Today is the Winter Solstice.

It was warm inside. Dad was making popcorn and listening to the ball game on the radio. We didn't have a TV then. TV's in my childhood were intermittent. And right now we didn't have one. So Dad was listening to the ball game on the radio.

I was sitting in a chair in the dinning room looking out of the the five large windows that comprised the front of our house.

It was about 4:15 and already twilight outside. In a little while I'd be able to see stars. We lived on a hill and it was easy for me to see the sunset over the rooftops that crowded around in our city neighborhood.

It seemed strange that only a few hours before the sun had come up. The short days of winter didn't do much for my productivity. Arrayed around me on the dinning room table was my schoolwork. If I didn't finish it today I'd have to continue it tomorrow. But I wouldn't be allowed to do anything else until I'd finished it. Except for maybe shovel the driveway. But judging by the sky, it didn't look like we'd get anymore snow soon. Already I was starting to see the first stars. I glanced at the clock, 4:30. How odd. The shortest day of the year, it stood out so much more to me than the longest day of the year.

That is until I moved to Michigan. There the long days of summer meant that we could rollerblade around campus until ten p.m. in perfect daylight. I enjoyed doing that until I started working and my self-imposed bed-time meant it was hard to rollerblade until ten p.m. wind down and still get a good night's sleep. I've found I like my nine hours of sleep.

I also find I'm happier on sunny days. So I suppose if I were looking on the bright side of things, I would say: after today, the days are only going to start getting longer.

Happy Winter Solstice everyone.

My eco friendly house

When I was younger, I liked to draw houses, the insides, the outsides, the yards, -- you get the idea. I don't do that so much anymore, but I probably would like to.

In my previous post I mentioned I had drawn a house that included energy saving techniques like tall windows to heat with solar energy, and being built into the side of a hill to use the ground for insulation. I wasn't able to find the drawings I had made of the outside of the house, but I did find this cut-away drawing of the interior. Enjoy.

Young and Beautiful

Opal Shoemaker at twenty
Opal Shoemaker at twenty
This is a pictures of my grandma when she was young and beautiful. She was 20 years old. But that is not how I knew her. I remember her face soft with wrinkles, quick to smile and eyes that twinkled with humor. I remember warm hugs that changed in shape as I grew older and taller than her.

I have clear memories of the family gathered in her kitchen preparing string beans for canning. Grandma would be sitting in a chair next to the wood stove, and telling us about her plans for her vegetable garden and flower garden. Her cockatiel chattered away in his cage nearby. Plants hung from the ceiling near the sink. And behind the many cabinets in the kitchen (hand-crafted by my grandmother) I knew were canning jars full of fruits, vegetables and also a few pickled eggs. I remember always being facinated by the pickled eggs because I had never seen pickled eggs in the store.

Through the doorway into the dining room I could see several quilts in various stages sitting on the table and chairs. The dinning room often doubled as Grandma's quilting room. Grandma had made three quilts for me as I was growing up. The first was a baby quilt of yellow and green. Next came a white quilt with pink flowers and embroidered animals. And the third, her most famous pattern, was one of a boy in overalls and broad brimmed hat and girl in a dress and a bonnet.

Grandma also crocheted; gifts of hats, slippers, stuffed crocheted animals and dolls, table ornaments, and also a sweater arrived at our house for christmas. One year Grandma came out east and visited us on Long Island. I was six I think. I shyly watched as she crocheted, because I wanted to learn how.

I admired my grandmother for her various skills of furniture upholstering, cabinet making, helping things grow and playing the guitar. I've often said that I hoped to be just like her when I reached her age. She was a wonderful model and everything a granddaughter could wish for.

Disturbing the Universe

Have you ever learned something disturbing from your dreams?

When I worked on the yearbook I woke up one morning realizing I had a crush on the editor. It suddenly explained a lot of things. I now understood why I was so forgiving of his rough humor and snide remarks. It was an aha! moment. I was blindsided by this attraction. I don't think I ever woke up so surprised in my life.

Death Be Not A Stranger

When my grandmother Parks died in 1988 I was nine. She had breast cancer, but I didn't find that out until my Mom died and it was mentioned as we developed a life story for my Mom's funeral program. We had traveled to the west coast from the east coast because we knew it would be soon. My Mom had been there for several months already. My brother Ben was in the room when she died. I wasn't. I overhead the a description of her death, "she reached out her arm, and kept asking for someone to help her."

It is a tragic image that has stayed with me ever since. My grandmother was never heavy to begin with. The cancer had turned her face into a gaunt hollowed eyed shadow of her former self. I pictured the frail arm dressed in the pale blue flowered print reaching out to those standing by her hospital-style bed. Her pleading eyes moving from one face to another. Her tortured cries for help. I wondered why she asked for help. Was it the pain? Was she afraid to die?

A few weeks earlier she had asked for some fried chicken. My grandmother hadn't eaten chicken in decades. My little vegetarian soul was shocked at this. When she became a vegetarian was it only to prolong her life? Did dying negate the vegetarian vow? Why had my parents raised me a vegetarian?

At the funeral home they had a separate room for the family to sit. There was a window we could look out and see the casket and the others attending the funeral. When we left we all walked by the casket. Her face looked caked with makeup.

My Mom had her camera with her. She took pictures of the flowers at the funeral home. She took pictures of my grandmother in the casket. She took pictures at the graveside. At the time, I thought it was strange. At my own mothers funeral though, I took pictures also. Following in her footsteps. I didn't really see any of it then. The pictures helped me to see it later.

I wished I could have stayed longer in the room where they first brought us in to see my Mom in the casket. There was a lot going on at the time. Subplots with in-laws and well wishers. I did what I thought best. I stood close to my Dad. I appreciated my friends who dropped everything to come be with me. Yet had I really come to terms with death? I never touched her. Was it better that way? I don't know.

I held my guinea pig when he died. Poor thing was really having a rough time of it. I felt like I should be sadder than I was. Truth was, I had never grown as attached to him as I felt would be proper. When my hamster died my brother Ben told me that if it was his hamster he would have cried. He didn't think I was as sad as I should have been. I held my guinea pig's small body in my hands and marveled at how one moment he had been alive, and the next he was dead.

I once heard death explained by using the analogy of darkness being the absence of light, death is the absence of life.

What do you think?

Emotions Link Memory

I read in a textbook once that events connected to emtions are easier to remember. I was surprised to read that until I started reflecting on it. All these years, and a hot spot of memory when I let my temper go in front of the entire youth group at my church still really sticks out at me. The conflicting emotions still constrict my chest. I was being misunderstood and it  was making me angry. I also clearly remember the shocked look on people's faces that quite little Katy was making such a big fuss. I remember running away in embarrassment and having to endure a lecture I felt I didn't deserve.

There was a lot of build up to that point. I doubt the adult I was yelling at ever really understood what I was trying to say. A minor incident in my life, but the emotions sure were strong... Would they disappear if I forgave her?

My dad surprised me when he said he was angry with the truck driver that crashed into the car when my mom died. The police asked my dad if he wanted to press charges. And he himself said he was surprised by the anger he felt toward the truckdriver. I was never angry at the truckdriver, but rather sad. I don't think there was anything he could have done to avoid it. What I did feel was a strong sense of anxiety. My whole family's dynamics was going to change. What was my dad going to do now? Statistics of spouses dying withing a year or two of their spouses spun through my head. It wasn't until the funeral swelled with hundereds of well wishers that I really felt peace.

My dad is moving in a couple days. A chapter in my life is closing, and I'm wishing for the closure of walking through the rooms in the house and saying goodbye to memories. But I'm here in sunning, snowing, orange leaved Michigan, and he is 14 hours away.

Emotions are a necessary part of memories. I think they are what give them color.

Reading the Writing on the Wall

Cursive Writing Rapidly Becoming Passe , and article on MSNBC delves into the subject of diminishing use of cursive writing and what effect this might have. Dan the Theologian first tipped me off to the article.

It started me thinking on my own handwriting experience. I was homeschooled and my Mom included handwriting instruction as part of my curriculum. One of Dan's commentors CynaraJane mentioned she homeschooled her kids and this was why they wrote in cursive. I never considered cursive writing better than print (aka block). I thought my Mom had good handwriting because she was trained as an elementary teacher and had to teach it. Since she taugh my three older brother and myself to write, I assumed this was why we all had good handwriting. My Dad's handwriting can be difficult to read.

This may come as a surprise to some of you (sike) but I am a very independant headstrong sort of person. I like to do things my own way. When I was learning to write, I had this worbook that showed me how to write the letters. It had little arrows showing which way I should draw the lines and circles. I found that I liked doing some things opposite from what it said. For example I might have wanted to draw the cirlce in the "d" counter-clock-wise instead of clockwise etc.

The same applied when I learned how to write in cursive. I couldn't vary as much from cursive writing and I hated having to copy the text supplied for my lessons.

All the same I took great pride in learning to write neatly. My brother Ben showed me once a letter he got from a friend in which the handwriting looked like it had been block justified. I was in awe. I wanted to be able to handwrite like that. Cursive writing never took on for me though. I liked writing some of the letters better in cursive (an "a" for instance) but usually felt printing was faster.Now, when I need to take extensive notes, I type them. Much, much, much faster.

How about you? When you handwrite a note, is it in cursive or print?

The Mysteries of Udolpho

I came across this webpage while surfing the other day:

http://www.shibumi.org/eoti.htm

It said:

"The End of the Internet
Congratulations! This is the last page.
Thank you for visiting the End of the Internet. There are no more links.

You must now turn off your computer and go do something productive.

Go read a book, for pete's sake."

My first thought after reading it was, "is reading a book all that much better than surfing the internet?"

About the age of fifteen I started reading romance novels. The kind that go into exquisite detail about his "manhood" and her "lily white breasts". I was curious about sex and chose them as my textbook. There was a girl at church I knew who read them. Part of me wanted to different than who I was, and that meant being like her.

My consicounce got the better of me and I replace this fodder with religious romance novels. These were historical novels with bible verses and kissing but no detailed sex scenes.

Next I got hooked on Star Trek novels. For months all I read were Star Trek novels. Eventually I started feeling like they were empty. So I looked around the house. I noticed my brother had brought home "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen, from one of his college classes. I had previosuly been thrown off from "classics" by a previous attempt at reading "David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens. I picked "Pride and Prejudice" up and couldn't set it down until about 3 o'clock in the morning when I had finished the book. This led me on a trip to the library where I soon devoured Emma, Sense and Sensibilty, and Northanger Abby. My foray into the classics had begun.

Now years afterward, and several literature classes later, I am wondering if reading these classics is productive? I have long sense realized that I read to escape from bordem or what ever present reality I am in. It isn't often that I read to gain an insight or for some other edifiying enterprize.

Is reading anything better than reading nothing?

Campus Comfort

I thought the biggest event in 2004 for me would would be my wedding May
30. It was overshadowed by my mother’s funeral, April 27. She died in a
car accident April 23.

I think about her a lot. Saying to myself
“I miss my mommy.” I miss her hugs. I miss how she was interested in
everything I was doing. I miss how her eyes would light up when we’d do
something fun.

I think that is what makes me sad the most of all.
The fun things we had planned to do together. The things I wanted to do
for her. I had big ideas for a 40th wedding anniversary celebration.
You hear about how parents want to make their children happy. Children
want to make their parents happy and see their eyes sparkle too.

Picture
a four-year-old standing on the dining room table a smile of total joy
filling its face as chubby little hands reach up to pull down the
chandelier, which can be raised and lowered similar to the way a window
shade is raised and lowered. What percentage of mothers would reach for
their camera to take a picture rather than grab the pre-schooler off
the table and scold them for doing such a dangerous thing as climbing
up on top of a table? Perhaps my mom was adept at putting herself in
the shoes of a four-year-old. If it were not for this ability of hers
to understand the event from the pre-schooler’s perspective, the
situation could have escalated into a crying fit and a picture of tears
and resentment instead of a fond memory.

I received the news of
my Mom’s death while at work. I had arrived at work that Friday morning
at eight o’clock as usual. As was our custom at Lithotech we gathered
for worship and then concluded with a production meeting. I remember
feeling blessed by the worship and content by the day’s duties. It
wasn’t long after we concluded that I received a phone call on my cell
phone from my brother. “Mom and Dad were in a car accident.” Ben said.
“Dad is okay,”he paused. Mom’s dead.”

No, I thought. No, this wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I just talked to her yesterday–yesterday.

He
said more things, about going to the hospital to pick up my dad, about
being in shock, and the policeman who had woken him up with the news
that morning. He wondered if I were still at home. “No, I said, I’m at
work.” We hung up and I went to find my boss. They were still in a
group talking about the day’s jobs. “I have some bad news,” I said. “My
parents were in a car accident, and my mother died.”

They were
shocked. They were concerned. They asked questions. I answered and then
walked back to my desk. My brother Joel called. I told him how I just
talked to Mom right before they had left on their trip, ironically
their trip was to a funeral. My throat was tight. My voice was soft and
wavering. My forehead in a permanent crinkle. I called my fiance who
was in an airport on his way back home. I called my future
mother-in-law who also works on campus. I hung up the phone, and cried.

As
I sat there with my head cradled in my hands on my desk sobbing–my
co-worker Cesar walked into the office and laid a hand on my shoulder.
His simple touch of comfort meant a lot me. Not only because of that
simple gesture, but because I had worked with him for years now, and I
knew the genuiness of it. I knew the care and concern went deep into
his heart.

I didn’t read all the sympathy cards, emails, and
notes people sent right away. Not from any aversion, but when the time
arrived that I could I was deeply touched by the personal stories many
shared with me. Having the support of a campus family was very
comforting.

“I wanted to wait–perhaps until the numbness had
started to wear off–to let you know that I’ve been thinking of you
during this time which may understandably be one of shocked horror,”
one card said. It continued “There is no way of saying that time will
heal, because it probably won’t. But I hope that the prayers of many
are some comfort to you.”

They were, and I thank you.

school

I got up way too early this morning. Filo walked on me and woke me up and then I couldn't get back to sleep. That was at 4:30am.

This post is in Tribute to Tamara, who has recently been contemplating not posting.

I will now argue my point in why I post on Xanga. By way of explanation I will start with the beginnings. Several of my friends have blogs on Xanga. Some told me I should join and begin a blog. I resisted reasoning that I didn't want the added responsibility. I felt that if I started a blog I would have to make it something special, it would have to be filled with things worth reading. My friends would carry on conversations about what they had posted on their blogs and I would feel left out. So I started to read the blogs, and I found it to be a great way to be updated on my friend's lives. But the final straw was that I wanted to comment. DOWNSIDES ----> can be a MAJOR time waster. I find myself looking at blogs when I'm bored, and hopping from site to site following comments.

Now for something completely different.

9th grade I was homeschooled
10th grade I went to Waldwick, an SDA day junior academy
11th and 12th to Blue Mountain Academy, a boarding school.

I had this idea when I was in the 10th grade that I wanted to attend Public school for a year, and then to a boarding school the next, so i would four different types of schooling for my high school -- just to see what it was like. My Mom said I should if I really wanted to. I was afraid to attend the public school down the street from where we lived on Staten Island, mostly because my only notion of what N.Y.C. public schools were like was from watching TV. So I ended up going to BMA for two years. I have fond memories of BMA, and on the whole I would say it was a good experience for me. Though if I could have done something differently I would have rather have been a village student. (though I must say I had great roommates).

The reason for reminicing is that BMA threw a mini-reunion/fundraiser at the Alumni House last night. It turned out to be more enjoyable than I thought it would be. I saw people that I knew that I wasn't aware were alumni of BMA. And it was good to know that BMA's enrollment was expected to be 250 this fall (when I was there it hovered around 200). They were fundraising for some big projects, one of which is to update the sewer system, which they were told to do by May of 2006.

So this brings the question, do I give them money? Do I support what they are trying to do? If I had lots of money, sure I'd give them some. But I'm poor (not as poor as some, but I'm definately not swimming in the stuff). What would I go without so that students can attend BMA?

Donating to your alma mater always seemed like someone else's job--those people that are listed in the annual report--their job. But now I wonder, -