Saturday, October 29, 2011


Our favorite blues girl:

Our attempt at the Deathly Hallows:

Friday, October 28, 2011


I hate pulling one of those plastic forks out of the box when I eat lunch at work. It sounds fakey green environmentalist-whacko, but I seriously am having a hard time with those plastic forks. You use it and toss it in the trash can. A waste of money. A waste of energy. More garbage than needs to be created. I think I need to find a real fork to leave in the drawer, along with the real spoon that's already there.

We left the pumpkin sitting next to the stoop instead of on the concrete where it might have been accidentally bumped off. Well, leaving it sit on the garden was not a good plan. It started to compost on the bottom, and it's all buggy. Ick -- don't want to make that into our jack-o-lantern! We need to buy a new pumpkin before trick-or-treat tomorrow evening.

What a lazy day yesterday! I didn't wake up until 9:20 and didn't get out of bed until 10:00. I ached and had a headache, but I kept trying to force myself to Get To Work. When Gary called and said he was coming home from work early, and his symptoms sounded just like mine, I suddenly realized that maybe it was germies and not mere laziness. Maggie and I watched a long movie about Lady Jane Gray. And we ate canned chicken-noodle soup for supper. Today is better, but still slow.

My annual evaluation at work was this week. I need to get better about remembering customers' names and about making decisions in the "gray areas." The bosses actually scored me better in some areas than I anticipated. (They keep telling me I'm too hard on myself.) They told me the next task I'd be learning. We've lost several great employees to other branches, and we have several newbies, so it's necessary that some of us start learning how to do jobs besides just the teller transactions. The manager told me that she was quite pleased with how things have gone since they hired me, seeing as how I hadn't been an employee before. She was trying to say that I hadn't had a "real job" before, but that sounded so negative and belittling of how I've spent my life, and she sure didn't mean that. But somehow she wanted to get across that I've done the work, learned oodles of new things, kept improving, and have been an asset to the team. Y'know, that's kind of nice to know! Whew....

All sorts of things rattling around in my mind to blog about, but maybe it's time for another nap or some more tv-viewing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What Makes America Great

There's a marvelous old-fashioned series of books that homeschoolers might want to put on their reading list. The Twins series by Lucy Fitch Perkins is mighty rare in Wisconsin libraries. [You've gotta love interlibrary loan!] If you can get your hands on some, they're just right for kids who have started reading chapter books. They were written about 100 years ago. Each book is set in a different country and contains a simple story about a pair of twins (about age 7). The stories introduce kids to certain aspects of the culture of that country. And the stories are gentle -- none of the mouthiness and immorality and political correctness that fills so many kids' books today.

So now that I've given my commercial, I took notice of one paragraph near the end of The Irish Twins which Maggie and I were reading last week. A neighbor's son had tired of the landlord's games, with the landlord always taking any profit earned. This man had gone to America and become successful. He was back in Ireland to fetch his mom, singing the praises of this wonderful country of America. One of the neighbors suggested that surely not everything was perfect in America. And this is the response:
There do be faults with her, and I'll never be the man to say otherwise. There's plenty of things to be said about America that would leave you thinking tis a long way this side of heaven. But whatever it is that's wrong, tis the people themselves that make it so. And by the same token it is themselves that can cure the trouble when they're so minded. It's not like having your troubles put down on you by the people that's above you, and that you can't reach at all for to be correcting them!"

Fast-forward 100 years.
Progressive tax rates?
Regulation of small businesses?
Quotas on hiring?
Allowing people to sue each other for no reason at all?

Can we cure the troubles if we have a mind to do so? Or are many of America's troubles brought down on us by the people above?

Extra-Terrestrial Life

Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? One of Philip's friends once asked us to add our computers to a nation-wide project that searches for patterns or messages that may be coming to earth as other life-forms attempt to communicate with us. At first I thought he was joking. As much as we may have fun with Star Trek and Babylon 5 and other science fiction, there is no complex life anywhere but on Earth.

But how do I know? What if I'm wrong? Maybe there is, and I'm just close-minded.

Last month, we had a movie night at church, watching a documentary, The Privileged Planet. It wasn't from a Christian perspective, or even a religious perspective. It was simply the science of Earth's unique characteristics: the iron core which gives us the magnetic field we have; a location in a particular belt around our sun, not too hot and not too cold; our location in the Milky Way; the chemical make-up of our atmosphere; the abundance of liquid water to moderate the climate; gas-giant planets to help protect our solar system from cosmic junk; etc. These things (and many more) are necessary to sustaining life.

But how do we know whether --in the vastness of the universe-- there might be other places with intelligent life? Or if life there might look very different from life here, and not need the same support system?

Does theology tell us what science can only guess at? I think so.

1. Either there is life elsewhere or there is not.

2. If there is life elsewhere, it is similar to human life, or it is not.
2a. If it is not similar to human life, then it is not made in the image of God. Seriously, do I care if there's life elsewhere in the universe if it's an amoeba or a speck of fungus?

3. If there is life that we'd recognize as "like us," then they are sinners or they are not.
3a. Is it possible for there to be life without having them be sinners? Romans 8 tells us that the whole creation has come under the curse and is waiting to be released. Luke 15 tells us that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 just persons who need no repentance. Is it theologically conceivable that there could be life out there that has continued since creation without sinning on their own, and without being sunk into sin by Adam's fall?

4. If there is life out there, and if they are sinners, then they were saved or they were not.
4a. God left them to be damned? Um. No.

5. If God saved them, how could this happen?
5a. God saved them through Jesus' work on our earth. But how would they hear? As Luke 24 shows, it's not enough that Jesus die for sin. It must also be preached.
5b. God saved them through another Savior. Impossible. There is only one Son of God.
5c. God saved them through Jesus' work on their earth. But Scripture tells us His sacrifice was once and for all. This would mean He had to be in two places at once, with His life, suffering, death, and resurrection happening there in those other worlds exactly at the same time as He dwelt among us.

It's looking to me like a little logic, in combination with what the Bible says, rules out every option except "There is no intelligent life-form elsewhere in the universe."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cooking While You're Otherwise Occupied

The food I'm cooking these days doesn't taste as good as it used to. It's because I'm not home as much.

I used to keep an eye on the food. If it was cooking too fast, I'd turn down the heat. If it needed to speed up, you turn up the heat. You use a lid on the pot (or not) depending on how brown the food is or how wet the food is. You snitch a taste here and there to see if the dish needs more garlic or more salt or a splash of wine or a dose of hot peppers. Fabulous food requires attention and tweaking. But what happens when you have to throw it all in a crockpot in the morning and can't adjust and tweak throughout the day? What happens when you have to make hurry-up food? What happens when you have to leave dinner half-done and let the kids try their hand at the tweaking? The food still has nutrition; the food still tastes decent. But where's the deliciosity??

It crossed my mind as I was writing this that the same holds true for raising kids. You need to be there. You need to pay attention. You need to tweak and adjust what you're up to.

A Sign for Ahaz

Pastor pointed out last week in Bible class (studying Isaiah 7) that God told Ahaz to ask for a sign. God said He'd defeat the Assyrians for the country of Judah, but He wanted to offer King Ahaz something to see that would assure him God was for-real about this rescue. Ahaz pretended to be too pious to request a sign. Pastor asked what an obvious answer might have been -- it probably would have something to do with soldiers or the outcome of the first battle or something else to do with war.

So God says, "Fine, you won't ask even after I told you to ask. I'll give you a sign anyway." And then He says that the virgin will conceive and bear a Son, and He will be named Emmanuel. That always seemed pretty darn non sequitur to me. But Pastor explained that it's not. Ahaz was told that God would fight off the Assyrians. Ahaz couldn't do it on his own. He couldn't do it with the help of neighboring countries. All Ahaz could do was to be still and see the salvation which the Lord his God would accomplish for him. No man could fight the enemies and rescue him.

And isn't that the same thing that God's sign would demonstrate? No man would cause the conception of Emmanuel; He would be born of a virgin.

Seek whom ye may to be your stay,
none can redeem his brother.
All helpers failed. This Man prevailed --
the God-man and none other.

Our Servant-Lord did help afford.
We're justified for He hath died,
the Guiltless for the guilty.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Meal Plans

1. salmon, green bean casserole, cantaloupe.
2. broccoli/sausage quiche, lettuce salad.
3. chili, bread, canned fruit.
4. shepherd's pie, steamed carrots.
5. rotini with crab & California-blend veggies & Parmesan, pumpkin pie.
6. baked beans
7. going to Alia's birthday party (spaghetti)

(Some of these are things we haven't gotten to from my last set of meal plans.)

Sun Chart

Short days.
Long nights.

If there are too many dark, cloudy days in a row, a person with Seasonal Affective Disorder will become sad. A few years ago, I started keeping a sun chart. It doesn't change the weather, but it can change my expectations of myself.
A big "S" on a day means sunny. A "1/2 S" might mean a sunny morning or a sunny afternoon. A dash equals a cloudy day. I might write "minutes of sun" if there were a few times during the day when it was bright enough that trees left shadows.

This is not a chart about weather or my neighborhood or even reality. This is a chart about my own eyeballs. If it's a sunny day but I'm locked up at an all-day meeting in a windowless room, that day gets marked as No-Sun. If it's snowy and dark at home but I'm under sunbeams in central Illinois, the day is marked with a big fat S.

I can take Vitamin D3, but I can't shoo away clouds for the sun to shine through. I can, however, respond to lack of sun. If we've had three days of darkness, I can look at the chart and know that the first time Mr Sun peeks out, I better toss myself outdoors or at least plunk myself down in the big bay window. If the darkness persists and there's no sun to be had, I have to lighten up on the pressure of the to-do list. This translates into asking kids to clean the bathrooms, ignoring cobwebs, buying instafood for supper, and finding some hilarious movies to waste time on. It's the mental equivalent of a thermometer: a person might feel tired but be unable to tell whether it's sinful laziness or a viral infection. The thermometer clues you in. If it's viral, several naps might help. If it's sinful laziness, indulging oneself probably isn't a good plan. The sun chart can show me when it's a physiological weakness from sun-deficiency.

Sunday, October 23, 2011