Back to winter

>> Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Last Wednesday I arrived where they truly understand what the word "winter" means. A snowstorm hit the Twin Cities the night before my flight, causing no delays because they know what to do with it. It's very cold and very white. It's fabulous. I have enjoyed sights such as:



Kisha and AM picked me up from the airport, and we had lovely stop-and-stop traffic back to a lovely Greek restaurant, and then to their house. I saw the light rail for the first time. Zoom zoom. Enjoyed their home and their baby and their kittencats. Their guest bathroom is directly next to the furnace and was Oh so cozy. For some reason I spent most of my time there trying to remember I was not in Chicago.

Thursday I went to my best friend Julia's house and hung out until we went over to Sara's house for supper. It's been a very emotional trip for me, as my environment has changed me over the last ten years and I've become someone who doesn't quite feel like me. I met Julia before 4th grade, we can't quite remember when exactly, and she's more like my sister than anything. Sara and I met via a third party way back in elementary school, and we were pen pals throughout childhood. She lived in Wisconsin, so we didn't see each other often, but would spend a week in the summer at each other's houses. She's loads of fun. She's since gotten married and moved here to the TC, so we had dinner at her home, where her husband cooked us a lovely stir fry and nearly all of their floors are heated. I keep standing on linoleum floors other places now and being surprised that they're cold.

Friday Julia and I got holiday mint coffees from Caribou and went to her mom's house to bake Christmas cookies! We made sugar cookies, peanut blossoms, Russian tea cakes, and pecan tartlets, and it was loads of fun.

This:


Became this:
And we had photo fun:And also this:

And a few other things. It was quite wonderful. And filling, too. My blood sugar has not been too pleased with me, though my sense of taste is quite satisfied! In the evening I went over to Kellie's and saw Up. It's fabulous and horrible and happy and sad and frustrating and amazing all at the same time. I cried and I laughed. It moved me.

Saturday I went to Erin's for ErinCon 2009, or some such something. Lunch was lovely BBQ made by Pete and Erin and wonderful brownies from Ris and Chris and Piper. All the photos there were taken by others and I haven't gotten my copies yet. But there was much laughter and silliness and more cats.

Erin brought me to stay with Kellie at K's parent's house. My house through junior high and high school shares a back yard with them, and I spent much of my time here. I'm very much at home and I'm grateful that they let me come and stay with them. In the evening we went to her dad's Christmas concert, including wine and cheese and chocolate. It was really quite amazing, and made the holiday Perfectly Right.

Sunday I wrote a paper in the morning while Kellie sang at a gig with her choir, and then we went over to her friend Kathy's for Indian curry and Bollywood. It's an interesting genre of movie, kind of art film meets musical meets foreign cultural something. It's subtitled, and has it's own unique template for what makes one work. I enjoy it, but it's something to do with others who enjoy it, so I've never branched out on my own with it. We had a great time. In the evening, Julia came over again and we just sat around and talked and ate cookies. Kellie spun her roving into yarn while we talked, so it was also educational!


Yesterday my high school friend Todd and I hung out, got burgers, and watched movies. We tend to become very silly, and most of the photos I took are of things like the restaurant ceiling and our shoes, so I'll spare everyone the trauma.

So far today I've gotten up and had lovely conversation with Kel's mom about teaching and writing, and I've spent hours now writing this post. At 2:00 the neighbor will come over to visit and then I'll go chill out with Todd a bit before Kel gets home. I may go out to the choir dinner with her, but haven't decided. Then it's back to the airport bright and early in the morning.

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Being a Pro(fessional) Crastinator

>> Monday, November 30, 2009

Dilatory. Idle. Lackadaisical. Dawdling. Some folks may think this sounds pleasant, as though I'm lounging by a pool holding a sparkly glass with an umbrella in it. I do live in a coastal resort town, and spend a lot of time in the sun on my porch.

Where did I find these lovely words? In the Thesaurus, under "Lazy".

Also listed are the following: Apathetic. Careless. Sluggish. Remiss. Negligent.

This morning I found a blog by a friend from elementary school. She's single, has a puppy, and runs her own business. One of her blog posts was titled "101 in 1001", meaning that she made a list of 101 goals to try to accomplish in 1001 days. That's approximately 6-7 months, I haven't figured it out; she set the list in February and aimed to check in around August. She met more than half of her goals.

Reading her list made me very tired. This is not a good sign. And I realized that, after a while, lackadaisical lemonade lounging in the sun goes from refreshing to negligent pretty darn quickly. So this is something that I probably need to do.

However, I also want to work with my tendencies and not against them. Successful goal-setting always comes hand in hand with the word "appropriate" or it'll never happen. So I'm starting small: Instead of 101 things in 1001 days, I'm going to scoop out a zero and try for 11 things in 101 days. Starting today will give me until March 10th to accomplish my 11 things. Considering that time span includes a MN trip, Christmas (and potential FL trip), my birthday, and Kaylee's birthday, as well as schoolwork, I may be hard pressed to finish 11. But I'm going to try.

My 11 things for 101 days
(in no particular order)

1. finish the Christmas quilt on the wall
2. shred the box of old documents in the attic
3. buy paint and supplies for the livingroom
4. have someone over for dinner
5. plant all the bulbs in the bag by the door (should be sooner than later)
6. get an eye exam and new glasses (before the new year)
7. get an evaluation on my back (orthopedic?)
8. make good homemade soup
9. add at least two more color bands to my knitting project
10. make some money
11. brush the cats twice a week
*Extra goal that's important: Play the piano at least twice a week

Other things that could stand to be done that I'm going to list here before I forget them but that I won't count in the list unless I run out of stuff, which is unlikely...

  • clean the back porch
  • clean the house at least once a month as though my mother was visiting tomorrow
  • home cook extra food for the freezer
  • sort large box of old photos into books

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Apple Cream Cheese Pie

>> Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The first weekend that my father stayed with us for the tennis championship, he apparently brought a bag of apples that went straight into the fruit basket without passing my eyes. And once it's there, it's out of sight for me. So color me surprised when I finally clean the kitchen and find apples! Good, sweet red ones, I think they were Romas.

We ate some, and had a few left. I noticed today that one was bad, so out it went and all but one of the rest I've turned into pie. Initially I wanted to recreate Baker's Square's French Apple Cream Cheese pie, but couldn't find a copy of the recipe. So I stumbled upon Ms. Sue's Creamy Apple Pie and have used that recipe as a base.

So first, I found a pie plate. It's not deep dish, and it should have been, but oh well.

Then I made a graham cracker crust according to the instructions on the box of cracker crumbs. Originally I was going to make Rachel's Butterfinger Pie, which is entirely chilled and not baked, so I put the crust in the fridge for a while. Then I changed my mind and took it out again.

Next I sliced an apple. Way too early, but I wanted to make sure they were still good and worth the effort. They were, and promptly began turning brown. Oh, well.

Then I turned to the cream cheesy bit. Into a bowl went 8 oz Philly original cream cheese, some sugar, and an egg. Beat them up until it looked smooth like I wanted my "cheesecake" to look.

Back to the apples. I chopped up an apple and threw it in my Cuisinart along with two small handfuls of walnuts, sugar, (and here's where I got more creative: added some cinnamon and nutmeg! ooh!). Then I totally ignored Sue's directions. She says to have the apple sliced and I guess mix up the other stuff and then "layer in circular pattern". But for some reason I got confused and just ground it all up in the processor! And I gotta say, it tastes fabulous!

Okay, so, we have a crust in a pie plate. I put a few very thin slices of apples around the bottom, layered it with the cream cheesy goodness, topped that with the ground up apple stuff. Then I sprinkled some walnuts over and pressed them in to make sure they wouldn't burn, and put some thin apple slices over the top. Followed Sue's instruction to cover with dabs of butter and baked the sucker per Ms. Sue's directions.

I've just pulled it out of the oven and it smells amazing. The apples on top dried out and curled a little, so that's not that good. Also, it's a "cheesecake". It only needed to bake in the first place because there's an egg in it, so the cheesy part is a bit gooshy because it's melted.
*note: Apparently I forgot the vanilla. But it still tasted good before I cooked it!

The biggest problem will be the waiting. I gotta let this cool down and then fridge it overnight for me to be happy with it, as I definitely prefer cheesecake cold. Bah! Bah, I say!


My Official Recipe: What went into this specific pie

Crust:
Graham Cracker Crust as it says to do it on the box

Creamy Filling:
1 8oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
Beat cheese 1/4 cup sugar, egg till smooth and spread over bottom of crust. Set aside.

Apple Filling:
2 medium Roma apples *note: I left the skins on, and probably should not have
2 small handfuls chopped Pecans or Walnuts
1/2 Tea. Cinnamon
2/3 Cup Sugar
Throw apple filling ingredients into a food processor and grind the heck out of it. You may have to stop and scrape down the sides a couple of times. Spread it out over the top of the cheese filling, sprinkle some chopped walnuts on top, pressing them into the filling slightly so they don't burn, top with a few thin and pretty apple slices with skins on. Dot with 1 tab. butter. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes and then lower to 350 and continue to bake till apples are tender. The slices on top started getting a bit dry, so at about 20 minutes in I used tongs and flipped them over to get both sides moist.

Let cool, then fridge it if you like cheesecake cold like I do.

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B.C. Technology

>> Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'm playing with this idea which, at the moment, I rather like. It's a comparison. Almost a metaphor, but not quite. Kinda. But it just might work.

I've been part of the generation that I consider the 'between tech' generation; I've known a life where none of my friends had heard of computers, and I've personally participated in the relationship changes from telephone and letter to email and chat. I've traveled from dos-based word-processor-written mailbox mail to two-day-delivery email to bulletin board text-only forums to stand-alone instant messengers to Facebook. I've read a fair number of research articles over the last decade and more about the detriments of online communication, some more extreme than others. I'm attending an entirely online college, and can definitely acknowledge that there's a down-side to the lack of face-to-face interaction.

Here's a common perspective: assuming that you don't use a webcam or computer phone software, which I personally don't (yet), internet communication does not involve body language or tone of voice. Therefore, there's a great deal of potential for misunderstanding someone's intentions. In the case that context isn't clear, the interpretation of an email or a blog post, or even a Facebook status comment, is left up to the reader's mood and knowledge of the person making the comment. This is especially true if the writer is intending to joke around, or if there's a complicated simile or metaphor going on.

I'll simplify and summarize this idea as a statement of fact, just for kicks.

Text relationships, currently online communication, (I'm not counting the eras of letter-writing, in which most cases folks would know one another before writing, and perhaps occasionally phone) does not involve verbal communication or body language, and therefore is interpreted by the reader based on written context, reader's mood (whether or not they're inclined to take offense), and how well the reader personally knows the writer.

So here's where the comparison comes in. The idea of a completely textual relationship, sound-free and lacking non-verbal communication, is not new with technology. In fact, it is incredibly old... about 2000 years, older if you count the period of silence prior to Christ. If that text communication is comparable to a modern text communication, then it would follow that the same conditions exist: context, my mood, and how well I know God are all I have to go on when I read the Bible and try to understand what God meant when He wrote it.

I know that I've heard God speak to me, in words, in my head, so there's the verbal. Christ gave us the Holy Spirit to help us in many ways, discernment and interpretation being part of that. Perhaps the Holy Spirit brings us a subconscious understanding of the non-verbal?

But even with the verbal and the non-verbal parts I'm missing, I still need context. That's easy enough to gather by educating myself in studies and research. Then there's mood. My mood definitely affects how I hear and respond to anything with anyone, no reason that'd change reading what He wrote to me. In fact, my mood actually tends to influence that relationship on my end more than my human ones.

So the last thing, and it's the clincher, is how well I know Him. I instant messaged to one of my best friends the other day, and her response was so intensely her that I saw her posture and heard her tone of voice in my mind. Do I know God well enough that I can just see Him saying that?

I said that was the last thing, but perhaps it ought to have been the first. Because the better I know you personally, regardless of your writing or the context or my mood, the better I will know what you mean. And I'd think that understanding what God means when He's talking to me is really my bottom line. So I have to ask myself, how well do I know Him? And what can I do to know more?

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Battles

>> Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My mother grew up as the daughter of a missionary couple in Nigeria. When she and her siblings grew up and started families, all but one of them returned to the US. My aunt and her husband stayed in Africa and raised my cousins there. I'm no stranger to stories of the miraculous power of God. Where they're living, the spiritual battle is obvious. Evil is real and possessive, and Christian prayer has immediate and definable results. The story that will always be most vivid to me is when my uncle was attacked outside their home by a man with a gun who wanted his car. I believe my cousin was in the back seat. He crawled out the other side and hid, and watched as the man held the gun to my uncle's head and pulled the trigger. When the gun did not fire, he pointed it to the ground to figure out the problem, and that's when the gun went off. I don't recall what words were spoken between the man and my uncle, but the man took the car; the family was unharmed. Another shorter example of the warfare in their country is the fact that the Christians keep tabs on which of the local religious ceremonies are typically celebrated by some with Christian Church or mission burnings. Although not every person they come into contact with holds a gun to their heads or lights their homes on fire, these kind of situations are common and always expected; they put their lives on the line knowing that every person they speak to whom they do not know personally has potential to harm them if they even let on about Christ.

I've heard many stories of this kind, as well as amazing illnesses cured through prayer, demons cast out, amazing unaccountable provisions, and all the other kinds of miracles Christ performs in the New Testament, happening today, but somehow only overseas. I've heard these stories from the pulpit as well, used as examples of how evil is prevalent and how the Holy Spirit still performs miracles. I know that I am not destined for the Sahara or life in a third-world country, but these stories cause me to catch my breath at the fact that people actually have to choose to risk their life for Christ. Not only do they choose to risk their lives every moment (even inside their own home some days) but they know that they are firm in their faith, knowing and believing clearly every element of Scripture, for both protection and witness. As they interact with the Muslim people all around them, they always have a choice: to speak Christ's Truth, which He honors with rejoicing and dependable loving care, to renounce Him in exchange for safety from the people, which I would expect would be quite unreliable... or to water down the Word just enough to try to get a point across without offending anyone who could literally stone them in the street, trusting in their own ability to take care of themselves and rewrite what Christ intended them to share in the first place. But the latter is not why they're there; true knowledge of God's guidance and God's physical and ever-present hand in protection allows them the freedom to offer the Truth. God then stops the gun pressed against their head from firing.

In an odd way, that level of risk gives more meaning to what one believes. If I feel I have nothing much to lose either way in my mostly safe American neighborhood, then it doesn't really matter that much what I believe so long as I have it all worked out by the end. I mentioned that I've heard similar stories in sermons; those sermons typically ended with the concept that though Satan works in blatant and obvious ways like these through non-Christians in third-world countries, in America Satan is subtle. Because we statistically have enough, we don't have to trust in God for things. Because it's acceptable to believe whatever we want to believe, we don't have to think much about what we believe as we never (much) need to depend upon it or march into battle with it. Non-Christians will either not talk about religion, will listen and smile and nod and carry on in their own way, or will argue simply to argue... but I'm quite confident saying that nobody I know in my life would set my house on fire; our laws just don't work that way, and most of us have a pretty safe concept of what's socially acceptable.

The generalizations being made in the sermons I've heard on this is that Satan is obvious and attacks offensively by blatantly using non-Christians in third-world countries, and that he's subtle and attacks through apathy and a tolerant non-Christian society in areas with wealth. In other words, the assumed bottom line in spiritual warfare is that it's Christians (God) vs. non-Christians (Satan). And when I hear my uncle's stories - even the good ones - I feel different inside about it than I feel when I hear of the ways in which Satan is subtle. The anger is righteous, the fear is covered by faith, and the miracles are truly joyful; subtlety is simply annoying and anti-climactic. Though I obviously don't want pain or struggle for anyone, I want what I believe to matter, and right now it really doesn't seem to. What I believe doesn't affect anyone in the life I'm leading. Even as a teacher, though I affect the children, I instruct youth in a Christian environment who are generally willing to believe whatever I tell them. Subtle takes a base of strategy and suspicion before you're even sure there's a battle; in Africa, as far as I can tell, there's such a difference between the Christian and the non-Christian that Christians hold themselves differently and interact with you differently, and assumptions are mostly reliable about what you'll get. You typically don't have to guess. There's something freeing about that to me, a whole "I'm done with the games, let's get to the bottom line" perspective. In some ways I always thought that was somewhat unfair, since Paul says I'll be fighting for my life and right now all I'm fighting is laziness. And frankly, the general assumptions about the use of the American culture just don't sit well with me in a final sense. That just couldn't possibly be the only way it works.

Just today I finally listened to the recordings made of the three parish briefings given to our congregation prior to Saturday's diocese Special Convention. We managed to miss attending all three of them, and I only picked up the copies on Friday. As I sat through three 80-minute CDs I had a growing gut reaction, a somewhat familiar feeling that I couldn't quite place. It wasn't until the middle of the last CD that I realized... this is that feeling, the one with the African car hijacking and the gun that didn't fire.

Have you ever had it happen when you're looking for something on your desk and can't find it, and you get more and more desperate and look in all the drawers and then suddenly realize it's been sitting in front of you the whole time? This is what we've been missing: Satan didn't change his way of using non-Christians, Satan didn't choose to go from causing non-Christians to set fires to causing non-Christians to be indifferent based on location. Satan switched the players! He's taken the obvious and put it in the hands of other Christians, and because we're so focused on fighting outsiders and banding together inside the walls we just simply didn't see it sitting right in front of us. Father Mike quoted someone who compared this current and building Anglican struggle to the biggest spiritual conflict in impact since the Reformation. Considering it's the third largest church denomination in the world, that's not necessarily exaggerated. We're talking about Protestant church leaders who say that Jesus is not the Son of God! Protestant bishops honestly suggesting that the Bible could not be from God! How much more obvious can we get?

I know that in our church system the politics are vitally important, as are the personal relationships between diocese in the worldwide Anglican Communion. I know that this will take careful strategy by our Bishop and leaders and other folks on our side, and they're doing a fabulous job of it already. But it's clear to me that there absolutely are sides of good and evil in this. This is the gun to our head and the match at our doorstep. It's time to be Saharan missionaries to ourselves, willing to know that God won't allow us to be stoned in the street unless it's truly to His greater purpose. I'm overwhelmed by suddenly seeing an arena for action, finally, because what I believe can matter. I'm ready to fight, because I've finally found a battle I recognize enough to know that with the Lord I can stand against it. I see potential to apply my faith in a place of desperate need. Unfortunately, laypeople don't seem to have very much influence in the church political system, so I really don't know where personally to start.

Maybe I should have gone to seminary.

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It's all about theology.

>> Monday, October 26, 2009

In a previous post I provided background of the chaos going on in the Episcopal Church right now, as well as a link to the address from our Bishop on August 13th. This past Saturday the diocese met in a Special Convention in order to vote on five different resolutions meant to clarify our position on the votes from the General Convention in July. There are a lot of articles responding to this Special Convention, some which are accurate and some which are not, as the local secular newspapers have reported on it nearly as much as the Church has. And, as with anything done within a somewhat political arena, even the reports from affected groups tend to vary as to the report of the purpose and intent of what happened on Saturday.

Suffice it to say, what's been done here doesn't appear to have ever happened before, and we have no idea how the impacts will play out. Someone interviewed by one of the secular papers pointed out that when you are a willing member of an organization that utilizes a hierarchy for decision making, you can't just go ahead and make up your own rules when you disagree with the people in charge. But this is more or less what we've attempted to do; what other option is there when the leadership of the church decides on things that appear to be contrary to Christ? If Christ isn't the head of the Church, how can it be called a Christian church? Bishop Lawrence's address (click for the .pdf) clarifies the purpose of the meeting, the specific resolutions that were voted upon (four of five passed overwhelmingly, the fifth was put off for later to be better worded), and what he views for the future of the Diocese.

So now we've come to the point where I give my own personal opinion. I've lately been accused (rightly, though negatively) of having a very black and white view of things, but in the case of theology, I firmly believe there is One Right Way. Just like scientists acknowledge a fundamental (read: "basic and underlying") natural law that creates gravity and seasons and also acknowledge that there's an awful lot of natural law that we are still discovering, I also believe that there is a fundamental spiritual law that creates the reality of the spiritual dimension of our current lives, past, and our eternal future. We know that the law of gravity is right and good and that if someone figured out how to turn off the gravitational pull of the Earth, we'd most likely all die horrible scary deaths. In the same way, I know that the "law" (read: system) of grace and salvation simply Are, and that if someone figured out how to turn off that system, every one of us would die horrible scary deaths in eternity. Most people would call it belief or faith, perhaps a very very deep sense of faith. But I feel it so much more deeply than that; belief and faith waver. My understanding of the framework of spiritual reality simply IS in the same way that I know that if I get up off this sofa I won't just float away. All of this simply to say that I am reacting to the situation in the Episcopal Church with a very clear black and white response: This is about theology. This is about a church and theology. If a church refuses to address theology, then I guarantee you Satan's having the biggest party this side of the one he threw at 9/11 or the Crusades.

Here's what I'm thinking: One of the topics voted on on Saturday is titled "The Lordship of Christ and the Sufficiency of Scripture". Such is the chaos of the Episcopal Church that the Diocese of South Carolina had to have a special meeting to visibly agree that Christ is Lord and the "Scriptures contain everything necessary for salvation." How can we be disagreeing on this in the greater Communion!? This is all about basic and vital theology.

One of the topics voted on is the SC response to the issue of appointing practicing non-heterosexual priests (and other topics related to that issue). *Let me clarify: The resolution on Saturday was not a re-vote on the homosexuality issue, it was a statement of how the diocese will adjust its participation in the national Church in response to the vote in July. My comments here are related to the July vote and not the vote on participation.* I may have said this before, but one role of the church as I understand it is to clarify with Scriptural basis what is a sin and what is not a sin. In fact, churches have been lambasted from the secular community for doing exactly that: being judgmental and too "thou-shalt-not". Everyone who appears to be happy with the decisions from General Convention are those who see this as a social or political issue; by adding too many "thou-shalt-nots" we alienate people from Christ. They find it acceptable to bend the theology to make sure people feel loved and welcomed by the church. I guarantee you that Christ loved the rich young man who asked how he could follow Him; but when the man wasn't willing to sell all he had and never look back (which was what Christ required of him at that time), Christ didn't say "Oh, well, I love you too much... why don't you just sell half of it?" He said, (with disappointment), "Well, then, I'm sorry, but that's the way it is." The church MUST stand firm on theology. This is not a social issue or a debate about loving our neighbors. This is about theology.

(An aside here: Everything I've read in this whole thing also states "tradition" and the "creeds and canons" next to "theology". What the unfamiliar reader needs to understand is that the theology (Holy Scripture) came first; the tradition, creeds and canons are built upon it and create the structure through which the Anglican Communion experiences the theology. Nothing in the tradition, creeds or canons may contradict the Scriptures, according to their own rules for creating them. So when the General Convention contradicts Scriptures, it is also contradicting the basic rules and tenants upon which the denomination was built.)

Okay. So. General Convention wants to allow practicing non-heterosexual people to become priests. I believe the wording was something along the lines of agreeing that "people who believe that they are non-heterosexual may also be called to the priesthood." I agree with that, God can call anyone. However, I take issue with the "practicing". In my understanding of spiritual reality, non-heterosexual practice is sin. I have yet to be presented with any adequate proof in the original Biblical languages or arguments to convince me that it's not a sin. Can I show Christ's love to folks who practice this way? Sure thing! However, if the Church preaches that homosexuality (and other non-hetero practices) are sin, then they should not become priests! No congregation would willingly and excitedly place a kleptomaniac priest who's proud of what he steals in the pulpit, because we all know that stealing is a sin. No congregation would excitedly call a priest who publicly brags (and provides proof) about how many times he cheated on his seminary exams, because cheating is a sin. If the Church believes that non-heterosexual practice is a sin, then these people should not be in the pulpit without repentance and a change of ways! However, if the church does not believe that it's a sin, then why are we discussing it? If it's a non-issue in theology, this would hold the same place as restricting someone from the pulpit because their hair is brown. As in all things here, this is a theology issue.

The third resolution has to do with our diocese helping to seek out and support smaller congregations around the country who are also baffled by the current events, but are either too busy or too small to have any impact. It's basically an outreach mission to our own people who haven't had a voice. The fourth resolution (I think) has to do with how we can change the Anglican Church in theologically sound ways to be applicable to the 21st century. I'm kind of unclear on that one, but we're getting there.


The other interesting event in the life of the church was the Pope's official invitation to disillusioned members of the Anglican Communion (Episcopal Church) to "rejoin" the Catholic Church, making exceptions for them in various traditions and so forth. And there's (surprising to me, but probably shouldn't be by now) quite a bit of positive response to the offer from the Anglican perspective.

This is another area in which my black and white understandings of theology rear their heads. Hopefully all of you have heard of this little bitty thing that happened way back when called the Reformation. Protestants happened (including The Protestant Episcopal Church of America) because people believed that the theology of the Roman Catholic Church was incorrect. The biggest difference, and an exceptionally vital one, was the understanding that Christ's resurrection brought us back to God through grace alone. Roman Catholics have a list of days they must attend church, a system of confession and penance in order to try to make up for their sins on their own. That fundamental theological difference demonstrates a different understanding of why Christ was even on the earth, and when you start changing that, the entire Bible (which ties together in purpose and understanding of God and spiritual reality from beginning to end) and knowledge of spiritual reality is changed. If people don't understand that, then I honestly question how close they may be to Christ at a personal level. If you are truly seeking to understand who God is and your place in the spiritual world, you wouldn't be willing to sacrifice with a leap from Protestant beliefs back to Roman Catholic beliefs for the sake of being guaranteed heterosexual and male priests. Giving up a Protestant world view for a Roman Catholic one is completely missing the underlying points and purpose that Christ has set for us. The difference between the two churches is their statements of how to be eternally saved and know God. To me, that's not negotiable; being "one holy and catholic apostolic church" (from the Nicene Creed) does not extend the meaning of a unified body of believers to the wafting flow of fundamental theology with the Roman Catholic Church. This is a theology issue.


As far as I can tell at this point, the national Episcopal Church is seeing Saturday's meeting either as a bunch of whiny people who don't like the rules trying to look tough or as a complete non-issue that's not worth consideration. But I, for one, am proud of Bishop Lawrence and the leaders in the diocese for recognizing that these are issues of theology and leading us in standing up for Christ and His kingdom. Though they don't have everything right (we are all human), they're willing to look and dig and strive to truly see what Christ wants for and from His church and they're willing to acknowledge and address the impacts that our humanity is having on the Church. In the book of John, Christ said, "20Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also." The Bishop and our leaders have heard these words and are not afraid; they know it won't be easy. But when you choose to follow Christ, it's necessary to make a stand wherever it's needed in His name.

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God speaks to me in airports

>> Monday, September 28, 2009

We arrived at the Charlotte airport Wednesday just before noon, in plenty of time to catch our 2:30 flight to Chicago. I love experiencing the process of air travel and would choose it over road tripping any time finances allowed. I may, in fact, be slightly insane, but I think I'm okay with that.

Airports are enormous structures, thousands of people in a hurry; most of them angry because they're late or their liquid toiletries just missed the 3 oz. bottle limit, others of them seething inside because their job is to take away those toiletries with a happy face, as though they're teachers scoldingly taking away a six year old's toy during assembly, except that everyone realizes that the traveler simply wants to wash his hair at the end of the day. Then there's the running, and the gate changes, and the delays, and the waiting, and the $12 hamburgers, and the obnoxiousness found in all the people cramming into seats around you for an overbooked flight.

The thing of it is that as soon as I step through those CAUTION: AUTOMATIC DOORS with my luggage I no longer have to clean up cat vomit, or develop a paper on the inefficiencies of standardized testing in preschool, or worry about what's for dinner. I make a point to arrive early enough that I can saunter. For two or three hours I can snuggle into Lanse with a happy sigh while I watch the two 20somethings trying to jog down the hall with their hands in each other's pockets. I can grin at the four year old dressed top to bottom like an airline captain, his mother coaching him on how to speak nicely at the desk and hand the lady his ticket. I can cheerfully buy a bottle of water at the news stand and watch the haggard woman with very little English crack a smile after a long stream of grumbling customers. I can marvel at the beauty and the balance and artistic talent in the art on the slim woman's arm in the seat across the gate area. I can sympathize with the tired young mom and dad leading a trailing line of young children like goslings, each proudly pulling their own little tiny suitcase on wheels. I can watch and wonder at the lives of the tall woman in a party dress and stilettos running full-tilt to her gate trying not to break an ankle, or the nun standing in line to board for Cincinnati. And whether or not they're aware of it, God says, "These are mine".

I travel with my iPod Shuffle, a hand-me-down gift from my brother-in-law, because if I read or even focus on pictures while in motion I tend to get sick. Though I have no personal ideology against society's music, I happen to have my Shuffle packed with Christian music of varying genres. I leave my cares at the automatic door and have nothing else to focus on (except during the break when I learn that my nearest emergency exit is behind me), and all I can do is listen to the words. Through them God reminds me that He provides life and purpose, specifically for me, because He loves me, and I just can't sit still as the joy pours out. (Apologies to the woman sitting beside me trying to read!) Through the window I see the city getting smaller, and think of all the thousands of people down there and God whispers, "I am there, I know each one." We fly into a cloud gearing up for a storm and for a few long minutes there's only vaguely yellow nothingness; even the wing disappears for a moment. He says, "I'm here, too, in the nothingness." Then, suddenly, we break through and the sun is so bright that it's momentarily blinding. Blue sky fades into navy into dark as I look up. He directs my gaze down, to where there is a blanket of comforting whiteness between me and the world, and gives me images of beauty (beyond compare) and power (enough to create the weather) and love in the way He takes care of our need for rain and sun and growing things for life. Though this flight was in daytime, I traveled once at night and as we banked in a turn I looked out the window to gaze downward at a star. It is a truly stunning moment when you can imagine being above the stars. Even in the darkness He is not only there, but He put that star in the heavens for me to realize His greatness. He says, "This is who I am; look and see..." and I try to understand the kind of being who could make the clouds and the sunshine and the stars and the talents and ideas that let me soar in between them just so that I can know Him. That same being designed me, purely out of a desire to know and love me, exactly how He made me. I was thought up by the maker of stars and clouds and sunshine. And if stars and clouds and sunshine show who He is, how do I?

We're flying home on Wednesday, and I can't wait to see what He's going to show me. I pray that I remember to keep my eyes open.

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Being Me

>> Monday, September 21, 2009

I'm studying disability culture in my connections class this mod, and next term I have a six week course on Special Needs. We watched a video called "In My Language" made by Amanda Baggs, who has Autism, and though it was uncomfortable to watch, it seems to have broken through something in my head as to how I think about folks with these kinds of differences. I highly recommend watching it for a new perspective.

It's also odd going through these classes having been a special needs student myself. Though all I really needed was lower furniture, an extra set of textbooks and a few extra minutes to change classes, I technically was part of the Special Education department in high school (which sucked), but completely mainstreamed so it never even crossed my mind as being Who I Am. There are other times when it's completely obvious to me in both good and bad ways, so I thought I would share some of those with you.

[Okay, so I made a Pros and Cons list, but then the cons got me depressed, so I'm just leaving in a couple and will leave in the Pros so I feel better about me. Sounds like a plan.]

Pros and Cons of Being Me

Pro: I have never spent more than $10 on one blouse that I am aware of.

Pro: I've learned how to sew.

Pro: My house is obviously very clean, because I can't see any crumbs [dust/fingerprints/dirt] all over the kitchen counter [piano/fireplace mantle/bookshelves/buffet]. (Please bring a blindfold when you visit.)

Pro: We make good use of space to put most things in my house within my reach.

Pro: I tend notice people's shoes and interesting floor tiles or find random lost coins and things when I stand in lines. Related Con: I'm also eye (and nose) level with your backside, if you are in front of me. Please do not fart.

Pro: I can make use of the bottom shelves in my cabinets in my kitchen that most people don't.

Pro: I can sneak up on people and be otherwise surprising when I want to be.

Pro: I can see under things that are set on counters or stands, and often find interesting lost things there.

Pro: I can take amazing photos of children because I'm not off balance when I shoot at their level.

Pro: I can pet my cats as I walk past without bending over.

Pro: Flowers are closer; I stop and smell them frequently.

Pro: I can weed my container garden standing up (as long as the mosquitoes haven't drained me of blood for the day...)

Pro: I can get permission to ride my bicycle in unorthodox places, and I have a Go Anywhere 3-wheeler, in shiny metallic red.

Pro: I am educational to both the child who asks me questions and the child who runs backwards into a closed door because he's watching me instead of where he's going. I guarantee you both children learned something.

Pro: Friendly people carry my groceries (and other heavy things) to the car for me.

Pro: I often have to stay in one place waiting for people or things to happen. This is a "pro" because it's honed my observation skills and I get the joy of sitting by a lake surrounded by dragonflies, or people watching in the mall, or learning the patterns of the birds in my backyard or the neighbors to-ing and fro-ing, or catching up at church with people I wouldn't normally talk to much. Staying still and learning quiet is a blessing that I may not have been granted had I not been forced to sit down more frequently.


There's more on both sides of the coin, but that's a start anyway.

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Romance (and other such things)

>> Thursday, September 17, 2009

I've written three or four blog posts in the elapsed month since my last post. Unfortunately, they were all written in my head while I was trying to go to sleep, and I never remember them in the morning. So, as a friend once blogged herself, unless you're psychic and were tuned in at the right times, you'll all just have to do without.

My husband and I are apparently really in tune with one another. (As an aside, I've noticed that the ladies in blogs that I read all give their husbands nicknames in the search for anonymity or discreetness. Nothing I think of feels right to me for mine though. Something to think about.) We've reached a new stage in our relationship where, though we're very much still in love and still even a bit smitten in the 'new love' kind of way, we're finding a groove for the long-term. We're exploring and finding ways that work for us in communication and conflict resolution, we've come a really long way in our ability to relate to life with each other - oddly enough through the Financial Peace University concept (we can actually joke together about money!), which relieved an awful lot of general family stress. And even though we get into that feeling that we can finish each others' sentences, we've realized that we still need to let them express it themselves, and sometimes recognize where our assumptions lay and when we need to clarify something before it becomes a conflict.

This is a good thing. It definitely feels new, but a lot more permanent... like something's really changed. It's a good thing, and necessary. But with the comfort of expression comes the willingness to tackle those things that we didn't know how to address before. Overall a good thing, but also a bit intimidating. No, my love (as I know you read this!), there's nothing in particular I want to bring up... I'm just noticing the more comfortable we are the more we've been exploring deeper life changes. We've been making the changes together, which is what we all hope to do in our marriages.

So by this point, you're looking at the title and going "Yeah, fine, but where's the romance!?" Today he had to actually go in to the office for meetings, and had quite an adventure with a tire blowout on the way. I knew he'd be tired and hungry when he got home at six, so I planned a special surprise dinner. I set the table upstairs (so he wouldn't know until eating time) with candles and our wedding china, which hadn't been used in at least a year, and got to cooking the steak. He got home, helped me a little bit in the kitchen, and then went ahead and set the table while I was cooking. That's becoming our routine when I cook, so I didn't think anything of it.

When the food was ready I turned around to notice that he'd set the dining room table with our wedding china, and made specially folded napkins, all to surprise me.

I'm completely blown away when things like this happen. We joke about sharing a brain and everyone knows that we really don't, but then we have the same idea at the same moment after a long period of time for no reason at all. I am so incredibly blessed that God saw fit to give me this man, and I hope that even when things get rough I will always see fit to be thankful.

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Bishop Mark Lawrence's address to Clergy regarding the latest General Convention

>> Thursday, August 13, 2009

I'm so relieved that someone stepped up and spoke up for Truth for the Episcopal Church. Now I'm just praying that the fire is lit under each member of every congregation... so many regular attenders have no idea anything's going on, or at least they don't care or don't think it's important.

This letter is long, but well-written and worth reading in its entirety.

Bishop Lawrence's letter on Kendall Harmon's blog

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End of July news

>> Sunday, August 2, 2009

There's really not much; I'm in Applied Math right now, and finding how much I really enjoy it even when it's hard. I was one of those obnoxious students who found school easy, even in High School, in everything except math. Of course, as one of those people, if it's hard it means you hate it... and I've always thought I hated math. But when I was teaching elementary math it started to be fun, and I found ways to do it differently. So now that I'm back in a college math course, I'm usually able to work for a while, take a break, get frustrated... and then really relish the victory when I figure it out. It's a good thing. I never liked challenges, school being easy made me lazy and proud of it. Now I'm kind of liking the challenge.

We're refinancing the house, finally, with the government help to banks for folks upsidedown on the mortgage (lost equity in the economy thing). That should close Tuesday.

We had new friends from church come over for lunch last week and we had a fabulous time. It's so good to find kindred spirit friends. They stayed a few hours, we had good food and lots of conversation and the kids were really good.

Spent a great time visiting my cousins last night. Good times. My one cousin lives here, but we don't see them very often because they're so busy. Her sister and her kids came to visit this week, so we had dinner over there. They'll be coming sometime this week for lunch too.

Otherwise, my bean plants finally have blooms, one pepper rotted but we picked the other one (haven't eaten it yet) and there's three new blooms, the onions are still kind of tall seedlings, I don't know if those will work out. We've eaten three tomatoes and there's four more green ones growing. I'm praying desperately that we avoid the rampant tomato blight that's killing the crops; one source said that it started with seedlings sold from Home Depot, Lowes, KMart and Target, and we got ours at Home Depot before the recall. Some leaves look strange, but the tomatoes look okay so far.

I woke up with a light headache today that I thought was tension in my neck, so I took an ibuprofen. Half hour later I got migraine symptoms, but can't take my migraine meds because I took the ibuprofen and they interact. I have to wait until the ibuprofen's worn off. So I'm missing church with only vague feeling in my hand and a small bit of pain starting to creep in my head. I love my mother's family enormously, but I really wish they'd refrained from passing along this little bit of genetics.

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You know it's August when...

...the school dreams start up again. Night before last mom took me back to Wheaton to settle me into the dorm. Apparently I had left four tall bookcases of books in the lobby as a library since I didn't want to move them the end of the previous year, and they were all still there but with evidence of having been read. Of course, the dorm didn't look at all like any dorms at Wheaton. My room was number 176, on the third floor, first door on the right after you got off the elevator. Everything was very bright with sunshine and the walls or carpet or something was pale blue. My roommate had already arrived, settled in, and was trying to go to sleep (it was suddenly night). Every dorm room came with a pet raccoon, which ran to the middle of the room and stared at me as I stood in the door talking to my nondescript roommate. After that it was all were-floormates and love magic and clones and weird computer stuff. And gaming friends from Reaper were there too.

Then last night I was a teacher on a field trip returning to Calvin, my Elementary and Middle school in Minnesota. For whatever reason I didn't know which room was mine, so I wandered down the Middle School wing and found my name above two different doors... apparently I was a part time in three different positions. I also wondered if my locker combination still worked. The classrooms looked pretty cool. Then we were preparing for parent night, and I was changing clothes in public, and a youngish male teacher ran into the room I was in and piled a bunch of stuff in the middle of the room and lit it on fire... and a bunch of us were throwing cupfuls of water on it, but it would die and spring back like trick birthday candles. My cats were there too, and I was trying to do all my prep for parent night and not let my boy cats find the other teacher's cats and start a fight.

I have to write a paper today, so we'll see if in tonight's episode I end up as the student or the teacher. It's early yet, odds are still pretty even.

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Episcopal vs. Anglican

>> Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Please keep in mind as you read this that I am simply a lay person with internet access and only two perspectives: mine, and that of our priest which I only sort of understand. What's written here is simply my overall understanding which, with my faulty memory, may be inaccurate. For more information on all of this, please visit Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall Harmon's blog which links to all of the official news releases. Here's a link to a search on the topic.

We are a part of a wonderful family of believers at an Episcopal church here in Charleston. For folks unfamiliar with Episcopalian origins, here's a very abbreviated version: when folks left England to settle in the New World (America) most of them had worshiped in the Church of England, also known as Anglican today. Of course, they didn't want to be connected to England anymore, so they renamed it "Episcopal". In its roots, Episcopal = Anglican.

In the recent era, (I forget for how long, since the '70s I think...) there've been a lot of questionable statements and decisions made by various Bishops in the interpretation of Scripture and a lot of the foundational things summarized in the Creeds, such as Christ being God's Son, the Bible being the direct Word of God, and their understanding of what things are sins and to what extent that should influence leadership appointments. Because the organization of the national Episcopal Church is more independently democratic than heirarchical, there aren't necessarily people who can directly apply consequences to questionable decisions in any easy fashion. So the Episcopal church (officially recognized as part of the worldwide Anglican Communion) is pretty screwed up, and the details of the theology seems to be somewhat unique by congregation or diocese (a group of congregations in a stated area). Our church and our diocesean Bishop are pretty much on track according to Lanse and my understanding of scriptures, and we are doing what we can to have a voice for Truth in the whole Episcopalian mess.

However, a bunch of congregations decided they were fed up with it all, and created a more theologically traditional organization called the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). It was all made official last week down in Texas. The weird thing is that there are a lot of Anglican churches in Africa who saw the mess the Episcopalians were making, and many years ago sent missionaries to the US to plant Anglican churches. (How weird is that?? We sent missionaries to Africa back in the '60s and now they're sending them back to missionary us!) At Easter we went to an African-planted Anglican church in Charlotte. Remember that at its roots, Episcopal = Anglican; so though many are seeing it as a split from the church, the ACNA was created to basically bring the USA's Anglican presence back to where they think it should have been, more in line with its Church of England roots. The ACNA has quite a lot more members than I expected from what I'd heard thus far, but while the Archbishop of Canterbury has called them an Anglican organization, they haven't been officially recognized yet as part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. According to some news articles, that vote won't happen until December.

The whole thing has made me assess once again what I believe on specific topics and how I mentally categorize information, and what opinions I hold based on evidence versus rumor or hard-headedness. While I definitely believe that the statements made by Episcopal bishops are waaaaay off track and can point to scripture to back up my beliefs, I know there's at least one thing in which the ACNA may be going too far back into tradition; I don't know what other things they've made a stand on, but there could be more. I don't know if this is because they honestly believe in these things or if they're reactionary decisions. They've also aligned themselves with a very popular theological leader who I've been shown evidence of questionable leanings in his theology... however, this is one area in which I've unfortunately decided based on rumor and the source of information, and have not personally read any of his books. That tendency has always strongly bothered me in other people so I really need to take the time to do my own research, as he seems to be acquiring more power in Christendom and I may want to have an actually educated opinion.

This whole situation has weighed heavily on Lanse and my heart since we were originally informed of the issues months ago. We both grew up in denominations without any kind of obvious structure like the Episcopal Church has, the denominational theological perspectives were clearly written and heavily preached upon, and obvious disagreements were settled relatively quickly. Of course, any group comprised of humans have problems, and a lot of our church interactions were passive aggressive or handled entirely behind the scenes, or not given due consideration before rendering judgement. But something of this scale would never be given enough ground in which to root itself. (As an aside, that's not always a good thing... we both often heard or experienced church splits when the issue really was worth standing and fighting for. I can think of at least one congregation from my childhood where the church happily continued its merry way with suddenly faulty theology.) Despite all this, we both feel very strongly called to be part of the family in our congregation.

Please pray for the national Episcopal church, the discussions and votes on theological matters that will be made at the General Convention in California in a couple of weeks, the interactions between us and the ACNA, the ACNA and the Archbishop and worldwide Communion, our S.C. bishop and priests at St. Paul's... and Lanse and myself as we try to determine where we fit in all of it.

Again, for more information on all of this, please visit Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall Harmon's blog which links to all of the official news releases. Here's a link to a search on the topic.

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Beans!

>> Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Holy jumping green bean, Batman! Check it out:

9:30 a.m. yesterday, June 15

Lanse says that when he got up this morning just after 7:00 it was taller, but had no leaves on it. Here's what I found when I went to the kitchen at 9:30 this morning, 24 hours later, June 16:

You can't quite tell from the angle of this shot, but the plant is curled towards the window. I turned it around after taking this photo, and now, at just after 11:00, all the leaves have opened out and it's curled toward the window again... in the other direction. If I had any faith in my self-discipline, I would set up a same-angle shot every 20 minutes for the rest of the day to watch this sucker's growing action! It appears I may have planted the cousin to Jack's Magic Bean!

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Garden Pix

>> Monday, June 15, 2009

Click the photo for the set on Flickr.

P.S. Something is eating holes in the basil (not gnawing the edges), and it's not me. I can't find any bugs or worms or spiders on the leaves or in the pot though, so I don't have a solution at the moment. Suggestions welcome.

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Self-sufficiency

>> Tuesday, June 9, 2009

We're nowhere near capable of being self-sufficient in comparison to friends of ours, but at the very least we may not have to frequent the produce aisle as much this summer. Last year the whole garden thing was an experiment, since I'd never grown food before (except the raspberries that came with our last house). We had tomatoes and green bell peppers, basil, rosemary and marjoram that did lovely things. Cukes and strawberries bombed.

So this afternoon we hit Home Depot Garden Center and got the things that did well last year, though I got something called Patio Tomatoes which they claim are better suited for container gardening (last year's were regular tall growers and kept falling over because everyone was sold out of tomato trellis things). Tomatoes, green peppers, basil, (the rosemary and marjoram are still going strong from last year... in fact, I should give the rosemary its own pot). But I couldn't just leave it at that, I have to continue the experimentation! I got seeds for green onions, because we've started eating a lot of those, and for green beans "bush beans", that apparently don't climb so hopefully they'll do okay in a really big pot. We'll see! All of the plants say "full sun: min 6 hours daily", and if there's anything the south's got enough of, it's sunshine. I really do want to spring for the container soaker hose I saw in a magazine once, but I couldn't find it back when I had the money for it, and now I don't. Stick one of those on a timer and we'll have the heat licked. I'll have to budget it in if I can find it again.

I got the seeds planted in peat pots, and planted the basil, and got the dirt set up for the pepper and tomato, at which point the mosquitoes were having an all church pot-luck on my legs so I gave it up. Tomorrow those two get into the dirt.

Oh, and Home Depot has a 1 year guarantee on the plants so if the Japanese beetles get any - or I kill them by treating the beetles, like last year - I can get a new one for free!

I will definitely keep you updated.

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Trek

>> Sunday, May 31, 2009

I remember sitting on my parent's bed when I was a child watching the original series Star Trek with my dad. I didn't really stop watching Trek until the third season of DS:9 and the second season of Voyager, (laying on the floor in the family room with my dad on the couch behind me) at which point it didn't hold enough interest for me to stay with it through college. While I have very vivid dreams at night, they're entirely of my own creation, the characters being people I know in my real life... except for the few that revolved around episodes of Doctor Who and Star Trek. I've had Star Trek cast dreams since High School. But over all, Star Trek is nostalgic happy memories with me and my dad, a half hour (or hour) every evening after the news when I knew that I got Dad Time no matter how bad a day it was for him at the office. Star Trek is a part of me.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm coming out. I hereby admit that I [may be] a closet Trekkie. Except that I've been smart enough to realize that being a Trekkie is kind of embarrassing, so I'm a Trekkie without the obsession. I'm not sure exactly what that makes me. Probably just a squeeing fangirl. Regardless, Lanse pointed out on our drive home tonight that I've probably seen more Star Trek episodes than he has, which has the potential of me having been a geek sooner than he became one. And that, my friends, creates quite a paradigm shift in my head. (I think it'll all come down to the date of my first Star Trek episode against the date of his first very own computer. We'll get back to you on that.)

Overall, the new Star Trek movie is very much like going to visit someone for the first time and discovering that their house has exactly the same layout as your own. You're very comfortable in their house - you know where the bathroom is without having to ask - but it feels completely different because it's someone else's house. (Yes, I did just compare Star Trek to a bathroom... but in a good way!)

I absolutely loved this movie. I had a very hard time driving home because I wanted to set a course at warp speed and not get a speeding ticket. For me, big screen power makes real world power-hungry. Instead I resorted to a great deal of maniacal laughter just for kicks and only a little (teensy!) speeding. Finally, as someone else on the internet said earlier (no idea who, but I read it somewhere), I really was expecting Spock to calmly point at someone and slice their head open. I feel concerned that Zachary Quinto has been typecast (he's much too good an actor and too cute for that), and suddenly realizing the similarities between Spock and Sylar's demeanors was quite unsettling. But I think they did a fantastic job of creating an updated redesign and staying true to the important things while becoming something entirely new at the same time.

Final verdict: Me + Star Trek = Happiness

Now we just have to figure out how to go back and rewatch the entire original and TNG series without any breaking laws. Wish us luck. Or long life and prosperity... that'll work too.

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I now pronounce you...

>> Friday, May 29, 2009

Ten years ago at this very moment we were doing this:


Thank you, Lansing my love, for sticking with me over the last decade, for supporting me, for sometimes making my coffee and doing my laundry, for working your tail off so we could have a good home, for holding me when I cry for no reason and being goofy with me and making me laugh until I cry. And also for not smearing the cake all over my face.

I love you.

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Writer's Block Unblocked

>> Thursday, May 28, 2009

There's been so much going on so quickly that I've suffered a bit of writer's block, which is really quite frustrating. Needless to say, we're home and simultaneously content and discontent. Overall content, I think... the discontent solely revolves around living so far from everyone we love.

My father explained this past weekend that the curse of my generation is that we think too much, evidenced by the blogging phenomenon, I would guess. His parent's generation and earlier had too much hard work to do just to survive; Dad's generation had a good work ethic but also recognized that their parents had worked so hard that they generally failed to build deeply solid relationships with their kids. So his generation got touchy-feeley but still productive, and produced all kinds of convenience things to leave my generation with just the touchy-feeley and loads of idle time on our hands. With as much mental agony I put myself through I'm wholeheartedly behind his theory.

Before our trip to Dallas, I frantically did my homework and submitted inquiries on 24 children (or sibling-groups), getting our adoption inquiry process organized and paperwork assembled and such. Then we flew off, and had a lovely time with our friends which I sort of posted about two entries ago. Came home, frantically finished my last week of homework for the term, put in more inquiries, cleaned the house a little bit, loved on the cats, and then we drove off to Ohio to see family.

We had a great time. Some folks had arrived on Wednesday; we arrived Friday, some arrived Saturday morning. Everyone was there for Saturday dinner, and then some Wednesday arrivers left after dinner and different families left at various times between then and Tuesday, which is when we left. I think everyone was gone by that evening. "Everyone" equals 46 (and #47 due next week), but Uncle David, cousins Kelly and Cara, and Cara's husband and kids weren't there. So Saturday dinner fed... 39. It was a lot of fun, but took everyone by unhappy surprise when people started leaving right away.

At least my family really embraced the idea of "vacation". We all sat around talking, eating, watching movies, and at most times of the day there was at least one person taking a nap. There was ping-pong and Rook and sports events and my uncle's gun room that the guys liked to poke around in, and an enormous yard backing up to a horse ranch, and lots of little kids running around. My brother, his wife, and my Kaylee were there, which was (of course) the best part. My uncle had put up a large canvas canopy on each level of the deck and one out in the yard, and at one point we had a sudden and enormous storm which deposited the upper canopy on the roof of the house. That was interesting. The canopy frame was damaged, but the roof and gutters were fine.

So we came home on Tuesday to three very insecure felines and a bit of the plague. Someone at the reunion shared some germs (the second youngest was feverish when we first arrived, so I assume it was her); but both my folks and my darling husband have had fever and sore throat and stuff. After talking to my recently plagued father on the phone, it sounds like Lanse got away with just a mild case, and he's been miserable. So far I'm unaffected, but we'll see how it goes.

So now I'm home and this is my week of vacation from school, so I'm really being wasteful with my time. I almost framed and hung some African art that I have, but the frame I was going to use isn't big enough. I have done three loads of laundry, so that's something. There's one left to do, which I shall do soon. We have no food in the house except for leftovers from pizza we ordered last night, because we finished it all before we left so it wouldn't go bad. At some point a trip to Walmart is in order. I also got my term grades and have maintained my happy G.P.A. Our social worker is working from home this week, which means that she's writing someone's homestudy and is hard to reach. This bothers me because she's failed to update me on what I should be doing this week while I have the free time. So I spent some of that free time getting tickets for our trip to New York over July 4. Time well spent, I think.

My final bit of exaltation is that last night I finally finished reading my Bible cover to cover. Well, really middle to middle, since I started in Matthew back in 2006. But this is the first time I've read the entire Book; I'm 32 (was 29 when I started) and before that my overall Bible knowledge was actually a lot deeper, but was kind of dipped... I knew specific areas really well and had never heard of others. Now I know that I've laid eyes on the whole thing, whether or not it made any sense. I start again tonight.

And that, as they say, is that.

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Travel

>> Saturday, May 23, 2009

We drove from Charleston to Zanesville, Ohio, yesterday. I really love driving, especially in good weather in the mountains. Lanse let me sleep about an hour and I did all the rest. We had good weather for the whole trip, the first time in a while. This is the same route we take when we drive from the Carolinas to New York, so we're pretty familiar with it, and normally we hit some nasty blinding precipitation, typically on the turnpike with semi-trucks behind us.

This time we had sunshine and a few clouds, and only one very aggressive truck on our bumper. Almost all of the CDs we have in the car have been scratched, so we went through them and switched them out when they started skipping. It was slightly annoying, but we managed. We arrived to find everyone having dinner. I hadn't realized that everyone actually managed to come to the reunion except one uncle, so that's pretty cool. My brother and fam arrive at noon, and Mom and I are meeting them at the hotel.

My favorite quote from the drive, while in the mountains: "Dude, this is the perfect music for this game... I mean driving..." (me) "Should I take over now?" (Lanse)

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Environmental Identity

>> Thursday, May 21, 2009

I was once again reminded of how the environment has the ability to begin defining who you are. Of course, I say "begin" because at some point you realize that you are being defined instead of defining yourself and put a kibosh on the whole thing. At least one would hope.

What I'm talking about is that phenomenon* where you act in one way say, at school, and another way at work and another way at home. It's not really a different "you", it's really more like different parts of you; you can be the controlling organizational one at work, the quiet studious one at school who sits in the back, the obnoxious baseball fan, and enjoy reading in front of the fire in the evenings, but friends who only know you in one situation may have a completely different picture of what defines "you" than someone in a different situation. That is what I'm talking about.

The next question then is why am I talking about it? We went to ReaperCon in Dallas** this last weekend, and I was surprised to find myself needing time to adjust to myself. There were a couple of people I'd never met (or forgot I met) with whom I found myself acting, or wanting to act, one way. I helped out running the registration desk, which brought out my repressed administrative skills and a little bit of my power-hungry side. I can be very power hungry, but simultaneously insecure, which makes for a very interesting and sometimes poorly-controled result. I don't know if it's greed or self-defense, honestly. Anyway, the strangest thing was that, even though the gaming world is something that I treasure because Lanse and I enjoy it together, in that specific setting I realized that I did not know how to interact with him. He went to his corner of the convention, I stayed in mine; and while I was very proud of him, I couldn't cognitively decide what was the best way to be around him there. The wife-me conflicted with the leader-me which conflicted with the artist-me and the socialite-flirty-me. It's been so long since I've defined myself as anything other than wife-me that I had to take actual moments to stop and make decisions about who I was.

In the end, though, I figured me out. Now that we're home, I kinda miss the me that found balance... again. ReaperCon was fantastic, seeing all the old friends and finding new friends who felt like old friends. The artist-me got some painting time, which turned out okay even without proper light. Lanse won two bronze medals for his painting, and I am so proud of him that it aches. Being one of Bryan's assistants was sort of like when you're a kid visiting your dad's office and being allowed to run errands; everyone knows you and lets you go into restricted areas but you don't really know the rules so you get away with more than you should... and you know it. There's a bit inside every kid who feels at home somewhere away from home where they're given freedom to run around, and that's what it was like. Home away from home. Except now that we're actually home, I feel like I'm not myself again.

We're having a family reunion this weekend at my uncle's house. I'm curious as to which parts of me will be the most obvious.

I also think that perhaps I think too much.


*doot doo-doot doot
** Pictures of the event are on my flickr account and I also did a set called Monkey Goes to ReaperCon that Reaper's webmaster, Kit, hosted for me.

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Crock pot balsamic chicken

>> Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This is a food post. If you are not hungry now, you will be. Don't hold it against me if you keep reading.

I needed something to make for supper. Yesterday I found chicken breasts in the freezer and brought them out but they didn't thaw in time to do anything useful with. So today I decided I'd crock pot em. But how? And with what flavors? We're leaving town for a couple of weeks, and have been wearing our pantry and fridge pretty thin, since we don't want to restock before we leave. After some Googling, I came across this stove top recipe, which seemed a good a place to start as any:
http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1739,154179-231197,00.html

First I opened the chicken package. Okay, when it says "Chicken breasts" with no quantity, but it's an armful for me, I figure 4 small or medium, like the size you get in a bag from Tysons. What I got were 2 enormous chicken breast fillets, half an inch thick, and the two didn't fit side by side in the 6 qt. crock. Fit in as best I could, just the chicken fills 1/2 the pot. Lanse and I could make a meal with leftovers from just one, but it's chicken... and we're leaving town.... and it's been thawed.... so it's gotta be cooked. It all went in.

As mentioned before, this is not a crock pot recipe. It takes the chef through the process of breading and frying the chicken. I prefer baked over fried, generally better for you anyway, so I just ignored the flour and oil and whatever else they had related to frying the chicken. Into the pot with the chicken I put a can of mushrooms (drained), and then the herbs and spices, and the ingredients for the sauce (chicken stock and balsamic vinegar). We get concerned about acidity levels around here, so I only put in half the balsamic, which smells like plenty. I also had a problem because it says to put in a bay leaf and then remove it later, but all I had was a jar of crushed up bay leaves. So I looked up the equivalences and threw it in there. I expect that will change the flavor from the original recipe. The other conversion I had to do was that I didn't have any fresh garlic, only garlic salt. So I figured out those numbers and made the change. There's a pretty good chance this'll be too salty, between the garlic salt, chicken stock, and the fact that habit found me with the kosher salt & peppering that I automatically do to all my meats. But if that's the case, we can forgo the sauce and just eat the chicken.

Now, here's where it got interesting. Crock pot rules are typically that "Low" = 6-7 hours, and "High" = 3-4 hours, so you can time it to eat when you want. I got everything in at 12:30, and Lanse has to be somewhere at 5:30, so I figured that High was the safest bet. So I set it on there, and let it go. Right around 2:00 I thought, "Ya know, this is chicken, and I got this new spiffy probe thermometer..." So I stuck it in the biggest chicken piece and set it for 161. (The guide on the back said Poultry is safe at 165 and there's always carryover to plan for.)

The timer went off 20 minutes ago. That'd be 2:40. Just a wee bit early.

So... I basted the tops to keep them moist, turned it down to Low, and here's praying it doesn't all dry out by the time dinner comes 'round. I gotta tell you all though, it's times like these when I pray for the invention of Smell-o-Vision. I could just sit and breathe this in all day long, and I'd love to be able to share it!

My final step will be to pour the juices into a pan and thicken it with a little corn starch for a good sauce. There was a similar step in the original recipe which relied on the flour from frying the chicken, so that's an acceptable replacement and goes more quickly than making a roux. I'm also leaving out the butter because the chicken fat will have contributed quite enough, thanks.

My final final step will be to make some noodles and a veggie to go with it.

I just finished lunch, but in writing this post I'm really hungry again! I guess I've only myself to blame...

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Setting examples

>> Sunday, May 10, 2009

I am SO PROUD of my baby brother.

As the eldest, it is my responsibility to set a good example; failing out of college really didn't help in that department. My brother tried college for a bit, then ran away to the Army. One side of our extended family wailed at the obvious loss of a successful future on our parts; the other side embraced us seemingly because of our failures. Strange world. So then he got married and went back to school while still in the military and working, had a baby. I've gone back to school too. But now... NOW...

Well, just LOOK what he did!!

He went and got himself a spiffy hat!

Way to let your big sister set a good example. *grin* I love you, bro. Well done.

(Oh, and for everyone else: any post-college employment prayers for him would be highly appreciated. Thanks!)

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Tribute to Moms

At least for me, this is when all the Mother's Day stuff started. I don't know if my mom's first Mother's Day had come yet or (having been born in January) if I was still too young. I'm the little one you can't see very well because everyone chose to wear white with the sun shining on them. My mom is holding me, her mother is behind her, and my grandpa's mom is in front. Four generations, three moms.

We all grew up, and then my brother and Rachel created generation 5. Way to go, Bro! Rachel is a fantastic mom, and we dote over Kaylee like... well, like you'd expect with the first Grandbaby. Some day soon we hope to expand Gen 5, though Mother's Day will most likely not be the best day of the year. But I'm looking forward to finding out!

We absolutely must not ever forget to mention this wonderful Mom, the mother of my husband. Aren't they all so cute? Thank you, Corky, for being such a wonderful Mom and for raising Lanse to be so wonderful as well.


There are many more photos I could share, and would, as well as many sappy "I did this with my Mom once" stories. However, I have no more time right now, but that doesn't make their morals any less true:



WE LOVE YOU, MOMS!!

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Crock Pot Quiche

>> Saturday, May 9, 2009

Although I located much encouragement on the internet about making quiche in my crock pot, I don't recommend it. I wouldn't have tried if Googleland screamed BAD, and it wasn't really horrible. It baked just fine and looked quite pretty in the pot, and didn't actually taste bad. (Didn't really taste good either.) But the consistency was just what you'd expect with a wet cooking method; kind of slimy and pocked like coral. It looked very... odd... once it was cut. My mouth didn't enjoy the experience.

Final verdict: Don't make quiche in a crock pot, even though you can.

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Hunny

>> Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Based upon the evidence at Heidi's post, I have just returned home with a jar of local honey from Bee City, which is somewhere around here, though I bought it at a produce stand on Central Avenue, but after Central turned into something else. The theory is that if I am allergic to South Carolina, after a few weeks of eating honey I won't be anymore.


Here are a few honey-related thoughts for your contemplation:

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn
't know what it was called

"That buzzing-noise means something. If there's a buzzing noise, somebody's making a buzzing-noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you're a bee. ....
And the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey.....
And the only reason for making honey is so as I can eat it."


Image linked to source

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Moving forward

>> Monday, May 4, 2009

WE'RE HOMESTUDY READY!!

Please take the time to read this post at our adoption blog. In order to find our child, we need to network ourselves and get our name known in the Social Worker fields. We desperately need your help in getting that done, and that link will clarify what we're hoping you can help with.

Thanks so much for all your prayers and support. The past two+ years were the busywork; now we're starting the truly emotional bit, and it could take a while. Please continue to pray!

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Beginnings

>> Monday, April 27, 2009

In the mid 1970s, a Bible missionary's daughter raised in Africa met a street-wise lapsed Catholic from Chicago at a graduation party. I can only imagine how the innocence she gained through her faith and a third-world country upbringing clashed with his long hair, cigarette smoking, beer drinking, dirt-bike-racing way of life. He asked her out; after determining he wasn't a Christian, she said no. The first outing they had together was to a Bible Study, where he asked hard questions and heard the Lord speak. He responded clearly and surely, independently of his interest in the missionary's daughter. A few years later they married.

It was a Wednesday in early January when she went into labor with her first child, having no idea how their lives were about to change. Things weren't too bad at that point, so she carried on doing laundry and making dinner, completing the chores for the day, and again on Thursday. On Friday she went to the hospital to began the hard and complicated labor.

Her daughter came into the world around 8:40 Saturday morning, throwing everything into a panic. Something was wrong, her proportions were all off, her head too big and her limbs too small... there was no way to have foreseen this. There were tests and scans and then she went into the incubator. Organs were missing; or maybe there were extra ones; there had to be brain damage. Really, no one had seen this before, no one knew what to do. The doctors broke the news: "She won't last the night." The baby's father, new in faith, went home and sobbed.

She lasted the night. But the damage was obviously too severe, they could tell just by looking. "She won't last the week." When they brought her out of incubation and she breathed just fine, they sent her home. There was nothing they could do, it was more kind to let her live out her short life at home. So they took her home, in tears and mourning and fear and questioning God and relying on faith and prayer.

She made it through that month, and then through the year. Her parents taught her about God's love and His hand in her life, and how He brought them peace even when there was very little understanding. And then they realized that she wasn't slowing down; there was no sign of an end, only a beginning. Slowly they put their life back together.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It wasn't until I was 7 years old that my father met a woman at work who looked as I could have looked at her age. She directed our family to Little People of America, where we finally received a diagnosis of Spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia, a form of Dwarfism. Missing parts: Zero. Brain damage: None. Predicted lifespan: Normal.

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About This Blog

Life is about changes; transitions from one place to another, from one purpose to another, from one being to another. They say that the person you are today is a completely different person from who you were ten years ago and who you'll be ten years from now. So far, at the age of 33, I've had four major transitions in my life which redefined who I am. Two years into the results of the most recent transition I am again - still - exploring how God is shaping me. Over the next few months I hope to review my past and set goals for the future, and embrace the next adventure of rediscovering me.
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