Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Anatomy of an Internet Rabbit Trail in 60 Minutes With an Explanation of Slow Amish Time

Preface: My name is JAS and I am an information junkie. I mainline it on the internet. There, I've said it.

These events are true. Well, all except maybe the timeline. Einstein and I have this in common--for both of us time is relative.

I have never been good with time. Ask my family. Ask anyone who knows me. Ask anyone!

When The Professor and I moved to western PA with our 3 adorable children, Son 1, Principessa, and Son 2, I discovered kindred spirits in the Amish. They live an anachronistic life choosing literal horsepower and kerosene lamps over mechanical horsepower and electricity.

There are two types of time for the Amish--fast Amish time(they arrive early) and slow Amish time(they arrive when they get there, maybe even the same day).

All my life I have lived on slow Amish time and didn't know it!

(Jack Bauer voiceover with countdown)
The following events take place between 2:00PM and 3:00PM on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

I go online to check out the current installment of The Pioneer Woman. Neat website with pictures and funny stories and recipes and Photoshop tips, oh my!

I am struck with the alarming realization that I've already read this. Let's check out my Google Reader. Google Reader grabs info from all the blogs/websites you like to read and plops them all in one place so you don't hafta visit all those websites. It's called a news aggregator. And you can place a button on your Google toolbar(in Firefox, don't know about Mac and Safari) so that one little click takes you straight to your pile of interesting reads.

To sign up for "feeds" merely click on the little button that says rss or atom or subscribe on all you favorite websites (ahem, just like the ones at the top right of this page, hint, hint) and you will be asked which reader(aggregator) you want to use. That's it. Nifty, huh?

Jumping into my list of info not unlike Scrooge McDuck used to swan dive into his beloved pile of cash in 1950s Disney comic books, I notice the intriguing name CurdNerds. I love cheese as much as I love information(has to be my French genes), and as I scroll down the page past all sorts of cheese wonderfulness, an article calls to me--"Does Cheese Go Bad?" But I can't stop there. A logo just below that catches my eye and before you can say Limberger I am off to Serious Cheese. I return to CurdNerds, but the internet is all about links, and I have this itchy clicker finger . . .

Being the info/cheese junkie I am, this is irresistible knowledge. I click again and am immediately transported to another blog that introduces me to a Clifton Fadimon quote, "cheese is milk's leap toward immortality", some cheesy history, and am assured that cheese does NOT go bad!

By now I am on an information high . . . way. (sorry, I also have a genetic predisposition to bad puns) As I quickly scroll down the comment section I find a link for "In Praise of Cheese."

Here I am cautioned that reading may cause me to learn something. My kind of place! This time I avoid the comments and go straight to the matter on the side of the screen--a Blogroll. That list screams to me, "if you found that article interesting, take a look HERE!"

I scroll down 2 1/2 screens worth of blog names and find Wordwright. I love words just as much as I love information and cheese, so . . .

Click! I have now left the world of cheese so far behind it is a dull memory. We're not in Kansas anymore! This site is all about "the written word in books, newspapers, lit magazines, both analog and digital". Wow! They call for contributors to Snarkmaret and Revelator. (What's a
snark? is it related to a smurf?)

I can't control myself anymore. I scroll down the page looking for something . . . familiar, and find a link to "An Alternate Praise Song", described as a personal, odd sensibilitied take on the inauguration.

Paydirt! An original graphic personal poetic reminiscence of the latest Presidential event. Maira Kalman is an incredibly talented illustrator, author and designer. Please read her pedigree at the bottom of the page and survey her other entries.

The Professor arrives to engage me in conversation as he pries the mouse from my frozen fingers.

There you have it. From cheese to art in an hour.

In the words of a well parodied tv commercial--5 year old computer, $600. Internet service, $30. Electricity, 45 cents. Finding a creative surprise that gives me a new perspective, priceless.

Of Mocha and Friends, Part 2

I love words. I love words and good stories. I love words and good stories in beautiful books.

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Cookbooks are fun. Maybe because of all the pictures. I can imagine myself slicing and dicing, sauteing and simmering those wonderful picture perfect meals for my family. And I can salivate over all the desserts with no regret or fear of weight gain.

Once on the eyes, never on the thighs.

This one's for my SIL--
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If the world is ever completely destroyed by nuclear war or space debris crashing into us, I am convinced these three will survive--roaches, Elvis impersonators, and Hostess Twinkies. But then I would expect true armageddon to occur as the Elvis impersonators and roaches fight over the remaining Twinkies. (I'm really surprised Ray Bradbury or Aldous Huxley never imagined that one.)

I love the way B & N decorates with renderings of classic book covers, especially this one:
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(Yes, I am also a classic movie nerd. And someday you will be too. Imagine life when you reach sixtysomething and Speed 2:Cruise Control is old enough to be considered a classic.)

Can you just hear Max Steiner's Oscar winning theme? I can. In fact, I lit a candle on the shelf just under the poster in honor of that great southern heroine Prissy. You remember Prissy don't you, and her classic line, "But Miz Scahlet, Miz Scahlet, I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies."?

B& N also has supplies of all sorts. Scrapbooking and stamping paraphernalia(you get an extra 10 points if you can spell paraphernalia without looking it up).
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And journals and stationery (another extra 10 points if you know the difference between stationery and stationary).
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I can't help but think (while cradling a moleskine notebook in my hand) that this writing tool of legend, this companion of Hemingway and countless other writers and explorers, could help me chronicle my exploits and become a world class writer.

Or not.

I'd probably never have a pencil short enough to fit or sharpened enough to write. I would lay it down somewhere and forget where I put it.

But one can dream . . .

(fade to black, theme from Gone With the Wind swelling to crescendo)

UPDATE: Since writing this I have been outed as a white person. Read here.


Answer to yesterday's quiz:

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Of Mocha and Friends

Today I had the extreme pleasure of enjoying some Starbucks and good conversation with three young friends. Keep in mind that "young" to a sixtysomething is plenty old enough to vote and then some. I am reminded of an old sage who once quipped, "age is a matter of the mind: if you don't mind, it don't matter." Now, where was I?

Oh yes, at Starbucks. But this was no ordinary Starbucks. It was located in a comfortable corner of my favorite book store.

Mmmmmmmmmm. Coffee (or tea if you are so inclined, they have a delicious assortment of both), books, and friends. Does it get any better than this? Actually, yes, if you count lovin' on the Sprittles, but I'll restrain myself and keep to the subject at hand.

I could spend an entire day here. And almost did. After a delicious white mocha something or other . . .

. . . and a long and pleasant conversation with my young friends about such diverse subjects as college, W and O, philosophy, and of course Texas,
My young friends

. . . we bade a fond farewell. I stayed behind and clicked away at some of my favorites at the B and N, which I will share with you tomorrow.

In the meantime, can you guess:

1. Which two of the above are siblings
2. Which one is attending Geneva College and has a dog named Gus
3. Which one is from a military family

To be continued . . .

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why, with Apologies to Annie Lennox and Mother Theresa

I just returned from a wonderful visit with my precious Sprittles(grandchildren) in sunny and warm North Carolina. I drove the nine hours there from the Frozen North(where I live with The Professor) with only my iPod, my thoughts, my camera, and wild cherry Pepsi to keep me company. I'd like to share with you some of those sights, thoughts, and musical companions. (You're on your own as far as the wild cherry Pepsi is concerned!)

Somewhere south of Richmond, Virginia I encountered this:
Statue of Liberty moving?

It did surprise me a tad. But then I had been prepared the weekend before when I went shopping in a large metropolitan area and met with this:

A few years ago I visited the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor on a trip to celebrate the graduation of my eldest niece from NYU. I don't remember Lady Liberty sporting either sunglasses or the color red. Has our nation's dwindling economic health turned its heroine and comforter of the tempest tossed, homeless, yearning, huddled masses into a promoter of mobility enhancing rental trailers and tax services?


It was also in Richmond that I came upon this in rush hour traffic.
Go Jezuz

Rush hour traffic is something one does not normally experience in our part of the Frozen North (population 8,000, including 2,000 students at the local college). It was a joy in the midst of that trial to see. But I couldn't help but wonder where "Jezuz" was going.

And why.

Then, crossing one of the many rivers in that region, I glimpsed . . .
sunset over a river through a dirty window at 70mph

Yes, this is a very bad picture through a very dirty window at 65mph(I was going the speed limit), but it was too glorious not to try to record. I love sunsets and sunrises. They are a part of the beauty of nature that feeds my soul. What is it about nature that is so . . .peaceful, serene? Why is it so satisfying?

In North Carolina, along with my precious Sprittles, I found this wonderful structure.
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It reminds me of the lyric of song, "This Ole House" by Stuart Hamblen. The words come to mind, "now she trembles in the darkness when the lightnin' walks about".

Why has this gingerbready, lovely old house been abandoned? What memories are painted on its walls?

The why questions are the easiest to ask and the hardest to answer. Usually they flit onto our awareness and fly away quickly either because we are distracted by other ones or because we don't really want to admit them to our consciousness because they might uncover something that demands our involvement, something we would rather not face.

Our eldest little blond haired, blue eyed, four year old Sprittle is high functioning autistic. I was in denial for quite awhile. "Why" this happened to him, his parents, me, was very troubling. That is ironic since "why" is a concept to which he cannot relate. He has no vocabulary, no experience for that word.

I think most of us have the same problem with the "whys". But that should not stop us from trying to relate. Mother Theresa came from a privileged family and lived in a sheltered world in India until one day she walked outside and saw the abandoned lepers and sick in the streets. Instead of scurrying back into a life of comfort and relative ease she devoted her life to caring for these "homeless, yearning, huddled masses". She saw their suffering and their humanity and it moved her.

Annie Lennox is a guilty pleasure of mine. She is an accomplished and gifted musician who not only sings, but interprets a song from her heart. Annie has allowed the "why isn't something being done for the women and children who are victims of HIV in Africa" question to linger in her awareness and move her to action on a large scale.

We may not be a founder of a religious order or a rock star, but we can all touch those within our reach. It's just a matter of inviting the "whys" we encounter to linger until they motivate us to compassion for our fellow companions on this journey we call life.

"There is a terrible hunger for love.
We all experience that in our lives - the pain, the loneliness.
We must have the courage to recognize it.
The poor you may have right in your own family.
Find them.
Love them."

Mother Theresa

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Tale of Two States

It's time to move down that five favorite states list over on the right of your screen. I began a few days ago with that great state of Texas. Yee-haaaaaaa! Number two, for your consideration, is (drum roll, please) North Carolina.

North Carolina
and Texas have a lot in common. Their flags look, ahem, suspiciously similar as you can see. I found that out a few years ago when our eldest son married a beautiful North Carolina gal. Of course, the North Carolinians are a bit more, shall we say, subtle than Texans. Their state flag appears tastefully on appropriate road signs and documents. And, for the sake of truth in journalism, I must admit THEIR flag was designed several years before the Texas flag. (there, I said it.)

Those interested in geneaology recognize that a large number of North Carolinians immigrated to an infant republic named Texas in the 1800s. The Professor and I are both native Texans with North Carolina relations a few generations back. (that big NC contingent may explain the flag similarities.)

North Carolina does have a few things going for it. It is the birth place of our eldest son's beautiful, gracious, and wonderful wife. The climate is a pleasant median between the frozen north and the scorching south. They have a booming economy to prove it.

Two words: beaches and lighthouses. I LOVE the beach.

North Carolina and Texas cuisine share southern roots, but differ in their definition of barbecue: Texas is all about mesquite smoked beef brisket. (sorry, had to take a moment to wipe off my keyboard-- I'm drooling just thinking about it.) North Carolina has pulled pork. Now, I don't want to appear to be disrespectful of North Carolina barbecue, it's good and tender, but it is an acquired taste if you are more familiar with the Texas variety.

The most important distinction between Texas and North Carolina is (another drum roll, please) the SPRITTLES!! What are the sprittles? Some sort of local candy? A topping for ice cream? Well, sprittles are sweet all right, but no, they do not belong to a major food group. Sprittles are the loving nickname for our three gorgeous, precious, remarkable(I assure you I am being objective) grandchildren. The cutest grandchildren in the state of North Carolina.


And I'm leaving tomorrow to spend some quality time with them. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Shall be Released . . .or not

I want you to take a good look at this picture and tell me what you see. Okay?


It's an emergency trunk release in case you're loading groceries in the back of your car and a snowplow barrels by, knocking you into the trunk and slamming the lid. Snowplows in this part of the country are formidable machines. They scare everthing out of the way.

snow plow

I had forgotten the trunk had an emergency release until the other day. Guess I don't spend much time hanging out in there, thank goodness. I suppose that handy gadget was invented either by Jack Bauer's crack team of spy tech/terrorism prevention folks, or the kid that had the sad misfortune of attending a drive-in movie with a group of his teenage friends(The Professor being among them). That was back in the day when boys of a certain age would attempt petty larceny by implementing the trojan horse routine at a drive-in movie. (The driver pays, the rest hide out in the trunk until the coast is clear).

As The Professor tells the tale(and he is a very eloquent tale teller), on this occasion all had money for a ticket except this one guy. He rode in the trunk. But one can never be assured that charity courses purely through the veins of teenage boys. His "friends" held the hapless lad hostage in the trunk until after the movie was over. I think surely that would be the kind of traumatizing event that births either great genius or serial killers.

Of course, I may be wrong.

The moral of this story is. . .cheaters never prosper. And don't willingly crawl into a car trunk.

(The preceding was brought to you by The Professor. He is the one with whom I've shared the last thirtysomething years. My husband, friend, and protector. A man of wisdom, patience, and courage. And although he was a big city lawyer in another life, at one time harbored a speck of petty larceny in his teenage heart.

DISCLAIMER: No teenage boys were harmed in the telling of this story. Iron Acres neither condones nor endorses locking people in a car trunk.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Two Roads

It started out very promisingly. Our itinerary included food shopping in a huge outdoor city market an hour away, and a trip to the airport for the lucky one who was blowing this icicle stand for a brief stay in the promised land (Texas). There were five of us, two over 35, and three under 24. Here is where you need your imagination. Pretend this is one of those movie trailers where you see flashes of picture and dialogue:

"Don't look to the right." "I looked already." "He caught MY attention!"

"Don't start with me, I'll have you arrested".

"Are we parking like this?" Long pause. "Oh, I see (the no parking sign)." Freeze frame.

Now drop all of this into the milieu of a downtown major metropolis, crowds of people, vehicles, and street vendors. Did I mention crowds of people? And don't forget the olfactory overload from all the exotic ethnic food shops. Maybe add in a soundtrack composed by. . . James Horner.

We were about 30 minutes into our outing. Having fun. Teasing each other. Being jostled by the crowds. Carrying bags of goodies we had purchased from the Asian market--for me it was fresh lemongrass and sesame seed cakes.

[Here I digress to explain how you, too, can have the lemony goodness of lemongrass in your home.

1. Buy a few fresh bundles of lemon grass from an Asian market. Go here to see what it looks like and follow steps 1-3 at that site.

2. Place in a recycled jelly jar or beautiful thin vase.

3. Fill container about 1/4 full with water. Refresh water daily. Roots will appear quickly.

4. Plant in a wet place in your garden in the spring. The lemongrass will multiply rapidly.

5. You are now ready to revisit this website for steps 4 and beyond on how to use lemongrass in Thai cooking.

We now bring you back to your regularly scheduled programming.]

For the others it was rice,

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and a longing glance at a package of dried multi legged sea creatures.

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That was definitely NOT on my list. I adhere to a strict diet that prohibits the consumption of anything with eyes still intact, or possessing more than four legs. The only exception is shrimp. I don't care HOW many eyes or legs they have. Shrimp fried, shrimp boiled, shrimp cocktail, shrimp gumbo . . . sorry, I flashed on the wrong movie. Where were we?

If I had indulged in those multi-legged dried delicacies, I would probably have needed this:

(The detox tea.)

Next stop was a small biscotti shop brimming over with people and baked goodies. Fresh biscotti, chocolate radical cookies, and hearty artisan breads all enticed me with their beautiful textures and aromas. Now THIS is MY kind of food. No eyes or legs, just lots of flour, chocolate and sugar. Yummo!

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We dodged this bus--
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to cross the street and get this picture (I wonder what that wonderful little old building has seen in its lifetime).
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Nearby was a Polish shop. What do Polish people eat that I don't? Evidently, lots of jelly. And they have their own parking signs at sporting events.

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Then on to the Italian shop. It was there, surrounded by a horde of people jockeying for their turn at the cheese deli counter that I made the horrifying discovery. (horrifying discovery music, please-- dundunduh).


I hurriedly searched through my bags(which were numerous by now). I replayed the events in my mind. Two of my friends dashed back to the biscotti shop where I remembered taking my last picture. Nothing. No camera.

Where WAS it? My mind was numb. I was moving in slow motion. Had someone taken it? That camera was like a child to me. Had the dingo eaten my baby? (name that film)


I resigned myself to the fact that there was nothing left to do but leave a phone number and name at the two shops, then continue on our way.

I prayed my precious bundle of digitalisciousness was not languishing with a tiny gag wrapped around its lens in the trunk of a nearby car. I hoped little Lumix remembered family emergency procedures.


Two hours later, as we approached the bakery on our way back down the street, I stopped in for one more hopeful query. The baker greeted me. He tenderly handed the camera to me and said, "I'm glad they brought it back."

Insert Handel's Hallelujah Chorus sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Party time!!! We headed across the street for the Spanish market to buy a humongous bag of fresh tortilla chips(it was still warm when I picked it up), the best guacamole I had ever tasted outside of Texas, and some Mexican soda. I still have some chips. It was a BIG bag, but the guac was gone quickly.

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We filled the trunk with all sorts of non perishable culinary delights and headed for the airport.


(No, I do NOT consider dog food a non perishable culinary delight, that is, unless you are a dog. THAT found its way to the trunk prior to our big city adventure.)

After saying goodbye to our traveling friend, we began the hour and a half drive home. There was a reflective mood in the car. (We couldn't believe we'd eaten the WHOLE guacamole!)

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As we neared home, the sun was setting. I was grateful to have left the chaos and crowds far behind.

I was grateful for my friends.

I was grateful for my camera.

But mostly, I was grateful for that stranger who faced temptation and walked away a better person. He or she made a good choice.

For both of us.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.--Robert Frost

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Deceased Squirrel, with Apologies to Rocky the Flying

I kid you not (name that talk show host), the following is attributed to the Washington Post:
"Why do people give each other flowers? To celebrate various important occasions, they're killing living creatures? Why restrict it to plants? "Sweetheart, let's make up. Have this deceased squirrel."

What would you prefer to receive from your sweetheart today, a deceased squirrel(please use your imagination here, this is a violence free site) . . .

Queen Elizabeth Rose

or this?

While I wait for your answer, here are a few flower quotes to ponder.

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.
Abraham Lincoln

I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.
Emma Goldman

Where flowers bloom so does hope.
Lady Bird Johnson, Public Roads: Where Flowers Bloom

Even though he was tempted this year to throw caution to the wind and offer up a unique, recycled, earth (but not rodent) friendly expression of affection like the aforementioned; cooler heads prevailed, tradition triumphed, and the love of my life these thirtysomething years(The Professor) presented me with these:


I must admit, I agree with Emma--I'd rather have roses, too.

Whatever your relationship status this Valentine's Day, go take a gander at this expression of love: the Free Hugs Campaign.

And grab your hankie, you're gonna need it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

There's no place like Texas

There's no place like home. Especially when home is huge, warm, and a little . . . reality challenged. There's a saying that the difference between the south and the north is that in the south, we take pride in our, uh, "eccentric" relations whereas in the north, they hide them in the closet.

How else can you explain a region that advertises everything under the sun either wrapped in a humongous state flag or in the shape of the state itself?

Texas Beef

Snack crackers in various flavors, tortilla chips, pasta, ice cubes, cake pans, potholders, and more all can be found pressed into the identifiable Texas shape.

Texas Flag

The flag flies literally everywhere. And in mythic proportions. It finds its way into every graphic imaginable, including well know logos.


Major US auto makers Ford and Chevrolet, and even Nissan produce several Texas edition vehicles.

Texans are independent folk and like their politicians colorful. The chief qualification for a governor is ownership of a ranch(if you are busy working your ranch, less time can be spent messing things up in the state capitol), or star quality.

Kinky '06

I'm sure there were those diehard Texans that thought we missed a great opportunity a few years ago just to have the bragging rights that our governor was Kinky.

People outside of Texas expect us to live in an altered state of reality, too. I remember my junior high math teacher, a gentleman from Pennsylvania, relating to our class how his family had expected him to return from Texas sporting cowboy boots, a ten gallon hat, and driving a cadillac with longhorns mounted to the hood.

Cows and cowboys are an important part of Texas history.

Blue Bell

My favorite part of Texas, next to Blue Bell ice cream, good Tex Mex cuisine, warmer weather, and my family, is a certain place under the gnarled and twisted canopy of a liveoak tree in Washington County. My own little part of Texas where I can dream, live large, and gracefully become one of those, uh "eccentric" relations.

Set a spell...

Hopefully it won't have to wait too long.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Panic Attack!

Yesterday the winds came. They blew loudly all night long. I just love it when the weather changes abruptly. It brings to the day all kinds of adventure that the gods of electronic gaming can only dream of replicating. REALLY wild adventures . . . like chasing the garbage can lid down the street while dodging speeding school buses and wearing only a long flannel robe and a pair of floppy house shoes, or firing up my computer only to find my internet service is NOT WORKING!!!!!

Hey, I've become a master at dodging school buses, no sweat. But the idea of a day without the internet causes an immediate panic attack. What am I going to do? I've been mainlining instant information on a daily basis for almost 17 years! I can get by without tv, the usb hamster wheel, the considerate toilet seat , but I HAFTA have my internet fix! I immediately assumed the fetal position (and for a sixtysomething mother, grandmother, wife and spiritual friend in training who eschews exercise that is no easy position to assume.)

How did this happen? I can remember life before tv, before cable, before disposable diapers, before aerosol cheese(and what gourmet chef came up with that idea?). But life before the internet, in Greenland? Inconceivable! (name that movie*.)

So, I did the next best thing to calling Jack Bauer. I called my friendly neighborhood internet provider. The problem was quickly resolved (resetting my wireless router thingie, a persistent internet terrorist). Disaster was averted. And I only spent ten minutes huddled in the fetal position. Of course, I had to call the local volunteer fire and rescue service to help me get up off the floor . . .

Are you a net addict, too? Click on the title above to test yourself.

*The Princess Bride

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Swallowing the sun

Have you ever swallowed the sun? We all share the same concerns about our mortal frailties and the fear that others will discover them. But on rare occasions, a fleeting burst of brilliance will overtake us, then vanish, leaving us to wonder what just happened--did we experience an alien encounter?

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love(no, I have not read the book, and evidently am in the minority on that) in a TEDTalk* describes the difficulty of creative process(when frail humanity meets fleeting genius) as "swallowing the sun". It's a wonderful metaphor for transcendence, and transcendence is more common to the human experience than most of us will admit.

Teilhard de Chardin
wrote, “You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.” We feel most real, most alive, when we touch the spiritual.

If you want to view Gilbert's talk for yourself, just click on the title above.

*"TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. . .TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday Morning Confession...

I LOVE the internet and chasing information rabbit trails. I can waste TOO much time sitting in front of my computer clicking away. Can you relate?

I submit for your review(name that tv show) Flickr, a free(limited) or paid site to post your videos and photographs. Your own parking garage for all the images you want to share with family, or you can join interest specific groups and invite others to comment on your artistic endeavors. Flickr has a group for everything, literally: empty chairs, vanishing points, toilets-over 1400 groups, fingers-1800+(one has to wonder why "things getting the finger" merits a group of its own!), teeth-almost 1800, water-61K(that's THOUSANDS). You get the, ahem, picture. (I'd better stop here or I'll spend the next two hours trying to find something for which Flickr DOESN'T have a group! See how easily I get distracted?)

ground clouds

So... I recently found this group, Project 365. A picture a day for a year. Today we are experiencing what yankees* call the February thaw, that delightful couple of days break in the ice and snow for warmer temps, fog and mud immediately followed by ice and more snow for a few more months. Ahhhhh, the joys of living in a climate with four seasons as opposed to my native country of Texas, where there are only two: hot and hotter.

*(I apologize if anyone was offended, but I was raised in a household where Gone With the Wind was displayed proudly on the coffee table along with the Bible, a Yankee is the proper name for anyone born north of the Mason Dixon line, and y'all is the proper second person plural.)

Christmas Music

James Taylor, "In the Bleak Midwinter"

Aled Jones, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"

Michael W Smith, "Gloria"

Amy Grant, "Breath of Heaven"

 Christ Church Choirs, "Mary Did You Know"

Michael Crawford, "O Holy Night"

Celtic Voices, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"

Random Acts of Culture, Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus"
It is customary to stand at the end of The Messiah as this song is performed. What a wonderful experience this must have been, to hear the glorious hallelujahs in the contemporary marketplace. Breathtaking!

And then there are the sentimental favorites:

Trans-Siberian Orchestra, "Christmas Canon"

from the animated film, The Snowman, "Walking in the Air"

Mannheim Steamroller, "Silent Night"
I remember listening to this as I walked through knee deep snow delivering newspapers in Central New York. I experience again the quiet and beauty of a snowy evening each time I hear this.

Mannheim Steamroller, "Pat a Pan"

Bing Crosby with David Bowie, "Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth"

Michael Buble, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"

Bing Crosby, "White Christmas"

Ray Conniff Singers, "Christmas Bride"
I first heard this song when I was 12 years old. Sixteen years later, 5 days before Christmas, I married My Dear Professor.

Harry Connick Jr, "When My Heart Finds Christmas"


This is not a list of random quotes, they are words that have brought me personal illumination. I hope they touch you as well.

If you are looking for an excellent selection of general quotes, try bartleby.

For quotes on spirituality, try Christian Quotes, Beliefnet, or Spurgeon Gems.


"All that is gold does not glitter, 
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost."
JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

"Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
Mother Teresa

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."
Philo of Alexandria

"We have prioritized our comforts over the needs of the world around us,
and we need to repent.  We need to repent and risk it all." 

David Platt

"The question we have with the glory of God in our hearts ...the mammoth needs of a lost and dying world in front of us, and a mission to make the glory of God known in that world is-- are we going to die in our religion, or are we going to die in our devotion?  God, may your grace enable us to choose the latter."
David Platt

"O Lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness."
William Shakespeare

"Seek to cultivate a buoyant, joyous sense of the crowded kindnesses of God
in your daily life."  
Alexander Maclaren

"And the Spring comes slowly up this way."  
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"We can complain because rose bushes have thorns,
or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses."
Abraham Lincoln

"I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck."
Emma Goldman

"Where flowers bloom so does hope. "
Lady Bird Johnson,
Public Roads: Where Flowers Bloom

“Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes - The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.” 
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

"The earth is what we all have in common."
Wendell Berry

“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, Rejoice, for your soul is alive.” 
Eleanora Dusa

"The best place to seek God is in a garden. "
GB Shaw

"Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads." 
Henry David Thoreau

"The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings." 
JM Barrie

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." 
John Muir

“They say that every snowflake is different. If that were true, how could the world go on? How could we ever get up off our knees? How could we ever recover from the wonder of it?”  
Jeanette Winterson

"Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure." 
George Eliot

"It is never too late to be who you might have been." 
George Eliot

 "Self-denial means knowing only Christ and no longer onself.
It means seeing only Christ, who goes ahead of us, and no longer the path that is too difficult for us.Again, self-denial is saying only: He goes ahead of us; hold fast to him."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"God wants your heart, not just your hands, because if he has your heart he has everything."
John Piper
 "We do not need the grace of God to withstand crises—human nature and pride are sufficient for us to face the stress and strain magnificently. But it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours of every day as a saint, going through drudgery, and living an ordinary, unnoticed, and ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus. It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God—but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people—and this is not learned in five minutes."  
Oswald Chambers

“Time is a relentless river and it rages on, respecter of no one.
And the only way to slow time is this: 
Enter fully into the current moment and the stream of time slows — slows — 
with the weight of a soul’s full attention. 
We slow the torrent by being all here. "
Ann Voskamp

 "We can walk without fear, full of hope and courage and strength to do His will, waiting for the endless good which He is always giving as fast as He can get us able to take it in." George MacDonald

"However much we may know God, the great lesson to learn is that at any minute He may break in. We are apt to overlook this element of surprise, but God never works in any other way." 
Oswald Chambers

"While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see." 
Dorothea Lange

 "Love is proved in the sacrifices it's willing to make." 
Robertson McQuilken

"To become rich is easy. Much harder is to solve the riddles of of the heart."
Syrus (Publilius Syrus)

It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.  
James Thurber

You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions. 
Naguib Mahfouz

“If you attempt to act and do for others or for the world without deepening your own self-understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity to love, you will not have anything to give others.  You will communicate to them nothing but the contagion of your own obsessions, your aggressivity, your ambitions, your delusions and ends and means…”   
Thomas Merton

"The Bible tells us that we are God's masterpieces (poiema in Greek); not only creatures, but His creations, His poems (Eph 2:10). We are living epistles (2 Cor 3:3).  And so, our lives are meant to be listened to, because it is God who is speaking into and out of and through the symphony of the years, and the masterpiece of a lifetime."  
Michael Card

"Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is...There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him." 
Frederick Buechner

 "Relinquishment takes us into rugged terrain.  The climb is steep, the rocks are sharp, and the trail passes by precarious ridges.  From every human viewpoint at times it looks like we have fallen over the precipice into our death.  But we know better. We know that we are only falling into the arms of  Jesus, fully at rest."  
Richard Foster

 "Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars." 
Kahlil Gibran

“If God doesn’t rule your mundane, He doesn’t rule your life.  Because the mundane is where you live.”         
Paul David Tripp

"Give yourself fully to Jesus, He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your weakness." 
Mother Teresa

"The season of silence is the best preparation for speech with God." Samuel Chadwick

“I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day; 
I’d rather one should walk with me 
than merely tell me the way.” 
Edgar Guest

"Where there is fear, there is buried treasure. Something important lies hidden--something that matters--like the angel waiting in the stone that Michelangelo began to carve." 
Pat Schneider

"I thank Thee for Thy grace which waits while I laboriously acquire the soul Thou wouldst have me acquire." 
Oswald Chambers

"I pray with all my heart that I will be weary of everything else but...communion with Him." 
John Owen

"Spirit of God, free me to creatively paint the story of God's klingdom with the brush of my life. Provide the colors and guide the strokes." 
Larry Crabb
Real Church

"We are justified, not by giving anything to God, ---what we do, --- but by receiving from God, what Christ hath done for us." 
William Gurnall

"You have been used to take notice of the sayings of dying men. This is mine: that a life spent in the service of God, and communion with Him, is the most comfortable and pleasant life that anyone can live in this world." 
Matthew Henry

"Your Kingdom come around and through and in me;
Your power and glory, let them shine through me.
Your Hallowed Name, O may I bear with honor,
And may Your living Kingdom come in me.
The Bread of Life, O may I share with honor,
And may You feed a hungry world through me." 
Gloria Gaither
"I Then Shall Live"

"Solitude--The creation of an open, empty space in our lives by purposefully abstaining from interaction with other human beings, so that, freed from competing loyalties, we can be found by God." 
The Life With God Bible

"The Christian life is what you do when you realize you can do nothing." 
Dallas Willard

"Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither." 
CS Lewis

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." 
CS Lewis,
The Problem of Pain

"What we do on earth echoes in eternity."
The Gladiator

"A little thing is a little thing, but to be faithful in a little thing is a big thing."
Hudson Taylor

"If God sends you down a stony path, may he give you strong shoes."
An Irish Blessing

"Death is not extinguishing the light; 
it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come." 
Rabindranath Tagore

“I slept and dreamt life was joy, 
I awoke and saw life was service, 
I acted and, behold, service was joy.” 
Rabindranath Tagore

"Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite."
CS Lewis

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
Jim Elliot

"It is not the act of a good disciple to flee from the cross
in order to enjoy an easy piety." 
St. John of the Cross

"Every one has a choice--to face the darkness or be consumed by it."
Spiderman 3

"Whatever comes our way, whatever battle raging inside us, we always have a's the choices that make us who we are, and we can always choose to do what's right." Spiderman 3

"Every increased possession loads us with new weariness. "
John Ruskin

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." 
Annie Dillard

"And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference." 
Elie Wiesel

"No man can tell whether he is rich or poor by turning to his ledger . . . He is rich according to what he is, not according to what he has."
Henry Ward Beecher

"Lord, what we know not, teach us
what we have not, grant us
what we are not, make us,
for Jesus' sake, Amen"
Alistair Begg

"Did you ever find a spider's nest just when the young spiders have all come to life? It is a city of spiders. Now, such is any one sin. It is a colony of iniquities, a living mass of offense. You have but to stir it, and you will see countless sins running out of it. It is an aggregation of evils." 
Charles Spurgeon

"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others. "

"Now is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It won't last forever. We must take it or leave it."
CS Lewis
The Case for Christianity

"We do not truly see light, we only see slower things lit by it, so that for us light is on the edge - the last thing we know before things become too swift for us.."
CS Lewis
Out of the Silent Planet

"Where, except in the present, can the Eternal be met? "
CS Lewis 
Christian Reflections

"A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell. "
CS Lewis

"Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours."
CS Lewis

"Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self... "
CS Lewis
Mere Christianity

"It was when I was happiest that I longed most...The sweetest thing in all my life has been the find the place where all the beauty came from."
CS Lewis,
Till We Have Faces

"There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done', and those to whom God says, 'All right, then, have it your way.'"
CS Lewis

"If you ask me what I came to do...I will answer, I am here to live out loud. "
Emile Zola

"You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not?' "
George Bernard Shaw

"Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men."

"One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." 
Andre Gide

"I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image. "
Stephen Hawking

"Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps, for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be."
William Hazlitt
English essayist (1778 - 1830)

"Let my worlds be few with the world and many with the Lord" 
Angie Smith

"Deep is not a place we visit in our search for God, it's what happens to us when we find him."
Calvin Miller

"The imagination needs time to browse. "
Thomas Merton

"I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is the victory over self."

"In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors." 
William Blake

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"And the day came when the wish to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
Anais Nin

"People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering. "
St. Augustine (354-430)

"It is with words... as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. " Robert Southey

"If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write." 

Martin Luther

"In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security.  They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all -- security, comfort, and freedom.  When ... the freedom they wished for was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free." 

Sir Edward Gibbon
"The things that will destroy America are prosperity at any price, peace at any price, safety first instead of duty first, the love of soft living and the get rich quick theory of life." Teddy Roosevelt

 "A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both."   
Dwight D. Eisenhower

"The truth must dazzle gradually, or every man be blind." 
Emily Dickinson

"Refuse to be average.  Let your heart soar as high as it will." 
AW Tozer

"Sometimes you have to let go to see if there was anything worth holding onto." Anonymous

"He who would search for pearls must dive below."  
John Dryden

"One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak."  
GK Chesterton

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."  
Martin Luther King, Jr

"When it is darkest, men see the stars."  
Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places."  
Roald Dahl

"The only way to fail is to stop." 
Teresa of Avila

"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted;
nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed,
and some few to be chewed and digested:
that is, some books are to be read only in parts,
others to be read, but not curiously, and some few
to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention."
Francis Bacon

"Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures." Henry Ward Beecher
Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, 1887

"The wonderful thing, whether we [my husband and I] are together or apart, is to know that he is in the world and we belong together. And what I must learn is to love with all of me, giving all of me, and yet remain whole in myself."
Madeleine L'Engle

"Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well."

"It is a wise father that knows his own child."
William Shakespeare

"Children require guidance and sympathy far more than instruction."
Annie Sullivan

"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these. "
George Washington Carver

"Bitter are the tears of a child: Sweeten them.
Deep are the thoughts of a child: Quiet them.
Sharp is the grief of a child: Take it from him.
Soft is the heart of a child: Do not harden it. "
Pamela Glenconner

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.” 
George Eliot

"By friendship you mean the greatest love, the greatest usefulness, the most open communication, the noblest sufferings, the severest truth, the heartiest counsel, the greatest union of minds of which brave men and women are capable. "
Jeremy Taylor

 “Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men.” Thomas Merton

"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without words, and never stops at all."
Emily Dickinson

"If  you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees."
Hal Borland

"Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower!"
Albert Camus

"Life is an echo; what you send out comes back."
Chinese Proverb

"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful.  Welcome it in every face, in every sky, in every flower."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The wisdom of nature speaks to the hear, and nature's first language is beauty."
Tim McNulty

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day; their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the word repeat of peace on earth, good-will to men!”  
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.” 
Taylor Caldwell

"The earth has grown old with its burden of care But at Christmas it always is young, The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair And its soul full of music breaks the air, When the song of angels is sung."
Phillips Brooks

"Christmas, my child, is love in action."
Dale Evans

"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more."
 Dr. Seuss

"Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you ... to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old ... Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest ting in the world ... stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death... Then you can keep Christmas! But you can never keep it alone."
Henry van Dyke

"At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. ... We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices."
Charles Dickens 
A Christmas Carol

"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love."
Hamilton Wright Mabie

"Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart...filled it, too, with melody that would last forever".
Bess Streeter Aldrich

"Christmas hath a beauty ... lovelier than the world can show."
Christina G. Rossetti

"Gloria, Gloria! they cry, for their song embraces all that the Lord has begun this day: Glory to God in the highest of heavens! And peace to the people with whom he is pleased! And who are these people? With whom does the good Lord choose to take his pleasure? The shepherds. The plain and nameless--whose every name the Lord knows well. You. And me."
Walter Wangerin Jr. 
Preparing for Jesus

"He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, He the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute." 
St. Augustine

"Rejoice, that the immortal God is born, so that mortal man may live in eternity." 
John Huss

"For a beggar to live at court is not so much as the King to dwell with him in his cottage." William Gurnall

"Jesus was God and man in one person, that God and man might be happy together again." George Whitefield

"This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift, the Christ". 
Frank McKibben

"On Christmas Day two thousand years ago, the birth of the tiny baby in an obscure village in the Middle East was God’s supreme triumph of good over evil." 
Charles Colson

"Let's approach Christmas with an expectant hush, rather than a last-minute rush."

"Christmas is the one day of the year that carries real hope and promise for all mankind." Edgar Guest

The Bible 
"Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." 
Psalm 16:11 (KJV)

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." 
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV)