Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Miracles for Christmas

We began the trip in a way customary for us; that is, I was in a traumatized frenzy with my heart beating, hands shaking, nausea rising, feeling like I was going to faint, have a heart attack, and then throw up and have diarrhea. When I am like this, I am not tactful, nor am I always rational, and people feel that they are being yelled at (which they probably are, albeit not vindictively). So there is always a certain amount of pain that accompanies getting out the door while I try to wipe the counters and otherwise mop up behind us, in hopes of arriving home to a clean and organized environment.


We arrived at the airport in good time, thanks to a wonderful friend who drove us over. It was a clear day, unlike the previous day (Dec. 22), when it had snowed hard for approximately 36 hours straight. Although it was clear in Syracuse, it was apparently not clear in Detroit. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 4:17 p.m., but at 3:45, instead of a plane arriving at the gate, there was a switch in the schedule and the flight was pushed back to 5:25 p.m. This was not good, as our connection in Detroit was scheduled to board at 6:45, and it is a 90 minute flight from Syracuse to Detroit.


I asked the gate attendant if she thought we would get there in time. Unfortunately, she was over-worked, over-tired, and sick of passengers. The previous day had been a total fiasco, and on our day to fly, there were still many people who had not been able to get out the day before, trying hard to get on planes. Everybody seemed short tempered and tense. She said, “You have a chance. Your connection isn’t delayed, but you might get there in time. Also, there is another plane leaving Detroit about a half hour later.”


I asked, “Can you book us on that one?”


She looked at me as though I were crazy, “No. It’s completely full.”


I stood there, wondering, “If it is completely full, and we are going to miss our scheduled flight, then why would I go to Detroit? Should we not return to our home?


She looked at my silent face and said, “If you don’t get on this plane, you won’t get out of Syracuse for three days.”


So I just sat down. With my family. I have been trained not to ask the tough questions.


We finally got on the plane (it had simply arrived late from, I believe, Detroit). I told my family, “We will probably have to spend the night in Detroit. I don’t think we are going to make our flight.” They told me not to be negative and pessimistic and all that. I told them I was just trying to be prepared so I would not be devastated when it happened.


The pilot told us that most of the flights out of Detroit were being delayed, so not to worry about missing connections.


I prayed all the way to Detroit. I just beseeched God to help us. I told Him, “It would not be hard for you at all… all You have to do is delay that connection. That’s so easy for You, You would hardly have to even pay any attention…”


They had nothing but water and orange juice on that flight, and very crabby people.


The flight was slow: slow getting off the ground, slow landing, slow getting to the gate. We touched down on the Detroit tarmac at 7:14 p.m. Shawn immediately powered up his Blackberry… only to learn that our connection had already taken off. It was gone. I felt the adrenaline drain from my body. We would not have to run to try to make it. It was gone.


Inside the airport, at the gate, we got in line to talk to an airline representative. The man in front of us was small, tattooed, and extremely angry. He shouted at the gate attendant, and she bit her lips, responding politely but completely unhelpfully. He finally stormed off.


We approached her with trepidation. Shawn is the master of charm, but I was just terrified that the desperation in my eyes would irritate her. She looked at me rather than Shawn, so I said, as politely as possible, “We just arrived, and we have missed our connection… there are six of us, trying to get to Minneapolis. Is there anything you can do?”


Surprisingly, she did not respond with passive-aggressive hostility. She checked some things on her computer monitor. “Well,” she said, “Six is a lot, but there’s a flight departing from gate B12 in fifteen minutes, and only a few people have checked in for the flight. I’ll book you on it, but you’ll have to hurry.”


We were at gate A25. If you have never been to Detroit, you will not understand the distance we are talking here. Detroit has a tram service, but we were halfway between stops, and to backtrack to get to it would have hurt as much as it would have helped.


Suffice it to say that we took off running, in our heavy winter coats, each of us burdened with two pieces of carry-on luggage. We ran on the moving belts, puffing and trying to gently push past slower people while panting, “Excuse me please…” and “Pardon me, I’m sorry…” We ran between moving belts. We ran up escalators and down escalators. There is a big tunnel between the A concourse and the B concourse. It has a domed ceiling and special lighting effects. As we ran through, it changed from blue to a dusky color to glowing gold. The effect was emotional and hopeful. I prayed, “Please God, don’t raise my hopes only to dash them…”


After running for 10 minutes straight, we arrived at gate B12. I was sweating, my shoulders heaving and my lungs burning. David told me, “Mom, you really need to get in shape.”


There was a big line at the gate; I suspect it was all people like us, waiting for seating assignments. Shawn got in line to wait. The kids and I sat down. I remembered watching the news in years past, seeing people stuck in airports at holiday time, suffering weather delays. It occurred to me that I had made a pact with Shawn never to put ourselves in that situation. I thought, “What are we doing here???


After about 10 more minutes, Shawn had not moved in the line. I went to see if I could figure out what was happening. The lady trying to service the line put out a pager request for boarding pass paper. Shawn was on his cell phone with some Northwest Airlines office somewhere else. He hung up and told me, “Well, they say we’re booked on this flight…” He had an idea, and sent me to the line where they were trying to board the aircraft, but with my old boarding pass. He kept his place in the line he was in.


Very politely, I approached the lady (who was not boarding very many people), and said, “We missed our connection… this is my old boarding pass… they said we were booked on this flight, but we don’t have seat assignments yet…”


“Hmm...” she said to herself. Then she asked the lady who was waiting for boarding pass paper, “Are there any restrictions on seating assignments?” When the other woman replied in the negative, she said, “Righto. Here we go! Load ‘em on up!”


“Like a bunch of cows, huh?” I said to her, but I smiled. She looked surprised, but smiled back. I waved for my family to join me and we took her seat assignments and boarded the plane.


As we walked onto the plane, I was struck by how beautiful it was. It was a very new looking plane; the white parts were very white, and the seats were pale gray. Lots of white light glowed from above the baggage compartments. We were seated in the very back of the plane, all together, and wonder of wonders, the bathroom was out of order, so we would not have to deal with a line or the smells that emanate from an airplane lavatory. It seemed, well, heavenly. I don’t know when I have ever felt so overwhelmed with thanks to God.


We waited a long time. While we were waiting, freezing rain began to fall, and the plane was de-iced. At one point, the pilot came on the loudspeaker and told us, “Well, this flight did not exist two hours ago, but it has been created, and here we are… it will just be awhile while we wait for an ASMTJ assignment and an ASNPRF assignment.” (I am making up those acronyms, because I do not know what they really were, but I figured it meant we needed a runway assignment and a place in the line of planes waiting for take-off. That is just what I figured, but I think I was probably right.)


And then, oh miracle of miracles, then we took off. For Minneapolis. I continued praying, thanking God and saying, “Thank You so, so much. I don’t even care if we don’t have our luggage. Just thank You! This is more than enough. Thank You!”


Little did I know that I would find out about another miracle… a few minutes after we were up in the air, the pilot came back on the loudspeaker and told us, “Well, folks, we got out of Detroit just in time. They had closed two runways before we took off, and now they are moving toward closing down the whole airport.” I could not believe how God was taking care of us.


We had planned to eat dinner in Detroit during our layover. A number of us had not eaten lunch, and some had not even had any breakfast to speak of. Since we were famished, we were particularly glad that this plane had full beverage service. A ginger-ale helped my tummy considerably.


Anyway, to bring a long story to a close, we eventually arrived in Minneapolis, and our luggage was not there, but it was on the next flight (apparently at least one more plane got out of Detroit before they closed down…). My sister picked up Shannon, Laura, Jon and me, while Shawn and David stayed behind at the airport to wait for the luggage and to rent a car. By the time we went to bed at my parents’ house in Anoka, Minnesota, we were all together and even had our pajamas and toothbrushes. It was about 1 a.m., but we were thankful. God is good.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter



This is how my deck looked the other night. Then we got another day and a half of solid snow. I suppose I should have taken a new picture to show how much higher it is now, but I took a picture of the front entrance instead:



It's sort of like living in the shrubbery maze that the dogs go through in Go Dog, Go!. Except it is all snow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Can I?

There are a host of rules on blog etiquette. I don't read them much, because every time I do, I find out I've stuck my foot in my mouth again and done something wrong. Jesus distilled His rules down to two basic ones that cover all the rest: Love God, love your neighbor. Blog rules are not so simple. And I am afraid I am about to break another one today.

Can I just pour out my heart? Because I am pretty sad right now. That's the way it is, and it isn't a different way.

I called my parents on Sunday. I do that fairly often. Call on Sunday, I mean. Usually I just talk to my dad. My mom isn't much for talking on the phone anymore, but this past Sunday she got on the phone. She had a list of questions she wanted to ask me, because we are flying to Minnesota for Christmas this year. So she got on the phone and said, "Let me just find my list... oh where did it go?" Finally she found it. She paused and said, "Oh Ruthie, I need to tell you that at 6 a.m. this morning my dear, sweet wonderful sister Loie died."

And I sucked in my breath and I just couldn't believe it. I know that Loie has not been well at all. I knew that she was living in a hospital bed in the livingroom of her daughter Molly's house, with daily hospice care. But this is my Aunt Loie, who lived on the farm and made custard pies. Loie who sewed a little blue outfit with a bonnet that both Shannon and Laura wore as babies. Loie who sent us two handmade plaid teddy bears. Loie whom I always thought of when we used to call Laura "Baby Lo-lo", because Loie sometimes went by Lo for short, too. Loie who loved her four children and ten grandchildren and growing number of great grandchildren so much, but still had time to remember her niece in New York once in awhile.

Last summer I visited my parents while Shawn had a business trip in Minneapolis. I brought a bunch of old pictures home with me from my mom and dad's. Later, stricken with guilt, I scanned them all and made copies and put them into scrapbooks for my brother and my sister... I just mailed them off last week.

While making the scrapbooks, I remember looking at a picture of my mom with her four sisters, the five of them, and thinking about how I missed my Aunt Ruth's funeral last year (2007) in November. Last Christmas my cousin Rachel wrote to me and told me what a blessing it was to see relatives she hadn't seen in years at Aunt Ruth's funeral, that she was sorry I hadn't been able to be there. I looked at my aunts, in their younger years, and I thought, "The next time there is a funeral, I want to be able to be there." Maybe that is a morbid thought, but that's what I thought. I want to be a part of the family. I want to be there.

Who knew the way things would turn out? Well, God did, certainly.

Aunt Loie died on December 14, and her funeral is scheduled for December 23. Ironically, our plane tickets are for December 23. We are leaving at 4:17 p.m. (supposedly), and arriving in Minneapolis at 9:50 p.m., or something like that. Late. After the day is over.

Instead of being there to share this time with my family and grieve together and remember together and encourage and comfort each other, I will just be putting everyone out at the end of a long day.

The tickets are from one of those cheap discounters, the type of ticket that cannot be transferred or changed in any way. There is less that we can do than if we hadn't had any plans to begin with.

And even if we did throw my ticket away and just buy me a different one, leaving the previous day (it is not feasible to do that for the whole family), I don't think I have it in me to change plans, have everything ready for everyone a day early, and then travel by myself on my birthday.

My family doesn't care that I won't be there. They don't expect it. Nobody is putting any pressure on me. They would probably think it odd if I went to great lengths to get there.

But I care. I am very, very sad. I guess it boils down to selfishness. Nobody needs me, but I feel like I need them.


This is my mom and my aunts. Aunt Ruth is sitting on the sofa. Aunt Teda (Priscilla) is on the arm of the sofa. Aunt Loie (Lois) is behind Teda, and my mom is standing next to Loie. Aunt Nunie (Eunice) is in front on the right. Only Nunie, Teda and Bonnie are left, and Teda has a very bad case of Alzheimer's.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Water-Pik

One of the best gifts my husband ever gave me was my Water-Pik.

Having braces at 42 is no joy, but a Water-Pik is a great help in soothing the pain.

That said, if you, like me, have braces and you are thinking of getting a Water-Pik, just keep this hint in mind:

While cleaning your teeth, be careful not to ever inadvertently aim the water jet at the back of your throat.

Gagging while trying to clear water out of your innermost nasal passages is, um, unpleasant. And if you drop the Pik and it sprays down your entire vanity area while you are trying to get ahold of yourself...

Well.

If I had categorized archives, this one would go along with the one about how I discovered that it is best not to spray perfume in one's eye while dressing for church.

Monday, December 8, 2008

While we're on science... Bible study tomorrow

Job 38-41
God is the Creator.
He has Sovereign Control over the entire Universe.
He not only observes what is going on, He orchestrates what is going on.
Everything is always under God’s observation and control.

As God talks to Job out of the whirlwind, He reveals that He created the world and that He controls the inner workings of the universe, right down to the weather on earth.

Then God speaks of the wonders of His creation right here on earth, and lists a number of marvelous things He has made, including…
Lions
Ravens
Mountain goats
Deer
Wild donkeys
Wild ox
Ostrich
Horse
Hawk and Eagle
Behemoth (which I think is the brontosaurus)
Leviathin (which I think is the tyrannosaurus rex, or possibly an ancient and giant Komodo dragon)

The idea here is that if we cannot control the hours of sunlight in a day, or the rain or the snow or the temperature, if we cannot direct the stars or send a flood or lightening, if we cannot even tame a wild mountain goat that God made (much less tyrannosaurus rex), then who are we to question God?

Concerning dinosaurs.

1. God made dinosaurs. We know this because we know that God created everything, and we know that dinosaurs existed because we have found their bones. Thus, God created dinosaurs.

2. Evolutionists claim that dinosaurs never lived on earth at the same time as people did. My answer to that? They are wrong. They are wrong about a lot of things, and they are wrong about that.

Since evolutionists censor every shred of evidence that does not support their case, it is difficult to prove that dinosaurs and people lived at the same time. However, just because we don’t see a lot of fossilized dinosaur bones in the same places as fossilized people’s bones doesn’t prove anything. People and dinosaurs did not probably live all that close to one another, geographically. Do we find a lot of fossilized lion bones around fossilized people’s bones? I would expect not. Does that mean people and lions never lived at the same time? Obviously not. And I know that there are different layers from different ages. What they don't tell you is that human and dinosaur and even all types of plant fossils acutally do exist in the same layers, sometimes actually straddling layers. Evolutionists do not like to confront this evidence. It might prove Noah's flood, or something.


3. Noah took two of every kind of animal on the ark. Genesis 7:14 clearly states that a pair of every kind was included, including every creature that “moves along the ground.” This indicates that dinosaurs would have been among the passengers on the ark. The Bible never says Noah took all fully grown animals. It only says he brought male and female of every kind. Of the biggest and most ferocious animals, it is quite possible (and quite plausible) that Noah took baby males and females.


4. Interestingly, most cultures have an oral tradition that includes a story, “myth” if you will, about a cataclysmic flood. Also very interestingly, most cultures have tales of dragons. It is very possible that tales of dragons are really tales about ancient people’s encounters with dinosaurs. Of course, as oral traditions, the stories were prone to be exaggerated and embellished over time (e.g. giving the dragons magical powers). But it is very interesting that all the way from Japan to Great Britain, there are ancient tales of dragons and dragon slayers.

Most people have never seen a dragon, but everyone has heard of them. Ancient tales telling of a major world flood, tales that have survived throughout history, might just be another hint to us from God that a flood really did happen. Similarly, ancient tales of dragons, tales that have survived over time and throughout numerous cultures, might just indicate that some people at some time came up against a dragon… or a “dinosaur” as the case may be.


5. Some people say, “If God made dinosaurs, then why doesn’t the Bible talk about them?” Well, that is an interesting question. The word dinosaur was coined in 1841 by Sir Richard Owen. It is from Greek word roots meaning “terrible” (deinos) and “lizard” (sauros). Dinosaur means terrible lizard.

A dragon is a terrible lizard, and the Bible mentions dragons. And leviathans. Etymologically, dragon and leviathan both mean giant serpent/sea monster thing. Also very interestingly, the King James Version of the Bible was translated in 1611. Since dinosaur bones were not recognized as being the bones of extinct reptiles until somewhere between 1824 and 1838, and the word “dinosaur” was not coined until 1841, it is not surprising that the translators of the earliest English Bibles, translated some 230 years earlier, did not use the word dinosaur—it would have been impossible. The word did not exist.

The words “behemoth” and “leviathan” are transliterations of Hebrew words of unknown meaning. In other words, in Hebrew, behemoth is behemoth, and leviathan is leviathan. Because the translators did not know the meanings of these words, they just changed the Hebrew letters to English ones so we could read the words as they sound. The question is not so much “Why doesn’t the Bible talk about dinosaurs?” as, “Why don’t modern Bible translators use the word dinosaur when they come to leviathan and behemoth?” The answer is probably that they cannot know for absolute certain that this would be accurate (it is plausible, but not scientifically provable), and to translate as such, they would place themselves, and God’s Word, in a vulnerable position to be ridiculed by evolutionists (who have always been more concerned about obfuscating the existence of God than about accuracy, anyway).


6. Are dinosaurs really extinct? Well, obviously, the really gigantic ones are. But lizards look awfully like dinosaurs, if you ask me. A big lizard reptile and a little lizard reptile are not so different. Obviously the “species” has undergone adaptations. Nobody questions the fact that God created creatures with the ability to adapt. Darwin saw living things adapting and over-interpreted his observations, thinking that they were actually evolving. A species will adapt to weather conditions or a change in habitat, but it will not evolve into a higher species. In fact, a species may adapt back and forth as conditions change back and forth. But it will not evolve into a new species. Hence the fact that we do not see new species evolving all around us today.

The lizards of today are very possibly the dinosaurs of ages past. Some of the lizards of today and very reminiscent of dinosaurs. In 1911, Lieutenant Steyn van Hensbrock, a Dutchman, discovered Komodo dragons on the island of Komodo in Indonesia, and they were named "Komodo dragons" in 1912 (scientists were willing to call them dragons, presumably because everybody knows that dragons are “just pretend”; they were not, apparently, willing to call them dinosaurs, presumably because it would undercut their theory that dinosaurs and humans never co-existed on earth). These creatures are thought to have been discovered as early as the second century AD by the Chinese, and some people think they contributed to the Chinese dragon lore (more on that later).

Komodo dragons are very fast, ferocious and frightening. They grow as long as ten feet, although most are 6-8 feet long. They weigh from 150 to 330 lbs., depending on their age and sex. Their scales contain small pieces of bone, making them effectively armor-plated. They are ferocious predators, hiding quietly and then springing on their victims, which they tear apart with their powerful jaws and many rows of serrated teeth. Their mouths contain up to 80 different strains of terrible bacteria in the saliva, so any prey that gets away initially is doomed to die of a blood infection before much time has lapsed. They can eat up to 80% of their body weight at one sitting, and they can smell prey as far away as five miles. They are also able to climb trees, run at a speed of nearly 20 mph, and swim in the sea, even from island to island. They live in burrows in hot, dry, rocky climates. These creatures sound surprisingly similar to the leviathan God describes in Job 41, although probably a good deal smaller. (I personally wouldn’t even want to meet one of these “mini” leviathans.) I’m not convinced that dinosaurs are as completely extinct as they say.


7. Evolutionists say that dinosaurs have been extinct for 65 million years (such an exact number from those who know so much). However, a Jesuit priest named Athanasius Kircher wrote an account of a dragon slayer who succeeded in killing a dragon near a Swiss village in 1678 (to put this in context, remember that the KJV Bible was translated into King James English in 1611, and dinosaur bones were first identified in 1824). Kircher also described how the dragon lived in underground caves and caverns. He drew pictures of dragons as well, and also drew a small dragon that was said to have been discovered during the time of Pope Gregory the XIII, who died in 1585. The dragon (I imagine it was stuffed or something) was kept in the collection of a naturalist named Ulisse Aldrovandi.

As well as searching the records of medieval Europeans, we can look to the Chinese for information about dragons. Dragons have been a huge part of oriental culture. While in the west dragons were regarded with fear and loathing, in the east dragons were valued for their medicinal powers. (Interestingly, scientists are currently studying the Komodo dragon, trying to figure out how it can be immune to its own bacteria and how we might use that knowledge to protect humans from bacteria.) The Chinese used what they called “dragon” bones, teeth and horns to cure many illnesses and maladies, from heart and liver disease to epilepsy, constipation and bad dreams. The really interesting thing is that Chinese apothecaries (apothecaries were the guys who made the medicine) helped fossil hunters invaluably in later centuries by showing them to fossil sites… dragon bones, dinosaur fossils, is there a difference??


The point is that God knows it all. He knows when He made the dinosaurs, and why, and why He let them die out (or shrink, as the case may be).

If God can make storms, ice-ages, and dinosaurs, if He can order the stars and set constellations in motion, if He can provide or withhold food from the lion, then He can certainly take care of our lives.

When we understand His awesome power and greatness, we will not question Him accusingly. Like Job, we will say, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:4-5)

" ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord, ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ " (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cake of science

So yesterday Jon came home from school with a funny look on his face.

"Hi, Honey," I said. "Did you have a good day?"

"Yes." He did not elaborate. He did not meet my eyes. He fiddled with his fingers.

"What's the matter?" I asked. Famous last words.

"I, um, forgot about a science project," he replied.

My heart sank. "When was it due?"

"Tomorrow," he said, little guessing how that one word filled me with hope. Tomorrow means we can actually do something about it. Tomorrow means the late grade is not already in the book. Tomorrow we can handle. As my heart began a slow waltz, he said, "We have to make an edible model of a cell. I was thinking I could make a pizza."

I thought of a pizza with meat and cheese and otherwise pricey, imported ingredients being carted off to school to be poked, breathed on and possibly licked by about 100 middle school students.

I said, "No. I think we will make a cake."

We could make a plant cell or an animal cell. Plant cells can be rectangular. We (I) decided on a 9 x 13 rectangle cake. The cakepan could be the cell wall. Brilliant! One cell part covered with no extra inconvenience.

I had an Aldi's yellow cake mix. Aldi's makes good cake mix. Plus, it is only $0.79, so that was a big plus. It called for three eggs. I told Jonathan that two eggs would serve our purpose just fine. No need to waste eggs on a science project.

Jon mixed up the cake himself and poured it into the pan, put it in the oven and set the timer. He even tested it and got it out of the oven. Clearly, I made him do some of the work.

When the cake was out of the oven, we went to Wegman's to the bulk foods candy section. I had told Jon to make a list of the cell parts we needed to illustrate, along with ideas for kinds of candy that would be good to use for each part.

We ran into a number of confused looking teenaged boys milling around bulk foods. Jon knew them. They did not have lists. Most of them did not have parents (how did they get there?). Fortunately, with both a mother and a list, Jon was quite efficient at picking out his candy. We spent approximately $0.62 on small portions of bulk candy, and $2.19 on Fruit by the Foot, which I have never bought before, but I found it next to the oatmeal (?).

Then it was time for Jon to go to youth group.

And time for me to get creative.

I decided that in order to illustrate the cell membrane, I would line my other 9 x 13 cake pan with plastic wrap (the plastic wrap being the membrane), and transfer the cake to that pan.

Unfortunately, the cake broke into about 86 pieces when I tried to take it out of the original pan (probably because I told Jon to skimp on the eggs). But I have done cake projects for school before. Many times. I am a seasoned cake-projecter, so I did not panic. I calmly fit the pieces of cake into the pan, over the cell membrane (a.k.a. plastic wrap) like a jigsaw puzzle, and made a mental note to make a generous amount of frosting.

I cut a hole out of the smashed cake. The hole was to symbolize a "Cell Vacuole." Vacuoles are bubbles in the cell where other things are not. I thought this was another brilliant idea. I was on a roll.

Then I made frosting. I made it with powdered sugar, hydrogenated vegetable shortening and water. No milk. No butter. No vanilla. This cake was all about appearances. And frugality. I did use green food coloring, even though I know, I know, I know the green in plant cells comes from the chloroplasts. I just figured that the green from the chloroplasts probably permeates the cytoplasm to some extent, and makes it appear green. It was a plant cell. It needed to be green.

About the time I finished frosting it, Jonno came home.

I made "nametags" for the little cell parts on the computer. We cut drinking straws into sections and made slits in the top so we could stick the little tags in and make signs to label our project.

Jon actually got to do the final assembly.

This is what it looked like:


The nucleus was a large yellow gumball. DJ pointed out that this was very much not to scale, but it was the biggest gumball they had. I thought later that I could have used an apple or an orange instead. (Except, I really like apples and oranges, and the gumball only cost us $0.02.)

The mitochondria were Mike & Ike's.

The ribosomes were chocolate chips.

The lysosomes were "burnt French peanuts" (?). I have never eaten these, but Jonathan said they looked the part.

The chloroplasts were green Skittles.

The (frosted) cake itself stood for the cytoplasm.

I was particularly proud of our last two creations. First I will try to explain how we did the golgi body. We bought some candy whose name I do not know. I always buy this candy at Christmas, because I really like it, but I don't know its name. The wrapper says, "Sunkist," but that is the brand, not the name of the actual candy. It is little individually wrapped patties of jellied fruit juice, coated with sugar crystals. We took three, unwrapped them, and pressed them together in a stack to make a golgi body. It was pretty cool.

The piece de resistance, however, was our endoplasmic reticulum. We took Fruit by the Foot and wrapped it back and forth in a curvey, accordian style wave. Then Jon said, "Wait! There're supposed to be ribosomes floating around in the endoplasmic reticulum!" So we rewrapped the wave, inserting chocolate chips (which, you may remember, are our ribosomes).

Another view (you can see our super-awesome vacuole in this shot):



Do you think he learned anything? I'm surprised the schools can get by with assigning projects like this. What about the poor kids whose parents don't have the time or the money or the inclination to help them? If nothing else, a project like this separates the kids with supportive parents from those without.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Thanksgiving story

We traveled to Springfield, Illinois (birthplace of Abraham Lincoln) to spend Thanksgiving with my husband's side of the family. It was a momentous occasion, because we were all there, together, for the first time in five years, and we gathered to bid farewell to Shawn's sister Wendy and her family. Her husband, John, is taking a job teaching "Ethics and Government" at Oxford University in England. They are leaving on December 30, and they will be there for five years.

Here they are with their two children, Micah (age 8) and Hannah (age 5).



Hannah is quite the character. She reveled in her position of "youngest-everything." She climbed on her big cousins, hunted them down in hide-and-seek, made them dress, undress and redress a hapless scurvey-legged doll, and demanded the reading of many books.

Here is Hannah reading a book.


Hannah particularly liked David, in perhaps the way cats always seem to "like" me (me, the one with the cat phobia). David does not particularly care for small children. He has even gone so far as to say he can't stand them. However, Hannah found his large, well-muscled body perfect for romping on--he always caught her every time she jumped or rolled or otherwise threw her tiny body at him. If I didn't know better, I'd say she gave him about as good a workout as he gets at the gym.

Oh, and she wanted him to read to her. She brought him a picture book, some silly Disney-Christmas-lift-the-flap kind of non-literature type deal, which was OK with DJ, because there were harldly any words to bother about.

They got to a page where each Disney character was bringing something to put on the Christmas tree, and you had to lift the flaps to see what each one brought.

They got to Daisy Duck, and Hannah held the flap down. "I know this one!" she told David, "I've did this one before. You have to guess. Guess what Daisy brought! I'll give you a hint... it begins with a w-w-w sound."

DJ thought and thought. He could not think of anything that Daisy would put on a Christmas tree that began with the w-w-w sound. "I just can't figure it out," he told Hannah.

Triumphantly she lifted the flap and announced, "It's WIBBONS!"

(You know, those long red ones that you use to tie up packages... DJ would never have thought of that. His sisters do his Chistmas wrapping for him, and with his crew cut, wibbons just aren't part of the daily routine.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

This kid.



There was a guys' youth retreat at church last weekend. Among other things, they went paintballing. Unbeknownst to anyone, my Jonathan stowed away a bunch of paintballs.

He took said paintballs to school with him on Monday.

In social studies, somebody dared him to eat one, so, of course, he did. At least, he put it in his mouth and bit it and exploded the paint. His teacher saw and was certain that he had poisoned himself. She began to scream and cry. He spit the stuff out and told her (and I have my doubts about his honesty, but this is what he said), "Oh, don't worry. I ate, like, fourteen or fifteen of these last weekend when I was paintballing. I'll be fine." She nearly had a nervous breakdown and sent him to the nurse. And the principal.

Poison control was consulted, and it was found (as Jonathan had stated) that paintballs are made mostly of vegetable oil and are basically non-toxic. However, the principal called my husband at work and told him that Jonathan must have a Saturday detention on December 6.

Jonathan is indignant because his charge is "Reckless endangerment," and he says he didn't do anything reckless or dangerous; he should only be charged with "Class disruption," which he does admit he did. He says "Class disruption" would only be an after school detention, not a Saturday detention, and he wants justice.

We are trying hard to avoid giving Jonathan attention for this escapade, because I think attention is what he ultimately wants. So we are not letting the other kids in on it. The whole issue kind of cracks me up every time I think about it, though. I'm such a bad mom. Jonathan got in trouble in sixth grade once for making awful faces. His teacher said, "Jonathan! What would your mother do if she knew you were making those faces?" When he shared the story with me (with a twinkle in his eye), I queried, "You didn't tell her that I teach you all to make faces and that we practice together in a row in front of my bathroom mirror, did you?" He grinned and replied, "Of course not."

(For the record, David is far too cool to make faces with the rest of us. It would be important to him that this disclaimer be made.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Things you expect (kind of) and things you don't...

It is Friday, November 21.

Two weeks ago we raked a ton of leaves and did a really decent job on the yard. The problem? Only about half the leaves had fallen.

One week ago, on Friday November 14, all the leaves finished falling. It was 70 degrees and sunny. And we were fully booked. We were coordinating a major dinner at our church, our kids had All-County music auditions in Nedrow, and our dog had to go to the groomer, for starters. We did not get any yardwork done on Friday, November 14. As I frantically ran errands in preparation for the dinner, I watched the beautiful day fade into an early dusk, as days are apt to do this time of year, and I hoped in "tomorrow."

Well, Saturday came all right. It was a rainy day. It rained Saturday and Sunday. On Monday it snowed. Snow also fell on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and this morning.

Now my neighborhood looks like this...




And there are still leaves on the ground, nasty, wet, dirty, snow-covered leaves. You can see some of them poking up from under the snow as Schubert takes a mad frolic in the backyard...




Yup. Winter is here. On top of my poor rhododendron...




My weeping cherry looks weepier than ever...




Whether you like it or not, winter comes, with all the cold, the mess, and the short, dark days. It is part of the rhythm of life. I'm sure it serves a purpose.

I hope there won't be winter in Heaven

But, as I said, it is expected. You deal with it. You might complain, but you deal with it, because you knew that it was coming and, shucks, I forgot to move out of New York AGAIN.

What is not expected is the letter I got yesterday. I, I, received an invitation from the Biltmore Who's Who. The letter says, and I am not making this up, "You were currently chosen as a potential candidate to represent the professional and business community of Liverpool, New York..." It goes on to say, "The Publishing Committee selected you as a potential candidate, based on your current standing as well as criteria from executive and professional rosters."

Do you realize that I have not worked in nineteen years?!? And when I did work, I worked for only approximately nine months, as an advertising copywriter. I had Shannon, and I quit. Except for one very short stint of doing technical writitng for my husband's company (approximately three days' worth, and I hated it, so I got one of my friends to take the job... she still works there), I have never worked since.

It reminds me of the time when I was in college, and I was standing waiting for a bus, wearing Shawn's letter jacket, which had his name on it. Some dumb guy came up and tried to strike up a conversation with me by saying in his very nicest voice, "Hi Shawn! How have you been?" What.An.Idiot. Could he not see that I was a relatively small female, wearing a huge (read: MAN'S) letter jacket, and my name was not probably the name on the jacket?

Except, this time, I wasn't even wearing a jacket. Where did these people get my name? And why? I think I might be a bit angry, if it wasn't so funny.

They say, "Once finalized, your listing will share prominent space in the Biltmore Registry with thousands of fellow achievers across the nation, each representing individual accomplishment within their [sic] own geographical area."

At least they could try to get their pronoun agreement right.

Should I fill out the form? Should I tell them that I am a stay-at-home-mom with no job, no income, and I don't even homeschool? Gracious, I don't even rake my leaves.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Transitions

I don't do well with transitions. In other words, I think change stinks.

(aside: I was never one to be fooled by politicians who run on platforms for "change." Change is not generally a pleasant or agreeable thing. Actually, I hate change. If anyone wants my vote, and I don't suppose anyone cares about one quirky woman's single offbeat vote, but if anyone wants it next time around, he should run on a platform that says, "I will keep your life exactly the same as it is, only I will gently and slowly add enhancements by taxing people other than you and giving you things that you will like, such as classical music concerts in in your neighborhood park and free fresh fruit and a personal physician who makes house calls and cares about you." I am jesting. I think.)

It seems as though so many things are changing.

We bought land. We traded a car for a different car. We are in the process of getting a car for Shannon.

The US economy is tanking.

We have a new and very different president. He will step into office in approximately two months.

David needs to figure out where to apply to college and get his paperwork finished in less than a month.

Jonathan is in the throes of puberty.

Putting these factors together, I feel pretty insecure.

I am not dealing with a death in the family, or cancer in the family, or a job change, or a cross-country move or anything like that. I should be thankful.

I don't know if I have ever felt this tired in my life. Sometimes I can't even force my eyelids all the way open in the middle of the day.

Maybe... maybe... maybe along with all these changes, I am undergoing the Change at the same time.

(aside: Steven Curtis Chapman has a song that has a line that repeats over and over, "What about The Change?" I always think he is singing about menopause, which I suppose is blasphemous, because he is really singing about spiritual sanctification, but there you have it... my warped, middle-aged, sheltered, Christian woman mind.)

Do you know, my hair is falling out too? It will solve my problem of what to do about the gray, I guess. There won't be any gray hair, because I will be bald. I knew I could feel my scalp prickling and releasing hairs, but the concrete proof came when our shower stopped draining. This is the shower that only Shawn and I use, and Shawn doesn't shed. We took the drain apart and pulled out my hair with needle nosed pliers. While eschewing gory, slimy details, I will say that it was alarming to see how much hair is no longer on my head.

Speaking of transitions, how long do you think it takes to get used to wearing a wig? Maybe a wig would be a nice thing to wear on a cold winter day in our neck of the woods.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Out with the old



I really liked this car. It was fun to drive up the swervy driveway of our elementary school... it made me feel wild and brave and coordinated, it handled so well. Well, I don't have any kids in elementary school anymore, anyway.

We drove this car to Boston a couple of times.

It was a good car. It looked so sad, sitting at the dealer, stripped of its plates, the day we drove away.

It had a V6 engine. We traded for a 4 cylinder. I hope we get good mileage.

Here is the new car. As far as I'm concerned, the jury is still out on this one.



It has heated seats. That is a plus.

Forgive me for not being more excited. I had a really crummy week; lots of headaches, lots of issues at school with teachers, lots of dropped balls, lots of people frustrated with me but too polite to actually confront me on what a bad job I was doing at life. It is now 10:37 on Saturday night. The week is very nearly over. I will go to bed and hope for a better day tomorrow and a better week to come.

Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

No car

There will be no new car today. It is Veterans Day. The banks are closed. Nobody thought of this in advance.

I have a reprieve. It is nice. After sobbing this morning while Shawn drove away "for the very last time" in the Mitsubishi, I feel comforted to know that I get to do it again tomorrow. No, really, I really do feel better. Maybe tomorrow I will be ready for the transition and I won't cry. Maybe Dr. Seuss was a Republican.



Does this look like a little girl who would grow up to be a basket case about an old car? What has happened to me in the last forty years?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Trusting in times of complicated stress

Well, we closed on our land on Halloween. I wouldn't have chosen that date, but the taxes were overdue, and there was going to be an additional late fee if they continued unpaid into November. This was not our problem; it would have come out of the seller's profits. But we decided to be nice and hurry things along, and so now we are the owners of twenty New York acres. A big step for someone whose goal for the past 20 years has been to move out of New York.

Word travels fast. A friend from church called two days after we had closed to ask if he could hunt on our land. He offered to give us some venison steaks. I'm not sure I want any venison, but I don't mind him hunting. Maybe he would like to take Jonno out and teach him to hunt. Shawn was brought up hunting, but he doesn't much like it. I guess he's more a Jacob than an Esau. I think Jon would probably like hunting pretty well, though.

I might need to learn to like venison.

This past Friday I was taking Shannon to college and our car started to rattle and shake like crazy. We were on highway 481, and traffic was fairly heavy. I didn't know what to do! Shannon said, "You better pull over!" I thought about trying to make it to an exit, but there are not very many exits on that stretch of 481. I wondered why the check engine light was not coming on. Then it came on, and Shannon said, "Mom! Pull over before the car blows up!" Judging by the way things sounded, that was not an irrational statement.

We called AAA and a guy with a tow truck came... after I had sat on the shoulder for 30 minutes watching death approach time after time in my rearview mirror. People do not swing around you OR slow down when you are pulled over on the shoulder. It is really scary.

The AAA guy said it was a flat tire. I did not know how that explained the check engine light being on, but nevertheless, he changed the tire--put the donut on for us. After a harrowing experience getting back on the highway (during which I thought the AAA man would surely lose his life trying to help us), I drove to the next exit and went home by back roads.

Upon ariving home, we borrowed my DEAR neighbor's van to go to the high school to get our van, because DJ and Lu had driven to school. THEN I could finally take Shannon to college (she missed her first class).

Upon arriving home again, I went to take the car to Sam's Club to get the tire fixed. Shawn had arrived home from California at something like 12:15 a.m. the previous night, and was trying to sleep off jet lag, but it was an unsuccessful attempt. He had to pump up the donut, which was also flat, before we could take the car to Sam's together. In the end, they had to replace that tire and the one on the other end of the axle, for balance.

I told Shawn, "I think we'd better get a new car. I don't want that to ever happen again." He knew of a way to get a great deal on a three year old Mercedes, but his source, while reliable and utterly honest, is... um... slow. I did not want to wait two months for a great deal on a three year old Mercedes. I was still shaking with the memory of gargantuan tractor-trailer trucks barreling down on me at 75 miles per hour and passing within inches while my car shuddered as though in a turbine. I said, "I want a new car today."

I was hoping for a Honda Civic. We got an Accord. You have to let your man be a man, you know.

Actually, we don't quite have the new car yet, but the deal is settled and they are just detailing it and such while we get all the paperwork through. The waiting is a terrible thing. I would like to change my mind, but it is too late. Our old car drives nicely now that it has two new tires. The check engine light is off. I feel kind of sick. Shawn will pick up the Honda tomorrow at 1 p.m. and I will never see his silver Mitzubishi again. Did I mention that I feel kind of sick?

The car we got for Shannon will also be ready to go by the end of this week. Augh. I feel like I'm going to puke. Twenty acres and two cars in less than a month. Life will get easier. I HOPE life will get easier. Because if it doesn't, we will have made ourselves poor for nothing.

It is times like this when I have the most trouble trusting God. I prayed and prayed about the land. I prayed and prayed about Shannon's car. While going through the (admittedly very short) process of buying the Accord, I prayed that God would protect us from ourselves and stop it from happening if it was not according to His will. God doesn't need lots of time to answer a prayer. The length of time we pray means more to us that it does to God, I'm quite sure. But in major life changes (or investments, as the case may be), I always, always, always have the feeling I am being disobedient. I am SO GLAD I am not the man, and the ultimate responsibility doesn't rest on me. Just saying.

I need to trust, to trust and be thankful. It is a scary thing to impoverish one's family in an economic time like this. On the other hand, we are trading weak American dollars for stuff with a sort of real value (or at least a real use), so maybe it isn't so bad?

I think I should be shopping for a cow to raise on our land next. Oh, wait. That will require getting a barn first. And before we put a cow on the property, we should probably live there ourselves, but I can't even find a floor plan for a house that is both appealing and affordable. Why is life so complicated?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Another day

Well, the sun came up this morning, even though there was a political massacre last night.

The electricity is still on, my computer still works, there is still milk in the refrigerator, the school bus came on schedule, the dogs want their Alpo.

If Obama wasn't a baby-killer, I guess I would be OK with the idea of changing some things.

Health care is undeniably broken, and has been for a long time. Maybe changes will help. Maybe not. Who knows?

I'm thinking we ought to buy a gun, while we can, if only to get our name on the registry as folks with a gun. I don't really want to have a gun, but I sure do not want crooks to be able to look up a registry and see that I don't have one, so they can target me. Maybe we could get one and just bury it in the basement somewhere. Mostly, I want my name on the list as a registered gun owner. Because when the only people with guns are the criminals who got them illegally, a safe society it does not make.

Taxes? Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and give to God what is God's. I wish less was Caesar's and more was God's. I also wish that Caesar would promise never to use any of my tax money to provide federally funded abortions.

I do think it is kind of cool that we have a black man as a president, even though he is not really a black man, but I'm sure he would be a real black man if he could. I just wish he wasn't so very liberal. I wish he wasn't a baby-killer. I wish he was Clarence Thomas.

Can we hope? Is it OK to hope that some good might come from this? Is it OK to hope that new laws will help us pay for college? Is it OK to hope that perhaps this presidency will make strides in healing race-relations in our country?

Is it OK to try to look on the bright side?

Well, I don't know much. In fact, I only really know two things.

I know that God is still God, and nothing can ever change that.

I know that I will have to wait and see what happens next.

Anyhow, a repairman fixed my stove yesterday. So that is good.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Potpourri

(1) I am really tired. Well now, that's original. It qualifies as an ingredient in a "potpourri"? Like I know potpourri. I would probably think it was exfolliant and try to scrub my back with it in the bathtub if I ever came in contact with any. Or grind it up and use it to season a loaf of bread. Who knows? I'm tired, and I am not a crafty girl.

(2) There are crafty girls and crafty girls. As in, there are girls with designs on things who use wit and cleverness to achieve their goals. I am not one of these. I do have control issues, but they are ALL (I am not lying) beyond me. As in, I have given up. I used to control things. I got anorexia nervosa when I was 15-16-17, and dropped from 125 to 95 pounds. It was kinda fun. My dad told me I was starving my BRAIN cells, so I started eating again. I controlled my anorexia, for goodness sake. I could controal anything. Until I got married and had kids. Now I can't control anything. I tried to alphabetize my spices. I put the sweet ones (cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg, cardamom...) on the upper shelf and the rest on the lower shelf. But the lower shelf only fit up to about P, so the tarragon is next to the cinnamon and the cake sprinkles. Anyway, the oregano and the ground mustard and the cumin are all mixed up on their shelf now anyway. And I can't even blame it on anyone else, becasue I am the only one who uses spices.

If I don't fit the controlling definition of a crafty girl, then I certainly do not fit the literal image--a sweet faced thing who likes to knit and stencil. Oh, I have knitted and I have stenciled. I can do these things. I just don't. Not sure why. I guess I have enough mess without a bunch of craft projects around. My favorite part of a craft project is when you clean it up and throw the extra stuff all away. Which I never do. I still have craft stuff from projects I started eleven years ago. In drawers. This is why I don't craft anymore. There are no more drawers left.

(3) Sorry about the birth certificate stuff concerning Obama in my post a week ago. There really was a lawsuit by a real-live person from, I believe, Pennsylvania (but I am probably wrong about the state). Anyway, it was old news and debunked by the time I wrote about it, but I will leave the post up anyway so I can be properly shamed and punished for writing it in the first place. I was feeling sensitive because we had some crummy birth certificate experiences when we tried to get Laura's driver's permit. Actually, it was more a problem of social security cards than birth certificates, but it's all government document nonsense, and I was ticked to think that Obama might have an easier time of it than we did.

(4) Pet peeve. I hate it when, after dinner, I am at the sink scrubbing the cooking pans and packing away the leftovers in plastic containers, and the rest of the family CLEARS THEIR OWN DISHES from the table and GOES TO WATCH TV, while conspicuously leaving MY dishes at my place as if to say, "Ha ha Mom. You didn't even clear your dishes!" Never mind the fact that I made the food. Never mind the fact that I am washing all the really bad cooking utensils. By. my. self. Never mind that I have been clearing dishes for them ever since 1990, and probably cleared their snack dishes earlier that very day, just so I could set the table for supper. No. There sit my dishes, and the rest of them have the audacity to feel jusitified in judging me for it. I have a problem with this. I wonder if I have PMS or something. My blood pressure is rising right now, and it hasn't even happened yet today.

(5) Argh. I have to vote today. Can I say that I am sick to death of this election? We have a moderate Republican and a radical left-wing extremist Democrat, and somehow the radical extremist is predicted to win. This makes no sense. There isn't even a conservative candidate to choose from. I have a choice of voting for John McCain or voting for someone who will make this country communist, chase the rich out with a broom and tax the middle class into oblivion while bankrupting companies and destroying jobs, advancing abortion rights and redefining marriage to mean any perverse thing a person wants it to mean. He will strip us of our religious liberties, and probably advance pornography in the process (although the feminists used to be against pornography... is there any hope that while he is curtailing freedom of speech, Obama would also go after the the pornographic realm?). Anyhow, I will probably vote for McCain. Because it seems the most responsible thing to do. I toy with writing in a true conservative, but I don't know any that I like. Huckabee? In New York, the vote virtually always goes to the Democrats, no matter what, so it might not hurt anything to write in Huckabee. On the other hand, if I really want to see God act, I ought to take the whole thing more seriously than I want to. I am so sick of it all. Blech. If politics didn't affect my life, I would be very happy to entirely ignore them.

(6) Our stove is supposed to get fixed today. Really, it was supposed to be fixed tomorrow, but they called and said they were coming today, so here I am waiting for them, even though I had errands to do. And they are not here. It is a gas stove and one of the burner controls is out of control. It sparks and sounds like it is trying to light even when you don't touch it, and always if you brush or bump it lightly. Then you can't make it stop snapping. It is rather alarming, and we thought it would be a good thing to fix before the whole thing blows up. I am not upset--at all--that they are coming a day early. I just wish they would come.

(7) Lastly, here is a picture to brighten your day. I was trying to take an action shot of Schubert running through our kitchen. As you can see, I missed him. I have a number of pictures that look just like this, because I miss him every time. He is a fast moving dog.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A New President

In seven days, we will have a new president.

Humph.

I don't know if I will bother to vote. Obama will certainly win this state, regardless of what I do.

I am, however, "bothering" to pray.

I remember back in 1992... Laura was born on October 8, 1992 into a family with a 16 month old and a 2 (almost 3) year old. My body was worn out from having babies, and I had a terrible time with post-partum hemorrhaging after Lulu was born. There was just no way to stay off my feet. When Shawn was home, I tried, though, because the bleeding was really very alarming; it came in such violent gushes for such long periods of time.

So that Tuesday night in November when Bill Clinton won the Whitehouse for the first time, I was in my bed with the baby, nursing, drinking herbal tea and watching the election on TV. After Shawn got the other two tucked away, he joined me. We watched state after state go for Clinton, and I just felt sick dread in my stomach as I held the baby and wondered what kind of a world we had brought her into.

Well, even with hindsight I think Bill Clinton looks like the All-American kid next to Barak Obama. Barak has a more pleasant speaking voice and is much more handsome. But he is scary. Oh, he is SCARY.

Are the rumors about his birth certificate true? I read that he has a Kenyan birth certificate. We all know that one of the few requirements for qualification to be president of the USA is to be a natural born citizen. It is surmised that Barak was born in Kenya to a Kenyan father. He was recently asked to provide a birth certificate, and he produced a computer printout of something that said he was born in Hawaii, but neglected such facts as his birthweight and the name and signature of the attending physician.

Good grief. We had to go through so much more than that just to apply for Laura's driving learner's permit. You have to have an OFFICIAL birth certificate, one that has the OFFICIAL embossment on it. If you don't, snippy ladies who can barely see over the tops of their glasses will pull political-clerk-rank on you and send you away empty handed. But apparently the rules do not apply for Obama. He can run for president with a lame computer printout to suffice for his proof of natural born citizenship. (BTW--McCain provided an official, embossed birth certificate when requested to do so.)

If they find out that Obama is not, indeed, a natural born citizen, but he has already won the election, what then?  If they took it away from Obama, I suppose we would end up with Joe Biden for our president, which would probably be a fate worse than any we have considered so far. Say good-bye to freedom of religion (if you are a Christian--everyone else will be OK). Say good-bye to freedom of speech (unless you are a pornographer), good-bye freedom of assembly and the right to bear arms. Oh, and also bid farewell to the right to keep the money you earn. You won't have that, either, although it never was listed in the Bill of Rights. I guess our forefathers didn't dream it would be necessary to say that people ought to have the right to keep their own stuff.

I get upset. Then I have to look to the Lord.

Psalm 33 was my comfort during the Clinton years.
"We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You." Psalm 33:20-22

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fall Decorating

For the record, today Shannon turns 19. I had not even noticed that for past two weeks or so, since Laura turned 16 on the 8th, I have had a 16-year-old, a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old. Times are much better than when they were 0, 1 and 2.

I am not so much into fall decorating. Pumpkins are a hazard. One year when Shannon was around 7, we had a big birthday party and invited all the little girls from school, about 17 of them. We had four perfect pumpkins out on our step that year. The morning after the party, all four pumpkins were clean gone without a trace. I have always wondered whether someone from the party noticed how nice they were and came back and kyped them.

There have also been a number of years when our pumpkins have been smashed in the street. Why ours? When the rest of the neighbors' pumpkins were all intact? I never figured it out, but we stopped putting out pumpkins. We carve Jack-o-Lanterns on Halloween Eve and set them out for one night of flickering.

Many of my neighbors go all out for Halloween and buy fake cobwebby stuff and dead cornstalks. Personally, I have enough REAL spiderwebs in my shrubbery. Fall is a mess all on its own--you really don't need to add to the jumble. For instance, I have some perfectly Halloweeny looking dead marigolds in my front landscaping:




By the way, here is my house with the newly painted brown shutters. They were faded maroon vinyl, which was almost pink after about seven years of sun and rain. After we replaced the front door and put in one that is fiberglass stained to look like wood (I wrote about that), the pinky plastic shutters were truly hideous. So here's to a big improvement!



I am posting some more pictures of dead summer flowers. This is the perfect way to decorate for Halloween. It's free, it's effortless, it's already there! I'm not much for Halloween, but if I can get off this easy, well, why not?


Here is an ominous dead hanging basket.




Observe the eerily crisp brown plants on the right side in this combination planter.




What could be a better way to pave the way for small trick-or-treaters than yellowed hostas decaying on the path?

Who ever said I was a wet blanket when it comes to holiday decorating?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dog Poetry


This is our dog, Schubert. He is a very much loved dog, especially by the kids. You can do anything with him, and he is just relaxed and happy, no matter what. Even if he gets nervous, like when we take him to the vet, he just sort of goes "into himself" and doesn't bug anybody about it.

He has affectionately earned the nickname, "Schu." Or Shoo, as the case may be. It all sounds the same, which is my point. Schu is a very convenient name, as it rhymes with everything. For instance, Schu's accessories are all blue, and that rhymes. He also rhymes with true, new and dew, and Lu, which is what we call Laura.

Speaking of Laura, she was extolling the beauty of the name Schu just the other day. She said, "It's so great! Schu rhymes with 'you'... so in every song where it says, 'I love you' (and there are a lot of songs that say that), you can substitute, 'I love Schu,' and it always works!"






This, on the other hand, is Piper.

Poor Piper.

His name rhymes with nasty thinks like...
hyper (an unpleasant behavioral characteristic)
viper (a poisonous snake)
diaper (stinky when used)
riper (as in, the gas Piper passed was riper than the gas passed by the Schu)
sniper (one who hides on a roof and shoots people)

You get the idea.

No wonder he's a little tense.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Our Land

It might not be the best use of my time to journal right now.

But I am being good to myself.

This morning, painters came to paint the trim on our house. Our shutters are no longer faded burgundy vinyl. Now they are brown. I think they look nice. However, having a crew of painters on site is stressful to me. They open all the windows (well, they have to, to paint the sills). But then they smoke. I baked apple crisp to try to drown out the cigarette smell.

I was also working on laundry. At our house, there is always laundry. The head painter came and asked to use my laundry tub to do something with his brushes. I said, "Sure," and took him down to the basement... where I found that a dustcloth and two socks had fallen into the washtub and plugged it... so when the washer drained after the wash cycle and again after the rinse cycle, it had overflowed the laundry tub and flooded the basement floor.

Our basement is very cluttered. It is also very dusty. When you add about thirty gallons of water to the mix, you get a big mess.

I was very sad. I worked hard and moved everything to dry areas, using approximately thirteen towels to sop up all the wet. Maybe more. The painter tried to help by mopping. I'm sure he got up a bunch of water, but I felt like he was in my way. I needed to move things. I emailed an SOS to Shawn and he kindly came home and helped me move furniture and appliances so I could get into the last corners to dry things up.

Although the windows are all cracked open so the paint on the windowsills can dry, making it fairly cold in the house, I got warm working on that mess. I got a little hot under the collar, too. I wish people would be careful not to throw small cloth items into the laundry tub. This has happened before. I do not like it when this happens.

Anyway, the damage is mostly under control and I should be preparing for the Job study tomorrow. But I am taking a moment to "chill" and do some things that will make me feel happier... like eating a piece of apple crisp and writing about our land.


This is Jonathan getting ready to four-wheel out to see the land. Actually, he, Shawn and I all went together on the four-wheeler.




This is what our land looks like. There are about ten acres of arable land, which is currently covered with six-foot tall weeds. You can four-wheel through the weeds, but it would be very hard to walk through them, plus it would be easy to get lost since they are so high. As soon as we close on the property, we are going to have the weeds mowed down. Behind the weeds, we have about ten acres of forest... you can see the trees in the background. So if the economy fails, we can try to grow food and raise a few chickens, a couple pigs and maybe a cow on our front ten acres, and we can hunt deer in the back ten acres.




Here are Shawn and Jonathan exploring our woods. Did I just say "our woods"? I never even thought I'd own a swimming pool, and here we are looking at... woods. They are pretty wild; I'm sure we'll have to watch out for poison oak and poison ivy, and there are some very thorny wild rose type vines. But it is beautiful nonetheless, and Shawn and Jonno found a deer track. Jonno is already begging for a bow.

I can't believe this is happening to me.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Early morning frost

This morning I took Laura to school to take her PSAT. When I got home, the sun was just beginning to melt our first hard frost.


Those two leaves look like they're flirting with each other.




I tried to recapture the golden morning sun using photoshop. I'll get better at this with practice.




This reminds me of the Christmas Carol, "The Holly and the Ivy." Wouldn't Holly and Ivy be cute names for two little twin girls? How about Holly, Ivy and Lily for triplets?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Macabre

Shawn hangs an axe on two nails in our garage.

The other day it fell down. It landed, blade-end down in a case of cans of low-sodium V-8 juice from Sam's Club. We saw no obvious damage, so we hung it back on its nails.

Today I noticed a can of V-8 sitting on the step outside the garage door. It was a slight distance from the case of cans. You could note that, if you were writing up a police report.

I ascertained that there was some dried tomato (well, V-8) juice on the top of the can. I picked up said can, and at the pressure of my hand, it could not hold its shape. It had a gash, invisible to the naked eye but very real. Tomato juice leaked on my hand like evidence.

Axe massacre, Ruthie-style.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More pictures from our dream date.

(For the explanation and commentary, please see the previous entry)


Better than Swiss gold.




The man of my dreams. And he left his Blackberry in the car!!!




Light through leaves.




Me, nestled beneath a tree.




Autumn blossoms.

Dream date

Shawn and I had the perfect date yesterday. Perfect. He took the day off work (well, so did I, I guess). It was a stunning central New York autumn day. We drove through the colors of fall, along Cayuga Lake, until we got to Ithaca, and then on to Robert Treman State Park, which is an uninspiring name for one of the most magical places on earth.



This was the view from the picnic table where we ate our lunch.




It is hard to capture the flavor of the colors with a camera. There were moments when I could hardly breathe from the beauty. Each corner we turned showed afternoon sun, leaves, rock and waterfall in a different way.




Each step of the path was a fantasy... like walking through a fairy tale. I felt as though I should be wearing a wayworn cotton dress with laces up the front.




FDR's DPW built these stone steps. They also built bridges and basins. Doesn't it look like a Tolkienian elf settlement?





Passing waterfall after waterfall, we bathed ourselves in the music of running water, crunching leaves under our feet, light streaming from unexpected western angles, sunspots dancing in the pines, and the smell of damp rocks.

I don't camp. But if I did, I would camp here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Disgruntled Dog



Piper says, "Darn."

For a better view of the expression on his face, click on the picture and manipulate your view until he is centered.

Before we got Schubert, Piper almost always stayed close to home. Upon the arrival of Schubert the Usurper, when Piper was toppled from his position as The Doggy of The World, Piper began to make breaks for "freedom" more often when we let him out.

So we tried leashing him. He became hoplessly tangled in the picnic table.

Oh well.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Whew

Tuesday after Bible study, I crash. I am exhausted.

I like to teach Bible studies like a tour guide... "And today we will visit this spectacular sight, and look at it from a number of angles." And then we do, examining scripture and drinking it in by the teaching power of the Holy Spirit.

Well, that was how I taught Hosea, and Psalms (certain selected ones). We surveyed the Bible together a couple of years ago, and then we did Matthew and the books of First and Second Kings. I loved it. I immersed myself in the scriptures during the week and arrived at class nervous and unsure, but still focused on a solid central idea and identifiable message each week.

Can I just say that studying Job is not the same?

First, it is not a book I can immerse myself in day after day. I leave study on Tuesday when it is over, and I don't even want to look at Job again. It is confusing, depressing and repetitive. In the part of the book where we are, the cycles of discussion between Job and his friends, you have to read with your back to the wall, adrenaline pumping, constantly evaluating: "What is true? What is right? Where is the mistake?" You know that Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar said things that were wrong and displeasing to God. You know because the Bible tells you in Job 42. But what exactly were their mistakes? We are finding them, but often they are cleverly hidden in smug words of purported knowledge and wisdom.

Second, I do not know this book. I am not familiar with the ins and outs. Before this study, I did not know the personalities of Job's friends, or their arguments, or even Job's. I am no tour guide. A fellow stomper-through-the-brush is more like it. And sometimes the path we tread one week looks suspiciously like the path we trod the previous week. I think this happens for two reasons... (1) Job is a repetitive book, largely, and... (2) Barring the book's own repetitive nature, we sometimes have to go back and re-wrestle with truths that were hard to absorb the previous week. This is tough medicine. Very tough.

So I get out and instead of feeling, as I so often felt last year, "Thank you Lord Jesus for the precious time we just shared in Your Word together," I often just feel like, "Whew." And then I sigh, exhale, puff out my cheeks and look at my Bible and have a melancholy wish that I didn't have to go right back to it. To Job.

You have to get away from something like that now and then. I try to read other passages, a Psalm when I am down, a passage in Isaiah (I've been reading a lot of Isaiah lately). Then there is the 3rd and 4th grade Sunday school class I have been teaching. They have been doing the partiarchs, and now we are moving into the judges. But somehow, Job seems to cast such a pallor over everything.

If I am not in God's will, I'm sure He will do something about it. He won't leave me to flounder indefinitely. I truly thought He was calling me to teach Job. I didn't even want to teach it, but I had the feeling that if I didn't, I would be dodging God's plan for me. I never thought I was smart enough to teach it, but I did trust that He could use even me, and gift me with what I needed for the task... but I am not sensing that I am gifted in this way at this time.

My prayer is that God will use this all in spite of me, that He will touch lives in spite of my shortcomings, that He will capture hearts in spite of my discouragement, and in the end that I, too, will find His blessing.

This was not at all what I was going to write about. I was going to write about four-wheeling with Shawn on our land. But this is what came out. Is that odd?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Purchases

About a year ago we bought a new bed. This was occasioned by the fact that our previous bed had become rather too much like a bowl for us to continue to get a good night's sleep in it.

We gave the previous bed to Shannon. It was a very expensive bed, but it had not held up well. We do not know why this was. Shannon sleeps well in it. It always had been more comfortable for one person than for two.

Our new bed, the bed we bought last year, was not expensive. I don't remember exactly how much it cost, but it was well under $1000. (The other bed had been more than $1000, seven years earlier--one has a moral obligation to sleep on a bed for at least seven years, no matter how bad it is, you know). Our new bed is a foam bed, not a spring mattress. It is very comfortable. I loved it as soon as we got it.

There is a drawback, though. We didn't notice it for a long time because, you see, we bought the bed in the fall. It was fantastic in the fall, wonderful in the winter and spectacular in the spring... that is until spring started to turn to summer. In the summer, our foam bed became exceedingly hot. It reflected all our body heat back at us and did not absorb one cubic centimeter of sweat. We found ourselves awakening bathed in perspiration, tangled in soggy sheets, morning after morning. I almost (almost) started not minding so much when Shawn went out of town, because the bed was so much cooler without him.

Towards the end of summer, Shawn communicated to me that he was quite unhappy with the bed, and weary of waking up wet.

Since we are committed to sleep in the bed for at least 6 and 1/4 more years, I put my energies into finding a solution.

Did you know that you can buy a refrigerated mattress pad with cooling coils in it? They cost about $750, roughly as much as the bed cost in the first place, I think. So that solution was a no go.

There are also mattress covers (mattress pads) called "isocool" mattress pads. They run about $125. I thought one might be worth a try. But I kept looking for options, before I placed an order.

I ended up ordering a feather bed from Overstock.com. It was $75. This was a good price point for a beginning solution, I thought. The literature suggested that feather beds allow for air circulation around your body, keeping you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

The featherbed arrived quickly. I was surprised at how thick and pouffy it was. I washed the cover that came with it, and put it on the feather bed. Then I swathed the thing in one of my favorite L.L.Bean fitted cotton sheets and placed it on top of our mattress.

It is like sleeping on a cloud. We love it. Of course, it is October, so it may not be a fair test of coolness, but this is THE most comfortable thing I can imagine. I no longer understand why anybody would buy a pillow top mattress, ever, when you could buy a $75 feather bed instead, and shake it and fluff it every morning, and replace it if it wears out, not having to buy a whole new mattress.

This featherbed makes for the best sleeping, and on top of that, it is just pure fun. It's fun to shake it in the morning and see it billow up like a parachute. It's especially fun if you shake it with somebody else, as hard as you both can shake, laughing across the bed at each other like a couple of three year olds. It is fun to think about the princess and the pea. It is fun to make the bed and see it all puffy and high under the quilt, like something on display in an antique home.

So, that was a good purchase.

Another purchase is now truly in the works. We are purchasing the twenty acres of land I wrote about earlier. I hope this will also be a good purchase. I remember about fourteen years ago, we needed a new house and we needed a new car, and nothing was coming together... so we bought a leather recliner. To be completely honest and fair, I have always loved this recliner. I feel affectionate towards it in that it somehow helped in taking the edge off the fear I felt over making a major purchase. A year later, we bought the home we live in now.

This has been a good home for us. I have been serenely happy here for many years. It is a nice neighborhood, and the people are good people to live around. I even have some Christian neighbors! Our house is exactly the floor plan that I wanted at the time, and it has worked very well. The only two things I have wished for are... (#1) a closet where I could store my vacuum, and (#2) a little more bedroom space for the boys. Otherwise, this house has been just about as perfect as it could get (well, since we redesigned the kitchen it has been).

So you can see that it would be terrifying beyond belief for me to think about moving out to the country, far from Wegman's and WalMart and the mall, far from school and gas stations and banks. Right now, we live within 5-10 minutes of everything, including church, except Shannon's college (~ 25 minutes) and Shawn's office (~20 minutes). And we live in a quiet suburban enclave with nicely landscaped homes and--amazingly--largely two-parent, intact families.

For awhile, it didn't look like we were going to get the land. I was at peace with that. I figured, as God wills, it will happen. I could be patient. Maybe God had a different plan.

As events have unfolded, it is clear that God is in control, directing our paths. I need to continue to have patient faith, to wait in anticipation to see what God will do. Although I am frightened, I know that God is for me, and He has a plan. My prayer is that we can build a home with a sort of in-law apartment for my parents, and that they will be able to move in with us and live with us in their last years. If that were how God would "give back the years the locusts have eaten"... all the years that I have longed to be near them and have my children know them and love them... that would be so much more than a dream come true.

I don't know if that will happen. I don't know what God's plans are. I need to trust and be strong and courageous.

The signed purchase agreement is currently on our lawyer's desk.

It's hard to be brave when you are such a small animal.
~Piglet, Winnie the Pooh