Thursday, April 30, 2009

Friday Video: Hobbits and Nose Sores

I don't remember if I've posted this video before, but even if I have, it's worth it. The Star Trek prequel is coming out soon, which I'll be reviewing (which is funny because I am certainly no fan of the franchise), and Mike has been reading the Fellowship of the Rings to me at night, so this video is apt right now. Marriage has brought me to such lower lows in nerdom, but I enjoy it.


And in case I have posted that Bilbo one, here's another Target Women for you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Monkey Junkie

I'm worried that Mike might be a junkie. Yesterday when I got home, he was gone, and there was a message on the phone from a gruff man saying he'd meet him by the storage unit. I checked the bank account, and several hundred cash had been taken out.

Mike came home several hours later with his car full of what the guy said was, and I quote, "some high-end s**t."
Of course, this is my husband we're talking about, and he isn't addicted to crack. He is Dutch. He is addicted to a bargain. He can't help himself. He sees a listing on Craigslist and he can't must obey the urge to...buy decorative tile.

So he came home with several kinds of slate tile, which we now must figure out how to use. Please advise. Here's the first. In person it's got some sparkle and looks very "mountain cabin." We're thinking of it for the front entryway. He bought cool border tiles too.
Then he bought these big funky tiles. They're usually $10/sq ft, but he got them for about $1.5/sq ft. Go Monkey Junkie! We're not sure what to do with these. We could put them in front of the back door and as the entry to the garage. Or we could use them in the kitchen or dining room as an inset in wood...What do you think?
He also got these bathroom tiles. We're thinking of maybe using them in the guest bathroom.
And here's the last. I'm not sure where to put this...kitchen backsplash? Bathtub?

Since our carpet was flooded and started smelling like a wet dog and then a dead wet dog, we are thinking more seriously about replacing the first floor with laminate. (And because we just got the government's stimulus in the mail, and we need to stimulate our kitchen.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Partiality to the Poor

Lately, I've been editing like there's no tomorrow. I'm working on a book for work (which isn't part of my normal job), and so I've done almost nothing for the past 4 days other than edit, eat, sleep...and drink coffee.

So, no inspiring blogs today. But here is something I wrote for the Compassion blog. Leave me a comment. It'll make me happy and get me through the next couple of days as I swim through a sea of words, words, words.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Right Choice

A wise woman (my mother) once told me (several weeks ago), "Ammy, there are people who always seem to make the right choices. But it's not that they always make the best choice, it's that once they've made a choice, they make it the right choice."

(She didn't actually say "Ammy," but I like to picture my mother as an ol' granny from the Ozarks sometimes...(Not that you bear any resemblence to that, oh mother of mine.))

Now, I usually turn my nose up at wisdom from the hills, but this is very good advice for my life. Here is how my decisions typically play out: First I make a decision and act on it. Then I fret and hem and haw and worry that it was the wrong one, and wish for the time before I made the decision, and wish I had made the other one, and basically just make everyone (meaning my husband) and myself crazy in the process.

I have been doing this endlessly for several years now, like worrying a scab on my elbow, "Should we have moved away from Ft. Collins?" "Should I have taken this job at Compassion?" "Should we have left our old church?" "Should I have ordered that hamburger for lunch?" It's enough to make you want to slap me.

The decisions are made, and it's in the past. I can sit on the fence and harbor regrets, or I can make my choices work, choosing to live in this moment.

I can jeopardize my future and torture my present by wading my toes in the waters of the past, or I can buck up like a big girl, own my choices, and make the best of them.

Here's to big girls.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Florian B. Bunny and the Improvement of My Mind

Now that we've moved, we're back to no TV, so I have nothing to do but a. watch Florian B. Bunny, our resident bunny in the backyard, wash his face with his little paws or b. improve my mind through extensive reading.

I promised myself I wasn't going to read anymore WWII books, as that is all anyone seems to write. Then I read the Book Thief anyway and enjoyed it. So I promised myself again no more WWII books, but today I checked out The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, whose title I couldn't resist, but which is, alas, a WWII book. To make up for it, I also checked out Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close for book club, which is at least about a modern-day disaster, 9/11. But it is, alas, set in New York. Why must all books be set in WWII or New York? They are both equally depressing. If anyone knows of any good Western books (Nebraska to Cali, but NO L.A.), let me know.


On a lighter note, I uploaded some of my Moab pictures for your viewing plesasure, here.

And check out what a very perceptive man has to say here (warning, shamless self-promotion...well, I feel a little shame).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Things Aren't How They Never Used to Be

Job Update: Mike just completed the short assignment the company wanted Mike to do (financial analysis of some non-profits) and turned it in last night. So pray they'll like it!

Random thought for the day
I spent the weekend in Moab with Mike's family, and we had a conversation in which we bemoaned the fact that no one reads anymore. If you're like me, you didn't actually know this because you're only probably friends with nerds...nerds who read. (Sorry, friends, but you're kind of nerdy.) What can I say, I hang out in literary circles. We all sip yerba mate in smug coffee shops wearing horn-rimmed glasses and talking about Proust. (Not really...I sit alone on my bed writing blogs no one will read.)

But, anyway, I have it on good authority that no one reads anymore. The topic came up because gone are the days that if you want to help someone with parenting you give them a book on parenting. And we all got very sad for the fall of humanity, and all that. 

I hate to be a traitor to myself and honest authors everywhere, but is this really all that awful? I happen to think so, being a nerd and an author myself, but it seems like a horribly classist and snooty conclusion, when you consider it. How long have books been around for the mass market? A very short period of time. The rise of the novel was only a few short centuries ago. The ability for the middle and low class to afford a simple book is very new. Parenting books are newer yet, maybe since the 1970s. 

So if we are all to become depraved and ignorant with the fall of the book, it means we must always have been depraved and ignorant, for thousands and thousands of years, and the only bright light in humanity was between 1700 and 2000. This seems unlikely. 

(I would like to say that the fall of the book will result in the rise of the higher quality book--fewer, better authors--but I doubt this looking at current trends in book publishing, in which non-writers (actresses, politicians, Paris Hiltons, and Fantasia Barrons) are the ones in fact getting books.) 

All this to say, how often do we sigh, "Things just aren't how they used to be," while forgetting that things never were really like that to begin with. History is change, and the things we sigh nostalgically for as treasured mainstays of the past were once novel and unsure themselves. The lifestyle of the American housewife, the rise of the modern novel, Kentucky bluegrass, the whistle-stop cafe, though they seem so fundamental, all had beginnings, and sadly, some will have endings. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Joys of Home Ownership

Already, Mike and I are having the glorious blessings of home ownership rain down upon us.

The other day when I pulled in the garage, home from work, I noticed water pouring down out of the house, down the garage floor, and finally down our driveway. Turns out the washing machine was leaking Colorado River amounts of water. Luckily, nothing was damaged, and Mike fixed everything all up (the washer just hadn't been hooked up properly).

Then today, arriving home from our 5-day vacation, I noticed a stuffy, moldy wood smell as soon as we entered. I sniffed around at all the likely suspects, but couldn't find anything wrong. Then later as I went to get something in the kitchen I slipped in an inch deep pool of water. Turns out our fridge had a leak too. It leaked into the cabinets and into the baseboards, and into the basement ceiling, which now has a very large watermark. (This was the one room in the house that didn't need work.) Mike sopped it all up and turned off the water to the fridge (pesky, newfangled fridge water dispensers, hmmph).

Hopefully the home warranty we got with the home will cover the basement ceiling. Humph.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Away

Cheerio! We're away right now in Moab until Monday night. The trees here are already green and we drove in tonight in the sunset over the red canyon walls and white and blue La Salles. Aahhhh...Our drive was great--we went Canon City to Salida to Gunnison, etc. etc. No snow and blue skies. We ate pizza ate our favorite place, Amicas in Salida, and stopped at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

For those who are wondering, Mike's interview went well, and they said they're going to have him do one more short assignment...Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Synchronize Your Watches

People have been asking me a lot, "Amber, do you like your new home?" And I would like to answer that question with a picture, a picture I took today on our walk and doctored using my technical skills in Photoshop, just for you.

So, yes, I like my new home. My plan, to walk each afternoon instead of going to a stinky gym, is working out swimmingly. Here's one of my favorite views on the hiking trails.


Speaking of hiking on trails, we delayed our trip to Moab by one day. Because....wait for it...Mike got a job interview tomorrow! He had a phone interview with them Monday that went well. So synchronize your watches and get praying tomorrow at 11!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Just an Animal

I read a book this weekend that annoyed me all weekend (Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver). I would have stopped reading, but I have the common neurosis of not being able to stop a book half-way through.

The book was highly didactic, which is annoying in a fiction book, especially when the book is peppered with informative speeches to educate the ignorant, as this book is. I don't like didactic fiction for the same reason I don't like didactic celebrities. They can use things other logic and facts to persuade. That sounds so uptight of me. But case in point: To make one particular viewpoint lose credibility, make it the viewpoint of the ignorant, judgmental crotechy Christians. To make another viewpoint seem attractive, have it flow from the mouth of the compassionate, wise old environmentalist woman.

One of the main themes of the book, which was preaching orangic farming, evolution, universalism, among other things, was that humans are really just animals, like any other animal. We feed, we copulate, etc, etc. Animals are praised for their ability to simply follow their instincts/nature. Humans should learn to be more like the animals they are.

Besides the fact that you can't teach yourself nature, it's just what one does naturally, this theory seems to go against the other theories the book is oh-so-subtly preaching: That we should care for the plight of endangered salamanders and not stifle or alter the course of Nature. Looking at human nature, judged by history, it seems to me that human nature is pretty simple: We feed, we copulate, and we seek dominion. The history of the world is the history of people surviving and vying for power over a land or over a people. Power is kind of our thing. Luckily, we are highly evolved to fulfill this task: we have great big brains and opposable thumbs.

So, what would humans look like who were simply following their most basic animal instincts? A lot like the pesticide-spraying farmers and coyote-shooting ranchers that the book so sneers at: They have lots of kids (i.e. sex), they produce food (i.e. they can eat), and they do what it takes to have dominion over the land in order to provide for and ensure the propagation of their species (i.e. spray pesticides, shoot coyotes). I'm not taking a stand on pesticides or hunting, but what I am saying is that the farmers and ranchers who use them don't need to just get more in touch with their beastiality and nature. They are being very good beasts, in fact.

Some scientists think that the world would be a much better place without humans, because we're such destructive little buggers (self-loathing is not, by the way, an animal instinct). Well, we are destructive little buggers. But this is what we see other animals do too. When you have an overpopulation of rats, the rats live it up. They don't look around at each other and hem and haw and apologize for their success in propogation. They keep it on up! That's what animals do: they do what it takes to survive without fretting about the other species around them.

The other things that Kingsolver preaches, such as caring about minute birdies and bugs, just don't fit to me with the elevation of following our animal instincts. There are other things that would lead me to her same beliefs, but these would be religion, compassion, and logic. These are all very basic to our human nature, but not our animal nature. These are the things that make us distinct from animals.

Why do scientists continually have to remind us that we're just animals and that we ought to behave as such? Do we remind fox how to be proper fox? Do we remind magpies how to be proper magpies? This very fact that we do not seem to be very good at just being animals points me to believe that perhaps there is something more to us than just animal.

Perhaps I'm making too much of this small point. But I've said my share, and I feel better. Now please feel free to pick my arguments apart.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter in Colorado

Happy Easter!
(This bunny was built by our neighbor's 2-year-old.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Influence

No matter how insignificant we may sometimes feel, we all have power in our lives. Power to influence people to think one way or another. Feel one way or another. React one way or another. Gossip or not. In our small actions each day we influence the people around us. 

This, for me, is one scary thing. Influence is power and can be used for bad or good. In various personality/strength tests I've taken, I come out as a strong influencer--someone who persuades people. But the question is, in what way do I influence? 

In college, I was in a situation in which I influenced people around me. God willing, some of it was good. But I also know that some of it was not good. I was stuck in a rut of legalism, personally, and sometimes I'm afraid dragged others into my muddy rut of legalism. This is, honestly, one of the hardest things for me to remember in life. Hardly the legacy I want to leave. 

For a long time, I, realizing the negative power I could wield, ran scared from all semblance of influencing others. I didn't want the responsibility and was afraid I'd lead people wrong. I hoped to simply have no impact. 

But it is my personality, after all, to try to influence others. So it started peeking out again. And, I suppose, if you don't want to influence others, you really have no business writing. But God has allowed me to see small peeks of ways in which Hope Lives has influenced people for good, and it's so wonderful and humbling. One woman started a ministry for Burmese refugees living in Salt Lake City. One man doubled his giving. One girl started a semester-long research project on how we can help others. One grandmother started a quilting ministry to raise money for those living HIV positive. 

So, although I have influenced for wrong in the past, God has still graciously used me to influence for good too. It's humbling and confusing and exciting.  

So my question for you today is: You are influencing others every day. What influence are you having? 

Nie Wieder

This week marks the 15th year since the genocide in Rwanda. I wrote a post for the Compassion blog, and you can read a number of other posts about it this week on the blog.

At the time it was happening in Rwanda in 1994, I don't think I noticed it much, other than to think, "There's some people killing each other in jungles somewhere in Africa." Now in my job, I must look at the stories and pictures today that still smite, though God has done much to bring healing and forgiveness in that land. 

Yesterday, I looked at pictures of a family in Kigali. The two grandparents looked loving and proud and wise, surrounded by all their grandchildren. They had 12 children and ten of their children were murdered. Ten murdered! I can't comprehend. But now their family is writing another story of hope and a future. 

Our office in Rwanda took Monday off to say "Never Again," along with the rest of the country. Just like the sign over Auschwitz, Nie Wieder. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Saying the Wrong Thing

When bad things happen to other people, we often don't know what to do or say. Sadly, sometimes we say exactly the wrong thing. 

I’m sure I’ve done this far too many times, and I cringe to think of those times. We don’t know how to respond to situations or we can’t relate to the pain of the situation (because we’re not in it ourselves), so we respond with religious platitudes, like “Just trust in God.” Or “God has a plan for you.” Or “It’ll all be OK.” 

All those things may be true, but it’s just not what we need to hear at our moment of crisis. Just because one trusts in God doesn’t mean that there isn’t pain and loss and grief. There is. “Just have faith” oversimplifies a sticky, difficult situation and implies that the person shouldn’t feel the way they do, dismissing their reactions.

I worked on a couple of books, Emergency Response Handbook for Small Group Leaders and Women’s Ministry, that give advice from Christian counselors on how to respond to a friend in a time of need or pain (depression, infertility, miscarriage, eating disorders, etc.), and it has been helpful to me over and over.

There are several truths that come up over and over from all of the counselors: 

What one shouldn’t say to a friend in a time of crisis or grief: Religious platitudes that, while true, won’t be a comfort a friend at that particular moment, but instead will invalidate her experience and emotions. (As one counselor put it, “In bad timing, the truth can be offensive.”) 

What we should say: I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say. I can’t understand how hard this is for you. I’m here if you need any help. I love you.

So, if you have a friend going through a hard time:

  • Recognize their grief.
  •  Don’t minimize loss or invalidate their emotions by pat answers.
  • Help them realize that what they’re feeling is normal.
  • Allow them to cope.
  • Don’t spiritualize or preach, like Job’s friends.
  • Love them, and be there for them. 

Monday, April 6, 2009

All About Faucets

I warned you that all I was going to talk about from here on out is faucets...Thus, it begins.

Mike has become a Bone-i-Fied Bob the Builder. His hands are all cracked and black. Very manly. He got The 10 Pound Book of Home Repair and has been putting it to use. He installed two new faucets in our master bathroom,  shown below.  He got these really cheap from a builder who was getting rid of them. 

He also installed our new kitchen sink and faucets! Woo hoo, I have water! This faucet is at Lowe's for about $330. Crazy. We got it for $120 online. Mike also got this very expensive sink for $50, and installed it all himself. 

Mike also put in this chandelier over our dining table. Do you see how high the ceiling is? It was scary. (I also took this picture to show off our skylight. We have 3, hee hee.) 

Here are the lights he installed in the guest bathroom. And you can see in the mirror the new towels I got at Walmart, who now carries a Better Homes and Gardens line. They're very plushy and were only $8! 

I tried to psuedo-arrange all the extra furniture in the extra room. We don't know what yet we'll do with this room or this furniture. Until we figure it out, it looks like a Pier 1 warehouse. 

Mike hung up my favorite possessions, these Moroccan lamps. 

On Friday, Mike painted the office Interlude, very nice. On Saturday, we painted our bedroom Harmony. But we're not feeling very harmonious with it yet. It clashes with our other colors. So we're not sure yet what to do about it. 


Friday, April 3, 2009

Shopping Day

In case you were wondering, this is what I wrote this in response to. 

It's powerful. 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Becoming Boring

I think I'm becoming boring. Really. You know how I used to be such a fascinating person? No? Don't remember that? Well, I was. I was always dreaming and scheming and doing things like moving to Amsterdam or getting stuck in the mountains with a boy.

Well, I think I'm becoming boring. I think it's this house. Have you ever read A Year in Provence? B0-Ring. All the guy ever talks about is fixing up his boring home and drinking wine. That's me, except without the interesting aspect of wine. What's on my mind is mainly sealant and faucets and closet tracks. Bo-Ring. I'm like those new moms whose talk consists 70% of the various kinds of waste their babies emit, based on what they've eaten. But less gross, and slightly less interesting still.

This morning I spent 1 hour getting a splinter out of my finger. Last night I moved furniture around (and attained the aforementioned splinter). Tonight I plan to hang pictures. That's what I have to share today.

And the thing is that I like it. That ambition that used to be in me to be always finding, exploring, achieving, seems to be dimming. Some would call it maturity. Some would call it nesting. Others old age.

In any case, welcome to my new boring blog.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Show and Tell

For show and tell today, I brought in pictures of my new home, which the Fanbase (Sarah) has been clamoring for.

Here is our kitchen. You can see, I'm already more domestic, cooking pasta on the stove. You can also see we don't actually have kitchen faucets yet, which is why the dishes aren't done. 
Here is our dining room table. Mike defied heights and death last night changing that chandelier out for a working one. (Death defying because that ceiling is like 20 feet tall.)
Here is our bedroom. We haven't really unpacked it yet. You can just barely see that the window has a little ledge that I'm hoping to make into a little reading corner with pillows. 
Here is the guest bedroom in the basement. We'll hang up those pictures today. We got those lamps on clearance at a design store, and the two dressers were donated by Mike's and my family. (In fact, nearly all of our furniture are hand-me-down family furniture.)  
Here is our cozy living room. We painted this room on Friday "truffle," like the mushroom. Turned out very nice, I think. 
And here's the opposite view of the living room. Pictures aren't hung up yet. 
Well, that's it for show and tell. Next week: A lizard!