Why Blog?

From my Inbox:

I know I’ve asked you this already, but why do you blog? What is your purpose?  I’m just curious.  While I enjoy reading people’s blogs, I can’t help but think that it is also leading us away from being personal in our relationships.  What are your thoughts on this?”

Oh, how badly I want to give the quick Sunday School answer: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  That answer is not entirely untrue; however, if I am honest the answer is more complex, more self-gratifying.

Indulge me in a bit of personal history. My brother Danny introduced me to reading blogs. On one of his annual visits he brought a file of his favorite online links and installed them on my computer. He’s hot into reformed theological controversies, cooking, techno-gadgets and blogs. He knew I’ve been reading, drooling over, and collecting George Grant’s writing for years (I have a huge binder full of his book reviews from World Magazine) and showed me how to read his stuff online. It was a quick transition from reading » commenting » writing my own posts. 

So why do I blog? 

1.    I have a show-and-tell personality. Whenever I’ve read an excellent book or listened to incredible music, my joy is not complete until someone has read it or heard it and agrees that it is excellent. If you came to my house today, I’d ask if you’d like to see my _______ (silverware drawer, garden, guest room, whatever). I’m trying to get beyond foisting a book on some unsuspecting victim/friend and promising them they will Absolutely Love It; but that impulse will never be eradicated. 

2.   To improve my writing. Thoughts and phrases float across my brain, but getting them onto the screen in a readable form is good exercise. I need an editor, big time, but people are not standing in line to offer their services.

3.  To encourage other people. We all have our little sphere of influence; I try to use mine to share quotes, books, prayers, pictures, recipes and music. Truth, beauty and goodness surround us and I like to point them out. 

4.  It’s good intellectual stimulation. This refers to reading other blogs and following their links to other stories. My world has expanded in  fabulous ways. Even if it’s just exposure knowledge, I’ve learned much that is useful in the last three years.

5.  To develop friendships. It’s very odd, especially to the analog personality, but I’ve made some dear friends online. It’s really amazing to read someone else’s journal and recognize yourself. My husband tends to scratch his head as I quote one of y’all. Which one is this? he asks with a note of confusion. 

What’s wrong with blogging?

1.   Time, Where Did You Go? My clock ticks away like nobody’s business when I’m online. Dana suggested a using timer and I’m becoming more convicted that I need to. Time spent blogging is time not spent fulfilling the responsibilities which we have been given. Could you argue against that last sentence? I’d sure like to hear your argument so I could use it for myself. 

2.    Incomplete disclosure. When I blog, I filter what I want you to know about me. You do the same thing, don’t you? Of course, discretion is always called for, but, all the same, I’m putting my best face forward. I am thankful that real people that I really know read my blog. It helps me to combat hypocrisy.

3.    Isolation. I am more convinced each day that life needs to be lived within the context of covenant community. It is too easy to plug into the computer and zone out the people who are in the physical now. I try, emphasis on try, not to blog when my husband is home so I can be present with him. 

4.   Misplaced priorities. Since I really do enjoy blogging, thinking about how and what to write is often at the forefront of my mind. “My public needs me” has been a joke in our family for decades. My toilets need me too, but I don’t view them like I view you, my dear reader. 

5.   Unlimited scope. When my oldest son began to read, I devised a plan to check out each and every picture book in our public library. After a few months I asked myself, Why? I had assumed every book the library offered was worth reading.  I used to be impressed with four pages of blog links, until I realized that it was the same fallacy. I’m content to limit myself to a small group of daily reads, a larger group of weekly reads and another folder of occasional glances. There are many extraordinary blogs which I miss and that’s Okay.

Why do you blog? Or, why do you read blogs?

(P.S. Thanks, Mel, for holding my feet to the fire. I appreciate it…and you.)
 

A Wee Bit of Merriment

While my bread is baking, I jumped online to see how some big happenings went with my online friends.  Oh my!  Between Cindy’s son’s wedding, Donna’s daughter’s graduation and Janie’s 30th anniversary, I’m limp from emotion.

My older daughter-in-law and I had a funny phone conversation about weird stuff people eat.  She hadn’t known about my not-so-secret weirdness: I eat non-instant dry milk powder.  Put some in a mug, get a spoon and lick away while I read.   When I was a child that was all we could find to nosh on one day and it just stuck.  Weird, huh?

We talked about people who eat butter: take a stick from the fridge and start taking bites.  Ewwwwh!

But my DIL had the best story:  a friend of hers used to eat bananas dipped in mayonaisse

What’s the weirdest thing you eat?

Vegetable Stir Fry

This is for you, Dana.  I can never repay you for the most delicious black bean salad ever, but here’s a down payment.

Put one glug (~ 1 T) of olive oil to a heated pan. Add chopped onions.
Red onions give a lovely color, but sweet Walla Wallas or Vidalias work just as well.

 

While the onions cook are cooking, chop up a pepper or two.
Any color is great: I love red.

These two jars are staples at my house.  I get them from Costco.
They are on the splurgy side of life, but my husband just loves both.
It’s quite an easy way to make my man happy. 
And since he keeps me warm (in many ways) I love to keep him happy.

This isn’t looking real purty right now,
 but those sun dried tomatoes are bursting with flavor.
At this point last night I went to get the ingredient that makes a difference:
frozen sugar snap peas.
Horrors!! 
What I thought was peas was lima beans!! 
Do I substitute limas and hope no one notices?  Yikes!
What’s this?  Oh, frozen cubes of pesto  from the garden: let’s try them.

 

At this point I added some cooked morel mushrooms, which are very dark.
While it tasted divine, I refused to take a picture.
Fortunately I had taken a picture last week so let’s substitute it:

Isn’t that a beauty?

I only add salt for seasoning.
If it’s a special day you could add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

I vary this according to what veggies are in the house.

You could add:

Cubed potatoes (add them first and cook them well)
Broccoli or Cauliflower
Fresh tomatoes in place of the sun-dried tomatoes
Zucchini
Thinly sliced carrots
Green beans
Corn
Mushrooms
Asparagus

The Reading Life/The Cleaning Life

On Mother’s Day we told the kids stories from our first year of marriage. We lived in a self-contained apartment on the bottom floor of a brand new house in the country.  Our landlord (the guy upstairs) Doug was a jovial, gregarious, nice guy who loved to talk.  My husband Curt is genial, but he’s a man who puts his head down and works with a will.  Thus, while Doug was drinking coffee and talking about his plans for the day, Curt got the grass mowed.  Doug loved to analyze the differences between himself and Curt:

“In this world there are dreamers and there are doers.  I’m a dreamer and Curt is a doer.”
“In this world there are thinkers and there are workers.  I’m a thinker and Curt is a worker.”

Ya gotta love the guy. As easy as it is for me to laugh at Doug, I do the exact same thing myself.  For years I’ve held a dichotomy between readers and cleaners.  I noticed that my girlfriends who loved to read and swapped books were (like me) on the slobbish side.  And the women I admired who cleaned the lintels on a weekly basis, women who wouldn’t dream of leaving the house with a dirty spoon in the sink, didn’t tend to gush over the latest book they’ve read because Good Housekeeping was the extent of their reading repertoire.  

The person who sports bona fide credentials in both camps neatly exposes this false dichotomy.  My dear friend Lisa’s middle name is organization and she has more bookshelves and books than some public libraries.  Lerrina is organized, energetic, and cleans like a whirlwind so she could sit down and read for two hours.  Elisabeth Elliot writes of order, cleanliness and discipline in the home, but her quotes and literary references are evidence of an active reading life.  Even Laura Bush loves to Clorox shelves in her free time and yet she is a librarian who cannot not read.  

Reading that paragraph made me think: well, the key must be to have an L in your name.  Yeah right, CaroL!

As always, my husband is my saving grace.  He loves order and he lives order. There’s no sense gnashing my teeth that I don’t have a native love of dust-mopping, doing crunches and drinking nonfat milk.  I wish I did.  How many days have I been lost in a
book, hear my husband’s footsteps on the threshold, look up and see the
house with his eyes?  My young son saw me scrubbing some porcelain one day and he innocently asked, “Who’s coming over?”  I have oodles of books on this subject and have tried various methods.  All have been successful to some extent; the question is always how permanent is that success? 

I’m convinced that if I don’t love a clean house
I won’t be consistent in keeping it clean.

It’s as simple as that.  But it’s not easy.

So we’re back to the prayer that keeps getting prayed:  Change my heart, O God. 

Last night Collin was out collecting for the paper route, Curt was vacuuming the garage and otherwise taking dominion over his space, and I started (again) a project I conceived in August 2004.  It occurred to me in August 2004 that if I just pretended that I was moving and took everything out of my kitchen and cleaned, organized and put it back together in perfect harmony it would be a happy thing.  I know better than to take everything out in one day.  Over the years I’ve completed sections but never all of them at one time.  The kitchen is the command center of our home.  It is the room where I chop onions, crunch my Kashi Go Lean, blog and read blogs, teach my son, and talk on the phone.  As self-indulgent as it may be, I’m blogging about it to make sure it gets done.  Maybe I’ll even post pictures.  After, not before. There. 

  

Will You Be My Grandma?

New neighbors moved in next door to my in-laws.  This is the kind of family that is often featured in newspaper insert magazines.  Two ordinary people open their home and their family to foster and adopt several kids from difficult backgrounds.   This  family has a van-load of children with varying abilities and disabilities.

My in-laws are the loveliest people, a rare combination of tidy + tidy.  Their life is neat, clean, ordered, structured, and predictable.  Enter the new neighbors. 

Grandma (what we call my MIL) was in the backyard working when  a four-year old  towhead  came to the fence. 

“Hey!” he hollered, “Can I throw rocks into your backyard?”

“No,” Grandma said in measured tones, “But if you would like, you can drop them through the fence near this rose.”

For an hour the little blonde boy was occupied looking for rocks to deposit through the chain-link fence. Eventually he approached for more chat.

“My name is Danny,” he volunteered.  “What are you?”

“What am I?”  she repeated, tilting her head.  “I’m a Grandma!”

He was silent for a moment, staring into her eyes.  “Will you be my Grandma?”

She hesitated, uncomfortable with the frank question.  Weighing the options, in a millisecond, she decided.  “Yes, Danny, I’ll be your Grandma.”

That night his folks were tucking him into bed and saying prayers, when little Danny revolted. 

“I–Want–My–Grandma to tuck me in and pray with me!”

Mystified, they asked couldn’t imagine who he was talking about.  A little probing brought illumination.  Their neighbor had said she’d be his grandma.  They explained that she wouldn’t be able to come over and tuck him in every night, but that was nice, wasn’t it, that she said she’d be his grandma.

The next day one of the older boys  was running around and spotted Grandma.  He waved and shouted, “Hi, Grandma!”  Danny was furious.  “That’s.   My.  Grandma!”

Guys Holding Babies

 

“He’s just like his dad,” she said. “He loves to hold babies.”

 

She was describing my grandson, but a memory of my own dad flashed into my mind. He would stand at the back of the chapel, a baby cradled in his arm as he shook hands with folks leaving.  Even though he had carried around seven babies of his own, if there was a baby in the room, he delighted in holding it. 

I’m thankful to have grown up in a culture, in a community, in a family that valued, cherished and loved on babies.  I’m thankful now to be part of a community of friends who teach both their sons and daughters to hold their little siblings, to comfort them when they are distressed, to give of themselves to these little ones.  In fact, around our parts it is such a common blessing that it almost goes without notice.  

But I look. And I see. 

I see the Matthews and the Lukes and the Adams and the Dannys and the Steves and the Gabriels and the Michaels and the Nathans and the Jesses and the Micahs – all those older brothers who comfortably and naturally tote the little tots who are their sisters and brothers.

Because, you see, I was once the little baby who was held and cherished and protected.  I had my own Dave and Johnny and Jimmy and Danny who found joy in carrying me from the car to the house, who picked me up when I was too tired to trudge forward, whose arms went prickly dead while cradling my sleeping form through a church service. 

We often think of the nurturing of children as a strictly female occupation.  But there is a particular security in being noticed and graciously treated by a father, a grandpa, an uncle, a big brother. 

If I were evaluating a potential husband I would watch closely when he was around children.  Certainly there are different levels of ease depending on how much experience and time he has been around little ones.  But there is a general disposition which will come out.  And a friendly exchange, a playful banter between a three year old and that potential husband would melt my heart faster than a dozen roses or a box of chocolates any day of the year.


 
My beloved holding our second son after he cut the cord, etc.

It is such a joy to watch my son as a daddy; he’s one of the best!

My dad holding his firstborn.   JWH, October 3, 1922 – February 14, 1987

House

We watched an unusual episode of House last night.  Instead of a medical mystery to diagnose, the plot was driven by two relationships between doctor and patient:  House and a rape victim, and  Cameron and a terminal  homeless man.  As the young girl was processing through the ugliness she made a connection with House and refused to speak to any medical personnel except him.  Their conversations ranged from the meaning of life, the existence of God, eternity, to justice, the problem of evil, and abortion.

In juxtaposition to House’s patient is the homeless man who wants to spend a night in the hospital.  He refuses pain medication in the last hours/days of his life for a very odd reason. He has no family and no friends and wants to be remembered.  If he took the medicine, it would be an everyday, forgettable cancer death.  In his search for significance he chooses to go through the pain.  There is also an element of atoning for his past in the decision. 

After we turned the TV off, we sat and talked for half an hour about the consistencies and inconsistencies of the philosophical positions presented.  We put our reluctant 15 year old on the spot – how do you answer these valid questions? 

At 4:30 a.m. my husband woke me up to talk about it more.  “I figured it out,” he quietly exclaimed.  “I want to meet this writer.  We were focusing on the wrong storyline.  The man is a Christ figure.  What did he keep saying? ‘Remember me.’ He was doing what his father said.  He wouldn’t take the vinegar.  She washed his wounds after he died. His death was significant.  And how did the show begin? With STDs in young, middle and old people.  What is our disease and how is it transmitted? So House persuaded the girl that life is not significant in contrast to the old man who had no expectations but to die with significance.”

Did anyone see this?  What did you think?    

[Added later: Donna at Quiet Life also blogged about this episode here.  MFS at MentalMultivitamin blogged about it here.]

Do I Wave or Do I Waive?

We live at the edge of the wave.  Waving at neighbors, known or unknown, is not a universally accepted practice in my small town.  But drive 15 minutes, turn onto a two-lane road and you will be waved at by ranchers and farmers you’ve never before seen. 

In the city, where one learns to avert glances and study the sidewalk cracks, if a stranger were to wave, one is immediately suspicious: “Why is she waving at me? What’s up with that?”  We draw into ourselves, put up our deflector shields and turn up our iPods. 

In the rural west, a land of long, lonely highways stretching across vast expanses, an approaching vehicle is treated as a neighbor and appropriate acknowledgement is given.  Sometimes it is accompanied by a small nod of the head.  Smiling is not necessary, certainly not normal.  Each person develops a personal style. 

Left hand up like a signal to stop and back down in one clean stroke. 

A side swipe through the air, fingers pressed together as the hand arcs. 

The right thumb grips the wheel of the car and four fingers stand to attention for a brief moment.

If that requires too much effort, or demonstrates too much garrulousness, lift only the index finger off the wheel.

That last motion, the smallest output of energy, still communicates a powerful message:  you are a fellow traveler on this journey through life and I notice you.  It’s a friendly gesture left over from friendlier generations. 

We are selective wavers.  In town we wave and nod to acquaintances and friends.  Except when we are mistaken.   [Isn’t that the queerest feeling: enthusiastically waving to a friend and then discovering in a split second it’s not the one you expected?  Oops!]  But when we get out of town and off the interstate we waive our rights to isolation and blend in with the local hand-lifters.  Yet, I still catch myself swiveling my head and quizzing my friendly husband, “Did you know that person?”

Do people wave where you live?
      

Monday Morning

After a rich and glorious weekend of celebrating Curt’s 50th birthday, there is a natural let down this morning.  I would love more than anything to tune out; to curl up with Dr. Thorne, a blanket, and a cup a tea, and finish the last 100 pages.  

One of the difficulties of being home is governing my impulses.  I’m getting some help this morning from a little red Lutheran Prayer Book published in 1941.  I picked it up at a book sale last spring and it has picked me up many mornings since.

Here are some snippets from prayers for Monday Morning:

We need Thy help and Thy grace as we are again returning to our daily task. Grant us true faithfulness in the performance of our calling.  Guard us against becoming selfish, careless, and slovenly in the pursuance of our daily work.

Give me joy in my labor, sincerity in my service, and unselfishness in all my striving.

Guard us against the temptations that beset us, and make us hopeful, confident, cheerful, and courageous.

As I prepare for the tasks of the day, I ask for Thy divine blessing.

Amen.