Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ninth grade Earth Sciences

Three weeks ago the director of a reading program where I volunteer approached me with a 'perfect fit'. She said, "Sarah, you work in health and one of our students is failing his ninth grade Earth Sciences class and needs a tutor. In my mind I think you'll be an excellent tutor for him!"

Earth Sciences and health promotion... it was a correlation similar to Peace Corps designating me a Community Health Educator based on my communication's internship in the Central Ohio Diabetes Association. "I would be happy to," I replied.

So we sat down, David and I, and that first week we calculated gradient. Turns out my brain was able to dust off my high school education after all. I was very concerned, however, that what he might throw at me in subsequent weeks would prove my incompetence and break my director's 'perfect fit' ideal.

Yesterday David comes in and presents me with his Regents exam packet. Students are allowed to use this guide during the examination, but they obviously need to know each topic proficiently to be able to use the guide. He says, "I hate C14." I thought to myself. "Me too."

He was specifically struggling with the concept of the half life of isotopes. C14 was just the first one, but there are three other calculations he needed to understand as well. We started the only way I could imagine -- he let me read the book. All of a sudden I decided to use what I knew which was health.

"David," I said. "Think about people. What would a human's half life be?" He said 50 years which sounded good to me. I told him the half life of carbon was not 50, but 5,730 years and I asked him what characteristics people exhibit when they've reached their half life. "Wrinkles, a bad back, muscle soreness, maybe." We were on a roll. I explained that people can do things to change our half life. Smoking, drunk driving and extreme sports all affect our condition when we reach our half life. Carbon, interestingly enough, is not affected by any external conditions. It is going to age by 5,730 years regardless of pressure, temperature or light.

We went on to discuss how when humans reach half life we don't change into anything else. We decompose. We began talking about decomposition, trash and compost and I quickly realized I was getting off topic. "Carbon, however, changes into lead. So every 5,730 years there are going to be smaller percentages of carbon and larger percentages of lead in the sample. This goes on indefinitely," I read. We looked at the questions on his homework and by the grace of God my explanation worked. He completed the entire assignment perfectly. He was proud of his understanding.

I'll admit, we turned to problems in the book and got stuck on one of the calculations. Fortunately for both of us David is strong at math. He'll check that question with his teacher tomorrow.

My director was right. Despite my doubts, despite my intimidation, despite my lack of qualifications I can serve this ninth grader. At the very least he is getting positive reinforcement from someone learning right along with him.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

NY Style Caribbean Getaway

This is our new mid-winter escape. Thank the Lord for the New York Botanical Garden.

I'll admit, the winter is making us weary. It's cold, it's brown, and the frozen yellow snow has trash poking out of it now. Yesterday we splurged on a family membership to the garden. It was the best investment we have made in a long time.

Inside the conservatory we wandered through the exhibits ranging from a high desert to the tropical rainforest. Plants, plants everywhere! It was a feast for the eyes. The web site states: "The Enid A Haupt Conservatory is beautiful in all seasons, but in winter it feeds the color starved soul with lush green leaves and florid flowers and warms the cold and weary with it's sultry climate." Sultry climate, now that's where I belong.

Who knew fern leaves were 'born' all wrapped up like this? From chocolate beans to exotic orchids we were like kids in a candy store exploring the exhibits.

Green is good.

The conservatory has the largest glasshouse in the United States, holding 11 distinct habitats. It was fun to walk through the tropics while glancing out the window at the snow-covered gardens.

After our walk Dominic went to the cafe to study while I ran around outside. I was praising God the entire time for this open space without cars or crosswalks, trash or dogs. It was a peaceful escape and a challenging jog.

We have a lot to look forward to as members of this special place. This spring the farmer's market will return and as the seasons progress we'll look towards picnics among the azaleas and rhododendrons, strolls through the herb, rock and rose gardens and morning jogs to the historic stone quarry.

Where do you escape from winter?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nine Days that Changed the World

June 2-10, 1979, Pope John Paul II traveled to his native Poland to address a war-torn country. One third of the population saw him live, millions more listened on the radio and watched him on television as he told the depressed population: "Do not be afraid."

Newt and Callista Gingrich came to Fordham last night to present a screening of their newest documentary, Nine Days that Changed the World, about the historic trip. We were captivated by a story we knew very little about prior to this week.

After the screening we thanked the Gingrichs for coming to the Bronx. I shared that I was most struck by the power of Pope John Paul's devotion to the cross. Callista was very gracious and reiterated a point made in the documentary that as a country the U.S. hasn't experienced the radical oppression that many countries have because of the faith we cling to.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

AeroGarden 3 weeks | Marriage 1.5 years

February is National Indoor Gardening Month! According to my first edition of AeroGrow magazine, there is an entire website of webinars and videos on indoor gardening. I now have my very own, year-round garden calendar so I know exactly when to plant for vine-ripened tomatoes all winter long and when fresh spring greens would be likely to sprout for summer salads.

If I sound excited about this gift it is because I am. Check out my herb garden's progress after exactly three weeks:

This is lemon basil under the light. Notice how the leaves rise up to get those rays:

The lights are on about 16 hours each day. They know exactly how much these little starters need to meet their full potential. Here's a picture from just a few hours later after the light went off:

Nap time

I'm thankful for Dominic, and not just because of his thoughtful generosity. Today we have enjoyed marriage for a year and a half. From Queen Anne hill to Rose Hill he makes my life exciting and inspires me to reach the highest heights.