Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Help -- Kathryn Stockett

The Help The Help by Kathryn Stockett

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Help is a phenomenal story of the relationship between southern white women and their black maids during the Civil Rights Movement. Kathryn Stockett created rich characters that readers want to get to know. The Help deals with tough subjects with love, humor and frankness leaving readers feeling as if they were transported back to 1960s Mississippi.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

New Chapter this Fall

Fall 2009 marks an interesting new chapter: All of my children will be in school!

Wow! All of them!

I won't get into how bittersweet that will be...that is another entry for another day.

But having all of my kids in school leaves me with an interesting new phenomena...TIME.

Time for myself, by myself doing what makes me happy. It will mean a clean house--at least between the hours of 8 and 3:30!

So in the interest of enjoying my new time I decided to do another semester of online classes. Thankfully, I still have plenty of options--I only need to be on campus for Biology and Math.

Jeff was telling me to take the semester off and just enjoy myself after 11 years of being a stay-at-home-mom, but that seems...well, not something I'm interested in doing. I fear that if I take a semester off, I will not want to go back.

School is hard work, doubly so online as deadlines are firm (no exceptions), there is no professor to bounce questions and ideas off of (though they are always available by phone, email and office meetings) and frankly, you have to be freakishly disciplined to get through each course. I spend a lot of time with my face in my books and computer reading lectures, watching video lectures, listening to taped lectures. And while it is difficult, I like using my brain.

So next semester I will continue with online classes for one more semester!

Cross your fingers that I am able to secure:
Cultural Anthropology
Economics I
Interpersonal Communication

I can study with my new-found time...

Studying without interruption? Sounds like heaven!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Too Violent?

Amazingly people are fuming over this domestic violence PSA. Apparently, the violence depicted is too over the top for the average viewer. Unfortunately, the violence depicted is real, usually far, far worse. (Imagine a child watching this happen between her parents from a hiding spot!) This happens in many, many households. But, I guess we are not supposed to talk about it...still.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Read This 4/17/09

Priscilla and the Pink Planet Priscilla and the Pink Planet by Nathaniel Hobbie

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Priscilla and the Pink Planet is a cute little story of a Priscilla's search for some color. The story is filled with sweet illustrations and rhymes.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009


A, my fabulously funny four year old, comes up with some hilarious snippets of wisdom. My Facebook friends may remember most of these little gems.

While discussing fun things she could do alone while I work on my homework, A announced, "I am too young to have an imagination."

This morning she was working a word search but instead of finding the words in the word list (the letters next to each other) she goes through each word and finds and circles each individual letter randomly, only crossing off the word after she's found all of the letters.

The other day she announced she is "bald without her glasses". (She does not wear glasses and was talking about her sunglasses.)

She loves to play fetch with one of our cats. (Yes our cats like to play fetch.) Except for A's method is to pick the cat up and toss her at the toy...oddly enough the cat enjoys this game. (I swear!)

That's just a very, very small look into her little mind. She is a hoot!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Read This 4/12/09

Killer Heat Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein

My review

rating: 1 of 5 stars
Killer Heat had such potential but it just never produced the nail-biting drama promised on the cover. The dialogue in the story was weak, choppy and confusing at times. And worse than bad dialogue, rather than writing complex characters the author relied on stereotypes and put-downs to elevate her heroine. The main character, of course, was startlingly beautiful while all of the other characters were tubby and round and full of faults that the main character was perfect in comparison. There was no character development, aside from everyone else being fat and ugly. The only bright spot about this book was the historical aspects from the City of New York.

It was difficult to finish.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Read This 4/12/09

Flotsam Flotsam by David Wiesner

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a fantastic story told with vibrant illustrations!

View all my reviews.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Buddhist Service at the Rime Tibetan Buddhist Center 3

Part 3 of 3

The most moving portion of the service was when the sangha chanted “Om Vahrasattva hum” one hundred eight times in rapid succession. The chanting began after everyone spoke the Vajrasattva mantra and we noticed the members discreetly removing mala beads from their pockets or the seats beside them. The chanting began quickly and, at first, the sangha was out of step but by the tenth repetition suddenly the entire sangha fell perfectly in tune with one another leaving the room ringing with their combined voices. I was moved as I heard and felt the unity grow and surround the shrine room.

Another ten minute meditation was followed by a special guest speaker, Dr. Terry Brody. Dr. Brody spoke about the way the Buddhist handles times of crisis and how to learn from those times of struggle. Personally, this was a welcome lesson after having a particularly difficult start to this year. I listened to her speak saying the things that I knew to be true—that bad times do not define us, that we should not let ourselves become paralyzed with inaction but fight against the urge to close off to the world and find the middle path. She recited some of her favorite quotes from the Dalai Lama and other spiritual leaders and the service concluded with a prayer to the Dalai Lama for a long life and a dedication of merit to the sangha. The horns, drums and cymbals began again as the preceptors extinguished the candles, bowed once again to the Buddha and exited in the same manner as their entrance.

While the Tibetan Buddhist service was a lot to take in, it left us an overall sense of peace and contentment. Our only disappointment was Lama Stanford was in India so we were unable to meet him in person and the center preceptor filling in for him skipped the guided meditation. We were hoping for the guided meditation to help us understand meditation through his teaching. My husband and I walked from the shrine room to the gift shop to take a brief look at the ritual items and books. Our children quickly found us in the gift shop and upon greeting us confirmed they enjoyed the dharma school as much as we enjoyed the meditation service by asking, “Can we come back next Sunday?” They excitedly explained they got to sit and meditate. They did yoga poses and walked like a crab. They were taught about the offering bowls and the importance of the offering. We gathered our crew, left a small donation for their time, resources and the experience and left the Rime Center pleasantly surprised by and thankful for our positive and peaceful experience.


A Buddhist Service at the Rime Tibetan Buddhist Center 2

Part 2 of 3

The beginning of the service was announced by a recording of horns, cymbals and drums during which the entire sangha stood, faced the center of the room and bowed. The preceptors walked in a single file line down the middle of the shrine. The center preceptor lit candles and incense as an offering to the Buddha and all three bowed in respect then everyone sat down. Each precept sat on a zafu and zabuton, two on the sides facing the sangha and the third, the center preceptor, sat in the middle slightly elevated. He then rang the singing bowl four times to indicate the beginning of the service.

Members immediately fell into a meditation the program noted was a brief stabilizing meditation. A few short minutes passed and the center preceptor rang the singing bowl to note the start of the refuge vows. The refuge vow is spoken three times by the entire sangha as a motivation to open their hearts to enlightenment. Quickly following the refuge vow were the Four Immeasurables, blessings for all beings to be free from suffering and filled with happiness, the sangha spoke three times followed by another ring of the singing bowl and a ten minute meditation session. The meditation session was ended by a ring of the singing bowl and the members of the sangha fell into the supplication to Buddha. We were instructed to visualize a gold Buddha sitting on an open lotus. The visualization ended with Buddha radiating light and dissolving into the light and becoming one with us. The supplication asked that we are shown the path to enlightenment through compassion and virtuous action true to the teaching of the Blessed One.

The next portions of the service happened quickly as the well-practiced sangha fell swiftly into unison. The ringing of the singing bowl began the Seven Limbed Prayer prostrating offering, confession, rejoicing in the good, asking the Buddha to remain, and beseeching Buddha’s to teach others. The Seven Limb Prayers were spoken by everyone one time. The Mandala Offering, also spoken by everyone, is an offering to all of the lineage of Buddhas and bodhisattvas and all of the lamas and deities and enlightened beings in all ten directions and in all three times. My husband and I struggled to keep up with the chants while trying to discreetly read the pamphlet with the text of the chants. We found quickly that we would read the explanations later so we could follow along with the service.

Another ring of the singing bowl, the preceptors began the supplication to Manjushri. The pamphlet from the center credits Manjushri as one of the most important figures in Tibetan Buddhism as the bodhisattva of wisdom. The preceptors continue with the supplication to Maitreya or the next Buddha. The preceptors moved on with a Supplication to Tara, the Bodhisattva of compassion, which ended with the entire sangha finishing the prayer. A music track began playing and everyone began singing the Tara Mantra, “Om tare tu tare ture soha.” At the song’s conclusion the Dedication of Tara Meditation was spoken by everyone one time and the sangha quickly transitioned to Liberating the Beings of the Six Realms aloud. This led to the Tonglen meditation session where the sangha was to embrace the bad and emit the good. After the ten minute Tonglen meditation session everyone spoke the prayer to Chenrezig and began singing, “Om mani padme hum.”

Part 3 to come...


A Buddhist Service at the Rime Tibetan Buddhist Center

Part 1 of 3

The Rime Buddhist Center and Tibetan Institute of Studies is found in a hundred year old two story church in Kansas City, Missouri. The large red building offers ample room to hold not only the Buddhist service and practice but house dorms for retreats and visiting monks from all over the world. I found myself walking up the steep red stairs Sunday, March 15th at 10:15 in the morning for the 10:30 service with my husband and four children in tow.

When we entered the Rime Center we were first greeted by the sharp, rich smell of patchouli incense then by the friendly smile of a member on the look-out for visitors waiting to answer any questions. From previous conversations with Lama Chuck Stanford, we knew that there was a Sunday dharma school the children were able, and encouraged, to attend. After a brief conversation with the center’s greeter we took the children upstairs, helped them remove their shoes and bid them farewell hearing them instructed to each pick up a zabuton and find a place to sit down.

My husband and I removed our shoes in the foyer and walked down the main hallway that ended at the shrine room. We briefly spoke with a gentleman who was handing out service programs and introduced ourselves. We explained that we were new to the center and if there were any last minute bits of information we should know. He said we were welcome to grab a spot to sit where we were comfortable, either on the hardwood floor on a zabuton with or without the zafu or on one of the chairs that lined the sanctuary. He told us to participate as much, or as little, as we felt comfortable and the program he gave us outlined specific details on what to expect and when. We thanked him and sat down on a zabuton with a zafu near the middle of the sangha to observe both the preceptors and the community.

Right away we took in the brilliant red drapes with colorful tapestries decorated with Buddhist iconography. The shrine, situated at the front of the room, held pictures of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama in various poses of him in meditation or smiling along with mandalas, statues of Buddha and Tara and colorful photographs of the sangha during many different events. The shrine room ceiling gently fluttered with the multicolored Buddhist prayer flags strung from one side to the other. The seating itself was divided into two sections on the right and left with a center path to the shrine and folding chairs lined the sides and back walls. The shrine room felt serene as each member sat quietly waiting for the preceptors to enter marking the beginning of the service. We noticed the energy shifting as people quieted and began their own personal meditations.

Part 2 to follow...


Being Five More than Ninety

Remember the Drama midterm I posted about a couple weeks ago? I took this midterm during a horrible bout with the stomach flu while I had a fever. I was sure I did horribly. I could not focus during the test at all.

I finally got my grade back this afternoon and I scored 95/100!

What a relief!

Now I need to go study for my tests tomorrow!


Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Today an odd thing happened when a transformer blew and knocked out the power to our neighborhood. The power surged about 10 times and A and I heard the explosion and arcing so we called the electric company to tell them about the problem. It was freaky but not why I'm sharing this with you.

I am sharing for this little gem:

When I was explaining what happened I said, "A transformer blew" and suddenly A started bawling, "Momma you said transformers weren't real!"

I love the minds of 4-yr olds!