the long and the short of 2010 books

Longest title: Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today (or Six Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door) (Lynne Truss), at 22 words.

Shortest title: Boy (Roald Dahl), at 1 word... obviously. (Have I ever mentioned how much I like that word? Its etymology makes me imagine unperceptive people mentally tripping over self-evident facts in a slapstick violence kind of way.)

Longest-named author: an impressive 17-letter tie between Barbara Diefendorf and Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche can win: his middle name was Wilhelm.

Shortest-named author: Homer and Plato are tied here at 5 letters in English and 6 in Greek, but Plato loses for saying that writing his name down removes it further from its form. Somebody needs an attitude adjustment.

Longest book: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, at 1,037 deliciously melodramatic pages. So much fun, and all in the name of historical research!

Shortest book: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, at 67 pages, ish. (It was kidnapped, er, borrowed, so I can't check.)

And on that note, merry Christmas and, just in case I don't post before then, happy new year!


Ezekiel 47 - Revelation 22

47:1 Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar. 2 He brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gateway that faces east; and there was water, running out on the right side.
3 And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. 4 Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. 5 Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed. 6 He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he brought me and returned me to the bank of the river.
7 When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. 8 Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. 9 And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. 10 It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many. 11 But its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt. 12 Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.”

22:1 And he showed me a pure>]"> river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. 4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. 5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.


O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel!
Redeem thy captive Israel,
That into exile drear is gone
Far from the face of God's dear Son.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou branch of Jesse! Draw
The quarry from the lion's claw;
From the dread caverns of the grave,
From nether hell, thy people save.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, thou Dayspring bright!
Pour on our souls thy healing light;
Dispel the long night's lingering gloom,
And pierce the shadows of the tomb.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Lord of David's key!
The royal door fling wide and free;
Safeguard for us the heav'nward road,
And bar the way to death's abode.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Adonai,
Who in thy glorious majesty
From that high mountain clothed with awe
Gavest thy folk the elder law.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

- Translated by T. A. Lacey


winter is almost here

The cold weather makes my joints ache, and it makes me wonder what having arthritis feels like. Not how people describe it; that would be easy to look up. I wonder what it feels like. What it will feel like when I have it, because I probably will. I know that descriptions are relative. Last year when I had my accident I don't know if the pain was blinding or not because it was pitch black outside. All I know is, it hurt, and it drowned out everything else. All I know now is, the ache in my hands is a soundtrack, background music that plays dissonantly along behind the sound of the keystrokes. Just background music. I can handle it.
I read somewhere once that children don't have the vocabulary to express their emotions. Do any of us? I'm a verbal person. I've written poems that have made my friends cry. But the emotions that I feel most strongly, the ones that are threatening to make me cry right now, and succeeding, are ones that I couldn't tell you about if I tried. The only way I've come close to letting them out is on the piano, and I wish I knew more so I could do it better. But I'm too young. I don't have the vocabulary. I wonder what it will feel like if I ever do. I wonder if I'll learn before my hands are too stiff to play, before the pain gets so loud I won't be able to listen, before arthritis makes me deaf.


Tuesday is still pizza day!

For the last couple of weeks I've been experimenting with breakfast pizza, but have no pictures to show for it. This recipe is great with either bacon or lunchmeat-type ham. Also, I hate onions, so I put sliced mushrooms on instead.

This week's adventure: asparagus pizza, taken from the smitten kitchen. For lack of scallions, I instead hyped up the flavor with three sliced cloves of garlic... and for the sake of my carnivore roommate, who so bravely eats whatever I throw at her, I added some of those addictive meatballs from Winco, cut in half.

Both of these turned out delicious and made great leftovers.



I'm less of a this-is-what-I-did-today blogger and more of a this-has-been-on-my-mind-lately blogger. This means that the more I have going on in my real life, the less likely I am to blog, an inverse proportion. But now that I've gotten rid of facebook, nobody knows what I'm up to unless I tell them. The proportion of mundane-stuff-I-do to mundane-stuff-everyone-knows-about is suddenly much smaller. Privacy is a magical thing to reclaim.

I got facebook when my brother was a freshman in college. That was just over four years ago. I'm 20. I had facebook for 1/5 of my life, 20%. That's longer than I spent in highland dancing, and facebook devoured a larger piece of my schedule than dance did. Dance counts as a hobby, something interesting you do in your free time.

Facebook went from something interesting to do in my free time to something I did whether I had free time or not.* That's a place of honor that I would prefer to keep available for things that matter a lot more, like... school. My Bible. Sleep. Keeping in touch with friends and family one-on-one by letter or email, rather than just broadcasting one snippet of information for all 733 of my fb-friends to read and forget about. Time for a new hobby, which is really an old one: real people and real life.

* This is not, I repeat not, the reason I deleted my account. Like my beloved brother, I am capable of shutting my laptop and doing something else. It's just the reason I'm not inclined to go back.


vertical autumn

Last week's pictures were just in time. Today woke up gray and rainy, and the leaves are no longer photogenic. I stayed home, closed the blinds, lit some candles, reorganized my bookshelf, cleaned my fridge, and baked up some leftover chocolate cookie dough from last week. The result: a clean and neat, warm, delicious-smelling apartment. I curled up in the green armchair that used to belong to my parents and read P. G. Wodehouse's The Mating Season and Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron while my roommate Kathleen played Beethoven and Chopin on her keyboard.

Autumn remains my favorite season in all its moods, but I'll stick to taking pictures when it's happy. Out of the ~125 shots I took last Thursday, almost all were horizontal. It's odd: vertical shots make me happy, but I almost never take my own. These three feel like keepers.

N'oubliez-pas means "don't forget," and that's what my blog is for: a collection of things I want to keep, revisit, and remember. The leaves covering 3rd Street on Thursday, November 3, 2010 are among them.


Autumn Baking

Italian cheese twists (thefrugalgirl.com): cheesy-garlicky goodness. The best part is the crunchy bottom surface.

Chocolate molasses cookies (countryliving.com): I was never a huge fan of molasses cookies, but thanks to Lindsey, my views are changing.

Apple cheddar scones (allrecipes.com): the softest, yummiest, cheesiest scone I have ever tasted. An addiction in the making.

Pie crust 102 & 103: this produced the best pie crust I've ever eaten. I was the demiurge and smittenkitchen.com was the home of the forms.

Excuse me. I need to go renew my gym membership.


samosas: my first deep-frying attempt

What started out as a craving for mashed potatoes turned into mashed potatoes sown in corruption and raised in glory: samosas. And they turned out rather well! Here's the recipe, which I mostly followed. The main differences were adding in some peas and cooked shredded carrot, and using sauteed yellow onion instead of green.
[Sorry about the picture quality. I blame it on the borrowed camera.]


last term's reading

Disclaimer: there are a few here that we didn't read all of, but we took at least a good chunk out of them.


perogy pizza

Or, if the word "perogy" means nothing to you, you could call it baked potato pizza.

You will need...

3 cups of mashed potatoes, ish
1 tsp salt to make the potatoes taste better
1 onion, diced and sauteed
Olive oil for sauteing the onion

Mix the sauteed onion into the potatoes and let them sit in the fridge overnight and get to know each other. The next day, get your crust ready and spread the potatoes over it; I made them about 1/2 inch thick. Then top the potatoes with...

2 cups shredded cheddar
8-10 bacon slices, fried crispy and cut up

Bake this for ~20 minutes at 425, or at your discretion, and eat it with sour cream. This is the most filling pizza I have ever encountered, so use discretion when you're eating it, too.


Psalm 90

Over the last few months, I've gone back to this Psalm again and again; it's a prayer for when I run out of my own words. I think it's time to just settle down and memorize it.

Psalm 90: A Prayer of Moses the man of God.

1 Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

3 You turn man to destruction,
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
4 For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it is past,
And like a watch in the night.
5 You carry them away like a flood;
They are like a sleep.
In the morning they are like grass which grows up:
6 In the morning it flourishes and grows up;
In the evening it is cut down and withers.

7 For we have been consumed by Your anger,
And by Your wrath we are terrified.
8 You have set our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.
9 For all our days have passed away in Your wrath;
We finish our years like a sigh.
10 The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
11 Who knows the power of Your anger?
For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.
12 So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

13 Return, O LORD! How long?
And have compassion on Your servants.
14 Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy,
That we may rejoice and be glad all our days!
15 Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us,
The years in which we have seen evil.
16 Let Your work appear to Your servants,
And Your glory to their children.
17 And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands.



this is how school makes me feel.

Today is not one of those days.


Kopha cookies: my great-grandma Klassen's recipe

Cream together 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup granulated sugar
and mix in 1 egg.

Sift in 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 T baking powder
and add 1/2 cup finely shredded coconut and 1 T milk.

Mix it all up to look like this. Yes, it's insanely dry.

Roll it into donut hole-sized balls like this (one batch should make about 16):

Roll each ball in more coconut and poke the middle of it with your little finger:

Fill the holes with jam (traditionally apricot, but also good with raspberry or strawberry), and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.


tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

- Macbeth, Act V Scene v

I could listen to Dr Leithart read Shakespeare all day.



We humans spend a remarkable amount of time complaining (at least internally, if not verbally) about things that we're actually grateful for. With me, it's usually, "This job is boring, I'm tired, I don't want to be here." I get so caught up in one moment of how I feel that I ignore what a blessing it is to have a job at all, and especially a fun, convenient, flexible job with great coworkers.

Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Maybe our grateful speech outweighs the ungrateful, but all that leaves us with is a big jumble of hypocrisy. We can sing the Doxology in church, but if we spend the other six days of the week griping, our "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow" isn't doing us much good.

James gives complaints and ingratitude no quarter, no matter who we're complaining about: "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be." One person speaking both curses and praise--true praise--is like a spring that gives both fresh and salty water: impossible. It's one or the other, all or nothing.

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.


Summer Reading #3

Conventiculum left me with no time (or brainpower) for reading, so I lost nearly two weeks.

Alan M. Dershowitz, Reasonable Doubts: As a child of the 90's, I was too busy learning the alphabet to follow the O. J. Simpson trial. This book presents the case in full and explains why the jury didn't convict... hence the title. I feel broadened and educated.

Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo: Not what I was expecting, but nevertheless good fodder for my love of 19th-century French lit. But... my copy is an abridgement! Not cool.

Henry James, Washington Square: It can't compete with James's masterpiece The Portrait of a Lady, but still has its share of keen observations and finely-drawn characters in less-than-ideal circumstances. And, it's mentioned in The Big Oyster....

Mark Kurlansky, The Big Oyster: History on the Half-Shell: This book combines two of my favorite things, seafood and New York, into a fascinating portrait of a city, its industry, and its food. This and Salt have placed me firmly in Kurlansky's fan base.

Robin McKinley, Sunshine (not pictured): Not the best I've read from this author, but a pleasant diversion... if you like off-the-beaten-track vampire fiction. 14a (that's a Canadian movie rating) for language and one sketchy bit. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Eve Titus, Basil of Baker Street: The book that inspired my favorite Disney movie: a perfect birthday present, bite-sized at 70 pages. So cute!

N. D. Wilson, Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl: This world is a spinning miracle. I'm glad I finally took a minute to stand back and look at it from N. D.'s ever-fresh perspective.

Ben H. Winters, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters: This licks its zombie predecessor hollow, actually adding multiple twists and sidelines to the plot (rather than just inserting monsters into every other scene.) The result: delightfully bizarre.

Books: 8
Pages: 2321
If you read one, read: Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl (click for the Google Books preview.)
If you've already read it, read: The Big Oyster.


In the last ten years,

I've visited four new provinces, two new states, and two new countries.

I've jumped off of a cliff.

I've lain on my roof and watched shooting stars.

I've conquered my terror of public speaking, mostly.

I've swum across a river.

I've flown across an ocean.

I've eaten breakfast for all three meals of one day.

I've danced in a parade.

I've watched a baby fall asleep in my arms.

I've watched my big brother turn 20. Now it's my turn.

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord God our Father.


Variations on the Canon by George Winston

from the album December.


The body is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
(1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 53)

Dr Wilson gave us the creeps one day in science when he pointed out that when you look at someone, or yourself, every cell that you see is dead. Your cells are layered: the top rows serve as an expendable cushion so that you don't shred yourself raw when you get dressed in the morning. Dead cells rub off, and beneath the surface, another row rises to replace them.

It's shocking how dead we all are.

I've heard the mortal and immortal bodies compared to a seed and a flower. Seeds are great; flowers are greater. Given a knobbly brown bulb, white lilies and green leaves may come as a bit of a surprise. But when that which is perfect has come, that which is in part will be done away. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face, with faces that will never die.

Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory.

One day, we will be shockingly alive.


priority check

How often do you check yourself in the mirror?
How often do you check your conscience?

How much time do you spend checking your email?
How much time do you spend reading your Bible?

How many times a day do you complain about your problems?
How many times do you pray about them?

My life is definitely imbalanced.

How many Christians have read a self-help book cover to cover, but can't remember the last time they read through the Bible?
If it's important enough to ask our friends for advice, why aren't we asking God?


on the crucifixion

from "The Strangest Story in the World," G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man. My emotions on reading GKC tend to be mixed, but this bit left me without doubt: I love it.

"There were solitudes beyond where none shall follow. There were secrets in the inmost and invisible part of that drama that have no symbol in speech, or in any severance of man from men. Nor is it easy for any words less stark and single-minded than those of the naked narrative even to hint at the horror and exaltation that lifted itself above the hill. Endless expositions have not come to the end of it, or even to the beginning. And if there be any sound that can produce a silence, we may surely be silent about the end and the extremity; when a cry was driven out of that darkness in words dreadfully distinct and dreadfully unintelligible, which man shall never understand in all the eternity they have purchased for him; and for one annihilating instant an abyss that is not for our thoughts had opened even in the infinity of the absolute; and God had been forsaken of God.
"On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn."


summer reading #2*

*didn't mention this the first time: my project this summer is to read (at least on average) 1,000 pages a week, all books I've never read before.

G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man: A foray through human history filled with the insights and tangents that make Chesterton Chesterton.

Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan, The Strain: Some say this book was made for the screen, but I don`t think so; the action is snappy and the visuals are electric, but I can`t see a movie pulling off the character development or fitting in the side plots. Plus, some things are more sinister when left to our imaginations.

Elizabeth Gaskell, Wives and Daughters: Sure, it's huge, but it's also the perfect accompaniment for a long day in the car. I turned over the 649th and final page with a happy sigh (or something) just as we turned the corner to home.

Russell Martin, Beethoven's Hair: The subtitle says it all: "An extraordinary historical odyssey and a scientific mystery solved."

Edith Nesbit, The Magic World: A pleasant compendium of bite-sized stories. I would have loved this as a kid; I`ll settle for loving it now.

Lewis Thomas, The Fragile Species: Broad, meditative, and delightful. A lot of the chapters overlap here and there (due to being written separately), but it makes for a cohesive whole rather than a sense of redundance.

Connie Willis, Passage: This is the first book in a long time to keep me up well into the night, reading so hard the pages smoke. A unique, perfectly-paced novel... I have a beef or two with the ending, but it worked so well I couldn't actually be disappointed.

Books: 7
Pages: 2655 (I'm 350 pages behind! Ack!)
If you read one, read: Passage.


Small Talk

Consider the following exchange:
You: "Hey, how's it going?"
Them: "Not bad, how about you?"
You: "Oh, pretty good."
[awkward silence]

Do you have this conversation with
a) your roommate,
b) someone you just met, or
c) someone you know, but not well?
If I'm any judge of the human condition, the answer is generally C: the person you know, but not well, or at least not well enough to have anything to talk about with. Funny how that works, ain't it?
I went to a wedding last weekend. (It was wonderful.) At the reception, I sat next to someone who knew literally no one there except the bride and maid of honor, who were both otherwise occupied, so the duty of conversation-making was left in my hands. And I was fine with that. I love talking to strangers because there's no shortage of topics available: I was able to ask about her job, her school, her family, and so on, all as part of a perfectly natural getting-to-know-each-other conversation.
Now, think of someone you've known for at least a year but never really gotten to know, and imagine plunking yourself down next to them and having that same conversation. Awkward. For reason, the length of time I've known someone and the ease with which I get to know them often wind up inversely, not directly, proportional.
It's human instinct to revert to topics where we already know at least a little bit about the other person, hence the number of homework-related conversations that go on at NSA every day of the school year. I may not know how many siblings you have or what your favorite movie is, but I do know that we both have the same massive reading assignment due this week. If you don't go to NSA, I might have to resort to that final frontier of conversations desperate for adventure: the weather. Topics like these are where small talk goes to die.
You: "So... how's that Doctrine of the Christian Life going?"
Them: "Dude, I still have to read 600 pages tonight."
You: "That sucks."
[awkwad silence, reprise]
Back during the school year, my roommate caught my attention by saying something to the effect that you know you had a good time at someone's house when you didn't just sit around talking about school. I think that's the hallmark of friendship, or at least friendship in the making: knowing the other person well enough to have something unique to talk to them about.
In fact, this argument proves its own point, since by setting out to defend small talk, I'm making indirect small talk with a friend who recently commented on how much they dislike small talk in the first place. If we weren't friends, it would just be awkward.



My favorite poem, and part of the reason this blog is called what it is.

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the distant land,
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning, stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand,
It will be late to counsel then, or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while,
And afterward remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget, and smile,
Than that you should remember, and be sad.

- Christina Rosetti


Summer reading #1

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death and Technopoly: Well-written and thought-provoking, not to mention tailor-made for a dystopia junkie like yours truly.

Roald Dahl, Boy and (not pictured) Going Solo: Roald Dahl's life was awesome. If you don't like reading biography, start now.

George Macdonald, The Complete Fairy Tales: This is the stuff I grew up on... no wonder I was such a weird child. Some old favorites, plus some stuff I hadn't read before: perfect for reading on a rainy night with a stack of Oreos.

Diana Wynne Jones, House of Many Ways: Sequel to Howl's Moving Castle (one of my favorite books). Not quite as much fun, imho, as the other not-quite-as-directly-related sequel, Castle in the Air, but still loads of fun.

Daphne du Maurier, Mary Anne: A pleasantly embellished account of the tempestuous life of Mary Anne Clarke, an early-1800's courtesan who was also du Maurier's great-great-grandmother.

Arthur Plotnik, Spunk and Bite: So good. And if Plotnik knew I used that phrase after reading his book, he'd probably hit me over the head with it.

Peter Leithart, Deep Comedy: Deep. I can't wait to take Dr Leithart's class.

Smith/Kiger, Poplorica: Perky and informative, like reading a collection of history presentations... albeit a little more scandalous.

Books: 10
Pages: 2412
If you read one, read: Going Solo.



Yesterday, I took Chloe to the zoo as an 8-months-late birthday celebration, and discovered a new passion: the capybara. If I can find this picture in a resolution larger than the length of my ring finger, I will put it on the wall of my apartment.

* Amendment: I found it for sale, but it also needs to cost less than I spend on groceries in a week.



Last summer's soundtrack was Rubber Soul.

This summer's will be Revolver. I can tell already.



A raisin may be a humiliated grape, but a chocolate-covered raisin is a humiliated grape that is sown in dishonor and raised in glory. Happy Ascension Day in advance.

This year has been exciting, exhilarating, exhausting, extraordinary. May a blessed finals week be upon you all.


cherry blossoms

Thirteen years ago this summer, we moved into a new house in a new neighborhood. Unlike our old house, #7 in a row of 17 townhouses squashed together like so many gummy bears in the bulk bin, this new house abounded with yard space. We went to work filling it with trees: two apple trees, which were "Dad's trees," a magnolia for Mom, a spruce picked out by Fraser, and my tree, a Japanese maple of the cute 4-foot-high variety. My first choice would have been an ornamental cherry tree, but for some reason, that wasn't going to work. I contented myself with wandering down the rows of young trees at the nursery, drinking in their scent and sneezing when the pollen became too much for my nose to handle.
The cemetery and surrounding grounds at the Spalding mission took me back there, to when I was a seven-year-old defining her ideal adult life in terms of the trees and plants that would grow around her house. The dream hasn't changed.


The Portrait of a Lady

Henry James was an author I'd never read before, and I enjoyed him thoroughly. Some favorite bits:

[Describing an invalid]: "Living as he now lived was like reading a good book in a poor translation--a meager entertainment for a young man who felt he might have been an excellent linguist." - 94
(I just can't get over this simile. It haunts me.)

"Mrs Touchett, not having cultivated relations with her husband's neighbors, was not warranted in expecting visits from them. She had, however, a peculiar taste; she liked to receive cards. For what is usually called social intercourse she had very little relish; but nothing pleased her more than to find her hall-table whitened with symbolic morsels of white pasteboard." - 112

[One character's opinion]: "The opera's very bad; the women look like laundresses and sing like peacocks." - 349



[I know, all I do these days is quote books, but this passage has been on my mind, especially in relation to Mr Schlect's discussions of the nature of history.]

from chapter 1, as Winston is beginning his first diary entry:
For whom, it suddenly occurred to him to wonder, was he writing this diary? For the future, for the unborn. [...] For the first time the magnitude of what he had undertaken came home to him. How could you communicate with the future? It was of its nature impossible. Either the future would resemble the present, in which case it would not listen to him: or it would be different from it, and his predicament would be meaningless.



from chapter 4, "A Magic Kingdom," in Naturalist by Edwin O. Wilson.

Consider how long-term memory works. With each changing movement, the mind scans a vast landscape of jumbled schemata, searching for the one or two details upon which the decisive reaction will be based. The mind with a search image is like a barracuda. The large predatory fish pays scant attention to the rocks, pilings, and vast array of organisms living among them. It waits instead for a glint of silver that betrays the twisting body of a smaller fish. It locks on this signal, ruches forward, and seizes the prey in its powerful jaws. Its singlemindedness is why swimmers are advised not to wear shiny bracelets or wristwatches in barracuda waters.

The human mind moving in a sea of detail is compelled like a questing animal to orient by a relatively few decisive configurations. There is an optimum number of such signals. Too few, and the person becomes obsessive-compulsive; too many, and he turns schizophrenic. Configurations with the greatest emotional impact are stored first and persist longer. Those that give the greatest pleasure are sought on later occasions. The process is strongest in children, and to some extent it programs the trajectory of their lives. Eventually they will weave the decisive images into a narrative by which they explain to themselves and others the meaning of what has happened to them. As the Talmud says, we see things not as they are, but as we are.


my favorite garbage can

is right in front of the 1912 Center, complete with an awesome ashtray.



This disturbed me badly, but I'm kind of curious what the possible outcomes of the quiz might be. "You smell like heroin, but not Edward's personal brand. Close but no cigar." Or, "Slightly floral, like... freesia. Check the corners of your bedroom before going to sleep."

But this is the real winner. I'm sorry, Botticelli.


Adventures on a cookie sheet

Thai Chicken Pizza
Spicy, savory, and sweet. Starting with your crust, layer on in this order:
~2 tbsp. each crunchy peanut butter (warmed up so it spreads nicely) and thai chili paste
- Diced cooked chicken (I use a can of the stuff from Costco)
~1 cup grated carrot
~2 tsp. dried cilantro
~2 cups shredded mozza
~1 cup chopped broccoli florets
Bake. For my oven this meant 20 minutes at 450.

Spinach Alfredo Pizza
Serious comfort food, loosely based on a recipe from pizzamaniac.com. Make your alfredo sauce:
1-1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese (grated/crumbled)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 cloves minced garlic (I'm a big fan of the stuff in a jar)
1 tsp. dried rosemary
2 or 3 handfuls of fresh spinach, chopped (or more; I kept adding and adding)
Bring the milk to a boil (I used my double boiler to avoid tragic accidents), then let it simmer while you add the rest; remove from heat and let it stand to thicken. Spread the alfredo sauce onto your crust and add the rest:
-Sliced tomatoes/mushrooms*
-Diced chicken (again, I used the canned, but the original recipe says to sliver and saute it with garlic.)
~2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese

*I didn't have tomatoes or mushrooms around when I made this, but if I had, they'd have been involved.
** To tell you the truth, I don't measure unless I have to, so aside from the alfredo sauce, all these are approximated.

Goodbye, February. It's been fun.


waiting for the bus

Scene: Friendship Square. Claire and a strange-looking 30ish short man await the coming of the West Bus at 2:55.

Short man: Nice skirt.
Claire: Uh, thanks.
[Awkward silence. The bus is a block away, so Claire decides 30 seconds of polite small talk won't hurt anyone.]
Claire: Yeah, it's kinda tough finding skirts when you're a six-foot-tall woman.
Short man: Oh I know. I have some friends who are drag queens who wear a size 16 mens, so they have a really hard time finding shoes.
Claire [wondering how that train of thought happened]: Well, I don't have any problems there, at least. I'm an 8.
Short man: Really! Even I'm bigger than that.
Claire [glad to have changed the subject]: Yeah, sometimes I wonder how I stay standing.
Short man: Haha. I wish I was six feet tall.
Claire [wondering if the bus could be any slower]: It has its ups and downs.
Short man: Well, I'm 5'5'', and it's tough going to drag shows, because you get these drag queens who are 6'5'' and then they put on six inch heels and they're a foot and a half taller than me.
Claire: Oh, I'm sorry.
[The bus arrives and Claire flees to safety.]


"I love you."

Last week at CRF, Pastor Wilson emphasized the fact that love is active and selfless; for the average teenagers making out at the movies, "I love you" is a statement on par with that of a three-year-old exclaiming "I love ice cream." Loving someone is not about feeling happy because of them; it's being filled with and acting upon a desire to give yourself up for them.

Now, apply this to your average teenage (or adult) breakup, where one person says to the other: "I just don't feel that way about you anymore." Once upon a time, someone somewhere got the idea that the fact that people and emotions change is a bad thing and a sign from on high that the relationship is worn out and due for replacement. Listen to that statement again. "I don't feel that way about you anymore." In other words, "I've been eating this kind of ice cream for a while now, and I'm tired of it. You aren't making me as happy as I want to be."

When I was 10 or so, I was watching TV with my mom. I forget what the show was. 20-Something Girl confessed her feelings for 20-Something Guy, who responded, "You're my friend. I love you, but I'm not in love with you." My mom snorted, and my romantic sensibilities were outraged. Surely, being in love with someone is something completely different from all other emotions? But hindsight, as usual, is clearer. What 20-Something Guy is saying is, "You make me happy, but not that happy." Even as a friend, love would have a better response than that. All he cares about is finding himself some really good ice cream.

This is why wedding vows are so important. Husband and wife vow to love one another in sickness and health, sorrow and joy, poverty and wealth, for the rest of their lives, not to doodle hearts around each others' names on the nearest piece of paper. Love is hard work. Listen to the conditions it happens in: we are called to love the other when they are sick and needy and smelly; we are called to love them when we are poor and hungry and tired and irritable; we're called to love them in sorrow, when we lose jobs and friends and parents and children and don't know how to go on. How many marriages have you heard of that ended "because of" some tragedy or other? Too many. But these are the times when a husband and wife who genuinely know how to love each other will be the ones most able and most obligated to hold each other up.

So, to return to Pastor Wilson's message, don't say "I love you" lightly. It's a promise about how you intend to spend the rest of your life. People talk about love as if it's something you start out with a lot of and slowly use up over the course of time, but it's the opposite that's true. Love is made out of actions, and as we love someone day in and day out, year after year, that love is going to grow. It's inevitable.

I guess this means I support Valentine's Day. In a sea of romance movies about finding your new favorite ice cream flavor, I think Valentine's Day is one of the last vestiges of genuine love that our culture endorses: to go out of your way to show your love for someone, to write them cards, to give them gifts, to sit down with them for dinner, to give up your time and your money and yourself.


On Time

Fly, envious Time, till thou run out thy race;
Call on the lazy leaden-stepping hours,
Whose speed is but the heavy plummet's pace;
And glut thyself with what thy womb devours,
Which is no more than what is false and vain,
And merely mortal dross;
So little is our loss,
So little is thy gain.
For when, as each thing bad thou hast entomb'd
And last of all thy greedy self consumed,
Then long Eternity shall greet our bliss,
With an individual kiss;
And Joy shall overtake us, as a flood,
When every thing that is sincerely good,
And perfectly divine,
With truth, and peace, and love, shall ever shine,
About the supreme throne
Of Him, to whose happy-making sight, alone,
When once our heavenly-guided soul shall climb,
Then all this earthly grossness quit,
Attired with stars, we shall for ever sit,
Triumphing over Death, and Chance, and thee, O Time.

- John Milton


the umbrella novel

[first paragraph]
Where I grew up, summer began with the first week of May and ended with the first week of October, a hundred and fifty days of picnics and swimming and beestings. The sun came down, the grass came up, and between them, the wind fit sideways like a baseball player sliding into home. On wet days, we watched the wind carrying the rain on its back, but for most of the summer we only felt it, taking the edge off of the sunshine, spreading the smell of the apple trees that clustered behind our house, and tugging at the edges of the bright yellow umbrella over our heads as we ate dinner outdoors. My dad always said the umbrella was trying to go home, but we were old enough by then to know it was just another story, and old enough that when the war started, my brother Patrick was one of the first to go.

[last paragraph]
I left my umbrella to dry on the front porch and went up to Patrick's room. He wasn't there. He would never be there. The simple reality of it hurt more than having the bullet in my arm or watching dirt fall by shovelfuls into an empty grave. I wondered how long it would still be "his" room, when it would change from Patrick's room to Patrick's old room, and when we would stop saying his name altogether. I wondered whose the room would become when my parents left for the last time.

He was gone. And I, I was finally home.

The chinup bar was still there. I gripped it with both hands and hung on tight, lifting myself slowly. Someday, this war would end, and I would fly again. But not yet.


Follow your heart.

One of the occupational hazards of nannyhood: Barbie movies. It's been a few years, so their details are fading blissfully into the hazy reaches of forgetfulness, but they have left me with a deep and lasting aversion to a number of the popular catchphrases that have replaced Christian morals in the media: "Be true to yourself," "Believe in yourself," and most importantly, "Follow your heart," which are spoonfed into our childrens' hungry minds as quick and tasty recipes for happiness. Of course, I knew better. True happiness comes from following God, and in His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).

Tonight, I got a new perspective. Yes, we are sinful; yes, our sinful hearts will lead us astray. But God promises, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26). This is sanctification. This is why David prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Psalm 51:10).

Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." David isn't just saying that if we love God enough, He'll give us whatever we pray for. Rather, He will give us the desires behind the prayers. "Follow your heart" may carry a lot of trite, pop-culture baggage, but on a fundamental level, it's exactly what only Christians are able to do. Only someone who genuinely trusts and serves God is free to follow the desires of their God-given, purified heart. Martin Luther said it himself: "Love God, and do as you please."

How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.
With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.
~ Psalm 119:9-11