Friday, January 29, 2010

7 Quick Takes: Volume 5

(The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.)


Last Friday, I skipped 7 Quick Takes in favor of a special post marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In that post, I referred to my shift in worldview without defining the word.

Since then, I ran across a short video where author Glenn Sunshine (isn't that the greatest name?) gives a nice, concise definition of worldview. He likens it to a pair of glasses, saying your worldview is "what you use mentally to bring the world into focus, to help you understand your place in it." What you think of his definition? Is the analogy helpful? I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts.


Lately I've been feeling like I should really try getting steadily involved in some winter sport. (I did a little skating as a kid, and I skiied when I was around 19. Once. It was comical.) But for the past fifteen years I've been living in a state that does winter extremely well (and by "well," I mean "long," as well as "cold," "snowy," and "grey"). I figure if I had a reason to enjoy all that wintry whiteness out there in the outdoors, it might make me look forward to the first five months of the year... or at least make them pass more quickly.

So I was thinking of trying skiing again. Until I read this post from Shannon.

Maybe my ideal winter sport involves a pair of knitting needles rather than a pair of skis.


If you were hoping I was done writing about A Christmas Carol... sorry. Last weekend my husband and I saw the new Disney version of A Christmas Carol. Friends, that means blog fodder.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that after reading the Dickens story for the first time, I understood why every movie version renders the Ghost of Christmas Past differently, while the other spirits are more or less the same from film to film. Here's how Dickens describes that spirit:
It was a strange figure — like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child's proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were, like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest white, and round its waist was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm.

Even this, though, when Scrooge looked at it with increasing steadiness, was not its strangest quality. For as its belt sparkled and glittered now in one part and now in another, and what was light one instant, at another time was dark, so the figure itself fluctuated in its distinctness: being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the very wonder of this, it would be itself again; distinct and clear as ever.
For the Disney version, Bob Zemeckis seems to have done his homework. Although he took a few liberties with the story, he stayed pretty close to the original. And his version of the Ghost of Christmas Past looks very close to the bizarre apparition Dickens describes. Minus the "dissolving parts," thankfully.

(I'd still recommend reading the original story. Here's an online version I ran across.)


A few days ago I got my first iPod. I know I'm way behind the curve here, but I couldn't see myself using an mp3 player enough to justify the expense. When a friend received an iTouch as a Christmas gift, he passed along his Nano, which had been passed along to him by the original owner. So I'm now the third generation owner of a second generation iPod.

The main reason I wanted an iPod was so that I could listen through the Bible while walking. I found a free source for the Bible in mp3 format, and within a few minutes Genesis was loaded into the player. Last week, I began taking my new little companion walking. My 25-minute circuit through the neighborhood goes amazingly quickly as I listen through seven or eight chapters.


And speaking of Apple products... this week, the company unveiled their much-awaited tablet, the iPad. And all over the web, women banged their heads on their desks.


Tonight I'll be attending a fundraiser concert in Detroit, featuring the musical artistry of John Tesh.

The concert is a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the organization my husband works for, and I'll be helping out by greeting and directing as people arrive for the event. I'm not a huge fan of John Tesh, although we have one or two of his CDs. To me, his music is kinda backgroundy and unremarkable. But I'm open to having my opinion changed.

Either way, I'm looking forward to a quick getaway. Even if we don't get to see my favorite feature of that city (see pic).


I'll wrap up with this cool little video. Enjoy!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Roe v. Wade: a personal story

Today is the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

I'll be spending it the way I spend most Fridays — counseling women at a local pregnancy center. For over a year, I've served as a volunteer with this pro-life organization.

Which is a pretty incredible thing, considering my rabid support of the pro-choice movement during my teenage years.

Earlier this week, I was explaining to someone how my thinking had changed on this subject, and I realized I'd never written about it here. I've shied away from getting too personal on the topic, because it treads on the edges of some pretty tender territory. But it's possible my story might help someone reading it. So here goes...

My pro-choice views were in place early. I remember in seventh or eighth grade, getting into a heated debate with a classmate on the topic of abortion. Having cut my teeth on the old Planned Parenthood motto Every Child a Wanted Child, I argued that it was better to abort than to bring a child into a situation with parents who were unable to care for him. My classmate — a good Catholic boy — argued that every child deserved a chance at life. I couldn't see his logic at all.

Of course, growing up without a faith in God, I had no concept of anything eternal. My worldview excluded anything that transcends the material world — not only God, but the human soul as well. My classmate's logic made no sense to me because it was based on a worldview that recognizes the immaterial, the immortal, the transcendent — not only God, but the human soul as well.

A few years later, during the summer between high school and college, a friend became pregnant and decided to abort. Another friend and I drove her to the clinic, sat in the waiting room as she had the procedure, and drove her back home afterward. I remember her walking back into the waiting room, brushing off our concern with a smile and "I'm fine!" We didn't talk much about it, but after the abortion her demeanor toward the guy changed, and they broke up soon after.

I think about her a lot lately, as I talk with women who have walked the same road and are suffering emotional fallout from it. And I realize just how close to that road I walked. At the time, I was making decisions that led to more than one pregnancy scare, and I know I would have aborted. It would have made no sense to me to do otherwise.

Although I put my faith in Christ during my sophomore year in college, it took a while before I began to really understand what that meant in relation to abortion.

I finally came to the conclusion that if we say we believe God creates human beings in His image, with an immortal soul, and He commands us not to murder each other, we should probably obey that command, rather than debating Him on it.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Letter from a Birmingham jail

Today the United States observes the birth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On this day last year, I read Letter from a Birmingham Jail for the first time, and was so moved by it I decided to make it an annual reading.

Are you doing anything special to mark Dr. King's birthday?


Friday, January 15, 2010

7 Quick Takes: Volume 4

My home was without internet service for several days. Now that service has been restored and the shakes have nearly stopped, I’m back with 7 Quick Takes. Hopefully they won’t all be related to our sudden and protracted loss of internet connectivity, but I'm not making any promises.

(The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.)


At the recommendation of a friend, last week I read A Christmas Carol for the first time. We have a collection of century-old Dickens books, and this is the first time I’ve read from one of them. Reading the story, it's easy to see why it’s been interpreted in movies and on stage so many times. Even though Dickens predates cinema by nearly a century, his writing is really cinematic. (In reading it, I discovered why it is that the Ghost of Christmas Past is different in every movie version, while the other two spirits never vary by much.)

The thing is, every stage and screen adaptation differs from the original story in some way. If you’re a fan of any of the various movie versions, you owe it to yourself to read the original — it’s only about 70 pages long. If you can get your hands on a volume from the 1800s, even better.


Some people are quick to restore their homes to pre-Christmas order. For these people, on January 1st the tree comes down and all the decorations find their way back into storage.

Not us. Even though it’s midway through January, nutcrackers still stand in a line along the mantel, watching over the deteriorating poinsettia on the hearth below. It takes us (OK, me) a while to get into the spirit of the season, and just as long to be done with it. Which is weird, because normally I’m so on top of things. (Right.)


Sometime last year I decided I wanted to make my own yogurt. I didn’t want to buy a machine specifically for that — like my hero, Alton Brown, I don’t like kitchen unitaskers. So I researched yogurt-making on various cooking sites, and figured out a way to make yogurt using a crockpot, canning jars, and a security timer. (Exactly how Ma Ingalls would’ve done it.) I’ve had good luck with it, but suddenly this week the process has stopped working as reliably. It’s disappointing to come downstairs in the morning expecting fresh yogurt for breakfast, and find jars of warm, curdled milk. I’m trying to figure out what’s going wrong.

In the meantime, I think I’ve stumbled on a way to make my own ricotta.


Apparently I wasn’t the only one having internet issues last week and this week. One of my favorite bloggers wrote about her several days of blog outage, comparing it to a bad breakup:
I didn’t even know the internet and I were having problems. Apparently the internet was afraid of confrontation and just decided to SHUT DOWN the blog instead of talking to me and explaining where it all went wrong. It was all very reminiscent of a break up I had in college, except that it didn’t end with me eating a one pound bag of M&M’s while I sang along with Sinead O’Connor as she sang ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’.
You who have experienced bad breakups (or internet outages) will want to read the whole post — it's priceless. I’m not giving away another word, except to say that Peaches & Herb make a cameo appearance.


I’m about to start another addictions course tonight (see take #7 here). I’m supposed to have the first 100 pages of the 1400-page textbook read by class time. And I just ordered the book on Monday. (See? On top of things.) Enter Google Scholar, which has much of my textbook available online! Oh internet… I’m so glad we’re together again…


My dad really liked my 80-gifts birthday blog tribute. If you have a loved one who’s hard to shop for, they might like a similar tribute. It doesn’t have to be long or flowery (or published on the internet), but you’ll want to take some time to think about the things you’ve appreciated about them. I wrote that post over the course of a few weeks, adding to it as things occurred to me. Since posting, I’ve thought of several others.

You say you think that would be impossible for you, because your relationship with your mom/dad has been difficult? I understand completely — my relationship with my dad has had rough patches too. Still, give it a shot. You might be surprised at what you come up with. I know I was.


My final take is a question for my fellow Facebook users: how do you handle it when someone you don’t know “friends” you? This happens to me once in a while — usually a friend-of-a-friend rather than a total stranger — but I’m always at a loss to know how to respond. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.


Friday, January 08, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today is my dad's 80th birthday.

In his honor, I've made a list of 80 things — not an exhaustive list, by any means — just 80 gifts I’m grateful for:
  1. For his love of music…
  2. especially classical…
  3. and jazz.
  4. For his talent for making music, both instrumental…
  5. and vocal.
  6. For piano lessons.
  7. And violin lessons.
  8. And flute lessons.
  9. And for the piano,
  10. the violin,
  11. and the flute.
  12. Oh, and the recorder.
  13. For being a supportive band & choir parent…
  14. attending concerts…
  15. shuttling me around at odd hours…
  16. and buying various fundraising stuff.

  17. For the roller skates…
  18. and the ice skates…
  19. and the tennis racquet…
  20. and for teaching me how to use them.
  21. For his love of reading…
  22. and of writing.
  23. For his love of the classroom…
  24. of learning…
  25. of teaching…
  26. and of students.
  27. For his love of words…
  28. in English…
  29. in Yiddish…
  30. in German…
  31. in Spanish…
  32. in French…
  33. in Italian…
  34. in Hawaiian…
  35. in Xosa…
  36. and in every other language on the planet.
  37. For insisting on good grammar.
  38. For reading me stories.
  39. For poetry.
  40. For taking me to operas…
  41. and to plays…
  42. and to musicals…
  43. even to Jesus Christ Superstar, multiple times, just because I asked.
  44. For being willing to listen to my music,
  45. even the stuff he didn’t like at all.
  46. For his love of travel…
  47. and his adventurous spirit.
  48. For the multicultural experiences, both stateside and abroad...
  49. including several months in Europe…
  50. and assorted trips to Mexico.
  51. For piloting many family vacations.
  52. For his heritage…
  53. and his family stories...
  54. and for being willing to share even those stories where he’s the punchline.
  55. For his eye color (which now looks back at me from the face of my son).
  56. For his skin (which I didn't appreciate at 17, but I do now, as it has kept me a relative stranger to the aisle of Olay).
  57. For his quick wit…
  58. and his sense of humor…
  59. even for the puns.
  60. For a fully paid-for college education.
  61. For his love of gardens.
  62. For his grilling ability.
  63. For his love of peanuts and spicy food.
  64. For his courage…
  65. and his willingness to try new things.
  66. For insisting we call something "different" instead of "weird."
  67. For introducing me to foreign films…
  68. and the Marx Brothers.
  69. For his creativity.
  70. For his tenacity.
  71. For his flexibility.
  72. For letting me dance on his feet when I was tiny…
  73. and showing me how to jitterbug when I was older.
  74. For teaching me how to ride a bike…
  75. and drive a car...
  76. and for letting me drive to school while he biked to work.
  77. For his willingness to be a single father to two teenage girls.
  78. For walking me down the aisle.
  79. For his love for his grandson.
  80. For life. 
Happy Birthday, Dad! I love you!
Mazel tov!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Amazing Grace, now with extra gusto on line four

Eight years ago, I had eye surgery. LASIK, to be precise.

If you were thinking "eyelift," it's only because you don't know me well enough. Or my budget. Or the naturally flawless state of the skin around my eyes. (Heh.)

If you've been thinking about LASIK, blogger Shannon Lowe's post on her LASIK experience offers a witty and accurate description. And she warns you ahead of time if you're squeamish and you need to bail before things get too accurate.

After reading Shannon's post, I can add a hearty "me, too" — even eight years later, I have superhero vision. (Well, except for the x-ray part.)

Before I went for the surgery, I did a little cost-benefit analysis. (Yes, I'm that big of a geek.) I figured with what I was paying for contacts and solutions, my surgery would pay for itself in about four years. So it's paid for itself twice over so far.

But the really cool thing is, I can see! First thing in the morning, I can see the numbers on the clock across the room. While driving, I can see signs from far away. Before the surgery, I couldn't be trusted behind the wheel without serious corrective lenses. (Truth be told, I could barely be trusted to walk down the driveway to get the mail.)

Now, when I'm at Target, I pass right by the contact solution aisle without a thought. I don't think about how old my lenses are or if it's time to change them. Perhaps most freeing, when packing for a trip, I don't have to devote suitcase space to contact lens supplies.

Thanks again, Dr. Bearie and Dr. Gammage! Amazing Grace is now, quite literally, true for me!


Friday, January 01, 2010

Untitled Hymn (Chris Rice)

Untitled Hymn (Come To Jesus)
Chris Rice

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!

Now your burden's lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!

And like a newborn baby
Don't be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we fall... so
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!

O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can't contain your joy inside, then
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!