Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend

What a weekend! Rain, rain, and even more rain. The baseball tournament got canceled. I have to admit that I was not sad because my husband was going to be away Sat. and Mon. umpiring and suddenly he was going to be home. So we had a lovely time all together, having some friends over, being lazy, playing games, watching movies.

My husband and I watched The Patriot starring Mel Gibson. Talk about the price of freedom. For me, this really hit home when we were living in Belgium and we attended the Memorial Day service at an American cemetery where nearly 8,000 of our young men are buried from WWII. The peaceful hills and valleys were once bloody fields ... It was the 50th anniversary and some of the surviving soldiers returned. I cried and cried like never before watching them hug each other. We walked amongst the graves. The boys were so young, just 18 or 20, some only 17. I hope and pray we never ever forget our fallen dead.

The other movie we watched (with the kids) was Faith like Potatoes. It is based on the true story of Angus Buchan who left his prosperous farm in Zambia to avoid all the unrest and war in the 1970s and brought his young family to South Africa. The family established a home and a farm, but once Angus accepted Christ in his life, he was able to lift himself and others up through faith. I loved his philosophy of doing what you can with what you have and trusting God to provide the rest. I don't know if I could ever have faith like potatoes -- it refers to planting potatoes under drought conditions -- but I wish!
My son has been playing with my camera and I admire how quickly he has figured things out without reading the manual. He took the picture above (among many others -- good ones too!) and below is his first time-lapse movie -- How to Draw a Cat -- starring my daughter. Enjoy!


Friday, May 28, 2010

Kids and Kittens

My husband sent me this beautiful poem he came across a blog he reads regularly and I have to share because it is so easy to forget how quickly children grow up when we're busy with school and sports and work and just trying to keep ahead of the chores. Thank goodness I don't have to raise my child over again ... I can try to do it right ... now.

If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again
by Diana Loomans

If I had my child to raise over again,
I’d do less correcting, and more connecting.
I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I would care to know less and know to care more.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I’d run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I’d do more hugging, and less tugging.
I would be firm less often, and affirm much more.
I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I’d teach less about the love of power, and more about the power of love.
My daughter has been talking about getting kittens and another puppy for a long time now, but the plan is taking shape in her head. Every day when we walk to and from school (with our two-year-old dog who is still very puppyish) she imagines how she will train the kittens to be on a leash, how they'll cuddle up with her, how they'll snuggle in with the dog.
When I asked if two cats and a dog aren't enough, she said, "They are cats, not kittens."
Right. They are 17 and 12 years old. Ancient. Practically fossils. My kids haven't grown up with kittens, but cats, even though they're naughty and entertaining and sweet and loving cats.
My daughter cleaned out the cat-boxes today. Of course, I'm very partial to cats ... and the thought of kittens makes my heart beat just a wee bit faster. I get totally wrapped up in her imagination. She's got a good plan. For Christmas! But after camping also sounds good, right?!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Full Moon Tonight

Last night amidst the clouds, I saw the moon -- almost full. Go howl at it tonight and go here for a fantastic giveaway from Nan Marino, author of Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me.
I can't believe I have not yet read this book and it's been out a whole year already. Wah! There simply isn't enough time to read all the good books in this world. But aren't we lucky? When I was growing up, I was allowed to choose four books every month at the British Council Library. Four. I'd read them in a week and then read my sister's books. I even read my mother's stash. I still remember reading Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence and Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham. Most of it went over my head. But sometimes I'm surprised at how much seeped into my soul.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Thanks for the Memories

My husband came up with this title for my son's project instead of the bland (though respectable) Memory Project. Since I don't know how to post a picture of this on the Blueboards and half the data points came from there, I decided to post it here. At least I know how to do this one thing. LOL.

So here it is -- the raw data all on one graph. I don't know how to make it bigger. But I bet my son probably knows. Try clicking on it. In any case, what the data show is that first memories are typically around age 3-4 and the continuous/autobiographical memories begin around age 6-7. This is where our sense of self comes from. Sorting the numbers by gender, age groups, children's writers vs. not, did not result in any significant differences. My son has learned so much about data collection and integrity, keeping good records, analysis, presentation and of course, memory. We had some trouble with standard deviations, but after a couple of rounds, he got the basic principle. I don't expect him to know the formula.

When I first started this blog, I named it after the original three Rs: Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. I changed it to Ruminating because I didn't think I'd talk much about numbers, but I wouldn't have been wrong to keep that original title because there is the occasional post involving numbers or statistics.
I noticed that in the past year I've made lots of posts on religion. I've been told not to talk about religion (or politics) in public, but I can't stop even if I tried. My faith is new and beautiful and I am in love with Jesus and it's impossible to keep Him all to myself. Thankfully, I'm not meant to! So as I grow as a writer and a Catholic, you can be sure I'll be writing about both. I'll throw in a few numbers once in a while to keep it more challenging.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Birth of the Church

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:18-19

Last year, when I was confirmed, I momentarily forgot what I was supposed to say and instead began to recite the Creed: We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth ... and I wondered why nobody else was joining me.

The priest gently nudged me and I managed to wholeheartedly say: I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.

I was anointed with oil and "sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit."

So ...

Tomorrow is Pentecost, the birth of the Church and I am in awe that what Christ taught is unchanged for over two thousand years. Even if I don't like a particular teaching (for example, on premarital sex or birth control), eventually I see the wisdom of it. It is a good thing the Catholic Church has not bent to social pressures; it remains true and steadfast to what Christ taught. What I especially take comfort in is that even when I don't understand everything in the Bible, I can submit to the authority of the Church in peace.

Here's a quote from Saint Vincent of Lerins that says it poetically: Keep the talent of the Catholic faith pure and unalloyed. What has been faithfully entrusted, keep in your possession and hand it on faithfully. You've received gold, so give gold. Don't substitute one thing for another; don't impudently put lead in place of gold, or try to deceive with brass. I don't want the appearance of gold, but the real thing.

Peace in Christ Jesus! Alleluia!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Good News

I started this blog a couple of years ago because I was bursting with good news from my critique group and wanted to shout out to the whole world. A lot has changed since then. I no longer participate regularly in the critique group because of family responsibilities. Now that my kids go to school and play sports, my evenings are for them. But I do meet weekly during the day with Jen Heger. She's in the same boat as me with kids and sports and has the same heart as me, wanting to maximize her time with her children. Of course, I still see the others once in a while, or we share manuscripts online.

With Jen's help, I've managed to write not just a skeleton of a novel, but over 50,000 words of a book that's nearly finished. And I must before school ends in three more weeks. She's eager to read pages every week and because she wants to know what happens next, I write. I never write like this. I always show work when I can no longer make it better by myself. But I have to admit that working with one person like this, brainstorming and bouncing ideas back and forth, has been very, very good for me. When Jen makes suggestions, I always ask her to write the book for me :)

I thought I'd be crazy excited to finish this book, but the truth is, I'm half dreading it. Then the real work of revising and rearranging and throwing out and writing new scenes will occur. My first draft is exploratory, which means it is a HUGE mess. Still, getting past the 50K mark on a first draft is good news for me.

I also got some good news from Highlights. A story I wrote a while back, Teeter-Totter, will be published next year. I remember going through six revisions with Marileta Robinson (she's retired now) because my animals were far too mean to one another in the original version. I'm glad she didn't give up on me. So, yes, talking animal stories do sell and even when stories are not perfect, editors see their potential.

Novel-writing and teaching don't leave me as much time for magazine shorts, but I have several shorts that have been stewing. This summer, when I'm lazing around with my kids, I'll write them up. Oh, yes, I'll have a novel to revise, but it can wait until the fall.

So, what good news do you have to share? It doesn't have to be big. Small things make me disproportionately happy as well.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shocking Statistic

Forty percent (that's nearly half) of the children are born outside of marriage. Read here how it undermines marriage, family, and the children. They are the biggest losers in all of this.

It used to be that a *normal* family was made up of a father, mother and children, sometimes grandparents. Our society takes many measures to normalize abnormal behavior to the extent that some of the magazines I write for encourage showing this (so that children of divorced parents will see themselves reflected in stories). This is very, very sad. I come from a broken home and the effects still reverberate.

I want my children to be good. I want them to have compassion for those who are troubled. And I want them to know the difference between normal and abnormal. I do not want them to accept everything as normal because the world says so.

In my youth, I've been guilty of all the things that the Msgr. Charles Pope speaks of. My hope is that the next generation will embrace values to strengthen the family. It's no easy task.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mother's Day Madness

I am the mother of these critters. The black cat is missing, but she's on another chair ready to take a swipe at the dog. This is my life and I love it.

Today my daughter brought home the Scholastic Order Forms. She said, "Mommy, your books are in here." No way. But she was right. So we took a picture. The books on plant parts are mine. But Stems and Fruits are missing. What's with that?

And now I must go kill off a grandma in my novel. I've been avoiding it for a week (or more).

Over on the Blueboards there was a discussion about what to do when you're having trouble moving forward. Elizabeth Bunce wrote: One of the things I *constantly* have to re-learn and remind myself of is that I can't write a book by THINKING about it. I can only write it by WRITING IT.


Even though I outline and know the general trajectory of a book, and all the important things that need to happen, it's only in the writing that I discover what the book really is about and whether my characters would actually do the things I've planned for them.
Time to write. I'm procrastinating here.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Please Help My Son with Memory Project

My son is curious about memory and is doing his science project on it. I want to use this as a tool to teach him some basic statistics, but for that we'd like to have more data.

And so I'm turning to you. We have a lot of answers from kids 10 and under, but don't have enough answers from teens and adults. My son and I will appreciate very much if you answer the following questions:

Your current age:
Your earliest memory (age):
What it was:
Age when you have continuous memory (that is, you remember the day to day routines, etc.):

You can answer here or send me a private email.

Thank you so much.

ps: cross-posted on the Blueboard, so if you've already replied there, no need to post here.