Tuesday, February 28, 2012

handwriting

Sunday morning during choir practice I became fixated on my notebook's name label. Our director's son had used his very best handwriting (print) and neatly labeled everyone's books at the beginning of the year. I love the way he looped the top part of the M, and I wondered why I never ever made my "m"s that way.  But I know why. My teachers demanded pointed Ms; that was the proper way to write. In fourth grade, a friend of mine started adding nice curls to her cursive letters, and I decided to make up my own cursive Q and F.  I never liked the book's version of those two letters. The following year I started at a Christian school, and creativity was not encouraged. I acqueised for the sake of my grade and started writing ugly letters again. Until high school, where I rebelled and would print Es, Fs and Qs before writing the rest of the word in print. But for some reason my print Ms always stayed pointed, even though I think the curved humps are much less austere.

Yes, my mind easily chases rabbits when it should be focusing on other things, like music notes and rhythms and whether or not I'm opening my mouth to pronounce a proper O or E or singing it in the southern lazy mouth way.

So I found it quite funny to get home Sunday night and read A.C.Snow's article in the paper. I remember as a child my parents writing notes to my teacher in cursive and it frustrating me because I couldn't read what they wrote. Many of my Chinese students couldn't read cursive, either.  Yet as I reflect on our changing society, I'm not convinced it's still needed. It's never made sense to me why it was mandatory to "sign" your name, but then print it because no one can read the signature. We were told in school that cursive was so important because it was a faster way of writing and we would need it in taking notes in high school and college. I found many people in college mixed the two as cursive easily becomes illegible when you're writing in a hurry. But now? Colleges require laptops, meaning notes are taken on the computer. Typing skills are much more important than writing in cursive. I'll be curious to see whether or not schools continue to teach cursive or if becomes an art form of writing (like the Declaration of Independence, which very few people can read now). And this method of writing drilled into me will be yet one more thing that stamps me as an old fogey to those of younger generations. Aunt Monica doesn't have a smart phone (shoot, she doesn't even have her phone charged most of the time!), she shakes her head at "normal" music, and she'll probably always write loopy. I suppose there's a reason why my youngest niece tells me "You're a good 'ol Aunt."

Monday, February 27, 2012

my new favorite salad

Many years ago at a banquet, I had a strange salad that tasted delicious. It had these dark green, roundish-shaped leaves, strawberries, craisins (which I had also never had), sugared walnuts, with a drizzle of vinagrette dressing. I knew the caterer, and she told me the "leaves" were spinach.


Spinach.  The only thing I knew about spinach is that it always looked pureed. I had never seen it fresh.

Since that night, Spinach leaves is one of the greens I love to eat in a salad. You can pair almost any fruit with it; it has more vitamins than iceberg lettuce, and it's low calorie.

While I'm not a huge fan of pomegranates nor oranges, I have tried this with pineapples, as well as apples and both are marvelous. This is one of the few vegetable/fruit combos I have tried that is both healthy & filling (and it doesn't taste like cardboard).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

time warps

It never ceases to amaze me how when life jerks a rug out from under you, it seems as if you're living in two time/reality zones. On the one hand, you're going about life as if nothing happened. Washing dishes, folding clothes, sweeping floors, ironing shirts, gathering eggs, watering plants, making a grocery list...those mundane, ordinary, drive-you-out-of-your-mind-with-boredom tasks. Nothing has changed. These things must be done.
On the other hand, your heart and your mind stops. There are no answers, just questions. Future plans can't really be made, because you don't have the answers for what the future holds. You feel as if time has stopped, except everything all around you continues on at routine speed.
I'm a Martha (yeah, the one who wanted her sister to help out with housework instead of loafing with the boys) type personality. I seek to serve, to do, to have a plan of action, and I'd like those around me to pitch in and do their part.
As I was pondering through some of these things last night, I was reminded of a quote several friends have written recently. All them worded it differently, but the basic gist is this: While the circumstances of life surprise me, they're no surprise to God.
I find comfort in that.
The Creator of the stars I love to see at night, of the rain that breathes new life into plants, and who set the earth's spin in orbit...He knows. More importantly, he CARES. How awesome is that?


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

a random list

Smoothies (the healthy ones) will sometime in the far-away future get a third and final chance. If I gag or heave or even slightly grimace, they will go alongside my mental list of things to stay away from (like coffee).

My cousin Rachel, while sick from chemo and losing her hair, is remaining positive and focused, and we're rejoicing that the edges of one tumor are "softer" and it appears to be getting smaller, even though she's only 1/3 through the many treatments ahead.  So thankful and relieved! Now if God will help everyone involved restore a relationship or two, we can rejoice for the beginning of another miracle.

Mom's test came back with answers we wanted to hear. :) Happy, happy dance! No further scar tissue development from the last "surgery mishap", no bulging mesh creating pockets of infection, and no cancer lesions. The repeated infection is most likely coming from her sjrogen's (an auto-immune disorder) and the doc has some potential solutions that don't require immediate surgery. So thankful, as her body has been through enough!

I'm still fighting side effects from the Vitamin D meds my doctors have me taking, but thankfully the headaches are responding better to ibuprofen and are only lasting a day to a day and a half now instead of 2-3 days. I'm hoping my body is just feeling less shocked by the high doses and that I'll start noticing a difference in the next two weeks.

And while I'm not up to my goals on the quilts I need to be doing, I am making progress on things. :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

not even a half-truth

I am SO disgusted with our media and liberal comedians right now.
In case you don't follow politics, part of the Obama Health Care plan that is to take affect next year violates the exercise of religious freedom. If a business person believes that birth control is wrong (as do Catholics and a few Protestants), he/she will be REQUIRED by law to purchase health care that includes the cost of contraceptives to your employees. The simple thing would be to make it like a dental or vision plan where the employee can have the option of purchasing it on their own, at their own expense, but NO. According to Obamacare, the employer MUST provide it with the portion of healthcare they partially pay for. Failure to provide such healthcare will result in a daily, substantial fine (until the business either agrees or is bankrupt.)
This past week at a hearing in front of a Congressional Committee, a group of religious leaders who would be impacted by this ruling, presented their cases. They were belittled and ridiculed by many congressmen of this committee. One committee member even walked out because there weren't enough women on the panels presenting their case opposing birth control. NOTE: not enough women, not NO women.
Ever since this event, the media has been laughing and mocking that a group of men are trying to do away with birth control under the guise of religious liberty. It's a lie. They're not trying to ban birth control. They're simply saying they don't want to pay for it because they don't believe in it. Let the employees purchase it themselves if they feel that strongly about it. They are also saying NO women were present at the meeting. (Saturday Night Live even went so far as to do a skit on it.) There were two women on the panel:
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Oklahoma Christian University
 
Medical Director
Calvin College Health Services
 
who both feel that this requirement is a violation of religious freedom. Note both are Protestant, not Catholic. Pay attention to the fact that one is a medical doctor and the other has a doctorate degree. Lastly, both women represent employees that do not classify as churches but would be detrimentally impacted by this ruling. 
 
Personally, I am not Catholic and I do not have a problem with birth control. But I DO have a problem when the government starts telling people they have to live in violation of their religious beliefs. Would a Muslim or Jewish student be required to eat non-kosher food from a school cafeteria? Are Muslim girls forced to wear shorts in a co-ed gym class? Will Protestant churches be forced to hire a secretary who is an openly-practicing homosexual or Hindu temples required to hire receptionists who are evangelical Protestants in the name of diversity?
 
All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

singing the blues

While I like cut flowers, I think they're a waste of money. Plus, they often make me sneeze. My husband works with a bunch of women, who drive him crazy asking, "What are you getting Monica for Valentine's Day?"  They don't seem to grasp that A) I'm not a normal female.  B) Bobby and I tend to think alike. and C) Valentine's, while cool, is not our favorite holiday. We tried the going out to eat thing a few years, but we don't do well with crowds (have you ever tried getting a wheelchair parking spot or table when a restaurant is crowded?) so this year we went out last weekend to celebrate. And I somewhat jokingly told him (since he says he buys me flowers to make the girls at work shut up) if he had to buy me flowers, I wanted them in the form of blueberry bushes, and that Sam's Club had them in a box.

He came home with TWO boxes.  As in 8 plants total.  EIGHT plants. There are only two people in this family. I can never complain the man doesn't love me.

I spent most of yesterday planting blueberry bushes, raking pine straw to put around half of the said blueberry bushes, yelling at the chickens for messing up all the pine straw I put out, and watering the seedlings (and a chicken or two) we planted on the property line. My goal is to finish with the pine straw before it rains today.

Maybe next year I'll ask for a cocoa bean tree.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

only 2 weeks behind :)

 Being the mature, responsible, and sane adult that I am, instead of completing the quilt I needed to finish, I finished step 2 of a totally different quilt. :) Above are 3/4 of the appliqued hearts I started as a result of a class I took a few years ago. While putting something away, I realized I had enough to do a quilt top without making any more. So I did. The above is the finished result. (Now it just needs to be quilted. But that's a different pile and a different project.)

 AND, as if that wasn't enough, I had enough hearts left over that if I added strips and squares I could make another quilt top. And so I did.

Meanwhile, there's still the Solstice Star tutorials taking place (6 squares in 6 weeks).  Today is Week Four, and above is Square Two.  But who's counting?

So after completing adjustments on a top for a friend and making one more top, I hope to get back to work on the Solstice Stars, my block of the month with Bernina, and the what-was-supposed-to-be-my-NC-State-Fair-quilt-but-wasn't quilt and finish the thing. After all, February is now half-over. Not that I'm counting or anything.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

adele

One of my strange idiosyncracies is that even though I'm not a big fan of secular music, I do like to watch the Grammy's and Country Music awards. My nieces introduced me to a British singer named Adele last year. While I'm not overly crazy about heartbreak songs, I love her voice.

If you watched the Grammys, you probably noticed this, but British singers sing. They don't go for the big props, elaborate costuming, pornagraphic dance numbers, or fireworks. They sing. And they do well.  There were quite a few British singers, past and present, at the Grammys.  It's almost as if our super-sized nation has so much bling around it that we forget what really matters...the song itself.

So while mulling on that, I left the news on the next morning a little longer than usual, and this just made me laugh.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7398460n&tag=re1.galleries

She doesn't call anyone out by name, but she hits the nail on the head. I would much rather my nieces listen to someone like her than "I'm Sexy And I Know It" (WHAT were my sisters thinking to let impressionable girls listen to a song with an "Explicit label" on it by a group whose name is SO vulgar that they have to use the acronym for it in order to place it on their records? Yes, I'm still upset by some things I learned over Christmas.) Adele may not be a Christ-follower, but is a breath of fresh air. She dresses simply and modestly, though elegantly, and her songs are neither vulgar nor prevocative. She says her new album will not be about heartbreak but something else, and I look forward to seeing what it entails.  I wish this 23 year old the best, and I hope she keeps her head on straight as she continues her music career.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

a busy Monday

After my morning gym class, I'll be heading to Duke University to visit Little Miss Emma (she should be finishing up surgery/in recovery by the time I get there...see the Feb 1 post for surgery details) and spend some time with her parents.  Prayers have been going up for her doctors, her parents, and her the last few weeks, and will continue to do so as she will be in an extensive cast these next 2 months.

Meanwhile, in my home state, my cousin's daughter Rachel is heading in for round 2 of chemo today. A 29 year old mother of 2, she lost her own Mom to breast cancer not quite a year ago, and her grandmother (my aunt of whom I am just a very stockier, shorter version) to breast cancer several years ago. Prayers going up for her, her husband, her kids, and her Dad and Grandad...so many hurts, fears, and memories right now, on top of the sickness.

Praise going up that Mom has a doctor who isn't happy with simply diagnosing yet another infection, but wants to get to the WHYS of the almost continuous year-round infections. In the same town where Rachel is getting her treatment, Mom will be having an in-office procedure done. Trying to rest in the knowledge that our Great Physician already knows what the underlying problem is, and nothing we learn tomorrow will take Him by surprise.

And later this week, we head to the County GOP precinct meetings. The debate over the NC's constitutional amendment to solidify marriage between a man and a woman is receiving non-stop newspaper coverage and some news media coverage as well. Some of the booths on display at Thursday's meeting will be addressing this very issue. Prayers going up that Christians will show Christ's love and compassion while taking a bold stand for the truth at the same time. I fear if the bigotry, ignorant, and racist remarks are coming out this early, then things will only get uglier as the time comes. And sadly, it's not just those who want same-sex marriage being ugly.

Peace, wisdom, and direction...those requests are going up for my older sister and family as they face yet another round of life changes. So thankful that God is in control even in times of chaos, and so grateful for their gratitude attitude they've had since life went topsy-turvy for them right before Christmas.

And when my day is said and done, there'll still be ironing and dirty dishes.  Some things in life never change. :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I'm H-A-P-P-Y

That children's song always makes me laugh (because all the kids get tickled and shocked about singing "P-P" together).  But today, it fits!

Last year was a difficult year. Through all the different things we faced, I re-gained every pound I had lost over the last year and a half, and then some. The second week in December, I had a wake-up call of sorts. With my husband's support and encouragement, we made some adjustments to our diet. I thought I would never get through the holidays, but I did, and didn't gain a pound. The weight is not coming off as easy as before, but my blood pressure is slowly coming back down (110/82 today!) and I have to keep my mind focused on the road ahead and not the path behind.
I do not enjoy exercise. Never have, and probably never will. But then, I also don't enjoy cleaning the bathroom, but it still has to be done.
Monday I got a phone call from one of my doctors. I was expecting part of the news, but was quite upset to hear the other: she was unhappy with my cholesterol levels (both the good and bad have dropped 10-15 points - good in my book, but the ratios made her unhappy). I felt like the last 2 months had been in vain. The next day I bought a chocolate chip cookie and a Dr. Pepper. The cookie tasted salty and the Dr. Pepper didn't have quite the same flavor it used to have. I wasn't sure whether to be happy or disappointed. I ended up only drinking 1/4 of the drink that day.  Today I had a follow-up with my general practitioner, only to find out he is temporarily satisfied with the results. I did get the usual "You've got to be good" lecture, but this time he gave more basic food principles, which I already knew, but it was good to be reminded that I'm on the right path. As for the cholesterol, he said they were still within normal levels and if I continue to eat right and exercise I should be okay.
The coolest thing...seeing the frame in his office today. It's a duotone painting that resembles a child's drawing - a blue tree that has been chopped in half, with a small green shoot coming from the side. Above it is the Bible verse "He makes all things new." (from Rev 21:5)  I SO needed that reminder and encouragement today! No matter how frustrating, how hard, or how challenging, with God's help I can do this! And I like the reality that a growth is always smaller than the stem or original product. Growth is small and hard, but that doesn't mean it's not there.
Now if there were just some way to make bread and sweet tea taste bad...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

roller coasters

I'm not a fan of roller coasters. I don't like the way they make my stomach lurch. In my book, that's not excitement.

Emotionally, these last few weeks have been a roller coaster. It reminds me of that song from Audio Adrenaline (which I've never really liked until now):




But unlike roller coasters, he leaves us up. And that's quite cool, even if I don't like heights. :)


Monday, February 6, 2012

upcoming events

For those of you who weren't aware of this historical tidbit, we are now in year two of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (or the War Between the States as my husband calls it). Since he's an avid history lover and this is one of the many time periods he enjoys reading about it, I visited the www.nccivilwar150.com website for a list of upcoming events that we might be able to attend.

And I found one that I would interesting, for this next Monday. During all my quilt show forays, I've found a newly released book that has not only quilt patterns but also historical information on how quilts were used in the Underground Railroad.  If you like spy stories, you'll definitely find this intriguing.

And while Monday's lecture is not about quilts, it is about a slave escape. An author will be giving a guest lecture at the History Museum (and of course selling and signing her book) based on the story of Mary Walker (who the American girl doll Addy comes from). This is more my type of history lecture. :) Had my history classes been filled with more personal stories and less dates, names, and facts, I might have found it a lot more interesting. It's funny how our tastes change and our horizons broaden as we age.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

abiding

With all the warm weather, I'm pruning a little early this year.
(You can click here for pics on what that looks like.)
Every year when I do this, I can't help but think of the many passages that deal with pruning and vines. But both yesterday and today, this verse kept running through my head:
John 15:4
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

a·bide [uh-bahyd], a·bode or a·bid·ed, a·bid·ing.
verb
(used without object)

1.to remain; continue; stay: Abide with me.
2.to have one's abode; dwell; reside: to abide in a small Scottish village.
3.to continue in a particular condition, attitude, relationship, etc.; last.
 
So  many times I have focused on the latter part of the verse, the reference to fruit bearing. But the abiding...it's so simple, but so necessary. I just need to hang out with Jesus, to chill in his forgiveness. My Mom would cringe at that statement. I don't mean it disrespectfully, but just more that I need to simply be at home both Him and IN him. Abide in me...such a simple statement, and yet so profound.