Friday, March 30, 2012


"Tell me a story. Draw me a picture. Want to play?" How long do children demand or ask us to play with them, to turn our love and attention their way? 

Not long, I'm sure. My son is 10. I figure I have about 5 years before my cool factor turns icy in my son's eyes. I've got to maximize our play time.

My brother and sister-in-law play Draw Something, an iPad, iPhone, all around smart phone app, that allows you to draw pictures for friends to guess. My niece who's four, loves it. She loves checking for new drawings to guess or watching a friend solve a drawing she and her Mom sent. Part Pictionary, part Jumble, you play by connecting with other players via Facebook or email. 

It's no wonder the game shot to the top of the apps charts. After your friend guesses the picture you drew you get to watch a quick video of the drawing creating itself and see at what point your friend got it. You can skip that part, but it's fun to see. It's even more fun to draw.

Speaking of which, it's my turn. 

Happy Friday! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Speaking in Code

“ Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it. ” - Brian Kernighan

Early morning finds me sitting at my brother's kitchen table. I'm cradling a cup of hot coffee watch the  blustery woods wake up when I ask my brother to describe to me what he does for a living. In my mind I know he works on chips. His team worked on a chip for the iPhone years ago; they worked on a chip for a router for the country of France; he's written code and more importantly, I find out, he debugs it. "Debugging," he tells me, "is much harder than creating." I liken it to the work of a sharp editor. It takes talent and skill to see above and around and into and beyond the creation.

"Tell me about this chip that's coming in today," I request. "What's it look like?"

"Imagine a human hair. The wires in the chip we're testing today are only a fraction of the width of a human hair." Hard to imagine something so small, so invisible, so fast. He's expecting a new chip to arrive from Taiwan today. It means a late night at work testing the chip and getting it to do what it's designed to do. He and his team will begin the debugging process today.  I asked him if he works on microchips and got schooled in the language of chips and processors.

Apparently microchip is an old word, a word that described the smaller chips that were measured in microns. The chips John works on are measured in nanos--there's not a word for that. Nano chip isn't really used.  "There are ASICS (application specific integrated circuits) and network processors.  But we  just call it a chip," he said.

 The chip they will test is a network processor. I can't quite visualize what that means. John explained that this chip will transmit 300 million packets (of information) a second. Of course in my mind, I'm seeing small packages--like the painted magnets my four-year-old niece wrapped in white butcher paper and gave me-- moving from hand to hand.

Three million is beyond my mind's eye. The packets are computer code, those 1s and0s that make everything happen seemingly in the air right before your eyes. John says he is "a solution looking for a problem" and I think really he is a creationist, making something where nothing seemed to exist before. Conjuring magic.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Little Big Brother

My brother is younger than me. Two years, three years. The gap varies based on who's just had a birthday. For the first time since we've both married, I'm visiting by myself. No husband or son came along. It's my birthday spring break adventure.

This morning found John and I snuggled up in the family room. No one else was up. Morning found us, he in the big chair, me snuggled into the corner of the couch. We were talking about educating our children and the state of schools taken over by testing. He's only 2 and a half years younger than me, but as he said "I prefer to think of it as you're 3 years older than me as of today and for half the year at least!"

My brother, John, or JT, used to chase me around the house with a blow dart gun. He was probably in middle school then. He never actually hit me, but I knew he could. He could pin a lizard to a scrub oak tree from twenty feet away. is a father. His accuracy fueled my screams and made run a little faster. He liked the chase, I think, and to take me down a notch.

His daughter, my niece is 4. We don't live close together, so seeing my brother and his family is special. Who knew that he takes videos of stuffed animal dramas at work and messages them home to my niece throughout the week? Currently, an orange dinosaur is raiding his change drawer and over indulging in candy from the vending machine. The poor creature had tummy trouble last episode. Who knows what JT will find at his desk come Monday! My brother does all the voices--bringing his daughter to the delightful "oh no" cliff only to postpone her delight until the next office installment.

Orange Guy (the dinosaur) is not alone in his repertoire. There's the "Ballad of the Bear Who Ran with Scissors," or the Bear that didn't hold his Mommy's hand in the parking lot, or the Bear that didn't cut his fingernails and ripped up his sheets. Another favorite is the story of the pig who jumped over the fence (and lost his legs), or the "Case of Poop in the Pants", the story of when Belle soiled her drawers. He tells stories. He built an "artist's loft" in a shed in the backyard.

My brother, lizard hunter, has grown up to be quite a Dad. How I love seeing it and seeing him, all grown up and fatherly. Love you, JT.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


"Auntie, Auntie! Can I play with your crayon paints? Auntie, Auntie let's play dress up! I'm going to get your wings, I'll be right back!"

Oh if I could only describe my niece,Charlotte's voice. Part little girl, part Glenda the good witch, all curiosity and glee.

"Auntie, Auntie here come the special birthday hats! We can wear them to dinner!" little does she remember I made these birthday fezzes for her first birthday several years ago. Oh what fun to have Charlotte hand me a feathered, bedazzled fezz and say,"here you go, you're the special party girl, Auntie!"

Off to make art and play butterflies! In the end we had a Fancy Nancy sort of birthday dinner with good wine and sugared steaks on a patio with a fireplace. We wore the hats too . Pink stone all the way today.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

St Patrick's Day

This post is #18 of 31 for the Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers

I forgot yesterday was St. Patrick's Day. It slipped my mind in the sweetness of Saturday morning. I can't believe I forgot. In my forty plus years, I've never forgotten St. Patrick's Day. 

I've never forgotten because for me, St. Patrick's Day isn't about wearing green and drinking beer. It's about my Dad. 

Mom & Dad on Park Ave. for the Art Festival today.
Eventually, I remembered. I remembered the minute I saw I'd missed a call from my Dad.  At 1:20 in the afternoon on our way home from a conference, Collin and I called him back. I was kicking my mom-self. I hadn't shared any stories of Ireland with Collin that morning. We didn't pull out the old photo album and look at pictures from Donegal. We didn't read an Irish story much less say the Irish blessing or laugh over the curse. How did I forget? Usually, it's a first-thing in the morning sort of celebration, sometimes green pancakes or waffles have even been involved. I wanted to kick myself, but I was driving. 

My Dad's first language was Gaelic. He spoke Gaelic at home with his mother. He was the first of his family born in the United States. Dad forgot Gaelic once he went to school. He doesn't speak with a brogue either, but he puts one on for St. Patrick's Day.Ever since I was a child, Dad would perk us up with a lilt and a laugh in his voice, laying the accent on thick the more my brother and I giggled. It is one of many things about my father that delights me, no matter what he and I may have been fighting about when I was a teen and young adult, he was always joyful when he spoke with a Brogue on St. Patrick's Day. 

I think it is his joy and the sharing of it that still gets me. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Drawing in Church

I've got a confession to make. I've been drawing in church. It started more than a year ago. A retreat speaker introduced me to Praying in Color. Since, I've drawn my way through nearly 2 accordion Moleskins worth of sermons.

Our church, St. Luke's Lutheran, is celebrating 100 years this year. One part of the celebrations, I've loved are the history presentations. Here's a link to the first 25 years' video. It amazes me think about the families who founded the church in 1911, pooling their resources to get away from the newly industrialized city of Cleveland, Ohio.

As part of the birthday celebration, today's sermon was delivered by the President of the Lutheran Missouri Synod, Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison. He spoke about coming to church with our sacks empty and having that sack filled by the spirit, by Christ. I definitely arrived empty today. Here's what I drew:

Drawing the sermons has connected me to the word in new and different ways.

At the end of our service today, we watched a short video showing the second 25 years (it's not online yet or I'd link it). I wasn't too surprised to see that St. Luke's began a radio ministry in the 1950s. That sort of forward thinking is obvious today in how the church has reached out through the Internet. Services are broadcast live each week. Sermons are archived on the site. The church tweets.

I am sure I will be drawing through many more decades at St. Luke's.

Happy Birthday!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Eat Quiche

My teacher friends and I were talking at the lunch table one day about recent restaurant meals we'd had. I said, "the food was so good, I had to take a picture of it." One of the teachers laughed, nearly snorted her soup out her nose actually, and replied, "Lee Ann you always take pictures of food."

She's right. I just hadn't realized it. I love taking pictures. Its one way I appreciate things.  I photograph. I thank and remember.

And I do love good food. I love the colors, the textures, the image food makes on a well presented plate, all of it. That's given me a thicker waist than I'd like (I'll be working on that this spring and summer). In the meantime, I'm getting back to basics in the kitchen and avoiding processed things, no more protein bars for breakfast for me. Here's what I'm cooking up to "heat and eat" for breakfast this week:

One cooked, these also freeze well. Microwave 1 minute to heat.
Quiche Cups: Ready to Go
adapted from a South Beach recipe

6 eggs or 3/4-1 cup of egg whites
1/4 low fat milk
1/2 cup chopped broccoli
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup chopped red pepper
handful of low fat cheese (probably a 1/4 cup)
handful of fresh spinach (cut in ribbons or use to line the sides of the muffin cup)
Mrs. Dash
Fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°. Wisk the eggs with the milk. Add in vegetables. Blend. Spray foil muffin cups with cooking spray. I use olive oil in a Misto sprayer I can refill. Line the muffin cup with spinach leaves. Drop about a  1/4 cup of the mixture into each foil muffin cup. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Serve with hot sauce!


PS: I'm participating in the Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life blogging challenge. The challenge has us posting a slice a day for the month of March. This weekend (slice 9, 10 and 11)  I thought I'd write slices on my personal blog instead of my teaching blog to bring a bit of balance--in my writing life of late--between the two. We'll see how it works out.

Friday, March 9, 2012


This post is #9 in 31 slices of life, a blog challenge hosted 
by Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers.  

The road stretches her black asphalt in front of us. A tarry ribbon, two-lanes, a straight shot for most of our 25 mile drive home from my son's school. Orange groves on one side and subdivisions, livestock and lakes on another.

"So, Mom, what's your favorite animal?" Collin asks after we grin at the kids climbing the dirt mountain-- a field of goats tucked between a church and a day-care center. We've stopped to say hello to them before.

I have lots of favorites, I think to myself. "Maybe a llama, " I reply. "Oh, or a horse!"

"Why do love horses?"

What first comes to mind is the smell. Rich, dark, earthy, warm, a mixture of leather and hay,  I don't think I can describe how I love the smell of horses, or horse barns so I say, "their spirit--they are independent and powerful, strong, beautiful and fast."

"They are elegant too--you might say that," Collin reminds me.

"That's true they are. Why do you like squirrels?" I ask giving him his turn to tell me.

"They are quick and they have bushy tails. I love too that they climb trees because I do like a good tree to climb."

Our conversation reminds me of a scrap of a poem I wrote for Collin when he was little. Once we got home I went to my journals and find it.
Not a backyard squirrel, my parents caught
this rare black squirrel in Petosky, Michigan!

I saw a squirrel today
running along a fence top
his tail busy and twitching
eyes on the bird feeder
he jumped
And the poem reminds me of stories we were sharing around Mom's dinner table just hours before.A family friend--someone who's laughed with my parents for 50 years--is visiting from Washington state. We lingered over stories at the dinner table last night. Mom was regaling us with tales from the bird feeder. Squirrels, the crafty creatures, are big players in the back yard. In Mom's backyard they want one thing: bird seed.

Mom keeps a double feeder in the back yard. The feeders hang from green metal hooks which curve and arch like Ms at the top of a thick pole. The pole,a stick figure in a plastic ballast skirt. The inverted cone keeps the footed-creatures from the seed. My parents love to watch the birds come to the feeder. Yellow finches are hear now and have been for winter--they will take wing north soon. The squirrels, nature's clowns, provide just the right amount of mischief to keep Mom and Dad on their toes.

Mom once watched a squirrel hang, as if on a trapeze, from a scrub oak branch over the feeder. She said he eye balled the bird feeder then scrambled back up to the tree. He tried another branch, hanging, looking, stretching, but still retreated. In the name of keeping the squirrels out of the seed, Mom greased the pole, vaselined it,  from top to bottom then sat back on the porch to watch. She said that squirrel'es eyes opened right up the minute he hit the pole and slid slowly to the ground.