Sunday, November 30, 2008

NaBloPoMo--It is Finished

Whew. I don't know what made me decide to post every day for a month just after I moved and started a new job and uprooted all that is familiar. Today is the last day of November so I'm proud to say I did it. I blogged every day for a month--I didn't post just a picture or just a quote. I question whether I wrote well, or whether anything was worth reading but I find some interesting things...which I'll talk about more later.

Those of you who tune in to find out more about China, must be disappointed. I haven't had much to say--some of that is because when we're both working we just don't get out as much easily. Because we are in a major urban center we are far removed from village life (which here can mean a city of 2 million or less). Most of the Chinese that we meet are of similar social and educational class and many of them work for big corporations. Others, like my ayi, aren't but the language presents a problem in communication. We are hoping to get out again next week and hoping our trip to Thailand won't have to be cancelled and see more of the world than school!

An Evening in Tibet

The most important thing I learned about Tibet when I went furniture shopping is that if I ever do actually go to Tibet, I will bring snacks. The Tibetans are bit like the Masaai--if it comes out of a yak, then you eat it. Yak butter, yak cheese, yak butter tea, you get the idea. A bunch of us teachers headed to a Tibetan furniture store to shop and were treated to some of these delicacies. It's important to mention that I absolutely detest milk and the smell of warm or hot milk turns my stomach. So I politely declined the bowls steaming yak milk. Yak dairy products have an overwhelming, well, yak odor about them. Kind of like goat cheese, but a bit stronger. There were some other bites, though--and Pepsi, which I soon learned, can wash a log of things down! The guys at the store went to great lengths to make it festive and fun and they succeeded.

Then Mansu said he would cook us some sambas (I think that's what it was). To me cook means...cook. He showed us the ingredients--sugar, yak butter, boiling water, and a cooked flour. Pancakes is what came to my mind, for some reason. Nope. The guy melted the butter in the water, sprinkled in some sugar, and then dumped in a big helping of the flour. Then, and here's where it pays off to not be too too fussy about things, he started mixing up with his hands. Several in our group stopped being interested right then and there. But I figured a lot of tasty things are made with those
ingredients--biscuits, for one. And pie crust. And pancakes. So we waited and watched as he mixed and molded the stuff until it resembled one of those alfalfa nuggets I used to feed to the horses. I took a know how goat cheese tastes? Well, it had that taste and odor, but it combined strangely with the sweetness of the sugar. Honestly, it was different but not too bad. Dry though--thank goodness for Pepsi!

Another little plateful of gems was the cheese platter. You know me and cheese--it's hard to separate us and there's really no food that couldn't be improved by tossing on a little cheese. I'm afraid, though, that if I tossed this cheese, someone would get hurt. The gray lumps on the right are cheese. They were honestly like rocks. I have no idea how you go about eating them, unless you soften them first in tea or hot milk. Those on the left resembled spritz cookies, but the yak-y scent shouted cheese to anyone within a few feet. I took a tiny nibble and when I chucked in the bin it made a really loud CLUNK.

But the furniture--wow. It was overwhelming to see so much all at once. Tibetan furniture is bright--lots of reds and yellow--and very ornately painted. A little can go a long way for me, but each piece was so pretty! There were enormous shrines, trunks made of yak leather and wood and silver, trunks, chests, and cabinets galore. All of it brought from Tibet by the family, none of it brand new. Many of the cabinets (including this huge piece) were shrines for keeping the figures of gods and are now used for TVs, bookcases and yes, even bars.

I must be getting more comfortable here because I thought his prices were high, even though they are ridiculously low by American standards. I bought this little cabinet which looks great as a temporary TV stand. You can't tell from the picture but it's actually a trapezoid shape, narrower at the top than at the bottom. I love it.

And this small table went to Mark's office. He has the ugliest office in the school--where everyone has wonderful Asian pieces, he's got standard furniture from Staples or something. So we're on the look out for some nice things that will add some character to his space. Several things from Tanzania will be on the walls this week so it will soon look quite nice. Both the table and the cabinet are between 50 and 70 years old. The design on the table is a representation of the afterlife. It's really very pretty.
And we are now 95% unpacked and settled. Everything arrived safe and sound. I think it looks so nice and it felt so good having Thanksgiving surrounded by things that remind us of Minnesota and Montana and Tanzania. I know I've said a lot about having too much stuff and being too attached, but I'm amazed at my mood in the house now. I feel very peaceful and settled right now.The kids love the carpet upstairs. It's from Minnesota and it's been so long since they've laid on a thick carpet on the floor. I've banned all toys from the main level and Noah and Ava were up there all day yesterday and today, too. It's wonderful!

Happy Thanksgiving, on China Time (Blog #30 11/30/08)

Saturday night finally brought a proper Thanksgiving. I really liked our Tanzanian Thanksgivings--lots of people, hot weather, a turkey or always have a lot of people and never enough space in 1 room so you grab a plate and park yourself anywhere you can, knowing you'll be sitting next to an old friend--or a new one. One of the things about living in Tanzania was that we were reminded every day how much more important the people are than the trappings, decorations, or other things we often spend too much time and money fussing over.
Of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is not one that really "grabs" me. We've always celebrated with just ourselves, none of us is really crazy about turkey and the kids don't like potatoes, stuffing, or pumpkin pie. But this Thanksgiving felt good. We all sat around the table (something I'm learning that I really like to do--in my dream house I have a room big enough for a table that would seat 12 or more and wide enough for bottles of wine, platters and baskets of food, and lots of candles). We had a wonderful meal--turkey, stuffing, potatoes, orange jello, corn, and rolls and even a ham for the kids. There was pumpkin pie, cranberry-apple cobbler, and a Jello pudding dessert (from Cameron, just in case the homemade desserts weren't up to par). Which they were--both Noah and Ava proclaimed themselves pumpkin pie converts and Cameron ate almost all of the cobbler. And if the weather wasn't Tanzania, it certainly wasn't Minneapolis--about 45 degrees and sunny with blue skies!

After a pants-splitting meal, there were games. Noah is a maniac for them and learning how to play Spoons was right up his alley--lots of grabbing and flinging cards! He also shows a distinct flair for I Doubt it. Later Cameron brought out his poker set for several hands of Texas Hold 'Em. I often never get around to playing games but we all have such a great time that I need to remember that!
We ended the evening at the raucous hour of 7:30 (I think that's early enough, don't you, when you've been eating since 1:00?) by watching "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" as an homage to the onset of Christmas (since whole day-after Thanksgiving shopping crush just isn't the same here). It was just perfect.

Friday, November 28, 2008

No, It's not Just an Excuse for Hugh (Blog #29 11/29/08)

Really, it's not. I call your attention to the figure that resembles not so much Nicole Kidman as some stretched tight plasticine replica.

Seriously, what is up with that? She's got spectacular hair and porcelein skin you could die for. I remember reading an article about how her mother refused to let her out in the Australian sun, even with sunscreen, because she was so fair, and how she used to hate her mother for it, but now she really appreciated her efforts because her skin was in such good shape. So, here we have a tall woman, one who probably tends to be on the thin side anyway (although it's obvious the woman has not consumed more than a lettuce leaf at any one sitting since 1997), the kind of hair that can be "lively" (right, Calandria?), and stellar skin.

And yet...she's Botoxed tighter than my jeans in 9th grade. There is not even the tiniest semblance of a line or a wrinkle. She's all tight...and shiny. The one token nod to fat cells seems to rest solely in her upper lip.

I have absolutely nothing against Botox, really. I think that if people get to a certain age (somewhere very near the age I am now) and feel like putting the brakes on Mother Nature a bit, go for it. I'd probably do it if I could afford it, even when sometimes I say I wouldn't--like you know how I say I wouldn't drive a big SUV because of the whole gas cost/pollution thing, but honestly, it's only because I can't afford one. I know that women (right or wrong) have a short shelf life in Hollywood, and that the effort to maintain starts earlier and is more aggressive. I don't even want to debate that. What I don't understand is, why doesn't her stylist, her publicist, her husband, her friends, her family have a little talk with her? Can anyone think she's "aging gracefully"? Take a look at her a few years ago.

Heck, take a look at Hugh. Granted, he's a bit younger, and lines on guys always look "rugged" but still--in this whole "Australia" love epic movie I'm having a hard time with the two of them together, largely in part of because of her plastic-y appearance. Even if she is supposed to be an English aristocrat.
Perhaps Nic should take a cue from Mrs. Jackman--I think she's around 48 (to his 40). I suspect even she has done a bit of work, and she shows up for everything--Hollywood premieres, the beach, grocery shopping--wearing her hair just like that (OK, secretly, I'd have to want her to be my friend because I'd be doing some of that, too), but I think she's got great bone structure and character and personality in her face. Oh, and expression, too.

Finally, I'd like to offer up Dame Helen Mirren. Holy cats, but she's rocking the aging process. I'm betting she, too, has done a little of the nip and tuck, but whatever she's done, it's looking very very good on her. How old is she--in her 60's? Wow. The woman doesn't appear to be hurting in the least. I seem to remember actually working, so somewhere along the line she's figured it out. Women of a certain age--those who think a fat upper lip, skeletal bone structure and the inability to show any emotion--should dig out pencil and paper and start taking notes.

Happy Thanksgiving (Blog #28 11/28/08)

Be thankful that we've elected a president...and no one was killed during the elections.

Be thankful that we're able to elect a president...period.

Be thankful that we sat down with our families.

Be thankful that we sat down to a meal with our families.

Be thankful that we wore clean clothes, drank clean water, and ate clean food.

Be thankful we have clothes, water, and food.

Be thankful we didn't wake wondering what dangers faced us that day--whether it was an overloaded old bus, a man with a gun, or a terrorist with a bomb.

Be thankful your airport wasn't shut down by protestors, your hotels weren't overrun by terrorists, and your family members weren't held hostage.

We know that in everything God works for good, to those who are called according to His purpose. I can't begin to understand why things happen in this world, why my family is blessed beyond measure when so many struggle and suffer. I just know that somehow, in some way, there is a purpose, and there is good that can be found in all of this darkness.

We are thankful beyond words to be able to live in China right now, to be able to celebrate with new friends, to have family to miss, to have our health, our school, and our jobs. So many have so little.

Give thanks with a grateful heart

Give thanks to the Chosen One,

Give thanks, because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son.

And now, let the weak say "I am strong,"

Let the poor say, "I am rich",

Because of what the Lord has done for us.

Give thanks.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Deep Thoughts (Blog #27 11/27/08)

Well (a deep subject for such a shallow mind) I think I need to get away from the more recent posts and back to the matters that deeply concern the world. Namely,

Forget Prop. 8. It's these 2 and all their celebrity co-horts that are ruining the sanctity of marriage. Now "Friends" is on from 8:00 - 9:00. Did you know all they do is drink and have sex and spout one-liners? I blush and then turn. it. off.

What will happen when this little chickie decides to start actually acting 16--which in Hollywoodland will involve any or all of the following: drinking, drugs, flashing your private lady-parts because you've given up underwear, having an affair with your best (girl) friend, several minor car accidents and altercations with photographers, an unplanned pregnancy, and/or an early marriage to revive one's career?

I know she's supposed to be looking sexy, but why do I think she looks like she's trying to do long division in her head?

Doean't the fact that New Kids on the Block are back signal the fact that this guy's ship has sailed? WHY does he keep showing up at parties? WHAT does he do? (no, Dancing with the Stars does not count).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Mark!

Setting the stage...

Blowing out the candles....ALL of them!

This is not a piece of cake--it's the WHOLE cake. Very very very rich. And thick. And luscious.

(Like how Mark's hair used to be. hee hee)

The 4 biggest blessings.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rand Redux (Blog #26 11/26/08)

My response to a post from an Ayn Rand website has drawn a lot of attention from several people who are either Ayn Rand followers or who at least share similar views about the world you can see the comments here). I suppose it was inevitable that the conversation turned to “you choose to believe in God, something you can’t see or prove, and I choose not to believe in something that has no basis in reality:” That’s an argument that I’ve always tried to stay away from. I know there are hard-core non-believers who have come to know and believe in God. I’m not sure I’m a powerful enough witness with my words. I do strongly believe the verse that says “they shall know us by our acts” and so I do try to have my beliefs reflected through my daily living. I fall short all the time, but I do try. Perhaps my examples may start a process of coming to God for someone down the road.

But that aside, there are issues here on earth that need our attention and that was the reason for my post. Too often the word “rational” or “atheist” is overlaid with this disagreeable notion that being one of those precludes a person from having a generous or charitable spirit. Of course there are hundreds upon thousands of things done every day that change the lives of people all over the world. Many of these acts are done by people who do not believe in God.

Obviously, I am not a follower of Ayn Rand and to claim I know much about her in any depth just because I read a few articles or one of her books would be a gross misstatement. However, there were a few points that stood out that were hard to accept. The first was “What is today’s version of the “bountiful harvest”? It’s the affluence and success we’ve gained. It’s the cars, houses and vacations we enjoy. It’s the life-saving medicines we rely on, the stock portfolios we build, the beautiful clothes we buy and the safe, clean streets we live on. It’s the good life.

How did we get this “bountiful harvest”? Ask any hard-working American; it sure wasn’t by the “grace of God.” It didn’t grow on a fabled “money tree.” We created it by working hard, by desiring the best money can buy and by wanting excellence for ourselves and our loved ones."

I don’t think it’s only Christians or other people of faith who would disagree with that. I have friends who have been subscribing to that idea for years and they feel empty. They feel like there’s something missing in a world where their bank accounts are full, their children are healthy and attend great schools and lots of activities, whose clothes are nice, and who vacation well. The most recent stock market and economy mess has shown that these measures of “bounty” are transient. If people who had those things last year don’t have them today, is it because of a lack of hard work? Is it because they didn’t desire the best or want excellence? Or are there capricious things beyond all of our control that can take all of that away from us in a heartbeat? The comment also ignores the level of privilege that so many of us live with and don’t even realize—the ability to go to college, the ability to see the world through experiences where your efforts have been shaped, supported, and reinforced from a young age. For myself, I was raised to expect to go to college. My early experiences shaped my belief that I can accomplish certain things, that I can persevere, that I can achieve. My parents provided the resources for my education. All those indefinable things have contributed to my place in life today. Contrast that with individuals and groups who have never had the opportunity to hear those messages. We are all impressed when we hear of gang members graduating from college, or an immigrant who achieves remarkable success against great hardships. Isn’t that because we recognize that there is something different about that one person who has overcome those odds? It seems that there should also be a recognition that because we celebrate that one person, we recognize that those skills are not present (or easily present) in most everyone else.

There is a movement among the baby boomer generation of search for meaning. For these men and women, they’ve done all of that acquisition of bounty and are searching for something else. In working for Peace House Foundation, I can attest to the number of people searching for significance by looking to help others. The references I made to Rand’s ideas of charity are not in the original posted article but are from Wikipedia: “Rand did not see charity as a moral duty or a major virtue and held it to be proper only when the recipient is worthy and when it does not involve sacrifice. She opposed all forms of aid given by governments, just as she opposed any other government activity not directed at protecting individual rights.”

I think as members of the human race we do have a duty to help others who are less fortunate—and that sentiment is shared by large numbers of people, both those of faith and those who are not. I believe that that effort does involve a certain sacrifice—people are giving their time, their talents, or their money, all which could be spent on personal activities or material goods. If the word “sacrifice” seems somehow penitent or onerous, I supposed I could use the word “trade-off”. And even by religious standards, charity or giving is not compulsory. I’m never forced or ordered to give. For me, it’s an outgrowth of my beliefs. When I say I am compelled to give, it’s an inner feeling, not an external set of standards I’m trying to meet. People do make some judgments about their giving—a person who would believe, for example, that alcoholism is a personal failing or who see homosexuality as a “bad choice” are unlikely to offer assistance in those areas. People who have lost a loved one to cancer or know someone who benefitted from an organ donation are more likely to feel passionate about those issues. Others, for whatever reason, just touch our hearts. There is no earthly reason why I feel so strongly about orphans in Africa, so much more so than orphans in India, or children in crisis in the US. I just do.

I also do ask/require my children to participate in some of our charitable work. Most of the time they want to, sometimes they lead the effort, sometimes it's just what we do as a family. I don't have a problem with enforcing a set of family values on my children. Left to their own devices, my children would not bathe, brush their teeth, do their homework, practice their instruments, or a host of other things. Good hygiene, academic success, commitment and dedication, organization, planning--those things do not come naturally and as a parent it is my job to set the conditions for, teach, and reinforce those things. I include our faith practice and other things in that pile as well. I understand that there will come a time when my children will make their own decisions about faith, college, giving, and yes, even hygiene. That will be their choice--but as children, they are a part of a family that values certain things and those things are practiced, celebrated, and sometimes mandatory.
The second part of the quote about the government’s responsibility, I also disagree with. It’s not a big surprise that I am liberal on a lot of issues. I do believe that the government has the responsibility to take steps to ensure that all people have access to certain things—good medical care, good schools, good infrastructure—and I am willing to pay more in taxes if that means it will happen. I believe my life is enhanced when those things are in place for everyone. When people don’t have those things, my quality of life declines. Certainly we can debate whether the government is the best suited entity to provide those kinds of things. There are, however, a great great many hardworking people in our country who cannot afford to live in a community with adequate schools, who can’t afford even minimal health care, whose incomes don’t cover the cost of living. We can debate whether “those people” have made good choices. But they are a large part of our population, and when people in a community are not provided for, the community suffers. We all know it would be cheaper to educate a child than to manage the fallout from higher rates of illiteracy, or that it would be cheaper to provide services to keep people out of prison than it is to incarcerate them. I believe that some of those programs are the function of the government.

As I said, I don’t pretend to understand Ayn Rand fully. But I don’t agree with the quotes I’ve used, not because I’m not a rational thinker, and not because I’m a Christian. My faith aside, I just don’t believe that the world works that way, or that the world will be a better place if more people shared the beliefs underpinning those quotes. I can accept that Rand did not believe in God or felt that religion “helped foster a crippling culture acting against individual human happiness and success.” I don’t agree with that statement, although I can understand how people do feel that way about religion, because there are a ton of people making a huge difference in the lives of people, who are campaigning for candidates, who are living for something other than their own personal affluence and position. And it’s outward turning toward others, a generosity of spirit that looks to the welfare of the whole as well as to the success of self, that I found missing from the things I read.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Great Kids (Blog #25 11/25/08)

Life is good. Noah is making progress in school. He's kept up with his cello and is making good progress (I hate to say it out loud, but it's much to our surprise). He looks so funny jumping around trying to get in his soccer uniform and not be late to his lesson before running straight off to soccer. He loves loves loves soccer. He's very good and was picked to play in a match next week against a British school. He's gotten the highest score of the class on all 3 of his Chinese tests--go figure! He's still wearing shorts, but is agreeing to wear shoes/socks, and a hooded sweatshirt at least.

Ava, with her friend Gaby (from Minneapolis), have lots of fun together. Ava is getting better at being less "teacher-like" (read: bossy) during school and is on fire with all her subjects. She's working hard at violin and loves having all her stuffed animals back in her life. She has a new pet fish (a gift from a birthday party) to fuss over and is making new friends every day.

Cameron's Chinese teacher said she's never seen a student his age with such excellent written Chinese skills so early. His teacher reports at conferences were excellent. He's hitting new independent milestones--like taking himself over with a friend to get a haircut yesterday--that do make me glad he's tied to us still via phone. He did a GULU walk to raise money for orphans in Uganda and a 5k run to raise money for education projects in China. He is very committed to his church youth group and wouldn't go to family breakfast with us on Saturday because he wanted to go to Bible study. We are so pleased and proud of his growth in his faith and his interest in learning more. We are blessed with such a great staff at our church that works with teens.

Cameron was at a youth retreat last weekend with several other churches and had a great time. The video is here from YouTube. The guy in the suit with the yellowish wig at 0:34 seconds is our youth group leader and you can catch a glimpse of Cameron at about 1:34 and 1:45 if you look quick quick.

Moving (In) Day Blog #24 (11/24/08)

I'm pooped. But very content. Our containers arrived on Friday and we've been unloading a LOT of stuff. As the boxes were stacking up in the front of the house I had serious doubts about it all fitting in--I still have very serious doubts about some of the things I deemed important enough to have hauled 1/2 way around the world (I'm wondering how it was only in August I thought some of these things were so necessary) I think there was a bit of a reaction about not having a lot of those things in Tanzania and not being able to get them. But when I found a bag of cinnamon-scented Christmas pinecones, well, there's really no explanation for that.

We did have 2 containers--one from the States and one from Tanzania--in order to get the majority of our stuff consolidated in one place. Here is my US container.

Here is my Tanzanian container. It is SO. TYPICALLY. AFRICAN.

It is obvious they just chucked everything into the container--no wooden crates to hold things steady--so the stuff rolled around all over the place. It's amazing that nothing was broken! It was also stored for a time in Dar es Salaam, very evidently in a non-climate controlled place. Everything was mildewy.The first load out of the laundry smelled as bad as when it went in...I found some enzyme stuff that you use for cloth diapers and that seems to be doing the trick. Our mattresses, however, are still on the balconies, airing out in the pristine Beijing air. I think they'll be ready to use by tomorrow.

This was Friday afternoon. Truthfully, I left the whole thing at 5:00 to go Tibetan furniture-shopping (you know, a typical every-day kind of thing. And what better way to celebrate getting huge crates of stuff than by going out and, you know, buying some more?)

This is Sunday night. Voila! I can't believe how great it looks! I can't believe how comfortable my couch is! I can't believe how great my TZ stuff looks in here!
It really does feel like home. I don't understand it exactly, but I'm not fighting the feeling. FINALLY, I have a comfortable couch on my insomnia nights. FINALLY, there is soft and comfy carpet for laying on and watching TV. I just LOVE. IT. ALL.
We are having Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday with another new family. Apparently a lot of people go to restaurants, but that just doesn't seem right to me. I am going to be so happy to be eating in my home. I loved the Thanksgivings in Tanzania--warm weather, a place where food was actually secondary to the company--but I'm happy to spend it at my table this year. We thought the containers were still a`week or so away so we started painting last week. You can see where Mark got with the trim when I said, "Yikes, this is so not the color." Of course, I didn't have the paint chip with me when I bought it so I guessed at the right color and I figured, well, that's what I get. Then while Mark was painting I found the chip, and guess what? It's the right color. But oh-so-wrong. Cameron walked in, took one look and said, "Man, that color's sick" so you know it's not working when a 13 year old has an opinion! It's called "Rosebush" and it's supposed to be a taupe with kind of a rosy undertone. It's actually a brownish-muddy mauve. I doubt I'll be able to do anything about it before Saturday, so we'll just have to live with it a couple more weeks.
Stay tuned for Tibetan-furniture-shopping pics. I bought a table for Mark's office (he has the ugliest office in the whole school, where everyone else's is full of great Chinest furniture) and an end table for the house. Tibetan furniture is ornately painted, so a little goes a long way, at least for me.
Oh, and all of this transpired on our wedding anniversary. Twenty-one years. *sigh* Someday I'll get it together. We were robbed last year about a month before our 20th anniversary (we were planning to go to Zanzibar) and we were all too freaked out to leave the kids with anyone, so missed that one, too. Pathetic, really.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Thanksgiving--To Whom? (Blog # 23 11/23/08)

Somehow I found this on a site about a group that studies and promotes the writings of Ayn Rand called Atlasphere. Ayn Rand was a Russian writer/philosopher who emigrated to the United States. According to her philosophy of Objectivism, Rand believed According to Rand, the individual "must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life." She also "did not see charity as a moral duty or a major virtue and held it to be proper only when the recipient is worthy and when it does not involve sacrifice." (from Wikipedia) This, apparently, was her take on Thanksgiving...

Ayn Rand described Thanksgiving as “a typically American holiday ... its
essential, secular meaning is a celebration of successful production. It is a
producers’ holiday. The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant
consumption is the result and reward of production.” She was right. This country
was mostly uninhabited and wild when our forefathers began to develop the land
and build spectacular cities, shaping what is now the wealthiest nation in the

It’s the American spirit to overcome challenges, create great
achievements, and enjoy prosperity. We uniquely recognize that production leads
to wealth and that we must dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of life, liberty
and happiness. It’s no accident that Americans have a holiday called
Thanksgiving — a yearly tradition when we pause to appreciate the “bountiful
harvest” we’ve reaped. What is today’s version of the “bountiful harvest”? It’s
the affluence and success we’ve gained. It’s the cars, houses and vacations we
enjoy. It’s the life-saving medicines we rely on, the stock portfolios we build,
the beautiful clothes we buy and the safe, clean streets we live on. It’s the
good life.

How did we get this “bountiful harvest”? Ask any hard-working American; it
sure wasn’t by the “grace of God.” It didn’t grow on a fabled “money tree.” We
created it by working hard, by desiring the best money can buy and by wanting
excellence for ourselves and our loved ones. What we don’t create ourselves, we
trade value for value with those who have the goods and services we need, such
as our stockbrokers, hairdressers and doctors. We alone are responsible for our
wealth. We are the producers and Thanksgiving is our holiday. So, on
Thanksgiving, why don’t we thank ourselves and those producers who make the good life possible?

I found this article to be so sad. I know that not everyone shares my beliefs and my faith, but I thought this article was so self-centered and mean. By her argument anyone who does not have a "bountiful harvest" is what--lazy? I guess it fits in with her ideas about charity and people being deserving of any help.

Today a man who has been preaching in China since the 1970's spoke at church. He talked about life in the 70's during the Cultural Revolution, about the churches starting up again, about the people who waited for so long, who walked so far to be able to worship. He talked about churches that gave everything they had to help others during the earthquake relief efforts, and then raised money to help again. And again. How is it that Rand's response is better for the world than people who are willing to reach out and help?

I have so much to be thankful for--and after reading this I am doubly determined to direct my thanks to where I know it's deserved.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Great Australian Exports (Blog #22 11/22/08)

Tim Tams--A chocolately luscious breamy crunchy confection.
Pavlova--A heavenly meringue, ice cream, and fruit confection
Koalas--A furry adorable irresistable confection

Hugh Jackman
Or, as he is known around the house here, the "Singing Wolverine." I'd love to make it easy for you to watch him in action, but sigh--did I mention Blogger is less than cooperative. So you'll have to click here and here to see him in action in one of my favorite musicals, Oklahoma.

I HATE BLOGGER (Blog #21 11/21/08)

Today, Blogger has decided NOT to accept any of the pictures or video I've uploaded. So, this is all you get.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Real Live Author! (Blog #21 11/21/08)

That's what Ava said about Eric Kimmel's visit to ISB this week. "He's a real writer and he gets paid and he doesn't have to do his own illustrations!" This snippet from his bio gives a clue as to why he was such a hit.

He headed west, to Easton, Pennsylvania where he graduated from Lafayette College in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. Eric worked as an elementary school teacher at P.S. 68 in Manhattan while working on his masters degree at New York University. From there he went to the US. Virgin Islands where he worked as a teacher and librarian. He spent a lot of time lying on St. Thomas’ beautiful beaches.

Returning to reality, he finished his Ph.D. degree in Education at the University of Illinois in 1973. He taught courses in language arts, children’s literature, and storytelling at Indiana University at South Bend in South Bend, Indiana from 1973 to 1978, and from 1978 to 1993 at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. Eric retired from college teaching in 1993 to become a full-time writer.

Eric travels throughout the United States and the world visiting schools, talking about his books, and telling stories. His first love is sharing stories from different countries and cultures.

The elementary school spent the past few weeks reading Kimmel books, decorating the halls, writing their own stories, entering hat designing contests, and getting ready to host a "real live writer." Eric has kind of a specialty of retelling tales from around the world, especially the Anansi trickster stories from West Africa and traditional Judaic tales (his book Herschel and Hannukah Goblins won the Caldecott Medal) as well as stories from China, Mexico, Russia, Japan, and the United States. Each class got 15 minutes or so with him to ask questions about being a writer and have their books signed.

One thing that I do like about ISB is that it places a huge emphasis on writing and reading. It is a literature-rich school and every teacher I meet talks about books. Reading books from different genres is widely encouraged and students are actively taught ways to interact with and respond to books. It's very common to see the kids come in from recess, shuck off their coats, and plop into their desks with a book. About 40 minutes is given to independent reading every day (as well as 40 minutes of writing). Still, there's nothing like having an actual author in your midst to really fire up the kids. I heard several of them talking about how they thought it was hard to come up with ideas for stories, but they had lots of ideas about how to retell a traditional fairy tale. It was a great week!

Why I Teach (Blog #20 11/20/08)

Q: Name the four seasons.
A: Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar.

Q: Explain one of the processes by which water can be made safe to drink.
A: Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large pollutants like grit, sand, dead sheep and canoeists.

Q: What are steroids?
A: Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs.

Q: What happens to your body as you age?
A: When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental.

Q: What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty?
A: He says good-bye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery

Ancient Egypt was inhabited by mummies and they all wrote in hydraulics. They lived in the Sarah Dessert and traveled by Camelot. The climate of the Sarah is such that the inhabitants have to live elsewhere.

It was an age of great inventions and discoveries. Gutenberg invented removable type and the Bible. Another important invention was the circulation of blood. Sir Walter Raleigh is a historical figure because he invented cigarettes and started smoking. And Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100 foot clipper.

One of the causes of the Revolutionary War was the English put tacks in their tea. Also, the colonists would send their parcels through the post without stamps. Finally the colonists won the War and no longer had to pay for taxis. Delegates from the original 13 states formed the Contented Congress. Thomas Jefferson, a Virgin, and Benjamin Franklin were two singers of the Declaration of Independence.

I ask you...what could be better than spending your day with people who think like this?!