Saturday, July 11, 2009

More Wedding Pictures

And this collection is more of the family.

Looky there. Andrew's right. It IS my party dress.

I really liked this picture of Don and Sue. But then I noticed in the background is Pastor Milas. Dancing with Martha. Like it was a slow dance and he wasn't all jazzed. How's that for different?

And that's pretty much the end of my collection of wedding photos.

Wedding Pictures

Okay, so it was 11 weeks ago. So I'm not very speedy. I guess this is when I try to convince you of "better late than never"??

These are a few of the folks from University Lutheran.

Today's Laugh

Two college students, Frank and George, are riding on a New York City subway when a beggar approaches them asking for spare change. Frank adamantly rejects the beggar in disgust. George, on the other hand, whips out his wallet, pulls out a couple of dollar bills, and gladly hands them to the beggar with a smile.

The beggar thanks him kindly and then continues on to panhandle from the other passengers. Frank is outraged by his friend's act of generosity. "What is the matter with you?? You know he's only going to use that money for drugs or booze!"

George replied, "And we weren't?"

Friday, July 10, 2009

Amos 8:11-12

"Behold, the days are coming,"
says the Lord God,
"That I will send a famine on the land,
not a famine of bread,
nor a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the Lord.
They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east.
They shall run to and fro,
seeking the word of the Lord,
but shall not find it."


I have been fussing at Pastor for years about this. How can God say
1) He loves and gives and provides,
2) the Spirit comes only through the Word,
3) He will sustain us no matter what, but
4) there's the reality that sometimes people lose their pastor, or their congregation goes wacky and heterodox, or a non-Christian nation overruns a country and tries to wipe out the Christians.

Again and again, Pastor would assure that God will never leave me nor forsake me.

But it didn't make sense. Sometimes people do lose the means through which God's word comes to them, and we Lutherans keep insisting that the Spirit works only through the word.

And then, when we were studying Amos in Bible class recently, he finally said it in a way that clicked. Finally! (Sure took long enough for my brain to catch up to what he'd been saying all along.)

Just because a person loses his memory or his pastor or his congregation or his religious freedom does not mean he is therefore bereft of God's Word. As Pastor said: Do not underestimate the power of the Word that has been previously implanted; it will sustain and nourish the Christian in the darkest hours. The Lord who has baptized you and fed you and absolved you and tenderly cared for you will not abandon you, even if it appears that a famine of the Word is upon us. He will bring to mind the Word which He Himself gave you before and which He will use to sustain you in the famine. And that Word will shine brighter then than you can imagine now.

The Joy in Chores

It's really quite nice to see the tomatoes and the beans and the baby grass thriving because of your diligent daily attention to watering them. It's satisfying to spend an hour in the sun clearing all the red cherries off the cherry tree. It's enjoyable to sit in front of a movie while pitting 6-7 quarts worth of cherries. It smells luscious when you're folding the warm clothes as you take them down from the clothesline. These mundane chores really can be pleasurable in and of themselves.

What sucks the pleasure right out of these tasks is the voices telling us all the other things we should be doing, all the things we're neglecting while we tend to simple things like bush beans and apple trees and dirty socks. The chores like weeding the garden become the impediments to the Important Things we want to tackle. The pressure to Do More squelches the honest satisfaction that would otherwise come from making dinner or mowing the lawn.

How do we learn to shut our ears to the urging to do more, be more involved, serve beyond our capacity?

Today's Laugh

A man walks into a bar, sits down, and orders a drink. "Hey! Nice tie!" comes out of nowhere. He looks up at the bartender to see if he'd said anything, but the bartender is clear down at the other end of the bar, so the man ignores the comment.

"Hey! Nice shirt!" The man looks up again, but the bartender is engaged elsewhere.

"Hey! Nice suit!" The man calls the bartender over and asks if he keeps talking to him.

"It's not me," says the bartender. "It's the complimentary peanuts."

Thursday, July 09, 2009


This is our first year with a Health Savings Account. I'm not sure it's worth the trouble. Month after month, we keep going around and around in circles about showing them whether our receipts prove that these are valid health expenses.

The receipt from Penney's Optical wasn't good enough. I don't know what one item I'd be buying at Penney's Optical for $189 other than glasses, especially when the bottom of the receipt specifies that prescription eyeware is a non-returnable item.

They told me that the receipt from the doctor's office wasn't okay because it didn't list the services provided. I asked why "Office Visit" and "osteopathic manipulation treatment -- 3 to 4 body regions" wasn't specific enough, and what more I needed from the doctor than that. The lady I was talking to said, "Where does it say that?" I told her where to find it on the page. "Oh. Oh. Well. Oh. Okay. I guess it does specify the service provided."

And the next one. "Cardiology on January 8. Is that a specific enough designation of services provided?" She said yes. Then why was this receipt denied? "Because it doesn't specify the provider." I pointed out the line at the bottom of the receipt that told who was doing the billing, and that it was for Children's Hospital. "Oh. Oh. Well. Yeah, I guess it does say that."

So I try to verify that these receipts are indeed acceptable and the account will be adjusted. Nope. I didn't fill out the form right. I was supposed to write the amounts of the different receipts in one box, with a "+" joining the numbers, rather than write the dollar-values in different boxes. So I have to start over. I have to print out the forms again and fill them out. I have to drive to the library and make the photocopies and pay for them again. I have to refile all my paperwork again. I have to buy stamps again. But you know that next time they're going to overlook the same things they overlooked this time, and deny the receipts again.

Today's Laugh

Stolen from Jenny --

and posted for my Rachel in this none-too-warm July ...

I'm freezing!

Well, stand in the corner. It's 90 degrees.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Gran Torino

This movie is great on so many levels! I almost missed it because I'd confused it with some movie about racing. But this movie is about neighbors and relationships. It's about gangs and bigotry. It's about grumpy old folks who don't want to change. It's about guilt and penance and forgiveness. It's about culture clashes. It's not a comedy, but there are bits that make you laugh out loud. It's one of those movies that I wished I could watch again the very next day.

The big warning is that the language is horrid. I almost never watch R-rated movies; usually I just can't handle them. So when I saw this was R, I checked out why, partly for me and partly to know whether I'd let the kids watch it. I was stunned by the reasons given for the rating. Yes, a big part of the rating was for language, and that's certainly valid. And there was some violence, although less than you find in many PG-13 movies. What got me was the other reasons Netflix determined this was a movie "iffy for those 16 and older." Smoking. Chewing tobacco. Beer. Racial slurs (some of which I wouldn't have known to be naughty words had Netflix not told me what they were). And the kicker -- the hero was "unrepentantly grumpy."

Great movie! But if you've got little kids, put them bed before you turn it on.

Today's Laugh

Two business partners were working hard one morning, getting the new shop in the mall ready for their opening day.

One of them took a break and turned to his partner. "I just bet the one of those elderly mall-walkers will come up to the window and ask us what we're going to sell here," he said.

Sure enough, with the words barely out of his mouth, a senior citizen did peek in and ask, "What are you going to sell in here?"

Ever the wise guy, the partner responded, "We'll be selling idiots here."

The senior citizen looked over the empty store. "You must be doing well," he said. "You only have two left."

Philip's Job

If anybody is interested in the company Philip works for, they were featured on yesterday's morning news show in Milwaukee. About 13 minutes of video can be seen here. If more of Gus's tours show up on the website in the next few days, the ones about TAPCO and traffic signs are currently videos 1-4 out of 91 total. So if you find 100 videos on their website when you look at it, back up about 9-12 videos to find the TAPCO segments. (And no, if you check these out, you will not see Philip interviewed or even in the background.)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Gardens and Neighbors

I'm nervous about the kids next door.

They're really quite nice little boys, ages 6 and 4. With all the changes in our backyard this year, they were curious. Gary, being neighborly and kind, showed them what's been planted. They responded with "Ooooooh, strawberries! I love strawberries!" and "Oooooh, good! I like grapes!" I began to wonder if they are thinking that these plants are available to whomever.

When I was planting the apple trees last week, they came over to see the excitement. "What are these?" I told them they were apple trees. "Oh, good! I love apples!" I quickly responded that these apples were for MY family, that I would be making applesauce with them, that they would be lunches for my children. I feel so mean and selfish and greedy saying, "No, no, keep your hands off. Those are MINE." And yet, their mommy goes to work and earns money, and my kids don't expect to get their hands on part of her income. There is no more reason for the neighbor kids to get their hands on the fruit of my stay-at-home labors.

The kids saw some of the little green apples that had fallen off the tree. They wanted to know if they could pick up the ones off the ground. I told them yes, but that they ought not eat them -- they're not ripe and the boys would get a tummy ache. They kept asking, and I kept reiterating, "You really don't want to bite those!"

Then they saw the cherry tree, bright and colorful. "Oooooooh! What's on that tree?" I told them it was cherries, but they were MY cherries. "Can't we have some?" NO! Those are MY cherries. I am picking them and canning them so we will have them to eat. I told them their mommy buys food for them, and this is part of what I do to give food to MY children. "But can't we have just ONE?" I finally decided to let them have one each. But I did not let them pick a cherry. I told them I get them a ripe one. I made a big production of getting the ladder, climbing it, hmmm-ing over which one would be ripe and have no bugs, and then chose two cherries from high in the tree. I handed them to the boys. I told them to remember the pit and not hurt their teeth. They bit the edge. And ....

"YUCK! These are TERRIBLE!"

Oh my goodness. I'd forgotten. These are sour cherries, not the sweet Bing cherries the kids would know from the store.

Whoa! That was a lucky move. They wanted apples that I impressed upon them would give them a tummy ache. And they wanted cherries that they hated the taste of. This may bear fruit for me.

Today's Laugh

I'm stealing Cheryl's sig-line because I crack up every time I see it --

The quickest way for a parent to get a child's attention is to sit down and look comfortable.


When we buy a gift, we want it to be pleasing to the recipient. Sometimes, especially come the Christmas season, we put a lot of thought (and stress) into choosing the right gift. We don't know what to buy or make because the person has so much already. There's nothing left that he doesn't have, nothing left to delight him.

So why do we agonize over finding the right thing? If most Americans are already satiated with stuff, then there's almost nothing that will actually be appreciated. So why do we knock ourselves out trying to find Just The Right Thing for someone who has everything? Maybe it's okay to give a gift solely for the purpose of showing that you're thinking of the person, and not for the sake of giving something they need or lack or want.

(This is why it's so fun to buy gifts for those who have little. They're tickled with everything!)

Quiet in the House

Our family was chosen to do Arbitron ratings for a week. This is like the Nielson ratings for television, except this is for radio. There is pay. Not much, but something. Aiding in the decision to do this was what I read on the internet: apparently they'll pester you to no end if you ignore their requests to participate. As is, we agreed, and have only had to put up with a couple of phone call reminders through the week: "Are you being sure to fill out your listening diaries?" and snail-mail reminders which came with dollar bills inside.

Initially, I liked the idea of being able to report that I (and the boys) love to listen to Charlie and Mark (who is, by the way, hosting Rush's show again today) and Issues Etc. But I'm noticing this week how much I've become used to QUIET. I don't normally turn on the radio in the car unless Gary or Andrew is with me and wants to catch a little current events. Whereas we used to play music or listen to talk radio for much of the day, now it's completely overwhelming to have the radio on for more than 3-4 hours, and I'd prefer to keep the radio off for all but an hour or less.

Is this a sign of getting old?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Science Fiction versus Historical Fiction

I don't much like science fiction ... although the new Star Trek movie was really very good. I don't much like stories with fairies or vampires or pixies either. I like historical fiction. For school, I enjoy reading aloud good stories set in different time periods -- what some call learning through literature. But some of these children do not enjoy historical fiction as much as I do. They want to read Wheel of Time and fairy tales and other stuff that I don't care diddly about.

But there really is quite a bit of science in science fiction. I wonder if there's as much educational benefit scientifically in those books as there is in the educational benefit of historical fiction. There probably is.

But I'd still rather read a story set in ancient Rome or the Canadian old west than a story set on a space ship bopping from one galaxy to the next through wormholes.

Today's Laughs

The computer didn't used to be able to access Issues Etc for live listening; we could only access the on-demand listening. But after the computer needed to be wiped and restored in late winter, it turns out that now we can listen live. [Woo hoo! That was reason for a happy-dance!] Folding laundry today, this is what I heard over the 4:00 break.

[In a great pirate accent]
Pirate Christian Radio. Arrrrr. We be taking your false doctrine now.

And a little later, from Cwirla's church:
Are you tired of organized religion? That's okay -- our church is about as disorganized as you can get.

Kick Back and Have a Beer and Let the Holy Spirit Do His Thing

Pastor often refers to the quote from Luther about preaching and then going home and having a beer. Yesterday in Bible class, he was again talking about our inability to control results. We can only do what we've been called to do. He preaches. He cannot control whether anyone believes what he says. Too often preachers fret about whether they said the right thing, or said it the right way, or if they should add more, or any number of other questions about how they did it.

I suppose this has been told me before (but if so, I forgot): I bet this goes for people who aren't preachers too. I bet this goes for situations that aren't about sharing the gospel. I bet this applies to mommyhood.

You do what you can do to feed the family nutrition meals. But you can't do it all as well as you should. And God takes care of it.

You weed the garden and you water and you add manure to the soil. But you can never do enough. But somehow, the tomato plants have developed little green tomatoes and the baby berry canes & grape vines are growing prettily.

You do what you can to teach the children how to read and think and spell and do their chores. But you can never teach them enough. You can never instill all the good habits you should. There are gaping holes, whether the kids are homeschooled or conventionally schooled. But God will use our efforts even though we can't Do It Right or Do It Well-Enough.

This ought be no excuse for me to waste so much time on the computer. Or for somebody else to fritter money away because, after all, God will provide. Or for somebody to live on Doritos and diet Mountain Dew and expect God to provide physical health. But some of us workaholics need to understand that sitting down and resting will not make the world fall apart. Maybe we can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but God can. And does.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


Lots of time spent pitting cherries. Need to turn them into several batches of jam tomorrow morning.

Gary's been working on fixing the lawn mower over the last week. Every repair seemed to fail. So we bought a new mower. Brought it home. It wasn't working. When we took it back, it was an uncomfortable situation. The manager needed to verify that it actually didn't work, and that we weren't stupidheads trying to bring back a perfectly decent piece of equipment. "But it keeps dying every 25 feet and needing to be restarted!" Oh, but maybe we were trying to mow grass that was too high, or mowing in too dusty an area, and I forget what all her other hypotheses were. But she finally decided it was defective and gave us a different one. Guess what? It worked just dandy. The weeds are now sheared off to the same height as the nice, even grass. For now.

We saw the best fireworks I've ever seen in my life last night. They weren't a public display, but just a neighbor of the friends we were visiting. We were flabbergasted by what those fireworks must've cost -- 35 minutes of what I'd normally consider "finale" type displays. Wow!

Went outside recently to find a huge mass of ants. The last time I saw ants like that was in Mississippi when a fire-ant hill was disturbed and they started swarming, and that was in a park and not near buildings. These were just small black regular ants. (How's that for a technical nature-study term??) But they were so thick and deep that I didn't even realize what Paul was talking about when he first pointed them out to me. To see that many ants right there by the house kinda freaked me out. What would we have done if poison bug-spray wasn't an option?

Finally switched my blog over from the old "template" to the new "layout." Now I suppose I can explore the world of widgets and stuff. Later.

Matt is on his pathology rotation this month and loving it. He told me this morning at church that he got to dissect a brain. I didn't throw up at that news. I hope you're proud of me for that self-control. We're thinking that he probably got to study my friend Pam's parts that were removed this week. (Don't worry, Pam, he's there learning; you don't have a newbie diagnosing.)

There's probably more news, but I'm half asleep and might get the other half of the way to sleep if I were lying in bed instead of sitting at the computer....