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Archive for the ‘Daily Musings’ Category

My DH recently broke his leg.  He wasn’t doing anything exciting or brave:  no handgliding, no climbing 40 foot trees to retrieve our cat, no cleaning out the gutters (which I’m told is a very dangerous job), and not even riding a horse.  He was merely carrying a rather heavy load through the basement, when he turned his foot completely sideways, and the entire weight of his body was forced on top of his fibula, and well, it couldn’t hold it.  It’s been a week since the surgery and I’m still looking for an appropriate nickname.  Gimpy, Festus, Darth Vader (because of the screws and metal plate) have all been thrown out there; but I just can’t seem to find one I really like.  I am now entertaining ideas.  Aside from the blessing of being able to tease him relentlessly, I have found other, more hidden silver linings in the midst of this difficult time.  I now have several roles.  Along with my usual roles of overseer of homework, mediator of arguments, sidestepper of laundry, etc., I have now been given a few new titles:  assistant appraiser (his official job), pillow bearer, late at night water retriever, garage door closer (the automatic one decided to go on the blink along with his leg), and dishwasher.  I am now the one who feeds our pit bull mix, assigns him his boundary lines and tells him, “you can come no further”.  I’m also the one who takes out the trash, the recyclables, gets the paper, and generally transports anything that cannot fit in a hand along with a crutch handle.  It seemed designed that I should, in the midst of this chaos, arrive at the last chapter of my latest traverse into the world of marriage books called When Sinners Say “I Do”.  The book has suddenly become an anchor for me during this time of caring for my husband, but more about that later.  Dave Harvey’s book on marriage is for everyone, thus the appropriate description–“sinners”.  I had one friend that literally thought this was a book written for recovering alcoholics or drug abusers, to try to help them navigate marriage apart from the gospel.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The book’s surmise is that we are all sinners; and that God knew this when he chose us to represent the relationship between His son Jesus and his bride, the church.  Therefore, the Bible has much to say to us as married sinners, and this should give us hope for our marriages, no matter what they look like or what different situations we might be in.  The chapter I mentioned before is called “When Sinners Say Goodbye” and is all about how we are preparing each other for eternity, and that we are “caring for clay”.  I like this terminology, because it speaks to our finiteness, our outward decay, and our frailty as human beings.  We are not married to someone who is going to be as good looking as the day we walked down the aisle, or who will necessarily be able to run a marathon in their 80’s, or let alone serve us with the same strength and vigor that they had in their youth.  We are all outwardly decaying and very soon, we will die.  Our lives are indeed like a “vapor”.  Reading this chapter made me evaluate my marriage.  I looked back at the selfishness with which I stood at the altar and said my vows.  It was all about “me” back then–how could my needs be best met, what would make me happy.  Over the years I’ve realized that this is not the reason God has called me to marriage.  He has called me and all of us to reflect a bigger picture; to show off His big universal plan of redemption.  This is not my goal everyday, it’s true; but as I look over at my husband with his huge bandage on his leg, and his inability to give me any kind of physical help, I realize that my love for him transcends all these minor afflictions, and in loving this way (sacrificially), I am hopefully mirroring what Christ displayed on the cross.  So, no matter what condition my husband is in, I will stand beside him and help him and encourage him the best I can, because I want to see him all the way to the end.  That’s my job, and by God’s grace, it is my joy.  I’m not going to give up on him and go find some man with two perfect legs.  I love him and together, we’re preparing each other for eternity.Harvey definitely ended with a bang, but the other chapters have just as much impact.  When Sinners Say “I Do” is in a nutshell like a zip drive.  It unpacks, among other texts, Luke 6:42 which reminds us to “take the log out of our own eye” so we can see clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s eye.  Mr. Harvey says that Jesus’s point was about our focus.  Whose sin are we most concerned about, our own, or our spouse’s? Can you imagine the God-glorifying marriages that would result if husbands and wives were more conscious of their own sins than that of their spouse?  This, unfortunately, is  the opposite of what you see in most marriages.  This book is about more than this: it is about mercy triumphing over judgement, forbearance, forgiveness, “stubborn grace”and hope in the midst of hopelessness.  It is chocked full of personal stories and great analogies.  Dave Harvey can talk to us about being the “worst of sinners” because he has applied it in his own life and really believes it.  He is convinced that the truth of the gospel, “God sent His son into the world to save sinners, of who I am the chief” really will transform our marriages and change the way we look at our spouses.  Husbands and wives will both benefit from this well thought out, sometimes funny, but completely serious look at marriage through the lens of scripture.  The log and the speck analogy definitely had an affect on me.  Now every time my husband asks for a glass of water at three-o’clock in the morning, I won’t be tempted to break his other leg.

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The Purpose of Reading

Well, life has gotten in the way of my planned New Year’s update to my blog.  I promise it is coming, but somehow between taking care of my invalid husband and starting a new business I haven’t found a chance to start.  However, I recently came across an article written by a friend of mine, who is also the Administrator of my daughters’ school, that I thought definitely worthy of this site.  So many of us forget the purpose of reading, and he does a very good job of addressing the world’s often misguided notion that “reading” is an end unto itself.  You will find these and more words of wisdom on his own blogsite www.mwnordmoe.blogspot.com

“Liz Brabson, a Tennessee middle school teacher, recently lamented the decline of the literary aspect of our modern American culture in an editorial in the News-Sentinel (1-12-08). Quoting a study by the National Endowment for the Arts, she mourned the fact that less than one-third of American 13-year-olds are daily readers. While this is admittedly sad, I suspect that the daily reading habits of adults in this country sag even below that. The decline of the printed word is well documented as we watch the number of daily newspapers steadily shrink with some questioning their future existence all together. While some are simply switching to on-line sources of news and stimulation, ours is becoming an increasingly oral and visual culture. Attention spans have shrunk drastically (watch an old movie and try to not get impatient with the pace), and our vocabularies have withered to Reader’s Digest standards (6th grade?).   As an indicator of where we are today compared to over 100 years ago, try picking up and giving “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” a quick read. Here was a penny novelette, written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886, designed and destined for the pop-fiction rack at the local train station and newsstand. It quickly was selling out edition after edition at a shilling a copy in the everyday marketplace. I daresay most of us with college educations would struggle with Stevenson’s wide-ranging language (‘amities’-‘distained’- ‘troglodytic’) let alone be patient enough to follow his in-depth ponderings of human nature that comes close to the book of Romans in profundity. No publisher would touch it in today’s action-saturated and word-challenged culture.   For those of you who have read the letters of even the simple and uneducated persons of the 1800’s, one can scarce escape notice of the grace and eloquence that so often typifies their language. There was a simple beauty there that echoed the stylish long-hand script with which they wrote. Contrast that to the newly evolving language of text messaging and its butchered spelling, and one can easily work up a case of despair and despondency.   Yet Ms. Brabson’s complaint also lashed out against Christians who would keep books such as the newly controversial The Golden Compass from their children’s hands. She claimed that it would be irresponsible for anyone to discourage reading of any kind (‘within reason,’ she adds, but whose?).  How easily does reading become an end in itself that is demonstrated again and again by the garish and provocative offerings of our school and public libraries? Our literary elite have come to justify most any fare if it will “get them to read.”  Following this mantra, we find horror novels and the occult promoted in our public school libraries along with such uplifting periodicals such as Rolling Stone, GQ, and Cosmopolitan dealing every sex secret known to man into the hands of curious teens.   We forget so easily that our forefathers came to this land and quickly started schools and colleges teaching their children to read for one over-arching, Protestant obsession:  that each person would be able to read the Bible for themselves and direct their lives accordingly. …The object and end view that Ms. Brabson and others so easily overlook is that reading is a skill that enables us to more efficiently and easily search for wisdom. Reading is a means to an end and not an end in itself. The Bible says it quite simply, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom” (Proverbs 4:7a). Yes, searching and questioning are good tools in the toolbox that periodically involve examining even opposing points of view. Yet, we are the adults. If we have any sense at all as to what constitutes true wisdom, any notion whatsoever of truth as distinguished from error, of good being distanced from evil, we would be most foolish and most horribly negligent not to pass that skill along as well as the skills of reading and questioning. We are the keepers of our children’s souls and minds. From us they will get their first inclinations as to what is the true and the beautiful.   
The Golden Compass is a no-brainer. While I will not forbid it, I choose to believe its author’s open intent and declare it not worth the reading. There are too many other good books out there that it would be a foolish waste of time to purposely steer my children down that detour. And that is what the Catholic League and other groups are simply doing:  alerting us to the dead-end destination of Philip Pullman.  Wisdom is essentially a matter of discernment. I want my children to be discerning, discriminating consumers in the welter of the public square: a place where the coarse, the false, and the evil are offered up in quantities far surpassing the good, the true, and the beautiful. Discernment is an ability to be taught and demonstrated by parents first of all, followed by librarians, teachers, schools, and all the gate-keepers of society. It is a shame that so many have abandoned their posts or stand so compromised by  moral ambiguity and intellectual relativism that they can no longer tell the difference between the sheep and the wolves.  Or they are silenced by a paralyzing fear of disrupting our cultural ease with a simple cry of alarm.   All said and done, if I have to use the Sport’s Illustrated swimsuit edition in order to interest my son, or yours, in reading, something is already dreadfully wrong. I have my limits, and surely Ms. Brabson has hers as well. She would be well served by being less churlish with those who draw the line further back than she.” 

Well said, Mr. Moe.  I actually bought His Dark Materials to review for this site; but the inner voice of Him that I know well, and whom those such as Phillip Pullman and Richard Dawkins would deny even exists, forbid me to open it.  I have to agree with you that the blatant purpose of his books are clear.  Let me spoil the ending for those of you who haven’t read it.  He kills the “Ancient of Days”.  Now, “He who sits in the heavens” may be laughing indeed at this vain plotting, but it is no laughing matter for those of us who tremble at His very word and in fact now, tremble for Mr. Pullman.

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A good friend of mine recently sent me an e-mail to let me know that I really needed to start reviewing some more books, because she depended on these posts to know what to read.  I am humbled that she finds any of my reviews helpful, and that she would actually follow my lead in her selection of good books.  I think part of my problem is that I tend to read too many books at one time so unless it is one of those fantasy novels that just suck me into their vortex, I plod along at a less than normal pace.  I am currently working on four non-fiction books and one fiction, so my normal slow has graduated to painfully slow.  Three of the books are spiritual:  one is on decluttering your mind, another is about bearing fruit, and the other is the latest, greatest on marriage, that my husband (again) encouraged me to read.  He was right about the last one, so I decided to give this one a go.  The other non-fiction book (which I hope to review really soon) is a testimony of a guy who recovered from AIDS by converting to a diet of mostly raw fruits and vegetables.  The fictional selection has already been mentioned in another post, and is Chesterson’s The Best of Father Brown.   My best advice for my friend and others is that you search through my previous blogs.  There you will be sure to find something you haven’t read and maybe one you will like too.

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Bookstores and Kids

Navigating bookstores with children in tow.  I know what your thinking, “Don’t do it!” 

I know, I know.  I tell myself the same thing everytime I go.  See the thing is, we have this great secondhand bookstore in my hometown–and I mean great!  It is about 10,000 square feet, two levels of books, dvd’s, audio-books, cd’s, software, etc.  I take my children and they have a tremendous time looking through the myriads of books, searching for that American Girl book they haven’t read yet, or Boxcar Children, as well as some new series they haven’t tried.  They come back with stacks and I’ll look through them, tell them how many they can have, and their faces are elated as they are ready to skip out the door. 

“But just a minute” I say, “I have a few books I want to look for. 

This is when the chaos begins.  First of all, this bookstore is so kind to offer carts as you come in the door.  They are the vertical kind that you stack two removable baskets in.  The first thing I realize is that my cart seems very heavy and hard to push.  I look down to see Dd2 hanging from the handles. 

“Sweetheart” I say gently “this is not like the grocery store carts that you can stand on.  These can flip over and besides it is very difficult for Mommy to push.” 

“Okay” she says glumly. 

“No, not ‘okay'” I remind her “it is ‘yes, ma’am’.”  So, I push my cart (easily for a time) down the middle row of stacks, feeling a bit overwhelmed at the magnitude of choices and trying to find the topic I am looking for, which is Fantasy, paperback which is just next to Sci-fi and across from Western.  Feeling a bit relieved that I have found my section,  I begin pushing the (once again) heavy cart down the aisle. 

“Oh, sorry.”  says Dd2.  I feel a bit sorry for her.  After all, she is only 5 and one can’t expect five year-olds to be able to walk on their own two feet.  I remind both girls to walk behind me as there are people on both sides of the aisle doing their own shopping.  Why I have to tell them this, I do not know.  Why you would want to squeeze yourself between the backside of a total stranger and a metal shopping cart is beyond me, but my kids have this thing about always walking side by side with me.  This reminds me of someone else I know.  See the “Safety Chic” (March 2007) blog where my husband wants to ride two abreast while other bikers are coming from the other direction.  So, we have established that they come by it honestly. 

When I finally arrive at my stacks, which are the M’s, I remember, “Oh, yeah, they’re not in alphabetical order.”  The influx of books is so great at this bookstore, the best they can do is put all of the M’s together and hope for the best that someone finds what they are looking for.  Dd1, however, is looking through the Fantasy section while I am hunting, and finding other books I might enjoy. 

“Yes, honey, uhuh, looks interesting.  Put is back, please.”  I don’t know if I want her reading the backs of some of these books.  Thankfully, I only had to look through five shelves of M’s to find Juliette Marillier’s Son of Shadows, which is the second book in the Sevenwaters Trilogy (See “We’re All Entitled to an Opinion–April 23, 2007).  So far, so good. 

I start to head toward checkout, very slowly, because I really hate to leave when there are so many things left to explore.  “Let me check one more thing.” I say.  They both sigh and follow me dutifully toward the Foreign Language section. 

“Oh!” exclaims Dd1.  “A French dictionary!” 

“Which won’t do you any good unless you know how to pronounce French.”  This begins a whole new discussion that I don’t want to have in the bookstore. 

“When can I learn French?  Why can’t I learn it now?  Will I have a choice in highschool?” “Etceterra’, etceterra’, etceterra’.” to quote Yul Brinner.  I decide that I don’t have the patience for the foreign language section, but think that I might just “walk”, mind you, through the Cooking section just to see if there is anything that catches my eye. 

The cart becomes heavy again, and Dd1 says, “Can’t we just go?  You said you were just going to look for one more thing.” 

At this point, I do not respond like a parent, I respond like a child who hasn’t been dealt a fair hand.  I say, “Don’t I have as much a right as you to look for books?”  I did throw in a few words about “Patience” and “Self-control”, but it was I who was losing both of those things.  I then went home determined to come back by myself at some later date.  When I mentioned all of these things to my DH, he responded the way he always does towards problems we have had in public.  He wants to stage a practice session. 

“Great, I say, but how are you going to recreate the scenario we have at the bookstore?”  He thinks he can, and I say, “More power to him” but I think the best thing would be for him to actually take the kids to the bookstore and train them there.  The only time I could do it is if I went for that very purpose, and had absolutely no interest in looking for a book myself.  Yeah, right, in what millenium will that be the case?

By the way, if you want to go to a great second-hand bookstore in a small Appalachian hometown, where they offer tea and shortbread and toys for your kids to play with while you browse, check out Tales of the Lonesome Pine bookstore in Big Stone Gap, Virginia.  Or check out their website at: http://www.scottishsongandstory.co.uk/bookstore.htm  They have some great events coming up, and it’s a beautiful town and well worth the drive.

Maybe next time I’ll talk about going to a bookstore with my DH.  So, tune in next time to hear my DH say, “Are you still in that same section?”

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Safety Chick


Biking the Pinellas
Originally uploaded by Gasparino1.Why does my DH have to give me such a hard time about following the rules. The rail trail people went to too much trouble (time, effort, money) to post signs explaining trail etiquette for us to just ignore them and do our own thing. When another biker is coming from the opposite direction, it is just common courtesy not to ride two abreast. If it were me, I would feel like someone were trying to force me off the path. If I am about to pass somebody, I call out “left”, to let them know I’m passing. What is so difficult to understand about this, or more importantly, what is so funny that my DH feels the need to call me “Safety Chick”? I wanted to have a nice leisurely ride. The weather was incredible, the scenery beautiful, and we have to argue about bicycle safety. My DH is looking over my shoulder right now, and interjecting “you had to argue”.

Changing the subject…
The Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail is a 34 mile rail trail that runs from North St. Petersburg, FL to Tarpon Springs. We picked up the trail in Dunedin, FL which was just 10 miles from Tarpon Springs. If I had it to do over again, we would have biked to Honeymoon Island, which we were told was a beautiful ride and boasted the second loveliest beach in the world, just behind some beach in Hawaii. Instead, I wanted to bike to Tarpon Springs to see the famous Sponge Docks. Well, turns out we couldn’t actually bike to the Sponge Docks because there was too much construction along the road once we reached the city. The consolation was that we found a wonderful Greek Pizza Kitchen right along the trail in downtown Tarpon Springs, so we stopped to refuel. The restaurant was in a building that was a century old, so it had great atmosphere and even better food. We shared “It’s Chic to be Greek” Quesadillas and a large Greek Salad made the way a Greek Salad should be–with Greek potato salad. Well, the salad was actually large enough for 4 people, but after all of that biking, we had no trouble cleaning our plates. After the meal, we hopped back on the bikes and took the 10 miles back to Dunedin. By this time, I was determined to see the Sponge Docks so we decided to drive there and pay the $5 parking fee. The Sponge Docks are just that, a little seaport town which for nearly a 100 years has been a leader in the world’s sponge industry.  Tarpon Springs is not called the Sponge Capital of the World for nothing. The city is involved in all facets of the sponge trade, from harvesting to selling. The city has a large Greek population, due to the number of Greek immigrants who settled there in the early 1900’s, who continued their traditional trade of sponge diving. I made a quick tour of the Sponge Museum in the back of Spongerama (an area retailer) and was fascinated at the history of sponge harvesting. Then, of course, I had to go sponge shopping. I visited about six different places and was surprised that their was quite a difference in price depending on the quality and size of the sponges.  I finally found some great deals on loofas, as well as natural sponges and picked up a few gifts. There was a lot more to do in Tarpon Springs from cruises to cultural events, but we had dinner plans in another historic town and were soon off on another adventure.

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Pip and Ernie


Pip (or Phillipa) and Ernie were some great new friends we made at Southern Comfort. We met them shortly after we arrived and were able to share our evening meal with them as well. We ate at a lovely restaurant called the Sunset Grill at the Inn at Little Harbor. It was highly recommended to us by our hostess as it has a great view and an excellent menu. In fact, we were told that a former presidential chef was employed there. We were not disappointed. Although the drive to the establishment was a bit rough, due to an inordinate amount of construction in the area, once we got there it was beautiful. There was a live band playing out on the terrace, a perfect sunset over the gulf, a wide beach, and a pier that stretched 50 feet into the water. My DH and I took a walk down to the pier and found a hammock conveniently placed behind some dense foliage. We rocked and listened to the music nearly until our table was ready. After that we had a lovely meal and some great conversation with our new friends. Pip and Ernie are from Portland, OR; but have travelled all over the world. They had many interesting things to share with us, not the least of which was their love of wine. Though they claim not to be connoisseurs, they sure had me fooled. Not only did they talk about their particular tastes in wine, but on the amount of sugar in the grapes before and after fermentation and the effects that has on the taste and alcohol content. I must say that this was a little over my head. I was intrigued, however, by the way they conduct their wine tasting sessions with their wine club back in Portland. The wine is put in a paper bag and passed around and then rated by each of the club members. I found it interesting that they would sometimes rate a wine from the same vineyard and the same year completely differently then they had previously. Now that’s being a bit fickle don’t you think? I think if you’re going to commit to a wine, you ought to stick with it and not deviate. Well, maybe that’s with husbands and not wines. Anyway, this was just another thing that was great about staying at the Southern Comfort inn–meeting this couple. Good luck to you Pip and Ernie and God speed you on your travels. May there be many more!

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My DH and I recently celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary by taking a trip to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area of Florida. As hotel prices seemed to be extraordinarily high in the area, we were delighted to find a comfortable and elegant B&B called Southern Comfort outside of the city in a little town called Ruskin. I was surprised at how affordable it was given it had every amenity (swimming pool, hot tub, tennis court, workout room, etc.), and the breakfast was anything but simple. One morning, I observed the hostess, Cathy, catering to each guest’s particular craving by serving three completely different breakfast entrees. Cathy seemed always eager to please and help out in any way she could from booking dinner reservations and recommending daily activities, to leaving nice touches such as chocolate hearts on our bed or changing the sheets on a fellow guest’s bed because the previous ones were a little less than perfect. While looking over the B&B’s collection of books, I was happily surprised that Cathy and I shared the same affection for author Francine Rivers. Upon talking to Cathy, I learned that Ms. Rivers was among the first Christian fiction that she had ever read.  The first, and I will have to say arguably, “the best”.  What is great about Francine Rivers is the amount of research that she does.  I love her historical novels the best because you learn so much about that particular era.  My favorite is probably The Mark of the Lion series which includes the books Voice in the Wind, Echo in the Darkness, and As Sure as the Dawn.  These books deal with the first century A.D. in Israel during the Roman occupation.  My second favorite series is The Lineage of Grace series.  These stories are loosely biographical stories of the lives of 5 women in the lineage of Jesus Christ:  Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary.  Three of these women were Canaanites yet were “grafted in” to the family of God.   Another novel that I really like is The Last Sin Eater (now a major motion picture).  I like this one because the background is the Appalachian Mountains (something I’m very familiar with) and the mountain people that hold on to their myths and traditions.  Ms. Rivers has a way of making even the most remote occurrences and strangest activities applicable to us today, as if reminding us that there is in fact “nothing new under the sun”.  Man’s greatest problem of sin is the same whether they are in deepest darkest Africa or a suburb in Kansas.    She has also written novels that deal with various social issues: The Atonement Child addresses abortion and forgiveness, And the Shofar Blew, failure and redemption, and Redeeming Love, God’s persistent and pursuing love.  I just received the latter for Christmas, so the review will be coming soon.  Cathy, please consider this a very public (if not formal) thank you for a wonderful time at your establishment.  I hope we can come back for one of your “Mystery Weekends” if you continue to have them.  God bless you.  –HD

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