Wednesday, December 27, 2006

We are worth so much more.

"Writers don't make any money at all. We make about a dollar. It is terrible. But then again we don't work either. We sit around in our underwear until noon then go downstairs and make coffee, fry some eggs, read the paper, read part of a book, smell the book, wonder if perhaps we ourselves should work on our book, smell the book again, throw the book across the room because we are quite jealous that any other person wrote a book, feel terribly guilty about throwing the schmuck's book across the room because we secretly wonder if God in heaven noticed our evil jealousy, or worse, our laziness. We then lie across the couch facedown and mumble to God to forgive us because we are secretly afraid He is going to dry up all our words because we envied another man's stupid words. And for this, as I said before, we are paid a dollar. We are worth so much more."

—Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The birthday girls . . . on ice

I'm 24 today. And Laura's 25.

And so we celebrated.

Celebration isn't something I feel I'm naturally good at. I have this Anabaptist work ethic that tends to keep me from celebratory actions--after all, there's always something "better" to do.

But is there? I don't know about that.

To mark our mid-twenties, the three of us went out for a lovely Italian meal (which I now have the task of bleaching out of my white shirt!) followed by some particularly graceful laps around the local ice rink. It was Mr. Incredible's first time on skates (which the rental guy assured him were razor-sharp!) and he did wonderfully, even making friends with another first-timer, who was about 7 years old, and kept him updated on her spectacular wipe-outs. Laura and I did our best to recall the mad skating skills we'd learned years before, in the process bruising our feet in places that we don't even know what they're called. (Is there such a thing as an ankula?)

We topped off the evening with fribbleccinos, and sundaes at Friendly's, and drove home, rocking out to Van Morrison in the Element. Good times.

It's been a weird year . . . so many changes. I guess I'm a grownup now--a career woman, too--and I'm not always sure what I think about that. But I am thankful for another year spent on this earth, learning more about God and the world around me in my bumbling way. Here's to more learning--and less bumbling--in the year to come.

The leaping hound

Enjoying my birthday gift!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Blogging the blues [part one]

Well, I have been a little blue for a couple of days, but that's not what I mean. To be really accurate about my moods, I guess I'd say I've been purple or orange or something with a little more aggression than blue. But that's not what I'm blogging about.

I'm about three years behind in this endeavor, but I'm finally reading Blue Like Jazz. Mr. Incredible reminds me that it's a collegey book (and I am sooo past that, right?) . . . but frankly I'm feeling like I might have skipped some of the developmental stages that the average Christian college student goes through, so I've got some things to catch up on.

First off, any non-fundamentalist who begins a book talking about the depravity of humankind is going to get my attention. That's just the way it is.*

The genius of Don's opening chapters--and indeed, his own experience of coming to faith--is that he identified a problem (human depravity, the broken state of things here on Earth), and it was working from this problem that he found a solution.

Some old Brethren in Christ people would probably be very pleasantly surprised by Don's talk about sin and depravity--the kinds of things, my boss mentioned recently, "that aren't preached anymore." Well, I don't know about that. The word "sin" is in little danger of going extinct at Dillsburg, but according to her this concept that we're fallen--that "what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing"--is falling out of favor with Evangelicals.

What really struck me as I read was that I've read so many people say they discovered God in nature--something I resonate with, as it's always been particularly easy for me to see Him in His creation--but I've never really heard anyone detail their natural discovery of coming to understand what sin and brokenness are by looking at the world around them. Don writes,

. . . I knew, because of my own feelings, there was something wrong with me, and I knew it wasn't only me. I knew it was everybody. It wasn't on the skin; it was on the soul. . . . It was as if we were broken, I thought, as if we were never supposed to feel these sticky emotions. It was as if we were cracked, couldn't love right, couldn't feel good things for very long without screwing it all up.

And if we don't realize this, what will God and His grace mean to us? If there is no question; no problem, there is no need for an answer; a solution.


*For all I know, Miller--no, I think I'll call him "Don" to match the casual tone of his book--might go on to completely undermine the foundation he's built in these opening chapters. But I'll just have to wait to find out.
**Edited for clarity 12.06.06 8:50 a.m.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Pies alegres

The best musical I've seen in years. But, of course, like all musicals, it has some serious character/story/continuity flaws. Nevertheless, as my brother-in-law says, "it's amusing."

If for no other reason, you really ought to see Happy Feet for the amigos. You'll know who I mean.

As for the flaws . . . I'm glad I'm not the only one who saw them.

Meta-thanksgiving

The annual question: what are you thankful for?

And my answer this year is weird. I mean, I could say that I'm thankful for my husband, my friends, my church, my family, my dog . . . it's all true. I am thankful for all those things. But this year, as everyone around me seemed to be thankful for the things I would usually mention, I was just thankful for Thanksgiving itself.

I am thankful for the break--for the time when pretty much everyone in the country decided to take it easy, hang out at home, or spend good times with friends and family. I have a hard time resting when I know people are working and trying to be productive without me . . . so as I continue to live this grown-up life in which I go to work five days a week, I'm beginning to appreciate holidays so much more. This holiday, for me, was Sabbath. I was freed up to rest--or at least, to not work--and I am so thankful. Heck, I'm thankful that I live a life that I can be grateful for.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Discovering my heritage

http://www.myheritage.com


I have been told all my life that I resemble Jodie Foster, but finally a computer confirms it. She and I just have this connection; I've always loved her acting--she's feminine, but never girlie. And thanks to Jodie Foster and the Very Large Array, we now know that if there's no other intelligent life in the universe, it's a pretty big waste of space.

It's good to know my celebrity roots.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Rich

If you believe the U.N., Norway is the best place on earth to live. Their literacy rate, healthcare, income, and education levels all soar above most other nations, making Norwegians some of the healthiest and wealthiest people in the world.

But maybe not the most blessed.

Apparently, even with all of those wonderfully high living conditions, they seem to be quite the whiny lot, and are at a bit of a loss to find solutions for their crowded healthcare system (which, though they complain about it, allows them to live some of the longest lives on the planet).

I watched a short film yesterday called Rich, featuring Rob Bell of Mars Hill. I've seen quite a few of these nooma films, and I really appreciate their thoughtful, fresh, artful approach to the Christian faith.

I liked this one, too, but one thing really stuck in my mind:

I see these bumper stickers that say, "God bless America," and I think, "God has blessed America."

The film goes on to remind viewers that our world--the world in which most of us have cars (even if they're crappy) and have enough to eat each day--is not the world. I grew up hearing this just about every day, and I think it's something we all need to realize. People everywhere are starving, dying of diseases that are totally and completely curable, and by and large that is not our reality here in North America. Therefore, we have the great freedom--and responsibility--to share what we have in order to feed, clothe, and give shelter to the poor around the world. Of that I am certain.

However, I'm intrigued by what "the best place to live" and "blessed" really mean to the U.N. and to Rob Bell--and to the rest of us. The world's most healthy and comfortable nations (again, according to the U.N.) are Norway, Australia, Ireland, Sweden, Canada, Japan, and the United States. Yet the people living in each of these nations are some of the unhappiest--and most secular--on earth.

Rob Bell looks around at America and says, "We are blessed."

I'm not looking at statistics here, but it seems to me that materially, yes--we are. But the Church in our corner of the world is diseased, and spiritually, its people are starving and naked. When I look at the Church in the rest of the world, I see people who have learned to trust in God for their next meal; to serve Him despite violent consequences; to worship Him joyfully; and to live contentedly in community.

Yes, I know that is a bit of a rose-colored view of the global Church. I know it is not all like that. But it seems to me that what many call blessing is actually a curse.

A curse, interestingly enough, that we are supposed to share with the rest of the world. I have been told so many times that
  1. I am evil because I have too much stuff and my luxury is at the expense of the poor.
  2. Poor people around the world are righteous and will inherit the Kingdom.
  3. I should give poor people my stuff because I have too much and they don't have anything.
There is biblical support and truth to all of these statements. But when I put them together, this is the very disturbing logical conclusion I come up with:

If we rich Americans give away all our stuff, poor people will now be rich (and therefore as spiritually destitute as we currently are), which is no better than the current state of things.

Because "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," I must conclude that our wealth, our comfort, and our abundance are not necessarily a blessing. Wealth is probably not inherently good or bad, but combined with our human nature, it can be toxic to our spiritual well-being. With this knowledge, we must be very careful not to recklessly dump our wealth on the poor; so in fact our responsibility as rich Christians is that much heavier.

Not only must we be generous and compassionate, but we are also called to help the recipients of our gifts to keep from becoming as apathetic, faith-less, and enamored with the things of this world as we are.

Otherwise, we're just playing a global game of hot potato with the hazardous material of wealth.

I don't envy the poor. I never wanted to live in a war-ravaged land led by tyrants who starve their people. I don't want my children to wear rags. I just think we should remember that God draws near to the poor--and it is, perhaps, easier for the poor to draw near to Him. But they are blessed. Jesus said so.

As for those of us who eat three (or four) meals a day and sleep in comfortable beds . . . I'm not quite so sure.

All I know is that we have work to do, and we better be prayerful, careful, and quick about it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Where have I been?

I'd like to say I've been blog-fasting, or something so noble-sounding as that. It's so rare in our culture to truly refrain from anything--even for a short period of time--so I would like to be able to justify my absence with such a self-controlled explanation.

I suppose, in some ways, without being aware of it I have been fasting, now that I think of it. I've been praying and reading the Bible more, and perhaps, in making that a high priority, other things (like blogging) have gotten squeezed out. Whatever the reason, it's just been hard to find the time recently. But (for now, at least) I'm back.

In other news, Mr. Incredible now has a blog. I'll wait to share the URL until he's ready to make a public appearance. He can be rather shy; family legend reveals that, when he was learning to talk, he kept his silence in public and practiced alone in his room until he was able to speak in complete sentences. Hopefully, since his first blog posts are far from rudimentary or incomplete, he'll be O.K. with people reading his blog sometime soon.

I've got lots of things on my mind, but they'll have to wait till the weekend, when I have more time to type away! For now, I must focus on planning the next issue of Seek, putting together a daily prayer guide, and pulling a whole lot of web content out of thin air.

That probably doesn't sound like fun to most people, but actually I think I might enjoy it.

Printed inside my carton of blackberries this morning

To the question of your life,
you are the only answer.
To the problems of your life,
you are the only solution.

Oh, yeah, that's a great thing to teach the next generation.

Sheesh.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

You can't just let it go to waste

The other day, I made a salad. A darn good one, too--it's a Willow Cottage specialty--spring greens, small chunks of sharp cheddar cheese, dried cranberries, Granny Smith apples, walnuts, and raspberry vinaigrette. But I only needed half of the apple, and seeing as I wasn't in the mood for the mouth-puckering sensation of eating a Granny Smith all by itself, and had no other designs for this crisp apple half . . . it went to waste.

I could have just worked it into some recipe somehow; I've got lots of other kinds of apples sitting around, and I'm sure I could have baked up an apple pie or crisp or whatever. But we don't need any more food, and Mr. Wonderful and I aren't exactly eager to say to each other, "well, there's just more of you to love."

As I was scolding myself about my poor stewardship of this crisp, beautiful apple--and the many other things that I throw out each month--I felt sad.

Because it's not as if stuffing more food down my throat--or anyone else's--is going to alleviate the hunger of starving children across the world. And I couldn't very well send that half an apple to a kid in Zimbabwe, could I? That's the trouble: if the food is already here, sitting on the shelves of my local supermarket, it's either going to be eaten here in North America by people who have plenty of food, or it's going in the compost heap.

If I have food, but don't know what to do with it, and I eat it just to make sure it doesn't go to waste (not because I'm hungry), I am doing nothing to alleviate world hunger or even being a good steward of the resources I have. I am simply assuaging my conscience, and getting fatter while I'm at it. And that definitely isn't good stewardship, either.

So then I thought, maybe I shouldn't have bought the apple in the first place; if I didn't know what to do with the whole thing, that was probably a bad consumer choice. And that's probably true. But then, if I become really careful about what I buy, purchasing the minimum amount of food possible, aren't I making it more difficult for hard-working farmers to make a living?

There's a veggie stand a couple of miles away that I like to buy from, not so much because the food is good, but because the older couple that runs it looks like they could use the money to supplement their meager Social Security checks each month.

Anyway, if I leave the apple in the bin at the store or the fruit stand, it's not like that suddenly frees up food to be sent elsewhere.

But food does get sent to the world's hungriest places--I know that, and I want to support it as much as possible. But world hunger is not the result of a global food shortage; grain is regularly dumped in the ocean to regulate prices. Nor is it the direct result of obese North Americans hogging and wasting all the food. The trouble is that some governments are determined to starve their people, and won't accept aid--and that we don't work hard enough to move the food supply where it really needs to be (instead of, say, dumping it in an ocean, it would be nice if we could ship it across an ocean . . . but then, it still might be rejected).

In the grand scheme of things, maybe I should be less concerned with throwing out a half of an apple than with my failure to change the systems that withhold food from the people who really need it.

Wasting food is a nice, tidy kind of sin to commit. But it's only a front--a distraction--from the great omission.

Friday, October 20, 2006

2:3:2:3:5:5

We all want to believe, when we tear open a pack of M&Ms, that there are just as many green M&Ms as there are blue ones.

But this is not so.

M&M packets are not the multicultural utopia we believe them to be, controlled by the socialist machines that divide them into bags; one color always dominates (in this case, of course, two colors are competing for dominance).

I know this is hard for many of you to take, but someone had to tell you. And anyway, you always knew there were more brown ones than any other color; you just didn't want to admit it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

May contain peanuts

Bridge may be icy;
Medication may cause drowsiness.

May contain peanuts,
Or trace amounts of milk and tree nuts.

And here I am, taunted
By warnings that never come true.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Apple butter at Willow Cottage

Someone asked me the other day if I had any favorite fall traditions. I know lots of people pick pumpkins, carve jack -o- lanterns, or take part in other gourd-related activities. I was about to say that I don't really have any traditions--I don't think of myself as a particularly traditional person--and then I remembered: apple butter!

Every autumn for the last several years, Mr. Incredible and I go to Ashcombe, pick apples out of the huge bins they keep on the porch of the perennials department, bring them home, and make apple butter. We usually make two batches, two Saturdays in a row, and those are the coziest, best-smelling days of the year!

Interested in trying it out for yourself? Here's the recipe (I got it from my grandma; the measurements are a little weird, but it works well):

Apple butter

Lots of apples (I use Jonamac or Jonagold)
7 cups sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 1/3 tsp. allspice
2 1/3 tsp. cinnamon

Fill a 5 1/2-quart crockpot 7/8 of the way with chopped, cored, and peeled apples.

Add other ingredients and cook on high for 5-8 hours and purée.

Pour into jars and seal them using a canner.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Cherries on top

We have a lot of special treats in our household. Or at least, it seems that way. After a long, tiring day, we often decide together on an activity--like watching an episode of our favorite BBC sitcom or sipping hot drinks and munching on scones--that we can enjoy together before bed. It's our way to unwind; to bond; and to cope with life.

So the other night we made chocolate chip pancakes topped with cherry pie filling. Bedtime was fast approaching, so as I assembled my pancakes and poured drinks, I flew around the kitchen, working as fast as I could so we could sit down and enjoy them sooner. As I reached my hand into the can of cherry pie filling, though, I got a little wake-up call.

"Slow down," Mr. Incredible reminded me.

"But I want to enjoy our special treat."

"Making the pancakes together--that's the special treat."

And I guess that's part of why I married him. Not so much because he says things like that, but because he believes them.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On a similar but unrelated note, James Lileks, a very talented columnist and blogger, has a neat reflection today on (among other things) watching his daughter grow up. If you haven't before, check him out--his blather is usually worth wading through.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Random (but categorized) thoughts from the last few days

It was a good weekend. After Mr. Incredible's most frightening rendezvous with our chef's knife on Wednesday night, the bathroom remodeling project (which usually dominates his weekends) was put on hold. After all, it's probably best to leave plumbing and serious demo and carpentry to people whose thumbs are completely intact. Determined not to have a completely and totally unproductive weekend, we made the snap decision around 11 a.m. on Saturday to paint the miniscule room upstairs that we affectionately call "the study." And so, by mid-afternoon, the floral yellow gingham wallpaper border was down, the trim was removed, and all contents of the room had been relocated to the empty bedroom next door.

And now, the room is truly ours; it has brush strokes of our color choice--Tibetan red--all over it. It wasn't a terrible color before. It just wasn't ours. And with a little weekend warriorism, now it is.

Pumpkin-nut bread is awesome, but would taste better with cream cheese. Mmmm. I'll keep that in mind for next time.

Denim skirts are the perfect way to wear jeans to work. Why is it that a simple denim skirt can make you feel so put-together; so confident? Is it that they are basically impervious to stains and wrinkles? Is it their durability and weight? Whatever it is, they're the ideal attire for those frazzled mornings when you just can't get it together, but you really need to fake it. :)

Why didn't anyone ever tell me about the turducken? I talked to a Canadian yesterday who was celebrating Thanksgiving (they observe it a little earlier than we do, even though apparently they're not quite sure of the historical significance behind their holiday) and he introduced me to the concept of roasting one bird inside another. I'm determined to try it.

I don't think I'll be able to fit it in, but I am so tempted to join nanowrimo.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Ahh, Lewisberry [part two]

On trash day in Lewisberry, pizza boxes jut boldly out of trash cans waiting to be taken to their final destination. Their inflexible corners stretch black trash bags beyond their limit, leaving holes and issuing an invitation to all prowling creatures: come and get it.

If Lewisberry has an official food, it's the pie of all pies that's not really a pie. With one pizzeria for every 29.2 households, tomato sauce and extra sausage are the bread and butter of this community.

I'll never forget the first pizza I ever ordered as a Lewisberrian. It was a chilly, damp evening in late March, and my shoes were covered in the soggy wallpaper bits I'd been tearing off the walls of our new home (goodbye cabbage roses and stripes; hello taupe #04).

When they're not grabbing a pizza--or one of Rock-It Pizza's famous cheesesteaks that take the average eater three days to consume--Lewisberrians grill. It is never too cold, too blustery, or even too rainy to grill, and the aromas of hickory and lightly charred chicken fill the streets almost every weekend.

The Silver Lake Inn--which just reopened in July--runs specials like "25-cent wing night" and "all you can eat shrimp," but as I haven't yet visited that curiously decorated venue, I have little to say about it except that it scares me to death.

For the budget- and nutrition-conscious who cannot live on pizza and ribs alone, there's the Manorette--L.H. Gross Manorette, to be precise--which carries a surprisingly large variety of lard products and canned beans in bulk. The Manorette (well, actually, the locals usually call it "Gross's") is also the perfect place to pick up the essentials--cigarettes, lottery tickets, chewing tobacco, and ice cream.

I stop by the Manorette once a month or so, usually in somewhat of a frenzy because I've already started dinner or baking cookies, and just realized we're out of some staple ingredient like eggs, milk, or cumin. I've never fit in well at the Manorette; all the other customers and employees know each other "from way back," and I'm just a newbie. I wouldn't even be suprised if they see me as a yuppie, because in comparison to them, I am. Owing to my aversion to NASCAR t-shirts and mullets, I don't look like them, and since we didn't go to high school together, the Manorette's customers and employees and I don't have much of a connection.

Or at least, we didn't--until last week, when I was actually engaged in conversation by a customter and employee who recognized me as "the woman who walks her dog all the time in any kind of weather."

And now, I'm finally a Lewisberrian.

[Note: Images added 12.19.2006]

To be continued . . .

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Rockin' the tilde

That's right, unlike most of you who fear to venture into the wilderness of the upper-lefthand corner of your keyboard, I am a frequent tilde user.

A week ago or so, an incredulous-looking individual asked me, "What on earth would you ever use it for?"

I just smiled and replied, "I have my reasons."

"Well, I guess you probably use it for typing Spanish words, right? I mean, that's probably how you make the 'ñ.'"

"Nope," I answered. "For that I use Alt + Num Lock + 164."

"Oh."

The tilde (though I admit, it can be a little too girlie) is perhaps the only character of whimsy that appears on modern western keyboards. It's a free spirit, untamed and somewhat impractical--which is why it's been banished to the far reaches of the keyboard with dangerous characters like Esc.

The tilde is truly alone in its status as a diacritical mark. I mean, the other marks may carry with them an air of sophistication--for instance, even though he is like, the most awesome philosopher ever, no one would look at Søren Kierkegaard the same if he didn't have that slash through the "o" in his name. Most diacritics have the general effect (besides advising pronunciation) of wearing a pair of very artsy, european, dark-rimmed glasses.

But the tilde . . . it defies sophistication. It's too curvy and fun to fit in with the starkness of the other diacritics. And it would seem that just about everybody wants to use the tilde for something. According to wikipedia, it's really quite the popular symbol, despite its lonely position on the keyboard.

So the next time you wonder why such a useless character is taking up space next to your oh-so-practical numbers, remember this: it's the only fun key we've got. On my keyboard at least, the ratio of fun characters to boring ones is 1:103. Now come on, don't you think we can spare the room?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ahh, Lewisberry [part one]

I didn’t always live in Lewisberry. Which, I guess, is what sets me apart from my fellow Lewisberrians more than anything else. It’s a quirky town, just large enough to be called a town and small enough that it only takes a few years to get acquainted with it.

Most people know it as the home of the only half-decent downhill ski resort in the area, which makes use of the unusually high hills and ridges that are so characteristic of Lewisberry. Rising high above the valleys surrounding the Susquehanna River and Yellow Breeches Creek, Lewisberry’s heights (which should not be confused with Lewisberry Heights, which of course, would be the name of the town’s ghetto row homes, if it had them) are thickly wooded, dotted with relaxed homes built within the last 20 years.

From my house, I have a wonderful view of those heights—which, of course, is because I’m not on them. We live in the rain gutter—I mean, valley—of Lewisberry, where mist descends on an almost daily basis, shrouding the rippling fields and farms in mystery. It’s on account of the mist that Lewisberry mornings are so ethereal—a word that one could never use to describe Lewisberry at any other time of day.

On cool, damp mornings, when we gaze out over our back fence, beyond mist-blanketed crops of soybeans and corn, a line of distant trees are silhouetted against the tangerine sunrise. On mornings like these, Lewisberry seems a very philosophical town—one cannot help but think lofty thoughts when driving through the peach mist on the way to work.

And then there are afternoons. And they’re not philosophical at all.

To be continued . . .

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What's weirder than going out to dinner with bishops?

I don't know.

But somehow, despite 40 years' difference in age and culture, we actually had fun over many courses of Chinese food.

Still, Toronto is nothing like home . . . no husband to spend the evening with; to understand me so perfectly, or share my unique (read: quirky) sense of humor with.

Right now, Katie and I are watching Fame, an amazingly bad show from 1982, the year we were born . . . good stuff to make fun of before bed, though, eh?

Goodnight from across the border.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Yeah, so I'm pretty much a boggle whiz

Lest you assume this hyper-consonantal configuration was rigged, I hereby provide photographic proof that this came up by chance* last night.

How many words can you find?

*This blogger understands that, in the current age of photoshoppable truth, there is no such thing as photographic proof, and so she solemnly swears that she is both committed to the truth and is also a complete Photoshop novice. No alterations, including superimposed figures of the Virgin Mary, manufactured smoke, or unauthorized use of the clone tool, were made to this pure, unadulterated photo. For your enjoyment, this photo is also crop-free.

Friday, September 08, 2006

When do I get a break?

Probably when I allow myself to take one, which I'm not good at, so oh well.

I feel depressed today--very down--and I know I'll bounce back, but for now I just feel sad. And tired. And terribly alone.

I've been getting things done at work (mostly putting out fires, it seems) but work feels pointless and I'm not quite sure what I'm looking forward to. This whole anticipation thing seems to be the key to my well-being most of the time, and I'm pretty sure that's not a good thing. It seems that I always have to have something I'm looking forward to--a vacation, a date with Mr. Incredible, a day off, whatever. And while I think it's healthy to live in joyful anticipation, it's probably not good that I sink into depression when I can't think of something to look forward to.

Well, that's enough blogtherapy for today. If I keep going I'll have to pay you by the hour to read my thoughts. And I just don't have that kind of capital.

I'll just leave you with the lyrics from one of my new favorite songs:

On the radio | Regina Spektor

this is how it works
it feels a little worse
and when we drove our hearse
right through that screaming crowd
while laughing up a storm
until we were just bone
until it got so warm
that none of us could sleep

then all the styrofoam
began to melt away
we tried to find some worms
to aid in the decay
but none of them were home
inside their catacomb
a million ancient bees
began to sting our knees

while we were on our knees
praying that disease
would leave the ones we love
and never come again
and on the radio
we heard november rain
the solo's really long
but it's a pretty song
we listened to it twice
cause the dj was asleep

this is how it works
you're young until you're not
you love until you don't
you try until you can't
you laugh until you cry
you cry until you laugh
and everyone must breathe
until their dying breath

this is how it works
you peer inside yourself
you take the things you like
and try to love the things you took
and then you take that love you made
and stick it into some--
someone else's heart
pumping someone else's blood

and walking arm in arm
you hope it don't get harmed
but even if it does
you'll just do it all again
on the radio
you hear november rain
that solo's awful long
but it's a nice refrain
you listen to it twice
cause the dj is asleep
on the radio...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Another issue emerges

Here I am again, watching as the sixth issue of Seek goes out into the world. I feel like an empty nester, sending my child off to college--will it be well received? Will people give it a chance? Did I give it everything it needs in order to survive? Will people actually take it seriously and dialogue with the articles? Will they absorb it thoughtlessly, or write it off completely? Did I impart enough of my wisdom and the insights of others that it has something to offer to a broken world?

I won't know for quite a while . . . and actually, I may never know.

But I am so proud of this issue! I think it might be my favorite so far. Take a look if you please--and be sure to check out Seeking more, too, where we go more in-depth with the issues discussed in Seek. Heck, fill out a survey if you want.

Just promise me this (and I'm mostly talking to you Brethren in Christ people): you don't have to be nice to Seek, or even to me . . . but take it seriously. Invest in it as you would a young adult that needs the guidance and wisdom of others in order to reach maturity.

Prayer

"I pray because I can't help myself.
I pray because I'm helpless.
I pray because the need flows out of me
all the time, waking and sleeping.
It doesn't change God, it changes me."

--C.S. Lewis in Shadowlands (1993)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

On editing

She was a middle-aged woman, slightly pudgy around the edges, with a critical air about her. Her dark-rimmed glasses rested just where she wanted them on her nose, and her clothes, though soft and simple, had been carefully and particularly selected.

Leaning in toward the round dinner table so she could be heard above the conference din, she pronounced with a knowing smile, "You're an editor, aren't you?"

"Why yes." I probably didn't actually say it quite like that, but it's my story and I get to write it however I want to.

Her co-worker, who sat next to her, looked astonished. "How did you know that?" she demanded.

I was about to answer that perhaps she had read my nametag, since it seemed to give away just about all the details of my life, when the first woman answered.

"We editors are born."

Feeling that I had just been linked to some sort of elite editing aristocracy, I shifted uncomfortably and changed the subject.

Was I carrying a red pen, or correcting someone's word choice? What was it that gave me away? After all, I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a good editor. But she could tell.

Later that night, I got to thinking, and it seems there is something about me--call it perfectionism, being anal retentive, whatever--that is a huge asset to me as an editor. I'm very particular, and each time I miss the mark, I try again--harder--to improve.

But that impulse is not unique to editors. In fact, I think that as a follower of Christ, I'm called to be an editor--to humbly approach and revisit my life, each day making choices that are closer to what God wants them to be.

So in that sense, yes, I was born an editor. But then, so was everybody else.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Everything is illuminated

This is the kind of film title that really appeals to me. It's exaggerated; I mean, how often do people (other than me) go around saying things like "everything is illuminated"? It's bold; it's intense; it's a little much, really. But until today (when I finally saw the movie) I was dying to know just what was illuminated.

To all those who didn't see the movie because you thought Frodo's glasses were absolutely ridiculous, get over it and add it to your Netflix queue.

I'm really struck by the concept of the collector, a central theme in the film. In case you haven't seen EiI, the protagonist (Jonathan) collects photographs, false teeth, pendants, sand--anything that helps him remember his family, who are survivors of the Holocaust--in Ziploc bags. He's withdrawn and his impulse to collect borders on the insance. But when you fully realize how close his family came to disappearing completely from anyone's memory or records, Jonathan seems like the only sane one--the only person who realizes the true value of the strange artifacts that are pinned up all over his walls.

But of course, because Jonathan is simply a collector, the movie is not actually about him; he is only the vehicle for another Holocaust survivor to remember. I guess at this point I should post a spoiler warning. I just really feel the need to process, so don't read any further if you haven't seen the film yet.

Here is my question: what does Baruch's death mean? Does he kill himself because of the guilt he feels about abandoning his faith, and as a result being one of the only people who survived? It would seem, from the significant transformation he undergoes, that he is at peace when he dies--yet his is not a peaceful departure from life. Does he feel that he needs to die a bloody death in order to be united with his family and fellow villagers? Can suicide provide any kind of relief at all?

Clearly, for me, not everything is illuminated.

But what an amazing movie. The title line of the film provides such a different perspective on history than we're used to:
"Everything is illuminated in the light of the past, which is inside us looking out."
This is the most optimistic, yet honest, approach to the past, present, and future that I think I have ever heard. Especially for those of us who are living in the shadow of the turbulent, bloody 20th century, it is easy to over-focus on the past, wishing humankind hadn't made the mistakes it has, when we really need to live in the present with the knowledge and memory we glean from the past.

This all seems very half-baked right now . . . maybe I'll post more after the second viewing, when my thoughts are better gathered.

But for now, all I can say is that this is truly a premium film.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Le voyage de camping

Don't you just love it that "camping" is the same in almost every language? Apparently, it's the one thing that's common to us all . . . or maybe it's just a highly assimilate-able word.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, we met some friends in Tennessee for a wonderful camping trip, with great times had by all. Unfortunately for you, we were having so much fun that we left the camera out of the equation most of the time, which means that we have no photos of our dear friends, or of the catastrophic but delicious "spicy sausage and scout bread on a stick" recipe we tried. Let's just say that, if you really want to cook a whole bunch of things together on a stick, go ahead. But wrap it with foil first to save yourself the trouble of it falling apart before you even get it on the stick. Nor do we have a photographic record of the glorious campfires, and of course there's no way to capture just how crisp and comfortable the weather was.

The best moments are never caught on film. Why would they be? When you're really, really happy, why would you want a camera between you and your loved ones?

But here are a couple of shots.



In their element




We went hiking. Not as much as we would have liked--and not nearly enough for our rock-climbing puppy--but it was good to be out there, tackling mountains. We were in Roan Mountain State Park--quite posh by our state park standards, by the way--which boasts an interesting assortment of "balds"; that is, mountains that have clearings or gaps on top. There are lots of theories as to why they are the way they are, of course, but none as interesting as those concerning dinosaurs and aliens.



The state park isn't just a natural haven; it's preserving some interesting remnants of human civilization, as well. Every time we visit the Smokies and the areas nearby, I'm fascinated with how people lived and traveled there. Getting around isn't easy now, and it was hundreds of times more difficult 100 years ago. This is a photo of a mill inside the state park, as well as some flowers planted outside an unbelievably isolated (but beautiful) farmhouse that's no longer inhabited, but still standing today.



Posted outside the campground bathrooms and ranger stations. Except to give it context, there is little I can add to this image; it is truly a work of genius.













Ahhhhhhhh.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Of pluots and plums

After not really having slept all night, I woke up at 5:30, then again at 6:00, 7:00, and eventually at 8:50, when I decided to stop kidding myself that I was ever going to make it into work. So I'm at home today, resting and putzing around . . . it's nice to have a day at home, but of course it's hard to know what to do (and what to avoid).

So far the highlight of my day was that I ate a pluot. I'm not sure what it was supposed to taste like, but I quite enjoyed it anyway. When I bought it at the grocery store, I had a nagging fear that it was just the French word for plum, and that was why the pluots were $1 more per pound than the plums. But thankfully, wikipedia has allayed my fears: pluots are a cross between plums and apricots. That would explain why it was so sweet (and $1 more per pound, too). Apparently, they're usually only 25 percent apricot, so they're mostly plums. But dang good ones.

And that makes me wonder: are there regulations governing the declaration of all new fruits (or vegetables or other plants, for that matter)? Because if a pluot is really mostly a plum, isn't it just an interesting hybrid plum? And if you call it a pluot, instead of a hoity-toity plum, won't suckers like me be more likely to waste their money on it? That pluot may have been wonderful (and the pit ever so small and unobtrusive), but there's a conspiracy out there, and somebody's got to stop the market from being flooded by truckloads of "new" produce. Maybe they could call pluots "plums reloaded" or something like that. That would at least be more honest.

But then, I never would have bought pluots, and had the delightful experience of tasting this speckled, very un-French plum that is subtly enhanced by the supersweet flavor of the apricot.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Albums I'm listening to

Putumayo presents Mali (various)

This album contains some of the weirdest and most beautiful music I have ever heard--vocally and instrumentally. There is a sort of French hip-hop/African traditional fusion going on, something that's not too unexpected. But what you wouldn't expect at all is the way the harmonica and accordion are used. This is groundbreaking stuff, and frankly I think some of these musicians from Mali are putting blues and polka players to shame. Props go to my Dad, who turned us on to this CD. I recommend buying it at 10,000 Villages, but it's on Amazon.com, too.


The best of Van Morrison (Van Morrison)

Few singers have experimented with so many types of music, throughout so many eras, and still managed to stay afloat. I'm not saying Van's for everyone, but you just can't say that "Domino" is any less than a timeless classic that rocks the casbah. Given Van's colorful (and lengthy) career, it may be a little on the eclectic side (to the point of giving some people musical whiplash) but I just can't get enough of his Beatles-esque "Gloria" juxtaposed against his later "Bright side of the road."


Speak for yourself (Imogen Heap)

Ahh, you didn't see this one coming, now did you? Apparently, as of sometime last winter, I am into electronic music. I guess, when it really comes down to it, I believe deeply that anything can be used as a musical instrument; it's just that very often, when people experiment, pretty bad things happen (remember the electronic experiments of the 70s and 80s?). But Imogen Heap is a master of this genre, and she knows how to combine the natural, raw tones of her voice with the otherworldly synthesized sounds she creates and produces herself. It's bizarre, but brilliant.

August musings

Since I haven't posted anything for the entire month of August thus far, I thought it was time to return to this good ol' blog. I really missed it (and all of you who read it)! The past month--and indeed the entire summer--has been a blur, which could just be chalked up to working too much and worrying too much. I need to relax a bit, I guess, and August is probably the best time of the year to do that.

Why, you ask, is August so conducive to relaxation? After all, aren't the months and the years--and even the number of days we have in each week--arbitrary ways of measuring and marking the passage of time?

Yes . . . but as with many designations that were once arbitrary, August" as we know it has become a slack-off month. Not for everybody, of course, and in this workaholic culture, it can be a little difficult to perceive. But if you want to slack off in August, you can. After all (in this part of the world at least) it's unbelievably hot and muggy. So why should you move quickly?

With September will come fresh starts and fresh air--but until then, shouldn't you get some rest? June and July may be vacation prime time--when your e-mail is set to auto-reply and your voicemail directs the caller to a string of other people who could possibly help them if everyone weren't on vacation at the same time. But in August, you're putting in time; you're just not working at your usual breakneck speeds--you need to pace yourself.

So since most of us already treat it this way anyway, I declare August "national slack-off month."

And I am hereby slacking off. Won't you join me?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The sisterhood of the corpulent pants

Before the smear campaign begins, I just thought I'd put this out there--that way, no one can use it to bring me down. Questions will be asked, but then, I like answering questions.

A brief explanation? We like sharing an office so much that we thought we'd share some jeans, too.

Who wears the pants in the relationship? Hmm. No comment.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

In my element

I'm getting a new car. And for the first time ever, I don't have to qualify that by saying, "well, I mean, it's new to me." Not that I ever had a problem with explaining that in the first place. In fact, I'm having a hard time being okay with the fact that I'm going to have a brand-new car.

Isn't owning a new car in some way morally despicable? Or am I just embarrassed? Or do I feel weird because parents, who are more than twice my age, have never purchased a new vehicle? I don't know.

As usual, the decision to buy was marked by an excruciating intensity of discussions, study, and search for the best possible deal--no snap decisions in our household. But aside from the weirdness I feel about buying a new car, I am so excited! What has been referred to as "the ugliest car on the road" actually seems to be the most compatible with our personality and lifestyle, so it's a great fit. (Although what that says about our aesthetic taste and personal appearance, I don't even want to know.)

In case you haven't guessed it from my punny header and my reference to "the ugliest car on the road," we're buying a Honda Element. It should be here within the week, ready to help us with our home improvements, dog outings, camping trips, and even grocery shopping.

And by the way, the ugliest car on the road is not actually the Element, as my father-in-law so aptly observed; it's Toyota's version of the boxy SUV crossover: the Scion xb.

Update: image replaced to reflect actual color of said vehicle.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Why I'm already weary of desk jobs

Quick quiz:

If I were presented with the following career paths (and the training I'd need to follow them), which one would I be most likely to choose?

a. writing/editing nonfiction
b. professional miming
c. organic farming
d. robotics
e. owning a bed & breakfast/retreat center
f. dietetics

Answer: I don't know. No, really, I don't know. But it would definitely not be a desk job. I would really like a combination of options c and e. If I had more time to write now, I'd explain. But a girl who graduated from Messiah with me puts it into words better than I ever could, I think. She's been doing a year of service in Egypt, and she has some wonderful reflections. Here's her latest blog entry--perhaps her most insightful yet.

Larger than life: the BIC in Miami

Okay, I know I've been a really lazy blogger lately . . . but if anyone's interested in seeing a General Conference highlights video, here you go! I know some of you were keeping up with the blog, but if you're looking for something more like real life, check this out.

Monday, July 10, 2006

When I'm fifty-five

When I’m fifty-five
and bulging
from the fullness of life’s harvest­—
bearing children, working hard, and celebrating—
please don’t let me say,
“just a taste.”

Just a taste?
I’d rather go without.

No, I’ll savor the full serving
in all its rich complexity—
bitter, sour, sweet, and salty—
as it melts its way through my mouth.

I’ll sip my coffee slowly,
just fast enough to keep the
last gulp from turning cold.

But my golden years will not be marked
by egg beaters, salt substitutes, and dessert-less parties.

Instead, I’ll eat less, yet more fully—
and enjoy more completely.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

GC 2006 blog

I'm writing (at least a little bit) but I haven't had time to post here yet. Check out the blog that Sarah, Katie, and I are keeping of General Conference 2006.

Friday, June 30, 2006

En route to Miami

So sorry I haven't been around the blogosphere this week . . . I've actually had too many better things to do, I guess. :)

Right now I'm sitting in the Orlando airport, waiting for my connecting flight to Miami. It's been a long day; I left our house before five this morning.

On my plane rides I've been reading Mere Christianity, one of those books that (embarrassingly) I've picked up many times and have never finished. What makes it particularly annoying to me is that I like to quote the book, and I have actually recommended it to several people. But what do those recommendations really mean when you follow them with "but I've only read the first few chapters"? Besides, how can you think of yourself as an intellectual Christian when you haven't read it?

It's a wonderful book--jam-packed with wisdom and insight. And maybe that's why I haven't read the whole thing yet: it needs to be enjoyed and digested in small portions. I wonder if Lewis' moral approach to Christianity would be understood and received well if it were being broadcast and published for the first time in 2006. I doubt it. We no longer talk about universal truths and common morality. And although I'd rather be living in a postmodern world than any of its precursors, this concept of universal truth--that there are just certain things that we all have in common, that we all suspect or know to be true--is one of those things that's gotten lost in the transition.

The laptop battery is on its way out . . . so I should finish. Maybe I'll find time to write in Miami; maybe not.

¡Hasta luego!

Monday, June 26, 2006

God said to Noah . . .

No, we haven't quite started work on the arky arky yet . . . but mostly that's because we have no idea what gopher barky is. The continous gurgle of the sump pump and the spongy sound the ground makes when you so much as tiptoe over the lawn are fine arguments for the commencement of some serious shipbuilding.

Also, I'll have to buy some potable water at the grocery store today, since the water is murky murky.

But I'm not complaining . . . really I'm not. I know we need the rain; I just wonder how much more we can take.

It was a good weekend. We went to New Jersey on Saturday--there and back again--with puppy in the backseat, for a family birthday party. It was peaceful enough, but we wonder what we're really accomplishing by making that long, expensive turnpike trek so often . . . eventually we'll work up the courage to deviate from tradition, but for now, I guess we're headed there again next month.

Sunday was a fun day full of madness--it was our debut as church ushers, and to properly initiate us into our new role, there were not one but two offerings, plus we had to serve communion--and then there was John. I'd say he deserves an entire blog entry, so the suspense builds.

Have to get to work now . . . more later.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

So she wasn't serious

Because I'm evil, I suppose I had hoped that Connie Chung was actually serious about that little routine she did last weekend. But apparently, it's all a bit of light entertainment. Dang.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Thanks for the memories

Well, I don't really have many memories of Connie Chung, but this I will never forget. (It's a video, and you really won't want to miss it.)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Plans for the weekend

Every Friday, around 2 p.m., I start to get antsy--and strangely quiet. Everyone starts popping their head in the door and asking the big question:

"Any big plans for the weekend?"

No, of course not. I'm a boring person at work; just imagine how much more boring I am at home!

But I will say that, although my plans may not be big, I like my weekends, and for the most part, I wouldn't have them any other way.

So maybe, instead of avoiding the question or answering shyly, I should just grin and say, "No way. Weekends were not made to be planned; they were made to be enjoyed."

That said, I do have some plans (or hopes, at least) for the coming weekend:
  1. Spend time with Mr. Incredible, talking, cooking, and working together.
  2. Celebrate Father's Day.
  3. Talk to God, and read at least some portion of the Bible.
  4. Exercise the dog until he collapses into a hot, furry, exhausted heap.
  5. Tear apart the walls of our bathroom.
  6. Watch our plants grow.
  7. Load and unload the dishwasher at least once. Heh heh.
  8. Finish reading Eldest.
  9. Sleep.
  10. Ahhhhh.

Lamo excuse

We've all seen rather unique uses of the Bible as a support for some pretty interesting behavior--but this is just weird.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The trouble with men

Ahh, caught your attention with that line, didn't I? I love it that you're sitting here, reading "the trouble with men" and asking yourself in shock, "what overgeneralized, politically-incorrect thing is she about to say about men?" Well, I'll try not to overgeneralize, but since I don't care so much about being politically correct, maybe you'll find at least a hint of shock value in this post after all.

I've been concerned for quite a few years about men. Why is it that they're not going to college? Taking so long to grow up (or not growing up at all)? Moving back in with their parents? Drowning in alcohol? Not taking ownership of their jobs, homes, families, or churches? And maybe most alarmingly, why don't young men have bigger dreams and ambitions--and why aren't they striving toward them?

I consider myself one of the lucky few 20-something women who have found a good Generation Y man. In fact, I even laugh when I think about calling the majority of Generation Y males "men"; they're not yet deserving of that mature term. Instead, they're stuck in guyhood, and it doesn't look like they'll emerge anytime soon.

Some people say they know the reasons. Maybe they do. Boundless is currently running an interesting article by Dr. Albert Mohler, who's discussing the implications modern masculinity is having on television and vice-versa.

His article begins:
In the film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's violent novel, Fight Club, character Tyler Durden points to his generation of young men as the "middle children of history." Played by actor Brad Pitt, Durden represents the absolute collapse of masculinity into raw violence. This character joins his friends in seeking personal release and ecstasy through violent fights that send the participants regularly to the emergency room. In a haunting comment, Durden remarks: "We are a generation of men raised by women." Is this our future?
His article goes on to make some interesting (but overly simplistic) observations about and explanations for the antisocial, morally ambiguous characters that young males prefer to watch on TV these days (although of course, I think I probably prefer these characters, too, so what does that say about me?).

But what really strikes me is the phrase "a generation of men raised by women." If there is a problem with modern masculinity, could it be that men have not benefited from role models of the same gender--men who could teach them how to be men?

The world is increasingly run by women. It seems that we have a particularly strong drive to prove ourselves, go above and beyond, and to put ourselves in places of power to effect change where we see injustices and unfinished work. The thing is, as women have begun to enter the professional and church realms as leaders--which is wonderful--men don't seem to see the need to compete. Furthermore, businesses are increasingly valuing stereotypically feminine characteristics, like emotional sensitivity and non-confrontational personalities, rather than the aggressive, assertive qualities they were looking for 40 years ago. Is there anything inherently wrong with that?

No, not really.

But the thing is that if our society undervalues men, and men are not receiving mentoring and training from fathers and older men, young men will increasingly find themselves detached and lonely, wondering where they fit--or if they fit at all. Because, after all, even if they were raised by women, they still can't be women. They weren't meant to be, and society shouldn't expect them to be.

With all these odds stacked against them, it's really no wonder that they have no dreams or goals, and that their heroes are flawed and aimless; what, really, does the women's world have to offer them?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Adaptation

Stories like this one get me all excited.

Yes, we were made on (and for) Earth. That much seems pretty clear. But for those of you who believe strongly that we will soon have to evacuate the mother planet, it would appear that there's hope: we humans have the ability to adapt to extraterrestrial environments.

And to all those who would say, "If God meant us to fly, He would have given us wings," I just want to say this: maybe He did (in a way). Who knows? On another planet, in another atmosphere, we may have the ability to run faster, sleep less, fly, hold our breaths for inordinate periods of time . . . maybe even walk on water. We won't know until we've gone where no man has gone before.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Alagaësia

Where have I been recently? Lost . . . in a book. Well, two, actually: Eragon and Eldest, written by a young homeschooler who's made quite a name for himself in the fantasy/young adult realm. And for good reason: he's definitely managed to bring some fresh ideas to the fantasy scene, something that's really quite difficult to do, when you think about the rigidity of that genre.

Way to go, homeschoolers!

Ahem. Sorry. Back to my post . . .

But like most groundbreaking books, the first two books of Paolini's trilogy not only test their genre's limits; they also remind us all what the genre was supposed to be about in the first place. It may be because Paolini is such a clear thinker and writer, or perhaps it's simply because he's so young, but his themes and basic concepts are so easy to see that it gets people like me thinking about the fundamentals of sci-fi/fantasy literature, archetypes, and more . . . Mr. Incredible says I should write my doctoral dissertation on the kinds of things I've been thinking about regarding the sociological drives behind sci-fi/fantasy literature--and he's probably right.

If you share my taste in books--and it occurs to me at the moment that most of my readers probably do not--be sure to check out the Inheritance series and lose yourself in Alagaësia.

*sorry, the ideas are half-baked right now; will reveal later

Friday, June 09, 2006

The truth

Sorry I haven't made much of an appearance this week . . . my achy breaky back has been giving me grief all week, and most things (like laundry, vacuuming, blogging, and working outside) have fallen by the wayside. But I'm determined to get better soon--preferably before I run out of clean laundry and things start growing in the carpet.

But enough about me . . . let's talk about the Internet. :)

I guess it was all too good to be true--the unbounded freedom of speech with the power to reach the masses. At some point, somebody would try--really, really hard--to lock down and censor the Internet. I've known for a while that the Internet the Chinese people see is not the same as the one delivered to my browser each day, and there are certain websites they'll never be able to see.

But somehow, this was the last straw for me. I think it's because I don't know how I would live or think without Google--it always delivers just what I need to know (and of course, lots that I don't need to know) just when I need it. You have to sort through it, but the truth is out there, and Google makes it easy to do that.

I know everybody's mad at Google for giving in to to their wallets and turning a blind eye to intense Chinese censorship, and I guess it makes me mad to a certain extent, but maybe I don't expect companies to live so much on values--last time I checked, companies' actions were mostly dictated by supply and demand. And boy, is there demand for a censored Internet.

And it's this demand that infuriates me. Injustice covers our planet like kudzu in the Southeast, choking out life and forming thick screens so that as far as you can see, injustice is just about the only thing in sight. And I know many people blame greed and prejudice--and certainly, they are fuel for war and inequality.

But I think the worst kind of injustice comes from being deceived about the truth. When Chinese people don't have access to information about Tiananmen Square, that's wrong--and they may never know the truth.

I don't know who to blame for this (The media? My upbringing? I don't know.) but there was a time when I was completely unaware of the fact that Saddam Hussein had massacred thousands of his people. Growing up during the Gulf War, you'd think I would have known, but it wasn't talked about, because everyone had decided the war was about oil and profit, and who knows what else. And maybe it was. But when everyone was debating the war then (and later, the war in Iraq) I never heard anyone mention the tyranny of the Iraqi people. And believe what you may about Saddam and the wars, don't you think it's helpful to know whether or not he was a mass murderer? You can still choose not to go to war against him, but you still need to tell the truth about him.

The Chinese government knows that if its people knew the complete truth, they would revolt. So they lie, censor, and cover things up. I know that, as humans, we have rights to certain standards of treatment. And I'm wondering why truth isn't one of our rights. Don't we have the right to know the truth? Deception and censorship can truly be just as inhumane as torture and abuse; they allow powerful people to use those below them as misinformed pawns in their mighty games of control. Even if I were living under a tyrannical government structure, and had absolutely no power to escape or overthrow it, I would expect to know the truth.

Because ultimately, the truth will set you free.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Contentment

It's been a good weekend. The dog is under the dining room table, alternately licking his paws and chewing gently on his bone. It's amazing how much dogs reflect their owners' states of mind--and how I feel my own contentment so much more deeply when he is content, too. I wonder if this is also true of parents with children.

Friday night we hosted a family birthday party for Mr. Incredible here at Willow Cottage. Between the grilled mustard-crusted pork chops, the roasted vegetables, and the potato salad, it really tasted like summer. We had fun with the fam--more fun than usual--but then it's been awhile since we've all been together.

Just between the five of us, we polished off nearly three dozen of my dessert specialties: peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. It's been a long time since I baked them, but it seems that I definitely still have the touch.

My brother-in-law stayed late to watch the new Steelers DVDs we picked up in Pittsburgh and to play Xbox. It felt good to stay up late to celebrate, knowing that we could sleep in the next morning (which we did).

Saturday was filled with cleaning, planning, resting, weeding, lawn maintenance, and an evening shopping trip, and today we have had a gloriously relaxed day consisting of church, grocery shopping, and a three-hour nap! Mmmmm. We had a long-distance phone conversation with a good friend, then grilled swordfish for dinner.

I think I'm finally learning how to relax. And it feels good.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A fern haven







Fallingwater

Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece. It's damp, inside and out. But despite the crowds and humidity, you can't help feeling like you're the only human who's ever been privileged to dwell--if only for an hour or so--in the mysterious and otherworldly realm of a river.

Den of vipers?

Some observations and new information regarding snake-charming:

1. Snakes just like to follow pretty things with their eyes. They're really that dumb. And sometimes, as far as anyone can tell, they get hypnotized by moving objects.

2. I shouldn't have felt bad at all yesterday; snake-charming isn't demonic (according to the denomination's resident expert on India).

3. It really is no surprise to me that it was this Jack Nicholson character who alerted me to the spiritual dangers of snake-charming. If someone with that voice charmed snakes, it probably would be demonic.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Don't you know that's demonic?

I got a phone call a little while ago.

"Hi, this is Dulci," I answered brightly.

"Hi, Dulci. How are you doing?" answered the unfamiliar voice that sounded creepily like Jack Nicholson.

"Good," I said with a pause, hoping he would correct the egregious error of not introducing himself. Ugh.

"Well, I was looking at page two of the most recent issue of your magazine," he explained. "And are you aware that the pastor in that photo, who is 'trying his hand at snake charming' . . . are you aware that that's demonic? That charming snakes is allowing the devil entry into our lives? I don't know what that pastor's views are--and I don't know his heart--but he definitely needs to repent! I just don't know where the church is going these days. I don't."

Oh, crap. No, I didn't say that out loud. For once in my life, I don't even have to play dumb, because no! I didn't know snake charming was demonic. I know for a fact that this photo, which is really quite charming (couldn't help it) is really just a touristy kind of thing, and that this upstanding pastor from a prominent congregation is not frolicking with the devil.

So I feel bad. I guess I should have thought harder about it before publishing it. It's just that the photo did not strike me as something that was of the devil. But then, anyone who sounds like Jack Nicholson has got to be more in touch with the demonic world than I am.

Blue Nile cuisine

Mr. Incredible and I are crazy about food. And before you jump to the conclusion that we must be 400-pound couch potatoes who don't even stop chewing long enough to breathe, let me explain.

We both grew up eating healthy but somewhat boring food. Yes, there were the occasional interesting meals out with the family. But in general, eating was not for enjoyment. Rather, it was simply a way to fuel up. And the cheaper and faster, the better.

But over the past few years, we've made it our mission to taste and cook as many dishes as possible, and cooking has become our favorite pastime. We pump up the music, turn on the kitchen fan (hey, I said we were good cooks, not cooks who never burn anything), and we embark on a culinary journey that sends us bumping into each other in our small kitchen, taste-testing like mad, and breathing in the spicy aromas of the food we're about to eat.

But when we can't cook, and anytime we're traveling, we're on a mission to taste something we've never had before. So when we were in Pittsburgh last weekend, we tried Ethiopian food for the first time at this great little restaurant in East Liberty.

And wow! Between the injera (thin pancake-like fermented flatbread made from a unique African grain called teff) and the spicy dishes we dipped it in, we were in food heaven. As soon as I can find a local store that stocks ingredients like teff flour, we'll be cooking Ethiopian, you can bet on that. I found a great site that has basic information and recipes on Ethiopian food, as well as an extensive listing of Ethiopian restaurants. I'm eating it up.

And I know you're still waiting for photos of Pittsburgh--sorry about that; they are coming! Perhaps tomorrow . . . if not, then I should at least get them up on Saturday.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Free your music

There are hours of music--or if you're like me, something like five days' worth of songs--that are sitting in your living room, imprisoned within the confines of your CDs.

The one amazing Enya song on your Fellowship of the Rings soundtrack (yes, I know, you're not nerdy enough to own it, but I am) is not free to frolic with all the other Enya songs you bought on iTunes. Unless you've ripped all your music and reorganized it in iTunes, that is.

Smart playlists are one glorious breath of the air of freedom--but there's more. You don't sit at your computer all day, and let's face it: your computer speakers suck.

Last night, thanks to the fantastic consumer choice made by Mr. Incredible, I enjoyed music as it's meant to be enjoyed--in freedom.

I know this sounds like a commercial--and I guess it is--but I can't help it. I'm a Squeezebox evangelist, and proud of it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Post-vacation blues

It was, as the British would say, "a lovely week-end."

We made a pilgrimage to the hall of football heroes, and the city of my birth--a city with somewhat of an identity crisis--but somehow, that makes me like it more.

Photos will be up soon--we took more than 150 of them in only 3.5 days--but for now, I need to focus on my work and get the next issue of Seek planned, which should be challenging considering that I feel like crying about everything right now. . . .

Hormones. Ugh. Yeah. What are they good for? Absolutely nothin'.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Like a child

Okay, new goal: blog in 10 minutes or less. In my brief time keeping this blog, I've already gotten into the habit of taking too much time and care with my writing--which is sorta' what I wanted to overcome in the first place! So here I go . . . it's currently 8:06, and I've only got 9 minutes left!

Work has been brutal lately. For the first time in my life, I think I'm having a hard time growing up. I was always labeled "8 going on 30," and "so mature for your age." How I loved to be told that! I never thought of myself as a child; I was a capable adult, tragically trapped in a jr. higher's body.

But now, overwhelmed by the demands of my job as an editor and my many roles as a wife, hyper puppy owner, friend, daughter, housekeeper, and volunteer . . . I feel more childlike than ever. Because it's pretty obvious that I can't get everything done--much as I try, I cannot be Superwoman--I feel like a child in need of help.

And as frustrating as that is, at least I know there's someone who can and will fix it and make it better . . . in His time, at least. So I'm doing my best and counting on that.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Relevant tourism

Just in case you wanted solid (but belated) proof that I did, in fact, visit Relevant's headquarters . . . here you go.

It was a wacky, modern office -- the kind that is often called "collaborative" because it sounds better than "we didn't like the look of cubicles, didn't have the money for them either, and so we just put everybody in the same big room." Anyway, here I am (in the light pink sweater) lounging with my EPA friends, Allison, Jenny, and Martha.























Yes, those are Butterfingers on the coffee table. Enough for two dozen people. Could these be the source of all the mad creativity at Relevant? Mmmmmmm, Butterfingers.

And of course, there's the post-postmodern art on the wall. The scariest thing I've seen in ages -- those golden arches can haunt you in your sleep.