Thursday, June 30, 2011

Niagara or Bust

OR "My Escapades as an Undercover Investigatory Journalist Uncovering the Secrets of the Canadian Healthcare System"

Today, I was hoping to post pictures of Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake, which I was going to visit on Tuesday, but instead, my body decided to go bust. Here are all the sordid details of my experience with appendicitis that you probably didn't want to know.

Unsurprisingly, my flight on Sunday was delayed in Chicago, so I had an extra 3 hours to burn. I daringly got a turkey bacon guacamole sandwich at 5 (daring because I have the digestive system of a pregnant lady) and felt sick after eating it. But I just kept feeling sicker and sicker, even hours after I ate it. I spent a lot of time hiding in the Chicago bathrooms, because I felt more comfortable hugging my belly in pain in there. (And by the way, though I dislike the Chicago airport, they do have good bathrooms.) Eventually I did get to my hotel at 1:45 am, and I mentioned to my poor coworkers who had to pick me up that late that I was feeling a little sick.

That night, I kept waking up in pain. It felt like the round ligament pain I routinely have in the night with pregnancy, but just much more steady and painful. I got up many times in the night and was in enough pain that I couldn't stand up straight, but had to walk doubled over. I wasn't too concerned in the night, though, because I was too sleepy and out of it to think clearly. In the morning, I googled abdominal pain in pregnancy, and sources said it often was caused by gas or constipation and that sometimes a bath can help. So I took a long hot soak, but that did nothing.

When it was finally 6 am in Colorado, I called my father-in-law (doctor) who told me to go to the doctor. It was good I talked to him because it gave me the courage to go to the hospital. (I was afraid I was going to make a big deal about it and then I'd be embarrassed and have to tell everyone, "Sorry, guys, I was just constipated!")

My coworker, Aaron, and his wife, Emily, were kind enough to drop everything (even her day off without her two kids) to take me to the hospital. Eventually, we made it up to the ob/gyn department. By this time, the pain wasn't just constant, but occasionally also stabbing. I tried very hard to sit patiently while reception tried to figure out how to check in an American. At one point, one of the ladies said to the other, "Make sure you capitalize that," while she was entering data, and I wanted to scream, "Don't you know I'm in pain and my baby could be in danger?!" But instead I sat demurely and politely (I think).

Next, the nurse and doctors did a number of different things to figure out what was wrong. They did an ultrasound of little Alexandra, so that was one bonus. I was in too much pain to focus very well, but I did get to see her heart beating and her practice breathing. (Babies "breathe" amniotic fluid before birth, so you could see her little ribs going in and out.) I also got to hear her heartbeat a whole lot, as they kept me hooked up to a monitor, and even got to hear her hiccups on the monitor! The whole experience was bonding with my baby in that way.

Last, they did an ultrasound of the rest of my insides, looking for problems with the ovaries, kidneys or appendix. By the time I got down to this department, the stabbing pains were pretty bad. Luckily, Emily was still by my side to distract me. We chatted about family and kids and I have no recollection whatsoever of what she said or what I said. :) In the ultrasound, it was pretty darn obvious where the pain was. The tech repeatedly jabbed at one point, making it quite clear (and painful) that was the focus of the pain. I had to turn on my side several times, which was very difficult with the pain.

She left me in the room while she went to talk to the doctor, then they wheeled me up to the doctor. By that time, I had guessed that I had appendicitis, which I did. One of the doctors said that they found the ultrasound images "exciting," as they made it so clear that I had appendicitis, and sometimes it can be difficult to diagnose and detect in an ultrasound. Everything happened very quickly from there. There just happened to be an opening in surgery, and they could take me in right away. If that opening hadn't been there, I might have had to wait 4-5 hours or even another day.

From that point, it was a blur of people poking me, talking to me, and having me sign waivers. The resident surgeon got to tell me everything that could go wrong: You could get an infection, you could get AIDS, the uterus could be accidentally hit and the baby could die, etc. etc. I said, "You're the fun guy, huh?" But I think he thought I was making a comment on his dry personality, which is a reminder that you shouldn't try to lighten the mood and make jokes when you're in severe pain because the humor might not come through.

They, of course, don't like operating on pregnant women because of the risk of pre-term labor or accidentally damaging the uterus, but the risk of not operating was higher, so I consented. I was very lucky to get appendicitis exactly when I did in pregnancy, because after 28 weeks, your risk of pre-term labor during surgery goes up. I just happened to be in the short window of when the risk is lower to operate during pregnancy. I also was lucky in that I was in a hospital that has the reputation of being one of the best ob/gyn facilities in the country or province or something like that.

During all this, my husband is calling madly to try to find out what's happening to his wife and baby. There's no cell phone service in the hospital, so Emily was relaying information to Aaron, who would then step outside and call Mike. Mike was a bit desperate trying to navigate the hospital phone system and kept getting sent to the wrong people. We tried calling him several times, but had to decide to go into surgery without talking to him, lest we missed the open slot.

Is This Long or What?

Sorry this is so long. But I assume only my grandmother is still reading by now, so I'll keep going for her sake. The head anesthetist looked just like Roy Peter Clark (well-known writing coach), so that was fun. I woke up (kind of) in the recovery room. I was shivering violently (I tend to do that), so they kept piling blanket after hot blanket on me. (The next day I counted, and I had about 8 heavy blankets on!) My face itched like crazy. People kept saying various things to me, but I have no idea what. They told me the baby was OK, and that's all I cared about.

The guy in the next bed over from me was unruly. People kept shouting, "Jack, stop it!" "Jack, why are you doing that?" "Don't do that, Jack!" "Stop spitting, Jack!" It seemed to be a cantankerous old man who was spitting and doing something he shouldn't have (I couldn't turn my head to see what.) I remember being amused. I had to go to the bathroom sooooooo bad. So they gave me a catheter which didn't make things any better from my perspective.

Sometime later, I woke up in my hospital room. It was a great room. One wall was all windows and had a view over London. Since I couldn't go to Niagara Falls, I figured this was recompense. I had the room all to myself, with a nice bathroom and a cool computer thingy from which I could call, surf the internet and watch TV. My nurses, Shannan and Roberta, were super nice. All the nurses and residents had heard my story (that a pregnant lady had gotten appendicitis on a business trip out of the country), and came to talk and empathize with me. My nurse said I was their resident "VIP." :)

I don't remember that night much, though I know I talked on the phone to Mike and my parents. I sounded pretty pathetic apparently, so my poor hubby spent all night worrying about me. I felt much better on Tuesday, and Aaron even brought me donuts (Yay!) from his mom's bakery. I couldn't have much but I had part of a delicious apple fritter. I spent the rest of that day laying in bed, talking on the phone, having visitors, and trying to take short walks. I selfishly posted my status on Facebook (which took a lot of energy), specifically so that I would get lots of sympathy messages, which I did.

Alexandra seemed rather unperturbed through the whole ordeal. She kept to her usual schedule of activity, and was kicking my little guts out. (Quite painful, but I was very glad for it.)

They released me on Wednesday around 11, and I came back to the hotel, where I still am now. I got to sleep a lot last night (thank you, ear plugs and eye mask), and am flying out today at 5. My pain is much better, and I'm all drugged up in preparation for the flight.

And that concludes my adventures in Canada. I would turn it into a tell-all expose on the Canadian health system, but it turns out they're all really nice and take wonderful care of you. :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Adventures in Canada ~ Prayer Request

As some of you may have heard, I've had quite the adventure since being in Canada. I got in at about 1 am Sunday night and was taken to the hospital Monday morning with stomach pains. In the afternoon, I had an emergency appendectomy. The baby and me are doing well. I was just released from the hospital, and now I'm resting in my hotel room. I'll write more later, and in lieu of writing myself, I wanted to link to my friend Liz's blog.

Liz also went into the hospital with pain last week, and unfortunately their little baby, Liam James, did not make it. Please keep this family in your prayers! I am thankful that Liz is alive, as she was also in a lot of risk. I'm so thankful for modern medicine that saved Liz's life (and potentially mine and my baby's as well). Thank you, God, for doctors!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Recent Happenings

Sorry I haven't been around so much lately. It's been a busy summer so far! I went to Texas last weekend, where we took millions of pictures of ourselves, ate far too much barbecue and cinnamon rolls, and got to reunite with family. We celebrated the 88th birthday of my grandmother and her twin. Her she is with her twin, along with my dad and his twin and his cousin and her twin (along with their two non-twin siblings).

Here's the "crazy" photo we all took of my family. Apparently, "crazy" to most of them means to smile prettily, while to some others it means to look off into the distance. I personally was trying to look annoyed (at all the photos they were still taking even after I changed into my pajamas). My sister Tara seems to be the only real crazy one in the family.

Mike has been busy with ice cream events at the store. Here is the Glacier booth at Springs Spree with the lovely Aleisha.

Then this week, Mike's brother and his family came to stay with us. We did lots of fun touristy things like going to Garden of the Gods, Cave of the Winds, Water World and taking the girls on death marches. I mean hikes. One of the girls said at the end of the week, "I'm glad we don't have mountains in Omaha because dad would probably try to make us hike all the time." I'm glad to have instilled a love for nature in them.

We learned many things in preparation for having our own child by having four children stay with us. 1. I'm going to need to sweep more often. 2. Kids don't consider grapes dessert. 3. I'm going to need to get a second job to feed them. But we also got to experience how fun they are and what excitement and imagination they bring to all things...except death hikes.

And now I'm off to Canada for the week! See you later, hosers.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

Love you, Dad! This is still as true today as it was three years ago.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


My sister just sent me this picture from 5 years ago, Mike and I practicing to be parents with her little puppy Maile. Isn't that cute?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Day in My Life

Sometimes my parents ask me, "You guys do so much; how do you get it all done?" It is hard with my busy and hectic life to keep it all together. Just as an example, here is an outline of what I did today.
  • Wake up and look at cherubic husband sleeping soundly next to me.
  • Pull laptop into bed and begin working, researching Bible verses for the week's prayer requests.
  • Husband wakes.
  • Listen to husband discuss how DC Comics is reaching too far with the Green Lantern and how perhaps its imminent failure will check rampant movie making of b-list comic book heroes.
  • Google Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern suit to see what costume really looks like.
  • Discuss disadvantages of getting too built with husband. (He believes, along with Stephen Colbert, that it is his moral obligation to let himself go in order to save himself from the temptation of posting pictures of himself online a la Representative Wiener.)
  • Finish choosing Bible verses.
  • Continue to work by researching content from a blog to use in the magazine.
  • Get distracted by an article on the blog about cloth diapers. Read article. Also read about how she uses cloth toilet paper and feminine products.
  • Get weirded out.
  • Begin editing story.
  • Try to continue editing story with husband's head in lap while he coos, "Hello, Alexandra! This is your father!"
  • Say goodbye to husband as he goes to work at 11.
  • Finish story and get out of bed.
  • Vow to get out of bed earlier tomorrow.
  • Eat lunch: a deconstructed pb&j bagel.
  • Take a walk in hills above neighborhood.
  • Pant like a hippo would if hippos panted.
  • Get chased by an overprotective red-winged blackbird.
  • Get home and decide to start laundry.
  • Instead of doing laundry, decide to try on swimsuits for possible Water World trip.
  • Decide being pregnant doesn't make me look any cuter in a swimsuit.
  • Notice several new features on body, such as love handles and mysterious lower back fat.
  • Decide to never swim again.
  • Do laundry.
  • Sit down to write donor report.
  • Research drink dispensers as birthday present for myself.
  • Start to write donor report.
  • Watch preview for Blue Like Jazz the movie.
  • Have sudden need to research Reed college.
  • Continue writing donor report.
  • Watch video of a photographer friend racing a Special Olympics runner in the Philippines.
  • Continue to write donor report.
  • Realize I will die if I don't eat in next 5 seconds and, remembering novel new back fat, eat cottage cheese with paprika instead of gelato.
  • Finish donor report.
  • Sit down to practice piano.
  • Find music teacher's music charts mixed in with books.
  • Postpone practice to Facebook teacher to tell her I found her music charts.
  • Watch eHarmony video about girl who just loves cats too much.
  • Research whether video is for real or not.
  • Decide it's a hoax.
  • Wonder whether or not I really wanted to learn piano anyway.
  • Decide to write a blog post about my day instead of practicing piano.
And, that, is how I do the hard work of being me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Finding Romance

I know that I've just written about a similar topic very recently, but if you've been around my blog for very long, you realize that I only have really 10 things (tops) to say, and I just package them differently. So, without further ado, let's talk about finding romance in everyday life.

I read the blog of a woman who lives on a farm in Montana, so that I can dwell for a short time in the romance of the country mountain life. I read the ever popular Pioneer Woman so that I can pretend to be a quirky ranching wife in Oklahoma. I read the Anne of books to imagine I live in the romance of a small island town. I love escaping into the romance of reading of all kinds. But I've also had to learn to find the romance in my own life, lest I become escapist and discontented.

I dreamt nearly all my life of living the removed life in a small Colorado mountain town, and yet I live in the suburbs of a decent sized city. My husband's practicality has somewhat won over my dreamer's heart, as I do now realize that I would freeze to death in a small mountain town. After all, if summer is far too short for me here at 7,000 feet, I would become positively depressed at 9,000 feet. And so, I find my romance in my everyday life that surrounds me.

In the coffee shop that is within walking distance of my house, where the people are regulars and the baristas greet their customers by name. Even introverted me. The barista will say, "Hey, Amber, how's the publishing business?" It's cozy.

In the wild iris that grow in one little patch on the mountainside behind our house. There is just one little patch under a bunch of scrub oaks where pale lavender iris grow for two months out of the year. My great-grandmother's home in Nebraska was surrounded by iris, and I somehow feel a connection to these lovely, wild flowers. Recently, Mike and I discovered more wild iris growing out of the dry riverbed of a canyon in Garden of the Gods we'd never visited before. I love the romance of discovering hidden flowers, waiting for appreciation.

In the aspen that grow outside of my kitchen window. There is nothing more romantic than aspen. Their fluttering leaves throw the most enchanting light imaginable. In the late afternoon, our kitchen twinkles in the dancing light of the aspens. I even pretentiously (and romantically) named my home "Aspen Hill" after their light, as if I lived in some great mountain estate, rather than a 1990s suburban home. For me, aspens bring back memories of carefree summers on mountainsides with my parents.

In the deer who nibble on the hillsides as I pass them on an afternoon walk. They dart their heads up and spread their ears, cautiously surmising I'm not a threat before going back to their nibbling. Even when the deer break my sweet little crab apple trees in half, I still love them for their quiet romance.

In the always changing and always odd weather. Some days, the whole city will be in fog and we, perched above it all, can look down on a river of white. Other days, the rest of the city will be in the blue, while we are swathed in dense clouds and snow, our own personal weather system.

I love my neighborhood. I'm no Anne of Green Gables or Pioneer Woman of Oklahoma, but I am silly, romantic Amber of Aspen Hill.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Memories of Pampa

In the morning, I'll be heading off into the sunrise (or for those of you who insist on accuracy in geography over romance, the sunrise will be to my left) to visit my papa's homeland. The various Africans I've met working at Compassion always talk about "going home to the village" when they see their grandparents. (It doesn't matter how large a village, either, what I would call a metropolis, they may call a village, as long as it's their ancestral home (Do your grandparents count as ancestors? (And just how many parentheticals can I squeeze into one sentence?)).)

My fathers' ancestral village is Pampa, Texas, where you can hang your hat on the tip o' Texas, and this weekend we're going home to the village.

Growing up, we drove the long hot drive down to Pampa every summer. My sister and I would amuse ourselves with elbow wars over the armrest ("Moo-ooom, she's on my side!"); we would picnic in Trinidad, eating Cheetos and PB&J sandwiches and watching rabbits hop under the bushes; we would drive over Raton Pass (which never seemed like much of a pass to me) to overlook the brown nothingness of northern New Mexico; we would wait in line at the Raton Dairy Queen, the subsequent Dilly Bar just barely making up for the bathroom and the heat; we would stop at Stuckees to buy coloring books, its iconic roof sticking out like an oasis from the featureless land signaling one of our only diversions on the long journey; we would breathe deep and long at the sense of escape, seeing the straight shot of road spreading out before us for hundreds of miles (though what I was escaping at the age of 10 I do not know); we would sing/shout "I'm a ding-dong daddy from Dumas!" as son as we saw the first sign for Dumas, Texas (accent on the first syllable, please); and we would finally pull, 8 hours later, sticky and tired and icky, into my grandmother's driveway. She would run out and squeeze us and welcome us in her Texas-honey drawl.

We and our cousins, two boys roughly the same age as Tara and I, would romp in the sprinklers, put on patriotic night shows for the parents (which they will never let us forget), and play Spades well into the night (which was probably a rockin' 8 p.m.). We would take walks down by the "crick" where my dad used to catch crawdads. (By the way, Mike and I have devilishly schemed to teach Alexandra to call dear grandfather "Crawdad.") We'd scramble on the fitness course (though not for very long, as nothing can drain you like Texas heat and humidity). We'd climb on the dinosaur sculpture in the park. We'd eat Braum's ice cream for dessert.

I'd sit upright and silent in my great-grandparents house, afraid I'd break something. But when no one was looking, I'd pet their ceramic cat doorstop. They had many cats, for which I liked them.

We'd pose for pictures. We would, and still do to my great dismay, spend roughly 68 percent of our visit posing for pictures. Every summer we'd stage the same cousin photo on the same sofa until it just became cruel to try to jam Tara's and my womanly hips into the petite sofa one more time.

We'd spend, and still do spend, the remaining 54 percent of the time eating. (My percentages work out as sometimes we'd be both eating and posing for pictures at the same time.) We'd go to Furr's Cafeteria and meet everyone in the "village," because my grandmother of course knew every last person in Furr's. I'd eat small bowls of macaroni and cheese while my cousin convinced me that the southern delicacy known as "fried okra" was octopus, which I believed until college. We would eat at Dyer's BBQ (which Tara insists we visit at least 8 times on our 4 day trip), where we'd feast on ribs and brisket and Texas Toast. We'd waddle to our cars in the Texas heat and slump into the sofas at home to digest before the next meal.

We'd visit Amarillo, the nearest big city, where we'd visit the Big Texan and gawk while grown men tried to eat a 72-ounce steak in an hour, and I'd cower under the mounted heads I thought might fall on me.

Now every year when the heat first hits Colorado, I get that familiar urge to drive hours into the great open prairie. To escape. To eat barbecue. To walk with the mosquitoes down by the crick. To see my grandmother standing with her hand on the screen door and her familiar understated smile on her face.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Slow to Anger or Waiting with Lightning Bolts?

In church, we're studying the book of Obadiah. I love that we go to a church that would study Obadiah; I can't remember one single message or even one verse from Obadiah ever preached from any pulpit I have had the pleasure of hearing. And, of course, we're going through it expository style, so we got through one whole verse last week! It's great for nerds like me.

In our small group discussion this week, two viewpoints were shared that gave me an aha moment. (I apologize for quoting Oprah.)

I am, and perhaps you are too, very familiar with all the verses and theories on how God disciplines us, such as Hebrews 12:6: "The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son." I frequently hear people say things such as, "If you have an idol in your life, God won't hesitate to take it away from you in order to teach you to serve him."

This is all well and good BUT the knowledge of God's discipline untempered by a deep understanding of God's love can lead to a false understanding of God and to an unholy fear of him. I think of the multiple mothers I know who have said that they fear God is going to kill their child because they love them too much in order to "teach them something." Others might fear that God is going to take away their husband, their job or other various things.

To me, this is venturing into the danger zone. Our theology can drift from a God of both discipline and mercy to a God who is just waiting to snatch good things from us if we misbehave.

That was one of the - justifiable - reactions to our reading in Obadiah. The Edomites were punished, in part, for their pride. They put their trust in their fortified homes and God took these away from them in response. If we idolize something, God very well may take it away. (Although our over-spiritualizing can lead us to identify any and every adverse circumstance as God's discipline, which the book of Job explicitly contradicts.)

But one wise fellow at small group pointed something out that so many of us had overlooked, being fixated on God's discipline and judgment. The missing puzzle piece in our view of God: The long suffering of God. God is slow to anger.

"Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity." Joel 2:13

I love how many times the phrase "slow to anger and abounding in love" is repeated throughout Scripture. As Joel makes clear here, God doesn't send the prophets just because he's got a lot to get off his chest. He's not just angry and wants a good rant. He genuinely wants us to repent! He will relent from sending calamity when we return to him. And he would far rather do this than punish us. God shows himself repeatedly in the Old Testament to be looooooong suffering. Repeatedly he warns the Israelites (and many other nations) to repent. He sends prophet after prophet and waits hundreds of years before he goes to his last resort.

Even firebrand Jonah knew this, and it's precisely why he didn't want to be a prophet. He preferred punishment to mercy, and was quite put out when God chose to forgive the Ninevites rather than carry out his prophecy.

"When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity." Jonah 3:10; 4:1-2

It is true that God may discipline us. But, oh, let us never forget that God isn't waiting in the sky with his arms crossed over his chest, lightning bolts in hand, just waiting to fling them at us. (I think that's Zeus or Thor anyway.) He is a Father to us, abounding in love, compassionate and gracious. He calls out to us to turn to him. Yes, God disciplines us, but never forget to temper your understanding of the God who disciplines us with our God who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Crags

The weather in Colorado has gone from March to August in one week. Has anyone else noticed this? Yet, we can't quite enjoy it in Southern Colorado, as the smoke from an Arizona fire has made our fair city look like Mexico City and smell like Port-au-Prince. In fact, as I write this, I'm squinting and coughing from the smoke. (Cough, cough, "Mer-man!" Cough, cough.) I should probably go inside, but I've so missed the warmth!

So Mike and I decided to head into the mountains in the hopes that the smoke hadn't penetrated them...It had. But not quite as badly. We went for one of our favorite hikes, the Crags on Pikes Peak, which is a good way to turn a smoky 90 degree day in town into a less smoky 75 degree day in the mountains.

Here's Mikey on the hike. Notice how there's actually a blue tinge in the sky despite the smoke?

And here's me posing for my 23 1/2 week photo. I have a belly! Yay!

It was nice to get off the ol' kiester, even if my lumbering, ponderous pregnant body hiked the 4 miles in 3 hours, rather than our usual 2. The smoke made everything look bluish and desolate. The bare rocks and dead trees helped.

As we hiked, we discussed all the fun Christmas and holiday family traditions we want to start with Alexandra, along with all the fun hikes we want to bring her along! Which reminds me, we need to get our professional pregnancy photos taken. We're thinking of going for this look. Or maybe this. I think the feather is really us. And don't forget, we need something for our Christmas cards too. What do you think?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Credulous or Critical?

Mike and I are kind of critical people. OK, we're really critical people. Our fault lies in having a negative, critical, and even jaded attitude towards certain new ideas. On the other hand, it seems that we are living in a very credulous age; credulous meaning that one is ready to believe something too easily or on the basis of uncertain evidence. So we got to talking about the ideal.

I believe the spectrum goes like this:

Credulous - - - - - - > Analytical - - - - - - > Critical

On the far right end, you have people like Mike and I who can be cynical skeptics when faced with new ideas. On the other end you have people who too readily hear one anecdote from a friend and jump on a new fear-based bandwagon. (Mike and I would probably argue that we have become critical people in the face of too many credulous people, but that would sound a bit pompous and self-justifying, now wouldn't it?)

In the middle, lies what I would consider the golden mean: Analytical. One who thoroughly analyzes and questions any new proposition before accepting or denying it, without the bitter bent of the critic or the naivete of the credulous.

The problem lies in the fact that so many people do not know how to reason, analyze or, in other words, use logic. Logic used to be the basis of all education. Now it is a boring college course that most avoid (I know I did). Rather than logic, people rely on feelings and anecdotes at best, and at worst paranoid conspiracy theories. One of the many problems with a society that doesn't value logic is you end up with a population that is widely credulous to their own detriment on the one hand with us critical curmudgeon reactors on the other.

Any time we are deciding to let an idea, world view or belief into our repertoire, we should carefully consider it. We should research it to the best of our ability and use our reason to determine whether it is true or good. We should have an analytical mind, or a questioning mind.

There is a significant difference between a questioning mind and an open mind.

An open mind has been made a value in and of itself in our society. But an open mind is only a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. Think of the mind as having a door. There is a reason we have doors, to keep the good things in and the bad things out. Doors are good. You can open the door to question the one who desires entrance to determine whether or not you should let him in.

But a fully "open mind" is like a house with no door. Forgive me for quoting a video game, but it is so apt: "An open mind is like a fortress with its gates unbarred and unguarded" (Warhammer 40,000). Having no gate at the entrance to the fortress of your mind is simply foolish. There are good thoughts and there are bad thoughts. There are true statements and there are untrue statements. What we call an "open mind" is often a mind without a door and without logic, far too willing and eager to let in all and sundry.

Of course, a closed mind is also not desirable. A closed mind with its doors boarded up can unknowingly keep in the bad and keep out the good. It doesn't have flexibility and becomes stagnant and shriveled.

A questioning mind, on the other hand, is like a guarded door to your fortress. It is there to investigate and scrutinize each passerby and determine whether or not to give it entrance. It is the golden mean. So another way to look at the spectrum would be:

An Open Mind - - - - - > A Questioning Mind - - - - - > A Closed Mind

So many of us live on the outskirts with feebly guarded or wrongly shut up minds, rather than in the happy middle. But how are we (or our children) to learn to reason when the examples and role models around us rely on their feelings, suspicions, or simply on the word of a friend? The internet has made it much easier and much more difficult at the same time. On the one hand, we have easily available to us many of the original sources that can help us make up our mind. On the other hand, it is also an open forum to any who have an opinion (educated or not).

My advice to those of us who skipped Logic and Critical Thinking and didn't go to prep school is to read Peter Kreeft (from whom I believe the door analogy is based on via Mike). Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston University, but unlike most philosophy professors, the average person can understand him. He writes many of his books in Socratic dialogue, teaching the reader logic by example. A good book to start with is Socrates Meets Jesus or Between Heaven and Hell, which is a discussion between JFK, C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley, all who died on the same day, about the afterlife.

So, which end of the spectrum do you think you are on? Are you credulous? Do you jump on the bandwagon of the latest fad in food, medicine, exercise, child rearing, etc. based on the data presented on one web site or in one book? Do you tend to believe something because your friend told you a story about her friend who said so? Do you believe something simply because a pastor said it from a pulpit? Or is your mind closed for any new applicants? Was the last time you altered or changed a viewpoint on something when your last diaper was changed? Do you agree with me that the golden mean is the questioning or analytical mind?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Trip to the Philippines

This week, I've been following along with the Compassion blogging trip that is in the Philippines right now. I love reading along with these people's adventures because it's like you're there with them. It reminds me of things I've seen (and I loved the Philippines!), but it also reminds me of how I can easily become hardened and numb to the things that I'm simply used to seeing. Their first-time perspective wakes me up a bit.

I would like to direct you to just one post to read, if you had no time to read any others, but I just can't choose. Instead, go here, and click on one of the bloggers on the right hand side.

One of the greatest things I'm always reminded of by these trips is to be thankful. As you know, I love my house and I love decorating it and making it beautiful. Seeing these people's homes reminds me of how truly blessed and rich I am. If you want to be reminded of that too, regardless of if you're in a 3,000 square foot home, a townhome, an apartment or even someone else's basement, watch the video here.

My point isn't to make you feel guilty. (Here's a post about that, by the way.) But to make you feel thankful and generous. We have so much. Enjoy it! Don't complain. Don't nitpick. And be generous too. :) When you have an open fist on your goods, it's so much easier to enjoy them anyway.

And as a parting note, I like this kid.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Outside My Window

I think my sister told me she hated it when I wrote these...or maybe it was my husband. But I'm going to write it nonetheless.

Outside my window: The trees have finally gotten their leaves! The birds are chirping! The deer are getting fuzzy horns! The mountains are soft with the lime green of spring! My heart was so aflutter with spring/summer delight today that I began singing "Wonderful, Wonderful Day" (from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) on our late afternoon hike, even though it's probably the most annoying song ever written.

I am thinking: Thoughts about writing from reading "The Glamour of Grammar" and "The Deer on a Bicycle" and thoughts about women and the Bible from reading "Half the Church."

From the kitchen: Oh golly gee. My eating habits are just embarrassing right now. Hot dog for lunch. Chile relleno for dinner. Bowl of Life cereal for second dinner (which was in fact third bowl of cereal for the day, as first and second breakfast consisted of cereal as well). I'm making sure the baby gets used to all the important things in life in utero.

I am wearing: Leggings, a pregnant girl's best friend. It is finally warm enough in our house (66 degrees the first half of the day) to not be swathed in 5 blankets at a time. And at night, it's a downright balmy 71 degrees, allowing me to go barefoot indoors. The beauty of it all!

I am reading: Finishing up Agatha Christie's Miss Marple short stories, Reading Lolita in Tehran...and see above for the rest.

I am hoping: I don't know. Is it weird not to be hoping for anything? It makes me sound rather unspiritual, but I fear it would be even more unspiritual to make something up in order to sound spiritual.

I am hearing: Myself playing the piano. I started taking lessons from a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago. (Have I mentioned this?) I have swell memories of singing around the piano with my daddy at home at Christmastime. Since I have a big blue piano in my front room, I thought I ought to justify its presence and pave the way to create future Little Women-esque moments for my baby girl. Right now am I stuttering over "Once Upon a Dream" from Sleeping Beauty. They say you should get your baby used to loud noises in utero so she'll be used to them after birth, such as dogs barking and vacuuming. Baby ain't getting used to no vacuum, but she'll sure be used to truly terrible piano playing and breathy singing.

Some of my favorite things: Warm summer nights. Hummingbirds at my feeder. Red rocks at Red Rocks Canyon that make me feel like I live in Moab. Cereal for second dinner.

A few plans for the rest of the week: We're having friends over for dinner Friday night, and since I no longer have anything to prove to the world, I plan on serving a Papa Murphy's pizza. I'll go to a baby shower this weekend while Mike no doubt works himself into the ground on the far-too-many projects he has going currently (running an ice cream store, editing a book, laying a tile floor, getting a roof replaced, refiling our taxes, etc., etc., etc.).

A picture thought for the day: Here is where Mike and I took our hike tonight. Isn't it pretty? I looked just like that girl. But my hair was brown. And my legs were slightly sturdier. And I wasn't laying on no logs.