Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I just don't get it

So I've been teaching this class on the Fundamentals of English. For the most part, I enjoy it, but I do not understand the idea that writing is some dreaded activity like I hear sometimes from students. Yeah, grammar can be a big pain with all the exceptions, rules, etc.

But why would you not want to improve your writing, so that you can communicate better? Express yourself more easily? Enjoy the sound of words? Experiment with word play and rhyme?

I love this quote from E.M. Forester (at least it's most often attributed to him): "How do I know what I think until I see what I say?" That quote so captures my daily experience. Some people think out loud by talking. I think by writing.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

My Record Album

So, my friend Jane, over at Indiana Jane recommended this fun activity. You create your own record album cover. By going to various websites, you randomly find your band name, the title of the record, and the cover art. I'm not high-tech enough to figure out how to photoshop the cover art, but after doing this according to the directions, I came up with:

Ashley Heath (my band name) [which came from the Wikipedia site on the Ashley Heath railway station]

and "Life's not the movies" (my album name) [which came from the random quote website]

Pretty good, eh?

1. The first article title on this page is the name of your band.
2. The last four words of the last quotation on this page is the title of your album.
3. The third picture on this page, no matter what it is, will be your cover artwork.
4. Take the artwork, your titles, and use a photo-editing program to paste them together.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Erin Bode, Jazz Singer

Last night we were treated to Erin Bode and the Erin Bode band which played at Concordia Theological Seminary's annual symposia banquet. It was great!

Here is a link to Erin on the Prairie Home Companion.

Even more impressive is Erin's work with the South African Themba school. She has now made two recordings with the girls' and boys' choirs at this boarding school. Here is the link to the recording with the girls' choir. She announced last night that she made a recording with the boys' choir this past fall, so I'm looking forward to hearing that when it comes out.

Take a peek at these websites. You will be glad you did.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Best Kitten Picture of the Day

You can NOT tell me that this guy isn't the sweetest thing you've ever seen--even those of you who *claim* to not like cats. And...this photo is so perfect for today when I am revising my story about the lost kitten trying to find her way home.

A Funny Story

So, yesterday I made lamb stew for our third annual Epiphany middle-eastern foods night. We decided that since Epiphany celebrates the wise men coming "from the east" that we should have a dinner with middle-eastern foods, like lamb stew, pita bread and hummus, honey cake, etc.

Thursday night, I had a hunk of lamb I was chopping up (and trying not to think about the cute fluffy lamb he once was). I was hungry and tired. I had a sip (one inch, no more) of wine as I was chopping, and suddenly, the empty stomach, tired body, wine in my belly, and super-bloody lamb on the cutting board made me very close to passing out. I started feeling woozy and light-headed. I felt the blood draining from my face. My hands started shaking. Maybe I was thinking a little too much about the cute fluffiness of the lamb or feeling grossed out by the blood oozing on the cutting board. I don't know. But I went and found Scott and told him that I thought I might pass out. He told me to sit down, so I did. Then I had a bowl of cereal and felt much better.

It was kind of funny because I never remember that happening when I've chopped up beef or goose or turkey or anything else. I think I'll let the butcher do it the next time.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Blessings of Experience

Quick survey: in general, do you think life is better or worse as you get older?

Lately, I've been thinking about the blessings of experience. This week, I started teaching a Fundamentals of English class for the second time. Wow--what a difference! I am more prepared, more confident, feel like I can handle tangents or interruptions better, etc. I can think. My friend Carol mentioned to me yesterday that having expectations adjusted to the proper level helps a lot. She is completely right. Also, just going through all of it before helps a ton. I have a better grasp of the scope of the course, etc.

I had a discussion with my class today about how most people are afraid to speak in public. Many of my students agreed that that was their #1 fear. I told them that I get nervous with public speaking too, but that I can overcome that fear if I'm prepared. I showed them the huge binder of materials I put together in order to teach the class. With that, I am in good shape. But I KNOW that I can NEVER "wing it." Some people have that gift; not me. One of my students seemed surprised to hear that I didn't like public speaking. "You're a teacher after all!" she said with surprise. She's right. It is kind of bizarre, but true. To me, teaching a small-ish class is a lot different than speaking before a crowd of hundreds of people (which I, thankfully, have never had to do). But even in front of a small class, I can be a nervous wreck if I'm not sure what will come out of my mouth. And experience is so helpful in this regard. With experience, you know what to expect, are better prepared, and remember what has worked before. As I near 40, I sometimes think about what it would be like if I were younger again. And then I realize that I wouldn't want to go back. Because--for the most part--it seems to me that experience can be a blessing.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


So the past few days I've been doing a little bit of a lot of different things.

1) I finished up my last round of lessons for the Growing in Christ Sunday school curriculum for Concordia Publishing House. The entire curriculum is done. It was a great project. It took lots of time, but I learned so much while I was writing the lessons.

2) I'm getting ready for another round of teaching. In January, in the mornings, I will be teaching Fundamentals of English at Brown Mackie College. This is basic grammar. Since it's my second go-round, I'm feeling much better about my preparations. I was asked to teach Intro to Lit in February, and I'm getting kind of excited about this. I could be teaching Hamlet, Hemingway, and more...oh my!

3) I'm working on various writing projects, including a third book in the Cheeps series. Yea cheeps!

4) And last, and by far the most exciting, I read an article in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette about my hubby.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Joys of Old Books

In the last couple of weeks, I've been reading two old books. One is My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, published in 1956. The other is an English textbook called Writing Good Sentences by Claude W. Faulkner, which I borrowed from a teacher who lives down the street from me.

I love a new book, hot off the press. I especially love my new books. :) But...after reading these two books, I am reminded that there is simple joy in reading what others have read before me. I love the fact that this memoir by Gerald Durrell has been sitting on the shelf of the library for years and years. How many people before me have read and enjoyed it?

And I love using a textbook that a seasoned English teacher has found helpful over the years. I think about her students, the quiet time she spent grading papers, and how she taught her lessons.

The words sit there quietly on the bookshelf, waiting for a reader. And then, the story opens up in the imagination of that person who picks up the book and reads.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy 2008 to everyone! A couple of random thoughts and some reviews for this first day of January '08.

Between Christmas and today, I skimmed most of my new book, Woe Is I by Patricia T. O'Conner. I like the subtitle: "The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English." I loved this section in the last chapter: "A good writer is one you can read without breaking a sweat. If you want a workout, you don't lift a book--you lift weights. Yet we're brainwashed to believe that the more brilliant the writer, the tougher the going. The truth is that the reader is always right. Chances are, if something you're reading doesn't make sense, it's not your fault--it's the writer's" (195).

I agree. It is very difficult to explain things clearly and well. In order to explain something clearly, it must be clear in the mind of the writer (or explainer). This is one thing I admire about my husband. He has this great ability to explain things well, to make them clear to just about anyone.

It is up to the writer to explain rather than the responsibility falling on the reader to decipher. Anyway, it's a good book for English teachers or writers or anyone else to likes fun books about language.

We watched "Stardust" last week and really enjoyed this family-friendly movie.

Also watched part of the "Band of Brothers" mini-series. Love it! Damien Lewis is one of my favorite actors these days.