Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Book Reviews

It's the end of November, and the chances of me finishing another book this year are pretty slim. But, this has been the year of books for me. I think I have read more books this year than in the last 10 years, combined. No kidding.

So, I thought I would post these book reviews that I have been compiling throughout the year. Yep. I have read all of these books... this year...So, at the risk of destroying my reputation as a hater of the written word, here are my reviews. (Please keep in mind that I have no idea what a book review is "supposed to" be like.)

The Lost Daughters of China by Karin Evans
Abandoned Girls, Their Journey to America, and the Search for a Missing Past
I could not put this book down. I haven't met a book like that in a long time (though I will admit I haven't been looking...) Johnson couples the story of her daughter's adoption with research and historical, economic, and cultural information about the causes of abandonment in and adoption from China. This combination kept me interested both emotionally and intellectually. Though the process of adoption from China has changed since she wrote this, the other factors, unfortunately, remain the same. A quote by Jan Waldron that appears on the back of the book expresses one of the most important things that I got out of it as a westerner... "There has been much press about rescuing (adopting) baby girls from China's oppressive sociopolitical climate, but little about the women and men who are losing their daughters. Here, Evans gives us a whole story, both moving and jarring." I think this is a book that would interest a lot of people, not just those adopting from China.

5 stars

Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son by Kay Ann Johnson
Abandonment, Adoption, and Orphanage Care in China
As a mother, I have a really hard time believing that an entire country of people could "hate" their own daughters, as has been suggested to me by others in their misguided attempts to affirm our decision to adopt. So, at the suggestion of a trusted member of the "big group" I picked up this book to try to learn more. It is a fantastic book. Kay Ann Johnson and her colleagues have conducted a large portion of what little research exists on the causes of abandonment in China. The book is a collection of her articles written over a twenty year period and reflect her changing understanding of the situation in China. The fact that these articles were written to stand alone, makes for a fair amount of repetition (which the reader is warned about in the introduction) and this can be mildly annoying. Johnson has worked and interviewed extensively in the large orphanage that housed her daugher. She has first-hand knowledge of two other orphanages, though at least one is considered "large" as well. So, while I do not doubt the information she shares about these particular orphanages, I do not think they are representative of the many other smaller, rural orphanages (which are not nearly as well funded as those she has visited.) To her credit, she admits this more than once, but I think it leaves the "orphanage care" aspect of her book a little thin. Especially of interest to me were the data from families who had abandoned babies, the explanation of China's reproductive policies (which, I was surprised to learn, is NOT a one-child policy for a large percentage of the country,) and the explanation of how cadres enforce this policy. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I think mostly it appeals to folks adopting from China.

4 stars

My Country Versus Me by Wen Ho Lee
The First-Hand Account by the Los Alamos Scientist Who Was Falsely Accused of Being a Spy Now, I have never been accused of espionage, so I don't know how I might write my story if I was. But, the manner with which Lee writes about his accusers and FBI investigators seemed decidedly "junior-high." I did, however, find myself incredulous at the abuses he suffered in prison, the lack of evidence against him, the lax security in the Department of Energy, and the mysterious "evolution" of the status of Lee's downloaded files (which were not labelled classified until after he was in jail.) But, I also found Lee's security breaches, well, stupid, frankly. I would be interested to read another account of this story. His chief accuser, Notra Trulock, has written Code Name Kindered Spirit, but wonder if it will be as biased as I fear Lee's account is. Perhaps A Convenient Spy by Dan Stober would be more appropriate. But, though I found the story interesting enough to keep me reading, I think I have had enough of this topic for now. I am guessing not too many folks would find this one very interesting.

3 stars

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Hmmm. I might still be deciding what I think about this one. I definitely enjoyed the book. Ehrenreich, a writer for Harper's Magazine decides to do a bit of investigative reporting. The book is the story of her attempts, in several locations around the country, to get a low-wage job and make ends meet. Here is what I liked: she made important observations about the disparities between rents and wages and the difficulties with finding assistance. Some of her observations and subsequent conclusions about management are insightful, but some seem nit-picky or generalized. What bugged me about the book was that she "cheated" a few times, relying on funds from her "real" life (like when she went to GNC to buy pills to "detox" after her pot-smoking "indiscretion" so she could pass the urine test required of new hires.) It also seemed like her Merry Maids experience didn't fit her thesis very well, so she spent most of that chapter complaining about the people who hired them and making fun of their decor. But, what bothered me the most was that her expriment seemed flawed. She never seemed to stay long enough at any place to really see things through. After one particularly bad day, she quit her waitressing job and just moved on to her next location. That is a luxury most low-wage workers don't have. In addition to all of this, she was alone! She had no support network like most other humans have. So she had no one with whom to share rent, groceries, gas, favors, etc. Overall, I thought several of her points were very insightful. And I enjoyed reading the book. I am just not sure that her entire experience supports all of the conclusions she makes.

4 stars

All Together Now by Anita Jeram
A children's book about a mother rabbit who has a baby rabbit and adopts a duck and a mouse. This book is great for kids like mine, who will need some validation that their biological/adopted family is okay. The family sings a song together in which each animal gets to make a sound or movement that is unique to them (quack, squeak, and thump!) The story goes on to explain (simply) that each child is good at different things. But what I like the most is that it goes on to point out one way that they are all the SAME - they all have big feet! This is such a great book for kids who are affected by adoption and it's a great starting point for discussion with them. But the story would appeal to lots of kids, in the 2-4 age range.

5 stars

A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza
A young bird searches for a mother who looks like him. When he can't find one, a bear offers to be his mother. Choco objects because they don't look alike. But Choco is wooed by her sweet mothering and is pleased to find out that Mother Bear has lots of "other" animal kids that don't look like her either. Obviously this book is a good discussion starter for young kids about what really makes a family. Not just good in adoption situations, I think this book can help kids understand that everybody needs to be loved. (ages 2-5)

5 stars

Muncha Muncha Muncha by Candace Fleming
This book chronicles Mr. Mc Greeley attempts to grow a garden, and the development of his elaborate system to keep three hungry bunnies out of his vegetables. We first heard this book at story time, and the kids loved it. We checked it out and read it several times, and shouted "MUNCHA! MUNCHA! MUNCHA!" each time the bunnies infiltrated the garden. The kids also enjoyed finding the bunnies on each page as they spied on Mr. McGreeley. A fun read, and a funny ending. (ages 2-5)

4 stars

China Wakes by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn
The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power
This book was written by a husband and wife who spent five years (in the late 80's and early 90's) in Beijing as correspondents for the New York Times. The books covers a wide array of topics, including human rights, the rise of communism, changing culture, graft, successes of the communist party, the Cultural Revolution, the burgeoning economy, foreign relations, and the list goes on. In every instance where it is necessary, the authors give appropriate historical background, and they display their impressive knowlegde of the political and cultural systems of several other countries in their comparisons with those of China. They conclude their collection of stories with speculation about what the future holds for the government and economy of China, though they admit that "China watching is the only profession that makes meteorology look accurate and precise." Except for the unnecessary physical descriptions of (what seemed like) every person they wrote about, I enjoyed almost all of this book. The part I could absolutely have done without was an excerpt from a trashy Chinese novel which comes, without warning, at the beginning of the tenth chapter. But, mostly, I find myself wishing that their insights also covered the last decade, since so much has happened in China since they left Beijing. Great reading for anyone who wants to be better informed about China.

5 stars

I Love You Rituals by Becky A. Bailey
This book is almost entirely a book of games to play with your children that promote attachment and bonding. I think the games can be particularly helpful for adoptive parents who are working on attachment with their adopted kids. But, all together, they are great ways to say "I love you" to any child. The cover claims that these rituals "boost brain potential, encourage cooperation and caring, promote learning and literacy, increase attention and decrease power struggles, [and] build bonds of unconditional love." I suppose these could all be possible effects, but I am pretty sure there are better methods to accomplish most of those things. Most helpful to me was the second chapter, in which Bailey describes how children express different needs and how parents can best respond to them. The actual games, however, were a bit disappointing, (and I admit that I didn't read them all because of that.) They are meant as a starting place, and the author fully expects parents to come up with new games as interaction with their children evolves. The games (categorized as: positive nursery rhymes, interactive finger plays, silly interactions, soothing and relaxing, hide and seek, cuddling and snuggling, and physically active) are helpful examples of how to incorporate loving touch and postive messages in a playful parent/child exchange. But, the nursery rhymes and finger plays seemed a bit "clinical" to me, and the silly games seemed obvious! Because a lot of rhymes are used in the games, anyone who thinks they would use a lot of the games should probably own a copy of the book. Overall, this is an okay book about a great concept that can be very beneficial for kids. The book is greatly enhanced by the second chapter. May be best for first time parents or those who aren't really creative.

3 stars

The First Emancipator by Andrew Levy
The Forgotten story of Robert Carter, the Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves
Laborious reading, though not altogether unprofitable or uninteresting. (But, if there is legal action that can be levied for the use of run-on sentences, I'd consider filing suit against Levy.) The book is really a biography, so I was bored with a lot of the early stuff, because it wasn't until near the end of his life that Carter actually freed his slaves. The first four chapters are primarily about Carter's spiritual evolution and the political climate in Virginia around the time of the Revolution. I enjoyed reading about Carter's friendships and correspondence with men such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, George Mason, Patrick Henry, and many other "big names" from Revolutionary History. But the best part, by far, were the last two chapters in which Levy told how Carters' slaves were freed, and then discusses the reasons why Robert Carter is virtually unknown in American history, despite the fact that his Deed of Gift was the "largest single act of liberation in the history of American slavery before the Emancipation Proclamation." (He freed over 450 slaves; more than any other American slave owner had or would ever free.) The last chapter ties together tidbits from the earlier ones about why other Virginia gentlemen, though they morally objected to slavery, did not free their slaves. Levy also explores the reasons that Americans of that day (and today) are comfortable with such an act falling into obscurity. I will let Levy's words from the introduction describe what I found most fascinating about the book: We are taught... that the founders wanted to free their slaves, but could not, because they faced insurmountalbe obstacles.... Most important, we are taught that the young nation was too fragile to support large emancipations: the founders knew, and historians have reiterated this point for two centuries, that compromise on slavery was the price of a republic... There has always been good evidence to support these claims.... But one need only hear the basic facts of the Deed of Gift to wonder if the whole story has yet emerged.... The fact that [Carter] freed more slaves than Washington and Jefferson owned together ought to have made some mark on the historical record.... No other Virginian of the Revolutionary era, including those who founded a great nation and spoke eloquently of the immorality of salvery, managed to reconcile freedom in theory and freedom in practice with such trasnparent simplicity."

3 stars (Make the last two chapters into an essay, and this would easily be 4.5 stars)

Attaching in Adoption by Deborah D. Gray
Practical Tools for Today's Parents
This book gives invaluable, practical advice for parents who want to make attachment a reality with their adopted children. (And there is some plain, old good parenting advice in there too.) Chapters give techniques for adopting at different developmental stages and how to determine if it is or isn't working; how to determine if your child needs counseling; how to find a qualified counselor; signs of distress that need to be addressed; how to work with school personnel. Just a great resource. I think every adoptive parent should own a copy. I know I will be referring to it many times. The only stinky part of the book is that it contains a bunch of typos. But this is easily overlooked, given the content.

4.5 stars

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Hilarious. Thanks to Leslie for suggesting it to me. I really did laugh out loud as I read about his attempts to hike the Appalachain Trail with an old college buddy who is, uh, less than the model of fitness. Of particular interest to me was the chapter about the town in Pennsylvania that sits above a coal deposit that has been burning underground for decades. Very interesting. And did I say, hilarious? Because it was hilarious.

5 stars.

Did you like how I threw those children's books in there? Hey, I gotta do what I can.

But, should I decide I want to improve on my book-reading record in 2006, I thought maybe I would ask for suggestions. So, do any of you have a good nonfiction book you'd like to recommend? You never know, I just might read it!


Monday, November 28, 2005

Not much to say

Well. I haven't felt like posting lately. I have stuff I could post, but haven't really been in the mood. The perfect day was great. Thanksgiving was great. The kids are great. I just don't feel like posting.

But I have been reading others' blogs. So I thought I might post about what I like, and what I don't like in a blog.

What I don't like
- Frequent complaining.
- Mundane, boring drivel about every last detail of the writer's life which serves no purpose other than to inform the reader about every last mundane, boring detail of the writer's life.
- Really bad writing.
- Reading negative stuff about other people that the writer wouldn't actually tell that person in real life.
- Frequent use of links to complete the writer's thought. It bugs me when I can't get the writer's thoughts without going somewhere else.

What I like
- Insight. Two of my favs for this are Maureen and Leslie.
- Reading about the lives of folks going through some of the same things as me. Some of my favorite adoptive mom blogs are grrltravels and Boy Makes Three. Some of my favorite Stay-at-home-mom blogs are written by Robin and Addie.
- Reading about the lives of people who are totally different than me, particularly when it comes to spirituality. I read because it reminds me that the rest of the world doesn't see things through the lens of scripture, and I think it's important to keep in touch with that. Frankly, I think it strengthens my faith - but that probably wouldn't be so for everyone, so I think I'll leave those links out! (I'm sure you could find a few very easily if you wanted to.)
- Reality. As in real life, I like getting to know people who are willing to be honest about their weaknesses - not trying to present themselves as perfect.
- Blogs that offer encouragement, challenge, or insight into the Christian faith. Those mentioned by name above all do that. But I also like Bread Crumbs and Girl Talk.
- Humor.

Maybe you will find a new one you like too.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Dudes, this is awesome!

I am at the library.

The computer here is fast.

There are no children with me pulling books off the shelf.

I can browse all I want without being interrupted.

When I checked into my room I used the bathroom - and I left the door open. No one came in with me! HOW COOL IS THAT?

I even found a new scrapbooking store right near the hotel and they have 20 sheets of cardstock on sale for $1.

My hair even looks good.

It's like I'm on a different planet.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Bearer of Bad News

I always hate when I have to be the one to break bad news to people. But it must be done, so here goes:

My husband is taken.

Sorry, ladies. It is certainly hard to find a good husband. But mine is spoken for.

Now, I know I do not talk much about my hubby here. My narcissism doesn't leave much room for that. But, sometimes, the man outdoes himself.

I am leaving tomorrow morning for my "perfect day." I posted about it a few weeks ago. He read it. Then he arranged it. He made the appointment for me to get my hair done, booked the hotel, typed out the itinerary and directions to the hotel (complete with humorous references to my post,) and even came home with cash to send me off with.

Does my man not rock? I mean, he rocks even if he didn't set me up for my perfect day, but does the man not ROCK?


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Just a Thought

I was reading (no, I didn't finish it - yet) a book called Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ron Sider. Though not finished, I think it might be one of those books that every Christian in North America needs to read. He makes some eye-opening points, some of which I am still digesting. In the book, he explains what Scripture reveals about the people of God and their ownership of material things. He presents the idea that, though God grants us a "right" to own stuff, it is always trumped by our responsibility to meet the needs of the poor. There is much more to this, but that's the general idea.

This week is Thanksgiving and, if your family is like ours, this is traditionally the time that we exchange our gift lists for Christmas. I have mixed feelings about such a practice. Nonetheless, that's what we do.

In light of these things and my last post, I thought I might throw out a thought. Catch it if you want, or let it go right by you. It isn't earth-shattering. It's "Just a Thought."

This year, instead of making a list of things solely for you, put something on your list that will specifically meet the needs of the poor and oppressed.

There are a lot of great charities doing a lot of good work to meet those needs. Perhaps there is a homeless shelter nearby that has need of some gifts. How cool would it be to call and ask the director what gift the shelter needs most, then play Santa!

My absolute favorite gift catalog is from World Vision. I want the goat! See the catalog here.

The Christian Children's fund also has a similar catalog.

Oxfam is working all over the world to eliminate poverty and injustice.

Anyway, you get the idea. I am sure you can think of something that would be fun to "get" for Christmas. You may have to pitch the idea gently to those receiving your list. And if it offends them, then maybe it's not worth pushing. But, I'd like to think most gift-givers are happy to give what the recipient truly wants.

But before you leave, let me just say this - It is really easy to read someone else's blog and develop an idea of them that is completely contrary to reality. So I want to admit that I have many things to work out in regard to applying what I am learning from Rich Christians. I am not even close to caring about the poor as much as I think scripture commands. I fall way short. But Paul and I have been doing something similar to this for a few years and it has been a blessing, so I thought I'd throw it out there.


Thursday, November 17, 2005


I got invited to a Pampered Chef show tonight. I don't have anything against Pampered Chef, but I don't buy anything anymore. The only time I go to a show is if the hostess says, "you don't have to buy anything, just come to hang out." So, I went to hang out.

I need to stop doing this. There aren't many times I feel more disconnected from people than when I am at a home show.

To be clear, I own several Pampered Chef items. Some are lovely, and some are junk. But, there is nothing else that I need from Pampered Chef. And the thing is, there isn't even anything that I want.

So the question the consultant asked EVERY PERSON this evening was: "If money was no object, what item would you want from the catalog?" I hated the question, because the honest answer is "nothing." I really and truly don't want anything from the Pampered Chef catalog.

I just don't fit.

It seemed like everyone wanted something. At the Pampered Chef show it was pottery to match the rug they just bought. At the Longaberger show it was a $70 basket to hide their tissue box in. At the Stampin Up show it was the spider stamp - sold only as part of a set. A spider stamp... so they could decorate Halloween candy holders for all their kids' classmates.

Lots of folks out there will say that there is nothing wrong with having nice things if you can afford them. But my immediate response is, there's nothing wrong with not having them either. It seems like the prevailing wisdom is "if you can afford it, there's no reason not to." But in Christian circles, it is disappointing to run into that kind of thinking over and over again.

I can honestly say that I have little desire for many of the things that everyone around me seems so hungry to get. And maybe this is a function of our financial state at this time. I'm a stay-at-home mom whose husband teaches for a living. We didn't clear $50,000 last year. And we really lacked for nothing. We are amazingly blessed. We have everything we need... and a whole lot that we don't. Yet we don't have a "nice" stereo system. We have a kitchen floor that is curling up in the corners. Our screen doors should have been replaced last year. Our TV is small compared to most. We don't have cable. We don't have leather furniture. We don't wear designer clothes. Our van is growing increasingly rusty. Two of our kids share a bedroom (I know... that's, like, child abuse, I think.)

And these are all fine with me. Comparatively speaking, I have way more than 98% of the world's population... WAY more. I sleep in a warm house every night (in the winter that's cool in the summer.) I have multiple outfits that I can choose to wear every day... if I can keep them all clean... in my washer that has a supply of clean water whenever I want it, and hot water at that. I use my microwave several times a day to make myself a cup of tea. I can drive wherever I want, whenever I want. I have a college degree and would be reasonably assured of finding a decent job should my husband ever lose his. We have health insurance that enables us to have medicine when we need it for a very fair price. I plant flowers in my yard every year just for fun. I have photos of my kids to document all the stages of their lives. I own a gadget that is used once a year (Christmas time) for the express purpose of squirting out fancy cookie shapes. I have no less than 10 Bibles in my house and could go buy another one tomorrow if I so desired. My children have toys all over our house. I have a stove to cook dinner on and a refrigerator to keep my leftovers in. I type into a computer so I can express myself on a blog, just for fun. My kids eat protein every day.

And I am supposed to get to a point in my life where, if money were no object, I would actually want more stuff I don't need simply because money was no object?

I say all of this because I just wanted to scream tonight. I just wanted to scream. The message was "wanting more stuff is okay if you have money." And the reality, for me, is that if I had more money, I would likely find ways to spend it on nicer stuff for me. The reality is that I judge people too much: pointing my finger at others and saying "you have too much stuff." But I tend to forget the reality that most of the rest of the world could point to me and say the same thing.

It's just that I don't want to forget that last bit of reality. And I don't want more stuff.

And going to parties like that doesn't help.

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Monday, November 14, 2005


I don't know why this struck my as cute, but it did. Ms. Boo was playing waitress and was taking my order. I was holding Bao.

Boo: What would you like?
Me: I'd like a hamburger and french fries.
Boo: To drink?
Me: Water, please.
Boo: And for the baby?
Me: Noodles.
Boo: Would you like that with potatoes, carrots, or chicken?
Me: I'd like that with chicken and carrots, please.
Boo: Well, we don't really take it that way. (Yes, she said "take.")
Me: I can't get carrots and chicken?
Boo: It just comes with one.
Me: I just wanted the carrots and the chicken mixed in.
Boo: Well, we don't really take it that way. But I can bring them both and you can mix it if you want.
Me: That would be fine.

Who knew that the pretend restaurant was so strict!
A conversation that I recently had with Mr. Bug went like this:

Bug: I love you.
Me: I love you, too.

Man, to hear your kid say that without being prompted. He's only just started doing that. I like it - A LOT!


Sunday, November 13, 2005



Well, this whole adoptive mom thing is way new to me. I think I'd feel quite capable with a new child right now if it were not for the fact that she is adopted. Here is what I mean...

I think ten months of age is well old enough to let a child "cry it out" in certain circumstances. One of those circumstances would be taking naps/going to bed at night. Babies at ten months can be left for those 10 minutes or so to figure out how to calm themselves and it won't wound them emotionally or confuse them.

But in all of the attachment information I have read, all the experts say not to let adopted children cry it out. They say that, in order for healthy attachments to form, the child needs to know that their parent will answer their cries (read: meet their needs) and therefore should be tended to when they cry.

So I have been tending to Ms. Bao. I have been tending to squirming, pushing, arched-back, screaming Bao when she does her little "I'm fighting sleep when I need it the most" routine. And it gets us nowhere. She doesn't sleep. Then she is crankier than ever for the rest of the day.

So after feeding her today and putting her down for a much needed nap, she began to cry. Again. And Paul said, "just let her cry." And I brought up the attachment stuff. And he said, "I think she'll be okay."

I went outside to rake leaves, because I can't stand to hear it. Paul, who has a much greater tolerance for the incessant crying of children, stayed in the house.

Apparantly, Bao fell asleep.

This is good. But I still feel confused about knowing when to transition into "normal" mode with her, and let her do things like cry it out. How do I know she is attached enough to do that? Or to leave her with a babysitter? Or to let her stay in the nursery at church?

How do I know these things? I don't suppose there are any adoptive moms out there who are reading this and wish to offer any advice...

I am getting tired of second-guessing.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Getting to Know Me II

Maureen suggested I post my testimony way back when my blog was still in its infancy. I don't know why I never did, but I don't think it is something that most of my readers know about me. So, I have decided to post it. It's one of a few things I think people should know about me.

The first memory I have about anything "religious" was from when I was very young. I'm thinking that I was maybe 4 or 5 at the time. Our house was only the second on French Street. If you walked to the corner of French and Davis Streets, you walked up a hill. My sister and I had a friend who lived on that corner, so it wasn't unusual to find us up at the top of the hill.

That's where I was, alone, when someone approached me. She wasn't threatening in any way, but she started talking to me. She was asking me questions and she showing me things in a little book. It was all about God. I don't recall and specifics of the conversation, except for this: she said, do you believe everything we have talked about? I honestly answered "yes." Then she asked if I wanted to pray with her. I said "yes." So we prayed.

That was the last I saw of her. I went home and I told my mom what happened. I kept thinking, "the woman said I could go to heaven if I prayed the prayer. And I don't think she told me anything wrong, but I don't think you can get to heaven just by praying one prayer." I thought there had to be more I was supposed to "do" to get to heaven, like be a good person, etc.

Now, the theology of this might be debated in some circles. Faith without works is dead, says James. And some might want to argue "Lordship salvation." But, part of me wonders if the Holy Spirit didn't just enter my heart that very day. I don't know. All I know is I understood everything the lady said, and I believed it, and we prayed.

Some day I will know for sure. But until then, I rely on more recent and specific events to explain how I came to know Christ.

It began when I was a senior in high school. (Though, I only know that in hindsight.) At the time, there was nothing to speak of in my life that could have been construed as spiritual commitment. I believed in God and I tried to be good. But I didn't attend church or pray all that often. I was just a typical high school kid.

But I was making plans to go to Wittenberg, and one of the conscious decisions I made was to start attending church when I went away to college. I don't know why I felt that I needed to wait until then. I just knew it was something I wanted as part of my life. So, when I arrived at Wittenberg, I didn't waste time finding a place to go to church. They provided a list of different churches in the area. But I settled on a Catholic service that was held right on campus. I went to Catholic school for 8 years, so it was an easy pick for me.

I enjoyed the services. Casual. Just students. The priest who came to say the mass was involved with the students through the Neuman (sp?) club, and he was very down-to-earth. I liked his homilies. He seemed to care about us.

Concurrently, I was, as all freshmen do, meeting new friends and checking out different campus groups. One of my roommate's friends from home, Shelby, became a good friend of mine. (And still is - hi Shelby!) She was interested in spiritual things too. She was looking into different Christian groups on campus and I was "into" that, so I joined her. There were three prominent ones at the time. We checked them out, but we both really liked one in particular, and we made it a point to go each week together.

It was called "College Life." It was an interesting meeting. We would sing some praise songs. We heard a talk based on the Bible. Then we would hang out and chat with people. Seniors mingled with freshmen. Everyone was friendly. Almost too friendly. They'd talk about Jesus like they knew him. I was fine with that, although I didn't "get it." We had fun though, so I was committed.

Then I would go to church on Sunday. And there was this guy, I don't remember his name, but he was the president of the Neuman Club. Football player. Frat guy. Senior. BMOC. He became the tangible representation of the disconnect that was going on in my mind. He seemed to carry his BMOC status with him wherever he went. At mass that meant that he couldn't really associate with a little freshman like me.

So, I would sit in mass on Sunday with a whole bunch of other students. But when it was over, we all left. We never greeted each other. We never got to know each other. And when we saw each other on campus during the week, we just walked right by as if we'd never seen each other before. It seemed strange and awkward.

And I grant you that I could have been more outgoing. But the point is that there was a huge difference between the concern that people had for me at church and the concern that people had for me at College Life. I wondered why there was such a difference.

I kept going to mass and to College Life, but I grew increasingly uncomfortable at the CL meetings too - for an altogether different reason. I just didn't get it! Finally I started asking Shelby about it. Why was everyone so hyped up on Jesus? I don't get why people are so excited about what they are learning in the Bible. What do they get that I don't?

Shelby and I talked about it, along with Traci, another friend from CL. (Also still a friend of mine!) I think I was either confused about all they were telling me or just didn't want to believe it. Finally, Traci asked me "Lori, if you died tonight, would you go to heaven?"

My answer at that time was the more mature version of what I was thinking that day when I was 5. I just didn't think anyone could know if they were going to heaven. You had to live a good life and do your best - but there was no way you could know you'd get in until you met St. Peter at the pearly gates.

That confusing conversation left me wondering what I had gotten myself into, but I still wanted to understand. So, Shelby suggested I talk to one of the older girls from CL, and that's what I did. Her name was Jenn.

She picked me up one Wednesday in her little red car and we drove out to the resevoir. She told me I could ask her whatever I wanted. I remember crying a lot. I was confused because I WENT TO CATHOLIC SCHOOL FOR EIGHT YEARS, but everything they were telling me was something I had never heard of before! (And I am not trying to say that Catholics don't know Christ. I am merely explaining my experience.)

So, Jenn shared with me about Jesus. Though I had always believed that Jesus died on the cross, it had never EVER occurred to me to ask "WHY?" Jenn explained why. I agreed that I was sinful - that was a no brainer (Romans 3:23.) And I came to understand that there was nothing that I could ever do that would be good enough to "cover" for my sins in the presence of a holy God. Jenn used actual Scripture to explain: that the result of sin is separation from God (Romans 6:23;) that Jesus's death paid the penalty for my sin so that I would not have to be separated from God (Romans 5:8, John 14:6;) and that we establish a relationship with Christ (no longer separated from him) when we believe in him (John 1:12.)

This was revolutionary to me. It made complete sense. So much, in fact, that I was wondering why I had never heard this before. Wondering why people had kept this information from me. I just couldn't believe I'd missed it.

So, Jenn asked me if I wanted to pray to receive Christ.

No. Something was holding me back.

It was this grace thing. Jenn shared Ephesians 2:8,9 with me, which explains that we can't do anything to earn a good standing with God. He simply offers it, by his grace, through his sacrificial death. This concept just did not sit right with me. Everything else made sense to me. But not EARNING it? This flew in the face of everything I had ever understood about how God operated.

So, we returned to campus. Without praying. But this was not the end of the story for me. I spent the rest of the night thinking and rehashing all of this stuff in my mind. It all made so much sense except for this one little part.

And then I thought about the kind of person I was. Always trying to earn the best grade. Trying to please everyone. "Striving" was my MO. Good standing with God seemed to be far too big a thing not to have to strive for... it was completely counter to how I had ever known to obtain something.

So I just sat there with my thoughts. And I thought about all that the striving had obtained for me... a lot of anxiety, but not much else. And then it just hit me:

Wow, God. You must love me a lot to take on all the striving for me. You did it because you wanted me near you, and I never would have been able to do it myself.

You did it all? I really don't have to try to impress you?

That sounds exactly like love. Thank you.

Then I prayed some more.

And that's how I know that I know God.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Here We Be

Originally uploaded by PEZmama.
Do I look annoyed here? Boo and Bug were not cooperating and we had to take several pics. This was the one that came out best. Sorry if the quality is poor, I scanned a print. Anyway, you get the point - we're all together.

Originally uploaded by PEZmama.
Here they are: The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Cinderella, and my pumpkin. I know I'm late, so you'll have to excuse me...


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Getting to Know me

I think I may have picked up a few new readers just prior to and during the trip to China. Now seems like a good time to do a "getting to know me" post. Hopefully even my faithful readers will learn something new.

Here are some little known facts about me:

> There was a time in my life when I considered being a hand model. But only my left hand. I don't think my right hand would be "photogenic" because I have an ugly callous on my middle finger from where I rest pens/pencils when I write.

> During my junior high and high school years I was a big, huge West Point geek. It was pretty crazy. I'd visit whenever I could and I loved meeting cadets. I got to sit (well, stand, actually) with the corps during a football game once. It was a fun thing arranged by the only female cadet I knew, and I just thought she was the coolest. I went to an Army v. Navy game once too.

> The "baddest" things I ever did when I was a teenager: I skipped eighth period once during my senior year... and I had to walk by the principal in the hallway to do it. Also, I sat in the car while my friends drove around stealing street signs one night. I think that makes me an accomplice or something. Oh, and I lied to Heather's parents one night about where we were going. We wanted to go to the beach at night and just hang out, but we didn't think they'd dig that idea. So we told them we were going somewhere else. I could've sworn we lied to my mom about it too, but Heather says my mom knew the truth... even about not telling her parents the real story. I have a feeling Heather is right. Perhaps mom can confirm, if she recalls the event.

> I had a crush on Michael Jackson when I was in the fifth grade.

> I am thirty-two years old and I have never:
- gone skiing
- seen any of the Star Trek, Star Wars, Rocky, or Halloween movies
- been drunk
- been high
- eaten sauerkraut
- carried/owned a cell phone

> I have no desire to do any of the things listed above.

> I am not a friendly person, in that I don't say "hi" to people I pass by or smile a whole lot. People take this the wrong way sometimes and think something is wrong. Usually nothing is wrong, I just don't do those things because I don't think of it.

> I absolutely get overwhelmed with life if I don't have regular, adult conversation about stimulating topics AND time by myself. This is probably why this stage of motherhood is sometimes stressful to me.

> I like to write letters to people - the old fashioned way.

> I always wanted to be a teacher. I never remember wanting to be anything else. I think this is the case because I never realized that I was good at anything other than school.

> Don't worry, I realize it now.

> And, BTW, I was a great teacher, too - IMO.

> Some cool things I have done:
- flown in a hot air balloon
- been a member of the studio audience for a taping of "Hollywood Squares."
- studied NMR at Penn State
- went on a mission trip to Azerbaijan
- been to China! :)

> Things a lot of people like that I just don't get into:
- being a beach bum
- watching TV, or purchasing large TVs
- watching movies
- makeup (I don't wear any.)
- Longaberger baskets
- sporty cars and SUVs

> I can learn well from written directions. I have taught myself to knit and crochet this way.

> My husband recently asked what my perfect day would be like. I haven't answered him yet because I was thinking day = 24 hours. He was thinking day = "from the time you get up to the time you go to bed." But I thought I would share my perfect 24 hour day: up in the morning. Breakfast at Hardees - egg and cheese biscuit, hash rounds, and a coffee. Drive over to Waynesville to putz around at the Fabric Shack and buy some beautiful, if overpriced, fabric that I have no idea what I will do with. Get my hair washed, cut, and dried at a nice salon. Have a quiet time at a quiet, untrendy coffee shop that isn't overrun with teenagers hyped up on caffeine. I'd like to have quiche for lunch. Then, I want to check into a hotel which is near a Micheal's or a Hobby Lobby. I'd spend the rest of my night scrapbooking, so I would need to be near one in case I needed supplies or ideas. I'd stop for dinner (roomservice?) and to watch Letterman just long enough to hear the top ten list. Then I 'd sleep - uninterrupted, until the next morning when I would return home. (And now I am thinking, that's a lot of egg to eat in one day... hmm)

The End.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005


To balance out the last post, I thought I might post a few praises. I thought I would let everyone (including me) know that, though this season of life is hard, I am not defeated.

1. A lovely e-mail from Linda, former college roomie, and great Christian friend. She offered me encouragement from the perspective of one who has been there... and is emerging from the tunnel.

2. Dinner. Provided by Ashley and Melissa - two lovely ladies from our Sunday School class. If you are reading, thanks ladies - especially for the brownies!

3. Grocery shopping completed.

4. Boo wanted very badly to go to church tonight, but is sick. I think it is sweet that she wanted to go so badly.

5. An evening home with the entire family. Paul took a night off from his Wednesday responsibilities at church so I could go to the service. Boo (with fever) and Bug (with what looks like pink eye, and complaining about HIS stomach) had to stay home. But there is absolutely no point of going to a service with Bao, because I would have ended up walking out with her anyway when she got too loud/distracting. SO, we all stayed home. And - go figure- the kids liked it.

6. I agreed to go to church to pick up the craft that Boo was really looking forward to doing. When I left she said, "tell my teacher to pray for me to get better." How sweet is that?

7. I have a lot of "thank you" cards to write.

8. Boo and Bug, both feeling under the weather, went to bed an hour early tonight - voluntarily!

9. A bag of Hershey bars - half price after Halloween.

10. Now that I am done blogging, I am going to bed an hour early too!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Mother of Three

This post will contain a bit about Ms. Bao, for those of you who were wondering about her status. But really it is about me. This time of the night is just about the only time I get to myself each day, and really, the last thing I want to do is spend it rehashing all of my kids needs for everyone.

I am growing tired of being a need-meeter right now. It's the stage I'm in, and it's okay, but I am so tired. I feel a little like "me" is lost somewhere, and I don't exactly have time, energy, or ability to find her. Too many people around me have needs that they rely on me to meet.

Bao is doing great. Today she accomplished something that she has never done before... she fed herself a cracker. From the very beginning, I found it interesting that she put nothing in her mouth except for her hand, on occasion. Most babies her age won't keep anything out of their mouths! I wondered if maybe she had been trained not to put toys, etc in her mouth. No big deal, but still interesting.

One of the results of that, however, is that whenever we handed her food, she just played with it. I bought her a box of biter biscuits while we were in China, then I thought that was dumb, she'll never put them in her mouth! But, today, she finally got it with a cracker. She hasn't mastered the skill of picking up small objects between her thumb and forefinger, but she is getting better. I think once she has that down, she will be well on her way to feeding herself Cheerios and such. Go, Bao!

As you might imagine, having a nine month old who can't feed herself anything means that "meals" take a while. She can't roll over either. So whenever she tips too far from her seated position, she needs someone to come rescue her. And it isn't like I am really far away because she isn't so into letting me be in another room. That's fine, and even expected. But I feel a little too attached. And I mean that in the physical sense.

Ms. Bao also still needs to be entertained. Since she can't move herself, she needs to be moved into a new position when she gets bored with her present one. And she needs someone to fetch toys that she wants but can't get to. And she will whine until you do. The problem with her whine is that is doesn't sound much different from her happy noises, so you have to actually look at her face to determine her mood. (The added problem for me is that she ALWAYS sounds like she is whining, even when she isn't!)

The amount of time that I spend tending to Bao is not really meeting with a lot of approval from Boo and Bug. Add to this that Boo spent the day telling me she felt like she was going to throw up. (She never did throw up, but she voluntarily took a nap, and ate hardly anything. These are pretty good signs she is sick... and her 101.9 fever tonight confirmed it.) I think Bao might also be getting sick. Her temp was slightly elevated before bed tonight. So, basically, there are a lot of needy kids hanging around.

Today when Paul came home, I was a zombie. Bug had been up since 6:20 and I had not a single break all day.

And I keep wondering when I am going to get the grocery shopping done. Halloween last night, Paul had a meeting at church tonight. Wednesday evening services, Thursday is parent teacher conferences for Paul. Forget about getting out of the house for a break, I gotta go extra crazy just so I can - what? - make sure that my family has food to eat.

I don't know how I am supposed to do all of this. And sometimes I wish there was another mortal who would make a priority of meeting my needs. But, alas, I think I am that person. So, when Paul came home today, he took the kids for a walk. As he was leaving, he asked if I could make a phone call to MCI to straighten out a bill.

Already on my way to the bedroom, I said "no" and got right in my bed.

And that's where I am headed now.