Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Quick Update

I see that the Fanbase (Jon) is uprising with threats of puppy-killing, so I must write a post to keep him down. An update on our new situation: 
  • Driving to and from work I'm seeing cute little fawns nibble on grass. How sweet.
  • Several neighbors have waved at us while driving by. How sweet.
  • This morning, I had a garage, so I didn't have to freeze my nubbins off walking down three stories to a frozen car. 
  • I started my carpool today. We're meeting at Dunkin Donuts each morning. Score. 
  • My mantra right now is, "A Well-Edited Room." I'm trying to edit out the clutter of our rooms while I decorate so I have just enough and not too much decor. (I tend to over-decorate.)
  • Mike finished up the guest bathroom (basement) last night. He installed a towel rack, toilet paper thingy, and new light fixture. (Besides many other things he had achieved throughout the day. Go handyman! 

Monday, March 30, 2009

Stay Tuned

Hey yos, sorry I'm so absent lately. We moved over the weekend, and we don't actually have internet at our new home yet. So it might be a few days before I'm back on the blog horse. 

We got all our stuff in yesterday, and I'm going between excited and, "What in the world have I gotten myself into?!" 

Right now, I'm watching a thick rainish snow slop down between me and my new house. It's weird to be so far from my home. (This isn't weird to other people, just me, who is used to living across the street.) No running home for a snack over breaks anymore. This is the beginning of my new life. I'm going to be carpooling with a girl who leaves for work at 7 am, and goes home at 4. So enter the new Early Bird Super Productive Amber Who Gets Up Early and Stays Up Late.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Blessed

I read a story at work today. This is my job. It was about a mom in Colombia. She goes to the farmers market to get food for her children...to scavenge for food. I looked at pictures of her digging through piles of rotten papayas and picking her family's dinner of chicken innards out of a garbage pail.

Then I went home. To my new home, and unpacked my kitchen. I unpacked my beautiful, shiny mandolin. I love that thing. Then my pistachio Kitchenaid. Then my cheese slicer. Fondue pot. Toaster oven. Cuisinart. Griddler. I could go on.

Wow, am I blessed. I mean, stunningly so. A woman no less deserving than me digs through buckets of rotten chicken innards for dinner. I unpack dozens of shiny kitchen doo-dads into my spacious, clean kitchen. Sometimes, the discrepancy is staggering.

I told Yuri, my coworker who lives in Tegucigalpa, about my new home today. I showed him a picture of it. He said, "Wow, you're really blessed." Yuri spends his days visiting cardboard shacks stacked on the sides of Tegucigalpa, so he would know.

Everyone, forgive me for preaching, but I have to shout it: We are so blessed! We are so blessed. We are so blessed. I can't say it enough. I received a story not long ago from Indonesia. A mother who struggled to keep her family fed. She had a little son. My coworker went to visit the family, and took a picture of them together. The mom had vacant eyes, staring down and to the left. The baby laid on a mat, with arms and legs like twigs, drowning in his blue baby clothes. He died several days later. These are real people. They are like us.

Even in our hard times, we are blessed beyond what we could know. Say it! I am blessed. I am blessed. I am blessed.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Scientists Have Beliefs

One should not, as a rule, publish thoughts that aren't carefully considered...but perhaps that's just my perfectionist side speaking and I should loosen up and engage in discussion. To overcome my perfectionism, here are some thoughts that I should have developed better, and I'm sure Philosopher Jon and Philosopher Mike will illuminate for me.

Scientists have beliefs. A particular pet peeve of mine is the frequent claim that scientists and science are somehow sterile and separate from the land of beliefs. This is absurd.

Current topic: Stem cell research. I don't mean to discuss whether or not you agree with stem-cell research, but rather the reasoning behind allowing it. Proponents for scientific research (such as stem-cell) say that scientists need to be free from the fetters of religious beliefs. This is what they call Scientific Integrity, and therefore stem cell research should be allowed. But there is no one person on this entire planet who is free from religious beliefs...or rather metaphysical beliefs. (People will claim not to have "religious" beliefs because that's uncool. But everyone has metaphysical beliefs.)

Whether a given scientist believes that there is no god, one God, four gods, a purple cow in the sky, or a Force that benevolently guides, scientists have metaphysical beliefs. The practice of science cannot exist outside of beliefs, because it is without exception belief-holding humans practicing it. (OK, you could argue that scientists are agnostics, but scientists are demonstrably not all agnostic.)

The difference is that some people have beliefs that allow them to do certain things in the name of science, and other people have different beliefs that restrict them from doing certain things. It's simply not that one person has allowed their beliefs to obstruct Scientific Integrity. It is that one person's beliefs allow practices that another belief doesn't. Different beliefs, not the absence of beliefs.

Beyond this, the reasoning that metaphysical beliefs should not guide our scientific practices is dangerous. It may seem inoccuous when dealing with a cell. Stem cell research is cool, because Superman was into it. What's less cool is experimenting on a Jew because he's a lesser human lifeform. That was acceptable in some places not long ago. Or sterilizing a mentally challenged person because she is unfit to propogate. That was actually quite a hip "scientific" idea less than one hundred years ago. Those were clearly scientific decisions made by claiming to throw off religious beliefs (Victorian close-mindedness, as they might have put it), while clearly been driven and motivated by beliefs (that Jews and the mentally challenged have less intrinsic value than other humans).

Where do we go from here if "beliefs" are not allowed to influence science? How about experimenting on 3-year-old girls in order to further scientific knowledge? There can be no grounds for dissent because your ideas about the value and "rights" of a girl are metaphysical, not scientific beliefs.

OK. That's all I have. Here's a topic: Scientific Integrity is neither scientific, nor integral. Discuss.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Harry McHarryston, Marmaduke, and Me

I have never been so happy to be from an obsessive-compulsive family full of perfectionists. We closed on our home Friday, and so the Bray-family cleaning festivities began Saturday. We made a party of it, complete with Dutch cookies and French cakes.

My wonderful, wonderful, wonderful father cleaned up Marmaduke-sized dog doo in our Marmaduke-sized yard. My meticulous sisters and aunt and mother scrubbed and scraped up things that forever prove their love. Mike emptied out 3 vacuum canisters of said Marmaduke's hair, and that's only half of the house so far.

I, on the other hand, got very friendly with the master bath and the previous master, Harry McHarryston,'s hair. I could tell you all about this man through his hair. But I won't. My sister, cleaning in the next room, kept saying, "I don't want to hear anymore about this man's hair!" Suffice it to say, this man had a lot of hair, and I have gotten to experience all of it. Esau was a hairy man.

Mike and I went back for a fresh round of scouring today. On the way, we visited a new church. They won us over through three things: 1. They didn't force me to shake their germy hands. I hate that. 2. They provided kleenex at the end of each row. This was big for my husband, Sneezy McSneezerton. 3. They had a carton of whole milk next to the coffee, so I could make Kinder Coffee. These are my kind of people.

The Kinder Coffee then fueled many more hours of ConTac papering, and dusting, and scrubbing.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Soup-Can Arms and Walks With God

I was reminded recently of my past turbo-fit self by a friend who confessed that I helped her to be neurotic like me. I've since gotten over that neurosis, and swung the other way: I keep going back and forth between scary fit and shmushy poo. Calves bulgy enough to put your eye out, or thighs that roll with the wind. So the question is: How fit does one need to be?

I've lifted some weights in my day, and always have to come back to: Why? Why do I need these biceps? It's not like I'm loading 15 tons all day or have a need to rip soup cans open with my bare hands. I'm an editor, and pencils are pretty light. Not like Madonna, who has to carry heavy handbags and cell phones.

What is with women's arms these days, anyway? It's definitely not like they're particularly attractive, as this guy reminded me. It seems to be all the aging stars, poking us along with their wiry appendanges. You don't see nice young things with these terrifying tentacles. It's the Cheryl Crows and Teri Hatchers.

I was already stressed out thinking I had to be a good mom and competent businesswomen and helpful in the kitchen and involved in the community. (Not that I do any of those things.) Now I have to have Alien arms too?

Actually, in my many, many 30 years of searching, I've finally found my own balance, from reading French Women Don't Get Fat. I like them Frenchies. They live for pleasure, and won't do a thing if it's senseless...like developing behemoth muscles to be an editor. They do what they enjoy. This, and a convenient quote from C.S. Lewis, has formed my own approach to fitness.

In The Screwtape Letters, the head demon tells his minion that the most vital thing to capture a man's soul is to get him to do something, like take a walk, not because he enjoys it, but because he thinks he ought to do it. Christians thus get captured in a joyless life of ought tos, rather than a joyful life of enjoying God's pleasures. A joyless legalist is less of a threat to Satan than a joy-filled person enjoying life and God's goodness.

Wait, wasn't I talking about scary arms? Segway.

In my own life, this has translated to mean that I do what I love: I love to hike and walk and be surrounded by nature. Yes, I challenge myself, and believe in discipline. But I do it in ways that enhance me as a person (spending time in nature draws me closer to God), rather than devolve me as a person (running makes me cranky and achy and stinky).

P.S. Mike tells me I already posted on this topic and even Madonna's arms. But I'm 30, I can't be expected to remember these things.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

2 Days to Adulthood

Well, the time is drawing nearer. Closing on Friday. We are busying our house-buying little selves with packing and...actually I don't know what else. Mike's doing it all. And you know what I've learned? Painting is totally like scrapbooking for men. Mike went to Home Depot with a handful of our Christmas gift cards and bought himself all kinds of painting paraphenelia, like edging thingys and cutting doodads. He even has this paint tape dispenser suspiciously like those scrapbooking tape dispensers. I'm telling you, scrapbooking for men.

Yesterday, we took a walk over in Ute Park (Ute Valley Park, actually, but I thought by shortening it I'd sound cool like those people in Denver who say "Wash Park"), and it was so beautiful. Being that we are total nerds, walking down by the stream in the valley made us feel like we were leaving the Shire for a hobbit adventure.

Speaking of hobbit adventures, do you know the best part of our home? Look at this picture carefully:

OK, you're going to have to look close. There, under that front bush, is a gnome, smoking a pipe, riding a frog. Wow. And we didn't even have to pay extra for him. We really are in the Shire.
And, as if the frog-ridin' gnome didn't make you jealous enough, here's one more bragging picture about what our new digs will be like:

This is the hiking trail that is steps from our home. Oh yeah.

Monday, March 16, 2009

InDenver Times

As a native Coloradoan, I'm loyal to many things, like King Soopers and Casa Bonita and the Rocky Mountain News. Of course, I suppose the Denver Post is Coloradoan too, but the News always had better comics and a more wieldy size and, according to my hick husband, made hicks feel less excluded (as it reported for the rocky mountain region, not just Denver).

Just a month before it's 150th birthday, the Rocky Mountain News had to shut up shop. A sad passing. But apparently those wily Rocky writers aren't ready to give up yet. They are attempting to start an online news source, InDenver Times, and they need 50,000 subscriptions (for $4.99 a month) by April 23rd to make it. Here's their video.



So, do it for Black Bart's Cave. Do it for Beau Jo's. Do it for cheap people like me who won't do it themselves.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Weekend Update with the Vans

Lizzie, it looks like I shamelessly stole this title from you, but I didn't. I've totally used it before. It was an eventful weekend, so I thought I'd update you. Whoever "you" are.
  1. Mike and I got our packing on. I packed up all our books, which took 14 boxes. I own too many books.
  2. We did a test bike ride from our new home to Compassion. It was epic. It took 1 hour and 40 minutes door to door. 1 hour and 40 minutes of impressive altitude gain and loss. Not so sure I'm tough enough to ever do that for real, but we'll see. I can park at the Woodmen/I-25 Santa Fe trailhead and cut a lot of the trip off. That way I would just bike through glorious empty forest to work. How sublime.
  3. We drove up to Denver for Marchmas, a mysterious new spring festival. However, my bro-in-law got the flu, so Marchmas was postponed and we still don't know exactly what it is.
  4. Our car, predictably, broke down on the way to Marchmas. Thank God for the kind citizens of Aurora who helped me push it up a steep hill.
  5. We were stuck in Aurora allllllllll weekend, until Sunday at 5:30 when we flushed another 522 smackaroonis down the toilet for the car.
  6. While waiting in A-town, we saw Race to Witch Mountain, which I subsequently reviewed. Not bad. Not great, but not bad.
  7. It was OK being stuck in Aurora, because I have great parents who entertained and fed us. I pretended I was like a frontier woman who is used to long delays and adversity, when her mule dies on the way to Dalhart. Which proves that I am officially my mother.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Friday Video: Skin Care with Sarah Haskins

I love my Friday Copout Video Day! Another Sarah Haskins video for you today. I love funny women. We need more of them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Movin' On Up

Well, we're moving on up, to the west side. We finally got a piece of the pie. (You can listen to this song as you read...)




It seems to be for real: We're moving into a big adult house! We close on the 20th--less than two weeks away! On the 21st we're having a cleaning party with my parents. (My mom, not surprisingly, came up with the idea for a cleaning party. I love her.) Then we'll get the big ol' rental truck and move ourselves on up on the 28th.

So now we're busying ourselves with all the little things to get ready. I've already cleaned 75 books, 12 shirts, and 8 pairs of shoes out of my life. Mike is busily comparing windows and appliances. We're collecting paint color swatches and googling "powder room pics." Big times.

So, if you just love to clean, or you just love us, let us know if you want to come to the BIGGEST EVENTS OF 2009: Cleaning Party, March 21st and Moving Party, March 28th.

An Obligatory Onion Article Post

After posting my obligatory weight post yesterday, I read this article in the Onion.

"I feel like such a heifer--I had two bowls of Special K, three pieces of turkey bacon, a handful of popcorn, five peanut butter M&M's, and like three pieces of licorice." Cher, Clueless

Monday, March 9, 2009

An Obligatory Weight Post

I thought about posting about religion in science or something smart like that, but then I thought, "Nah."

The birds are chirping. The sun is still out, thanks to Daylight Savings Time. Warmth is approaching, so it's time to talk about weight. Why? Because, I'm a woman. And that's what we do. We think about weight. A lot. I'm far better than I used to be--now I just think of it 37 times a day instead of 74 times a day.

Mike and I had "the talk" last night (again). In which we discussed having healthier habits. Since I got back from India, I've been like, "Woohoo, this food doesn't taste like crap!" Which has resulted in subsequent delicious pounds. But now, my belly is at that crucial point where it might become a Dunlap. ("My belly done lapped over my jeans...") I know, gross, right? Something must be done before bikini season. (Not that I wear bikinis.)

I was reading my grandmother's old diary the other day, about the weeks preceding when she had twin sons. Two weeks before she gave birth to twins, she weighed less than I do now. I did not get those genes, sister. I know that I'm not fat or anything, but still, give a girl a break. The shame of my skinny ancestry and my approaching trip to Moab (hello? bikini central), have urged me on to some goals.

So, Mike and I are not going to: a. Eat after 9 p.m. b. Eat more than one serving of cereal for breakfast or my 8 p.m. snack. c. Eat ice cream every day (or more than twice a week...). We are going to: a. Take lots of long, uphill walks....Umm, that's as far as we got with goals. But Moab bikini days, here I come!

Disclaimer: I know I am not fat. Please do not feel you need to post an obligatory, "Amber, you're not fat" comment in response to this post.

To get us in the mood, here's a video for you, courtesy of my friend Kelly.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

And We're Supposed to Swoon?

"So okay, I don't want to be a traitor to my generation and all but I don't get how guys dress today. I mean, come on, it looks like they just fell out of bed and put on some baggy pants and take their greasy hair - ew - and cover it up with a backwards cap and we're supposed to swoon? I don't think so!" Cher, Clueless

I used to think guys looked bad back when I was trying to find one in the 90s and they wore clothing 4 sizes too large and silly backwards hats. And then Mike and I went to the mall on a Friday night. The place where teenage boys go to be seen.

Oh my gosh, do teenage boys ever look revolting these days. Really, truly disgusting. I have a hard time not staring at them. They wear the tightest of tight pants from the ankle up to their droopy bottoms. I ask you, does anyone want to know that much about a 14-year-old boy's anatomy? And then they have the most ridiculous hair cuts that make the Beegees 70s hair look positively charming. It's clear they've spent far too much time petting their greasy comb-overs.

Shouldn't teen pregnancies be way down? Do girls actually want to kiss these things? Girls also are suffering from the current fashion trends, but they at least have more natural beauty so if they wear ugly clothes and get bad haircuts, they're not revolting, if not quite passable.

I think I'm becoming an old, outdated fuddy duddy. (I do still think Cher's yellow plaid miniskirt suit from Clueless is the cutest thing, if that's any indication.) All I know is I'm so glad I'm not currently looking for a boyfriend in this sad fashion time or raising a young boy in it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's Cool to Be a Granny

I am not an environmentalist. This is primarily becuase I am lazy. I try to make small conscientious decisions to not be wasteful, but all in all, I am no environmentalist.

That said, I would like to say that I do not understand the strong Evangelical backlash that exists in some little corners of Christendom against being green. In some Christian circles, it's a dirty word to call someone an environmentalist. Someone who claims to be "green" is assumably a dirty tree-hugger commie who probably worships Mother Earth and eats placentas and dances around fairy circles.

There are, of course, people who do worship Mother Earth, eat placentas, and dance around fairy circles. But let's not throw the baby out with the placenta.

Not so very long ago, America was a prudent, thrifty frontier nation, in which families reused and saved everything...because they done be poor. But after WWII we had this boom, a 70 year boom of unprecedented prosperity. The marketers suddenly had the luxury of marketing for convenience, prestige, and grandeur. The marketing messages slowly became: more, more, more, bigger, bigger, bigger. There was no limit. It was wonderful. We were so prosperous. It became chic to be wasteful, because we could and because it was easy and because it was fun.

Now, suddenly those messages are changing with our recent crash. I went to Barnes and Noble last night and the highlighted books were about canning and root cellaring and composting. Suddenly it's cool to be a granny again.

Now, Evangelical Christians have nothing against grannies. They love them. But the composting and recycling...now that sounds dangerously like a dirty hippy commie. Someone we should probably sniff at in polite conservative circles and accuse of being a New Ager. They probably aren't a real Christian, or at least as real of a Christian as us. Sniff, sniff.

Honestly, when did we decide to turn off our brains? A toilet bowl scrubber that you use once and throw away? That's stupid and pointless and wasteful. Our Christian grannies would have told us that 70 years ago. But now to question such ridiculous, obviously-dreamed-up-by-greedy-marketers products will make some good sturdy Evangelical Christians fear you're some namby-pamby postmodern fakey green Christian.

Getting 30 plastic sacks each trip to Walmart, one bag for each small item, then throwing each bag away as soon as we get home? When did we decide this was a good idea? When did we decide using cloth bags that we don't throw away, like our great-grandmothers did, makes us heathen weirdos? I don't get it.

Point is, we don't have to join some hipster movement and wear horn-rimmed glasses and worship the Mother. But let's at least use our brains, like our grandmas used to do.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Peaches, Marigolds and Cadets

My grandmother Bray is quite a woman. She always has about four projects going, and several more brewing in her head. I'd like to think I take after her just a little. For Christmas she put together a book of old family letters from World War II for each of us.

Reading through the letters is like getting a small glimpse into another world, one that doesn't exist anymore but that I wish I could have seen. I'm reading love letters from my grandfather, who had to leave his wife of two months because of the war. He later died when my fafther was just 4, so I piece together his identity from the few black and white pictures we still have, my father's one total memory of him, watching movies that star Tyrone Power, who he was said to look like, and now his letters to the girl he loved.

I'm also reading the letters my great-grandmother wrote to her three daughters while they were away the university. My great-grandmother up to this point has been in my mind a stern and silver-haired woman who had flowers and cats. Now I'm reading her letters in which she calls her three daughters "tiddley winks" and "goblings." She frets over her 18-year-old son who has to fill out his draft papers for the army. She misses her daughters so much she adopts the cadets from the nearby Pampa Army Airfield. But in phrases like "don't be so silly," peppered throughout the letters, she proves she is still clearly a woman of no-nonsense.

Her letters are filled with motherly admonitions and stories of her garden full of marigolds and chrysanthemums and dahlias. She picks bunches and puts them on the radio and on the kitchen table. She spends her days canning peaches and peas and making strawberry pies. She talks about sewing new suits for her daughters and worries about the whereabouts of adopted cadets who passed through Pampa then left for war and weren't heard from again.

I know it wasn't an easy life, working hard every day with your daughters away at school, friends away at war, and a son you feared was next. But it still has that charm of the good old days. Now that I'll be the proprieteress of a large yard, perhaps I can continue just a little bit in my great-grandmother's footsteps and grow some peas.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Chair in the Sky

This video cracks me up; it gets good about half-way through.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

God's Chosen Fast

Guess what...I wrote an article for Relevant this month. You can go on over and read it here. Two of the other articles in this issue were actually written by friends of mine! (Naomi, Amsterdam roommate, and Brandy, current coworker.) Roxy Wieman is now the Editorial Director, so I got the hook-up. I lived in the dorms with Roxy's husband my frosh year of CSU and worked with him at the Estes Park Y and worked with Roxy at Group. And my husband's sister's husband's sister is married to Roxy's husband's brother. It's nice to have connections.