Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dumpster Diving

Who? Cherice

What? Taking out the trash

When? 12:30 a.m.

Where? Dumpster in the parking lot of my apartment complex

Why? Someone stopping by to drop something off the next morning, wanted the stinky trash smell in the apartment to dissipate before then. ;-)

How? Tossed the trash into the dumpster with such gusto that my keys caught in the handles of the bag and dropped right in with the trash!

So what? Everyone was asleep (or at least their lights were out), and although my sliding glass door was open, I couldn't get up onto my balcony to get back into my apartment and retrieve a magnet and a flashlight so I could get the keys out myself.

Then what? By leaning half-way into the dumpster, I managed to fish the trash bag out with the one and only stick I could find (because the grounds are so well-maintained). Unfortunately, the keys had not fallen into the bottom of the bag. I looked back into the dumpster and saw them gleaming at the bottom where I couldn't reach them.

Now what? I thought about standing on the trash bag, which would have given me just enough height to get into the dumpster, but I was worried about getting stuck in the dumpster and not being able to get myself out. (Plus, the thought of getting in there with who knows what trash, mold, or creepy crawlies was NOT appealing!) I considered going into the woods that border the parking lot to find a big stick, but given my recent encounters with skunks, woodchucks, and the likelihood of poison ivy, I quickly abandoned that option. I finally prayed that someone would appear to help me (maybe someone coming home late from an event of some sort), or that I would figure out some way to get them out. I wandered around the parking lot one more time (feeling sorry for myself and thinking about having to spend the night on the porch or something). Suddenly, I saw a long stick that I do not recall seeing before. It was just barely long enough to allow me to reach the keys (if I stood on the trash bag I had just retrieved, which I did). Needless to say, I was very relieved, and offered a silent prayer of gratitude.

Ironically, the lesson I was supposed to give to the 3-year-olds in Nursery today was about prayer. There is something very powerful about teaching from personal experience (along with the help of a finger puppet they named Matilda and a few props--like my keys and a trash can). I don't know if the children got the point of the story or not (I can pray to my Heavenly Father anytime, anywhere, when I need help), but they were quite enthralled by my story!

Friday, July 11, 2008


Birthday candles on Kara's cake,
Blinking fireflies celebrate.
I went to see--to my surprise
A skunk appeared before my eyes!

I ran inside--my camera grabbed.
Then in a flash, this shot I nabbed.
The baby skunk was VERY brave!
He turned to face me--no tail wave!

I slipped away, then read online
I'm lucky that it turned out fine,
For skunks can aim 7 feet away
And hit their target--night or day.

They do not see things very well
But they can hear, and they can smell!
And when they face and follow you
It sometimes means they're rabid too!

But even so, I have to say
I'm glad this skunk came out to play
He looks soooo cute and cuddly.
Move here and you too can see!

Cherice Montgomery, July 11, 2008

When I returned home from a quick birthday celebration at my friend, Kara's house, it was dusk. The fireflies were blinking so beautifully that I decided to wander around the side of my apartment to the vacant field next door to appreciate them for a brief moment before heading inside and back to work. Imagine my surprise when I rounded the bush and saw a tiny little skunk wandering around!

I watched him for a brief moment, then ran inside to grab my camera, certain he would be gone by the time I returned. However, amazingly, he was still there. He didn't seem to appreciate the flash of the camera, and to my surprise, turned to face me. As I moved, he moved toward me a little. That was disconcerting. However, since I was so far away, and his tale wasn't facing me, I assumed I was safe. I did back away from him, but still tried to grab a few more photos before I decided not to trust him any more.

Had I known then that he could aim with perfect accuracy while 7-12 feet away, I might not have been quite so trusting!

Reminds me of a cute little song I learned a long time ago:

The stars at night go twink-a-link-a-link
The moon at night goes blink-a-link-a-link
The skunk at night goes stink-a-link-a-link
I think that I'll just die

Oh, twink-a-link-a-link
Oh, blink-a-link-a-link
Oh, stink-a-link-a-link
Oh my!

(Author unknown)

I think I might have to modify it in honor of this occasion:

Fireflies at night go twink-a-link-a-link
My flash at night goes blink-a-link-a-link
The skunk at night goes stink-a-link-a-link
But grab a photo I'll try

Oh, twink-a-link-a-link
Oh, blink-a-link-a-link
Oh, stink-a-link-a-link
Oh my!

(Adapted from an unknown author by Cherice Montgomery)

Just another installment of what is fast becoming my Michigan Wildlife Tour! For more information on the humane discouragement of skunks visit Coping with Skunks. I found it quite interesting!

The Test

For the fourth time
But it didn’t help
Her make sense

What was
Didn’t matter
She felt

Her meaning
Like a fraction
No remainder.

Cherice Montgomery, July 11, 2008


Look what showed up at my house one night this week! My sister and her family surprised me with some encouragement to keep working on this miserable dissertation. Then my sweet friend, Trinette, stopped by with lunch yesterday. I am so grateful to all of you who have listened to me whine and complain, crumble with discouragement, cry floods of tears, and otherwise emote. You are the ONLY reason I have made it this far and I DO appreciate your sacrifices for me and feel your prayers. I don't deserve you, but I'm certainly grateful for you.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Oh Deer!

I was on the way to my voice lesson today and just as I rounded the corner and looked over toward the busy Speedway (just before the turn onto the freeway), to my shock and surprise, I saw 2 baby deer. I pulled into the Speedway to see if I could sneak a photo. They noticed me . . .

However, they must have been hungry, because they went right back to grazing in the empty field right beside the gas station. I was so focused on the deer that I failed to capture the context--but you can see from the car how close the road was. It is a VERY busy road and a stream of traffic was pouring past these two little guys.

I was able to walk closer and closer. They took turns noticing, but would then go right back to grazing. I think I could have gotten even closer but for the fact that the honk of a big truck's air brakes startled them and they started to move away. Nonetheless, I found it a beautiful metaphor for finding peace in the midst of a world gone mad!

Of course, there are all SORTS of other lessons to be learned. They are clearly very young, very inexperienced, very naive little deer whose perspectives are still so limited that they can't appreciate the very grave danger of their situation--out there in the open, so close to people, and so near the treacherous highway. I'm sure we are all like them from time to time!

However, this does make me think I may be developing an interest in nature photography as a hobby--though I need to make some serious improvements in the composition of my photos first!

Of Cabins, Comps, Colleagues, & Continued Progress

My friends organized a writing retreat to help me make progress on my dissertation.

Marjorie graciously arranged for us to spend a week in a cabin about 40 minutes away. When I heard there was no air conditioning, I was expecting a dirty, musty shack made out of boards with spiderwebs in the windows and a wooden screen door that slammed every time it opened or closed.

Evidently, so was Ann--as you can see what she thought we might need!

We were quite surprised to discover we were staying in the equivalent of a luxurious bed and breakfast instead! I also found it hysterical that I was sleeping on flannel sheets under a blanket, a down comforter, and a quilt, in a room that was not air conditioned in the middle of July and was QUITE comfortable! Only in Michigan!

It was SOOO beautiful!

Such a comfortable, healing, restful place for our souls!

Anny planned and cooked a healthy, gourmet menu of meals every day. Although I must admit I raised an eyebrow when she was rattling off the names of some of the dishes--everything was absolutely delicious! This photo is of Seven Grain Porridge with Apricots, Fresh Fruit, and Nuts.

Red, White, & Blue Pancakes (in honor of the 4th of July)

Millet Salad, Homemade Whole Wheat Bread (made with white wheat), and Zucchini Squash Medley

Spicy Turkey Meatball & Cabbage Soup with Mediterranean Salad (exceptionally delicious)!

Poached Pears with Toasted Walnuts & Real Maple Syrup

It is amazing what 3, delectable, healthy meals per day does for one's energy level, not to mention one's skin, overall health, etc.! They pleased the eye, gladdened the heart, and filled the soul (not to mention the stomach)! It was truly a gift to be called to the table without having to lift one finger in preparation or clean-up!

Ann also contributed her culinary talents--surprising us with a scrumptious Rosemary Roast Chicken.

Ann's fresh Gazpacho, went very well with Anny's Mediterranean Salad and leftover Chicken Walnut Salad.

It almost makes you want to do a dissertation, doesn't it?! (Ha!) Just to discourage any romanticized notions . . . you might also like to know that Cabin Fever (also known as Dissertation Dementia) can manifest itself in the strangest ways!
Anny's symptoms included a strange affinity for protein powder (underscoring for me that even health should be pursued in moderation)! I can't stand the stuff and fortunately, Anny believes in the value of personal agency, so I was able to keep my cereal free of it!

Once we removed that temptation from her, she took to throwing dice made of marshmallows and chocolate chips on the kitchen counters! (Some of the chocolate chip "numbers" came off the sides--a convenient way to load the dice, don't you think?)

Marjorie's symptoms were no better. She thought the recipe for onion rings on the back of the Fiber One box was a great idea. Anny was quick to agree. Perhaps the dice determined which onion was first into the frying pan? At any rate, it only took one bite for me to know that Fiber One onion rings were NOT going to become a permanent part of my culinary repertoire. Dipping sauce made out of yogurt and some kind of spicy Thai sauce did nothing to improve the flavor.

Although I'm sure it SOUNDS like all we did was eat and sleep all day, everyone worked VERY hard!

Anny worked on revising a paper for publication.

Ann scribed as Marjorie talked through elements of her dissertation.

I spent most of my time analyzing data in this very comfortable chair. How did I ever manage before laptops?!

We did leave our work long enough for a trip to a local bakery for internet access so I could send off my considerably shortened, thoroughly REVISED revised comprehensive examination paper. I love because it makes PDFs for free AND maintains hyperlinks . . . but it sometimes takes a few hours to arrive in your e-mail. So, after all that, I had to wait until I got home to send it off. (I know--about time after over a year! Thanks for your continual prayers--it was truly a trial!)

I celebrated with some emotional fireworks (expectations are so dangerous and data can be SO uncooperative at times!), cooled off with a short walk, then built a real fire capable of roasting marshmallows.

I guess I must have learned something from all those years at Girls Camp after all (except to wear bug spray--I hate it, so I ended up abandoning my friends to eat my S'more in the mosquito-free safety of the cabin). Ann helped me outline the remaining chapters of my dissertation! Hooray!

Oh that I could dispense with my dissertation as easily as Anny used this log to dispense with the trash we didn't want to carry home on our laps! Still, progress is progress!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Wo shi huan 中国

So, this blog is proving to be an irresistible temptation at the moment--but then, what isn't when one has just finished data analysis and the task of writing the other half of a dissertation looms?!

To make matters worse, I've actually had a few adventures worth writing about this month (I know--the end of the world must be imminent!).

I co-facilitated a summer institute for Chinese teachers at Iowa State. You know you wish YOU could have been learning how to say things like "I love Chinese!", cool tech tips, telling animal stories, doing Jello experiments, flying like dragons, and eating a delectable dinner with chopsticks (to which the leaders were treated by the institute participants)! I even learned enough Chinese to tell some very simple stories! I started to tell one using Voicethread . . . perhaps I'll get back to it after I finish my dissertation (if I don't forget all my Chinese in the meantime)! Meanwhile, you can check out some of the other fun things we did in the Photo Gallery of our wiki.