Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fay Fay Go Away

Fay was supposed to have been long gone by now.  Instead she stuck around off the coast of east central Florida and dumped 25 inches in the Melbourne area. She finally ambled onshore near Flagler Beach sometime this afternoon. At the 8 p.m. advisory she was moving west at 2 (yes two) miles per hour. The winds are at 60 mph.

Video from the St. Augustine area is just as discouraging as the Melbourne area pictures. Plenty of beach erosion from the pounding surf.  Two people have died: one surfer who ignored a lifeguard's warning and one swimmer.  NE Florida has some terrible rip currents that lifeguards know to watch out for during stormy weather.

The slow moving storms are sometimes worse than the fast ones.  They linger and dump heavy rains in the same location. Since Fay came across from west Florida, the residents of the Atlantic coast thought they'd receive a weakened storm.  This makes sense, based on what usually happens. Fay just kept getting stronger. 

Here in the Tampa Bay area we're having the inevitable second-guessing that comes after a storm. Today's "Letter of the Day" in the Tampa Tribune slammed local media for the "hullabaloo" surrounding Fay.  Instead of complaining she should be thrilled. I suppose the editors ran her letter as the opposing view for their own editorial. 

I happen to agree with the Trib editors in their editorial. Governor Crist, the local governments, and the media made good decisions to declare a state of emergency, close schools (etc.) and keep us up-to-date on coverage and tracking models. If the letter writer had lived in Florida longer--she'd just moved here in 2004 when the big 4 hit--she'd know that the media have to keep the message going because not everyone is tuned in to the news all the time. If she got hysterical, it's her own fault.

Best line in the Trib's editorial?  "Don't be tempted to personify Fay or scoff at its deficiency as a cyclone. The only thing certain about these storms is that they don't care and never lose. All the losses come entirely on the human side of the match-up, and our only defense is intelligent anticipation."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fay Decides to Stay

Enough already.  TS Fay came ashore at Key West, then hit the mainland near Naples (Jim Cantore was there). She's started tracking a strange path NE across Florida where she's affecting the Space Coast (Melbourne, Cocoa Beach, Kennedy Space Center). The current forecast takes her out into the Atlantic to strengthen into a hurricane before coming ashore again (!) somewhere on the First Coast (Daytona, Jacksonville).  Then she may track across the Panhandle, hopefully not entering the Gulf of Mexico again.

Lots of flooding in SE and east central Florida today.  They needed the rain and this will help with a deficit in Lake Okeechobee. But everyone expected Fay to weaken, dump a whole lot of rain, and go away.  However, she's sticking around like an unwanted guest. Fay is defying conventional wisdom, but apparently behaving the way a storm should under the current atmospheric conditions.  Nothing outside the way God designed the atmosphere to function.

'Round Tampa Bay we had typical tropical storm cloud patterns: white puffies scudding across a gray sky.  We had swells and a few small whitecaps in the canal, which means the Bay was extremely choppy.  They don't quite show up in the picture, but the palm fronds are moving. Very little rain, because it's all gathered around Fay.  So weather-wise it was a magnificent day where we could work outside and not sweat as much. We were able to play outside quite a bit (except for one brief shower).  I trimmed. I pulled weeds. I tidied up our yard and it looks much better. Bruce continued cleaning the garage and both cars are parked inside tonight. Wow.

There's a certain giddiness I feel when we have a near miss.  It's like finding out that you don't have to take the pop quiz.  Except for the part where we did yard and garage work, this felt a little like a vacation day.

Monday, August 18, 2008

...And Now We Wait

the pierHurricane preparations have slowed considerably this evening. We're just beat.  The winds remain calm in our backyard.  When I went downtown late this afternoon Tampa Bay was choppy, but nothing you wouldn't see on a day with a thunderstorm moving in. The top photo was taken from North Shore looking toward the St. Petersburg Pier.  Choppy, but there were some boats out.

Schools are closed. City government is closed. No trash pickup tomorrow. Both Busch Gardens and Lowry Park Zoo are closed.

north shore
We're under a voluntary evacuation, but, if Fay's center stays inland, there won't be much storm surge.  I'd much rather be home if we lose power. At least all our toys are here.  

As of now, Fay is forecast to remain a tropical storm.  She'll dump some much-needed rain on SE Florida and, hopefully, Georgia. The outer bands should begin arriving in the morning.  That's when we like to go outside and smell the tangy air and watch the wild and windy clouds. 

Fay Watch

playingAre you evacuating?  That was the question up and down our street this morning.  I took the boys out for a bike ride down the cul-de-sac and ran into a couple of neighbors.  One family has a dog and they’ve already made hotel reservations on higher ground.  Another couple is elderly and they’ve already decided to go. 

We went to the mall.

If there’s one thing I knew this morning, I knew that I had to wear the boys out if I was going to get anything done this afternoon.  They had a good time. Now they’re napping.  I just finished cleaning off the lanai, cleaning part of the garage, and securing bikes, toys, and garden decorations.

Who got the better end of the deal?

The 2 p.m. advisory shows Fay’s track heading into Ft. Myers or Charlotte Harbor, well south of us.  That can change. Local media says that we might feel winds on Tuesday afternoon/evening approaching 70 mph with 4 to 8 inches of rain.  Most of the wind and rain is on the eastern side, so Pinellas County might just escape the brunt of the storm.

storm cloudsRight now we have fluffy clouds and thunderheads building.  I took a photo from our back yard (those swings have to be taken down).  It’s of the NE toward Tampa and not part of Fay, but we should start to have some outer rain bands this evening.

Anyway, my garage is almost clean enough to park both cars in it.  My laundry is almost done. The lanai is swept and the toys are picked up.  First a break, then I’ll tidy the house.

Bruce reminded me of a verse that’s been running through his mind the last couple of days.  It was the key verse from a sermon 2 weeks ago.  A good thought for today.

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deut. 33:27a)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Calm Before the Storm

palm treesBeautiful day today: white puffy clouds against a baby blue sky. I stocked up on a few groceries and water after church, then took DW outside to play. All the neighborhood kids were out riding bikes and playing. It was hot, but we had to get them out today because we may start feeling some effects of TS Fay Monday afternoon.

Tonight there's hardly a breeze. The palms are still; just a few ripples in the canal. Bruce went out after dinner to put coverings over the windows. Our neighbors secured their boats. Everyone is talking about where they'll go if we have to leave. The 8 p.m. advisory shows Fay tracking past us on up to Cedar Key and north central Florida. The forecast if for Fay to pass by us on Tuesday afternoon around high tide time. So evacuation for us low-grounders is still a strong possibility.

Another evening in paradise. I took a few pictures.

I wonder what Jim Cantore is doing?

Jim Cantore, stay off our beach

Tropical Storm Fay's track is swinging like a pendulum.  The 11 a.m. advisory showed it coming ashore south of us.  The 5 p.m. advisory shows it coming ashore to the north.

A southern landfall means we stay home. The wind will push water out of Tampa Bay. A northern landfall means we leave (or seriously think about leaving).  In this case, the wind will push water into Tampa Bay. It all depends on the strength of the storm. 

Last night we were wondering where Jim Cantore was flying to; I'm sure the Weather Channel is making his travel arrangements.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tropical Storm Fay: what's in a name

Flashlight. Check.
Batteries. Check.
Bottled water. Check.
Heavy duty window coverings. Check.

It's that time of year again.  I've been insisting that we watch the weather news every morning before switching to any of DW's shows. The Disney channel is notoriously lax in warning about tropical systems.

Our local forecasters have been observing several areas of "interest" during August, the kickoff of our main hurricane season.  Friday night, as we were watching the Olympics and waiting to cheer for Michael Phelps, Bruce read a report that a tropical storm had developed around Puerto Rico.

This sixth named storm is called "Fay" and is predicted to develop into a Category 1 (possibly 2) hurricane before making landfall in Florida sometime Tuesday. Always curious about names, I looked up Fay and it means "fairy" or "elf". Well OK, then. That doesn't sound too bad.

Word nerd that I am, I also looked up the word "fey" in my online dictionary.  I've always thought fey to mean "whimsical." It does. That's nice. It can also mean "having a magical or fairylike quality."  Very sweet. Then there's "Fare thee well my fairy fay" from the song Polly Wolly Doodle.

And let's not forget Tina Fey. Funny lady. Really looking forward to the upcoming season of 30 Rock.

Wait a minute. Back up.  What was that first definition in the list?  Fey (adj) British dialect: fated, doomed to die.  Chiefly Scottish: appearing to be under a spell, marked by an apprehension of death, calamity, or evil.  

That won't do at all.

Then there's--"Fey (adj) being in unnaturally high spirits."  That's good. " were formerly thought to precede death"  Ooooo, not good.

Apparently the definitions are related back in their Latin and Old English roots to words that have to do with "fate". I don't have to worry about "fate".  God's sovereignty over the world means that nothing happens by chance. But I do need to get ready for a possible evacuation in a couple of days.

Of course, the names aren't picked to be descriptive of the storms. Really, who's afraid of "Hurricane Dolly".  But I'm praying that Fay will be more on the whimsical side than doom-filled. 

And now I'm off to find that hand-crank radio. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

This Little Light of Mine

“Can I use the flashlight, mommy?”

We were playing our usual afternoon game of dinosaur race. The rules are simple: each of us has a dinosaur, the dinosaurs race, DW’s dinosaur wins.  From there it gets complicated, but we usually get “trophies” which, for some reason, are kept in the crawl space beneath my bed.  The trophies themselves are invisible, but are described to me in detail as DW hands them to me.

After opening the door at the foot of our captain’s bed, DW prepared to crawl through to fetch whatever trophies his imagination devised.  I gave him the small flashlight to use and off he went in search of prizes.

“Mommy, come and see.”

I crawled around to the head of the bed to peek underneath.  In the illuminated space behind my bed, I saw dust bunnies. No, not bunnies. These were dust dinosaurs.  Our cats also like the cozy hiding places between the underbed drawers. I could have knitted a small cat from all the fur.

The flashlight illuminated everything.  All the fur, dust, fluff, and fuzz from, well who knows how long, clumped in piles beneath the bed.  I’m a good housekeeper, but I’m certain I haven’t vacuumed behind the bed since I had the kids.

Out came the vacuum and all the attachments.  DW enthusiastically held the flashlight while we sucked up dust tyrannosaurs and dust velociraptors by the dozen.  

On JW’s last visit to the pediatrician I was asked if he mimicked what we said or did, a normal milestone for an 18-month-old.  I looked at my little 30 lb sumo wrestler of a toddler and remembered all the ways he imitates his brother, dad, and me.

Big brother has taught JW a few wrestling moves which he now uses to pin his slightly heavier brother to the ground.  JW can pull a serious face, eyebrows cocked at odd angles, that looks so much like his daddy it’s funny. His baby voice chirps along when I sing and he throws in a familiar word or two right on cue.

That’s all well and good, but I know they’re also catching us at our bad moments. We’re not a four-letter-word family, but we have plenty to say about the bad drivers we encounter on the road.  I’m waiting for the day one of them rolls his eyes at me.  I already hear my “no” reflected back, usually by JW. (Although it’s really cute and dramatic. Nooooooo.) I need to erase the word “stupid” from my vocabulary for awhile. (oops, there’s that eye roll again)

Nothing throws a light on our words and actions like our children do.  They grasp their flashlights with their little hands and shine them everywhere, even on the dust, dinosaurs.

I’d better get out the vacuum.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Didn’t I Just Clean This House?

We had a rite of passage in the library for new pages, the folks who put away all the returned books.  They truly became part of the family of staff when they made the observation, “Didn’t I just clear this cart?”  After we finished laughing we assured them that yes, they had just put all those books away. In the meantime, thirty more people had come in and returned books, filling the cart once more.

Library work is not for those who like closure.  New employees who thought they’d actually finish their work in a day, a week, a month were quickly disappointed.  Our job was to keep one step ahead of chaos.  Like Mickey, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, in Disney’s Fantasia, the circulation desk staff bravely tried to maintain order as our patrons passed through our doors carrying armloads of books like so many pail-toting brooms.

Now my pail-toting brooms are toy-toting boys who manage to create endless piles of dishes and cups to clean, laundry to do, and messes to straighten. Like our library’s patrons they ask interesting questions, have a boundless curiosity, and love to read.  There’s no closure, only the change of seasons and the growth and deepening of lives. 

So here I sit, having just cleaned the house. Again.  I’ll do it again and again, trying to keep one step ahead of chaos. I know better than to ask, “didn’t I just clean this?”

While I cleaned I plugged in the iTouch and listened to the album at the top of the list.  As I scrubbed, Charlie Peacock sang 

I have got to clean house

Gotta make my bed

Gotta clear my head

It's gettin' kinda stuffy in here

Smells sorta funky too

Like monkeys at the zoo;

Spirit come flush the lies out

One of the things I love about Sunday morning worship is the chance to sit quietly and clean house, especially on communion Sunday.  The weekly grind fills my mind and soul with gunk as surely as those brooms filled Mickey’s master’s workshop with water.  I treasure one entire hour (!) of reflection, confession, and praise as my Master puts things back in order. He never asks “didn’t I just clean this?”  He welcomes my confession and strengthens me as I confess my weaknesses to him. I know that one day there will be closure, for there won’t be any housework in heaven.  But for now I’m thankful for the one in whom there is no chaos, the one who washes me white as snow.  

A magic eraser, indeed.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Write Thing

Two hours.  I knew I'd have two whole hours to myself to work on Ruth.

Daddy took DW to his first baseball game.  Baby J and I would have dinner, playtime, then bath and bed. The balance of the evening (until the guys got home) belonged to me.  I'd even watched the Tour in the afternoon so that tonight would be distraction free.  I planned to spend two hours writing.

But unfinished tasks got in the way.  My eBay auction was doing well.  Very well. I needed to pull together clothing for the next auction. But what's this?  More summer clothes the baby's outgrown. I realized I had another mixed lot of toddler clothes. Hmm. I need the cash and summer's half over. Better get this lot online now.

Task #1 - get a box of items listed, photographed, weighed and ready to go on the auction block

Then there's Sunday dinner.  I could leave the preparation until Sunday afternoon, but DW has a birthday party to attend after church.  Our neighbor is turning three. The party will be a blast. And my spinach cheese manicotti tastes much better if it's prepped the night before it's cooked.

Task #2 - make ahead spinach manicotti so I can play (not cook) on Sunday

Task #3 - wrap presents so that I'm not a hurried, crabby Mommy on Sunday afternoon

There goes my two free hours.

But, as I stood in my kitchen stuffing manicotti, I realized that tonight's tasks were best done tonight. What took me two (well, 3) hours to do by myself would take much longer if I had to work around my family.  My auction ended well.  Hopefully the next batch of clothes will exceed expectations.  Dinner tomorrow will be delicious. Best of all, I can focus on worship and family on the Sabbath instead of unfinished tasks.

Tonight's jobs weren't the write thing to do. But they were the right thing to do.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Arsenic Hour

Ahhh, it’s that transitional time in the afternoon lovingly dubbed “The Arsenic Hour”.  This is not an original term, but one borrowed from The Mother’s Almanac and brought into our family vocabulary by my sister.

Between the nap and the twilight

When blood sugar is becoming lower,

Comes a pause in the day's occupations,

That is known as Arsenic Hour.

—Marguerite Kelly and Elia Parsons, The Mother's Almanac I, 1975

Kelly and Parsons appear to have taken a page from Longfellow’s poem “The Children’s Hour” (1863)

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.

No amount of naps or high quality snacks can stave off this phenomenon in our house.  This is the time that tests Mom’s soul. I have yet to figure out how to prepare dinner with one wailing child on each leg. So I reach for the remote control.  Today’s child-calming feature is the movie Cars. Thank you, Lightning McQueen.

Interestingly enough, there’s another type of late afternoon meltdown experienced by Alzheimer’s and dementia patients--Sundowning.  Lengthening shadows and end-of-day fatigue trigger a type of confusion that leads to inappropriate behaviors and increasing agitation.

It appears that God created our bodies to need a time of rest, no matter what age. Just like we need a good night’s sleep and possibly even a daily nap, we also need to take a break from our busy lives and refuel. Otherwise, let the cranky times begin.

So a quick prayer for Mommy and a kiss for the kids.  Daddy’s coming home soon.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Let the Madness Begin

It's July again and time for the Tour de France. Three weeks of cycling, thrills, spills, but, hopefully, no doping disqualifications.  There's a wonderful (but painful) commercial featuring past champions being defrocked of their titles by running the tape backwards.  An official removes Landis's jersey, stripping him of the yellow. Rasmussen rides backwards into the starting gate.  Hopefully we're in a new era and we can just enjoy the race.  

Can't explain why we like the Tour so much. We're not cyclists. We don't even know who tuned in first to (then) OLN in 2002.  But there we were one evening, BW watching racing and me watching French countryside. We were hooked. Then we got into the Lance Armstrong drama the following year. We watched him win #5, #6, and #7.  

There's a Spaniard in the yellow jersey today.  Valverde won the 1st stage.  

Only 20 more to go. 

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Among the Righteous

Did any Arabs save any Jews during the Holocaust?

A.  Arabs were not involved in the Holocaust

B.  Some Arabs aided Vichy France, Italy, and Nazi Germany in persecuting Jews

C.  Some Arabs risked their lives to save Jews

Robert Satloff asks this question at the beginning of his fascinating account of the Holocaust in the Arab lands of North Africa. During his 4 years of research, Satloff discovered a trail of Nazi and Vichy labor and punishment camps as well as a current, collective amnesia amongst both Arabs and Jews.

It’s hard to be ignorant of the reality of the Holocaust in the west, given the accessibility of museums, books, and films such as Schindler’s List. However, the official position of many schools, media, and governments in the Middle East and North Africa is that Arabs played no role in the Holocaust, either good or bad.  An entire generation of men and women believe that the Holocaust was a European problem and a small one at that. Israel exists purely as a guilt offering to the Jews, torn from Arab hands.

This book is a necessary witness to one of the greatest acts of evil in our age. Even before their troops secure borders, even as they are being attacked and pushed back by the Allies, the Nazis are busy building “Buchenwald in the Sahara.” 

This book matters. It matters because Satloff provides accounts that, if not captured and documented, will be lost to history as the witnesses die.  It matters because Satloff, the executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, provides context for why the families of these righteous Arab are keeping silent today. It matters because Satloff, a Jew and an expert on Arab and Islamic politics, provides insight into why the peace process is so difficult for western Christians to understand.

By the way, the answer is “B & C”.

Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands by Robert Satloff, 2006.

Saturday, April 26, 2008



A few weeks ago DW brought home a small pot, full of potting soil, wrapped in the verse “I am the vine.”  While we adults listened to the sermon series on the “I AM’s” in the gospel of John, DW’s teachers were busy teaching the preschoolers this verse.  

I’m a little fuzzy on what they did in church that day.  DW mostly reports on who he played with and what they played. But he was excited about planting seeds.

We watered them (not too much) and watched them and one day 2 sprouts appeared.  Soon they needed better soil so we carefully transplanted them into a larger pot.  They’re growing slowly, teaching us patience, and rewarding our work with each additional leaf.

It’s not much of a leap to see that this is what I’m doing with my boys: planting seeds and watching them grow.  I nurture them, watch over them, then back away to let them grow. Periodically they surprise me with new understanding.

And just like our plant, they’re still growing.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Housework Thought

At what point in the day does the bed go from being unmade to being turned down?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Good Shepherd

Last Sunday's lesson was on John 7-10. The sermon was based on the text of John 10, specifically John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."

Pastor asked the question - "What does it mean to call Jesus the 'Good Shepherd'?"
1.  I have to acknowledge that I'm a sheep
2. I need to listen for his voice
3. When I know the shepherd, I lack nothing

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Apparently I should be a song writer

Took an online test.  Here are the results:

***You Should Be a Song Writer***
 You have the ability to evoke emotion, tell a story, and hook someone... In a very small amount of words, perhaps with some deft rhyming. Even if you can't write music, you can sure write compelling lyrics. Lyrics so good, people will have them stuck in their heads!  

What Type of Writer Should You Be?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Who are these brilliant people...

...who've left positive comments on my Writing Challenge entry this week.  I must confess a touch of pride.  I'll need to lift that up in prayer.

Last week's entry "The God I Believe In" placed 8th in the Editor's Choice. So it will also be featured in an anthology to be published sometime in the future.

I received my copy of the Christian Writer's Market on Thursday. I need to start branching out, but the most important thing I must do is dedicate my writing to God and let him speak. It's all to easy for this to become about me.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Member Showcase!

My poem Come Home is going to be featured in the FaithWriters Member Showcase beginning February 4th.  This is a huge honor. But the best part was having someone, whose writing I admire, tell me that I'm one of the finest new writers.

If that doesn't inspire me.....what will?

I plunged into the Regular Article Submission area with a piece called Gray Hair and Cradle Cap. I've received some encouraging comments and am now motivated to add some other articles.  Somewhere there's a paper I wrote for a class that might be reworked.  Must start digging around.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Year of Living Smaller

An article I wrote, "A Mustard Seed House", is going to be published in the March/April issue of MomSense magazine.  In the article I talk about living in a small space, how to make the most of your space.

In 2008 I'm really going to get tough on our possessions. I've already given away most of the infant clothes to Alpha House or people in need.  Now I'm working on getting rid of linens I don't use.  I weeded my Christmas decorations and took some to Salvation Army today.  There's a pile of stuff from my closet that's going in the trash tonight.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Little Mess Cleans Up

My story "Little Mess" placed 10th in EC at this week.  The theme was "A Stitch in Time Saves Nine". Entries had to illustrate the proverb without specifically mentioning it or writing about it literally.

I'd love to turn this into a children's book.

This week's entry is based on "A Bird in the Hand".  I don't think this will make it as high on EC, but I'm excited about this entry because of the subject and what I did with it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Eagle Poop

Well, DW is always saying that there's eagle poop on our car. We just laughed. Turns out he may be right.

There was a beautiful American Bald Eagle enjoying a breakfast bird on a piling in our canal this morning. We watched him pluck the feathers from his prize (which I mistakenly thought was a fish until the feathers started flying). Then he began eating with gusto. I made some coffee and got DW a chair and we watched him through the kitchen window.

I knew he'd fly away if I snapped a picture, but I couldn't resist. I did wait until he had finished most of his meal. Then he looked at me, grabbed his breakfast in his talons, and took flight across the canal and over the trees.

I wonder where he lives?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Write Now

I have a few articles waiting to be published. 2008 is going to be a good year!

"A Mustard Seed House" will be in the March/April issue of MomSense.
"Sanctuary", "The Parable of the Gardens" and "Smell Like a Church" will be in a FaithWriters anthology.
"Hear, O Children" will be in the Women of Passions book.

The story of "Little Mess" has lots of favorable comments so far. I'll find out Thursday how it did with the judges.

Monday, January 14, 2008

It was a good day today

After a year I'm finally feeling like I have a handle on the 2 children thing. I managed to do some chores while watching kids. Took breaks for snacks. Updated the NEPC website. Did some writing for the Weekly Challenge. Took #1 son to his first gymnastics class.

Everybody's bathed, dressed and in bed, and I'm not exhausted.