Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Surviving Blogland

A writer is, after all, only half his book. The other half is the reader and from the reader the writer learns.
~P. L. Travers

There are many blogs with tips about how to have a successful blog that start with something like this: Choose the purpose or subject matter for your blog, attract your visitors to your blog, and so on. My blog is mostly a personal journal of events and thoughts along my life's journey to my Lord; staying on a particular subject or attracting a large number of readers is not my goal. However, I do very much appreciate the few readers I have; it is very encouraging for me to continue my journal.

I was thinking that I have not seen any advice on how to survive the other side of blogging. You see, some of my favorite bloggers have been posting less often of late, including myself. Some are observing Lent and some are just particularly busy in their real life and some may just not be in the mood to write. It is like an infectious illness putting the skids on my blog world and I may even be helping it along! My husband calls me a high maintenance woman, but I believe I am only high maintenance in my need for communication and if I feel cut off, I get...uh, moody, even needy.

It is no one's fault. I firmly believe happiness is a choice and I do not expect people to make me happy...but lately I have felt like my support group is...ungrouping. Yes, I know it is not a real word and to be honest these individuals are not in a real group, except in my little cyber world. I have come to realize that I handpicked a support group for my needs, but is it a small group and rather fragile. If just one is not posting for a few days, I feel unbalanced. If for more than a few, I feel the loss deeply of the people themselves, of course. However, I recognize there is this need that reading their blog fills in me also.

So, I have given this some thought and believe that I have a recipe for a good blogger's support group:
  1. Sharing faith. This is my top priority for the majority of blogs I read that they are written by Christians, but that is not to say that I would not be interested in a blog of a differing faith so I could learn about it in a personal way.
  2. Like interests or similar lifestyle. An obvious given! Everyone looks for people to whom she can relate.
  3. Enough differences in interests or lifestyle to be interesting but not irritating. Let's face it, there is enough peace-stealing conflict just in real life, so I do not need to add more purposely, however I do like hearing opinions that differ from my own and getting to know a person.
  4. A balance of blogs with deeper insights to challenge emotional and/or spiritual growth and those that are generally lighthearted and uplifting. Now this one is the most important to me personally. I need a balance in this because I am not the lighthearted and uplifting type—I know I am not shocking anyone with this confession—so I need that in my support group. On the other hand, I am more drawn to blogs that challenge me, so I tend to have more of them than the other.
  5. A good pinch of motivating and educating to spice it up. I need to know what others people are doing, reading, or learning to help me decide if that is something I would want to do, read, or learn, and maybe add to my own lifestyle. I also like learning in the way people teach people, not in a boring uninvolved textbook style, but with a person's own opinions on the matter. It makes it far more enjoyable and memorable for me.
  6. Inspirational in that they prompt me to write in turn. When I write "inspirational" I do not necessarily mean that pat-you-on-the-back kind nor that how-to-write kind, but something that motivates me to write, even if on an unrelated subject.
I think this list covers the main things, but if you have some to add please do.

The thing that make it all worth the while is not to survive in Blogland but to thrive in it and that requires a balance with your real life too.

~ My Lord, thank you for the people You have brought into my life through their writing. I appreciate them all very much, very much indeed! ~

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Horses Don't Have Hands

There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man. ~Winston Churchill

For the last several weeks we have been helping at the farm owned by Miss Annette, the leader of the 4-H Horse and Pony Club. She is boarding a few horses along with her own. She has some miniature horses, a couple of ponies, and four regular sized horses--and when I say regular sized, two of the newest are quite large, actually the size of horse I am more used to. The other family that goes to the farm also at 4:30 in the afternoon on Fridays are new to horses and do well with the feeding instructions, but the mother is not that comfortable with getting the larger horses in and out of their stalls.

One of the mares, who knows better, went past her own stall to take a stroll in the barn, while another of the newer large horses came in and was in her way to get back to her stall. The other mother looked concerned and unsure of what to do. Not a problem. I just grabbed and turned the wayward walker around the corner and turned her back around toward her stall after the other was happily in his own. The other mother looked so relieved and said she was thankful that I was there. What was cool to me is that I did not even give it a thought, I just instinctively knew what to do, although I have not been around horses that much since I was a teenager. I guess you just do not forget certain things.

On Saturday, the Princess and I went to a farrier's school with the some other 4-H members. We were expecting about thirty, but the number dwindled down to five children and three adults. One possible reason was that we had some pretty severe storms go through, the third of these in three weeks, some areas with heavy lightning, hail larger than golf balls, high winds, and even tornadoes. (Somehow the worse cells seem to break apart when they approach our specific area and our property has not been damaged, but others have been less fortunate.)

A farrier, for those who may not know, is someone who trims the hoofs and shoes horses. There is much more to it than it sounds. A well-trained farrier can custom mold a shoe to correct the horse's walk, help heal injuries, and reduce the risk of injuries to the legs and hoofs. Then there is working with the horse so that you are not injured yourself while shoeing the horse.

One of the things I found quite appealing about it, besides just being around horses and ensuring their health, it is one of the few remaining trade professions that is not regulated and is learned the old fashion way by apprenticeship or through privately-owned schools. The owner of the school we visited, Casey & Son Horseshoeing School, told of a $500,000 horse with which he worked for eighteen months to correct his hoofs and gait, afterward the horse won a couple of races and became worth $5.5 million.

This school does a bit more. It even has a treadmill for horses! Not to work them, but to study their gait. It really is worth watching some of the videos on their website.

The Princess was called upon to train a horse not to follow her as she stepped away from a horse while holding the lead rope. The horse was only supposed to walk toward her when she pulled the lead rope just enough that it applied some pressure. There was also much discussion on horse body language within the herd and how horses respond to pressure. It was explained that horses do not really understand hands because they don't have them, so they often do not respond the way we want them to when we are using our hands. The Princess wrote the following report which she submitted for the 4-H newsletter:

Horses Don't Have Hands

Saturday we went to a farrier's school. There we learned that horses don't have hands and that you have to use body language with horses. We learned how to reward a horse, and how to punish a horse, and the way the horse knows he's being rewarded or punished. You rub their neck for reward and tap their shoulder for punishment.

If the horse is in the way or squishing you, don't use your hands to push him over. If you lean on him, he'll lean on you. What you do is shove him over by putting your hands on the wall and shoving him over with your back, which is saying "Get out of the way!"

I was pleased, as I listened, at how well my aunt had taught me. We always started where the horse could see you and feel your touch before traveling the length of the horse with your body along his all the way back and down to the back hoof. Although I was taught how to evaluate a horse, I never had to use it because I knew my aunt's horses well, but for a farrier who only sees a horse once every six weeks, it is a very important thing to do. To evaluate a horse for it tendency to kick, a simple rope is swung around its eyes and then over its neck to lightly slapping its back, and wrapping around its legs. A rope is also used to train the horse to lift his legs for you when you bring your hand down the leg toward the hoof. I remember us doing the same, but it was so many years ago and yet it is coming back to me the more I am around horses again.

~ My Lord, keep us safe as we work with horses and may we do it often...and some riding would be very nice as well. ~

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring Fevers Continue

I used to wake up at 4 A.M. and start sneezing, sometimes for five hours. I tried to find out what sort of allergy I had but finally came to the conclusion that it must be an allergy to consciousness. ~James Thurber

Have you ever just felt tired of being you? Sometimes I feel just this way. Perhaps I am just exhausted or terribly disgusted with myself...or both? I have much I would like to write about, but nothing of which I want to write about at the same time. I am disgusted with myself because I have not really been doing much at all, certainly little of what I should do. I suppose, if I am exhausted, that would be my excuse for not doing much, but at the same time I have not done enough to be so exhausted.

This time of year does such strange things. We were out most of the day Saturday because it was so beautiful, and we tilled and prepared a front garden for planting a small food-producing garden. The Princess seemed recovered partially from her fever last week, which kept us from going to her piano lessons, but she did not really get her appetite back completely and still was not quite herself. By Sunday morning, it seemed she had a relapse. I stayed home with her instead attending church that morning and Sunday night my nearly ten-year-old fell asleep at service, which is more of a study, while sitting up on my lap! The fever and sleepiness returned on Monday morning, this time with sniffles, a bit of sneezing, and some coughing. Then it dawned on me what the problem has been: I keep forgetting how much the pollen affects us even though we do not have much in the way of the typical allergy symptoms. We have no itchy eyes, no sinus headaches, no puffy faces, and no running noses for the most part, but we are most definitely affected.

I need to remember that about the time the dogwoods and azaleas are blooming, not that these plants themselves the problem necessarily, but just the sheer amount of pollen overall at that time, that the Princess needs to stay inside more with only about half an hour day out at the most. This is probably the cause of my exhaustion too. It is cruel that while the weather is the perfect temperature and the blossoms are so beautiful and the bugs are so low in number, that each hour we enjoy it will cost us at least twice as many hours feeling poorly, but that is the way it is apparently.

It just gives me one more thing to which I will look forward in Paradise!

~ My Lord, please restore our health and energy, and help us to use such precious gifts wisely. ~

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Unseen Forces At Work

He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac... ~Genesis 28:12,13a

While reading Angels by Billy Graham, I was reminded of how much God does intervene in our lives...I mean, I firmly believe He does do that, but it is in the how it is done that I was reminded. For many years I have wished to see an angel. I think there are times I have or at least someone who was guided by an angel to show up with exactly what was needed and never seen again, but I want to see one so there is no doubt in my mind, "This is an angel." To be honest, at that point I probably would understand why angels start their messages with "Do not fear," because it would be a very fearfully wonderful event in one's life. I have friends who are convinced they have seen an angel or two and I admit my elation for them is tangled with bits of jealousy...I wish I could see an angel.

I was also reminded about the other side of the spiritual realm, the one of which I try to remain ignorant, but if there are angels then certainly there are demons also. This is an excerpt from the book:

In the Old Testament, Daniel vividly describes the bitter conflict between the angelic forces of God and the opposing demons of darkness. Before the angel came to him he had spent three weeks mourning (Daniel 10:3). He ate no bread, meat or wine, nor did he anoint himself. As he stood by the Tigris River, a man appeared clothed in linen. His face looked like lightning and his eyes like flaming torches. His voice sounded like the roar of a crowd.

Daniel alone saw the vision. The men who were with him did not. Yet a great dread came upon them, and they ran away to hide. Left alone with the heavenly visitor, Daniel's strength departed from him, so great was the effect of this personage on him.

Daniel was held in the bonds of a great sleep, yet he heard the voice of the angel. A hand touched him and the angel described an experience he himself had just had. The angel had started to come to Daniel from the moment he began to pray, but en route was waylaid by a demon prince who engaged him in conflict and delayed him. Then Michael came to help this subordinate angel, freeing him to fulfill his mission to Daniel.

I tend to think that God does everything in His own time, but it may be that some things do get delayed when one of God's messengers are opposed. It is a very sobering thought that spiritual beings struggle with each other outside the range of our senses, one side working in service for the Lord and the other side trying to prevent that work being done.

Makes me wonder just how many times I struggled, as Daniel did, while an angel also was in a struggle after being sent to help me. It is a comforting and rather frightening thought all at the same time.

~ My Lord, thank you for always for Your care and for your messengers who have helped me even though I was unaware of them. ~

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Is the glass half full, or half empty? It depends on whether you're pouring, or drinking. ~Bill Cosby

I am sure you have been asked this question. If you respond that the glass is half-full, you are a positive thinker. If you respond it is half-empty, you are a negative thinker...or some would prefer saying it is simply a half glass of water because they are more realistic thinkers.

I considered myself a realistic thinker although I have been described by others as a glass-is-half-empty type, but what I think now is far less simplistic. You see, it is my nature to make things more complicated than that, to skew one's perspective to think outside the box...or glass as it were: Sometime ago now, I came to the conclusion that the glass is always full! God created some things before He created the earth: space, time, light/energy, and matter. The glass has space and space is usually filled with some kind of matter. Now, it may only be filled half-way with water, but the other half is filled with air, that stuff we breathe well enough but tends to elude the senses of seeing, feeling, tasting, touching, or smelling; even so we cannot live but a few minutes without air—it is actually more important than water. So, I say the glass is always full, but it just may not be full of what one wants it to be.

Now let's look at the glass from an entirely different angle. Let's view the glass as a container of life as air and water are essential to life, but let's look at it from a more spiritual perspective. The glass could be my life or your life, and God is the One looking at it. Does He see it as half a glass of life or always full but just not filled with what He would like it to be?

That is how life is. We fill it up with things. They may not be the things that please God, but we like keeping it full...full of things. Some of those things may make us feel partially empty because we have not filled it with the life supporting things we should or we do not recognize them as having purpose at the time as with air, but even the emptiness within us is filled, just not with what God would like to have there.

I have been clearing out some things in our lives here, emptying areas of our lives and our home to fill them with what really should be here. When my husband was in the U.K., I cleaned up the workout space in our garage so we can exercise and the homeschool/office area in our basement so that we can used it more efficiently. I am going to again tackle cleaning out the art/craft room in the basement and be brutal about what will be kept or not, because I need the space. It is filled with the things I really do not desire and I have this desire to fill it with doing my own artwork again. The Princess needs that influence in her life as well; she draws nearly every day. She is turning ten years old at the end of the month and I am realizing that she has much to develop and learn in the next six to eight years before she finishes our homeschool. I am hoping that she will learn how to be filled up with the things that are pleasing to God.

~ My Lord, fill our emptiness with Your Life and not just fill it but let it run over. ~

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring Fever and Then Some

It's spring fever.... You don't quite know what it is you DO want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain

I have decided that there are basically three types of Spring Fever:

1. The desire to get outside and do things in the warmth of the sun after cold winter months.

2. Allergies, also known as hay fever, due to pollen, which so predominate in the spring.

3. A fever for unknown reasons that just happened in the spring.

We have all three going on here! We are having sunny days at times in the high 70's and I have a sore back so I should not be doing any gardening as I would prefer to do. Now allergies are not a big problem for us thankfully, but Georgia has so many lovely things blooming in the spring that that pollen counts are astronomical—even people without allergies have some difficulties during this time of the year. Lastly, my Princess is rarely ill, but this morning she woke up with that fever headache and has been resting most of the day while refusing food.

All this plus my back still aching, requiring I rest it, gave me some extra time to write, in between bread making and laundry and tending to the child, of course. I tried to not notice the dusting and vacuuming that also needs to be done because my back had enough with the kneading of dough for the one loaf, hamburger buns, and honey topped rolls I made.

Last weekend on Saturday, I face painted for the 4-H Horse and Pony Club but I did not get any pictures this time. I did do some new designs that worked quite well and I may bribe the Princess to let me paint her one day for pictures—it seems commonplace that the children of face painters tend to tire of it all and often must be bribed. I will have to prepare a post with pictures of face painting that I did in the last year with at other 4-H functions.

The Princess will begin with 45-minute piano lessons this week because her skill level just requires more than 30 minutes now. Hanon exercises have been added to her regular lessons. These are meant to strengthen the typically weaker fourth and fifth fingers as well as improve speed, precision, agility, and flexibility in the wrists. Unfortunately, we may not even make it to piano lessons this week because the Princess is ill.

I hope we all recover soon as I have things I really want to do...not exactly sure what they all are right now, but it fairly makes my heart ache, I want them so.

~ My Lord, please bring us back to good health so we can enjoy the lovely spring days again.~

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Minuet

The thing about performance, even if it's only an illusion, is that it is a celebration of the fact that we do contain within ourselves infinite possibilities. ~Sydney Smith

The distance and traffic on Friday nights have always made it quite impractical for my Princess to be able to practice with other children on the musical portion of the spring recitals, so Miss Trudy tries to have her do something special like reciting a poem. The first time she did this, she simply recited the lyrics of song she was about to play. This time she recited a poem that enhanced the theme of the program.

Because of how the poem was written, I could see it would not do as a simple recitation, but needed to be acted out and so this was a first for the Princess and she did it quite well. (As I look at this picture below, I cannot help thinking, "Who is this graceful young lady? Wasn't she just a cute four-year-old just beginning piano lessons a month or so ago?")

"Modern ways are quite alarming..."

The Minuet
by Mary Mapes Dodge

Grandma told me all about it,
Told me so I could not doubt it,
How she danced -my grandma danced! -- Long ago.
How she held her pretty head,
How her dainty skirt she spread,
How she slowly leaned and rose -- Long ago.

Grandma's hair was bright and sunny;
Dimpled cheeks, too, -oh, how funny!
Really quite a pretty girl, -- Long ago.
Bless her! why, she wears a cap,
Grandma does, and takes a nap
Every single day; and yet
Grandma dance the minuet -- Long ago.

"Modern ways are quite alarming,"
Grandma says; "but boys were charming"
(Girls and boys, she means, of course)-- "Long ago."
Brave but modest, grandly shy-
She would like to have us try
Just to feel like those who met
In the graceful minuet -- Long ago.

Later she played "Polonaise, BWN Anhang 119" by J.S. Bach of the Baroque Period and "A Little Flower" by Cornelius Gurlitt of the Romance Period. These were the same pieces she played in February for the judging: Judging the Princess.

In this video is of the Polonaise only because the Princess had her first truly big mess up. I suppose it was bound to happen eventually, after all she has been taking lessons and performing for six years this May. On the video, she did have a small hiccup during the Polonaise, but that was hardly anything. The second piece did not get recorded. She had it well memorized but she did not position her hands correctly when she tried to begin it. Of course, Miss Trudy could not remember her piece with about forty children playing one to three songs each and asked the Princess from backstage if she had brought her music, to which she answered "no."

However, I had already realized this was not a small glitch from which she was going to recover on her own when I saw her hands shaking, so I thanked the Lord that I had taken some Valerian before we came so I would not be nervous for her and walked to the stage to hand the music to her. She kept her poise while looking a bit relieved, but she still just could not get her hands positioned correctly until Miss Trudy came out and showed her and then...after what seemed like painful minutes of holding my breath, the Princess began playing the piece as if she had just sat down to play it as I knew she could and never had any problem at all.

She was complimented on how well she did the poem and her playing and some people made a point to compliment her on how well she recovered. I thought she might be upset this time after the performance, but she was just fine. My Princess is a performer.

~ My Lord, thank you for my daughter's gift for piano, poise, and her ability to recover from mistakes. I am often surprised by her talents and enjoy them very much. Please continue to guide her in improving herself and giving the glory to You. ~

Putting on the Brakes!

If you're not making mistakes, you're not taking risks, and that means you're not going anywhere. The key is to make mistakes faster than the competition, so you have more changes to learn and win. ~John W. Holt, Jr.

Finally, I have an afternoon to relax and write. The weather is warm and sunny and just beautiful, so I should be out playing in the dirt, spreading around those most excellent bunny berries as our fertilizer, and sprucing up the gardens. That is what I would be doing if my back was not so sore right now. I had a flare-up this week and would be over it by today had I not had to face paint all day yesterday. Oh, before I get ahead of myself, I will have to back up quite a bit since it has been...I just realized that I have not posted for nearly three weeks! Yikes! I meant get back to updating my blog before this, but I really have been too busy to even think of writing...well, writing in my blog, that is, because I had an article due also.

If you are interested in what kept me away for so long, I will have to fill you in bit by bit, because it is too much to read in one sitting, let alone write it all. As you may recall, we had at least one major event on each of three Saturdays in a row since my husband's return from the United Kingdom, where he had trained for his new job.

The first Saturday was the Children's Talent Competition for the Nazarene Churches in our district. It was a two-hour drive for us and we were from the furthest church out to plan being there. The event was meant to be from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM, but it was over soon after lunch. The reason being that there were only fifteen children from the four participating churches, including the host church. Isn't that a sad turn out? I was a bit surprised at the lack of interest, but I should not have been, because this event has not been well planned in the past. This was a post I wrote about it two years ago: Competition Cancelled. I do not even remember why we did not try to go last year, perhaps it was no better planned and we received the notice too late again or had something else going on. That is not to say that the host churches did not do an excellent job, but rather that our district just does not seem to give much in the way of support for the event and no one from the district was even there.

Still, the Princess entered four categories. The rating was from 1 to 4 with 1 being the highest.


Judge #1
Average Score: 1
Comments: Very creative! It makes me think of a bridge between heaven and earth.

Judge #2
Average Score: 1
Comments: Excellent! I am so impressed by this piece. You are incredibly talented.

My own critique: Appealing colors and nice use of texture, but most of the flowers were painted too heavily for the watercolor medium. My average score would have been 1.3 at the most.


Judge #1
Average Score: 1.2
Comments: Very good work! Good attention to detail. I love the bird in the boat.

Judge #2
Average Score: 1.3
Comments: You are a very impressive young lady! Keep up the good work!

My own critique: Some areas look unfinished or hurried compared to others. My average score would have been 1.5 at the most.


Judge #1
Average Score: 2.1
Comments: A good poem to emphasize God's great love. You have a neat work and I loved the picture! Keep writing.

Judge #2
Average Score: 1.87
Comments: I especially like the first verse where you compare what God does for nature with what He does for us. If you could have continued that idea in the second verse―comparing sunshine with His love for us, it would have continued the theme and been more consistent. However, you basic thought was excellent.

My own critique: (I missed that she had misspelled one word; on the other hand, I know she should have known the correct spelling.) Although I see the point made by Judge #2, I felt both judges missed the symbolism of promised hope and forgiveness in the rainbow. My average score would have been at least 1.3.


Judge #1
Average Score: 1
Comments: Great job. Challenging selection and you did great. Even though you messed up in one spot, you did a great job in recovering.

Judge #2
Average Score: 1
Comments: Very nice performance! You did very well with the staccato notes―they were crisp. Work on your memorization.

Judge #3
Average Score: 1
Comments: Minus the loss of continuity in the repeated measures 8-9, the performance was excellent. The key is to relax and feel the music. Remember you are playing to the glory of God. Learn the technical but move past that to the understanding the music.

My own critique: (This is a Baroque piece originally written for the harpsichord, which is an instrument that cannot be played with much variation in dynamics, that is, louder or softer. The beauty of this piece is in the technical as typical of the time period, but Judge #3 differed on this opinion because of his familiarity with Bach from the perspective of playing such pieces on guitar.) She played this piece from memory and had a slight mess up, but she did recover well. A very good performance with nice poise also. My average score would have been 1.1.

The poem was sent in with our registration and the rest was judged on the day we attended. A few children sang and there was only one other on an instrument, also piano, but just a beginner playing with only her right hand alone. Most were younger children doing this competition for the first time. One performer really stood out though. He was a boy with short blondish hair and glasses. He was quiet and seemed to be a more introverted type. Dressed all in black, he got up on the stage and we waited as the music was loaded. He did not sing however, he signed the song and not just the typical American Sign Language, but highly dramatized signing. It was just so unexpected that it just took my breath away!

So, now you know what we did three weeks ago on Saturday, March 19th. More coming....

~ My Lord, I thank you for the opportunity of this competition. It was a very good experience. I hope that You will urge more children to participate next year. ~