Saturday, May 03, 2008

Epitaph for a Home

I dropped Andrew off at drivers ed today, and then headed to the parsonage. The house had been emptied of all our belongings (except the refrigerator), but there was still quite a bit in the garage. During Andrew's class, I loaded the van with most of that stuff. When Gary got off work, he drove down, and one of the guys from church helped us load the big things into his trailer. So now everything's out, and we're done there.

It feels odd. On the one hand, it's good. That parsonage is mildew infested, centipede infested, and my bedroom window-sill is composed of wood crumbs and Asian beetle corpses glued together with too much paint. The parsonage is mildew infested [you think that's a mistake that I type that adjective twice? NO] and has rotten ventilation in the attic and a stupidly designed kitchen. It has not been infested with mice since we lived there because we kept cats (but it was plagued with mice for a couple of decades). The basement floods. Sizable wild mammals lived in the crawlspace at times. It was poorly insulated so that my bedroom was horribly cold all winter. The foundation is cracking. And by the way, it's mildew infested. Not a good house.

But still...
it's home.

This afternoon, after I'd loaded the van, waiting for the guys to show up, I looked around. I vacuumed that carpet thousands of times; I shampooed it dozens of times. Thousands of diapers flapped in the breeze on that clotheslines. I know the good hiding places on the lawn for Easter eggs. I painted those walls. My children picked those dandelions and brought me beeeeautfiul bouquets. Over there was my strawberry patch, and over here was Beau's pen and stable. The lilacs are late this year; I know because this is WPA weekend, and every year I prepped for my lectures with the perfume of lilacs. How many times did I hang streamers in this dining room to celebrate birthdays? The cutting board in this kitchen is where my children begged to help eat the apple peelings when applesauce was being made. This is where we got to know Matt and Nathan. That south patch of the lawn was where my children learned to make contact between a plastic bat and a whiffle ball, and which direction to head when you hit the ball. Those hostas that I transplanted and were so puny are now growing lush and full. That "weed" that showed up in my garden is now an aspen over 25' high. When I sit in the empty house and need to know the time, I look at the empty place on the wall where the clock lived for 17 years. When I sit in the empty house, killing time with my editing, and Fabrizius says something awesome, my eyes drift to the place on the wall where the crucifix is no longer hanging.

It may be a wretched building,
it may be a horrible house,
but it was my home.

Women's Suffrage

I happened to catch a portion of a talk-show on the radio this evening. The author of The Curse of 1920 was being interviewed. His claim was that women's suffrage was the beginning of feminism destroying American society. Now, that's subjective, and lots of people can have different takes on what's been happening in society. I have no idea what else is in the book, and if it's good or bad. But I found one aspect of his research very interesting:

In every country where women's suffrage is enacted,
the government suddenly grows rapidly,
the govt budget explodes,
and the "nanny state" takes over.

Friday, May 02, 2008


Housing is hard to come by at the local public university. We put down a housing deposit for Paul early last winter, knowing that he stood no chance of getting a dorm room if we didn't, and knowing also that we could (on the off-chance he decided to attend a different college) get the deposit back.

I was sure I had put a note on the calendar for the third week of April to make sure we didn't need the housing deposit refunded.

But I hadn't. And Paul is pretty well settled on Bethany College. Today I remembered that the deadline for retrieving that dorm-deposit was sometime at the start of May. We checked. Deadline was yesterday. It's too late. This is the most expensive forgetfulness I've committed in a long long time (and probably ever).


Y'know, when there's "too much to do," sometimes you can keep your head on straight and just keep plugging away at the responsibilities. You may never whittle down the to-do list. Items may be added to the list faster than they're taken off.

But then there comes a point that the jobs and responsibilities pile up SO much faster that it seems entirely pointless to even try. And then any motivation to keep plugging away just flies right out the window. After all, if hard work doesn't pay off and things are still falling apart all around you, why put in the effort at all?

Thursday, May 01, 2008


The boys discovered something today. Mowing in the kettle-moraine area of Wisconsin takes a lot more physical effort than mowing in the flatlands of Illinois.

We were wondering if we'd be able to get by with a push mower instead of a lawn tractor. None of the neighbors pushes a lawnmower. We don't even have a very hilly yard compared to the folks in the area, but it's got gobs more "character" to it than the flat flat flat prairie we used to mow. I suppose a tractor could be used with a garden-plow in summer and with a snow-plow in winter. But as Gary pointed out, it would have to be a little tractor with some power or the rolling yard would be too much for the engine.

Another new thing to learn about....

Dried Apple Pie

Last time I mail-ordered bulk spices, I also bought dried apples. They're so expensive in the store, and we like them so much. When the box arrived, we discovered that the apples were not sweetened -- just dried. Up till then, I'd never paid attention to the fact that most grocery-store dried apples were laced with sweeteners.

But it was okay that these were unsweetened, because these were healthier and still tasted good. The one thing I didn't like, though, was that the apples were sliced and dried. That's it -- just sliced. Not cored. Stems still attached. I guess I'm too picky: I found that kinda unappetizing. So those apples have been sitting around for quite a while, not getting gobbled down at the rate I expected.

So I came up with a plan. Pie out of dried apples. I threw a big pile of dried apples into a saucepan, barely covered them with water, and then simmered them for about 20 minutes. Then I could use the rehydrated apples in any ol' pie recipe. The water for simmering was used the next morning for cooking oatmeal.

The pie tasted great. I'm not too fond of finding seeds in the pie, but I don't think that's a big enough deterrent to making another dried-apple pie.

In the Water

Bible class today was ostensibly on John 21. (Hey, we did get to it evennntually. We DID.) Earlier in the Gospels there is a story similar to the post-Easter catch of fish. The mini-version is in Matthew 4 and the fuller version is in Luke 5. Pastor was pointing out the differences in the story, and how those differences are important.

So as we're going along, I wanted to know why Peter jumped into the water when John told him (21:7) that it was Jesus on shore. I knew that it's not just a history factoid of who did what when in the story, but there's something theological behind it too. I just didn't know what.

Nancy and Pastor started talking about the story where Jesus walked on the water (Mt 14, Mk 6, Jn 6). Peter wasn't sure it was the Lord; he doubted. He wanted to go to his teacher, and said, "If it is You, tell me to come." Jesus said, "Come," but still Peter sank in the water because his eyes were not fixed on Jesus.

Now, after Easter, after the absolution and the peace of the previous Sundays, Peter sees his lord and does not doubt, but goes to Him straightaway. Like Pastor said, when a person comes to faith and recognizes the voice of his Lord, what does he do? He heads straight for the water.

I thought that was cool.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Homeschooling Failure

There were several big reasons that we began homeschooling. Most of those became far less important over the first couple of years, while other benefits of homeschooling seemed to shine more brightly. One of the reasons I liked homeschooling was because I didn't have to give grades. Some people are just such unbelievable perfectionists, and from the educational materials I read, it seems that grades just feed right into that, making kids care more about their scores than they should. The learning should be the important thing, and the grades should be relatively unimportant. Self-worth should not be tied into the score on the top of an exam or term paper.

So Coral (a friend whose mom homeschooled them a lot like we homeschool) goes to college, and gets distressed over a 92%. And my Philip goes to college and thinks a B is a failing grade. And Katie goes to college and thinks the same thing. And Andrew goes to drivers ed and is distraught over any grade that's in the 80s, and deeply covets not only a 100% but wants a 104% from the extra credit.

It didn't work, did it? Homeschooling in a relaxed manner, focusing on learning instead of on grades, and not giving tests ... and still they think an A is acceptable, an A- is bad, and an A+ is where it's at! I consider that a homeschooling failure.

Curtain Call

Curtain Call is a pretty cute little movie -- romantic comedy for a modern couple, with a pair of scrappy ghosts (MacGonagall from Harry Potter and Victor from Miss Congeniality) thrown in. The ghosts get their marriage settled and fall in love again, and the couple (actually, the guy) decides that commitment isn't such a bad thing after all. Lots of laughs!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


With Earth Day last week, all the local libraries had displays of "green" books. Being a new home-owner, and having just left a house that was a mess and a detriment to our health, I happily picked up Prescriptions for a Healthy House when I saw it.

It seemed that most of the information was more apropos to those who were building a house instead of those who are making repairs and improvements. Nevertheless, I found some helpful advice as I briefly skimmed various parts of the book.

But there was one thing that particularly clarified a few things for me. Some of the testimonials in the book were about people who seemed "too" sensitive to electromagnetic fields or certain chemical smells or mold or whatever. After all, there are people who scoff at allergies: "It doesn't bother me." "It's all in your head." "Why do so many people have allergies these days when they didn't used to? Is it a fad or something?"

The book helped me realize part of the answer to those questions. People's bodies and immune systems can fight only so much. It's like when you get a cold after being chilled in the rain. The cold wet weather didn't make you sick; a virus did. But the cold wet weather sapped your body's ability to fight the virus, and then the virus could overcome your immune system. Likewise, people with good healthy constitutions can fight all sorts of attacks from pollens and plastics and molds and high-fructose corn syrup and so much more.

But when a person gets overloaded, he loses the battle. Those toxins or electrical fields or pollens just overwhelm the immune system. Maybe a person was exposed to too many chemicals on the job. Maybe a person lived in a mildewy house. Maybe a person was never tremendously healthy and just couldn't take all the average "hits" that Americans today throw at our bodies (McDonalds, vaccinations, white bread, Glade air fresheners, Flonase, etc) and that most people tolerate just fine. Once the person gets knocked down, once a person is sensitized, each little "hit" hurts worse and takes longer to recover from, even though the person could tolerate the annoyance the previous year. That's when people end up on whacky diets, staying away from gluten, or drinking carrot juice and kombucha, and avoiding pesticides on their gardens, and using wind-up alarm clocks instead of plug-in ones. The purpose behind those measures is to simply provide the body a rest, a "no-hit zone" for a while, to have a chance to recuperate from the abuse it took.

The encouraging thing I found in the book was that many of the folks in the testimonials WERE regaining their health and getting stronger, so that they weren't wallopped by every little thing.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mommy Blog

For Katie,
for friends with large families,
and for us old-folks who enjoy reminiscing about when the kids were little,

go read Concordian Sisters of Perpetual Parturition. I'm so glad Glenda pointed it out a week or so ago, and figured I ought to share the fun!

Staying Warm

(Rachel is gonna hate this post.)

There's a scene near the beginning of Beckett that made a huge impression on me. Now, ya gotta realize that some of my friends (pastor guys) like the movie because of what it says about the honor of God, or what it says about the weight of the Office changing men. But me, cold little me, chilly little me -- I vividly remember the scene where Thomas Beckett was making Henry bathe daily in cold water because it would help him not to be too soft, would toughen him up, would make him able to endure the cold.

I haven't jogged daily this past winter. I was colder this winter. When I started a daily discipline of jogging nearly four years ago, I started when it was warm and sunny and lovely outdoors. I kept going when it got cooler. I kept going when it was downright cold. I even went out and jogged when it was well below zero. I didn't get the chills so badly that winter. Nor the next year. Nor the next. This year, however, there was a wicked ice storm and snow and more ice and more snow and so forth. And then illness and house-hunting and being out of town and other reasons conspired to aid my lazy nature in finding excuses to avoid jogging. And I spent my winter feeling cold.

Similarly I find that those who do not have air-conditioning do not NEED air conditioning. Being in the AC for the bulk of your day (like, at work) makes your body less able to deal with the heat and humidity.

So I think those of us who feel cold all the time [you know who you are] might find it easier to bear if you/we force ourselves out into the winter weather daily for 15-30 minutes. Come to think of it, I wonder if that's why little kids don't mind the cold so much -- because their mothers toss them out the door to play in the snow.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Congregation Update

Today was the last day at Triune. Three people said a quick goodbye to me. One tried to give a fond farewell, but it was hard to hear her say that 17 years was a good long time to have been there. (She happens to be married to one of the guys who wanted Gary fired, but she has never spoken for or against the situation.) I thanked her for her good wishes but also responded that 17 years is a whole lot shorter than 50 which is when I thought we'd be leaving.

And then there were the others. Many didn't say goodbye or anything. Granted, they may have been uncomfortable and unsure of what to say. Then there was the small group that is distressed about all this, the ones who were so upset to find out this winter what's been going on with regard to the pastor's pay and the upkeep on the parsonage, the ones who love their pastor and have been genuinely interested in how the kids and I are doing with the move and the changes. Those were the difficult goodbyes.

Then one of the guys in the congregation asked us to go out for dinner with him and his wife and his mother-in-law. That was nice. Then back home [old home, that is] to load up the car with more boxes, and the rest of the day spent doing more unpacking and more deck-undoing (for the pool removal).

We keep the people in Rockford in our prayers as they go through changes in pastoral leadership, desiring to hang onto the liturgy and faithful preaching.

I would guess (but haven't asked to verify) that Gary picked out today's hymns before he knew that this would be his last Sunday. (He usually picks out hymns about 2-3 months in advance.) I thought it was extremely appropriate that the final words sung with him as pastor were:

To them the cross with all its shame,
with all its grace, is given.
Their name an everlasting name,
their joy the joy of heaven.

They suffer with their Lord below,
they reign with Him above,
their profit and their joy to know
the mystery of His love.

The cross He bore is life and health,
though shame and death to Him:
His people's hope,
His people's wealth,
their everlasting theme.

As long as the cross is their hope, their wealth, their everlasting theme, then all will be well with the people at Triune. And the people at Reformation.