Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas philosophy.

Last year, a few weeks before Christmas, I was part of a group discussion started by someone else about what to put in their child's Christmas stocking. The conversation went something like this:

Them: I need another stocking stuffer for *****

Me and others: What do you have so far?

Them: An iTunes giftcard, tickets to Beauty & the Beast* and blah blah blah...

Me: Uh... how about a couple of Rolo's and call it a day?

*or Lion King, whichever Broadway show came through last year.

Rusty and I have Christmas rules around here. They came about one year when we heard a child we knew complaining about not getting something they wanted then heard the parents say they'd spent $500+ on this child, plus stocking stuffers. And this was a young child (four years old at the time.) We sat ourselves down and talked about what was important for us and came up with these rules:

1.) Santa brings three gifts for each of the boys. And no, those three gifts aren't like a Wii and two games. Nice try, though.

2.) We buy them each a gift from us (or it's a gift we buy the family - two years ago it was a basketball hoop for the Maryland house.)

3.) They pick out a gift for each other.

We're not Scroogy. And we're not "poor" (though we're definitely living on a tighter budget now that the school loan came due.) But even if we were rolling in dough? Why? Our kids are still relatively young - Liam will be nine in a few months and Sean turned six this past fall. If we give them everything they saw on TV now? What about next year? And the year after that? Where does it stop?

Liam has been asking for a Wii. Literally every family in our neighborhood has one, except us and one other. And one of the Wii families also has a GameCube and an XBox. Their kids are ten, seven and two years old. I am the first to admit that there are absolutely no inherently bad things about a Wii or GameCube. But if that's the norm we establish for them at this age, how do you maintain it? To be honest, our boys love playing the plug-in Atari joystick game I bought Rusty for his birthday last year for $10!

So this year we decided to go ahead and buy a video game system for the "family gift." We decided to buy a Playstation 2 at Best Buy. And the process has been funny. One neighbor even said, "you do know there's a Playstation 3 now, right?" Yeah, we do. But why? Why spend more on kids who are just as happy with Atari in the first place, when you can get the system for much less now, the games for much less now and the accessories for much less now? No answer to that. Buying the older model now when the boys are younger means maybe down the road when they're older and know how to properly care for something more expensive then we can think about it a little more seriously.

I'm not saying if you bought your kid a Wii that you're a horrible parent. I am saying that we are specifically trying to make our kids understand that they're blessed to get gifts at all, that the fun they have with the gift is more important than whether it's this year's model or last. And that the gifts are not the reason we come together for Christmas in the first place. And I think it's sinking in.

When the boys pick their gifts for each other it's usually a Matchbox car "because Liam loves cars, Mom!" or something that seems small but that they each pick because they know the other will really enjoy it. And Liam asked once why so-and-so got so much more from Santa and he didn't. We explained that besides Santa, he has us and lots of family that buys him gifts and that some other kids aren't that lucky so we told Santa he could take some of our extra gifts to those families instead. Liam was cool with that. So we figure they're learning what we want them to.

Disclaimer: Please do not email or leave defensive comments about this. Your budget and your priorities and your child rearing is not up to us. Our reasoning does not mean that your reasoning is wrong. Happy Holidays.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Art theory.

I'm so excited about the group of people who have joined in the art and faith conversation. Some from our church, a couple of Vineyard representatives and my favorite new person from Crossroads. Even before our first meeting face to face (and in Emily and Teresa's case, not yet face to face) I felt a familiarity with them. It's got to do with the art. Not the drawing/painting/sculpting stuff. I mean, for example, Brent's a musician but I have a very basic music knowledge, enough to pound out a tune on a piano if the music is written in a beginner's song book. There appears to be little in common on the very surface. But it's a way of thinking and seeing things. That's one reason why I enjoy reading Emily's blog ( Because she reminds me of Sherri, my friend from Cedar Ridge who was constantly seeing the God in unusual yet everyday scenerios. And once you see the God, you see the beauty. Sherri had this completely great analogy for living life. She used crayons as examples. I'm going to use it here and build on it a little.

Imagine two yellow crayons. One is brand new out of the box, pointy, perfectly yellow with clean yellow paper wrapped tightly around it. The other crayon is shorter, its tip is gone and is now a rounded end. The paper is torn down to expose more of the crayon after the tip wore down. The paper is probably streaked with other colors from being tossed in a bucket or bin instead of neatly placed back in it's original box. The crayon itself may have spots where other crayons rubbed against it when the bucket was jostled around.

Which crayon would you rather be? The brand-spankin'-new crayon that was so pretty or the torn up used stubby one? We, especially those of us who call ourselves artists, should aspire to be that stubby one. The one that has been used to create things bigger and better than themselves. Sometimes even coloring outside the lines (gasp!) The one that has been thrown in the mix, bears the marks of having spent time with others - some streaks of other colors that compliment yellow and some that totally contrast with it. Sometimes using that yellow crayon with other colors marked all over it can change the yellow when you use it - there may be some of the other colors mixed in if the marks went deeper than just the surface paper. A lot of times when that happens you find that you like the "new" yellow more than the original and you'd never have discovered it if you had a brand new one.

I used to have a beat all to hell yellow crayon pinned to my bulletin board, after my friend Betsy told me about hers and in honor of Sherri before we moved (it was one of the crayons for little kids, with the flat side so they wouldn't roll away.) That crayon's paper was half gone, it had red crayon marks all over it with some black, blue and brown as well. The tip was so worn that you couldn't tell which end had previously been the tip. You could tell that thing had done some serious coloring time. And that's what I want to be at the end of my life. Someone who's not afraid to get used by God to do some serious coloring, get in the mix with people who both compliment or contrast with myself to make something bigger than just my one original 'color.' I want to have not much left over, if at all. Crayons aren't meant to be bought and looked at then put back in the box. And neither are we.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Date night in DC.

So let me tell you about my favorite date night memory. It was back in winter of either 2004 or 2005, can't remember for sure. Rusty and I left the boys with his mom for the night and drove to New Carrollton where we caught the Metro into DC, switched to to the red line and got off at Cleveland Park (I think) to catch a movie at the Uptown. The Uptown is an old movie theater with one screen (about 40 ft.) with an art deco theme and a fantastic history.

This particular night there was a chance for snow but when we arrived for the movie it was still dry outside. I don't remember what movie we saw but I still remember my love affair with the art deco style of the theathe and the energy of the neighborhood. The movie ended and we left the theather to find DC covered in a layer of snow. We decided to walk down to the 'Four Provinces'. There was live music that night and we were all excited when the duo from Boston took the stage, especially when one of them started to talk with his Irish brogue warming the entire room. We got ready for some hardcore Irish music... and the duo proceeded to sing John Denver! Then Jimmy Buffett. The semi-sober yuppie crowd sang along and Rusty and I enjoyed our time together without kids, housing worries, job stress or what we'd be doing the next day. It was a snowy night in DC, we were enjoying a warm room full of happy people and each other. I know my memory will never be fully appreciated by anyone else but Rusty and myself. But I miss the Uptown and the Metro and the ability to hop on and go downtown.

Run, Forrest, run.

So I just watched Forrest Gump. I've only seen it once and that was in the movie theater and how long ago was that? So this time I only caught part of it (and oh my lord there's a possessed sock monkey cake on 'Ace of Cakes'. Proceed.) Anyway, Forrest Gump.

There were two parts that tore me down. The first was when Lt. Dan is strapped to the mast of the 'Jenny' yelling at God, "You call that a storm? Is that the best you can do?!" I love the irreverence and reality of that scene. Of one man struggling to figure out how God could exist given what he knows about life and the loss he's seen. Love Gary Sinise.

The second was a little more personal. When Forrest finds out he has a son. He says he's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen but takes a step back with tears in his eyes. He just says, "Is he smart?" and Jenny tells him that he's one of the smartest in his class. I've felt that fear that my children - my bright, talented, beautiful children that I fear may have been 'ruined' by my contribution to the gene pool. Forrest's honest fear in that scene is the most powerful part of the movie for me and of course, left me a sniffy mess.

I also turned to Rusty and gave my assessment of Forrest - he's an Asperger's dude. Smart, socially akward, and literal to a fault. I thank God every day for the near miss on that with Liam.

Holy crap. Charm City Cakes is doing a groom's cake with a groom passed out and a bride poking him with a pool cue. And one that a guy's mom commissioned to use the artwork he created when he was little. Art rules, son (I think I may adopt that as my new slogan.)

The list.

I have informed Rusty, from time to time, that if anything were to happen to him I would go after a player to be named later. That person has ranged from David Beckham to George Clooney. I've added another name to the list - Duff, from Ace of Cakes. I mean, the man designs cakes. Some of which explode. And he has Mary Alice working for him. I may go after her too!

And hello, I miss day trips to Charm city.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mural time.

In other news, I did this last week. It's a mural. On the kitchen wall by the doorway to the dining room (the dining room is that blue room through the doorway in the first shot. It still needs a poly coat but otherwise it's finished. This is one of those projects that took two days from painting the base coat, drawing the design then finishing it. Why? Because when I bought the sign that was the inspiration, I bought it with that wall in mind. You know that quote by Michaelangelo? About sculpture being the image escaping the marble? Well this wall has had this image on it since I saw the sign. I just finally let it show, I guess.

My next project is the dining room and I'm thinking of using an image from one of the pieces of antique sheet music currently hanging in the family room and doing a mural on the upper half the walls. The image is navy blue and off white so it would be easy to keep the current color on the bottom and touch it up where needed. I'm intrigued. The more I look at the dining room wall, the more this image keeps peeking through.

Apocalypse now.

You know what that is? It's our van. In the garage. In our garage, even. Sign of the apocalypse? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Daytime TV

You know the stereotype of being home sick for the day and watching hours of daytime TV? Well, I'm down with a cold today. And I've watched more TV in the last three hours than I have in the last two weeks (I don't watch a lot of TV and when I do it's usually HGTV and Discovery Channel kind of stuff.) Here's what I've learned from TV today:

1. Hundreds of years ago in Turkey there were underground cities where villagers would go to hide from attackers. Those cities still exist in tact under existing villages and towns today.

2. A 6000+ mile travelway called the "Silk Road" was the major travel-way between Asia and Europe at the time. There were "rest stops" built underground every 18-20 miles, which is the distance camels could usually travel in a day. The underground rest stops had fountains, bathes, wineries, stables and more.

3. Instanbul (was Constantinople) is the only city on earth that spans two continents - Asia and Europe.

4. Dr. 90210 is a tool.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Give it a rest already.

Really, Beyonce? I don't want to upgrade. And take that necklace out of your mouth before you choke on it. I understand that you want me to upgrade. But I don't think that gold jumper, paired with the awkward dance moves, is doing you any favors. And? I know you have the card. I know you are a world traveler with a busy schedule and yet you're sad that you don't get to really experience the cities on your tours. And I know your nephew asked for a Boomerang. But I don't think it counts when you order one up online - you could have done that from home. That's not a souvenir.

I don't actually mind Beyonce. But there are only so many times we can be pestered to upgrade before there's annoyance.

Friday, November 30, 2007

"Yeah, baby."

This "Yeah, baby" moment is brought to you by the fact that I'm 2.5 lbs from the challenge goal. Ladies (you know who you are) would you care to join me in a shake-your-booty dance? I think you would (you can count it as cardio work.) Heather, feel free to utilize the pole.

(p.s. speaking of the pole, you need to send me that photo again!)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

OMG, Becky.

Becky sent me this and if she and Buddy would have pulled this off at their wedding? I would have literally died. But I would have died laughing (and possibly dancing along.)

P.S. Why didn't Rusty and I think of something like this? With so many of our YoungLife kids at our wedding? (I think we could have done justice to the "Fresh Prince" Apache dance.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What was I thinking?

Yeah, so we're doing this thing. On December 8th at 2:00. At my house. Seriously, what makes me think I'm qualified to lead this? I mean, I'm interested. And I was just thinking I'd really like to live in Arizona so I could work outside and make two-story tall metal sculptures. Strictly for the welding aspect of it (who cares what you make, as long as you get to use fire to join metal to metal!) Though I'm not sure what that has to do with anything at all.

So pray for this. For me. And for us, as artists and as believers. I'm not sure how many "us" there will be but even if it's just Jodi and me, we're ready to get this thing going.

I'm honestly afraid once I start talking art and God I won't be able to stop.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Oh, the humanity!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

...dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria!

So this is totally random but I was thinking about "Judgement Day" (capital "J", capital "D") today.  No reason why.  But I was thinking about how when we hear about Judgement Day from the church a lot of times we hear about the wrath of God and people getting what's coming to them and anger and hell and holy crap I'm such a sinner I should repent again just to be safe (seriously, I totally thought that way in jr. high and high school chapel.)

Most of the time I don't think we take time to consider the full reality of judgement day.  I think aside from the anger, there will be sadness and disappointment and "what could have been" on God's part. If you think about it, God is the only one who knows what each person is capable of in their most Christ-like form. What each person could do if they trusted Him and were free to become the people He meant for them to be and to do the things they were meant to do.  And by that I don't mean becoming missionaries or whatever, but just existing in their everyday life with peace and the joy that comes from knowing you're going to be ok in the end.

For God, I imagine a big part of Judgement Day won't be about, "You should have bowed down to Me!" as much as it will be about God looking at each person, each creation He loved into existance and seeing whether they met their potential by deciding to give themselves back to Him or not. When you look at it that way? It changes everything about Judgement Day and whether it's the day when an angry, egotistical God will wipe out those who didn't obey or whether it's the day when a loving Creator has to look at each of His creations and say to some of them, with the heart of a father, "You could have been so much more. You could have been everything you were meant to be.  You could have had the joy and peace you were always searching for!" then have to decide their fate.

I'm sure we will see God's anger on Judgement Day because the bible does talk about the "real wrath of God kinda stuff!"  And wrath is pretty big time anger. And that's understandable seeing as how some of those who chose to not trust in Him decided to go all out and turn their backs in a big way. So, yeah, I'm not denying God's anger. But I think a lot of times in Christian circles it seems to just boil down to good people vs. bad people.  When really we're all bad people and some of us just decided to give it up to God instead of believing we are capable of anything real on our own.  I think to exclude the omnipresent love of God, even during a discussion of his wrath on Judgement Day, is to paint an incomplete picture of everything God truly is.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

I didn't know.

When we were in Maryland I would get really homesick sometimes in the summer. I would go out to the van and turn on the radio because we could get WLW pretty clearly and I would list to Marty and Joe and feel that connection to my home and family again I tried to explain to Liam that Marty and Joe are the best baseball announcing duo ever, not just for their play-by-play but also for their lively tomato discussions. But to be honest, it was also my way of sharing Grandpa Joe with Liam. I was three months pregnant with Liam when Grandpa died. It amazes me that someone so familiar to me, someone that meant the world to me is, to Liam and Sean, just some guy in old pictures.

I didn't know about Joe Nuxhall. I knew he was back in the hospital but hadn't heard anything since yesterday afternoon. We've had meetings and conferences since Wednesday to get Sean ready to start first grade next Monday. I just now got around to checking the news. Obviously it's not as bad as when Grandpa died, but it's bad. Worse than I thought, even. It's odd how a total stranger can be such a huge part of your memories of growing up. Marty and Joe were background noise every summer in St. Bernard when I was growing up. Most anyone who grew up in Cincinnati would recognize their voices. I'm so sad that one of them is now gone.

Led Zeppelin

... is now on iTunes. I am a happy girl.

One of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs ever (give or take three or four or ten):

P.S. there is no video, just the cover art while the song plays.

Heal the scar

I'm not a Point of Grace fan (sorry... though I'm pretty sure those of you who know me aren't the least bit surprised by that.)  But I have to admit I'm a big fan of these lyrics: 
I used to pray that you would take this shame away
Hide all the evidence of who I’ve been
But it’s the memory of
the place You’ve brought me from
that keeps me on my knees
even though I’m free

Heal the wound but leave the scar
A reminder of how merciful You are
I am broken, torn apart
Take the pieces of this heart
Heal the wound but leave the scar
Thank you, Laurie, for your latest LGD email which brought these lyrics to my attention (Laurie makes beautiful jewelry and sells it here, on her site. You really need to take a look and support an artist!)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Regarding the other blog.

Just an FYI to anyone who reads both: I've started posting separate posts over there as of today. That's the dedicated Faith & Art blog and the more solid this idea gets the more I'll be separating from this blog. At some point (hopefully soon) this blog will just be personal again and the art blog will be reserved for those ideas and projects and challenges.

If you've enjoyed the art stuff and spiritual stuff regarding that? Please continue to read over there! Regardless of whether you feel like you're artistic or not. It doesn't matter! (And that's the premise of the first class I want to do here soon!)

Thanks for reading, either way. I hope it's making some sort of difference.

Chasing the Lion

You know how sometimes you pray about something and you get this answer that makes you feel like God's right in your face saying, "You called?" and it skeeves you out a little because you know He never leaves you but HOLY COW?! Well, here's God in my face:

Most of us want our opportunities gift wrapped. We want our lions stuffed or caged or cooked medium well and served on a silver platter. But opportunities typically present themselves at the most inopportune times as big, hairy, audacious problems, but lion-chasers don't see problems. They see 500-pound opportunities!

I love the way the Chinese language captures the two sides of this truth. The word "crisis" is made up of two characters - one means danger and the other means opportunity.

Problems are opportunities in diguise.

Chase the Lion
- Mark Batterson

P.S.? I am so tempted to run out and get a tattoo of "Crisis" in Chinese (and I would. If it weren't for the possibility of ending up with something totally different without knowing it and spending the rest of my life with something like "bald monkey" or "sour feet" erroneously translated and tattooed instead.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

More art talk?

This is a cross post to the art blog as I try to figure out how to get this going...

When I first started the Faith & Art blog I had posted a few challenges to make people try to think outside of their own little frame of reference as well as to help get your mind going. Things were hectic, like I said in that last post here. I didn't give the faith and art idea as much attention as it deserved because I was just thinking of it as a hobby or an interest that didn't require much more than the extra few minutes I had after living my real life (a.k.a. doing laundry, feeding kids, cleaning bathrooms...)

But over the last few weeks I've been questioning some of why I believe what I believe. And I've come to the conclusion that God was hitting me with those questions to help me realize some things about myself and how I see Him and the world he created. I can't really explain it so I'll use a very generalized illustration: say you have a real estate agent, an accountant and an artist looking at a house. The real estate agent would note things like the location, the square footage and the school district. The accountant might pay closer attention to the cost of the house and what that entails, the taxes, and the property values. The artist would probably notice things like the architecture, the details like the fixtures and the light coming in from the windows. Would any of these three be more correct in their opinion than the other two? Are any of the opinions more valuable than the others? No. You could say that school district and location are most important but even in the best location/district, if that house is overpriced or overtaxed or if it's in horrible condition or just plain ugly? It won't sell, or if it does it'll take a lot longer. If that house is cheap and has a tax abatement, is the accountant more correct? No. Cheap and few taxes don't make up for ugly and being located next to a garage dump or subway system. If the house is horrendously decorated and totally box-shape like every other house on the block, is that enough to make the artist's opinion the winner by saying no one would value it because it's too horrible to look at or live in? Nope. One man's box is another man's mid-century dream. Spruce that baby up with some personality and its value lies inside anyway.

So what's the point of all that? Well, I'm the artist. And for a long time I believed that the artist's opinion is less important the accountant (or the business man or the scientist or pretty much anything else.) I'm not sure why, maybe because as a society we put a lot of value on technology and moving things forward and advancing toward the next horizon. Art is very much not about that. It's the opposite of that. An artist has to listen and form a vision of their work. I mean, it's not always quiet and reverant. Half the time I'm getting a vision for a project my iPod is blasting and my mind is racing. But it's not a race from beginning to end. It's more like when my kids are wound up and running around the yard in circles and running and screaming and laughing and ending up in a big pile in the middle with a big smile on their face. It's not about moving things forward. It's about moving things around. Looking at things differently instead of always looking ahead. And that's hard. Sometimes it seems like a waste of time, especially in our culture.

Ok, so I'm owning my identity and taking it more seriously. In our culture today? We need more art. More vision. More creation. And I think we, as artists, are called to help people take a break and see things differently and connect with our creator.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

So we're in a little bit of a crisis. My school loans, which were in forebearance or deferred or something are suddenly not. The paperwork I faxed to one company was supposed to get sent to another and we just got a letter that said we have to start paying now. And by the way, the education loans? Are in default. So of course, I panic. I call and explain that I faxed the forebearance paperwork and the woman very kindly (seriously, she was nice) tells me that happens alot when the loans get sold or consolidated and paperwork goes to one office when it should have gone to another by then. But there's nothing they can do about it once it gets to this point. It's a government loan and there's no middle ground. She'd like to lower the interest rate but they can't. She'd like to give me lower montly payments, but again, she can't. And she sounded like she really meant it, too, which helped. But still.

Soooo. So. We don't have an extra $500+ a month lying around. We had planned to leave the loans in forebearance until the boys were older and I could either go back to work full time or by then have some sort of art thing going on that was able to bring in more money on a constistant basis. Our last three or four years were filled with this and this and this and some of this, so our finances have been kind of just coasting. We're blessed. God has taken care of us, and He will continue to do so. I'm sure of that.

But we're faced with a decision right now. Do I try to find a full-time job and put the boys in school latchkey programs? I'm not against working full-time if I have to. I'm not sure how I feel about the before and after school care, though. Liam is just now getting into a groove with school and the supplement he's taking to help with his OCD. I'm not real big on the idea of throwing another obstacle in his path. Not yet, anyway. He'll have enough obstacles as it is. And besides, I already have something on my mind that I really feel like God has put there. I'm just not sure what to do with it.

This faith and art thing. I'm going to try to write something else here in a bit to explain more about this first try I want to do. Something that explains where I'm coming from and explains what that first class/meeting/get-together would be. I believe that if God put this desire in me and gave me the abilities I have and even after praying the idea has gotten stronger and more fully formed instead of going away? Then I need to act on it. I need to "chase the lion" (thanks, DC theater church guy.)

Monday, November 05, 2007

House nonsense.

Most of you remember the Maryland Kitchen Fisasco of '05 (that should be read aloud as "Ought Five." Thanks, Grandma.)

So it should come as no surprise to you that I can't keep my hands to myself and leave well enough alone already (you know you'd worry about me if I didn't tear something apart.) First, I moved the thermostat. It was originally in the living room (and it was one of the old school round dial thermastats that was lucky to within ten degrees of what it was set for.)

Anyway, the living room has french doors. Which makes it a really bad place for the thermostat. So I moved it. It is now located in the hallway. Yay!

Then, I went all kinds of wiring crazy and did this:

I couldn't help it! The old switches and outlets were nasty looking. Off white and slightly dirty and painted over in places. And the two switches that control the foyer light were just too annoying (only one worked and it only worked if the other one was in a certain position.) So you see, I had no choice. Plus now we have nice clean rocker switches and new outlets with nice new switchplates (the brushed nickel plates are only in the foyer - the rest got plain, pretty white.) Rusty and I stood at either switch and switched them on and off for five minutes after I finished just because we could. The poor neighbors probably wondered if we had installed a strobe light. Or were doing morse code.

Then there was the day I went to replace a bulb in one of the lights in the upstairs hallway. We always wondered why they didn't have all the sockets filled and now we know - because when you tried to remove an old, burned out bulb? It just twisted and twisted until it broke off, leaving the old bulb roots stuck in the socket (really, what would you call them? "Roots" is totally fine.) Anyway, the hallway was so stinkin' dark I had to do something. So I replaced the lights. Oh, look! There's one now...

The boys acted like blind men who'd just been healed when they saw these - "I can see! I can see!" Poor little light-deprived dudes. Like little naked mole rats.

Anyway, I knew some of you would worry if you didn't hear I was busy tearing stuff apart and putting it back together (Jodi.) But don't worry, this isn't a sign that we're getting ready to sell the house (I promise, Jodi.) It would just be nice to live in a house we fixed up more than a few months so I'm hoping to get more switches and outlets replaced, replace the dining light fixture, and get Rusty to set aside a day that we can put up crown molding in the rooms that don't already have it (Rusty's spoiled by my handyman ways.) Then I'll invite you over to enjoy it with us, Jodi!

(Ok, you've already been here. But still.)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

More music videotape love.

More of the songs from that 1980-something video tape:

I never claimed the videos were all that good. But the songs are still pretty great.

Art thing?

A lot of you have heard me talking or read my rambling about this Faith & Art idea. The store and teaching classes and whatever. It sounds great and I've been praying about it and I've come to the conclusion that God doesn't want me to start big. He wants me to just start where I am.

So here's the deal. Anyone who's interested in getting together and making a mess, talking, hanging out and figuring out how this works is more than welcome. Our basement is as good a place as any and if we move the couches and the foosball table and fold up the treadmill we can get a decent number of people down there. What would we do? Well, I have an idea that's come together over the last week of praying about this. It would kind of be a "class" I guess, but more open. I'll lead it but I don't want to teach - I want to bounce ideas off of you and get ideas back. I'm in it to learn just like everyone else.

The premise is this: Art is a form of worship. Whether you knit, paint, scrapbook, stamp, whatever. It's using your body and your abilities to glorify God. Some of us aren't comfortable putting ourselves out there in some ways but give us a blank page and we'll be busy for hours. But I know that scares some of you "non-artists." And that's the second part of this. Some who consider themselves "non-artistic" would be surprised to find out this isn't about technical ability. This is about seeing yourself and God and your relationship with Him in a way you wouldn't normall think about. The project I'd like to work on the for first try wouldn't necessarily be what some people would consider "art." But it's very visual and would give you something tangible to take home with you. And "icon", as Madeleine L'Engle might describe it. Something to trigger your brain into automatically remembering God's love for you.

So that's the deal. You wouldn't need a ton of supplies or have to spend much money for this (maybe $10 total, if that?) And I'm not sure I could pull it together before Christmas but if we can, then that's fabulous. Otherwise, I'm aiming for mid-January or later. Either leave me some comments or email me.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Like a challenge?

How many of you cringe when you think of the holidays and the food and the decorations and the parties and the food and the food and some more food? Yeah, me too. I've lost some weight since the spring but didn't really try too hard over the summer. I didn't gain but didn't lose anything else. I was pretty active up until our Disney trip so even without the loss? I have gone down a size. Which is awesome. But again, haven't really put much effort into paying attention to what I'm eating. Which is stupid considering the whole "I'm on medication for glucose problems" thing. Good one.

Anyway, so last week I was at Old Navy and tried on a pair of really cute cords. And? They were too big. Holy crap, people. I fit into a size I haven't worn since this PCOS* stuff started. I swear, seeing that smaller size on the tag? Was like smoking crack. Now I'm all about the smaller size (and no. I did not buy the smaller size. Because though they were cute? I failed to notice that they were "lowest rise." And there is no need for "lowest rise." Because no one needs to see the bits that are exposed when one bends over in "lowest rise.")

So. Now I'm back on the wagon as far as putting some effort into it. I mean, I'm proud of myself for not gaining anything over the summer. But there's more work to do. And if I don't get some sort of grip on it now then the holidays will be disasterous and that smaller size ("lowest rise" or not) will be just a dream. I cannot allow that to happen. So what am I doing about it? I'm harrassing my friends about it. Of course.

I have emailed a challenge to some of my friends and announced that I'm trying to lose ten more pounds by Christmas. That's just about two months and very do-able. If I lose more, than yay for me because I have more than ten to lose overall anyway. But ten is a good number. And once it turns competitive? Then there is no choice but to do it because the alternative is too humilitating. Which is why I'm posting it publicly here. If you're interested in joining the fun, let me know. There are gift cards and mail love included.

*PCOS = Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (a.k.a. "Pain in my ass" and reason I'm on the Metformin.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tagged by Jodi.

Jodi tagged me and since I have nothing useful to day today I'm going to go with that. Thanks, Jodi! Apparently I'm supposed to tell you all what I was doing ten years ago, twenty years ago and thirty years ago.

So ten years ago I was a twenty-five year old newlywed. Rusty and I had been married for about six months by late October of 1997. We lived in a great little apartment in Columbia, Maryland, outside of Baltimore. I was working at a desktop publishing job and he was working at NASA for the Landsat satellite project at the time (this last position he held at NASA was with SOHO.) Actually, almost exactly ten years ago this week was when we had a really fun Halloween party where we did one of those murder mystery games. Everyone came dressed as their character (and we made up some extra characters because so many people came.) The prize for top costume had to be Ashley and Wood dressed in leiderhosen made out of duct tape. I'm still not sure how we squeezed everyone into that apartment.

Twenty years ago... 1987... holy cow. October of my sophomore year of high school. I had just turned fifteen. This would have been around the time of year that I went to the homecoming game and dance at my boyfriend's high school (which was awesome because my high school didn't have school dances.) Also, around this time twenty years ago was when I met one of my very closest friends, Amy Williams. I was a cheerleader and she was at one of the games. It was raining and some of the cheerleaders were sitting under umbrellas because it was so nasty but one or two of us decided to stick it out. Amy came and sat near us and did all the cheers with us because that's exactly who she is - she has a great ability to look at any situation and find the most fun aspect of it and take it from there. I spent more time in high school laughing with her than anyone else. I still adore her and her family and now our kids love hanging out (and trying to push each other into Winton Woods lake. True friendship.)

And... 1977. In October of 1977 my mom was remarried for about seven months by then. I had just turned five. We were living in a new house in the middle of nowhere (a.k.a. the Fields-Ertel exit where at the time Natorp was the only thing around.) I had started kindergarten at J.F. Burns elementary school that fall where I made a friend named Jenny Hoop. Then, at the end of kindergarten my mom decided to put me into a new little Christian school in Fairfield for first grade. Where I started school the first day and walked in to see... Jenny Hoop. Our parents didn't know each other (yet) but her mom was the church secretary next door to the school and they had enrolled Jen there as well. Jen and I still keep in touch and I still love her. She's one of those people I don't see for a while then when I see her it's like no time passed at all. And since we moved back I've gotten to see her a lot more often.

So. Three decades. Man, I feel old.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

No TV talk, I promise.

So that was a nice little diversion, I'll admit.  But the reality of things right now is this - I feel God pushing me to grow up a little.  To grow up a lot.

Rusty and I had lunch with our pastor last week.  Tom was really helpful in helping us... ok, me... figure out what's important and what's not (Rusty never seems to get confused or doubt himself as far as his faith is concerned.)  Some of it was stuff I already knew.  I just wanted to hear it from someone else.  And Tom called me on that and asked, "why?"  and asked why I don't trust myself spiritually.  I would like to just end it here and say, "I don't know.  Let me think about it."  But that's total b.s.  I have a good idea of why.

There are so many professional Christians around.  I mean, I have faith and I think I understand what I read in the bible.  But then someone with a degree or book title on his resume makes things more complicated than they need to be.  Do I just double check myself and shrug and go on with my day?  No.  Not usually.  I'll admit my first response is often to assume that I got it wrong.  And that opens the door for all kinds of stupidity.  For fourteen different people with fourteen different agendas to jump in the pool and start splashing me with their knowledge while simultaneously trying to drown the other thirteen before they can get to me first.  I hate it!  What the crap is up with American Christianity at this point?  And what's wrong with me that I can't get around these idiots and live my life in Christ?

Seriously, I didn't realize how angry I was about all of this.  All of my questioning last week wasn't an indication of my faith starting to waver.  I wasn't trying to re-evaluate what I believe.  I realized that after talking to Tom.  I was trying to figure out where my beliefs put me in terms of the rules and how am I supposed to identify myself as a Christian in America today?  And guess what?  I refuse to do it.  I refuse to identify with anyone outside of Christ himself.  My political convictions are my own and I live in a country that allows me to choose based on those convictions.  I believe there are some great people trying to help the masses really understand the salvation that God offers us - not just the promise of eternity with God but also the unconditional love that frees us to truly be ourselves and allows us to start looking at others differently in light of that love.  The fact that Jesus' life and death give us reason for meaningful existence on earth until we die?  A benefit that some don't seem to grasp.  Their loss.  And all I can do is my best to live the example instead of giving in to the desire to issue a collective bitch slap to the more annoying amongst them (oh ye of great big mouths and very little love.)

(And by "them" I mean the larger group of angry, fighting, "Christian brothers" busy tattling on each other and tossing hate grenades.)

So there is it.  Whether he realized it or not, Tom issued a challenge by putting out there the possibility that God is trying to push me into the possibility of some spiritual maturing taking place.  I spent so much of my time growing up lying to myself - and often to others by acting like someone I wasn't - that I have one major rule I hold myself to since becoming a real believer.  I will not lie to myself or to anyone else.  I refuse to act in any way that goes against what I know to be true.  So I have to take this and go with it.  I know what I believe and I have to start standing strong in those beliefs.  And while I do that, I can not let just any old big mouth with a seminary degree bully me into believing that I'm not smart enough, or faithful enough, or good enough to experience God one-to-one.  I totally am.

So now I'm going to go gorge myself on C.S. Lewis.  The Great Divorce is a very comforting book for me...  weird word to describe a book, I guess.  But that's the first word that came to mind and it fits.  I think it's because in the story, in order to enter heaven you have to die to everything you were and be brutally honest with yourself before you can really experience the full reality of what God has in store for you.  And I also like it because Lewis' sci-fi heaven is not a very "church-like" interpretation at all.  Scandalous.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A better explanation.

Ok, so I did a pretty crappy job of explaining that show. So what this and it pretty much covers it. And you can see what I mean about the whole "stylized" thing (again, very cool):

Then watch this. And totally feel free to sing along:

Pushing Daisies

I don't watch a lot of TV. Or at least not consistantly. We record My Name is Earl, Mythbusters and two out of three CSI's (original and extra-cheese Miami flavor.) There are one or two other random shows I'll watch if I happen to catch them when they're on but for the most part I don't "follow" any one TV show anymore. I watched Lost during the first season but by season two I was so stressed out from the insanity of it all I just had to give up. It went from being quirky to needing a pen and notepad to keep up with it all. It's just not fun.

So a few weeks ago my mom mentions this show she thinks I'd really like - not just for what she's read about the story itself but also because it's supposedly to be very visually different. I love when my mom tells me about something because it "looks like you, Stacie." She's pretty much always on the ball with that one - from the Nick Bantock address book to Pushing Daisies. My mom's cool like that.

I decided that I'd go ahead and record an episode of Pushing Daisies and see if it was worth it. I'd missed the first week so our first recorded episode was number two. I swear, I was five minutes into it and I totally went back on my resignation to never get tangled up in a continuing storyline again. Everything about this show appeals to me - visually, it's very stylized with the characters interacting in a pretty modern way and the dialogue isn't dated. But between the costumes (especially those worn by the female characters), the cars, the architecture and serious color saturation of it all you can't pin the time period down to any one decade. It's like they took the coolest elements of the last sixty years and mixed it all together. There's a narrator who moves the story along, the main character is referred to as "the pie-maker", and the main setting is his pie shop which is appropriately (and awesomely) named "The Pie Hole." It's all very art deco-meets-nifty 50's-meets-mod. I have to say, I really like it.

Then there's the storyline itself. I can't even begin to explain it (and it made no sense to me until I watched it play out) so you can click here and get a quick explanation: It sounds pretty complicated but it's really not. And there are a few little twists that are achingly sweet like the fact that Ned couldn't catch Chuck when she fell and could only watch helplessly or that Olive can get outside of her own feelings and care about Chuck's grieving aunts (oh my hell, Swoozie Kurtz in the eye patch kills me.) Plus the lunacy of it all - a one winged carrier pigeon gets a new wing by way of a taxidermied parrot donor and a "Bedazzle" machine (seriously) or the explanation and flashback of the Asian guy's family civil war history.

So after the first week I kept feeling like there was something somewhat familiar about the show even though I only recognized a few of the main actors (Swoozie Kurtz, Kristin Chenoweth.) I realized it was something about the flow of the story or the dialogue. Or the totally casual and hysterical way it the show deals with death without being morbid at all. Then I read that it was created by the guy who also came up with Dead Like Me which was one of the funniest and most unique shows I every watched. Nail number two in the coffin of me not getting sucked in. But the final blow came on this last episode.

There is a scene where Olive is trying to get Chuck's aunts to leave their house where they've been confining themselves since Chuck's death. Olive makes a comment about the one-winged pigeon flying away instead of going back into the cage she used to transport it to the aunts' house. She says maybe the aunts could put their grief inside a birdhouse, an imaginary birdhouse. In their soul. And then they'd be able to venture outside their house again. I turned to Rusty and said, "I adore this show. They just referenced a 'They Might Be Giants' song. Without being super cheesy." Then the show comes back from commercial, and? The aunt played by Swoozie Kurtz is driving a 1940's looking car while Olive and the other aunt are in the back seat singing...

And then? I think maybe I swooned a little. And sang along.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

YoungLife still rocks.

So when I was in high school I was involved in YoungLife. I went to a small Christian school but apparently someone was smart enough to say, "just 'cause those kids are in Christian school doesn't mean they're Christians." Rick Brantly, Donna Radford, Mike Murphy, Kathy Sullivan, Steve Rempe and Mikey with the last name I can't remember. I hated youth group but I adored YoungLife. My YL leader, Kathy, and I were especially close because her dad was my dad's boss. We had common GE employee picnic stories and she was so excited to meet "Dave Kelly's daughter" after getting Christmas cards from my family for years (my dad has worked for GE for over thirty years. Don't mess with a man with military clearance.)

Anyway, YoungLife was fun and cool and all about loving God without shoving it down your throat. It kept me sane in high school. I went on to do work crew one year and summer staff at Lake Champion, NY. And Rusty and I were leaders at Bowie High School in Maryland in the mid-90's when we were in college (before we were married.) I lived with my area director's family for a year when I was in college, some of our dearest friends are people we were involved with in leadership in Prince George's County, Maryland. YoungLife has played a big part in our lives individually and as a couple. Part of the story of how we met involves YL. It's a ministry we love and still support whenever possible.

Rusty and I at Bowie YL Halloween night at club, either 1995 or 1996

Having said that? I feel old and at the same time excited to see what this next generation of YL leaders is doing in the age of YouTube and mobile media. I was searching for "Bowie YoungLife" on YouTube and found this. It turns out it's Bowie, Texas, and not Bowie, Maryland. But still. This rocks (and the idea of Rusty, Erik, Buddy and John doing this makes me laugh so hard I squeak!):

I mean, the OK GO video is awesome. But this kills me - this is a group of guys not afraid to look like a bunch of idiots and who took the time to learn these moves just to entertain a group of high school kids for God's sake (literally.) And I'm so glad we never had to do anything quite so coordinated when we were leaders (though I did pretend to play guitar and sing a totally whacked out version of Smelly Cat at club once.)(And Rusty wore a metallice gold tuxedo. On purpose.)

Once I discovered YL on YouTube, I was totally impressed with the quality of the video I found. A few schools stand out, one in particular is Westside YL ("Westside" of what, I'm not sure.) They have a series of Real YoungLife Heroes videos set to the same style of the Budweiser commercials that made me laugh like an idiot when I found them. I'm posting one here and you can find the rest by clicking on the username:

So we're old now. It's been ten years since Rusty and I were leaders. But I still see the same humor and clever ideas and love for kids that we had for our kids and that our leaders had for us. And now we have a family at church whose daughters are involved in Lakota YL and it's fun to see them get so excited - and serve! - and see the cycle repeat itself again and again.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Back to music (thank goodness, eh?)

So this song wasn't on the mix video tape. But this was one of the first songs I remember liking in late elementary school or jr. high. Since Jodi broke out the Altar Boys (and since I couldn't find the 77's singing "Do it for Love") I now present the Coloring Song by Petra. Going old school.

(this is the only video with the song on YouTube so I had to go with it for the song itself. Can't vouch for all the images but seemed harmless.)

Ok, then I had to add this because it's so chapel-tastic. You can't get much more Christian-school-in-the 80's than this (to this day I can't stand listening to Amy Grant or Michael W. Smith.) I cannot count how many girls sang this as a "special musical selection" through my chapel career in jr. high and high school. And? The clothes are totally awesome and the girl in the blue sweater vest at the beginning is just so excited she can't stand it.


For anyone getting tired of reading my rambling about all of this? Please understand that some of these issues are not hypothetical for me. There are people I know dealing with situations that are really hard on so many levels and how I love them and how I show God's love to them is a big thing. The only specific example I'll give is this from one of my old posts:
One of my closest friends died of AIDS two years after I moved here. I knew him for ten years, he went with me and helped me buy my first car, met and decided Rusty was good enough for me, and was a really, really great guy. But he never told me he was gay or when he got sick because he knew I'm a Christian and was afraid I "wouldn't love him anymore" (hearing someone tell me he said that nearly broke my heart because this guy was like my brother.) I found all of this out two years after he died. He apparently went to very great lengths to hide it from me since I met him when I was in high school, I worked with him, I hung out with him all the time. Do you have any idea how convicting that is, to know someone hid something like that - something so painful and life altering - because they were afraid you wouldn't love them anymore?

This is just one reason why stuff like this matters so much to me and why I get stuck on it.

Spiritual Formation.

Our church is doing a great new podcast called "The Next Level" with the intent that we, as Christians, learn to "feed ourselves." I've listened to all three episodes (I'm waiting for number four, guys...) and I've been really interested in what Tom and Luke have to say. I feel like for all my Christian school experience, Holy land map tests and daily bible class throughout high school I still have very little practical information on how to continue to grow past a certain point. But listening to the podcast and wanting to get more info on spiritual formation is what started these last few blog posts.

The reason I ended up Googling "Brian McLaren" and "dangerous" is because I had originally searched for "Spiritual Formation" and came up with this on the very first page of results: The Dangers of 'Spiritual Formation' and 'Spiritual Disciplines' Huh. Really. Then there was this: The Suburban Christian which referenced Brian. After a little more reading, I found out that my understanding that we're supposed to love and serve others can only go so far and if we love too much and try to make too many changes to the world around us in the name of love then we're in danger of promoting something called "Kingdom Now theology." Again, had no idea I was promoting anything more than trying to get around my own selfishness and see past what's going on with me and do something to help make someone else's life a little easier.

Honestly, this was all amazing to me. I mentioned that I had some idea that there were people out there that didn't like Brian's books. But I had no idea there were this many arguments for so many other things too. I totally didn't understand that many of those arguments were so hateful. Last week at small group Bruce asked, "so who does the bible say it's ok to not love?" Well, I didn't have an answer so I was planning on trying my best to not smack loser affair-having-wife-kicking-out-and-girlfriend-moving-in-while-totally-damaging-his-kids neighbor and to instead "love him" like Christ would. Now am I supposed to worry that if I do I'm somehow condoning what he's done? Where in the bible does it say when the love stops and the rules kick in? I mean, some point of view make it sound like if you love someone unconditionally then you're missing the point of the gospel (??!) and being too liberal and holy crap my head hurts.

For me, as someone who doesn't know Greek and can't use the word "eschatology" in a sentence and doesn't quite grasp the difference between doctrine and theology? Where do I start? I avoid Christian bookstores in general because you can walk in looking for a book on any given subject and depending on the denomination or personal slant of any one author you can get twenty books on the same subject and those twenty different books will tell you they're the right one. If you don't know anything about any of the authors you're at the mercy of the blurbs on the back of the book or like me, you'll go for the best jacket design (I'm an artist. Give me a break.) Anyway, this is the reason that Brian came up. We knew him and listened to him preach so obviously if I can avoid the other nineteen books out there and pick one from someone we know and trust, then I will, thanks. So after reading such crazy reviews and the downright hatred and fear out there regarding different books and authors I tried to do my homework and understand the arguements and that's where I hit the snag. Where my lack of understanding the terminology and the minutia of some of the points leaves me hanging. I want to understand if these arguments are valid, not just in Brian's writing but across the board.

Actually, I'll be really honest and say I don't want to take the time and trouble because it all annoys me. I know what I believe and why but I also admit I'm wrong sometimes (gasp!) So I feel like I need to think about things sometimes that I don't necessarily want to. I feel like it's a responsible thing for me personally to do because of my own experience in the past. I went through all those years in Christian school not knowing why I believed what I did. Then when it came down to it, I didn't actually believe what I thought I did. So now the why is something I feel I need to look into regardless of how irritating it may be.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Calmed down, thanks.

So could you tell I was a little amped up on that last one? I was being honest when I say, "I don't care what you call me" as far as which label applies to my particular brand of Christianity. But I really struggle with the fact that some of the arguements seem so petty and angry coming from people who claim to be speaking for God and our faith. After all these years I honestly don't know which debates I'm supposed to care about and which I'm not. Should I care that some believe in "substitutiary atonement" while others believe in "penal substitutiary atonement" and that one group believes the other group is "dangerously wrong" because of that difference?

When you get into calling someone a heretic or a "Son of Lucifer" because of their writing, you're getting kind of serious. And that kind of serious worries me enough to wonder if I've missed something. And I have no clue if what I'm missing is just more of the lovely brotherly love Christianity is infamous for or if it's really something I really need to be aware of.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dangerous minds.

So did you know if you Google "Brian McLaren" and "Dangerous" that you will get 46,000+ pages to check out? Rusty and I were talking about this earlier this morning. Our conversation got so in depth that we missed church altogether while we went over some of the 46,100 possible choices on reading about the danger of listening to or reading "Cult leader Brian McLaren" or "Emergent guru Brian McLaren." I had some idea he was becoming wildly unpopular in certain church circles. Rusty was floored, he had no clue (and imagine his surprise when he found out he'd stolen the name tag of a "cult leader" one Sunday and proudly worn it for all the world to see. Brian was amused at the time though now I'm thinking I'd rather he not wear his own name tag anymore for his own safety.)

It's interesting. Some of what I've read about Brian makes me say, "Yeah, so?" I mean, there are some awfully petty criticisms out there. Maybe it's from having sat in his congregation for a few years, both at the earlier stages at Paint Branch High School and then again later when Brian was becoming more well known when we moved back to Maryland and met at the farm. We never once heard him say anything that made us say, "Hey, wait a minute. He's wrong!" We never had that feeling, those alarm bells that made us wonder if Brian was smoking something. And I have a hard time believing he would preach something to the good people of Cedar Ridge on Sunday morning then go write a book that totally condradicts it. I'll confess, I've read Adventures in Missing the Point and A Generous Orthodoxy. And maybe it is because we have some personal knowledge of him and the kind of guy he is that I can read it and say some of it is so good to read and so much to think on and some of it is over my head both spiritually and philisophically so I give him the benefit of the doubt and think he means the best rather than the worst possible interpretation.

So after reading literally hundreds of blog posts on "Emergent" vs. "Emerging Church" vs. Mark Driscoll vs. Brian McLaren and his gang of "heretics" this is really all I have to say, as a lay person with twelve years of Christian school and four or so years of all-out rebellion towards God: Who the f@#$ cares? I mean, honestly, when it comes down to it, I don't care what the crap you call me. "Red Letter Christian"? Oh do not get me started on the Christianity Today article implying that my faith is of lesser quality because I happen to believe abortion and homosexuality are not the only two Christian issues affecting America today (this is a mini-tangent/rant, so just deal for a minute.) For some reason, my spiritual integrity boils down to this as far as Stan Guthry over at Christianity Today is concerned:

Remember the Sojourners ad released shortly before the 2004 election, "God Is Not a Republican. Or a Democrat"? But under the line, "We are not single-issue voters," it lists a series of black-and-white questions seemingly pulled directly from John Kerry's briefing book.

They range from poverty ("Do the candidates' budget and tax policies reward the rich or show compassion for poor families?") to the environment ("Do the candidates' policies protect the creation or serve corporate interests that damage it?").

I mean obviously I'm a raging liberal by asking those questions. Anyway, just a sidenote. But another good example of one group taking down another while not even making sense in the process (I'm still not sure how I'm supposed to feel bad about myself as a Believer for asking those questions, Stan.)

In the end, what someone wants to call Brian has no bearing on me, other than making me feel bad for him and his family and friends. All very good and very nice people. But in the end I don't care what I'm called or what group I end up being lumped with because day to day as I encounter people I won't ask myself, "Am I 'Emergent' or part of an 'Emerging church' or a 'Red Letter Christian' or whatever the latest group or thing to be is and depending on all that, how do I respond to this person in need?" No. No, I will say what I always try to say (sometimes I fail miserably.) I will try to say, "God loves me unconditionally. And I, as a person, quite often suck. So how can I show this person that God loves them unconditionally as well? Regardless of whether or not they suck. And it's not my job to determine whether they suck. It's my job to love them and let God sort the rest out."

See. This kind of we-say, they-say, you're wrong, no you're wrong arguing among the "faithful" is what makes me spaz about church in general. Freaks. And not the good kind (maybe for my next post I'll tell you about the "Once saved, always saved" arguements from bible class in high school for some real brotherly-love fun.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

More mix-tape love.

I now present, for your viewing pleasure, INXS. Never Tear Us Apart.

Prague, in all it's European-y-ness. And Michael Hutchins. And the line, ""I told you that we could fly 'cause we all have wings but some of us don't know why" which seemed so profound and is still actually pretty good after all these years.

ACHTUNG (Baby): Please note that I am the same person owning one iPod in which Kenny Rogers and Green Day, The Beastie Boys and Yo Yo Ma live side by side in peace and harmony. So don't be weirded out when RUN DMC shows up to bust a move with Sting and INXS. Because they were part of the original tape. Word to your mother*

*Yeah... I'm diverse and all. But I never invited Vanilla Ice to the mix video tape.

Random unconditional love.

I'm sure no no one that knows me is surprised by my blogging schizo tendancies. One minute I'm weeping about my freakish inability to blend in with the non-heathens and the next I'm getting all hot and melty over Sting. Good times (get used to it.)

Anyway, there are moments when this blog is just thinking out loud (or throwing tantrums, as the case may be.) Tonight I was replaying what we talked about at small group last night - unconditional love. And it was the first time I've really come out and talked about the effect of meeting Rusty had on me and how his love and the love of the people I came to be so close to really were a mirror of God's love for me. Our small group in Maryland was something I will always consider one of the most perfect groups of friends I've ever had. Wood, Ashley, Deeds, Ramsey, Sherry, Bruce and Karen (and sometimes Pete) are amazing people and during our trip back this past August, sitting in Deedie and Ramsey's back yard and just being with these people that I love, and that love me and my family... it's really not something I can put into words. And I honestly didn't think we'd find that connection again. Rusty, Alwood and Deedie went to high school together and I inherited them as my own friends. To have an "old friend" who marries someone as great as Ashley was a bonus for Rusty and later on to me when we got married (our first "real date" was to their wedding. I'm honored.) When we met Bruce and Sherry I was in awe for weeks. Sherry is one of those people who makes you think differently about everything. She sees and hears the beauty in the world that most people miss. Then she takes it and hands it to you in a way you totally "get." Her crayon anology is the reason for that grungy yellow crayon you may see pinned to my workroom wall if you ever come over and make a mess with me.

Anyway, such a great complimentary group of people and one I miss so much it makes me cry a little bit from time to time. These friends were with me at different times during a period when I was really becoming who God had created me to be and when I was finally feeling comfortable being that person. So imagine my surprise when last night at small group I felt myself opening up and adding to a conversation I wouldn't have thought I'd jump into outside of that circle of old friends. Instead, I was inside a circle of new friends. Same unconditional love, different people handing it out. We've been welcomed into our church in so many ways at so many different times. And I feel twice blessed now to have experienced such great friends in two entirely different places. Little by little I'm letting go of my church-o-phobia I think.

I'm off to find that INXS video I loved in 7th grade...

Mix-tape alternative.

So when I was in jr. high I decided I needed to put all of my favorite music videos onto one video tape [fee free to add a "back when MTV played videos" joke here] My friends and I would watch this tape during overnights and I believe some videos were even reenacted in their entirety during the legendary slumber party of '84.

I'm on a YouTube mission to find those videos. I'm interested in seeing how successful I am (and in seeing how many I can remember.)

For your viewing pleasure... Sting. And if you can get past the dance/body twitching at the beginning? Then right around 1:55-2:00 minute mark you'll see why he was the object of my affection. Holy crap, people.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Honesty is lame.

Ok, so that title made me laugh and probably is a bit over the top. But I wouldn't be me if i didn't blow something out of preportion once in a while, no?

So let me be honest. Church freaks me out. Not our church specifically (I like our church) but church in general. The institution of church itself. When I'm around people in a church setting or involved in a church activity a lot of times I tend to second-guess myself or my opinions more than I would otherwise. And not in a good "accountability" kind of way. More of a "I'm a freak and could therefore have nothing valid to add to this conversation/activity" kind of way. Holy crap, honesty is even more fun than I thought! [insert sarcasm there, please]

My mom and I have talked about my issues with church and more specifically my school experience. I think she's right in that I used to blame the school or the fact that it was a Christian school when I first starting addressing this back when I finally got my act together during college. I've gotten to the point that I understand that it wasn't that I went to a Christian school or to a certain kind of church that messed up my thinking about it. It was interacting with specific people in specific sitations while in those settings that did it. Just like a lot of people would say, "High school sucked", I tend to put my experience and feelings into a broader context because the lines between church and school were so blurred. I went to school with a lot of the same people I saw at church and youth group. So instead of "high school sucked" I would be more likely to say, "high school and church sucked" because they were one and the same in a lot of cases.

We changed churches a few times and eventually ended up at a large, wealthy church - the one that sat next door to the school. The one attended by many of the kids from school. I had kids in my graduating class/youth group whose parents owned car dealerships so they drove brand new cars, whose parents worked for the NFL and they left school every January to spend a week in Hawaii for the Pro-Bowl, kids whose lives were way different than those of us whose parents sacraficed financially to send us to that school. Think of the issues in such 80's movie classics as Some Kind of Wonderful or Molly Ringwald's character in Breakfast Club then throw in the aspect of spirituality and God and it takes it to a whole new level. Suddenly it's worse. Now you're dealing with the social stupidity of high school with a dose of "Am I saved? Am I going to hell?" thrown in. I'm not kidding you when I say I went to every altar call at chapel every week because I was miserable and figured it was my own fault because I wasn't Christian enough.

So like I said, I really like our church. But I have been surprised to find myself wondering if I've offended someone or keeping quiet during a discussion because I'm not sure my input is appropriate or out of line with the way I "should" be thinking. And though I dont' mind admitting it (like I did at the beginning of this post) I do find the whole thing weird. Because I don't tend to do that in any other situation. I don't have a problem saying I feel like a competent adult, artist and even mom for the most part. I feel like my relationship with God has matured and I know what's important now and what's not. But put me in a "church situation" and some of that collapses. And that annoys me because I have gotten past the high school stuff just like anyone else does when they grow up. But the church part is still lingering for some reason. Nothing about me changes when I walk through the doors at Journey. And absolutely no one there has made me feel that way. Same with CRCC back in Maryland. So apparently it's me. And I know that and am actually fine with admitting it. I just want to get to the point where I'm the same person regardless of who I'm talking to or where I am. If anyone at church ends up thinking I'm a nut then... I guess good for them that they figure it out sooner than later.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Disney video #1

Scene: Disney's Animal Kingdom

The African drummers were great (though slightly cheesing for the camera) and about two-thirds of the way through I catch Sean in all his wiggling glory. He's a slave to the rhythm, people.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Did I mention?

Yeah. Rusty and I are going to run like hell through Walnut Hills cemetary Friday night, October 26. You should come join us! Click here:

P.S. "Able to be worn while running" costume ideas appreciated! So far I'm liking the idea of one of us dressing like "Lucky" the leprechaun and the other of us dressed like a kid carrying a cereal bowl and spoon ("They're after me 'Lucky Charms'!")

Catching up.

Thank you for the encouragement regarding how I was feeling on that last post. Things are going much better right now. We did not go the medication route for Liam and we're really happy we didn't. No matter what his issues, he's a great kid and God knows what he's doing.

I'm hoping to get some Disney photos up here soon.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fallen world.

I have heard that term so many times. We live in a "fallen world." Death and sickness and heart-break because of sin. I know. I get it. But all the times I've heard it and thought it, it was about someone else. Someone else's child or spouse or situation. This time it's mine. My son. My son with the genius IQ who can't effectively communicate how he feels about some of the simplest things without falling apart. The one who has tics and repetative moments because the stress pushes him over the edge to the point that it's the only way he can feel in control.

Liam's diagnosis two years ago was language processing delays with an anxiety disorder along with "ongoing risk for obsessive compulsive disorder." That risk is now being realized and I've had to come to terms with the fact that his behavior isn't a product of his inability to communicate like other eight year olds. His language processing issues are separate from his anxiety/OCD issues. He has two very distinct things to deal with.

I'm so angry. So so angry at this. I feel like I want to hit something or scream or do what I've been doing off and on the last day and a half - cry. It's not fair. He's starting to realize he's different. He knows when to hide things from other kids so they won't make fun of him, and the stress of bottling it up makes it worse. Two days ago in a fit of excitement he rattled off a sentence to me that made not one bit of sense; a litany of words totally unrelated to what he was trying to tell me and words totally unrelated to each other. It was something like, "Ball kitchen red boy go." He recovered quickly and said, "Oh, I mean..." but it was out there. And though it doesn't happen often, it has happened more than once before.

I feel like this latest assessment has sent me over the edge as far as hope for his future. I think he can be successful - with his IQ he can do pretty much anything he wants as long as he can keep the anxiety at bay while at school and, in the future, his workplace. But I worry about the future of his social life. His ability to be able to really know people. Our ability to finally feel like we really know him. I wonder if I'll ever really know him. And that kills me.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Word of the Day.

My whipped ice dairy drink brings the attention of many males to my place of residence and/ or employment, and they declare that its quality far surpasses that of yours. Absolutely, it far surpasses yours. I could convey to you the recipe, but i would have to demand compensation. - Urban Dictionary Word of the Day September 14, 2007

Ok, that made me laugh. Because I love Ben Stiller and his milkshake is completely disturbing:

Happy Friday.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Thank you.

Suddenly there was a great burst of light through the Darkness. The light spread out and where it touched the Darkness the Darkness disappeared. The light spread until the patch of Dark Thing had vanished, and there was only a gentle shining, and through the shining came the stars, clear and pure. Then, slowly, the shining dwindled until it, too, was gone, and there was nothing but stars and starlight. No shadows. No fear. Only the stars and the clear darkness of space, quite different from the fearful darkness of the Thing. - A Wrinkle In Time

Madeleine L'Engle
November 29, 1918 – September 6, 2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Movies I'm looking forward to.

What day is this? Wednesday? Ok, then. We'll call this the new "Wednesday movie feature of some sort for which I will come up with a catchy name but for now it'll have to do" (or "WMFOSSFWIWCUWACNBFNIHTD" for short.)

There are quite a few movies that totally get past us and we didn't realize they were ever released until we see them when we're building our Netflix que. So here are a few trailers for movies* I'm looking forward to seeing at some point:

First, Dan in Real Life:

Also, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium:

And, can I just say for the record that I adore Dustin Hoffman, Jason Bateman and Natalie Portman. I am very interested in seeing them all in the same movie. And I have a serious girl crush on Natalie Portman. That's all, move along.

Last for today, Feast of Love. I really like Greg Kinear and this looks good ("You can't have the dog back. He's bonded with us"... HA!):

*I originally saw these trailers on the Apple site in high def so if you are able you should definitely check out the higher quality versions of these, especially the "Mr. Magorium's" trailer. So pretty.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Civilized Taunting 101.

Liam (out of the blue): Sean, you're just a figurehead.

Sean (all insulted): Dad, Liam just called me a figurehead! I'm not a figurehead!

Rusty: Just call Liam a "Filibuster" then you'll be even.

Me: Thanks so much for keeping it civil and not telling him to bust out a response about Liam's puppet régime.

Friday, August 24, 2007

More burning of the metal.

*Edited to add this comment from my mom: "The photo doesn't do this justice, especially the wings!" (thanks, Mom!) And I agree, the photo is horrible. The silver is shinier in real life and the wings are definitely more cool in person too. Also? This is not something to be worn! It's just to hang in a window or on the wall (probably should have mentioned that before!)

So I am all about the soldering this week. I made this using a special photo, 2" glass pieces, some vintage glass beads and some brass angel wings soldered over and texturized (is that a word?) I've been waiting to use the gold crown charm forever and it was totally perfect for the size of the piece.

P.S. Sorry about the photo - it's hanging from the chandelier in my workroom and the lighting is kind of wonky. But now I'm in love with the possibilities of what I can do with glass and solder and anything metal I can stick on to them!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Soldering is fun.

* For the time being, any post that includes artwork will be cross-posted to the Faith & Art blog as well.

So I have been obsessed with soldering lately. Actually, I've been obsessed with figuring out how to solder correctly. Apparently you need a soldering iron that actually gets hot enough (seriously?) I ordered some one inch square glass pieces online and they are a great thickness (2 mm) and give a lot more weight to the pendant.

These two photos are the same pendant, front and back. Notice the lumpy soldering job (I'll call it an artistic decision and pretend it's supposed to be lumpy. We'll call it "texture", thanks.) One side is cut from the queen of hearts card from a very old deck of bicycle cards and the "S" on the other side is from a vintage dominos advertisement. It think the vintage ad sheet came from Marco's? Or maybe The Queen's Ink. Not sure.

I've been wanting to try this because I have all kinds of ideas for it - I'm going to make Christmas ornaments using vintage Christmas postal stamps and papers, I want to try making a suncatcher with a photograph printed on transparency in between the glass and I want to see what other fun stuff I can come up with. I'll make sure to keep posting the results!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Tadpole update.

*Updated Sunday afternoon

Well, apparently we have two American Bullfrog tadpoles (identifiable by their "dorsal fin" style appendage from the body to the tip of the tail, their dark green color and their honking huge size.) They will be tadpoles for up to two years before becoming frogs. And? Once they're frogs? They'll be even more ginormous. Here is a photo I found online:

These polliwogs are going back into the Little Miami where they came from. Because if we take them somewhere that doesn't currently have a American Bullfrog population? They will mature then wipe out many of the native species that currently reside there.

P.S. Mature bullfrogs eat anything that fits into their mouth - that includes baby ducklings, small mammals and anything else that gets close enough. I think I need to go throw up now. I am not taking care of a pet that requires dead mammals to survive. We did that once (ask me about the mice pops sometime.)


*This is a X-post with the Faith & Art Blog

So these are some photos I meant to post earlier. They're samples from the Stamper's Anonymous booth at this year's Stampaway.

Some of these are cards.

Some of them are covers to art or travel journals.

All of them are three dimensional (and are in plastic covers which is why there is a weird glare on them in some shots.)

This is only one of the booths that just about made me swoon at Stampaway. The inspiration was overwhelming and the ideas and samples were beautiful.

I'm planning on making some more handmade/hand-bound books this fall. I'd love to add some of these three-dimensional elements to them along the spine and on the covers and even some inside cut out or niches in the book itself (so you'd have to write around a hole housing a little bead or charm.) I love the weight the three dimensional objects give the pieces overall - they go from flat cards to mini works of art that could easily be framed and hung on a wall.

I need to go clean up my workroom. And find my soldering iron.
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