Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

2008 Hurricane Season

Tomorrow, June 1st, is the beginning of the 2008 hurricane season. Living on the east coast (in Connecticut), with many friends who also live on the eastern seaboard (in Virginia and North Carolina), plus having experience with tornadoes from my early years in Minnesota, I like to keep an eye on the weather. And with the tornado season being so active --- more than 600 tornadoes thus far --- I am wondering if the hurricane season will offer more activity than usual as well. Regardless, I will be monitoring these websites as needed:

National Hurricane Center:
Officially designated in 1967, the center was actually founded in 1898 when then-President William McKinley declared that the weather bureau establish a hurricane warning network. Here is the remainder of a history description from Wikipedia:
The Miami office [of the weather bureau] was designated the National Hurricane Center in 1967, and given responsibility for Atlantic tropical cyclones in their vicinity. Other hurricane warning centers, such as in New Orleans and Boston, played a role even into the 1980’s. In 1984, the NHC was separated from the Miami Weather Service Forecast Office. By 1988, the NHC gained responsibility for eastern Pacific tropical cyclones as the former Eastern Pacific Hurricane Center in San Francisco was decommissioned….In 1995, the NHC was moved into a new hurricane resistant facility on the campus of Florida International University.
The Weather Underground Tropical Weather page
Considered the first Internet weather service, here is an abbreviated history of the Weather Underground from their website:
Jeff Masters, when a PhD candidate in meteorology at the University of Michigan and working under the direction of Professor Perry Samson, wrote a menu-based telnet interface in 1991, which displayed real-time weather information around the world. By 1992, the two servers his system used were rattling off their desks as “um-weather” became the most popular service on the Internet.

Perry and Jeff, in 1993, recruited Jeff Ferguson and Alan Stermberg to help build a system to bring Internet weather into K-12 classrooms…The growing Internet weather program was given the name “The Weather Underground,” a tongue-in-cheek reference to the 1960’s radical group that also originated at the University of Michigan.
And in case you want to use hurricane season as the basis for a meteorology unit with your homeschool group, don’t forget to order a hurricane tracking kit (good for 25 students). While I have never done this, it looks like a great way to get kids tuned-in to observing the weather. Setting up a weather station might also be of interest if weather is your summer homeschool project. I prefer this build-it-yourself version from

Oh, and don’t forget, unlike tornadoes, the National Weather Service names the hurricanes (and tropical storms) that come long each year. The 2008 names are listed below. Stay safe out there!

2008 Hurricane Names

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Karbon by Kohler

A few days ago, my husband and I began discussing a bathroom remodeling project. As part of the planning process, I surfed the Internet for the latest in bathroom faucets. What I found was this, the latest in kitchen faucets. If anyone out there has one of these, please let me know what you think of it. I would love some first-hand feedback.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Political Ally?

My husband came across a version of this video on No Looking Backwards (formerly, Mass Backwards). It is a blog that he frequents. This version is from and reporter Jeanne Moos. Anyway, I thought it was funny If only my cockatiel had such a large vocabulary. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

2008 Giro d’Italia (To Date)

I have been so busy with homeschooling tasks this year that I haven’t been able to catch much (if any) of the Giro d’Italia. I tried posting some of the live coverage transcripts from the Journal of Competitive Cycling through my Google Reader feeds; lately, I haven’t even had time to do that, so I decided to do this instead. Here are the links to everything that I found interesting about the race thus far. It has not all been smooth sailing, but what else is new. I just hope I have more time in my schedule come July so I can watch the Tour de France!

Live coverages and/or stage reports:
- Stage 1
- Stage 2
- Stage 3
- Stage 4
- Stage 5
- Stage 6
- Stage 7
- Stage 8
- Stage 9
- Stage 10
- Stage 11

- Giro jury rules against Leipheimer
- Contador vows to ride despite fracture

And, finally, not directly related to the Giro d’Italia but interesting nonetheless: a look into the mind of a cyclist during a five-hour race. Probably more information than you wanted about cycling, but I found it entertaining. What would you think about on a five-hour bike ride?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mellow Johnny’s is Open

For those of you who were wondering what seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong was up to these days: he opened a bike shop in Austin, Texas. Mr. Armstrong and his business manager Bart Knaggs collaborated in the venture, which (to this economics major) has all the earmarks of success. Take the location, for example, quoting from a Velonews article:
The store occupies a converted 9000-square-foot brick warehouse just west of downtown Austin, wedged between a trio of banks and an almost-completed high-rise condominium building. It’s also a block north of the planned Lance Armstrong Bikeway that will run east-to-west on the left bank of Lake Austin past the almost-finished Austin Music Hall.
Talk about being in the hub of the city! A bike shop that is close to home, a bank, a lake, an entertainment venue, and a bikeway. What more could an urban dweller want? Not only that, what store have you been in lately that fits this description:
But MJ’s [Mellow Johnny’s] is more than a store. On the south side is a coffee shop named Juan Pelota (is that Tex-Mex for Johnny’s Peloton?), where Austinites can get their morning fix after bike commuting into downtown and having a complimentary shower in the bike shop’s locker room at the northwest corner of the building.
Or this one from Competitor TX Magazine:
…visitors will find Juan Pelota’s, an indoor/outdoor coffee house with healthy grab-&-go food, and a soon to be introduced power-based indoor training facility. With hours of operation from 8 am to 7 pm, the shop is awake and ready for those riding into downtown early…The shop is equipped with showers and changing facilities and free bike storage for commuters.
I don’t know about you, but none of the bike shops in my town come equipped with ready food and a shower, let alone free bike storage. Pretty astute business planning! Of course, I would go to the store just to see the memorabilia: Mr. Armstrong’s seven yellow jerseys and the Trek bikes that he rode to victory. My daughter is planning a family trip out west and down south this summer. I wonder if her route takes us anywhere near Austin, Texas? If it does, I know where I want to have a bite to eat --- Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop. Check it out for yourself: 400 Nueces Street, Austin, Texas 78701.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

BR: Contemplative Youth Ministry

This is the first book review related to my reading/study of the Emergent/Emerging Church. Subsequent reviews will be posted as books are completed.
Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus

by Mark Yaconelli

I received this book as a Christmas gift from a gentleman in my church (a Sunday School co-teacher, to be exact) this past December. At the time, I had only recently become aware of the Emergent/Emerging Church and the role that contemplative spirituality plays for some people within that movement. Interestingly, I reciprocated his gift with a seven-volume set of sermons written and delivered by Martin Luther during the years 1532-1534. Nothing like exposing our philosophical/theological positions! Modernism (or earlier) vs. postmodernism in the same classroom. Suffice it to say, our discussions can be quite thought provoking…but I digress.

This book was a real challenge for me for a number of reasons. First, it wasn’t the best starting point for learning about the Emergent/Emerging Church, the whole point of my Church/Christian reading list for 2008. It didn’t define terms like “emergent,” “emerging,” or “spiritual formation,” vocabulary that is common to discussions of this rapidly growing trend within Christianity. In fact, the movement wasn’t even mentioned. Instead, Mr. Yaconelli discussed the use of Lectio Divina, the Ignatian Examen, and centering prayer, making this the kind of book that youth ministers/workers (or pastors) could use to guide the implementation of worship and praxis once a congregation had embraced the contemplative path. Of course, the poor choice of a study starting point isn’t the fault of Contemplative Spirituality; that is my fault for reading the first book that dropped into my lap. To begin a study of the Emergent/Emerging Church (which, as I stated, was my intention), I would start instead with Stories of Emergence by Mark Yaconelli or They Like Jesus But Not the Church by Dan Kimball. Those books do a much better job of explaining how the Church leaders who are espousing these ideas came to hold their beliefs, why they feel the Church desperately needs to embrace a different (more postmodern) philosophy, and what exactly postmodern non-Christians (the primary target audience of the Emergent/Emerging Church movement) don’t like about the Church.

Second, the author came across as very anti-parent/anti-family, although this was everywhere implied but never explicitly stated. For example, in the introduction, while addressing “those of us who seek to share faith with youth” (remember, this book was written for youth ministers/workers, not parents), Mr. Yaconelli stated the following (emphasis mine):
We don’t know how to be with our kids. We know how to entertain them, market to them, test them, and statistically measure them. But we’ve forgotten how to be with them.
Who has forgotten, parents or youth ministers? And, again, in a chapter on teen angst and adult anxiety, the author said:
We worry about the young people in our care. We don’t know what they look at on the Internet. We can’t keep up with the electronic gadgets they play with. We’ve never heard of the bands or celebrities they talk about. We don’t know what they do after school. We’re unaware of the subject or codes in their e-mail conversations.
Does this paragraph not describe the concerns that parents have for their children (or should have for their children)? Yet, Mr. Yaconelli doesn’t prompt parents to move into these anxieties. No, instead, he says the following, admittedly not about parents directly but certainly about the world inhabited by children, a world that includes both parents and family:
…youth are being raised in a culture of people who no longer live from the center of their lives.
And then later:
This book is born of my hope to provide every young person with a handful of adults who incarnate the love, compassion, and presence of Jesus…I pray that our churches might be filled with adults willing to move beyond words and ministry programs --- adults willing to take the time to seek out the young people in their communities, to sit with them, to listen to them. May every congregation be filled with adults who view the young people in their lives and communities with the eyes of Jesus, beholding in each and every one of them a unique revelation of the presence of God.
Again, does this paragraph not describe the type of relationship that exists (or at least should exist) between parents and teens? Yet, Mr. Yaconelli doesn’t mention parents at all. Instead, he leaves the reader with the impression that parents are part of that “culture of people who no longer live from the center of their lives,” that group of people who do not “incarnate the love, compassion, and presence of Jesus.” Instead, Mr. Yaconelli says that youth workers and people at church are the adults who should be interacting with teens per their spirituality. Again, why does the author not prompt parents to fill this role, especially when Scripture so clearly states that it is their responsibility?
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. --- Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. --- Proverbs 22:6

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. --- Ephesians 6:4
Please note: I do understand that many children are without a consistent parental presence in their lives for a variety of reasons. But wouldn’t it be better, in the long run, if youth ministers worked to bring parents back into the lives of children instead of consistently attempting to replace parents with other adults (assuming, of course, that the parental influence is neither dangerous nor unhealthy) or consistently assuming that children (especially teens) don’t wish to interact with their parents?

Third, the general tone of the book struck me as replete with a negative view of modern culture --- the speed of life, the pressures of the world, a lack of fulfillment, etc. For example, in chapter five, I found this narrative:
Imagine a woman sitting on the front porch at the end of the day, calling to her husband inside the house, and saying, “Work was so draining today. I couldn’t wait to get home. Come sit next to me on the porch.” The husband then comes to the doorway and replies, “Isn’t it interesting how work takes up so much of our lives. I mean, here is this activity that we have to engage in to pay the bills; an activity that we hope will be satisfying at some level. Yet at the end of the day, we feel like we’ve been, as you say, ‘drained.’ Like something has been taken away from us or maybe we’ve given a part of ourselves that we now notice is missing. It’s like we leave our true selves at work and…
Granted, in the book, the point Mr. Yaconelli made with this example was that the husband missed the point about sitting with his wife and, instead, stood in the doorway and yakked about his philosophy of work. My point in using it as an example is that the passage typifies the sad perspective of everyday life that seems to permeate the book. Here are some other examples:
…we’ve become “dispirited.” We live narrow lives. We tend to act as if we’re nothing more than our roles and our jobs.

…the burned-out life of materialism that deadens spirits and kills creativity.

Do you know how to become yourself despite the constant messages telling you that you’re lacking? Do you know how to keep from becoming overwhelmed by the pain and suffering in the world? Do you know how to find a home, a place of welcome and relationship? Can you tell me how to stay hopeful and creative in a world obsessed with violence, death, and conformity? Do you know where I can offer my gifts meaningfully in a world that feels consumed with trivia? How do I stay alive? How do I remain open to God and others when so many people seem closed, distant, and angry?

…as any parent knows, domestic life can quickly make anyone fatigued and cranky.

Where in your life did you stop singing? Where in your life did you stop dancing? Where in your life did you stop telling stories? Where in your life did you stop listening to silence?
Well, to answer these last few questions, I haven’t stopped doing any of those things and I am forty-six years old! I sing everyday in the shower and every week at church. I often dance around my house to old music and am desperately trying to get my husband to take a ballroom dancing class. Oh, and allow me to tell you this story…about silence:
My mother taught me how to listen to and appreciate silence by taking me out into the countryside of southern Minnesota on a cold winter evening so I could “listen” to snow. This was either in December 1973 or January 1974. One night, when the temperature was well below zero, my entire family climbed into our Chevy station wagon and drove into the farm country west of my hometown, parking alongside one of the rural truck routes, in order to see a comet. Our science teacher had heard about Comet Kohoutek and had encouraged all of us to view it if possible. While waiting for this astronomical wonder to appear, my mother asked us all to stop talking so we could listen to the snow skim across the cornfields, cornfields that were lying dormant with nothing but the yellow-brown stubble of dead plants peeking out from under a blanket of frozen, white precipitation. I can still see all of us, sitting there, shivering in the cold green car, gazing up at the stars, searching for the comet and “listening” to the snow. What a memory.
Ok, getting back to reality. Lest you think I found nothing at all redeeming in Contemplative Spirituality, I must admit I was intrigued by the advice that Mr. Yaconelli gave on how to conduct meetings and call volunteers. Being the co-coordinator of a homeschool support group, I am always looking for more effective ways to connect with volunteers and “do business,” so to speak. Dubbed “the discernment approach,” the process employed by Mr. Yaconelli prompts those in authority to put their managerial tasks back under the authority of the Lord (rather than under their own authority) and to wait on His direction, all while receiving input/feedback from the group they are charged with directing, be it a congregation, a support group, or a book club. The idea of actively and intentionally engaging in conversation with God while planning activities and prioritizing tasks for any group is a reminder we all can use now and again. I know it prompted me to rethink how I do some of my work.

Overall, I cannot say I enjoyed this book. I disagreed with much of the philosophy and theology embraced by Mr. Yaconelli. That said, however, I would recommend it for those who are searching for a way to walk more deliberately and actively with the Lord in their decision-making process, whether at church or in their private lives. To read more about this book, to read additional reviews, or to purchase a copy, visit this page on

Somewhat helpful. Plush Duck Rating: *****