29 December 2008

Marley and Me

Drew and I went to the theater Friday evening, the first time in several weeks as getting ready for Christmas and a bad cold on my part kept us away.

There were quite a few films that looked interesting, but the timing worked out for Marley and Me, based on John Grogan's book by the same name.

Of all the ones we were thinking about, this one had the least to attract me. I've never been a big fan of either of the leads and I don't particularly like dogs. (Before I get hate emails, I'll state in my defense that I'm very allergic and therefore I'm not around animals much at all. And, I'm sure because of the allergies, I'm a magnet whenever I am in the presence of an animal; that's made me a bit stand-offish. Okay, onto the film.)

When the movie started, I wasn't really impressed with either 'John' or 'Jenny'. She was the head of the family and he passively followed. He wasn't willing to talk to her about important issues, for example, having a baby. Instead, he bought her a dog (our eponymous hero) to quiet her biological clock for a few years because he wasn't ready for fatherhood. However, as the story spun itself out, they both grew up. By the end, I was cheering for them. This is a true love story, the story of a marriage, the good and the ugly. No glossing over the difficult parts, but no sentimental nonsense, either.

There were some interesting metaphors, but nothing that an intelligent viewer wouldn't catch. I won't say more, because I don't want to spoil it, but I do recommend it and would like to see it again in theaters (unusual for me).


25 December 2008

Merry Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar plums danc'd in their heads,

And I in my helmet caref’ly watched the bait,

And settled my brain for a long winter's wait —

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

Agent Moore sprang to the window to see what was the matter.

When, what to his wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

He knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name:

"Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,

"On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donner and Blitzen;

"To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
"Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys — and St. Nicholas too:

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As Moore drew in his head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound;
He was dress'd all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnish'd with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys was flung on his back,

And he look'd like a peddler just opening his pack;
His eyes — how they twinkled!
His dimples: how merry,

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of Havana he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

He had a broad face, and a little round belly

That shook when he laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly:

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laugh'd when I saw him in spite of myself;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And fill'd all the stockings; then turn'd with a jerk,

As we sprang and surrounded him, with guns and black vests
And cries of “FBI! You’re under arrest!”
We got him on house-breaking, and slave labor too,
For he forced the Elves’ work to get presents to you,
And bypassing Customs, and smuggling gifts,
And those things like LEGOs? They came from shoplifts.
He financed it all through embezzlement and fraud;
This Santa Claus fellow considered himself god!
That night we brought down his criminal empire,
I’m just glad we got him without any gunfire.
We hand-cuffed and led him out to our SWAT van,
Across the yard full of snow and with a snowman.

But I heard him exclaim, as I read him his rights —

“Happy Christmas to all, I’ve had one heck of a night”.

by Benjamin Spear (©2008), who is intrigued by all things FBI.

23 December 2008


Children do not converse.  They say things.  They ask, they tell, and they talk, but they know nothing of one of the great joys of life, conversation.  Then, along about twelve, give or take a year on either side, two young people sitting on their bicycles near a front porch on a summer evening begin to talk about others that they know, and conversation is discovered.  Some confuse conversation with talking, of course, and go on for the rest of their lives, never stopping, boring others with meaningless chatter and complaints.  But real conversation includes asking questions, and asking the right ones before it's too late.
      ~Charles Schulz

19 December 2008

Holiday Fun!

For your holiday enjoyment.  


13 December 2008

Resources for Hand Work

Life's been crazy-busy lately, mostly with making Christmas presents and keeping up with school.

The girls and I found a couple of really cool websites that I thought I'd share.

We're learning how to knit. Well, actually Judith and Rebekah are already pretty good at it, but Melody and Eliza are learning and I'm re-learning (my Mémère Bert taught me to cast on, knit, and purl, but I'd forgotten how - it's been so long). This website has been so helpful!  It includes free video instruction for both English style and Continental style.  My mem taught me English style, and when I first tried Continental, I made a big mess.  But there was a scene in an indie movie we watched the other night (review coming soon) that included a woman knitting Continental style and it finally clicked.  I tried it again the next morning and took off.  It's faster than English, so I've been using it for my current, very basic, project with its Christmas deadline.

The other website is also a gem.  More videos, but this time about hand embroidery.  I love my embroidery machine and am using it lots, but there's something about hand embroidery that is just stunning and a lot of stitches just can't be recreated on a machine.  Sometimes you just need a break from the machinery, time to sit with a needle and thread.  I love technology, but there's there's room in the world for both hand and machine work.  Hand work is good for the soul; it slows you down, gives you time to contemplate, and requires a greater time investment - all antidotes to a hurried modern world.  I also think we must work purposely and intentionally to maintain those old skills.  If we lose them, they'll be gone for good.

Last night, Drew and I were chatting with the man who runs the local Viking Sewing Center.  After purchasing some machine embroidery supplies, I asked him if Joann's carried hand embroidery threads (I wasn't expecting beautiful silks, but was hoping for something besides run of the mill floss, and was pleased to find that they did carry some nicer pearl cotton and a tiny bit of very expensive silk - the silk stayed at the store, but I brought home some of the cotton).  He didn't quite understand the attraction of doing it by hand, but told me that he was working on his embroidery software to make it look more like hand work.  But then he shared how astonished he'd been when he was the recipient of a hand-embroidered gift.  He said of the giver, 'It took her three months to embroider it.  She must really care a lot.'  There is something about an investment of time and effort that speaks deeply to the heart.


03 December 2008

Yours, Mine and Ours

We recently watched the original Yours, Mine and Ours, with Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda, and a very young Tim Matheson (much, much better than the recent re-make).  There's a particular scene that I love.  Here it is (it has been snipped a bit):

After an altercation between Colleen's step-brother and her boyfriend, Larry, who's been pressuring her to go farther physically in their relationship. Mom, Helen, is upstairs in labor and the house is in chaos.

COLLEEN: Please, I can't talk to mother right now and I've got to talk to somebody.
FRANK: Well, talk fast.
COLLEEN: Larry says he'll never speak to me again unless I grow up. He says that I"m being ridiculous and I don't love him, but I do love him. Am I being ridiculous?
FRANK: You're not being ridiculous.
COLLEEN: Well, do all the other girls, like Larry says? And am I just being old-fashioned?
FRANK: The same idiots were passing the same rumors when I was your age. But if all the girls did, how come I always ended up with the ones who didn't?
COLLEEN: But it's all different now.
FRANK: I don't know, they wrote Fanny Hill in 1742 and they haven't found anything new since.
FRANK: Go to bed, that's who Fanny Hill is.

They walk into the master bedroom where another daughter is helping Helen get ready to go to the hospital.  He helps her up. The following dialgog continues as Frank and Colleen help Helen down the hall, down the stairs, and out to the car, one on each side of her.

COLLEEN: I know this is a terrible time to talk about it, but Larry said...
FRANK: I've got a message for Larry. You tell him this is what's it's all about. This is the real happening. If you want to know what love is take a look around you.
HELEN: What are you two talking about?
FRANK: Take a good look at your mother.
HELEN: Not now.
FRANK: Yes, now. It's giving life that counts. Until you're ready for it all the rest is just a big fraud. All the crazy haircuts in the world won't keep it turning. Life isn't a love-in, it's the dishes and the orthodontist and the shoe repairman and ground round instead of roast beef. And I'll tell you something else: it isn't going to bed with a man that proves you're in love with him, it's getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful, everyday world with him that counts.

I suppose having 19 kids is carrying it a bit too far, but if we had it to do over, who would we skip? You?

02 December 2008

The Amazing Race

The Amazing Race is one of those television shows that the actors' unions hate because it uses real people instead of employing actors.  I'm not a big fan of reality television, but we watched this the other day, for the first time, and I found it fascinating to watch the different teams and their greatly different relationships.

One team, 'The Frat Boys', were an object lesson in how not to work toward a goal with someone else.  I wanted to slap one of them upside the head.  All he did was to complain, complain, and complain some more, especially when his partner tried to push him to greater heights.  His self-centeredness blazed out in neon color.  His partner did his best to encourage him to give of himself, but he would have none of it.  He had entered this contest to try to win a million dollars, but viewed the challenges as inconveniences and burdens. He wasn't focused on the goal, but was distracted by how he felt and 'how a team is supposed to work' - meaning how a team is supposed to feel and that he wasn't feeling the right way (obviously his partner's fault).  

Another team stood out in sharp contrast.  A brother and sister team who were single-minded in pursuing their goal.  When one sacrificed, the other was full of encouragement and willingness to sacrifice alongside.  They didn't make excuses, but worked shoulder-to-shoulder to achieve their goal.  They were truly comrades in arms, pushing each other on toward the goal.  Because they weren't fixating on feeling like a team, they achieved the unity and likemindedness that the other team only dreamed of.

The second team 'ran toward the roar' of battle.  Instead of holding back, hesitating, allowing themselves to become distracted by irrelevancies, they pressed on boldly.  

Oh, and by the way, they won that leg of the race.


01 December 2008

Making Mayo

Because most mayonnaises at the grocery store contain vast amounts of soybean oil, because soybeans aren't good for thyroid health, because we already have family-members dealing with hypo-thyroidism, and because soybean-free mayos are pretty expensive, I've been making mayonnaise lately. It also tastes pretty wonderful!

I tried to make it again, yesterday (we have leftover turkey which was begging me to make a sandwich and mayonnaise is a mandatory ingredient on my turkey sandwiches). I must be getting impatient because the last two times I made it, I added the oil too quickly and it broke. The time before, I threw it away (wish now I hadn't). Yesterday, I didn't give up so easily and searched the internet for information about fixing my broken mayo. I found the following two videos and they were extremely helpful, so I'm posting them here, both for your information and for my future reference.  

Bon appetit!

30 November 2008

Tom Sawyer

I've found that I need to read a 'boy's book' occasionally. My sons seem like alien creatures to me at times and getting the inside view of a boy's mind through good literature helps me so much.  When I see my sons in literature, I'm reminded that maybe they're not so odd after all!

Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer is one of my favorites. It was so nice to re-visit all the characters. I especially love Aunt Polly and understand her reluctance to discipline Tom too severely.

I don't have many literary insights - they've all been stated before, much more eloquently and insightfully than anything I could offer, except that maybe this is one proof that classics don't have to be hard or dull reading.


26 November 2008

The Bird in the Tree

Finished this and it was wonderful!  It's the story of Lucilla Elliot and her home of Damerosehay, a refuge and sanctuary for her family, especially her grandchildren.  Her grandson David is about to do something that will tear the family apart for good.  Can she do anything about this?  What allies can she draw upon?  Will her efforts to create a lasting family legacy be brought to naught?

In addition to the deeply-written characters (the house is almost a character in its own right), Elizabeth Goudge lays bare the realities of human nature and of redemption, of duty and its close relationship to love.

This is one of those books that inspire me to work harder in my home for the sake of my husband and our children to make our home the kind of sanctuary Damerosehay is to the Elliot clan.  I fail at this far more often than I like to admit, but confession is the first step of repentance.

However, if you want to read this (and I highly recommend that you do), look for a used copy.   The new edition I purchased is missing a couple of pages of text.  Since every page in this book is integral to the whole, I missed some important bits.  I'm grateful to the friend who typed out and emailed me the two pages that were missing.  I'm going to format them so I can stick them into my copy to have when I re-read it.  

Three times in the last month, I wrote to the publisher about this problem (and other, serious problems in another of their books that I'll post about soon), but haven't heard back.  This publisher is working to re-publish all of Elizabeth Goudge's books, which is a worthy endeavor, but until it's done well, I can't recommend them.


25 November 2008

Demographic Winter

Chilling.  Sobering.  Not surprising.

Opportunity for Christians.

God is sovereign.

I'm ordering this DVD today.


24 November 2008

Effort and Enjoyment

I wrote last time about some of the changes occurring because of our broken microwave oven. There's another that I find interesting.

Food tastes better. There seems to be a direct correlation between the effort to prepare a meal and the enjoyment of that meal. The time spent in anticipation brought about by the delayed gratification of the slower preparation and cooking process heighten the delight and relish we receive from the fruit of our labor.

Fast food, whether pulled from the microwave oven or the window of a drive-thru, doesn't provide nearly the satisfaction of a meal made from scratch with one's own hands, in company with family-members. The effort and the wait also increase appetite. And appetite is the most flavourful sauce.


22 November 2008

Wall-E and Microwave Ovens

We bought Wall-E this week and have already watched it twice (plus we saw it when it was in theaters). I love it more each time.

The folks at Pixar continue to amaze and inspire me. The themes and visuals they included in Wall-E are a case in point. One example: Eve, which means 'mother', resembles an egg, and is made to hold and care for life. These aren't things that a child would pick up on, but Pixar's pursuit of excellence includes them.

Watching this and talking with my kids has made me think a bit about the influence of work vs. the influence of easy living on sinful man.

Even though we all love our conveniences, I wonder how many of them are actually good for us? Case in point: our microwave oven blew out about a month ago. We're saving for other things that are more important, so we haven't replaced it yet. Thus, we're cooking 'on the hob', as they say in England, and in the oven and on the grill.

I'm surprised that I'm not feeling more rushed, even with the lack of time savings the microwave usually bestows; the extra steps involved and the extra time cooking currently involves aren't making us feel more hurried. If anything, life seems to be slowing down.

Our stove timer, unlike our microwave timer, beeps just twice before it turns off, so I can't go into another room without the very real risk of burning something because I don't hear the timer. So now, I stand at the stove, stirring as needed, wash a few dishes, empty the dishwasher, wipe a counter, or work on whatever sewing project is laid out on the peninsula, while possibly enjoying a glass of wine while I wait. Yet, how often have I stood impatiently watching the microwave, counting down the seconds until the food is hot? There really isn't time to do anything else while the microwave is working.

Food now isn't just something to pop into the microwave and then pop into our mouths before charging onto whatever else we're doing. We're eating breakfast and lunch together more than we used to and taking more time over it. With the microwave working, if someone came late, it was so easy to re-warm food that had grown cold. But now, 'get it while it's hot' means something.

I'm in no hurry to replace the microwave. The only thing I miss is microwave popcorn, but maybe that'll change when I get out our long-unused popcorn popper and we get the fun of seeing the corn burst into all its fluffiness through the clear dome of the popper and then enjoy something that took more effort to prepare than simply throwing a bag into the microwave and pressing a button.


20 November 2008

You Know You're a Film Buff When…

you spend the evening watching the subtitled 'making of' documentary included on the DVD of a foreign film.

A friend loaned us Vitus, a Swiss film about a musical prodigy and his struggle to fit in.  It's charming and delightful, even better the second time around (as all good films are).

Vitus is a little boy with a giant IQ and a gift for playing the piano.  As he grows, we watch his developing relationships with his mother, his father, his grandfather, and others as he struggles to find his way in a world that has no place for him.

Although European films have a reputation for darkness, Vitus is bright and colorful and the characters are well-written and well-portrayed.  The relationships among the main characters engage and drawn you in.  Vitus's grandfather reminds me a bit of my own.  His mother is torn between protecting her little boy and her growing ambitions for him.  And his father, while he wants to be there for his wife and son, is simply doing his best to get by.

Twelve-year old Vitus is played by pianist Teo Gheorghiu.  Swiss actor, Bruno Ganz, plays the grandfather.  You may remember him as Johann von Staupitz in Luther.  The other actors, while mostly unknown to American audiences, were drawn from the Swiss stage and do a great job.  Writer/director Fredi Murer has been making films since 1965, and I think I'd like to look into some of his others.  He's a real artist.

In addition to the beautiful cinematography and appealing characters, the script is a gem.  I can't comment on the dialog this time as I don't speak German, but the bits in English sounded right.

Vitus is also available from Netflix.


19 November 2008

Reading Plan

I listened to 'The Pastor and His Reading', a recent episode of the Sovereign Grace Ministries podcast featuring an interview with C.J. Mahaney and Jeff Purswell by Josh Harris.  It was highly recommended by my friend Debra, (she's been pushing me - in a nice, this is good for me sort of way - to listen to the whole series) and I finally got started this week.  Even though it sounds as if it would be specifically for pastors, there is much there that applies to any Christian and especially any Christian homeschooling mom.  (Debra said the whole series thus far is quite apropos.)

Along with Scripture, I've been reading C.J.'s Humility, True Greatness, Jerry Bridges' The Discipline of Grace, and Thomas Watson's The Godly Man's Picture - all personally challenging.  But C.J. mentioned in the interview that we should be spreading our reading around.  He said that, in addition to these types of books, we should be reading technical commentaries as we study a book of Scripture, biographies (which I read occasionally), and the Christian classics (I try to fit the classics into our study of Christendom every four  years, but I may need to change my approach as I don't usually get through them - I can't count how many times I've started  Confessions and never finished it!).

With that in mind, I'm going to adjust my reading diet.  I'll cut The Godly Man's Picture down to a few times each week (Debra and I are discussing our way through it over coffee or tea or lunch each week, but we're moving slowly enough that I can more than stay ahead with that schedule).  I'll probably gulp down Humility pretty quickly, with the intention to re-read more slowly it at some point in the future.  I'd like to add in David McCullough's biography of Truman or Marsden's biography of  Jonathan Edwards and either my abridged Calvin's Institutes or a commentary on Philippians, which our pastor is currently preaching through (I'll ask for a recommendation if our church bookstore doesn't carry one).

C.J. and Jeff recommended reading at least an hour a day.  I love this idea and already come close during my quiet time, but I'm inconsistent.  I'm going to work on that in my life and I'm beginning to insist on that for the kids.  I also want to add in a re-read of Shopping for Time, by Carolyn Mahaney and will work on a tighter routine this week which I'll institute next week when we start school again.


17 November 2008

Far From the Madding Crowd

I've always been tantalized by that title, but haven't read the book until now. I was warned that Thomas Hardy is a dark and dreary writer. I liked this and didn't find the descriptions of sin oppressive, maybe because the perspective was that sin is sin.  (However, this is my first Hardy, so this doesn't mean that I won't find him dark and dreary in the aggregate, once I've read more of his works.)

The story starts with Gabriel Oak (aptly named on more than one level). He meets Bathsheba Everdene and is never the same.

Hardy's understanding of unintended consequences, sowing and reaping, sin, guilt, the maturity that comes after walking through pain, and the contrast between selfish passion and unselfish love make for a satisfying and thoughtful story.

While the main characters were well-drawn (even mediocre writers do this), I love that he took the time and effort to develop the secondary characters as well. In my mind, that's one mark of a good writer (of books, plays, and films). Every character leaps off the page as a unique person with a unique voice.

A few quotes:
[…] observed a brisk young man--Mark Clark by name, a genial and pleasant gentleman, whom to meet anywhere in your travels was to know, to know was to drink with, and to drink with was, unfortunately, to pay for.
They spoke very little of their mutual feelings; pretty phrases and warm expressions being probably unnecessary between such tried friends. Theirs was that substantial affection which arises (if any arises at all) when the two who are thrown together begin first by knowing the rougher sides of each other's character, and not the best until further on, the romance growing up in the interstices of a mass of hard prosaic reality. This good fellowship--camaraderie--usually occurring through similarity of pursuits, is unfortunately seldom superadded to love between the sexes, because men and women associate, not in their labors, but in their pleasures merely. Where, however, happy circumstance permits its development, the compounded feeling proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death--that love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, beside which the passion usually called by the name is evanescent as steam.

15 November 2008

Reading Today

Why am I reading 7 Steps to a Pain-Free Life: How to Rapidly Relieve Back and Neck Pain today? Because I woke up with the same headache I went to bed with, caused by my bad posture while crocheting yesterday during our Gileskirk discussion group. (Our printer isn't working and while I can lead a discussion with George's outline, even if I haven't listened to the lecture, I can't lead one without an outline. And I often jump ahead of the discussion when someone else leads it. If I have handwork, it's easier to keep my mouth shut unless I have something really important to say.) These headaches often last for several days and, when they don't knock me out completely, they do affect what I'm able to do while they last.

I really didn't want to suffer for so long, so I grabbed the book and read the part about neck exercises through the fog of pain. Then I did the first two exercises, followed by a couple others.

The headache is gone. As I worked through the instructions in the book, I could feel my spine re-aligning itself. The muscles relaxed and the pain is absolutely gone. I don't even have the halo I usually get as I recover. As proof, I'm able to post this (I usually can't get on the computer when I have a headache.)

This is a wonderful book. Not necessarily sit on the edge of your seat reading (on the other hand, sitting on the edge of your seat would probably be better for your posture), but one of the few self-help books that follows through on its promises. I highly recommend it.


10 November 2008

Noëlle on DVD!

Noëlle, a film that saw limited theatrical release last December will be available on DVD tomorrow, November 11th.

It's the story of Father Jonathan Keene, a Catholic priest whose job is to shut down unprofitable churches. He arrives at a small town in Maine near Christmas and gets much more than he bargained for in the quirky inhabitants of the town, including the current parish priest, who is an old friend, and the town librarian.

The script is well-structured, the characters have depth and sparkle with personality, the thematic elements and visuals are subtly woven into the story, the sub-text is powerful, and the humour delightful!  The cinematography makes me miss the New England winters of my childhood (alright! I miss the first snow!).  It's a joyful story that deals with sin, guilt, forgiveness, and redemption, yet never wallows in sentimentality or sappiness.

Noëlle was written by, produced by, directed by, and stars a Christian homeschooling family. They did a truly great job!

Noëlle is rated PG, as it deals with some grown-up themes and there is one scene with implied language (if you can read lips - although, it's not at all gratuitous) and another with one additional word you may not want your little ones imitating. For more information and to view the trailer, please visit the website.

We'll be purchasing this as soon as we can and plan to make it a regular part of our Christmas seasons, along with It's a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, and Miracle on 34th Street.

09 November 2008

Nicholas Nickleby

I finished Nicholas Nickleby. I'm so glad Jenny told me to read it more as a fairy tale than as realistic fiction or I don't think I would have gotten through.

I love Dickens' way with words! Here are just a couple of quotes:
He was a tall man of middle-age with goggle eyes whereof one was a fixture, a rubicund nose, a cadaverous face, and a suit of clothes (if the term be allowable when they suited him not at all) much the worse for wear, very much too small, and placed upon such a short allowance of buttons that it was quite marvelous how he contrived to keep them on.
[L]et it be remembered that most men live in a world of their own, and that in that limited circle alone are they ambitious for distinction and applause. … Thus, cases of injustice, and oppression, and tyranny, and the most extravagant bigotry, are in constant occurrence among us every day. It is the custom to trumpet forth much wonder and astonishment at the chief actors therein setting at defiance so completely the opinion of the world; but there is no greater fallacy; it is precisely because they do consult the opinion of their own little world that such things take place at all, and strike the great world dumb with amazement.
Dickens is fun to read (for the most part), but I don't think I could stand a steady diet of him.  I wonder what it says about his view of the world that no one is redeemed?  The main characters are all purity or all evil.  The secondary characters are usually strange looking but have hearts of gold.


04 November 2008

Psalm 121

I lift my eyes up to the mountains,
Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,
Maker of heaven, Creator of the earth.

He will not let your foot slip,
He who watches over you will not slumber,
Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you,
He is the shade at your right hand,
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm.
He will watch over your life,
The Lord will watch over your coming and going,
Both now and forevermore.
God have mercy on us.

31 October 2008

Re-Thinking Marriage

I've been contemplating the purpose of marriage lately. I've also been leading the Pride & Prejudice discussion in our Gileskirk co-op and we just watched The Taming of the Shrew.

Our modern world (newpapers, celebrity magazines, self-help books, films, television shows - both fiction and nonfiction) tells us that the purpose of marriage is to live happily ever after. Marriage should be about each spouse's satisfaction, fulfillment, and contentment. A good marriage itself is thought to confer these things. The underlying assumption here is that either the efforts of my husband are what make me happy or his lack of effort makes me unhappy. And if he's not making me happy, then the marriage isn't fulfilling its purpose, and therefore is somehow invalid or disposable. However, Jane Austen and Shakespeare shared a different view.

At the beginning of Pride and Prejudice, both Darcy and Elizabeth have some growing up to do. Even though Darcy is smitten by Eliza's 'fine eyes', after Elizabeth's initial interest in Darcy is quashed by his arrogance, she never really expresses a strong physical attraction for him, but is eventually attracted by his character and the growth she sees there. I read once that, without Darcy, Elizabeth would have ended up just like her father, distant and disdainful; without Elizabeth, Darcy would have ended up just like Lady Catherine de Bourgh, proud and unyielding. In other words, Elizabeth and Darcy are right for one another because they influence each other to be better people.

If we compare Elizabeth and Darcy's relationship with the relationships of the other married couples in the book, we see how important this is to Jane Austen. Mr. Bennet doesn't even try to make Mrs. Bennet a better person, but lets her go on in her foolish ways. He doesn't seem to want to influence anyone for the better, but is content to sit back and merely laugh at the folly of others, including that of his wife and younger daughters. Charlotte and Mr. Collins also have no gentling effect on each another, content merely to exist in the same house, spending as much time apart as possible. Lydia and Wickham not only don't try to affect change in one another, but actually reinforce each other's folly and sin. The author's attitude toward all these couples is clear - they are not examples to be followed.

In The Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio doesn't love Katharina when he seeks permission from Baptista to marry her. He really wants her inheritance. He wants a wife, and because she's rich and he has no competition, she'll do. Katharina starts out hard, selfish, violent, lazy, ungrateful, unloving - in other words, a shrew. However, he, even with his less-than-romantic motives, is the right husband for her because he teaches her gentleness, duty, responsibility, gratitude, grace, and love.

Looking at the other couples (because foils can tell us so much about authorial intent), even though Lucentio and Bianca are head over heals in love, she has all the makings of a shrew as she rebels against her husband in the final scene; she may be gentle and beautiful on the outside, but it seems her heart doesn't follow suit. And Hortensio and the Widow, whom I suspect Shakespeare married to one another merely to give us another cautionary example as their courtship happens off-stage and out of sight, are in no better position than Lucentio and Bianca. Lucentio and Hortensio are losers in the wager of marriage because they have no influence over their wives.

Both Jane Austen and Shakespeare understood that the purpose of marriage is not our happiness, but our holiness

If the purpose of marriage isn't happiness, but holiness, unhappiness doesn't invalidate a marriage, or justify walking out when the going gets tough or boring and mundane. A husband isn't responsible for his wife's happiness. Rather, we are each responsible to influence our individual husbands toward godliness (not as a form of manipulation in an effort to make our lives easier, but out of love and even self-sacrifice, doing what is best for another) also eagerly expecting our husbands to influence us in the same direction.

Now, I'm not saying that marriage should be primarily a chore and a trial that we merely survive. However, we must realize that happiness in marriage is a result of focusing on the true purpose of marriage. As we strive to be more Christlike, iron sharpening iron, we will experience more joy. (This is just one more example of ethereal ideas having tangible consequences.)

Among all these couples in both works, whom do you think will end up being the happiest? My money is on Darcy and Elizabeth, and Petruchio and Katharina. And if they lived today, I bet they'd celebrate at least 50 years of marriage one day because they'd get through the tough times, even in a culture of easy divorce.


27 October 2008

The Simple Woman's Daybook

Peggy, at The Simple Woman posted a meme back on the sixth and it's just gotten around to me. I've chosen not to participate in some of the sillier memes making the rounds, but I thought this one was lovely.

For Today...

Outside my Window... is a patio that's calling my name to do school outside in the cool weather

I am thinking... about the purpose of marriage, lately.

From the learning rooms... Eliza's phonics, Joel's math, Judith's Latin

I am thankful for... a local church made up of sinners saved by grace and not super-Christians

From the kitchen... breakfast quiche in the oven - sausage, bacon, leeks, green and yellow bell peppers, cheddar cheese, herbs and I'm going to attempt Mexican chocolate to drink (edit: I have a new love!). Chicken with some kind of mushroom sauce for dinner.

I am wearing... denim capris made from a pattern copied from an old worn out pair that I ripped apart, and a blue linen, embroidered blouse, barefoot, with my hair in a braid and reading glasses perched on my head.

I am reading... Nicholas Nickleby, 7 Steps to a Pain-free Life (about relieving back and neck pain), Penrod (aloud to the kids), The Warden (with my middles), Adrenal Fatigue: the 21st Century Stress Syndrome (arriving from Amazon on Wednesday)

I am hoping... that the path my naturopath and I are on will give me more energy, but I know it will take some time to figure it all out; and I'm thankful for the current results of the hydrocortisone I started last week.

I am creating...ideas for Christmas which I can't divulge because the recipients are also some of my Dear Readers; a Hawaiian shirt for Drew; and wintery clothing for me.

I am hearing... the fan in the window next to me that sounds occasionally like a choir as it oscillates

Around the house... lots of fans and open windows to cope with our nonfunctioning AC.

One of my favorite things...the gospel - not one of, the

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...work on school, clean the house, call my naturopath to report on Rebekah's and my progress, bake, rest, sew, start neck and back exercises

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...

Not a new picture, but the best I could do for fall. This was taken a couple years ago when Drew and I were in Nashville for the King's Meadow Study Center Second Annual Film and Worldview Festival. Since our leaves don't change here until sometime in January, this picture helps me get into that autumn mood.


18 October 2008

Pride & Prejudice Ball Photos

Photos from the Pride and Prejudice Ball

Blast from the Past

Just a warning, really - I'm going to be copying my favorite posts from my old iWeb blog over here.  I'm going to date them the original date and time they were posted and include the pictures from each post.  I hope this isn't too much of an irritant for those of you who've read the entries before and who are subscribed to my RSS feed.  Feel free to skip!


17 October 2008

Decided, at last

First, the Lord reminded me powerfully yesterday that he is still on his throne and he will continue to work no matter who happens to occupy the oval office.

Second, I spent more time reading and researching (and praying). What I read was frighteningly eye-opening. You see, I stumbled upon a liberal blog and began reading some of the comments there. I read praise for a self-avowed Marxist (not the candidate in question), but the poster then denied that the man he was praising was really a Marxist. His reasoning? 'Well, I agree with him on everything, and I'm no Marxist, so therefore he can't be.' But on all the issues, the opinions of both these men line up perfectly with those outlined by Karl Marx…I guess Marx himself must not have been a Marxist, either!

These folks (and the author of the blog post they were discussing) don't think the liberal candidate is really liberal; he's actually just a (get ready for it) Reagan Democrat. (That sound you hear is Ronald Reagan spinning in his grave.)  They hope to influence him once he's in office. And, given the liberal candidate's voting record, that won't be difficult for them to do.

Third, I've been learning much more about that voting record.  This man can't be described as 'pro-choice', but as hard-core 'pro-abortion' - more rabid about the issue than even NARAL, which is quite a feat.  I'm sure that, through the abuse of the executive order power that's been in vogue with so many of our recent presidents, many, many more unborn babies will die under him as president.  Not only that, but many infants who are born alive will die.  He was the only senator in Illinois who lobbied and voted against a bill that would offer protection to an infant who survived an abortion.  That's unconscionable.  For more information about Obama's stand on life issues, see George Grant's pro-life blog, 'The Quick and the Dead'.

So, I've come to the conclusion that my vote must be cast in a way that will do the most to keep this man out of the White House and put in a man who won't cave to the kind of pressure discussed above. I don't know what the Lord has in store, but I now know that I can vote a certain way with a clear conscience, although my vote will be against the one candidate and not really for the other. And that no matter who wins, we must keep a close eye on things.  Eternal vigilance…

The scary parts of what I read?  Well, the absolute lack of coherent, logical thought of the man who wrote the blog and the folks who posted.  These folks' lack of real understanding of the Founding Fathers' philosophies and ideas.  And that my husband tells me that he hears things like this all the time (my kids don't tend to talk this way, so I don't hear it so much).

I also read a blog entry by Alec Guiness Alex Baldwin (I'm still waiting to see if he'll keep his promise to move abroad after Bush was declared the winner in 2000 - that was something I was looking forward to).  His stated thesis was, basically, 'What an Obama Presidency Will Mean'.  I thought I was going to hear about what he thought Obama would do for the country, how things would change, what Mr. Guiness Baldwin was hoping for as he looked to this future possibility.  But all he discussed was that an Obama presidency would put McCain in his place.  Yea … that was productive.  I'm so glad he had something of substance to offer.  (Okay, I'm removing my tongue from my cheek, now.)

I think this will be the last of my federal election posts, but I'd like to start looking at the local initiatives.  We still have to figure out what they are, what they really mean, and where we stand.  And there are lots of them!


15 October 2008


I've never been so frustrated and confused about whom to vote for.

God created society with four separate and distinct governing institutions, each with a separate and distinct sphere of authority: the state (civil government), the church, the family, and the self. If one of these institutions breaks down, it's not an option for the others to step in and take over its responsibilities; that leads to disaster. Instead, the other institutions must work to re-build that which has fallen, strengthening whichever one has broken down. Since the election is about the civil government, I'll focus there, but an understanding of this principle of jurisdictional sovereignty is key.

Civil government is responsible for (I may have forgotten a few, but this is the gist of what's been rolling around in my mind) …
  • protecting our rights - not granting them (which the government has no power or authority to do); this includes the rights to life, liberty, and property, freedom of speech, freedom to practice our religion - well, read the Bill of Rights for the full list; you get the idea. This doesn't mean protecting us from our own bad decisions.
  • defense - the military on a federal level, the police force and fire department on a local level
  • regulating commerce - not to make business decisions for us or to decide on productivity levels or where we should invest, but to protect us from one another where necessary (we are, after all, sinners); includes infrastructure
  • the judiciary - again, because we're sinners there will be crimes committed and there will be disagreements between people which need to be settled
  • relations with other nations - including treaties and immigration.
That civil government governs best which governs least. Our Constitution gives the federal government very limited powers; given that inch, they've flown to the moon. The federal level of government should have the least day-to-day influence on our lives as it is farthest from us and therefore farthest away from our influence. Instead it has the most. Can you name your mayor? What issues are before your city or town council this month? I don't know, either.

In addition to that, I'm a fiscal conservative who doesn't believe in debt (the only debt we have is our 16 year-old mortgage and we're working to pay that off as soon as we can) or consistently living beyond one's means. Tax dollars spent by the government actually belong to the people who paid the taxes (something most politicians and recipients of government largesse have conveniently forgotten or never knew). I also believe that the free market, while not perfect (nothing sinful man is responsible for can be), is the best economic system ever devised by man, giving the most liberty to the most people and raising productivity and standards of living. (Recommended reading: Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt and Basic Economics, by Thomas Sowell)

I'm a social conservative who believes that life begins at conception, marriage is an institution ordained and created by God, that parents are ultimately responsible for raising their children and do so with the support and encouragement of the local church and community, and that the family (as the main building-block of society) should be protected. I also believe that the family is primarily responsible for welfare by taking care of its own. If there's no family, or the family is unable, then the responsibility falls to the church or to private and voluntary endeavors. Private welfare requires contact with real people, real accountability, and real change; it doesn't sentence families to generations of poverty. We'll always have the poor with us, but membership in this group should be a temporary thing. (Recommended reading: The Tragedy of American Compassion, by Marvin Olasky and Bringing in the Sheaves, by George Grant)

So the question is, whom do I vote for? One of the major candidates is so far out of sync with the Constitution and biblical principle on all these issues that casting my vote for him just isn't an option. The other is one for whom I've never voted and whom I've deliberately gone to the polls late in the day to vote against (even though I knew Arizona would go for him). There are a few issues that separate these candidates, but they're simply different flavors of the same dish. Under both parties, government continues to grow, entitlements continue to mushroom, and our liberties continue to shrink. (Recommended reading: In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government, by Charles Murray)

Do I vote for the lesser of two evils? Or do I vote for a third party candidate who shares my views on most of the issues even though he probably has no chance of winning? Do I vote principle or pragmatism? And is it really pragmatic to vote for the lesser of two evils?

No answers today, I'm afraid. Just questions.

14 October 2008

The More Things Change

Wisdom from the past.  Will we heed it for our future?

10 October 2008


I don't often write about politics, but I thought  this article was spot on.

And, for your enjoyment (although they're a bit bawdy at times and really best for those who appreciate Shakespeare): 

I have some observations, but no time right now to post.  The ball is less than 36 hours away and Judith's gown isn't finished, yet.


04 October 2008

More Wedding Pictures

A gal from church loaded a bunch of snapshots from Anna and Drew's wedding on Facebook.  I figured out how to download them and then I uploaded them to my Gallery.  Either click there or on the link in the sidebar.  I haven't gone through them yet, but will try to later this afternoon or early next week.

Now, back to sewing!

Fireproof (Spoilers)

Drew and I saw the Kendricks Brothers' newest release, Fireproof, last night. (Warning: this post may seem nit-picky, but I'm approaching it as a student, trying to learn what I can from those who are going before me, both things to emulate and things to avoid. The Kendricks have my utmost respect - they've done three times on a full-length scale, what I've only begun on a short scale - and which I can't really complete because my cast-members have all grown too much.)

Firefighter Caleb Holt is a hero to many in the town of Albany, Georgia, risking his life to save those in danger, but he's not a hero to his wife, Catherine. They're on the verge of divorce when Caleb's father gets involved, in an effort to save their marriage, and perhaps, Caleb, himself.

The story was solid and down-to-earth, about real people you might live next door to (if you're the Randolphs). There wasn't much that required suspending disbelief (except for Kirk Cameron's complete lack of southern drawl when even his parents were obvious southerners - maybe Kirk isn't so good with dialects and not trying was a better choice than trying and doing a poor job). However, there were very few surprises in the film, except for the last twist which, I must admit, I didn't see coming. The major third act plot point was fairly obviously telegraphed in the first act. I also didn't find it as sentimental as the Kendricks' past films - a point in their favor. And, no, I didn't cry, even though I was rooting for our protagonists.

Production values were better than Facing the Giants and much better than Flywheel. Their camera work is improving, but I'd like to see more close-ups to give a bit more variety and a closer window on the characters' reactions and emotions. Editing is improving, but I hope tightens up in future films.

Many of the actors seemed physically distant from one another, as if they didn't want to invade each other's personal space, which gave an akward feel to some of the scenes. (I understand this last point - it's something I'm learning to get over in my own acting.)

The humor helped keep things from getting too heavy. But it would have been nice if more of the humor and the secondary plotlines had intersected with the main plot. If most of the secondary plotlines had been removed, we would've had essentially the same film. Because of that, the storyline felt a bit loose with extraneous scenes.

I appreciated the visuals - Alex is learning to weave them in with less appearance of effort. The scene containing the turning point of Caleb's character was good - instead of preaching, one character asked another a question and the answer was exactly what he himself needed to hear and the point was communicated with a great visual.

I was grateful that they jettisoned the prosperity gospel overtones from their first two films, in which, everything about the protagonists needed to be changed, everything in their lives was falling apart, and everything did change through the course of the films. Fireproof homed in a bit more focusedly on specific issues, which made it easier to relate to the story.

The Kendricks Brothers' character development ability is improving. Jay Austin was a cad, plain and simple. Grant Taylor was basically clueless about almost everything. Caleb Holt, however, was a good guy, someone with friends, a generally nice person, but with flaws - much more like a real man.

I have a bit of criticism about the dialog.

First, all the main characters (Caleb, Catherine, Caleb's dad, and Michael) and the supporting characters whenever they had something important to say, seemed to speak with Alex Kendrick's voice. The rhythms of speech, the vocabulary, the phrasing all reminded me of interviews I've seen with Alex. While not cardboard, the main characters could have been more rounded and individual if they'd had their own individual voices. The brothers have shown that they can write characters who are individuals (many of the supporting characters sparkled with charm and individuality and had some of my favorite lines in the film) - I hope they apply this ability to their main characters in their next film.

Secondly, I think there was too much Christian jargon in the film. Our culture has lost its biblical underpinnings and words like covenant aren't as well understood as they used to be. Instead of trying to educate the audience about the meaning of the words, I think it might be better to talk about the concepts without necessarily using the words themselves.

Thirdly, everyone seemed to speak in complete sentences, even during highly-charged emotional scenes. This added to some of the stilted feel and slowed those scenes down, even while everyone was rushing through their lines. And it made the grammatical errors stand out in neon (although they always stand out in neon to me); it's easier to suspend that disbelief if the whole tenor of a character's speech makes those errors fit. Dialog needs to sound natural to the ear, even though it isn't really like real speech.

The film peripherally tackled a difficult subject - pornography - and made it work for a family audience. However, as difficult as Caleb's struggle was, I don't think it was real enough. Men don't walk away simply out of love for their wives - in addition to prayer and the Gospel working in a man's heart, it takes other men coming alongside and offering accountability and tough love to break that hold; the Lord works through his body.

Lots of pluses and minuses, but on the whole, I think it's a good, solid film and recommend it.

  • Caleb Holt's truck has a Jay Austin Motors tag on it, a reference to Flywheel.
  • The kiss at the end didn't involve Erin Bethea, who played Catherine Holt, but Kirk Cameron's real-life wife, Chelsea Noble, dressed up as Catherine - notice that we never see Catherine's face while they embrace and the kiss is filmed in silhouette.
  • Production budget: $500,000
  • To-date gross: $8.4 million

03 October 2008

Amazon Delivery

The Warden, by Anthony Trollope
David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens
Island Boy, by Barbara Cooney
The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright
Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, translated and abridged by Walter Starkie
Babar and His Children, by Jean de Brunhoff
The Bird in the Tree, by Elizabeth Goudge (the first in the Eliot Family trilogy)
Green Dolphin Street, by Elizabeth Goudge
Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackery

Coming soon...
a used copy of The Dean's Watch, by Elizabeth Goudge

So what am I reading? Well, re-reading both The Warden with the middle kiddoes and Pride and Prejudice with the biggles, and I'm reading for the first time Nicholas Nickleby and enjoying it!

Although my enjoyment is a bit ironic - the intro to The Warden pointed out that Trollope didn't like Dickens' work. Dickens' characters are mostly one-dimensional, either black or white, good or evil (at least according to the author of the Introduction; I haven't read enough Dickens to know for sure, but I am seeing this in Nicholas Nickleby and remember not liking The Pickwick Papers because of the cartoonish characters; although Sidney Carton comes to mind as an argument that Dickens could write more fully-orbed characters when he wanted to). Trollope's characters, on the other hand, are much more nuanced and fully realized, a mixture of virtue, vice, and absurdity, as are we all. Even though I'm enjoying Nicholas Nickleby, I'm finding it doesn't demand much thought or character analysis. The characters are pretty much as presented - all sneering vice or blushing virtue. I'm not as drawn into this story as I am when I read Trollope. And although I'm enjoying NN and want to read more of Dickens (best in small doses), I think I like Trollope better. I find I learn more about human nature from Trollope, about beings made in God's image, yet subject to the fall and the pervasive presence of sin and selfishness. There really isn't a villain in The Warden. Everyone does what he thinks is best, even though some are mistaken in their understanding of the results of their actions.

And all this reminds me of Gene Edward Veith's workshop on the humours at CiRCE in July. I'm almost ready to get my notes out and start blogging through them.



…for the Stauffer family today as they bury their beloved Emily.  And still feeling a bit of shock.


30 September 2008

The Big Read

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed.

The Rules:

1) Look at the list and put one * by those you have read.
2) Put a % by those you intend to read.
3) Put two ** by the books you LOVE.
4) Put # by the books you HATE.
5) Post.

**1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (re-reading right now!)
**2 The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
**3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
**4 Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling
**5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
**6 The Bible
#7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
8 1984 - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
%10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
**11 Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
**14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (started and have watched a lot of the plays in the canon)
15 Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
*16 The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
%20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
*21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
*22 The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
%23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
#25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams - too existentially nihilistic for me!
%26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh - saw the film; it was great!
%27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
#28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
**29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
**30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
%31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
%32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens - just arrived from Amazon yesterday!
*33 Chronicles of Narnia- C.S. Lewis
**34 Emma - Jane Austen
**35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
**36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis - this shouldn't be here - it's a duplicate from #33
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
%38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis de Bernières - almost ordered this to preview for the kids; then read a bit online and decided it was most definitely not for the kids!
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
**40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
%45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins - I have read The Moonstone
**46 Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery
%47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy - arrived this week from Amazon!
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
*53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
**54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
*57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
*58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
#61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
*65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
%71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens - also arrived this week!
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
*73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Émile Zola
%79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray - bought this week!
%80 Possession - A.S. Byatt
%81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens - started it
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
%84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
*85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
**87 Charlotte's Web - E.B. White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
*89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - I've read at least one, just don't remember which
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
#91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
*92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery - in French
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
*94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
*97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas - also in French
*98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
*99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
%100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo - started to read an abridged French version


29 September 2008


Since Anna now lives in another state, I decided to join Facebook.  Now I'm completely befuddled and confused.  Can anyone help?

Pride & Prejudice Ball

We're taking Judith to We Make History's Pride & Prejudice Ball.  In honor of the occasion, Judith and I are making new Regency dresses to wear.

This is my fabric:

This is Judith's:

We'll start on her chemise and muslins while we wait for the fabric to arrive.


25 September 2008

Dress Details

I added a few close-ups of some of the dresses we have here. Click the 'My Photos' link in the sidebar.


21 September 2008

More Pictures

We got the camera back and I discovered tonight that Charissa left a bunch of shots on my card.  I've loaded a few to our gallery and will look at more tomorrow.  Unfortunately, there's a black smudge on many of them that I can't get out - I just don't have the software or the know-how to do a good job, but you can begin to see a bit of what we looked like that day.


18 September 2008

Breakfast and a Wedding Anecdote

For breakfast this morning:

We made a crustless quiche, adapted from our CIA Breakfasts & Brunchescookbook. I added sautéed leeks, breakfast sausage, green peppers, and grated havarti cheese, with a touch each of paprika, parsley, and sage. I also quadrupled the egg/cream mixture and split it into two medium-sized baking stones (one round and one square, both about 8 or 9"). I couldn't have done it without help from the kids - chopping, mixing, measuring, grating. I can't wait until it comes out of the oven in half an hour!

I love this idea, because I can add different fillings, cheeses, herbs, and spices and have some variety to our morning eggs - ooo, I just had a great idea - dollops of ricotta in the next one!
Anna and Drew were playing around with having the ceremony outside on the patio at the Red Mountain Multi-Generational Center, so they moved the wedding from 9:30 to 9:00 to try to avoid the heat of the day. They ended up deciding that it was still too hot, so the wedding was inside. But they left the time at 9:00. Well, we had to arrive for photos outside at the park next door at about 6:00 - yes, that's a.m., Dear Readers! We ended up being about an hour late, but the building wasn't open, yet. Neither were the public restrooms at the park. None of us had worn our dresses because silk wrinkles so badly, and Anna's dress, while polyester, wouldn't have looked its best.

But, how to get dressed? Charissa, our intrepid photographer, was about to lose it. Not only had we lost an hour, but we couldn't get everyone dressed! Mama to the rescue! We put the gown on Anna over her clothes. Once it covered her, she undressed underneath it, we zipped her up, and, voilá, a bride! Those of us who hadn't gotten dressed in one of the cars in the parking lot (I couldn't even think about the contortions that would involve!), did the same. Then, when the rest of my girls arrived, we performed Act II, but with a circle of bridesmaids and other female helpers standing as a wall of protection.

We have one snapshot posted, courtesy of Drew the Greater's boss, who has known Anna since we moved here when she was 8 months old.  Click on the 'My Photos' link in the sidebar.
Oh … breakfast turned out wonderfully!


16 September 2008


I just spent a few minutes enjoying the pictures from Tim and Nikki Finnegan's wedding, also on Saturday.  Chris had lots of snapshots to share.  

I, however, have none.  'Why no snapshots?' you ask.  Well, let me 'splain.  No, there is too much.  Let me sum up…

Anna and Drew had two photographers, both professionals and both eminently talented.  However, one of them had need of a camera, because hers was broken.  She borrowed mine.  So, I had no camera with which to take pictures, and thus, I have no snapshots.  

We'll be getting it back soon because Eliza lost a top front tooth today and we must get pictures!

Life Continues

The wedding was beautiful!  Anna was a stunning bride.  There were a few stories that made the day charming (not too embarrassing!), which I'll relate later.

I finished my dress at 2:00 on Saturday morning.  Then I had to get up at 4:00 on Saturday morning to get ready.  (Our new family rule: no weddings before 11:00 a.m.)

Drew and Anna are honeymooning at a timeshare at Big Bear Lake in California.  (I can finally let that cat out of the bag!)

We're getting back into a normal routine; or at least, we're trying to figure out what normal is now.  I scaled back the younger kids' school work this week and next week is a planned Sabbath week.  Since we started so early in August, I can take it easy this week and not feel like we'll be working all next summer to catch up.  

I'm still pretty tired, but I don't want to take afternoon naps and then not be able to sleep at night, thereby throwing off my circadian rhythms.  So it's early to bed, not so early to rise for awhile until I regroup.

Catching up on cooking, cleaning, and organizing the house.  And planning my next sewing projects: the Hawaiian shirt Drew wanted for his birthday in June (he's so patient!); a couple of cotton day dresses from Eliza and Melody's wedding dress patterns; a lambswool and cashmere blend, navy blue, winter shawl (beautiful and warm!); a reversible brown with polka dots wool jacket with removable long sleeves; jammies; a regency gown for Judith (which she'll help make - home ec. dontcha know?); and maybe one for me, too!  (The Pride and Prejudice Ball is coming up soon! - ignore the weird dimensions on the website - it's pretty cool even with the weirdness!)

I posted a link in the sidebar to my formerly called .mac, now MobileMe (hate that name! - how narcissistic can I get?) Photo Gallery.  I posted some of my rose and miscellaneous flower photos.  I'll let you know when I've got wedding pictures posted.

I guess that's it for now.  I've got some boxes to sort through.


08 September 2008

Officially Brain-Dead

I'm running on empty…empty of brain cells, that is.

I forgot to change the presser foot when I switched stitches and broke a needle.  I rarely break needles, but when I do, it's a doozy!  This one went in four or five different directions, one piece hitting my arm.  I was wearing glasses, so my eyes were protected.

So, I walked away from the sewing machine and spent a few minutes reading a chapter of Northanger Abbey to the kids.  Once they're finished cleaning the kitchen, I'll read another and only then will I consider sitting back at the sewing machine.

We're all coming down with colds, so we've started on oregano oil and grapefruit seed extract, per a friend's instructions.  Jona's also acting as my second brain.  Before I do anything, I run it by her to make sure it's not too foolhardy or complicated and will really get me the results I'm aiming for.

By God's grace and strength, I will make it.  Prayers are always appreciated.  I also have some help coming tomorrow: Jona and Karen, mother of the maid of honor.  Jona reminded me that, except for my dress, we're down to those piddly finishing details, much hand-work, and that I'm almost done.  And my dress will be pretty simple as I've already done so many.  That was encouraging!


07 September 2008

Adrenaline and Grace…

…that's what I'm running on right now, mostly grace!

For those of you who are wondering how the wedding sewing is going:

Eliza's flower girl dress - done (and beautiful!)

Melody's dress - done (looks so sweet on her, but needs Static-Guard)

Sussy's bridesmaid dress - done (lovely)

Bonnie's maid of honor dress - done (She danced around the room when she tried it on and didn't want to take it off so I could hem it.  That felt good!)

Jessica's bridesmaid dress - done (and it looks adorable)

Judith's dress - still need to hem the lining and the skirt and add a couple of bows

Rebekah's dress - still need to mark the hem, trim it, then hem the lining and the skirt

Christy's bridesmaid dress - appliquéing the Celtic braid along the top (yes, I'm insane!  Don't ever make a decision when you're dead tired to satin stitch instead of straight stitch), then need to fix the hole in the lining (from the part that got cut off because it got caught behind the appliqué - oops!), then install the zipper, sew the back skirt seam, whipstitch down the lining, mark the hem, then hem the lining and the skirt

Mandi's bridesmaid dress - install the zipper, whipstitch the lining, mark the hem, sew the hems, then complete the embroidery on the bottom of the skirt

my matron of honor dress - measure and cut the skirt, fold the pleats, attach it, the lining, and the zipper, whipstitch the lining, add the embellishment, mark and hem the lining and the skirt

I'm taking a break from Christy's appliqué to write this.  I'm googly-eyed from staring at that tiny satin stitch and so thankful for non-prescription reading glasses!  But I need to get back to it, soon; she's coming over tomorrow to mark the hem.

On an emotional note - as hard and exhausting as these last few weeks have been physically, the Lord is carrying me through.  I should be snapping my kids' heads off, angry at everyone, and weeping all over the place from pressure and tension, but I'm not.  A couple of times I've cried, but it's all physical.  I'm not emotionally weepy.  I have friends here and around the world who are praying for me and I so appreciate it.  The Lord is too good to me!

Well, back to the sewing machine.


22 August 2008

Dr. Broda Barnes

Dr. Barnes (1904-1988) was a medical doctor and held a Ph.D., which he received before receiving his medical training. In addition to practicing medicine for 50 years, he researched and became an expert in the thyroid gland. His book, Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness, is quite an interesting read. Part medical travelogue, part sitting down for a chat with an old-fashioned, no nonsense doctor, and part memoir, it's an interesting read. It's kind of like How to Raise a Healthy Child, in Spite of Your Doctor, by Dr. Robert Mendelson.

Dr. Barnes' book is extremely logical, something I don't find often in allopathic physicians lately. He thought about things, asked questions, and searched for answers and let us in on the process.  While this book isn't a thriller or even a grab-you-by-the-lapels page-turner, it was definitely worth my time and attention. I like reading these types of books, as long as they're not rabid and shrill, and this one wasn't. I found it fairly enjoyable.

However, if you need to learn about thyroid function because you or a loved one are currently dealing with it, I wouldn't suggest that this should be the only title you read. I have more recommendations, which will come later.

Before his death, Dr. Barnes established a foundation to carry on his work. I ordered their information packet for $18 (partly to obtain the names and contact information of their Arizona members - they sent a list of three - and partly because I wanted more information). Some of the information included was new to me, but most of it wasn't and much of that was outdated and hadn't caught up with the newest research trends (although the newest, alternative, trends in treatment haven't drifted far from Dr. Barnes' practice). The photocopies (not computer printouts) were difficult to read from being so many generations away from the originals. The information wasn't as cutting edge as I'd hoped and as Dr. Barnes' research was at one point. The foundation hasn't sponsored a conference in several years and only processes orders received by fax and snail mail. I don't know if they're resting on his laurels or simply being passed by.

So, in summary, it was a good book, but skip the foundation. I'll have more books and their reviews about this topic soon.


18 August 2008

I Never Met a Curriculum…

…I didn't tweak.

I'm finally sitting down to try to sort through and figure out what topics we'll be studying for history this year. My two oldest students, Judith and Nathan, will be working through Gileskirk Modernity. My younger five will be studying the same time period.

A dear friend gave me three years of Tapestry of Grace, classic edition. The thing about curriculum someone has given me (in other words, that I haven't paid for) is that there's a great deal of freedom to tweak and tweak and tweak. When I've bought something, if it doesn't work, I hope to sell it, which limits how much I'm willing to take it apart. However, if this doesn't work, I can give it away or I can wrap fish in it - it really doesn't matter.

I've gone through the three years and have pulled out the units I want to cover this year. I'm working to fit them into our Gileskirk study, but I'm also trying to plan out the units for the younger kids. I've pretty much chucked the writing instruction and will substitute other things I have that I like better, but I'll be able to pull writing topics from Tapestry.

I'm also pulling from blackline map masters on CD, Romantic poetry from the internet, and even Veritas Press history cards. I don't seem to have as many books about this time period as about others, so I may have to do some shopping. Some of the activity sheets from Tapestry are definite keepers, while others just don't trip my trigger (those are going into the circular file).

And while I'm planning a general overview of the year's topics, I'm only getting detailed about the first four or so weeks (we're in the second week of our first six-week session, adding in a bit more each week), although at the rate I'm working, I may have to content myself with only two or three weeks.

I'll try to keep you updated on my progress, Dear Readers, but until the wedding, don't hold me to that!


15 August 2008

Book of the Dun Cow

Book of the Dun Cow, by Walter Wangerin, is an amazing story.

The coop and farmyard of Chaunticleer the rooster are threatened. Can the simple farm animals save their home?

The poetry of the writing, the humour of the characters and their relationships with one another, and the battle of good and evil all come together in a compelling story. Wangerin draws from medieval monastic hours and mythology to weave a tale that speaks to the spiritual battles being fought today.

His world is 'peopled' with animals, but they aren't simply personifications. They think and talk and relate like people, but in harmony with their basic animal natures. Chauntecleer is a rooster and, while you may see echoes of folks you know in him, he is what a rooster should be. The nature of things is part and parcel of Wangerin's worldview. Essences cannot be ignored; when they are, disaster strikes.

I first learned about Wangerin's tale in From Homer to Harry Potter which includes a chapter about this book.

We added this title to our Gileskirk Modernity book list and I'm really looking forward to re-reading it and discussing it with the students in our group.