Thursday, July 17, 2014

7QT - Green Things, Fun Things, and New Things!

Haven't posted in forever, but I've been up to all kinds of stuff! Planted a lot of things, in the front flower beds and in containers on the back deck. I did a fairy garden, too!

I planted a few succelents in it and left them a little room to grow. One or two of them are doing good, but the neighborhood stray cats have dug up one or two of the others....  (I think the fairies are not doing their job very well.)
We planted tomatoes and cucumbers in the back. The cucumbers don't seem to be doing well at all. The tomatoes are doing a little better. We have harvested four and seem to have two or three more growing, as well as a lot of flowering. We'll see...! (The plants are quite a lot taller now; this was when we first planted.)
These were the first two tomatoes.
  One of the front flower beds:
Includes lavender, c...I can't remember this one, but it starts with a c, blue mirror delphinium (which have since died), and ivy in the planter. I've always wanted some ivy! The other bed has a rose bush (which is not blooming right now because it was severely cut back early in the spring), a planter of marigolds, and my fairy garden.
And I did this. Let me tell you about this.

I read somewhere that you could put down newspaper around your plants to keep weeds from growing up, and the newspaper just turns into fertilizer, and yada yada yada. Now, there's a good chance I did it wrong. I am no green thumb. But I don't recommend it. The top soil moves and the now-brown newspaper shows through, and, worst of all, the weeds still come up. Those boogers find their way through the cracks and all around. But I tried. Bless my heart, I tried.
Another tip I picked up along the way was to plant marigolds to keep the bugs at bay. Maybe it works if you plant a lot of them, but I only planted a few, and I think the bugs have not deterred one bit. However, the butterflies like the marigolds, so it was worth it :). 
Speaking of green stuff, this is my new favorite salad recipe:
I chopped up some spinach and bok choy (just the leafy part of the bok choy; the rest I put in the freezer with some stir fry veggies). Added those little cherub tomatoes from the grocery store that are delicious, and some dried cranberries and sliced almonds. These almonds happen to be coconut flavored, but they would be fine unflavored, too, I'm sure. For the dressing I drizzle a little olive oil and a capfull of apple cider vinegar, with salt and pepper to taste. It is so good!!
We also moved, into a house G's brother bought and remodeled for us. It's a small two-bedroom. We're finally getting to the last remnants of the unpacking (basically, the office). We built shelves in both closets over the weekend. Measured and went to Lowes and got the wood cut and proud! We're using those instead of dressers to save room. I think I like it.  
Been keeping up with my 2014 Life List reading goal of at least one book per two weeks. Did a couple other things on the list, too, like attend a play (at Missouri State University's Tent Theatre; Fiddler on the Roof, and it was fantastic!),

and attend a Springfield Cardinals (minor league) baseball game. 


Shared cotton candy with the dogs when we got home.

The following week we let them try roasted marshmallows. :)
Both of these activities took place outside, and I swear they both just so happened to fall on the most beautiful nights of the summer so far! Luck. And next weekend we're going to a monster truck show, which happens to be another item on my list! Soooo excited....!!
 Started a second job this week as a preschool assistant at the local developmental center. I love it!! Aaaand my plans for the future have changed. I am going to go to Missouri State University through the post baccalaureate department and become a high school history teacher. I'm excited about it!! And I'll be starting next month.
Have a great week, everyone!! For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Review: Something Other Than God

Minutes ago I finished reading Jennifer Fulwiler’s new book, Something Other Than God. I began following her blog somewhere around 2007 or 2008 and still eagerly await each post, so of course I got the book (Kindle version) as soon after publication as I could. And rather than write a post here, I thought about writing a review on Amazon along the lines of the following:

“If you have ever asked yourself questions like, ‘What kind of people might be recruited to help a wounded yeti safely through a metropolitan area?’ or ‘How might I be able to really sock it to that smug-looking stuffed animal over there?’ or ‘I wonder if there is a way to make my ear canals a little sexier?’…well…you may have written this book. But if any of these questions piques your interest, you just might want to at least check it out….”

But I decided against it, because honestly, this book is just too weighty to sum up in a few humorous (and slightly stretched…?) sentences. While it made me laugh a few times, there were also many points where I was on the verge of tears (especially the last several chapters). I found the reasonable thought processes and the practicality appealing. The writing style kept me riveted and I read through the entire book rather quickly and without getting bored ever. But even more than all that, I was drawn to the ways in which God revealed Himself to this inadvertent seeker.

Jennifer struggled with vivid and valid questions about injustice and suffering. She deeply questioned the apparent inconsistency of God in terms of whose prayers He answered and whose He didn’t…why He sustained and/or protected some people and allowed great sorrow and suffering in other cases…why death, in all its unpredictability and sorrow and tragedy, hovered as the backdrop of each person’s life, more conspicuously present and vivid for some than for others.

I have had my own internal battles to understand suffering and injustice and death. One of my poignant memories in this area occurred probably four years ago after a long-term off-and-on battle with depression and hopelessness. I felt such unalleviable angst that I found myself driving to a cemetery on the edge of town, where I wandered from one crumbling gravestone to the next, weeping with sorrow over the life thereby represented, and over the fact of that last marker of someone’s existence now decaying into impending oblivion.

After a lot of grappling on these subjects, on page 227 Jennifer states, “I’d always heard the ticking of the clock that counts down the seconds as we all get closer to death; now I should see its ticking as a countdown to the end of unjust suffering.” She does not reference simply death here, and a complete end of one’s existence, but to God’s intervention in human history and suffering to establish a way to enter an existence as He had originally planned for humanity – one free of sin and its consequences of evil and injustice and sorrow: in short, heaven.

I love the hope that emanates from this memoir. I am so thankful Jennifer worked so long to produce this account of her initial process of encountering God. Truth be told, in the last few years I have in some ways moved in the opposite direction, occasionally even questioning the existence of the God in whom I have believed for most of my life (though even as a child I harbored some cynical questions about the validity of the Bible and its message). I have craved a more personal interaction with Him – that revealing that is so obvious in Something Other Than God. Perhaps I’ll take a page from Jennifer’s book and concentrate on getting myself in the right condition to hear from God and then see what he says.

If you don’t believe in God, and you have very good scientific reasoning for it, I think you would like this read. The logic is fascinating. If you do believe in God, but you have doubts, or even just a yearning for His presence, I think you would like the book, too. I found it spiritually uplifting.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Glory of the Blood

I reread Mathew 27 today in honor of Good Friday. Afterward I had a song in my head I haven't heard in years, Avalon's "The Glory of the Blood." In it, there is a line that refers to, "the heart of the story: the glory of the blood."

Lately I'm rethinking my stance on the Atonement and substitutionary sacrifice and all that, but haven't come to a firm conclusion yet. But I was trying to think of the theology of this lyric in harmony with a more liberal view of atonement.

There is undeniably a bloody thread of salvation through Scripture. In the Old Testament animals paid the price to temporarily "buy" forgiveness for people's sins against God and each other. Then, of course, there was Jesus, about whom Scripture says He gave "His life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6, etc.)

Interestingly, there is reference in Revelation, too, to the blood of saints/prophets/martyrs (chapters 16, 17, 18). The Early Church Farther Tertullian said, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church," by which he alluded to the fact that the more the early Christians were persecuted, the more broadly their message spread.

So, if, as conservative theology usually posits, Christ's sacrifice did away with the need for temporary, insufficient animal sacrifices, why is there any importance placed on the shedding of a "lesser" person's blood after the ultimate gift of Jesus' blood?

I think in order to answer this question it is imperative to look again at Christ's example. Mother Teresa said the following in her book No Greater Love (pp 95-96):

Jesus indeed gave all. In my reading of Mathew 27 today I noticed it more than usual. He gave His dignity when they took His clothes and mocked and beat Him. He gave away His rights when He chose to remain silent in the face of the priests' accusations of Him before Pilate. He gave up the last material things He owned as the soldiers gambled for His clothes. He gave His life. The extent of His voluntary poverty in death is capped by His being laid to rest in a tomb that wasn't even His own. He gave all.

So with the martyrs praised in Revelation. In their witness for Christ and service in His name for humanity, they gave all. This is the crowning significance, the glory, of the blood. How am I to love my God and my neighbor? With ALL of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. With ALL.

Love is not shallow, nor does it cling to fair weather.
The glory of the blood is not in the shedding, but in the giving. It is the love that makes all the difference.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On The Origin of Species

Let us reexamine that profoundly fascinating question of old, shall we?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

Did the primordial goo spring up into a chicken, or did it spring up into separate specimens (for every species) of an egg and a sperm that somehow found each other, got all mingled up and incubated in the right way, and lived happily ever after as one little feathery clucker? And how is it that more chickens came after the first - was that first chicken already successfully equipped, without the evolutionary wait, with a functioning reproductive system? How else did successive, evolving numbers of chickens (as well as every other species) appear?

These thoughts sprang to my mind the other day as I pondered the rare treasure of the double-yolked egg. That got me wondering if twins skip a generation in chickens, too, so one of the egg's grandchickens may have been a twin, too. :)

As I've previously mentioned, I have a reading goal this year of st last one book every two weeks. Who better to answer my questions to than Mr. Darwin himself? So, I have downloaded  On the Origin of Species  on my Kindle and plan to make it my next read.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Learning an Art (or, Learning AND Art?)

I'm still reading Anna Karenina, but now I am closer to 700 pages in. I just finished reading one of the two more poignant scenes to me so far. This scene, like the earlier one that struck me, is a vivid illustration of a philosophical idea Tolstoy apparently believes in and expresses through his characters and their conversations.
The earlier situation involved, through the evolution of more than one chapter/scene, the character Levin's development of his theory of how Russian agriculture might be improved. Through various interactions with people, witnessing of strangers' reactions to the work, and ideas clicking during conversation, Tolstoy outlines Levin's progression of thought on the subject. The more recent scene that moved me involves the inner workings of a natural-born artist (Mihailov) as compared with one who admires and studies and attempts through "technique" to, well, mimic, this unteachable instinct (Vronsky). Mihailov's creative process unfolds in the scene, from an attempt at a sketch, to a remembrance of a stranger's facial features, to the deep feeling of an emotion the artist was trying to convey. Then, when visitors come to admire his most recent painting, on which he has been working for three years, the artist agonizes over the expectation of their critiques as though the work were his child. Tolstoy writes from an obvious understanding of the artist's inner instinct (I noticed it because it not only describes how the creative one absorbs and "files away" things noticed for future paintings, but I have experienced the same kind of unintentional absorption of ideas for future writing. Tolstoy's description of it is perfect!)
After I read the scene, I was pondering the process and the author and the role of his knowledge and beliefs in his writing. It caused me to wonder, is one of the (primary?) objectives of writing fiction the goal of presenting a visual of one's personal philosophy/ies? I decided to root around and see what others thought of this question, which I found has of course been asked before: Can a writer use a novel to express philosophical views? (In my opinion, Tolstoy certainly seems to do exactly this, and to do it masterfully.)
In this New York Times article, James Ryerson points out the differences between the two disciplines: "Philosophy is written for the few; literature for the many. Philosophy is concerned with the general and abstract; literature with the specific and particular. Philosophy dispels illusions; literature creates them." He then summarizes that many answer the question at the beginning of this paragraph with no, including such novelists who have degrees in philosophy and seem to express it in their novels (like Iris Murdoch).
Others (like David Foster Wallace) answer yes. Still others (Rebecca Newberger Goldstein) admit to intentionally addressing philosophical issues in their novels. Of Goldstein, Ryerson writes, "Still, she says that part of her empathizes with Murdoch’s wish to keep the loose subjectivity of the novel at a safe remove from the philosopher’s search for hard truth." I agree; one's philosophical search for hard truth is, after all, fluid and progressively matures (similar to the theological idea of progressive sanctification). For this reason, I think a novel is perhaps a perfect medium for expressing one's philosophical process and leanings.
[Just for the fun of it and because it touches on an area of personal interest, I'll include here how Ryerson continued regarding Ms. Goldstein: "But she has become convinced over the years of what you might call the psychology of philosophy: that how we tackle intellectual problems depends critically on who we are as individuals, and is as much a function of temperament as cognition. Embedding a philosophical debate in richly imagined human stories conveys a key aspect of intellectual life. You don’t just understand a conceptual problem, she says: 'You feel the problem.'"]
However, in my philosophizing, I don't want to forget another undeniable and more important (?) aspect of creativity - that of the natural-born artist...the one who is unconsciously and unintentionally inspired with the idea and the creative ability (trainable, perhaps, but I wonder if it is truly teachable...?) to birth a classic work of fiction. What comes forth is beautiful and admired (even if posthumously) and studied by those who would learn "technique".... Like Tolstoy's artist Mihailov, I would guess the fiction-producing masters of old did not care to set down their words by a learned technique, but simply to express the thing that came to life inside them of its own accord.
But what about when a master endeavors to use technique, too? Take for example Picasso, who studied and perfected cubism in his art that was already original and masterful. I think perhaps Tolstoy exemplifies this quality in the writing of fiction embued with philosophy. I think I read one other (lesser known and much shorter!) of his novels quite a few years ago, but I've never read anything about the author himself. I will have to see what others have said about him (if anything) on this subject.
But what do you think (especially you writers)? Is one of your aims in writing fiction to express your philosophical views? Or is this just a consequence of the writing? Or...something else?

[P.S., if you do want to learn more about including philosophy in fiction, here is a handy-dandy guide I found that is pretty informative on the technique. ;)]

Friday, April 11, 2014


I love symmetry and color and art. When I was a kid I was enthralled by kaleidoscopes. We even made them a couple of times, maybe in school or girl scouts or project ever! As a teenager I listened a lot to dcTalk, who sang about racial harmony with the lyrics, "My God's design / We are a skin kaleidoscope." To me that said all that needed said: diversity = beauty.

One form of kaleidoscopic art that enthralls me as an adult is the mural mosaic. There are a few websites out there devoted to these, including and Here are a few of my favorites I found from a quick image search:

I even found a brief tutorial from Lewis Lavoie on how to make them:

I think it would be really cool to take all the photographs oneself of things relevant to the "big picture" and make one of these. I might just make it a long-term project!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

7QT: reJuvenations, Jams, and Jokes

Junk to Jewels!
Okay, well, not junk exactly. But definitely a refurbishment! Today I took a couple of barstools we had and turned them into some sleek little end tables for the little house we will be moving into next month. Trying to save space, and I think these do the trick!

In the process of drying (the color is grey, and I made my own chalk paint by mixing
2 parts paint, 1 part powdered/dry plaster of paris, and 1/2 part water).

Found some little "wood plugs" for 59 cents each at Sutherlands and painted them, too.
Dry(ish) paint
Had some molding adhesive lying around, and it is clear, so that's what I used to attach
both the plugs and the glass tops (below).
I had two glass tops lying around from a couple of old, cheap three-legged plywood stands that
I don't even have anymore (just threw the last one out last week because the flimsy legs were skewed and
it toppled over all the time).
Side view: Ta-da! :)

...I can't even think of a proper "J" title for this Take...except maybe "jeez!!" 
"Is that biscuits and gravy mixed in with the dogs' food?" you ask.
"Yes," I answer.
I didn't do it.
They are becoming so spoiled they rarely will eat their food without
table scraps mixed in.
I don't think I like this arrangement....
But I sure do love my dogs :).

I had a phone interview last week for the graduate program I have been looking at for a couple of years now. I was accepted, and will be moving to Maryland, close to both DC and Baltimore, for school at the beginning of 2015! I'm going to work on my second master's degree, this one a Master of Thanatology. There are only two graduate degree programs in Thanatology in the country, one in Wisconsin (I think?) and this one in Maryland. I decided it was time I ventured out of the Midwest, so I'm very excited about this new opportunity! This second master's will only be half the credit hours of the degree I just finished, so I should be able to finish it in a couple of years, and with it raise my GPA for a better prospect at getting into the doctoral program I'm looking at in Berkeley. So...plans, plans, plans! And they are working out! Now to save money for the move.... O.o
For that I'm going to need another...

I looked in the thesaurus (online, of course) and could find no synonym for "graduation" starting with "J".
But. Speaking of degrees, I will be walking in this year's commencement exercises for the degree I earned in September. So...May 3rd. I always get extremely nervous about big events with lots of people, but I decided today that it is my degree, I worked long and hard and paid a whole lot financially and earned this degree, so I'm going to my graduation. I'm hoping it will be a really good experience. Besides, it's always good to face the things that seem daunting, right...? 
It's the second week of the A to Z Challenge and I'm several days behind. I meant to stay with it, but if I'm going to finish I'll either have to write a few make-up posts over the next couple of days, or just pick up right now and keep going with a few missing. But I'm not quitting! I'm grateful for all the visitors who keep coming by and leaving comments. I'm doing my best to visit everyone back! 
I don't know if anyone else will find this as funny as I find it, but I'm going to let you in on an inside joke at my house. Several weeks ago I posted a picture of me on Facebook when I woke up in the morning after a haircut and commented something about how I forgot how messy short hair gets after a night of sleep! My new-to-social-media mother commented with my first and middle name: "Melody Sharon!!"
My dog (my male dog) is named Albie. Well, now whenever Albie does something and we have to get onto him, Glenda exclaims, "Albie Sharon!!"
It makes me laugh every time. :)
For more jolly Quick Takes, visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary!