Sunday, April 30, 2006


Many church songs contain the word "Hallelujah". It means "praise the Lord", which is, I guess, a reminder to keep doing what you are theoretically already doing. I've noticed that worship leaders will often add several Hallelujahs onto the end of a song, sortof like an extra verse that no one bothered to come up with words for. I don't really mind, though, although this post has had a bit of a cynical ring to it up until now. I like the word Hallelujah; it's a rich and meaningful word, and sometimes it's nice to sing it a few times in a row.

But in church this morning, while we were singing a song, a new page of words came up on the projector. It was a string of Hallelujahs, so I assumed that it was going to be the typical "repeat Hallelujah to the melody of the song we were just singing." But then the piano changed, and the worship team broke into what sounded eerily like the chorus of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". It's a pretty song, but singing it in church seems a little bit to me like singing "I Will Always Love You" at a wedding. Of course no one else noticed, so I was probably just imagining it, but Jeremy seemed to know what I was talking about when I whispered to him, "I can't do this, it's just wrong!"

But then again, kudos to the worship team for snagging a great tune and using it. And why not? I once sang "The Greatest Love of All" at a church camp with all of the references to self changed to make the song about loving God. If I could do that, then why can't we sing a broken hallelujah in church? In fact, on reading over the lyrics, maybe I was a bit too hasty. What could be more church-appropriate than the sentiment, "And even though / It all went wrong / I'll stand before the lord of song / With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah"?

I think where I really went wrong, however, was in making two references to Whitney Houston songs in one post. For that, I'm pretty sure I should perish.

Friday, April 28, 2006

I like having a backyard

The weather was beautiful today.

I took my exercise mat and towel outside in a fit of over-optimism, even after having closed the kitchen window at lunch because the wind it was letting in was too cold. But I discovered that, if I was lying flat on the ground, very little wind would reach me, and I quickly shed layers of clothing to maximize exposure to the pleasantly surprising heat of the sun. It's nice to bake in the sun sometimes when it's not really all that hot out. It's nice to know that you can't really overheat, because you can always sit up into the wind stream or move over to the shade where it's less than 60 degrees.

I've discovered that the combination of my exercise mat and beach towel is the perfect "lying on the grass" configuration. The slight padding of the exercise mat under the length of my body, and my towel lying across it perpendicularly to a) create a non-stick buffer between my skin and the vinyl mat and b) allow me to spread my arms wide without the constant tickling of grass and ants.

I tend to bore very quickly when I'm "trying to get a tan". There's just something so unengaging about lying on the ground, waiting to be cooked, with a little timer to tell you when it's time to flip over. So, while I wouldn't mind getting a healthy-looking (cancer-causing?) summer glow, I just can't lie outside with that purpose for more than about 7 minutes, when I start to wonder if someone might have updated their blog in the time I was away. But, I have discovered that if I go outside with the purpose of just relaxing in the fresh air and sun, bring a book with me to read if I want, spend some time listening to the birds and doing meditative exercises, etc, then I succeed in passing a lot more time outdoors without getting bored.

The birds really amaze me. There are so many varieties of dog, and they all look so different, but they all bark basically the same (with a few variations in pitch). But birds, who all basically look the same (with a few variations in size and colour) have the most disparate calls imaginable. There is one that I'm still trying to track down the source of. Are any of you bird people? Maybe you could help me. I would write the call as something like this: "Whirreee Wooreee" followed by a staccato "Tyu tyu tyu tyu tyu". Maybe it's the cardinal?

Tonight, I have to work. But honestly, if I had to choose between working in the daytime and being cooped up indoors with all that beautifulness in my backyard going unenjoyed, I would take the evening shift anytime. But I know the extended family feel a little bit cheated that I moved all the way down here to be near them, and now I never see them, because I am working in the evenings when they are more likely to try to get together. But I'm really not that hard to see. (Aside from whatever punny comments about my weight I am tempted to make here.) In fact, if anyone wants to see me at work tonight, there is live music at my store, starting at about 8 pm. I have no idea what the band is like, but my coworker who is in it is cool, so that's a good start.

The end.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Ramblings about Relativism

This is what I get for talking about religion on my blog...

I don't mind healthy debate. I really enjoy discussing issues related to my faith, and hearing your responses on my thoughts. And I have a few more things I wanted to add to the current discussion, for which I even drew diagrams, which will be included below.

But just like eating the same thing every day gets old, so does discussing the same topic constantly. So if I seem to abruptly drop the subject and start talking about the weather again, please take no hard feelings. I'll still be thinking about it, but I will have set it to a back burner for a while until I feel like I have something to say again. Until then...

This isn't the first time I have been accused of being a relativist, and I completely understand what Earthenforge was saying when she suggested that I was verging on relativity. So, here's what I think about relativism:

When most people think of relativism, they think of the philosophy that basically states that there is no absolute truth. Truth for you is whatever your truth happens to be. Enter badly drawn diagram number one:

See how all the little blue people have their own little truth that is equally true for each of them? I don't buy this.

But just because "relativism" has the same root as "relative" and "relativity" doesn't mean that those concepts rise or fall on the validity of relativism. I might not buy into philosophical relativism, but I have no reason to doubt that E=mc² and I'm pretty sure that I still have relatives. I will come back to badly drawn diagram one momentarily, but first, let's look at badly drawn diagram number two:

See how all the little blue people are all in different locations all around one, big, universal Truth? This, I believe. The truth doesn't change, but it is relative to us in the same way that the sun goes around the earth. And of course, the sun doesn't actually go around the earth; it only looks like it does because of our perspective.

There is an old Hindu fable that was converted into a humorous little poem in the 19th century by John Godfrey Saxe. It's a cute poem about six blind men who go to "see" an elephant, and each one, having touched a different part of the elephant, imagines the elephant to be something entirely different. (Read the poem here.)

This parable is often used in support of the philosophy of relativism. The moral of the story, relativists say, is that your truth might be Christianity, but someone else's truth might be Hinduism, or Islam, or Mysticism, or Pastafarianism. They're all just parts of the same elephant, right?

I don't believe they are. But I do think the elephant analogy is apt, and I would like to claim it, in part, for Christianity. What if there were a whole bunch of other blind men who went to "see" the elephant? Sure, six of them actually touched the elephant, and came away with their varying conclusions about what the elephant looked like. But one of them thinks the elephant is fluffy, because he actually touched a rabbit. And one of them thinks the elephant is wet, because he fell into the river. And one of them thinks the elephant is squishy because he stepped in a pile of the elephant's dung. And one of them thinks the elephant is an angry, angry person, because he accidentally grabbed the zookeeper in an unwelcome manner.

This is where I give up as a philosopher, and tear my hair. How am I supposed to know who has found the real "Truth" and who has just stepped in a pile of dung? This is where I seriously contemplate deleting this entire post and talking about the weather instead.

I'm humble enough to admit that I don't have all the answers. But in the midst of all this, some things do make sense. If I was a doctor, and I had one patient who was a compulsive overeater, I would advise her to eat less. And if I had another patient who was anorexic, I would advise her to eat more. Does that make me a relativist?

One of my friends recently wrote about her conversion to Orthodox on her blog. She discusses the protestant fascination with the concept of "faith alone", and how she discovered, through reading James, that works are necessary, too. (I'm not doing her arguments justice, though, you should read it for yourself.) I appreciated what she had to say, and I think she is right, but I also think she is on the other side of the elephant from me. I grew up in constant fear that I would die in the middle of a sin and go to Hell. I always worried that I wasn't good enough, and that I wasn't a good enough Christian. I even had a Sunday School teacher tell me once that I could never be sure that I was saved, so I should pray the "sinner's prayer" every day, just in case. Can you imagine my relief when I discovered that forgiveness was FREE? That I could never do anything to earn my salvation, and that ALL of my sins were paid for, not just the ones I had committed before I prayed the sinner's prayer?

But this is where my friend and I agree: It's not enough to just "believe". (Even the demons believe in God, and shudder, James 2:19.) If I truly believe something, I will act upon it. That's the nature of true belief. So, as James explains, if we say we believe, but we don't do good works, then we don't really believe, do we? It's like a slave owner saying he believes that slavery is wrong, but refusing to free his slaves. If he REALLY believed that it was wrong, his actions would reflect his words.

Some people tend to get lazy in their faith, thinking that just being "converted" is enough, and it doesn't really have to affect their daily lives. Those people need to hear Nicki's message, get off their butts, and live what they say they believe. Others spend their lives in fear that they aren't living good enough lives (like I did), or, weigh themselves against their neighbours on an imaginary "goodness" scale and decide they are good enough on their own without being redeemed through Christ. This latter group need to hear the message of Ephesians 2:8-9, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast."

Does that make me a relativist? If it does, then the Biblical writers were relativists, too. The very next verse of Ephesians goes on to make Nicki's point, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." We are saved through faith, to do good works. Both messages are present in the Bible, and I don't want to devalue one or the other. But, going back to my badly drawn diagram number two, if I'm off to the right of the big T, and you want me to find the T, you'll have to tell me to go to the left. That same instruction, given to the little blue dude on the left of the big T, will lead him astray.

Maybe I'm a micro-relativist?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

God's Will

You've seen the WWJD bracelets, now visit the website! Answer Me Jesus offers an interactive, Magic 8-Ball style program that answers all of life's questions for you! "Should I get a new hair cut?" "Yes, My Child." "Should I eat fried chicken for dinner?" "Resist the devil." "Should I brutally murder my teacher?" "Wait for a sign."

The site is meant as a joke, but I fear that it's eerily close to how some Christians tend to view God. We feel like every decision we make, from the mundane to the earth-shattering, has a specific right and wrong answer. And that if we just pray hard enough, God will give us the answer we are seeking. But we don't dare make a move until we know for sure.

I think there are some circumstances in which God has a specific decision that he wants us to make. He told Jonah to go to Ninevah, and he manipulated weather and wildlife to re-direct him when he tried to go another way. But most decisions are not like that. God has given us brains and decision-making abilities so that we can figure things out for ourselves. This doesn't mean leaving God out of the decision-making process, but it does mean trusting your gut more often when he doesn't seem to be giving you a clear direction.

Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." The underlying message of this passage is that, guess what, our hearts get to have desires. We can want things, and if we're seeking God first and foremost, then the things we want will be good things, and God will give them to us. That's pretty exciting. Especially for someone like me, who has spent so long trying to figure out what God wants me to do that I've practically forgotten to want anything for myself.

Some of you might be wondering why I haven't mentioned seminary in a while. That's because I withdrew about a month ago. I wrote something up about it when I made the decision, but it was too raw to post publicly. I kept telling myself I would figure out how to say what I wanted to say, but I never seemed to get around to it.

The easy answer is that I stopped going to seminary because I was tired. Tired of school, tired of the stress of deadlines, tired of always living in a future-oriented, "after I graduate" world. But the much more complex answer is that I was fumbling around, learning an important lesson about God's will.

I went to seminary because the opportunity presented itself and it seemed to make sense. I went because I was trying to figure out what God wanted me to do with my life. That wasn't a bad reason to go, but it would have been a bad reason to continue going after I figured out that I didn't want to be there. When I started seminary, I remember saying that I wanted to do something, and if God wanted me to do something else, then he would redirect me, because it's easier to redirect a stream than a stagnant pool. Well, I was redirected. But not in a way I expected.

I felt like a failure when I first started feeling like I didn't want to continue with seminary. Like I was letting God down. But I think God was trying to teach me precisely the lesson I touched on at the beginning of this post: He gave me a heart and a mind and a will for a reason, and he wanted me to start using them.

And I'm happy with what I'm doing right now. I feel, in an odd sense, that working at Starbucks is the green pasture that I've been waiting for so long for. It may not be what I want to do with the rest of my life, but I've been working so hard for so long, stressing myself sick, that it's nice to have a window of peace, even if it's just for a season.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I Hate Money

While I often extol the virtues of such things as socialized basic medical coverage, there are some things that capitalism does infinitely better. One of those things is student loans.

Jeremy and I have two American student loans, and three Canadian student loans. I am in the process of trying to organize all of these loans and get the payments caught up so that our credit ratings don't die a horrible, painful death. Yesterday, I drew up a little chart of all our loans and interest rates and monthly payments (well, most of them, my Canadian lines of credit have yet to be figured in). Jeremy's subsidized US loan has fixed rate at 4.25%. But my Canadian student loan, the one that is government sponsored and subsidized, has a variable rate that is currently at 8.0%! That loan ALONE is costing me $6 A DAY in interest! (Not to mention the fact that a Canadian dollar now costs me $0.88 US, when it used to cost me $0.66, so I am spending almost an extra quarter on every Canadian dollar I buy.)

It's frustrating to sit down and calculate how much my education has set us back. For all of my frugal living and more-with-less cooking and thrift store shopping, I am spending the equivalent of eating a meal out every day just on the interest on my student loans. I'm starting to think that going to law school was the most irresponsible thing I have ever done with my life.

Where was I in April?

One year ago (2005):

Living in Ottawa, Canada, working my butt off at a job that sucked the soul out of me. Starting to question whether or not I want to be a lawyer.

Two years ago (2004):

Living in Toronto, Canada, just finishing up law school and trying to figure out what to do next. Signing up for the bar admission courses because it is the next logical step.

Three years ago (2003):

Finishing up my second year of law school, frustrated that Jeremy's immigration had not yet come through and making plans to move to Philadelphia for the summer so that we could both earn an income for a few months.

Four years ago (2002):

Living in Fillmore, NY, working as an administrative assistant at Houghton College during my time off of law school. Thoroughly enjoying being back in Houghton and having the opportunity to act in The Comedy of Errors as part of the Shakespeare group I gave birth to when I was in college.

Five years ago (2001):

Living in Toronto, Canada, finishing up my first year of law school. Finalizing plans to take a year off of law school so that Jeremy could finish his last few courses at Houghton. Working out all of those last minute kinks for my wedding in June.

Six years ago (2000):

Finishing up my last semester at Houghton College. Actually, not quite finishing up my last semester at Houghton. I took "incompletes" in three courses that I actually had to finish up over the summer. Making plans with my family to visit my sister in Japan in May, and accepting a random job offer to work at a ranch in Colorado for the rest of the summer.

Seven years ago (1999):

A Midsummer Night's Dream. The Shakespeare Players occupied most of my second year at Houghton, and the second production, that I directed, produced, and acted in to fill in a few gaps, was my biggest triumph, and it took place in April. Also getting ready to embark on a summer of drama and counseling at various youth camps across the country with Dayspring.

Eight years ago (1998):

In London, England, finishing off a semester with the First-Year Honors Program through Houghton College. Making plans with Sarah and my then-boyfriend, Kris, to tour Europe for a few weeks after the semester ends. After I return, I will be working at a community center doing summer programs for high-risk youth.

Nine years ago (1997):

Living in Ottawa, Canada, in my parents' home for the last time as I finish up high school. Preparing to work at a church about an hour away as the children's pastor for the summer. Breaking up with my then-boyfriend, Kris, for the first (and less permanent) of two times.

Ten years ago (1996):

In high school, getting ready to work as a lifeguard for the summer at my church camp.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Okay, so it ended up being boringly newsy

I'm debating between waxing poetic and being boringly newsy. I guess I'll just type and see what comes out.

I had to work at 5:45 this morning, which meant waking up at 5:00, which meant going to bed at 9:00. Which I didn't do, in spite of my best efforts. I got off work at 5:30 last night, then came home and made sushi for dinner, and by the time dinner and daily exercise were taken care of, it was already after 9:00. So I went to bed and didn't fall asleep for over an hour, then woke up a couple of times throughout the night to notice that my husband was still not in bed. I think he came to bed at about 3:00. Then, for no apparent reason, I woke up at 4:00. And I couldn't fall back asleep. I know this is common for a lot of people, but I am one of those people who might take a long time falling asleep the first time, because my brain just won't shut up, but once I am asleep, I usually fall back to sleep easily. Too easily, in fact. The nine minutes between hitting my snooze button and being woken again by the alarm feels like a whole extra night's sleep, complete with full-blown dreamscapes and utter, blissful unconsciousness. But not this morning. After lying awake for 45 minutes, I finally gave up and got out of bed.

The weirdest part about this "middle of sleep wakefulness" is that, although I don't recall it being a common occurrence before, I do remember it happening fairly recently, at some point in the last month or so. I don't appear to have mentioned it on my blog, although maybe I did and just can't think of what search terms to look for. I also didn't mark it on my chart, which bugs me immensely, because I think it might have happened at about the same time in my cycle last month. If so, that would be a really handy secondary fertility sign to watch for. Have any of you ever heard of such a thing before?

Okay, so that was a tangent. I really should draft these things out in point form before writing them. Ah, who am I kidding, I would never pay attention to point form outlines. Tangents pad word counts. Long story short, I was groggy at work today, and three iced double tall lattes didn't do anything for me. But it was still a pretty good shift.

After I got off work, we (Jer and I, Jer's parents, Jer's brother and girlfriend, and Jer's sister) went to an art gallery that was having an Ansel Adams exhibit. It took us a really long time to get there, and we got lost several times, but fortunately, it wasn't a very big exhibit, so we still had time to see it. I really enjoyed the exhibit, although I was frustrated afterwards when I discovered that there were no postcards of my favourite photograph in the bookstore. I always seem to like the wrong pieces of art - it makes me feel like I'm a bad art appreciator. Oh well, what I think's pretty is pretty to me. So there.

After the museum, we came home and I went to bed. I think I might have been planning on sleeping for an hour, but I slept for three. But I don't feel bad about it, because I needed every minute of that nap. Unfortunately, this means that it is once again late at night and I haven't done my daily exercise. Four days in and I'm already floundering. Sigh.

I've come to think of this fitness regime as my Inverted Lent, since Brian pointed out how close my timing was to being a mirror image of Lent. To be honest, though, 40 days was an afterthought. I decided that I would exercise every day until Memorial day, then I got out my calendar and fortuitously counted exactly 40 remaining days. If I had been smart and thought of this a few days sooner, then I could have actually been done my 40 days before Memorial day weekend, instead of on the actual holiday Monday. Oh well, maybe next year.

I received news yesterday that a wonderful woman from my home church in Ottawa passed away. I'm a little sad that I can't be in Ottawa for her funeral, but I'm more sad that my mom can't be. Irma has been a part of my family's life for as long as I can remember, and I know it's hard for my mom that she can't be there. But, she is in Australia, visiting many of her family members for the first time ever, and coming back early is not really an option. My prayers go out to my church family right now, and although I am sad, I am happy to know that her suffering is over and that she is with her Lord. But I wanted to share my one-paragraph eulogy before I sign off from this rambling and non-point-form-organized post.

Have you ever had a time in your life where you were completely broke, and a bill came in that you needed a specific amount of money to pay for, but you had no idea where that money would come from? And you prayed, but you didn't mention it to anyone because you were too embarrassed to ask for help? And then one day, someone would press an unmarked envelope into your hand, which you would open up later to find contained the exact amount of money that you needed to pay that bill? It was Irma who would press that envelope into my hand. God answers prayers, but he enlists people like Irma to do the hands-on work. Because he knows that they will smile and do it, every time, blessed to have been of service.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


You may or may not have noticed that I've been playing around with the format of this site a little bit lately. After numerous failed attempts, I finally figured out how to put the sidebar on the left, and I changed my picture so that it was about 15 years more recent (although it is still outdated by about 5 years). Then I decided to update my profile page so that it actually, I don't know, said something about me. But, apparently, there is a 1200 character limit to Blogger profiles, so I'm giving it a post of its own. Then, if I figure out how, I will actually put a link to this page on the sidebar so that newcomers can read it. But of course, now that I've said that, I won't be able to figure out how.

A brief history of me:

I was born in Canada. I grew up in Ottawa, which is one of the greatest cities in the world to live in. Then I went to college in The Middle of Nowhere, Western New York, and met a lovely boy that I decided to marry.

I went to law school in Toronto, received my J.D., then my dad died later that same month. My husband and I moved to Ottawa to be closer to my family, and I spent my articling year (sortof an internship, for non-Canadians) working at a small criminal defense firm in Ottawa. There were aspects of the practice of law that I loved, but I didn't love the lifestyle. I want to be able to have a family and really be able to spend time with them. I want to have time to eat meals and sleep.

So, we moved to Pennsylvania to be closer to Jeremy's family, who are numerous and all concentrated within five minutes of one another in a suburb of Philadelphia. We're living with my in-laws right now and getting along swimmingly. You know, I don't think I've ever used that particular adverb before. I must be thinking of summer.

My husband found a job that he loves working with computers, and I found a job that I love working with coffee. Some days I wonder what all those diplomas on my wall are for, but in the end, I'd rather be happy than feel like I have a debt to pay to some pieces of paper.

My Family:

I grew up in a stable, Christian home, and I realize how blessed I am to have had that. My father died in 2004 of a massive stroke, but my mother still lives in the same house they lived in when I was born. My brother and his wife live in Ottawa, and my sister and her husband live in Vermont. None of us have made my mother a grandmother yet.

I've been married for almost five years (June 9, 2001), and I love my husband, Jeremy, very much. Parenthood is definitely a hope of ours, but timing and health insurance and several other factors need to coincide before that can happen. Please don't ask me if I'm pregnant; I refuse to answer that question. If I'm pregnant and I want you to know, I will tell you.

My Faith:

I am a Christian. I know that word carries a lot of baggage for different people, and it will probably mislead you if you try to use it to categorize me. But I insist on using the word "Christian" because it's what I am. I believe in grace as an incredible, necessary, and un-earnable gift, and that no one can save themselves. Out of gratitude for grace, I choose to live my life, as best I can, according to the moral code that I associate with the life of Christ and the Bible. I don't believe in forcing my faith on others, and I don't believe in legislating morality. If you ask me about my faith, I am usually glad to talk about it, and you will find the occasional rambling in this blog as I struggle with specific applications or interpretations of my faith. But in general, I don't think of this as a "Christian" blog, any more than I think of it as a "Women's Issues" blog or a "Law" blog or a "Barista" blog or a "Crochet" blog. My Christianity is a part of me, but it's not the only part of me. It's more like my breathing - it's a constant part of my life, but I only talk about it when it's acting up.

Celebrity Babies

This is not a celebrity gossip blog.

Unless I happen to find celebrity gossip interesting today.

Anyhow, since I blogged about Tom Cruise's plans for the birth of his baby yesterday, I thought I ought to mention that Katie Holmes gave birth yesterday, to a little girl that they named "Pickpocket". And because God loves irony, Brooke Shields gave birth on the same day, on the same floor of the same hospital, to a little girl that she named "Pickpocket who is allowed to take anti-depressants".

CBS News
Times Online

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Open Letter to Tom Cruise

Dear Mr. Cruise,

I heard on the news today that you planned on eating the placenta after your baby was born. So, I did a little bit of research, and found out that you had actually just made a joke about it, but everyone thought you were being serious.

I want to apologize on behalf of the internet for believing everything we hear. We really are pretty gullible, and rarely do we bother to read the full story behind the sensationalist sound bytes.

But at the same time, I really don't blame the internet for believing this story. Did you ever hear the story of the boy who cried wolf? You're developing quite the reputation for saying really ridiculous sounding things to the media, and you're usually not kidding. "Ha ha ha, no one gets to talk in the delivery room... oh. He was serious." "Ha ha ha, he was jumping on the couch... oh. He was serious."

I mean really, when you point and shout "Wolf!" can you blame us for believing you? The wolf was real every other time...

Jule Ann.

Monday, April 17, 2006


I started out tired on Easter morning, since I had gone to bed so late on Saturday night. We were, I admit, a little bit late for the "sunrise" service at 8:00, which I paid for dearly by missing my favourite Easter hymn, "Low in the Grave he Lay". How come we sing Christmas hymns for six weeks leading up to Christmas, but we only sing Easter songs one time, once a year? I guess it keeps me from getting sick of them, but I think I could handle a few more repetitions. We also sang "Because He Lives", which I think was written for the express purpose of making me cry. A whole verse about babies, and another whole verse about being ready to die? I couldn't make it through the last verse. I think that song will probably always remind me of my father. I guess it will be joining "His Eye is on the Sparrow", which reminds me of Grandma Silverbrandt, on the list of songs that I get too choked up to finish singing.

After the service was a really nice church breakfast that included the yummiest french toast casserole with a praline topping. Nothing redeems an early morning like a good breakfast. Oh yeah, and the resurrection of Christ. That's pretty redeeming, too.

This Sunday was the first time Jeremy and I went to a service in the actual sanctuary of our church. Because of a boiler issue, and facilitated by lower attendance numbers than when the sanctuary was built in the early 1900's, we have been meeting for our regular services in a big classroom in the one wing of the church that has heat. It was neat to be in the big sanctuary, which has much better acoustics and an overhead screen that is actually, well, overhead. But there was a certain appeal to the smaller, more intimate room. Either way, though, the church is the community, and we really love our community, whatever room we happen to be meeting in.

After church, there was a big family dinner at our house, our fourth family gathering in one week. It's a good thing I like Jeremy's extended family, eh? After dinner, I had to work, which I didn't really mind, because it's the first Sunday I've had to work, and I was still able to go to church and Easter dinner beforehand, so I wasn't going to miss out on any of the major Easter activities. We had a few busy points in the day, especially when 9 people came in all wanting frappuccinos at the same time, which takes time, because there were only two of us, and there are only two blenders, but it was generally a pretty slow day, and we even finished all of our closing stuff ten minutes early.

When I got home, I was going to go to a friend's Easter party, but instead, I got a phone call from my sister, with whom I ended up talking for an hour and forty-five minutes. It was really nice to talk to her, and in the end, it's probably better that we stayed home, since we'd had a busy weekend, and needed some down time. I also got to chat with my mom on instant messenger, and talked to Rachel on the phone for about an hour. I felt like a teenaged girl, with all the phone talking, but it was good to connect with people in a format other than print.

This was my first Easter with Jeremy's family, and it was very different from what I'm used to. It's funny, because I thought I would miss my childhood Christmas more, but we've done Christmas so many different ways over the years that I guess I never had the same ingrained idea of what I wanted Christmas to be like as I did for Easter. I guess a part of it, also, is that I was so pre-occupied with Passover this year that I didn't do any of my own Easter preparations, which probably would have helped the holiday feel more like what I'm used to. Next year, I'm totally buying plastic eggs and doing an egg hunt like I'm used to.

What was your Easter like growing up?

We would wake up early and head down to Parliament Hill for a city-wide, ecumenical, sunrise service. The Salvation Army band would play, and I would always get chills when the trumpeter would play that little transition bit in my favourite Easter song where it goes from being a somber funeral dirge to a chipper celebration that "Up from the grave he arose!" Or maybe I just had chills from the fact that whoever designs Easter dresses for little girls obviously does not live in a climate where it is not unusual to still have snow on the ground on Easter morning.

We would then make our way back to the church for an Easter breakfast, although I remember once or twice going to a restaurant with church people, and I think we even skipped out altogether and went home on a few occasions. We must have gone back for the regular worship service at 10:30, but I think we found the time to do our Easter egg hunt before church some years. Funny that the details are so blurry on this point.

But we always had an Easter egg hunt. In fact, we kept having an Easter egg hunt up until a couple of years ago, when all of the kids were in our twenties and two of us were already married. We would leave the plastic eggs and decorated hard-boiled eggs (which we had made the day before) out on the dining room table in a basket, and we would wake up to find that the basket had been emptied. The plastic eggs would have been filled with candy and hidden around the house by my mom, along with a plastic-grass-filled basket of goodies for each of us. The hard-boiled eggs were hidden too, until one year when we failed to find all of the hard-boiled eggs, and after that, they just went straight into the fridge.

The rules varied from year to year, but usually, we had to wait until after the sunrise service, and we had to find our baskets before we could start collecting eggs. I think that was my mom's way of giving a head start to the youngest kids - if Benjie's basket was easier to find, then he could start finding eggs sooner. I also seem to recall being forbidden to take the "easy" eggs one year when we had the younger cousins staying with us for Easter, but I don't remember how "easiness" was qualified.

As we got older, my mom hid the eggs harder and harder. Our house also got more and more filled with stuff, so there were more hiding places every year, too. She would put them in the toes of shoes, in the pockets of coats, under couch cushions, under mugs in the cabinets, inside potted plants, in the freezer, inside light fixtures, sewn into the hems of curtains, poured into the concrete of the driveway. Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit. But only with that last one. She doesn't have a driveway.

The last time we did an Easter egg hunt, my mom hid about 60 plastic eggs, and we only found about 40 before giving up and wanting lunch. We found a few more throughout the day, one of which was mysteriously filled with varieties of candy that had only been in last year's eggs, but I think there are still about a dozen plastic eggs filled with candy lying around my mother's house. Every once in a while, she'll pull out a dusty teapot from a back shelf when company's coming, and she'll notice something plastic rolling around inside. One day, we'll go over to Grandma's house for an Easter egg hunt with our kids, and little Beren will find an egg filled with fossilized candies that he has never heard of before, and I will have to explain to him why he probably shouldn't eat them.

What are your favourite childhood Easter memories?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Very Full Day

Bank account opened: Check.

Speaking of checks, I got free checks because I work at Starbucks. That was pretty cool.

Worked for five hours, then headed to Jer's grandparents' house to dye eggs. After eggs, we played some backyard baseball, then headed to Target to purchase two identical black shirts for me to wear to work.

Came home, ate dinner, was pleased to discover that my purple dress from Dora's wedding still fit, curled my hair, and started towards Arcadia. Turned around, went home, got my glasses, then headed back to Arcadia.

It took us a while to find the right building, but we eventually got there just as the Overture was beginning. We really enjoyed the performance, even if the pick-up mikes didn't always pick up as much as their names would imply. Little Shop of Horrors is one of my favourite musicals, and the guy who played Seymour was fantastic. It was a little strange having a female voice for the plant, but she did a good job. If I wasn't so familiar with the play, it probably wouldn't have seemed so wrong to me, but I just kept wanting to hear a male voice.

I am really glad we went, though. I love theatre, and I will usually enjoy an okay live performance more than a good movie. Besides, I love supporting student productions, because they were once so much a part of my own life.

Headed to Cosi after the show for s'mores. It was fun to cook them ourselves at our table, and good ending to our night, even if Jeremy seemed to get the hang of roasting over a bunsen burner much quicker than I did. Why oh why did I have to forget my camera?

Came home and watched this week's episode of Lost, which had finally finished downloading (I had to work on Wednesday and Jeremy forgot to tape it for us). I felt very cheated that the download didn't include the "next week on Lost" preview at the end, however. I look forward to that almost as much as the actual show. Anyone want to tell me what the preview showed? I have some comments on the episode, but I'll stick them at the end, so that those who might be waiting to wade through a TiVo backlog won't hate me.

All in all, a very full day. Hard to believe we squeezed so many activities into 15 hours. Tomorrow will be almost as busy, so I should probably be thinking about bed. Seriously, why am I not in bed?

Lost spoilers below:

1. Kudos to Jon, who totally called that Eko and Charlie were building a church.
2. I don't like Bernard. What does Rose see in him?
3. I don't think Sayid appeared once in this episode, although Jack mentioned him briefly to Kate. Wonder what he's up to?
4. I liked Rose's comment about the difference between an errand and a fool's errand. I'm starting to believe the whole "type the code and push execute" thing really is just a mind game. It's driving Locke crazy, and the look on Henry's face seems to indicate that he is pleased with this outcome.
5. I knew Michael would be back! My personal theory is that he has become one of the others, but he will pretend that everything is normal so that he can infiltrate them à la Ethan. Because there is another pregnant woman to steal, now, and we all know how much the others love the pregnant women.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Money and Dates

Today, Jeremy got his first paycheck, and I got my first full paycheck. It's a good feeling to actually have income.

Tomorrow morning, we will open a bank account so we can send checks to our increasingly impatient loan companies. I hope we're in time to avert any major credit crises.

Tomorrow night, we have a date. I want to do something that I can dress up for. I don't know what it is about the traditional "dinner and a movie" date that I dislike so much, but it just never seems worth it to me. It makes sense when you're single and trying to establish a relationship, but spending $60 on something we could have done at home for $5 just seems like a waste. Plus, no one dresses up to go to the movies anymore.

I would love to go see a play, but it's so expensive, too. A friend sent me an email offering half-price tickets to the Shakespeare festival, but they're not for Saturday night. I'd like to go see Shakespeare, but if I can get half price tickets, it seems like I should wait until I can use them.

Hmm, I just got out the local guide, and we could see Little Shop of Horrors at a local university tomorrow. It seems a little expensive ($16) for a university performance, but it's still cheaper than a full-price Shakespeare ticket and 45 minutes closer to home. I know most people don't dress up to go to university plays, but I don't think I'd look completely out of place, either. Jer says it's a good idea, so I think we'll do that.

Speaking of dressing up, we have decided to have a semi-formal garden party for our five-year anniversary. I love an excuse to dress up, although to see me in my everyday thrift store attire, you would probably never guess it of me. More plans to be released later, but it will be the first Saturday in June and it will involve a piñata. I can't believe I didn't think of a piñata for my wedding. If you plan on being in the Philadelphia area for that weekend, let me know, and I'll see about getting you an invite and directions.

P.S. A special thank you to those of you who have been clicking on my ads. I am 1/6 of the way to actually getting a check!

Some barely formulated thoughts about blogging

Blogging is a conversation. It's just a disjointed and time-delayed conversation where you can only hear one or two lines at a time of an international conference call. But if you read enough blogs (which I don't, but I'm working on it), you start to notice common threads and inter-blog influences, and it all starts to come together a little bit. Everyone is talking about what interests them personally, but where those interests overlap, one blog sparks another blogger's imagination and the topic threads its way over to a new blog.

I'm going to call this idea "topical memes", because it needs a name. (Although I bet it already has one, but I'm feeling too lazy for research at the moment.) It's like those quizzes and surveys that make the rounds of people's blogs, but with more creative license. The basic purpose of memes, as far as I can tell, is to get people sharing specific things. And there is something to be said for the framework provided by a survey, because it forces you to think about things you might not otherwise think about, and to formulate answers to questions that you might otherwise avoid. But, honestly, after reading about a dozen or so sets of answers to the same quiz, I start to lose interest.

Here's an example of a topical meme. Not too long ago, Kate blogged about her hair. Inspired by her post, I blogged about my hair, twice. Shortly thereafter, Mollie wrote a post on her blog that started out thus: "All of my LJ friends are talking about hair, so I must as well." That made me feel all warm and fuzzy, because it meant that, across the philotic threads of our internet connections, we were actually having a conversation about our hair. True, the same thing could have been accomplished by sending around a survey that asked about your current hairstyle, but this way each writer was able to add her own style and flair to the topic, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the other hair posts, whereas I usually scroll past surveys until I am so bored for content that I will go back and read them.

A while back, when I first posted my blog roll, I thought it would be nice to link back to other blogs occasionally, to share with my readers what I had been reading. The more I thought about the idea, the more I liked it, but I didn't want to just randomly tell you, "Check out this blog." That would be like saying, "Read this book." Maybe you will, but you're much more likely to read it if I tell you a little bit about the book and why I liked it. And, maybe I'm flattering myself here, but I think you might even get more out of it if I shared a little bit about how it impacted me personally. So, I decided to do just that. If I read a blog entry that gets me thinking, I will share my thoughts as well as the link.

Then I realized that the two ideas were actually one and the same. My desire to link back to other blogs and share my thoughts on other bloggers' entries was really a demonstration of a topical meme.

As the title of this entry implies, I haven't entirely thought through this topic yet. But I am enjoying contemplating it, and how it might work. I welcome your comments on this, as always. I really enjoy getting comments of all kinds, so if you have a thought to share, please feel free to share whatever's on your mind. And for those of you who have blogs of your own, I encourage you to actively practice topical meming (look, Ma, I verbified a noun!). Keep the conversation going!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

My Charoset Recipe

As promised, here is the recipe I use for charoset, which is one of the elements in the Passover Seder. It's a Jule Ann original recipe, because I liked aspects of several different recipes I found, and wanted to combine them all in one place. I'm gonna have to guess at the amounts, though, because I never really measure. I just make sure I have about 2 apples for every 3 people, and go from there.

- 1/2 package of dates
- 1 cup grape juice
- 6 apples
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- water
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Put dates and grape juice in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until dates soften and fall apart to make a paste.
2. While dates are cooking, peel, core, and chop apples finely. Keep the chopped apples in a mixture of vinegar and enough water to cover in order to reduce discolouration.
3. Add cinnamon and honey to the date paste and stir well. Drain apples, and mix date paste, apples, and walnuts thoroughly.
4. Serve with matzah (and horseradish, if you're crazy like us).

Anyhow, the seder tonight went great. We had six last minute additions, so we scrambled to make sure we had enough hard-boiled eggs and everything, but then about six people didn't end up coming, so we probably could have just stuck with our original numbers. The highlight of the night for me - on top of such pleasures as everyone really enjoying it, having just enough soup and too many matzah balls, and the Passover brownies being absolutely delicious - was when I was cooking the charoset, and the date mixture started to fill the kitchen with a sweet, datey-grapey smell. I've been making this recipe for five years now, and I only make it once a year, so it's not an everyday smell. I always enjoy it, but this year was the first time that the smell really triggered all kinds of memories for me. It smelled like last year's Passover and the years before that. New traditions are great, but when new traditions start to make the transition into comfortable, regular traditions, it's an amazing feeling. I hope that, one day, my children will come home from school and smell that datey-grapey smell and have memories of all their childhood Passovers wash over them and try to sneak bites of apple when I'm not looking.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I want one of those foot soaker massager thingies

There really is no feeling like coming home good and tired and knowing that, doggone it, you EARNED every inch of this tired.

I just got off a six-hour shift at Starbucks. It was good, but it went late, because we had a whole bunch of people come in wanting Frappuccinos about 10 minutes before closing, so it took us a bit longer to do all the closing stuff we have to do before going home.

Before going in to Starbucks, I worked my first-ever day as a substitute teacher. It went really well, and I actually (dare I say it?) had fun. I hope I get another call soon.

Quote of the day:
"I would really respect you if you didn't make us do this assignment."
"I don't care..."
"...If you respect me."

I have tomorrow off, which is good, because I still have a fair amount of preparation to do for the messianic Passover Seder we are hosting at our church tomorrow evening. I'm doing a scaled down meal this year, so it shouldn't take me as long to cook as it did last year, but I'm still a little worried about a) a Passover brownies recipe I have never tried before and b) how to pre-make matzah ball soup without the matzah balls turning to mush.

(Aside: Our church has some heating issues, so I've decided not to use the kitchen, which is two floors down from the room we're eating in and unheated. So I need to bring the soup with me, and keep it hot in crockpots. I've already made the chicken and broth, and I'm hoping to make the soup in the morning, cook the matzah balls in it, then drain them off and add them back in to the broth in the crockpots right before the Seder starts. They'll still have to sit in the broth for a while that way, but not as long. If anyone has any experience with this, I would really appreciate your advice!)

If I get the chance tomorrow, I will post my charoset recipe, and I can also post my Haggadah if anyone is interested. Please comment here or email me at juleannwakeman at gmail dot com if you want a printable copy emailed to you.

You know what? I think I'm ready for bed. Good night!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Another post about hair?

I thought I would share a few more pictures of some of my more memorable hairstyles.

December 1996: Buzz-cut (photo by Elsa)


June 1997: Slick retro prom-hair (pictured with Sarah)


Spring 1998: One of the many shades of red my hair has been (photo by Nicki, taken on the tube in London)


Once marriage was on the horizon, I let my hair grow in so that it would be long and normal-coloured for my wedding. Then, after I got married, I decided to return to my hair-colouring ways and ended up with this disaster of a bad hair-cut in unflattering black.

May 2002: Behold the Badness


That was the last time I ever dyed my hair.

Monday, April 10, 2006

On Hair

I've always been pretty lazy when it comes to my hair. The fact that it was an event worthy of blogging for me to curl my hair yesterday should give you an indication of my general hair laziness. Pigtails and ponytails and braids take a few minutes, tops, and tend to last all day. But I really enjoyed Kate's post about the potential joys of a high-maintenance haircut. It took me back to my first semester of college.

I had short, short hair. It was short because I had buzzed it all off eight months earlier. If you ever want a low-maintenance hair-cut, a buzz-cut is the way to go, but be aware that the year of waiting for it to grow in might be more maintenance than you're used to.

My first week at college, I met Zach. The first thing he said to me was, "You should have purple hair." I shrugged, and said, "Why not?"

Later that week, we bleached my hair platinum blonde, because dark brown won't take bright colours. It took a while to finish the bleaching, so when we were done, I decided that I would just leave it blonde for a few days, and do the purple later. In the meantime, I was cast in the school play as a blonde, so I had to delay the colouring until the end of the semester.

During my blonde days, I did a lot of fun, silly things with my hair. My hair is naturally very smooth, and was therefore always resistant to being held in place by bobby pins. But with all of the wonderful damage incurred by the bleaching, I could twist and pin my hair so it stuck out in every direction. It was great. I decided that this must be why blondes have more fun. But even my twisting and spiking was low-maintenance compared to my roommate, who seemed to spend twice as long as I did on her hair, just trying to make it hang straight with a little bit of curl. I never understood that. If I'm going to spend time coiffing, I want dramatic results.

Here's a picture of me with my parents from the weekend of the school play. They knew that I wanted to dye my hair purple or red shortly after the performance, so they decided to beat me to the punch and come down for the weekend with their hair dyed purple and red. If you ever wondered why I am such a freak, you now know: I come by it naturally.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Continuing the blogging tradition of neglecting Saturday and summarizing the whole weekend on Sunday night

After my dreary posts on Saturday, Jeremy and I decided to go on a date. But we're an old, boring married couple, and broke, so our idea of a date might not fit your traditional mold.

I had two gift certificates burning a hole in my wallet, so we headed to Barnes and Noble to see if we could spend them. One of them had been given to me specifically to buy a photography book that I had asked for, and I have been wanting to buy Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler ever since I became interested in the fertility awareness method several months ago. I got the Weschler book, and although it would have been cheaper to order it online, it's nice to get a little instant gratification once in a while. Besides, I wasn't 100% sure which photography book I wanted to buy, and the in-store experience allows you to browse through potential candidates for purchase, and after looking through about six different photography books, I ended up choosing The Everything Photography Book over the one I had originally thought about buying, because it had more detailed written explanations about a smaller number of topics. If I ever want to develop my own film, I'm sure I will want to know more about it than a six-page summary, so in the end, I opted for the book that covered the topics that I cared about, like lighting and composition, in more depth.

As an added bonus, there was about $10 left on my gift cards, so Jeremy was able to buy an SQL book that he had his eye on. So everybody left happy.

There is a Starbucks in Barnes and Noble, but it's a "fake Starbucks", meaning it's a café that sells Starbucks coffee rather than being an actual Starbucks store. But actually, the main reason I care is not snobbery, it's that my partner discount doesn't work at fake Starbuckses. So, we took our new books to my Starbucks store, and sat like a boring, old couple and read works of non-fiction while sipping non-caffeinated Starbucks beverages at my place of work. It might not have been much of a date, but it was fun to get out of the house and it was practically free.

It took me a long time to fall asleep on Friday night. I know it's my own fault for sleeping in on Friday, but it meant that my 4:45 alarm on Saturday morning was even more unwelcome than it usually would be. Oh yeah, and on top of not falling asleep right away, I also woke up at 2 am from a not-unpleasant dream about an amusement park ride that felt exactly like being shot into space. Not that I would know what being shot into space feels like, but, according to the dream, it feels something like going up in an elevator, times several gees. I'm not sure why I woke up, but usually, if I wake up in the night, I'm back asleep before I can even think once about it, let alone twice, but I found myself completely wide awake on this occasion and it took me several minutes to fall back asleep.

All that to say: I was tired when I got to work on Saturday morning. Fortunately, one of the perks of my job is the free-flowing coffee, so a couple of iced double tall vanilla lattes set me back on my feet.

Saturday night, we went over to Jon's house for chili and movies with Jon and Phil and Rachel. We made fantastic stone-soup chili (comprised of the various ingredients that each of us had lying around), with corn bread that I had made and strawberry shortcake that Rachel had made. Jon, as the token bachelor, provided the movies. We watched The Squid and the Whale, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I felt like I was watching a Canadian movie, though, because it was definitely more about people being awkward than a story. It's not for everybody, but I love a good character study. We watched Walk the Line afterwards, which I had seen before, but actually enjoyed even more the second time. Yes, it's a formulaic rock star "success, drugs, relationships" movie, but it's well-done, and I think Reese Witherspoon totally deserved the Oscar for it. If it hadn't been a true story, though, I would have had a hard time believing parts of it.

Around 11 pm, I realized that we should be getting home. Jon's house is an hour away, and I knew I had to get up at 8 this morning, so I would have to be in bed by midnight if I wanted to get a full night's sleep. I said I was ready to go, and as I started to gather my stuff, Jon made some joke about it being too early. Disheartened, I put my stuff back down. I told everyone I didn't want to be a party-pooper, that they could stay as late as they wanted, but I had to lie down, and went in to go to sleep on Jon's bed.

I can't fully explain what was going through my head at this point. I had been up since 4:45 am, so I probably was too tired to be thinking rationally. I might be in my late twenties, but apparently, I am still susceptible to peer pressure. Learning your own limits and needs is the first step, but not letting other people's ideas of what is fun influence you is a much bigger step. I probably would still eat ten packets of ketchup if someone dared me to and called me chicken.

I know Jon was joking, and he wasn't trying to make me feel bad. But I did feel bad. I want to be a cool grown-up, who listens to good music and still likes good movies and goes out and has fun. But I also want to be a responsible grown-up, who feeds her kids healthy meals and makes sure everybody gets a good night's sleep so no one's cranky in church the next morning.

As I was about to fall asleep, I realized how stupid I was being. I dragged myself back to the living room, gathered my stuff again, and asked Jeremy if we could please go home. He assured me that he was just about to come get me, and we said our goodbyes and headed home.

I am officially boring. But I'm gradually coming to terms with that, so it's okay.

I got to bed a little later than I had intended, but I still came close to getting a full night's sleep. We had to be at church early today, because I was singing with a special choir for Palm Sunday, and we were supposed to be practicing before church. My alarm went off at 4:45 because I had forgotten to reset it from the night before, but I was thankfully able to fall right back asleep this time. The choir's song actually came off pretty well, especially considering that I was singing alto, which I don't really know how to do, and neither of the other altos really knew the part either. Jeremy said it sounded good, though, so I'll just assume that we altos stayed quiet enough for everyone else to drown us out.

Our church does this really neat thing called "faith in action". Basically, it means that we do some kind of outreach or service project together after the morning service every Sunday. It's a really neat idea, and I'm glad that we do it. It's good to move beyond the basic worship service and try to touch a little part of the world together. Today, we were cleaning up a local park. Some of the more dedicated cleaners donned waders and actually climbed right into the creek to fish out trash. Jeremy and I were more conservative, sticking to the grassy areas and the walking path, because we had a birthday party to go to at 1 pm, and we didn't want to show up slimy.

I took a whole bunch of pictures of our park cleaning excursion, but unfortunately, my digital camera keeps giving me card errors, so I can't upload them, look at them, or access them in any way. Same goes for all the birthday party pictures I took later. Grrr.

I wear pigtails to work. Usually, they are in braids. I think I do this because I wore braids on my first day of work, so now I feel like it's my identifier. Or something like that anyhow. They go well under my hat. Anyhow, I wore braids on Saturday, so my hair was kinky this morning. I didn't bother with it before church, because I couldn't be bothered, but I had a few minutes to spare after we got back from the park, so I did something I haven't done since the last time I had to go to a wedding: I plugged in my curling iron and curled my hair. I just wanted the ends that had been sticking out of the braids to curl under, because they looked silly sticking out straight at the end of the kinks. It worked surprisingly well, and I liked the way my hair looked with a little bit of shape. But I don't think I got any pictures, and I doubt if I will be doing it again anytime soon, so I thought I would document the occasion in my blog. April 9, 2006: Jule Ann curls her hair for no particular reason.

Oh yeah, the birthday party was fun, too. Jeremy's cousin was turning 10. And his aunt makes the best brownies with peanut butter icing. Yum.

Okay, I'm rambling. It must be past my bedtime or something.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A Dreary Friday

It's just too easy to justify eating a Rice Krispy Square for breakfast...

I woke up at 5:30 this morning, because my nose kept running and waking me up. I sat up for almost two hours before I finally decided that it was going to take decongestant to make me breathe properly again, and I went back to bed about half an hour before my husband had to wake up for work, and then I slept until noon. Fortunately, I was able to find a friend on instant messenger to chat with while I was awake. That's the great thing about the internet - with so many time zones in the world, someone is bound to be awake when you're online! Oh wait, Dan is in my time zone. I guess it's just nice to have nocturnal friends, then, eh?

Today is my day off. You know all those boxes I brought in from the garage that I said I would sort on my next day off? They remain unsorted. So sue me, my bursts of motivation are few and far between. It's payback for them being relatively dramatic when they do arise, I guess. I wish it were a nicer day today. Taking a walk often recharges my motivation, but it just doesn't look like walking weather outside. Oh well.

Oh, that reminds me. I started a 100 Words Blog. The basic idea is that you try to concisely express your ideas in 100 words. Something to do with creativity under pressure. Most people tend to become poetic while doing this exercise, but so far my entries have been relatively prosaic. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but it does seem to make it somewhat redundant, because it's just another outlet for my "talk about what's going on" blogging bug. Maybe I should focus on being more descriptive instead of narrative. Narrative is definitely more my strength and my preference. I confess that I often skim more quickly through the descriptive paragraphs of a book so that I can get back to the actual story. (In the case of some authors, this means skipping whole chapters, *cough* Victor Hugo *cough*.) But you can't really write without any description, so perhaps I should practice. I am seriously considering doing NaNoWriMo this year, if I ever come up with a coherent plot for my novel, and I might need to spice up the narrative with the occasional description. And, looking back over this paragraph, I do have a tendency to ramble on, so chaining my thoughts to a 100-word limit might help me to reign that in a bit. Although rambling might come in handy during a month of frenzied quantity-over-quality writing.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I've figured it out

I am a big fan of ABC's Lost. Not one of the biggest fans by any stretch of the imagination (evidenced by the fact that I talk about things other than Lost on this blog), but big enough to care and watch and theorize.

And after last night's episode (don't worry, Jon, no spoilers here), which left me once again with more questions than answers, I have finally come up with an overall theory for the show: It's an elaborate religious infomercial. I'm not entirely sure which religion it's advertising, yet, but with the mix between sci-fi and spiritualism, my best candidate right now is Scientology.

It's the perfect set-up. Have you ever heard a sermon that started out with the most bizarre and unrelated illustration, and you sat there asking yourself, "What does that have to do with anything?" But, when the pastor reached the end of the sermon, suddenly everything fell into place, and you realized, "THAT'S why he told the story about the crocodile and the hammer without a handle!" And then he gives the altar call, and several people rush forward, finally coming to terms with their own crocodiles and ready to give up the hammers without handles in their own lives. Or maybe it's more like when Nancy Drew FINALLY realizes that the schoolyard vandal case she has been working on is actually THE EXACT SAME CASE as the city-wide prowler case that her father has been working on.

So we'll all watch, mesmerized, for several seasons, and then, at the end of it all, everything will come together perfectly, and the answer will be: Scientology! And there will be a big nationwide altar call, and we'll all give up our anti-depressants and begin to worship L. Ron Hubbard and boycott South Park.

Okay, fine. It's a ridiculous theory. But is your theory really any less of a stretch?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Tackling the Garage

First of all, thank you to Christina for finding me the How-To Make Mario Bricks website. BoingBoing had pictures today, but I am very excited to know that MY BLOG SCOOPED BOINGBOING! You are getting a reward, but I'm not telling you what it is, yet. Surprises are more fun.

I cleaned out the garage yesterday. I went out to find the box that had my extra wedding pictures in it, but it wasn't exactly easy to find. So, I decided not to bother with it, and I took a walk instead. When I got back from my walk, I thought to myself, "Today is that day off with nice weather that I promised I would use to re-organize the garage," and instead of succumbing to my habitual procrastinative tendencies, I dug a dusty, "No time like the present," mindset out of a disused mind-cupboard and set to work.

A bit of background: My husband and I are currently living with my in-laws. We moved here from a 2-bedroom apartment that was over-crowded with stuff as it was, and made space where we could in my in-laws' already-fully-furnished house. Most of that space ended up being in the garage. It was mid-December when we moved, and we drove through several snowstorms on the way here, so we mostly used the "stack it in the middle of the garage and deal with it later" method of unpacking. And actually, everything was stacked pretty nicely when we first put it in the garage. But three and a half months of "Oh, I forgot to unpack the [insert forgotten item]" and digging through the nicely stacked piles to find the [insert forgotten item] had reduced the garage to an unapproachable mess.

So I dug out the portable stereo (thankfully, it was near the top of the pile), put on some Indigo Girls, and started dragging everything out of the garage. I made piles all over the driveway - Books I can live without over there, books I want to bring into the house over here, kitchen stuff over there, kitchen stuff that needs to be properly re-packed because I have been digging through the boxes over here. I also set aside all of the bags of clothes so that I can switch out our summer wardrobes, and dug up the box that contained my extra wedding pictures to make a little desk album for Jeremy's desk at work.

I listened to three CDs with a few songs repeated (The Indigo Girls were followed by The Cranberries and The Barenaked Ladies, for the curious), so I guess I was working at my project for a little over three hours. I restacked all of the boxes in a nice, stable row along the length of one side of the garage, making sure to keep the boxes I might want to get into at some point near the door. You can now actually walk all the way from the door to the driveway when the lawnmower is out, which is quite an accomplishment.

Of course, I still have all of those boxes and bags of clothes that I brought into the house to sort and deal with, but I had to work today, so I haven't had the chance yet. I did manage to put together a desk album for Jeremy from my box of double prints, and he actually remembered to bring it in to work with him today. And really, that was my original purpose in cleaning out the garage, so by completing that part of the project, I can actually say that I finished what I started! I'll get to the summer clothes in good time. It was cold out today, anyhow, so summer clothes can wait. Apparently, there was even SNOW before I woke up! (Here's a picture that a friend of mine who keeps more normal work hours than I do took this morning, if you're interested.)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Two reasons to keep canned tomatoes in the house

Some days, I just don't feel like shopping and I don't have the fresh ingredients on hand to make the meals I would like to make. So I always keep canned beans and veggies in my pantry for easy, lazy-day meals like these. I know it's not as good as fresh, but it's waaaaay better than fast food, and takes about the same amount of effort.

(The recipes below use the normal, grocery-store sized cans. I think 10 oz for soup, 14-15 oz for the vegetables. I also keep the big 28 oz cans of tomatoes for making chili. And I know onions and garlic aren't technically canned, but they are so cheap and keep so long, I always have them on hand.)

You'll Swear It's Not Canned Tomato Soup

- 1 can condensed tomato soup
- water
- 1 small can of undrained, diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried basil

1. Mix equal parts soup and water in a pot, add tomatoes and basil.
2. Heat and stir until warm.
3. Hide the empty cans and serve with pride!

Mexican Cornbread Casserole

- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small onion (diced)
- 2 cloves garlic (diced)
- 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1 can corn (drained)
- 1 can diced tomatoes (undrained, but you can let some of the liquid out if it's really watery)
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 box corn bread mix (I get the little Jiffy ones)
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup milk

1. Grill the onions and garlic in the oil in a saucepan. Add beans, corn, tomatoes, and spices. Simmer for about 5 minutes, to heat through and reduce liquid slightly. Pour into the bottom of a square casserole dish.
2. Mix cornbread according to package directions (my package asks for an egg and 1/3 cup milk). Spread on top of tomato mixture. Sprinkle with a pinch more chili powder if you're feeling frisky. It makes it look pretty.
3. Bake in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until center is fully cooked.
4. Serve with cheese, if you have any.

Five Things

1. Jeremy started his new job yesterday. He has his own desk, his own computer, his own telephone with his own private extension where I can call him and bug him at work, his own chair to sit on (actually, he never mentioned a chair - I could be making gross assumptions here), and a kitchen that he shares with everyone else, but it has an espresso machine, so it was worth mentioning. I am all kinds of proud of him right now, and I'm doing my best to restrain myself from asking him to let me come in and take pictures of him sitting at his own desk in his own chair and working on his own computer while talking on his own phone and sipping an espresso from the kitchen that he shares with everyone else. Instead, I sent him in to work today with two bags full of pastries to share with everyone else who shares the kitchen with him. Today's goal: Find the box in the garage that has our extra wedding pictures in it and unite them with some of those cute little wooden IKEA frames that I always have kicking around so that he can decorate his very own desk with pictures of his very own wife.

2. Although the weather turned rainy yesterday, it was absolutely beautiful this weekend. So beautiful, in fact, that when my brother-in-law suggested that we drive to the shore on Sunday afternoon, I immediately agreed. Unfortunately, it turned out that he wasn't being serious. That's alright, though, because by the time we arrived at the shore, most of the nice day would have been gone, and we would have wasted it driving. Instead, we went to Mondauk Common with two of the little cousins, and we played a miniature game of 3-on-3 of baseball using a tennis ball. I also demonstrated my skipping rope prowess to the little girls, and discovered that although I can still skip rope almost as well as I used to, my endurance level seems to have dropped. I used to skip rope for hours on end, but I think I only managed three or four songs before I was panting like a labrador retriever in July. I think I need to find a one-person jump rope and practice. It sure is good cardio!

Jule Ann skipping rope, aged about 8

3. I have really been enjoying the flowering trees in the Philadelphia area! Spring in Ottawa means daffodils and crocuses, and later lilacs and tulips. The tulips alone are worth the trip, and I recommend that you visit Ottawa sometime when the tulips are in bloom. In fact, Ottawa has the biggest tulip festival in the world, even bigger than Holland! But the flowering trees are new to me. The bright yellow forsythia. The various pinks of the magnolia, dogwood, and weeping cherry. The subtle glow of the red buds. It just feels like the sky is blushing. I took my camera with me to the park on Sunday, but none of the trees I wanted to photograph happen to reside at Mondauk Common. I did get a few pictures of a tree with white blossoms, but it's on my film camera, not my digital. I let Shannon use the digital camera, and I don't think she took any pictures of the white blossom trees. She did, however, take a fun picture of me hanging from a chin-up bar by my knees. I was impressed that I was still able to do that!

Look Ma, all the blood is rushing to my brain!

4. This article made me really glad that I am not a teenager in America today. Five teenaged girls in Ohio found a website with instructions on how to make real-life copies of the treasure bricks from Super Mario Bros, and put a bunch of them up around town. What creativity, I thought, what fun. I would totally have done something like that when I was a teenager. It's good to see teenagers having good, clean, creative fun instead of doing drugs and stealing CDs. But that's not what the police thought. The Portage County Hazardous Materials Unit and Bomb Detection Unit were called in to investigate these suspicious-looking boxes that had been spray-painted gold with question marks on them. The girls could be facing criminal charges. A word to the wise: If you are a terrorist and want to place bombs around a small, Ohio town, DO NOT paint them to look like Mario Bros bricks. Apparently, people will get suspicious. The two main things that were lacking from this article were a) photos of the offending bricks and b) a link to the website with instructions on how to make them. Even after wading through 27 pages of comments on the article, I was unable to find a link to the DIY Mario website. So, I'm offering a reward for anyone who can find me either pictures of the home-made Mario bricks or a link to the DIY Mario website. (Note: Prize is unlikely to have any monetary value.)

5. I think I am either subscribed to too many RSS feeds, or far too easily distracted by interesting stories. But I just have to share one more article in this post. This article discusses one company that has brought "positive work environment" to an entirely new level. Employees are locked out of the office at 5:00 pm and not allowed to take any work home with them. They receive monetary bonuses for taking at least three-week long vacations and for asking for help when they are overwhelmed. Everyone's salaries are public, and all employees work together on one, group, to-do list that anyone can add to. It's a fascinating approach, and not only are the employees happy and healthy, but the company is doing extremely well financially, as well. It reminds me a little bit of a conversation I once had with a manager of mine at a lodge where I worked in Colorado, although on a much more dramatic scale. We were lamenting the fact that we seemed unable to keep staff for longer than a few weeks, and the establishment was so desperate for staff that they would hire pretty much anyone who applied, usually not even bothering to call references. As a result, we usually had a lot of new people who didn't know what they were doing, and we ended up with several disasters like my paranoid schizophrenic roommate and her kleptomaniac replacement. We had concluded that if the lodge treated staff just a little bit better, put just a little more effort into the hiring process, and paid just a little bit more than the other lodges, that people would WANT to work there, we would have our pick of the cream of the crop of applicants, and we would save thousands of dollars on re-training staff, not to mention the money saved by not getting robbed by our own staff. It should be the very first thing they teach you in management school: Your staff are your best asset. Treat them well, allow them to take ownership of their work, and listen to them. Happy employees are good for business.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The scariest thing about the prospect of procreation

I don't usually read the comments on Dooce because frankly, she's just too popular. After about twelve, "I know what you mean, my two year old does the exact same thing! BTW, I love your site, and Chuck is soo cute," I just lose interest. (Although if it was my own blog, I probably wouldn't mind hearing those things over and over again.) But after Jon wrote an entry in response to some of the hateful comments that had been left on Dooce's most recent blog post, I went back and read a few of them.

Wow. Such hate. One person actually threatened to call Child Protection Services, another told her she should have just bought a cat instead of having a baby. The cause of all the commotion? Dooce told her readers that she had sleep-trained her daughter when she was six months old. Now, this isn't a Mommy blog, so I won't assume that my readers know about the controversy surrounding sleep-training. There are basically two major schools of thought: the attachment parenting, co-sleeping school, where your baby stays in your bed with you (LINK) and the sleep-training, "cry it out" school, where your baby sleeps in her own bed and is trained to put herself to sleep (LINK). There are a lot of people who fall somewhere in the middle, too, with a crib in the parents' bedroom, or rocking their children to sleep before placing them in their cribs and responding every time they cry during the night, etc. I'm not a mom, so I am probably not entitled to an opinion on this matter, but here are my thoughts, for what they're worth.

I used to babysit for two families when I was a teenager. The first family had a three-year-old and a one-year-old, both of whom had been rocked to sleep and only ever placed in their cribs after they fell asleep. When I babysat for them, bedtime was an enormous ordeal. I had to hold the baby in my arms whilst sitting on the end of the toddler's bed. Once the toddler fell asleep, I could tiptoe out of the room and place the baby in his crib. Often, the toddler would hear me sneaking out and wake up, and he would wake up the baby, and I would have to sit back down and start again from scratch. If I did manage to sneak out of the toddler's room, half of the time the baby would wake up while I was trying to put him in his crib, which would wake up the toddler, and I would be back to square one again. I loved these kids, but the bedtime ordeal was extremely frustrating for me. Now, contrast this with the other family I babysat for, who had sleep-trained their son, and all I had to do was put him in his crib and wait for him to quiet down after 2-3 minutes of crying.

I have lost touch with the first family, but the second boy is a well-adjusted teenager now. But what good is anecdotal evidence? There are kids who co-slept and are doing well, too. I, like many people out there, don't think that there is one right way to raise children. Obviously, the cry-it-out method has worked for many people, and their children have turned out fine, even better than fine in many cases. But co-sleeping, and everything in between, has worked for other people, and guess what, their kids are doing fine, too. There is a lot of research to defend both positions, but that doesn't seem to stop their advocates from turning hateful when they disagree. As one of Dooce's commenters said, "Their (sic) are books singing the parises (sic) of racism, and homophobia, and of hate, and violence -- no one seems to pick these books up and defend them as 'whatever works for you'." Advocates of both positions are convinced that their position is right, and the opposing position is as evil and unfounded as racism.

Every child, parent, and family is different. You can't expect the same method to work for everyone. Every family has a different family culture, too, and that is something that is not so easily quantified. Diversity means a lot more than just a mix of different colored people. Diversity means that some people are more introverted, some people are more interested in politics, some people are more competitive, some people are more athletic, some people are better listeners. Some families play board games together, some families go camping together, some families spread out and go to five different community activities each night, some families sing together, some families read quietly in their separate rooms each evening. Honestly, I don't think co-sleeping would have worked in the family culture I grew up with. My parents' door was closed to me, and part of the respect that I learned for adults was instilled from the very early years when I was trained to sleep in my own bed. But I have known families with a different family culture for whom co-sleeping fit better than anything else.

I honestly can't say for sure which method, or variant thereof, we will choose to use when we have kids. But the problem is, whatever method we choose will instantly stamp me as a supporter of one side of the camp or the other. Saying, "whatever works for you" is all well and good until I decide that one or the other will work for me, and suddenly, half of you will think I'm evil.

Which brings us back to the Mommy Wars, and the frequently heard woman blogger's plea of "why can't we all just get along?" I say woman blogger, because I am a female, and I am more familiar with being a female than being a male. In my experience, which is of course not conclusive, I have found that men are more willing to fight on a superficial level while really getting along deep down, whereas women are more willing to get along on a superficial level while really fighting deep down. Personally, I think the stereotypically male approach is healthier. I would rather "do as adversaries do in law, strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends" (Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew) than feign friendship while quietly hating you on the inside. But, we don't keep it inside anymore, do we? Women used to quietly suppress their opinions, while acting civil on the surface, but in recent years, we have become much more willing to speak our minds. And then the internet came along, and we found a venue in which we could say all of those things we were thinking with relative anonymity to people for whom we have no responsibility to keep up a civil veneer. So now we are hateful and cutting on the outside as well as the inside, and it seems like all we ever do is either fight or flatter - there is no healthy debate.

So I'm afraid of procreation. Not because I don't feel like I'm ready to be a parent (which I don't), or because I know we don't have enough money (which we don't), or because I am afraid of complications and miscarriages (which I am). I'm afraid of having to make parenting decisions that, as right as I know they are for me and mine, will inevitably not be the ones that someone out there thinks I should have made.

And now, so that you will have something completely unrelated to comment on, check out this animation about a person who becomes extremely frustrated by an error message on his computer. It even has a cat in it.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Grief and Jerry Lewis

My dad used to do a fantastic impression of Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor (1963). It was hilarious. It was probably even funnier in the sixties when a) people were actually familiar with the movie and b) my dad was a scrawny 90 pounds with greasy black hair and thick, black-rimmed glasses. I wish I was in Ottawa right now - I would go over to my mom's house and scan some yearbook or wedding pictures. Basically, just picture the woman with reddish-brown hair instead of blonde, and this is my parents in the sixties:

So last night, Jeremy left with his brother to go feed his girlfriend's dog. Hmm... So many ways to misconstrue that statement, let me try again. So last night, my brother-in-law was going to feed his girlfriend's dog, and Jeremy decided to accompany him. Anyhow, however you want to say it, I found myself home alone last night.

I turned on the TV, and I noticed that The Nutty Professor was playing. I almost scrolled right by at first, because I just assumed it was the remake, but then the year jumped out at me. I used to love that movie, and it would be a perfect diversion for an evening home alone. But for some reason, I hesitated to tune in, and I spent several minutes flipping through the other channels trying to figure out what else I might want to watch. I finally realized that my hesitation was due to the fact that I associate that movie so much with my father.

I decided to watch it. There are always going to be "first time since Dad died" moments, and you just need to press through and live your life. They happen more frequently at first, but you gradually find alternate methods of finding out those random things that you would normally have asked Dad, and eventually, "Dad would have known" becomes more of a whimsical afterthought and less of an immediate, devastating realization.

As soon as Jerry Lewis started to talk, I got choked up. My dad's impressions had been so spot on that I felt like I was watching a recording of him. But then I started to laugh, because it's such a hilarious movie, and before I knew it, I was once again enjoying a movie that had once brought be so much pleasure. In fact, the association with my dad started to become a positive force, and I think I enjoyed it more because of him.

I miss my dad. He still keeps appearing in my dreams, and one of these days, I am going to hire myself a Jungian psychiatrist and get to the root of what my subconscious is trying to tell me. At first, he showed up in my dreams as a resurrected person - ie. his death was an accepted fact, but he was alive again for whatever reason. Recently, however, he has been showing up as the father of my childhood - never having died. I'm not sure what the significance of the shift might be. Two nights ago, I dreamed that my parents and I were helping an inn-keeper build an extension onto his inn, and my father had climbed up into a place that he couldn't get down from, and he couldn't hammer in the nail that he was supposed to put in his corner because it involved bending over a plank, which he couldn't do with his bad knees. But then again, I also dreamed that I was babysitting for Leta while Dooce and Jon were at a conference in Toronto, so I am well aware that my dreams are on the wackier side of wacky and somewhere well on the other side of sane.

All that to say, I'm glad I watched The Nutty Professor last night. People grieve in different ways, and in some bizarre way, I grieved last night by watching a 1963 comedy. At least for me, the process of grief has been a series of well-spaced small breakthroughs like this. I don't think about my dad all the time, and sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't be more broken-hearted about my father's death. But it's something that is always with me, and will always be a part of me. And because it's a part of me, I can't expect my process to be the same as anyone else's - not even those in my immediate family who lived through the same things at the same time. So I honestly don't expect anyone to understand how laughing at Jerry Lewis was a healing moment for me, but then again, this is the internet. If there can be a whole website for people who like to put stuff on their cats, I'm sure it's possible that there is someone out there who grieves at least a little bit like me.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

April First

When I arrived at work at 7:00 this morning, I suggested that it would be a great April Fool's Day joke to give everyone decaf instead of regular. My idea was heartily shot down, however, and I quickly forgot entirely about the holiday. (Aside: Don't worry, I wasn't really going to give people decaf instead of regular. It would have been much more fun to give regular to people who ordered decaf.)

I got home from work and fired up my laptop to check my blog rolls. The first blog I visited informed me that J.J. Abrams had issued a press release that ABC's Lost would be cancelled after the second season. After a moment of confused dismay, I remembered, "Oh yeah. April Fool's Day."

The internet is a dangerous place to be on April Fool's Day. Slashdot is infamous for running fake news stories all day, and I've grown to just assume that everything new I read on April 1 is probably fake. (When I remember the date, anyhow.) My personal favourite Slashdot April Fool's story this year is Slashdot Design Changes for Wider Appeal (pink and ponies to appeal more to pre-teen girls).

Oh, and have you visited Google Romance? Just enter what qualities you're looking for in a mate, and it will find you your perfect match (if one exists for you).