Monday, August 30, 2010

Outside My Window

Outside my window: My new squirrel neighbor Frank perches on the bush, alert, ready to attack.

I am thinking: Of whether or not hiring a cleaning service is a. extravagant, b. selfish, c. brilliant.

From the kitchen: An empty fridge, sans milk. This is a big blow as my meal plan is 79% cereal based. Luckily, our small group provides dinner tonight!

I am wearing: A pencil skirt that I can only wear certain slimmer months of the year. Thank you, summer biking! I will certainly have to find a new strategy once I'm too cold to bike and I'm surrounded by ice cream or it will be goodbye, skinny skirt once again.

I am reading: A Randy Alcorn book as a proofreading project. Pretty good. I am looking for a book to take to China...15 hour flight!

I am hoping: For good things for my friends.

I am hearing: Nothing but the hum of my overheated computer. That's why we bought in this neighborhood.

I am creating: Several web stories as a freelance project.

One of my favorite things: Late August days when summer is ripe with tomatoes and peaches.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Work. Freelance. Hug hubby. Leave for China.

A picture thought for the day: Cute kid eating ice cream at the Rock Ledge Ranch EcoFestival where we were a vendor - solar-powered freezer!

Dinner with friends at Garden of the Gods...Not the best picture of us, but lovely location!
We enjoyed a visit from our Mike's sister's family from Salt Lake. Nephew Aiden loving our ice cream.
Niece Hayley eating strawberry oreo.
Kael, looking like an adult.

Brother-in-law Josh looking like a kid.
See Krista feeding nephew Elias in the background? I told you Mike's family start kids on ice cream young.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Just a quick post to thank you all for voting on my door color and update you. My mom is always right, so I've decided to go with white for the door. It goes with the trim...and it's free! Besides, I wouldn't want to jar the squirrel family living under the bush with any bright colors.

And now, a life update for my mother: Things are a-flitter as usual. (I say "a-flitter" instead of "busy" because it sounds so much nicer.) Mike catered a US figure skating event today. Cool, huh? Tomorrow he is going to be a vendor at some eco event at Rock Ledge Ranch (outsisde of Garden of the Gods). Eco-yuppies are just the kind of people to love our gelato! He's doing just swimmingly as a business owner, being the competent, fabulous man we all know him to be.

The restaurant next to us opened for training this week, and opens officially on Monday. We got free meals there twice for training! There are a ton of people coming to the restaurant. The only problem is that they're taking ALL the parking. This has already caused the smoothie guy next door's profits to go down as fewer people are just popping in. They'll be putting up a couple of "20 minute parking" signs outside of our store, but that will just be about 4 spots. So that's a tad concerning. Hopefully the people eating our ice cream will realize that they need the long walk to the car after a cup of our rich ice cream. :) And I have to admit, tonight the whole center looked so alive with the restaurant open and hopping.

I've been busy working on freelance projects. I'm proofreading a Randy Alcorn book, which is so fun. It's like being paid to read because you don't have to do all the hard work of an editor or copy editor, though I do read letter by letter (literally), so it is time consuming.

I've been getting all ready for China, writing my training materials. I leave next week on Sunday. Can't Wait! We planned our two days in Beijing. We'll spend one day at the Great Wall and one day at the Forbidden Palace and Tienneman Square. I'm also getting ready for my Rwanda trip and looking into a gorilla trek! Not sure if it will work out with the timing, but we'll see.

And that is me in a nutshell.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's Not About You

I'm stealing this from my coworker's blog. What a wonderful and beautiful reminder!

This is Tim Keller speaking, the author of Prodigal God and pastor of a Presbyterian church in NYC.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Island Retreat or Mountain Getaway

I recently got an unexpected check in the mail. I spent all day thinking about how I could spend it. I finally settled on redoing our woefully neglected master bedroom to be a blissful haven of delights. Then Mike got home.

He said, "Um, honey, you know there's something else you could do with the money. You could pay off our car loan." Ah, nuts.

Though my bedroom redo is still indefinitely on hold, that doesn't mean I can't start planning, right? Here is our utterly unadorned bedroom:

What should I do? I would love to turn that window ledge into a reading nook (by widening the ledge), but my live-in contractor just became a full-time ice cream mogul.

For now, we're deciding between two themes: Hawaii or Mountain. Mike and I love Kauai and have wonderful memories from there. I find it so relaxing. Here's a picture that inspires me:
I could use our own photos from trips, like Mike being eaten by killer waves:
Or pictures of plumeria:
Or we could go with a mountain/aspen theme. It would go with our home and surroundings, and we could use photos from our various sojourns, like aspen in the fall:

Now, I know "mounain" and "Hawaii" design could conjure all sorts of heinous images in your minds, like gaudy hibiscus bedspreads or cartoon moose night lamps. But I'd do them tastefully.

So which do you vote for? Mountain or Hawaii?

Squirrelcat Manor

We have some new neighbors.

They're fairly quiet and unobtrusive, but they do like to sit on our porch, watching the cars go by in the afternoon. In the morning when I go out the front door, they dash about under the bush, sounding like they must be the size of obese cats. Much of the day, they stand like sentinel meerkats on top of their new bush home.

Here's a picture of Frank, uncle to that effeminate Squirrel Nutkin, watching over the neighborhood.

I'm glad for the extra security Frank provides, but I'm also a little worried. What if they mistake my calf for a turkey leg when I'm going out for a walk and they jump on it and gnaw it to the bone? Or what if they see my new purple ruffled pillow and think it would make excellent nest fodder and dash into my home and ravage it with their wee teeth?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me!

Now that it's a month and a half after my birthday, I was finally ready to take the plunge and spend my birthday money. I've wanted a chair in my kitchen ever since we toured my dream kitchen when we were looking for homes last year. This kitchen had a sweet wingback chair in the kitchen next to a little table with cookbooks. I loved it! And our kitchen just so happened to have a large empty corner just screaming for a reading chair.

Mike and my taste are usually the same, but he had to come around (for about a year) to the beauty of wicker. I think it feels breezy and adventursome, like perhaps I'm in a safari lodge in Zanzibar or at a resort in Hawaii. What do you think?

Mike picked the colors. I had randomly thrown these together to see if I liked the textures together - not the colors - I would never put these colors together. But Mike really liked it. And I started coming around too. Now I love it. The rich jewel tones feel so luxurious. And, most importantly for Mike, they're comfy. Now I have a comfy place to sit and read my Bible in the morning and drink coffee. Or - if I ever get back to cooking - peruse my billions of cookbooks.

So thank you very much to all of you who made this lovely chair possible - Trevor and Dynell, Krista and Josh, Chris and Glen, Grandma Spears and Grandpa Chuck and Letty. I will name it in honor of you all.

As a parting shot, here's a picture of the store last night. See all the families hanging out and playing? I love that we've created a haven for that. For those of you who haven't been down lately, you can see the edge of the restaurant next door, which opens in one week. It's called BJ's Brewpub, and it's really nicely finished. I'm now a fan of it...especially because they're giving us a free dinner next weekend. :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And While I'm At It: Jeremiah 29:11 Edition

I figure while I'm on the topic of yesterday's post, I might as well get this off my chest too.

It seems to me that so often we read this very beautiful verse within the context of how we want to read it and how we've been trained to read it based on our culture:

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

Now, if you start to discuss culture when it comes to reading the Bible, people will shout "Cultural Relativist!" and throw things at you. Cultural relativism would be to say that some Scriptures do not apply because cultures have changed. That is very different from acknowledging that you come from a distinct culture that colors how you understand the world around you and the things you read.

Some people say, "I just read the Bible like it is. Period," as if those who try to understand culture are just being namby pamby. I believe very much in Sola Scriptura, but no one on this planet approaches Scripture alone. We approach it with a lot of baggage, history, preconceptions and misconceptions. Just look at all the Jewish people who understood prophecies regarding Jesus to mean he was going to be a political and military leader, based on their cultural values.

Those who argue that they "just read the Bible like it is," say this because they believe that they are "normal," that the way they think is neutral and the default. But there are 5 million 700 thousand people on this planet who would say that you are the variant and they are the normal ones.

In America, we are highly individualistic. I'm not going to beat up on individualism, becuase I personally love our individualism (though sometimes we take it too far). When I go to other cultures, the lack of individualism really bothers me and I can't wait to be back in America. In America, we emphasize individual achievement. We love to see someone work hard, have big dreams, and rise to success (i.e. American Idol).

Our extreme individualism affects so much: How we approach government (as expressed in our high value on personal freedoms and small government), how we understand time ("me time" is not a concept or a "right" in many other countries), and our ambitions (which tend to be focused on an individual and not the group).

We have been told our whole lives, "You can do anything you put your mind to." We have been asked our whole lives, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" And millions of us have read that we can have a purpose-driven life, that is a purpose driven by our own individual talents and inclinations.

So when an American reads, "For I know the plans I have for you..." we read it within this context. We read it and think, "God has plans for me! He wants me to have a good job and a good spouse and a good future." We tend to think of God's plans as relating to our individual circumstances in life.

Back up to when the verse was written. It was a prophecy given to Jeremiah regarding the future of the nation of Israel. They were in exile in Babylon, and were going to remain so for the next 70 years. But in this passage, God promises to bring them back from exile and to give them a future and a hope.

So we can see that this prophecy was not individually focused (it applied to the overall well-being of the Jewish nation) and it was not immediate (it was for 70 years in the future, when many who first heard it would be dead). This "welfare" plan that God had for them wasn't a quick or an easy one. They were going to be strangers in a strange land for several generations before it came to pass.

Fast forward: 2010, and Christians now read the prophecies given to the Jewish nation as promises to God's broader people, the Church. But few of us read the context of this original promise, instead contenting ourselves in taking it to mean God has good things in store for me, like financial security, a handsome man, and three kids.

If we were not just reading this verse how we want to read it, we would see that it was given to the nation of Israel as a view of his overall plan for them, not as individual promises for a good life. Today, most Christians believe the Old Testament promises to the nation of Israel translate to the Church. If that is so, then the verse refers to the plan for the whole Church, not necessarily to individual people. But because of our individualism, we tend to see the verse from the point of the individual, not as a a long-term plan for the group.

All this isn't to say that God doesn't have "good" for you, or even have an individual plan for your life. We can learn about God's character from this verse - that he wants our welfare not to harm us. But we can also see from the context, that his idea of good isn't necessarily our idea.

And that's why I think we have to learn to understand our own culture and that of others. When we fail to recognize that we are not unbiased by default, we become trapped in interpreting the Bible based on our own inclinations and biases.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Calling on My Life

When Heidi and I were doing the Courage Classic, we met a father and son who were Compassion advocates. They'd urge us on as we were trying to get up Vail Pass, and we chatted by the Porta-Potties and Gatorade stations.

At one point, one of them asked us about working at Compassion, "Is this God's calling on your life?"

Heidi responded right away, "Definitely."

I stared at him blankly and grunted. Then I made a lame joke about being called to stay at home and not work. It wasn't funny.

I'm very bad at this kind of question because it has developed out of a Christian sub-culture that is a bit foreign to me. To some degree, I think we've created a culture of a specific "calling on our lives" that is situational and circumstantial that just doesn't reconcile with the vast majority of the uses of the word "called" in the Bible.

The phrase "a calling on your life" isn't used in Scripture. The majority of times the word "called" (as in "you are called") is used, it is referring to our election and salvation in Christ - God called us to him, as in Romans 8:29-30:

"For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified."

There are only three (maybe four) places I can find where it uses "called" to mean assigned to a specific place/vocation in life. Paul and/or Barnabus were "called" to be apostles (people who are sent away to preach the gospel), in Romans 1:1, Acts 13:2, and 16:10 ("God had called us to preach the gospel to them.").

So the only two people we know from Scripture had a vocational calling were the first two apostles who spread the message of Christ. I'm not comfortable extending these three verses to mean that all of us have a specific vocational calling on our lives. The calling was given at a very particular time (the birth of the church) to two very particular people (the first apostles).

There's one other verse that seems to imply a situational calling, but it isn't explicit, 1 Corinthians 7:17: "Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him." This passage is talking about whether new converts should become circumsized and whether or not they should marry. Pauls says to stay in the situation to which you were called. This verse alone seems a bit vague on which to base a major Christian pasttime (finding your "calling in life").

What does not seem vague are all of the other biblical references to our "calling." Much like references to God's will, they aren't referring to circumstances (should I move to Kansas or should I move to Missouri), they are character focused and God focused.

I don't argue that no one has a specific vocational, situational, or circumstantial calling on their lives. Far be it from me.

What I do argue is that we have begun to use the phrase "God's calling on my life" very loosely given the Scriptural support there is for it. Based on the Scriptures about God's call, the question "Is this God's calling on your life?" even seems a bit unfair.

I don't know that I am "called" to a specific workplace or city or vocation. I know that I'm commanded to do good. I know that I'm commanded to work as unto the Lord. And therefore working at Compassion fits under this larger umbrella of calling on my life. Perhaps I'm splitting hairs. Perhaps this is why I don't get invited to a lot of parties.

What do you think? Tell me your thoughts. I know many people disagree with me, so I won't be offended.

Why does this matter? Am I just being an uptight Pharisee? I think it matters because when we become primarily focused on this circumstantial understanding of God's calling, we can spend our time obsessing over life choices. Instead of focusing on the very clear calls on our lives (listed below), we focus on what can become an obscure rabbit hunt.

Instead of focusing on what we think God's situational calling is on our lives, there are things we can know without a doubt are God's calling on our lives as we focus our eyes not on this life, but on Jesus:

God Has Called Us:

To Peace: 1 Corinthains 7:15 "God has called us to live in peace."

To Freedom: Galatians 5:13 "You, my brothers, were called to be free."

To Hope, Riches and Power: Ephesians 1:18-19 "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe."

To Eternal Life: 1 Timothy 6:12 "Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses."

To Belong to Christ: Romans 1:6 "And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ."

To Be a Saint: Romans 1:7 "To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints."

To Be Holy: 1 Corinthians 1:2 "to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy." 2 Timothy 1:9 "God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life."

Into Fellowship: 1 Corinthains 1:9 "God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful."

To Suffering: 1 Peter 2:20-21 "But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."

To Repay Evil With Blessing: 1 Peter 3:9 "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."

Into His Wonderful Light: 1 Peter 2:9 "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gimme a Gimmick

I stumbled upon (i.e. Yahoo News stumbled upon) this blog today, about a young woman who takes one old ugly cheap dress a day and turns it into a chic new piece. She has a budget of $1 a day for 365 days. Cool, huh?

She was inspired when she watched Julie and Julia, about this blog, which has inspired a thousand more blogs like it. (I actually don't like this blog, because she's kind of snarky. What a snarky thing of me to say.)

I like this one, where this fashion photographer posts one photo a day of interesting fashion he sees on the street. Or this woman, who went without shopping for one year.

Or this guy, who posts "Stuff Christians Like" every day.

There was even a guy who got a book published after taking a picture of the 3 meals he ate for 365 days.

When I read these, I always wish I had a brilliant gimmick that would get me a book deal. Like this seriously talented woman who got a cookbook deal from her blog.

But I know these feelings are just lusting after vain glory and would be very bad for my character. (If I ever become famous, I fully intend to be like the boss in The Devil Wears Prada.) Besides, I just don't care about anything enough to do it every day. Except eat donuts. And someone has already stolen the idea of traveling the country to find the best donut.

All the same, if you have any brilliant ideas, make sure to pass them my way.

I have considered writing a Colorado-focused blog...and if I did, this would be the first post. Obscene in parts (sorry, Grandma!), but it's the only redeeming thing that has come out of Kate Perry's vapid hit.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ugly Me

One of Mike's favorite anecdotes to tell is about this grouchy old Christian. For the life of me, I can't remember who the grouchy old Christian was, but suffice it to say, he was grouchy. Someone once said to him, "How can you be a Christian, you're so mean?" His reply, "You should have seen how bad I was before I was a Christian!"

Today on the car ride home, I was thinking about how much someone bugged me and about her character flaws. (Don't worry, it wasn't you.) Instead of this ugly train of thought, I think I ought to replace it with some self-reflection.

For those of us who became Christians at a young age, sometimes it can be tempting to secretly think we're really alright. I didn't go through a meth phase or a floozy phase. I'm kind of a goody goody. But I do know deep down that God has saved me, and continues to save me, from so much.

So, at the risk of being dreary, here is what I would be (and sometimes still am) like without Christ: (And, for your listening pleasure, a little "Despicable Me" to listen to in the background.)

  • I use my intelligence to position myself over others. Ick, that's ugly! I wouldn't want to be friends with me.
  • I use sarcasm to put others down.
  • I'll imagine someone I'm frustrated with doing something really bad to me and then my subsequent awesome tell-off speech. (Am I the only one who does this?)
  • I don't like to get involved in other people's lives or problems, especially messy ones. I'm a bit like Hugh Grant in About a Boy. If your TV show can't get good ratings or is having plot troubles, that's really your problem. I'm looking out for my own plot line.
  • I really dislike being disagreed with.
  • I dwell on wrongs and repeat them in my mind over and over again. (And then I just might write the perfect tell-off speech in my head.)
  • Like Gru in Despicable Me, I sometimes pop children's balloons and generally try to take over the world.

So what have you been saved from?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Outside My Window

Outside my window clouds have been hugging Mount Blodgett all day, and I have followed suit by hugging pillows on the couch all day.

I am thinking of all the things I should do but don't want to do.

I am thankful for peaches and cantaloupe, old friends and new friends, lazy days alone with an indulgent husband.

From the kitchen rosemary chicken ravioli...from Costco, my new weakness. If you can't tell, I'm enjoying a lazy Sunday. In fact, last night I admit to eating dinner (chicken salad) out of the carton on the couch while watching internet TV about World of Warcraft, followed by gelato eaten out of the tub on the couch. Mike was a proud husband coming home late from a hard day of work to find his wife like that.

I am wearing a bikini. Don't judge me. We don't have stinking beaches in Colorado, so I make do with what I have, and it makes me think I'm in Hawaii, and I want a vacation.

I am reading nothing. I have a stack of half-started books on various dressers, but I just haven't felt like reading lately. Plus, we just signed up for Netflix on Friday. Hence the weekend of slobbery. But I do have a fun book-related story to tell. Yesterday at the store there was this shifty man. His every move was suspicious. I saw Suspicious Man move to the book shelves and take down one of my Little House on the Prairie books. He kept acting shifty and heading toward various exits with it. But I was on him like a mountain lion, ready to pounce. Perhaps he noticed my stalking and settled down to read Little House in one of our comfy chairs and took his shoes off. Ew. Anyway. I scared him into submission, but later on (when I was gone) a couple of our loyal customers watched him take a book (C.S. Lewis on the Classics, of all books), stick it under his shirt, and head out the back door. Said loyal customers told Mike and Mike and his faithful employee tackled the man to the ground and rescued the book. It's all true but the tackling.

I am hoping for sunshine and vacation.

I am hearing the rain finally starting to fall outside.

I am creating...well I guess writing could be considered creating, so I'm creating a movie review on Eat Pray Love and procrastinating on creating some other freelance work too. My take on Eat Pray Love: If you liked the book, then you'll probably like the movie. I think the critics have rated it surprisingly low. But I worry that the movie (and the book) romanticize vague Eastern-ish mysticism. And I would have liked it a whole lot more if they highlighted gelato more.

Around the house. It would be better if we didn't talk about that. I am procrastinating cleaning. I seriously considered giving 100 bucks to a high school student today to clean it for me and only didn't because I figured his cleaning wouldn't be up to my standards.

One of my favorite things... Cantaloupe flavored things. Yesterday Mike and I went to the farmers market and bought a huge box of Rocky Ford cantaloupe to make gelato and sorbet with. I can't wait to try it. Soon it will be Colorado peach season too!

A few plans for the rest of the week: Stop procrastinating on freelance and cleaning. Go to a baby shower. Go to a wedding. Get some work done. Yada yada yada.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

More Breck Pics

Like Blanche Dubois, I have always relied on the kindness of strangers. So I didn't have pictures of our weekend in Breckenridge to post until now, courtesy of those who use cameras. Here they are.

My Loverly family, minus my dad. But he pretty much just looks like my uncle Rod, so just picture two of him. Do you see the one making magician hands? Yeah, that's my husband. Gob Bluth is his hero.

Babies and puppies. Couldn't you just puke? I'm in the background scheming how to steal the puppy.
Success! I'm thinking of sending this as my Christmas photo.
Making s'mores.

Two Poppies. (By which I mean grandpas, not flowers.)
A fine time with a fine family.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wonderful Wizarding Worlds

A coworker of mine got me thinking about media - what we watch and read and what is a good idea and what is not. (I might have written about this before...if so I can't remember and I don't know where it is.)

I agree wholeheartedly with Mark Driscoll (at the above link) that we ought to be discerning about what we see and hear. And, just like a granny, I think a lot of what people read and watch is rotting their minds. I tend to watch only PG or G movies and read books such as Anne of Green Gables, so I'm not exactly Miss Culturally Hip. But I think that the matter is more complex than Driscoll makes it. He seems to imply that if a book has a vampire or witchcraft or [insert any number of things here] it is evil.

I haven't read the Twilight series, so I will remain silent on it and substitute the Harry Potter series. (It's comparing apples and oranges, but bear with me.) It's a timely substitution as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has just opened in Orlando.

Many Christians say that the Harry Potter books are evil and teaching our children to practice witchcraft. I wouldn't let my young children read the Harry Potter series because I think that they are too dark for youngin's, but not on the grounds that they include witchcraft. Here is why.

Do you know many (or any) Christians that ban The Lord of the Rings trilogy from their adolescents? Most likely not. Instead we have sermon illustrations based on them and youth group gatherings to watch them and discuss brotherhood or some such topic.

Do you know many (or any) Christians who ban Sleeping Beauty from their DVD collection? We consider it a classic fairy tale.

These three stories have many things in common: They all have main characters who are witches or wizards (who practice magic through some supernatural power). They all have good magicians and evil magicians. Dumbledore and Voldemort. Gandalf and Saruman. Merryweather and Maleficient. (Doesn't matter if you call them fairies. They're doing magic.)

So why do we consider LOTR and Sleeping Beauty harmless children's tales and Harry Potter from the devil? Partly, it's popularity. Sleeping Beauty is a fine movie, but I don't think anyone's worried that children are going to start dressing like Maleficent and doing spells. (Though my sister does dress as Maleficent for Halloween every year.) So if Sleeping Beauty suddenly got really popular and kids wanted to be Maleficent and do spells, would it suddenly become evil? Perhaps. But I don't think the majority of Christians would say Sleeping Beauty is evil, so simply having a wizard in it or not (or a vampire or a werewolf) an evil book does not make.

Another thing that Harry Potter has in common with SB and LOTR is a Judeo-Christian moral foundation. Rowling isn't writing a Christian book, but she is writing in the British tradition, which is a Judeo-Christian tradition. There is good and evil. Sacrificial love is paramount. Family and friends are valued over individual achievement and glory.

But Rowling takes it one step further than traditional simplistic fairy tales and improves upon them. In traditional fairy tales (LOTR excepted) good and evil are very black and white. This person is bad. This person is good. But we all know from our own lives that people aren't just born with a label on their foreheads indicating "evil" and "good." We each make daily choices that determine our character. You aren't good simply because you're born to a nice Chrsitian family. You aren't evil simply because you're born to a mobster. Look at the Rwandan genocide - an example of a "Christian" nation who made evil choices. Or Draco Malfoy, a boy raised by a family who did evil, but who decided he didn't want to be a part of it in the end.

Is Harry Potter evil because it includes witches and wizards (or whatever fantastical creature you wish to insert here, such as werewolves or vampires)? If we decide yes, then I believe we have to throw away the vast majority of modern Western children's literature.

The Wizard of Oz
The Chronicles of Narnia
Alice in Wonderland
Peter Pan
The Hobbit
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Beauty and the Beast
The Bible (sex, violence, witchcraft, and more!)
Much of the literature of the Middle Ages

I believe (based on my husband's information) that the Twilight series is not one I'd like my kids to read. But not because of the vampires and werewolves. Because ultimately, I don't believe the largest risk awaiting my hypothetical child is practicing witchcraft. It's highly unlikely that reading Harry Potter or Twilight is going to entice my child to perform seances.

What I think is far more likely is that my child would read Twilight and spend inordinate amounts of time obsessing about dreamy, dangerous boys. The real and present danger for the majority of young girls is not that they will become entangled with the occult but that they will become obsessed with their looks, with boys, with what other people think, and will be tempted into sexual immorality. From this standpoint, I'll take Harry Potter over the vast majority of romance any day of the week.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Amber Van Schooneveld Patented Feel-Good Fun-Time Workout Solution

This post will be insufferable, as I offer advice where it has not been sought. Just a warning.

Many of my friends say to me, "Hey, Amber, How do you get so fit?" And I say, "Yes, I am awesome, am I not?" (Did you ever notice that there's no way to contract this for singular? "Aren't I" is technically ungrammatical and "Amn't I" sounds funny. Nerd alert.)

Back to the point, God perhaps did bless me with some natural tendencies that make working out easier. Not easy, but perhaps easier. For example, my body inexplicably wants to wake up bright and early every day, I get a kick out of muscles, and I am a perfectionist/disciplianarian.

(As a side note, I was not endowed with natural tendencies that make eating healthy easier. I want to eat everything all the time. I just don't.)

Are these inclinations enough to have tipped the scale so that I'm fit while others are not? I don't think so. It's the decisions I make every day that make me fit. So, though you haven't asked for it, I have channeled my inner Jillian to bring you my Patented Feel-Good Fun-Time Workout Solution: What I've Learned About Getting and Staying Fit.

First, I'll start with the easy (and ultimately less important) things:
  • When you wake up in the morning to work out, splash freezing cold water on your face immediately. It's suprisingly effective at waking you up. (So is having a bladder the size of a pea that wakes you up each morning.)
  • Write down your plan, then do it. Period. For eating and exercise, make a plan, nay, a contract with yourself, and carefully track in writing what you do. Health doesn't just happen accidentally. You have to plan for it.
  • Set a very specific goal with a time limit, then deliberately focus on that point each day. Give yourself incentives, such as a 5K, a new dress, or "after" pictures.

Now for the real magic behind my patented plan. I stole it from Yoda, but it really is my secret:

Do or Do Not. There Is No Try.

I always thought this was a little unfair of Yoda, as Luke really wasn't sure whether or not he could lift a space ship with his brain. But it is very applicable to fitness. Though we don't know whether we can lift a space ship with our mind, we do know that we are physically capable of waking up at 6 a.m. (by whatever means it takes) and going for a walk.

Again: Do or Do Not. There Is No Try.

Never say, "I'm going to try to work out more." Either you're going to do it or you're not going to do it. When we speak in these terms, it reveals our mindset: that we are not the controllers of our fate - that we are victims of chance, blown along by the wind like the feather in Forrest Gump. If you haven't commited to following through, you're probably going to get blown away.


Not in this area. There are many circumstances in life that we cannot control. But what you do with your health is not one of those areas. Things don't just happen to your health (in terms of eating and exercise). Everything that happens is a choice that you make.

Again: What happens to your health is your choice.

There are lots of excuses for not being able to exercise or eat healthy. Many of them are legitimate excuses. Injuries, babies, busy schedules, or age. They are good excuses; they may provide a good reason for you to be excused for a season. But they do not control you. You still make the choice of how to live, either because of them or in spite of them.

We can see this in the numerous people who face difficulties but have still made the choice to be healthy. My friend who is a single mother of two, working a demanding full-time job, who still wakes up every day to run 8 miles. The man with a prosthetic leg who finished the Courage Classic far before me. The 75-year-old woman who hiked Pikes Peak behind me, who hikes a different 14er every month, despite the fact that her husband is now bedridden and she hikes at approximately .o1 miles per hour.

Own your choices. Take responsibility for them. Because, ultimately, it is a matter of taking responsibility. Reasons can be good, excuses can be valid. But we often fall into a victim mentality - thinking that we are victims of and slaves to our circumstances. You are only a victim and slave to your own mind.

Recognize that you are making choices based on reasons. You are not being controlled by your circumstances. You are making choices. If you decide not to exercise because you have a baby under one-year-old, that's fine, but own it as a choice.

Don't say, "Oh, I can't exercise because everything's just too busy and I just can't do everything."

Say, "I choose not to exercise right now because I am too busy."

When you choose it, rather than playing victim to it, you won't feel the subsequent guilt when you don't go for that morning run. You can know with confidence that it is what you chose for yourself, based on your current circumstances. You're making the decisions that make sense for your life right now.

No Free Passes

If you do want to make a change, despite whatever difficulties you may be facing, don't play the "try" game. I'm going to be blasted for saying this, but you don't need supernatural intervention. I remember in college hearing people asking for prayer that God would enable them to not be tempted sexually. Sorry, honey, you're going to be tempted. God allows physics. He created the natural world to run in a particular way, and he's not going to change that to make life easier on you. Girls are hot, and sitting feels better than running. That's not going to change.

In most cases, God doesn't make hard things easier on us. He asks us to make the right choice even when it's hard. Don't ask God to make it easier for you, because it allows the possibility of making the wrong choice based on your feelings. Make the right choice. Either do or do not. There is no try.

One of the best things I was ever told was this: Grow up.

Mireille Guiliano wrote this in regards to eating in French Women Don't Get Fat. I needed to hear this. I wanted to coddle myself and nurse how unfair it is that I want to eat more than my body needs. And Mireille told me to grow up. I had to take responsibility; it is my choice whether I eat right or gain weight. Moaning wouldn't make it any better; it was time for me to face facts like an adult. It has made all the difference.

One Choice, Daily Decisions

Ultimately, you make your choice once about how you are going to live. Then each day you make subsequent decisions that either support that choice or tear it down. My method: Don't allow for any other choice. I allow no other voice to enter my head. Each day, I've already made my decision, and I'm merely following through on it.

The End

Monday, August 9, 2010

Weekend in Breck

We spent this weekend in Breckenridge with my family from Texas. Looking back on my blog, I see that I have gone to Breckenridge for weekend trips the past two years in September. I was just a bit early this year.

Here are the youngin's of the family. The two guys on the right are my cousins, sons of my dad's twin, so technically they are my half-brothers. So technically their babies are my half-nephews.

We spent the weekend cooing at their babies and playing with Tara's baby Moxie, that adorable Australian Shepherd puppy on the right. Mike couldn't even take his eyes off her for the picture. It was quite fun to watch the babies interact with my dad, whom they assumed was their "Poppy," because he is their grandfather's identical twin. One would point at my Uncle Rod saying, "Poppy, Poppy, Poppy," then turn to my dad and point again saying, "Poppy, Poppy, Poppy!"

On Friday, Mike and I hiked Black Powder Pass, the pass between Baldy and Boreas Mountain. So beautiful! I think it should become a mainstay. That night we toasted marshmallows on a campfire, and hopped in the hot tub.

Sadly, Mike had to go back to the store on Saturday. So I biked from Breck to Frisco in the morning, then went hiking on the same pass with Greg, Ewy, Dad, and Uncle Rod. The members of my family of the female persuasion took pictures of flowers at the base. Saturday night was Mi Casa, my favorite, and I got to spend a little time with my wonderful grandmother.

On Sunday, my dad and I took a stroll through Breckenridge in the morning and stopped in for Starbucks. Then the whole family took a gondola ride before hanging out in Breck. We had Crepes a la Carte and sat in the plaza, watching the people pass and the children play with Moxie.

Here are a few photos from Black Powder Pass with Mike - the only place we took pictures.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Rivendell Door

Once there was a door that I didn't like very much. It wasn't nearly as bad as another door in the home, but it lacked a certain romanticism I like to have in all aspects of life.

It also didn't have a peep hole so that I could weed out all the Jehovah's Witnesses that come to my door. I've been converted twice now.

So, I very practically started looking for another door with a peep hole. And for my birthday, my in-laws gave me money to buy the front door of my dreams...Thanks, Vans!

Notice the serious lack of a peep hole. Notice the fact that this door is, in fact, even more exposed to outside viewers as it has a full-length window with no blinds. But then notice how beautiful it is. Isn't it just wonderful? I have a thing for doors, I guess.

It looks to me like Rivendell. The single narrow window makes the door look much wider and the white (which shall be painted marscapone), makes this area much brighter.

Now, I need your help. I'm thinking of painting the outside of the door Symphony Blue, just like my piano that I love. My only concern is that dang ol' red brick. What say you? Cobalt blue door? White door?

Please vote. Those of you who never comment, this is a safe, non-threatening way to leave a comment. ;)

Monday, August 2, 2010

We Did It!

We finished the Courage Classic! It was hard and fun and beautiful. I'm very glad I did it.

I didn't take any photos, but here are several videos from the last day, so you can see what it looked like. Here's two of the team members right before we went up Turquoise Lake, the very last (and surprisingly challenging) leg of the tour.


Here we are going up one of the hills.


And after one of the hills...


At the finish line with Heidi.


The Debenports and their cute baby at the finish line!