Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Woman with Knife . . .

Many potential blog topics at hand, but today: something domestic.

One of the perks of work-at-home Wednesday is the leisure to make a good breakfast – one of the simple pleasures that raises one’s quality of life! Last week our supermarket had a sale on miniature yams and sweet potatoes: a three-pound bag for practically nothing. What could be better than a couple of sweet potatoes boiled and sautéed, scrambled with eggs, and topped with grated, sharp cheddar cheese?

Unfortunately while preparing the potatoes I badly sliced my index finger with one of Deb’s nice, new knives. I’ve always been told that sharp knives are safer than dull ones, that you are more likely to be hurt by a dull knife. Yet I have never found this to be true. Maybe I am not enough of a purist, or just not careful enough – and the steel population of my kitchen knows it! Out to get me. The same knife cut me about a week ago.

Here’s what Father Robert Farrar Capon has to say about knives, in his 1967 book on food and philosophy, The Supper of the Lamb:
"At the root of many a woman’s failure to become a great cook lies her failure to develop a workmanlike regard for knives. After all, unless she has the tools and the talent with which to bone, skin, slice, and splice, she must revert to the condition of her ancestors. The progress of the race, of course, enables her to serve prefried fish fillets and diced vegetables in butter sauce, but she herself regresses a million years. Her frozen vegetables are bludgeoned from the freezer with any club that comes to hand (I have seen women use milk bottles, chair legs and even, ironically, the handle of a knife). Once freed from the ice, the package is torn open with bare hands and thrown in the pot. Her results may be satisfyingly modern. But her methods! She is hardly better than her primeval grandmother.
"Accordingly, if she is to mend her ways – if Fanny Farmer is not to have died in vain – she will have to acquire enough knives to liberate her from slavery to prepared foods, and enough skill to be able to cut what she wants the way she wants it."
- The Supper of the Lamb, pp. 56-67

Friday, October 26, 2007

File Cabinets

I spent about half my work-day continuing the process of cleaning house - or, rather, office. Once again filled the recycling bin behind building 26, this time with files left behind by dozens of former coworkers.

One had even left all of her personal financial records (paystubs, donation reports, health insurance forms) as well as personnel files for those she supervised. Out they went. Along with folder after folder from strategic conferences she attended, filled with notes that probably no one else would understand. There were probably some gems in there, but they were hard to recognize... I salvaged and preserved what I could. Some of this stuff could be really helpful. It's hard to tell.

I really don't like having to be the one to make these decisions, but when your whole department leaves and you are the only one left, and it's time to downsize... what do you do? I shouldn't delegate such things to S., who has only been here a year, or to a hapless volunteer. But it was painful to do it myself.

Some of the files dated back to Caleb Project's glory days (sigh!) Others recorded darker times (shudder!) So I felt both the nostalgia of a mother packing up baby things and the pain of a widow getting rid of her husband's shirts. Though at times it was more like the frustration of a mom cleaning up after her teenager who had left way too much crap behind.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

One More Artist - OK, Two More!

I like this artist, David Drummond and bought a set of cards with his watercolor paintings of - is it Lake Powell? Does it really look like this? Remind me to visit someday!

Picked up a Georgia O'Keefe print to replace the aging, faded, Monet poster that's been hanging in our living room. Turns out the Monet was already there when Deb moved in, what, a dozen years ago? And I always thought it was hers! But she agreed to let "Lake George, Early Moonrise, Spring 1930" replace it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Family Trip, continued

So, we didn't enjoy each other as much as we would have liked - could not always overcome our tendencies to drive each other crazy... how do we do that? So this didn't bring us closer; I think it set us back. I don't know though, sometimes backwards is on the way to forwards! I'm going home for Thanksgiving though so we'll have a chance to try again.

Apart from the company, all of us enjoyed the chance to soak up the beauty. Art galleries and shops, museums, mountains, trees, and the great symphony of light and shadows of sunny autumn days in the Southwest. Mom and I bought some nice Native American wool rugs from a mountain town that specializes in weaving, and Meg picked up a couple hundred dollars' worth of yarn to knit a commemorative shawl, as well as getting supplies for southwestern-flavored necklaces for each of us.

The artist who created this picture may be my favorite. He just opened a gallery in Santa Fe near the Georgia O'Keefe museum.

The trip put a total of almost exactly 1000 miles on my Honda Accord, which should soon pass the 100,000-mile mark.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Click Here for Pictures

Still in Taos - taking the mountain road to Santa Fe today. Art, food, nature, architecture - all beautiful and pleasant - so it's refreshing. And the fact that my cell phone gets no coverage here is strangely comforting. Though it's nice to have wireless access and a laptop.

Megan and I are not getting on well, though, and that's a disappointment.

For pictures from our trip to New Mexico, see my sister's flikr site, here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Off to See New Mexico

"Taos is a true escape - unique in all the world for its perfect blend of natural beauty, rich history, diverse culture, and intangible energy that rejuvenates the soul. Nature has endowed Taos with more than 300 days of sun each year, cool mountain summers, and deep powder in the winter. You can ski, bike, and hike to your heart's content. Then satisfy your cultural side with world-class art galleries and museums, historic tours, fine dining, shopping and much more."
Meg and Mom fly in tomorrow afternoon. Friday morning we take off for our little road-trip vacation to New Mexico. Two nights in Taos and one in Santa Fe, then drive back some time Monday. They fly back to Seattle midday Tuesday. Meg has been sick, though, and only just got her doctor's clearance to come. So we may have to keep things pretty low-key and make sure every day includes nap time!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Malika's Big Adventure

This morning roommate Deb and I took the 15-year-old chow, Malika (whom we inherited from past roommates) on what I am pretty sure is only her second trip to vet in this millennium. It’s taken us quite a while to agree to take this step. Deb, in particular, was afraid that after examining Malika the vet would want us to “put her down” – and Deb could not bear one more loss in this year of so many. It’s been a tough year for her too: coming to terms with the fact that she may never be able to work again and having to tell everyone that, going on disability (due primarily to the rheumatoid arthritis that has afflicted her since she was a child), turning 50, being laid off from her job of 25 years when our ministry went out of business, and saying goodbye to some of her closest friends who moved away after the CP shutdown (see picture below of Deb and Nancy).

Back to the dog question… Me, I’m afraid I was thinking of myself. I wondered if the dog-lovers at the vet clinic might take one look at Malika’s degenerate state, and, declaring us unfit owners, take her away and lock up the two of us (probably in a plastic crate…)

None of these things happened. Deb had carefully explained over the phone that we did not want to put our dog to sleep. We wanted to get her a general physical exam, have what might be a skin condition examined and diagnosed, and get her shots up to date so we could seek out a brave grooming service who might take on her wild coat and claws (too much for mere mortals like us to tame). Oh, and to be equipped as hospice nurses so we could make her last months or years in our home more pleasant.

The verdict is that she’s lost a lot of weight – along with most of her muscle tone – has a growth on one foot that ought to be removed – and definitely needs to get rid of the way-too-thick, matted coat. Her teeth are quite bad; she’s got periodontal disease. In terms of her general health a prescription dog food, continued doses of glucosamine, and more exercise should help. The vet is also going to do some ‘blood work’ the results of which will determine if we have bigger problems, and show how risky it is to have her sedated for the grooming and teeth cleaning – neither of which she’s going to cooperate with otherwise. We’ll find out Monday. After these traumatic experiences she may be a healthier, happier dog.

It’s a relief to have this first step behind us. It’s going to take a couple more visits – and vet/groomer bills – to accomplish all that is needful, but today only set us back $198.

And how is Deb doing, you ask? OK. I think she needs continued help to live a healthy, not-entirely-isolated life, which is difficult when she’s in constant pain and tends to withdraw. Having things she’s expected to do can help her rise to the occasion but she can't help having to cancel about 60% of the plans she makes, when the day comes and she is not well. Winters are usually harder for her. So, there may be some difficult days ahead.

Deb and I are of course quite fond of and accustomed to each other and rather compatible, so unless my job situation takes me out of Colorado I expect to continue with our happy household arrangement for some time. It works well for us. And it’s economical too: how many people do you know who can get away with spending only 25% of their net pay on household expenses (including rent, all utilities, and phones), as I do? Pretty sweet deal. Much thanks is due our generous landlady, Amy.

UPDATE: The ol' D.O.G. passed her physical. After reviewing her 'blood work' the vet said 'she is in remarkably good shape for her age,' which praise Deb and I thought we'd be satisfied hearing - about ourselves, I mean. I'll swing by the vet's office tomorrow for the fancy-shmancy geriatric dog food he prescribed.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Consecration - Isobel Kuhn

For more postings on missions history, click here.

To every man there openeth
A way and ways and a way.
And the high soul climbs the high way
And the low soul gropes the low
And in between on the misty flats
The rest drift to and fro.
But to every man there openeth
A high way and a low
And every man decideth the way his soul shall go.

- John Oxenham
Those words open Isobel Kuhn's autobiography, By Searching: My Journey through Doubt into Faith. I'd never read any of her work. OMF has a collection of it on sale. I thought I'd 'try before I buy' and so checked out the first volume from OMF's library on the first floor of our building. (In doing so I could enjoy it in a old hardback first edition that nobody had checked in out since the 1970s, which added to the pleasure!)

Written in the 1950s and describing events of the 1920s, it's not surprising that the story is a little dated. It was not hard to find things I could identify with, even so.

The fundamentalist-modernist debate was raging. Isobel was tossed on those waves. An English professor at her West Coast college (the University of British Columbia) planted the seeds of doubt, asserting that no intelligent person could believe in heaven, hell, and the the Bible 'in this enlightened age.' Isobel had never really questioned her faith. But unwilling to be thought a fool, she turned away from God and sought her meaning and satisfaction in 'worldly pleasures.' Then - as now - these had little power to really satisfy. She found herself in the misty flats - "The in-between place... where men walk in the mist telling each other that no one can see these things clearly... life has no end but amusement and no purpose. It was a popular thing to be on the misty flats, you had plenty of company."

After a broken engagement she thought about suicide; what was worth living for? She only hesitated because of the pain it would bring to her parents. That night, a line from Dante came to mind (there's a good English major!) "In His will is our peace."
"Dante believed in God. What if there was a God, after all? If so, I certainly had not been in His will. Maybe that was why I had no peace? An idea struck me. No one was watching to see if I were a fool or not. Sitting there on my bed's edge, I raised both hands heavenward. 'God, if there be a God,' I whispered, for I was not going to believe in what did not exist just to get a mental opiate, 'If You will prove to me that You are, and if You will give me peace, I will give You my whole life. I'll do anything You ask me to do, go where You send me, obey You all my days.' Then I climbed back into bed and pulled the blankets over me."
The rest of the book tells how God did answer her prayers and led her into a life consecrated to him. Consecrated: We don't use that word much, these days. Some of the things it led Isobel to give up are things we would tend to consider harmless, but they were getting in the way of her obeying God and loving others, so I think she did the right thing.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

K's Wedding, Friendship

Last weekend my friend K. got married. Several of us from Colorado flew out to Ohio for the event, which was great fun. Sad, too - I couldn't help but crying over my own disappointed hopes and the recognition of just how much the community I was once part of is scattered across the world. Opportunities to spend time with many of my favorite people are rare.

Some of the weddings I've attended in recent years have offered few opportunities to really enjoy the bride and groom and see their personalities shine through, but this was different. S. & I were able to attend not only the wedding and reception but also a bridal shower on the night before the wedding and a less-formal party held AFTER the reception. So there was more interaction. And the couple put quite a bit of effort into things like introductions, through the printed programs, etc.

Plus the groom comes from a country where it's traditional that the reception include long speeches - not just short toasts - starting with the groom. They also do skits, performed by the family and close friends of the bride and groom. Watching the groom's brothers dress up pretending to be K & O 'at the old folks' home' looking through old photo albums and reflecting - with slides - on their life (some history, some prophecy...) or the bride's sisters do a 'little people' skit (where someone else under the table 'does' the hands...) of the bride and groom packing for their honeymoon while talking about their courtship was hilarious.

I met K. about 4 years ago when she went on one of our research projects and did an internship with us. After that she joined our staff, raised support and moved to Colorado. We worked together quite a bit, traveled together, taught together. K. was not only the MVP of our office in quite a few ways, as I see it, but she also became one of my closest friends. Her decision to relocate to pursue her relationship with this guy she has just married was both very exciting and quite painful.

I care about her as a friend, a great deal. Plus I know she also loves and enjoys me. Given that, it would have been appropriate for the two of us to talk a lot in the last year as we've both gone through great upheavals. But we didn't. My fault, really - I pulled away; couldn't bear it.

What is it that makes a friendship close? Partly it's a decision: The makings of a great friendship are not worth much if you don't cultivate the relationship. On the other hand - as in a marriage - it seems like there's not something else there, a fairly strong level of sameness or identification, you can't make it happen.

While friendship - discovered, developed, or both - is one of the things I prize the most, I don't seem to consistently make decisions that reflect that value. I'd like to see that change. K., of course, understands and forgives me for pulling away from her this year. But overall, this is something I want to give over to God and seek his guidance about in days and weeks to come.

Lord, in your mercy, give me close friends, and show me where to start to be a better friend to those I feel close to and maybe to those I don't. I know I've turned away from what might be some of your greatest blessings to me; I'm sorry! Thanks for your mercy and for second chances. May you be glorified in these relationships; may your kingdom, your purposes, come in our friendships; your will be done here as it is in heaven.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Fasting and Feasting / Women in Missions Paper

An article about Muslim fasts and feasts which I wrote for Encountering the World of Islam has been republished by PIONEERS. You should be able to read it online here.

The paper I wrote for the Evangelical Missiological Society a year and a half ago, "Choosing How to Live in a Muslim Context: Case Studies from Missionary Women" (mostly drawing from Through Her Eyes; not much new stuff) was also published in a new volume, Missions in Contexts of Violence, released last weekend at the EMS annual meeting in Minneapolis. Just got a copy. (Sadly, as with many volumes in this series, it is poorly formatted and not well 'poofed.' Some good articles though, if I do say so!)

I'm hopeful that both of these pieces will be used to help equip Christians to engage Muslim cultures with increasing compassion, wisdom, and understanding.