next best thing

I've been digging this funny, funky Sara Bareilles song lately. It's fun to listen to while unloading the dishwasher, perhaps the worst chore ever invented. Catharsis? I think so.

What do you think of it?


The Garden Project

I should have titled this post The Garden Project, Which Is Sure To Fail. Because I lack a little thing we call 'follow through' - especially when it comes to manual labor.

Remember the compost bin? Yeah, composting only started happening like a week ago. But whatever, it's happening.

I feel like everybody on Earth has a garden except for me. This is, of course, illogical, and yet here we are. Unsurprised, I might add.

Anyway. I finally managed to haul, drag and toss Brian on board with the building a raised vegetable bed idea. I even found a lady on freecycle who wants to freaking GIVE me a wheel barrow. Plus I know a guy who knows a guy who has GREAT manure, whatever that means. So all that to say, I was beginning to think that maybe, maaaayyyyyyyybe, the garden thing might happen. maybe.

The dance of joy might have happened, as well.

So anyway, I was thinking last night about the prime location for the garden. We'd picked a spot, but frankly, I thought that spot would be ugly and annoying and frequently trampled by a hyperactive border collie who Does Not Like Change. And it occurred to me that a MUCH better place for the garden would be right smack in the middle of a Very Odd Landscaping Installation toward the back of our yard.

Now. I haven't shown you our back yard here. There are numerous reasons for this, not the least of which is, our yard is kind of ugly. Other factors include my supreme laziness, my tendency to delete all images showing the back yard from my camera, and also how easily I am distracted. (I was gonna have a picture for this post, but then I got distracted, and then it was dark, and then ... )

And one of the ... less attractive, more difficult to understand ... things going on in the yard is... a mystery circle, outlined in large rocks of about 12 different makeups, and filled with dirt about a foot higher than the actual ground. It really is kind of a weird thing, with various other pieces of rock-like debris filling the center. I mean, seriously. What the heck is that thing? Was there a fountain there once? Maybe a hammock? Maybe a fire pit? But it's too big around to be a fire pit, and too small to have a fire pit AND places to sit. Is it a grave of some sort? (and if so...what the...) I have spent the past 6 months basically stumped about this...thing...in my back yard. It's really just kind of weird.

Incidentally, Rory LOVES it when her tennis ball bounces up there. It's like a crazy-land for ball-obsessed dogs who want the ball to remain in perpetual motion. There's just so much weird stuff for it to bounce off. It is also an ideal location for a doggie version of King of the Mountain, in case you were wondering.

But anyway, when it occurred to me that that would be the best spot for me to put our garden, I thought that maybe we could clean up the mystery dance circle/altar/platform/burial grounds and turn it into something of use. Brian would once again need to be hauled/dragged/tossed on board - I think he had grown fond of the idea of 'building things' and 'using tools' - but before I began a new campaign, I needed to investigate the potential site.

And investigate, I did! I was turning the compost like the most awkward composter you've ever seen (I was doing it with a rake, because I don't even own a shovel, just a rake) and I figured a rake might also be handy to poke around the mystery fire pit/pedestal/henge/outpost. So I trudged over with my multi-purpose rake and started...I don't know, raking the dirt, and the dead plants, and the whatever and stuff. There was some stuff, rocks and twigs and dried up brambly looking plant-like leftovers on the surface of the dirt and I just kind of moved it around, maybe toward the edges or something. Shut up, you wouldn't know what to do, either.

I should let you know right here that I would not have been surprised if I uncovered remains, if you know what I mean.

Anyway. So I'm raking, and I'm looking around, and I'm combatting rocks with my super awesome rake of multi-purposing glory, and I realize.... this dirt doesn't look like half-bad dirt!

You see where this is going. You probably saw where this was going, but like 6 months before I did. You are that much savvier than I.

So then I notice what appears to be the remains of several of those little tabs that come stuck in potted plants.

THIS! used to be a raised vegetable bed!!!

I should have expected nothing less.

Winning, duh.


overcoming my inner fundamentalist, or, how i made peace with the beatles, pt.2

I've previously shared a glimpse into my experience growing up in a conservative Christian family fully steeped in a fundamentalist church. The thing is, my family, while conservative, probably did not take our mutual faith to the extremes I tended toward. I didn't realize this at the time, though.

I set up for myself a rigidly imposed fundamentalist mindset. I thrived in it. Rules? I am so into rules. Gimme guidelines and I'm happy. The more instruction I can find on something, the better I feel, especially when it came to 'my daily walk' and the guidelines of good and right Christian living. If Pensacola College ever invented a 'right and wrong' game show, I would have been the champion.

It's important to note here that while I was taught that the earth is young, that creation happened in 6 24-hour days, and that acid rain is a myth and science is out to 'get the Christians,' I was NOT taught to judge and condemn the world around me. "In but not of" was big in my home church/school, but so was grace, love for the lost and needing, and a genuine desire to see souls redeemed. Today I look back and am frustrated with the deliberate ignorance of some aspects of my upbringing, but I am so grateful for the many other, typical, things my fundamentalist church didn't teach me.

However. My inability not to assign 'good' or 'evil' labels to everything really screwed me up as I got older. First, it was the Back Street Boys - listening to their music on the way home from school did not, in fact, cause me to go and have sex with my high school boyfriend (much to his dismay). Wearing tops with spaghetti straps did not, in fact, send me on a downward spiral to prostitution. And the Beatles, as it turns out, are kinda weird sometimes, but generally not very evil. At least not the stuff that gets played on KBCO.

But more significantly, the older I got, the more I watched loved ones and trusted advisors make 'bad' choices while calling them 'good.' People I thought were 'good Christians' were living with consumer debt. Women whose faith I'd appreciated were in church leadership. (I was actually kind of afraid, the first time I received communion from a female, a church elder. I was 23 at the time.) Friends of mine, otherwise good Christian friends, had tattoos and said 'damn.' My own family made decisions that seemed contrary to everything I'd been taught, not to mention a Levitical law or two. (Yes. That means I read Leviticus. On my own, for my own edification.)

The resulting quagmire of confusion and conflict grew to the point that I could hardly see beyond my faith questions. It led to my undoing - physically first, and later, spiritually. 

I'm still recovering. 


the swing of things

You won't believe this, but I'd actually planned a post for Monday. Planned it in my head, anyway. You remember that cookie contest that I didn't win? Well, I was going to share with you my not-winning* (no duh) cookie recipe. But I was planning to write the recipe post as a response to one of you fine folks actually requesting said recipe.

Alas, I received no requests.

It was a lonely weekend.

So lonely.

But about these cookies. Brian loves them. I'm not really sure why, because Brian is not one to show enthusiasm for much of anything in the culinary realm of dessert (except for his mom's chocolate pudding pie - which is SO GOOD - and this weird pasty bland thing called New York Cheese Cake, which I have never come to appreciate). Brian's sweet tooth must have fallen out or something.

But these cookies? He raves.

I had about a billion leftover cookies after the contest. They sat here on our table in their little lidded bin carrying tray thing for a while, quickly making us fatter. Every now and then, Brian would go over to the table, carefully select one cookie, take a bite, tip his face toward the heavens, close his eyes, sigh, and say 'just like [insert name of some place he used to go to in New York with his grandparents but no longer exists] ' Then he'd pop the rest of it in his mouth and continue whatever he had been doing moments before the cookie hiatus.

It was like watching a sitcom. Or my adorably dramatic little cousin with the British name spelling. Or a really bad commercial. Only 60 calories!

Eventually Brian took a bunch of the leftovers to work, and he says 'everyone' said I should have won. So there's that.

Then again, he is known for occasional exaggeration. So there's that, too.
*flips tables*

So anyway. If you want the cookie recipe that makes husbands sigh but fails to beat out white chocolate macadamia nut cookies in the church chocolate chip cookie contest, just let me know.


overcoming my inner fundamentalist, or, how i made peace with the beatles

I grew up in a big Southern city with a good Oldies station. Every Sunday morning, that station had a program called the Beatle Brunch. Perhaps you have heard of it.

When I was in maybe 5th grade or so, I had a good friend who loved the Beatles. (She still does, by the way. She even married a boy who, she says, looks like John Lennon.) We went to the same school and the same church - incidentally, these were the same place. And she would listen to the Beatle Brunch, getting ready for church and then on the way to it.

My family, we did not listen to the Beatle Brunch. At that time, we hardly listened to anything 'secular.' We had our New Life Christian radio station, and my mom's old Maranatha! praise tapes, and Gloria Estefan  pretty much took care of everything else.

Not knowing much (read: anything) about the Beatles but knowing how much my friend enjoyed this particular band, one day I asked my mom if we could listen to the Beatle Brunch on the way to church. What followed was a 'teaching moment' had a profound impact on the following 10+ years of my life.

My mom more or less told me that no, we wouldn't be listening to the Beatle Brunch, that Sunday morning is holy and that we will be listening to praise music exclusively, so that we could prepare our hearts for worship.

(Aside: If you went to my church, you would probably need a moment to 'prepare' yourself, too. There aren't too many charismatic/fundamentalist/evangelical LCMS congregations out there.)

Now don't get me wrong. I am not criticizing my mom's response. Faith is very important to my family, and we 'do church' deliberately. Church, for my family, is Important, and we Take It Seriously as an Expression Of Our Faith. Taking a moment on the drive to church to gear yourself up to experience and participate more fully is, I think, a great idea. I still prefer to have a few minutes of silence to myself before any worship service starts. People today might call it a 'time to connect' or, maybe, a 'time to disconnect' from the 'outside distractions' or something like that. Surely you understand the benefit, whether or not you would choose it for yourself.

My takeaway from that teaching moment, however, was not that we need to center ourselves around a focus on God before we go into a church service. No, I absorbed something entirely different.

I came out of that conversation with a firm conviction that the Beatles are evil. (I didn't realize that, in 1993, the Beatles weren't really around anymore.)

You see, I was a very, very rule-oriented child. I was rigid in my interpretation of right and wrong. I firmly felt that there absolutely was absolute truth (I still feel that way) and that the world could be divided into Good and Bad. There was not much room for grey area with me.

I still even criticize my own handwriting because my cursive lower-case Ys and Gs don't have 'straight backs' - my grandmother once taught me that they're supposed to have straight backs and I have not, to this day, mastered that art.

I tried really hard to be a good Christian, as much as a lost little girl can when her home life was in near-constant turmoil. (YOU try to have a well-balanced adolescence while growing up with a perpetually sick mother and a father who'd moved to another country!) I guess I felt an intrinsic need for structure, for reliability and stability and something steady to be my foundation. (My room, however, was always a mess.)

I really wanted to know God's rules and obey them. (Why yes, I am a firstborn!) To me, the world was black and white, and that's just the way things were. I didn't approach everything with a critical eye - actually, very rarely did I come to my own conclusions about right and wrong. I ate up every ounce of instruction from my teachers and pastors, though. And I applied their teachings, and the Scriptures, with a wide stroke.

That's how I started at "our family will listen only to praise music on Sunday mornings" and arrived at "the Beatles are evil."

Read some further thoughts here


Ash Wednesday

Dust you are, and to dust you will return.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

There's a deep quiet in my mind today as I prepare for tonight's service. The imposition of ashes causes a stillness that I'd like to recognize and embrace today.

I'll be back Friday with part 1 of a crazy story for you.


the results are in

I won't keep you in suspense about the baking contest.

My team did not win.

HOWEVER, we got loads of nice compliments. So there's that.

Next year, it's on like donkey kong. The 'mid winter challenge,' as this event is called, will be a barbecue contest! And since I don't really have a barbecue sauce recipe (heh..unless Kraft counts) I've got to get to work.

Any pointers?



Baking in progress!!

Image Source

If the cookie-loving folks at my church agree with me on Sunday, I will return to this space on Monday, VICTORIOUS. There's a chocolate chip cookie contest going on at my church this weekend, and yours truly has entered!

Back to the kitchen...


Book Review: The Shape of Mercy

At the risk of this becoming a 'book review blog' - which is not my intention - I am going to keep posting reviews with the Blogging for Books program. I've received another review book from the publisher WaterBrook Multnomah, and I'm fulfilling my end of the bargain here.

Today's book is a novel called The Shape of Mercy. I read this book over the course of about 30 hours, staying up untl 1am to finish it...it was one of those books I didn't want to put down.

In short, I thought the story was very compelling and the topic was interesting - the Salem witch trials, an event I haven't learned much about yet. The writing was sometimes a little too... hackneyed, like the author was trying too hard. But most of the time the writing didn't get in the way of the really good story. If you're looking for a satisfying, compelling, and easily read historical fiction, I would recommend this novel.

See my full review here. I would love it if you rated my review, too.
Also posted at Amazon here.

You can see all my Blogging for Books reviews here.