Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday Smiles

On Saturday, I post about a couple of things that have made me smile during the last week.

1) My Fitness Pal

I have been very unhappy with my weight lately...  With my health so crazy over the last four years I've gained way more weight than I had any business doing.  I weighed as much as I did when I was pregnant with Abigail!  That's ridiculous.
So, I've started using My Fitness Pal. It's easy, because it keeps track of what I'm eating and doing.  I just type in what I've eaten and it keeps track of the calories I eat and the calories I work off with exercise.  Honestly, I probably sound like a commercial!  But I've discovered something that has really works with me and for me.
So far, I've lost 6 pounds and I've only been tracking my activity for about 10 days.  I'm looking forward to seeing how it keeps going!  I'm enjoying using my body again, and I'm surprised at the amount of calories I was eating.  Blech.  Not hard to pass on something when I know how much fat I'll have to burn off!

2) This week is over!

I worked extra time this week because this was the week of reading tests.  We do something called the AIMSweb test in our school district, and it involves listening to every child in our school read for three minutes.  We use it to pin-point the kids that need extra attention and tutoring. 
The test is administered three times a school year- once in the fall, once in January, and finally in the Spring.  Repeating the test allows us to track the students who need help, and determine if they are getting the assistance they need.  Sometimes we'll switch the kind of tutoring they are getting if it is not helping, or sometimes we'll see that the student has improved so much they don't need extra reading assistance.
I got a lot of extra hours this week, but came home wasted every night.  However, I LOVE seeing my students improve over the course of the school year, and we saw a lot of good stuff this time around.

3)  First Presbyterian Church of Fairbanks

We are publicly joining our church tomorrow.  Joining is a huge step and we are both very sure God is pleased with our decision.  It has taken a long time for us to be sure of what we were doing and where God wanted us. 
We had attended Friends Church (a non-denominational church) here in Fairbanks for the last couple of years, mostly to hide & heal after the debacle at our prior church.  When we had healed sufficiently enough to want to get involved we discovered there really wasn't any place for us to get involved. 
Plus, our girls really hated church there- the children's program is very chaotic with little consistency.  There were new teachers every Sunday and the girls would spend half their Kid's Church time coloring pictures.  Honestly, they'd cry & beg every Sunday to not go.  Jake & I decided it was too important for them to at least LIKE church for us to stay there.
So we prayed about it, and our visiting missionary friend, Donna S. suggested we try 1st. Pres., which is pretty funny 'cuz Jake & I grew up Southern Baptists.  We'd heard that Presbyterians were soft on truth & the Bible & obeying Jesus, and long on allowing all sorts of non-Biblical ridiculous stuff.  Guess what?  Not true.
1st Pres is actively involved in sharing the truth and love of Jesus with the world.  They are involved with the homeless in downtown Fairbanks, and I'm delighted to be known as someone who attends this church.  They preach the gospel message- how Jesus died for love of us and took the sins of humanity upon Himself so that we could have eternity with Him in heaven. 
The Children's Ministry is dynamic and alive, and we are delighted to entrust our children & their love of Jesus & the truth with them.  We have a dedicated Children's Minister who is involved in the kid's lives and knows them.  They enjoy going, and happily participate in anything when their church family is going to be there.
Jake & I are involved with the worship ministry and a Life-Group.  I foresee other ministry opportunities opening up for us in the future.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Wicked- My thoughts on Maguire's book

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
by Gregory Maguire
When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?
Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.
I finally did it. I read all the way through Wicked. I wanted to read it, because I felt like I should. The critics loved it, and I have friends who like it. I wanted to enjoy it. In fact, I wanted to LOVE it, for multiple reasons. I love re-tellings of fairy-tales, I love fantasy, I love new takes on old stories, I love Baum's Wizard of Oz books. I've read most of them, and enjoy the wacky, zany world he has created. I thought this would be fantastic, a re-telling of the Oz story from the witch's point of view. How could it not be good?

(WARNING: I am not talking about the musical loosely based on this novel. I haven't seen it, I have no idea how it fits in with the story, so if you are a fan of the musical, please excuse my ramblings about the book. I understand that they have similarities, but are very different.)

Taking all that into consideration, can you imagine my disappointment when I did not like Gregory Maguire's take on Oz. I'm not sure I can explain what I didn't like, but I'm going to try. Honestly, his lengthy & rambling, ponderous, elephant-carcass of a book seemed the exact opposite of Baum's light-hearted, fresh and rollicking tales of Oz.

First, he made it both political & religious. Blech. He added vast power struggles between different kinds of people, even between the talking Animals. And he seemed to delight in creating weird in-fightings & bitter resentments. He restructured the entire political land-scape, and added biases & prejudices & strangely sexual imagery. The 'wizard' becomes a vengeful and fearful despot inciting truly evil actions. In fact, he seemed to command evil, much as Hitler directed, encouraged and inspired the evil done to all those not of the Aryan race post-WWI.

Next, Maguire made it very dark. I don't mean like a post-apocalyptic Stephen King-esque world. No, I mean darker- there were strange sexual implications and darkly mysterious yearnings going on everywhere. Depraved and deprived people taking their anger and frustrations out on others. Sexual addictions, drug addictions, murders...

Finally, while Maguire apparently intended this as a commentary on good and evil, it seemed to me that his point was that evil just happens. Not much of a commentary... There is no cure, no saving grace, not even really the desire to escape evil. Elphaba, the accidental 'wicked witch of the west' is one of the very few likable characters in the book, yet she passively allows most of the action in the book to take place without intervention. Elphaba is trapped in her situation and does not try to get out. Even her death is an accident in this re-telling.

My favorite thing about Baum's Oz is the innocence and joy in his yarns. The brand new and delightful world of Oz. Yes, bad things happen, but the characters keep trying. They deal with the horrible situations and move on. They don't dwell in the bad things- they mourn them, struggle with what to do, and then figure out a way to deal with them.

The entire time I was reading Maguire's interpretation I was in a horrible mood. It took me a couple of days to figure out it was a direct result of reading the book. I probably should have put it down then, but I wanted to know how it works out! And it doesn't work out. Not really.

I admit it, I was very disappointed with this book... I expected more. I expected something worthy of all the critical hoopla over this book, and it just didn't happen.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday Smiles

On Saturday I blog about a couple of things that have made me smile over the last week.
1.) Apple Pie
A kind friend gave us an apple pie this week, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

2.) No Jackets!
The temperatures have hovered around 50 this week! Which means I've been going to work without a jacket, and the girls have been going to school without their coats. I love it!

3.) My Collage Necklaces
I have completed quite a few of these collage style necklaces over the last month. I'm trying to get ready for Farmer's Market in between the other busy moments of life.
I enjoy creating these collage necklaces. I delight in picking through my bead stash to find fun beads that go together, and they are just as fun to put together. I generally choose a theme- a color or a style- and then go treasure hunting.
Here's a couple I particularly like:

Saturday, April 14, 2012


I love this song! I've got it stuck in my head and I want to share it.
Go and listen to it here.

by Chris Tomlin

I heard your echo in the canyon
Up on the timberline
You said these mountains were Your invention
And so was this heart of mine

I heard You whisper on the water
There on the mighty sea
You spoke of love deep as the ocean
When You spoke of Your love for me

And I am loved by the Father
And I am loved by the Son
And it is love that has captured
The heart of this wayward one

I heard Your laughter in the sunrise
Amidst the morning birds
A song of freedom for all creation
And you sang me every word

And I am loved by the Father
And I am loved by the Son
And it is love that has captured
The heart of this wayward one

I heard You singing in the silence
A simple melody
Words of love, oh I can hear it
My Father is very fond of me

And I am loved by the Father
And I am loved by the Son
And it is love that has captured
The heart of this wayward one

And I am loved by the Father
And I am loved by the Son, yeah
And it is love that has captured
The heart of this grateful one
The heart of this grateful one

Saturday Smiles

On Saturdays I post a couple of things that have made me smile over the last week.
1.) My Tread-Mill
I bought a fabulous spiffy Bowflex tread-mill from a friend who is moving out of state this summer. At first I used it regularly, but over Spring break I got out of the habit because I was watching the girls and because I got really sick.
I'm back in the habit again! I'm walking every day!
I feel so much better when I'm walking/moving every day. I hate it when I get out of the habit!

2.) Red Beans & Rice
I have finally mastered this dish!
Church friends were bringing us food after my surgery in December, and I was how much I like this simple dish. I tried a couple of times to get it right, but just couldn't make it happen. I finally broke the code! Everybody likes it, even Deborah (and she's a tough one to please)!

3.) Home-made Cinnamon Streusel Muffins
Yup. I made them. They were delicious, and now they are gone.

4.) Reading Anne of Green Gables with my girls
Deborah and Abigail chose to check-out the movie from the library, and then I caught Deborah struggling to read it. She's 8 and a very precocious reader; however, Anne's love of big words was making it a challenge. I didn't want her to give up!. I wanted to share my love for Anne with them, and I'm delighted to report that Deborah LOVES it, and Abigail is enjoying it. (She has to be too still while I read to adore it, but she is having fun.)

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Saturday Smiles

On Saturday I write about a couple of things that have made me smile this week.

1.) Spring Break-Up!
Our driveway is a mess and I love it! The snow is melting during the day as the temperatures approach 48 & 50 F. And then re-freezing at night as the temps dip down below 33 F.
All the snow is dirty as it melts and reveals all the nastiness hidden by the crisp white snow.
And I LOVE it! The dirtier it looks, the happier I am. I like summer better, but Spring Break-Up is my next favorite Alaskan season.

2.) Farmer's Market is about a month away!
I am busy getting stuff ready, working on some collage style necklaces every night. Our Spring meeting is next week, and I'm looking forward to seeing my FM friends again.

3.) Law & Order: Criminal Intent
That's what I've been watching in the evening as I'm beading. And I like it. It didn't just smack me in the forehead like some other shows I adore (Firefly, Supernatural,etc.), but it has grown on me. I'm interested in the two main characters, and I find the stories compelling. Some of them are old-fashioned who-dunn-it style, even Holmes-ian style mysteries, but most of them are more about figuring out how to catch the guy who did it. I'm enjoying them.

He's All You'll Ever Need

by Matt Tullos

I’ve seen him among the children and anyone who loves kids like He does, can be trusted.
He is merciful to those who need mercy and He is always just.
He was willing to sacrifice everything for us and He never sleeps.
He is a doctor who can diagnose an illness before the symptoms appear.
He is a baker and when you go to his house there is always the wonderful smell of fresh bread.
He is available to you any time day or night.
He fights for the helpless
He makes time for the lonely
He is ready to step between you and your enemies.
When you are befuddled confused and indecisive he has a plan
When the walls are closing in his doors will open wide.
He listens when no one else is around to hear you.
He consoles you when there are no arms to embrace you.
He weeps with you when all others curse at you
He is redeemer of your yesterdays and foreseer of you tomorrows.
He been to hell and back and he is still standing strong.
When others doubt you, He says you can do it.
When no one knows you, He calls you by name
When few are truthful he will tell it to you straight.
He has set you apart and pulled you together
He lifts you up and He settles you down.
He’s not insecure, detached or ruthless.
All his plans are above board.
He’s written them all down in a book for you.
And nothing catches him by surprise.
Many have tried to imitate Him
The religious have desired to placate Him,
And even more have tried to eliminate Him
But no one can intimidate Him
He is independent and self-sustaining and yet He longs for your love.
He could turn the world on its end and yet he has loved you from the beginning.
He knows you and He's everything you'll ever need.

Matt Tullos' writing/sermons/scripts/videos can be found on his blog. It's worth checking out.