Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Snippets From a Good Day

"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in a lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good can make complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love."

-R. Niebuhr

The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.

-Psalm 19:1-4


Husband has commandeered my scanner for the job search so I haven't been posting sketches and art (what little there has been) to the blog. But what the hey, I have a camera. So here are photos of two cat sketches from last week, and one baby sketch from December.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pictures from Home


Ross's B-day present.

Piper in her sunny spot.

Infant pepper plant unfurling.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Earth Hour

I felt like a little silly as I walked through the house turning out lights at 8:30 last night for the much hyped Earth Hour. I felt even sillier stumbling around in the kitchen trying to finish dinner in the dark. But in my experience there is a mysterious correlation between how dumb something makes you feel and how good it is for you.

When we are busy posturing as adults (whatever those are) and glorying in our own imagined intelligence and self sufficiency, we miss so much. New experiences slide off us like teflon and strange ideas are no more than amusing novelties, if we notice them at all.

George MacDonald wrote, "All the discipline of the world is to make men children, that God may be revealed to them." You could even say, "that truth may be revealed to them."

Last night, as Ross and I sat in our dining room eating our dinner by the light of a couple of candles, I was overcome with a child like wonder. Suddenly that old familiar space, now hushed and flickering, was completely new. In that moment, instead of wondering what the neighbors were thinking about my pitch black house, or cursing the WWF for making me turn off my computer for an hour, or thinking of all the reasons this was a futile act, I was open to the simple truth.

I don't want to be a wasteful person in anything - not with money, not with food, not with time, and not with energy. I realized that I probably use upwards of 2x the energy I actually require on any given evening. This just doesn't gel with my desire to be a good steward of all the gifts God provides. So I started Earth Hour at 8:30 grumbling and cynical and came out of it at 9:30 humbled and glad.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Obama at Notre Dame

As of today, more than 190,000 people have signed a petition in protest of President Obama's selection to be the commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient at Notre Dame on May 17th. Obama carried the majority of Catholics in the presidential election, so why do so many of them oppose this honor?

Christianity Today has an insightful conversation with Francis Beckwith, visiting fellow at Notre Dame, on this contentious issue. Here's an excerpt:

Since the President will speak at several commencement ceremonies during his term, why did his invitation to speak at Notre Dame create such a stir?

There's nothing wrong with inviting speakers to campus who disagree with the university. I don't think that's the issue here. Here, you have a combination of a commencement address and an honorary doctorate. The honorary doctorate is more troubling than the commencement address because to give him an honorary doctorate in law is to say that he's accomplished something in the field of law that the University of Notre Dame wants to honor. In the past three weeks, we've seen a number of different events, one of which was the change in policy on embryonic stem cell research. The problem is, the areas in which he's been involved with legislation on the issue of abortion have been contrary to Catholic teaching.

Colleges regularly invite people whom they may disagree with to speak on campus. For instance, Wheaton College invited Condoleezza Rice to speak at commencement even though she is pro-choice.

I can see a situation where you have an elected official who may be pro-choice, but it's not the focus or center of their legislative history. For instance, Houston Baptist invited Rudolph Giuliani, but he just gave a speech. He even acknowledged in his speech, "Look, my views on abortion are not held by a vast majority of you in the audience." But I think that Houston Baptist would not have given him an honorary doctorate in law. One of the things Obama is working on right now is perhaps overturning the conscience clause that the Bush administration had instituted, which has a direct bearing on Catholic hospitals. Here, you have a case where somebody claims to extol the virtue of choice but wants to remove choice from the conscience of citizens when it comes to performing or referring people for abortions.


Pope John Paul II issued Ex Corde Ecclesiae in 1990 stressing the importance of the Catholic character of Catholic institutions of higher learning. How has Ex Corde Ecclesiae influenced this current debate?

I think the statement has given them a template to look at the relationship between Catholic theology and the university. If places like Notre Dame took it seriously, an invitation to be the commencement speaker and receive an honorary doctorate would not have gone out. For instance, I would welcome Barack Obama to speak at Baylor. But in this case, the honorary doctorate doesn't go to the office of the President. It goes to Barack Obama, even after he ceases to be president. In a way, that gives an imprimatur on him and his views that I don't think Notre Dame should give him. I think if he were just the commencement speaker and not receiving the honorary doctorate, it would tone down the criticism. How can Notre Dame give him an honorary doctorate for excellence in something that our own theology teaches he isn't excellent in?

The real debate is whether theological claims can count as knowledge. I think that's what the Pope is saying: if we think theology is true and knowable, that means it's no different than what we learn in literature or sociology or philosophy. If that's the case, the university is where we should integrate these areas of knowledge. Theology shouldn't be an after thought. It shouldn't be relegated to campus ministry. It's like in the evangelical world, tagging on a Bible verse. You'll have a book on Christianity and science and it'll be regular science and a section of Bible verses. You think, "This isn't integration, this is weird."

This reminds me of Madeline L'Engle's exploration of faith and art in Walking on Water. Art, if it fails to tell the truth, can never be great art, no matter how clever and skillful the artist. Barack Obama may be a great man in many ways, but until he recognizes the truth about the value of human life he will continue to create policies that are at best, weak and at worst, massively destructive.

I think the graduating class of '09 could be really inspired by whatever Obama has to say on May 17th, and I wouldn't want to deprive them of the oppurtunity to hear that. We don't have to agree with everything a person believes to learn from them. But for a Catholic University to bestow an honorary doctorate on someone who clearly has a very poor understanding of the most fundamental rights of Americans is either hollow flattery or major ignorance and, either way, completely inappropriate for an institution of such stature.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Reflecting on the Loss of my Tulips

Yesterday my potted tulips were ruthlessly attacked and gnawed to death by some mystery fiend while Ross and I were out running errands. I haven't quite recovered from the shock yet. These weren't just any tulips, these were tulips I've had and nurtured since they were naked little bulbs last fall, so I was sort of, you know, invested.

This gardening thing has been more emotional than I expected! I had to cut back the weaker lavender shoots in my seed starter today and, seriously, I felt guilty about it! And when Ross and I were talking about flying to Raleigh to spend a week with his family I thought, I can't go, my plants need me!

I think this may just be latest manifestation of the old biological clock tick, tick, ticking away. My hormones are clamoring for a baby and, in the absence of one, are willing to accept leafy green substitutes. Weird. Oh well, it could be worse - at least I'm not collecting baby dolls or dressing my cats in tiny jumpers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

On Keeping Diaries (or Blogs)

"Of all the strange and unaccountable things this journalizing is the strangest. It will allow nothing to be predicted of it; its good is not good, nor its bad bad. If I make a huge effort to expose my innermost and richest wares to light, my counter seems cluttered with the meanest homemade stuffs; but after months or years I may discover the wealth of India, and whatever rarity is brought overland from Cathay, in that confused heap, and what perhaps seemed a festoon of dried apple or pumpkin will prove a string of Brazilian diamonds, or pearls from Coromadel."

-Thoreau, diary entry from 1/29/1841

Diamonds and pearls? Maybe if you are Thoreau. I would be happy to discover a little amber, maybe some quartz ;P

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bad Cats and Music

Oh my gosh, I feel like I haven't slept in three days! Now that the cats have had a taste of spring they have cabin fever and I am harassed all night long! I don't even think they know what they want from me half the time, but they want me awake in case they figure it out. I've tried locking them out of the bedroom but the noise of their incessant clawing on the door is actually harder to sleep through then when they are clawing my flesh (which doesn't feel great but is pretty much silent.)

(((yawn))) Not feeling good.

In other news, I'm making good progress on Beethoven's Pathetique. Have I mentioned lately how much I love my keyboard? Definitely one of the coolest presents I have ever gotten. It's the Casio wk-200 and it comes programmed with dozens of tutorials that break the music down into tiny parts, and break those down by left hand and right hand. I think anyone could learn to play the piano with this thing! After I make it through a couple more tutorials, I'm going to try to learn how to read music. I'm totally intimidated by sheet music, but since most of the tutorials are abridged versions of the songs, I will have to learn how to read music if I want to play the entire pieces (either that or learn to play by ear, yeah right!)

Hope everyone has a safe and happy Tuesday!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Overcast Monday

It's an overcast day, but the markets are up, my Forget-Me-Nots are sprouting, and I have a giant diet coke next to me, so I wouldn't call it a gloomy day.

Things are pretty much holding steady here. Still looking for work, still resisting the idea of moving. Last week we celebrated our wedding anniversary and Ross's 29th birthday.

Our first year of marriage! People often say that the first year of marriage is the hardest. It was a hard year, but not in any of the ways that I expected. It was the the constant stream of curve balls that made this year difficult, even heart breaking at times. The marriage, on the other hand, was the easy part; the steady, warm, securing part. We had our disagreements - we're both opinionated people - but for me, Ross is the antidote to tension, and the more I know him the more peaceful I feel. I hope that our second year of marriage will be less fraught with unexpected obstacles - but whatever is in store for us, as long as we have each other, I will consider us way ahead of the game.

The gardening is going well. The bell peppers, banana peppers and the hot peppers are sprouting, as well as those forget-me-nots that I mentioned above. I'm particularly happy about those guys because I had run out of seed starters and had to plant them in an old cetaphil jar in regular potting soil, and wasn't holding out a lot of hope. The lavender and impatiens that came up earlier and growing like gang busters and I'm a little worried that they are going to out grow their container before the weather is good enough to move them outdoors! We'll see!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sweet Reprieve!

We've had amazing weather the last few days. It has given us a much needed break from the monotony of cold and gray, and also a decent head start on the gardening. I raked the lawn, cleared the flower beds, planted about 84 flowers and 72 veggies (indoors for now), and laid out and started to dig up our future vegetable garden. At one point Ross asked, what if we do all this work and end up having to move? Well, that would suck, but at the moment I consider gardening an act of hope and faith that things are going to work out here. And, if they don't, maybe the improvements to the yard will help sell the house that much faster!

I checked the "last freeze" date for our area and it is May 1-15. That means it could be snowing two months from now, but for today at least I got to feel the warm sidewalk under my bare feet!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Kit Homes

Today's Chicago Tribune has a profile of our town, Lombard, and the article mentions that there are a large number of kit homes here. Back in the first half of the 19th century it was not unusual to order your house out of a catalog. The manufacturer would then ship you the blue prints and all the supplies (as much as two train cars full!) to build it yourself.

Some of the features of my house (particularly the amateurish job done on installing the walls, lol) have made me wonder if it was built from a kit. But our house dates from 1949 and since Sears stopped selling kits in 1940 (and they were the only manufacturers of kit homes I had heard of) I figured our house couldn't be one. However, this article mentions several other companies; Gordon-Van Tine Co., Harris Brothers and Aladdin Co..

So I've started to do some research. Antique Homes has a variety of catalogs on file for kit homes spanning from 1903 to 1961. The Clarke Historical Library has all of the Aladdin Co. catalogs from 1908 - 1954. So far I haven't spotted my little house, but the catalogs are a treasure in themselves! If you like history, architecture, or just sleuthing around on the internet, I really recommend taking a look.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Red Envelope Day

I'm super excited about this! Check out the press release below for more info :)

Boston, MA, February 27, 2009—Thousands have joined a grassroots campaign to change Obama abortion policy by sending red envelopes to the White House. The effort has gained momentum by promoting Red Envelope Day on March 31, 2009. More than a quarter of a million envelopes have been sent and over 150,000 have joined groups on Facebook committed to Red Envelope Day.

The effort began in late January when Christ (rhymes with ‘wrist’) Otto sent an email to his 120 ministry supporters. In the email he suggested sending red envelopes symbolizing a child who died in abortion. He also suggested forwarding the email to friends who might be sympathetic to the idea. The email closed with “wouldn’t it be great if we could send 50 million envelopes for every child who was aborted since 1973. Maybe we can change the heart of the president.” Otto says that the idea came during his daily prayer time, when he saw a mental image of millions of red envelopes going to Washington.

Within two weeks the email went “viral,” as men and women created web pages, Youtube videos, and blog entries promoting the idea. At least six independent web pages were created. Three of these have combined their efforts in the Red Envelope Project website [http://www.redenvelopeproject.org]. By far, the largest single effort was started Brian Potter of Houston, TX. His idea to coordinate efforts in a national Red Envelope Day has largely grown on Facebook. [http://www.RedEnvelopeDay.com] Otto has since joined Potter’s effort to encourage the March 31, 2009 event.

The original instructions were to send an empty red envelope, address the front to the White House, and on the back write the following message:

“This envelope represents one child who died in abortion.
It is empty because that life was unable to offer anything to the world.
Responsibility begins with conception.”

The message has been adapted and altered as it spreads online, but the core symbol of the red envelope has remained consistent.

Otto has stressed that this was not intended as a political stunt, but rather an effort to join our prayers for the ending of abortion with a powerful symbolic act. Participants are encouraged to pray the following prayer: “Jesus, I plead your blood over my sin and the sin of my nation. God end abortion and send revival to America.”

Response has been overwhelming, says Otto. The first groups to distribute envelopes were Roman Catholic parishes in Southern California, followed by Right to Life chapters in the Midwest. Several organizations are now pre-printing red envelopes and post-cards by the thousands. Hundreds of churches, religion classes, Bible studies, and small groups have taken this on as a group project. Letters have been sent from Canada, Europe, Latin America, and as far away as Australia. A Spanish translation of the email has also begun circulating in the Latino community.

Contact: Christ Otto, Coordinator Red Envelope Project/Day, www.RedEnvelopeDay.com, www.redenvelopeproject.org,www.belonginghouse.org/wordpress

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Friday Night Lights

Did anybody see last week's episode? It was an incredibly emotional close to the story arch of Jason Street, the former Dillon's Panther quarterback who suffered spinal cord injuries, paralyzing him and rending him wheelchair-bound in season 1. Ross and I agreed that it was a great episode, proving that the show is still a television wonder, despite the many obstacles it has faced.

Entertainment Weekly has a terrific blog entry by the actor who played Jason Street about his final episodes.
Scott Porter (Jason Street) on his exit from Friday Night Lights.

Remembering Los Cabos

"The air felt like a lazy embrace, warm and salty; moonlight fell on the water below in a sweep of silver."
-C.M. Mayo, Miraculous Air

This picture is from the terrace overlooking the beach at the hotel, where we spent a couple of evenings listening to live music and sipping pina coladas. I'm so thankful that I got to experience such a beautiful place - the memories of it have helped carry me through this long winter (not to mention supplying a "happy place" for those unpleasant dentist's visits!)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Four Things

(Haven't had much to blog about this week so I stole this from Facebook.)

Four jobs I have had in my life:
  1. Janitor. Most relaxing job of all time.
  2. Lock Box Operator. Opened and sorted mail for a credit card company. Totally mind numbing.
  3. Office Manager. Loved the people and having my own little office to run.
  4. Freelance Artist. Funnest job, but to be successful at it requires more self-discipline than I have yet been able to muster up.

Four movies I've watched more than once:
  1. Lord of the Rings. There is nothing else like it.
  2. Shop Around the Corner. Heartwarming and funny, I love the quirky cast of characters.
  3. Pride & Prejudice (BBC, 1995). Actually does justice to the book, which is saying a lot.
  4. Frequency. Drama/Sci-Fi/Thriller. The relationship between father and son gets me every time.

Four places I have lived:
  1. West Dundee, IL. Perfect little town to grow up in.
  2. Grand Rapids, MI. Went to college there. So many fun memories.
  3. Elgin, IL. A town with a lot of history and character.
  4. Lombard, IL. The lilac village! Ross and I have loved living here and hope we can stay a long time.

Four places I have been:
  1. Washington, D.C. Really easy to get around and so much to see.
  2. Niagara Falls, ON, Canada. The falls were great, could have done without the rest of it.
  3. Raleigh, NC. Ross's home town. A beautiful place.
  4. Los Cabos, Mexico. The site of our honeymoon, I dream about going back all the time.

Four of your favorite foods:
  1. Salmon, any way but smoked.
  2. Tacos, especially at Chipotle.
  3. Bell peppers, preferably raw.
  4. Fettuccine Alfredo.

Four places I would rather be right now:

1, 2, 3 and 4. Somewhere with a beach, a sunny sky, and a temperature over 65*.

Four things I am looking forward to this year:
  1. Gardening. I especially want to create a vegetable garden.
  2. Taking a little vacation with the hubby. Nothing fancy, maybe South Haven.
  3. Harry Potter (yeah, I'll admit it.)
  4. Trying to start a family.

Four TV shows that I watch:
  1. Lost
  2. Battlestar Galactica
  3. The Office
  4. Friday Night Lights

Sunday, March 08, 2009

U2 performing "Breathe" on Letterman

Ironically, I kept forgetting to breathe while I watched this. I can't wait to see it in person!!!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Lamp Bathing

Piper loves to sit under a lamp and catch some rays. For the full effect she'll even stick her head under the lamp shade and get in close. Yes, this is the cat who has set herself on fire twice.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Taste of Spring, Part II

Ross and Piper playing around before our walk.
They live! My tulips are emerging!

My daffodils! I was afraid the bunnies ate them all, but nope, they left me a few!

My irises! These were here when we moved in. They are so overcrowded that last year only one bloomed so I'm gonna have to thin them out soon.

A good spot for a vegetable garden?

A Taste of Spring!

It is a beautiful day out! I have the door to the porch standing wide open and the cats are out there with their faces pressed to the screen in awe.

In the soap opera that is my mouth, things have simmered down a bit. My Vicodin has run out, and this time I don't feel like I need a re-fill. I still can't chew on that side of my mouth, but I can breath and talk without having to worry, and when my jaw starts hurting I can take muscle relaxants and that seems to really help. (I do miss the lovely Vicodin though, it gave me a much appreciated vacation from the stupid fibromyalgia.)

The XBox is back from repair! Our entertainment budget is zip at the moment, so we need our XBox. Now we can watch DVDs or play PuzzleQuest to our hearts content. If we can't buy the new U2 album, at least we can stream the music we already do have through the mighty XBox once again.

I've been thinking a lot about flowers lately. Last fall I planted a lilac bush, tulips, and daffodils in the front yard and I can't wait to see if they bloom this Spring. Ross's parents have the most amazing garden and I would love to create something with even a fraction of that beauty in our own yard. If we're still strapped for cash we won't be able to do much but I think that at the very least we should plant a vegetable garden because that would pay for itself. I would love to grow our own squash, tomatoes, and bell peppers.

Ok, I've got to go convince Ross to go out in this wonderful weather with me and maybe scope out a good place in the back yard for a veggie garden! Hope everyone has an awesome day!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Apple Crumb Dessert

Adapted from a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens: New Cookbook .

Easy apple dessert for lazy people with limited skills.

Ingredients for the first part (apple part):
  • 6 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples (about 5 or 6 apples.)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375 F. Sprinkle apples with lemon juice. In a large bowl stir sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add apples and toss until coated. Transfer into a 2 1/2 quart baking dish.

Ingredients for second part (topping):
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed bown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup oats (optional)
Using a pastry blender (I used my food processor and cubed, chilled butter) cut 3 tablespoons of butter into mixture until resembles coarse crumbs. Spoon mixture over apples. Cover edges of baking dish with foil to prevent over browning.

Bake at 375 F for 40 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for 20 minutes until apples tender and filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.

Crispy on top, warm and gooey on the inside, Ross and I love this stuff! We've made it three times this month! Added bonus, it makes your house smell better than any scented candle ever could :P

Thanks, but No Thanks!

So, after all the whining and moaning I did yesterday, I've decided I'd rather not take the Methylprednisolone the dentist prescribed. I looked the stuff up online and came across a chiropractor who said that any dentist who would prescribe it for a dental issue is probably an idiot. Since it was not my dentist, but rather his partner who prescribed it, this is a possibility, and I'd rather not find out the hard way.

Since I don't have a fever, and my gums don't look red or inflamed, my fear is that Dr. McCall missed some of the nerve and I may have to go back for a second go at it. But I'm usually wrong about these things, and I am feeling a little better today, so I'm gonna try not to worry about it.

Lent has begun! I don't give up meat, sweets, or coffee for Lent - but I do have my own personal traditions, and it has always been a season of worship and rededication for me. This year I'm welcoming Lent with a mixture of relief and hope.

I baked up the last of a huge bag of apples we got at CostCo in a casserole dish covered with a crumb topping this afternoon. I don't have the patience for dough, so this is my kind of dessert to make. I'll try post pictures and the recipe soon.