Category Archives: Uncategorized

Giant T.V. Boxes

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A Good Backyard circa 1960

My husband has recently been hired by a major airline. This means we will eventually move from our beloved little town, far from an interstate, to the inevitable matrix of commercialism, toll roads, and bustle inherently found near major airports. I am trying real hard not to think about this too much, so I am concentrating on getting excited about finding a house and neighborhood that I like. One with charm, neighborly goodwill, and an abundance of green spaces.

This is harder than you think. What I am finding is that most homes these days are designed for a lifestyle that does not fit our family. As I plow through online photos of houses for sale, I am continually floored by both the size and number of t.v.s found in homes these days. Page after page of living rooms with recesses built specifically for oversized t.v.s, replacing the built-in bookcases that used to be preferred. There are t.v.s in kitchens, bathrooms, even garages. Predictably, any home built after 1990 follows a formula based around current values. As I look at the architectural changes and general house-to-yard ratio from the early 30s homes to now, I see proof in how much our values have changed.

Square Feet
As our families have shrunk in both size and co-habiting generations, our houses have grown. Tremendously. 1,200 sq. feet used to be sufficient to raise a family of 6. Now, 3,000 sq. feet is a must. For a family of 4. No matter what this says about our attitude towards children, one thing is clear. We like our stuff. We need bigger houses to hold more stuff. We prefer exercise equipment to a walk outdoors. We need closets the size of bedrooms to hold our clothes, shoes, and purses. Our kitchens must be able to accommodate every gadget Pampered Chef ever made, yet I would bet the average family eats out more often than it cooks! And, of course, we need more space for t.v.s and the couches that must accompany them. Personally, I don’t want that much house to clean! Whew! It tires me out just thinking about it. But, then again, if your kids are glued to the t.v., they don’t make that much of a mess.

Windows
Don’t worry. Windows have not gone away. New homes have windows. I just have noticed that the placement is different. The windows are designed now to catch light. This is not a bad thing. Countless homes I have viewed have these gorgeous windows flanking the fireplaces t.v. alcoves. These windows run clear up to the second story. Stunning. But what is lacking are windows that afford a good view of the backyard and side yards. Bedrooms seem to favor high windows. Picture windows are out. Besides, those pesky windows, if placed low, interfere with the t.v. armoire placement.

Backyards, or lack of them
Why do you need low windows when there is nothing to look out upon? Why a picture window when you are only gazing upon a fence? Or a neighbor’s air conditioning unit? We have sacrificed green spaces and trees and a yard to accommodate all of that living space we seem to need. Never mind if you enjoy breakfast on the patio. Or that the kids have no where to build a fort, play war (hear the collective sucking in of breath), or toss a ball. We need the space to build a game room so the Game Cube playing doesn’t interfere with the big t.v. in the living room.

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A Bad Backyard circa 2000

The Great Room Concept
I’m not talking about a kitchen that is open to a family room. I renovated my 1930s servant’s kitchen to remove a swinging door with the precise purpose of opening up my kitchen. I am talking about these cavernous rooms that have open kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, and even open balconies to include the second story. I assume this is so everyone can keep an eye or ear on American Idol, even while going about their other activities. This would drive me crazy. In a homeschooling family, quiet, private space is a premium. Besides, who wants to see the dirty dishes stacked in the sink and glasses left out on the counter from all angles of the house? Oh, wait, that’s what fast food is for!

Image over Substance
My last frustration with current values is the lack of quality in construction materials. Something has to give when building such enormous homes, so I suppose real wood takes a back seat to fiberboard. Trimwork has almost disappeared. The front of a home may have brick, but certainly not the sides. And these are homes that are not inexpensive! I guess that as long as the house looks good from the street it doesn’t really matter what the inside looks like. Besides, no one will notice when must-see t.v. is on.

I know that I sound a little bitter, but seeing how our homes have been turned into giant t.v. boxes, I can’t help but worry about our future generations. Will they appreciate nature? Will they know how to have a conversation? What are the effects of surrogate parenting with Nickelodeon? We are already seeing a massive decline in the physical health of our children. Their thumb muscles are well-developed, and a few gifted ones may put that to good use by becoming excellent surgeons, but those will be the exceptions. Who will know the joys of curling up in a quiet corner and reading a book? Who will remember watching the habits of birds through a bird feeder placed outside a low window? All of these things endure, many years after the names of the American Idols have long been forgotten.

I suppose we will be looking in neighborhoods built in the pre-entertainment era. I want a backyard! A big one! I want bookshelves! A window seat! A cozy kitchen! A house big enough to find a good place to read a book, but small enough that we don’t need intercoms to hear each other. Anyone have a house like that they want to sell? Of course you don’t. You’re not budging. Is that why I only see the giant t.v. boxes for sale? *sigh*

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Filed under Babies & Kids, Homeschooling, Thoughts, Uncategorized

‘Meat’ for your Good Friday

I hope you read this in it’s entirety. It is a beautiful thing to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

This comes from St. John Chrysostom’s catechumenate (new believer) instruction. St. John Chrysostom was born in 347 A.D. Thanks to the Rev. David Chalk for editing this quote unto 21st. century readability. I was inspired to repeat it here after hearing it in his Maundy Thursday sermon.

If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of what took place in Egypt where Christ’s blood is foreshadowed. “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish,” Moses commanded, “and sprinkle its blood on your doors.”

Moses said, “Sacrifice a lamb without a blemish and smear the doors with its blood.” What does this mean? Can the blood of a sheep without reason save men endowed with reason? Yes, Moses replies, not because it is blood but because it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. So today if the devil sees, not the blood of the sign smeared on the doorposts, but the true blood smeared on the lips of the faithful, which are the doors of the temple of Christ, with all the more reason will he draw back.

If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ had died, but was still hanging on the cross, the soldier came and pierced his side with the spear and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy Eucharist. When that soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews slaughtered the victim as a sacrifice and I gathered the fruit of that sacrifice—salvation. I have been saved by it.

“There flowed from his side water and blood.” Dearly beloved, do not pass over this mystery without reflection; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy Eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: “by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit,” i.e., by baptism and by the holy Eucharist. Now the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ formed the Church, as he had formed Eve from the side of Adam.

Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!” As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.

Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself? Have you seen with what kind of food he feeds us? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and fed. As a woman forms and feeds her child with her own blood and milk, so too does Christ continuously feed those whom he has begotten with his own blood— so too does Christ continuously feed those to whom he himself has given life.

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Filed under Giving Thanks, His Banner over Me, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Some really great music

For years, my friends have had to listen to me complain about contemporary Christian music. Much of the time, it’s SO CHEESY. I can’t stand about 95% of it. This gets me some raised eyebrowns from time to time, as if to say “Is she really a Christian? How can she say that?”

But, really, have you listened to it closely? Why do Christians have to dumb down our music? To hear singers re-create a Brittney Spears sound and somehow “sanctify” it by the lyrics just doesn’t work for me. Quality and beauty should be a major goal of any artist, and as Christians, we should never forget it.

Last year, a musician, Nathan Clark George, appeared in town for a couple of small church concerts and I bought a few CDs. I loved his music. He categorizes himself as an acoustic/folk artist. The thing I love about his music is that it is real. He writes about all of life from a Christian worldview and let’s it be that. He doesn’t try for a “Christian” song…they just are because that is who he is.

The guitar, mandolin, violin, fiddle, and cello playing on his Slam the Door CD are phenomenal. My favorite song is “Feels so Foreign.” Besides the soulful violin playing, I like how the lyrics are an honest struggle with Scripture. He knows that the Word is true but the thought of not being married still to his wife in heaven makes heaven “feel so foreign” to him. I love the authenticity.

Check out his website and listen to a few of his songs. You can also listen and rate one of his Scripture songs on the indieheaven site. If you’re like me and cringe from Christian radio , or even if you love Christian radio but appreciate an acoustic/folk sound, you won’t be disappointed.

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Filed under Music, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Left-Brain/Right-Brain Fun


You Are 40% Left Brained, 60% Right Brained


The left side of your brain controls verbal ability, attention to detail, and reasoning.
Left brained people are good at communication and persuading others.
If you’re left brained, you are likely good at math and logic.
Your left brain prefers dogs, reading, and quiet.
The right side of your brain is all about creativity and flexibility.
Daring and intuitive, right brained people see the world in their unique way.
If you’re right brained, you likely have a talent for creative writing and art.
Your right brain prefers day dreaming, philosophy, and sports.

Are You Right or Left Brained?

I am always a sucker for these quizzes.   I found the question “Are you better at geometry or algebra?”  a hard one to answer….duh…neither?  Overall though, it seems to fairly accurate for me. To find out for yourself, click the link above.

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Filed under Question and Answer, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Irene

My grandmother, Irene, passed away the last week of December and since then, my mind has been filled with memories of her. Actually, I wouldn’t say filled. The memories have come back more like a dripping faucet. One at a time, but steady.

She was the prototypical unsung hero, a hardworking mother of 4 surviving girls and plain wife, born in a covered wagon to poor migrant farmers in the first part of the last century. She took naps on cotton sacks as a girl, and remembered being paid a penny a row in peanut fields. “A long row,” she said.

Her father was a harsh man and her mother, from what I could glean, was kind and practical. Something happened in my grandmother’s past that left her with a mistrust of men for the rest of her life, which eventually destoyed her marriage, although my father and my husband, along with her grandsons, helped to change her mind a little on this. I can still remember her not letting me ride my bike outside my suburban home when she was babysitting me once. “You never know what kind of pervert might pick you up.” At the time, I thought she was silly, but I find myself telling my own children “No” for the same reason these days.

My best memories of her come from when I used to stay at her house as a child. Like most children, my memories center strongly around food. She wasn’t known for being a cook, but she could make the best fried potatoes around. I can still see her standing by the stove, the smell of gas in the air, watching the blue flame heat up the cast iron pan, and hear the sizzling of the potatoes in the hot oil. The edges were always crispy and browned perfectly. She would often add onions to the potatoes. I think this is where I learned to love a good, carmelized onion.

It was always a good thing to eat her fried potatoes for dinner, because you knew the next morning you would be eating Special K with powdered milk. I guess she always had powdered milk around because she preferred to drink buttermilk.

Another good memory was her shower. My grandma kept the cleanest shower I’ve ever seen, even when she was well into her 80s. All she used was baking soda, too. She always had a big dish of Dove soap and a bath brush. I think it was the only time I ever used a bath brush. I never have really understood those. But now that I think about it, they were probably pretty important when you spent all day in a peanut field. I cannot smell Dove to this day without thinking about her.

I also loved to sleep in her bed. Once, she bought a brand new couch, and boy, was she proud of it, but she kept it covered in big, thick, plastic. I hated sleeping on that and would beg to sleep with her in her bed. Sometimes she let me. I remember she had a big sliding glass door in her bedroom. There was a bright mercury lamp outside that kept me awake. Awake, that is, until she came to bed. She was quite a large lady at the time (all those fried potatoes!), so when she climbed into bed and turned on her side, she blocked the light just right for me. I would roll right into “the cleft of the rock” and fall fast asleep.

At her funeral, one of my cousins spoke up, and mentioned that, being her second oldest grandchild, he always felt a special connection with her. I chuckled a little to myself. I would guess that all 11 of us felt like we were her favorite. The more my cousins reflected on their memories of Grandma, the more I realized we shared the same favorite moments with her. What an accomplishment. She managed to love us all unconditionally and accept whatever love – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot – we could give back with equal grace.

These memories have been sweet. There are so many more I wish to share, and I may, over the coming weeks. None of them describe a grand moment, just the little simple things in life, like taking a walk, or looking at her new dish towels, or picking tiny strawberries growing in her garden. She was a simple soul and she has taught me more than I realized in her simple way. Thank you, Grandma.

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Filed under Giving Thanks, Thoughts, Uncategorized

It’s January 12th, do you know where your Christmas decorations are?

Mine are still out…tree is crunchy but still up with all the ornaments on, garland in place, creches still out, kissing ball still hanging, wreath on my door, etc., etc.

Anyone else with me?

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Filed under Homemaking&Cooking, Uncategorized

Meal Planning

I never realized how much useless brain energy I used up daily to make dinner until I started meal planning. After I began, I also realized how much money I had wasted on rotten produce forgotten in the netherlands of my fridge. I think I probably save $200 a month or more by planning my meals in advance.

But, like many things in my life, I am inconsistent in my monthly plans. One month, I’ll have a plan that I follow with spectacular results, but if I get behind another month and don’t start planning right away, I just wing it until I get it together for the next time.

I am not into New Year’s resolutions, but I do feel the need to reorganize this time of year. I found a meal planning website that I am going to try. Menus4Moms is a free monthly meal planner. One thing I like is that the planner reminds you to chop and saute a ton of onions and freeze the extras for another meal. She is always thinking ahead, something that I am prone NOT to do. She is also realistic, and will incorporate left-overs into the subsequent meals. I will, of course, have to substitute and make them gluten-free, but I am excited to let someone else do my thinking for me! I’ll let you know how it goes!

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Filed under Celiac/Gluten-Free Stuff, Homemaking&Cooking, Uncategorized