Thursday, January 31, 2008


Sometimes all you can do is salvage. Sift through the rubble, flick ashes off of the photo frame, dig dishes out from under the wreckage of lumber, bricks, and debris. The instant culture shock of finding your expected haven a dump of your life doesn't curtail the instinct to step carefully over the remaining bits in search of familiar items.
I had a big interview yesterday. It took me about three months to get it. I prepared, I checked my equipment, I moved myself into a quiet space, I double checked everything.
It went great. Rich, pithy quotes, spot-on comments that would appeal to the audience and strengthen the arguments made in other areas. It was illuminating. It was fascinating.
It was lost.
After checking and rechecking the recording device, testing it multiple times, putting new batteries in the thing, taping a "do not disturb" sign on the interview room door...
It didn't record. My three month in the making interview never made it to tape.
Last night was not a good night.
This morning I hoped that God had miraculously inscribed the tape with the speaker's voice. He didn't.
But my boss, with compassion on his face for the misery on mine, encouraged me to salvage. To take the few handwritten notes I'd jotted down and somehow intersperse them with quotes from the book or something.
Interestingly, I'd taken more notes than I'd realized, often with direct quotes of words, phrases and sentences. And those notes spurred memories of more words, phrases and remarks. (I have a very literal memory when it comes to words sometimes. Ask me about vast stretches of Little House on the Prairie books. What part would you like me to quote or paraphrase?) So I ended up salvaging.
I have an accurate, usable, albeit shorter interview to show for my labor. It would have been wonderful to triumph in my glory with a recording that had to be edited down because it was so great and so long. But sometimes, you salvage.
Thank goodness for salvaging. We all do it sometimes, whether it's the remains of a burned supper, the vestiges of a home, or the scraps of an interview. God leaves us a remnant, and we find it enough.
So, today, here's to enough.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Daily Double

What is Yes, that's correct.

I took the online Jeopardy test last night. Now, if only I have enough right answers, am randomly chosen to attend an interview audition, and jump through enough Trebek hoops, then I, too, could appear on Jeopardy!

I encourage you to take the Jeopardy online test. It's fun. You have to register to take it at a specific time and evening, so it feels official, but beware! Those questions pop up fast. It took about ten minutes to answer (or not answer) 50 questions.

I've been playing Jeopardy ever since our children's section at the library featured computers with old school games on them. I suppose at that time "old school" hardly works as a modifier. "Neat-o and modern" would be better.

So visit to try your luck at hitting a Daily Double.

A Daily Double of life.

Ahahahahaha. I thought that was funny.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Pinch of Perspective

In these troubled, tumultuous political times when candidates promise their dedication to solve your family's woes, consider this: footage of F.D.R.'s Fireside Chats on the New Deal. Hear his resolve and weigh the results of the action and power the federal government amassed to alleviate the ills of the Depression. Hear the options he gives families about to lose their homes; a tug on the heartstrings, yes, but that season brought about the disappearance of a third of your income: the income tax. Pockets may get threadbare as the economy jolts in financial turbulence, but, as Washington seeks the answers to keeping Americans happy, keep in mind the law of unintended consequences, and the echoes of actions taken sixty or seventy years ago. Our actions will echo for our grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and those we'll never meet. Beware the tempting offer of comfort for today: the bulk of the burden may be carried by those who forget where to find our graves. Some things never change: hardship, uncertainty, hard work. It may as well be you who carries part of the load, rather than banking on a politician's gamble.


And then, soaking in the hot, steaming water, the silken pyramid bobbed to and fro in the swirls of comfort and shared fragrance. I handed Emily her mug of tea, and as it steeped, we spoke of sugar, and missing one another, and small talk that was large when passed over the tea tray. The tangy scent of a dubious newcomer, decaf plum, offered itself to the inquiry of one Mr. Jonny Walls, who poked and prodded the air with his nose. He declared on the spot that it smelled like dill, but not unpleasantly so. He was right. How plum and dill happen to sprout from the same teacup one can never be sure, but he drank his plumdilly tea to the last drop. "One lump or two?" is never an appropriate question to pose to John, who plunges sugar cubes into his tea with reckless abandon. And I drained the kettle of the last of its water, resulting in a three quarter cup of Lady Grey. The Lady is an old friend. We have spent many pleasant evenings together, chasing away damp winter chill and embracing the light and words and muffled sound of the indoors. She is an elegant, constant companion and her absence is always a somber one.
The tea tray is a curious object. A rectangle, mine is a modern plastic, though bamboo, teak or wicker would be more texturally appropriate. But the colors and pattern make up for the shiny, unforgiving surface. It bears a scene of a French sidestreet and loads the space with reds and greens favored among colors in my home. It held, last night, four new mugs of earthenware that rebelled against common classification of heavy or unwielding. Though stone, they are light and pleasant to hold, like stone in Rivendell, I imagine. A pile of sugar cubes resembled a shoddy ancient wonder, an amateur pyramid. The lone creamer we received as a wedding gift stood stocked and graceful with milk to be splashed in among the teabags. Every time I glance at the creamer I feel a distinct sense of satisfaction in our good taste. True, there is no sugar bowl to accompany it, and it is the only item of that pattern to grace our humble home, but it is beautiful, and we receive compliments on it that attest to that fact. And playing teatime made us all sit up straight and formal for some time, until we relaxed into the space spreading out from the teatray like a little pool of shells and fish by the ocean; and then we savored not just the tea but the dense, heavy comfort that freed laughter to ring out and jest to punctuate the hours and minutes.
Ours is not a kettle that stays cold.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I Love Nerds

Wondering what to get that special nerd in your life for Valentine's Day? Try this, if you can't find an awesome grammar chart like the one I saw at Ft. Harrod. Have mentioned how much I love grammar?

Diagramming the Preamble to the US Constitution.
Posted by Cory Doctorow, January 17, 2008 10:10 AM

Let's admit it. This is FANTASTIC. Oooh, someone should diagram the WHOLE constitution. Yay, kids, it's learning time!!!!!
Those of you who know me well know that I'm not kidding.


Here's the link to a few photos from my wedding...

Coffee Break

Pick up your steaming coffee and a bagel, and peruse.

China: “citizen journalist” beaten to death by authorities
Listen to Cat Power’s “Jukebox”, an album which covers the likes of Bob Dylan, Hank William, and more
Overall abortion rates continue to drop
“X-Files” returns to theatres, minus the alien mythology
Half a million rubber balls down the Spanish steps in Rome
Death and decorating: Sundance’s “The Guitar”
Education push yields little for India’s poor
A fantastic appeal: how Christians can use fantasy stories
Ranch sells beef for dinner, bones for surgery
Yuri’s Night World Space Parties
Selling the Good Book by its cover,1,3488535.story?coll=la-news-religion&ctrack=1&cset=true
Superheroes in real life: ordinary citizens put on masks to fight crime

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Does Celebrity Religion Matter? Tom Cruise and the Way of Salvation

Today I viewed an interesting video making waves across internet surfers' paths. A Tom Cruise Scientology video surfaced on YouTube and other websites recently, before it was pulled down by Scientologists repeatedly. A few sites thought quickly and downloaded it for themselves to maintain its availability.
So, other than a passing, magazine-browsing interest, what does Tom Cruise's thoughts on religion and metaphysics have to do with anything? Is there a reason for celebrity beliefs to matter? If all celebrities were taken seriously, Shirley MacLaine could be taken as a wise sage rather than a punchline.
Cruise's "risky business" of going public so repeatedly with his religious beliefs should raise a few eyebrows: most celebrities stick to bland, generic spirituality, or politically savvy, trendy affiliations, like Madonna's obsession with Kabbalah, a gooey version of Judaism.
Scientology is not scientific, as in science. Nor is it accepted by Christianity as a legitimate religious belief. Other than universalists, who think all roads lead to heaven, Christians - and many others - classify scientology as a cult. While there's been no tainted Kool-Aid served (yet), scientology is rather new on the religious scene, a "new religious movement" in sociological or anthropological lingo. Where Judaism, Islam, Christianity, a few other major players, and folk religions have existed for millenia, scientology is a new kid on the block, a characteristic of cults - some new prophet, wise man, or alien finally "gets" the universe, or receives "new" knowledge or revelation.
Many books or articles expound on the specific beliefs of scientology. While I'm not expounding on the claims of the religious movement so vehemently loved by Tom Cruise and friends, I have a few observations about this video: take a few minutes to watch.
First of all, you'll notice that Cruise is actually quite generic in many of his statements. Also note that he uses several phrases unfamiliar to the layman (SPs, etc.). You may also see that Cruise heavily emphasizes the role of scientology for others - he repeatedly highlights the obligation of scientologists to use their knowledge to help others, for others' good. And, as one friend observed, Cruise takes the need to help others to an almost Messiah-complex level. By the end, I'm driven to imagine the "Mission Impossible" star in a superhero costume with "S" for Scientology on his cape and a noble, self-sacrificing look in his enlightened eye. Thank heavens for Tom Cruise, he's here to save us all.
Save us all. Besides a few weird beliefs, like the necessity for women not to scream during childbirth, what is really so wrong with the things he discusses on camera? Shouldn't we all help others? Shouldn't we all love and have compassion?
It struck me part way through the taped testimony that a lot of the words from Mr. Cruise could be edited into a fundamental Christian preacher's mouth - "you're either in or you're out," "there's no room for spectators," "I have what will help people." Those statements could all be switched into a pulpit - either you're in heaven or you're out, there's no room for casual Christians, and the preacher has the only thing that will save people - the Gospel. What, then, is the difference?
Besides the different claims Scientology and Christianity make about the universe, humanity, and metaphysics in general, observe this: the posterboy for Scientology looks to knowledge for salvation. If you have the knowledge he has of the way things really are in the world, then you can overcome. Repeatedly, the assertion that, "I have to help people," is made. If you know the truth, you will be helped, and then can share that with others. This, however, is not person-based truth, but special, recently revealed knowledge. What is the difference between knowing a fact and knowing a person?
The difference is Jesus Christ. Some religions claim you must know a certain something for ultimate happiness and fulfillment. Christianity's unique claim is that you must know a certain someone, who, as Divine and human, embodies truth and reveals knowledge of the Divine through his Incarnation in human flesh. Belief in Jesus transcends reason, but does not negate reason: that is to say, faith goes beyond what we understand, but God ultimately is the source of reason, logic, knowledge, and understanding, so that reason is never a liability for Christians, but a gift with which we may discover more about God. While Tom Cruise asserts that his possession of knowledge qualifies and obligates him to help others, Christians insist that only relationship with the fount of Wisdom - Jesus Christ - enables us to serve others and point them to the only source of salvation there is - not us, but Christ.
Knowing a fact that will help someone is not useless. But it will not save one's soul. Knowing a person - a Divine, human person, Jesus - will both save one here, and now, and in eternity. Christians need never fear knowing facts. What should be feared is not knowing God from whom truth springs.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Pinata Candy

For anyone who missed the pinatas at our reception (we found a pinata donkey head in our bed, by the way - a paper mache ode to The Godfather), here are a few tidbits - candy and toys from the pinatas, if you will...
One of my favorite browsing sites: look, don't touch, kids: Anthropologie stores can be found in metro areas like Boston, but if you're miles away from Paul Revere, check out for delectable clothing and household goods.
What's that? You've had a long day and need something to marvel at? Try this link to a miniature Minas Tirith from Lord of the Rings, made out of...drumroll...candy!
And what shape would you like your egg today, dear? Tired of those boring old round eggs? Need something to spice up your breakfast table without giving you heartburn? Then try your hand at these molds that shape your morning sunny side up into your favorite handguns. They're sure to please. Who doesn't want their breakfast food modeled after their favorite weapon of choice?

Shine On, Honey Moon

The ol' ball and chain. My better half. My significant other. One flesh. The happy couple.
We're married.
I'll spare you the details of my honeymoon, which I am tempted to line up and parade out in front of acquaintances who word queries on my wellbeing, "how was your honeymoon?" but I thought you'd enjoy a few word pictures from our travels to the great Smoky Mountains, or, as I insisted on calling them, the Misty Mountains, thank you Bilbo Baggins.
A major piece of advice to anyone unmarried: if you are doing a lot of your own labor on your wedding, like making your own bouquets (which we did) or decorating your own reception hall (which we did), plan a low maintenance honeymoon. It's bless-ed. A honeymoon within driving distance means: no lost luggage at an airport; no delayed or cancelled flights; a chance on the drive to debrief and unwind and compare notes on the previous days; and less expense.
Blue Mountain Mist Inn and Cottages made our stay blissful( A laden breakfast basket was delivered to our cottage every morning, tucked with juice, biscuits, sausage gravy, French toast, fruit, and other delectable trimmings. A fireplace warmed our toes, and the ample movie library kept us entertained, as did the 2,000 piece Van Gogh puzzle that was more of an intimidating undertaking than I expected. Had the season been different, we could have enjoyed the rocking chairs on the back porch overlooking grand, hooded peaks in the distance, or the grill and picnic table nestled under the trees.
A few minutes away, Pigeon Forge (the Vegas of Appalachia) and Gatlinburg (the Smoky Mountain counterpart to Frankenmuth, Michigan) attracted all kinds of tourists. All kinds. Pigeon Forge has things like Dollywood, Black Bear Show and Dinner, about three million pancake houses, and an Elvis museum. Gatlinburg has things like skiing, hiking, a Hard Rock Cafe, tons of charming antique stores and restaurants, and the Smoky Mountain National Forest.
In nearby Sevierville, we visited The World's Largest Knife Store. I didn't know A) how many knives there are in the world, and B) how many people like all those knives. John finally found the whittling knife his heart craved, and, after lusting for a few of the swords on display, settled on a couple throwing knives. You know, in case we ran into bars. That's right. Bars. One of the local store owners warned us of the black bars in the mountains. Don't worry. We didn't see any bars. We did, however, see a guy dressed up like Elvis chewing the fat with people at Smoky Mountain Knife Works.
We finally steeled ourselves to get out of the cabin and go hiking, so we drove the ascending curves into the mountains, wheeled around hairpin turns, and found a trail (to John's disappointment - he loves to hack his own trails). For the record, my muscles are still recuperating from that "hike". Ha! "Hike." Mountain climbing is more like it. To reach Chimney Tops, the first half of the trail is tame - water gushing below foot bridges, amiable paths gently steering upward. Then the trail says, "ha! I fool you!" and the mud, and the rock, and the harsh, harsh steepness begin. Well, steep for someone who has stayed inside all week watching movies and putting together a puzzle. And, well. You know. We made our way further up, and watched our running shoes get covered in mud, and wished for bottled water, and hiking boots.
Technically - technically - I did not climb the summit. There was a sheer rock face between me and the tip. But as I had muddy shoes, and little traction, and as I have a thing about edges, and living, I stopped maybe fifty feet shy of the narrow, protruding rock that some so optimistically called the "summit." I had a bird's eye view anyway, eye to eye with the mountaintops around me, valleys and gulleys scooped out from the landscape below. John went a bit further, decided he didn't want to die on his honeymoon, and came back to my welcoming arms. The hike down was, as always, so much easier. Round trip we climbed and descended about five miles worth of Smoky Mountain turf and drove, exhausted and hungry, to Johnny Carino's, where we sank down and let a waitress bring us lots of carbs and water. It's amusing - I always have a few moments on one of these adventures when, in misery and despair, I am certain I will die if I take one more step. I suppose it was like being on a stairstepper or elliptical machine at the gym for two hours. I always have a moment, or usually a series of moments, in which I know that This Will Be The End, a marker will stand by my last point reading "Here fell Elizabeth, the mountain beat her, and she was happy to roll over and let sheep nibble her ears away." But then, for some reason - and I'll never know exactly why - I keep going. Maybe it's because there's always someone with me at these moments. Maybe it's because I hate defeat. Maybe it's because I know, in my heart of hearts, that I want to get to the top more than I want to lay down and let sheep nibble at me. Whatever the case, I find myself drawing on past victories, or - what? something, and I Keep Going. At one resting spot to catch my breath, John asked me what I was doing. As it happened, I had a blank stare. But I was staring at a tree, willing myself to be under it, to get to it, to eliminate the distance between myself and it. So I responded, with what I hoped was an athletic air, "I'm visualizing." As in "visualizing the end zone" or "visualizing the green." Whatever it was, it helped. That, and pride. John's several years younger than me, and while I don't mind being the Older Woman, I don't want to be AN Older Woman.
I got my comeuppance in the end. The quick, jarring descent and low blood sugar left John slightly dizzy and with sharp pangs in his knees as we headed Down the Mountain. This time, my asthma was fine, so I steadied him, and got the opportunity to enjoy all the scenery I had missed on my grueling way up.
So shine on, Honey Moon, as we unpack suitcases and navigate around the mountains of cardboard boxes defining the landscape of our apartment. Sorting and unpacking are no picnic, but after Chimney Tops, it should be a piece of cake.
Speaking of which, anybody want some leftover wedding cake?