Friday, March 31, 2006

Interesting Article on Population Growth and Decline

Another great article linked from LAF :). This Foreign Policy article is on population control, a subject I find very fascinating.

I really loved the intro to the Foreign Policy article:

Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It’s more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best.

See? I've tried to tell people that my desire to have lots of children is part of my plan for fulfilling the Great Commission :-D. I've gotten some awfully odd looks for saying that, by the way. . .

And for those who think population control is such a huge concern, I've heard from various sources for quite some time that this is not the complete story. Too bad the general media doesn't let us in on this side of the story:

With the number of human beings having increased more than six-fold in the past 200 years, the modern mind simply assumes that men and women, no matter how estranged, will always breed enough children to grow the population—at least until plague or starvation sets in. It is an assumption that not only conforms to our long experience of a world growing ever more crowded, but which also enjoys the endorsement of such influential thinkers as Thomas Malthus and his many modern acolytes.

Yet, for more than a generation now, well-fed, healthy, peaceful populations around the world have been producing too few children to avoid population decline. That is true even though dramatic improvements in infant and child mortality mean that far fewer children are needed today (only about 2.1 per woman in modern societies) to avoid population loss. Birthrates are falling far below replacement levels in one country after the next—from China, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, to Canada, the Caribbean, all of Europe, Russia, and even parts of the Middle East.

The population declines are such that many governments offer incentives to couples who produce children. Quite a different story from what we in America hear, eh?

It seems that merely by their own agenda for population control, liberals will manage to gradually become more and more outnumbered:

Meanwhile, single-child families are prone to extinction. A single child replaces one of his or her parents, but not both. Nor do single-child families contribute much to future population. The 17.4 percent of baby boomer women who had only one child account for a mere 7.8 percent of children born in the next generation. By contrast, nearly a quarter of the children of baby boomers descend from the mere 11 percent of baby boomer women who had four or more children. These circumstances are leading to the emergence of a new society whose members will disproportionately be descended from parents who rejected the social tendencies that once made childlessness and small families the norm. These values include an adherence to traditional, patriarchal religion, and a strong identification with one’s own folk or nation.

Read the whole Foreign Policy article here. Need it be said that I did not agree with the slant of the article?

After reading the Foreign Policy article, then hop over to Albert Mohler's site for his review of the article.

Hattip: LAF

A Nation of Culinary Illiterates

I found this Washington Post article on the growing lack of cooking skills of Americans to be quite interesting. Some of you may remember my posts on cooking from scratch that I posted last fall. You can find those posts here, here, and here.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the Washington Post article:

"Thirty years ago, a recipe would say, 'Add two eggs,' " said Bonnie Slotnick, a longtime cookbook editor and owner of a rare-cookbook shop in New York's Greenwich Village. "In the '80s, that was changed to 'beat two eggs until lightly mixed.' By the '90s, you had to write, 'In a small bowl, using a fork, beat two eggs,' " she said. "We joke that the next step will be, 'Using your right hand, pick up a fork and . . .' "

"We're now two generations into a lack of culinary knowledge being passed down from our parents," said Richard Ruben, a New York cooking teacher whose classes for non-cooks draw a range of participants, from 18-year-olds leaving for college who want to have survival skills to 60-year-olds who have more time to cook but don't know how.

"In my basic 'How to Cook' class, I get people who have only used their ovens to store shoes and sweaters," he said. "They're terrified to hold a knife. They don't know what garlic looks like."

For many people, cooking classes like his compensate for what they did not learn at home. "Food companies have to acknowledge that there used to be a level of teaching in the home by moms and grandmas that is not as evident today," said Janet Myers, senior director of global kitchens for Kraft Foods who has been creating and testing recipes for the company for 30 years.

Read the whole article here.

Hattip: LAF

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Family Nobody Wanted

Has anyone else read The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss? I finally picked it up Tuesday and finished it Wednesday evening :). I've been mainly reading heavier books the last several months so it was a refreshingly light and quick read.

The book is about a couple that cannot have children of their own. They set out to adopt a child, and by the end of the book they have adopted a total of 12 children. The family is a poor minister's family, yet there is lots of love to go around. The father spends several years in college and then seminary, as he feels called to the ministry, and he often has misgivings about adding "one more" to the family, due to financial stress and an already over-taxed ministry schedule. In the end though, he doesn't regret any of the 12 children he agrees to adopt :).

The stories of how the family gets each child is interesting. It is also interesting to note that 10 out of the 12 children are bi-racial, which was a big issue in the 1930's, '40's, and '50's, when the story takes place. The Dosses specifically targeted bi-racial children (mainly Asian and Mexican) because those were the "unwanted" children - neither race would claim them because they were "half-breeds".

If you are interested in large families or adoption, then you'll enjoy this book :). True stories are always best, and this story is true, written by the mother of the family, Helen Doss. She wrote the book in the early 1950's. I found a 1954 copy at a thrift store, but I've heard that the book recently came back into print as well.

I remember several years ago hearing a man sing a song called Unanswered Prayers by Garth Brooks:

Unanswered Prayers

Just the other night at a hometown football game
My wife and I ran into my old high school flame
And as I introduced them the past came back to me
And I couldn't help but think of the way things used to be

She was the one that I'd wanted for all times
And each night I'd spend prayin' that God would make her mine
And if he'd only grant me this wish I wished back then
I'd never ask for anything again

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

She wasn't quite the angel that I remembered in my dreams
And I could tell that time had changed me
In her eyes too it seemed
We tried to talk about the old days
There wasn't much we could recall
I guess the Lord knows what he's doin' after all

And as she walked away and I looked at my wife
And then and there I thanked the good Lord
For the gifts in my life

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs
That just because he may not answer doesn't mean he don't care
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered
Some of God's greatest gifts are all too often unanswered...
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

The man explained before singing that he and his wife had been unable to have children, and they had fervently prayed for the Lord to allow them to have children of their own. They continued in infertility and eventually decided to adopt. The man explained that every time he sees his son he thanks God for not answering his prayers, since he would not have his son if they had been able to conceive. This man's story came back to me as I was reading The Family Nobody Wanted, especially the last chapter.

I find it interesting that usually books have one passage (two in the case of Les Mis, my other recent read) that really jumps out as the summary passage for the book. Oftentimes it is near the end of the book, as in this case.

In the last chapter of the book the Dosses are finally cleared to adopt their last three children. The night before the adoptions are sealed, Carl and Helen go around the house tucking all the children into bed and just gazing at them as they sleep soundly. Helen narrates:

As we tiptoed back downstairs, I said, "In my prayers, I give thanks that we never had children of our own, after all. Of our own blood, I mean, because children couldn't be any more my own than these. Somehow I feel that our family was meant to be just this way."

"I do, too."

I looked at him. "You truly don't regret it?"

"If I had it to do over again, I'd still want it this way. You're looking at a happy man who has his quiver full."

"Full of what?"

"Children." He laughed at my puzzled face. "It's a phrase from a psalm:

As arrows are in the hand of the warrior,
So are children to a man in his youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.

There was no mistaking his sincerity and he was not putting on any front. At last I was at peace with myself, inside. I put my hand in his.

"I'm glad you feel like that. I-I used to wonder, sometimes. You've always been so eager to, well, find God. You wanted to know what the divine will was, and you were often so impatient of things that stood in your way."

"I did find God," Carl said. "Not in my theology textbooks, not completely in a mere church building. . . I found Him in the trusting faces of our little children."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

In Need of Musical Balance

Two things for which I have been waiting finally came in the mail last week :-D.

The first is Calvin's Commentaries. I've debated buying them for some time now, and when CBD advertised them for only $99, it was hard to pass them up. I really need to stop reading the CBD catalog! I just find too many good choices in there, as opposed to my typical experiences with local Christian bookstores. Twenty-two hardbound volumes for $100 is a steal! They now occupy a nice row in one of my bookcases :).

The second is a set of hymnbooks with CD accompaniment tracks for part singing. We ordered them from Christian Leaders, a site I found by doing random searches for part singing aids. The spiral-bound books have 80 well-known hymns with 4-part sheet music. The CD's have four piano tracks for each hymn: the first has all four parts, the second is only alto, the third tenor, and the fourth bass. We've been enjoying the books and CD's so far, working on A Mighty Fortress is Our God and Amazing Grace. My Jesus I Love Thee is next on our list. It is so much fun to sing parts, and so much richer than singing with only the melody!

Our family has dabbled in part singing a bit in the past, but we've been wanting to work on it more. Mom and dad both have some background with part singing, but Hannah and I only know a few songs in parts. Father Dear is a bass, or more precisely a baritone. Mother Dear, Sister Dear, and I are all most comfortably altos, though I have a slightly higher tone and can sometimes sing soprano. Granted, it is considerably more fun to sing harmony, but it sure would be nice to be a true soprano for the sake of balance. Ah well.

Hey! We could put out a personal ad :).

Three altos and a bass seeking sopranos and tenors between the ages of 10 and 80, preferably human. Ability to read sheet music a plus. Must be able to carry a tune. Metro Atlanta area. If interested, call the Garrisons at 144-144-8128.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Golden Road

Once upon a time we all walked on the golden road.
It was a fair highway, through the Land of Lost Delight;
Shadow and sunshine were blessedly mingled,
And every turn and dip revealed a fresh charm
and a new loveliness to eager hearts and unspoiled eyes. . .

- L. M. Montgomery, The Golden Road

The Golden Road
is one of my favorite L.M. Montgomery books. I have spent more time enjoying and quoting Anne of Green Gables, yet there is a certain charm in The Golden Road and its prequel, The Story Girl. The two books together tell the story of cousins living in the small Prince Edward Island town of Carlisle. The books are the basis for the TV show The Road to Avonlea which, while also endeared to me, is quite different than the books. Of course, it is unnecessary for me to say that the books are better :-).

I love the simplicity of the life portrayed in these two books. In Carlisle, life moves slowly. There is time to stop and smell the roses. The lasting things in life are valued; the things that will be remembered and passed down from generation to generation. The cousins occupy their time with good old-fashioned fun - no video games needed in this little town ;). They pitch in at harvest; they munch on homemade goodies; they write their own newpaper; they collaborate on schoolwork; they listen to Sara tell stories.

Sara, the heroine of the story and the oldest of the cousins, has the natural gift of storytelling, and throughout the books are woven numerous tales that she tells, some short, some long, but all possessing a charm absent in most modern storytelling. Storytelling was once considered a gift and an art, back before the printed word, television, and the internet were widely available on a daily basis. Today oral storytelling is not valued as it once was, and we have dulled our senses with cheaper forms of communication. One of the charms of The Story Girl and The Golden Road is the numerous stories woven throughout, each with an old-fashioned charm that made it special. L.M. Montgomery is a master storyteller, and Sara embodies this quality of the author.

The antics of the cousins are amusing, to say the least. The cousins have quarrels and jealousies and receive due punishments from their parents on occasion, but overall they really do have a rare (at least compared to today's society) sense of right and wrong. My favorite anecdote in this regard relates to the dream journals the cousins keep. For a time the cousins hold a running contest for the most interesting dream. Each of the cousins keeps a journal by his bed to record dreams each night, and the next day they compare dreams. The cousins go to great lengths to dream sensational dreams - the most amusing effort was the consumption of great amounts of indigestible foods just before bedtime - yet never once do any of them consider making up an interesting dream. The lengths to which they go for sensational dreams is ridiculous at times, but they never stoop to falsehood in this instance; it doesn't even occur to any of the children.

I greatly enjoyed the sense of family and heritage that was woven throughout the books. The cousins live on a family farm that has been passed down for generations. The house and farm are full of memories and treasures from the past, and the children genuinely enjoy delving into their heritage. The farm boasts a large orchard that has a tree named for each child and grandchild of the founding couple of the family farm, as well as special family guests down through the years. They eat "Aunt Julia's cherries" and the "Rev. Mr. Scott's plums" as they ramble through the same woods and hills as their relatives long-dead. The extended family lives nearby and attends the same church and school together. Family ties are important in this story, and the saying blood is thicker than water well-encompasses the King family.

While Anne's story is one first of childhood, then maturation, marriage, and children, the story of the Carlisle cousins spans only a few years and therefore does not include a panoramic look at their lives. As the books progress the older cousins do mature to an extent, but even at the end of the second book they are still very much in their youth. This allows one of the lasting impressions of the book to be that of youth, bringing us to the title of the second book.

So what is the golden road that inspired the above quote and the book title? The golden road is childhood or youth, that portion of one's life before adulthood. It is named as such because of the carefree glory of those days of a person's life. Youth allows time to explore, to learn, to play; adulthood follows with heavier responsibilities and more time commitments.

I cherish the memories I have of my childhood. I had a very carefree youth, with little grief or pain. I was blessed to be raised in a strong Christian home and discipled by my parents through home schooling. I had responsibilities (school, chores, etc.), but I also had plenty of time to laugh and play, delighting in being young.

Through the ages, youth is often glorified as the ideal time in a person's life. Everyone, it seems, is searching for a fountain of youth. Women, especially, in our society will go to any lengths to look younger and feel younger: plastic surgery, botox, chic clothing, the works. We long for the days when we had more energy, more physical appeal, more free time, more friends, more fun. Younger is better, right?

Wrong. Younger is not better. Younger may be more carefree, younger may bring back glorious memories, younger may be a good start, but younger is not ideal! As a matter of fact, Ecclesiastes tells us that youth is meaningless, and Proverbs tells us that grey hair is a crown of splendor. Our culture has idolized youth and forgotten the great benefits that come with age. We are content with the simple, when we should be seeking for something greater.

Like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea, we are far too easily pleased.
- C.S. Lewis

Isn't that true? We are far too easily pleased with the carefree leisure, the lack of responsibilities, and the simplicity that youth offers. We need to heed Solomon's advice and not utter, "Why were the old days better than these?" Don't wish for youth again! Read the Bible. You will find that youth is not the ideal state; instead old age is valued. More so, the wisdom that should come with old age is to be especially sought.

Job 12:12 Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?

Youth is a start, but we don't want to remain in perpetual youth forever. I recently heard a pastor say that he would not trade anything to go back to being the man he was at 20. He said he wouldn't trade the world for the things he has learned in the decades since. That pastor recognized the value of wisdom and understanding. Was he still as good-looking and youthful as he was when he was 20? No. Was he as free from responsibility? No. But he was closer to Christ's image, as the Lord has been working all things together for his good, that he might become slowly and surely more like Christ.

In Tolkien's literature, the elves grow wiser and more beautiful with age. Isn't that the way it should be, if we look at beauty in a Biblical sense? Contrary to our popular culture, the Bible speaks of beauty in an absolute sense, not merely as a subjective attribute that is prevalent among the young. Outward beauty will fade away, no matter how good-looking a person is in his youth, but inner beauty is something that should grow and mature with wisdom as the years pass, and that is the kind of beauty that we should seek.

Childhood is a starting place, but it is not an ending. The simplicities of childhood are delightful, and I am thankful for the memories I treasure. I wouldn't trade the world to become 10 years old again, though. To do so would be to cast away the wisdom and understanding that the Lord has slowly been feeding my stubborn, sinful self. I wouldn't take such a giant leap backwards in my sanctification for anything!

I read The Story Girl and The Golden Road and love to relive childhood with the King cousins. I revel in the simplicities they experience, and laugh at their antics. In the end, though, I am glad that the golden road of youth is not permanent. I am thankful for my childhood, but I am even more thankful that I am not stuck there in my ignorance forever. I am thankful that God is slowly and surely leading me along a higher path, as he enables me to leave behind my lesser understanding for a greater knowledge of Him. May I always seek to be changing, and never be content in remaining just as I am.

I Corinthians 13:9-12
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Did I only imagine it, or did I really just see a high school college-prep geometry student multiply 4 times 25 longhand on paper? Did I also imagine her asking me what 10 times 10 is?


And really, even if every college-prep high school student could mentally multiply 4 times 25 or 10 times 10, would that really bring us closer to reducing the alarming innumeracy rate in America? Not by much.

Taken from a random website:

Functional illiteracy refers to the inability of an individual to use reading, speaking, writing and computational skills in everyday life situations. For example, a functionally illiterate adult is unable to fill out an employment application, follow written instructions, or read a newspaper. In short, when confronted with printed materials, adults without basic literacy skills cannot function effectively.

Tweaking a bit:

Functional innumeracy refers to the inability of an individual to use mathematical applications, mathematical terms, ciphering, and computational skills in everyday life situations. For example, a functionally innumerate adult is unable to do simple mental arithmetic, solve a simple word problem, or apply mathematics to real-life situations. In short, when confronted with numbers, adults without basic numeracy skills cannot function effectively.

I think innumeracy is a real problem in our nation, and sadly unrecognized as such by most. Numeracy is not the same thing as plugging-and-chugging one's way through the typical public school mathematics course. Mathematics is about problem-solving, not just rotely repeating steps, just as reading is not just about sounding out syllables. Reading begins with phonics (which is sorely missing from today's classrooms, mind you), but should move on to incorporate synthesizing, reasoning, and applying. The same goes for mathematics, and unfortunately what is disguised as mathematics in our nation is barely the phonics of mathematics.

Our high school math textbooks are still teaching Dick and Jane, and most students will never get the opportunity to read Jane Austen, George Elliot, Charles Dickens, or C.S. Lewis. I would hate reading too if I was still reading Dick and Jane, so it's no wonder mathematics is so vehemently hated by so many. Convincing most students that math is fun is like trying to convince someone that cherries taste good, if all the person has ever had is cherry cough syrup. It's a bitter imitation!

As a high school math tutor, I submit that what most high school students need is not a regular math tutor to reteach them what they were not able to learn or refused to learn from their teacher. What they need is not so much to learn how to solve by factoring, or how to graph an ellipse, or how to calculate the probability of drawing a green marble from a given bag. They need to learn how to learn.

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life. I would add, show a man the beauty of fishing, and you've hooked him for a lifetime.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Pictures of Lydia's Wedding

A Sore Maid-of-Honor Reflects

I had no idea high-heels required that many muscles! I think I discovered about 40 new muscles that had lain dormant since my birth. Groan. I think about every muscle in my body suffered from Saturday. Good news, though: I didn't trip or stumble on Saturday despite my teetering 6-foot figure :).

We had a wonderful time up in KY these past few days! I am so glad to be home, though, and have plenty of catching up to do. . . *nervously glances at to-do list* I made good headway this morning, though, getting all my planning done for the week, and began unpacking and cleaning.

Thursday night we had a "homeschool version" of a bachlorette party ;) - i.e., "tame sleepover." We watched the new P&P, did some assorted dancing, and then watched While You Were Sleeping. There were a total of 13 girls there, so a decent number for dancing, and the basement had a nice big room just aching to be used :). We did the Virginia Reel (every time I do it, it seems I learn a different version), some line dancing, etc. Very fun :). We didn't get to do any square dancing :(, but ah, well. Maybe some other time. Sister Dear and I learned some square dancing last fall, and it was so much fun!

Friday was spent running around doing various last-minute preparations. Most everyone helped decorate the sanctuary and fellowship hall, make the bouquets, corsages, etc., while Miriam (one of Lydia's sisters) and I decorated the cake. Miriam had bravely made all 19 layers and 45 cups of icing over the previous few weeks. We were expecting about 270 people, so a lot of cake was in order! Lydia graciously allowed us to use real flowers, which were so much easier and quicker than icing roses, and prettier in my opinion. We also borrowed a cake stand from a friend, which made layering so much easier, as did making 5 extra cakes in addition to the display cake, rather than making one huge cake.

Friday evening was the rehearsal, to which I wore my heels for practice ;). Then Friday night I spent close to an hour twisting my hair into pin curls :-P. My arms were so sore the next day, especially after spending another 45 minutes or so letting down the curls and fingering through them with the help of a few helpers.

Saturday morning was spent primping and dressing, placing the flowers on the cake, pictures, pictures, and more pictures, and helping Lydia with last-minute preparations before the ceremony. I was even coerced into some make-up, which was tastefully applied by one of Lydia's cousins. Haha, me with curled hair, high-heels, and make-up. A rare event!

The ceremony was nice and mercifully short, says the girl who had to stand on stage with two bouquets and a ring, balancing in high-heels ;). The best man (brother to the groom) sang I Will Be Here and two of the bridesmaids (sister and cousin of Lydia) did sign language to a recording of Lydia and Quinton singing the wedding version of Faithfully. Very beautiful :). Oh, and of course the first kiss was good ;).

After the ceremony we had the receiving line (which was 250 people long. . . ), more pictures(!), then what remained of the reception. I knew a lot of the people there, so I enjoyed seeing people, though I was too busy to spend much time chatting.

There was an open mic at the reception and my family sang a modified version of Sabbath Prayer from Fiddler on the Roof. We even managed to work in a bit of harmony and some rounds.

Wedding Prayer

May the Lord protect and defend you,
May He always shield you from shame;
May your marriage be
A witness to the Savior's name.

May you be like Abraham and Sarah,
May you be deserving of praise;
Stengthen them, O Lord,
And keep them from the stranger's ways.

May God bless you and grant you long lives

_________________________(May the Lord fulfill our wedding prayer for you).
May God fill you with a spirit of love

_____________________(May He send you children who will bless your name).

May the Lord protect and defend you (echo).
May the Lord preserve you from pain (echo).

Favor them, O Lord,
With happiness and peace.
Oh, hear our wedding prayer.

After the bouquet toss and send-off we climbed into the car for the ride home, getting back around 11:00 on Saturday night, tired but happy. I took a 3-hour nap yesterday to recover and limped through church due to my aching muscles.

What impressed me most about the wedding wasn't the tastefully decorated fellowship hall, or the yummy food, the beautiful wedding cake ;), the nice music, Lydia's gown, the bridesmaids' dresses, or how smoothly it all went - though those were all important aspects! The overwhelming feeling I came away with was a sense of community and togetherness. The wedding was a true example of covenantal living.

It was amazing how many people stepped in to help make the wedding happen. Lydia's family has an enormous number of friends and family that were more-than-willing to help. The music, filming, pictures, food, ceremony coordination, decorations, and flowers were all done by volunteers, some of whom were merely acquaintances, but still eager to help in any way needed. Lydia and Quinton were married by her grandfather, which I thought was also special. We were overrun on Friday and Saturday by the sheer number of people who stepped in to help. The love and servant attitudes displayed by all of Lydia's friends and family is the lasting impression that her wedding leaves in my mind. That and the fact that I know Lydia and Quinton both realized the gravity of their union, and the life-long commitment they were making to each other. That's my idea of a good wedding :).

I am awaiting pictures, which I will post shortly :).

First Day of Spring :)

Spring is here!

I just love spring! It is my second favorite season, right after autumn. I delight in watching the world come alive again after looking dead all winter. All those bunches of sticks begin to acquire buds, then leaves, and all of a sudden they are transformed into beautiful trees! I also love getting out my lighter clothing, as granny boots, knee socks, long heavy skirts, and sweaters grow tiring after a while. I just love light-weight cotton dresses and sandals!

We've been enjoying signs of spring for a few weeks now, though today is officially the first day of spring. Bradford Pear Trees in bloom must be my favorite sign of spring. Our neighborhood is full of them, turning the roads into a veritable White Way of Delight for several days. A Bradford Pear Tree in full bloom reminds me of a bride in all her glory (shamelessly stolen from Ashley's blog, as I had already thought the same before her post!) - absolutely breathtaking! The Bradford Pears are past their peak bloom now, and they are now full of leaves, while still leaving white blooms peeking from behind, creating an effect of glowing greenery until the blooms fall. Just beautiful!

The Yoshino Cherry Trees are in full bloom right now, as are the daffodils, forsythias, and pansies. Pansies have always been one of my favorite flowers; they are so pretty with their velvety texture and two-toned petals. I can hardly wait for the azaleas and roses to bloom, but I will have to wait a bit longer for those :).

Every Spring and Fall I am just in awe over the glorious colors in God's creation. I also realize anew that were the colors of spring or autumn available all year long, I would not appreciate them as I do during the brief time I have them every year. It makes me thankful for the changing of the seasons, that I may not grow indifferent to the wonders of nature.

Thank you, Lord, for the miracle of Spring, the bounty of Summer, the beauty of Autumn, and the cosyness of Winter. Thank you, Lord, for seasons.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lydia's Wedding Quilt

I decided to go ahead and post a picture of Lydia's quilt before leaving for the wedding. I think Lydia's a tad busy to be surfing blogs right now, and blogging is not really "her thing" anyway. . . Hannah and I are planning to leave for Kentucky on Thursday morning, Parents Dear to follow on Friday. We'll probably be back late Saturday, possibly not until Sunday afternoon.

Here 'tis:

The pattern uses the Oh, Susanna block. I found the pattern online for free on this site. It was one of the easiest patterns I've done, and I love the way it looks. It was also quick, which was good, considering I had to finish it in 2 1/2 months :). Now, I realize that this quilt doesn't have an exciting border like my parents' anniversary quilt, which featured golden rectangles, but I've come to terms with this fact ;).

Aren't the colors of the quilt pretty? Lydia picked them out and sent me the names and brand for paint chips that matched. Then I just picked up the paint chips at a local store and took them with me fabric shopping. I actually only had to buy material for the three greens. I didn't have three greens that went well together, but I had pinks and blues in abundance. I have an extensive fabric collection, thanks to years of garage sales and clearance shopping.

I collect two things - fabric and books - and it's hard to resist either at a good price :). While at Goodwill on Saturday I found an 87-year-old exposition of the book of Acts, written by a professor of practical theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. Price? - two dollars :-D. You've probably heard the old adage, the best antiques are old friends? I would add that the next best antiques are old books :).

Happy Pi Day!

. . . and no, I'm not making this holiday up :). Do a google search if you don't believe me.

The above picture is a "pi plate", in case it is not evident from the photograph. One of my mom's sisters is great at finding unique gifts :). She found this pi plate for us from a catalog and ordered it for a belated Christmas gift (we'll pick it up this summer). Is that neat or what?

Does anyone know why March 14th was chosen as Pi Day? :-D Think about it. . .

I'll give you a hint. The proper time to celebrate Pi Day is at 1:59 and 26 seconds, actually 27 seconds if we're rounding to the nearest second ;).

In honor of Pi Day, we made Apple Pi and Chocolate Pi :). Mother Dear and I are bringing pi to share with our Bible study this morning, and for lunch my family will enjoy Apple Pi Turnovers. Father Dear has the afternoon off, so he gets to join us :).

Apple Pi. . .

Chocolate Pi. . .

Mmmm! Apples, chocolate, and mathematics. What a great combination :).

Happy Pi Day, everyone!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Too. . . many. . . shopping. . . choices. . . and home and family

My family lived for sixteen years in what became one of the shopping nightmares (er, attractions) of our county. When we moved to Snellville in 1988, we lived in a nice quiet neighorhood overlooking a two-lane highway. *enter soothing violin music* Across the highway was a farmhouse and a lake. *tweeting of birds* There were pastures down the road, the traffic was decent, and there was a pleasant selection of stores from which to choose.

Unfortunately Snellville did not stay that way. *enter scary music* Evil developers took over the area, cramming our small, quiet town full of store after store after store. *music becomes fast-paced and jarring* The traffic became a nightmare; on a Saturday it could well take 20 minutes to traverse one mile along the formerly-two-lane highway, which had become five lanes. We kept thinking that every possible store had been built within a 2-mile radius of our home, but then we would discover that we were missing that 30th clothing store or that 10th shoe store.

By the time we moved from Snellville we had four grocery stores within a mile of our home. We had three drug stores on the same corner by our house, five counting the Target and Publix that were also on that corner; I won't begin to list all the other drug stores within a mile from our home. We had a Target and a Wal-Mart and a Sam's. We also had a Home Depot and a Lowe's. Restaurants? We had them in abundance. Clothing stores? Yeah, boy. Craft stores? Yes, siree, and I won't complain about those. . . Office and Electronic Stores? I lost count. A hospital? Yep, that too. And a towering many-story physicians office. And a dentist office. And a few jewelry stores. And a car dealership. And a movie theater. And a bowling alley. *enter Christmas music with full orchestra* And a partridge in a pear tree. . .

That only begins to scratch the surface. Trust me. The shopping centers kept popping out of the snow. . . like daisies!

The last straw was when the houses right across the street were sold and up went a bee-yoo-ti-ful buffer in the place of the houses that were formerly facing us. If they were going to build anyway, couldn't they have just taken out one more row of houses? We finally had enough of the traffic and development in our once-fair city, and 15 months ago we moved to the northern part of our county. *soothing violin music resumes*

It's quieter here by comparison. *birds resume tweeting* There are pastures within a few miles of our home and we love the woodsy park nearby. We live a few miles from the next county, which instantly becomes rural as the county line appears. Our neighborhood has an abundance of trees, and Hannah loves the nice lampposts that dot our streets ;).

Our new location comes with disadvantages, however; we now live ten minutes from the nearest Wal-Mart instead of a mere three minutes. I know, I know, the sacrifices! The inconveniences! *sympathetic violin music plays* However, don't feel too bad for us, since another Wal-Mart is now being built right outside our neighborhood, making the 10th Wal-Mart within a thirty-minute drive of our home. *sympathetic music ceases*

You see, compared to Snellville it's not crowded where we live now, but it's still quite congested! We live in a rapidly-developing area, which I fear may turn into the next Snellvillopolis. *shudder* We seem to have moved away from one shopping mecca right into another, albeit currently a little smaller. *fast-paced music returns*

We now live eight minutes from the largest mall in the Southeast. Is there a real need for two Bath and Body Works stores in a single mall? We won't even discuss the "need" for one Victoria's Secret store, let alone the second. By the way, I've decided that I feel extremely sorry for my brothers in Christ. The visual stimuli they endure on a daily basis, especially in places like a public mall, is truly saddening. It makes me want to buy blinders as gifts for the (few) men in my life.

I do like some things about the mall. It's very convenient as an indoor walking track on cold or rainy days :). Early on Saturday mornings are the best, before the shops have opened and the crowds have arrived. The IMAX in the mall is fun at times as well, such as opening day of LOTR or CoN. . . though the power outage during RotK was not fun. *enter menacing music*

Opening day of RotK. Sold-out IMAX theater filled with college-age geeks. I felt very normal compared to my fellow movie-goers. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas approach the Paths of the Dead. *music gets scarier* Captain Obvious dazily murmurs, "The way is shut." ZAP! *screen goes blank* And the geeks go nuts.

But back to the topic of this post. In general there are really just too many stores in our whole county. Our county is one of the fastest-growing in the nation. People just keep pouring in from all over the place, and they are more-than-willing to monetarily support the ever-increasing number of stores.

I feel that at some point Gwinnett (and Metro Atlanta in general) has to burst at the scenes. We have 106 public schools in our county (and many more on the drawing board), in addition to zillions of private schools. The largest public high school in the county has about 3600 students, and there are several others not far behind. In our calling area alone there are three area codes that we can dial without being charged long-distance; we have to dial 10 digits on the phone just to reach our neighbor! Apply the fundamental counting principle to discover just how many phone numbers that means there are in our calling area, subtracting off for numbers that begin with zero or have "9-1-1" in succession :). The traffic here is horrid as well, due to the high volume of cars; one of our interstates is soon to be expanded to 23 lanes! I'm not making this up :-P. In summary, we just have a lot of people.

For years I have dreamed of someday moving away from Metro Atlanta. I just want some space, fresh air, a little elbow room. I'd like to live in a place where the speed limits actually mean something. I've dreamed of moving out to a more rural area someday, or back up North to Indiana, where my family has roots. Southern Indiana, in particular, is my favorite part of the country. *wistful sigh*

But, do you know what I've discovered? Home is not Indiana, or the country, or "somewhere besides Metro Atlanta." My home is ultimately in heaven; I'm just a stranger here, passing through. Furthermore, my earthly home is not so much a plot of land, or a geographical area; it's where my family is. To me, home is family.

Except for a few exceptions, all of my childhood memories of home are of our house in Snellville. Our house there was my home (our home) for sixteen years, from the time I was four until I was twenty. That was where I learned to read, to write, to do arithmetic; all my pre-college schooling took place within those walls. I learned calculus there, and it was there that I discovered Jane Austen :). It is the place where I first embraced the faith of my parents. I played with my childhood friends there, and somewhere, still buried in the backyard, is a time capsule placed there by three adventurous little girls. Our backyard was the Oregon Trail, an Indian village, and a refuge for abused orphans. We played countless games of kickball in the front yard, and I can still remember exactly where the bases were. I learned to bike ride and skate on our street; we took countless walks through our neighborhood. We laughed, cried, and lived together; my brother, sister, and I grew to adulthood there. So many memories are wrapped up in my humble childhood home.

Despite fond childhood memories in Snellville, I was quite willing to move when we left Snellville. I had endured the congestion long enough, and I was ready for a change of scenery. I did wonder, however, how I would adjust to a new home and city after sixteen years in the same place. Most of my friends had moved a number of times during their childhood, but I hadn't experienced that; I had lived in the same place for a long time.

Much to my surprise, though, I didn't have a hard time adjusting to my new surroundings when we moved from Snellville. It certainly helped that I was slightly familiar with the area prior to the move. My surprise, though, was not my easy adjustment to our new area, but my easy adjustment to our new house. I thought it would be weird and difficult for me to think of our new house as our home, but it wasn't. I can count on one hand the number of times I, for a brief moment, woke up thinking I was in Snellville. I never had a deep sinking feeling about leaving my childhood home behind, and I was instantly able to transfer my mental title "home" to our new house. Yes, our old house holds a special place in my heart, but our current house is home to me, not the house where we used to live.

The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense. What made my childhood memories special was not the house in which they took place, but the people that were a part of those memories, and most of my fond childhood memories are intimately linked with my family. Home is not a place; home is family. A physical abode or physical possessions have value, but family is much more important; family is what turns a house into a home (Mr. Pendleton would say that it takes a woman's hand or a child's heart). My immediate family is here, not in Snellville or Indiana or anywhere else, so here is home because home is family.

So, I've decided that even though I hate Metro Atlanta, my family lives here (except Brother Dear), so it's home for me. Maybe someday I will become part of a new family, living either in Metro Atlanta or elsewhere, but my sense of home will not be determined by where I am, but with whom I am. If I am with people I love, I am home. And no matter where I am, I can look forward to my heavenly home, that will far surpass even Southern Indiana.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Well, I'm Back

It's sad; I think I can relate anything to a quote from L.M. Montgomery, Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, or Andy Griffith.

I feel like Sam at the end of the epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings. After accompanying some of his dearest friends to the Grey Havens and bidding them a heart-wrenching goodbye, Sam returns home and greets his wife Rosie with three simple words: Well, I'm Back. Three small words that do not even begin to describe what Sam must be feeling or all that he has experienced since he has last seen his wife.

These past few weeks have been incredibly refreshing and eye-opening. I have really enjoyed my time away from the blogosphere, while intensely missing it at the same time. Isn't it strange how mixed one's emotions can be? I knew that, while missing my time blogging, I would also enjoy the chance to get away for a while. I was right on both accounts.

I want to dispel any misconceptions that I spent the past 2 1/2 weeks bent over a sewing machine several hours a day, frantically stitching away. Far from it. I did not even touch my sewing until three days after my last post - something to do with a full teaching and tutoring schedule on those particular weekdays. . . My purpose in a blogging break was to focus more fully on my pertinent sewing projects, but I did not by any means spend the past few weeks slaving away at my sewing table. I did spend a considerable amount of time sewing, but I also did quite a few other things.

I spent time resting in the grace and mercy of my Savior. My perspective has changed a lot in the past month, and I feel like I am just beginning to understand the grace of God. I needed these past few weeks to just soak up God's goodness.

I spent time answering overdue e-mails and letters. I am the queen of procrastination when it comes to hand-written letters and lengthier e-mails. Yes, this doesn't seem to mesh well with my often-lightning-fast blog replies :).

I spent time laughing with my family, singing with my family, walking with my family. We noted the death of our beloved Don Knotts by rewatching a few of our favorite Andy Griffith episodes. Hannah and I limped through a bit more chess. . . We also improved our chicken and dumpling recipe, which now tastes very much like Cracker Barrel :). Father Dear graded us a solid A. (Thanks for the tips, Adrian!)

I spent time chatting about wedding plans with another friend who is soon to be married(!). Congratulations, Ashley :). I love being a sounding board for ideas :). Ashley really scored with me by taking my suggestion of having her bridesmaids march to Anne's Theme from the Anne movies :). I'm already excited about doing food for her reception. We're opening up Garrison Catering, Inc. for a one-weekend operation ;). I used to help out a caterer (who was also a family friend) a few times a month and it was so much fun, albeit hard work :).

I spent time reading. It is so easy to let reading for pleasure be the last thing on my to-do list when I am busy with so many other things. I am nearing completion of Les Miserables which, by the way, is a very interesting book. Some books shouldn't be read at a rapid pace, but instead savoured. Les Mis is one of them (Okay, maybe that's also an excuse for the two months it has taken me to finish it, but some of my favorite books have taken me months to finish. Daniel Deronda, for instance, was a fascinating book, but I spent all last summer reading it.) So many rich themes woven throughout Les Mis, and plenty of quotes that I had to copy into my quote notebook. I also made a good dent in All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes, though I haven't finished it yet. Lots to underline and copy from that book as well. Culture analyses fascinate me.

I spent time enjoying my spring break from teaching. I am not on break from tutoring, but I am currently partway through my two-and-half-week spring break from teaching. This means no grading(!), no planning, no time away from home for teaching.

Oh, and yes, I did finish the quilt and bridesmaid dress. A picture of the dress is at the end of this post, and no, my hair is not naturally that curly! I've never had an inkling of natural curl to my hair, even as a baby; Boy and Hannah got all of my mother's curly genes. I was experimenting with curling options for the wedding on the day of the photo. Pictures of the quilt to follow after the wedding next weekend.

So what have I learned during my break? Well, though I knew it before, I feel I am more aware of the fact that there is more to life than blogging. I have been apt to put blogging before other, often more important things, and I hope not to have that happen again. God has already given me an aid in this by killing off my dad's laptop, which I used for the majority of my computer time. It was just way too convenient to check e-mails and blogs with it always on the table right where I was doing my work and usually with no one else using it. We have two other computers in the house, so no worries about not having computer access. It will be good to have to wait my turn for the computer, though. Accountability is a good thing :). I may not be quite as swift in my replies, and my posts may not be quite as frequent. I still plan on keeping up with blogging regularly, though!

Well, I'm back, and it's mighty good to be back. I've missed all my blogging friends :). I felt like a part of me was missing these past few weeks. But in the process I rediscovered other parts of me. Isn't that the way it often is? I am so glad that I took a break, yet so glad to be back.