Friday, February 27, 2009

Eyes Open, Conscience Engaged

When there is a news story that someone wants to bury, typically the information is released on Friday afternoon, as was this one, found in the LA Times.

"Reporting from Washington -- Taking another step into the abortion debate, the Obama administration today will move to rescind a controversial rule that allows healthcare workers to deny abortion counseling or other family planning services if doing so would violate their moral beliefs, according to administration officials...

"Last month without official ceremony, Obama overturned a controversial ban on U.S. funding for international aid groups that provide abortion services.

"The move by the Department of Health and Human Services to throw out the conscience rule is being made equally quietly as most of Washington focuses on the president's blockbuster budget plan."

Read the whole story. This original ruling was supported most strongly by Catholic physicians, pharmacists, and hospitals, who do not want to be forced to counsel women that abortion is an option, or fill prescriptions for the morning after pill.

Just fulfilling my role as a member of the loyal opposition.


Article #1:

I liked my blog-friend Rose's essay on farming and family life in Central Illinois.

Article #2:

There was much discussion this week about the need for dialog about race in the U.S., so this article was interesting to me:

"The real fights within the black community — our internal culture wars — have been over which face we show white America. The legendary battle of ideas between Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois at the dawn of the 20th century was also a battle over masks: should we seem humble and modest or prideful and outraged? This “mask war” was vicious because group masks are mutually exclusive; each nullifies the other. Can’t be humble and outraged at the same time. One mask had to die so that the other might live. So the battle between Washington and Du Bois was winner-take-all. One man emerged the leader of his race; the other became a symbol of Uncle Tomism. "

This is an fascinating editorial by Shelby Steele that revisits the life of Booker T. Washington, and a debate that I, as a white person, never knew existed.

Article #3:

Finally, I'm having a great time reading the blog posts by Slate's David Plotz, Blogging the Bible. Plotz, attending a bat mizvah for a relative, picked up a Hebrew Bible (Genesis through the Chronicles), and, while thumbing through it, discovered stories he had never learned about in Hebrew school. He decided to actually read the Hebrew Bible, and blog about what he found there. The perspective is Jewish, and refreshing because it is just an ordinary person's gut response to what he reads. Always thought-provoking.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's An Award!!

Judy at My Freezer Is Full has been kind enough to give me an award! This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day.
The rules for this award are as follows:
1. Accept the award, post it on your blog, together with the name of the person that has granted the award and his or her blog link.
2. Pass the award to another (up to) 15 blogs that are worthy of the acknowledgement. Remember to contact each of them to let them know they have been chosen for this award.
There a so many wonderful bloggers out there, and I learn from them every day. There are two that stand out to me for this award, though.
Nan, at Letters From a Hill Farm
Rose, at Prairie Rose's Garden

Monday, February 23, 2009

Our Own Stimulus Package-A Green Bathroom Remodel

Today my main bathroom is being completely gutted. Over the course of the next week, it will be transformed from a very dilapidated and dated original 1961 bathroom into something I'm actually not embarrassed to have a guest see.

I know that right now most people are pulling in their horns financially and building projects are few and far between. We did think hard before committing to the project. Our reasoning went something like this:

1. We've been planning and saving for this project for a long time, and unless something major is encountered, we should be able to complete it for cash.

2. It's not frivolous. That bathroom was truly in bad condition, with sinks and a tub that were so pitted they could not be kept clean, a water-inefficient toilet, a vanity cabinet with the veneer peeling off, medicine cabinets that wouldn't shut all the way, and an old Formica counter top that had been scrubbed so many times the finish was completely worn off. And don't even get me started on the dated colors, etc. I really don't think our home would sell at all without redoing it. We aren't planning to sell, but it's always wise to keep a house, which for most people is a one of their largest assets, in marketable condition.

3. We can keep two terrific remodelers in work, add some sales tax into our local coffers, and help keep our lumber yard, hardware store, and housewares store in business.

4. If we do our research, we could make this room more energy and water-use efficient, as well. For instance, it's a windowless room in the middle of our upstairs. My research led me to plan the instalation of a Solatube sky-light, which will bring daylight in, reducing the need for electric lighting in both the bathroom and, when the door is open, the hallway. We are also getting one of the most water-efficient toilets available (which I found on sale at a bargain-basement price!), as well as a more efficient showerhead and faucets. Even the exhaust fan will be more efficient and much more quiet.

We are also trying to send as little to the landfill as possible. We are reusing the two mirrors- they are really good ones, and new high quality mirrors are expensive. We simply removed them from the front of the old medicine cabinets, and will remount them with a frame around them. The current faucets will be used by a local mission that refurbishes substandard housing because they are only about five years old and in great condition (but won't fit in the pre-drilled holes in the new counter top). All metal items will be taken to a scrap metal yard to be recycled, and we may even get a few bucks for our trouble. All plastic will go into the recycling bin. The old shower curtain will become a drop cloth for painting. The faded old towels will be given to the homeless shelter for the men to use when they shower.

I plan to post on this project again as it finishes, to let you know how these sustainable changes go. Hopefully, I can give you a good idea that you might be able to use if you are undertaking a project like this yourself. I might even get brave enough to post "before and after" photos!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I haven't had a lot of time for reading and posting this week, but here are two things you might find interesting:

Article #1:

This is why I love high school and college sports, despite my disinterest in professional sports.

Article #2:

Bill Mounce posts an absolutely wonderful article on the importance of guarding one's speech, even in e-mail and blogging.

Happy "Real" Birthday, Robin!

When Robin was little, she sometimes had a joint birthday party with her brother, whose special day was only four days earlier. This was confusing to her. She would ask, "Is this my real birthday or my fake birthday?" If it was her real one, she was pretty darned excited, because when you're the fourth kid in the family, you can sometimes get lost in the shuffle.

So today, I just want to make sure she gets a little recognition on her real birthday:

Everyone looks up to you (and not just because you're so tall.) You have that natural something that makes school boards come and beg you to be their band teacher (even when you didn't apply for the job!), their favorite aunt (so willing to be led all over the house by the finger), and lifelong buddy (with good friends you've kept since middle school).

You make us all better for knowing you, Robin. Thanks for being our very best daughter!
Happy birthday!

Friday, February 13, 2009


Article #1:

A 79 year old Chinese lady sends a letter of thanks to Christians all over the world. This one made me cry.

Article #2:

Here's another perspective on Abraham Lincoln, from another reader of "Team of Rivals" We don't really disagree.

Article #3:

Apparently, the public believes that any random sampling of folks from the white pages could do a better job than Congress. This one made me chuckle.

Article #4:

Then again, maybe no one knows what to do. This left me incredulous.

In the end, I think Article #1 is the one I'll choose to focus on.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Facing The End of the World As We Know It

I have so many friends, both blogging friends and "real life" friends, that are anxious now. They are mostly anxious about the economy, but many are also worried about global warming or other ecological problems. The hardest thing for all of us right now is the sense that there isn't much that we can control about our future.

I saw this great little article by John Piper today, and I thought I would share it in hopes that it gives you some peace:

Jesus wants his followers to be free from worry. In Matthew 6:25-34 he gives at least seven arguments designed to take away our anxiety.

One of them lists food and drink and clothing, and then says, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matthew 6:32).

Do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. (vv. 31-32).

Jesus must mean that God’s knowing is accompanied by his desiring to meet our need. He is emphasizing we have a Father. And this Father is better than an earthly father.

I have five children. I love to meet their needs. But my knowing falls short of God’s in at least three ways.

Right now I don’t know where any of them is. I could guess.

*They’re in their homes or at work or school, healthy and safe. But they might be lying on a sidewalk with a heart attack.

*I don’t know what is in their heart at any given moment. I can guess from time to time. But they may be feeling some fear or hurt or anger or lust or greed or joy or hope. I can’t see their hearts.

*I don’t know their future. Right now they may seem well and steady. But tomorrow some great sorrow may befall them.

This means I can’t be for them a very strong reason for not worrying. There are things that may be happening to them now or may happen tomorrow that I do not even know about.

But it is totally different with their Father in heaven. He knows everything about them now and tomorrow, inside and out. He sees every need.

Add to that, his huge eagerness to meet their needs (the “much more” of
Matt. 6:30). Add to that his complete ability to do what he is eager to do (he feeds billions of birds hourly, Matt. 6:26).

So join me and my children in trusting the promise of Jesus to meet our needs. That’s what Jesus is calling for when he says, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”

Monday, February 9, 2009

Living With Lincoln

"Lincoln the Lawyer", by Laredo Taft, located in Carle Park, Urbana, IL

Just in time for the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, I've finished reading "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It's a long book, and I spent the better part of a month reading it. It is absolutely worth the time, and I would rank it among the very best of the biographies and histories I have read. I loved Carl Sandburg's poetic Lincoln biography. This is totally different, in that Goodwin is essentially focused on a character study not only of Lincoln, but the men he chose to serve in his cabinet. It is a thesis on leadership.

Here's the thing: I still feel immersed in this book; I still feel I am being shaped by what Goodwin revealed about these men. I feel, more than ever, that my own character will be formed by reflecting on the character of Lincoln. I'm convinced that this one individual is the greatest leader this nation has had so far.

Marker outside the Champaign County Courthouse

I say that I feel this "more than ever", because, to some degree, like many native Central Illinoisians, Lincoln has always been part of my life. Just as multi-generational New Englanders surely feel the presence and influence of those early Puritan settlers as they look around their towns, we can hardly go more than a few miles without a recognition, in some way, that Abraham Lincoln was present in our county courthouses, boarding in homes and taverns all over the area while he rode the circuit, debating Stephen Douglas at our fairgrounds, and giving campaign speeches from the back of a rail car at every little whistle-stop in the middle of the prairie.

I'm sure my fiery abolitionist ancestors here in Champaign County must have been present when he spoke at the courthouse that sits just three miles across town from my house. I'm almost certain they would have known him personally, meeting him when he was living in Urbana arguing cases, as there are records stating that they ardently campaigned for him. That family volunteered a father and three sons, as well as two sons-in-law, to fight in the Civil War. Two died; one 16 year-old was captured and sent to Andersonville Prison, from which he escaped and walked back to Illinois. They believed, like Lincoln, in the preservation of the Union and the containment and eventual elimination of slavery, and they acted upon those beliefs. They saw Lincoln as their moral leader.
170 year old coverlet from my Springfield ancestors, hanging in my stairwell

I know that my ancestors in Springfield knew the Lincolns well. My father has, stored somewhere safe, a note from a very young Abe Lincoln that is an IOU to my great-great-great grandfather for spotting him the cost of some postage. Later, when Lincoln was a lawyer in Springfield, he was a near neighbor and friend with my family, and they socialized frequently, and wrote letters when separated. I grew up being told of this relationship. My family donated the land on which Lincoln's Tomb is located, as a gesture of honor to their friend.

Abraham Lincoln isn't held up as a great man because he "just happened" to be president during the Civil War. Sesession occured between his election and his inauguration in part because he was elected, because of who he was and what he stood for. No, he is a great man because, despite the bleakest of childhoods, destitute even by frontier standards, he made something of himself, and yet never seemed to become possessed by the desire to become rich. He is great because, with less than one full year of formal schooling, he compulsively self-educated, becoming a lawyer, a congressman, and, after defeating much more highly educated men, president, and yet never seemed to value himself more than he valued others. He is great because, through the testimony of every person who ever met him, it is clear that despite a life in politics, there was never a vindictive bone in his body. He never acted out of pettiness or temper. He remained comfortable with both the commonest people and those at the highest levels of the social order. He respected and loved people with whom he disagreed vehemently. He pondered his major decisions at length, and then, once he made them, never second-guessed himself.

I'm sure that I have never met or known of a person like that in this day and time. The other great men of his time, despite tremendous accomplishments, simply were never his equals, and they readily admitted that fact.

One of the hardest things about reading "Team of Rivals" was knowing what was coming at the end. Throughout the book, admiration and love for Lincoln grow in the reader; but he's going to be assassinated. You know that. When it comes, it is still stunning, staggering.

Read this profound book about this unparalleled life. Surely there isn't any American whose life is more suitable for pondering.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday Stroll-February 8, 2009

This was my first Sunday Stroll in several weeks, and the sun was beckoning!
The mounds of snow that built up along our driveway over the last five weeks are all but gone. This is the third, and predicted to be the last, day of our January, er, February thaw.
The ground is still frozen rock-hard, but the snow is mostly to be found in the shadows.
We are entering the prime time of year for tree pruning, and this year we'll have to clean up the damage we received from the three big ice storms we had. The ragged breaks will have to be pruned back to the branch collars, and all that big mound of downed limbs will need to be cut up and hauled to the yard-waste recycling site.

I would like to give a shout-out to this wonderful shrub, the inkberry holly. I have several in my yard, and they are so beautiful and hardy I'm tempted to plant more. They are native to the area, and despite a long spell of single-digit weather they show no sign of "freezer burn", nor did they snap and break in the ice. Their leaves have remained a lovely glossy deep green through the whole winter. In summer, they look fresh no matter if we're having a flood or a drought. I like to keep mine pruned in a loose, natural shape, but some people clip them like boxwood and create a much denser look. If you're looking for a carefree native, the inkberry is my recommendation!

We're headed into the more interesting time of year for strolling. To see who else was tempted out by the 40 degree weather, go to The Quiet Country House.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Article #1

"Disney's announcement that it was abandoning the Chronicles of Narnia series has disheartened many fans around the world, but it may be too soon to give up hope on the series, especially with news that 20th Century Fox plans to pick up where Disney left off. By going back to the drawing board and learning from key mistakes of the past, the series can still be saved, but it will be a difficult and painful road."

This was a very interesting article by Mark Jacobs about the challenge of producing movies that are true to C.S. Lewis, and true to the intended audiences as well.

Article #2:

How's the new president doing so far?

Article #3:

"The market does not drive scientists, thinkers, or governments to do the right things. Only by paying attention and making people care can we make as much progress as we need to."

Bill Gates presses forward with malaria relief work, and challenges others in the busness world to rethink their priorities.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Just Trying to Wrap My Head Around This

* The Marshall Plan cost $12.7 billion ($115.3 billion, adjusted for inflation)
* The space race cost $36.4 billion ($237 billion with inflation)
* The Korean War cost $54 billion ($454 billion with inflation)
* The New Deal cost $32 billion (estimated; $500 billion with inflation)
* The invasion of Iraq cost $551 billion ($597 billion with inflation)
* The Vietnam War cost $111 billion ($698 billion with inflation)

So, the total cost of the Marshall Plan, the Korean War, and the New Deal—using all figures adjusted for inflation—is less than that of the current economic stimulus package. That’s how much $1.1 trillion is. (HT:Amanda)


If you collected a $1 million per day, every day from the birth of Christ, in 2009 you'd only be about 3/4 of the way to a trillion.

If you got $1 every second, it would take almost 32,000 years to get to a trillion.

If you stacked a trillion dollar bills on top of each other, it would go 68,000 miles into space--1/3 of the way to the moon.

If you took 100-dollar bills and put them side to side, it would circle the equator 38.9 times


1.1 trillion dollars (1,100,000,000,000 dollars) could build 16.6 million Habitat For Humanity houses.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

In the Bleak Midwinter

A couple of weeks ago, housebound by some terrible weather and feeling a little stupefied by the lack of sunlight, I remember thinking "I feel like nothing changes. I'm tired of everything-weather, house, yard, job, clothes- you name it!" I posted my FaceBook status: "Ready for a trip to the Bahamas, but don't think that will be happening any time soon." In a running joke with my husband, we keep track of the days when the windchill is below zero, issuing "Frozen Booger Alerts". This winter has been a doozey! Fourteen alerts so far.

Do you ever feel that it's harder to do the same thing day in and day out, than to do something stressful and different all the time? I think persevering, when there is no adrenalin rush, no sense of urgency, no variety of any kind, is the most difficult kind of endurance to pursue.

I don't get like that very often, but that day I let myself wallow in the gloom for a few hours. Then I gave myself a good shake. What was so terrible about being precisely where I was? I needed to quit being such a slug.

Since then, here's what has happened: we finally started the bathroom remodelling job for which we've been saving and planning a long time (more on that in another post); I've found about 30 of my college friends through FaceBook, and we are going to have a reunion in February; and, we've been blessed with a new grandson, who we will get to see for the first time next week!

That's a lot! I thrive on projects, the more complicated the better, and that bathroom remodel is definitely going to take a lot of attention. The college girl friends have been a constant source of amusement; I so look forward to opening my laptop every day and seeing who has written me. The reunion dinner will be a blast. And the grandson! How can you beat that for a positive change in one's life?

All of this is to say, if your feeling stuck, just wait a bit. Things change. Good stuff happens. Spring will come soon!