Friday, December 11, 2009

2 Talents, or 5?

The other day, Boundless blog asked what our talents were and are we wasting them? Ouch. Yes. I'm a writer, a pianist and singer-though I don't compose, an expert seamstress, and fledgling illustrator. Do I really do those things? Not really. I don't belong to the church choir because they have a glut of women, and this is probably my ego talking, but nobody in the choir reads music and I think I would be frustrated pretty quickly. There’s no way this isn’t going to sound proud, but I am certainly more advanced technically, and I know from experience I would have a hard time being patient when I've had so many years of musical training and it comes so easily to me. I've also seen many times when an average church choir gets one person who's had training and has a fantastic voice (not talking about myself here in respect to the voice. My voice is pleasant, but it's not remarkable). That person tends to have all the music built around them, whether it was their intention or not. They end up singing everything and will either get burned out or develop an inflated view of their talent, and it crowds out the dedicated, so-so people who are trying to serve.

I do miss singing very badly. I loved getting into a really technically difficult piece and mastering it. Our college Chorale director was always very exacting and pulled feats of beauty out of us we didn’t know we were capable of. If the dust ever settles (ha), I’d love to audition for the annual Messiah performance at the Citadel. I would probably have an advantage since I already know it well; the only difficulty is my voice. It’s smoky, and ill-suited to the baroque choral music I love so much. I have a strong suspicion that the college director only kept me around because he liked me and knew I’d turn in a solid performance with perfect rehearsal attendance-and those are good reasons-but probably not good enough for a professional orchestra director.

As far as writing goes, I wrote prolifically in high school and college, and then tapered off since I got married. I find the Muse doesn't visit much when I'm happy, since my genius, like a dung beetle, always fed on big juicy piles of angst. I have a novelette to finish. I started it in high school and never really had any good inspiration for it. It was supposed to cap off a trilogy, and I never could get that into it. The first two were much more fun. My college roommate and I started a story about a tribe of Celtic-ish women warriors that got bogged down in the middle and ground to a halt when we both graduated. Could finish that, but I have a strong suspicion I (we?) was only writing it to keep my mind off my lack of dating prospects at the time.

Am I sewing? I should be. I want to be, but I'm not. In our new house, I finally have the space to spread my work out. I have a half dozen projects in planning stages or unfinished, and a big stack of mending and alterations. But there's always something to cook or clean, and by the time I'm done with my chores, I'm too tired to do much of anything.

Am I drawing? I need to be. I signed an illustration contract in October and haven't accomplished much. Right around Thanksgiving I discovered I have an overactive thyroid that's sucking all the energy out of me. After work, it's all I can do to throw a load of wash in, fix a quick stir fry, and collapse on the couch. I must push through the fatigue and make myself draw, however, because my author is counting on me.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tobosthenes the Biter of Men

It's sad that I have to be prodded to keep posting on MLV. In my defense, I've been insanely busy lately, though not too busy to re-read some hoary old novels I probably should have memorized by now.

Tonight, I'm supervising Will cleaning up the office. I'm also playing with Tobosthenes the Biter of Men. It's a good thing he's cute. *Mumbles indistinct threats* I know he's a puppy and he's going to do these things, but the not-so-little doggy is driving me nuts. He also farts. And by farts, I mean he emits a poisonous miasma from his tailpipe that could be classified as a biohazard. Hazmat suit, please! However, I am fond of the muttling, in spite of his very obvious (and painful) flaws. He's putting on weight nicely. I figure he's gained 8-10 pounds and has definitely gotten taller in the two months or so we've had him. Every evening I call him in, he seems subtly bigger. Is that how my mom looked at me when I was ten? We've guess that his physical maturity in human years should put him at the same level of coordination as a 10 year old boy. Which means he can barely walk without running into something. And by walk, I mean skidding at top speed, front legs splayed out, eyes full of panic. Dog fails at hardwood floors. The funniest example was one night when Will was at Taekwondo, Evan was on the laptop in the living room, and I was coming in from the kitchen to the living room. Toby was doing laps around the couch at top speed. He circled the coffee table and headed toward me. I sidestepped, but unfortunately didn't get out of the way fast enough. He crashed into my knees, nearly knocking me over, then picked himself up and did another lap. By the time he was done with his lap, I was standing by the back door, holding it open. Toby slid across the linoleum, gathered his hind legs for one enormous leap, sailed out the back door and belly flopped onto the pavement. He immediately bounced up, looking delighted with himself and the whole world. The expression on his face said "Ahhh, this is the life." Whatever you say, dog. Belly flopping on concrete isn't for me.

As hazardous as it is, I'm discovering a sick desire to mess with the dog. Fully protected, of course, in TKD sparring helmet and leather gardening gloves. Just loudly saying GAHBLEAHBLEAHBLEAH makes him totally freak out, spinning in puppy pirouettes with jaws wide and teeth gleaming. If I'm far enough out of range, this is hilarious. If not, ouch. I'll be nursing the scratches for the next three days. He's also terrified of the dust mop. I discovered this purely by accident when I was sweeping up the sand that came off our bicycle tires. He started running around yipping in panic. I couldn't believe a stalwart, manly pup like Toby would be afraid of something that sweeps smoothly and silently, but he is. I haven't exactly chased him with it (and boy am I lying right now), but I have been sweeping more than usual. As my dear friend Annie would say, I'm *so* going to hell.

I must admit I like Toby best when he's snoring at my feet while I watch TV. He's a great foot warmer, and it's cathartic to stroke his snoring head. I love his silky ears and his little puppy snores. However, if he doesn't shape up as he grows, especially if we have a kid, I'm sending him one way in a box with no airholes to Florida. My father in law seemed totally besotted by the pup, and they have more time than we do to train him and play with him. We'll see how it plays out.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hungry for Fall

Let me bend my back now and take the beatings from certain persons who have been after me to update my blog for the last month. I'm looking at you, Work Buddy.

The last 7 weeks have galloped by with the tick-tack of Toby's claws on my hardwood floors. Yes, there is now a Toby. Since we closed on our house we've acquired a roommate, a puppy, and some bicycles. We've broken the lawnmower and put some hammer head-sized holes in the closet wall trying to hang a shelf that just didn't want to stay up. We've hosted Will's parents, a birthday party, and a gaming night that wasn't supposed to go to 3 am, but did.

We now have our 4th anniversary behind us, my birthday on the tenth, and the weather has almost been "chillish." Because I am always mildly hungry, my attention turns to the delights of autumn food. Not the candy apples and funnel cakes of county fairs, though those definitely factor in, but cold weather comfort food to make at home. With 30 minutes left on the clock, hungry and bored, I clicked over to Real Simple's recipe tab. Found a mouth-watering recipe for macaroni and cauliflower casserole. I'm eager to make it for Will since, like many young men, he could eat macaroni and cheese 2 meals a day, 6 days a week (Sunday being reserved for roast and leftover roast for supper).

When the in-laws visited, my mother in law gave us a white ceramic pumpkin cookie jar and a dairy-free pumpkin cookie recipe. I'm excited to make that, since pumpkin is one of my favorite flavors, along with hazelnut, and let's face it, soy sauce.

I'm also remembering with growling stomach, a fantastic white chili a hallmate made for all of us my senior year of college. I've Googled white chili recipes, but can't seem to find one that doesn't heavily rely on hot peppers. The crazy thing is, I don't really like chili because of the mushy texture of the beans, but that chili was just so good-and it could have been that we used Fritos for spoons-that I really want to try it again as the weather changes.

I'm covered for cold weather lunch options. Madra Rua, the local Irish pub, has Angus burgers with inch and a half thick patties and steaming shepherd's pie. EVO, the foodie pizza place, has carrot-ginger bisque that is a little overwhelming on its own, but when sopped up with the house focaccia bread, is absolutely sublime. Unfortunately, I first tried it at the end of July when it was too hot to appreciate it properly. I'm waiting until mid-November to order it again; it should be just the thing then.

Eating out is all very well, but I cherish daydreams of going for a long walk in the crisp air, then coming home to a warm house to make hot chocolate and eat pumpkin cookies, or of pulling pies out of the oven as the Man and Roommate of the house trudge in with the Christmas tree. Sometimes you just have to make the food yourself and experience the satisfaction of feeding your own.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

In Which Will Does Cute Things

We're in the middle of the agonizing process of moving. Last night we tried to head to the apartment to load more stuff...and ended up at Chick fil-A, starving to death. From there, we went straight to Best Buy, and then to Target. By that time, it was raining (Again. This move has been undertaken during a 100% humidity weather system. Figures.), so we holed up there, ostensibly to look for over-the-door hooks and a TV console table. We found an espresso colored cabinet that fit the bill and wasn't too expensive. Will took the cart to the electronics section while I cruised the bed and bath section looking for those hooks. On my 287th pass, I began to suspect I might never find them and headed toward the back of the store to find Will. I practically bumped into him turning a corner. Some things had been added to the basket: a Josh Groban cd and a pair of royal blue goggles. He smiled his sweet, dimply smile and said "I think you lost some things. Here they are." Indeed I had lost those things. Papa Crabbe had given me Closer by Josh Groban to get me through my sinus surgery, and it had been borrowed by somebody and never returned. My old lime green and black goggles had been stolen, along with my swimsuit, sometime during the last weeks of my sophomore year of college. They could have had the matronly, high-necked blue swimsuit, but I needed those goggles! I can't/won't put my face underwater without goggles because my eyes refuse to get used to chlorine, and that lack had definitely made me antisocial at pool events. I couldn't believe he remembered! Just another example of how nicely my husband takes care of me.

Wise as Serpents

Today I got an e-mail forward from an older person I greatly admire. It was claiming that President Obama specifically targeted a Christian group at some function. I deleted it without watching the video it linked to. Christians seem particularly susceptible to urban legends. Hardly a day goes by without the religious right spreading chain e-mails guaranteed to provoke outrage or hysteria. Unfortunately, 99% of those "facts" are not true. Please, please, please, before you pass on a political chain e-mail, check its veracity. is specifically devoted to that end. Christians already look foolish enough to the world for our beliefs, which Jesus warned us would happen. Let's not add self-inflicted ignorance to the list of things Christians are mocked and written off for.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Op Ed

Work Buddy has been bugging me to post again. She's out on maternity and must be going a little nuts if she's so eager to hear from me again. I'm still in the "waiting to close on my house" holding pattern. Kind of feels like I've died and gone to limbo. What's annoying is knowing that I won't need to use any of my own money for the down payment, but I still have to leave it in the bank so the lender can see it. That's all right. By this time next week, we'll be pretty much debt free because the second we get the keys in our hand, we're going to be making gigantic credit card payments. Time to get THAT business over with. I was supposed to have lunch with my other friend, Pretty Smile, today. She got trapped in meetings all day and couldn't make it. Oh well, we'll try again for Friday, and at any rate, Madra Rua fries are worth pretty much anything, so I don't mind getting stood up. Pretty Smile is also looking at a lot in a new-construction neighborhood. I'm excited for her about that. I think hearing about our house experience and meeting our realtor made her want a place of her own. Hope it goes well.

None of that is related to the topic at hand.
Healthcare is all over the news right now. I'm trying to crystalize my beliefs on the subject, though I doubt I'll be asked to debate them anytime soon. First, I believe that the government should not have any say in how a person uses his money. He earned it; it's his. But since the government has authorized itself to appropriate a tidy chunk of earnings in taxes, I believe the government should tread very carefully when using those funds, because the people it took the money from are watching. Now to the healthcare issue. I don't think providing universal healthcare with taxpayer money is a legitimate purpose of the government. We have three branches: Congress makes laws, the Supreme Court interprets and applies the law, and the President declares war and makes treaties. I don't see healthcare in any of those functions. It could be argued that it falls under Congress making laws, but just because Congress can make a law, doesn't mean that it should. A law should not restrict whether a person may purchase a legal service such as health insurance with his own money, how much of it he may buy, and for what products and services it may be used. That's going too far. Granted, the President has repeatedly said that healthcare plan will not interfere with private insurance, but I don't understand how it won't. If there is a public health plan, there is no incentive for employers to offer insurance coverage; in fact, dropping it will save companies a lot of money. Let's face it, the most desirable employees in terms of experience are often overweight and middle-aged. Won't be long before they have heart trouble, knee replacements, and Type 2 Diabetes. None of those things are cheap. A public health plan will also drive private insurance companies out of business, except for a few with wealthy clients. The rest of us won't be able to afford supplemental insurance under the inevitable increased tax burden. How does the government think to pay for all of this, anyway? Higher taxes.

My next issue is who the public healthcare plan is supposed to benefit? The poor? They get Medicaid. The elderly? Medicare. The wealthy have no trouble affording the very best in healthcare. Most middle-class get insurance through their jobs if they choose to take it. What group does that leave out? Illegal immigrants? The homeless? Both of those groups are afforded care through emergency rooms and targeted non-profit centers. So it seems like every major group is pretty much covered. There are at least options if one chooses to take advantage of them. Or not. That's the freedom of choice. And I'm wondering where the public demand for universal healthcare came from? I watch, read, and listen to the news daily and I haven't heard anything about it since Hillarycare in the late 90s. From what I've heard going into the election, the public wanted more fiscal responsibility and a plan for ending the war. Nothing about healthcare.

All of that aside, given the political climate in the country, I think that some move toward socialism in this area is probably going to happen. If it does, I would like to recommend the Australian plan rather than the Canadian or UK plan. As I understand it, the Australian government offers a baseline of healthcare to all and then individuals buy supplemental insurance. There doesn't seem to be the long waits for care or the rationing that plagues the UK. If this is what Obama is advocating, I'm more okay with it than a plan like the UK's, though I'd prefer that it not get messed with at all. It's hard to pin down what's actually going on with all the political bombast on the subject.

What I would like to see no matter what happens is a reforming of attitudes toward pregnancy and childbirth. My insurance currently costs quadruple what Will's does, simply because I am of childbearing age. Pregnancy is not an illness, and should not have to wrack up such horrendous medical expenses. I just read an article on Slate's Double X womens' blog. The author told of receiving a hospital bill for $22,000, even though she had insurance. Turns out the loopholes in the policy enabled the company to only agree to cover $3,000 of the total. She fought the company and received a reimbursement, but stories like that highlight how out of hand this whole thing has gotten. In that sense, I think a re-assessment of insurance company operating procedures would be extremely useful even while universal healthcare is being debated.

The other main issue that I see is that seniors are afraid healthcare rationing will kill them off. And yes, I think this will happen, not by design, but in practice. I am going to have to feel my way very carefully here. I have a problem with the way that geriatric care is handled. Many old people's lives are endless rounds of surgeries, pills, catheters, etc. Does it need to be this way? Is it really worth it to perform a procedure on someone in their last illness that will perhaps prolong their life for a semi-conscious, heavily drugged week? I'm not even going to talk about the financial cost that much, but the other day I heard a woman call in to a talk radio show. She said her father had cancer, and they might have to lose their family farm in order to pay for his treatment, but they'd do it to keep him alive. The woman was middle aged, which would make her father elderly. There seems to be a denial that old age and illness are the primary means by which humans meet their Maker. Clearly, people without the Lord have everything to fear from death. But there seems to be something extra undignified about the way Americans scramble to stay alive, bankrupting their families, drawing out debilitating illnesses for years. Maybe it's the era, maybe it's Western culture. I can't quite put my finger on who started it, but there's no denying that there is widespread fear of aging and death. Human frames are temporary. 70-80 years or so, and it falls apart on its own. There's something painful, almost funny, about the way people are surprised when they're wrinkled, stiff, and unwell. The way they talk, you'd think it was a surprise. But age doesn't sneak up on anybody. We feel the clock ticking down. We move forward through time as our structure breaks down. The water tower rusts, the picket fence rots, and so do we. I have always thought that old age was the time to "put one's house in order," as the prophet Isaiah said to King Hezekiah. In that sense, I agree that geriatric medicine should focus on hospice and palliative care. Knowing that one cannot live forever should lead the sick to evaluate any treatment offered in that light.

And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.

As You Like It
William Shakespeare

Monday, July 6, 2009

Crabby Fifth

The highlight of being at church with the Crabbes was being given a picture of my mother when she was in her early 20s. Her old friends Bill and Joann Robinson (She taught two of their children) attend Cornerstone and they were eager to see what Judy’s daughter looked like. Bill told a hilarious story about how his sons complained that “Miss Dryfhout broke the yardstick on them!” So Bill made a long, sturdy paddle and left it on her desk anonymously. Then his sons complained that she had a real paddle and was not shy in applying it! He said he waited years to tell her who her paddle benefactor was. I was delighted to have the picture, which looked like a yearbook photo. In it, Mom has shoulder-length flipped hair and is wearing the stereotypical early-70s paisley blouse. She’s also very cute. Sadly, I don’t look a thing like her. It would have been nice to compare pictures of us at the same age. Our similarity is more of a general likeness of gait and mannerism. And one day, I hope we have a likeness of character, which would mean more to me than having her cheekbones.

After church, the Crabbes took us to Twin Dragons. Food was cold and iffy, except for the stir fry bar (like Mongolian BBQ, but not. Wish it had been). The building was notable, though. It had a red, peaked roof that was unmistakably Chinese, but also unmistakably mountain lodge. I give points to the architect on that one.

We took leave of the Crabbes mid-afternoon and started down the road. Top was up this time. We’d learned our lesson about the sun. Made a stop in Greenville to see our friend Brittany and grab a snack. Spent too long with her, then got down the road. Unfortunately, around Columbia it seemed like we drove into a Hollywood rain machine. Horrible storm. Got wet. But you already know this part. You’ve seen the movie trailer.

Crabby Fourth

Saturday, Nana took us to her favorite pottery, Mud Dabbers. It was a wonderland of the beautifully hand-crafted. There was every possible vessel one could imagine, from small dishes with spikes in the middle especially for baking apples, to Ikebana vases. I picked out a navy blue-glazed bowl with blue-on-blue mottling in the bottom. Just the right size for Chinese noodles. Nana insisted on buying it for me. I think I’ll get a lot of use out of it since it’s microwave, oven, and dishwasher safe.

On our way back up the mountain, we stopped at Looking Glass Falls. Nana said the county contains the most waterfalls in the US, a whopping 250. Looking Glass Falls was beautiful! We took a few pictures with her camera. We found out ours had gone to the great Photoshop in the sky Friday morning when we changed the batteries. Oh well. Pictures will be on Facebook soon. Then back up to Ridge Haven where we picked up Sophy and went to the Cornerstone church picnic on the grounds, THEN went to a bonfire for the camp counselors at the home of the Linvilles.

John Linville provides bluegrass music for the evening camp gatherings. He and his wife are HUGE hippies. They live in a house that defied classification. I couldn’t even decide whether it was a hundred years old, or just made to look like it. I doubt it was up to code, either way. The yard was filled with overgrown plants-both flowering and food plants-and a glorious profusion of junk was scattered through the long grass. A rusted tandem bike was next to a brilliantly executed piece of stained glass was next to a broken window frame, etc. There was a bamboo grove full of fireflies. A home-made swing under a woven tree-branch arbor so overgrown it was hard to sit without being prickled. There were three separate sheds, all ramshackle, all crammed with unrelated objects. It was all terribly interesting and a little alarming. There was even a long track down to a beautiful broad river that involved crossing a huge mossy log. The halfway point to the river was a well-used firepit and lean-to. Even though I just met the Linvilles, there was no doubt in my mind that they enjoy their eccentric lifestyle to the fullest, and their hospitality was certainly impeccable.

When John Linville was sure the twenty or so young people had talked themselves out, he packed up the grill and we all piled back into cars to go to downtown Brevard for fireworks. Will bought a lemon-berry slush at Sonic and we slurped as we watched the explosions. One of the boys found a dead white squirrel. White, but not albino, squirrels are peculiar to Brevard. They’re ordinary squirrels, except they’re cream colored. Quite pretty. I was glad we were able to see a live one on the way to church the next morning.

Crabby Third

If this were a movie trailer, the scene would open on a terrible rainstorm. A beleaguered red convertible with broken windshield wipers and a leaky canopy inches along the highway in the dark. Inside are two damp, terrified young people. Will they make it home? Will they even make it to the next gas station to wait out the worst of the rain? Will the steam cloud kicked up by the next semi truck send them into a ditch they couldn’t see? All this and more, in “Home to Charleston!”

Now that you know how the trip ends and that we lived, I’ll back up. Our dear friends the Crabbes, whom I love as grandparents, invited us to come to their mountain cabin in Brevard at Ridge Haven. Retired, they volunteer at the Christian camp. We hadn’t seen them since an old friend’s wedding in March, and before that, hadn’t seen them since we got married. Obviously, we were long overdue for some Crabbiness, plus Will’s sister Sophy is a camp counselor at Ridge Haven this summer, so that was added incentive to throw our bags in the back of the car and take off! Five blissful hours of wind in the face, matted hair, Chick Fil-A milkshake, watching Will’s arms and nose turn the color of stew meat….Yes, Will got the inaugural sunburn of the season. And now he’s peeling all over his face and looks like a leper. I feel really sorry for the poor thing. I rolled in SPF 50 until thoroughly slimed (yuck). I don’t like the feel of sunscreen on me. Hate to feel so oily, but skin cancer runs in the Dutch side of the family. Every time I go outside for longer than five minutes, the sun goes “Oh, there she is. SCORCH!” The only place I missed was my ears. I usually don’t think about them because I don’t pull my hair back, but in the Eclipse, I had to. It was either that or breathe in hair for five hours. My ears are raw and peeling and hurt pretty badly. I’m sorry he has that level of misery on his whole face, but he says it doesn’t hurt that badly.

We met Nana (Martha) Crabbe at the gas station at the bottom of the mountain. Brevard is rural, lush, and sown everywhere with orange lilies. Stunning! The air was soft and cool. I think the highest high over the three days was 75 degrees. We followed her up a narrow, sometimes single-lane road full of hairpin turns, ups and downs. Runaway mine train rides have nothing on this road! I’m afraid all that bouncing around made me a bit queasy. Funny, I’ve never been carsick before, but this road was steeper and narrower than anything Lookout Mountain could dish out. She led us to a large cabin on a gravel road. The front yard was filled with interesting boulders and birdbaths. There must have been half a dozen log-house style birdhouses and even more bird feeders. The house itself is a 4-bedroom, 2 story with a wrap-around deck. (Papa told a story about a BEAR visiting the bird feeder on their porch) It’s decorated with a sophisticated rustic look, in medium blues, navies, and cranberries. Even has the requisite creaky floors. But the most important decoration is in the downstairs bedroom. Our wedding picture is sitting on the dresser in between theirs and their adopted son’s. I feel so honored and loved!

We arrived around 3:30 and I talked to Papa (Max) while Nana fixed a chicken casserole. He wanted to know what was going on at Pinewoods (we talked about all the men who have died, especially Uncle Buddy. He’s found a friend and prayer partner at Cornerstone, but still misses Buddy terribly, as we all do) and filled me in on old Aletheia people. Found out my basketball and PE coach has been separated from his wife and two school-age sons for a year because of his poor behavior. An affair, an apparent apostasy. I really didn’t like either of them, but I am very sorry to hear of their difficulties. I would never wish that kind of trouble on anybody and I hope he allows Godly counsel to get through to him. Maybe that marriage can be restored someday. Too bad.

Anyway, after a tasty supper of casserole (Campbell’s cream of chicken soup, sour cream, poppy seeds, chicken, and bread crumbs), we went down the hill part way to Ridge Haven to meet Sophy. She was with some of her campers, who promptly peppered us with questions. Were we so and so’s mom and dad? ARGH! I felt so old! I guess to a ten year old, anybody over six feet tall (Will) or who has a full rack (me) must be parents. My ego hasn’t really recovered yet.

After that, we went back to the Crabbes and watched a movie. I chose Secondhand Lions out of their black hole of chick flicks. Really, really cute movie. Wasn’t saccharine, but was very sweet and surprisingly manly. Definitely recommend it.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Nothing to report except that I have nothing to report. All of my time and energy for the last six weeks or so has been completely consumed with finding a house. Our lease is up in mid-July and Will and I are both tired of being cramped. We've had good times in this apartment, and I think it's still the cutest apartment I've ever seen, but it's still. an. apartment. We're piled on top of each other in the office, and we're still sleeping on just a mattress and box spring because our bedroom is so small there's not really any room for both our dressers and a large bed frame. Not to mention it would be nice to be able to use the dining room table again to eat on instead of its current function as a pig pedestal. This morning we signed offer letter papers for the fourth time. Our realtor has been an absolute doll and we couldn't be more pleased with her, but time is wearing on and I just want to find and claim my home.

I'm having fun scouring craigslist for furniture, but it's hard to envision what I'll buy since I don't know where we'll be living yet. If we get the house we offered for, I'm going to use the formal dining room as my workroom/library. I spotted the cutest contemporary chaise. I'm dreaming of lying there like Lady Bountiful surrounded by my books, sewing projects, and piano. I know that's truly the impractical dream of a childless woman, but if Will gets his office space, why shouldn't I have my library? It'll all go out the window eventually, of course. But for the meantime, I can't interpret every tummyache as a sign of pregnancy. That's a quick and easy way to go completely nuts, especially since we're taking a laissez-faire approach to getting me knocked up.

So we're supposed to hear by Sunday evening whether our offer was accepted. I think our realtor wants to wrap this up as badly as we do. She's acting very determined lately. Something to pray about.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Tale of Two Piggies, Among Other Things....

Time to shake the dust off and post again. I’m a bad blog-keeper these days because life has a way of coming along and embroiling one so very badly. First of all, our family has expanded: we now have two guinea pigs! No, nothing human yet; we’re working on that. We’re also in the process of buying a house.

Friday is very disgruntled about the cute little interloper (named Saturday), who joined us about two weeks ago. We had just made an offer on a house right next to work and were kicking around the idea of getting a dog. Will suggested we visit the SPCA to see what they had even though we knew we wouldn’t be able to adopt a dog until at least July. We walked in the door, and there, on the table nearest the door, was a delicate little female piggy! They were calling her Bella, and we had to have her, if only to rescue her from the Twilight name. It doesn’t hurt any that she’s practically the reincarnation of my beloved (and long gone) Shui, both in looks and personality. Saturday is an energetic little creature with a black head and rump, white middle. So imagine a hairy Oreo cookie with ears and claws. She’s a smooth coated pig, as opposed to Friday’s Abyssinian whorls. We figure she’s only a few months old.

I began the introductions by bathing them together so they’d smell the same, hoping that the experience would make them bond out of fear, if nothing else. Then I wrapped them in the same towel and held them on my lap together. Finally, I cleaned the big cage thoroughly so it would smell unfamiliar to both pigs and plopped them in. All was quiet for about ten minutes until Friday figured out what I was up to. She gave me a long, disgusted look. It very plainly said “Either take the new kid away or make her shut up. I’m NOT sharing my cabbage.” Saturday was happily sniffing around and wheeking/chittering to herself non-stop (she’s very vocal). Then Friday lunged at her and started chasing her up and down the cage nipping her rump. She was also making pig noises that don’t translate well…okay, they do, but they’re not repeatable. If guinea pigs could swear…. Not good. I left them in there since Friday wasn’t drawing blood to see if they’d settle down. No dice. Friday would retreat to the smaller pigloo to sulk, or they’d nap curled up next to each other, but as soon as Friday emerged or they woke up, back to chasing and nipping. We separated them, since we didn’t bring Saturday home just to be harassed by a crabby roommate. We’ll work out the cage situation after we move. I still hope we can house them together. Friday really should give Saturday a chance. Yes, she’s younger, cuter, and thinner, but she doesn’t know what cabbage is. She’ll eat the store-bought treats Friday won’t touch, and Friday can keep all her cabbage to herself. Besides, if Friday keeps being hostile, she’s only going to look like a bully. Saturday is half her length and one third of her weight. Friday should pick on someone her own size. Friday v. a tank. That might be fair.

However, our housing situation comes first. Unfortunately, the house we chose isn’t anywhere near work or Will’s taekwondo. I turned over what felt like every rock trying to get something close to work, but no dice. The area we were looking is becoming trendy, but is working its way up from old and blighted. Prices reflect the trendiness, houses are still relatively crummy, and crime is still being cleaned up. I was satisfied with the neighborhood of the one nice house we found, but it’s moot because our best offer on that one wasn’t accepted. Very disappointing. Our realtor suggested we look at a bank-owned property in Summerville, and we grudgingly agreed because the house was brick and the price was ridiculously low. By this time, Will was done looking at houses and just wanted to settle on something. So right now we’re working with the bank and its contractors to get the place fixed up so we can buy it because the bank won’t sell us the house in its current 1970s-with-rodents condition. Yes, the commute is going to stink, but I believe the house will be everything we wanted once it’s fixed up. I’m excited to be choosing colors and materials. I’m a bit of a frustrated decorator, and Mom would never let me practice on her house, probably because I had a new “great-havetodoitrightnow!” idea every fifteen minutes. Will is excited about having the attic room wired with Cat 5 and Cat 6 cables for his man cave/office/excuse to buy those Left 4 Dead posters I won’t let him have now. I’m excited about having a designated sewing room. I’m not sewing right now because my little table is squeezed up on the end of the unholy coffee table-tv cabinet Frankensteinian thing in the living room. In the winter it was great to be so toasty, but now I’m not too keen to sew with my elbows in the fireplace. Best of all, yesterday Mom asked me how long after we move in should she wait to ship my piano? I cannot WAIT to get my piano back! My fingers have been mothballed since I left for college. I’m far from the days when I’d provide two solid hours of dinner music for Christmas parties. However, since we all blanched at the thought of getting a 53 inch Yamaha upright into a second floor, one bedroom apartment, finger rustication was for the best.

So lots of interesting things going on, but the result is that I’m dizzily chasing myself around. Posting may continue to be sporadic.

Upcoming travel: July 4th with the Crabbes at Ridgehaven. They just met Will’s sister Sophy, who’s camp counseling for the summer.

Mid-July after move-in in VA with my beloved friend Jennifer (of Intellectual Neophyte fame), whom I consider a sister. I’m going to make this happen, Jenn. Don’t lose heart.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

When Mully Grumbies Attack

Today is the new worst day of my life. It’s the sort of day where, if I’m going to go to all the trouble of keeping breathing, I want to be compensated for it. That’s right, I’d charge God overtime. I may even demand extra days off and spa coupons if this keeps up. If Will were around, I’d be clinging to his leg like a whiny barnacle. The sad thing is, my life couldn’t be going better, but it’s amazing how physical discomfort can trash everything. I have a full blown case of what my late Uncle Buddy called the “mully grumbies.” The mully grumbies is a vicious mood disease that can only be cured by hanging the afflicted upside down and shaking her vigorously by the ankles. Since I’m at work, my cure is going to have to wait.

Still, I do think the angst is justified. Try having what the cheerful Scottish nurse called “a raging UTI, love,” and see how you like it. Then, when you start feeling a smidgen better and are blessing the marvel of antibiotics, life drops the proverbial grand piano on your head and you realize Old Faithful is about to blow. For those of you who have minimal-pain periods or are male (shouldn’t there be a circle of hell devoted to both of those crimes?), let me give a very graphic description. Imagine a tray of biscuit dough. Nice, inoffensive biscuit dough. Biscuit dough with clean karma. It’s never slapped a baby or said anything nasty about anybody’s tacky prom pictures. That dough is your innards. Next, sprinkle that dough with a lethal assortment of thumb tacks, two inch nails, and rusty razor blades. Season to taste with motion sickness. Now, ever so gently, roll that dough into a cylinder. Here’s where it gets fun. Take a baseball bat, poker, rolling pin, mace, or other weapon of your choice, and BEAT THE DAYLIGHTS out of that dough. That is what cramps feel like when you have dysmenorrhea.

Even though I feel like doom on the half shell, I am trying to focus on the things that aren’t making me hurt. Like the fact that Will dropped by my work this morning to share his Coolatta with me. Like my Little Yellow iPod. I drove home for lunch this afternoon and on the way back, somebody apparently declared it monsoon season because I was creeping along the highway with negligible visibility in the downpour. Suddenly, lightning cracked close to my car. My first thought was, lightning can hit the car, but it can’t fry my iPod. The Castlevania Playground remix is the only thing keeping me from shaving my head and walling myself into a cell like some medieval anchoress. Will’s perky video game remixes are keeping me from wallowing in bleakness too much. Although with the low barometric pressure, everybody at work is so testy, I doubt I’m standing out. Oh well, maybe all the rain will coax my snow pea vines to flower. A chow mien full of home-grown snow peas would be a fine thing indeed.

Another thing I’m very happy about is I just found out about this company yesterday and I’m already obsessed with it. Bravissimo sells tops by cup size! This is genius! I’ve been saying for years that somebody ought to, because uniformly cutting clothing for a B cup is lunacy when the average American woman is a C. Read that somewhere, anyway, and I believe it. Bravissimo caters to the D cup+ market (but not plus-sized. Sizing runs from a US 4-ish to a US 12-ish, if I figured the UK size conversion correctly), and their stuff is fashionable, but not too trendy, just the way I like it. The models all have builds very similar to mine so I didn’t have to guess what I’d look like in the clothes. The pricing was equivalent to Ann Taylor: a little expensive, but doable. I’d much rather pay more for one blouse that fits than buy three or four that gape at the bustline. As soon as I get paid again, I will probably place an order. I’m dazzled by the opportunity to have matching lingerie sets! (A frustration of having a plus-sized boobage and misses-sized rumpage) Button-down blouses that don’t require a camisole underneath because the buttons might pop off if I try to button them over my mountainous outcroppings! Dresses I don’t have to take in at the waist because I had to buy the next size up! The head swims with possibilities!

All that retail goodness is definitely lifting my spirits. Today wasn’t a total loss at work, either. I turned in two documents several hours ahead of the deadline. The work day is almost over. And I’m remembering that I have Haagen Dazs coffee-and-almond ice cream bars in the freezer at home. I’m not usually the “eat to cope” type, but some days….

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pass the Ammunition

The world is changing. The poster boy is definitely President Obama. No matter what one thinks of his policies, there’s no denying that he’s ushering in an era where ideas formerly labeled “liberal” are going to be mainstreamed.

Change is going to be felt in churches as well. Old ways of witnessing (EE, etc) are not going to work with young people. Why? The Bible isn’t respected anymore. At best, it’s equated with every other religious text and viewed as a relic of ancient superstitions. At worst, it’s viewed as a textbook for madmen. The church as an institution has largely discredited itself in the eyes of young people. They see the infighting among denominations over (seemingly) minute and meaningless distinctions. They see the highly-publicized sex scandals. And most damagingly, they see the Christians of their acquaintance as ignorant, anti-intellectual, and judgmental.

Christians have had it easy for too long. We’ve cruise-controlled our faith in previous eras where everyone was at least a Deist, went to church on Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday and respected the Bible. The current generation is completely unfamiliar with the Bible, doesn’t believe in God (and doesn’t want to), and knows nothing of any sacred holidays.

Will has had an ongoing discussion with a young English gay man in the xkcd IRC channel. Julian went to Sunday school as a child, but now considers himself an atheist. He accepts nothing that cannot be proved by science. I think Julian is probably typical of the way the world has bent. Arguments from Scripture will no longer work, except to clear up misconceptions about not eating shellfish and not wearing poly-blend socks. Whenever somebody wants to make fun of Christians, they inevitably go for the Levitical law. They don’t know enough about Scripture to know that most of the Levitical law was rescinded in Acts 15—and when we point that out, the reaction is “Well, it’s all [baloney] (sic) anyway, so why does it matter?”

Will is still talking to Julian about various religious topics, especially homosexuality. I’ve had my own share of conversations with various online acquaintances. What we’ve learned from these encounters is how incredibly vital it is to know what you believe and why you believe it, and to be able to explain yourself without using Scripture or Christian buzzwords. There are a lot of hostile people out there who will rip you to shreds if you waffle just the slightest bit. Also, when you hit a dead end, be willing to say that you don’t understand something, but wiser heads than you have taken a stab at it—so know your Church Fathers so you have references to back you up. Be ready to admit your doubts and failings. The slightest whiff of hypocrisy will send a non-believer packing. And really, isn’t it time Christians stopped being fake with each other as well?

My goal in talking to those people is not to convert them. The Lord knows their hearts and the elect are pre-destined. My goal is to give an accurate representation of the truth I believe and to plant that seed that not all Christians are stupid and scary. And I really wonder if any un-churched young people do come to the Lord, whether they will eschew the conservative denominations? I really think that issues like the condemnation of homosexual practice and the ban on women’s ordination will prove to be too alienating for my generation, who grew up with CEO mothers and openly gay and bisexual friends. I have a hard time with the ban on female clergy myself. I know many ministers’ wives who are better speakers than their husbands and it really bothers me that they must take a supporting role. However, there are things in the Bible I don’t understand and don’t like, but they are there for a reason and I must trust that the omniscient Lord knows better than I do. When put that way, the question becomes laughable. Me? Know better than God? Ha! So I abide.

We sideline ourselves when we care more about how fellow believers keep the Sabbath (to eat out or not?), etc., than whether the Gospel is being preached to a world that needs it, but doesn’t want it. Christians need to stop chewing over Roast Brethren for Sunday lunch. We must get over ourselves and get back to work.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Friday Complains

Dear Mistress Anna and Master Will,

This is Friday, your poor tormented piggy! I believe that I must protest your recent abuse of my person. Recently I was in my home doing piggy business when suddenly, the top of my home was ripped off, and monstrous hands grabbed me and took me into a strange land and then I was put down!
There were two huge monsters close by making horrible sounds that came from large oval places in their faces, but I could not make out any piggy language at all. To my piggy ears, it sounded like gaseous belching from a sick volcano! My little piggy heart was frightened, but there was no place for me to hide!
I tried to calm myself by nibbling on a strange plant, but I was so frightened that my taste buds were numb! Besides, would you want to chew on a peace lily?
Then one of the monsters stood up and made a grab for me! Thankfully, I was not eaten, but placed back into my home. It resembled my home, but everything had changed! The smells were different! It was cleaner than before, but at least there was shelter where I could hide from the gaze of those two monsters!
I just want my mistress and master to be informed that I formally protest the abuse that I suffered, and that if it happens again and I survive, I will be forced to lodge an official complaint with the SPCA!!

Sincerely yours,

Friday, the abused piggy

(written by Dad)

Friday Gets a Reply

Dear Friday,

Perhaps the Monsters are actually not malevolent! Since they did not require the exhausting scaling of any mountains or the swimming of rivers, and since they provided sustenance in the large place, they may be regarded with less alarm. However, you were right not to entrust yourself wholly to them. Forgive the lack of delicacy, but I understand that in some places Monsters actually eat some of our number. Indeed, they think we are a delicacy. Perish the thought! Happily that did not happen to me, and I met a natural demise.

Keep me posted on the Most Latest Developments,
the Ghost of Shui,
the last High Pig Counselor

(written by Mom)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday in the Wild

After work this afternoon, I was debating whether to take a nap or do chores before Will came home. I did neither; instead I made coffee and took a John Grisham book and a pillow out on the deck to enjoy the soft sun (and gloat over my sprouting snow peas). When Will came home, I proposed we bring Friday the guinea pig (and a bag of Doritos) out with us. We watched her nose around for about an hour, chew on my peace lily, etc. before cleaning her cage and putting her back in. She now has a well-pollinated belly. Ahhh, Spring. Sometime later, I found this half-chewed communique in her pigloo.

To the High Pig Council:

My trials continue. At roughly 18:00 hours the pink dome I dwell in was lifted off me. I scampered for the hay log, determined to make it difficult for the Monsters to get at me. To my surprise, the hay log had already been removed, along with the tall white grid that forms the top part of my prison. I had no place to go! The fearsome Hand scooped me up and carried me many pig-lengths, passing through a giant clear portal. New smells assaulted me and a breeze ruffled my crest. The Hand put me down. I smelled something familiar. There were four dried out carrots in front of me, but I did not give in to instinct. I splayed out my hind legs and glared all around in a display of defiance. Nothing happened. Then I saw that the white grid had re-appeared and was stretched length-wise to enclose a much larger space than my prison. The Monster had settled itself in the corner and sat motionless. It appeared to be ignoring me. Soon a larger Monster joined it. I heard the rustling of a bag. I refused to wheek. They were not going to get any satisfaction out of me! The Monsters removed something flat and crunchy out of the bag. They ate those things and drank from oddly-shaped vessels that lacked the practicality or elegance of the bottle in my prison. I crept close and sniffed the liquid inside. It was dark brown and smelled bitter. Deciding it was of no interest to me, I explored the area. The Monsters made no move to stop me, beyond making the loud noises that serve as their communication. (Thus far, they have made no effort to learn Piglish, and interpret my demands for release as requests for food.) While my back was turned, a pile of delicious clover appeared next to the carrots. I was not distracted from my duty. I sniffed everything I could see. There were some large vessels with plant matter growing in them. Some of the plant matter was just within the reach of my snout, and for scientific purposes, I sampled it. It appeared to be a peace lily. When I had explored the entire area, only then did I tentatively taste the provisions that had been left for me. They were not tainted, so I tucked in, periodically doing a perimeter sweep. All this time, the Monsters moved little, and did not touch me... [the next section is missing and the paper is gnawed.]
...returned to cage. I will ponder this development and try to determine if there is any chance of escape. Please advise further.

Agent Friday

Monday, March 30, 2009

Weekend Potpourri

Monday morning and I’m actually awake! I attribute this to the enormous amount of sleep I had over the most relaxing weekend I can remember. Too bad I don’t have anything to do, but that’s hardly unusual. My boss is currently canvassing other projects for more writing I can pick up, but until the work appears on my desk, it doesn’t exist. No shirt, no shoes, no charge code? No service! At least I can trust that my boss wants the official Tech Writer 1 title for me and is trying to help me get it. He’s a great guy. Working for an engineering firm wasn’t what I’d envisioned using my English degree for, but when it comes down to it, I had no idea that an English degree could be useful. I only knew it was smarter than getting an art degree, and then what did I do? Minored in art! It’s a wonder I’m not living in a refrigerator box. I like my boss and I work for a good company in an industry that milks my patriot glands, so I have it much better than a lot of people.

It was an eventfully uneventful weekend, if that makes any sense. Friday afternoon I sat with the invalid wife of a coworker. She had a stroke in early January, and when I saw her, I was horrified. She has no business being out of the hospital—she’s not even able to sit up on her own yet! I remember that Dad wasn’t released after his stroke until he could be propped up in a wheelchair. The poor woman has bed sores because the nurse only comes twice a week to check on her. Not to mention this is seriously hurting my teammate’s career because she cannot be left alone. He traveled for work a lot and he won’t be able to anymore. We’ve hardly seen him at work since the new year, and while the company is bending over backwards to make things easier for him-letting him work from home, taking up a collection to buy medical supplies, etc-there’s a limit to how much HR can do. Some of us on the team have volunteered our time, but again, we have our own lives. My teammate is a shell of himself. He’s lost ten pounds and is looking increasingly shabby. I can’t imagine the pressure on him trying to work full time and nurse his wife full time. Neither of those things can budge, either. He’s not well off, so he must work, and of course he must care for his wife. Prayers are needed!

While I sat in the sickroom, I read my work buddy’s favorite novel, Crown Duel (Sherwood Smith). It was like getting to know her better. It didn’t suit me, exactly, but I could see why she loves it. She IS the main character-physically short, hot tempered, fiercely loyal, scrambling to educate herself, etc. Makes me wonder why we like the books we do? My favorite books are That Hideous Strength (C.S. Lewis) and All Hallows’ Eve (Charles Williams). What do they say about me?

Saturday was leisurely. Will and I slept in to about 11, then I made pancakes and coffee. During brunch, we got a call from our friends Evan and Brittany, announcing their engagement. Totally knew about it ahead of time. We had a late supper with Evan Thursday night and he was definitely not in his right mind. Poor guy, but he seems to have lived. Grats to them! Did some laundry, planted snow peas in my three empty pots and went grocery shopping. We made it home just as the first gust of rain came down. I’d been warned about the storm from my parents in Pensacola who had hail! We didn’t get anything half so exciting-just steady rain all night.

Sunday was a break from cooking. For lunch we had Pillsbury Savorings spinach and cheese puffs. Yum! Supper was a DiGiorno thin crust pizza, and somewhere in between an entire box of Ritz Bits got eaten. Not going to name names, but the bulk of the Ritz gobbling wasn’t me. (Thanks for the coupons, Mom!) I know all of that sounds delicious, but the next time I get that lazy, somebody needs to smack me. From 6:00 pm to 1:00 am, a poisonous miasma settled over the office. I could feel everything I’d eaten actively compacting in my stomach. Every once in a while, I had to convince myself I wasn’t hearing Tetris music coming from my midsection during each gastric shift. Imagine with me, if you will, the opening bars of “Korobushka” followed by GURGLE, BLURP, SLUUUUUUP! Me: Ow! *burrrrrrrp* Groan…. And that’s just detailing my contribution to the air pollution. Yes, it’s good that I’m getting out of the junk food habit, but when I indulge, does it really have to hurt that much?
After midnight, the gas had subsided to merely embarrassing levels (but still wouldn’t let me sleep) and I was able to arrange my iTunes after a long, no-music deprivation. My computer got overhauled a while ago and I hadn’t gotten around to re-downloading things I used to have on there, iTunes being the main one. Will had backed up his music files on my computer, and of course they all dumped into my iTunes. I knew he had a ton of wonderful music from OCRemix, and from being around him over time I’ve learned how magical video game music can be, but wow! I’d never associated games like Metal Gear Solid 2 with beautiful music before. Will had to endure my off-key crooning for a while as I hummed along with songs I didn’t know. I’m sure that didn’t help his digestion any, but I enjoyed it. At least he knows I can sing. In fact, I have a smoky mezzo-soprano voice perfect for all those 1940s USO songs. These days it’s more husky than buttery, but that won’t change without the training I’m not getting right now. It’ll also improve with age. It always struck me as odd that the best opera singers are in their 40s and 50s, but they’re playing characters in their teens and twenties. Cognitive dissonance, but it’s not like I’ve ever seen an opera in person and I’ve heard girdles and pancake makeup work wonders, so the incongruity is purely academic…like a lot of things I ramble on about. Anyway, I’ve come full circle back to Monday morning and the drive into work with my right thigh smelling like acetone because I punched right through my stockings and had to patch them up with nail polish on the way out the door. Everybody sing with me! “I used to ruuuuuuule the world….”

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Redeemer Women's Retreat-A

The final letter of SPA is Adoption. Pastor's wife Kathy Bailey taught the final session. She described the characteristics of a true son or daughter of God versus someone who feels himself a slave.

A Son is confident of his status, feels protected and provided for, secure, free, uninhibited. He is transparent, assured of acceptance and has a sense of peace.

A Slave is fearful, relies on his own efforts, legalistic. He is self-conscious and self-judgmental. Because he judges himself harshly, he judges everyone else just as harshly. He is perfectionistic, anxious, lonely. He feels guilty about everything. Ultimately, he is completely defeated.

The clearest evidence of adoption is whether you can extend grace to others and don't need to bind them with your own hang-ups. A slave uses others to validate himself. Slaves obey out of duty; sons serve out of love.

Oddly, people tend to feel comfortable with Jesus but be afraid of the Father. Jesus is the first born of many brothers to make room for the brothers that will come under him by adoption. (Rom 8:29) God the Father makes us able to come and gives us full status as sons.

Redeemer Women's Retreat-P

The P of SPA stands for Physician. Barb Hildreth, MD, spoke on God the Physician. What do we need healing from? Sin, disappointment, relationships, hurts, sorrow, disease, selfishness, disconnection, loneliness, addiction, fear, abuse, physical/spiritual death.

Barb spoke about her continuing struggles with anxiety and depression. Here are some key points:
The spiritual aspect of depression is a lack of acceptance of the way God has made you. Depression is never only spiritual or only physical. You cannot pray your way out of an illness if your body is sick, and no amount of drugs will cure you if you are heart-sick or soul-sick.
Self-hatred severs reliance on God and fosters resentment of the people around you.
Luke 5:17-26-sins being forgiven is a prerequisite for any kind of healing.
Sometimes God doesn't heal our earthly symptoms, but he renews our trust and that is enough for us.
What has God really promised? To reveal himself.
What does healing really look like? Renewed trust in God, increased dependency on him, and dying to self. Sometimes God brings about healing through physical death.

The story of Jacob shows that wrestling with God can leave a permanent limp. Yes, our troubles may not heal for the rest of our natural lives, but they are a reminder of having been near to God. Being close to God is inherently uncomfortable. We are pitiful creatures, and we are not able to bear the refiner's fire without drastic changes to our metal.

Ultimately, any healing that occurs is because of God's grace and at his pleasure. All will be made right when his kingdom comes.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Shall We Dance?

Dum da da, dum da da. One, two, three; one, two, three. I’ve been fascinated by dance ever since Mom took me to see some Flamenco dancers in Taiwan when I was four. Of course, I called them “Flamingo” dancers and after about half an hour, asked if all they did was stamp around on the stage. It’s a wonder Mom didn’t strangle me. It also didn’t help that Dad jokingly referred to dancers as “roach stompers” after that occasion. And then there was the waltz practice scene in Peter Pan with Mary Martin, though for some reason I found that embarrassing to watch. Can’t figure that out. Fast forward to about ten years old and I saw Beauty and the Beast for the first time. The famous ballroom scene was enrapturing. It still is.

So what is it about ballroom dance, particularly the western social and standard dances, that captures (women’s) imaginations? Part of it is probably a cultural memory of a time when dancing was a social grace, when women wore rustling gowns and men had to pretend they had manners in public. Social ballroom dance is also attractive because it has no height or weight requirements; only a reasonable level of coordination and an ear for rhythm. Anybody can learn the standard waltz or foxtrot without mangling it too badly.

Ballroom dance is also incredibly sensual, but the prescribed movements and distance from one’s partner keep it innocent. The restraint of the dance builds emotional passion, but keeps it in check. In contrast, grinding up against somebody leaves nothing to the imagination, but is far more awkward and tiresome than sexy. Social dance also brings a sense of community, as it is very easy to chat while performing a simple waltz or foxtrot. Ballroom isn’t self-conscious; everyone else on the floor is doing the same movements, unlike modern dancing where each person dances alone and spends the whole time wondering if (s)he looks like an idiot.

No doubt, some of the allure is the beautiful clothes. I watched some youtube videos last night. One was of the annual ball in Vienna. All of the women were wearing white ballgowns and elbow gloves. The men were in white tie. I love watched them whirl around the floor and change partners without missing a beat. In my own dance daydreams, I’m wearing a tea-length rose dupioni gown with cap sleeves, white gloves, and a spray of opals in my hair. It saddens me that only high-society and the military have any need to dress for formal occasions anymore. And with that thought comes the treasonable idea that a good deal of beauty in society was lost when women started wearing pants regularly. One would have to pry my jeans out of my cold, dead hands, of course, but there’s no denying skirts are more graceful. So is outward dress a symptom or a cause of the loss of general mannerliness in public life?

Music is the final piece of the puzzle. Waltz music, for example, can be poignant, inspiring, even gritty (Chad Kroeger’s Hero from the Spider-Man soundtrack). The music changes the whole tone of the dance from intense to romantic, to soothing, etc. The fact that the same dance steps can be performed with such a wide variety of emotions makes social dance enduring and consistently relevant to the human experience. Shall we dance?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ohhhh yeah.....

It’s funny how some of the best little moments in life have to do with sudden changes in temperature. Think about it a minute. Anyway, here is my list of ohhhhh yeah moments.
Getting into a clean, cool bed
A hot bath on a cold night
Going from a warm house to a crisp day and vice versa
Drinking white grape juice on the rocks when it’s 90 degrees in the shade
Biting into a cold Fuji apple
Putting one’s cold feet on one’s sleeping spouse….oh wait, never mind.

Monday, March 16, 2009

If you can't beat 'em, level a pally

I’m fed up with my guild. Folks on my server haven’t seen me on my druid in quite a while. She doesn’t deserve to be so neglected, but I have a new love: my paladin. It’s a huge problem when your guild makes you hate the game. Frankly, they’re a bunch of juvenile, misogynist jerkholes. They’re not even funny, which would make some of it forgivable. They’re also the best Alliance guild on the server, and as Will has said frequently, playing Horde is Communist. So there’s really nowhere else to go. And no, I’m really not just complaining because my gear is lousy and I keep early hours, so I don’t go on raids. I would rather not raid, thank you. Raids make me incredibly nervous. I do have a gripe that it’s hard to get groups for Heroics, but I also don’t see that changing because there are cliques that do things together. I have no problem with dungeon cliques; I’d just like to be in one.

Renewed zest for the game has come from leveling my paladin (who is not in the same guild as my druid). Maybe I’m so excited about it because leveling as balance spec was 70 levels of miserable drudgery. 70-80 wasn’t bad. Remembering 1-70 still makes me want to kick small animals. My pally is probably wearing the plate equivalent of a paper bag, but hey, it’s plate! Aggro three mobs 4 levels higher than you? No problem, you’ll live to loot ‘em! Just beat those Gibbering Ghouls to death with a nice spiky [Mace of Bludgeoning]. Aggro more than you can handle? Bubble, grab the quest item and skip away shouting Nyah nyahs over your shoulder. Nyah nyahs are also so much more satisfying when delivered by a shapely lavender squid alien with neck tentacles, hooves, and a tail. Hooray for the Draenei!

So remember, when the game sucks, level a pally!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bury me in a shoebox

It has come to my attention that I'm sick. Several things clued me in: the fact that my skull has felt too tight for my brain for the last three days, the fact that I can't breathe, the fact that every time I manage a weak cough, I'm afraid I'm going to puke up my toenails, and the fact that when I saw Will off this morning, steam radiated off my exposed skin. So here I am at the computer with a bag of frozen rice balanced on my head wondering what I'm going to do with myself all day because WoW is down for Tuesday server maintenance. This doesn't look good.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Redeemer Women's Retreat-S

A few weeks ago, I attended my second women's retreat at Redeemer. It was held at a big, open, comfortable house smack on Folly Beach-the sort of house that says "yeah, we're loaded, but we're regular people." I admit, I had to make a concerted effort to pay attention and not just stare outside at the beautiful beach-and the few idiot tourists in bikinis. The wind was sharp and I was wishing I had a windbreaker instead of a soft cloth jacket. Perfect setting for our SPA theme.

S stands for Suffering. Christine Alele from Uganda taught in a style that reminded me of Mom's. She compared Job's, Jehoshaphat's and the late Bill Bright's (Campus Crusade) responses to adversity.


So what does suffering look like? Unfortunately, there is no way to quantify it. You know it when you feel it. Circumstances vary so wildly that it is unjust to say that one person has it much worse than another.

Does God trust us with suffering? God allows it-in fact, God set Job up. Suffering should be received like any other blessing.

What does Satan want from our suffering? To make us question God, to destroy God's character, and to convince us that God buys our love with toys and when the good times end, God doesn't love us anymore.

What sustains Job through the ordeal? The hope that God is good and the knowledge that God is sovereign. "I know that my Redeemer lives..." "Christ learned through suffering to be the obedient son..." "Through suffering we possess our faith..."

Can we prepare for suffering? We have to. Once we're in the middle of the storm, it's too late to decide what we believe about God. Suffering reveals the correctness (or not) of our theology.


When something big threatens, human instinct is to form an alliance with somebody, anybody, whether or not they or it are good for us. Instead, Jehoshaphat declares a national day of prayer and fasting. When we see trouble coming, it is important to set aside time to pray. In this circumstance, God promised to fight for Israel. Immediately, the nation praised God, even BEFORE the deliverance occurred.

Bill Bright:

Suffering calls us to teach others how to live and die. Dr. Bill Bright and his wife Vonette founded Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) in 1951. During the next 50 years, CCC grew to a full time staff of more than 26, 000 in 190 countries. In 1993, Dr. Bright was diagnosed with prostate cancer. As a result of a malfunction with the radiation treatment, five years later, he developed an incurable pulmonary fibrosis. In his last book, "The Journey Home, Finishing with Joy," Dr. Bright chronicles his journey from the doctor's office where he was told "this is worse than heart attack or cancer. You will slowly die by choking." His response was, "Thank you Lord Jesus. You called me for the past 50 years to teach your people how to live, now you are calling me to teach them how to die."
It is an indictment of modern Christians that we do not know the names and stories of contemporary saints the way we know our celebrities. We can learn from those who have trained their relationship with the Lord so that when suffering inevitably hits, we respond faithfully. We all are given separate gifts from the Giver, but God remains good and supreme.

More to come on the P and A of SPA as I get around to it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Writer's Block

Amy Jane over at Untangling Tales made a post called “Don’t trust yourself.”
She’s writing about humility and I get what she’s saying. Everyone likes to work with humble people. “Do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought, etc.” Or, like Mom used to say to squelch bragging, “Let others praise you.” But I’m really wondering what you do when you know you’ve done something good? The people around you are not always equipped to recognize the quality of what you’ve done. When that happens, how do you keep from losing confidence in your work while still recognizing that maybe the people you were hoping would give you your strokes don’t have the education or the artistic eye or whatever to give you honest praise and feedback?

Anybody who writes has had somebody close to them misunderstand or laugh at something they felt deeply about. In my case, it was an old boyfriend who read a novelette I was working on without my permission and then verbally tore it to shreds. I knew it wasn’t any good, but the characters were dear to me and I had put a lot of time into it. Another time, a person whose approval I wanted read an article I wrote for Among Worlds magazine about the difficulties of going out on one’s own after living a missionary life where someone always meets your plane. He thought it was funny and I was hurt. Those are the only two circumstances I can think of where somebody has laughed at my writing, but they’re definitive. The mind and heart tend to gloss over a hundred instances of approval and focus on the times criticism wasn’t deserved.

Yet, the writer needs an audience. What’s the use of “writing for yourself?” You’ve already thought of it; it’s all in your head, so what’s the use of putting it down? Unless you’re writing to communicate something to somebody else, there’s no purpose. Still, it’s hard not to let the fear of misunderstanding and harsh criticism stifle the willingness to share. (I do differentiate between positive and negative criticism. But in this case, I’m using criticism in the negative sense and the word “feedback” positively.)

Obviously, it is essential to select your (positive) critics carefully. Just as you wouldn’t let a child play with your great-grandmother’s crystal, I would say you shouldn’t let people whom you know don’t have the background or education to appreciate your work even see it. They’re simply not going to understand it, and if you persist in trying to make them like it, you’re going to end up with worthless feedback. Their suggestions may even damage the piece and will probably leave you feeling like the wounded artiste oppressed by Philistines. That said, you may want to collect several writing (helpers?) who are for you and can bring different viewpoints to the table. One person will probably not be able to critique your Epithalamion (Marriage hymn. I’m most familiar with the epithalamia of John Donne.) written in the byzantine style of Charles Williams. (Yes, I have written one of those. No, I’m not posting it. Nobody would understand it.)You’re either going to want a graduate student or college professor, or a self-educated Lit nut who is very familiar with Williams and Donne to critique that. But that first friend, perhaps someone with a lot of small children, will be perfect to review your children’s stories and illustrations.

Problem one: where do you find these friends to help you knead your work? Problem two: How do you punch down your attitude to be able to take it well when someone dislikes your work? Problem three: How do you differentiate between somebody just not connecting with your writing and when the writing is genuinely bad? Problem 4: How do you maintain the nerve to keep putting your work in front of people?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

She doesn't want much, just the world with a fence around it

I’m having one of those days where I’m afraid my head has been swapped with a less intelligent body part. I’m not quite bumping into things, but it sure was hard to leave the flannel sheets this morning. I’ve been creaking around like an Ent since then and I haven’t been useful at all. Did I mention I’m not a morning person? I made it to work late (for me, that is. My company doesn’t really care when you show up as long as you log your time.), since my hair wouldn’t cooperate and I had to hit level 300 in Fishdom before I left. Once I got here, I wandered to the break room to fill up my giant yellow cup and ran into my lead engineer. He was in a good mood. Maybe it was because he hadn’t had coffee yet, and therefore was too fuzzy to find anything to gripe about. Anyway, we started talking about how nice it would be to be rich and have a housekeeper to serve breakfast every morning. That started my mouth watering thinking about my ideal breakfast. It’s not too fancy-I’ve never gone for steak and eggs (Scratch that, I’ve never HAD steak and eggs)- but it would be labor consuming and regrettably, I’ve never eaten any of these things at the same time. Let’s see: Chai or coffee, cantaloupe, Cream of Wheat with maple syrup to stir in, and a big pile of scrambled eggs and bacon. I can see it now, laid out on fine china (Nana’s Lenox, naturally) on a sunny deck. Nobody pinch me. I really should do this once the weather is reliably in the 70-80 range this spring. I have the china and the wooden deck; just need the lazy Saturday to put the rest of it together. The problem is, I want to eat like this EVERY morning. And once I’d had breakfast, I’d start dreaming about lunch. A BLT (extra bacon) on a French baguette with mint sun tea and cheddar Sun Chips. Now we’re drooling! Late afternoon snack of gourmet Swiss cheese on wheat crackers with sugared frozen grapes. Dinner would be at 7 and would be…let’s see…rosemary or sage pork roast with mixed vegetables sautéed in a light balsamic vinaigrette and small helping of mushroom alfredo.
Having described the food, now I’ll describe the ideal day. Since this is a dream, let’s say I wake up at 8. I do some stretches, take a long shower, then make myself that breakfast and eat it slowly. After I wash Nana’s Lenox and stop feeling guilty about using it on a random Tuesday, I ride my vintage Schwinn (yellow, with a basket and bell) over to the grocery store and buy everything on the day’s menu. I prepare the pork and put it in the oven and freeze the grapes for later. Then I put on breezily quaint gardening clothes-probably a sleeveless smock or babydoll and capris, and a wide straw hat with long ribbons- and head out to terrorize the dandelions. No shoes, of course. I don’t dream about fire ants. I don’t get sunburned in my dreams either. My yard is a fantasy of Japanese cherry, ornamental pear and dogwood trees, hydrangea and azalea. There is an herb garden and a koi pond. A red Chinese moon door separates the kitchen garden from a Chinese garden that’s all cool bamboo and black and white pebbles. My BLT lunch gets eaten outside under a big tree. Back inside after lunch, I putter in my sunny workroom overlooking the garden. I sew or write while the light is good (And nap. There’s no accident there’s a couch in there.) Once the afternoon fades, I wander back outside to the big tree and swing a little while as the fireflies come out. The pork is nearly done and I can smell it from yards away through the open windows. Evenings are a little sharp even though the days are warm, so I kindle a fire with the twigs I picked up from the yard. Dinner time, then curling up on the couch to watch TV or read. Dessert is a cup of hot chocolate and a plate of shortbread cookies. Bed around midnight.
Of course, to make this romantic scenario remotely possible, I’d have to be wealthy and probably retired. But long, slow days filled with good food, moderate exercise, and plenty of creativity really appeal to me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Most Latest Vegetable?

*Disclaimer: I can be very abrasive, so please bear with me as the Lord softens me. I’m growing up (painfully slowly for those who have to put up with me, but the alternative is worse) and learning what’s important and what is sacred and what is fair game. Furthermore, if I do keep up this blog and you find yourself continually offended, please consider that this blog may not be for you. One can know a lot of people and don’t have to be chummy with all of them. My purpose in posting is to entertain and dialogue with a few close friends who are already used to me.

So what’s with the Engrish title? “Most Latest Vegetable” is a tribute to Taiwanese buses, Taiwanese orthodontics, and my soft-touch Daddy. I had braces from 5th grade until … well, it was a long time and I had to have them twice. My international Christian School (Bethany Christian School) was downtown, and so was my orthodontist. Mom would meet me after school and we’d ride the bus across downtown together. After I had my teeth prodded and clucked over, we’d ride to Tien Mu, the halfway point between downtown and Christ College, where we lived and my parents taught. Dad would be waiting at the stop in front of Fang’s Restaurant. Fang’s had giant plate-glass windows in front that looked into the kitchen on the left side. I’d press my nose against the glass and watch the cooks rolling dough, stuffing dumplings, stir-frying veggies. Then we’d go inside and I’d gum down plates of jiao tze and bao tze (steamed pork dumplings and veggie buns) and go home with spinach stuck in my freshly-adjusted wires. Fang’s had a menu that was trying to be bilingual. It mostly succeeded, but we always had a gentle chuckle over the “Most Latest Vegetable” entry. It meant “Vegetable of the Day” or “Seasonal Vegetable,” but the way it was phrased, in such earnest Engrish, made it charming.

It probably doesn’t follow, but “Most Latest Vegetable” has seemed to take on the larger context of the English “What you see is what you get.” Maybe it’s just because I’ve used it as a Gchat status for so long. “Most Latest” = up to date and random. Hot off the presses and probably strange. As for “Vegetable,” nobody needs to be told that I spend a lot of time wandering around in my own mind. Me: now with your recommended daily intake of Vitamin C.