What are we talking about today?

Normal topics suspended for the A to Z Challenge. It's all books from April 1-30.

If you're here from the A to Z Challenge hoping I'll comment back if you comment first: Sorry to disappoint, but that probably won't happen. I work full-time and I grad school full-time, so I can't give the time to blog commenting that I would like. I'll visit after the end of the semester, I hope.

30 April 2009

Sneaking one last one in.

... Before May hits. Arrives. Whichever you want to call it.

So, I've been sick this week, which has led to not much blogging, because there is not much interesting to say about being sick.

Except this: It's my bad luck to get sick during a national panic attack. Seriously. I had my nose & throat swabbed (fun!) and had to wait around to see if anything came back positive (it didn't). If the flu test had been positive, it would have gone to the local Department of Health, and if it was the correct type of positive there, then it would have gone to the CDC in Atlanta. The thought of the CDC examining the contents of my nose was not a happy one. Thankfully, I am flu- and strep-free, and therefore mostly capable of going to work. And I have hopes of a full recovery by Sunday, because I don't want to take DayQuil on my birthday.

So, I have another post cooking about my current quilt project. Stay tuned.

26 April 2009

Palmolive Eco

To kick off my environmentally- & budget-friendly blogging, I'm going to give a little review of a product I'm currently using: Palmolive Eco. As with many things in my life, I came upon this version of Palmolive by accident; I usually buy my detergent at the Dollar General, but on this particular evening I was already at the supermarket and thought that buying detergent from them once in a while won't bankrupt me. So, I looked for the cheapest name-brand gel that was available, and this was it.



We rinse our dishes before loading them in the dishwasher, so I haven't had the problems with food stuck on the dishes that people in Spokane, where phosphate-free detergent is the only choice available, are having. But, we do have hard water, so some of my utensils have looked like this:
I've seen a little bit of the white film on a couple other things, but it is particularly noticeable on my black utensils. It may also be the texture of the utensils; they are smooth, but not glossy.
Just by way of comparison:
The cup on the left came out of the same load of dishes that the above-pictured measuring cup & spoon. It is glossy, so the white film doesn't seem to stick. The cup on the right is from the same set as the one in the previous picture, but I haven't used it in a couple of weeks, so it has not yet been washed in the Palmolive Eco.
I happened to have a few things that needed to be hand washed sitting in the sink, so I popped in the measuring cup and the spoon. After washing (with Palmolive hand washing soap), this is how they came out:
Still some while film, but not nearly as much as before.
My verdict? Well, phosphate-free is coming, whether you are ready for it or not; in the summer of 2010, quite a few states are banning detergents with phosphates from sale. This blog will tell you more about which states as well as giving some hope; the detergent makers are still trying to perfect their formula and get our dishes cleaner.
Will I use Palmolive Eco again? Probably not any time soon. Even at a promotional price, it is still more expensive than buying Cascade at the dollar store, so this may be a one-off thing. But I am willing to try other phosphate-free options in the course of the next couple of years; Texas isn't among the states mandating it by next summer, but that doesn't mean we'll never be moving, or that Texas won't join in eventually.
And, of course, there is always the hand washing option; it is friendlier to the dishes, and uses less water & electricity. Really, the only thing it takes is time, but perhaps I'm ready to "budget" a few minutes every evening for the savings we would see in our water, electric, and shopping bills; hand detergent is also cheaper than the dishwasher variety, and it lasts longer.

25 April 2009

Shopping trip

Okay, after a series of long posts, I'm going to give you a short one-- just a little account of my bicycle-enabled shopping trip today.

First of all, why are all the drivers glaring at me? I'm really not in their way. Maybe it is because my bike can go places their cars can't.

Had a brief encounter with a car full of idiot 20-somethings. I thought at first that they might be idiot teens, but no, they certainly had the look of older, rather than younger, idiots. Good to know people can be idiots for as many decades as they like.

At the risk of sounding insensitive, my bike has enough tics and quirks to be in the psych ward. I forgot my chain, but anyone stealing that thing deserves what they get.

A trip to Hobby Lobby makes everything better. Hobby Lobby is like chocolate without the calories.

The limit on how many times you can drop ear buds on the floor and still expect them to work is three. Once you get to four, they quit.

And finally, in case you were wondering, a brand-new laptop bag can, in fact, be sucked into the gap between the wheel and the bike frame. So, before I owned the thing for five minutes, I had already inflicted damage upon it. At least I'll grab the correct bag in security at the airport.

21 April 2009

Retreat!

We had a women's retreat on Friday evening (okay, more like a women's evening than retreat. Whatever.), which I all but forgot about in all the excitement on Saturday. I won't bother with the blow-by-blow recap, because I know it's just not that interesting to read about an event you weren't at. If you really, really want to know, I'm happy to oblige.

The event title was "Daughters of Eve," with the theme being stewardship. First round was stewardship of the earth; second round was stewardship of our bodies. Both of these are topics in which I am particuarly interested, as regular readers have probably already learned.

So I did giggle a bit at the environmental portion of the evening; I come from a family that was into conservation long before conservation was cool. It goes with the low-income territory. Things that people now find remarkable ("Hey, we can use this butter tub for leftovers!" "Don't throw out that bag; it can be re-used." "Put those vegetable peelings into the compost bin.") are things that my grandparents, and probably all their friends, did in the '50s. Who knew that the rest of society would catch up?

I guess this is Earth week, based on the number of websites and TV stations that are all greened up. Which works out nicely, because I've been contemplating an earth-friendly blog series of my own. Mostly for my own amusement, of course, but also in case anyone is wondering about such things as phosphate-free dishwasher detergent. Stay tuned.

Anyway, this post was supposed to be about the retreat. It was a great evening, with fellowship and laughter as well as good messages from all. And to think that womens' events used to be boring! They have gotten much more fun in recent years. Or maybe I've gotten more fun.

19 April 2009

I was KIDDING!

So, in my previous post, I mentioned going on a 40-year wilderness trek in search of Moses, and that we might need search & rescue.

I was not being serious. But I think I was the one who jinxed us. Sorry guys!

Here then, split into a few posts for easier reading, is the blow-by-blowout account of our trip, written pretty much as it happened:

So our trip to Monahans started off as expected; we headed out at about 8:45, the kids were reviewing for the competition, adults reading or chatting, and our intrepid bus driver (Chad) was, well, intrepidly driving. We stopped off in Seminole for a break, then continued on.

Just a few miles outside of Andrews (at around 10 AM), we heard a bang!, which we wrote off as being a rock. Ha! If only. Barely a mile later, the bus took on a very alarming shimmy, so Chad got us off the road and stopped as quickly as he could (and safely, it should be pointed out). He & the other men up front hopped off in short order to investigate, rapidly followed by me, and pretty much all the boys on the bus.

Our front tire was gone. Except it wasn’t, because it had wrapped itself around—okay, I’m not into cars. It was wrapped around whatever that metal thing is. And said metal thing was bent. So, the men swung into action getting the bus jacked up, investigating, realising we didn’t have a spare tire, taking the bent metal thing off, and all the other stuff men do on occasions like this. The kids, meanwhile, thought this was the best event ever and were running around, playing with sticks, kicking up dirt, collecting bits of tire, and otherwise making their mothers crazy.

It was up to me to phone the other bus and get them to come back, because they had been far enough in front to not notice that we had stopped (the other two vehicles in the caravan did stop). Actually, it wasn’t entirely up to me, because about three people tried to get the other driver via calls & text, but since the other driver was, you know, driving, he didn’t notice. I tried a different tact, though: I called his wife. She got them turned around and headed back our way.

We loaded up all the kids on the other bus, all women from our bus (minus me!) in the Surburban, and waved good-bye. (I also sent my camera on with a girl who promised to take very good care of it. Who knows what kind of pictures we will get!) Meanwhile, another couple took off in their pickup to get the bent thing fixed, and another tire, and whatever. I’m really not a car person, so I don’t know what they were doing.

While they were gone, we stood around getting sunburnt and talking about sports. And discussing how “get the spare tire from the trailer” ought to be on the pre-trip checklist for church trips.

Tire came back, was reattached to the bus, and off we went. We’re on our way to a dealership in Odessa that has a wheel of some sort (ours, it turns out, is now cracked). It is 1 PM, and the competiton should be starting in Monahans right now.

What next?

Two hours, one long stop at a Ford dealership, and a one and one-half pizzas gratefully accepted from the car dealer (motivated to some extent, I think, by his desire to see some repeat business from at least one of these men), and we’re headed out of Odessa en route to Monahans. Also, a few phone calls have been fielded from mothers eager to share the news of their children’s accomplishments with fathers who stayed behind to see the church bus put back together properly.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Arrived safely at 3:45ish. Greeted graciously by the ladies of 3rd & Dwight, who provided good sandwiches, kool-ade & cookies that are almost as good as my Grandma’s. Much discussion ensued between the adults—early- and late- arrivals—about the necessity for clearer directions on the pre-trip inspection sheet in regards to the location of the spare tire for the buses (in the trailer that we didn’t bring with us). General fat-chewing and laughter of reunion between friends who last saw each other three hours ago.

The end

I've mentioned in Bible bowl posts from the past that our kids are always so well-behaved and fun to be around on this trip, and despite not being with them for four-ish hours of the trip, I have to say they came through for us again. More on that later.

We arrived at Monahans in time for the final round, which we did not see, since we were in the foyer yakking. Then was some singing time for the kids while the kind people at Monahans tallied the scores, prepared packets for the coaches, and probably had a strong cup of coffee. Okay, maybe they didn't do that, but I certainly would have! This competition is my favourite by far, and it is due to the hard work that the church in Monahans puts into making sure everything runs smoothly. And despite all that hard work, they still have enough energy on Saturday to be gracious and friendly hosts all day long, and tolerate 100+ children running round their building like banshees (we did try to discourage the indoor running!)

Anyway! Our pal Morgan was doing the songleading, and he did a fantastic job. Before he went in, I strongly requested as many action songs as possible to get the kids tired! He agreed, but it didn't work. Oh, well, thanks anyway, Morgan.

So South Plains brought home some trophies for individuals and teams. I'm telling you, these kids work HARD. They all do. I was a high school Bible bowler, and I thought that I studied early and late, but the SP elementary kids have me beat. I am totally impressed by their hard work, and the effort the teachers put in. All that work is paid off, not in bringing home hardware to add to our collection, but in seeing the kids learn the Bible. Even the kids that seem like they are paying the least attention have a tendency to delight us when put to it, and answer questions correctly when they might have been expected to miss. These are some great kids.

Aaaaand... the ride home

So, long day (8 AM - 11 PM), fun, long periods of sitting still, excitement & emotions from winning awards, eating at a fun restaurant-- it all adds up to this: These kids are not falling asleep any time soon.

We ate dinner in Odessa (My apologies to Texas Roadhouse for starting a mini-riot at our table. My apologies to future Bible bowlers if you aren't allowed back to Texas Roadhouse. My apologies to parents for getting your daughters all riled up. If anyone else would like an apology, let me know.), then headed for Lubbock.

Let me put it this way: Our bus was LOUD. Riled up, indeed. They swapped stories, they played Truth or Dare (until I ordered them to stop; it was getting a bit out of hand), they sang, they poked each other, they bounced out of their seats until Chad asked me to enforce the wearing of seat belts. But finally, after a final load-up of sugar in Seminole, the noise level dropped down, and the kids (and I!) fell asleep. I think one of them stayed awake, but she wasn't making any noise, so I didn't notice.

Lest you think I am-- or was-- upset with the kids in any way, I assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. I have a hard time being on my best behaviour for 15 hours (as those who are regularly around me will probably tell you), and I'm nearly 31 years old. How much harder is it for 9- to 12-year-olds? All that pent-up energy; we probably needed to drive to the nearest running track and let them work off some steam for 20 minutes before heading home. (Hey, we were late anyway; why not?)

So, tire drama notwithstanding, the trip was great. I bet I sleep good tonight.

17 April 2009

Monahans, maybe

After promising (three years in a row now!) that we were done with Bible bowl forever, we are once again going on a Bible bowl trip. Tomorrow, we are taking a 40-year trek into the desert to see if we can find Moses.

Or, maybe the trip to Monahans only seems like a 40-year trek. It's three hours away, but the scenery leaves much to be desired. However, once we get there, the church is so friendly and they do host a great competition.

If you don't hear from me for three days, send out search & rescue.

16 April 2009

You're going to buy bottled water anyway, right?

So if you are purchasing bottled water between now & August 31st, please consider buying Volvic. Why, you ask?

According to the label, "For every litre of Volvic that you purchase from April 1 to August 31, Volvic will make a donation to UNICEF to provide a minimum of 10 litres of clean water to children in Africa." Sounds like a good use of my bottled-water purchasing money to me.

For more information, go here. Volvic will be making a minimum donation of $250,000 this year, but I think we can make that number go higher, don't you?

15 April 2009

Freedom not shared.

I am not a champion of many causes. When it comes to me vs. the rest of the world, I mostly just want the people I care about to love Jesus, and while you're at it, why don't you give healthy living a chance. That's it.

But I read this article about an Iranian blogger who died in prison, and felt compelled to write about it. To champion this man's cause in my own small way. To at least acknowledge that a human life has been uselessly lost.

He was just a blogger, writing about life. He had a small audience. But from time to time his frustration with the government got the better of him, and he wrote about it. So he was arrested, tried and imprisoned for "insulting" the government in his blog.

We've always had free speech, so I sometimes forget that there are those who do not. Ditto on freedom of religion & freedom of the press. And when one hears continual stories of death and devestation around the world, it is far too easy to become calloused and unfeeling towards those who suffer.

But he was just a blogger. Like me. Trying to educate the world about daily life in his country. I would read his blog, but it's been shut down. But there are other Iranians who blog, other people in oppressed countries who are reaching out to the world just to let us know about their lives. They are human, just as I am. They are communicators, just as I strive to be.

That's why I want to read their blogs.

14 April 2009

Part three: And what happened before.

So Lent was a struggle for me this year. I managed to keep a grand total of none of my resolutions for the whole six weeks. What was the problem, I wonder?

Perhaps I have done it so many times it feels rote and I’ve lost interest. Perhaps it was the lack of prior planning (I started thinking about what I would do for Lent on Shrove Tuesday; that’s a bit late). Perhaps it was because I was doing it by myself this year; I usually have a friend or two who is in on the journey with me. Perhaps I’ve made Lent some mystical, magical thing and the day-to-day reality was too much for me.

Or maybe it was because I’ve disconnected Lent from the context in which it is celebrated. I may be hindering my own efforts because I’m not in a high church and therefore don’t really get all the special days that fall within this six weeks. Perhaps taking Lent out of the church calendar and celebrating it on my own makes about as much sense as wearing my earbuds without plugging them into my iPod.

Maybe I should call a do-over. Maybe I should evaluate why I do Lent every year. Maybe next year I should skip Lent, just to see what it is like. And maybe in a year’s time all this wondering will seem as silly as when I re-read the things I wrote in high school and giggle at my 16-year-old perception of the world. Perhaps my 30-year-old view of Lent isn’t quite ready for real world testing.

But for all my failures and shortcomings these past six weeks, I have felt myself more aware of the Lord, more open to his work in my life, more eager to fellowship with his people. So I do not feel that I have wasted my time.

And that’s my final word on Easter. Until next year.

13 April 2009

Part two: But maybe it shouldn't be.

As previously mentioned, I do not attend a high church. So the events of Easter are a bit of a mystery to me.

I went to an Ash Wednesday service this year for the first time. I’ve been celebrating Lent since I was 12. I’ve attended a Tenebrae service and a sunrise service. I’ve participated in an Easter-weekend fast. But all of these things, when taken separately and out of their normal context as a part of church life, are merely events. Cool things to do and talk about for a bit with friends, before deciding what to do with my Sunday afternoon.

By not acknowledging the church calendar, I think I, and those around me, have shortchanged ourselves just a bit. We don’t take this season any more seriously than any other. We don’t spend the six weeks leading up to this one Sunday preparing heart, mind and body for the celebration that is to come. We don’t take this time to ponder just how much the cost to Jesus was. (Those should be activities that we take part in all the time, not just during Lent.) But I wonder if a period to specifically refocus on Jesus and spend six weeks—six weeks!—considering him would be good for all of us. I know it has been a blessing for me.

I think it is probably time for Christians of all types to stop trying to disassociate ourselves from what every other Christian group is doing, and start looking at what we could learn from one another. It may be that the church across the street has ideas that would only lead to growth in my love for Jesus.

12 April 2009

Part 1: Easter is like any given Sunday

Easter is a holiday of paradoxes. On this day—this whole week, really—we find a time for seriousness and celebration, for joy and for solemnity. For reflection, and for merrymaking.

Those around us who do not believe in, or do not care about, Jesus’ sacrifice for us, see this weekend as a time to load up on candy, or perhaps enjoy a day off work. They shake their heads in wonder about how Easter moves around every year. They may buy a new outfit for spring or dust off the white shoes for summer. And they probably wonder why churches make such a fuss over one little Sunday out of the year.

In all fairness, some Christians wonder that, too. I do not belong to a high church. We acknowledge Easter by having an egg hunt for the children, and the little ones get a special Resurrection lesson. Otherwise, it’s worship as usual. :)

And to some extent, worship as usual is a good thing! I don’t look at this one season as the time to especially focus on Jesus’ redeeming work, because that is an ongoing process all the time. We should celebrate Jesus every Sunday. There is no need to skimp on our praise and adoration the other 51 weeks of the year. For the Christian, one’s whole life is a celebration, a (perhaps) decades-long tribute to the One who died so that we may live. There is no need to save up all that joy and adoration for one Sunday a year.

So, for my Easter Sunday, I sang songs of praise with joy in my heart. I reflected on what Jesus did as I participated in the Lord’s Supper. I watched others worship and thought about how blessed I am to have such a church family.

You know. Worship as usual.

11 April 2009

Another 10K!

I ran my favourite distance today- 10K. I LOVE 10Ks.

Usually.

I also love to be warm. I'd rather be too hot than too cold, except when running, when I'd like to be a touch cool at the beginning so that I'm nice and warm once I get going. But, the temps were in the low 40s this morning, and the wind was blowing somewhere around 20 mph. And I was wearing shorts.

The race director made a joke at the beginning about this not being a day for PRs, we all laughed, and I totally agreed-- and not just because of the weather. I haven't done much in the way of speedwork the past couple of months; in fact, I've slacked off on all my running the past couple of weeks. So, I was out for the fun of it. My PR was 1:03:17, and I was just hoping to get under 1:10:00 today.

(BTW: It took me until mile 4 to get warm. And by then I was nearly done.)

Chad ran the 2-mile race today, so he was waiting for me just before the 6-mile mark and ran in with me. He told me that I was still under one hour. I thought he was exaggerating. I could see the 6-mile marker, so I started forwarding my iPod to the song I like to finish to (Scotland the Brave), since it is a few minutes long. I had to hit "next" several times before I got to it, so I thought I had loaded too many songs on my iPod.

We rounded a couple of corners before getting to the finish, and I saw the clock-- it said 1:02:30. I said, "Oh my gosh, you are KIDDING me!" before kicking it in and sprinting to the finish line as hard as I could go.

Result: New PR-- 1:02:54. Wow. The running club president said, "Imagine what you could do in good weather!"

Oh, I'm imagining, all right. We have another 10K in two months' time. This PR will not stand for long.

A plague upon Facebook!

So I finally allowed myself to be talked into joining Facebook.

And I'm all zooming along, thinking how kind it is of Facebook to suggest people I may know to add to my friends, when up pops this message about how I am engaging in annoying and/or abusive behaviour.

What is really a bummer about that is this: I had finally gotten to the people I actually went on to Facebook to connect with in the first place. And now I've been stopped. Dang!

10 April 2009

I'm craving tea & toast

However, we have 1) no bread and 2) no margarine. I'm not sure if you've spotted the problem here.

In fact, we don't have much food in our kitchen at all; our refrigerator looks like we've had a pre-Thanksgiving clean-out. I guess we decided that this was not the week we were going to spend money on groceries. Or something.

I have oatmeal & tea & a splash of milk (seriously, that's all the milk we have) for my pre-race breakfast tomorrow, though, so it's all good.

I have 1 follower!

And I suppose that means I have a following. Brilliant!

If I manage to drum up another follower, then I will claim to have minions. Mwah hah hah!

Coming this weekend: It's the End of Lent, and What Have You (I) Done?

08 April 2009

Just when I think they are out of ideas...

I was about to write off my favourite TV shows-- NCIS and Criminal Minds-- because they both had a sluggish start to this season. But boy, have things picked up lately. They've got me hooked all over again.

Anyway... today was National Start! Walking Day. No, I don't know why there is an exclamation point in the middle of the phrase. I didn't write it. But I celebrated by cycling 4 miles more than usual.

Anyone else celebrating?

07 April 2009

Dona Nobis Pacem

So it struck me the other day that I don't hear many prayers for peace.

It's not like I was around for them, of course, but what I hear and read from all the wars of the 20th century is that God's people were continually praying for peace. But upon reflection, all the prayers for peace that I've heard in the last few years were from old people. In other words, people who have been there and done that before.

For this war, though, I've heard lots of praying for our soldiers, lots of praying for our leaders (both good ideas, mind you!), but not much just for peace.

So now I'm praying for peace. I only wish it had occurred to me a few years sooner. Feel free to join in.

And for your viewing enjoyment, the cast of M*A*S*H does just that:

06 April 2009

Both kinds of eco-

I am trying desperately to write shorter posts, because I have been assured by many that no one likes to read long blog posts. Apparently the fact that I enjoy typing long posts is irrelevant.

So, in what I hope is the first of many attempts to be both economically and ecologically friendly, I've decided to stop buying paper towels. We have plenty of old shirts that are no longer suited for wearing or giving away. So, they have all been relegated to the "rag bag" (although it's not a bag) to be used for all our cleaning needs.

Right now I'm trying to see if it is possible in my own life to live within a low budget while being a good steward of the planet, all while owning as little stuff as possible. I'll keep you posted.

05 April 2009

How did Paul know the man was from Macedonia?

I think he was wearing the Macedonia soccer jersey, myself. Which also helps clarify another point our Bible class teacher wondered about: We never see the man again in Acts 16 because he was at an away match.

04 April 2009

Applying to University is Super-fun!

If your ideas of "fun" include mind-numbing boredom, multiple attempts to remember long-forgotten things, and poking one's own eyes out with a blunt stick. All in the name of education.

02 April 2009

I Love Michael J. Fox

And I have done, ever since I was a toddler and he was a 20-something teenager on Family Ties. It was a sad day for me when I was about 9 or something and heard that he was not only happily married, but also much too old for me.

Anyway, so I'm watching him on Letterman. And it makes me sad that Parkinson disease is wreaking such havoc on him. However, I do appreciate his willingness to use his own position to help those likewise afflicted who don't have a household name.

And I'm running along to my local library with all due haste to check out Always Looking Up.

Unfooled!

I managed to get through the whole of April Fool's Day with only one joke being attempted on me-- and fortunately, I caught on before I started tearing out my hair. (The joke involved a road trip with a bunch of 4th-6th grade students. Yikes!)

I didn't bother trying to hand any out, though... I must have run out of creativity. I passed along one of my brother's favourites-- Vaseline on the doorknobs-- to a coworker, who intended to try it on her children.

My brother always thought April 1 was the day he could do whatever he wanted to the rest of the family and get away with it. Silly brother-- he could do that any day of the year. :)

01 April 2009

Did I say Super?

Make that Uber-comfortable. These are the Best. Shoes. Ever.




Mizuno, you can make them puke-green with booger-coloured accents for all I care, just keep up the good work.


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