Saturday, March 31, 2007

the family thing

Yes, I can multi-task. I can watch You've Got Mail while composing an insightful and witty entry.
Well, I can attempt it, anyway.

While efficiently tucking away my lunch at Friday school, I was visited my #1 Son's buddy Jon. He had his requisite lap-top with him and was clicking away at his photo-file.
"Hey, look at this one," he enthused. "This is a shot of what we did last night."
Flickering on his screen-saver was a human pyramid comprised of at least 10 family members. Otis the bulldog was lying under the bottom rung, grinning his sloppy canine grin while supremely unaware of the impending danger of collapse.
"We had to do many, many takes to get this shot," he assured me. "That was before we tried dragging the couch over to get Babe on top."
Whilst the parents of this aforesaid family are far far away on a tropical island, the left-behind tribe collectively decided to have a Family Night. This information tweaked my interest.
"Isn't every night Family Night at your house?" I queried.
"Nah. Everybody's busy. One sibling works late, these two live down the road, this one's got a meeting, and so on. So we decided to all have dinner, play games outside, and just be together. Just family. You know."

There is something to be said about this whole scenario. It warmed my heart in more ways than one, and led me to be really, really thankful for an example of a family that demonstrates devotion. Devotion for devotion's sake: let's just be together, play some tag, cook a meal, be silly, carve out a chunk of life and hang together.
You know what I'm thinkin'? That there's a couple enjoying a long-awaited Hawaiian vacation, but in the meantime, the family-thing is happenin' at home.
Neat, huh?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


A burst of enthusiasm led me to vacuum the kitchen this morning. Unfortunately, this was immediately chased by feverish shivers and that feeling of being one step behind my own body as I headed back to the couch. Three days of battling the flu, and the couch holds no more allure for me! Television is lackluster and reading just compounds the headaches. Might I add that Day-Quil is the most disgusting tasting liquid? Whatever the manufacturer slips into it to disguise the medicine-taste truly enacts my gag reflex.
No more complaining. I promise.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

and no FedEX, either....

"The letter X may soon be banned in Saudi Arabia because it resembles a banned religious symbol in the oil kingdom: the cross. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice -the group of senior Islamic clergy that reigns supreme over all legal, civil, and government matters in Saudi Arabia- issued a religious edict about the letter in response to a Saudi businessman's application for a trademark protection for a new service named Explorer. The council experts were struck by the fact that the X resembled a cross and denied the application."

-from The Church Around the World bulletin insert.

Despite their promising title, the religious clergy of the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice are not doing their job. Squelching the message of the cross by banning the letter X? Why not include a ban on all lower-case t's, since they are spitting images of the tree on which Jesus died? My first reaction was the ridiculousness of the whole thing. Can we imagine the advisory board of the Evangelical Council of Churches banning the letter C because it resemble the Islamic crescent? We couldn't get by with a ban of the Islamic star, either. Remember: our flag has fifty of them.
My second reaction? My memory bank pulled up this verse, which says it all:

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18)

I am glad that the long arm of God is tapping on the Islamic clerics shoulders with His imperishable message. If they succeed in striking the letter X from every Saudi newspaper, our merciful God will manage to find new ways to get them to confront the cross.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

joie de vivre

This evening, we arrived home from a three day trip.
As for what we saw and what we did, I have enough blogging-material to last me weeks. We spent a whole day here. and were dumbstruck by this. In the evening, we went here to thoroughly enjoy this. We visited with family on the way down and had lunch with life-long friends on the way home. We took a detour just to see these, which impressed us with their majesty despite the late afternoon drizzle.
Tonight we will lay our tired heads on familiar beds and awaken to a breakfast that isn't labeled Today's Special. I will possibly dream of pirates climbing mountains. I wouldn't be surprised if an Egyptian Queen pirouettes past me in the style of a Degas painting.
A trip to NYC is a joyous thing.

Monday, March 19, 2007

a reflective mood

My thoughts are on these things today:

* a pregnant friend who is on bed-rest.
* the state of the contents of our refrigerator.
*our trip to NYC tomorrow.
* family members that are visiting the Outer Banks.
* a friend's new baby that I have hardly had a chance to hold.
* God's faithfulness.
* how much my family would love to live near a riverbank.
* how I can share the joys of one family and the sorrows of another, all in one week.
* my constant yearning for signs of spring. I leaned over the hyacinth plants (3 for 10$) at the grocery store. closed my eyes, inhaled deeply, and imagined I was strolling in a summer field of flowers. The bang of a nearby grocery cart jarred me back to reality.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sunday excuses

10 Reasons Why I never Wash:

1. I was forced to as a child.
2. People who wash are hypocrites- they always think they are cleaner than everbody else.
3. There are so many different kinds of soap, I can't decide which one is best.
4. I used to wash, but I got bored and stopped.
5. I wash only on special occasions, like Christmas and Easter.
6. None of my friends wash.
7. I'll start washing when I get older and dirtier.
8. I can't spare the time.
9. The bathroom is never warm enough in the winter or cool enough in the summer.
10. People who make soap are only after your money.

For those who are still wondering where I'm headed, look here
for a more direct approach.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

surprising history

Story line: true
Time: the 19th century
Main character: a young missionary

"After fourteen months of persevering study, this fledgling missionary withdrew from his pastoral examinations and decided to become a preacher of his own account. After three months at an independent missionary school, a definite appointment was not awarded him and he was allowed to find his own mission work.
He found himself drawn to a wretchedly poor mining town, where he was eventually given a six-month appointment. Taking the lives of the early Christians as a model, he gave everything he possessed to the poor, went about in a worn soldier's coat, wore no stockings, made his own shirts out of old pack-cloth, and slept on the ground in a wooden hut. He looked after the miners when they returned exhausted after twelve hours' work, or when they had been injured in explosions in the pits; he helped the sick during an epidemic of typhus. He preached too, but he had not the gift of public speaking. He devoted himself entirely to his work, ate bad food, became weak and thin. But he would not give up half-way. His father, although he was himself a clergyman, could not understand this eccentric behavior; he came to see him, pacified the wayward son to whom it had pleased God to burden him, and took lodgings for him at a baker's. Even the religious body which had given him the appointment were appalled at his 'excess of zeal', and recalled him under the pretext that his sermons were not good enough."

Who is this zealous mystery man?
He is known by the whole world for a gift that was not recognized in his day....

Thursday, March 15, 2007

angel food

We are studying the different belief systems of the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faiths. Today's reading divided the topics into six categories: God, Angels, Prophets, Scripture, Judgment, and Fate.
Interesting topic for discussion: angels. Islam believes as men were created from clay, angels were created from light. The jinn, a third order of beings, were created from fire. The jinn were equal to the angels, but turned to the dark side after they rebelled against Adam in the Garden. (If you've watched Disney's Aladdin, then you know a watered-down jinn: the genie of the magic lamp.) According to Islam, Satan was turned into a jinn for his rebellion. So if you polish an old lamp and a genie pops out, keep that information in mind. You heard it here.
I'm on guard with my feelings about angels because pop-culture robs me of thinking biblically. Melodramatic yet well-meaning people that affix plastic statues to their dashboards come to mind. One of my mother's friends kept angelic figurines in every room of her house for "divine protection". Angels accost me on greeting cards, in magazine ads, on T-shirts, and even home-decor that has nothing to do with Christmas. "Touched by an Angel" re-runs dominate the Hallmark channel, leaving me with the distinct feel that every anonymous do-gooder might have been an angel. Wow. You don't necessarily have to believe in God to believe in angels; angels have gone mainstream. Someone in the PR department is on the job, for sure.
A cursory look at what the Bible has to say about angels would set the record straight. It is worth mentioning that in the Old Testament, visits from angels were many times actually visits from God Himself. (Gideon thought he would die on the spot after he figured this one out, since no one can see God and live!) I'm pretty sure that the whole "wing" thing is a fallacy. And no where does the Bible suggest we should pray to angels, for goodness sake.
Any other biblical thoughts on angels?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

blessed busy-ness

Days like today transform the title of the third month of the year into a command. March.
We arise this morning to the chorus of birds chirping. Wedges of black snow tip and teeter all around the yard. I wonder if Friend #12 smells maple-gathering in the air yet?
But I can't afford to luxuriate in my surroundings: my calendar dictates that I move along purposefully.

-Drive #1 Son to his lesson. Stay to accompany him on the piano, in preparation for his upcoming recital.

-Arrive home to get the school-ball rolling. Correct math, dole out reading, fix lunch, leave a chore list on the chalkboard, and wonder about supper.

-Depart after lunch. Destination: Crane once again. After one studio performance, one voice lesson, and one rehearsal with a professor, I can come home. (Any in-between time will be used for furiously cramming notes.)

-Check in with my little scholars. Cobble together a semblance of dinner. Greet Hubby.

-Depart for High-Button Shoes rehearsal. Our director (and chief-cook-and-bottle-washer) is probably climbing the Swiss Alps by now, but we don't begrudge her. She will surely return with fresh costume ideas for the show.

-Commandeer the home-front. Horses fed? Chores done? Kitchen cleaned? Bible read? (that last one was for me....)

Then outen the lights and sweet dreams. Tomorrow's another day of March.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Pollyanna speaks

We lounged on the two couches in the front room last evening while a tray of candles flickered on the low table before us. Waves of warmth exuded from me, the result of my coup de etat in our latest game of Upwords. We are well-matched, Friend #12 and I, which makes for sharp competition that puzzles the rest of the family. That being said, I will admit that she has beaten me without fail for the last dozen games.
"I won!" I shouted towards the back of the house and furthermore, up the stairs. "Hey, I won this time!" No response.
"Hey guys. I won in Upwords."
I heard the shrug in #1 Son's voice from the family room. "Yeah. Great, Mom."
"Congratulations." intoned #1 Daughter dully from the top of the stairs. Subtext: humor mom and she will stop yelling.
To channel attention from my accomplishment and yet continue to call the shots as the victor, I challenged Friend #12 to a new sport: Playing Pollyanna.
"Name three things that happened today that made you really happy."
While she was changing gears and pondering my random request, I dove in. Here is what I came up with:

Number One: I got to play German Lieder for three hours this afternoon. One of my regular gigs at Crane is to accompany the Vocal Diction classes in which the students learn proper pronunciation of German, Italian, French, and even English. German Diction is probably my favorite. Bring me Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, and Strauss. Don't forget J.S. Bach, please.

Number Two: I had the privilege of blessing the upcoming travels of three dear friends. Two of them depart today for Germany (where, if I had accompanied them, I would encourage perfect German diction). The latter part of these travels is a business trip. Father's business, that is. And considering the foundational preparations that have been set into place by the Master Builder, my imagination is challenged to encompass what they will accomplish while abroad.

Number Three: I was unexpectantly humbled by a phone conversation. It was a good kind of humbling, though, as the person on the other end was requesting my help. And not just any kind of help, but the kind that takes time and sacrifice. The kind that means investment. The kind that means I may have something of value to give. It always takes my breath away to realize that.

I actually had another Pollyanna point, which entailed a spontaneous song that someone shared in church today. It struck me to the core. It wasn't the singing, although the diction was pretty good. It was the message, straight from the heart of God:
"Calling all beggars, paupers, and sinners! Come here and sit beside Me! I'll give you beauty for ashes."

Move over, Pollyanna. That seat is reserved for me.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

the skinny

Our household is in a tizzy today, all over the prospects of a new venture. Hubby met with a realtor this morning to view some property. More specifically, a number of properties all tied together, all of which would definitely fall under the category "fixer-uppers". Why does this excite us? For starters, it includes a lovely piece of waterfront. Secondly, it is in a desirable location. Thirdly, the price is negotiable and reasonable (for someone with the talents of Hubby and #1 Son...). Lastly, my family loves a project.
I'll keep my readers curious until we have more information. I just couldn't resist perking up a few cyber-ears.

Monday, March 05, 2007

dribs and drabs of this 'n that

~Any day now, we will welcome Baby Naomi into the world. Seven siblings are ready to greet her arrival, along with mom & dad, of course. The rest of us will beg to hold her and invent ways to make her smile.

~I made a new friend today. We met for the first time to rehearse a Liszt piano concerto, and I couldn't help but notice that she looked closer to my age than most of the students I work with.
She and her family live in Ottawa where her husband is the pastor of a large (few thousand!) church in the downtown area. In snatches of excited conversation between notes, we realized how much we have in common. We even pray for some of the same people! How cool is that?

~We are planning a trip to NYC in two weeks. Friend #12 will join us for a long drive, dinner with family, traffic jams, and a whole day at the Metropolitan Museum. If time and money allow, we hope to catch a performance of The Pirates of Penzance at the NYC Opera. I can dream, can't I?

~Tonight I will attempt to finish recording excerpts for the musical. After agonizing for a month how to reduce three staffs into two, it dawned on me that I can record the bottom two, and then do the top line in a separate take. Well, duh.

The odds are good that if I clear my mind of bits of this 'n that, then bold, innovative, and universe-shaking thoughts may emerge. Eventually.

Friday, March 02, 2007

lunch fit for a bedouin king

For a little something to accompany those three cups of Arabian coffee:

Garlic-Yogurt Naan

In 1/4 C olive oil, saute 3 T of crushed garlic until lightly browned. Cool to room temperature.
Slightly warm 2 C of plain yogurt as a base for dough. Add the garlic & oil, 2 tsp salt, 1 T sugar, 1 T yeast and a few cups of flour to begin kneading. Keep adding flour until dough forms a ball. Knead (or process in your Bosch) for 10 minutes. Cover and let rise. Punch down and cut into lemon-sized sections. Form into a ball and roll with rolling pin on a floured surface. The dough should be 1/4" thin and about 8" round. Arrange on oiled cookie sheets. Prick with a fork all over. Bake at 450 degrees for only a few minutes or until they are puffed and browned.

Serve with hummus and good quality olives. It makes a large basketful, but the leftovers are just as scrumptious! For the purist, you can even make your own yogurt & hummus.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

three cups

In order to understand another person's culture, it is vital to begin to see the world through their eyes. Today we read about a worldview foreign to most Americans but core to the cultures the Middle East and Asia (including China, Korea, and Japan). I quote a section of today's lesson from the chapter, "Tackling the Tough Issues":

"While these societies may fear the wrath of a higher power and punish lawbreakers, they are most concerned with maintaining honor and avoiding shame. Consequently, telling a lie could be viewed as neither right of wrong but as an honorable action, if it was meant to protect one's group. However, if the deception was selfishly motivated, then it would be considered a shameful act.
In the Middle East, personal friendships and tribal alliances are fully dependent upon issues of honor and shame." -The Everything Middle East Book (Jacob M. Fellure)

We found it interesting to learn about the traditional Three Cups of Coffee that the Bedouin offer weary travelers. The first cup (salaam, meaning "peace"), is obligatory. It communicates non-aggressive intentions to all passersby, regardless of their status or political association. If the conversation continues pleasantly, the second cup (sadaqa, meaning "friendship"), may be offered. If the vibes continue to remain positive and promising of a further relationship, the alliance is sealed with the third cup of coffee (issayf, meaning "the sword"). This last cup commits both parties to defending each other's honor (and that of their tribe) to the bitter end. Hence, the sword part.
Two thoughts came to me when I first learned about this custom:
1) be careful whom I have coffee with; the implications may entirely escape me.
2) Arabian coffee is so good and the tiny glass cups so small, I would drink three cups before you could say "open sesame". And I don't even own a sword.