Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dog Pack Attacks Alligator...

At times nature can be cruel, but there is also a raw beauty, and even a certain justice manifested within that cruelty.
The alligator, one of the oldest and ultimate predators, normally considered the ‘apex predator’, can still fall victim to implemented ‘team work’ strategy, made possible due to the tight knit social structure and ‘survival of the pack mentality’ bred into the canines.
See the remarkable photograph below courtesy of Nature Magazine. Note that the Alpha dog has a muzzle hold on the gator preventing it from breathing, while another dog has a hold on the tail to keep it from thrashing. The third dog attacks the soft underbelly of the gator.
Not for the squeamish…



From FB~ T Troublemakers 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Child So Few Can Understand.

The horrific events that took place in Connecticut last week have shocked the world. The thought of someone going into a school and killing innocent children in cold blood is so much more than we can fathom.  

Just as frightening is the reaction of so many people toward the killer. So many people wishing his eternal damnation.  Being an avid internet user, I learned long ago how cruel people could get and I have chosen to ignore the hatred and anger running rampant. 

I decided to blog about this after service this morning. It began with a comment I wrote on the back of my sermon outline in response to something said. I know many of you will write hate-ridden comments back to me (and I will delete them - after all, this is a family blog). 

My comment was written in response to the statement that we should be angry and if we don't then we need to be checked to see if we have a heart.

I'll begin with my note:

Angry? Really? At whom? God? The young man who had psychological problems, possibly Asperger's Syndrome? 
Asperger's would make him unable to realize the consequences of his actions.  That boy was terribly, terribly messed up and did something horrible as a result.

Sad, devastated, shocked, scared. These are better reactions.

Jesus would see the boy's mental issues, which could not be controlled. The boy did not ask for these problems - he was born with them. Jesus would feel his hurt and grieve for him too.

Am I angry about what happened? No. How can I be? I have spent the last 18 years of my life raising a child with Asperger's Syndrome. I know about the good times and the bad.  The good times full of love and the bad times when he goes into a blind rage and only time can calm him down. But yet my love for him never waivers. I feel his pain when he snaps out of it and is full of remorse. I know that inside is a terribly sad young man who just wants to be normal.

What I feel after last week is heartbreak. Something I have sheltered myself from. After many years of abuse, I vowed never to let myself cry. In the last few days I have learned I still cry easily.

I cried when I read my daughter India's post about the children. I cry when I think of those babies who were murdered. I cry when I think of the survivors and the nightmares they will have to live with.  I cry when I think of the families left behind. I cry when I think of the first responders and the horror they witnessed. I cry when I think of all of those affected.

I cry when I think of that young man's brother - mistaken as the killer and learning of the death of his mom and his brother in such an abrupt manner.  I cry when I think of their mom and the horror she would have felt when she realized her son was too deep into his own blind rage to come out of it. 

I cry for Adam.

Adam, with the demons in his own head. Demons who would not leave no matter how badly he wanted to be normal.

Did he kill himself because he didn't want to go to prison or did he snap out of his anger first? Did he look around and realize what he had done and the horror of his actions overwhelmed him? Were his final moments filled with the same anguish that his victims felt?

Adam was 20 years old. With Asperger's Syndrome he was a much younger child himself.  A child who probably had dreams and wishes for his life that he knew would never come true because of how his mind functioned.  He was a child who may have ended his life while crying for his mom and feeling the remorse that comes after the rage.

Jesus is all things good. Full of love. He would not have been angry with Adam.  He would have known that this is not who Adam wanted to be.  I believe God wanted Adam's own hell to end and brought him Home to be with Him.   When Adam crossed over and was freed of his mental chains for the first time in his life, I believe that Jesus held him as Adam cried out in anguish.

And Jesus wept. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sinterklaas arrives tonight - will your children be in Spain tomorrow?

It's December 5th.  That day known to all Dutch children as the day when Sinterklaas arrives to either give the children presents - or punish them.  

Unlike our rotund Santa Clause, Sinterklaas is a slender man in the garb of the Catholic church's royalty.  

After all he is a retired Bishop of Turkey.  

He arrives by boat to The Netherlands in mid-November and then climbs onto a horse to travel around the country, listening to the wishes of all of the hopeful boys and girls. He is accompanied by six to eight black men.  Apparently a number that is too high for anyone to get an accurate count on. Zwarte Piet, as these black men are known formerly were slaves but now are friends of Sinterklaas.

In previous days, Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Piet would go house-to-house on the night December 5th giving presents to the good children and beating the bad children with a switch.  Sometimes they would even put the really bad children into sacks and take them back to Spain - where Sinterklaas now lives.  

Today, they merely pretend to kick the naughty boys and girls.

It makes me grateful to be an American where we only get lumps of coal.

After all, coal is worth a lot now-a-days.

Seriously - have you purchased any recently?

Happy St. Nicholas Day, Netherlands!!


(If you like David Sedaris, you will love the videos of his take on Sinterklaas.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Blogging Black Hole and Picasa's Control On My Life.

A simple little setting change can cause so much trouble.  Since posting my last blog, I've been trying to figure out why my photos disappeared on all of my blogs and pages.  Tonight I called in the troops.  Okay, I called in Matthew - who can fix anything.  

He was completely befuddled by blogger.  

In his years of web developing he has never used blogger and would never recommend it. Of course not, it's a template and he doesn't use templates - he's a developer, after all, and speaks fluent PHP. Which is why he had me purchase a blog on Wordpress.  He figured it was a much better way to blog for a layman like myself.  it's still a template, but a much more challenging template with more features. But I still couldn't break my tie with blogger. I don't think it's a love of blogger so much as that I make money through the ads that run here. 

Plus my blog looks pretty nice; if I do say so myself.

Back to the photos issue.

Most of my photos were showing up as black boxes with white lines.  When Matthew gave up, I went into full Google search mode - there is a reason why my kids call me "The Google Queen". I can find anything! Including the answer to this dilemma.

It was Picasa.

A few weeks ago I realized that all of my albums suddenly went public on Picasa so I limited them.  Unknown to me that meant I stopped all of my blog photos from being seen by the public.  That would mean you folks. Sorry...

In my messing around on the blogs I discovered that my Wordpress blog needed some tweaking: duplicate posts, missing tags, text and background colour needing to be changed.  Thankfully, Matthew has been helping me understand html so I don't have to keep running to him.

Guess what I'll be doing....

Lucky me

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Something To Be Thankful For

I got such wonderful news today. With everything that has been going wrong with my life, it's a welcome break.  

My oldest daughter.  My fellow redhead.  My Mini-Me (her 5 feet-even to my towering 5 feet 2 inches).  Winnie. Bugs.  My beautiful India Sierra will be coming home for Christmas Break.

We didn't think it would happen. Money is too tight and my cars are just not reliable enough to drive the six hours to her college home in the Albany area. Her boyfriend's mom drove across the state to pick her up and when her cell phone minutes ran out we began relying on her using the library computer to chat almost daily.  

I barely remember the sound of her voice but I will never forget the feel of her hug.  She loves to hug.  She loves to talk too - non-stop (she is a mini me after all)-  but hugging is her favourite thing to do. She would talk to Matthew for hours.  She calls him her best friend.  It isn't often that siblings love each other as much as they do.  They share a special bond, a special closeness.  

We had chatted about her, maybe, coming home for mid-winter break.  She should have a job by then so it would depend on her schedule.  I haven't seen her since she left in August.  Even with five of my children still at home, it feels like part of me is missing.   I miss her so much.

On Sunday our church's office manager was asking about her when I said India can't come home for the Holidays, there is no money.   This lovely lady said she would pray about it.  Yesterday she tried to call me but I was resting.  Today I called her back at the church office and she told me they are paying for India's bus fare. 

I don't know how to thank them enough.  I have something special to be thankful for - my little girl is coming home. 

I Love You, India.

I found this video and it just seemed to fit my mood so well right now.



Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Amish and Changing Times.

I grew up in Amish country of Northern NYS and have ended up in Amish country of Western NYS.  It was after moving here that I discovered that the Amish aren't as far behind the times everywhere.  It really depended on their sect.  
My first observation was the generator powered washing machines, the telephones in their barns and their indoor plumbing.  Since then I've seen many kids attending  public schools, solar panels on the Amish schools, Christmas lights on their buggies and even kids listening to boomboxes in their buggies. One teenager, who had been injured in a logging accident even used a motorized wheelchair and had a laptop. 
Is their lifestyle really that bad?  Does anyone besides me wish we could go back to some of their simpler ways?
When I discovered this article over at The Technium, I just had to share it:

Amish Hackers
The Amish have the undeserved reputation of being Luddites  of people who refuse to employ new technology. It's well known the strictest of them don't use electricity, or automobiles, but rather farm with manual tools and ride in a horse and buggy.  In any debate about the merits of embracing new technology, the Amish stand out as offering an honorable alternative of refusal. Yet Amish lives are anything but anti-technological. In fact on my several visits with them, I have found them to be ingenious hackers and tinkers, the ultimate makers and do-it-yourself-ers and surprisingly pro technology.
Home-built gas powered ice cutter to make ice for non-electric icebox.

First, the Amish are not a monolithic group. Their practices vary parish by parish. What one group does in Ohio, another church in New York may not do, or a parish in Iowa may do more-so. Secondly, their relationship to technology is uneven.  On close inspection, most Amish use a mixture of old and very new stuff. Thirdly, Amish practices are ultimately driven by religious belief: the technological, environmental, social, and cultural consequences are secondary. They often don't have logical reasons for their policies. Lastly, Amish practices change over time, and are, at this moment, adapting to the world at their own rate. In many ways the view of the Amish as old-fashioned Luddites is an urban myth.
Like all legends, the Amish myth is based on some facts. The Amish, particular the Old Order Amish -- the stereotypical Amish depicted on calendars – really are slow to adopt new things. In contemporary society our default is set to say "yes" to new things, and in Old Order Amish societies the default is set to "no." When new things come around, the Amish automatically start by refusing them.  Thus many Old Order Amish have never said yes to automobiles, a policy established when automobiles were new. Instead, they travel around in a buggy hauled by a horse. Some orders require the buggy to be an open carriage (so riders – teenagers, say – are not tempted with a private place to fool around); others will permit closed carriages. Some orders allow tractors on the farm, if the tractors have steel wheels; that way a tractor can't be "cheated" to drive on the road like a car. Some groups allow farmers to power their combine or threshers with diesel engines, if the engine only drives the threshers but is not self-propelled, so the whole smoking, noisy contraption is pulled by horses. Some sects allow cars, if they are painted entirely black (no chrome) to ease the temptation to upgrade to the latest model.
Amish Thresher
Horse-drawn diesel baler, from Old Order Amish

Behind all of these variations is the Amish motivation to strengthen their communities. When cars first appeared at the turn of last century the Amish noticed that drivers would leave the community to go shopping or sight-seeing in other towns, instead of shopping local and visiting friends, family or the sick on Sundays. Therefore the ban on unbridled mobility was aimed to make it hard to travel far, and to keep energy focused in the local community. Some parishes did this with more strictness than others.
A similar communal motivation lies behind the Old Order Amish practice of living without electricity. The Amish noticed that when their homes were electrified with wires from a generator in town, they became more tied to the rhythms, policies and concerns of the town. Amish religious belief is founded on the principle that they should remain "in the world, not of it" and so they should remain separate in as many ways possible. Being tied to electricity tied them into the world, so they surrendered its benefits in order to stay outside the world. For many Amish households even today, you'll see no power lines weaving toward their homes. They live off the grid.
To live without electricity or cars eliminates most of what we expect from modernity. No electricity means no internet, TV, or phones as well, so suddenly the Amish life stands in stark contrast to our complex modern lives.

But when you visit an Amish farm, that simplicity vanishes. The simplicity vanishes even before you get to the farm. Cruising down the road you may see an Amish kid in a straw hat and suspenders zipping by on roller blades. In front of one school house I spied a flock of parked scooters, which is how the kids arrived there. Not Razors, but hefty Amish varieties.  But on the same street a constant stream of grimy mini-vans paraded past the school. Each was packed with full-bearded Amish men sitting in the back. What was that about?
Turns out the Amish make a distinction between using something and owning it. The Old Order won't own a pickup truck, but they will ride in one. They won't get a license, purchase an automobile, pay insurance, and become dependent on the automobile and the industrial-car complex, but they will call a taxi. Since there are more Amish men than farms, many men work at small factories and these guys will hire vans driven by outsiders to take them to and from work. So even the horse and buggy folk will use cars – under their own terms. (Very thrifty, too.)
The Amish also make a distinction between technology they have at work and technology they have at home. I remember an early visit to an Amish man who ran a woodworking shop near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Most of the interior of the dark building was lit naturally from windows, but hanging over the wooden meeting table in a very cluttered room was a single electrical light bulb. The host saw me staring at it, and when I looked at him, he just shrugged and said that it was for the benefit of visitors like myself.
However while the rest of his large workshop lacked electricity beyond that naked bulb, it did not lack power machines. The place was vibrating with an ear-cracking racket of power sanders, power saws, power planers, power drills and so on. Everywhere I turned there were bearded men covered in saw dust pushing wood through screaming machines. This was not a circle of Renaissance craftsman hand tooling masterpieces. This was a small-time factory cranking out wooden furniture with machine power. But where was the power coming from? Not from windmills.
The boss, Amos (not his real name: the Amish prefer not to call attention to themselves), takes me around to the back where a huge dump-truck-sized diesel generator sits. It's massive. In addition to a gas engine there is a very large tank, which I learn, stores compressed air. The diesel engine burns fuel to drive the compressor that fills the reservoir with pressure. From the tank a series of high-pressure pipes snake off toward every corner of the factory. A hard rubber flexible hose connects each tool to a pipe. The entire shop runs on compressed air. Every piece of machine is running on pneumatic power. Amos even shows me a pneumatic switch, which you can flick like a light switch, to turn on some paint-drying fans.
The Amish call this pneumatic system "Amish electricity." At first pneumatics were devised for Amish workshops, but it was seen as so useful that air-power migrated to Amish households. In fact there is an entire cottage industry in retrofitting tools and appliances to Amish electricity. The retrofitters buy a heavy-duty blender, say, and yank out the electrical motor. They then substitute an air-powered motor of appropriate size, add pneumatic connectors, and bingo, your Amish mom now has a blender in her electrical-less kitchen. You can get a pneumatic sewing machine, and a pneumatic washer/dryer (with propane heat). In a display of pure steam-punk nerdiness, Amish hackers try to outdo each other in building pneumatic versions of electrified contraptions. Their mechanical skill is quite impressive, particularly since none went beyond the 8th grade. They love to show off this air-punk geekiness. And every tinkerer I met claimed that pneumatics were superior to electrical devices because air was more powerful and durable, outlasting motors which burned out after a few years hard labor. I don't know if this is true, or just justification, but it was a constant refrain.
I visited one retrofit workshop run by a strict Mennonite. Marlin was a short beardless man (no beards for the Mennonites). He uses a horse and buggy, has no phone, but electricity runs in the shop behind his home. They use electricity to make pneumatic parts. Like most of his community, his kids work along side him. A few of his boys use a propane powered fork lift with metal wheels (no rubber so you can't drive it on the road) to cart around stacks of heavy metal as they manufacture very precise milled metal parts for pneumatic motors and for kerosene cooking stoves, an Amish favorite. The tolerances needed are a thousand of an inch. So a few years ago they installed a massive, $400,000 computer-controlled milling (CNC) machine in his backyard, behind the horse stable. This massive half-million dollar tool is about the dimensions of a delivery truck. It is operated by his 14-year old daughter, in a bonnet. With this computer controlled machine she makes parts for grid-free horse and buggy living.
One can't say "electricity-free" because I kept finding electricity in Amish homes. Once you have a huge diesel generator running behind your barn to power the refrigeration units that store the milk (the main cash crop for the Amish), it's a small thing to stick on a small electrical generator.  For re-charging batteries, say. You can find battery-powered calculators, flashlights, electric fences, and generator-powered electric welders on Amish farms. The Amish also use batteries to run a radio or phone (outside in the barn or shop), or to power the required headlights and turn signals on their horse buggies. One clever Amish fellow spent a half hour telling me the ingenious way he hacked up a mechanism to make a buggy turn signal automatically turn off when the turn was finished, just as it does in your car.
Nowadays solar panels are becoming popular among the Amish. With these they can get electricity without being tied to the grid, which was their main worry. Solar is used primarily for utilitarian chores like pumping water, but it will slowly leak into the household. As do most innovations.
The Amish use disposable diapers (why not?), chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and are big boosters of genetically modified corn. In Europe this stuff is called Frankenfood. I asked a few of the Amish elders about that last one. Why plant GMOs? Well, they reply, corn is susceptible to the corn borer which nibbles away at the bottom of the stem, and occasionally topples over the stalk. Modern 500 horsepower harvesters don't notice this fall; they just suck up all the material, and spit out the corn into a bin. The Amish harvest their corn semi-manually. It's cut by a chopper device and then pitched into a thresher. But if there are a lot of stalks that are broken, they have to be pitched by hand. That is a lot of very hard sweaty work. So they plant Bt corn. This genetic mutant carries the genes of the corn borer's enemy, Bacillus thuringiensis, which produces a toxin deadly to the corn borer. Fewer stalks are broken, the harvest can be semi-mechanized, and yields are up as well. One elder Amishman whose sons run his farm told me that he'd only help his sons harvest if they planted Bt corn. He said he told them he was too old to be pitching heavy broken corn stalks. The alternative was to purchase expensive, modern harvesting equipment. Which none of them want. So the technology of genetically modified crops allowed the Amish to continue using old, well-proven, debt-free equipment, which accomplished their main goal of keeping the family farm together. They did not use these words, but they considered genetically modified crops as appropriate technology for family farms.
Artificial insemination, solar power, and the web are technologies that Amish are still debating. They use the web at libraries (using but not owning). From cubicles in public libraries Amish sometimes set up a website for their business. So while Amish websites seem like a joke, there's quite a few of them. What about post-modern innovations like credit cards? A few Amish got them, presumably for their businesses at first. But over time the bishops noticed problems of overspending, and the resultant crippling interest rates. Farmers got into debt, which impacted not only them but the community since their families had to help them recover (that's what community and families are for). So, after a trial period, the elders ruled against credit cards.
One Amish-man told me that the problem with phones, pagers, and PDAs (yes he knew about them) was that "you got messages rather than conversations." That's about as an accurate summation of our times as any. Henry, his long white beard contrasting with his young bright eyes told me, "If I had a TV, I'd watch it." What could be simpler?
Holmes County Ohio Amish Phone Box
Amish solar-powered phone shanty in Holmes County, OH.

But no looming decision is riveting the Amish themselves as much as the question of whether they should accept cell phones. Previously, Amish would build a shanty at the end of their driveway that housed an answering machine and phone, to be shared by neighbors. The shanty sheltered the caller in rain and cold, and kept the grid away from the house, but the long walk outside reduced use to essential calls rather than gossip and chatting. Cell phones were a new twist. You got a phone without wires. You could take business calls without being wired to the world. As one Amish guy told me, "What is the difference if I stand in my phone booth with a wireless phone or stand outside with a cell phone. There's no difference." Further cell phones were embraced by women who could keep in touch with their far-flung family since they didn't drive. But the bishops also noticed that the cell phone was so small it could be kept hidden, which was a concern for a people dedicated to discouraging individualism. Ten years ago when I was editing Wired I sent Howard Rheingold to investigate the Amish take on cell phones. His report published in January 1999 makes it clear that the Amish had not decided on cell phones yet. Ten years later they are still deciding, still trying it out. This is how the Amish determine whether technology works for them. Rather than employ the precautionary principle, which says, unless you can prove there is no harm, don't use new technology, the Amish rely on the enthusiasm of Amish early adopters to try stuff out until they prove harm.
For being off the grid, without TV, internet, or books, the Amish are perplexingly well-informed. There's not much I could tell them that they didn't know about, and already had an opinion on. And surprisingly, there's not much new that at least one person in their church has not tried to use. The typical adoption pattern went like this:
Ivan is an Amish alpha-geek. He is always the first to try a new gadget or technique. He gets in his head that the new flowbitzmodulator would be really useful. He comes up with a justification of how it fits into the Amish orientation. So he goes to his bishop with this proposal: "I like to try this out." Bishop says to Ivan, "Okay Ivan, do whatever you want with this. But you have to be ready to give it up, if we decide it is not helping you or hurting others." So Ivan acquires the tech and ramps it up, while his neighbors, family, and bishops watch intently. They weigh the benefits and drawbacks. What is it doing to the community?  Cell phone use in the Amish began that way. According to anecdote, the first Amish alpha geeks to request permission to use cell phones were two ministers who were also contractors. The bishops were reluctant to give permission but suggested a compromise: keep the cell phones in the vans of the drivers. The van would be a mobile phone shanty.  Then the community would  watch the contractors. It seemed to work so others early adopters picked it up. But still at any time, even years later, the bishops can say no.
I visited a shop that built the Amish's famous buggies. From the outside the carts look simple and old fashioned. But inspecting the process in the shop, they are quite high tech and surprisingly complicated rigs. Made of lightweight fiberglass, they are hand cast, and outfitted with stainless steel hardware and cool LED lights. The owner's teenage son, David, worked at the shop. Like a lot of Amish who work along side their parents from an early age, he was incredibly poised and mature. I asked him what he thought the Amish would do about cell phones. He snuck his hand into his overalls and pulled one out. "They'll probably accept them," he said and smiled. He then quickly added that he worked for the local volunteer fire department, which was why he had one. (Sure!) But, his dad chimed in, if cell phones are accepted "there won't be wires running down the street to our homes."
In their goal to remain off the grid, yet modernize, some Amish have installed inverters on their diesel generators linked to batteries to provide them with off-grid 110 volts.  They power specialty appliances at first, like an electric coffee pot. I saw one home with an electric copier in the home office part of their living room. Will the slow acceptance of modern appliances creep along until 100 years hence the Amish have we have now (but have left behind)? What about cars? Will the Old Order ever drive old-fashioned internal combustion clunkers, say when the rest of the world is using personal jet packs? Or will they embrace electric cars? I asked David, the 18-year old Amish, what he expects to use in the future. Much to my surprise he had a ready teenage answer. "If the bishops allow the church to leave behind buggies, I know exactly what I will get: a black Ford 460 V8."  That's a 500 hp muscle car. But it is in black! His dad, the carriage maker, again chimed in, "Even if that happens there will always be some horse and carriage Amish."
David then admitted, "When I was deciding whether to join the church or not, I thought of my future children and whether they would be brought up without restrictions. I could not imagine it." A common phrase among the Amish is 'holding the line." They all recognize the line keeps moving, but a line must remain.
My impression is that the Amish are living about 50 years behind us. They don't adopt everything new but what new technology they do embrace, they take up about half a century after everyone else does. By that time, the benefits and costs are clear, the technology stable, and it is cheap. Consider this chart I found in the book "Living Without Electricity". You can see the hint of a delay pattern in Amish adoption.

The Amish are steadily adopting technology -- at their pace. They are slow geeks. As one Amish man told Howard Rheingold, "We don't want to stop progress, we just want to slow it down," But their manner of slow adoption is instructive.
  • 1) They are selective. They know how to say "no" and are not afraid to refuse new things. They ban more than they adopt.
  • 2) They evaluate new things by experience instead of by theory. They let the early adopters get their jollies by pioneering new stuff under watchful eyes.
  • 3) They have criteria by which to select choices: technologies must enhance family and community and distance themselves from the outside world.
  • 4) The choices are not individual, but communal. The community shapes and enforces technological direction.
This method works for the Amish, but can it work for the rest of us? I don't know. It has not really been tried yet. And if the Amish hackers and early adopters teach us anything, it's that you have to try things first. Try first and relinquish later if need be. We are good at trying first; not good at relinquishing – except as individuals. To fulfill the Amish model we'd have to get better at relinquishing as a group. Social relinquishing. Not merely a large number (as in a movement) but a giving up that relies on mutual support. I have not seen any evidence of that happening, but it would be a telling sign if it did appear.




Monday, November 5, 2012

When ADD Goes Into Hyper-drive

Another Sunday.  Another day of rambling.  This time it was me, in a state of over-tired delirium writing random thoughts onto my bulletin as they popped into my mind. 

I began by taking notes during the sermon. Note? Yes. More like note. I only wrote one sentence before my train of thought was derailed and never quite got back on track.  

You see,  I had gotten to sleep at around midnight.  I figured since we would be setting the clocks back I could stay up an hour later.  Ah, yes.  Sleep.  How I love it.  I was going to get eight glorious hours of sleep. I was going to wake rested and refreshed and ready for a beautiful day.  Oh peaceful night!

5:30 am...

Matthew's alarm went off...

He hit the snooze button...

Three times...

In my dazed state I was trying to figure out why he had set his alarm for such an un-Godly hour.  He didn't have to be at church until 8 am for sound check.  Then I realized he had forgotten to reset his clock.  

If I could just get back to sleep everything would be okay.  

It was so dark out. 

Why won't my brain shut down?


I couldn't get back to sleep!

Finally, my overly cheerful cell phone alarm went off.

I hate you!!

Back to my mind in church:

I wrote across the top, but really to myself "I have been awake since 5:30. I should beat Matthew."
Amanda saw what I wrote and wrote back "Yeah! With banana peels"
Thinking of the pumpkin guts the boys had left for the chickens I wrote "pumpkin pieces"
Amanda responded with a silly happy face with exclamation point eyes.

I was listening intently but couldn't find anything to note about the sermon so I began writing to myself:

I am too tired to focus
I hab a code
I need a nap
I'm seeing things move across the ceiling in my peripheral vision
I need sleep!!
I want a cookie
I left my bagel in the toaster oven
My neck is sore. I slept wrong
My tummy is growling
I have candy corn in my purse but I really want a Headlight from Sanders
That's what I want, a BMT from Subway
And Doritos. I need salt
I need to message Ginny about decorating
Linda, too, about the kettle bell-ringing
Man. I am so hungry. Why did I leave my bagel in the toaster oven? Now I have to go to the store hungry
My shoulder pads are messed up. How do I fix them without looking like I'm picking at my bra strap?
Pastor Bob does a good Wilma Flintstone imitation
Food!  I believe in food
shhhh.... Stop growling. I promise I'll feed you.
No! He's speaking Catholic sayings.  Don't make me go back there!
Lord's Supper - torture for those with growling bellies
I believe in food - didn't I write that already
I can't talk to the person who brought me, that would make everyone stare at me if I talk to myself in public
Don't growl during prayer!
These communion wafers taste like Saltines left open for a month
I need to clean my closet
If Fred keeps playing this song I'm going to fall asleep
Service is running over
Must have coffee!
Oh right, we're in the middle of communion. I forgot
Matthew said that?  He's so smart
Unlike his sister who just dumped her communion cup on her notebook.  
Good job Amanda!
You know you are tired when a guitar in a stand looks like a vacuum cleaner leaning on a wall
Pastor Bob brought up drinking a lot
There must be a craft project you can do with used communion cups.
Besides a wreath - I mean
Although that is a cute idea. 
I have a straw wreath and countless cups from Lowville Baptist. I just need a nice ribbon. Hmmmm.....
I need coffee.
Matthew is right.  There is a place called a grocery store where you can buy everything to make your own sub.  He's smart and frugal
Where do the pew bibles keep going?
Mandy is going to the coffee bar to get me coffee *sigh*
Candy corn -yummy!
Eww?!?  You're nuts girl!



Saturday, November 3, 2012

If I Hear One More Person Say "Get Your Head In The Game" I'll Scream!

Seriously. I'm glad to know they all watched "High School Musical" but did they manage to find all the flaws or did they just learn the songs?  Matthew and I used to go through and pick the movies apart - that's how we roll. 

For the second year in a row, the Clymer Pirates made it to the Division DD Title Championship.  This meant FIELD TRIP!  Yes, indeedy. We loaded up the school buses at 7:30am after 1/2 hour of practice for the girls and shuffled off to Buffalo.  The spectators and cheerleaders rode on my kids' normal bus with my kids' normal driver - who seemed amused when they took attendance and called me by my previous married name and I said out loud "I always hated that name."

Anyway, apparently we aren't as well behaved as my kids because we had to sit in the front of the bus.  That's where Norville seats the little kids and those who misbehave. I swear I was on my best behaviour.  Of course I was sitting with the cheerleaders and you never know what they will do, so I guess I understand. 
Amanda and I on the bus
Amanda has decided that she really loves Westfield.  As we passed through it, she fell in love with the older homes and the beauty of the town. Victorian houses surrounded by vineyards with a view of Lake Erie.  How could you not love it?

At one point Norville was trying to ask Coach a question but she was listening to Flo-Ri-Da and mouthing along with it.

Really, the girls had to get off the bus as soon as it stopped so they could run into the stadium. What stadium, you ask?  Why the Buffalo Bills Ralph Wilson Stadium, of course!

I admit it - I was in complete awe!!  I mean this is "The Ralph"!  I'm not a big Bills fan. I'm a Broncos fan since way back - oh, hush up! I am!  But still, this was really cool.

I came waltzing in with two pairs of socks, regular jeans over my skinny jeans, Amanda's cheer hoodie from last year under my heavy coat - with a Dutch Bros hoodie for back-up.  I had an umbrella plus a heavy fleece blanket for whatever the weather would bring us. What I lacked was my sneakers - somebody borrowed them and I could only find one on the dryer and my gloves - I only had one in my purse.  I wore my ballet flats and left the lone glove at home.

I just can't get over how awesome this place is!  I'm sure I looked like tourist, stopping to take photos, but I didn't care.

The last time I was in an stadium-type was in the much smaller HemisFair Arena in San Antonio to watch a Spurs basketball game back in 1990.  Three years before they moved to the Alamodome. 
Welcome to the 2012 High School Football Play-offs!!
Class DD Championship Game
Clymer Pirates (7-1) vs. Ellicottville/West Valley Eagles (6-2)
 The weather forecast on the screen showed the temperature to be 37 with a wind chill of 29 degrees. Yet, the girls once again insisted on wearing their skirts.  We don't want them to look fat, after all. This is where I would be shaking my head.

The girls put on brave faces despite their freezing to death as they posed for many pictures from their adoring public.

Amanda was a bit down-in-the-dumps after a major snub by her fellow cheerleaders that left their coach shocked by the other girls' behaviour and Amanda hurt by their cruelty. But you know, if you are a sweet and quiet person and you get involved with the ultimate in self-involvement then you need to learn to duck their blows and go on with your life. I am proud of my daughter.  I know she cares about others and would never hurt anyone the way they hurt her.  That makes her the better person.

Back to the pre-game warm-ups. Okay, this was a bit different.  Some people stretch or do exercises.  The girls wrapped themselves in blankets.  It's still warming up - right?

It is time - The boys were introduced and they were ready to charge the sign.  Go Pirates!  They were so excited to be able to stand mid-field.

At what point in time did the rules on the national anthem change?  Are we really supposed to put our hands on our hearts for this? All my life that was reserved for the pledge or men with hats.

More posing. If they had moved around a bit more and done a few more cheers during the first half they might have stayed warmer.  Or maybe if they had worn clothes. I was cold just looking at them.

Well, that and when Amanda would keep taking my blanket away from me. When it came time to getting warm all feelings were put aside and they used everyone's body heat. They were about to perform their fantastic half-time dance and needed to warm up a bit so they could move.  A football dad came down and told me he didn't approve and a football mom lectured Coach about letting the girls huddle for five minutes before half-time. They were allowed to huddle. After all, it's easy to complain when you are bundled from the cold.  Did I mention 29 degrees wind chill?  Poor girls...

Funny story: 
The couple sitting across the aisle from me arrived late and were friends of Coach.  As the ball was passed and the player ran for a touchdown, the man yelled "That's what I'm talking about!" I looked over at him.  The player ran the 15 yards to the endzone while the man yelled "Yah! Yah! Yah!" I turned around at the rest of the spectators (I was in the front row playing Mary Poppins with Amanda's bag for her).  The other spectators were watching the man. The player scored a touchdown and the man cheered!!  Coach walked up to the wall and said "Both schools have the same colours. Clymer is wearing white today."

Half-time dance. The girls did an amazing job!
The beginning and end are a bit shaky because I was just learning how to use Matthew's android and was looking at buttons - I never did find the zoom until the dance was over.  I think they are called smart phones to describe the intelligence of the user.

 Second half and the girls who remembered their warm-up pants put them on. Notice Amanda on the far left didn't. Dingy. Amanda did find one of my gloves in the pocket of her jacket.  hmmm... I wonder who it was that borrowed my gloves last?  And why did I end up with one?  Ariel had her hoodie for the game personalized to memorialize our beloved Superintendent Keith Reed who was murdered in September.

The girls did a lot more cheering during the second half. It might have been because some of them were better dressed. It may have been to stay warm. Or it may have been that the boys were getting their mojo back and after ending the first half at 34-0, they stopped any further touch-downs by Ellicottville and got some points themselves. Thank God, because I was tired of parents yelling "Get your head in the game!"

 Amanda noticed the same thing I did: whenever the boys did badly it was dark and overcast, when they did well the sun would pop out.  Amanda said she felt that instead of God watching us, Mr. Reed was watching. She said when the boys didn't do well Mr. Reed would cover his eyes and when the boys kicked butt Mr. Reed would uncover his eyes and watch.

Coach was given some shirts to throw to the spectators.  The crowd went wild for this.  There was a group of boys who kept cheering when the girls weren't and they managed to get a shirt to them.

Time to head home.  The score was 34-17. Clymer lost. My toes were numb.  I longed for the bus.  As we were driving down the Thruway we saw the snow clouds rolling in.  Thankfully they weren't further south at home.

Amanda was deep in thought. So many of the kids were sad.  Cheerleaders were crying.  They shouldn't be.  The Pirates made it to The Ralph TWO YEARS IN A ROW!  Plus this year they got on the board.  Ellicottville was a tough team. Clymer fought hard.  They did an amazing job.

They should be proud of themselves.

I am proud of them.

I know Mr. Reed is proud of them.

Amanda appeased me and stood on the footbridge over the Thruway on the way to Mickey D's. Really she was thinking "We have 31 minutes to get back to the bus. I'm cold. I'm starving. Now take the picture and let's go!"

This was cool.  A player piano was serenading everyone that walked into the building.  Coach called it "Creepy."

I told Amanda I would blog about this: she was dumping sugar packets into her coffee and when she got to the last packet she tore it open and dumped it into the bag of trash.  (I choked on my burger *still giggling*)

Another thing I have to point out: we had hamburgers with cheese in Hamburg (NY).  

I find that amusing. But then, I am easily amused. 

It's hard to tell in this photo but the grapevines were brown and drying up for the winter.  Winter is right around the corner.

One of the interesting things about riding in a bus for a total of four hours with three older women and a man who drives fro a living, I now know gossip about so many people. I hope I don't end up all gossipy when I finally grow up. 

Welcome home. The garage light was on at Mr. Reed's empty house as we neared Clymer.  It was as if he was welcoming us home. (His memorial in the foreground is still maintained by students and teachers alike.)

Day three of this month of gratitude

I am grateful for furry pets to snuggle with.