Thursday, August 30, 2007

Great Homeschooling Post

My friend Cheryl wrote a great post that describes very clearly one of the main reasons why I choose to homeschool. Since she said it so well, I thought you might like to take a look.

My Apologies

Lately, I haven't felt much like blogging. I think it is weather-related. I've noticed over the last year of blogging that my brain activity is very affected by the weather. During the summer I blog like crazy and over things like theology, politics, and other such interests (I actually have a list of things that I want to write about, but the words aren't coming). That's how my life is, too. I read a lot during the summer, and I don't knit. I want a book in my hand. Knitting is a mood soother for me -- and I need that less in the Summer. I follow baseball. I am more eager for social interaction.

I notice every year, when it starts cooling down and rains more (like it has over the past few weeks...lots and lots of rain), my focus completely changes, or maybe I just lose my focus. I've been more interested in staring at leaves. I get more cranky. I get more tired. I start looking at knitting patterns. It is wierd for me that this is starting in August. But I think that every year I've been in Indiana, the feeling has started in August. And yes, I did get this way in Southern California, too, but its not as dramatic.

I've been more into storing things least I think that is the instinct that I am following. I've been better at cooking and making kefir and kombucha; not to mention salsa, sauerkraut, kim-chi, and all the other things that I lacto ferment. I've been picking up the house more, and have been grumpier when people mess it up. I've made soup twice. And chicken stew once. Those are winter foods for me.

I'm getting better at improving our family's diet. I'm staying away from the carbs and artificial junk more and eating things that I know are helping my health. I'm drinking raw milk, drinking some of the kefir and beet kvass and I've noticed that I am not getting sick as I usually do when there are weather changes.

But aside from the normal weather things, I know I am putting a LOT of energy into the diet changes. That is another thing that amazes me about now. I think the kombucha and kefir are helping, because usually what really ruins me completely when I try to adjust my diet is I immediately get sick. Then I want my comfort foods. My throat hurts, and nothing feels better on a sore throat than a soft drink (not to mention I was raised on drinking it instead of water). I don't feel good, so then I give up with cooking and doing dishes (the major obstacle) and go to Taco Bell on the way to Wal-Mart to pick up another bottle of Zicam.

But aside from that, when I make a change in lifestyle, which is really what it is for me to stay away from fast food, lower and eliminate my Diet Pepsi intake, and cook and prepare good foods -- all my energy and concentration have to go into that. So blogging is one of those things that gets forgotten.

So have patience with me. I will be back.

And since, as I said, my attention is focused on this, my friend Designated Knitter (a fellow soldier in the battle for weight loss and health) and I have decided to start a blog chronicling our journey on this. We haven't come up with a title yet, but it is in the works, and I will let you know more about it in the next few days or so.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Part of the Whole

Three years ago, I worked as a field interviewer for a pretest of a research study with the University of Chicago on a groundbreaking study called the National Social-Life Health and Aging Project. The Summer before last was the main part of the study, and I was honored to be a part of that, too.

The results are starting to be released. Apparently the data that had to do with sexual behavior and attitudes has been released in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Here is an article that talks about it.

Now, the whole study wasn't on sexuality amongst the elderly, though that data was high priority because really so little is known and so much is assumed that sex life just dwindles into nothingness at some point in life and ceases to be important. Only "The Golden Girls" has really suggested any different. Sexuality questions probably encompassed about 1/4 of the study as a whole. But it was important. At training, Dr. Lindau talked about how when she was a medical student, her professors stated that all health questions, including sexual questions should be asked of all patients as part of the typical assessment, but she noticed that when they were actually observing patient visits, they avoided the questions about sexual history or activity when the patient was elderly. When Dr. Lindau started asking her elderly patients, she found they were pretty relieved to be asked and to have those concerns addressed.

Although it was my first time as a field interviewer, I worked with many other field interviewers who had done this for a long time -- some of them 30 or more years. Even the most experienced had never worked on anything like this. They were amazed at how long, intense, thorough, and involved the questionaire was, and it also involved taking biomarkers. We carted around a whole suitcase of equipment. Most didn't think respondents would go for it, but as the article stated, there was a high rate of participation. Nothing like it has ever been done, and it was completely fascinating.

As I said, sexuality was only one aspect of the study. Mental, physical, emotional, social, and medical categories were assessed. The data on those will probably be released in the near future as well. And, being a longitudinal study, there will be more coming up. It wasn't just another sex study, only this time involving "old folks."

I was a little disappointed that this journalist decided to bring in Dr. Ruth and the Kinsey Institute. The study was not affiliated in either way with either, and either one tends to not be very respected amongst the general public. The chief purpose was to let doctors, family, clergy, and other caregivers have insight into the various aspects of health in the elderly, from their perspective. I was impressed with the thought and detail that went into it. It was meticulously designed and carried out, and years of effort went into making it so. It had to be well done, considering the sheer magnitude of the project.

It was bizarre reading an article about it though and recalling my experiences and knowing that my work, as well as a multitude of others, is coming to fruition now two years later. I was just a small cog in the process (though the cog that came into contact with the actual people being studied). It just might change how the elderly, including you and me someday, are treated regarding concerns in so many different areas of life.

A contest, a contest!!!

My friend Deb, a quilter, is trying to generate traffic to her blog to demonstrate her wares. Right now she is showing some awesome purses (that she is giving away in a contest to people who advertise her blog and her website). I am not normally a purse person, but I am starting to realize that my functionality is suffering due to my insistence on not having I REALLY NEED one Deb!!!

so the pages are:


Go check her out!

Monday, August 20, 2007

What Bothers Me About the Ending to Harry Potter


I am discussing the ending to Harry Potter and the Seven Deathly Hallows, so if you don't want to know what it is, then go read another blog....NOW.

Many people are going back and forth arguing whether the Harry Potter series is Christian and whether Harry is a Christ Figure like Aslan clearly is in Narnia. After reading the last book, it is evidently clear that this is what Rowling intends.

While we've pretty much always known that Harry and Voldemort would have to face off at the end, it is revealed in the last chapters that Dumbledore always knew that in order for Voldemort to be destroyed, Harry would have to die at the hands of Voldemort. When Harry learns this, he goes alone to face a waiting Voldemort, who is surrounded by his Deatheater henchmen. Without defending himself at all or uttering a word, Harry allows Voldemort to kill him (there is A LOT of really good plot wrapped up in this, but I am cutting it down to the bare bones).

Harry then wakes up in a very white hall where Dumbledore waits. Harry asks where he is, and Dumbledore replies "I was hoping you would tell me." And Harry recognizes it as Kings Cross Station, only very white and pure. I am sure there is symbolism in that choice of location. (Other than that, it reminded me of every other out of body movie-type experience ever since "Heaven Can Wait.") But the conversation is very good and Dumbledore reveals quite a lot to Harry.

In the course of this conversation, Dumbledore lets Harry know that Harry isn't dead and that while he has a choice in the matter, he should return to once more face off against Voldemort.

So Harry wakes up on the floor of the forest. When Voldemort's spell struck Harry, it also knocked out Voldemort. Harry pretends to be dead, and the one person who knows, Narcissa Malfoy, feels his beating heart, lies and proclaims that Harry is dead after Harry assures her with a quiet whisper that her son is alive at Hogwarts.

Voldemort and the Deatheaters march into Hogwarts carrying Harry's limp body, the conquering and triumphant army. But what puzzles Voldemort is that the people continue to still rail against him. When he casts spells to silence or harm them, they don't hold, despite having the most powerful wand in the world. Harry and Voldemort face off, and Harry explains everything to Voldemort, including why Voldemort's new wand won't work - because when Harry died for the lives of the people there, the same charm that protected him all of these years--that his mother had willingly died to protect him, protected those fighting against Voldemort from any lasting harm. Harry calls him to repent or "try feeling a little remorse" but instead Voldemort again tries to kill Harry, but the spell glances off of Harry's and returns to kill Voldemort.

My problem. When Voldemort killed Harry, Harry didn't die.

Now I don't know if that should bother me, because after all, Frodo didn't die in Lord of the Rings so it doesn't have to be quite so literal (but then again, while Frodo destroyed the ring, he was really not the Christ figure), and as Pastor Stuckwich points out, it is a different world, going by different rules.

But this is why it strikes me so hard. Rowling herself lists C.S. Lewis and Tolkien as her major influences, and that is clear in her work. In fact, I can't read the scene where Harry goes before Voldemort without noticing how similar it seems to the scene where Aslan surrenders himself to be destroyed by the White Witch. But Aslan did die and rise again.

Dumbledore and Harry himself make it clear that Harry never died. When Harry explains what happened to Voldemort, Voldemort even retorts: "But you didn't die." and Harry tells him that it didn't matter. It was enough that he was willing to.

That bothers me....a lot.

Especially in today's world with the liberal church proclaiming this all the time.

And while the Bible has examples of people being resurrected after dying, in Harry's world, it is clear from the ghosts that are present and the reality of how the resurrection stone worked, there is no place for the dead to really live reeks "swoon theory" to me. This is the belief that Christ didn't really die, because he couldn't come back if he did. He passed out on the cross and revived in the tomb.

The books are full of Christian symbolism pertaining to baptism, crosses, the battle between good and evil. The moral positions are even stronger, but morality does not have to be Christian. I think she does make a very pronounced point regarding how if we ignore evil for the sake of keeping the peace and avoiding discomfort, even stronger evil will completely engulf us.

I have not read anything pertaining to Rowling's belief in the resurrection, and according to Wikipedia, she belongs to the Church of Scotland, which has a takes a strong position of tolerance of various theological beliefs regarding God and Scripture.

Now my husband, who has not read one of the books of this series, did point out that many Christian authors who create a Christ-like character cannot bring themselves to desecrate, per se, Christ by taking their character all the way through death and resurrection. I sincerely hope that is the case here, and to be fair, she only tried to portray Harry as a typical teenage boy with a huge burden, not perfect and powerful like Aslan.

But with all the build up to Harry's necessary death and then the statement that it was only enough to be willing to die, I still am left to wonder. And so in the end, after eight years of eagerly following the stories, all that I am left with is doubt and speculation about what was the author was truly trying to say, and I still can't conclusively answer the question, "is it Christian?" I mean REALLY Christian.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Gardening, The Rebellious Way

I am a pathetic gardener.

Yesterday I went out to my little vegetable garden plot outside my fence (because wild rabbits are less of a risk than my dog), and the little 7x7 plot was absolutely covered with these 3 to 4 feet tall bushy plants and morning glories (or chokeweed....I can't tell the difference, but they climb up plants and there are pretty white flowers)

In my defense, there is a reason for why my garden is such complete chaos, I mean other reasons besides lack of time, laziness,and hatred of mosquitoes and the heat (I would be a great gardener in San Diego). The reason is this: I am just utterly fascinated with the fact that things WANT to grow here. I grew up in the desert, and the only things that grew on their own were spurge, sagebrush, and crabgrass...and even those were kind of puny and withered.

When we moved here, it was at the end of September. When Spring finally hit, I was in complete awe. Daffodils surprised me by popping their heads out of the snow, and then the hostas came up in a circle around our tree, and then the lambs ears showed up. Every day was a new wonder. Things didn't have to be planted every year, vigorously fertilized, and watered every day for fear of burning up. On the other hand, things that were perennial in Nevada or California, weren't necessarily perennial here. I simply couldn't bring myself to weed because I just wanted to see what would come up next and I was still figuring out what was a weed and what wasn't (that and I was chasing around Maggie, the 1 year old human cyclone).

There are fewer surprises now, but still there are. I will admit, I simply left the baby Queen Anne's Lace in my front flower bed because I just like the way they look...and I've really never seen them spread and grow to over 4 feet tall before! So note for next year: they get scraggly. But right now, they actually look charming with the daisies and echinacea (rightful tenants) peeping through.

My vegetable garden is the same way. You see, that first year, when I cleared the patch out that was left to me, it was thoroughly dominated by onions-gone-wild and lemon balm (which also brought delight and opportunities for culinary experimentation by my son - and oh, what an aromatic delight to weed!), besides the things I planted, new things grew. When I cleared those out, the plants that grew wild in it were completely different than the ones that had been dominant before I cleared it (I even inadvertently let a couple of trees start growing on one end).

This Spring, thanks to the "contributions" of my beloved pet rabbits, the grass thrived in my garden like it did nowhere else in my actual lawn. I ripped it out and started planting vegetables...but I left a few morning glories (or chokeweed, whichever). And to be fair, I only left them in the part of the patch that I hadn't cultivated yet. And despite my knowing that they could be a bit difficult, I was utterly fascinated at how they thrived. There had been one or two plants there amidst the other weeds the year before, but now they completely took over and cover the ground in a carpet of lush green, and really, they are beautiful.

So last night, I looked at my sorry excuse of a vegetable garden and decided it was time to clear out some things, and this leads to my other fascination.....I started pulling out the 3 foot tall mystery plants (not morning glories, they had these thick stalks with red streaks on them) and underneath them was this beautiful, clear, deep brown soil. I so LOVE that (its also gratifying to pull up one plant and voila- have a 2 square foot patch completely much for getting them when they are small!). Soil, where I grew up was nonexistent unless you purchased it from the store, and the dirt was light beige and powdery (and caused agony and exfoliation when the wind blew). The "contributions" that my rabbits have made to the garden have definitely helped the clay-like consistency here, but that chocolate colored soil is just gorgeous.

I've found that there have been three benefits to my gardening this way, and I'll leave out "doesn't require constant exertion on my part" as one of those reasons (I'm coming to terms with the fact that I just don't do consistency well - I do much better with activities that require sudden bursts of energy and then periods of complete neglect).

1. It feeds my wonder and keeps the little kid in me alive.

2. The morning glories have made a wonderful living mulch - protecting the soil and besides that, have prevented anything else that is harder to weed from growing. Those 3 foot tall plants, whatever they were, came out easily and did the same thing. Now I have a space for plants for a fall harvest.

3. It actually protects the actual vegetable plants that I have in there, even from me. When I started clearing out, I realized "oh yeah, I did plant peppers. And since there had been so little rain, they seemed like they were in the post-fertilization phase, but hadn't actually grown the peppers voila...wonder renewed.

I also have made some improvements in my actual gardening ability this year. Over half the plants I bought made it in the ground this year (I could kick myself that the asparagus didn't). I also managed to buy insecticidal soap this year at the food co-op, and actually managed to use it before my cabbages were completely devoured. The tomatoes actually will get staked today! And I did manage to diagram the first few rows that I planted before my gardening journal was taken over by knitting projects, so I could look and see that those 3 foot mystery plants probably weren't the peas that I planted there (besides, I'd seen those wither in the heat back in May) These are BIG improvements for me.

Maybe someday I'll be a serious gardener, but for now I'm having a lot of fun.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

It starts

My 10 and 3/4 year old son's I-Pod Nano came today.

I feel like I should be saying "My son started puberty, today."

He scrimped and saved for it for the last several months (doing a much better job than me, however, I am trying to feed four people, and I still am the one who keeps him clothed). I'm really proud of him. He decided that a refurbished one would suit him just fine and so he bought it and also bought a gift card so that he could purchase songs. That came two days ago. He's been working on his playlists ever since.

Now music has gained a stronger focus in the house. Now we have one more reason to compete with each other for the computer, since it seems he is forever wanting access to ITunes. When I holler for him, I can't be sure he hears me. On the bright side, Maggie can toot on her recorder without him getting irritated.

And oh my goodness, these things are tiny!!! He's going around like I did with the oh so cool Walkman when I was just a year or so older than him, but wow, these things are simply miniscule! Other MP3 players are even smaller, but there is something that just seems light and delicate about these!!

I shouldn't be complaining. You should see his playlist. Beethoven and Mozart, hymnody, a few pop songs, and still some of the children's songs of his youth (John Lithgow and the Muppets...but those are also, considerately, for his sister....but if they are "just for his sister," how come I hear him singing them all the time?)

My little boy is growing up.

And his mom wants an I-Pod.

Theological Inconsistencies

I love the Colbert Report.

But as funny as it often is, I am not ignorant of the fact that it is a show that uses humor to try to push a liberal agenda, and I am sure that as with The Daily Show, it will become more painful and angering to watch as we get closer to the election year.

I was watching yesterday afternoon, and they were playing a rerun of a recent show where Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was promoting her book Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches are Mixing God and Politics and Losing Their Way. She stated that her main point was that the church has become too concerned with the three issues of abortion, homosexuality, and stem-cell research, and has forgotten the feeding of the poor and helping those who are hurting.

What really caught my attention is that she said "Nowhere does the Bible talk about abortion, gay marriage, or stem-cell research. Nowhere in the Bible is stem-cell research specifically mentioned, but caring for the poor is." She put A LOT of emphasis on the fact that these three issues are not mentioned by name, yet the evangelical church has rallied around them.

From there, Stephen Colbert quoted a verse that I cannot find specifically find. It had components of Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:24-28, regarding homosexuality, but mentioned God putting them to death, which I cannot find. Leviticus says they shall be cast out, and Romans says they "receive in themselves the penalty of the error that is due them."

Townsend got this knowing look on her face and proceeded to explain how there were issues back then that were different than now and should be treated differently. She used slavery as an example, saying that there were verses in the Bible that seem pro-slavery, but our fathers during the Civil War understood that the Bible was for freedom and justice.

A person could've gotten whiplash just listening to how quickly she went from "Christians shouldn't be dealing with issues that the Bible doesn't literally speak about" to the completely opposite stance of "we don't take the verses literally that are there."
Now, the author's view is that Christians in the churches need to stay in their churches and be active in insisting that the churches return to the role of caring for the poor and having mercy on them. The book description states: "individual actions can return our churches to their traditional role as shepherds to their flock. "

Kennedy-Townsend's first error is this: the main role of the church is to administer the Word and the Sacraments. That is - it is to faithfully preach and teach the Word of God faithfully to her people and to grant the forgiveness of sins through the Bible, Holy Baptism, and Holy Communion. The main purpose of the Church is to nourish its believers in the one true faith. Then it can go on to providing for the needs of believers and unbelievers alike, as they are led by God.

The Church holds to God's Word, and if there is something in our society that is so clearly against God's Word then we are supposed to proclaim that it is wrong, and we definitely as a body of believers, are not supposed to embrace it, but to do what we can to counteract it. Killing helpless babies in the womb of its mother is destroying God's creation, and Scripture does speak to it. Psalm 139: 14-16, for one place - it talks about how God regards us as precious even when he was knitting us together. And to prey on our unborn children in the name of science is just a further descent into that evil.

That is not to say that we should focus ONLY on these things, but the idea that the church is fixated on these issues to the exclusion of all else (even the politicized evangelical movement) was a brazen exaggeration on her part, as well. And to indicate that there is no relationship with our faith and what we do with our bodies, especially when it goes against the Scripture is also a convenient lie. The Bible is clear that if we are wilfully rejecting Scripture, we are willfully rejecting God, and you can feed all the poor in the world, but if that only comes from the figurative goodness of your heart and not from a desire to serve the God who considered sin to be so serious that sent His only Son to die on the cross because it was the only thing that could destroy sin's hold on us -- then we are still damned to Hell.

We fight for the babies because they are being denied the chance to be baptized, to hear God's Word and be saved. They cannot fight for themselves. We fight against the normalizing of homosexuality because God's word doesn't just call it a sin, but call it an abomination and specifically says that is not what man was meant to do.

Something Kennedy Townsend doesn't acknowledge is that it is because of a desire for mercy that we speak out against these things. We want to bring healing and God's forgiveness to those who have had abortions. We want to bring healing to those who seek to have relationships that are outside of God's order, because we do not believe that this is good for their everlasting souls. And we do not want to see a culture that is joyous and glorious fall apart because they prey on their own young. We seek to show God's love, but we cannot do so without pronouncing God's judgement.

And we fight against these evils because we cannot quote God's Word as authority in one instance, and expect to have anything to stand on when in the next breath we say that it is irrelevant.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Loopers Gathering Together

Cheryl over at A Round Unvarnish'd Tale posted some great pics of our Martin Loopers get together in Chicago this weekend. Many thanks to Cheryl, Suzanne, and Lori for putting it together. There's nothing like getting together with confessional Lutheran homeschoolers, and Cheryl does a good job of explaining why we are so close to each other, too, despite having our main connection with each other be our email list and our blogs.

Since I was driving farther, the Magnesses were gracious enough to open their home to us, and we had a wonderful time.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Just Call Me Miss Eliza....not Lizzy

Thanks to Jane for finding this quiz - My favorite book and my favorite character of all time.

You scored as Elizabeth Bennet, As one of Austen's most beloved characters, Elizabeth Bennet represents what most women would like to become: strong, independent, and loyal. Of course, she has her faults including a stubborn will of iron and a clinging to first impressions. Overall, Lizzie is bright and lovable...something to admire and aspire to.

Elizabeth Bennet


Elinor Dashwood


Jane Bennet


Emma Woodhouse


Marianne Dashwood


Charlotte Lucas


Lady Catherine


Which Jane Austen Character are You? (For Females) Long Quiz!!!
created with

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Slight Journey into the World of Baseball

First of all - Barry Bonds

The Dodgers were the team that the Giants hit "The Shot Heard Round the World," Barry Bonds has already broken several records while his team was playing ours. We are not going to go out of the way to plant one down the middle so that he can send out of the park against US. We are arch-rivals for goodness sake!!! And when we did intentionally walk him last night (once, mind you)-- that was not meant to be a barrier to the record (he isn't hitting well right now anyway). That was meant to be good strategy. There were two men on base and the game was tied. You don't pitch to the power hitter in cases such as those!! The Giants are playing for Barry Bonds. We are in contention for the playoffs.

Point two - I've been thinking a lot about Scott Boras. I try not to. But when at one time, the team you follow had 13 of his clients and Boras was helping make day to day management decisions, as was the case in the first part of the century (wow, that makes it sound like SO long ago. I wish! I had to restrain myself from referring to the new millinium).....anyway, you notice a lot when that is the case.

With the exception of a couple of players (Greg Maddux and Eric Gagne - who despite what else you can say, did not fit into the Boras model of clients - both give it everything they've got, as long as their bodies will cooperate) , most of Boras's players ALWAYS have a couple of really crummy years before their contract year. You hear the sportswriters commenting on how Adrian Beltre just isn't living up to his potential, or A-Rod is being heckled by the fans. Then lo and behold, they finally "break out" in a big way during their contract year. They are finally realizing their potential. Then, right after they get that big contract -- BAM, they slow it down again for a while. They are good enough to remind you how good they CAN be, but not good enough to actually make you feel like they are earning their money (oh, and then they are playing under the weight of that huge contract and are having a hard time with the pressure of that.)

I might be wrong, but I have seen it so many times that I would not be startled to find this a legitimate part of the Boras contract strategy. Whenever I hear this happening with a player, the next thing I listen for is if he is a Boras client. It is completely normal for a player to turn it up a notch during a contract year (don't we around raise time?), but his clients seem to have mastered the phenomenon to epic proportions.

So my advice to the general managers out there, including the nutcase Yankees....If you think you are going to get $30 million a year's worth of production from A-Rod, I think you need to look at the previous 6 years and Boras's clients are not playing for your team, they are playing for a VERY comfortable retirement.