Thursday, July 24, 2008

Carmelita

Carmelita (Carly for short), is our tortoiseshell cat that we adopted as a stray over a year ago. Since then, she's grown up and had six kittens. Right now, she is not as close as a companion as she used to be in terms of affection. But she is always nearby. And she purrs occasionally when I scratch her head and give her a kiss on top of it. It reminds me of the times when she liked me as a young kitten.

Despite her reticence in her maturity, she is a good cat. And she listens. She knows I'm talking to her and will open her luminous golden green eyes to direct them towards me when I start speaking and then close them half way when I start to bore her. The only thing she does that I can't stand is scratch the carpet underneath doors; she hates doors and tries to dig a hole in the floor. And if I see her and tell her not to do it, she stops for a minute and waits. And does it again. Until I tell her to stop. And she does and then starts again. And then on and on we go at least five times when she gets that my no means no.

Right now, she's pawing at the sliding glass door and crying to go outside. She stops and lays down, bends her head backwards towards me and looks at me pathetically and chirrups her desperation. Even though she is now spayed, I don't like to let her out. I turn my back to her, and when I turn to look at her again, she's got her back to me, ears lowered in frustration and disgust. She is telling me that I should be at her beck and call. Or else.

When our golden retriever, Ginger, wants to go out, I ask her if she wants "outside". The minute I say it, Carly runs to the door. She understands the key word and knows that the door to the back yard will open soon. She also understands that when Ginger barks to come back inside after peeing, it is also a good time to sit by the door. Which is happening right now, with both of them sitting expectantly on both sides of the glass door, looking at me.

I'm not like Dennis, who has trouble keeping his eye on two things at the same time. I can hold Carly back while letting the dog in. If I can't see her, I can hear her. I got her a black collar with fake diamond studs and a little bell that gives away her location. Carly, in her vanity, adores her fancy collar but hasn't understood how it has been betraying her. Perhaps she believes me to be totally deaf, since human ears are inferior to animal ones. Just like a cat, she could never believe that I could possibly outsmart her.

For all the cats I've known and owned, she is certainly the smartest of them all. Unfortunately, for her, it's her arrogance that has begun to be her downfall. But I don't need to prove to her that I'm no moron, she becomes quite humble at breakfast and at dinnertime.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Behold New Things

A friend is leaving in a few days to go home to her home country far, far away from here in Michigan. Dennis and I got to know her chiefly through the English as a Second Language classes and the bible study we led afterwards. She had amazing questions and a lot of doubt about what she was learning. But she kept coming back. She was making friends with many people in our church and a Chinese church in our community and went to several bible studies other than ours. We kept hearing her name often as we connected with common friends.

There was no reason to think that she would embrace faith in Jesus. She was as far from it, in fact, most of the time we studied with her. Sometimes I detected she was on the verge on giving up because it was so confusing. Sometimes, she would bend her head and I couldn't read what was going on in it. I prayed that she wouldn't give up in frustration. I rested in the fact that it wasn't up to me, our church or even her Christian Chinese friends to persuade her of anything.

The contrast now is startling. Last September, she told us that she believed that Jesus was a prophet, not God. Now, she not only see Him as God, but her savior. A few months ago, she would look at a sentence in the passage in the Scriptures and look at every way it could possibly be explained away. Now, she reads God's Word and treasures it. I marvel at what God has done, and she knows that God showed Himself to her in a remarkable way. She'll never forget it, neither will I. But at the same time, seeing her as a child of God through faith in Christ seems like the most natural thing in the world. She is no longer the same, she is a new creation. I no longer see her old self, but her new self.

Restless Farewell

At a concert to celebrate Frank Sinatra's 80th birthday in 1995, Dylan gave a rare performance of "Restless Farewell", requested by the guest of honor. Dylan wrote these breathtakingly insightful lyrics when he was about 20 years old. This is a song written by someone who is brutally honest with himself, and especially poignant that he is singing it in his early 50's. Enjoy.

















Oh all the money that in my whole life I did spend,
Be it mine right or wrongfully,
I let it slip gladly past the hands of my friends
To tie up the time most forcefully.
But the bottles are done,
We've killed each one
And the table's full and overflowed.
And the corner sign
Says it's closing time,
So I'll bid farewell and be down the road.

Oh ev'ry girl that ever I've touched,
I did not do it harmfully.
And ev'ry girl that ever I've hurt,
I did not do it knowin'ly.
But to remain as friends and make amends
You need the time and stay behind.
And since my feet are now fast
And point away from the past,
I'll bid farewell and be down the line.

Oh ev'ry foe that ever I faced,
The cause was there before we came.
And ev'ry cause that ever I fought,
I fought it full without regret or shame.
But the dark does die
As the curtain is drawn and somebody's eyes
Must meet the dawn.
And if I see the day
I'd only have to stay,
So I'll bid farewell in the night and be gone.

Oh, ev'ry thought that's strung a knot in my mind,
I might go insane if it couldn't be sprung.
But it's not to stand naked under unknowin' eyes,
It's for myself and my friends my stories are sung.
But the time ain't tall,
Yet on time you depend and no word is possessed
By no special friend.
And though the line is cut,
It ain't quite the end,
I'll just bid farewell till we meet again.

Oh a false clock tries to tick out my time
To disgrace, distract, and bother me.
And the dirt of gossip blows into my face,
And the dust of rumors covers me.
But if the arrow is straight
And the point is slick,
It can pierce through dust no matter how thick.
So I'll make my stand
And remain as I am
And bid farewell and not give a damn.


Here is Dylan in 1964 singing the same song:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Happy or Blessed?

Alan Jacobs is from Alabama and is a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois. He recently blogged about Dylan in his post "The Songs Are My Lexicon". Here is a really great snippet:


"And this plays into what I think is especially important about Dylan, that he is one of the few truly great figures in American popular culture--Duke Ellington was another--who has never forgotten that he himself isn't what it's all about. In some ways Dylan's most consistent message has been, simply, "It ain't me, babe, its ain't me you're looking for, babe." Dylan never lets you turn him into a graven image to worship. [italics mine] That's part of the reason for his elusiveness and his tendency to transform himself: you couldn't make a graven image out of quicksilver even if you could catch it. Which you can't. But his music and his lyrics are always pointing us towards a great tradition of morality and spirituality that are simply bigger than any rock star could ever be. Dylan knows that, and tries to teach it to us. That's why my favorite moment from a Dylan interview came in 1991, when Rolling Stone interviewed Dylan on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday. When the interviewer asked him if he was happy, Dylan gave a curious but utterly characteristic response:
He fell silent for a few moments and stared at his hands. "You know," he said, "these are yuppie words, happiness and unhappiness. It's not happiness or unhappiness, it's either blessed or unblessed. As the Bible says, 'Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.'"

Multi-purpose Room

Dennis and I finished the guest room today. Tomorrow, we'll have a guest.

The room will also serve as a sort of office for me when guests aren't around. Someplace to put all the books and there's a table by the window where I can write. I can also go there to pray without distractions from the tv or computer. Our bedroom is my chief quiet time and prayer place, but I get interrupted by Dennis a lot. Not that I mind, but I need somewhere peaceful.

I picked an amazing blue for the walls. I am not a "blue" type of person. I'm more green than anything. Or earth tones. But this shade communicates peace to me. The problem is that I don't have a lot of stuff that goes with blue. And we painted most of the furniture white. I have a lot of teacups, my grandmother and mom started me on a collection when I was 13 and I have no where to put them, so I wanted to find a spot for them in this room. However, I didn't want the space to look too Victorian or fussy.

I was planning on putting brown in, as a sort of modern feel. I like the color combination and it is really contemporary. But as I was thinking it over a few days ago, I felt the room needed to be light and bright. A cheerful place. I went to several stores to look things over, planning to get a comforter but I didn't find a thing I liked. While at Pier One, I hit on the idea of feminine but funky at the same time. A touch of the ocean perhaps. The teacups mixed with sea glass. I found a three panel picture set of flowers in bright hues, a really modern feel. I bought a bronze turtle for the wall and a capize shell sun catcher. And a striped seat cushion for a wooden chest that would turn into a window seat. I can use the old quilt I've always had in there, and I'm thinking of leaving the windows plain with just the wood blinds. The room will be permanently summer. Something to help me through the long Michigan winters. Somewhere I'll draw near to God.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

And if my thought-dreams could be seen...




Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child's balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying.

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool's gold mouthpiece
The hollow horn plays wasted words
Proves to warn
That he not busy being born
Is busy dying.

Temptation's page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover
That you'd just be
One more person crying.

So don't fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It's alright, Ma, I'm only sighing.

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don't hate nothing at all
Except hatred.

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Made everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It's easy to see without looking too far
That not much
Is really sacred.

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have
To stand naked.

An' though the rules of the road have been lodged
It's only people's games that you got to dodge
And it's alright, Ma, I can make it.

Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you're the one
That can do what's never been done
That can win what's never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you.

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks
They really found you.

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy
Insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not fergit
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to.

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to.

For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something
They invest in.

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God bless him.

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society's pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he's in.

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it's alright, Ma, if I can't please him.

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn't talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony.

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer's pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death's honesty
Won't fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes
Must get lonely.

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed graveyards
False gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough
What else can you show me?

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They'd probably put my head in a guillotine
But it's alright, Ma, it's life, and life only

Monday, July 14, 2008

God Provides

Every Sunday is the best day of the week for me. It's more than just a day off. It's more than a day to relax. It's the Lord's day.

Yesterday, we enjoyed the worship service and message and afterwards, Dennis headed to the international fellowship while I joined a small discussion group about hospitality. I connected with some old friends and made a few new ones. Afterwards, we joined a potluck to welcome the Miller's who are back on furlough after spending 3 years in a middle eastern country as tentmaking missionaries. As we were walking back to the car, some friends asked us what we'd be doing the rest of the day. We had wanted to finish a few home improvement projects, but that didn't happen. I read my Bible for awhile and prayed, and we both took naps. And then I started a new book I got from the library about apologetics.

I reflected also on the sermon we heard and some of the conversations I had with various people in church all morning long. A friend who recently became a believer, who told me that she felt the Holy Spirit and that was how she became a believer. A new friend who just moved to Lansing and was moving forward to find her niche in our church. The amazing people who met together to talk about Biblical hospitality. The international who was learning English and trying to answer my questions about his quiet time and favorite book in the Bible...I knew he was a godly young man with a mature faith, but it was hard to put into English what he wanted to share. Brief but exciting chats with two women who are leaders in our church about discipleship. Another short interchange with a younger couple about youth missions and speaking French. An encouraging remark from an older woman about God's will for our lives. An encouraging remark from a younger woman who noted that I had been reaching out more. I felt like I got more than I received all morning long. All grace--I didn't deserve it. All from God, showing me His love through our fellowship. To keep me going...steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that our toil is not in vain in the Lord.

I don't know what it is, but I'm suddenly aware of my need for Christian community. Maybe as I've gotten older I'm realizing that I can't make it on my own. I appreciate it more.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

At the Crossroads



With Clapton at a benefit concert to aid a recovery center for alcoholics and addicts, called Crossroads. As you can see, Dylan can't sing nor play guitar very well, so it is obvious he didn't make any special "deals". Clapton, on the other hand...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Communicating

I am fascinated by Bob Dylan videos from the past, like the 70's version of Maggie's Farm that I posted, because of the way he communicated, to the band and to the audience. While he entertained the crowds and putting his all into self expression, he always had his ear out to what's was going on with his band at the same time. He'd pull away from the mic, look around and direct non- verbally what was supposed to happen next. His posture and his demeanor told the musicians what emphasis, what tempo and what volume level he needed. His success depended on not only the songs he wrote but also his ability to get the execution of the songs he wanted on the stage.

The concerts I've attended these last few years, I've noticed the nuances of how each time he played the same songs, it was a different experience. The set lists are pretty predictable. His band these days knows exactly what to do next, and Dylan hardly has to say anything to them. He's getting older, he doesn't want to have to work that hard anymore, he is enjoying routine now instead of the chaos of his younger years. The players are well rehearsed but within the song they are expressing themselves to each other. And that musical dialogue during a live performance is what makes the same song unique every time it is played.

There are two videos I posted previously of Dylan being a surprise guest in someone else's band during two different concerts. Dylan is reacting two completely different ways with two songs that are both from the 60's and with two different men he knows well--Eric Clapton and Roger McGuinn. In both of them, Dylan communicates non verbally, but it wasn't always perceived.

In the Clapton show, Dylan is introduced before the song "Don't Think Twice" starts and seems completely in control of the situation. He is older, well into his sixties in this recent performance. He exudes confidence as he strolls on the stage, acknowledges the audience, makes eye contact with the band, says a few words with Clapton and begins the song on his terms. Clapton is humble and follows the lead of the senior musician. Dylan is obviously enjoying the connection musically with Clapton. It goes beautifully, and there is something almost spiritual about it.

The Byrd's starts "Tambourine Man" without him, and introduces him half way into the song as a surprise. Dylan is sort of lost looking, and doesn't know exactly where in the song he was supposed to be singing. This was in the '90's when he was in his fifties. David Crosby is sharing a mic with him and points to him to let him know he can take over the song. Dylan clearly does not like this. Because of phrasing in the song, Dylan has to look at who he's singing with, but his partner in the duet, Roger, is out of his line of sight. Roger, a sensitive friend of Dylan's, is aware of his discomfort on the stage and comes over to sing with him on the same mic and helps him regain a feeling of control, while Crosby is oblivious to Dylan's state of mind and laughing his head off. After the song is over, Bob gives an appreciative pat on the back of his friend Roger, and then turns to make a brief remark to Crosby. You can't hear it, but from the body language I wouldn't be surprised if it was something sarcastic.

So, it captivates me how Dylan is not only a master of written communication, but also non- verbal as well as verbal. It is extremely rare to find an individual who is excellent at all three.

Thursday, July 10, 2008



The Byrd's start on Mr Tambourine Man, and then Dylan makes an entrance to join them in performing the song that put them on the map. It seems really unrehearsed, and the Byrd's seem genuinely surprised, while Dylan seems shy and a little confused. McGuinn, who performed in Dylan's Rolling Thunder Tour in '76 helps him out by joining him at his mic.

Don't Think Twice, It's Alright



Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton play on this duet on an updated version of an old classic.

It's All Over, Baby Blue

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Ahhh Facebook!

Loving Facebook. Today, I:

  • got a message from my dad and wished him a happy trip to Hawaii and to send my alohas to all the family while he's there. And a request for kona coffee from Starbucks.
  • started a group for extended family members, inviting both LeBlanc's and Silva's to join.
  • sent a note to Becky, our friend and ESL coordinator at our church, that everything went well last night while she's on vacation and nothing went kablooie.
  • found out that a co-worker is going through a tough time with her grandma in hospital.
  • sent anniversary wishes out to a former co-worker and the update on the gift of a microwave he left in our store three years ago (I chucked it into the dumpster to join Wall E in landfill heaven, the door was broken, and I was sure it was causing radiation sickness that is causing my partners in the store to act so weird).
  • got a note on my wall from Valentine assuring me that I was his #1 after he called me a "Colorado Hippy[sic]".
  • joined the group "Things that Starbucks partners wish they could say to their customers but can't" and posted a story on the "stupid questions" discussion board.
Maybe, I am on there too long. Hmmm. It was only an hour. I think. I'll have to ask Fredo, my kitten, when I started...he's been snoozing next to me but I don't think he knows how to tell time yet.

Marriage



I don't know these people in the video, but I was looking at videos featuring John Lennon's "Grow Old With Me" and I liked this version with Mary Chapin Carpenter, but the only one I saw was this home movie of a couple's 40th wedding anniversary montage. In a way, I was inspired by their commitment and happiness with each other even though I have no idea who they are.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Onward

A different 70's version of "Maggie's Farm", the song that Dylan used to launch himself from the world of folk into rock music 10 years before. The same rebellious spirit but in a groovy spin that reflects the decade Dylan was playing in, not the decade he first wrote and performed it. Dylan survived by going forward.

You can see T-Bone Burnett, now a famous Grammy winning producer, playing in the band to dylan's right, yeah, the tall blond guy with the aviators and the bright blue jacket. (Burnett produced the album "Seeing Things" just released by Jakob Dylan, the son of Bob Dylan.) He recently said in an interview that he is still going on the fuel from the Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue, the assembly you see here in the video. They are all looking like a mix between gypsies, bedouins and pirates.

Why I like this: because it was a lot of hard work creating one amazing song, and I can't imagine the vision and genius it takes to re-create it. I love the opening rifts, the layers upon layers of guitar and the pulsing bass line. The whole time they're playing, it sounds as though it is on the verge of coming apart any moment, but they miraculously pull through all the way to the end. You can see Dylan by sheer force of his will holding it all together--it's practically a circus on that stage and he's driving them all on as one. He's not relaxed, he's dynamic, constantly turning to his band so they know what to do next and where they're going. It's a roller coaster ride of a song, blowing the minds of the audience and the probably the musicians as well. They are going somewhere they've never been before. It's creative, it's a mess, but they are alive.

Here is Dylan's older version from 1965:

Also an imperfect mess but gets the point across, he's moving on...and gets boo'd for it. Change is inevitable, but people don't always like it. They want the predictable, they want the past, the illusion of security. Life isn't like that. We have to move onward.

No Mas!

Who is with me? Viva Chihuahuas!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Insular

Thursday night we watched "Beyond the Gates", a film about the Rwandan massacre. I wasn't sure if I wanted to watch one more movie about the atrocity after seeing "Hotel Rwanda" and "Sometime in April" plus the three other books I read from the library in the past year. And I really didn't want to watch a fictionalized account that was heavy on the white perspective, after seeing and reading so much from the Rwandan perspective. But I'm glad I did.

The fictionalized account was based on real people and real events, mostly from the experiences of two BBC reporters who covered the genocide, notably David Belton, who met one of only two white priests from Europe who stayed behind in Rwanda and observed them as they made sacrificial choices to try to save as many people as they could. The movie focuses really on two people, the idealistic volunteer and the older, experienced priest, both from England and running a Catholic college. Both men seem to love Rwanda and Rwandans, but each has a different kind of love. Both have faith in God, but there are differences in how they believe. Both live by a moral code, but one actually sticks to it by choice during a horrific test. One has to live with his decision for the rest of his life, while the other dies by his.

I felt a real tension as I watched the movie, the claustrophobic feeling as the gates are surrounded by bloodthirsty murderers taunting their intended prey inside. The fear and desperation felt by the people as the UN soldiers start to pull away. The panic for one young woman I got to know throughout the movie as she runs for her and her child's life. And the sadness for the people who could have made a difference but chose to leave, knowing that it would be hellish for them to live with themselves after they made their choice. And the love of a father as he makes a bold request for the children, that they be shot by UN soldiers, saving them the horrific pain of being hacked to death by the Hutus. The sincerity of the doomed Christian who tells an intimidating Hutu who was about to kill him that he feels nothing but love for him.

In 1994, I didn't watch much television nor read the paper often when we were living in Alameda, CA. I had no computer to surf. During those 100 days, I was working and preparing for a move from our apartment to Navy housing, as well as Dennis being gone for a few months while in training in New Orleans. A good friend was about to have a baby while her husband was getting tested for a possible brain tumor (it was malignant). An earthquake hit. A busy, crazy time. But I do remember reading about the UN deciding against the word "genocide" in describing what was going on in Rwanda, and wondering how that could happen, when so many people were obviously killed by people who made it no secret what they were doing and why they did it. I also recall that the US under Clinton leadership was not going to risk any more soldiers' lives for concerns not our own.

I remember struggling with that thought, but not for very long. I prayed a short prayer, not realizing how much damage machetes could do. Rwanda didn't come up in conversations, in bible studies, prayer meetings nor in church. Not that I didn't care about the world, I prayed daily for the nations of the world. I knew and supported many missionaries in Africa. I knew soldiers and their families who were involved in Panama and Desert Storm. Yet, even while living in California where everything is wide open and questioned, no one talked about the genocide.

I was very insulated--for all the "world vision" I was developing, it seems to me I was totally blind at the time.

Domestic Stuff

We finished painting the guest room. It is a color of blue called "Angel's Eyes". It's a very blue room. But a pretty kind of blue, slightly violet. I was going for a shade of light blueberry to create a restful atmosphere. I got rid of the paper border that I was thinking of putting up, and the lace balloon curtins as well. The brass bed headboard will have a pewter finish and we'll replace the light fixture with a pewter and frosted glass fixture. I was afraid the the small room would look smaller with a darker color. I was right, but it isn't a bad thing. The guest room will also have a round table that would serve as a desk for me, a reading chair and some shelves. A place to put my books and writing materials. A place for prayer, when I need to get away with God.

I found a recipe to make mango plum jam. I will try to make some this week sometime. It's a good time, since plums are in season. The recipe is a small batch recipe, so I only need 4 plums and one mango to make four cups of jam. I am also growing lavender in my front garden, so I can make peach lavender jam as well. You soak the flowers in boiling water and then strain out the flowers. The remaining liquid, about half a cup, is used in the jam, not the flowers themselves. I also found a canning recipe for bruschetta. This is great, since this is the tomato season and I could have bruschetta on hand later on in the year. I've never home canned before, except in helping my mom when I was growing up. And I've always wanted to try it, so this should be fun.

I love doing stuff at home, being domestic and taking care of things. I've always had this desire, and I learned a lot from my mom and grandma. But they never seemed to really enjoy it. It was just something that had to be done, and done well. I always heard the war stories, like when the pressure cooker blew up in the middle of canning season and scared my mom and grandma way back when. They were probably tired and not paying attention. They tended to do these things from starting in the early morning right after a quick breakfast of coffee and toast to finish nonstop late into the night.

It was not a hobby or an interesting thing to try. It was work, and it was about stretching that family food budget to get the most out of the dollar as they possibly could. And they were so stressed about it--the mess, the procedure, the timing, etc... And we, the family that they did all this for, took it all pretty much for granted. Yes, I liked the pickles that were stacked in the basement cupboard, but they were just pickles for pete's sake and there were jars and jars of them. Mom and Grandma also made fruit leather, that they pureed peaches in the blender and dried it in the oven and rolled them in plastic wrap. We ate them forever, it seemed, in our school lunches. It was a big treat the first week, but after that it was not as special six months later. But when you are 11 years old, fruit leather was better than nothing.

Later on, Mom got all gourmet and made sun dried tomatoes that she packed in olive oil and herbs and froze. But this was when I was married and long gone from living at home. I couldn't believe that she made hundreds of these, stacked in zip lock bags in her deep freezer, by herself with Dad's help with all the roma tomatoes he grew in the back yard by the bushel. If I remember right, she was recovering from congestive heart failure at the time. Later in the fall, she and Dad dried apple rings, enough to supply them for two years along with dried blueberries and dried strawberries. I guess if they got bored, this was what they did for fun. Even though they were pretty much empty nesters by then. Dad also went fishing a lot and canned his salmon right after he caught them or smoked them. Food processing was a way of life. So, no wonder I went into food science in college.

I don't think that I would go in the same direction as my mom with the canning and preserving in terms of volume. But I do think doing it by myself would be a lot more healthier and cheaper than buying it in the store. I will be going to the Lansing City Market tomorrow and see what's there to can or preserve. The farmer's market in Okemos I hear is one of the best. It's been a long time since I've gone to the farmer's market. And there will be blueberry picking coming up as an activity for English as a Second Language students in a few weeks. The opportunities are there. I'll see what I can do.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Reality Checks

Dennis and I are going to paint the wood trim on the exterior with an espresso brown to accent the tone of beige of the siding. My major pet peeve about our home's appearence is that it seems very bland. The contrast of the brown against the beige will definately make it stand out more to boost the "curb appeal". And those two colors would also complement the blue and grey tones of the rock facade. I thought about using a grey trim instead, but grey is overused in this neighborhood, as well as light blue.

We are also painting the guest room. I decided to make it very feminine, with a floral border and white lace balloon curtains. Will I like it? It seemed like a good idea at the time. Dennis and I clash a little because I don't feel like the decisions are set in stone, that if I have a receipt, I can take the floral border and the curtains back. Dennis can't stand this kind of indecision, because he believes my initial choices are fantastic. Well. Maybe they are. But the more I think about it, the more I hate it. It seems boring. I wanted to go towards more "shabby chic" but I am not sure that I'll actually get there with the border.

Decorating is something I usually love to do, but nowadays, I'm less than excited about it. I'm afraid that my tastes are running too far behind the times. I'm stuck in the '90's, maybe. And that is a kind of hard period to define, except the theme of "country" being pervasive.

That's it. The border and the lace are going back to the store.

In other news, Starbucks announced this week the decision to close 600 stores that aren't profitable. Everyone has been asking me about the store I work in. Actually, it is a very profitable store (and I thank all our customers that make it so). But you never know. After the 600 are closed, would that be enough? I hope so. But it makes sense to be at the top of my game and bring the rest of the store to exceed expectations. Reality check.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tonight


Tonight, I'm the class teacher for beginning ESL students. I've had a week to plan how to get 8 women from all over the world to participate in conversation about vacations--the topic of the week. I've had many creative ideas, but I'm not sure if they'll be effective. Usually, Louis teaches, but he's on vacation.


Last week, he launched into this week's topic when we had extra time at the end of the class. So, I will probably review the subject of travel. Louis also told us that he was going to Mackinac Island, so we will talk about what that place is like--no cars or motorized vehicles and can only reached by boat. And I will teach them how to ask Louis about his vacation.


I also plan to bring magazines that they can cut pictures out of about vacations, and talk about their pictures. I saw this once or twice in Seattle when I went to a few parties hosting international students at Warren and Hilve Mason's home. It helped the Internationals understand a little of what the Americans were talking about. And it gave them a little more confidence to have a picture or two to help them visualize what to say.


So, I'm looking forward to tonight, to be able to spend time with my friends from Turkey, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, China, Hong Kong, and Brazil!