Monday, March 31, 2008

And They're Off

It's Derby season!! The horses are off and running. I am an avid fan of thoroughbred horse racing so I'll be checking often this month. April is the big month for derby trials and most of them are on TV so you can follow too. Three big races April 5; Santa Anita, Wood Memorial, and the Illinois Derby. The following week on Aug 12 the Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derby and the weekend of the 19th the Coolmore Stakes.
It's any ones guess who will be in the field of 20 horses. Some of the contenders listed today like Anak Nakal, Atoned, Cool Coal Man, and Cowboy Cal may never get there and horses we've never heard of will pop up as major contenders. There's a lot of talk today about Bib Brown who won last weekend's Florida Derby.
I got hooked on horse racing about 5 years ago after John and I went to Lexington for Spring Break. We went to the Kentucky Horse Farm, bet on the horses at Keeneland, visited museums, horse farms, and stud farms as well as Churchill Downs. I've read about a dozen books on horses and even bet on the Derby last year. One of these days I'll actually get to the Kentucky Derby.
This spring break I have sneakily built in a day in Lexington on our way to Asheville to go back to the races at the gorgeous racetrack at Keeneland.
I'll keep you posted as the season runs.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Celebration of Life

On the surface this book could be mistaken for a story about a great tragedy. There is no doubt that the accident that killed 4 Taylor students and a staff member was a tragedy. But the overwhelming message is one of hope. The title says it all; Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope.
I didn't want to buy this book. I wasn't sure I needed to read this book. I thought I knew all there was to know about the details and aftermath of the accident. Our daughter, Katie, was a senior at Taylor that year. She had been on the lacrosse team with Laura. I am an alum of Taylor and part of the Taylor community. She and, consequently, we were a part of this unfolding story on a day to day basis. For hours, days, weeks and months we were wrapped up in this horrible event.
But of course, I did buy the book and I read it. It traces the story of this unfathomable accident through the eyes of the Van Rhyn family as they receive the news that their daughter, Laura, survived a horrific accident through her 5 weeks of recovery. But it also tells the story of the Cerak family as they deal with their grief at losing their daughter Whitney. And it also is the heart rendering story of what happened leading up to and discovering that the girl in the hospital in Fort Wayne was not Laura Van Rhyn but Whitney Cerak.
But as the families say in the prologue, "It is a horrible thing to lose a child. Yet even in the midst of the worst of tragedies, God reveals Himself. These are not just words we use to keep our spirits up during difficult days. We have experienced this revelation in ourselves. Above all things, this is the message we hope to convey. This is a story about God's grace and His love for us that transcends the worst this world can dish out."
It is truly a powerful story of Hope for everyone.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Birthday Girl!

This is OUR adorable, talented, cute, and smart daughter who turns 24 tomorrow!!!!
Wish her a happy birthday, too, by going to her blog.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter

I hope you have a wonderful and glorious Easter.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I'm Just Sayin

This is my amazing, goofy, wise, funny, talented friend WENDY!!
She's been on my site before when I announced that she had a radio show. She's on hiatus from that for now but bigger things are percolating for her.
Here she is again!! This time SHE HAS A NEW BLOG that I know will be the most fun you've had on the computer. She's just that way.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Another Incredible Book

Another extraordinary book by Peter Godwin, the author of When a Crocodile Eats the Sun. I was so mesmerized by that book that I read this, his previous book. This tells the story of his growing up in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) against a background of terrorism and a country beginning to fall apart. A page turning thriller. I can't get enough of this story. I've just requested his third book, the one between these two, called Rhodesians Never Die.

Top O' the Mornin' to Ya


A few jokes for ya and a some interesting facts.

An Irishman and an American were sitting in the bar at Shannon Airport."I've come to meet my brother," said the Irishman. "He's due to fly in fromAmerica in an hour's time. It's his first trip home in forty years"."Will you be able to recognize him?" asked the American."I'm sure I won't," said the Irishman, "after all, he's been away for a long time"."I wonder if he'll recognize you?" said the American."Of course he will," said the Irishman. "Sure, an' I haven't been away at all".

The Doctor was puzzled "I'm very sorry but I can't diagnose your trouble, Mahoney. I think it must be drink. ""Don't worry about it Dr. Kelley, I'll come back when you're sober." "Did you hear that Flanagan invented an invisible deodorant ?" "No, what good is it ?""Well if you use, you vanish and no one knows where the smell is coming from !"

The Doctor was puzzled "I'm very sorry but I can't diagnose your trouble, Mahoney. I think it must be drink. ""Don't worry about it Dr. Kelley, I'll come back when you're sober."

Before invention of the thermometer, brewers used to check the temperature by dipping their thumb, to find whether appropriate for adding Yeast. Too hot, the yeast would die. This is where we get the phrase " The Rule of the Thumb"

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts. So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender used to yell at them to mind their own pints and quarts and settle down. From where we get "mind your own P's and Q's".

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Heads Up!

Tonight is the beginning of the HBO John Adams series. A MUST watch.

Monday is the third in the 10 part "class" on Eckhart Tolle's book A New Earth

Firefly Designs

Gorgeous chunky two strand bracelet featuring large silver beads, rose and clear quartz, pearls and accented with hammered silver clasp and silver accents.
Check out my jewelry site. I've done a little restructuring; added some new pieces, and plan to continue to update with new designs in the future.

You can get there from here! Click on the link "The Jewelry" at right.

Friday, March 14, 2008


I've had a bad case of Spring Fever this week. I bought a beautiful hyacinth for the house that fills it with a glorious scent throughout! Sometime in the future we will be able to attach scents to our blogs and emails and you will be able to share the exquisite aroma of my humble little hyacinth.It was well worth the $8 spent. It spurred me on to do some deep spring cleaning as well.
The added daylight in the evening is even better. I find I'm far more productive and get so much done. Love It.
The creative juices are flowing and I'm making (and selling :) Prayer bracelets and Chakra bracelets. I'll post photos of them as soon as I get my new camera.
Off this weekend to judge another forensics tournament in Holland, Michigan ,that is, but they also put on an amazing tulip festival. Spring again!
I saw a delightfully funny show last night called Hate Mail. If you're familiar with Love Letters this is the anti- Love Letters. It tells the story of Preston, a spoiled rich kid who meets his match in Dahlia, an angst-filled artist. Their worlds collide when Preston sends a complaint letter that gets Dahlia fired from her job, and then there's no turning back. The play stays with their increasingly crazed correspondence as they move from hate to love, and then right back again.
It's playing through March 30 at the Williamston Theatre.
I'm still reading, watching and reflecting with Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth. Amazing! Such insight and fundamental truths. Loving it!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

She's Back!

Kate's back from her trip to Cost Rica . She's the really cute one on the right. (Well actually, they're both cute) I've stolen two pictures from her Picasa album.
I'm relieved that she's back safe and sound and can't wait to hear all about it. The trip home wasn't without some bumps. She left LA for Miami an hour and a half late because someone (no one from her group) checked bags but didn't take the flight. So, the bags had to be found and removed from the plane. She was landing as her connecting flight was taking off. The group was stranded in Miami until the next day. It initially looked like they would be "camping out" in the airport but the airline found them rooms at a very nice Marriott and comped dinner and breakfast. They were about 10 minutes from the South Beach area but I think they were all too tired to leave the hotel once they had arrived.
The church in which these incredible statues were photographed is beautiful but I'm intrigued by these figures.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

What I Learned in "School" Today

So, I pried my eyes open at 5:45 a.m! this morning so I could get on the road by 6:45 for a forensics tournament in Portage. I love forensics tournaments; it's what I miss the most about teaching, even the "crack of dawn" schedules, driving in blinding snow storms, fattening tournament food and 15 hour days.
Forensics isn't about dead people. We don't compete to see who can do the best autopsy. It's a competitive speech activity more like drama or public speaking. 12 events: poetry, prose, drama, storytelling, duo (scenes), multiples (mini "plays"-sort of) extemporaneous, impromptu, sales, informative, sales, and oratory. The kids are AMAZINGLY TALENTED!
My first round was Sales. Hooray! I love Sales so it was a great start to the day. I heard some great pitches for Oust, Coppertone, Whole Foods, Glad Forceflex Bags, and the best one of all Sigg water bottles. The cute little bottles are pictures here. There are dozens and dozens of designs and you choose your cap.
We all know that plastic water bottles are a problem. I just read a Q/A about reusing the bottle after you finish the water and it's not recommended. Bacteria builds up in them; you could get sick. We also know that "spring water" is the same tap water we get from our aquifers. We also know that not many plastic bottles are recycled (only 14 %) and 30 million bottles end up in land fills. It takes more than a 1000 years for them to biodegrade. For those of you Nalgene fans consider the following; the Sigg is made from a seamless aluminum liner that is effective against leaching and combats residue buildup. It's rugged and crack resistant with no weak points. (So Kudos to the young lady who gave me all this great information. I'd tell you who she is but I don't know. Students are given codes to mask the school they are from so there's no bias). She sold me!
So check it out on and NO, I don't own stock.

Friday, March 07, 2008

A New Earth

I bought the book. I bought into the hype. I watched the first Oprah class. I read the first chapter.
Now what?
I know that question sounds irreverent and perhaps self explanatory but I am sincere.
I would love to have feedback on this one.
I talked to my very talented and insightful friend Wendy, who always has very sound ideas. (I should hope so, she IS a life coach and motivational speaker) She loves the book and believes that, although she might not agree with all of it, there is something to be learned from it.
I'm not sure yet what I think or feel. The book seems a little New Agey to me and a little esoteric. I certainly plan to continue watching and reading but What do you think?
I would like to hear your comments and insight.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Treating Teachers With Contempt; Sure Way to Fail

The Lansing State Journal published two excellent viewpoints on "Failing Schools". For the full editorial go to

Dianna Topper, a Lansing Eastern teacher eloquently laid out the case that there are many factors in the "failing schools" equation. Some of her comments:

Unfortunately it is not schools that fail, it is people.

Teachers fail when:

-they cannot utilize the educational tools they know need to be used because they don't "fit" with one-size-fits-all curricula imposed by the school districts, the state, and the federal government

-they are not allowed to demand excellence from students

School districts fail when they....

-hamstring a teacher's classroom effectiveness by refusing to remove disruptive students

-allow students to ignore policy and parents to circumvent it, all the while holding teachers responsible for enforcing it

-choose not to listen or act upon teacher's concerns and solutions regarding student skills, behavior and attendance

Parents fail when ...

-attitude and behavior are not addressed outside of school

-they do not make sure their child is in school on a regular basis and timely basis

-they keep children home unnecessarily, or when vacations are routinely more important than being in school

Politicians fail when they...

-expect all children to learn exactly the same things in exactly the same amount of time

-expect schools to remedy all the disparities and shortcomings of society

Society fail when it...

-pays only lip service to the importance of education

-focuses attention on what's wrong, only with schools, and students take no ownership of their role in the problem

Students fail when they...

-don't appreciate what a gift education is

-have been raised to expect continuous entertainment, not effort

-have no concept of hard work

-believe that just showing up is enough and not showing up is no big deal

-believe the responsibility for success is not theirs.

Richard Trainor, the president of the Mount Pleasant Education Association writes:

Congratulations to the " dictatorintendent" of the Lansing Public Schools. His plan for your high schools will likely have many consequences. Unfortunately, many of them are likely to be less than positive.

Lansing parents should expect the following "improvements"...

-an exodus of your best young teachers, who read the action and the false statements of the dictatorintendent as a message that Lansing is not the kind of district to which they should commit their lives' work unless they enjoy being thrown under the bus when times are tough

-departure of good senior teachers

-a concerted effort by districts to head hunt those displaced

-students go in distress because their favorite teachers are gone

-teams and clubs are put in turmoil as teachers are shuffled like cards

-buildings end up with administrators who know less about their staff than they do today

No one wants students to succeed as much as teachers. No one does more daily to that end.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Rabbit Hole

Saw an amazing show this weekend; Rabbit Hole at Peppermint Creek Theatre (not the cast pictured at left; that's the Broadway cast). Once again, PC has hit the mark under Louis Balestra's direction.
The play is heart-rending.
Howie and Becca are struggling to come to terms with the tragic death of their 4 year old son in a car accident. Becca deals with the tragedy by putting her son's things away for safe keeping but out of sight as they are such a painful reminder of what they have lost. Her husband, on the other hand, needs to have Danny's things close at hand for him to deal with his grief. He accuses Becca of trying to erase the memory of their son. Conflict builds between them and threatens to destroy what they have left.
It runs another weekend at PC and is well worth seeing.
I've finished When a Crocodile Eats the Sun and I hate that it's done. I lingered over the last few chapters while wanting to find out what happens but not wanting it to be done. If Oprah ever calls me to ask what my top 5 books are , this would be one. In fact, maybe I should just write Oprah and suggest it to her. Peter Godwin, the author, has an earlier book about growing up in Africa and I've "ordered" it from a library somewhere in Michigan. But now I'm lost. What to read next? I have two other books started but they are just not as compelling as this one.
I'm anxiously waiting for the library to get High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed .
Yes, another Everest book. For those of you who know me; I have a passionate interest in everything Everest and once drove to Cleveland to see the IMAX Everest movie about the 1996 disaster where 8 people died. It was the closest IMAX to my town so it became a mini spring break destination. But hey, we also went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and some really cool museums.
This is a different slant to regular climbing books. It's about the underworld that preys on unsuspecting climbers; a tale of thievery, prostitution, blackmail, and con-men.