a 90 degree angle to the ground, it is more like at a 45 degree angle. I was going to cut it down, but my kids begged the woodsman to spare the tree, since it would be great fun to run up and down the trunk. So I did. I don't know how much running up and down happened, but in the meantime it has tried to adjust to its new posture by sending branches straight up from the leaning trunk. The only real way to secure its future, though, is to send branches straight down that will root and support the lopsided hulk, banyan-tree-style. Its genetic code doesn't allow rooting branches, so it is indeed doomed to someday fall.

The tree is a good reminder to all of us to reassess our posture from time to time, to make sure that we are erect, not just physically, but mentally, spiritually, and even politically. The trick is the balance. Sometimes something pulls on us, and we lean the other way to resist being pulled over. When the pull ends, though, we must stop resisting what is no longer there and right ourselves again. Otherwise, we are in just as much danger of falling over as we were when the strain began. Like the tree out my window, when the wind stops pushing us where we don't want to bend, we straighten up as best we can and reach for the sky.