Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo review

On November 1, I committed to blog daily all month.

Here's how the month went:

  • I posted every day in November.
  • At the beginning of the month, the Drafts view showed 48 posts in various stages of development.
  • I finished several of those posts and published them.
  • I also drafted a few new post ideas.
  • Today, there are 45 posts in draft form.
  • I made less progress than I hoped.
  • Still, progress is progress, and worth celebrating! Mario cookies for everybody!

  • On 11/8, November's pageviews surpassed August's.
  • On 11/15, they surpassed September's.
  • On 11/19, they surpassed October's.
  • On 11/28, November's pageviews hit four digits... for the first time ever. Woohoo! Have another Mario cookie!

  • I discovered there is a National Blog Writer's Month (October), or NaBloWriMo, and that knitters have National Knit a Sweater Month (November), or NaKniSweMo.
  • I discovered I'm much more likely to take note of bloggable thoughts and goings-on and whatnot when I know I have a daily post to write.
  • I discovered it's sometimes better to walk away and focus on something else than to try to force an idea.

Lessons learned:
  • Contrary to my tendency, not every post needs to be edited to death before it goes live. (Ironic, no?)
  • Some posts deserve the extra time, but some can be written quickly.
  • I will probably need to continue to learn and re-learn that second lesson.

One friend asked if I'd continue the daily blogging after November is over. I had to answer honestly, with a solid "I'm not sure."

So what do you think?

What did you like this month? What would you like to see more of?

Whether you're a longtime reader or you're new to this blog, I'm interested in hearing from you. I've opened up the comments to anonymous contributors, but would appreciate a first name if you go that route.

Looking forward to your comments!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Thankful we didn't require the services of the local fire department

Today's tale is a long one. You may want to grab a beverage. And possibly a snack.


I'm not a huge traditionalist.

So when we decided to postpone our Thanksgiving meal to Friday to accommodate family members (who would be dining with other family on Thursday), we also decided to switch up the regular menu so that nobody would have to eat the same food two days in a row.

To me, this meant one thing: a chance to experiment! (Those who know me well know that I put the "mental" in "experimental." And those who don't are about to find out.)

Hence, a deconstructed Thanksgiving, reconstructed on a Mediterranean theme. The menu included pesto-stuffed mushrooms, polenta with parmesan, Italian bread with garlic-infused olive oil, and pomegranate lemonade (plus a couple of other side dishes that were nudged toward the Mediterranean region with olive oil and lemon juice, because I can't let go of a theme).

And herb-marinated turkey breast overlaid with bacon, because a true Italian meal must have a pork product. (It would have been prosciutto except for the expense. Plus, by the time I thought of it, our local prosciutto vendor was closed for the holiday. And that's the first time I've ever said "our local prosciutto vendor" — it makes us sound far more sophisticated than we actually are.)

Pomegranates, lemons and grapes say "ciào!" (Corn says "chow.")

And since it wasn't too cold out, and there was no snow on the deck, it seemed like it might be fun to cook the turkey on the gas grill.

Now, my grilling experiments usually turn out well. For example, one of those experiments yielded such happy results that it's forever changed the way I do homemade pizza. (Yes, pizza. On the grill. It's amazing.)

But here's where a sensible person would rethink the bacon thing.

I was planning to use the grill like an oven, heating only half the burners and cooking the turkey over indirect heat like I'd seen Alton Brown do.

Everything was going pretty smoothly until about an hour in, when I checked on the bacon-enrobed bird and thought, well, how is that bacon going to get crispy? So I took the tongs and rolled the turkey onto the heated grates.

And then this happened:

"Those flames were really big, Dad..." (name that movie)

I can't say that what I did next would have made Alton happy. After all, he's the guy who hates all "unitaskers" (his word for any kitchen tool that has only a single purpose), except for one:

I stood there looking at the flaming bird, and started laughing. And as I contemplated what to do next, my husband ran back into the house and grabbed... not the fire extinguisher, but the camera.

Because what's more important — having a nice, safe holiday meal, or documenting a pork-and-poultry conflagration?

Holding flaming turkey aloft for a portrait, while bacon continues to burn on the grill

Flaming turkey relocated to the unheated side, while bacon still continues to burn

Turkey flames extinguished, and charred bacon still continues to burn

Once all the excitement (and flames) had died down, and the turkey had finally finished cooking (which required time in both the oven and the microwave, because the propane ran out partway through the cooking process), we sat down to dinner about two hours later than I'd intended.

So, how was the meal?

It actually turned out pretty well. And I've learned some important lessons about grilling turkey:
  1. If you're going to drape the bird with bacon, put it in a foil roasting pan... and keep it away from direct flame.
  2. Make sure your propane tank is full.
  3. When you grill, always, always remember to keep the most important piece of equipment close at hand:


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Does anybody hear her?

photo credit: Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com
Yesterday, I wrote about an organization based in my area that's working to end human trafficking.

Today's post might be a little more challenging.

Another organization based in my area, Eve's Angels, reaches out to women in the adult entertainment industry.

I learned about the organization and its founder Anny Donewald from Margot Starbuck's article A New Message at the Strip Club-Church Showdown.

As I see it, the groups these two organizations work with are more alike than different.

Some might take issue with that statement, objecting that trafficked women are enslaved by someone in a position of power, and forced to perform against their will. They would say that women in the adult entertainment industry aren't imprisoned, but are there of their own volition.


When I think about women in either situation, I can't help thinking about Jesus' story about the shepherd who looks high and low for a single lost sheep. The shepherd loves and values that sheep, regardless of how she got lost.

On the Casting Crowns website, just before the lyrics to Does Anybody Hear Her, the group issues a strong statement:

"They are all around us. To become numb to their pain is to become numb to the very heart of God and the suffering of His only Son."

Does Anybody Hear Her
Written by Mark Hall

She is running
A hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction
She is trying
But the canyon's ever widening
In the depths of her cold heart
So she sets out on another misadventure just to find
She's another two years older
And she's three more steps behind

Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she's going down today
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?

She is yearning
For shelter and affection
That she never found at home
She is searching
For a hero to ride in
To ride in and save the day
And in walks her prince charming
And he knows just what to say
Momentary lapse of reason
And she gives herself away

Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she's going down today
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?

If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Can't see past her scarlet letter
And we've never even met her

If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Can't see past her scarlet letter
And we've never even met her

Never even met her

Does anybody hear her? Does anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she's going down today
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me

Does anybody hear her? Does anybody see?
Does anybody even know she's going down today?
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Does anybody see?

He is running
A hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction

2005 Club Zoo Music (BMI) / SWECS Music (BMI) (adm. by EMI CMG Publishing)


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shine like justice

My mother's generation invented the "product party."

Freshwater pearl and bead necklace from WAR International
What started with Tupperware became a phenomenon in the last half of the twentieth century, and it's still going strong today. My kitchen, filled as it is with Pampered Chef products, is a testimony to the appeal of the product party.

But earlier this year, I went to a different kind of product party, put on by Women at Risk International.

(The organization is headquartered in my area, but they do have an online store. It's a great place to find holiday gifts that are beautiful, affordable, and beneficial. And you don't even need to brave the mall.)

At the party I attended, most of the items for sale were accessories — jewelry, scarves, purses, etc. — made by women rescued from slavery.

Slavery? In the 21st century?

I know. It doesn't seem to make sense.

But a quick Google search on the word "trafficking" turned up these quotes:

"Today, there are more slaves in the world than we have ever had in history," said Dr. Amy Branam during a recent presentation... about human trafficking in the United States. "It happens everywhere in the world." Many people are shocked to learn that not only does slavery still exist today, but it is considered the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.
(source: Human Trafficking Search)
"Estimates have placed human trafficking and illicit migration as a $28 billion enterprise, steadily catching up with drug and arms trafficking."
(source: Interpol)
"Human trade, slave markets, the buying and selling of people — these are words and phrases that, to many people, echo a brutal and distant time in our past. But to the countless women, men, and children trafficked every year, these words coldly define the horror of their lives. Trafficking is a global phenomenon where victims are sexually exploited, forced into labor and subjected to abuse."
(source: Amnesty International)
At the event I attended, Women at Risk's founder spoke on her organization's efforts to combat the evil of human trafficking by offering women shelter, safety, and job skill training.

And she told us that human trafficking isn't limited to other countries — it happens in the United States. In the suburbs. In nice Christian families.

A few days later, a story about the arrest of a Minnesota man who prostituted his wife via Craigslist appeared on Christianity Today's website.*

Maybe reading a story like that brings the issue home, especially for parents of young daughters. But even if slavery didn't exist in the U.S., it should be an issue of concern to Christians worldwide, just as it was in earlier centuries.

Shining like justice is a big part of our call.


*(Note: In the months since that story posted, Craigslist shut down its "Adult Services" section.)

The post's title is borrowed from the Cake song Short Skirt, Long Jacket.


Friday, November 26, 2010


7 Quick Takes Friday has been pre-empted due to a special birthday celebration (and because 7QTF's regular host, Jennifer Fulwiler, wisely decided to take a few days off).

I'll be back with another seven bite-sized morsels of bloggy goodness next Friday.


Today is Charles Schulz's birthday. He would have been 88 years old.

There's something about this comic that's so perfect on Black Friday...

When I was a kid, although the newspaper my family subscribed to didn't carry Peanuts, I was a huge fan thanks to Peanuts books from the library and the holiday specials we watched every year.

A few weeks ago, Parade ran an article about Schulz, Lessons from The Great Pumpkin. Author Eric Konigsberg points out that over the years, people have read Linus's unflagging commitment to "the mythical squash" as everything from a defense of unwavering faith to a satire of religion:

As a child, I felt for Linus, whose faith in something unprovable was stingily rewarded, if at all, with the knowledge that he'd maintained his belief in the face of ever-increasing doubt. "If the Great Pumpkin comes, I'll still put in a good word for you," he calls out to Sally as she leaves him. "Good grief, I said, ‘If.' I meant ‘When he comes,'" Linus wails. "I'm doomed. One little slip like that can cause the Great Pumpkin to pass you by. Oh, Great Pumpkin, where are you?"

John Waters, the director behind such bizarro films as Cry-Baby, Hairspray, and Serial Mom, also grew up on a diet of Peanuts. As a kid in Baltimore, he was particularly fond of the Great Pumpkin TV special. "I always identified with Linus," he says. "He was not one bit embarrassed by what the others saw as foolishness. It gave me faith as a kid — faith to believe in strange things."

Still, the lessons learned from the Great Pumpkin depend on the viewer: The story can also be seen as an allegory of the irrationality of belief or as a satire of religion. "On some level," [Schulz biographer David] Michaelis says, "Schulz was showing us how some people would so much rather live with this craziness of false belief instead of just being quiet and resolute in their faith. He was saying, 'Be careful what you believe.'"
Here, I could probably go into great and detailed description of how Schulz captured the zeitgeist of several decades. Or I could write about how Peanuts affected me during my childhood, and which characters I most strongly identified with.

But I'd rather leave you with the wisdom Linus demonstrated on another holiday:

Happy Birthday, Charles Schulz.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Today's post is a mini-collection of quotes and a completely unrelated cartoon for your pre-Thanksgiving amusement and/or or distraction. Enjoy.



"What if I want mushroom soup for my soul?"

— overheard from a librarian while checking books in


"If you want to work here, you’re gonna have to dress the toothbrush."

— Deb B., quoting her former employer in a story of her days as a dental assistant, referring to the six-foot-tall thematically-dressed toothbrush outside the office


"Stop buying hunting licenses! Get out there and shoot the bear!"

— Jeremy G., referring to some people's ongoing pursuit of academic degrees


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

File this thought under "signs I don't live in a third-world country"

When it's late and I don't want to bother turning on the kitchen light to put a glass in the dishwasher, I sometimes wish the appliance had a light inside that would go on when I open the door.

Jessica Hagy, Indexed

Oh yeah.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Out of the Shadowlands

I'm not in the least the religious type. I want to be let alone to feel I'm my own master; but since the facts seemed to be just the opposite, I had to give in.
C.S. Lewis, quoted in Time Magazine, Dec. 6, 1963
Clive Staples "Jack" Lewis, 1898-1963
On November 22, 1963, the world lost a great man, a public figure whose words inspired many generations during his lifetime and in the 47 years since his death.

I've written a few times about C.S. Lewis, but my words don't capture the impact his writing has had on my life. Probably the best I can do by way of explanation is to say he told me about Aslan:
"It isn't Narnia, you know," sobbed Lucy. "It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?"

"But you shall meet me, dear one," said Aslan.

"Are -are you there too, Sir?" said Edmund.

"I am," said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."

— from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Because I fell early and hard for The Chronicles of Narnia, my reading of Lewis's work has been mostly limited to his fiction. I began with that series in fifth grade (and have read it many times since), then read the Space Trilogy, The Great Divorce and The Screwtape Letters during my senior year in college, and Till We Have Faces just a few years ago. (His nonfiction titles, including Mere Christianity, Surprised by Joy, and A Grief Observed, have been on my reading list for quite a while.)

Lewis was an interesting person with an unusual personal story. He was single until his late 50s, when he married an American divorcée. That story is captured in Shadowlands, a movie I'd highly recommend. (Have a box of Kleenex nearby.)

Maybe I'll watch it again on his birthday, a week from today. And maybe between now and then, I'll finally read one of his nonfiction works.

Which one would you choose?


Sunday, November 21, 2010


Contemporary meets traditional: modern artist Makoto Fujimura paints abstract art for a project celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible in Illumination — The Crossway Fujimura Bible Project:

Fujimura - 4 Holy Gospels from Crossway on Vimeo.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Real smooth

I once said this will never be a cooking/foodie blog — there are people out there doing a far better job at that than I ever could.

Related side note: Evidently this was Pie Week at Pioneer Woman's site. And this seems like a good time to tell you a pie-related Thanksgiving secret: I don't make pie for Thanksgiving. I make pumpkin cheesecake. You're welcome, and I'm sorry.

Even so, I want to share my smoothie recipe with you. This is a quick, easy way to get several servings of fruit and vegetables into you (or your spouse, or your kids...).

And it will make you feel like Popeye.

He eats spinach, yet claims to be a sweet potato.
For those who believe you are what you eat, this is puzzling.
You: Does that mean there's... spinach... in it?!
Me: Yes it does.
You: [running away]
Me: [grabbing you by the collar] Wait! Try this once. Just once is all I ask. Don't be scared.


Popeye Smoothie

1 c. yogurt (flavored or plain)
1 c. frozen blueberries or strawberries
2 handfuls fresh spinach leaves*
1 banana
¾ c. V8 V-Fusion juice**

Toss all ingredients in a blender and blend until everything's pretty well liquified. Pour into a glass and enjoy.

*You can start with one handful if you're unsure of the whole spinach-smoothie thing, but don't leave it out altogether or it won't be a Popeye Smoothie.
**The Pomegranate Blueberry conceals the color of the spinach best. I also like the Açai Mixed Berry.


Final note: after drinking your Popeye Smoothie, you'll want to do a tooth check. Those tiny bits of spinach have a way of finding every crevice.


Friday, November 19, 2010

7 Quick Takes: Volume 19

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


When a counselor meets another counselor, two questions lead the conversation:
  1. Where do you work?
  2. What's your specialty?
At a conference, that formula gets repeated over and over, so even a socially awkward newbie (ahem) gets pretty polished at it. Or at least slightly less uncomfortable.

Here's an excerpt from a conversation that took place early in last weekend's MCA conference:

Female counselor (with many years more experience than I): "So, Pam, where do you work?"
Me (somewhat hesitantly): "I'm in private practice here in town..."
FC: "Good for you! What do you specialize in?"
Me: "I'm a generalist..."
FC: "Good girl!"

A few minutes later, that conversation was repeated, nearly verbatim, with another veteran female counselor.

Normally, a phrase like "good girl" would make me feel like Lassie, but I was so encouraged by their affirmations it was impossible to take offense.


Last week, I mentioned that I love keyboard shortcuts. It really is true... I didn't just say it so I could use the picture. (Though that would be reason enough.)

Here's an article from Microsoft that lists a whole passel of them.


A series of haikus about Spam. Number 10 is especially evocative.


Last week, I was driving one lane over from a Smart car.

photo credit: FreeFoto.com
Though we saw plenty of them in Italy, they're still somewhat of a novelty in our area of the U.S.

As I admired its quirky adorableness, the driver suddenly swerved in front of me, forcing me to throw out the anchor apply my brakes rather quickly in order to avoid a mishap.

I guess being a Smart driver doesn't make a person a smart driver.


And speaking of teeny-tiny cars:

Parallel Parking from Yum Yum London on Vimeo.


Melanie writes a post that will be appreciated by any parent who has ever loved a wisecracking child. (And let's just say I appreciated it very, very much.)


Here's a cool video from Make: magazine:

Happy Friday, friends!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why death feels wrong

Everyone has to come up with a philosophical explanation of death. For most people, that ends up looking something like "death is a part of life."

So when someone says, "it wasn't supposed to be," that can be pretty jarring.

Rain drops on window 02 ies
photo by Frank Vincentz, from Wikimedia Commons
At the counseling conference I attended last weekend, a couple of sessions focused on topics related to grief and loss. The presenter was longtime teacher and school counselor Dave Opalewski.

Early in the session, he said something surprising: we weren't meant for death.

He went on to explain that he was a man of faith, that he doesn't shove his beliefs down anyone's throat, but that his faith impacts the way he views everything in life.

It wasn't the statement itself that struck me. I've read the passages in the Bible that indicate death was not God's original plan, and I believe that to be true.

Had Dave made that statement in a church gathering or a Christian college chapel service, it wouldn't have been nearly so surprising. What struck me was his boldness in making that statement at a secular conference.

As I reflected further on that statement — we weren't meant for death — I thought about how even in the church, we often don't really get this truth. Maybe that's why it's so easy to jump to terrible platitudes ("It was his time..." "She's not in pain anymore...") instead of just being with the person in their grief.

There's a reason our spirit contends violently with death when it happens. It's not the way it was supposed to be.

Death feels wrong because it is wrong.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010


This week, Newsweek posted an article on high-alcohol, high-caffeine drinks like Joose and Four Loko.

photo credit: Newsweek
Nicknamed "blackout in a can," these fruit-flavored drinks in the tall 23.5 oz. cans contain as much alcohol as five to six cans of beer, and as much caffeine as four to five cans of cola.

The result? A quick, cheap, wide-awake intoxication that keeps users from realizing how drunk they are and overrides the body's natural inclination to sleep it off.

The punch-packing combination of a high dose of caffeine with several drinks' worth of alcohol in a fruity, kid-friendly package has huge implications for users' physical health and their decision-making ability.

The article quotes an emergency room physician who says he's seen "an increase in drunken kids 'coming in saying their hearts are pounding out of their chests.' To date, he adds, 'everyone I’ve seen drinking this stuff has been under 21.'” The article also cites studies finding users to be more likely to engage in "risky behavior, like drunk driving and sexual assaults.”

The drinks have been banned in several states, and others are pressing for similar actions.

Four Loko's manufacturer announced yesterday they would be removing caffeine (as well as energy-boosters guarana and taurine) from the recipe in an attempt "to navigate a difficult and politically-charged regulatory environment."

The company's statement goes on to compare their product to other caffeine/alcohol combinations, such as Irish coffee or rum & cola, which seems a little like comparing a chihuahua to a Great Dane. Are they similar? Sure. But way different impact.

Today, the FDA is expected to declare these beverages unsafe.

College Humor posted this satirical Four Loko commercial:


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

All ears

I'm always intrigued at how counseling is represented in the media.

In a conversation at last weekend's conference, I heard about HBO's In Treatment, a series with Gabriel Byrne as therapist Paul Weston. Each episode follows his sessions with certain clients, as well as his sessions with his own therapist.

This week, Christy Gualtieri posted an article in Relevant Magazine about the series. One section of the article is titled The Importance of Listening:

photo credit: Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com
Everyone knows the value of being listened to; but being a listener, we learn from the show, can be really irritating. In the show's second season, Paul complains to his therapist, Gina, about his clients and their reactions to what he has to say. He feels as though he isn't doing a good enough job as their doctor, as their Listener-in-Chief.

“But you encourage people to look at their lives, the pattern of their behaviors,” she soothes.

“They don't want that,” Paul bitterly replies. “They want to be loved. People don't have families anymore that they can talk to, and friends are quickly going the way of family.”

Irritating or not, we realize how important it is to listen to those around us. Not all listeners are therapists, but all listeners have the ability to do good for those they speak with.
Please read that last sentence again.

If I had powers of persuasion... if I could convince every person of just one thing (other than the gospel)... it would be this:


Don't solve. Don't fix. Just listen. Listen actively to people. Get really, really good at it.

Don't feel pressure to fix people's problems. Most people don't need that. They just need to be heard.

Listening is one of the best, most unusual gifts you can give someone.

And it always fits.


Monday, November 15, 2010

The lighter side

This week, I'm enjoying the four days between a weekend counseling conference and a weekend addiction class.

(You're quoting Napoleon Dynamite in your head right now, aren't you? "Lucky!")

What with processing last weekend and preparing for next weekend, I've got plenty to write about. (Though not necessarily the time to write it, but we'll see how it goes.)

In the midst of the darker stuff, I'm feeling like what's needed is something light. Kinda like the creme filling in an Oreo. Or this:


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Les Mis

Several years ago, we took a family trip to New York City, where we saw the stage musical Les Misérables.

Now, I've seen many musicals, both onstage and on film. But this one is different.

At its heart, the story of Les Misérables is a story of redemption. That theme is threaded through the whole thing: it begins with the bishop who redeems ex-convict Jean Valjean, and runs through Valjean's redemption of the destitute Fantine, then her daughter Cosette, and finally Cosette's true love Marius, whose wounded body Valjean rescues and carries through the extensive network of sewers underneath the city.

There's much more to the story. If you haven't read the Victor Hugo novel on which the musical and various movie adaptations are based, it's a great (if somewhat wordy) read. (I will say this: I learned a lot about the French Revolution  — not to mention the Parisian sewers  — from that book.)

But if you've never seen the musical, here's a little taste:

And now, you want to see it onstage, don't you? Well, here you go.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

All this, and continental breakfast too

This weekend I'm at a conference. A professional conference. Of my chosen-and-long-trained-for profession.

I may be just a little bit keyed up.

The counseling field is diverse, both in terms of the clients we serve and the settings we work in (schools, inpatient facilities, private practice... you get the idea), so counseling conferences need to offer sessions that focus on a variety of areas.

"Oh, and I'm also the person in the chair listening to this list..."
In addition to techniques meant to help with specific struggles, there are business and career development issues, legal and ethical issues, and discussions of problems that are currently making the news. (See cartoon for further illustration. (And though the field is diverse, I don't know anyone who has clients lie on a couch... plus, "multiple personalities" is an outdated term. Still, funny.))

For someone who's still new-ish to the profession, it's tough to choose.

Some of the sessions I'm leaning toward:
  • Understanding and Addressing Adolescent Grief Issues
  • The Scars You Don’t See – Teen Cutting
  • Answering the Cry for Help: Suicide Prevention Education for Schools and Communities
  • Video Presentation and Discussion on the film For the Bible Tells Me So: A Film on the Clash between Religion and Homosexuality: Implications for Counselors
  • Reducing the Psychological Shackles of Racism: Implications for Empowering African Americans Clients
  • Communication Stalemates Between Religious Right and Gay Advocates on Sexual Orientation: Why They Occur and How to Increase Goodwill
  • Treating Trauma and PTSD Using a Narrative Therapeutic Approach
  • From Student to Professional – What’s Your Plan?

But I'm really just there for the bagels.


Friday, November 12, 2010

7 Quick Takes: Volume 18

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


Last Sunday was the end of Daylight Saving Time.

And the grammarian in me would like to point out there is no "s" at the end of "Saving" in that phrase. You're welcome (pushing up imaginary glasses).

I admit, I'm baffled by the whole "spring forward, fall back" thing. I mean, I know how it works, and thanks to reading various articles on it, I sort of understand what it's supposed to accomplish.

But it will probably never really make sense to me, since I was born and raised in a state that doesn't observe DST.

Or possibly because I'm stubborn.

But I'm going with the first one.


I love keyboard shortcuts.

from LikeCool.com


Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion sings Unfriended. Fellow Facebookers will appreciate this.


Over at City Wife Country Life, the brilliant FCW (or Farmer's City Wife — I call her "FCW" because I don't know her first name but I feel like we're friends... is that weird?) writes some powerful prose about homemade chicken soup (vs. canned) to lead into a recipe for bagels. I've got to try this!


Stop-motion animation meets fiber arts creation in Dot. (Shot on a Nokia cell phone.)


I recently re-read an old post from last year and laughed all over again.

New readers, this is just one example of a conversation with my very quotable offspring. (Longtime readers, I hope it still brings a chuckle.)


Now this is my kind of flash mob:

Happy Friday, everyone!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance and gratitude

photo credit: Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com
Living in the upper Midwest, our proximity to Canada exposes us to some customs we might not otherwise have known. One of those customs is Remembrance Day.

Canadians observe Remembrance Day on Nov. 11, the anniversary of the end of World War I hostilities (Nov. 11, 1918), and the same day Veterans' Day is observed in the United States.

On Remembrance Day, Canadians remember those who died in armed conflicts; wearing a red poppy made of paper or fabric symbolizes the memory of those who have died. In fact, that's how I originally learned about the holiday — one year on Nov. 11, I was at a conference; several attendees were Canadian, and most were wearing poppies.

Why poppies?

Poppies are featured in the poem In Flanders Fields, written by Canadian physician John McCrae, who served as a Lieutenant Colonel in World War I. It's said he wrote it after witnessing the death of his friend.

And poppies tend to grow on the ground of battlefields and fresh graves, because of the seeds' ability to lie underground for years and spring up when the soil is disturbed. (There might be a parable or spiritual application here... but I won't beat you over the head with it.)

To those who have served, thank you for your sacrifice.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Whole church

Of the articles and posts I've seen about the recent Lausanne Congress over the last few weeks, this video from Synergy* spoke most clearly to me:

I love the way this was done. I especially appreciate this quote:

The whole world means taking the Gospel to the very edges of society, where helplessness and hopelessness are rampant... to the poor... the oppressed... the trafficked... the widow... the orphan... the aliens. No one is beyond the reach of the Gospel's good news.
Carolyn Custis James, Synergy President, writes about Lausanne 2010 and the need for unity in diversity in her article Rumblings About Women at Lausanne. She concludes with this:

I’m as weary of the women-in-church debate as anyone. And it is not simply an academic one. It has real implications for real lives globally. I will not forget the hopelessness I saw in the faces of women and girls in South African townships. Does our gospel message for women resoundingly contradict other value statements coming to women and girls globally? Do our interactions as Christians send the world a radically different message of how men and women who follow Jesus value and love one another?

The U.S. delegation reassembles in Dallas this April to continue the conversations begun in Cape Town. As we move forward, I hope we will unite despite our differences to focus on making the body of Christ healthy and strong. I also hope the names heard most among us will belong to countless women and girls who have been swept away by a tsunami of abuse and who need to experience the rescuing Good News of the whole gospel.


* Synergy's promo/summary of the video:

"The Whole Church taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World!"
Synergy produced this video (based on the Lausanne theme) as part of a project to provide resources to encourage and fuel the ministry efforts of women worldwide. 4000 copies were distributed at Lausanne 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. The video was translated into eight languages and shown in the Lausanne General Session and on Global Links internationally.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

First rock from the sun

If you're a regular mosaicsynapse reader, you now know a bit about the statistics of this little corner of the blogosphere, thanks to the poem I posted several days ago.

But there's an odd little blogstat I feel the need to tell you about:

He can keep the rest of the outfit,
but those boots are kinda cool...
Someone evidently found this blog using the search term "mercury." This is especially mystifying, since I've never written anything about mercury. (OK, well, now I have.)

Was that person searching for information on the element? The planet? The Roman god? The Ford automobile? The first series of manned NASA missions? The late, great, lead singer of Queen? (Of all options, the last is the one the searcher would have been most likely to find here. If I had ever written on anything "mercury." Before today, I mean.)

So here's what I know about mercury:

  • It's hard to find a thermometer that contains mercury anymore.
  • When I was a kid, my brothers had a little vial that held a tiny amount of mercury, and they'd sometimes pour it out on a table and push it around. It was fascinating to watch... what? Oh, it's highly toxic? Oops...
  • I once heard that Mercury is both the hottest and the coldest planet in the solar system, because it rotates so slowly that the backside doesn't warm up. (Kinda like when you face the fireplace after you've been sledding.)
  • Mercury was the Romans' name for their version of the Greek god Hermes. He was one of Jupiter's (Zeus's) many offspring.
  • From Mercury's name, we get the English words having to do with the merchant trade (merchandise, mercantile), as well as the word mercurial; the Spanish word for Wednesday (Miércoles) also derives from his name.
  • Since Mercury was known for swiftness, I'm guessing the now-defunct Ford line and the NASA missions both took their names from the Roman god, rather than the element.
  • The element is also called "quicksilver."
  • Freddie Mercury was a tremendously talented singer, one of my favorites when I was a teenager. And here's an article with about a hundred things I didn't know about him.

Now, maybe the next person who happens upon this blog while searching for mercury will find something useful.

But I doubt it.


Monday, November 08, 2010

Scripture and society

What role should the Bible have in society?

Because I came to faith as a young adult, I tend to look at questions like this one from the perspective of an outsider to the Christian tradition. In other words, I try to remember that those with whom I share this world do not necessarily share my beliefs, and I look for their viewpoint to be represented and respected.

Gabe Lyons of Q hosts a thoughtful panel discussion on this issue with four people of very different backgrounds.

Panelists discussing the Bible's role in society (clockwise from upper left):
Dr. Dempsey Rosales-Acosta, Dr. Alister McGrath, Dr. Tim Keller, Pastor Brian McLaren
The video's summary/promo reads:
Interpreting the Bible has become a divisive issue for some and little more than sport for others. Some want to talk about the “authority” of Scripture. They’re asking questions like, “How is the Bible authoritative in our lives today?” Others are wondering if the word “inerrancy” is making a comeback. Is it? Or is the term only useful for theological debates, to separate those who are “in” and those who are “out”? How then should we interpret the Bible as God’s word for our culture today?
Panel guests represent a broad range of perspectives, and include theologian/author Alister McGrath, pastor Tim Keller, author/activist Brian McLaren, and scholar/pastor Dempsey Rosales-Acosta.

The video is well worth watching, but if you'd prefer to read a transcript, Tim Schraeder provides that, along with bio information on the panelists, here.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

You are more...

You Are More
written by Mike Donehey/Jason Ingram
performed by Tenth Avenue North

There's a girl in the corner with tear stains on her eyes
From the places she's wandered and the shame she can't hide
She says, "How did I get here? I'm not who I once was,
and I'm crippled by the fear that I've fallen too far to love."

But don't you know who you are
What has been done for you
Don't you know who you are

You are more than the choices that you've made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You've been remade

Well she tries to believe it that she's been given new life
But she can't shake the feeling that it’s not true tonight
She knows all the answers and she's rehearsed all the lines
So she'll try to do better but then she's too weak to try

‘Cause this is not about what you've done
But what's been done for you
This is not about where you've been
But where your brokenness brings you to
This is not about what you feel but He felt to forgive you
And what He felt to make you new

© 2010 Sony/ATV Timber Publishing / West Main Music / Formerly Music / Windsor Hill Music (SESAC)


Saturday, November 06, 2010

The woman at the well

"Love the sinner; hate the sin."

I often hear that catchphrase from Christians, telling fellow Christians how to treat people. (Joel Wentz writes eloquently about the phrase, and the avoidance behind it, in his article for Relevant Magazine titled Christian & Gay?.)

The Samaritan Woman at the Well, by Annibale Caracci
Jesus is usually given as the exemplar of this approach. Often, the passage quoted is the story of His dialogue with the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar.

We're told this story gives us guidance as to how to treat others... lepers, outcasts, pariahs... with compassion.

But sometimes I think we forget a crucial thing.

I'm not sure we're really supposed to identify with Jesus in that story.

I think maybe we're supposed to identify with the woman at the well.

Friday, November 05, 2010

7 Quick Takes: Volume 17

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


Pioneer Woman tried to warn me.

She told me not to visit the Fred & Friends website due to its addictive nature.

I ignored her advice.

I am done for.

On the plus side, I know what I want for Christmas:

M-CUPS™: matryoshkas made to measure

This would make a lot more sense if I ever, you know, measured anything.


Yesterday, I was walking through the neighborhood. It had been raining off and on all day, and the sky was still looking threatening.

On my iPod: Exodus. Specifically, the part about the plagues. Backed up with ominous and dramatic music, heavy on the shrieking violins.

The streets were wet, and I kept expecting a big frog to leap out in front of me. Fortunately for my heart rate, that didn't happen. But when the rain started up again several minutes later, I was up to the plague of hail, and the violins had become more urgent.

I sped up a little... though I'm not sure if it was the rain, the plagues, or the violins that did it.


Three 8-year-olds freestyling in a space that looks a lot like a doctor's waiting room — I wish my doc provided this kind of entertainment:


There are two shows I never would have understood before moving to the upper Midwest: A Prairie Home Companion and The Red Green Show. (I realize they're kind of at opposite ends of the intellectual spectrum. Yet, they're both highly amusing... still a little puzzling on occasion, but highly amusing nonetheless.)


Maslow's Hierarchy gets a new hat, courtesy of Jessica Hagy of Indexed:

If I ever teach Intro to Psych, I'm using this as a visual aid.


Earlier this week, I posted a teensy little punctuation-related rant as my Facebook status. And the commenters came out of the woodwork.

Longtime readers (as well as friends and family) know I have issues in this area.

But now I'm thinking semi-seriously about writing a multi-stanza poem about punctuation marks, in the style of nursery rhymes like Eugene Field's The Duel, or Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky. Or maybe like The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, but that seems a little less friendly.

The fact that I'm concerned about the poem appearing unfriendly (rather than about my desire to write it in the first place) should probably worry me more than it does.


And if the freestyling kids in take #3 didn't make you smile, maybe a helpful little Jack Russell terrier will do the trick:

Happy Friday!


Thursday, November 04, 2010

Made in Dagenham

Made in Dagenham is a dramatization of the 1968 strike at the Ford plant in Dagenham, England, where female workers walked out in protest of gender-based pay discrimination.

I learned about the movie from Elizabeth at Things Bright, who observes:

I think it's really great that so many people are re-exploring the Mad Men era and the decades surrounding it. I see it as this awakening realization that the amazing strides of the Civil and Equal Rights Movements are battles that still really need to be fought. I think one reason this flash-back, retro love is popular is not just the fashion and design, but because we still grapple with the same issues. It's just easier to explore these through a vintage lens.

I also think my generation recognizes that the freedoms won aren't fully realized. And they certainly aren't universal. The internet, more than ever, is helping everyone see that gaining some equal pay in our US/UK/EU factories isn't good enough if the factories then move to other countries and exploit other women instead.
The film is slated for release to limited U.S. cities on Nov. 19.


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

You say yes, I say no...

This was the song running through my head as I left the polling place yesterday:

It actually took me a few minutes to figure out why.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Choosing civility

Civility is a benevolent attention to others; it's a benevolent form of awareness. We are civil when we are aware of others, and we weave restraint, respect, and consideration into the very fabric of that awareness.

— P.M. Forni
Election day.

The phrase nearly makes me break out in hives.

Don't get me wrong — I'm grateful to live in a time and country where I have a voice. (Not so long ago, women in the U.S. did not. I haven't forgotten.)

But the election process has deteriorated into muckraking and namecalling befitting a schoolyard fight between small children. It's sad and ironic that the civic process is marked by such incivility.

P.M. Forni

Last week, I heard a radio interview of Dr. P.M. Forni, co-founder of The Johns Hopkins Civility Project and author of Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct and The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude.

Dr. Forni was in town to speak at the local community college, and his book Choosing Civility was chosen for their One Book One College effort.

He distinguishes civility from manners:

"We are not talking about which fork to choose for the salad; we are talking about how to treat one another in everyday life, and what's more important than that?"

His words were excellent, and his on-air demeanor was filled with grace.

Grace. A word loaded with meaning and value, especially for the Christian. It speaks of the undeserved kindness of God, which He asks His followers to demonstrate to others who likewise do not deserve it.

Dr. Forni's definition of civility speaks of "benevolent attention to others." Though he may not have been thinking in biblical or theological terms, his message is an important one for people of faith.

Jesus spoke frequently to the topic of how we treat others. When a teacher of the law asked him "Which is the greatest commandment?", the second half of Jesus' two-part answer spoke directly to that topic: love your neighbor as yourself.

As if that's not challenging enough — especially when your neighbor runs his lawnmower at 7 a.m. on Saturday — when Jesus speaks of "neighbor," He's never limiting it to the person in the next house. He's speaking of the outsider. The foreigner. The marginalized. The person who doesn't look like me, smell like me, or worship like me. That's the person I'm supposed to love.

And civility is a good start.

If you'd like to listen to the entire interview with Dr. Forni, you'll find it here. It's well worth 13 minutes of your time.


Monday, November 01, 2010

NaNoWriMo: my own spin

If you know any creative-writer types, you probably know someone who is participating in NaNoWriMo.

It's a great (if slightly crazy) concept: write a 175-page novel in 30 days.

The exercise doesn't necessarily produce great prose, but it forces writers to just write, without the constant self-editing.

I know several people who participate annually. I sit in the stands (virtually speaking), cheering them on. I'm a writer, so I know how crippling self-editing can be. But I don't write fiction (at this point in my life, anyway), so NaNoWriMo is an event where I'm on the sidelines. (And these race metaphors are about as close as I get to competetive sports.)

But this year, I happened to read how Tim Challies got his blog off the ground by committing to write daily for a year:
October 31, 2003 was a pivotal day. I decided that day that I should get serious about this blogging thing and committed to either blogging every day for a year or giving up and getting rid of the site altogether. So I wrote an article on November 1, November 2, November 3…and before I knew it, it was a year later and I was still going.
And it occurred to me that I could commit to post every day in November.

It would be a shorter-term commitment than Challies' yearlong goal, so maybe more doable for someone who can be slightly attention-span challenged.

It would get me into the discipline of churning out content daily, without the continual going-over-with-a-finetooth-comb that I tend to do. (Maybe.)

And it would make me clean out my drafts folder, which is threatening to take over the (virtual) file drawer that houses it.

But it turns out there's already an annual event dedicated to forcing encouraging bloggers to post daily for a month: NaBloWriMo, which is October.

Sigh. Late to the party again.

But so what? The idea is to write. Get the words out.

So I'm doing it anyway — sticking out my chin a little defiantly, and flouncing off to the Thanksgiving party in my Hallowe'en costume. (Interestingly, my ideal costume does involve writing, so there's that...)

See you tomorrow!