Thursday, August 31, 2006

Inside Scoop

Fatigue. Is that something you want the air traffic controller or pilots to be experiencing while you fly?

So did fatigue play any role in the plane crash in Lexington, Ky. last week? You bet it did.
The pilots flew on the turn around shift after little sleep. Normal? Oh, yes. The air traffic controller had a grand total of two hours sleep in 24 hours. A common occurance? Absolutely.

Anyone out there wonder why there was only one air traffic controller on duty in Lexington that morning? The FAA is cutting costs and corners all over the place including in refusing to staff two controllers during the quiet hours of midnight to six a.m. The controller in that tower was forced to consolidate his tower and radar duties as noone else was scheduled to help. It happens everyday across this nation. Do you think him checking the radar or on some other plane after confirming the correct runway with the pilots of that flight puts him at fault? Marian Blakely, head of the FAA, is either blatantly lying or does not have the slightest understanding of how air traffic controlling works when she proclaimed something along the lines of, "Whether or not another person had been there, the crash in Lexington would have happened anyway." That unfortunate controller could have visually followed that wayward plane if he had not had other duties, like radar, for which another controller could have been responsible.

This summer, 36% of congress failed to vote for further negotiations between the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) specifically on the issues of safety and fatigue imposed by the FAA cost cutting measures. The FAA painted air traffic controllers as whiney, greedy and lazy, and for some unknown reason, 36% of congress agreed. Maybe, just maybe congress will wake from its slumber to re-evaluate. The FAA is becoming an enemy of the people rather than the government servant it is intended to be.

A personal reflection
My sweet husband leaves the house a little after 5 a.m. on Monday to be at work by 6 a.m. He arrives home around 3 p.m. He rarely tries to nap as it's the middle of the day and because we'll have a family dinner, soccer for Wise One, Scouts for Peace, dance for Pooh Bear, and soccer in another town for Tater in the few hours between his next shift. He'll leave the same Monday evening for work around 10 p.m. and return after 7 a.m. on Tuesday. Though study after study indicates a nap produces better work, the FAA has completely ruled out napping on breaks. And of course, no breaks are allowed when the last controller leaves my husband at midnight in the tower alone until the next shift workers appear at 6 a.m. Yes, you read that correctly. NO breaks, not even for the potty or a drink from midnight to 6 a.m. in the event no other controller is scheduled or one gets sick. My buddies Helen and Clay tell me they'd be sued to kingdom come if they didn't provide appropriate breaks for their private business employees. However, my husband's employee IS the government and the FAA makes the rules.

Why so much fatigue in air traffic controllers besides the crazy hours?

There is a national shortage of air traffic controllers.
Philadelphia is 40 controllers short. No to worry, Albaquerque Center lacks 100 necessary employees. Even little old Knoxville will be short very soon as many retire under harsh FAA treatment. And the FAA has the nerve to insist NATCA consider their unwanted measures to be some sort of contract without any kind of vote. Believe me, the FAA would not get a favorable vote from NATCA members at this point.

And the strategy of the FAA to overcome the shortage?

Pay new people off the street less than miniumum wage to train and offer the top salary of $31,000 per year after whether they work at O'Hare or Knoxville. And how safe does it sound to hire people off the street to work at the busiest airport in the nation anyway?


Mandatory overtime for controllers, 10 hour shifts, 6 days a week.

I am not joking.

No guaranteed vacation. If a family plans a trip, air traffic controllers can be called back to work smack dab in the middle.

Breaks, which formerly were scheduled every two hours for safety reasons, are no longer neccesary at all according to the FAA.

Sick days can be denied. Wouldn't a nice case of diaherria coupled with no breaks equal disaster?

FAA policy: Work ones who hold thousands of lives in their hands harder and longer.

If you think this is a bad idea, you might just want to drop a note saying so to your congressman. Ours apparently finds my husband and all others in his professsion to be whiney, lazy, and greedy.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A friend of mine is teaching Good Shepherd work in Uganda for one month. This was something she sent from her journal today:

Peace is the source of life. (Kenya)
If you cannot resolve your problems in peace, you cannot solve war. (Somalia)
The weak long for revenge but the strong seek justice. (South Africa)
Those who refuse to forgive break a bridge on which they must pass. (Cameroon)
Peace is like a treasure that shall never part from you. (Kenya)
Never break the pot that keeps you together. (Kenya)
Peace is the mother of friendship. (Sierra Leon)
To agree together is to make progress. (Tanzania)
A united family eats from the same plate. (Uganda)
If there is love there is peace. (Swahili)
If you offend, ask pardon; if offended, forgive. (Ethiopia)
The happiness of a single [wo]man causes peace to all. (Ethiopia)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Claire thinks I need some serious sensitivity training. She agreed to rehabilitate two abandoned newborn squirrels, and finds my objections to be profoundly sad. Rehabilitation means feeding the varmints formula every three hours by a syringe and doing what their mother would normally do to get them to eliminate afterwards, cleaning their cage, regulating their temperature, clearing up their diarrhea, and other endless tasks I can't fathom doing for a creature that looks just like a nasty rat. Claire insisted I drop by and see how very cute and cuddly they were. Call me crazy, but I have no interest in baby squirrels unless it's to watch them do what squirrels do in the wild. On rare occasions, I find the creatures to be amusing to observe. I certainly don't want to ever touch one. It gives me the hebee jebees just thinking about it.
Apparently the squirrels have opened their eyes, and are becoming much more active this last week. All the more reason for me to stay clear. Imagine one escaping and madly racing about the house.
Claire has a grandma who has passed on, and Claire thinks when I meet her grandma in the afterlife, (she was another bright woman who also did not dig squirrels either) we'll walk together down a glistening heavenly path to a squirrel refuge to snuggle and care for baby winged angel squirrels who departed earth too soon. Claire believes the scales of squirrel prejudice will melt away from my heart when I set foot through the pearly gates. She thinks I lack squirrel compassion.
Personally, I think Grandma and I will slap our knees, hoot and holler over the fact that God will not allow squirrels upstairs, because they simply aren't as cute, let's say, as goats. Now there is an animal in which to dedicate one's time.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The more I think about it, the funnier it gets.

Picture this in your mind's eye. My sista's biker husband, Harley, most likely wearing black leather, enters the airport the very first day of the "liquid scare" holding my bouncing baby niece dressed head to toe in pink. Noone knows why, but suddenly all liquids are banned from carry on bags. Harley immediately becomes uncomfortable realizing he's carrying a very important yet odd liquid which must pass through security. He asks a security guard who assures him the liquid may NOT board the plane, but Harley knows hell will pay if this particular substance is left behind. Harley is directed to a posted listing of possible exceptions. He wipes his brow in relief, kisses baby Kelby on her tiny dainty nose, and proceeds to the security checkpoint when he finds his cargo listed as not banned. He reaches the security persons busily checking bags, takes in a deep breath, and opens his carry on.

Security Person: "Sir, all liquids are banned. You may not take these items on the plane as they contain liquid."
Harley: "I checked the list, and this is an exception."
Security Person: "What exactly is this?"
Harley coughs and mutters into his leather jacket's arm: "Brmlk."
Security Person: "Please, speak up sir."
Harley looking around and sighing: "It's my wife's breastmilk."

In England, he would have had to take a sip to prove it harmless. So, did Harley raise his fist in the air and proclaim, "God bless America?"

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My Tator turned eleven yesterday. Buck wondered out loud if his birthmom may have been thinking of him. I paused to bless her again for the gift he is to our family.

Tator invited a whole slew of boys to the Cove, a lovely park with a nice swimmin' hole. Then the crowd came home with us for an overnight.

The boys stayed up late and got up early as any group of friends might to pack the most fun into a day. When I sleepily made my way to the kitchen this morning some were playing board games quietly and some were sharing comics on the couches, "Do you like this- when Calvin pretends to be rabid by foaming his mouth up with toothpaste?" and "My move. Spy disarms your bomb." I am amazed at the maturity of these young men. They all used to run around like screaming madman day and night, inside and out, but those times have faded and made way for a more civilized troop. They self limit their riots to the outdoors now.

Buck dug up a hilarious video from Tator's birthday seven years ago which only one of the bunch hadn't attended. Everyone laughed until we cried. The little ones have turned into mighty awesome young men. And talk about polite! How many boys between ten and fifteen nowadays speak in complete sentences let alone remember to include "Please" and "Thanks" to boot?

We are blessed to have these families in our lives. Blessed to call them friends.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Why? Why on earth did critics pan it? Did they feel fooled by the poor marketing strategy into thinking it would be a horror film of some kind? Is that what disappointed them? Did they fall asleep watching? Though I can’t see how? Was it the plain title? Buck had a very funny explanation, but it gives away a tiny secret in the movie, and I couldn't do that to anyone. My guess it that these movie critics went in spiritually deadened or dull. They did not have ears to hear or eyes to hear the incredibly powerful message of hope and destiny in parable form.

I went into Lady in the Water hoping it might just speak to Buck’s heart for his forty second birthday. We both walked out after the movie choked up, unable to speak for a while. Then once we began to unravel the parable together, we couldn’t stop. I was caught up for a while in the character of Story and her unfolding meanings- the poor, the vulnerable, sacred history, the church , the innocent, those who cannot speak for themselves but impact our world with their very presence. Buck was undone by the respected man who exclaimed, “We want all it to be true!” Yes, we do, sir.

I wouldn’t dare ruin anything for you with details. Every inch tells us the best and only way it will all work out is to discover for ourselves in community.

One caution for sensitive viewers- the lurking enemy in the story is terribly frightening, much like our very real enemies. I for one, did not think this to be overdone or just for effect. There seemed to be purpose and meaning in every particular of film; where there was evil, special provision was given to overcome it.

I do not enjoy watching movies a second time, but when this one comes out on DVD, I’d like to buy it- and I have never once bought a single movie for myself before. Then I intend to share it with two or three particular groups of dear friends and asking the following questions,

“What is it that we going to do as a community?”


"What are the gifts we've laid down and refused to use because they've became to painful?"

What questions did the movie bring up for you?

Friday, August 18, 2006

techincal blues

Why haven't I blogged lately?

I haven't had time. I've spent every last free moment performing multiple tasks to enable my computer to continue service with the rather unhelpful and unmoveable online-school-who-shall-remain-nameless-for-the-moment. Last weekend, the nameless-and-obviously unconcerned-online-school updated their security which left "a handful" of unimportant and insignificant dial-up homeschoolers coughing in the dust!

Have I mentioned before how very much I'd like to have DSL in my home, but Charter, the only company who would actually came out and survey the prospect, considers my home to be in an inaccesable location? I'm thinking of sticking my three boys in overalls, forcing shovels into their grubby little hands, equipping the trio with a strand of cable a half mile long, handing the rascals a cellphone with the number for Charter on speed dial, then barring the door until I can casually sit at my desk and access the internet through a cable in less than the twinkle of an eye. Don't worry, the working children can drink all they want from the green garden hose, there are plenty of tomatoes in the garden to eat, and they can kill a chicken and cook it over a fire if they develop a need for a protein source while digging to China and back.

OR maybe, just maybe, I wouldn't have to commit my boys to a chain gang if the unmentioned-and-currently-extremly- irrtitating-online-school could come up with a simple way for me to log in again. Like, for example, the simple way that existed before their updates last weekend?

As it stands now, I must dial up AOL and then disable the accelerator. To tell the honest truth, before Thursday I didn't know what or where the accelerator was located, but with some quality time spent with a chipper technical help assistant, I got an education. The techie, however, did not inform me that if I disable the accelerator before I log on to AOL, AOL would pitch a hissy fit and toss me offline every five seconds and subsequently would desperately try to reconnect in some vicious circle which lasted as long as the contestant played. (I competed more times than I'd ever like to admit.) Now after the accelerator is disabled, I cruise right onto the online school's website. No problem. The page boast on the best of education, great service, easy access blah, blah, blah. Next I click ols (online school) which may or may not lead me to a log in page. My husband says, "If you stick out your tongue and lift your right foot while pressing the keyboard key, it most likely will work." If the computer gods are with me and in a good mood, I might be able to cheerfully type in my username and password. But here's the major hitch, mostly the page loads, and loads, and loads, and loads, until well, it doesn't really load. Carefully and constantly repeat these steps for between one half to one full hour and maybe my account eventually pops up. Buck thinks pointing at the screen, winking, and yelling at the top of his lungs, "That's what I'm talking about!" enhances the process. I suppose he's right, because it definately gets a giggle from me.

Did I mention that last week, before the online school made updates, the process was quite mundane? Painless even?

I have left a message for a technical supervisor to call me back. I'm quite certain this will have absolutely no effect, but when I mention my highly public blog disclosing the name of his company, that'll get some action, boy howdy!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

School woes

My oldest son Peace is wrestling with the whole "school is boring" thing. And it's not because he has a huge load of work. His co-op doesn't start till next week, so I've given him a little writing, dictation, a few problems of math, a simple assignment to help his sister, and a science or history diddy due every day until he begins his courses.

I do not remember ever even thinking, "Why do I have to do schoolwork?" or "Algebra and writing are useless." I just went to school and did the best I could in every single subject. Everyday.

So what do I do with an apathetic seventh grader? We attended orientation at the co-op last night, and I watched in horror as the teachers went over their expectations while he played with the lead in his mechanical pencil. Good night! Not a great start.

This is my child who attended a public magnet school in kindergarten and first grade. He intimately knows the tedium of school and begged me to never send him back- Peace wanted to be outside in the spring, not stuck at a desk, same as me. So a one day a week co-op with four days of assignments to follow seems like a good compromise for this year. I spent the last few years stalking him during homeschool to keep him on task which made me feel like some kind of academic ogre. Now I've enlisted the help of four other monsters to take over torturing the boy.

I worry I won't find the fine balance between supporting him and doing for him in order that he'll make the grade. Grades for him have been in my hands for the last five years, and I simply had him do his work until it was correct. Now I have other teachers in the mix who'll evaluate.

I suppose transition is always an unfamiliar and therefore a somewhat uncomfortable place. I'm in that awkward place as a mom and feel the chaffing rub. God help me get things right with this son.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Write Away From Singapore

I'm adding a dear friend, new to the blogging world, to my blogroll.

Write Away From Singapore

Heather and I met a zillion years ago- yes, dinosaurs walked the earth. She volunteered for me in an inner city afterschool program I administrated, my former job in a faraway life before I became entirely consumed by motherhood.

Heather and I became friends as a result of our work together. The kind of friend who'll dash over in the middle of the night to take care sleeping babies, so my husband could rush me to the hospital for a medical emergency.

Now Heather is raising her own babies in Singapore with the dearest of husbands. And blogging about it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Shepherd's Call

I took a little child’s hand in mine. We were to walk together for awhile. I was to lead him to the Father. It was a task that overcame me, so awful was the responsibility. And so I talked to the child only of the Father. I pointed to the sternness of His face were the child to displease Him. I spoke of the child’s goodness as something that would appease the Father’s wrath. We walked under the tall trees. I said the Father had the power to bring them crashing down with His thunderbolts. We walked in the sunshine. I told him of the greatness of the Father who made the burning, blazing. Sun. And one twilight we met the Father. The child hid behind me. He was afraid. He wound not take the Father’s hand. I was between the child and the Father. I wondered. I had been so conscientious, so serious.

I took a little child’s hand in mine. I was to lead him to the Father. I felt burdened with a multiplicity of things I had to teach him. We did not ramble. We hastened from spot to spot. At one moment we compared the leaves of different trees. The next moment we were examining a bird’s nest. While the child questioned me about it, I hurried him away to chase a butterfly. Did he chance to fall asleep, I wakened him, lest he miss something I wished him to see. We spoke of the Father. Oh, yes, often and rapidly, I poured into his little ear all the stories I thought he ought to know. But we were often interrupted by the wind blowing, of which we must trace its source. And then in the twilight we met the Father. The child merely glanced at Him and then his gaze wandered in a dozen directions. The Father stretched out His hand. The child was not interested enough to take it. Feverish spots burned in his cheeks. He dropped exhausted to the ground and fell asleep. Again I was between the child and the Father. I wondered. I had taught him so many things.

I took a little child’s hand to lead him to the Father. My heart full of gratitude for the privilege. We walked slowly. I suited my steps to the short ones of the child. We spoke of many things the child noticed. Sometimes we picked the Father’s flowers and stroked their soft petals and loved their bright colors….Sometimes we watched one of the Father’s birds. We watched it build its nest and lay its eggs. We wondered, elated a the care it gave its young….Often we told stories of the Father. I told them to the child and the child told them again to me. We told them, the child and I over and over again. Sometimes we stopped to rest, leaning against one of the Father’s trees and letting His cool breeze cool our brows, never speaking. And then in the twilight we met the Father. The child’s eyes shone. He looked lovingly, trustingly into the Father’s face. He put his hand into the Father’s hand. I was for the moment forgotten. I was content.

Journals of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd 1984-1997, page 16

These words sum up my passion. Sometimes, this is what I eat, drink, and sleep for days at a time. I know many might find my work to be one great big yawn or even offensive. And I can't explain "the why" behind how children's spiritual formation interests me so, except to say, it's way down deep inside me.

Though I have many irons in the fire, my calling lately is concentrated on The Shepherd's Call, a project to invite Protestant Evangelicals like myself to reflective ways of working with children in ministry. When my dear friend and Shepherd's Call partner and I launch our website, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I have a confession to make. Hopefully, we can still be friends even though I've openly disclosed a severe character flaw.

I like Woody Allen movies. Not all of them, but many. Yes, he's a morally depraved individual, but he makes me laugh. Hard. And I like to laugh, even if the jokes are written and spoken by a man who has sex with his adopted daughter.

Here's a blurb from a scene in Scoop which made me guffaw at the theater with Buck on Sunday.

Woody: "What persuasion are you?"
Upper Class English Woman at a fancy party: "Persuasion? Do you mean religion?"
Woody: "Yes."
Woman: "Christian. And you?"
Woody: "I used to be of the Hebrew persuasion, but I've since converted. Now I'm a narcissist."

Yes, he is. And he even jokes about it on screen in front of millions of people. I think he may have written the entire movie on the off chance that he could get some action on the side with his co-star Scarlet Johanson.

Though Manhatten Murder Mystery and Bullets over Broadway (don't you just love John Cusack?) are my all time favorite Woody Allen films, I enjoyed Scoop, another quirky whodunnit.

So, can we still be friends? I promise never to invite Woody over for dinner while children are present.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Fall is upon us

In examining my fall schedule, I find myself filled with angst. Maybe I feel this way every year, but I can’t remember exactly. Finally after three years, we’ve decided to do local AYSO soccer instead of driving into Knoxville for our old soccer league. This means I and my children won’t see our dearest of friends every Saturday game day. Pooh Bear is finally old enough and interested, so we’ll have four completely different AYSO teams to keep up with. Is that even possible? Especially since one child has a three day a week practice schedule for a competitive team. What are the chances I could ask one or more of my children to stop loving soccer? Or stop being a boy full of energy to burn? Include Scouts, a one day co-op for Peace, my Shepherd’s Call work, and ballet and I’ve got my hands completely full.

What. Am. I. Thinking?

School is kicking my tail already. I mentioned how we’ve moved to an academically challenging plan, and I am definitely on task of teaching four or more hours a day. The semi-unschooling approach I used last year, worked but not well. This year I’m hoping my children make leaps instead of steps. I suppose we’re off to a great start seeing the work they’ve put in so far.

The final piece to the madness is that Buck’s schedule has changed to the very unrelaxing days of Wednesday and Thursdays off. We must get all our family business done during school days which is completely unsettling for me. We like to work and play together and then kick back, but this set of days off won’t permit. (Buck tells me in October he’ll start working mandatory overtime, because the FAA has once again ignored the air traffic control union’s warning to plan ahead for a shortage of personnel. Don’t worry, air traffic controllers are in short supply everywhere now, and it’s only going to get much worse as those who are eligible retire to free themselves from the new unreasonable FAA stipulations. How could it matter that the people who keep our skies safe are dreadfully tired from overwork? Some facilities are literally lack a hundred workers with no promise of more to come. Buck and I voted against our congressman yesterday in the elections, because he did not take the time to understand the situation when it was put before congress last month, but he somehow managed to win anyway without our votes.)

One thing I’ve introduced to my family this week is The company provides a menu and organized shopping list for six dinners and sides a week. Takes the thinking out of “what’s for dinner?” for a woman who hates to figure dinner every. Single. Afternoon. It’s helping keep my family well fed in the chaos.

I know I get snippy with my husband’s shift change every year, and I today I promise my family to do better than the last few grumpy days. Hopefully I’ll find grace and peace again in the midst of such busyness.