Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Our family celebrates Passover. At least, we used to. For a number of years, we got too busy, and we allowed this precious tradition to lapse. Recently we have begun again.

We usually celebrate Passover on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, rather than according to the Jewish Passover calender. Maundy Thursday is the best, because that is the day when Christians remember the Last Supper of Christ, which was, incidentally, the Passover. This year, we held our Passover Seder on Good Friday because Shawn was in Florida until then. We did it early in the day, about 1 p.m., which puts a damper on some of the questions ("Why is this night unlike any other night?"), but we dealt with that by not asking the questions.

Here is the table prepared for the Passover meal. We use a large pitcher of grape juice instead of wine because (a) it tastes delicious, (b) it is very affordable, and (c) we do not drink alcohol around here.

I try as much as possible to keep Kosher for this meal. Most of the foods are prescribed and symbolic, but we also have a salad. Salad is parve, which means it can be eaten with either a meat meal or a dairy meal. Passover is a meat meal, which means I have to cook everything without using any butter, milk or cheese. So... no Parmesan in the salad dressing tonight! We used an olive oil balsamic vinaigrette.

This is parsley and salt water. The parsley reminds us of the hyssop branches that the Israelites used to paint the blood of the lamb on their door frames. The salt water stands for their tears while they were in bondage, and also the salt water of the Red Sea that God parted for them.

Here you see homemade matzah. I bought the boxed kind one year and never heard the end of it. Boxed matzah is not particularly tasty. I made up a recipe that I used for years, just flour, water, oil and salt. But this year I found a new recipe to try, and everyone loved it.

The bitter herbs are possibly the most famous part of the Passover meal. They are supposed to bring tears to your eyes in remembrance of the agony of the slavery the Israelites suffered as slaves building the pyramids for Pharaoh. Since we are Christians, the bitter herbs also remind us of the bitterness that sin brings to us while we are in bondage to it. This year's bitter herbs (aka horseradish) were about seven times stronger than usual. David and Jonathan customarily have a contest to see who can load the most horseradish on his matzah. This year, it very nearly knocked them out of their chairs. I was worried for awhile.

Below, you see one of our very favorite Passover dishes. Charoseth. It is supposed to look like the mortar the Israelites used to hold their bricks together while they were building, which it does. Although it is not the prettiest stuff, it is absolutely delicious... apples, honey, cinnamon, walnuts and lemon processed in my Cuisinart. The sweet taste of this on a piece of matza--after the bitter herbs--soothes your mouth and reminds you of the hope of deliverance. Jewish people think of the deliverance from Egyptian slavery, but as Christians, we also think of the great deliverance from sin that Jesus provided for us through His sacrifice of Himself. A friend has called this dish, "Hope," because hope is easier to say than charoseth.

Another dish without any significance: roasted vegetables. Again, these are parve. It took me a number of years to get this right, something that tasted good and also kept the meal kosher. For a long time I was stymied over how to do potatoes and vegetables with no butter (I do not do margerine). These are carrots, red potatoes, red peppers and parsley, coarsely chopped. I shook them in tupperware with kosher salt, pepper, thyme, olive oil, granulated garlic and dried onion. Then I roasted them with the lamb until they were tender, stirring gently every 30 minutes until they started to soften.

Here is the lamb. Roasting. The aroma in the kitchen--roasting lamb, grape juice, horseradish all mingled together in the air--has a profound effect on us now. It is sort of the way the smell of pumpkin pie and turkey signify Thanksgiving, only much deeper.

Below you see the most amazing part of Passover. This is called the "Unity." It is three pieces of matzah wrapped together in a napkin. A proper Jewish mother would have a special piece of linen sewn to hold them in a pocket. Someday I will make one of these. For now, a paper towel suffices. One of the biggest problems Jewish people have with Christianity is that they say we are a polytheistic religion because of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), while they are entirely monotheistic, with one God only, no Jesus. So it is fascinating to me that this thing is called a Unity, when as a Christian, I see it as a clear picture of the Trinity. Right before we serve the meal, Shawn takes out the Unity and slips out the middle matzah. This middle matzah is called the afikomen (which, incidentally, means "I have come."). He breaks the afikomen into two pieces, and replaces one piece at the center of the unity. The other piece, he wraps separately and hides away somewhere in the house.

Then we eat dinner.

This year, our dinner was especially delicious.

After dinner, you send the kids on a contest to find the afikomen. Perhaps this is where we got the idea to do Easter eggs hunts in the Christian tradition. I hope that when I was describing the afikomen earlier, you caught how it symbolizes Christ, who was removed from His unity with God and separated from His glory. This is the bread that Jesus took after supper and broke, saying that it was His body, broken for us.

When the kids bring it back, you generally give them coins, or chocolate money. This year we didn't hide it (I set it in a different part of the kitchen), or send the kids to find it (they are just too big now), or have any chocolate coins. We only had chocolate. I am afraid it was probably not kosher; I think there was milk in it. However, that is what we had for dessert. Un-kosher chocolate. And almonds.

And coffee.

And here is the table after the feast. It was a good celebration.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I think spring is finally here.

It is 71 degrees, for one thing. And humid! I went to the doctor this morning and I didn't wear a coat, only a sweater, and a three-quarter length sleeve sweater at that.

The best thing: the tiny leaves are starting to grow, spreading a soft green mist among the bare branches.

Daffodils are up.

Forsythia is blooming. Forsythia is not my favorite, crazy yellow shrub. But it is definitely a sign of spring, so I always welcome it, zany as it may seem.

The hyacinths are up, too. They always look a little forced and artificial to me, but they are undeniably pretty in all their varied pinks, purples and blues.

The grass is nice and green, and some people's yards have lawn mower tracks. (Not ours.)

It was a lovely day to drive home with the one working window in the van rolled down, blasting trumpet fanfares from the classical station. I am such a rebel.

If it just doesn't snow tonight, I think we'll be in business.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I just finished reading Orwell's 1984.

I think we read excerpts in high school. There was a lot that I didn't remember, and a lot of sex. I read it because Jonathan has to read it for school. I am pretty sure that we did read Huxley's Brave New World, and I know I read We by Zamyatin in one of my Russian classes in college... I still have that one on the bookshelf.

1984 is a philosophically disturbing book.

The most frightening thing is the fact that a number of his predictions have come true and are surrounding us all the time, but we are like frogs in a pan of water that is slowly coming to a boil.

At its core, 1984 is about whether absolute truth exists. Winston Smith, the protagonist, believes that it does, and that he has proof that there is absolute truth which reveals that "the party" which rules his existence is evil, deceitful and dangerous. Because of his mistrust of the party, Winston rebels and tries to find a resistance movement. Instead, he falls into the hands of the party where he is tortured and brainwashed until he ultimately accepts that there is no truth outside of what the party teaches. There is a terrible scene where an inner party member, O'Brien, oversees Winston's torture while teaching him that 2 + 2 is not 4 if the party says it is 5. O'Brien somehow has insight into Winston's thoughts, and it is not enough for Winston to merely say that 2 + 2 = 5 if that is what the party decrees. He actually has to believe it, and O'Brien can tell whether he does.

Towards the end of the book, Winston is "intellectually purified," which means that he will accept and believe what the party says about anything. However, the last stage of his "purification" is emotional. He is not completely remade for the purpose of the party until he has utterly betrayed the woman he supposedly loves (at any rate, the woman with whom he has a satisfying sexual relationship; there is not any indication in the book that their relationship ever extends much beyond animal lust). He is subjected to a horrific torture that exploits his deepest phobia, and he has to wish that it would happen to her, specifically, instead of to himself in order to escape it. Of course, the pain and fear are so great, so expressly designed to be unbearable to him, that he betrays her in the first instant that he realizes that this is what will save him. He never even questions, "Can I betray her like this?" The only question in his mind is "How can I avoid this?"

Throughout the book, the party rewrites history to suit itself and everyone must always accept and believe the party line exactly is it is presented. There is a mantra: "He who controls the present controls the past, and he who controls the past controls the future." The party controls the present through fear, technology, violence and total control of all media at all times. The technology that Orwell predicted is laughable. Everything is in print, and old records are continually burned while revised records replace them as facts change according to the will of the party. Winston actually works in the "Ministry of Truth" burning old records and writing new ones, and the party expects him not to notice that this is duplicity.

One of the things that frightens me is this: they are already rewriting history textbooks. The Pilgrims, they say, came to America because they were unhappy about King George's taxation system. Freedom of religion? Religious persecution? Hogwash, they tell us now. That was just a cover to make the pilgrims (aka Rapists of Native American Culture) look good, except, actually, it was a pure fiction. The pilgrims were not Christian or moral people at all, and they committed every imaginable moral outrage both against the native Americans and against one another. This is seriously what the kids in school are being taught these days. This has been "discovered" and added to modern history textbooks, although for generations past it was "unknown."

And concerning absolute truth: in my experience in college, even though it was 25 years ago, there was already a denial of the existence of absolute truth. Philosophy classes scoffed at the idea that there could possibly be a universal, absolute truth outside of the perceptions of the individual. At one point in 1984, O'Brien tells Winston that he can do anything, he could float in the center of the room if he so desired, there is no absolute such as gravity. Later, Winston thinks back to the conversation and agrees with O'Brien because, he muses, if O'Brien believes that he is floating in the middle of the room, and so do I, then he is, it is true.

Modern philosophers believe this. I have met modern philosophers who believe this. They have already totally removed logic from the educational system. Logic is not only not encouraged, it is actively discouraged. I don't know what you want to call these people... liberals? modern intellectuals? philosophical educators? But whatever their name is, they scoff at logic and act as though it is nothing, baseless, useless. We are already living the nightmare of 1984, and we just do not know it.

Beyond that, these philosophies are fast creeping into educational philosophy. "Who are you to tell a student that his answer is not right?" This is commonly taught in secular education classes today. Teachers-in-training are encouraged (I am using passive voice because I do not know how to name the people who are doing this) to understand their students, to be open to any and every possible answer. If the student says that 2 + 2 = 5, then maybe there is some way that he is perceiving the problem that differs from your experience, and you need to be open to how his personal perception makes his answer correct. I am not making this up; I have a friend who actually sat through a college lecture where the professor presented this philosophy. And not only did the professor present it from a serious point of view, he was unabashedly critical of anyone who would be bigoted enough to insist that there was only one correct answer to a math problem.

This phenomenon is what 1984 society calls "doublethink." It has to do with actively accepting alternative truths in your mind without concern for how they contradict one another. The USA is on a fast track to adopting this world view lens. The abolition of logic was one of the first steps.

In 1984, the party is creating a new language, called "Newspeak." The point of "Newspeak" is to reduce the language to a minimum of words that will make it virtually impossible for anyone to express any thought that is not in accord with party doctrine. Imagery, abstract thought and analogies are strictly forbidden. Although our government is not actively killing words, our society is certainly regressing in literacy, particularly in regard to vocabulary. Today's average student at the high school level is incapable of reading and understanding many documents that were written as recently as 50 years ago. Nobody reads the Constitution or the Bill of Rights anymore. Citizens under the age of twenty have an appalling lack of familiarity with most words of more than three syllables. In my own community, people do not understand jokes from Broadway plays that were written in the 1960's, as evidenced by the lack of response at the local high school's annual musical drama performance each year. Words that used to describe feelings, appearances, tendencies, etc. have now been replaced with the crassest of curse words. Twenty years ago I heard a man boast that he could use a particular four-letter-word as a noun, verb, adjective and adverb. That was twenty years ago. Today it goes without saying, and nobody remembers what words anyone ever would have used instead.

Our society has rejected absolute truth, denigrated logic, and forsaken the very vocabulary of our language. Abstract thought no longer has purpose or value. I believe they even took the analogy section off the SATs (if not, they plan to do so soon). The people of our country are weak minded and unable to think. Have you seen any TV ads recently? They have nothing to do with anything; humor or sex is more likely to sell a product than actual facts about what something can do. Even churches, which should be bastions of truth, wisdom and illumination, cow-tow to the popular notion of super-simplifying everything because we don't want anyone to be bored.

The USA is ripe for something awful to happen. We have less defenses each decade. Those who try to think clearly are scorned and abased.

Our citizens think that "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are theirs automatically. They think that these ideals are true the world over, simply because it is what they desire. They are surprised when people go to foreign countries and are not accorded the respect that they believe the American Constitution grants them. They think they have an automatic right to food, designer clothes, health care, and cable TV, regardless of their behavior, and that "somebody else" (probably the government, although they despise the government) will provide it.

I fear that we will have a rude awakening. I pray God protects His children in that day.

A couple of last things. In 1984 Orwell equates sexual repression with government totalitarianism, and unbridled sexual expression with freedom and love. He was completely wrong about this. Orwell thought that by removing the pleasure of sex, the government would break down the family structure and replace it with loyalty to "the party." He failed to realize that sexual purity--not repression, but self-control leading to faithfulness and loyalty--is what makes a family unit strong. If a government wants to break down the family structure, all it has to do is encourage the unchecked expression of sexual lust; the family will dissolve within a generation (this has already been demonstrated).

At one point near the end of the book, as Winston is being remade into a pure party member, he writes, "FREEDOM IS SLAVERY" and then, "TWO AND TWO MAKE FIVE" and finally, as the last step in his progression, "GOD IS POWER." This really bothered me. The whole process of "purifying" Winston seemed like a perverted, sacrilegious view of the sanctification that takes place in a Christian through the power of the Holy Spirit after the Christian has accepted salvation from God through the death of Christ. It seemed to me that Orwell was poking fun at the idea of Christ saving us from sin so that we could be free from sin and, as Paul explains it in the book of Romans, slaves of righteousness, beautifully conforming to the image of Christ.

Probably I have spent more time meditating on Romans than Orwell ever did. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and presume that he did not mean this as a direct attack on Christianity.

God does define the meanings of everything. God is power, or, as I prefer to say, almighty. But God doesn't change. He does not capriciously redefine things to suit His purposes. He doesn't need to! The Bible says more than once that God is unchanging, that He does not shift like shadows. His plans are perfect and eternal. God does not rewrite the past. Look at the Dead Sea Scrolls, and how God preserved them, intact, throughout centuries. God is truth. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me." Jesus also said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." At one point in 1984, Orwell contemplates the Catholic Church and wonders why it held out with power for so much longer than most governments. Of course, he was probably an atheist, unable to consider that the Catholic Church might actually be based on something absolutely true, that universal truth might have something to do with its longevity even if the truth was observed and acknowledged imperfectly.

In conclusion, I cannot help but contrast Winston's instant capitulation to betrayal with Jesus' perfect steadfastness in obeying His Father and dying for the sins of the world. Winston had to face his deepest fear: rats. Jesus, only begotten Son of the Most High God, had to face something even worse: the consolidated sins of all humanity. Jesus was God in human flesh, and God, the Bible says, cannot even look at sin. Jesus not only looked at sin, he bore it, in His body. He experienced Hell. He was disassociated from the Father who had to turn His face away while it happened. For Jesus, rats would have been mere child's play in comparison. But He never once considered betraying His Father, or us. Because of His great love, Christ died for us. How thankful I am that He did. How thankful I am that He is the truth.

In 1984, the girl (Julia) tells Winston at one point, "They can't get inside of you." The end of the book proves that she is wrong, they got inside of Winston. They controlled his mind. Well, God tells us that they can't control our minds, if we belong to Him. I pray that I will ever love Him, ever be faithful to Him, ever follow Him... if I encounter torture, persecution, "truth serum" drugs, or even Alzheimer's disease. May my mind always belong to the Lord of truth and the God of my salvation.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, 'For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Romans 8:35-39

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Head in the sand

Beethoven's 5th piano concerto in E flat major.

That's what they played on the radio on my way home this morning. It was really beautiful so I wanted to be sure to write it down.

I listen to the radio in the car until they start to give the economic reports. When the announcer says, "And the markets are down today. The Dow Jones is down one hundred and..." at that point, I snap off the radio. Just one touch of a button and there is silence, and I can drive down the highway without anybody telling me that there is no money in the USA anymore.

Head in the sand. Yes, I do put my head in the sand. What else can I do? You try to live as responsibly as you can, but at the end of the day you can't do anything about the system in which you live, even if is is supposed to be a democracy. You vote, but if you aren't the majority, your vote never actually makes a difference. You try to save some money, and then the FAFSA tells you that you can afford some ridiculous amount of out-of-pocket college expenses, and you think, "But hey! I never even took my kids to Disney World! I drive a rusty, ten-year-old van because it is paid for, we wear generic label clothes and we buy our sneakers on clearance. My kids have never owned a current season's full-price article of name-brand clothing. We don't eat out. Our cable package is so small it doesn't even include ESPN. And yet somebody out there is telling me I can afford to fork out over $69,000 per year for college expenses... because we made a bunch of sacrifices so we could save a little bit of money."

When life gets insane, I stick my head in the sand. And listen to Beethoven. I turn off the news and make whole grain kefir pancakes. I go for a walk and come home, drink a glass of water, and take a nap.

What else are you going to do?


**Whole Grain Kefir Pancakes** (in case you were wondering how...)

Strain 2 or 2 & 1/2 cups of homemade kefir into your blender
(or use store bought, or maybe you could use buttermilk, I don't know)
3 eggs
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 & 1/8 cups (eyeball it) dry oatmeal
1 & 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla

Blend together in blender until smooth. You want to get the oatmeal pulverized a little, so blend for at least a minute. You may need to stop and scrape the sides a couple of times.

Cook on a griddle preheated to medium heat. Turn when bubbly and edges are set.

I think these are absolutely delicious with real, 100% pure maple syrup. I am not much of a pancake eater, but these are really, really good.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A helpful remembrance

Here are the words to an old song I sang with some friends in youth group when I was young...

It was an Evie song. Remember her?

Part The Waters

When I think I'm going under, part the waters, Lord.
When I feel the waves around me, calm the sea.
When I cry for help, O hear me, Lord, and hold out Your hand.
Touch my life, still the raging storm in me.

Knowing You love me through the burden I must bear,
Hearing Your footsteps lets me know I'm in Your care,
And in the night of my life You bring the promise of day,
Here is my hand, show me the way.

Knowing You love me helps me face another day.
Hearing Your footsteps drives the clouds and fear away;
And in the tears of my life I see the sorrow You bore,
Here is my pain, heal it once more.

When I think I'm going under, part the waters, Lord.
When I feel the waves around me, calm the sea.
When I cry for help, O hear me, Lord, and hold out Your hand.
Touch my life, still the raging storm in me.

Listen to it here. And try to think kindly of the hokey Hawaiian overtones in the accompaniment. It was the seventies.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

God trusts Himself

It occurred to me today: God trusts Himself.

That is probably a weird way to say it, and not quite exactly right.

However, God is never worried. He is never worried, because He is absolutely sovereign, meaning that He has complete power and authority over everything. Everything. In addition, He has complete wisdom and knowledge of the past, present and future. And He is perfect. His information is perfect. His judgment is perfect. His execution is perfect. He always knows what is best in the long run because, as the Bible says, He knows the end from the beginning.

So whenever God acts, He has complete confidence that He is doing the right thing, and that ultimately this act will reveal His glory for the benefit and joy of His people. Wow. I certainly do not have that confidence when I act. I question myself and second-guess myself and torture myself with "should haves" and "if onlies." This is further proof not only that I am not God, but that I am utterly unqualified to be God and should rest in the grace that He has allowed me just to be me, and just to do the job of being a child of His kingdom. I do not have to be God. I am not responsible for the universe. I am not even responsible for my kids' commute home from college.

I have a hard time trusting God, not because I don't believe in His perfect power. I believe that He is almighty. I believe that He is omniscient. I believe that He is perfect, that He never makes a mistake. I believe that He is good. I even believe that He loves me. At least, I believe He loves me when I sit down and think about it. He has left pretty undeniable evidence that He loves me. He died for my sins. He promises His love over and over in His word. He has cared for me throughout my life, and protected me from harm on many occasions. I know He loves me.

But, regardless of how true I know it to be, my faith tends to falter when it comes to the fact that God loves me and that He plans good for me.

I think, "Yeah. Tough love. He loves me with tough love. And He plans good for me, but the good ends will be a long time coming. There is a lot of suffering that I'm going to have to endure before I get to the good part."

It isn't that I don't believe. I do believe. It isn't that I am tempted to throw in the towel and give up the quest. There is no other God, I am convinced of that. He is the only true God, and He is the sovereign ruler of the universe, and there is no point in searching for some more palatable, effortless alternative.

I just don't like pain. And I am convinced that there is a great deal of pain between here and heaven. I'm scared of pain. I fall apart when I don't feel good, when I am hurting. I am really bad at suffering patiently. This probably means that I need to practice suffering until I learn to face it patiently. Augh. That's what I mean. I don't like being disciplined by God.

The Bible says that God disciplines the sons He loves, and we should rejoice that His discipline proves His love for us and our importance to Him (that is a very loose paraphrase of part of Hebrews 12).

Sometimes I just feel tired and worn out. I wish I were mature and gracious, wise and calm. But I am a slow grower. In the world of spiritual children, I think I have a learning disability. I struggle with bitterness, unforgiveness, disappointment, laziness and even despair. I don't have a lot of joy... just being real and putting that out there. If God gave report cards, my joy grade would probably be about a D+, and I might be overgenerous to say that. Jesus came that I might have life and joy, abundantly. But it seems like I feel sad more than I feel happy, defeated more than victorious.

I sit around longing for someone to treat me gently, but I don't think I have learned to treat others with gentleness. That is an attribute of God that I struggle to comprehend: God is gentle. A bruised reed He will not break, His word says. And then I think, "Ha! I'm so self-centered to think that I should be considered a bruised reed. I am probably a reed who needs some bruising."

What I need:

(1) I need to really grasp the deep and beautiful truth of what Jesus did for me at the cross and how that demonstrates His love for me. I need to do more than understand and believe this. I need to feel it in my heart. I don't know how to feel this in my heart. I can read the accounts in the Bible and reason my way through it again and again, but I need to feel it in my heart. My emotions need to experience, first-hand, the forgiveness of the Lord so that I can be loving and forgiving towards others. There are days when I do, but I can't seem to sustain a constant sense of wonder and gratitude for His love. I think there is part of me that just can't bear to feel that much, and so my emotions shut down.

(2) I need to rest in Jesus. I need to stop striving on my own to accomplish things... to clean my house (it isn't getting done), to prepare for holiday celebrations, to fellowship with my family. These things can only happen if I rest in Jesus and stop striving in angst.

(3) I need to overcome my laziness. Although there is a real and important aspect of resting in Him, there is also a need for my spirit to strive in synergy with His Spirit to accomplish His will in my life. I am not an inert machine for Him to run, I am a responsive human whom He fashioned. This is so hard for me to understand. What is my responsibility, exactly, and how do I fulfill it? I wish I knew. I wish, I wish I knew.

So much to work on.

But at the end of the day, God really does trust Himself. He made the world and everything in it. He planned, before the foundations of the earth, that Jesus would be our Savior, so obviously He knew all about why we would need a Savior. He has written all the days He ordained for me in His book, before one of them came to be. He foreknew me, predestined me, called me, and justified me, and in the end He will glorify me. These are all promises from His word, and God always keeps His promises, because He is perfectly faithful. If God trusts Himself, I can trust Him. I can trust Him because He is able to give me the faith I need to be able to do so.

Matthew 11:28 says, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Really? Please?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Carpet? Or not?

So we are trying to pick out new carpet.

Mind you, we bought this house nearly sixteen years ago, in 1995. It was a "builder's model," meaning that during a slump, a builder built this house without a customer, hoping to sell it after it was done. Everything the builder put into this house was bland, neutral and fairly low-end.

When we moved in, the walls were white, the carpet was off-white, the kitchen floor was white vinyl, and the kitchen counter tops were pale gray. There were wood floors in the study, the foyer and the dining room. The lights in the dining room and the foyer were those big, crystal, upside-down-wedding-cake chandelier monstrosities that don't match anything I like, and we never got around to replacing them because the thought of disposing of them simply superseded my imagination.

Over the nearly 16 years that we have lived here, I have systematically worked on making the place feel warm and homey. At first we mostly just used paint and tried to cover the sterile white with warm tans, buttery beiges, and brownish rose tints. I bought braided rugs and dark red leather furniture. We finished the basement and did it in green, lavender and peach... it is kind of awful in a way that embraces itself, and it lent itself well to a play area for the children. Now that they are older, Laura wants to paint the walls tan, but the floors down there will be green carpet and purple linoleum tiles until we move (or die).

In 2002, we remodeled the kitchen which made a huge difference, especially when we took out the dreadful white fluorescent light fixture and put in recessed lighting. A full wall of cabinets (where the pantry used to be) helps, too.

The off-white carpet is beyond awful now. For one thing, it is no longer off-white. The color varies in patches from dingy gray to mottled beige. It is also sadly matted down flat everywhere it has been walked on. It was decent for a long time. Even though it was a bottom of the line, five-year carpet, we wore our socks and vacuumed a lot and kept it looking passable for a good twelve years, I would say.

I think it is Schubert who did this carpet in. Not, mind you, that it was thriving, but with hard work and conscientiousness, it was surviving. Now it is so gross, I refuse to take my shoes off anymore, and that has created a quickly devolving negative cycle. I am not sure what Schubert does to the rug. Well, obviously there are the places where he has wet and had diarrhea and thrown up. There are the places where he eats his dog biscuits and spreads the crumbs all around, and the places where he rolls around with his wet, shaggy fur when he comes in from outdoors on a rainy day. There are places where he scratches and even some places where he has been known to drag his bottom (although this behavior is strongly discouraged by the management). Piper did most of these things occasionally, in microcosm, but Schubert somehow seems to have a real knack for spreading the proof that a dog lives here. This carpet is putrid.

The more putrid your carpet is, the more you despair when you vacuum, and then, over time, the less you want to vacuum.

So we are looking for new carpet.

But the problem is, we still have this dog...