Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'm so embarrassed

This morning, when I was on the phone, I used the words "space cadet" to describe myself. When was the last time that came out of my mouth? Like 1990??
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Monday, April 27, 2009

I Have a Problem

I hardly ever buy new books for myself, especially hardbacks. They're just too expensive. Plus, I like to make sure that I want a copy of a book for keeps before I actually spend all that money on it. That means I check out a copy from the library, and if it's something I want in my book collection, then I'll buy it.

A while back, I discovered the joys of shopping for used books online. With Amazon z-shops, I can usually find a book in good condition for a decent price, but there's always that pesky $3.99 shipping fee. For certain kinds of books that I can't find elsewhere, I'll gladly pay the shipping and enjoy them coming straight to my door. I've gotten a lot of great books this way.

I also love to peruse used book stores. But, even they can't usually compete with the online used book market. A good price for a book there is usually about half the price you could buy it new. It's also hard to really browse in a big used bookstore. I can zero in on specific books I want to look for, but I get overwhelmed just looking around.

Enter thrift stores. I have been taken loads of old clothes and other items I want to recycle to a non-profit thrift store in the area. Usually I just pull around back and drop the bags off. However, I have taken to looking through the book section several times now. A big bonus--it's small enough that I can look at everything. The inventory is constantly changing. And it's exciting to discover something interesting that I didn't even know I wanted. Prices are usually less that $2. Plus, if I pick up a dud, I can get rid of it and not feel cheated out of any significant amount of money.

What treasures I have found! Right after reading Their Eyes Were Watching God for January book group, I found a pristine copy for 50 cents. I snatched it up. I have found some great collections of feminist writings, an edited book of women's autobiographical writings, and some great novels.

On Saturday, I took the opportunity to drop some bags off by myself--it's become harder to browse with baby Z who likes to throw books from the shelves willy nilly. I spent 20 or so minutes and came away with these titles, all for $8 or so:

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf--hardback, looks like it has hardly been cracked open
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood--an old school paperback copy, perfect for taking on vacation
The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig--my mom read this book and loved it and I have been wanting to read something by him for a while now. A brand new hardback.
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner--another one that's been on my list for a while now
From This Day Forward by Cokie and Steve Roberts. Another hardback in perfect condition. Although I have this on paperback on my shelf, I couldn't pass it up. I just need to find someone who can appreciate it.
Magyk--Septimus Heap Volume 1. For MJ.
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. Another one for the kid book shelf.

My to-read shelf is almost completely full though. I've got to stop buying these books! But, they are so alluring with their pretty faces and the unknown stories beneath their covers...

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With Kindle, Can You Tell It’s Proust?

From the NYTimes

Another reason that I don't like Kindles. How can I see what other people are reading?? It's my favorite snobby spy activity. What can I deduce about someone from their reading material? I do it at the gym, the doctor's office, and on vacation.

Some of my favorite quotations from the article:

The practice of judging people by the covers of their books is old and time-honored. And the Kindle, which looks kind of like a giant white calculator, is the technology equivalent of a plain brown wrapper.

But for the purpose of sizing up a stranger from afar, perhaps the biggest problem with Kindle or its kin is the camouflage factor: when no one can tell what you’re reading, how can you make it clear that you’re poring over the new Lincoln biography as opposed to, say, “He’s Just Not That Into You”?

Michael Silverblatt, host of the weekly public radio show “Bookworm,” uses the term “literary desire” to describe the attraction that comes with seeing a stranger reading your favorite book or author. “When I was a teenager waiting in line for a film showing at the Museum of Modern Art and someone was carrying a book I loved, I would start to have fantasies about being best friends or lovers with that person,” he said.

Ah, I can relate to that last bit. If I saw someone reading one of five or so books, I would immediately introduce myself and set up a lunch. Because, of course, this person would be my new best friend.

(Hmm. That would be a great tool on GoodReads. Each person can select five books, or a cluster of a certain kind of book. Their favorite, central-to-my-identity books. If someone within 50 miles of your geographic location marks it as "read" and has given it 4 or 5 stars, they I am notified by email.)

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Park Clean Up Day

We had a great time Saturday morning going to a nearby park to pick up garbage. Designed to correspond with Earth Day, it was part of a local effort dedicated to cleaning up our parks and lake areas. It helped that the park was remarkably free of trash, so that any discovery was reason for excitement and so that it didn't take us long to finish the job. The mechanical claw also made the pick-up exciting. Plus, we got to stay and play afterwards.

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Baby hurricane

Baby Z is almost 14 months old. He's still not walking--he doesn't seem to really care much about it. That's fine with me, because he's still more than enough to handle. He recently gave up his morning nap which gives him plenty of time to explore around the house and pull apart anything he can find. We've babyproofed the most dangerous or annoying to clean up cabinets, but that still leaves plenty of grist for discovery. He mostly likes to stay close to me, but one day last week, he was quite content to travel through the house by himself, leaving a trail of disaster in his wake.

He always gets into the cupboards in my bathroom and pulls out an old box of tampons. I don't know if it's the rustling wrapper that he likes, but I've found them all over the house. Once he latches onto something he likes, he is loathe to give it up. The bathroom is also a great place for cotton balls, q-tips, and foam rollers for MJ's hair.

Last week when I was in the kitchen, he managed to scatter plastic bags, napkins, individual hot chocolate packets, and onions, leaving the skins all over the place.

He pulls books off the shelves, unrolls the toilet paper, and is getting tall enough to reach up to tables and desks to pull things down.

When does this stage end???

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A new word in the Lost lexicon. Describes one who is infatuated with Daniel Faraday. He's back, baby! He's back!
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

He is Risen!

After feeling frustrated that our ward would not get to have its own Easter service today due to a big regional conference, I decided to take in an early service at another church. A lot of the VU clan is in town, and I was lucky that Jason & Becca got to stay at our house due to overflow of family at Dan & Marie's. So, Becca and I left Jason and AJ in charge of getting both dinner preparations underway and the kids to church so that we could head up to an amazing music church.

I should have gotten some sense of what their Easter program would be like since they have services every hour starting at 6 am and going to 1 pm. Once we got there, we parked on the street at the direction of the florescent vested police officer since the lot was filled. We walked in and were directed to the balcony--there were probably 300 people in total there and the nave was full. I got goosebumps and squeezed Becca's arm as we walked past the foyer and I noticed the men in choir robes holding trombones.

We had just sat down when chimes pealed out and the pastor called out "He lives! He lives! Shout the glorious word and let it echo around the world. Jesus Christ is Risen!" Then the trumpets and organ joined in a jubilant fanfare, followed by a joyful and vibrant organ introduction to a beloved Easter hymn--Christ the Lord is Risen Today. I could hardly sing for choking back the tears. We were accompanied by organ and brass. What a perfect way to rejoice in the message of hope found in the resurrection.

The sermon was simple and beautiful. focusing on the events of Resurrection morning and its implications for our lives. The pastor began:

The Easter message of Christ's victory over sin and death is at the heart of what we about at (this church). Easter is a season that gives purpose to all that we do in our congregation. Even Christmas, as wondrous and beautiful as it may be, tells only the beginning of the story. Christmas is a season of promise. Easter is a season of fulfillment. The heart of what we teach in our congregation is the story of Easter.

And then, he went on to say:

We know that Jesus is alive, for he comes to share life with us and give it purpose and dignity. He comes calling us by name saying, "Mary, go to my brothers and tell them that I am risen." "Thomas, look at my hands, put your hand in my side." "Peter, do you believe after all your denials? Go and feed my sheep." One by one, Jesus points to us and he enters our lives and he changes them... He is a living Christ who says I have come to be with you always.

The music was amazing. Just incredible. In addition to brass, there was a group of string players. And I cannot forget the amazing organist. The entire service was moving. I am going to return to this church with AJ and the kids on other holy days. It added a spiritual depth and a feeling of gratitude to my Easter.

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Mary Whitmer--Another Witness

I really like teaching primary. I am having a great time with my class and I have been happy to leave the mainstream adult classes in exchange for hanging out with 10 and 11 year olds. One of my students--L-- is a budding feminist. Or at the least, she has become increasingly conscious of differences between men and women in the church. And she often asks questions about it. In a recent lesson about the restoration of the priesthood, she asked "so, if men get the priesthood, what do women get?" (very difficult conversation ensues, I'm trying to think of something to say while at the same time squelching the comments from the kid in the back of the room saying "they get to cook dinner!)

In another lesson on the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, I was puzzling over why none of the witnesses were women. It didn't seem like there was any divine reason why women couldn't have witnessed the plates--why not let Emma have a reward for her hard earned faith? I suppose in this time period--the late 1820's-- testimonies coming from women would not have carried the same legitimacy and weight as those coming from men. And as it turned out, the first three witnesses were heavily involved in the translation from the start and actually requested to be witnesses. But, still...

During the lesson, L asked if there were any women who were witnesses. I was happy to have thought about it a bit before the question came up, and even happier that the lesson manual contained the story of Mary Whitmer. Joseph, Emma, and Oliver Cowdery were staying in the Whitmer home during some of the translation, and the bulk of the extra housework fell on Mary. (To which L replied a bit caustically, "Why couldn't the men help?) According to the manual, Mary did all the extra work without complaining, and felt like it was her contribution to the work. She was glad to do it, despite her exhaustion. One day, when she was out milking the cow, a man carrying a knapsack came and showed her the gold plates.

Here is an account of this experience written by one of her grandchildren:

I have heard my grandmother (Mary Musselman Whitmer) say on several occasions that she was shown the plates of the Book of Mormon by a holy angel, whom she always called Brother Nephi. (She undoubtedly refers to Moroni, the angel who had the plates in charge.) It was at the time, she said, when the translation was going on at the house of the elder Peter Whitmer, her husband. Joseph Smith with his wife and Oliver Cowdery, whom David Whitmer a short time previous had brought up from Harmony, Pennsylvania, were all boarding with the Whitmers, and my grandmother in having so many extra persons to care for, besides her own large household, was often overloaded with work to such an extent that she felt it to be quite a burden. One evening, when (after having done her usual day's work in the house) she went to the barn to milk the cows, she met a stranger carrying something on his back that looked like a knapsack. At first she was a little afraid of him, but when he spoke to her in a kind, friendly tone and began to explain to her the nature of the work which was going on in her house, she was filled with inexpressible joy and satisfaction. He then untied his knapsack and showed her a bundle of plates, which in size and appearance corresponded with the description subsequently given by the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. This strange person turned the leaves of the book of plates over, leaf after leaf, and also showed her the engravings upon them; after which he told her to be patient and faithful in bearing her burden a little longer, promising that if she would do so, she should be blessed; and her reward would be sure, if she proved faithful to the end. The personage then suddenly vanished with the plates, and where he went, she could not tell. From that moment my grandmother was enabled to perform her household duties with comparative ease, and she felt no more inclination to murmur because her lot was hard. I knew my grandmother to be a good, noble and truthful woman, and I have not the least doubt of her statement in regard to seeing the plates being strictly true. She was a strong believer in the Book of Mormon until the day of her death.

Interesting that the manual version makes the point that she never complained with the extra work before the visitation by Moroni, while this account above seems to suggest that seeing Moroni helped her take up her work without complaining.

Why haven't I heard this story before?? I found a picture of their farm, but no picture of her. However, in 1997, the church made a film about this experience, but they don't sell it. I found a copy on Amazon. Hmm. Maybe I'll have to get it and show it to my class. It also includes a portrait of Eliza R. Snow.

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Spring Break Over

And it ended with snow on the ground this morning. I am crossing my fingers that next week, Easter will be nice enough that we can have an egg hunt outside. The first year we were here, there was no snow on the ground, but it was probably -10 with the wind chill. I sat in the van and watched the kids scramble to get their eggs and then jump back inside. The second year, the whole neighborhood wore their snow pants, boots, mittens, hats, and scarves to search for eggs since there was eight inches of snow on the ground. Please, let there be some semblance of spring this year! The forecast as of now says--yippee!--52 and partly cloudy. End aside on weather.

Ok, so spring break.

Monday: Children's Museum--the kids loved it, traffic was good getting home, we had a great time. A 5-star day.

Tuesday: We went to storytime at the library which for some reason MJ and T weren't too interested in, then went to McDonalds (I know. Terrible, right? These trips are very limited.) for lunch and the playcenter, which was the main draw. Then, we had naptime for baby Z and afterwards, MJ had dance. A so-so day. I give it 3.5 stars.

Wednesday: This was our stay at home day and laundry day. T had come up with the idea of opening a restaurant and so he and MJ had spent a lot of time working on menus and thinking up ideas for it. We got new batteries in the cash register, planned the menu, and hung a sign for MJ and T's Chinese Charm, featuring Pan-Asian cuisine. But, boy, did I wake up on the wrong side of the bed. I hadn't slept well and was in a foul mood. They got to watch a lot of tv, but the restaurant did open for business, serving sushi, dumplings, orange chicken, and edamame. Our neighbors came over and Sam, 6 years old, sweetly told me (head chef) it was the best restaurant he had ever been too. This from a very picky eater who only had dumplings. But, still, the day (from my emotional standpoint) was terrible. 1 star. Oh, but Lost was on that night, which provided some redemption. Maybe 1.5-2 stars?

Thursday: Yeah! AJ took the day off and I stayed home with baby Z while he, MJ, and T went to a water park. Unfortunately, I had another terrible night sleeping and so baby Z and I napped together. I hate squandering alone time by sleeping, but I needed it. I still wasn't feeling great, but at least my poor kids didn't have to suffer. They had a great time, and we got pizza for dinner. 3 stars.

Friday: After lunch and baby Z's nap, I took the kids to the Mill City Museum and they did well and had a great time. 4 stars. I had no idea that Minneapolis used to be the top producer of flour in the world.

Tomorrow, it's back to school, back to routine. But, it's really only a matter of a short amount of time until summer is upon us. I've been looking at summer activities and registered MJ and T for a few things.

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