where I’m coming from…

I know that some people find my “slight” obsession and/or concern over getting good grades to be rather funny, because if you’ve been paying attention for the last few years… that’s mostly what I get. C’s aren’t allowed. B’s are barely tolerated. And I start breathing easier once I have so many A’s in the gradebook that nothing can knock them out.

You’ll tell me, “Rach, your grades are always good, why worry?”. To be honest, over the last year, it’s turned into more of a faint worry than a serious obsession. The Lord’s been working with me on things such as being a worrywart. Yes, I believe I should be working hard enough to get good grades, but if my Bible tells me that I’m to “be anxious for nothing,” (Philippians 4:6) then I think I better listen.

But I can still become concerned that I flubbed something on an exam, and maybe I’ll get a B this time. What’s the big deal?

It goes further back than these last few years in college. If you’ve been reading along here for a while, you’ve probably realized that I’m a “returning student.” It took me at least 15 years to decide that I should go back to college and actually get my degree. It took a year of working on campus and seeing my older brother finally get HIS degree to make me even consider it. Why?

Because I hated college, when I was eighteen. And I hated school. I never ever wanted to go near them again, and the only things I planned on learning ever again came from my Bible, my books, and the people in my life.

Maybe you think I’m joking. Let me backtrack.

I know that there are actually good memories from high school, buried somewhere in my memory, but they became completely swamped by the bad memories. I’ve blanked out on a lot of it, because I wanted so badly to forget.

I wasn’t a bad student when I was younger, but by the time I was in high school, I was getting behind in math and science. I dropped AP French because I was behind, and before the official drop date. I probably didn’t study hard enough, but I wasn’t comprehending all that my teachers were trying to teach me. I just didn’t get it. Even as a student that LOVED history and reading, I wasn’t even doing as well as could be in my AP English and History classes. That’s because I had yet to figure out what exactly my teachers wanted from me in an essay. Also, I had a crazy AP English teacher who saw sexual innuendo in EVERYTHING literary and I didn’t know how to deal with that kind of thinking.

Anyway, while I survived those classes and passed my AP exams, I couldn’t get my grades up in Algebra. Nothing I did seemed to help, and I was convinced I had done everything. My only happy time at school was with my friends in my Strings class, but even there, I never really liked practicing, so I kind of skated on by. My teacher wasn’t really a teacher, he was a local orchestra member that was teaching school for extra money. So, he was neither a help nor a hindrance. He let us play and enjoy music and didn’t push us very hard.

But despite my dropping math grades and my average grades everywhere else, I wasn’t raised to think that bad grades were acceptable. I knew they weren’t. I didn’t want to be below average. But I became convinced that I was. By the time I was a senior, I didn’t have a very good opinion of my own intelligence, report cards made me cringe, and math homework left me practically in tears. I just couldn’t understand it, and I became convinced it was because I was… well, stupid. Average. Unable to learn all that higher math stuff. Or figure out what I was screwing up elsewhere.

The hammer dropped when I became a senior. My only happy times had always been in Strings class. Well, that year, we had enough students to form two classes and my teacher split us up by skill level. I was the only Senior who was put into the lower level (younger) class. It broke something inside of me. I was so angry, because my teacher didn’t care that I was humiliated. That I would have no more classes with my closest friends. That he had stolen my remaining happiness in my last year in school. High school was pain and anger and humiliation and frustration and feeling nothing but stupid.

No, don’t worry, I was never one of those kids that “went to the bad” or did really crazy stuff because of inner turmoil. You see, despite everything going on in my head, I still had a Savior Jesus Christ who was looking out for me. Even when I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to Him or asking for help. He still had me in His grip and when I was thinking straight, I knew He was there for me. Always. And I had a family who loved me and loved Jesus, no matter what I did in school.

Ok, I didn’t really mean to boohoo overmuch about high school. Someday, I think some more of the happy memories will surface again, but even eighteen years later… most of them are buried.

After that, I spent part of a semester in college, and then I’d had enough. They tried to teach me psychology and evolution and statistics. I was terrified of college students, because I’ve always been pretty shy with strangers. This was strangers times a million, to my eyes, and I didn’t want to be anywhere near the place. I stopped going to class, and maybe I actually showed up for Final exams, but without ever studying much for them. My grades were abysmal, because I no longer cared and I wasn’t ever going back. EVER.

I joined the workforce. Worked in a bookstore, ran a business, cleaned houses, cleaned full-time for a Bible camp, went overseas as a nanny, and finally went home again. And then the Lord threw me a curve ball.

The Lord wanted me in college, and I have no idea how long He’d been trying to prepare me for it, but He finally got through to me. But I entered college with baggage. I had been convinced, as an eighteen year old, that I was fairly dumb and unable to learn stuff. I’d been crushed by what I perceived as the unfeeling nature of my music teacher, and no, I’ve never touched my violin again. I had been embarrassed again and again by mistakes and bad grades and such, in high school and college. My understanding of math had never grown much after 8th grade (forms in geometry gave me nightmares in middle school, but I LOVED tessellations), though a few things got into my head somehow.

But when I became determined to return to college, I was also determined that I wasn’t going to waste my time or money, since I would be paying back loans for it. I decided, with a vengeance, that I was going to study hard and clobber my classes. But to be honest, I thought I’d be fighting for B’s.

So, I was flat out astonished when I started to get A’s. And more A’s. And I hit the Dean’s List and the President’s List. My one B in a class still grates on me, but maybe it keeps me humble, also. I discovered that with enough study time and force of will, I could even get an A in “baby” Chemistry and my one required Math class. I even ended up tutoring a friend of mine through HER math class, discovering that I had learned that stuff better than I thought. And that I was CAPABLE of it.

What is all this to say? I carried baggage in my head for years, believing that I was incapable of learning, that math and science stuff especially. It HURT to think that about your own self, but I was convinced. Only several years in college have finally showed me that I just wasn’t ready and yes, I probably wasn’t trying hard enough. My teenage self didn’t know how to deal with all the stuff being thrown at me in school and stopped trying.

I’ve figured most of that school stuff out now. Discovered that if I can do nothing else, I can write. And I can math and science, too, especially when it’s something that interests me. I can even get a higher GPA than any of my brothers that have Master’s degrees!

And I’m thankful that the Lord has given me the opportunity to do all of this. To learn that He made me to be an intelligent, creative woman, capable of learning, even where math and science are concerned.

But when you hear me expressing concern about a grade, a slight worry that I need to prepare myself for the possibility of a B… you’re hearing the shades of high-school-and-college past. You’re hearing my never-ending frustration over that one B (class grade) that I got three years ago (which was probably an 89, but he wouldn’t bump it up). And also, the only class I ever received a B in was in Modern Military History… so you can see why my military history classes are still capable of winding me up. 🙂 It was also my first year back in school, when I hadn’t learned to take notes properly or study properly. My prof also didn’t use PowerPoint slides, but occasionally wrote on the board. You had to take notes from his rambling monologue. 😉

This is not meant to be a whiny tale. It’s to show that I’ve gained some perspective on high school, years which were fraught with emotions and other stuff that everyone deals with. And also, my memories of high school help me to be a lot more understanding when other people, younger than I am, are upset and convinced that they just can’t do it. Convinced they aren’t smart enough and will never understand something.

And please don’t think that my family and friends were not encouraging me then, either. They were. They’re the reason I survived. But I didn’t always explain what was going on in my head, so they couldn’t always counteract what I thought. They could just keep loving me and praying for me.

So, if you have someone in your life that’s discouraged by school, whether high school or college, keep building them up, praying for them, and encouraging them that yes they CAN learn and they ARE smart. Just keep building them up. Eventually, they’ll listen and HEAR you.

And bear with me until I graduate next May. 🙂  As I said, the Lord’s been working with me when it comes to grades and worry, especially this year. And I’m so thankful that He has. But at least you’ll know, now, where I’m coming from when I begin to worry that I screwed something up. You may think I’m crazy to believe I could possibly screw anything up. But I can. I have. I probably will again. But hopefully, it’ll be after I graduate and never have to worry about getting any more school grades again. Ever.

darlings of the north…

It is a well-known fact that I can’t resist taking pictures of kids. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I can go to singles Bible conferences and come back with pictures of my friends’ children. Not only do I have to document how much they’ve grown since I saw them last time, they’re just so darn cute! DSC_0002-001

DSC_1087The same can’t be said of all of us grownups. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Besides, I really have to be in the mood for taking pictures of adults, because with some of them, you have to actually negotiate a deal before they let you. Or you have to completely awake. I was pretty tired, last weekend.DSC_1078

DSC_1081-001My little pals have grown so much since I saw them last! The baby has decided that standing up is an interesting thing to try out, and my little BlueJay has turned three. THREE! How did that happen? I held her on the day she was born, and now she’s a big girl that needed some memory-jogging, in order to remember me. (see below for comparison between the day she was born and now)IMG_2136

DSC_1084So, I visited them in the dining room, before every meal, to the point that I could see her sit up straight and her eyes pop with excitement, whenever I walked into the room. The baby wasn’t as excited, but then, he had real cereal to eat, which is much more exciting than any grownup.DSC_0013

DSC_0014-001On Sunday, I came in to find her hair done up in baby socks (instead of the old-school rags), in order to give her lots of curls for going to church. And as adorable as she is in PJs and baby socks, seeing her running around the building, after her curls were out… that was pretty funny. I think when the curls began to bounce, so did she. She ran into the room I was in, and just about jumped on a friend of hers (age two) who’s a little less excitable. He looked slightly alarmed, but then again, maybe he’s used to it.DSC_0012

DSC_0011I can only hope that I’ll be able to get up to PA sometime during the summer, before these kids get much bigger! Before long, they’ll be taller than I am!DSC_0016-001


hide-and-seek 101…

Though we play hide-and-seek (or Sardines) pretty regularly, I’ve found that I can now play it with just Bubby and I. When she and I have our “girl party”, on our own, it doesn’t take much to keep her entertained. Just help her hide in the closet, or under the bed, and then pretend you’re having a hard time finding her.

Sadie also loves it when I monologue, while looking for her, but she at least found her own hiding place, all by herself. And she’s pretty good at not giggling, or bumping the wall, to give me a clue where she is. For some reason, Emmie believes that everyone needs help, so she’ll start yelling or hitting the wall, within two minutes of your “ready or not, here I come!”. I’ve been trying to break her of this habit, as well as the one where they all start shouting “make a noise!”, after you’ve only been hiding from them for about a minute.

So, of course, Bub’s new to the hide-and-seek game, but she’s learning fast. We all go stand by the glass doors, cover our eyes, and those of us that know how to talk, we count loudly to ten. Bub counts with us, wordlessly, but she gets the tone right. “UH, uh, UH, uh, UH, uh, Uh, uh, Uh, UHH!” is her version of counting to ten, and then while we shout “ready or not”, she spins around, and skips off ahead of us. I need to get some better pictures of all of us counting, possibly even from the other side of the glass doors, but haven’t achieve that, yet.

Now, Bubby used to go check under beds and in closets, without any help, but one afternoon spent with Emmie roaring at her, whenever she was found, and now Bub’s scared to look by herself. But if I’m accompanying her, she will happily climb into the closet, or crawl under the bed with the girls. And then I pretend I didn’t see her get in with them, and do some more monologue-ing, while they giggle away.

Bubby’s actually good at finding people, when her sisters will walk right past someone’s hiding place. I don’t know if it’s because she can see things, lower down, more easily, or what. I’ve had Bub find me first, any number of times, and in a game of Sardines, she’ll join me before the others get there. But getting her to not make noise is tricky, as she thinks she has to yell when she hears someone coming. Though she does practice saying “Sshhhh”, putting her finger up her front lip (she hasn’t figured out you just put your finger against your lip, but it’s an improvement, because she used to stick it up her nose).

Oh, the simple joys of being a child. It doesn’t take much to make them happy, or shriek with laughter. Nor does it take much for what they say to make me laugh… and who wouldn’t, when one them accidentally calls a Slinky a “Slushie”?

the mirror twins…

When I was growing up, I always wished I could have been a twin. Of course, my parents couldn’t fix that problem, after the fact, so I had to just accept reality. Instead, I could hope that I would have twins of my own, when I had kids, because what would be more fun than having two children at the same time? No, really, I am fully aware of the work involved with having two kids at once, but what I was really fascinated by was the mindset. What would it be like to have a best friend that was your other self? Perhaps even identical to you but not alike in all things?

I’ve had several sets of twins for friends, though in varying degrees of friendship, since I was a child. The ones I went to school with were not identical, though some people thought they were. But after I’d known them a few years, I never had any trouble telling them apart, though I couldn’t exactly explain the differences. Then I’ve had twin friends that were anything but identical, but I rarely saw them together, so I would get their names mixed up, just like any friend that I’d been introduced to at the same time as someone else. And then there was the set of twins that I never got a good grip on who was who, until I played a game of Ultimate Frisbee with both of them, one on my team, and one on the other. You have to memorize your teammates, and I finally could see the differences, despite all our running around at top speed.

I suppose that my fascination with twins (oh, come on, you know I’m not the only one) could be thought similar to the world’s fascination with the Titanic. It’s something that you can never understand, unless you’ve “been there, done that”, but that won’t keep us trying to figure it out. The Titanic era is behind us, so we can only imagine what it was like. And if you’re not a twin, well, then you just don’t understand. Hence, if I end up having twins of my own, someday (they do say it skips a generation or two, so it should be my turn!), I won’t faint at the idea of dealing with multiples. Double the trouble AND double the fun. Also, I’ll get to observe them, firsthand, and maybe have an inkling what it’s really like.

On a side note, as I referred to when I was “growing up”, it made me think of those people who say they’ll never grow up, or someone who asks you “Are you a grownup, now?”. I’m probably taking it too literally, but I will be one of those people that tells you that I did grow up and become a mature adult, who will not live their life, never doing anything but play, or taking responsibility. There’s a tendency, in our modern-day culture, for some people to try and remain young by never taking on responsibility. But I think you can be a responsible adult, who still has a sense of humor, ability to remember what childhood was like, and be able to look on the bright side. Without becoming a complete stick-in-the-mud. Ok, rant over.

Before I get completely sidetracked, my purpose to talking about twins was to mention the book I just finished, The Truth-Teller’s Tale, by Sharon Shinn. I don’t mind saying that the cover picture caught my attention, and it won’t be the first book I read, because it was purported to be a story of twins. I wonder which authors actually have known twins, and which are making it up as they go along.

This story has the additional detail that the girls are “mirror twins”, who mirror each other exactly. When the left-handed sister faces her right-handed sister, they reflect each other. From their names to their eye colors, the twins, Adele and Eleda are mirror reflections of each other. And as for their personalities, you could say they were two halves completing a whole.

Adele is a Safe-Keeper, and Eleda is a Truth-Teller. A Safe-Keeper has secrets confided in her that she is unable to ever share. Some people come to her for advice over a terrible situations, others come to get something off their chest. A Truth-Teller is incapable of telling a lie, and can immediately recognize if someone is lying to her, so she is perfect for mediating disputes, and giving completely honest opinions.

I find it interesting how their personalities develop over the years. If you’ve ever read your Bible and wondered what it would be like to grow up with a young Jesus, who was perfect, then it would have occurred to you that He would always have told the truth. But unlike the Christ-child, young Eleda was not perfect, so though she often told tales on her classmates, and bluntly informed people that they looked terrible in that outfit, it took her many years to develop the ability to temper her honesty with kindness.

On the other hand, Adele kept secrets, and was able to be silent for long periods of time, but she was known to tell lies now and then. The people of their village would ask which twin she was, and she would possibly say “Eleda.”, and learn a secret. Of course, as a Safe-Keeper, she didn’t use this information against anyone, because she was incapable of telling a secret. But such a contrast between these two who looked so alike.

And then, their friend Roelynn helps to even things out. The daughter of a rich shipping magnate, who would like her to marry the prince, and not consort with the daughters of an innkeeper, Roelynn is a fine mixture of the twins’ personalities. She can keep a secret, but doesn’t always choose to. She can tell a lie, but would rather not. Her deviousness is usually acted on to keep her father from knowing who her boyfriend of the week is… the stableboy, the shopkeeper, or the court jester.

People are born with the gift (depending on your viewpoint) of being a Truth-Teller or Safe-Keeper. The third option is the Dream-Maker. Melinda is the local Dream-Maker, who travels around the country, mingling with people, so that they will tell her their dreams, or perhaps only bump into them, and her mere presence may cause their dreams to come true. A great friend to the family of the Leaf & Berry Inn, she also comes and goes freely from the palace.

If you’re looking for a delightful fantasy story, look this one up, and find out how “a Safe-Keeper told a secret, a Truth-Teller told a lie, and a Dream-Maker did everything in her power to make sure a wish went astray”. You won’t be disappointed.

turning into cats…

I am my mother’s daughter. Kittens are adorable, but cats are not.  And these kittens are turning into cats, so I am slowly losing interest in them. Sure, they’re pretty cute. But being cute does not outweigh finding piles of poo under the tv stand, stepping in poo (when barefoot), and having beds and mattresses peed on.

Kittens recline on a flip-flop.

A clean litterbox is the bed of choice... sometimes.

Yes, they all seem to have learned to use the litter box, but they like just as much to treat it as a bed (when it’s clean) or as a sandbox (when it isn’t clean). With five kittens, and randomly located piles of poo (not in the litter box), there’s no way to know if they’re all potty trained, or just a few of them.

My apologies for disappointing you, but if I include kitten/cat pictures after this, it may be randomly thrown in during a post about my day. I usually have to remind myself to go take some pictures of them, though today, it wasn’t so difficult. Yet, even in the process of taking some of these pics, I stepped in fresh kitty poo, and was extremely peeved about it.

All the felines watch a flyby.

I’m sorry, people, but I’m ready for them to be adopted (and so is Mrs. B), so that someone else can work on them, one on one. And if you’re a cat person, you’re probably thinking I’m crazy, judging by the cuteness of all the pictures.

Watching the noisy birds.

But remember, looks are only looks. A child may be absolutely beautiful, but if no one has taught them any manners or how to be kind, they can be rude, willful, and even mean. A guy may look drop dead gorgeous, but he may also be a jerk and a creep. Good looks get you nowhere with me.

So, there were some really noisy birds outside, this morning, and the back doors were wide open. So, as you can see, all the kittens gathered to observe. In one picture, I actually caught the non-noisy bird in flight. But watching the kittens see the world through open doors was pretty neat. And they’re pretty cute, when seen from the outside, all lined up in a row.

I hope to get back to my usual posts, on a variety of topics sometime soon, so if you’re only here for the kittens, you may be out of luck. But it never hurts to check back.

As for me, I’m on antibiotics, so I am feeling better, but I had a bunch of blood work done, today, so I’m hoping for results by next week, to tell me what’s wrong. I have plenty to write about, I just don’t always have the energy to think or to just sit here. But things are looking up, I’m breathing better, sleeping better, and maybe they’ll figure it all out next week.

And so, for one last major hurrah, here are the kittens. Enjoy!

a collage of kittens…

I admit it, I could have been alliterative, and spelled that “kollage”, but I’m too much of a spelling freak to do such a thing. No, I don’t mind my grammar or my slang (or whatever, as Miss Piggy would say), when I create blog titles. I even appreciate that no one criticized me for my “thanks muchly” post. I can think of at least one of my friends that was probably pulling her hair out over that.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about, really. As I have way too many kitten pictures to post here, and my last one had… a lot of pictures, I thought I’d make good use of Picasa, and create some collages. Though I love collages, and they usually take lots of time to make, who doesn’t love being able to make a collage of pictures in only 30 seconds? Ah, the glories of computers. May they never end. Oh, and don’t forget, if you want to see some of the collage pics up close, you can click on the collage. I forget that, regularly, when I’m looking at other people’s photos.  : )

The kittens turned three weeks old, last Monday, and they’re growing quickly. Despite their fat little bellies, they’ve learned to walk around quite well, though they’re a little trembly. No, really, they shake, when standing, though I haven’t figured out if it’s from fright at the big world around them, or from the exertion it takes to get their little beer bellies off the ground.

A few days ago, Dusty moved the kittens down off the shelf, onto the ground floor, and the first we knew of this was when Bubby found them milling around on the floor of the master bedroom. Since Dusty really needed to be able to get in and out, we had to pull Bubby out of there several times, as she was running around excitedly, reaching to grab  little kittens. I can’t imagine the trauma those little kittens would go through, if an excitable toddler picked them up.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it previously, but we’ve finally agreed that all five kittens are girls. Kind of funny, since we already have five human girl children in the house, now there are five girl kittens to go with them. Mr. B seems to be handling it fine, though. The only other males on the property being Booboo the dog and Scully the pony. He’s used to it.  : )

Eventually, to prevent both baby and kitten mayhem, I moved the basket (the one they were born in) in front of the closet, shut one door, and blocked the other with the basket. So, mommy cat can get in and out, and all the little ones can do is peer out at the world, or explore their new ground floor apartment. And if Bubby gets in there, she doesn’t see moving kittens, and can’t always remember which closet to look in, so that problem’s been fixed.

But yesterday, the kitten basket was moved out into the living room, and a couch was moved to block it. The only way in is to climb over the magazine basket. Oh, Bubby can do it, but we try to keep a short leash on her, and get her to forget that they’re in there. The prime viewing spot is leaning over the back of the couch, so that allows several people to peer at them, without someone having to referee them holding the kits.

More on the new location, later. There will be more pictures, because I’ve already discovered that the more mobile the kittens get, the more addictive it is to sit there and try and capture pictures of them at their cutest. I hope you enjoy the pictures!

open your eyes…

While I take my time working on my next Blackdown post, I thought I’d put up some kitten pictures from the last two weeks. You know, just for the fans.   : )

Yesterday, the kittens turned three weeks old, and I made sure to take pictures today, but since I haven’t posted any kitten pictures in a while (yes, really, the “ten days old” post has been up for a while!), I have a few here from the last two weeks.

The girls are doing really well with the kittens, though I can always hear when someone is taking the kittens out of the cupboard, even when I’m upstairs. The kittens squeak a lot, even though they’re being treated well. They sound a bit like baby birds.

The older girls are good at cuddling them close, so they don’t squeak, because all babies like to be cuddled close, since they were used to being squashed, when they were in their mommy’s tummy. The little girls, however, still get a litany about being careful to not hold the kits too tightly and to be oh-so-gentle. So, trying to tell them to squash them close… well, I don’t think it would be a good idea.

Bubby has seen the kittens several times now, and I don’t know how she acts when the kittens are loose on the floor. Perhaps her parents haven’t let her be on the floor then. That would be how I’d do it. But when I’ve taken her into the room, just to look at them on the shelf, she seems to be pretty satisfied with just looking.

She bounces up and down with excitement, at the sight of little creatures that move, and probably look just like her toys. At least she doesn’t growl at them. She likes to growl at the dogs, for fun.

The first half of the pictures are from when the kits were two weeks old, and the second half are from when they were seventeen days old. At two weeks, they had just opened their eyes, a day or two before. So, they look a little squinty in the pictures.

At seventeen days, we’d had them on the floor a few times, and their eyes are well open. I’m guessing they still can’t see far, and they’re barely “toddling”. I guess that’s what you call it, as their feet are moving, their tummies are off the ground (barely), and they inch along. Some are more adventurous than others… but then, maybe it’s because they can’t see far, and they went in the wrong direction.

At this age, they were moving around a bit on their shelf, but all you had to do was stack some clothes on the edge, and they wouldn’t go that far. They’re much more adventurous, now.

I hope this satisfies everyone’s kitten cravings, for the present time. I’ll have more up soon!