Monday, December 18, 2006


Driving down the road early this morning I noticed a sign I'd not seen before... It read:
Honk if you love NAPA... unless your horn is broken!

If you knew Frank Lackie,this sign might have reminded you of him and brought a smile to your face, as it did for me. He made a lot of people smile with his offbeat humor, in humorous speeches and in conversation.

I'd write a whole lot more, but I've got to run. If you remember my Dad, please say a prayer for him today, the 24th anniversary of his death.
Also, if you have a memory you'd like to share with the other readers of this blog, post it as a comment. (Don't worry if your posted comment doesn't appear right away -- I have the comments' parameters set so that I can look at them before they are posted to avoid spamming problems.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Just in case anyone missed it, there's a math furor going on this weekend on the web (click on post title) over possible false advertising by Verizon. The timing is great -- I'm in the middle of a chapter on "Unit Analysis" with my problem solving class... I hope somebody asks me "why do we have to study this stuff", but I know they won't -- they love the course. So I'll just bring the transcript for show-and-tell.

We have the best time in this class -- last week someone asked me to explain my t-shirt so we got into discussions of primes (front of shirt) and binary numbers (back of shirt), and they hung in there with me to the end. A great bunch, mostly math phobic but I think that is changing!

btw, anybody have a digital photo of the shirt they could share? Please send it on!!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving adventures

I'm just back from visiting family and friends in Baltimore and Virginia... Great trip, I had a wonderful time! One of the things we did this weekend was eat good food at several venues.... Most outstanding, of course, was the bountiful blessing of Thanksgiving dinner with the L's! A great visit.
The link above will lead you to the delightful restaurant where Frances and I ate lunch Wednesday. They serve lots of in-season, locally grown food. The Afghani restaurant we went to last night, The Helmand, had a quite varied menu of vegetarian food, very delicious.
Aside from the food -- that's just an easy thing to put links to -- I just can't say enough about how good this weekend was, but I don't have time to go into detail now. It was great to be with the newlyweds in Baltimore; they are settling in nicely. And a special bonus: I learned some math in an area I never understood before....

Book Crossing

Another link that's been sitting around waiting for me to write something about it... I came across this site through another Charlotte Observer article recently, and was intrigued with the idea. I have a number of books that I'll probably want to get rid of soon, and I'm wondering if this might be a constructive way to do it. Anybody have any experience with this?

Raising adventurous kids...

I found this article awhile back and thought it was great. Read and enjoy!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Peanut Butter, Math Fun, and an Honorable but Humble Prof

Click here for the link to Sally Kneidel's excellent post about peanut butter. (It's dated Nov. 9, 2006.) I totally agree with everything she says about it -- I've been eating organically grown/no additives peanut butter for years and it's great. (Although now I am more likely to eat almond butter, as peanut butter makes me sleepy.)

Okay, so beyond that, other things have been going on...
Yesterday was the Math Club trip to the Duke Math Meet, which was fun for most of us. Highlights of the day were:
**the congenial and lively group of Math Club students
**lots of interesting math problems
**a visit with Anne T., who came by around lunchtime and visited with us for awhile
**reconnecting with various people from other schools around NC and beyond
**beautiful, warm fall weather all day
**a torrential downpour on the way home
**a performance of the Davidson Dance Ensemble added on at the end of the day -- absolutely wonderful! (I wish I'd been able to see the whole thing!)
...and last but not least a bit of wonderful news that I found out about yesterday -- I wish I'd known awhile ago!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

e-mail and other distractions

Well, I'm not making progress too fast here, but little by little I'm chipping away at the piles by "chunking" -- trying to put the work into manageable chunks instead of getting overwhelmed by how much there is to do and leaving it until some imagined day when I have 26 hours to work with :) That really isn't going to happen anytime soon.
Thanks, Lorian, for putting such useful links on your blog! I always learn new things when I go there...
No progress yet in setting up a website for my resource list...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

All the news that fits...

Well, since I promised a friend I would be napping in preparation for a night out tonight, I am going to make this very short. I have been reading the newspaper very sporadically the past week or two due to lots of other things going on, but I managed to find a few articles of interest. Two of them were on the editorial pages of today's newspaper: a refreshing perspective on the Kerry incident (sorry, I can't get a working link to it -- it's Insulting Our Troops, and Our Intelligence, By Thomas L. Friedman, Published November 3, 2006) and a piece by an excellent local writer, Kay McSpadden, on the latest Harry Potter tempest-in-a-teapot. (Apparently the subject of the latter editorial is unaware of the writings of Connie Neal, a Christian writer who has a more balanced view of the Harry Potter books.)

Another article a few days ago gave me one of those belly laughs that are so important to good mental health.

Friday, November 03, 2006

talking about math

Okay, it's really too late for me to be posting anything here, especially since it's a Friday night with a full day ahead of me tomorrow, but... I just have to share a little of the joy of my evening. I had the wonderful opportunity to give a talk tonight on Math to a group of eleven homeschool moms and one "homeschool grandpa"! It's been about two years since I have given one of these talks, and it was nice to have a chance to do it again. I opened the talk by reading the book, Hippos Go Berserk! to the group, and I think they enjoyed the experience. Anyway, it kind of broke the ice. It was great to talk once again about homeschooling and math and little kids and how they learn and how delightful they are. My audience was very responsive; I talked until after nine and then we had a great conversation that lasted until around 10:00! I had brought piles of books and other stuff, and was able to give them a lot of good information.

I would like to be able to put my Math Resources booklet on a website, to make it more useful for people and to keep from having to make copies of it whenever I do talks like this. It's up to 12 pages now (including the title page.) I have other material to put on a website, too. Maybe that will move higher on the to-do list one of these days -- perhaps a task for the Christmas break?

Anyhow, I had forgotten how much fun it is to do these talks, and to reconnect with my homeschooling roots. I miss those homeschooling days; they were a lot of fun most of the time. Even though I got a little crazy once in awhile and threatened to send them all to school, I was grateful to have all that time with my dear kids, and I wouldn't trade those days for anything.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

grocery shopping

Okay, now I'm having one of those "what next?!" feelings.... I was babysitting tonight for a family I regularly sit for, and when they got home we were talking and somehow got onto the subject of grocery shopping. It seems that Harris Teeter has a service now where people can shop online and just pick up their groceries at a scheduled time (or later) for a fee.... The mom I was talking to has been using this service so regularly that she has avoided taking her baby and toddler to the grocery store for the past 7 or 8 months! I'm trying to get my mind around this -- what would life have been like if I had not taken my kids to the grocery store, and indeed not had to do any grocery shopping in person, for all those 25 years I had kids at home? It's something to think about....

Friday, October 20, 2006

On break

Well, I am on break for a few days, but a laptop was calling my name, so.... Today was so beautiful, the leaves are at or just past their peak here, and the sky was a brilliant, crisp blue, as only fall days can be. I listened to The Kalahari Typing School for Men in the car today; it is the fourth in the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, and it is just as good as the others. Then a very pleasant evening with Ron and Deborah... now I am the last one up, enjoying the fire in the fireplace and writing a little bit.

I had a bit of a shock yesterday when I noticed a story about Joan Martin in the paper. Joe Martin, her husband, is a well-known Charlottean, or was, as it seems he died while I was away over the summer. He had battled ALS for about 12 years, but was all the time active in civic affairs and made a great effort to bring people together and try to make Charlotte a better place for all its citizens. He wrote a book about his experiences, On Any Given Day, which needs to move up on my reading list. Anyway, I was sad to hear of his passing, as this is a great loss for Charlotte and I am sure he must be sorely missed by his family and friends.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A full Saturday

I am determined to keep writing even if I don't have much to say and it's almost 11 p.m. (i.e., past my bedtime...) I just got back from the monthly Saturday evening Vigil at the Oratory -- a unique liturgy with lots of silence built in and Taize music and a theme, always always good. The Oratory has become such a part of my life that I can close my eyes and imagine myself there in prayer, and it brings me into a peaceful/prayerful frame of mind. The people in this community are caring and so grounded; I love them and love spending time with them. There is often a drop-in or pot-luck before or after the liturgy at The Oratory, and tonight there was one, so that was an extra bonus, to get to be with everybody awhile longer.

That was at the end of my day. Near the beginning of my day was the monthly Math Club meeting, and that went very well. We had a small group, probably in part due to SAT's being this morning, but the ones who were there were into the math and had a lot of energy. Also today was the inaugural meeting of the Teacher's Circle, a group for teachers that Harold has started. It was much better attended than he thought it would be, so that was exciting! Another exciting thing that happened was that one of our former math clubbers came to the Teacher's Circle meeting, now a teacher in one of the local schools. I always love to see former students, but this was especially good since this person was looking so well and happy.

Meanwhile, driving to and fro, I am listening to the fourth book in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, The Kalahari Typing School for Men, and already on the first tape I'm hooked. Tomorrow I'm going to a play and maybe a math talk. Life is good :)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Peter Pan

Last night's activity was a trip to Matthews to see Peter Pan. Especially good were the goofy pirates -- almost every time they came on stage they did one kind of dance or another at the bidding of Captain Hook. One time it was the can-can, another time it was something else...I don't know all the names of the dances. (One pirate was Matthew R. He was a tipsy fellow with a parrot on his shoulder and hat that wouldn't stay on, but despite his drunken antics he managed to never miss a beat; every movement was perfect!) Hook was played so well -- the man who played him was appropriately cowardly and comically arrogant. The children in the audience screamed with delight. Smee was terrific, very squeaky and hammy, and size-wise exactly the correct proportion to Captain Hook as he should be.... The crocodile was so wonderful, we all hooted and hollered every time it crawled across the stage, ticking menacingly. And of course, the audience clapped loudly and enthusiastically to bring Tinkerbell back to life... Of course all the rest of the cast was terrific, too, and the dancing by Indians, boys, etc. was amazing. The children really flew, thanks to generous sprinklings of pixie dust and, last but not least, the music, played by a small but very lively orchestra, was wonderful.

Friday, October 06, 2006

another late night...

A Friday, without so many students as the other days... but plenty of catching up to do... I got some of it done, but there's always more. For some reason I feel like I am in a holding pattern of some sort -- stuck at an intermission or something. Maybe it will all come clear soon.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


It's been a very full week already. Lots of students, and still more calls every day. Every time I think my schedule is set, it changes: new people added, others moving their times because of one reason or another (all good reasons....) I'm thinking about jettisoning one or two that don't seem to appreciate the help -- ones that almost never prepare for their weekly lesson. That would open up some time for the students who desperately want help but can't fit into the schedule yet.

I've been looking at photos on the web tonight, just to unwind a little. Emily picked out some great photos for her folder on F&J's wedding photographer's site I haven't had the time or energy to do that yet, but hope to one of these days. Picking out a few to have made into prints seems like an impossible task, given the large number of photos and the generally great quality. Not to mention the ever-so-photogenic subjects :-)
(drop me a line if you don't have the password for the wedding photos website...)

Saturday, September 30, 2006

back online!!

It's been a long, sloooww month (esp. w.r.t my internet connection), but in some ways it has sped by. My work has picked up almost to the point where it was last April! As usual, students have been coming and going, and my schedule is like nailing jello to a wall... That effect seems to be the result of a combination of some students trying to find the right tutor and others coming out of their "denial" (as in, "I think this year I'll be able to do the math without help even though I really didn't get math from about 6th grade on and had to have a tutor last year in geometry/algebra2/pre-calc just to keep my head above water....") Anyway, it has made for some interesting weeks for me. The ratio of new students to returnees is about 1:1. (Speaking of ratios, I have this bumper sticker [thanks, Linda and Tommy!] posted on the wall across from my tutoring set-up, right where the students can't miss seeing it, that says, "4 out of 3 people have trouble with fractions", and the students love it -- well, the ones that get it do anyhow... the rest probably think it's just another boring statistic!) Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools has helped my business a lot by going to a 4 by 4 schedule (also click here) for this year, which means that students who were having trouble with keeping up the pace of a year-long course are now taking their math courses at twice the speed, and crashing and burning in September rather than gradually falling behind and calling in late October like they did on the old schedule. I'm also teaching four classes this year (last year I had one class) and so far that's looking like a good move.

Yesterday one of my youngest students walked me through a program to multiply binomials that he wrote for his graphing calculator. I struggled to keep up with his explanation -- obviously, he is not with me for remediation! -- but it was great to be witness to such mathematical creativity. Another student required an etiquette lesson: "How to properly address adults, especially one's teachers." Spending an hour with this fellow reminded me of an observation I once made that my girls and their friends at age 13 would, in exasperation, eschew the company of their male agemates, only to sing the praises of the same guys three or four years later. It will be interesting to see how this both these 8th graders change and mature over the next few years. A few days ago a student I was working with on SAT prep had an "aha" experience that was just wonderful, giving him a renewed confidence and motivation: the joy of that moment was written all over his face, and we both cheered out loud! I'm working with a couple of homeschooled students who got behind in their math and are playing catch-up, and it has been great to see how they have picked up all sorts of new skills over the past eight months that we have worked together. Lots of other interesting things have happened recently, and others are about to happen, including Frances and Jonathan's impending move to Baltimore! More about all this in future posts. I hope to be a more regular blogger from now on.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Problems, and they aren't the mathematical sort...

I had some rather unpleasant moments late this afternoon.... For one thing, I found out that I won't be able to continue with Earthlink DSL. I am too far away (21,000 feet, to be exact.) I can't explain this, it doesn't make any sense, but there it is. The search for a new ISP begins. Your ideas and suggestions are welcome.

Also the NC dept of revenue still can't find the money that I sent them to pay my taxes last year. I don't know where it is. I sure don't have it. The back of the form they sent this time (which lets me know that in addition to the interest they charged me in the last notice, now I owe a $166 penalty and additional interest as well) advises that one of my two options is to pay the money I "owe" and then sue them to get it back. Fat chance. I'm working on my response to this latest waste of my time and the taxpayers' money...

A good friend told me that bad things come in threes. The third thing was I found out that I missed Annie Proulx, who spoke at Davidson last night. I was very sad about that -- I loved her Shipping News and would have loved to hear her speak.

The redeeming experience of the day was seeing Little Miss Sunshine tonight -- what a great movie! Some really good laughs, and the final scenes are absolutely perfect.

Click here to get an inkling of my plans for tomorrow....

Thursday, September 14, 2006

more about Sister Simone

Today the Charlotte Observer published a column about Sister Simone Campbell's talk/workshop at St. Peter Catholic Church in downtown Charlotte last Saturday. (See my post entitled "Network" below, for more about Sister Simone.) This is a good author (Mary Curtis) and an informative though brief article. The link is here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Probably the most bloggable thing that I've experienced in the past few weeks was attending Sr. Simone Campbell's talk at the Oratory on Sunday. Sr. Simone is the national coordinator of Network, the national Catholic social justice lobby. She spoke about politics and contemplation and how they relate, and of course about social justice, and the themes of social justice that shape Network's vision of a just society. Sr. Simone is a terrific speaker, very engaging and down-to-earth, and she knows so much about what is going on in our country and the world. I highly recommend the Network website and the organization.

In general, my life has been rather full of activity for the past few weeks. I haven't had DSL up and running since August 27, so that's a drag, but otherwise things are going well. I'm too tired to write more right now, but hopefully tonight I'll be able to catch up on sleep a little. Blessings!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Trader Joe's

News flash: This stodgy city will be getting a Trader Joe's in the near future!!! It was announced in the business section of the Observer this morning. The article also mentions that we really are getting a Whole Foods - actually, 2 of them! - and another Earthfare. There's going to be a natural foods store glut around here, at least in the 'burbs and the Southpark area. (As usual, the people on the north, west and east sides of town are being ignored....) The Trader Joe's is going into a former Harris Teeter location at Piper Glen, which is not terribly far from where I live. The fact that it's going into an existing building is good news -- we don't have to wait for a whole new building to be built, as is the case with the other places I mentioned.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Click on the title above for my latest [successful] attempt to find something to do that is not on my list, so as to avoid getting started on the list. I can't look at the flash part of the indicated web-page since my DSL is down and I am limping along on dial-up these days.
Sometimes I think the wrong electronic device in my house is broken -- my cell phone (and the other one, too, when I am off the computer) has been ringing off the hook (though I don't think that euphemism has any meaning w.r.t. cell phones -- it will probably got the way of the oft-used simile, " a broken record" one of these days.)
Anyway, rather than procrastinate any longer by writing more unnecessary drivel, I'll get back to work and leave the rest of you to continue your net-surfing.


Sunday, August 27, 2006


Mary Newsom, a columnist for the Charlotte Observer, had a column yesterday - Capturing the Elusive Milestone Moments - that got me to thinking about photography (and other types of recording of events) and memories. I enjoyed her article and her subtexts of children growing older and the passage of time surely resonate with me. But the whole photography thing has been on my mind anyway, what with there being over 1500 photos up on the web from the recent wedding, and stacks of photo albums behind me on the floor of the office waiting to have something done with them... For this reason, one thing that Mary Newsom said in her article especially struck me:
That's the thing about taking pictures. They fool us into thinking we're capturing the moment with a freeze-frame. But the real moment is 3-D. It's round. It has background noise and air currents and hearts beating and you can smell the sun on baked dirt, or maybe the cat's dusty fur or last night's fried chicken.
The photos in the albums are splotches of color on flat paper. You haven't saved the moment at all. They're like those insects that get trapped in blocks of amber. They're interesting to look at, but they're relics, not living insects.
In a sense, especially with really old photos, and ones that were taken by someone else at an event that I wasn't present for, that is true. But when I looked at the photos of the wedding, it all came back to me: the smells of flowers and food and the sounds of people and music and the heat and the flavors -- Yum! -- and especially the many and intense feelings of that day, that week... In fact, when I first started looking at photos of the wedding, the experience was almost too intense. A photo can spark so many memories.

When my children were little, I took lots of photos of them and of the places and people and events in their lives and mine. I kept albums with these pictures in chronological order so we could look back at the photos and talk about our experiences, in the hopes that this would enhance our memories of their childhood. We did spend many happy hours looking at these picture books as they were growing up. (I can remember times when I would come upon the children sitting quietly, slowly turning over the leaves of the albums and poring over the photos. I always wondered what they were thinking, and what meaning the photos had for them.) I was not very good about writing things down in those days, so I figured this, at least, would give us a record of some sort, someplace to start our remembering at. Now I wish I had written more down, but I am glad I at least have these photos.

I am in great admiration of Lorian and Brenda, who spend time and effort in making scrapbooks with the photos and write about the times they had -- in years to come, this will be a wonderful record of the past that they can enjoy and share with their children and grandchildren and other family members. My brother Dan also has been making a scrapbook over the years with the help of various family members on his visits. (This scrapbook floats around to various members of the family -- I don't know where it is at the moment!)

All this holds for other kinds of recordings, too -- audio, and even the "recording" that our other senses do. Chris Stewart, in his book The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society, talks about memory and the sense of smell (w.r.t a trip to Morocco):
The sense of smell is one of the most immediate and tactile we have -- and surely to perceive the smell of a thing we must actually ingest microscopic particles of it, whether it's the heady smell of camellias or that of a long-dead dog n a ditch. A smell revives the memory and transports you to a time and a place more powerfully than even music. If I ever need to return to Arzou, all I would have to do is mix together some mint, cedar, diesel, and a hint of drains, and take a good long sniff.

Our society currently places such a strong emphasis on the visual that we tend to minimize the importance of the other senses. Jerry Mander writes about this with respect to TV in his book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television. He talks about the inherent biases of the medium, especially in a section titled, The Bias away from the Sensory, noting that "Television cannot transmit information that comes in the form of smell, touch or taste...." He has a lot more to say on the topic, but I don't have room or time to quote more here, and it's a little off-topic anyhow. But I maintain that it is the same with photos, and I think this is what Mary Newsom was getting at in her commentary about our propenstiy to try to capture a very emotion-laden moment on film: there is no way we can really have a photo that is as rich as our memories of that moment. But I look at a photo as a jumping off place into the world of memory, an aid or accessory to memory, rather than as an end in itself, and there is where its worth lies.

"Laugh and the world laughs with you..."

One more word on photos -- this time humor: check out the Cathy strips for about August 10-19 for a hilarious look at digital photography and how we deal with it (or don't!)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Getting Organized

It's Saturday afternoon. I spent the morning on errands, a little work, and visiting, plus a few minutes on library browsing (one of my favorite distractions), so now I'm just about to start in on getting ready for next week. Another favorite distraction -- reading blogs -- kicked in when I sat down at the computer, and I found the article linked above. I sooo need to organize and clean up my desk!!! So that goes on the list, after I prepare the lesson for my Tuesday class, and get some other urgent work out of the way. When prioritizing, I try to think about what tasks, if not moved to the top of the list, will worry me most later, and there are a few of those. So I'm off to get started... will try to post more later, but in the meantime, check out the desk organizing article, and let me know if you have other tips to add or links that relate to this topic. I'm open to suggestions -- especially time and space organizing ideas for people who work at home!!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Just gotta make this quick -- I've got packages to mail, copies to make, and the ever-present piles of STUFF to chip away at. Oh, and I think I'm ready to make a trip to the recycling place -- the car is full up. rings... I'll finish this later...

...well, I didn't get to the recycling center, but I am sort of ready to teach my class *today*. Meanwhile I can't seem to get to sleep...

I had hoped to put something interesting up on my blog, but haven't had any ideas about that. So at least I can alert my readers to an nifty gadget to enhance the capabilities of a digital camera, allowing it to do time-lapse photography. (I've always been fascinated with time-lapse photgraphy.) The gadget is described here, in the August 22 post. The author includes a little demo. Check it out!

oooh, here's another little link*, this time to humor... hmmm, does this mean the blocks I have been saving for grandchildren will be obsolete?

*make sure you link to the 8/22/06 comic

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The wedding

I know I still haven't written much about the wedding, but it isn't because it wasn't a terrific day or lots to write about... I just haven't figured out how to write about it yet, or whether to. It would take a long time!!! Meanwhile, here is one of the few photos I took that day.

still weeding out

Well, I couldn't sleep last night, so I went back to going through boxes of stuff. I found a pile of magazines, some of them about math, from the mid-90's; a few books that I bought on impulse, mostly from the library (very cheap!); some old issues of Liguorian and St. Anthony Messenger, also mid-90's, a fairy tale book from my childhood, inscribed, as most my old books are, with "Reading Room, MHL"; a pile of La Leche League magazines and my long-lost '83 edition of The Womanly Art, and a few New Yorkers from last year and the year before. Hardly worth going through, though I saved the LLL stuff and a few other things, and several articles to read later. (Like I need more reading material!)

The weather here has been very pleasant the past few days, really fall weather. It can't last, but while it's here I have the windows open and fans going (and a/c off -- yay!!) It's almost like being in Burlingame, except that there isn't an ocean 20 minutes away... and a few other differences.

I was thinking some more about the book I posted about a few days ago, The Summer of Ordinary Ways. The way it is written is unusual: it is written ostensibly from the child's point of view, but also is tinged with an understanding of why-things-happened-the-way-they-did that can only come from long years of experience. In the end, it is clear that the author has made an effort to understand her parents, to get her mind around who they were and what they were dealing with in her growing up years. I have done that, too, so this book resonated with me in a deep way. This book also made me realize in a new way how my own children must have experienced the intermittent craziness that would overtake me -- how scary it must have been for them at times, and how confusing. I know I've thought about all that before, but I've never read an account that so clearly illustrates it. The author is one of six siblings, all female (a totally foreign experience for me, having had all brothers) and they all took such different paths, in a sociological sense (at least the ones who were adults at the time the book was written.) That sort of thing is always interesting to me, how people who grow up in the same family can end up with such very different lifestyles and ways of dealing with the world. I know it is really normal for that to happen, and I know about a lot of the reasons why -- how a person is hard-wired, birth order, experiences and influences outside the family and so on -- but it is still amazing. I think there are some families where the children grow up with more similar interests and lifestyles, but I don't see that so often.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

blogging again

I feel like I'm talking to myself here...but that's what I get for not blogging for a few months, and not being so frequent even before the hiatus. Oh, well.

It's taking awhile to get myself back in gear after the busy-ness of the past couple months. But work is starting to pick up, so I'm being forced to think about math, tutoring, teaching... and in the meantime I'm also trying to sort through years and years of stuff, hoping to get rid of a whole big huge lot of it. The sheer mass of papers, books, cards, photos, bookmarks (it seems I have a collection of bookmarks) and other paraphernalia and memorabilia is just getting to be too much. The little flood that occurred while I was away this summer convinced me that I really don't need to keep all this STUFF so this time it will go. If any of my readers want any of it (or don't!), please let me know. Hopefully my work won't pick up totally until I have done with this latest round of purgation....

In the meantime I'm going to distract myself with blogging, hopefully on a more regular basis than before. I thought I'd turn over a new leaf, and write a little about what I've been reading lately.
**I read a whole book (albeit not a long one) last night and this morning: The Summer of Ordinary Ways, by Nicole Lea Helget. It was a very interesting book for me -- it's a memoir, and the author grew up on a farm in Minnesota, my home state. This is not a book for the faint of heart -- some of the things that the author experienced were pretty crazy and brutal -- but it gave me a lot to think about, and there were a lot of ways I connected with the author.
**Politics Lost, by Joe Klein, which I have just started. I'm still on the Prologue, which is rather long, but I think it will be a good book.
**I've also started Anne Tyler's A Patchwork Planet, which I think is a re-read, but I can't remember it at all. If you haven't read anything by Anne Tyler, I highly recommend her books. They are lots of fun, very interesting & unpredictable. She is great at thinking up really interesting characters.
**I'm about to start The Light Fantastic, by Terry Pratchett, the second book in the Discworld series. I finished The Color of Magic this summer while on my trip, so I'm looking forward to continuing the journey. I'm going to try to read this one faster, so it might make more sense than the last one. (I kept losing the thread of the story in the first book when there would be weeks between the times I would have time to read during this past spring.)
I also picked up a few books at Mathfest last week, so there are a few waiting in the wings...not to mention a few books on tape and CD from the library, including The Game by Laurie R. King. I think I need to stay out of the library for awhile!!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

cool blog

Sometimes upon leaving my site I get caught up in looking at the names of other blogs scroll by, and this one caught my eye...check out the entry for August 13 titled Someone Has Talent -- it's pretty amazing! I'm thinking of trying out some of these moves next time I go to the YWCA :-)

Ideastorming while eating well...

One of the things I thought about while on the Mathfest trip was about restaurants -- how much fun it would be to have my own or work in one (which is something I've never done.) This idea probably falls into the realm of pipe-dreams, I'm afraid, but it gave me something new to think about and explore. On the way home from Knoxville last night, my friend Anne T. and I stopped at a tiny restaurant in Black Mountain, Cafe Bijan, which had wonderful food and eclectic, rustic decor. We split the Fish Tacos (four small handmade tortillas with tilapia, mango chutney, pineapple, etc.) and Montreat Salad (delicious fresh salad greens with herb-crusted goat cheese, walnuts, dried cranberries, and other goodies with I think a homemade raspberry viniagrette dressing) and cheesecake with caramel sauce and blueberries for dessert. All of it was scrumptious, but I especially loved the goat cheese/salad combination. The owner would love to have a partner or some real help -- she does all the cooking and waits tables besides -- so if you are looking for this sort of a work experience, or know someone who is, get in touch with Michelle. (I have her phone number if you need it -- I don't know if the one at the Cafe Bijan link above is good, but she gave me another.) Another great restaurant from the trip was Tomato Head which is located at Market Square in downtown Knoxville. It's a very busy place, with sturdy utilitarian oak tables and chairs, college student waiters with no-nonsense attitudes and white aprons tied around their jeans, and decor that seems almost an afterthought. The food was great, with so many interesting choices we regretted not being able to try more of them. We ate there twice, and sampled such things as the Kepner Melt (a vegetarian sandwich), Salad with Tuna, and Bean Quesadilla (with spinach - very tasty - check the Tomato Head link above for more descriptions, as well as some very cool graphics.) A carnivorous colleague enjoyed the Pizza Number 3, which was piled with lamb sausage, capers, black olives, and herbed tomatoes. This restaurant reminded me of one I frequented in St. Louis in my brief college stint there. I think it was called "Grandma's" and served mostly soup and bread, and had the same kind of atmosphere as Tomato Head, though a little less refined :-)

Back from Mathfest!

Well, I'm back from what I think will be my last "major" trip for awhile (it was real short in comparison to the one to CA...) Mathfest was a lot of fun, and I got some new ideas to use in my teaching this year, as well as a boost to the breadth and depth of my understanding of mathematics...and a healthy dose of humility-restoring experiences (as if the CA trip didn't have enough of those!) One of the most interesting sessions I went to was about a really strange kind of multiplication that had results like 4 x 3 = 18 and 5^2 = 100. It made sense once I got used to it, though it took a few minutes since I missed the first bit. Other good sessions addressed issues around teaching proof to high school and college students (several different sessions), continuity and differentiability of functions in two variables (with some really great graphics!) as applied to teaching beginning calculus, the inquiry method of teaching, and math anxiety. I reconnected with some friends there whom I don't get to see very often -- that's one of the best things for me about going to these meetings, the other best thing is just being around a whole lot of people who enjoy math as much as I do! (A couple of the friends I ran into were Pat Kenschaft and her husband Fred. Pat is the author of Math Power, and she has a new book out which looks to be an excellent read, Change is Possible: Stories of Women and Minorities in Mathematics.) I also found some new and interesting resources in the exhibit area, some of which I brought back with me.

One of the things I thought about while on this trip was about restaurants -- how much fun it would be to have my own or work in one (which is something I've never done.) This idea falls into the realm of pipe-dreams, I'm afraid, but it gave me something new to think about and explore. On the way home from Knoxville last night, my friend Anne T. and I stopped at a restaurant in Black Mountain, Cafe Bijan, which had wonderful food. We split the Fish Tacos (four small handmade tortillas with tilapia, mango chutney, pineapple, etc.) and Montreat Salad (delicious fresh salad greens with herb-crusted goat cheese, walnuts, dried cranberries, and other goodies with I think a homemade raspberry viniagrette dressing) and cheesecake with caramel sauce and blueberries for dessert. All of it was scrumptious, but I especially loved the goat cheese/salad combination. The owner would love to have a partner or some real help -- she does all the cooking and waits tables besides -- so if you are looking for this sort of a work experience, or know someone who is, get in touch with Michelle. (I have her phone number if you need it -- I don't know if the one at the link above is good, but she gave me another.) Another great restaurant from the trip was Tomato Head which is located at Market Square in downtown Knoxville. We ate there twice, and sampled such things as the "Kepner Melt" (a vegetarian sandwich), Salad with Tuna, and Bean Quesadilla. A friend tried the pizza (Number 3, which had lamb sausage and various other stuff) and enjoyed it. This restaurant reminded me of one I frequented in St. Louis in my brief college stint there. I think it was called "Grandma's" and served mostly soup and bread, and had the same kind of atmosphere as Tomato Head, though a little less refined.

Well, that's about all for now -- I've got to get to work on decluttering this apartment after a summer of neglect!!

Monday, July 31, 2006

back to "normal"...

Well, it's been a busy summer so far! Lots of events (one in particular), lots of visits with a whole lot of people, and a bit of sightseeing thrown in.... it's good to be home, and I need some quiet time now to process it all. I'll try to get a few photos up on this blog when I can, along with some stories, but in the meantime hit the link above to see a few photos from the wedding.

Note -- 8/13/06 -- If the link above doesn't work (the one for wedding photos) go to the Threads of Possibility link at right for some more up-to-date wedding links.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

half asleep...

It's been way too long since I posted last... Let's just say my business has taken off at about the same time as I decided to get the carpets cleaned, and the combination of cleaning frenzy last week and long hours of tutoring these past few weeks have me snowed under.

I the meantime, I found this mathematical calendar of sorts that you can link to for quotes and whatnot, off a bigger site with all sorts of calendars on it... Enjoy!

I'll try to get back to blogging soon, when I have some thoughts in my head beyond how to do my job well and how to get more sleep, more exercise, and more hours in the day!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Recycling and bicycling...

A friend and I got in a long conversation last night about recycling, specifically my experience of recycling. How long have I been doing it, what do I recycle, etc. I had to think back to answer a lot of her questions. As many of my readers know, I am rather obsessed with recycling, though our conversation last night revealed that there is a whole 'nother level of recycling obsession that I haven't reached yet! Anyway, my response to my friend went something like this:
I began to recycle so long ago I don't remember how long it has been. I grew up in a home where we recycled newspaper at our school's paper drives. My dad brought home piles of used computer paper -- the old wide pin-feed paper with the green bars on it -- and we reused it for drawings, banners, and other projects. In my college years, I learned about waste reduction in very physical ways: I worked at a grocery store where various employees broke down the cardboard cartons for recycling and sorted the glass soda bottles for return to the bottling companies. The latter was a frequent assignment for me, and even though it was a dirty, sticky job, it struck me as a worthwhile effort.

Later on, when we moved to NC, long before there was curbside recycling, I began recycling in earnest. Used to be, the fire stations here would collect aluminum cans and recycle them, so I took can over there. I took our newspapers to the paper drives at local schools; later on, newspapers went to a collection site at a nearby high school. I reused paper grocery bags (before and after the advent of plastic grocery bags) as wrapping for packages that went across the country to friends and family (yes, folks, the box used to have to be covered in paper or the USPS wouldn't accept it!) I also used the bags to make newspaper-filled "blocks" for the kids to build with, and the kids cut up more bags to make costumes and other arts and crafts projects. I've always washed and reused plastic bags from bread and such and glass jars and other reusable containers, though I don't acquire as many now as I used to. Since the grocery stores started recycling paper and pastic bags -- that's been at least ten years -- I have recycled excess and worn out plastic and paper bags of all kinds that way. Recently, as I've found more opportunities for recycling, I've recycled more things: dead batteries, broken electronic the link above for a list of all the things that can be recycled!

Recycling has always been a way for me to do a small action that might help save the earth, to lighten my footprint upon this beautiful world that is suffering from so much trampling at the present time... I believe that the accumulated recycling effort of one person over a lifetime can have some positive impact, and I also have always hoped to provide an example to my children and others of how they can be effective in these small and personal ways.

So now, my readers, I have a request to make of you: if you can spare a moment, please share your experience of recycling either as comments on this blog or in an e-mail to me; my friend is writing a book that addresses some of these issues, and she welcomes personal stories to include in her book and to use for ideas. She would also like to know peoples' experience of relying mainly on biking or walking or mass transit to get most places (i.e. because of not having a car or as an attempt to minimize car use.) If you have expoerience of that to share also, write about that, too. Contributing to my friend's efforts can be another small and easy way of making a difference. Thanks to all!


I woke up early this morning (early for a Saturday -- 6:43 a.m.) thinking about friendship, thinking back over the years to when I first came to Charlotte (June '76) and didn't know a soul here. I missed my family and friends back home terribly, and we wrote letters back and forth and chatted on the phone when we could. (This was way before the days of cheap long distance, cell phones, e-mail, and instant messaging, so phone contact was not all that frequent!) I worked temp jobs to pass the time until I could find a teaching job, and I met good people there, but I wasn't at any one job long enough to develop any long-term friendships. I wasn't going to church at the time, so that wasn't an avenue for meeting people. I was taking riding lessons, but everyone at the barn was either a lot older than me or a lot younger. It was a really long summer. In August I started my first teaching job, and began to settle in. That first year teaching I made a really good friend, a science teacher, but at the end of that year she moved to Atlanta. I was devastated! The next year I got to be good friends with the teacher who took her place, but at the end of that year she moved to Raleigh! Then I got pregnant and quit my job -- and there went what I thought was my best avenue for making friends! I had met a lot of other people during those two years, and I kept in touch with some of them, but none of those friendships were of the sort that I had left behind in Atlanta... But lo and behold, other avenues opened up, and I subsequently learned much about friendship, especially the truth of the old adage: to have a friend you have to be one. Eventually, through those early experiences here, I learned to be grateful for my friends back home and to trust that I would find friends in my new home, and I discovered that the route to friendship was doing the things that make my life meaningful, letting go of worry about when and if I would find a friend, and living in the present moment.

I have friendships now with all kinds of people, and these friendships have sustained me through the proverbial "thick and thin" (both literally and figuratively!) Friendships don't appear out of thin air, they begin with a contact, an openness to learning about each other, listening during a walk or a meal or while working on a project together... So where did I meet all these people? Thinking back, I see that I met one really good friend on a walk around the block, others I met through my volunteer work (La Leche League, Mecklenburg County Literacy Council, Mathcounts coaching, Math Club...), some I met through my tutoring work (parents of students), some from church and support groups, lots were parents of my children's friends, or parents I met through homeschooling connections, or friends of my children, or friends of other friends... and quite a few fall into several of those categories. Some have stuck around and others have moved away, but some of those latter I am still in touch with. Some who I lost touch with I later reconnected with, a joyful experience for both of us! That's happened a couple times just in the last year. And of course -- last but not least -- some of my closest friends are family members, both blood relatives and "married-ins".

So, how to find a friend? The only way that has ever worked for me is to put myself out there, follow my interests, and keep my ears and my heart open all the while for the adventure and blessing of friendship. I act on this last bit by trying to remember to treat each person I meet as though they already are a friend. That, to me, is the meaning of the saying I quoted above.

My friends have taught me how to be a friend. Through their patience and care, I discovered over the years that it takes work and time to build and sustain a friendship -- friendships don't happen overnight, or by chance. Good friendships have a lot of listening built in, and I love to listen to my friends about as much as I like to talk...well, maybe even more. :-) For me, there is no better feeling than to know I have given support and encouragement to a friend... I am so grateful for the presence of my friends in my life, for all the love and forgiveness and laughter and sorrow we have shared.

(...and as she takes her sappy self off to breakfast, the strains of "Precious Friend" echo in the background...)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

blogging, justice, peace, headaches

True confessions: I've been neglecting my blog while joining in discussions on another blog... among other things, on that blog we have been discussing justice, the existence of God & the problem of pain, what language the Bible was written in... it's been interesting. On the way to looking up the slogan (actually a quote from Pope Paul VI) "If You Want Peace, Work for Justice", I found this site which has tons of quotes on peace, justice, and related issues. It is quite thought-provoking to read through the quotes here. Also on my web surfing I found a site that sells magnetic ribbons with an unusual slogan...

It's been a real busy week (not that I'm complaining!) and it ain't over yet... the Math Club meets this morning. So it's not so good that I woke up 2.5 hours early with this splitting headache. I'm going back to bed, but I'll try to write again soon...

Saturday, January 28, 2006

More about All Saints

I started to change the post I wrote about the books I've been reading, but then I realized that someone who read that already wouldn't go back and re-read it... just in case anyone is reading my blog these days. So I thought I'd just write a little more about it here. What I wanted to say was about All Saints...I learn something every day from reading about the lives of these amazing people. It makes me look at the people around me differently, too -- so many of the people in this book were ordinary people who did extraordinary things in their everyday lives. One of my favorites is Brother Lawrence (January 11). He lived in the 17th century, a lay brother at a Carmelite monastery in Paris. He worked in the monastery kitchen; he had little or no formal education. But he had a beautiful spirit; here is a quote from the passage about him in All Saints:

His method was to cultivate at all times a consciousness of the presence of God. According to Brother Lawrence, wherever we might find ourselves, whatever the task at hand, we should perform our duties with a consciousness of God's loving presence. With such an awareness all our activities were hallowed; we would thus find ourselves in a state of continuous prayer or conversation with God....It was well to construct an oratory in one's heart, in which to return and dwell. "Our sanctification," he believed, "did not depend upon changing our works, but in doing for God's sake that which we commonly do for our own."

I know this is not a new idea. But what more wonderful way to spend one's life, no matter what one's station or circumstances!

I was going to write some more, but I think this is enough for now. Sweet dreams!

Friday, January 27, 2006

more about books...

I don't have enough room to put all the books I have loved on the little list in my profile, and besides, whoever looks there anyhow? So I'm thinking I might post from time to time on books I have enjoyed. I listed a few in my last post, but there are lots of others... just now, looking for other things, I came across a link I made to the website for an author whose book I loved when I read it a few years ago. The book is Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life, and it's by Philip Simmons. I loved this book because it helped me to see things in a different way, helped me to look at my life in a different way than I had before. Phil Simmons said the blessing of his illness (he suffered from ALS) was that “a fuller consciousness of my own mortality has been my best guide to being more fully alive”.

Another book that came to mind this morning is Nurse Matilda, by Christianna Brand. I read this one with my kids (I think mostly Emily) and we loved it, and the sequel to it, whose name I can't remember at the moment. There is a new movie out that is loosely based on the Nurse Matilda books, Nanny McPhee. Emma Thompson did the adaptation and stars in the movie. I read a review of it and a story about Thompson writing the screenplay in this morning's paper. Sounds good, though there are several major departures from the book...

I'm interested in knowing what books you-all have enjoyed, too.
Gotta run! Lots to do today and time's getting away from me...

January blues

Here it is, almost the end of January, and I haven't written in my blog but once. How can I expect regular readers if I am such an irregular poster?!
It's been a month of a lot of work and a lot of things to think about and work on, besides my usual employment. And I did get the little Christmas tree dismantled and out to the trash, a few days ago. I'm trying not to get back into the mode of leaving the tree up indefinitely as I used to do. I was going to take a photo of it before I took it down and then forgot. Sorry. But it was pretty, thanks to some expert decorating by my dear niece and nephews...

So I haven't had any brilliant or even very interesting (to me) thoughts lately, thus I haven't posted. One of the slogans I learned from a wise friend many years back was "Do the Next Right Thing", and that's been my m.o. lately. I have felt so overwhelmed at times that it is all I can do to figure out what the Next Right Thing is, and then do it. Not much brainstorming going on.

Let's see, I have made lots of trips to the library; I could tell about some of the interesting books I have been reading, and some of the good music I have been listening to...
I just finished The Nudist on the Late Shift, by Po Bronson, and that was great! It's all about Silicon Valley culture in the late 90's or so, written in chapters all about different aspects of the computer software business. In each chapter the author interviews and/or shadows several individuals and tells of his experiences in that particular realm. There were places that I just laughed out loud, it was so crazy! (The title story in particular is quite amusing.) I learned a lot about how lots of things work (in business etc.) It also gave me a window into a culture that I will be visiting from time to time in the coming years. I originally found a copy at Book Buyers, then found another copy on the book sale table at the library and snarfed it up so I'd have one to share, and not have to give up my copy. Now I want to read Bronson's other books....
Just for fun I have started reading a Terry Pratchett book, Color of Magic, that a friend gave me awhile back, It's the first book in the Discworld series. It is very good so far but I am not far into it. (I ought to be reading that now instead of blogging, as then I might have some chance of falling back asleep! It's 3:14 a.m.)
I got several diet books out of the library to help me stay motivated on trying to eat healthier... one of them is Dr. Shapiro's picture perfect weight loss : the visual program for permanent weight loss by Howard M. Shapiro; it was suggested by a good friend who lost a lot of weight using this plan some years ago. It is a book that gives great inspiration for eating better, just from looking at the pictures!
I'm also reading 10 Habits that Mess Up a Woman's Diet, by Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D. It's another good motivator, very sensible, and an interesting read. I'm reading it slowly so I can work on one thing at a time and not get so overwhelmed by new ideas that I give up.

One other book I am reading very slowly is All Saints, by Robert Ellsberg. It has a short piece about one saint for each day of the year, but here's the unusual thing: not all of the people in it are canonized saints! They are all very interesting, though -- people from all different periods of history and quite varied cultures and areas of the world. The author must have done an unbelievable amount of research: each piece is followed by a reference (usually a book or two) about that individual. I'm reading one piece a day, so this is a book that ought to last me all year.

Oh -- music -- just one quick one before I sign off. I've been listening to some Putamayo cd's, one that Liz gave me for Christmas, "American Blues", and another, from the library, "South Pacific Islands". Both are wonderful. Then throw in some Chick Corea and Ella Fitzgerald, with a sprinkling of various Irish music, among other things, and you have what I'm listening to at the moment.

Well, it's about time to get back to bed. I'll try to write again soon!

My love to all!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

more about Veggie Revolution

Just an update about my friend Sally's book, Veggie Revolution... There was a great write-up in the Observer on Christmas Day about the book (click here for the link) and I wrote a proper review of the book on (click here and scroll way down.)
Or you can just click on the title of this post and go to Sally's blog; she has links to all the above and much more.

p.s. Still working on those Christmas cards. My tree is still up (and much more decorated!) and yesterday on Prairie Home Companion G. K. said that in Sweden they celebrate Christmas season until January 13...I'll go along with that! :-)
For you skeptics out there -- here's a quote from a book review of Swedish Christmas: "....the Swedish Christmas season, beginning with the First of Advent in early December and continuing through to Hilarymas on January 13th, when the festivities conclude with a bitter-sweet farewell dance around the Christmas tree...."
These are my kind of people!!!