Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sweet Corn

Finally, finally, we are getting some sweet corn. I heard on the radio today that we've had over 17 inches of rain in June and July, and that sums up the reason for the very late crop.

I always buy my sweet corn from the little stand in the Lutheran church parking lot, less than a block from my house. The stand is actually run by Grace United Methodist Church. They grow the corn on their church lot, and then it is sold to raise funds for their various benevolent endeavors. The Lutherans allow them to use this primo spot for their stand.

Here's how they do it. On Sunday morning there is a sign-up sheet at church where members of the congregation can pick 2-hour time-slots to volunteer to sell the corn at one of two locations; either in their own church parking lot in Urbana, or at the one near my house. Then every morning, at 6am, enough corn is picked to fill two trailers. Those are then towed into place by 8am, where they sit all day, manned by the volunteers, until the corn is sold. Usually, it sells out, but when it doesn't, the extra is taken to the T.I.M.E.S. Center homeless shelter. The next day they start over with more freshly picked corn. This year it is selling for $5/dozen.

This is the only sweet corn we eat. I don't like corn that has been sitting around in a store; I like it right out of the field. I got spoiled when I was in college and I worked one summer for Illinois Foundation Seed. We were allowed to pick some fresh for our family at the end of every work day, and I took full advantage of that. Mmmm! Nothing is better than fresh Illini Supersweet corn, loaded with butter and salt and pepper!

Here's where the money goes:

Crisis nursery
Center For Women In Transition
Eastern Illinois Food Bank
Restoration Urban Ministries
T.I.M.E.S. Center
Jesus Is The Way Prison Ministries
GUMC Food Pantry
Empty Tomb
Cunningham Children's Home

Methodist Agencies-
Henderson Settlement-Frakes, KY
Midwest Mission Distribution Center
Liberia District Partnership
Czech Partnership

Other Non-Profit Agencies-
Habitat for Humanity
Kaz Apletrree House
Society of St. Andrew

Mission Support-
Miguel Arenas Herrea, Uruguay
Laptop Computers for Liberian Missionaries

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Well, At Least That's Over

Thirteen days. That's not so bad. In fact, I think it might be some kind of record! I think the hatch gizmo they installed means they won't have to dig it all up next time, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Note the (almost completely dead) sedum. And, what you can't see, is that the concrete guys cleaned off their chute by scraping all the excess into the lawn.

But it only took thirteen days.

Bono Speaking Truth To Power-The Church And The AIDS Crisis

If you liked yesterday's clip, I have to tell you, this is the one I find really powerful.
My aplogies for the for the sound being out of sync with the video, but it's well worth the time to listen to it anyway.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bono Tells It Like It Is

The thing I love about Bono is not his music, although that's great stuff. No, what I love about Bono is his truthfulness. If you ask him a question, you may not get a pretty answer, but you will get the truth:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Warren Report (No, not that Warren Report!)

We've just returned from a weekend trip to visit our oldest son in NE Ohio. What a great time!

Friday we spent a beautiful summer evening at Jacobs, er, Progressive Field, watching the Indians beat the Twins, while eating very expensive hot dogs and observing with amusement the gaggle of eighth-grade girls in front of us as they never watched a minute of the game.

Saturday, at Matt's request, I gave him a lesson in pruning shrubs. He has a beautiful 1925 Craftsman-style home, with a mature landscape. He had been making the mistake of most new gardeners, by not pruning diligently enough. It's very hard to learn the importance of really pruning aggressively to maintain older shrubs. He had been avoiding it, or taking too little off, and now things were looking a bit wild. Fortunately, he owned the right tools, and I was able to give him the basic knowledge he needed to bring things back to their natural shape, within the the boundaries of size that he need to stick with. It was hot work, but by the end of the morning things were looking much better, and there was quite a brush pile for him to burn this fall.

This morning, we attended the church where he is the pastor. He has been there 3 1/2yrs. Since I also work Sundays, we have only been able to attend there about six times since he accepted his call there. That has given us a kind of snapshot record of the way this church has been changing.

When Matt first took this pastorate, the church had a superficial appearance of health, although the congregation was worried that they were in a slow decline. The first services we attended were okay, but there was a slightly depressive feel. The Sanctuary was a very large, dark room. People sat rather far apart, scattered widely over a room designed for a much larger group. There were subsets of folks that didn't interact with other subsets of folks. The singing was minimal. That was hard for us, because our home church people are an ardent bunch of hymn-singers!

The last two times we've been out there, though, there is a real change. People are friendlier to each other before and after the service. The worship time is livelier. The prayer is led by multiple people, and congregants are participating much more in that, as well. There are new faces, and many of those are youngster, brought by their friends. One young boy eagerly told me that he would be baptized soon. The prayer requests are not just for the sick, but for wayward children, unemployed members, deliverance from addictions. These requests are so heartfelt and so humbly and unashamedly made, and there is such a sense of faith in prayer!

At one point, Matt asked if anyone had anything to announce. Several did, and then I felt prompted to timidly raise my hand. Matt gave me the chance to speak. I told the congregation that our church has Matt and the Warren church listed to be prayed for every week in our prayer bulletin. I told them that a noon group prays for them on Monday, the staff prays for them on Tuesday, and the choir prays for them on Wednesday. Behind me, a lady said, with great conviction, "So that's why we're still here!" The congregation clapped.

You see, there aren't as many of them as there were three years ago. That's never what a pastor wants to see happen! Our American ideal of success tells us that a church should be growing numerically, if the pastor is successful.

But that is our Standard of Measurement, not the Kingdom of Heaven's. By Kingdom standards, this church has had a mustard seed revolution. After no baptisms for years, there have been many, and several more coming up. A lay man has been licenced to preach. Young people are dragging their parents to church, and the parents are meeting Christ. There have even been a few genuine miracles that have occurred. Adults are eagerly meeting to study the Bible, which, for many, is a first. The area minister has held this little church up as the first one involved in the church renewal process in his area to achieve the status of a truly missional congregation.

They just needed a good pruning, back to green wood. Now, they are ready to grow!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Our Renaissance Man

Twenty-seven years ago tomorrow, on a surprisingly cool cloudy day for July, I woke up at the crack of dawn, with the first hints labor contractions. Pretty soon my two year old was calling from his crib, "Time to get up, Mommy! Go cook!" I got him up and made him his breakfast, letting Mike sleep in a bit, since it was Saturday. When he did finally get up, I told him that we were finally (fourteen days late!) going to have this second baby. We messed around over the course of the morning, took the toddler over to his grandparents, and came back to the house to pack a bag for me. Eventually, I talked Mike into going to the hospital. Good thing! Half an hour later, there was Grant!

Grant is our Renaissance Man.

Like his dad, he drew on every scrap of paper he could find. He became fascinated with scissors (uh-oh!) and carpeted the house with tiny snips of paper from all the many "pop-up books" he determinedly, and, I might add, successfully created as a little boy. He invented toys, and was frustrated only in his inability to mass-market them. He went to an art class every Saturday at the university, from the time he was four until he graduated from high school. Then he attended that same university to major in Art Education, and he became the teacher of the class he had attended as a child! He was hired to teach in the elementary school he had grown up in, where he still works today. I meet families of children all over town who claim him as their favorite teacher, and art as their favorite subject. If you'd like to see some of what he does as a teacher, just pop over here.

From day one, he kicked his little feet perfectly in time to any music we were playing. As a preschooler, he was a dancing fool every time the record player came on. We started him on the piano in second grade, but after two years the piano teacher was in despair; he wasn't bothering to learn to read music, he just played everything by ear! So, we let him give up piano and play trumpet in the school band. Up to his old tricks, he languished at the end of the section because he couldn't sight read the music. One day, he realized that if he switched to the tuba, he could be first chair- because there weren't any other tubas! This time, he invested a bit of time and learned to read the notes on the page, and he got pretty good. He also decided to learn to play my old guitar, by shutting himself up in his bedroom with a teach-yourself-guitar method book, and doggedly practicing. He got an electric (they're sooo much cooler!) and he got good at that, too. He played a mean jazz guitar in the high school jazz band, went out touring every summer in college with a Christian worship band that played at church camps, and wound up serving as a paid musician for a while in a campus church. But, being the creative type, he can't just play other people's music. He composes and records his own as well.

Grant grew late. He entered high school 5ft. even, and 86lbs (he finally grew his senior year, and on into college). I was shaking in my boots for him! I thought those big high school kids would stuff him in a locker every day, but that didn't happen. He was handed a Sousaphone for marching band, and came home pretty frustrated after the first marching practice. See, the problem was, it came down to his knees, and when he marched, his knees would hit it and it would bounce around. We scrounged around and found an old egg-crate mattress pad, and, duct-taping a strip of that around the part of the Sousaphone that rested on his shoulder, we were able to raise it enough to solve that problem. So he didn't quit. Then he looked around for something "manly" to do, to show that despite his size he was someone to be reckoned with. He chose wrestling. Never mind that the smallest weight class was 103lbs, giving him a 17lb disadvantage. Never mind that the smallest singlet they had hung on him like a gunny sack. He wrestled! He lettered three years! He didn't quit. One day I saw a t-shirt with a rampant lion on it and the word "Lionheart". I had to buy it for Grant. It was perfect.

Grant believes in putting his faith into action. Whether it's working with the youth group at church, encouraging the schoolchildren to be charitable, writing and drawing graphic novels that will reference Biblical truths, or rehabbing homes for the needy with Empty Tomb, and organizing groups from the church to help him with that, he wants to act on the servanthood model. The more challenging the setting, the more doggedly he hangs in there. He doesn't quit!

Maybe that's the quality that sets a merely creative person apart from a Renaissance Man.

Happy Birthday, Grant!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


"God works in the world. The best way to understand the connection between divine and natural causes is complementarity. For example, a painting can be described ‘scientifically’ in terms of the distribution of chemicals on a surface, but it can also be described in terms of the plan and intention of the artist. We can have two (or more) descriptions of the same object which do not overlap or contradict in any way; we call them complementary. In the same way, God can be understood as working in the world (by faith: Hebrews 11:3) without conflicting or diminishing any scientific (or rational) knowledge we may have of the same event."

Professor R. J. (Sam) Berry, Professor of Genetics at the University of London.

No Escapism Here

"Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is."- C.S. Lewis

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Stroll-July 20, 2008

Welcome to my garden, for a Sunday Stroll on an extremely hot, muggy July day. The best thing going on in my yard right now is happening in my tall garden (aka the "crazy" garden). Several years ago I read a wonderful book about Monet's garden at Giverney, and was inspired to try to copy that, though of course on a much smaller scale. Monet's garden was actually an experiment in light, and how light was reflected in nature. This was the subject that obsessed him in his painting, and if you've seen much of his work you'll remember all the canvasses he did of water lilies, with the reflections off the water. In the Chicago Art Institute there is a whole wall of canvasses where he painted a haystack at different times of the day, to see how the light changed. His garden was planted purposefully to allow him to experiment like this. He loved tall plants, because he could sit down among them, and look up through them at the sunlight flooding through at various times of the day, or various seasons, and quickly put down paint to capture that ephemeral quality of light.

I am not the painter in the family; I leave that to my husband and my second son, though neither chooses the outdoors for his subject matter. But I do like to sit on the little bench at the back of my tall garden and see how the light is treating my flowers that tower above me. Everything back there is at least shoulder high when I'm standing. Sitting, it becomes a beautiful little haven. At least, until the mosquitoes find me!
Here's the pumpkin update. They've almost doubled in size this week! I can see that the gardener has homed in on about four he thinks might work for competition. Again, the leaves on the vines are about waiste high.

This last one is the biggest by far.

Thanks for strolling with me! To see more strollers, head over to The Quiet Country House.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Back To Bottled Milk, And Helping Others To Boot

As I have continued to look for way to reduce our family's environmental impact, I have been looking a lot at the packaging our everyday groceries and household items come in. I want to reduce the amount of trash we send off to the landfill, sure, but I even would like to reduce the amount of recycling we produce. I try to keep in mind that the first word in "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" is reduce. By purchasing fewer disposable items to begin with, and using what we purchase until it is completely worn out/used up, we automatically live more sustainably, with the side benefit of saving lots of money, too!

I found myself making lots of little decisions along these lines this week when I was doing our routine errands. At Walgreens, I went to buy my usual Dove liquid bodywash, and found myself hesitating, thinking about the plastic bottle it comes in. It is recyclable. But plastic is a petroleum based product, and I would like to see us using less of that. Fortunately, I notice for the first time that right under the liquid bodywash there was Dove bar soap that was the same formulation, essentially- mildly exfoliating, etc. I could get that with much less packaging, and it was 6 bars for the same price. So, I chose that. One small change, I know, but they do add up over the course of time.

At the grocery store I again purchased a brand of milk our store has just begun to carry, Heartland Dairy. I first started buying it because it came in returnable glass bottles, like the ones I remember using when I was a kid. I loved that we were not going to have to recycle milk jugs. I also remember milk tasting better from glass bottles. My daughter is the big milk-drinker at our house, and she was initially a little weirded out by the glass bottles. It amazed me to think that she had never actually seen them in her whole life!

One day, as I was eating breakfast, staring at the milk bottle half asleep, I noticed that the logo for Heartland made the letter T look like a cross. Intriguing. I looked more closely. In tiny print at the bottom of the bottle, there was a website listed. I pointed this out to Mike, and he promptly visited the site. It turns out, Heartland Creamery is a business used as part of a ministry for people in recovery. This ministry has several businesses, all designed to give employment to people who need to learn a positive work ethic and gain an excellent reference for the future. A young man we know who grew up near this ministry says they are doing wonderful things for people who need help recovering from addictions.

So, now I feel even better about my change to returnable bottles! To really clinch the deal, they produce hormone-free products.

If you would like to see more about the other things this ministry does, you can go to Heartland Ministries. If you live in the Midwest, I would like to highly encourage you to look for Heartland products in your store. Returning the bottles has not been a hassle at all, and you could be helping some people who need a hand up.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Think On These Things

In the last couple of days, there has been a big discussion going on on another blog about "peak oil". In other words, have we used up all the easily acquired oil, and will our world economic system collapse because we don't know how to live without it?

I like a little light summer reading, so I've been following the conversation. I don't have a strong opinion about peak oil, other than that it is a finite (at some point) resource and when we use it we cause pollution. I don't see why I personally need to know any more than that. What has surprised me, though, is the number of people who really believe that civilization will disappear and we will all have to survive by the skin of our teeth, fending off rioting masses of thugs who will want to break into our homes and steal our food. When I tried to reassure one young woman that just because she is medically fragile doesn't mean she will be left to die in some survival-of-the-fittest Apocalypse, someone else gave me the business about being unrealistic about how kind and caring the American public is.

Wow. If I read enough of that kind of stuff, I may just begin to think that way myself.

Therein lies the key. What are you putting in your head? Because what you put in is what you become. If you spend your day thinking about a scary future, or how nasty people really are, or who is out to get you, well, how can you be hopeful at all? I'm not talking about having your head in the sand about real problems that need solutions, or blissfully continuing down a selfish path that will truly harm future generations. I'm talking about hope.

One of my favorite verses from the Bible says "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things." (Philippians 4:8) It falls into that category of "taking every thought captive for Christ", practicing the discipline of positive thought, through the power of the Holy Spirit. That's not thinking about things that are false, but comforting ("oh, we'll never run out of oil"), because the verse states clearly that we should think about what is true. It's not sending "positive thoughts" out into the universe in the hope that they will somehow change reality. No. It's looking at what is very, very real, but very, very good, and focusing on that. That's how we can see God working. That's how we can find hope minute by minute.

So, I'm going to start a new post label category: Think On These Things. When I find something true, noble, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy, I'm going to post it and label it with that label. Because there is a lot of that out there. Because God is working, all around us. Because there is hope.

Here's something to start with:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What Gives Us Our Perspective On Other Believers?

"What unifies the church is the gospel. What defines the gospel is the Bible. What interprets the Bible correctly is a hermeneutic centered on Jesus Christ crucified, the all-sufficient Savior of sinners, who gives himself away on terms of radical grace to all alike. What proves that that gospel hermeneutic has captured our hearts is that we are not looking down on other believers but lifting them up, not seeing ourselves as better but grateful for their contribution to the cause, not standing aloof but embracing them freely, not wishing they would become like us but serving them in love (Galatians 5:13). "

Ray Ortlund at Christ Is Deeper Still

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Possible Cure For Boredom

I'm seriously thinking of creating a little fun in my yard by designing one of these. Go search YouTube. Who knew there is a whole subculture of folks doing this!

Sunday Stroll-July 13, 2008

For my Sunday Stroll, I could show you my climbing rose, covered with Japanese beetles, but I won't. I could show you my hollyhocks, covered with Japanese beetles, but I won't. So, I'll show you the oak leaf hydrangeas again. The beetles don't like them, thank goodness. They are starting to lose the bright green-tinted white color they start off with, and fading to a beige-y pink that is very nice. I love that the blossoms last so long on these shrubs. Planting them was the best landscaping decision I ever made.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I am trying to make sure my yard is wild-life friendly. I've been checking things off of the list of requirements put out by the National Wildlife Federation for becoming an officially sanctioned wildlife landscape. Mostly, it involves making sure there is water, cover, food sources, and a diversity of plantings to attract the largest number of birds, butterflies, and small mammals.

Well, honestly, I'm not working too hard on the small mammal part. Seems like we've always had those in abundance. We're a regular highway interchange for squirrels, and I wasn't about to build the squirrel equivalent of a Cracker Barrel here. We also are apparently the favorite nightspot for possums, and when they've really been partying hard, they knock over our trash cans. There is also at least one raccoon that scares the little white socks right off our guard-kitties. I think he is the one working his way through this old stump. We left the stump as an inexpensive seating option out in the shady part of the yard, and various children used to sit on it to think deep thoughts. I suppose we can give it up to the 'coon, now, since the kids are grown.

I promised to keep you posted on the pumpkins being grown across the street. They're going gang-busters this week, since we had 3.6 inches of rain in five days on our block. Here are a couple of the little ones:

This one is bigger than any we ever bought for the family at Halloween:

Here, you can see the arrangement the gardener made to shade one. He must think this one has real competitive possibilities. If it is not shaded to keep the skin soft, it will grown so fast that it will split. It was so muddy, I didn't want to kneel to give a better perspective. The leaves on the pumpkin plants are about waist high, if that gives you some idea.

That's it for today. If you want to check in on the other Strollers, pop over to The Quiet Country House.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Reassurance For An Introvert

I am, by nature, a reader, analyzer, list maker, outliner-of-thoughts. Can't help myself. As I think, I write. Then I re-think. Then I re-write. I can hone and fine tune ad inifinitum, but, of course there comes a time when I must get up and go forth and do.

Occasionally someone is surprised that I don't work full time (though I do have two part time jobs). Or, they will look at the Music Director's job and say, "What exactly does she do? How could that job take 15+ hours a week?" (Usually, this thought is voiced by a congregant who is looking at the bottom-line expenses of ministry.) While I am truly on the job 15+ hours a week, and most of that at the church, there is a lot of thinking, researching, and listening to both people and music, that helps me formulate the purposeful actions of my ministry. I don't want to just do things because they have always been done that way, nor do I want to make changes flippantly. I want to know why, from a theological standpoint, we do everything we do. If there is no discernible reason, I feel comfortable questioning the value of that particular activity. I think this is the way my Creator made me, and possibly why he has placed me where he has. Those who operate differently than I do may struggle to appreciate my work-style, but I have finally come to terms with it.

Thus, I was blessed to find this quote at Ray Ortlund's blog Christ Is Deeper Still:

"'Be babes in evil, but in thinking be mature' (1 Cor. 14:20). It is not easy to be a leader of people who can out-think you. A leader must be one who, when he sees a set of circumstances, thinks about it. He sits down with pad and pencil and doodles and writes and creates. He tests all things with his mind and holds fast to what is good (1 Thess. 5:21). He is critical in the best sense of the word, that is, not gullible or faddish or trendy. He weighs things and considers pros and cons and always has a significant rationale for the decisions that he makes. Careful and rigorous thought is not contrary to a reliance on prayer and divine revelation. The apostle Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7, 'Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything.' In other words, God's way of imparting to us insight is not to short-circuit the intellectual process."

John Piper, "Marks of a Spiritual Leader," #7, A Hard Thinker

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday Stroll-July 6, 2008

I am really enjoying the weekly Sunday Stroll that gets me out and about, looking around my yard. Today was one of those bright, windy, hot and hazy days that we get so often this time of year. Though it's beautiful now, I think we are in for some rain later, so I thought I'd better get my pictures before the storms roll in.

In the front yard I found this sweet little nest on the ground beneath the tulip poplar. No signs of nestlings or broken shells, so I'm not sure it's been any one's home yet, thank goodness. If anyone thinks they know what sort of bird made this, please let me know. I'm sure today's breezes brought it down.

Again, the wind and sun were playing havoc with my limited photographic skills, but I do have more of my favorite day lillies blooming, with one random orange fellow mixing into the yellow. The "Autumn Joy" sedum is starting to bud nicely, too.

Now, I'm going to cheat, and take you directly across the street to the wonderful garden we can see from all our front windows. This lot has been a garden for about thirty-five years. It's on it's third owner, but all have had fabulous vegetable plots, and have very kindly planted flowers in the row by the street, so it always looks beautiful. Besides the veggies, there are berry canes and a couple of miniature fruit trees.
However, the highlight of this garden is the fact that this owner is a competitive pumpkin grower. His main purpose in purchasing the lot was to find a good sunny location for his hobby. These pumpkins are pampered with foliar fertilizer, water, and the flowers are hand pollinated to work toward the biggest pumpkins possible. From year to year he saves the seed. And, as the pumpkins begin to form he watches over them daily, lifts them onto palettes to protect them from moisture and insects, powders them with anti fungal agents, and even will use scaffolding to support the pumpkins, since they will collapse on themselves and split from their terrific growth rate. I will post pictures as the season goes on so you can see what a process it is. Last year, he took one to the competition that was in the 900lb range! It didn't win, but did compete well. This is just one of the ones he raised last year. The biggest was worthy of Cinderella!

To see what other strollers are finding today, visit Aisling's blog.

Friday, July 4, 2008


The Lord upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand,
satisfying the desire of every living thing.
- Psalm 145:14-16

Indpendence Day Thoughts

Some of the things I learned from our trip to Honduras:

I'm glad I pay taxes for good roads and universal K-12 education..

I can be thankful that it is a rare thing in this country for an ordinary citizen to be shaken down for a bribe by a police officer.

However frustrating our experiences were with the foster-care system when we were foster parents, at least there was a foster care system, and children from broken family systems do not have to live on the streets.

I live in a country where, despite it's faults, we can pretty much trust in the rule of law.

I really love my country. My ancestors were able to flee some very terrible circumstances (one had his tongue cut out for preaching), and they came here to a place where we have flourished and lived in freedom, received educational opportunities, owned farms and businesses, voted for our leaders, sometimes even been those elected leaders. They pioneered, survived depressions, fought in wars, ran stations on the underground railroad, founded and preached in churches. They are the United States that I know. Thanks to them, I am proud of my country.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

In Which I Am Not Amused

I braved the flood-water mosquitoes to pay a little visit to my lovely hollyhocks this afternoon and I saw my first Japanese beetle of the season.

Ask my family what this does to me. They will tell you that I spend an inordinate amount of time patrolling my flower beds with a cup of soapy water, knocking those little buggers into it and reveling in their bubbly demise. They will tell you that I come down stairs in the morning ranting about how much of the flowering crab has been skeletonized by them in the last day. They will tell you that I cruise the Internet looking for something I could spray on them that won't harm the cats or the bees. They will tell you that when I've been especially lucky with my beetle murdering, I crow about how many I offed this time. I will be behaving in this obsessive way for the next month.

I just hate those things. Why didn't they just stay in Japan?

Then, I glanced out my front window and saw a guy from the water company spraying blue paint marks on our front lawn and flagging various spots. I went out and asked him (politely) what all this meant. He answered, "Progress!"

"Progress that involves digging up my yard?"

"Yes, but then the whole neighborhood will have fiber optic cable!" He was so cheerful about it.

Now. I'm not against progress. But in this neighborhood it somehow always means a month or two of jackhammers and trenching machines right in front of our house, and, this time, clearly up into the yard. We can pretty much count on this about every other summer. Can't someone else be the victim of progress just this once?

Anyway, I was feeling pretty darn sorry for myself. Then I opened up the new Newsweek that had just arrived today. And I realized, you know, the Japanese beetles are not as bad as having the Mississippi River running through my living room for days at a time. New fiber optic cable was a sign that our utility infrastructure was indeed progressive, unlike the "health care " system in Malawi, where the per capita spending to keep people alive and well is $12.00 a year. And the pain we are all feeling at the gas pump is pretty bearable compared to Zimbabwe, where the inflation rate is 3 million per cent annually.

So, come on, Joyce; try to find a way to buck up under hardship, will you?