Monday, April 25, 2011
I stayed awake all night last night--unintentionally, but I did. I ended up getting my final video selected and created for my National boards and I was awake when Micah and Floyd got up for Easter morning around 5:34. That is when I said a few un-Christian-like words because the computer wouldn't let me burn the DVDs. Grr-rr. Not nice to do to an overly tired and aching Sylvia on Easter morning. However, I got ready for church and two of my kids decided that they could and would handle this for me--and after we got home for church, they both put their heads together--and Megan figured out how to do it. We used my flash drive and saved them to it and moved them to another computer that also behaved badly for a while, but she changed something on iDVD and it worked. She burned my two videos and back-ups, yay.
Let me back track though to church. I want to share the photos of the flowers on the cross. Somehow, the photos don't seem quite as breathtaking to me as it was in church. I also didn't get to stay long because I did children's church today, so I didn't get to enjoy it as long as everyone else did...
The wooden cross was covered in chicken wire so flower stems could be kind of easily inserted. This is the result of everyone working together.
This is the pulpit and the alter off to the right, with many Easter lilies in honor of the Resurrection.
Our young children stand next to the cross of flowers, singing an Easter anthem.
Josh is showing off his work at Children's Church (before they got a surprise Easter treat... and after the annual Easter egg hunt where each child gets a miniature artifact from the Easter story. We still have a mini-burro from Christ's trip and a mini-Communion goblet and some mini-palm leaves.)
Here is one more view of that beautiful cross after the service.
We came home and I lent some expertise in the kitchen as long as I could stand up--and then I went back to the computer.
The good news is that I finished the first drafts of all of my writing today and sent my "final drafts" off to my friends who are helping me to edit for one more reading. Tomorrow, I will revise Compnent 2 and the Reflection pages, copy the forms and do 3 minor pages of information that includes a sketch of my classroom. I believe that I will have this ready to pack before the week's end and it will be postmarked before the 10:30 closing of our local post office on Saturday. Then, I have to forget about it until the assessors finish scoring it by Thanksgiving. That is not an easy wait, but it is a necessity.
Have a wonderful week.
Hallelujah, Christ is Risen.
Christ is Risen indeed, Hallelujah!
Saturday, April 23, 2011
I'm way behind in my writing and am getting right back to it. It has been a buy day with getting ready for Easter--but I wanted to share these photo with you. The river is supposed to stay at this level most of the week, with the biggest problem being the amounts of daily rain we have been receiving.
The former John O'Donnell Stadium is not supposed to be surrounded by the river.
As you back up to avoid the river, you can see the streets covered with water with the ball park totally surrounded. There is no water in the stadium(yet) because it has flood protection.
I have more photos to share, but for some reason, the upload button won't work, so I'll share them tomorrow. (Safari can’t open the page “http://www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_blog_ad
d_picture.asp” because the server where this page is located isn’t responding.) They really tell the story of the power of this river and what happens when she spills over the banks. Quite honestly, any place that you travel to around here, you drive by a place that is full of water when it typically does not have water there. It will be a while before we are dried out around here.
Finally, my shopping is done and our meal is planned. I have veggies and fruit to prepare for our meal--everything else is done. have children's church tomorrow and I am taking the easy road with a good story of the Resurrection and coloring pages that tell the story. I cannot bring myself to use that time for bunnies and Easter eggs...I'm not a party poop, it just seems that the day should be spent recognizing the power of God's gift to us all rather than consuming jelly beans and marshmallow bunnies.
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I am excited to "start over." It has been a busy week and the coming one will be even more that way as I finish my National Boards and prepare "the box" to mail everything in, so my "starting over" may occur a week later than Easter, but it will happen. I am content to do what I have to.
Have a glorious Easter. I hope to share photos of my church tomorrow and the big wire cross that we will fill with flowers. It is an endearing time and a gorgeous way to celebrate our Risen Savior.
These photos show the makeshift "bridge" that was made so that people could continue to enjoy baseball games. Our minor league team, the "Quad City River Bandits" with their mascot of a masked raccoon is quite popular around here. It is a minor league team for the St. Louis Cards which is one of three very popular ball clubs close to us--the other two being the Chicago White Sox and the Cubs.
Oh my, where will the kids play??? lol, They will swim of course!!
As you can see, the ball park is safe and green and ready to be used--for now. This powerful river may get past the protection that is there, but we are all hoping that that doesn't happen.
We have to do a lot to deal with the river in times like these--You can see our big Centennial Bridge in the background that is no longer a toll bridge and connects Rock Island, IL to Davenport, IA. Our area has about 4 major bridges that keeps us all connected--and that almost always all require construction work when the weather gets nice and gives us quite a commute if we have to go from IL to IA.
If you choose to be in an area near rivers like the Mississippi and the Rock, you benefit from them greatly. They are a source of beauty, wildlife (like our wintering eagles), energy and recreation. However, due to their size and their power, we also have to adapt and deal with it when they are going through natural changes. I have lived here my entire life and have seen everything from drought to flood. Our rich soil and rich history more than compensate for this inconvenience. (The people of the IL Quad Cities decided to protect themselves from the flooding when the big one that happened when I was a sixth grader did so much destruction. IA communities didn't build flood walls because they didn't want to detract from the beautiful river front. They continue to deal with thousands of dollars in damage from floods like this one.)
If I have an opportunity, I will take additional photos of our flooded areas like in the little town of Andalusia and our beautiful Sunset Marina park that is closed off to everyone right now--they even had to move out all of the docked boats. As the newspapers have named it, the flood of 2011 is leaving its mark.
Take care everyone!!
Friday, April 22, 2011
Hi there everyone,
The big news event around here is the Mississippi River and the Rock River reclaiming land in big quantities. qconline.com/flood11/ Check out our local paper--today's front page showed a pair of excellent photos of Davenport, IA from yesterday and the exact same aerial view from the flood in 1993. it was interesting to us to remember and compare notes, so I thought I'd share the site with you all. The Mississippi is a formidable force, even when it is calm and in her banks--so this is pretty intense. It is raining out again and that hasn't helped anything.
I stayed home from work today and got to go to the pool before having the injections in my back. My workout was sure peaceful during the day without certain tricky kids to dodge. It was nice both to have other adults to have conversations with AND to be able to hear enough to have a reasonable conversation.
I have worked hard on my National Boards today. The good news is that I am almost done with the final revision on components 1 and 3. The bad news is that the videos I have taken are being difficult to work with. The clips I decided to use are misbehaving. One of them is giving me the sound from the one I want over the video from another. Another one that I selected has audio and video that aren't in sync. My first burning question is "How does this happen?" And my second, far more pressing question is "How do I fix this?" I am giving myself and that computer a rest right now and will get back to it in the morning.
This entire process is certainly "easier" than the original process. National Boards is a way to show that a teacher is an accomplished professional. The original process takes a full year to complete as you create a portfolio of your work with students showing knowledge of your area, student work, work with families and the community, and your own professional training. You do have to provide videos of your work and there is an all day session at the assessment center. Everything is completely designed to the ultimate detail including how things go in the box that you mail in. (Packing that box took a half a day!) The success rate for this activity is 40% (of the teachers who complete their work and submit the portfolio) meet the standards with each of the ten total items in the portfolio and questions at the assessment center being double or triple scored by a separate assessor. It is a pricey process as well, costing around $2600.
The purpose of the renewal process is to show that once you attain this credential that you don't "sit on your laurels" but that you continue to be a leader from in the classroom. I am working to show my professional growth and over the past ten years along with my current skills in working with my students in the classroom. I wish they had had this established when I originally went through the process, because I would have kept more detailed records of my work in a more organized manner. Again, every item is determined to the most minute detail for the submission--for example the font and its size, the number of pages, the questions to be responded to, the length of the videos with no editing allowed, how many support documents (like meeting or class agendas, photos, certificates, transcripts, etc...) are to be included. Their purpose is for you to provide "clear, concise, and convincing" evidence that you are an "accomplished teacher" who leads from the classroom and that the items you share all contribute to student learning. the success rate for renewals is much higher than the original process (around 90%), but it is very intense. It is pricey as well, $1350. I felt that after going through the original process successfully, that it was important to try and maintain this honored credential. I could have started last year so that I had an additional year (in case I don't succeed) and I paid my beginning $300, but when I became so ill after my big surgery, I had to let this go.
Today was an important part of Holy Week and my family attended church together. Our service is very moving on this important day in the Christian calendar, with the culminating activity being the stripping of the alter. There are a pair of people dressed in black who take every beautiful item down to the curtain behind the alter off of it, as the congregation stands and watches in total silence. The cross is shrouded in black net and replaced with the crown of thorns at its base. When this is finished, everyone leaves the sanctuary in total silence. I always walk away with a feeling of almost breathlessness and the sense that things are not finished. We have a number of activities for Good Friday that will move this forward and each piece is designed to help us to meditate on the enormity of the events leading to the Crucifixion and finally, the Resurrection.
I found a quote that I shared with one of my teams:
"The resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances." Robert Flatt
I think everything that I am working on--everything that I did today--my National Boards renewal, my workout at the pool, Maundy Thursday services and reflection and my efforts here at SP are that "starting over." I think that not only am I still a "work in process" and that I am "under construction," but that I am on a path to a better me. With reduced pain in my back, an opportunity to reflect on my work and what it means to me and my students, and a recommitment to myself, my family and my faith that I am going to be a more composed and healed person. I have had a lot of things to overcome--and my path has been laden with rocks, debris, and potholes in an uphill climb with a pretty tough incline. The work I am doing now is my path to a more level path without all of the junk in the way that has interfered in my goals of health and happiness. I am going to feel better. I am gaining support at every level of my life--especially at work and medically. I am recouping my time, my feelings, and my body for a far better tomorrow. I am "starting over" and during this most Holy of times, my faith is the clear winner in all of this. My prayers are being answered in so many positive ways. Things haven't been easy, but I get it. With duress comes reflection and growth.
If you are a Christian, I wish you a very personal Easter holiday that has the moments of personal reflection that helps you to feel the enormity of God's gift to each one of us. If you are someone of another faith or belief season, spring time is certainly a time of renewal. I am wishing you a glorious time of "starting over" in your significant areas of need. For each of us, I am sure that your program and journey at Spark People--in becoming more healthy in body and lifestyle--is a part of this "starting over."
My best to you all!
Monday, April 18, 2011
After spending my weekend writing in every spare moment, I almost let the world get by me. I took time off from my writing to go to the pool each day, to take my sons to the movies, to go to the grocery store, and to go to church. It is Holy Week and after our Palm Sunday processional, the blessing of the palms, beautiful music by the choir, the small children's choir singing and introducing instruments from the Philippines (whose name evades me), the reading of the Passion Story from the Gospel according to Matthew, and a private discussion with my pastor (whew--and I didn't even mention the sermon,) I realize that I need this week to give my spiritual cup a big boost. Micah had a lot of questions this year which means he is growing up and really starting to "get" this important part of our faith. Anyway, I hope that I have some time to meditate and pray with some depth this week.
The thing that amazes me is that although I am not unaware of the issues around here, that I hadn't paid attention to the realities. We were predicted to have the second worst flooding in recorded history this year. That made a good deal of sense to me given the fact that everyone had record snows, especially the people up north of us. The Mississippi River is a wild and untamable natural wonder. There were major efforts to get volunteers to sandbag about a month ago. Then, the thaw was slow and it seemed as if we were off the hook. However, spring rains are taking their toll (along with a serious snowfall on Saturday that didn't stick to the ground) and the water has been rising steadily. The Mississippi is due to crest today or tomorrow at 20-22 feet and our flood levels are 12-15 feet. Our area is quite a mess, especially the Iowa side of the Quad Cities. When I was in the 6th grade, the flood of 1965 scared the folks in IL really protected themselves and built flood walls at great expense which have saved us many times. They are getting weak though and will need a lot of attention. Some of them have broken through in neighboring small towns. The secondary Rock River is quite a trouble maker here because the Mississippi pushes some of its overflow into it and we have highways that aren't close to the river now covered with river water. If I don't get photos (and with my need to continue my writing, that is very possible,) I am sure that Davenport and/or Muscatine, Iowa will have photos shown nationally. The current levels are 13.36 feet and 18.66 feet, so things are moving the wrong way very quickly, with over a half a foot since yesterday.
I must get ready for work. It will be a short week for me with my medical appointments and our Good Friday holiday. I will try and share with you this week, but my writing comes first. I will definitely think of you, my spark friends who keep me going on a regular basis.
If you are of the Christian faith, this can be a troubling week. Our very wise minister often reminds us that without the Crucifixion, there would have been no Resurrection. We need the gift of Easter, but the cost was great--and this is the focus of my heart at this time.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
I have not been as "spark" focused as usual the past week or two. I have had a lot on my mind and with my focus filled with any number of things, there doesn't seem to be enough room in my head to stick with everything, so zap--my regular healthy eating and living have taken a bit of a back seat. Now, it hasn't been horrible--probably because I have enough quality habits in place that I don't have a lot of opportunities to stray, not because I am full of will power. However, I have eaten an extra serving of this or that and done more of that than I like this week.
My pain level continues to be high as does my stress. There have been a number of things taking place at work that shouldn't be--and I had to set my principal up for the several days I am going to be gone for the coming treatments on my back. Dealing with her and that sort of thing is always a worry, especially since they do not get a sub for me and I know that my students simply go without the service. There have been a few other things like my discovery of a staff list being distributed to parents that includes everyone who teaches in our building but me. I also had some rather nasty treatment from a colleague today because I questioned why her students have to miss an entire 40 minute lesson every Friday in order to "take a spelling test." That is 20% of my contact time with them and I don't think it is right for something that can easily be done at a different time or in a different way. She was quite difficult and ended the conversation by stomping off and yelling at me. (Oh well, her parting words were that the kids could come, so I guess the mess had the right outcome.)
Anyway, I received an email from a retired teacher who goes to our church. She was a JA rep who taught several of my classes some 10 years ago as well. We have been friends a long time and I am wondering if she knew that the email would fit my world in many ways. It was entitled "5 lessons we all need." The following is the little story that goes with one of them and fits my issues of the week--maybe it will fit yours as well.
Important Lesson. - The Obstacle in Our Path.
In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a Roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the King's' wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it... Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.
Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand!
Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.
Obstacles have some value?? That is a really strange and novel idea to me--obstacles are a pain in the neck. However, it is what we do with them that really matters. They aren't necessarily permanent and if we "mess up," the choices don't have to be permanent either. I think there is a lot of wisdom in this little chunk of that email and I hope that it reaches out to some of you the same way that it did to me. I realize that I can get back on track right now or later and there isn't any permanent damage done. I also know that with the pressure of getting my writing done soon, that it may take me a while longer to get things as fine tuned as I had them--and maybe that's okay. I need to focus on my priorities which are my family and students as well as my project. I can do this all, but at what expense? So, if I only eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies and my exercise is a bit more routine rather than intense, I don't think my healthy efforts will disappear off of the face of the earth.
Dealing with my current obstacles will come to an end in a couple of weeks. I can do anything for a couple of weeks, but it will be okay in the end. I have my first injection scheduled for Thursday--which is tweaking my nerves right now. My new doctor is so kind and respectful that I am sure it will be as good as it can. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are this week and the enormity of these days in my faith walk will add commitment to my life as well as reflection on the greatest promise ever made.
Eating an extra Atkins cookie or 100 calorie pack, or only 5 servings of produce a day will not hurt me. Difficult people are a part of life, and those in my work place will have to manage their own issues--anger is frequently a sign of ownership of a problem. I always do a reasonably good job with my own children and their needs and if I am not on my A-game for a while neither they nor my health will be lost permanently. I am making progress on my National Boards--but I am not where I had planned to be today. The videos are taking me longer to organize to burn than I expected. We are having some financial issues this month due to some expensive computer repairs, our regular need for new tires for the car, an issue that one of the kids had, taxes...the list goes on, but things will settle back into a more normal range in another couple of weeks.
This may be a month of obstacles and I may just come out of this with a stronger character. I will move the obstacles out of my road just like the peasant in the story. I CAN do this, as I remind the members on my spark teams frequently when things are difficult.
Thanks for sharing this with me--if you have some obstacles right now, I hope that you found some reassurance as well.
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