Sunday, January 31, 2010

Never on Sunday: Observations

This Sabbath brought a laundry list, as sometimes a day can do, with it seems, everything but laundry on the list.  I rarely post on Sunday - the day is full and like all good (partly) Dutch girls I am tired.  (Worthy of study:  Why Sunday requires a literal rest from people who otherwise trudge on sans nap.)

*  Saturday evening included a rather large dog deciding that now would be the perfect time to get sick.  And not just that one dog puke that dog owners loathe but understand.  No, this was what sounded like a smoker's cough beginning around 9pm, including a nice dog puke, and continuing on through the evening and into Sunday morning.  To be certain, it is not as serious as a child getting sick and keeping parents up, but when it's a creature who otherwise communicates so very well to his feeble owners the experience is unnerving at best.  We slept not so soundly last night. 

*  Thanks to cold, scratch that....thanks to a fall from a roof which resulted in some metal placed in a certain man's elbow....AND thanks to ever-changing Michigan weather....AND in all honesty, thanks to a body that has been beat up just a bit over the years and is now nearing a monumental birthday....Mike didn't sleep so well either.  The pain is ever-present.  Perhaps magnified by life as sometimes situations not directly related to injury can cause pain to be worse?  Whatever the collection of causes, the effect was the same....more pain than he will admit to at night and throughout church and after church and allllllll afternoon. 

*  Being left out stings no matter how old someone with that observation what you will.

*  Weather changes = Migraines.

*  And as I move through these days - feeling as though I'd like to seep through the cracks I seem to notice more and more in the floor or on my face - I am given moments of clarity.  Moments of knowing that it could be worse.  Moments of knowing it has been worse.  Moments of knowing that there are no promises that it won't be worse again someday.  While the sweet wouldn't be half as sweet without the sour, so it seems our faith would not be truly as strong without the moments when we are brought utterly and completely to our knees....sometimes figuratively, often literally.

*  Finally, an observation that is random but worth sharing (I think):  Not everyone has family.  And sometimes even those with family don't get the 'benefit' from their families for whatever reason.  If you have the opportunity this week, be a brother or sister to someone whether they appear to need a sibling or seem to have an extensive family tree.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

52 in 52: The Help by Karen Stockett

If you have ever had a little help around the house and found yourself cleaning the house before the cleaner actually got there.....this book has nothing to do with you (or me).  For in a world not much more than 40 years prior, life for such help was one of less than minimum wage, work for which no credit was given, and accusations running the gamut from theft to adultery.    While I am not necessarily a fan of all things 1960s (though Mad Men is currently a favorite way to view some television), the importance of understanding the experiences of a people far different (and yet the same) as myself seems an exercise worth embarking upon. 

My life has been one of white girl ease.  I have not known what it is to be assumed to be something based upon the pigment of my skin.  Just the thought of it - just typing that statement - makes prejudice seem so very obviously stupid it's a wonder anyone engages in such a futile endeavor.  As a Christian white girl, I have still found myself removed from much discourse of race relations - this Western Michigan life is insular in so many ways.  To be certain, as the white ladies of the Junior League of the 1960s before me, I have donated to the "poor African orphans"....I have repaired houses in Mississippi....I have shunned the "N-Word" as I shun profanity.  Yet I have had no real reason to think of civil rights beyond a historical exercise.

We are a people of theology in this little cocoon.  We like things status quo...we feel we have embarked on something radical if we attend a (mostly white) art festival in the equally insular downtown.  We send money and pray our neighborhood and school stays untouched by the 'outside'.  Are we really terribly different from the Hillys of The Help?  I pray we are.  I pray I am.

My life won't change drastically because I read a poigniant story told from the perspective of three women in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s.  My circle will admittedly not widen much and the cocoon rarely stretches.  Yet I pray that as I look at other women - not just women of other color, but women different from me in so many ways - that I may notice that, in the end, we truly are just women.  We don't have to include other adjectives of the superficial kind.  Not 'white' or 'black' or 'Asian' or 'single' or 'divorced'.  And while 'Christian' runs deeper than an adjective and my theology is not movable, I pray that in other areas a book such as this will at least open eyes and more distinctly apply the overused "What would Jesus do?"

(Highly recommend in spite of some profanity.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Scott Brown is HOT....and I mean that just how I wrote it....

If you live in a nomadic community in the center of the Sahara you have been far more busy with water gathering than the average American citizen.  Well, if you are an average American citizen you are probably more preoccupied with job searching, Tiger Woods exploits off the greens, or yourself.  However, there is a group of people who read things other than Parade Magazine and even watch the news....these people may have spent a good portion of last week engaged in political conversations centering on the Bay State and how the people of Massachusetts would react to the past year's D.C. administration highlights.

Enter:  Scott Brown.  Scott Brown is not the latest American Idol wannabe (though his daughter was).  Nor is he a television personality (though his wife is).  Scott Brown, we are to believe, is like a fresh breeze off the Cape ushering in a new period in politics.  Scott Brown is the un-Kennedy.

Right now we only know what Brown has wanted us to know.  To be certain, the dirty underbelly of politics and the peons who work within said belly have done their work in attempting to find something about this man...something that would derail his every guy truck.  Nothing has worked.  Scott is currently enjoying the John Edwards effect.....for who didn't look at that litigator and think "something might just be wrong here but he's so boyishly handsome we're going to let it slide..."  It seems now, however, that Edwards has another mouth he's willing to claim on his tax return and even his cancer-stricken wife is under much scrutiny.  The love has moved Brown.

What can Brown do for you?  (Many thanks to UPS for having the foresight to use this line.)

Here's what I know:

I know that if Brown were a woman running for political office, her chances would have been obliterated as soon as her Playboy centerfold was revealed.  Her intelligence would have been questioned and even if she was now 40-something and the assets she once photographed were now sagging, it wouldn't matter.  She would have not only been out of contention, Christians would have derided her and prayed for her salvation.  Brown is the Cosmo teflon centerfold.  It didn't stick.  Not even with Christians.

If the people of Massachusetts didn't already have their own version of healthcare (we'll call it "Romneycare") the vote may have been different.  Brown benefitted from the mess in D.C. to be sure, but he also found himself in a state finally experiencing some economic woes without the fear of lost healthcare.  I really hope he sent a nice 'Thank You' to Mitt Romney.  For while so many conservatives deride healthcare for all, I have yet to meet any deriding the healthcare who have no healthcare themselves.  The voters of Massachusetts have had a 'fall back' in that department for years. 

So what will Brown do for you?  Besides being a visible, daily reminder to the Democrats that all good things come to an end, I'm not sure.  He may end the current healthcare plan in D.C.....he will not end abortion on demand....he will look great in conservative photo ops.  But, really, beyond ushering in the end of the Kennedy Era I'm not sure any of us truly know what Brown will do.......though we know that when pressed for cash he will utilize all of his assets.

Monday, January 18, 2010

52 in 52: Eleanor Everywhere

Though I finished two books the past week I will stick with one per entry because, well, I'm nobody's fool and that 'extra' book finished will come in handy during a week I've been downright lazy.  I fully anticipate Michigan leaving winter behind at some point during 2010 and apart from rainy, stormy days the changing weather often means less reading and more dreaming of the outdoors.

The life of a homeschooling mom often means reading books which coincide with lessons.  We have found ourselves knee-deep in most things Depression and War (and I don't mean a study of current events).  Therefore, a recent read was A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt by C. Coco De Young.  A relatively small book of just barely over 100 pages, the endearing story was enough to keep even this adult reader thoroughly engaged throughout.  While a topic such as the Great Depression (again - of the past) is often difficult to convey to children, and something which in certain situations must be tread upon lightly less all new (or current) fears be magnified, the author did an excellent job of sharing historical fact without increasing fears in my rather sensitive children. 

To be sure, this is not exhaustive history of the economic events which contributed to this bleak period of American history but it is a good, personal, account of one family's experiences and a lovely picture of life 'way back when'....when front porches were meeting places, when neighbors knew one another's business, and when children could play into the evening without (too many) fears of abduction and other crimes against the innocent.  For 2010's children struggling to understand our current situation - and for children who should somehow be given further insight into the domino effect of economics - this is a highly recommend.

On to "adult" fare next time...I promise....

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

RECIPE: Garlic Herb Bread

One of our favorites - especially with all things Italian....

2/3 c warm water
2 t olive oil
1 garlic clove - minced (I use the jarred stuff....very easy)
2 c white flour
1 T white sugar
1 t salt (use garlic salt if you have it)
1/8 t dried thyme
1/8 t dried basil
1/4 t dried oregano
1 3/4 t active dry yeast

Use the basic setting on your bread machine.  Run it as a 1 pound loaf.  I prefer the "light" crust setting if you have crust options.

Monday, January 11, 2010

One of my (hidden) passions....

I have a secret passion - something I often do when no one is around (though I've been known to partake in the presence of others, hoping they too will come to share my passion).  The passion is a bit unusual for someone of my age.  By that I mean, of course, someone as young as I am.

That passion is Old Time Radio.  Yes.  I love being scared by Suspense, solving crimes with Philip Marlow, laughing with Fibber McGee & Molly, and on occasion I've been known to engage in some western fare with The Lone Ranger.  I am far too young to recall the time when such passtimes were the norm - when families gathered 'round the radio rather than the light up box in the living room.  But there's something about not only the stories, but the fact that the listener's brain must be truly engaged to be entertained.  The comedy is a bit more "smart", the suspense more edgy.

Try it out sometime - perhaps my hidden passion can be shared....The best source online which I've discovered thus far is to be found on  Listening here is free via your computer and the library of offerings is quite unmatched.

Friday, January 8, 2010

52 in 52: A horse is a horse of course of course...

I spent many hours reading when I was young and I swear it's not (completely) because I didn't have any friends. Often it was because, quite frankly, the friends I made in books were better, more loyal, and far more interesting than the friends I seemed to make as a young person. Oh, pish posh, it's my blog and I can say that if I want to say it. That, and the fact that my 'people skills' are not currently up to snuff, contributes to my recent re-reading of a perennial (childhood) classic, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

I am far removed from horse culture, knowing love of such creatures only by virtue of knowing others who adore horses. I've ridden them, drawn them extensively, and even thought they were awful pretty. But I've never been a "horse lady". You know who they (or you) people are a different (ahem) breed.

What I do appreciate on occasion is a book written from a drastically different perspective from my own. How much more drastic, then, is a book written from the perspective of a beautiful, often unappreciated, horse? I and the title character don't have anything much in common though we both seem to have fairly strong internal voices.

Starting a year of reading by diving into a childhood classic is kind of anti-climactic but oddly reassuring. While the story of a horse written in 1877 won't appeal to many (and I don't even know that I'd recommend the story), revisiting past loves in literature is never a bad move to make. There is something about a book. The feel of the pages, the familiar cadence of an author, a storyline which continues to captivate....revisiting a better (or even more challenging) time through the pages of a book rarely is time wasted. And while I can't say I'm any better for reading of a horse and its challenges, holding the same edition I held as a young girl and observing the very torn dust jacket provided a sense of comfort during the first week of a new and uncertain year.

I have nothing deep to share about the trials and tribulations of a horse. Yet the exercise in visiting my past through a once-read book made up just a bit for the people skills I am currently lacking.

Monday, January 4, 2010


In an effort to expand my brain and not focus instead on something more superficial (for, believe me, an expanding brain is not easily seen by the average passerby) this year's blog is going to take on a bit of a twist. Oh, to be sure, I shall find all sorts of things to observe and bemoan and wax poetical on, but rather than do this and have a resulting average of three posts per month, I am going to endeavor to read 52 books in 52 weeks.

To be certain there may be a week or two (or three or ten) where I list "If You Give A Moose A Muffin" and similar classics as the book I have read for the week. I'm not completely nuts's not "52 weeks - 52 books of at least 900 pages each"...I'm not about to set myself up for massive failure. I also hope to find some sort of thread or theme. At one point it was books written in the year I was born (let's just say that the literary geniuses were not out in full force in 1971) and then it was books written in the year my mother was born (there were a lot of angst-filled folks in 1938). So perhaps on occasion I will dip into those years, but for now I'm keeping it general. 52 - 52.

Now considering the year started on Friday the 1st, we had all better hope I was already knee-deep into a book as I have until this Friday to get book one over and done with. I mean I have until Friday to truly absorb and relish the joy of reading my first of many tomes. Yup. That's exactly what I mean.

52 in 52....