Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A novel of poetic proportions

I recently read Gabriel Garcìa Màrquez's book, Love in the Time of Cholera, and while I recommend it with reservation due to content, it's form is exquisite. A Nobel Peace Prize winner, Màrquez writes prose that drips with intelligence, beauty, creativity, and purpose. Somehow, he makes even a novel sound poetic. Here are a few phrases and sentences that I underlined as I read just because of their brilliance:

"they almost always have crystals in their heart"
"insomniac dawns"
"like a wind out of yesterday"
"there was no innocence more dangerous than the innocence of age"
"the irreparable rush of days"
"those lips petrified by the terror of love"
"the charitable deceptions of nostalgia"
"the spell of habit"
"the bay belched filth from the sewers back onto land"
"the wintry eyes of his dog"
"the maggot broth of memory"
"the doe's gait of her younger days"
"he was living his final afternoons"
"the invincible weight of her age"

and my favorite:
"He recognized her despite the uproar, through his tears of unrepeatable sorrow at dying without her, and he looked at her for the last and final time with eyes more luminous, more grief-stricken, more grateful than she had ever seen them in half a century of a shared life, and he managed to say to her with his last breath: 'Only God knows how much I loved you.'"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hooked on Phonics

Let's be honest: America has unhitched itself from phonics; we are independent, self-sufficient, and certainly above needing rules concerning letters in order to create a word. Let the laws of language roam where they may; we are not following, and that's our final answer.

The word nuclear, for example, is quite challenging for many well-respected people, including my husband and our very own President. Somehow, the word that looks so simple on the page comes out NU-kew-lar. Embrace relativism: exchanging one vowel for another and moving things around a bit is fine; besides, everyone is doing it.

My latest mispronounced favorite is sudoku. It is always spelled the same way. Every consonant has a vowel after it that sounds like it looks. Should be a shoo in, but I've heard everything from su-DOO-ko to so-KOO-doo, and, most recently, su-KOO-do, which sounds more like some sort of martial arts move than a logic puzzle. Americans have always had a hard time learning other people's languages.

Of course, I must reveal my own hypocrisy: I've always called a plague a "pleg," which, unfortunately sounds strikingly like an abbreviation for "prosthetic leg" rather than an epidemic.

The most nucular pleg, however, is that America is not hooked on phonics. But who needs to learn phonics when you could do a sukudo puzzle instead?

Sunday, July 20, 2008


The very word "blooper" is such a blooper of a word. At the risk of seeming juvenile, an invented word combining common silly words like "loopy" and "poop" and "blob" is bound to have ridiculously funny results. I must confess that I have spent the last hour of my life watching "Stupid Game Show Answers" on Youtube...and laughing out loud...and loving it. There's something in us as humans that loves to laugh at the blunders of others, or even ourselves, and I am no exception. In fact, I was in Chattanooga this past weekend for my brother's birthday and we pulled out home videos in which one of my brothers fell on his face and we couldn't resist watching it over and over again. It's that preoccupation with bloopers that causes Japanese game shows and shows like "Wipe Out" to have such wide audiences. So, if you have nothing better to do or just need to lighten your day with laughter, go to Youtube and watch some foozling, bungling, blubbering bloopers!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A few of my favorite things...

When I was in 5th grade, I played the part of "Marta" in the high school performance of The Sound of Music. Consequently, I know and love all the songs to that musical...except when they get stuck in my head. This morning, the broken record of my mind is playing "My Favorite Things," so I thought, being the list-maker that I am, that I would make my own list of favorite things (in no particular order):

slow mornings
children laughing
The Office
smoothies in the summer
game nights
chocolate chip cookies
just-shaven legs
getting the mail
sharing a meal
dreaming silly dreams
Downy wrinkle release
reading memoirs
listening to a good story
organized sports
deep conversations
the smell of my hair after a shower
unscheduled time
a good sneeze
Balderdash with the family
Nike women's shox pursuit (see picture below)

Just a few of my favorite things. Now, if I could just get the song out of my head...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My coffee theory

Coffee always tastes better when someone else makes it. I know it's dangerous to use words like "always" and "never" because of their sweeping assumptions, but in this case, it's appropriate. No matter what brand of coffee I buy and make, it never tastes as good as when others make it. At first, I thought it might be my old coffee maker, but after some deep cleaning of the filter and some introspection, I'm convinced that it tastes sub par simply because I make it. It's like eating hotdogs at a baseball game. Other than your childhood and the occasional cookout, most of us do not prefer hotdogs for dinner, but a ballpark dog--now that's truly enticing.

I was reminded of my theory today as I shared a cup of Publix's decaf breakfast blend with my friend Melissa. She was apologizing for her Publix brand, but honestly, it was a delicious cup of coffee--strong and sweet (I highly recommend it). She could have given me a cup of any brand and I would have loved it because (you guessed it): I didn't make it! (Thanks, Mel!)

When someone else makes the coffee, it means you are with others when drinking it, and there's something about that beverage that begs for company and invites good conversation. It also means you don't have to work for it, which might be a more honest explanation.

Whatever the reason, my theory is uncontested: coffee is better when someone else makes it. I dare you to try to prove me wrong.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Relinquishment: letting go to God

For my seminary class, I've been reading a book by John White entitled Parents in Pain. I am currently neither a parent nor in pain, but I found chapter 9 on relinquishment to be transforming both for my life now without children and for my future life with them. The way to give our kids freedom, the author argues, is to let them go to God. White would be the first to say that it is good to teach our children to respect their elders, to say thank you, to strive for excellence, peace in the home, etc., but far too often, we view these good things as rights instead of privileges. Often, we assume that the privileges of parenthood are rights and this is our problem. White explains that relinquishing means we are to yield, to give up, to let go of several things:

1. Forsaking the right to be proud: While you may be proud of your children and push them hard, what is your motivation in having them succeed? Is it self-serving in any way? White wisely states, "Your children were not given to you in order for you to boast. Let your boast be in God's goodness to them and to you.
2. Giving up the right to uninterrupted enjoyment of your children: Some parents always want their children close by even when they are grown, motivated by their own needs and desire to be surrounded by their children. The question again is one of motives: "Is my first concern really with their moral development or is it with my own needs?" Often, we would rather control our children so that we can enjoy them, not realizing that that control is poisonous.
3. Giving up the right to possess my children: This is the idea that you "own" your children, and will manifest itself in overly controlling parental decisions.
4. Be willing to forego any repayment for what you have done for your children: It is easy as parents to want and expect something in return for all the years of thankless caregiving we have offered our children, whether we expect them to care for us when we are older or whether we expect a simple thank you. We must give up our expectation of getting something in return for our love so that when it does come, we are fully of joy.
5. Giving up your right to uninterrupted tranquility: This one is the hardest for me. To quote White, " To have children will almost certainly mean that you will have problems. They will arise when you least expect them. They pay no heed to your plans, your convenience, your headache, your schedule, your finances....There are times when you can and should insist that your needs take priority over your children's demands. But if your peace depends on so controlling events that nothing gets out of hand but that everything remains in its place, then either you or your children are going to be in trouble." Again, domestic tranquility may be your privilege, but never your right.
6. Giving up your right to immunity from gossip: What happens when our children don't meet the approval of society's standards? What if our children shoplift or are involved in a drunk driving accident? We must forfeit our seeming need to look good to those around us and focus instead on the open, accepting arms of Jesus.
7. Allowing your children to face pain and tragedy, and allowing them to accept the consequences of their own actions: In other words, "let your children discover at an early age that fire burns." Of course, giving children responsibility happens in stages, not all at once, but do not attempt to "cover" for your teenage son or daughter or get them out of a situation for which they need to take responsibility.

White concludes, "At its heart, relinquishment is not relinquishment of your children but of delusions about your own power, the delusion that you have power to determine their destinies. I do not know what destiny whether small or great God plans for the children who most concern you. I do know that you will have more peace if you can grasp how crucial relinquishment is, how utterly safe it is to place your children in God's sure hands."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Tonight we had "brinner," a term coined by none other than Turk from the fabulously hilarious show Scrubs. Brinner, or breakfast for dinner, was a Sunday night tradition in my home growing up, but since being married, we inexplicably had not made our brinner debut until tonight. There's nothing better than blueberry pancakes, bacon, and fresh fruit salad to end a day, and when else do you get to eat dessert after breakfast? The verdict is out: brinner is a winner.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The tale of the roaches, the rice, and the microwave giveaway

The following story is true. Be it understood that neither the husband nor the wife were at fault in this mishap and that the wife really is a good cook. The author would also like to recognize the uncanny resemblance this story has to the Seinfeld episode, "B.O."

Once upon a time, there was a kind young couple who were blissfully making dinner. But what seemed to be an ordinary, uneventful evening soon became one of the most humorous, bumbling nights of their lives.

Our story actually begins several years ago when the couple were first married. Just weeks after they had moved into their home together and had unpacked their belongings, two small roaches took up residence in their microwave display area. They were drawn in at night by the light of the microwave and found that they could crawl in through the holes in the back. However, what they did not realize was that once they made their way into the display area, there was no way out, and tragically, for both insect and human, the roaches died. Since the microwave was only weeks old, the couple couldn't justify throwing or giving it away, so they were forced to look at the roaches (affectionally called "Roachie") as they became more and more translucent. If nothing else, Roachie became a humorous conversation starter when guests came over to the house.

Now back to the couple making dinner. Earlier in the week, the wife had sent the husband to the grocery store with a very detailed list, including "a bag of brown rice." Not thinking that she needed to be more specific about the brand, she was slightly surprised to see "China Doll" brown rice when he arrived at home, but figured it would suffice.

This brown rice, however, took more time to cook on the stovetop than usual, so to save time, the wife followed the microwave instructions--exactly. "Cook for 30 minutes on 50%."

About 25 minutes into the micro-waving process, the wife began to smell something burning. Upon opening the microwave, she was greeted with billowing black smoke and yelled for the husband to take the bowl of rice outside, which he did with great heroism. The rice, however, was burned to a black crisp and created a smell that wafted through the entire neighborhood.

The couple spent the next several hours burning candles, boiling vinegar and cinnamon, plugging in air fresheners, and opening windows to shoo the smell out of the house. At last, they realized that it was simply time to admit that the microwave had lost the battle. They gladly set the microwave on the street, hoping that some unfortunate soul might pick it up, and then they were off to buy a new, clean, roach-free microwave!

Sure enough, just after an hour of heavy rain, some hoodwinked person picked up the microwave, much to the couple's delight. And that night, after washing their hair and clothes several times over, the couple went back to their blissful lives, free of roaches and China Doll rice. THE END.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The little by little principle

I must begin with the confession that this principle is not my creation; if it were, I would probably have named it the "Give me a!" principle. The "little by little" principle is this: everything worth having in life will require small investments over time, like building a house of cards. The other part of the principle is that an absence of making small investments over time leads to a slow death of the spirit. Most of us want the end product without doing the little by little everyday effort.

Far from originating with me, the little by little principle is first mentioned in the Book of Exodus when God tells the Israelites about how they will conquer the promised land of Canaan. Canaan was inhabited by a variety of people groups, many of which had well-trained militaries, giants, and other intimidating figures. God says, "I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land" (Exodus 23:29-30). If God had allowed them to take over all of Canaan in just one year, they would not have had enough Israelites to tend to the land and livestock, which would have resulted in disaster. Instead, God wisely allowed them to conquer people groups little by little, which allowed for the Israelites to grow in numbers and experience, leading to success.

God has always been about the business of giving us a little at a time, that we might prove our faithfulness with a little and be kept from destruction, ultimately resulting in His glory. Professional card stacker Bryan Berg would be the first to say that you must be diligent in the small things (the individual cards) in order to produce a final product (the house of cards). This principle has many applications for our lives spiritually, relationally, and intellectually. First, we can apply the little by little principle to our daily times with the Lord. Reading the Word one day does not typically change a person, but reading it every day--even if it seems to be completely powerless at the time--does result in an intimacy with the Savior that can't be traced to a single moment, but years of moments that create something bigger than itself. Second, we can apply the principle relationally. I think particularly of parenting and how a well-mannered child does not just appear, but is the result of many minutes, hours, days, and years of discipline, love, modeling, prayers, tears, and triumphs. Third, this principle applies to our intellectual lives. My students often whine and wonder, "When will we ever use algebra in our lives?" and they don't realize that it's not about the algebra, but that algebra is a deck of cards used to create the house of education; without algebra, they have a wall missing.

The examples of the little by little principle are endless, but identifying this principle has given me such purpose and intentionality in the small stuff of life, giving it value. While I may be frustrated by the slow pace that this principle demands, any more than a little at time would be too much for me; like the Israelites, my give-it-to-me-now mentality would lead to destruction and depletion. As C.S. Lewis said, "Hell is getting what you want all of the time." I'm grateful that the universe functions under God's principles and not my own, or I would literally experience hell on earth.

(For the record, that's Bryan Berg in the picture standing with his 25 ft., 9 in. card creation--not surprisingly a world record. Check out the the video of him creating the capitol building at