microbes, et. al.

I don't know about you, but I have been in love with Giant Microbes for years.  One year I selected a microbe to add to the stockings for each of my family members.  I currently own Stomach Ache, to no great surprise of anyone who knows me at all.

Each comes with a card that shows a photo of the actual microbe in action, and a description of the history/significance of the ailment.

When I first discovered these, there were maybe 10 or 12 microbes.  It's been awesome seeing the collection grow.  It's also fun to see what kinds of personalities some of them get.  Most are regular, like good old Black Mold there.  Some are hilarious, though.  Mono, aka The Kissing Disease, for example, has big beautiful eyes with eyelashes.  Mad Cow is white with black splotches.  Chicken Pox looks kinda like a rooster.  And they manage to make the really funny ones still look like the actual microbe.

The petri dishes are awesome, too.  They're a little dish of three mini-microbes.  

And now...there is even more exciting news from Giant Microbes.  

GIGANTIC MICROBES!  Can you believe it?  

This is amazing.  I want all of them.  One of EVERYTHING, please!  Seriously, though, these things are pretty affordable and are generally awesome, especially if you want to make someone laugh.

What a great way to be passive-aggressive, too.


Thanksfulness => Faithfulness

I have a whole lot to be thankful for this year.  

The economy is tough, yes, and that's no way to start off married life, but we actually are more stable this year than last year, financially.  Even though it's pretty tough and there are some days that I just want to go home, I am really thankful for a job that gives me fulfilling work and allows me to make a difference in real lives, every day.  It's easy to lose sight of the importance of that.

I'm thankful that Brian and I survived our first year of marriage.  I know he was the right choice for me - even on the bad days, I am sure of it.

I'm thankful that I have a family who will take care of some of our basic needs when necessary - offering cars, doggie care, and even ESPN.

I'm thankful to live in a country where we can elect officials - and then be free to hate on them, when necessary.  Granted, I don't think it's become socially acceptable to hate on our president-elect publicly yet, but I'm thankful that that day will come too.

I'm VERY thankful to have a car that is paid off and is working.  It's reliable, which means I don't have to worry about breakdowns when I'm on the road.  It means we can travel to Chapel Hill tonight, to Concord tomorrow, and to Asheville the day after, without worry.

I'm thankful that God still teaches me about how to trust him.  I've been careful about not overspending this year, and I've been comfortable with that idea for the most part - it's in my nature to want to do big, special gifts.  But right when I began to fret about 'all those' expenses combined with the gas to get us from Richmond to Hershey to Concord and back, some unexpected events converged to get us over the hump, with some to spare.  Things like a $500 honorarium, lots of birthday money for Brian, a couple of monetary anniversary gifts, and a prize drawing for $100 at amazon.  God has always been faithful to me, and he has provided once again.


more duggars

A little while ago, there was another buzz from America's most famous large family, the Duggars.  Two buzzes, actually.  

One is that Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar - mom and dad - are expecting baby #18 - a girl.  The other is that Joshua Duggar, baby #1, got married.  Their new daughter-in-law looks like a sweetie, and is of course pretty conservative, judging from their wedding photos.

I don't like to comment on the Duggars and their lifestyle.  The way I see it, if they want to have 18 kids, and they are able to support their family while doing so (they live DEBT FREE) and their kids aren't menaces to society, then more power to them.  They aren't pushy with their faith (I've never seen or heard them addressing other people - just themselves and their own convictions), they live responsible lifestyles (did you see the part where they live debt free?), and they're raising productive members of society.  You can learn more about them here.

Some people question the real parenting that they could be doing - with that many kids, how do any of them get quality time - but I don't think that's an issue.  Their kids are good kids, so they're doing something right.  They're well-dressed, well-fed, they study every day and each one plays an instrument.  Home schooling is not a choice that everyone would make, but again...it's working for them.  Who am I to judge?

I like this family, a lot.  I wouldn't make a lot of the same choices they do, but they strike me as good, salt-of-the earth people.  They aren't wasteful, they don't try to push their views on other people, they don't condemn folks who don't agree with them - they just disagree.

I think that if more folks took a page from their book, the world might be a little bit better of a place.  

But maybe with birth control allowed.


manic monday #143

Do you ever talk to yourself out loud? What do you talk about? 

Yes, I talk to myself out loud a lot, usually when I'm under some kind of duress but without the threatening kind of pressure - you know, when the soft deadline is coming up and all of a sudden the computer is wonky, or the Tony Booth said something on the radio that makes me laugh and then I mention how ridiculous it is that I'm laughing at the radio.  I'm almost always talking about the immediate circumstance or situation, and I'm generally yelling at page design software.

What stresses you out? 

A lot of things stress me out - I tend to be overly anxious.  For a long time, it was (a distinct lack of) money and the trouble I had finding gainful employment.  Right now my big concern is the same as many - financial stability for the next year or so.  I work for a nonprofit, so job security is not assumed, and Brian is in school right now and we don't know what his prospects will be next fall when he's job-hunting.  You know, the usual. 

What are your secret talents?

I asked Brian what he thought my secret talent is.  His immediate response was that I don't stick my elbows out when I do my gun pose when I'm pretending I'm Scully.

Yeah, I don't know where that came from either.

But I should note that he also said 'baking things of glory.'  He also calls me the Coupon Queen.  I'm glad he appreciates my frugal sensibilities, though maybe his estimations may be a bit high :)

Also, apparently I make phones repeat themselves.


booking through thursday

This is an old BTT I found in my drafts list...oops :)  No other BTT from this week...which is actually last week...

What, if any, memorable or special book have you ever gotten as a present? Birthday or otherwise. What made it so notable? The person who gave it? The book itself? The “gift aura?”

I'm going to cheat, and talk about the memory book my Grandovie gave me. It's not exactly a 'book' book - more like a bound, published scrapbook kind of thing.

She made this book for me when I was very young.  It has all kinds of information in it - things about her family, her interests as a girl, her relationship with my grandfather and their young married life, and then later on about her life when she was my grandmother.  There are photos and stories in there that I wouldn't know otherwise - she died when I was 8 and my grandfather had died when I was 6, so this memory book is my main insight to the history of that side of the family.

This is, by far, one of my top 3 most valuable possessions.

(The other two are my elephant box from thailand and my 2005 national championship poster.)


puppy butt

Eli makes this face at me regularly.  I interpret it as something along the lines of "Oh, are you speaking again?  I'll just glare at you until you have the good sense to stop."


how do you argue with an ignorant person determined to remain ignorant?

A while back, I attempted to reason with somebody who had acted unreasonably, as it seemed to me. This took place in the blogosphere and (as far as I know) is still documented, though I'm not interested in airing dirty laundry by sharing links.

The background.

I'd been reading this woman's blog because I thought she was interesting. I came across it via RVABlogs, which by the way is awesome. I subscribed to the feed because I thought there were things I could learn from her. We're in different life stages, we're from different parts of the country, we have different cultural backgrounds, and our opinions didn't always line up. Opportunities for insight, humor, and growth, I figured. Plus I'm just curious - my favorite blogs are those 'life' blogs. So I stuck the feed in my Google Reader and went along my merry way.

The story.

Months later, I felt moved to speak up. She'd put up a post with two parts - one part was a complaint against how many people make all kinds of wrong assumptions about her. It was during election season - assumptions about, and complaints are due. Part 2 is what got me. She'd posted the text of an email 'joke' that's been passed around for years. It perpetuates all kinds of extremely negative stereotypes associated with red states (I've also seen North vs. South) and uses a lot of 'facts' and statistics that look pretty dubious to me, though I never investigated them. I never once thought the joke was funny, and I found it particularly UNfunny when posted as part 2 to a rant against people who make false assumptions.
Am I the only one who sees the irony?
So, never one to bypass a chance to call out a double standard, I labored over a response that I felt was respectful (everyone deserves respect), nonpartisan (I specifically didn't want to be labeled a conservative, because I'm NOT), and provocative (because what's the point of de-lurking if what you say isn't compelling?). I went over my argument with my husband and he seemed to agree that it was logical. I also gave my handle, correct email, and link to MY website because I had no interest in hiding behind 'anonymous.'

The response.

She, however, was not impressed. She responded with a pissed off flaming reply, which did a pretty good job of cementing her ignorance.
She assumed I was 'a conservative' and addressed me as such (imagine that! someone making assumptions!). She said that the 'joke' is funny because it's 'true' but then again it's 'ok' because "not all Republicans like NASCAR." Perhaps my favorite part of the retort went something along the lines of 'if you actually read my blog like you say you do, than you'd know that I'm my own worst critic so the last thing I need is someone else challenging me.'
I'd like to point out that there is a difference between a challenge and a criticism. I'd also like to point out that no one on this good earth can afford to ignore those who challenge a set mode of thinking. NO ONE. You'll never grow as a person if you only consider viewpoints identical to your own. You'll become stunted as a human being. Ignorant, naive, and foolish may also apply.
Oh, and then she told me to eff off, in not so many words. Funny thing about liberals (not an assumption, she makes it clear) is that their 'openness' and 'acceptance' only applies people who agree with them.

The conclusion.

I don't know what I was thinking. OF COURSE anyone who would propagate that crap would come up with the response she did. I was an idiot for saying something and hoping it would bring some balance. Fiercely ignorant people abound in all quadrants of life, and trying to bring reason and rationale is almost always a waste of time.
I prefer ignorant conservatives because they'll tell you up front that they don't accept a lot of things. They aren't any less frustrating, but at least what you see is what you get. The double standards aren't as rampant as they are with ignorant liberals. And conservatives tend to be less belligerent and less prone to whining and hyperventilation (excluding the fundamentalist/evangelical crowds).


Remember the Veterans

Take a moment today to offer some gratitude to all those who have risked life and limb to defend the freedoms we enjoy today.


road trips

There's something so motivating about a road trip, for me.  I'm not sure why - I think it's that I get to sit and do nothing but think of what awaits me at home.  We spent the weekend in Chapel Hill for homecoming.  It's a nice drive, 2 or 2.5 hours.  I took the time to finish up a project for my swap buddy in Sweden.  Just Brian and me, some knitting, highways full of color-changing leaves, and Dar Williams.  That's the sweet spot.

What's your sweet spot?



beards - check the link for an awesome cartoon on today's topic.

One of the major changes we recently underwent at Chez Ducklings is directly involved with my husband's facial hair. Never one to look the same for too long, he's been experimenting with full bears and full heads of hair in the past couple of years.

When we first started dating early last year, he had a lot of hair on his head. It was between 4 and 6 inches long, thick and kinked, and he didn't use conditioner. That's a lot of hair to try to manage without conditioner.

About a month after we started dating, he shaved the sides and left the middle long - a mohawk. He bleached it and dyed it light blue. THIS is how he met my family - and how I met his, incidentally.

In April he shaved it all off and went bald for the summer. He buzzed it really short again in the fall, a couple of months before the wedding. After that, he started with the beard.

He kept a full but trimmed beard for a while, and then shaved it off a few months ago when it got hot. he also went bald again.

I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere toward the end of summer, he decided to stop shaving all together and let everything grow until the end of October. He had 'needs a haircut' length hair, and the beard was going on 2 inches long. He could even hold things in it - pencils, mostly. It was hilarious, and awesome, and maybe a little bit out of control.

Last Friday, it all went away. GONE. It's quite a change. The top of his head was a little stubbly by Friday night, prickly by Saturday, and certified scratchy by Sunday. His hair grows pretty quickly. In a couple more days, it will be soft like fur - my favorite.


Simple Mom Goes Gadgety

If you've read this blog much at all, you know that I'm not a mom, but that I am working to downsize and simplify.

One of my new favorite blogs is the SimpleMom blog.  She's got a lot of insight and reading her blog is like a daily dose of Occam's Razor.  Nice.

Anyway, she's running a contest right now for a SAWEET printer.  Seriously, I want this printer.  I have an epson printer right now and it's pretty jazzy, but THIS one has WIFI.  And it duplexes.  Score.  

I was so excited this morning that I just had to share.  Check out the contest here!


books and God

For my response to last week's Booking Through Thursday, I wrote about the different relationships I have with books. And something struck me.

In a way, my relationship with books 'takes a page' from my relationship with God. You probably don't know much about my relationship with God, and I can only sum it up by saying it's multi-faceted. If it could be objectified or illustrated in some way, I think books would do a great job. Let me explain.

One facet of my relationship with God is that long-standing deep loyalty, showing lots of wear and tear. He's been with me through some major ups and downs. I've relied on his steady hand and turned to him again and again to find something comforting and safe and familiar.

Sometimes God is a reference or a teacher. His opinions and writings (the Bible and words from other believers) help guide and shape my world view. When I don't know how to answer a question, I check the scriptures and various interpretations to see what's there.

And then there's the awe/respect thing. I recently had a conversation with my mom about the type of church services I prefer. My family gets the most from 'charismatic' services, where it's more than just a contemporary setting (aka chairs and a band rather than pews and a choir) and extends into a more adoration-oriented worship style. Me, I prefer a service that has more of the traditional, austere feel. I like the deliberately guided service and the old hymns. I like to approach Sunday mornings as a time of commitment and devotion and learning, not necessarily fun and entertainment and energy.

My bible collection demonstrates all of this pretty well. I have an illustrated Precious Moments bible that I've had since very early childhood. It's pretty old by now, but I've carted it off everywhere and I still like to look at the pictures. I also have a 'working bible' - the one my private school gave me in the 5th grade, and I've done all my studying and reflecting in this bible. The cover is falling apart and has been taped back on once or twice, and there are lots of marks and notes inside. I also have a 'beautiful' bible - it's leather-bound with my name embossed on the cover. I keep this one at the office in a special cover. There are a few others floating around - an NRSV edition my brother and I bought together, a small 'backpack' bible that I keep in the glove box of my car, a Spanish/English parallel bible, and a really pretty tapestry-covered one that my brother gave me for Christmas a few years ago. Between my husband, who is in seminary, and my own history as a Christian, we have at least a whole shelf of them - or would, if they were all in the same location.

In what ways do your relationships with books mirror other relationships in your life?


voting conundrum

Part of why I've been mostly apathetic politically is that I can never find myself supporting anybody completely, so I don't know why I would vote for someone whose platform I didn't really like. at the same time, I know it's a right and a privilege to vote, and a duty of citizenship here. Patriotism compels me to engage, ideology holds me back.

Voting AGAINST the other guy. Agreeing that I shouldn't complain about who is elected when I didn't even bother to vote. Wanting the sticker - as a social marker of some sort. Recognizing the value my peers put in being politically active, and wanting to be one of the cool kids who vote. These are not great reasons to be voting, in my opinion, but they have at one time or other been the motivating force behind my casting a ballot.  I don't think I'll ever be well-educated citizen, because I don't think I could possibly grasp all of the ins and outs of what it takes to guide our country properly.  Even the EXPERTS don't really know.  So how could I possibly become adequately educated?

Perfectionism isn't limited to things you make or do.  Maya Angelou has been quoted as saying that 'we do the best we can with what we know, and when we know better, we do better.'  Is this approach good enough when it comes to politics?  Today is decision day, and I still don't know.

Click here for further reading on the topic.


I talk about knitting in this one.

This blog contains a lot about my daily life and how I like to wade through it. One of the things that I do the most, though, is rarely featured here - other than on my sidebars. It's my knitting.

Did you even know I'm a knitter? Well, I am. And I have been for a couple of years now.

I'm a little bit slow, and not as prolific as a lot of knitters, but I do love it. I miss knitting if a day goes by when I don't pick up the needles.

One of the things about me is that I am a 'monogamous knitter' - which means I only like to have one project going at a time. The vast majority of knitters, however, are polygamous. They've got a PILE of things in various stages of completion - we call these works in progress, or WIPs. But not me. I move through it slowly, so only like to have one thing clamoring for my attention at any given moment.

Unless it really is a HUGE thing, or a really really complicated thing, in which case I will sometimes take on smaller, more portable, more TV-watching appropriate projects. You can't really take a giant afghan on an air plane or to a doctor's office without getting all kinds of funny looks, after all.

There are all kinds of other ways to categorize knitters, too. There are different ways of holding the yarn when you're using it, for example. There are those who like the yarn to come from the outside of the ball and others like it to come from the inside. Some folks group up by the types of fibers they like (or refuse) to use. And then there are product knitters vs. process knitters - people who like to knit for the knitting, and people who like to knit for the stuff it gets them.

I do not know if I am a product knitter or a process knitter. I really love the process, it's true. But it's hard for me to knit something just for the sake of knitting it. I am NOT one of those knitters who has a stack of lovely knitted things that will make a perfect gift for somebody someday. I have to know the intended purpose of the item before I make it, or else I won't get motivated to make it.

I'm not as prolific as I'd like to be, because I don't have a lot of spare time, and what little spare time I do have gets carved up between responsibilities (like laundry) and other fun stuff (like reading and watching Clean House). I've cranked out a few pretty cool things so far, though. I'm wearing some fingerless gloves I made over Memorial Day weekend, for example. I take a mesh knitted bag to the market and grocery stores. I just finished a beautiful shawl that will be so nice to wear when spring comes back around. I keep my chapstick and other little doodads in a felted bowl on my dresser. And as soon as it gets to be scarf weather, I'll be wearing this super cool chevron scarf that I worked on this summer.

Knitting is probably the only thing in my life that is pure contentment and satisfaction. It fulfills me more than anything else. I wish I could knit full-time, and maybe someday I'll be able to. It might actually be a passion of mine - but I don't think I've ever really had a passion so I have trouble identifying something as one.

I don't know why I've neglected to display this side of my real life on the blog. My goal is to change this, starting this week.  So get ready for some fiber, the old-fashioned way!


Booking Through Thursday

Are you a spine breaker? Or a dog-earer? Do you expect to keep your books in pristine condition even after you have read them? Does watching other readers bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain?

My husband cringes when he sees some of my books. His mother and his grandmother were both librarians, so he feels a deep respect for books. Books are to be cared for, not torn or dog-eared or marked up.

I too have a deep respect for books, but mine is based more on a perception of relationship. Books are awesome - they are such awesome things. They carry our thought, our history, our traditions, even our subversion. They are important.

There are some books that I treasure, because they have been with me for a long time. One of these books is my tattered copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. I got it in the 8th grade, and it has been marked up, written on, taped back together, bent backward at the spine, highlighted, dog-eared to kingdom come, you name it. It's been loved. I have a nitty-gritty, you-are-my-lifeblood relationship with this book. We have been through the ringer together, and the more worn it gets, the deeper our relationship has gone.

Another book I treasure is The Christmas Cat. This is a Christmas storybook that I've had for as long as I can remember. I think my Grandovie gave it to me, but I'm not sure. I actually have two copies of this book because I thought I'd lost the original and I found an old library copy for sale. I treasure this book by keeping it very safe and in very good condition. I expect this book to show some wear because it has been through several moves, and it's old, and it is in fact displayed and read at least once a year.

Some books, I will dog-ear. These are the 'reference' books - idea books, clutter control books, self-help books, whatnot. I'll fold down the very tip corner on a page that relates to me or speaks to me. These guys are the workers. They're meant to be used, and their value is in their information.  I don't necessarily LIKE the look of dog-ears, but I very much don't like the look of flags sticking out all over the place. One of these days I may get diligent and make a brief 'index' to post-it in the front cover. Any kids out there who need a service project?

And then there are those books that are revered.  I have a beautiful set of leather-bound autobiographies of Christian people and specific works I really admire - Corrie ten Boom, Brother Andrew, CS Lewis's Screwtape Letters, etc. They're beautiful. I've read them all once - because books are meant to be read. But a number of these, I wanted to keep re-reading. So I bought cheap paperbacks. These are some of my most favorite books, and they are beautiful, so I want them to stay beautiful, but I also want to read them without hesitation. Hence the duplicate.

In general, I appreciate the aesthetics of books. I try to take care not to bend the covers of paperbacks. It's really annoying to me if a book doesn't lie flat. I try not to let pages or groups of pages get bent - again with the flat. But I'm not offended if a particular book looks worn. Books are meant to be read, loved, and invested in. You can't invest in something by sticking it on a shelf and looking at it.