Wednesday, October 22, 2014

books I have loved

  1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis: I first read them when I was 13. I finished all seven in three days because I couldn’t stop reading them. They were the first fantasy books I read, and I’ve loved fantasy ever since.
  2. The Shield Ring by Rosemary Sutcliff: It made me fall in love with British history.
  3. Byzantium by Stephen Lawhead: It wasn’t the book so much as the fact that it was the first book I read in college just for fun. I’d gotten so busy I’d forgotten to read just for myself. It was the end of my first semester, during finals week when I picked it up at the library and realized that it really helped my stress levels to lose myself in a book. After that I read books just for fun every finals week.
  4. Harry Potter by J K Rowling: I started reading these in 2004. They are still my favorite books. I could write a lot about them. Actually I did once, here:
  5. For the Time Being by Annie Dillard: Growing up as a Christian, you hear that it’s okay to question your faith. This woman does it properly.
  6. Godric by Frederick Buechner: Best told story of God’s grace working through a broken person that I have ever read. This book saves me from feeling like I need to be perfect.
  7. John Donne’s Poetry: Not really a book, but he made me realize just how much I LOVE poetry. I thought I had found my favorite poet until I discovered Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
  8. Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor: Her dark, American gothic stories introduced me to what truly outstanding Christian writing can be. Here is the New Georgia Encyclopedia’s introduction to her: ‘Flannery O'Connor is considered one of America's greatest fiction writers and one of the strongest apologists for Roman Catholicism in the twentieth century. Born of the marriage of two of Georgia's oldest Catholic families, O'Connor was a devout believer whose small but impressive body of fiction presents the soul's struggle with what she called the "stinking mad shadow of Jesus."’ I love pretty much everything that she wrote / said.
  9. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. It’s just a great story about a preacher and his family, and I love the writing style.

      Thursday, May 16, 2013


      A startled feeling as I first see my Grandma. It really does look like she is just asleep.

      Closer up, the first thing I notice are her Steelers earrings, placed in holes that I have always thought are low and forward on her longer lobes.

      Her face looks as I remember it – nose sharp, cheeks wrinkled, lips that are slightly turned down now that there is no more laughter or smiles to lift them. Her hair white and nicely curled. Her glasses with the diamonds on the sides. Classically beautiful, even in old age.

      She wears a floral shirt that has fallish colors – browns and maroons. And lying on her chest is a necklace that says Grandma and has all of her grandkids’ birthstones on it. My aunt says that my grandma must have ordered that necklace herself since no one can remember giving it to her. The green of my peridot makes me tear up, makes me feel that she thought about me, about all of her grandkids, a lot.

      She is wearing a Pirates watch. I remember hearing something about the Pittsburgh Pirates just a few weeks ago and thinking instantly of my grandma and the time she was watching a game and said about a player, “That’s my boy.” I don’t even remember who she was talking about, but she told me about him and his career.

      The only thing that looks unnatural about her is her hands. The color on them is too smooth, too monotone. Her hands have been dappled for years now, and her fingers would hang at a weird angle when she would clench her hands together. There is also a light, natural polish on her fingernails, but I don’t remember the last time I saw her with polished nails.

      Everyone asks my uncle how he is doing. He's the one who spent the most time with my grandma. He's the quietest of her kids. My dad says he's like his dad. 

      My dad asks me how his mom looks. I tell him about the hands. He just says that in the last few weeks her hands got really bad, blackened.

      I ask him what he thinks, and he says she looks nice, like herself. He said that when his dad died, they made him look about twenty years younger, and it was strange, like he was seeing his dad from years earlier. He said my grandma had been happy about it. She said it made him look like he used to.

      I hear him comment to someone else that it just looks like she should take a breath, and it’s true. Watching her lie there, I get the painful feeling in my chest that you get when you watch someone else holding their breath, or staying underwater for too long. A couple of times throughout the evening, the shadows fall across her just right, and I feel a flash of panic as I think for a split second that I see her breathing.

      My aunt says that my grandma was afraid to die. Not of what happens after death, but the unknown part of dying. My aunt talked to her about going to see Jesus and said that “perfect love casts out fear.” A few moments later, my grandma took her last few breaths and was gone.

      My mom cries when she hugs my grandma’s grandniece, because really, she’s the one who has been taking care of my grandma for years. In fact, a bunch of my grandma’s nieces, nephews, and their children, and even their children show up.

      I remind my youngest brother that, even though we don’t know them, we have a vast extended family in this town, and pretty much everyone who comes through is related to us somehow.

      My dad introduces us to a cousin of his, and says that he looks like my grandma’s dad. The cousin says that their grandpa used to be the talk of the town for how handsome he was, so he’ll take it as a compliment. My dad tells him that the funeral home director just told him that his grandpa had a girlfriend after his wife died. My dad never knew that before.

      I meet another cousin of my dad’s who tells stories about their uncle, how he lost control of a car he was fixing the breaks on and plowed through the yard, over a bunch of newly-planted trees, barely missed the neighbor’s house, and ran into the creek. Later my dad says that that uncle was one of his favorite people, he was quite the character, and he wishes we could have known him.

      People call my dad “Sammy,” and it’s strange to hear it.

      Others talk about my grandma’s will to live and how tenacious she was, how special she was. My dad says, “She was quite a lady.”

      Several people remember Fourth of Julys at her house – which were pretty awesome.

      A hospice care worker tells my aunt how nice my grandma was, how she always remembered her name.
      I hear about the hospice care chaplain, and how my grandma sang with him during the last few weeks.

      My dad stands, after everyone has gone, looking down at his mom, hands clenched behind him, silent and still for long minutes.

      Thursday, February 21, 2013

      Next Steps

      Josh and I are looking at our next move - probably in another year. Right now our plan is to go to Dubai or Abu Dhabi and teach for a couple of years there. Alaska is the other option.

      Somehow Alaska always ends up on our list of options. I was looking at jobs there over the past few days. There is one in Barrow, Alaska. It is the northernmost city in the U.S. In the winter, the sun sets for 65 days. It is below 0 degrees on average 190 days out of the year (if I remember correctly...something like that.) Josh says we should go. And some part of me agrees with him.

      It would be an adventure.

      Wednesday, November 28, 2012


      So, Josh and I just bought this car:

      It's a 1980 AMC Spirit.

      We got it on ebay. This is our second time to buy a vehicle online. The first time turned out pretty well, so hopefully this car will be good too.

      Josh already loves it. He says that he's already had a life and death experience in it, which he sort of did. While driving it home, an 18-wheeler pulled into the lane Josh was in, right alongside him. As I watched Josh swerving into the next lane, and the SUV in that lane swerving onto the shoulder, all I could think was, "It's not even insured yet."

      While some might think this was me worrying about the wrong thing, I think it was more of a testament to my faith in Josh's driving skills (I was pretty sure he'd avoid a complete wreck).

      Anyhow, we were already planning a roadtrip up the east coast for the summer. And by "planning" I mean us saying, "Let's go on a road trip and not plan ahead at all for it." (That's just how we roll.)

      Now we have a nice little sportsy car to do it in.

      Thursday, September 20, 2012

      Student Bubbles

      Today, my pre-AP students were presenting different Shakespeare plays. One of the groups was doing Hamlet. For the scene where Ophelia dies, they created a cardboard lake. Ophelia sank behind it. Then blew soap bubbles. How smart and creative is that?

      Wednesday, September 19, 2012

      Shrunken Heads

      So, today Josh was watching this British tv show called QI. They were talking about the most effective way to weigh your own head. Anyhow, I don't know what they said that made Josh pause and demand that when he dies I carry around his head in a velvet bag.
      I asked him if I could shrink it first, and he said yes. I actually know how to shrink a head (theoretically; I've never actually tried it), but I figured I'd look for instructions, just to be sure. So, in case you are interested, here is a site you can go to for directions: How to Prepare a Shrunken Head.

      You're welcome.

      Thursday, February 2, 2012


      While I was at WalMart a week or so ago, I suddenly decided to have a garden this summer. I picked up seed packages for about ten different vegetables before my excitement began to dwindle away. I remembered that I have never had a garden before, only a few potted tomato plants that didn't do so well. I also figured that I would have to fence off a portion of my yard if I wanted to keep Luna from digging up all of the plants. Furthermore, I reminded myself that I am not very good at things which require the same job to be done multiple times over an extended period of time (like housekeeping, or gardening.)

      I left WalMart with just four things - strawberry plants, seeds for corn, seeds for peas, and a clump of onion shoots (or whatever they are called). I got them home, started thinking about where I would put them, got stressed out about it (because there are too many choices in our backyard), and left them in a bag by the door.

      A few days later, I read something about how you can grow green onions in a cup of water, so the other night I started stripping the little onion shoots of their brown skins and stuck them in a little jar of water. I only did about half of the onions before I quit (I decided to leave some to plant the regular way if I can decide where to put them.)

      So that is how my garden is coming along.