Tuesday, November 24, 2009

No Shortcuts



“Your bid--for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity--will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high.”

--C.S. Lewis

There is no way around pain and grief except straight through them. All the shortcuts or back roads you could hope to take to avoid the dark, fogginess lead back this way eventually.

It has been a while since I have cried for the loss of our baby. The tears have turned stagnant, maybe dried up into permanent salt flats. It is always easier to desensitize yourself, to take some sort of emotional Novocain—or maybe something even stronger. But even then, as in child birth, the baby will not come out without a little effort on your part. It turns out that the effort you exert, and the time it takes to exert it under anesthesia may actually be double what it is without. Unfortunately the emotional, spiritual numbness doesn’t wear off like the effects of a pain-killing drug do. It is more of a state, a frame of mind and of the will. It’s one thing to steel your nerves and say “I’m not gonna let this bother me”, it is a wholly different thing to dejectedly lie down and lazily wait for the next bus when you have just missed the last one back home. You have to study the routes and sprint with all your might to where it might be, or take the road back on foot.

Our grief is different than those I read about in books, such as the one from which my introductory quote is lifted. As is the case with most miscarriages, there is no picture (save for an ultrasound), no laughter or cry, no smile, no fond, peaceful memory, just a dark, vacuous hole, a deep, unending well into which we let our imaginations run wild and solemnly utter a prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, remember our child in Your kingdom always.” Somehow, in doing that, my memory is jogged. I remember first finding out about the pregnancy. It was a joyful pronouncement, a sort of “Christ is risen”. Imagine if the disciples, or anyone of us who hope for the resurrection were to find out that He is not. We would feel deceived. And so I feel at times about this child. Were you a child, or were you, as one of the most insensitive, idiotic lab technicians put it, “just a late menstrual period”? God forgive me for wanting to slap that woman right now. Part of me, however, wants to believe what she said, or at least to feel as if losing our baby had such easy, scientific, biological explanations, could be forgotten about with a simple snap of the fingers and the wink of an eye.

“The amputee victim has got to learn to walk eventually”, I said to my wife last night. It may have been insensitive. Almost two months since the day we found out, we want life to start over. We are ready to stop wallowing, to start rejoicing and enjoying life again. There would be no use mourning if life were not at times the most vibrant, aromatic bouquet to be savored and “drunk in” as Anne of Green Gables used to say. We want to plant a tree, or some sort of perennial reminder of Seraphim’s life, to set up a memorial and, with a smile through tears, to never forget.

“All is vanity, a striving after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes) The word hevel in the Hebrew is usually translated vanity, but the way it is used here, I think it is best translated, in my own words, as a breath, something uncontainable, that cannot be analyzed and put under a microscope. “A striving after the wind”. Even Solomon in all his wisdom could only scarcely begin to unpack the mystery. The word “vanity” in our language has come to mean something that is pointless, hopeless, or maybe self-absorbed and narcissistic. The quest for the meaning of life is none of those things. It’s a painful, gut-wrenching, mind-blowing journey, but it is not in vain and I don’t think Solomon, even as he looked at life “under the sun” ever thought that. If those who have prayed for wisdom and obtained it are still stumped by the evasiveness of life and death, how much more we who are deadened by worldly pursuits and passions? And, Oh God, here’s a prayer that as we attempt to unpack this mystery, we may find You, in all your danger and pain-causing, but also in all Your healing and restoring. We have been driven to our knees in prayer and repentance through this trauma. “Let Your mercy, oh Lord, be upon us as we have set our hope in You.” (Psalms) Teach us to be simple, to have faith like little children, and to grieve with hope. And may the memory of Seraphim Heider be eternal. Amen.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Changes

Transition
Pronunciation: \tran(t)-ˈsi-shən, tran-ˈzi-, chiefly British tran(t)-ˈsi-zhən\
1: a: passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another: change, b: a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another

The trees are doing it. The air, the ground, everything around us is preparing for the transition from fall to winter. The days are shorter. The sun begins to set before we have supper on the table. The weather seems to mirror what is happening in our life. It's been hard to move on lately. My feet feel sluggish. My energy is slowing. I don't want to move on, but know that I must. A big part of it is that I feel like my love for Seraphim is so tied up with my grief. And if I let go of that grief....

There are other changes too. Major changes. This Sunday our little family will become Catechumens in the Orthodox Church. I cannot tell you how excited we are. This journey began over 3 years ago, shortly after my husband and I were married. My brother began looking into ancient Christianity and everything he learned he brought to us. I remember the first time he brought up the Orthodox Church. I remember thinking, "They sound so arrogant. How can they possibly think they are THE Church?!" As he inched closer and closer to joining the Church, he brought us with him. At first, unwillingly. My husband and I secretly looked into the Church hoping to prove him wrong. To come back with the "right" answers. And then, one day, it just hit me. As I stood in St. John of Kronstadt Orthodox Church I felt at home.

So, Sunday is the end and the beginning all at once. It is a transition into a tradition that has been passed down from Christian to Christian until it reached our hands. It is our faith, and the faith of those who have come before us. I am so excited to call it home.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Nobody Knew You

It's been difficult to write since the miscarriage. We are still grieving, still processing what actually happened. Some days I feel like I'm starting to feel like myself again. Then there are the hard days. The days when everything makes me want to cry or scream. I know, more and more, that this is something I won't be able to just "get over". There won't be a time where I will feel nothing about this. And I'm ok with that. I'm learning to live with it, more each day.

I've been blessed to have so many parents that have experienced this loss reach out to my husband and I. My husband also find this website www.namingthechild.com There are lots of articles and posts about losing a child that have helped put our grief into words. This poem, posted by a mother, really speaks what I'm feeling right now.


Nobody Knew You

Posted using ShareThis

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kronos Quartet

Here's my first experiment with the new grooveshark widget. Kronos Quartet's Kronos Caravan. The mood is akin to Sketches of Spain and Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire. I hope you like it.



Friday, October 23, 2009

My Sweet Seraphim (It’s Time to Go)














Life has turned so quickly into death
and left its cobwebs dangling down.
All that's left of our baby
Is an empty space on the ultrasound.

My God, why do aches and pains
and hollow spaces in wombs exist?

Blood, like a desperate shop owner,
Continually reminds us of mortality,
Not-so-gently entreating its patrons,
"It's time to go. . .
5 minutes 'til close".

And that damn door
Is locked on the other side

All this striving,
Running into the wind
With deployed parachutes
Strapped to our backs.

We’ll probably never make it.
We're getting nowhere.

The dull soreness (much like a toothache)
Has become commonplace.

And forgetful minds
Retrace their steps
To the place where the living
And the dead all forget.

The place where the body
And soul linger on
In a dance just as smooth
As haze and sunlight at dawn.

We approach the edge
Then draw back our limbs.

And the earth stops spinning
For a moment, for a kiss.

So everyone must taste the lips of death
And live

Monday, October 5, 2009

When You Wake Up

I feel as if I'm slowly waking up from a horrible nightmare. The kind in which you can't move when something is chasing you. The kind in which you scream at the top of your lungs, yet no sound is heard. The kind that is real.

On September 5th I took a pregnancy test. It was positive. I rejoiced! My husband and I shared a secret moment of happiness and joy while our sister-in-law and niece and nephew played in our living room. We spent the day with my husband's family and passed secret "We're having a baby!" glances at one another throughout our time together. We were happy.

A couple of days later the spotting started. I immediately called my mother who told me to calm down. It was probably nothing. It would go away. It did go away. Worries gave way to more rejoicing. We told our daughter, "You are going to be a big sister!"

This is where dates and times begin to run together. I only remember the bleeding. The sinking feeling. Knowing that my baby left me. We had so many appointments that week. But I didn't need the radiologist to tell me. Or the midwife. Or the doctor. I knew. My baby was gone and all I felt was empty.

Today is the beginning of a long road of grief, anger, worry, sadness, joy and....who knows what else. I've felt numb for weeks. It's been difficult for me to even face the reality of this. But I need to start somewhere. Right now my emotions are too raw. Just the simple question, "How are you?" puts me in tears. The world is moving so quickly and all I want to do is sit still. People (with wonderful intentions) ask when we will be able to try again. All I want to say to them is "Please, don't rush me. I'm not ready".

Last week my husband and I sat on the couch, trying to grasp what happened. Asking the whys and not hearing the answers. Or being too afraid to hear the answers. We decided to name the baby. The name Seraphim popped into my head. As I pondered that thought my husband spoke, "Seraphim is a good Saint name".

Seraphim. It's perfect.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer Musings

Here are a couple snapshots from the summer that I started to write but never finished. This summer has been amazing. Lots of long walks, bike rides, playground visits, late nights and afternoon naps. It's also produced its fair share of sore muscles, sweat, blood and tears. This is how it looked:



Musing #1

Yesterday I filled my coffee mug too full and spilled all over the cupboards, counter top and the front of my shorts. Fortunately, it had cooled down a little before I poured it and did not soak all the way to my skin. I got lucky.

A family member of mine who shall remain nameless suffered a similarly embarrassing (but more amusing) moment. An abundance of day-old Panera bread rained on us like manna this past Sunday evening. We (my wife, family member and me) were enjoying the spoils of this manna and an interesting conversation about the Virgin Mary. This was all happening as we cleaned the house, sweeping and wiping down counter tops. Needless to say, my wife was not too thrilled about the crumbs produced by said flour-based edibles and had given my family member a large plate to catch any stray morsels. Even so, my family member (we’ll call him or her Cheechakos for the sake of this story), continued to spill tidbits of baked goodness on the kitchen floor. One large chunk of the sourdough loaf Cheechakos was enjoying tumbled from his or her hand to the edge of the stove and thudded quietly on the linoleum. Cheechakos set the plate with the larger portion of the loaf on top of the stove and proceeded to pick up the lesser (but still substantial) piece from the ground. As Cheechakos bent at the waist and slightly at the knees, his or her midriff grazed the edge of the plate and knocked the remainder of the loaf off of its resting spot on the cool surface of the front burner onto our poor protagonist’s back and then onto the floor.

We all mess up sometimes.



Musing #2



After a walk to the playground this week with my wife’s family, we ran into some friends from my brother-in-law’s church. We all gathered in a circle around my daughter in her stroller holding a small purple flower and an orange lily. We talked for a while, and then my daughter did something that really struck me. She started to hold her flowers out to each person individually so that they could smell the sweetness she had latched onto. She wasn’t shy about it at all. These little flowers she had crushed in her hands were drooping and wilted, but she held them out like they were the sweetest spices or perfume.

Is this not what we ought to do with our prayers and our lives unto God? Is this not how I ought to behave with my family, friends, co-workers, church members, and even enemies? An unabashed yet humble offering of myself, vulnerability. My life has been bruised and crushed. Some of these bruises are self-inflicted. I’m afraid of dying, but even more afraid of living.

In the words of a song I love, the singer asks with a downtrodden tone, “Grape on the vine, why not be crushed to make wine?” This calls to mind the Gospel reading where Christ says when a crowd has gathered around him and more are looking for him, “…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Why not admit our brokenness and with a humble, confessing heart offer it up with boldness? There is nothing so sad as loneliness, especially in a world so full of people, in a world that I think seems to be filled with the glory of God, albeit with a heavy dose of evil. So, why be an island in this vast, fertile prairie? Why give in to the temptation to withdraw from people, from God. We all need healthy doses of silence sometimes, but depression and solitude need not accompany them.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

8 Things I Will Probably Never Be Able to Do



I WILL PROBABLY NEVER BE ABLE TO:


1) Read enough books to exhaust my mind or reach an end of all there might be to say on any subject or person, epecially God.

2) Speak more than two languages anywhere close to what could be called fluently.

3) Play any instrument in a way that could be deemed virtuousic.

4) Play a sport professionally.

5) Construct a habitable building by myself.

6) Do even routine car repairs completely on my own.

7) Balance a budget correctly.

8) Say "no" to peanut butter and chocolate.



The idea for making a list-blog is completely hijacked from one of my wife's previous posts. I will shamelessly admit that. (I really don't think originality is all it's cracked up to be.)


I start this strain of posts to remind myself of my limitations. As much as I want to ingrain in our daughter a sense of go-get-em, you-can-do-it, boldness and audacity, I also want her to have the humility to slow down, to ponder, and maybe even to pray; to know that life is vivacious, thrilling, spontaneous and exciting but also to know how near we all live to death, and how often we must all endure heartbreak, defeat and boredom.

I challenge the notion that my role as husband and father is primarily to meet all my family member's needs, to make sure that everyone is happy, well-fed, and decked out in the coolest clothes (with all the right, non-pink colors!).

I will probably accidentally sneeze on my wife's arm and hurt her in unspeakable ways. Zee, I will probably accidentally smack your head against the hook on the bathroom door at the Henry Doorly Zoo again, like I did yesterday.

Before I get all bent out of shape listing my failures, I'd like to note that this is one of the most important things I believe marriage and parenting are supposed to do to you: hold up a big, clear mirror to all those thoughts, words and behaviors that are the ugliest in you.

I intend to start keeping track of these things and blogging about them when it's appropriate. Who knows, maybe there's someone out there who is as imperfect as me and will be able to relate. Who knows?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Trucks and Dressing my Daughter in Blues and Browns

From the day we found out the gender of our daughter I feared the masses of pink that would be entering our home. Don't get me wrong, I love pink. Hot pink to be specific. However, I really wanted our daughter's wardrobe to consist of more than pale pink, dark pink, pepto pink, etc.

So after we found out the gender of our daughter one of my very first clothing purchases was a blue dress. Yes, blue. She looked adorable in it. I also bought her a brown blanket because we decided to paint her room blue. Shortly after she was born we were out and about and the Z was wearing her blue dress and was wrapped in her brown blanket. A woman walked up to us and said, "Oh! What an adorable little boy!". I quickly corrected her, "Actually, she's a girl." This woman promptly scolded us for dressing her in blue. "Well, you shouldn't dress her in blue if she's a girl.". I had two reactions to this. First off, lady, this is MY baby. I'll dress her in whatever I want! Secondly, why does blue automatically mean boy? Dressing my baby girl in blue and brown and other "manly" colors doesn't make her any less a girl. It doesn't change her physical anatomy. So why does it matter?

The past couple of days my daughter has been very interested in the construction work being done at the end of our block. There are several trucks, diggers, etc. working hard digging up cement and dumping it into other trucks. This process fascinates her. She woke up this morning excitedly saying, "Trucks! Trucks!" She was so eager to go watch the trucks work that she barely ate breakfast. This is a big deal. This girl loves her bananas. But her plate remained 3/4ths full of sliced banana while she repeatedly demanded to see the trucks. So off we went. We spent almost an hour watching the trucks work. We counted them over and over in English and Spanish. And when it was time to go she was in tears. I convinced her the trucks were taking a nap :)

Once she laid down for her nap, I began searching the internet for toy trucks. And I came across this http://www.dinosaursandrobots.com/2008/11/kustom-tonka-variations-pink-woodie.html
Seriously?! Are we so afraid that playing with a dump truck will make our girls think they are boys that we have to paint them pink?

I know that there are differences between boys and girls. Trust me, I know! But I do not want to limit my daughter to pink and purple, to tea cups and tiaras. I want her to play with whatever she wants to play with (safe toys of course!) and know that when she grows up she can be an engineer or a construction worker if she wants to be. Why does she need to be limited to "girl" clothes and toys? Especially now as she is becoming more and more independent and opinionated. I don't want say to her, "No sweetie, you can't play with that, those are boy's toys..."

So for now, I will continue to dress the Z in brown shirts and blue dresses. And I'll buy her a dump truck. But it will NOT be pink.

p.s. this post was partly inspired by recent truck watching but also inspired by this one http://pacingthepanicroom.blogspot.com/2009/07/slap-fighting-pink-posse.html
this is a great blog from a dad's point of view about marriage, family building and everything else.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer and Senses

One of the best summer memories I have is of a family get-together we had out on our farm in the Bohemian Alps. We made homemade ice cream, played kick-the-can and watched bugs swarm around the telephone pole lampposts that were on either side of the sloping path that lead from our house to the chicken coop and to the barn.

I can still hear the sounds of the locusts and giggling friends, feel the sweat on my forehead, taste the ice cream and smell the fresh, country air and the scent of freshly-mowed grass (maybe that's because I just mowed the lawn).

Our five senses help us to remember moments. They're like little Polaroid cameras that take small snapshots of our lives as, with all our being, we try to hold on to some sense of permanence (or at least stability).

Unfortunately, our senses record the bad stuff, too. The smell of a hospital room, the taste of liver and onions, the feel of bugs crawling on our skin, the ringing sound of firecrackers going off a couple feet away from our ears, and the sight of someone younger than us in a casket. . .

It is on the inside where these memories remain. In Hebrew, the word nephesh pretty much sums it up. In English, the closest word would be being. There's something in the very fiber of who we are that is changed by what we experience. There are scars left on our nepheshes (not a word, tecnically) that time will not heal.

When and if I pray each morning, I take a moment to examine my senses and to consider that I am in the presence of God. This seems easy on the surface. Most meditation focuses on breathing or chanting to push all thoughts aside. Prayer leads me to see myself as I am, to be quiet, and to remember God.

For Orthodox Christians, the prayer that is uttered most frequently during Lent contains the phrase "grant me to know my own sins and not to judge my brethren". Hard as it is to acknowledge all the memories I have and how they've shaped my being, it is doubly hard to know how I have hurt others and myself. It is triply hard to know those things and not to judge others based on some standard I have for my own life.

Last night, at about 2:30 a.m., our neighbor from across the street decided to set off a firecracker that shook our house and most of the houses on our block. Within seconds, I was out of bed, pulling shorts and a shirt on and heading out the front door to have a little talk with this guy. I had no idea what I was going to say.

To cut the story short, I received no apology, not even an admission of guilt from my inconsiderate neighbor, and he and his buddies carried on a little less noisily, for all I know, the rest of the night. As I headed back inside to go back to bed, I thought of all the things I might have said. I thought of cursing this man up and down, of getting some sort of revenge, of mostly just giving him a good talking-to.

Each day I pray that God will help me to "love my neighbors and my enemies" as He has loved me. It's strange when our neighbors turn into potential enemies. It's even stranger to treat everyone as a brother, sister, father or mother regardless of what they do.

My sense of hearing will not quickly forget what happened last night, but I can choose to forgive my neighbor and ask for forgiveness from God for the anger I harbored toward him. I can choose to die to myself so that Christ can live in me. But I can only do this as I continue to pray and examine myself, all my senses, asking that God would "enlighten my mind and guard all my senses".

Now it's time for a summer Saturday afternoon nap. I forgot to mention that getting plenty of sleep refreshes the senses and makes forgiving just a little bit easier. Maybe I'll wear earplugs this time.

Friday, June 19, 2009

And the Winner Is....

I'm sorry I'm late with the winner of the giveaway! We had a crazy busy week along with a broken camera! Since there were not very many entries we decided to determine the winner by drawing the name out of a hat. Or, in our case, a bowl.

I wrote everyone's names on little slips of paper...
Then threw them in a bowl....


Little Z drew a name out of the bowl....And the winner is.....
Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway! Aunt Wendy wins an awesome screen printed onesie from Cluster of Parrots. Look forward to random giveaways in the future!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Giveaway

Alright, the giveaway is closed. Check back in the next couple days for the winner!

Friday, June 12, 2009

500 pieces of advice

I absolutely love this idea :

http://prudentadviceformybabydaughter.blogspot.com/

I'm inspired to begin my own in a written form to give to my daughter. My first piece of advice would be this:

#1 Read everyday. For five minutes or 2 hours, read for fun everyday.


p.s. Don't forget to enter the giveaway! I will close comments June 14 then post the winner on June 15!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Let me give you something!

It just so happens that we have some really talented friends. One of these friends is named Melanie. She has a lovely little clothing business called Cluster of Parrots. And it's awesome.

"We're all getting older, that's no secret. We watch the next generation age and we wonder how long it will take for each bright, unique young mind to slowly warp and eventually cave in to the trends that dominate the teenage years.

Thankfully, Cluster of Parrots provides an alternative for the discerning parent. An opportunity to forgo the familiar pink bunnies and blue bears for something a bit more original, hopefully providing the little one with a sense of self from a very young age."

If you are looking for something unique and hip, Cluster of Parrots is the place to go. Each onesie is screen printed with wonderful designs. You can customize the look with different colors of onesies and ink. There are also lap t's and long sleeved options available.

Here are some of my favorites:








PERFECT for Father's Day!



Here's little Z sporting her favorite design!



There are also hand-embroidered looks! So charming!



So if you are looking for that perfect baby shower gift or just want something different for your little one, check out Cluster of Parrots.

And....I'm giving away one onesie (or T) of your choice! The winner will get one screen printed onesie or T of their choosing.
To win:
1. Go to www.clusterofparrots.com
2. Pick out your favorite design.
3. Comment on this post telling me your favorite design.
4. You get an extra entry by subscribing to our blog. If you are already a subscriber you get an extra entry automatically, but you still need to leave a comment to be entered.
5. Make sure you leave a way for me to contact you.

This contest will be open till June 14, so comment away and tell your friends!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

3 years

Today is our 3 year wedding anniversary. I can say with all honesty that I am still madly in love with my husband and love him more today than on our wedding day. We've been through some big changes; an unplanned pregnancy, a new home, etc. Through it all I've seen my husband give selflessly, love unconditionally and display the patience of a saint. He is my forever. 3 years of marriage and he can still make me laugh uncontrollably, blush like a giddy school girl and cause my heart to beat faster with just one glance. It's that way now, and I know that 50 years from now we will be THAT couple. The ones that still can't keep their hands off each other. The ones that will embarrass our kids by being so lovey dovey.

Tonight we celebrate and reminisce about that day 3 years ago. This weekend we are baby free (thanks Abuelita!) and in another state. I can't wait to get away with my man and spend so much time alone together. Now, I'm just waiting for him to get home from work so I can smother him in kisses!

Till death....

Photobucket

Sarah Pfeiffer

Sarah Pfeiffer

Friday, May 15, 2009

Check this out

If we had an extra $1300 laying around (oh man, that's funny) this would probably be the first thing I would buy:

Madsen Cycles Cargo Bikes

Seriously, look at this thing! I could ride this thing to the store, the library, basically anywhere. I could just throw lil' Z back there and she could hang out with the groceries, snack on some fruit during the ride. How awesome would that be?! Actually, if we lived somewhere where it was relatively warm all year round I would seriously consider ditching the car and using this as our primary mode of transportation. Too bad Nebraska is covered in snow at least half of the year. I wonder if we could rig something like this up to my bike....hmmm...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Slack-jawed Jackdaw Sings

With your arthritic fingers

Lace up those tall boots

And stomp down to the edge of the lake


Where the swimmers who can’t swim

Paddle out with their weak limbs

To where all of the fun’s happenin’.


Play the craziest games

The bullied kids never played

Now graced by a fierce awkwardness


Sing songs with your scratchy

Crow-cawing voice

You were given by the Maker of noises


Form the words you were taught

With your blabberin’, babblin’

Blitherin’, mouth, teeth and tongue


Stop your bitchin’ and moanin’

‘Bout all that you don’t have

Stop groanin’

‘Bout the hand you’ve been dealt


Make lemonade with your lemons

Jazz with old, rusty instruments

Dance the dance only a crippled old man

(Or a one-legged child) can.


Shake up the can

Pop the lid off your mouth

And say things that need to be said


To the parents that raised you

The grandparents that inspired you

To live like you mean it today


And maybe the government

Will prove it’s always insolvent

And maybe we’ll see with our hearts


And stop blaming the man

Do all that we can

To bury bones

And build bridges back home


Build a chair, write a poem

Stitch up some old clothes

Make up songs that no one else knows

And sing like a chorus of crows

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Time to Start Over


It’s time to write again. I’ve tried a couple times to sit and write something meaningful for this blog, but the words (like the gas in my idle lawn-mower) have grown gummy. Maybe I’m trying too hard.

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it feels like life started over again this Easter (or Pascha, for you Orthodox out there).

My wife and I broke our fasts (meat, dairy, iPod, etc.). We celebrated by feasting with my wife’s side of the family. My brother-in-law was chrismated and officially entered the Orthodox Church. We stayed up way past bedtimes to celebrate the Resurrection with his new church family and slept it off well into Sunday afternoon.

The Resurrection has never felt so real to me. Honestly, it’s one of the hardest things to believe as a Christian. Right up there with the Trinity, and the fact that God, the Word, became man. But it’s true. I can’t think of any other reason why the disciples and apostles would risk their lives defending it.

The topic of torture has been a prevalent one in our country as of late. What constitutes torture? If we’ve crossed the line, who’s to blame?

In the time of Christ (pre-Geneva Accord), no one was worried about human rights violations. Most, if not all, of the people who appear in the New Testament were persecuted or martyred in one way or another. Why? I’ve often thought, naively, that I could undergo and endure torture for my faith or for my country. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I would crumble if I were whipped or beaten, or had my hair pulled out, or were water boarded.

I’ve often fancied that I would die, but never kill for what I believe, or for my family and friends. I have a romanticized view of men like Desmond Doss who served valiantly in the Army while refusing to bear arms. But the simple truth is that I’m more like a bashful Peter, denying Christ when questioned by, of all people, a little girl. I’m more like a self-serving, duty-dodging Mark Twain than a courageous Thomas Bennett.

I love the religious freedom we enjoy in this country, but I can’t deny that it has made many a weak Christian. It has, in many ways, made Christianity fashionable, or at least harmless and tolerable, if not a little annoying. What a shame! I’d rather be highly offensive in defending the truth, than kind and considerate, but deceived beyond all measure. Granted, many Catholics, Anglicans, Quakers, and others spilled their blood on our soil, but by-and-large they didn’t die defending the truth of the Resurrection or the humanity and divinity of Christ; they died defending their political rights. They are still martyrs, but on a different level.

I’d like to go back and talk to those early Christian martyrs (Paul, Peter, Justin Martyr, or Cecilia) and take a little of their fire back home with me. When brought into the torture room, Jesus didn’t condemn, didn’t try to get out of it (unless you call “not my will, but Thine” an attempt at getting out of it), didn’t even beg his persecutors to stop. He bore it with almost complete silence. May we all bear silently, without grumbling or condemning, the crosses we have to bear, trusting and praying that they will be turned into victories, knowing that “if we die with Him, we will also be raised with Him”.

"Behold, I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Books, Books

I'm a pretty big fan of reading. Ever since I can remember one of my most favorite things to do is to cuddle up with a cup of coffee, tea or a glass of wine and read and read and read. Read until you realize you've been reading for 4 hours straight, though it feels like it's only been an hour. Read until you are so connected, so intertwined with the characters of a book that you feel as if you've known them your whole life. Read until your husband tells you you need to get some more sleep.

I have a habit. Some may call it nasty, others may call it awesome. I need to read before I can go to sleep. It can be for an hour or just 10 minutes. This usually means that I am up much later than my husband. I am naturally a night owl, but this reading habit only exaggerates that. We learned early on in our marriage that the beside lamp needed to be placed on my side of the bed because I would be the one turning it off every night. Now, this habit isn't 100% 7 nights a week. There are times when I am so exhausted that I just fall straight into bed. There are other situations too...but I won't talk about those. Anyways...most of the time, I need to read before I can sleep.

But reading doesn't happen only at bedtime. Joe and I used to have "reading" dates when we were dating. We'd go to a coffee shop or bookstore and spend our time reading. Wait, we still do this for some dates. Mostly because it's cheap and enjoyable for both of us. When I was nursing Azalia I would read to help pass the time (this girl was a s.l.o.w. eater).

I'm positive I get this love, this voracity for reading from my mother (Among other things I inherited from my mother, such as late-night Law and Order and a strong dislike for cleaning). I remember watching her read these long, epic stories and wanting to read them too. My mother had me reading The Client when I was in 4th grade because other books were too easy. Every book she would recommend I would devour. This continues to this day. She and I like to exchange books we've just finished and I frequently will purchase books with her in mind. Almost every time she comes to visit she will tell me about a new book she heard about and wants to read. I love this aspect of our relationship.

All of this leads me to this: Joe and I have made books a permanent category in our budget. We've been really disciplined (well...Joe more than me) about setting a budget each month. One category in that budget is "blow money". So I guess you could say that "books" is a subcategory in the "blow money" category. Either way, we have decided that part our spending money will be spent on books. There are many reasons for this. I'm a collector and one of the things I collect is books. We want our daughter (and future children) to be surrounded with good literature. And we have some pretty awesome built-in bookcases in our living room that need more books to display.

So this is where you come in. Recommend a book to me. Recommend a few. Help us build our library please! I am a fan of fiction, though Joe really loves non-fiction. But I will read just about anything as long as it is quality. Quality, people.

Here is a sampling of our library:


These are some of my favorites....


Some more...


And we can't forget this guy...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"Stay Awake"

I fall asleep on the couch a lot. Usually this happens in the evening under the glare of the laptop blaring out sound effects from episodes of Law and Order or during countless movies and documentaries watched a little too close to bed time. My wife can vouch for all of this. It’s about as predictable as gravity or the laws of thermodynamics (nerd glasses pushed up).

I fell asleep most recently during a documentary on the Dark Ages. I wasn’t particularly bored and didn’t feel that tired. It just crept up on me. I slept on the couch from right around 9:30 p.m. until 1:15 in the morning. Then, we went to bed. This is a bad habit.

As is fairly obvious from my previous entries, I’ve been reading through the Gospels this Lenten season. One of those recent readings was from the Evangelist Mark. It ended with Christ’s haunting admonition, “Stay awake.” (Mark 13:37) Another related reading was the Parable of the ten virgins who, having run out of oil, scramble to find more to light their lamps so they’ll be ready for the bridegroom. Many days I think my lamp has gone out, or is going out. My eyelids are heavy and Christ is near.

I’d like to be found ready, to prepare the lamp of my heart, soul, mind and strength, but I am a cold, empty, wickless vessel. I am more frequently on the couch asleep than in prayer. I’d rather have my ears and eyes tickled than be challenged and convicted. I’d rather indulge and give into bodily desires than discipline my body and “make it my slave” (1 Corinthians 9:27). I’d rather keep my money, time, possessions and food than pour myself out for the least of these.

I think many times I’m content to just resign myself to passive reliance on a sovereign God who will probably make me holy one day. But passivity is absent in the Gospels and in the lives of Christians from the time of Christ until now. Yes, God is sovereign and it is only by His grace that anyone can become like Him, but we must actively cooperate if we’re going to grow and change. The Apostle Paul recommended that we “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). A local Pastor I heard speak recently said that “being ‘saved’ is all hooey unless you live for God”.

And here I am again tying everything back to the Prayer of Ephrem the Syrian: O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of…sloth.

On dreary days like this one, my ardent desire to press on has turned to a tiny panting flame. The freezing northern winds of sin, death and the devil are gathering around me, but I hear the Psalmist’s prayer: “For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.” (Psalms 18:28)

Now it’s time to start the day and get to work.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's All In the Timing

I've had baby #2 on my mind for quite some time.

It began when I weaned Azalia (or forced her to continue nursing until I was ready to let go). I remember in the early stages of nursing her that I couldn't wait until she was 6 months old. I told myself I would nurse at least for 6 months. Then, I really began to enjoy it. It was wonderful to sit and bond that way. At family gatherings I looked forward to that alone time I would have with her when she was hungry. I would have that 20-30 minutes before my loving siblings would steal her away from me again. Around 10 or 11 months it became increasingly difficult to get her to sit for a nursing session. She ate well...but was more interested in discovering the world around her now that she was mobile. So at 13 months I gave her her last feeding from Mama and she hasn't looked back since.

Immediately after she weaned I started thinking about baby #2. Joe was not ready for that. So we thought about it and prayed about it. And I asked him every night, "So...when do you want to try for little Michaiah?" (Michaiah is what we would like to name our son...Lord willing, if we have a son) Needless to say, me bringing it up every night was a bit much for him. We set a tenative "let's start trying in May" date, since that would be around our 3rd wedding anniversary. Now with May around the corner, I'm becoming hesitant again. I keep thinking of all these things I want to do that pregnancy would hinder. But when I start thinking like that I begin to feel guilty. I tell myself that I'm being selfish. Then I look at our beautiful daughter and am reminded of how blessed we are to be her parents. And I see how she would benefit from a little sibling to boss around (and love, of course).

I feel that this whole process is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Baby #1 was not planned, as many of you know. When we found out we were pregnant my mothering instincts kicked into high gear (with help from my hormones) and we started preparing for her arrival. It was difficult along the way, simply because we had been married for only, oh, 9 months. I felt like I was just getting a grip on how to be a wife. Then I had to throw being a mother in the mix! I shed my share of tears and worries, but we were able to get through it.

Now that we are, in a sense, getting to choose when this 2nd baby will come it seems so hard! What if it's too soon? What if it's too late? What if we can't get pregnant right away? Even though I know when my fertile days are (thanks Natural Family Planning!) won't that just zap the romance out of making love and turn it into an obligation? I know that most of these worries are just that...worries. And I know that no matter how much I plot and plan, ultimately, this is in God's hands. So baby #2, come when you want...we are waiting for you.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fabric!

I just entered a giveaway on this blog: http://mandmstudio.blogspot.com/2009/03/new-fabric-in-shop-giveaway.html?showComment=1237492020000#c4348318020784361013 for 4 yards of beautiful fabric. That's right, 4 yards! You can enter too!

Monday, March 16, 2009

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND IDLE TALK

While musing on the atrocity of CCTV that was used to crack the case in a recent Law and Order UK episode, someone made the following observation:

“Even though it gets abused quite a bit, I’m glad we live in a country that actually values freedom of speech and freedom of the press.” (source: me)

The same blabbermouth mentioned in passing the outrage that is the so-called Patriot Act and how things of this nature seem to be more indicative of communist countries than those that claim to fight for individual liberty and democracy.

My wife hates to talk about politics. If I want to kill a conversation all I have to do is mention the difference between a modern liberal and a traditional liberal (or put on a Rod Stewart record). Anyway, I’m becoming more conversant in things political but still would not consider myself an expert. This, however, has not stopped me from writing blog after blog on the subject. I’ve also written, feigning scholarship, on such issues as art, evolution, global warming, and same-sex marriage. As time goes on, the list lengthens. I’m not sure where this drive comes from. Is it that I can’t stand to have a thought that isn’t made public knowledge? I generally consider myself an introvert. Is it that I think I’m an entertaining, or at least stimulating writer? This discussion itself is probably generating its own share of yawns—at least for those who are still reading. Is it the desire to impress all my friends, acquaintances and total strangers with my views on such a broad spectrum of topics? Probably. But, then, I will from time to time write these self-deprecating, critical blogs to give myself the appearance of humility.

Last time I wrote about confession and sin. Well, here’s one disordered passion I’d like to put a bridle on. I ended last time with a prayer that contained the phrase “take from me the spirit of…idle talk”. It is this spirit within me that fuels heated discussions (almost always via internet) on all the topics I just mentioned.

A really intriguing article I just read/listened to entitled “Liberation by Internet” (http://mises.org/story/3060#_ftnref) gave some staggering statistics on internet use:

In 1997, about 96 million people used the Internet; by 2002, the number had grown to about 650 million. On December 30, 2007, the Internet had an estimated 1.319 billion users [...] Over 30 years, [from 1972 to 2002], the cost of sending 1 trillion bits of information has dropped from $150,000 to 17 cents.

The article is almost completely unrelated to the idea of idle talk but has a lot of great observations about individual liberty, internet and freedom of speech. We now have access to online books, blogs for every interest, music, movies, television shows, games, and shameless entertainment at our fingertips. And we like it. Not only do we like it. We like it so much, that we feel the need to contribute to the cacophony of sound by raising our own voices as well.

We raise a song of praise for those books, blogs, musicians, movies, sitcoms (ad naseum) that we like best. Well, today I’m raising mine to commend something else: silence. . .er, at least a little more silence. By the grace of God, I’d like to be a quieter person; to listen better and talk more relevantly than I do. I’ve heard someone call it “the economy of words”. Even in this blog I have probably wasted words. This should be a bigger deal to me since, as a Christian, I believe that everyone will give an account to God “for every careless word they speak (Matt. 12:36)”.

So, now I end this rant with a sobering passage from the book of James that I think is more relevant than anything else I could say on the subject:

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by Gehenna. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (James 3:2-12)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Oh How I Wish You'd Stay Small


It's the little things. The tiny hands, the growing teeth, the sweet little ponytail on top of her head. It's the quiet moments when she's discovering new things. It's when she holds her baby doll close and hugs her tight. It's moments like these when I want to stop time, want to make her this small, this innocent forever.



I am amazed more and more as she continues to grow. She slays me when she snuggles into my chest and wants to hug. It's then when I wonder, "How can I nurture this love, this innocent love...so free of the pains of this world?" Some days, I worry about how she will be affected by the ugliness of this world. I want to protect her little eyes and ears from the assaults society toss at women. I want her to know that she doesn't have to look like the women on magazine covers. She is beautiful. She is special.

Joe and I pray for our daughter (and future children, Lord willing) every night. We've begun using a prayer at the end of a book called "On the Upbringing of Children" by Bishop Irenauis. It is beautiful. Whenever I start to worry about what will happen to my daughter as she grows up in this world, I remember this prayer. I'll include a little bit here:

"O Greatly-Merciful Lord, Who givest food to the birds of the sky and to all living things on the earth, Who watchest over the flower that sprouts amidst the rocky cliffs; nourish, bring up, and protect well our children also. Help us, O Lord, to plan in their souls what is good and useful for the Holy Church and the nation, and what is well-pleasing to Thee, that Thy Holy name may be exalted through them. Fill them, O Lord, with the enlightened wisdom and holy understanding which come down from Thee. Protect them from all the snares of enemies both visible and invisible. Command Thine Angels as always to be their enlightened guides and counselors in all good works. We pray Thee, O Lord, to open their minds, that they may know Thee as much as possible."

Amen.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It Is Not the Healthy Who Need a Physician...

With Lent fast approaching (it starts tomorrow), I thought a blog about repentance and sin would be appropriate. I must admit that I’m new at this. I wasn’t raised to tell all my shortcomings to a priest, a friend or even God. In fact, I felt—and this is just what I felt, not what I was taught—that I was supposed to let the past be past. Forget about it and press on. However, this is not what I believe God wants for me. I also don’t believe that He wants extreme guilt followed by periods of penance—fasting, sleeping on the ground, making up for it by being good. These things can be done as a way of preparing my heart to receive from him, preparing the soil for the seeds, but I don’t see them as a way of paying for my sins.

My wife and I have been talking about sin as two things. Not primarily breaking a law, but more like missing the target in archery due to a sickness. Sin is offensive to God, but He does not demand reparations for these offenses. Rather, he sees the ways in which we are wounding ourselves and others and seeks to heal our wounds. I think this is part of why He is called the Great Physician. “He was bruised for our transgressions, pierced for our iniquities…by His stripes we are healed”, it says in Isaiah. “Lord, I have sinned against You, heal my soul”, says the Psalmist. It is healthy (no pun intended) to look at our sins as a sickness in need of healing.

That said, it is hard to see our own sin, to diagnose our illness.

My brother-in-law was sick just recently. He had an unidentifiable spot on his lungs. The doctors had no clue what it was. They gave him no treatment, no prescription. They only knew that something was wrong. Clinical tests were done, an MRI was conducted, but to no avail. They evened it down, I think, to either West Nile or Mono, but neither of these really fit the bill. My brother’s breathing and coughing got worse, the spot seemed to be growing. Then, without treatment or medicine, it slowly began to recede.

I’m using this story as analogy (I use too many of these) for sinful passions. Sometimes, we only see the symptoms. We may search our hearts and minds, the depths of our souls, for the cause of our depression, despair, anxiety, pride, lust, fear, or vanity, but we never find it. Like a breath on a cold morning, it’s there, then it dissipates into seeming nothingness until the next time we start to wallow in self-pity and despair, or worry frantically about the smallest things, or crave women (or men), food or drink to satisfy our bodily desires.

God sees this. He knows intimately how we are made. He made us. He, himself, became man and was “tempted in every way” just as we are, but He never sinned. And it is just that intimacy and freedom from sin that He uses to begin the healing process. We should make every effort to search out, target our sins and present them to God, but there’s no way any one of us could know them all. If you could, you would be overwhelmed.

That’s why God doesn’t expect us to overcome all our sins at once. Rather, at least this has been my experience, he gives us a little to work on each day. I’ve started the discipline of sitting down with a pencil and paper and searching my life for signs of sickness. This is not a time for me to get all guilty and bent out of shape. I ask God to show me my sin so that it can be purged and I can be made well. With this can come a lot of pain. I simply write it down and then move on. I’ve saved some of the pages (ahh!), but I hope to go over them with my Pastor someday soon and tear them all up. There is a time to let the past be past.

The goal in telling all the things I’m most ashamed of is communion with God, His real presence in me each and every moment. He challenges, He convicts, He punishes, but ultimately He does this so the He can heal me and bring me back to Him and to the people and things he has given me to love. This morning I prayed the prayer of Ephrem the Syrian as part of my morning prayer and confession. I’ll leave this blog with a quote of it.

O Lord and Master of my life, do not give to me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power or idle talk,
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, love and patience to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brethren. For blessed are You unto ages of ages. Amen.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tradition



I love Saturday mornings. Let me clarify... I LOVE Saturday mornings. Joe and I began a "pajama Saturday" tradition shortly after we got married. We would sleep in, get up whenever we wanted and stay in our pajamas as long as possible. Usually past noon. Once we woke up we would make pancakes and coffee and lounge around, lazily eating our brunch. This quickly became the highlight of my week.

Then one pajama Saturday while we were enjoying our coffee, I suddenly realized that the smell of coffee made me want to vomit. I had to get rid of the cup that I was holding and sit as far away from Joe's coffee as I could. I knew something was wrong. Soon after we discovered we were pregnant, and 9 wonderful months later we had our sweet baby girl.

We are continuing the pajama Saturday tradition with Azalia too. Though the pancakes usually aren't ready till she's done with her morning nap. Joe and I still eat our brunch lazily and enjoy each other's company while she's sleeping. It's such a nice time for us to relax and connect. We usually don't have many plans Saturday afternoons, so we take our morning slow. Very slow. Which is so good. And even though so much has changed since our very first pajama Saturdays, I can still remember what it felt like back then with hardly any responsibilities and the high of a brand new marriage. When we sit at our table eating our pancakes while our daughter sleeps (most of the time) I feel young again. And when we don't get a pajama Saturday (for whatever reason) my whole week gets thrown off. I feel rushed and not quite as ready to tackle the new week ahead.

Tradition is important. I think we all thrive on some sort of tradition. Every year at Christmas, families have different traditions to celebrate. Once a year, family and friends celebrate the day you were born. We like to look back, remember when special days happened. This is why I really respect the liturgical calendar of the early Church. It just makes sense. We thrive on tradition. As Christians, we should celebrate our history. To know that for thousands of years the Church celebrated certain days and that we too can celebrate with them is unifying.

But I was talking about pajama Saturday, wasn't I? We thrive on tradition. Pajama Saturday is one of the best parts of my week and I love it. What's your favorite tradition?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cupcakes!

This Saturday, as we all know, was valentine's day. I kind of think that V-day is sort of cheesy, but it's also kind of fun. Anyways, Joe and I decided not to do anything major for presents. I thought it was a great reason to bake some cupcakes.



I decided on this recipe: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/double-dark-chocolate-cupcakes-with-peanut-butter-filling because my husband is a lover all things peanut butter and chocolate. I am not the biggest PB/chocolate fan, so I though these were a nice compromise. I was right.

These were very time consuming cupcakes. By the time I made the batter, baked the cakes, made the filling, filled each cupcake, double dipped the tops with chocolate glaze, then made little rosettes with the extra filling on top I had spent over 2 hours in the kitchen. Now, I love baking, but these took much longer than I anticipated. However, the end result was fantastic.



The cupcakes are thick. Very thick. Like I need a gallon a milk to wash this down thick. But I think that's a good thing. The little peanut butter filling in the middle is perfect to offset the richness of the double chocolate taste. These would be too much without the PB. If I make these again I would fill the cupcakes a little more...I think I was so afraid of poking out the bottom of the cupcakes that I did not plunge the star tip in far enough. Also, the PB filling turned out runnier than I anticipated, so my "rosettes" on top of the cupcakes just looked like PB blobs. This might be because I used organic, natural PB, which is very oily. Next time maybe this whole PB scare will be over and I can try it with regular PB.

Overall, I was pleased with these cupcakes. Since the batch made 24, I brought a dozen to work tonight so that Joe and I wouldn't gain 50 pounds by consuming them for breakfast, lunch and dinner until they were gone. One of the comments I received was, "You know the cupcakes are good when you eat the crumbs off your scarf, which I just did." My husband praised them by telling me I had outdone myself. Which is pretty nice, because I've made him a few PB/chocolate goodies in the past. My brother praised me by pretending to choke on it. Which means he really liked it.





Look forward to more cupcake related posts since I'm kind of in a cupcake baking phase right now!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

So...what are you?

I have been asked this question numerous times growing up, and still receive it. No matter how delicately someone asks, the basic gist is, "What are you?". And even though I reply with, "I'm Latina" or "I'm half-Guatemalan" I still wonder sometimes what I really am.

Most Latinos will recognize a little of themselves in me. White people know I'm not completely white. A lot of the kids in New Orleans thought I was Native American. One man in Barnes and Noble was convinced I was Native American. My blood is half-Guatemalan, half-German. Though my father was from Guatemala, I was raised by my white mother. So much of my cultural identity has come from her. In college I took a Chicano literature class that really made me desire to find out more about my heritage. I desire to travel to Guatemala someday to see the city my father grew up in. I have memories from childhood when we lived in a Latino neighborhood in inner-city Chicago and really cherish those memories. They are mostly memories of food we ate, music we listened to...languages spoken.

To be completely honest, I have always felt growing up that something was missing. While I am so grateful to my mother for raising me in a loving home...I wish that she would not have let me lose the ability to speak Spanish. I wish that she would have kept some of the cultural traditions we had in Chicago. I understand why she didn't. When I went to Mexico for the first time to visit my then fiancee, many memories rushed back. I found that by the end of the week I was able to understand what people were saying...though I was nowhere near being able to respond in Spanish. That trip and our honeymoon in Mexico have given me the desire to live in a Spanish-speaking country someday. I have this hunch that if I was immersed in the language that I would be able to speak again. I have a feeling that this ability to speak Spanish would help relieve some of my "cultural homesickness". I know that I can do some things now to learn Spanish. I even took 4 years of Spanish in high school, but it didn't stick. It was extremely easy for me, though. I remember hardly ever having to study. So total immersion it is. I just hope we don't wait till we're 60 to move.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Run for Your Life!

When I was younger I ran everywhere: down to the barn for morning chores at 5 a.m., down our gravel road to the creek filled with rainbow fish and the child-sized culvert we used to crawl through and secretly onto our neighbor’s land, around the bases of our local baseball diamond. It wasn’t until high school that I learned to run measured distances. I ran the 100, 200 and 400 meter dashes. Mostly, I ran these races because they were short and required little exertion on my part. Towards the end of my sophomore year, however, due to slipping grades and an adolescent malaise, my parents asked me to hang up my track cleats. I obliged only slightly begrudgingly. Honestly, track had taken the fun and enjoyment out of running. A round track, even a long one, seems like a cage when compared to the open, muddy fields I used to tromp through with my winter boots in the early morning fog of spring. I used to wear myself out chasing chickens around the coop courtyard, chasing baby goats around the barn, or racing my brother to home plate for a too-close-to-call tag-out play.

This Sunday afternoon, I ran again. Ice and snow were foreboding, but their icy fingers lost their grip. I was elusive. I was the wind and the sunlight and the clouds.

Okay, so I only ran 4 miles, but still. Something inside me came back to life. Today, I read an article on Runner's World about how running can be a spiritual experience; how running can awaken and sharpen your desire to pray. I'm not sure if this is true. I can say that I'm struck with a simple, childlike awe when I spend any large chunk of time outside. That awe is closer to prayer than I sometimes come for a whole week. Delight, utter joy at being alive, thankfulness. These are what come back to life in me. I'm learning to delight in the simple things, the things I've always known: sunlight, snow, music, even work.

It is with this gusto that I begin my attempt at running this year's half-marathon. I haven't signed up yet. I'm the kind of person who wants to be very sure he can do something before really committing to it. Consider this post at least a slight commitment. It's on. Sort of.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

CPSIA

The following blog is from a "blog-in" to get the word out about the CPSIA. It's taken from: http://www.etsy.com/forums_thread.php?thread_id=6013238 Please read and pass it on!

As parents and concerned citizens I’m sure most of us at one time or another have been confronted with the question of lead poisoning. But have you asked yourself what your government is doing to protect your children from lead contained in toys? The answer? They're banning toys, taking books from schools and libraries, hurting low income families, killing entrepreneurial spirit and risking putting the economy in an even greater depression than we've seen in decades. I'd like to introduce you to their solution: the CPSIA.

Do you know about the CPSIA? No? Then I ask you to take a few minutes to find out about it.

The CPSIA stands for Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a new set of laws that will come into effect on 10 February, 2009 and will impact many, many people in a negative way. Make no mistake, this is very real. View it for yourself. If Forbes, the American Library Association and numerous other media are paying attention, perhaps you should too.

How will these new laws affect you? Well, here are a few examples:

To the Parents of Young Students:
Due to the new law, expect to see the cost of school supplies sky rocket. While those paper clips weren't originally intended for your student to use, they will need to be tested now that your 11-year-old needs them for his school project. This law applies to any and all school supplies (textbooks, pencils, crayons, paper, etc.) being used by children under 12.

To the Avid Reader:
Due to the new law, all children's books will be pulled from library and school shelves, as there is no exemption for them. That’s okay though, there's always television. Our children don’t need to learn the love of reading after all.
Article from the American Library Association http://www.wo.ala.org/districtdispatch/?p=1322

To the Lover of All Things Handmade:
Due to the new law, you will now be given a cotton ball and an instruction manual so you can make it yourself since that blanket you originally had your eye on for $50 will now cost you around $1,000 after it's passed testing. It won't even be the one-of-a-kind blanket you were hoping for. Items are destroyed in the testing process making one-of-a-kind items virtually impossible. So that gorgeous hand-knit hat you bought your child this past winter won’t be available next winter.

To the Environmentalist:
Due to the new law, all items in non-compliance will now be dumped into our already overflowing landfills. Imagine not just products from the small business owners, but the Big Box Stores as well. You can't sell it so you must toss it. Or be potentially sued for selling it. You can't even give them away. If you are caught, it is still a violation.

To the Second-Hand Shopper:
Due to the new law, you will now need to spend $20 for that brand new pair of jeans for your 2-year old, rather than shop at the Goodwill for second hand. Many resale shops are eliminating children's items all together to avoid future lawsuits.

To the Entrepreneur:
Due to this new law, you will be forced to adhere to strict testing of your unique products or discontinue to make and/or sell them. Small businesses will be likely to be unable to afford the cost of testing and be forced to close up shop. Due to the current economic state, you'll have to hope for the best when it comes to finding a new job in Corporate America.

To the Antique Toy Collector:
Due to the new law, you'd better start buying now because it's all going to private collection and will no longer be available to purchase. “Because the new rules apply retroactively, toys and clothes already on the shelf will have to be thrown out if they aren't certified as safe.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123189645948879745.html

To the American Economy:
Already struggling under an economy that hasn’t been this weak in decades, the American economy will be hit harder with the inevitable loss of jobs and revenues from suppliers, small businesses and consumers. The required testing is far too costly and restrictive for small businesses or individuals to undertake.

To the Worldwide Economy:
Due to this new law, many foreign manufacturers have already pulled out of the US market. You can imagine the impact of this on their businesses.

If you think this is exaggerating, here is a recent article from Forbes
http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/16/cpsia-safety-toys-oped-cx_wo_0116olson.html

And for those of you prepared to be stupefied and boggled, The New Law
http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsia.html

Did you know? If this upsets or alarms you, please react.

Global Warming: Why Raffi Needs to Chill

It’s been really trendy to talk about global warming and caring for the environment for the past few decades (maybe it’s more than just a trend now). I remember growing up with this music video they showed incessantly on PBS. The lyrics were something like, “One world…We’ve only got…One world. We’ve got to learn to treat our one world like a friend.” The song was led by Raffi or a Raffi wanna-be who was accompanied by children of all races dancing around on this big cartoon earth. I don’t know why this image has stuck with me for so long. Maybe it was just the catchiness of the song. Maybe it was the Utopian, euphoric feelings it evoked then and now; this sense that if we all learn to reduce, reuse, recycle and treat each other well that people, plants and animals will all burst into song and dance in unison through verdant, chartreuse fields with fruit-filled trees swaying in time to the rhythm of our feet shuffling on the fertile ground. This is still an image I cradle in my memory. It brings me back to a time when I lived on a farm, breathed fresh country air, milked goats, collected chicken and duck eggs, picked berries, and slept outside; it was a time when I was wild and free. Sitting here in front of my computer screen, that life seems so far away. My feet are so used to sneakers and dress shoes that tread on carpet, concrete and wood that they’ve forgotten the joy of running barefoot through a yard of dew-soaked grass, squishing mud through my toes and climbing a tree to watch the sunrise. As real as those memories are, I gave up watching Raffi’s music video a long time ago (I can’t even find it on youtube!).

Just recently the National Academy of Sciences released the findings of a study they’ve conducted on global warming. Their conclusion? Global warming is irreversible. No matter what we do, the effects of pollution and emissions will continue to heat the earth for the next 1,000 years. Anyone else feeling a little apocalyptic? That said, the lady who authored the study results said in a recent NPR interview that the best thing we can do is still to reduce waste now. As I see it, for some people this will be akin to a patient who found out he was still going to die after thinking that all the things he was doing to be healthier would eventually cure his disease. At least he might be able to live a little longer if he lays off the potato chips and sugary soda pop. No matter what political persuasion you are, I think the arguments in favor of global warming are pretty convincing. I also think it’s fairly obvious that the wasteful way us more industrialized nations have been living hasn’t had a good effect on the environment. Even if living more responsibly doesn’t do a darn thing to slow or reverse the direction of the current global trend, I still think it’s a good idea.

My wife just wrote about our decision to use cloth diapers. I have to admit that cost was and still is the number one reason we started and are still going on this thing. I like it when the cheapest thing happens to be the most responsible, least wasteful way to do things. However, that’s rarely the case anymore. Generally, the cheaper the sneakers, the more likely they were manufactured in a sweatshop or produced with man-made materials from some emission-heavy factory. What happened to the profession of cobbler? The last time I took my shoes in to be repaired was at the Birkenstock store, and it made me feel like a hippie. This is just one example of the many things we buy, only to use for a short period of time and then discard. I can think of a lot of others.

In a podcast I listened to recently, Clark Carlton discussed how communion bread and wine have a lot to say about who we are as people. Pastors and priests don’t offer up wheat kernels and grapes. They bring things that show our cooperation with what we’ve been given by God. I have a patch of land in the back of my house that’s aching for vegetables and herbs to be planted in it. I have tools and cinder blocks. I have paper and pens and pencils. I have a drum set and sticks and other instruments. I have uncooked rice, lentils, pintos, and many canned and fresh foods lying dormant in the kitchen. All these things are things about which I would like to say, as the Orthodox liturgy says, “Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee.” For this to happen my conclusion (again!) is personal responsibility (this might be my mantra for rest of the year). However, with snow and ice on the ground, and lethargy still keeping me congealed, what can I do now by grace to start moving? Maybe I should get back to work.