Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Big field
Big flags
Big noise
Big players
Big stadium
Big advertisements
Big marching band
Big percussion section
Big tower of cheerleaders
Big concession stand prices
Big calories for a small amount of food
Big East vs Big Ten college football game

Our team won, but just by 1 point (not big).

This weekend we attended not one but two football games. If I have ever been to a football game, it was so long ago I don’t remember it. Both these games (one high school, one college) were quite the Roman coliseum show, although no Christians were thrown to lions. The game was interesting, but to me the pageantry and the crowd were much more interesting, and very American, in their BIGness.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Tomorrow my Bible study group meets. Every week I look forward to it. Each person brings a unique understanding to the text. Examining the text in detail almost always brings a new level of meaning to it.

We are studying the gospel of Luke, and we’ll be looking at the passage about the Last Supper tomorrow. The disciples have an argument, while there are really significant,sad things going on right before their eyes. Sort of like having a blog which discusses head lice and tomatoes, while the world is in financial turmoil, hurricanes are hitting land, bombs are exploding in Pakistan, and war continues in Iraq. But the remarkable thing is that while people are plotting to take Jesus’ life, Jesus is all about getting ready for a meal with his friends. Jesus is focused on the details, and on spending time with people he values, while the big turmoil swirls around him.

I'm sad about Pakistan - a bomb exploded today in Islamabad. Today I pray for Pakistan, its people, its mountains and valleys, its rice and spice crops – blessing and peace and healing.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Proverb: The Calendar

Common Household Mom Proverb

When the calendar becomes dark with events*,
when you find you must be two places at the same time,
when you are out every night of the week meeting teachers:
Lo, this is how you shall know that it is the beginning of the school year.

* always write in pencil, never in pen

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Common Household Mom Reading: The Battle for Moscow

I recently read “The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II” by Andrew Nagorski, about the Battle of Moscow in WWII.

Major themes of the book:
- how both Stalin and Hitler crippled their chance of wining because of their hubris in believing their own military ideas were better than their generals’ ideas;
- how important the battle for Moscow was for the outcome of the entire war;
- what a colossal waste of life occurred because of the two leaders’ actions and policies.

Stalin decimated his officers’ ranks by purging the military of officers with any length of experience. He thought they were politically suspect. He also did not listen to compelling evidence indicating that the Germans would attack the USSR. Stalin went out of this way to fulfill his part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact which agreed that Germany and USSR would not attack each other. This meant that Stalin was delivering grain to the Germans, all while the Germans were planning to attack the USSR.

Hitler, for his part, kept postponing his attack on the USSR, even though history had repeatedly shown that the Russian winter was not something to be trifled with (Napoleon lost to the Russian winter). Hitler was not satisfied with his generals’ strategy, and took over the military command himself (a good thing for the world, because it led to German losses). Hitler refused to issue winter uniforms to the army rank and file, because he was convinced that the Germans would have captured Moscow and the USSR would have capitulated, before winter set in. Wrong.

Stalin instituted a policy whereby Red Army soldiers who retreated or refused to enter battle would be shot by their unit’s political officers. Often the Soviet soldiers had no weapons or ammunition, but nevertheless were supposed to enter into battle. The natural tendency of anyone in this situation would be to retreat. (Run away! Run away!) So the Red Army needed political guys to watch the army guys, and be ready to shoot their fellow citizens if they tried to retreat. The political guys had guns.

There was also a policy whereby any Soviet soldier who had been captured by the Germans but managed to escape and return to Soviet territory was automatically assumed to be a traitor, and was either shot or sent to hard labor camp. This was the case for the character of Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, in Solzhenitsyn’s novel “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”. Stalin thought that a Soviet soldier worth his salt should commit suicide rather than be captured by the enemy.

Lice figured prominently in this book. Well, maybe not prominently, but I noticed it!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Homegrown tomatoes

I sing the praises of the homegrown tomato!
A few days ago my friend gave me tomatoes from her garden. I wish I were a poet so I could adequately express the heavenly, delightful taste of those tomatoes. We can’t grow tomatoes here: the soil isn’t good, and rabbits and deer will have juicy tomatoes for a midnight snack before the humans can. So for my lycopene intake I’ve been relying on those plasticky things that pass for tomatoes at the grocery store.

Another heavenly fresh vegetable is sweet white corn. A good ear of sweet corn is like candy.

And here’s a recipe that combines my favorite tastes in one dish.

Corn-Tomato Salad
From our local newspaper, July 13, 2000

4 ears already-cooked fresh corn (for about 2 1/2 cups kernels)
2 medium (1 pound) ripe tomatoes
3 scallions (for 1/4 cup chopped)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed
juice of 1/2 lime
Salt (about ¼ to ½ tsp)
Pepper (about 1/8 tsp)

Cut the kernels from the cob into a shallow dish (such as a pie plate). Scrape the cob to remove any remaining kernels and “milk.” Core the tomatoes (but do not peel them) and cut them into roughly 1/4 inch cubes. Add them to the dish as you chop.

Chop the scallions, including enough of the tender green tops to make 1/4 cup. Add the scallions to the dish. Rinse and drain the cilantro leaves, chop and add them to the dish. Squeeze the lime juice into the corn mixture. Toss well to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Flying the Flag

Today at our house I am flying the flag in honor and memory of Dana Falkenberg, Zoe Falkenberg, and their Mom and Dad, Leslie Whittington and Charlie Falkenberg, one entire family, friends of my brother’s family. All four died when terrorists committed the heinous crime of crashing their plane, Flight 77, into the Pentagon on Sep 11, 2001. Dana was 3 years old and Zoe was 8 years old.

And the flag flies in honor and memory of my uncle Jack. He died on this date in 2002.

And the flag flies in honor and memory of all those who serve, and have served, to protect us and protect our civil rights. This was not as important to me before Sep 11, 2001. On that date, I suddenly realized that I had enemies. One enemy is the fear that works to let us give up our civil liberties. I can say this easily, since I have some sense of security. I don’t know that I would feel the same way if I felt directly threatened at this moment. Benjamin Franklin purportedly said, “Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security.” Is it possible to have both liberty and security?

I like to use this day to go about doing ordinary activities, but dedicate those ordinary activities to the Falkenberg family, who, but for that crime on that beautiful cloudless September day 7 years ago, would be doing the ordinary activities that an American family does.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A lousy summer

Very hot water (60 degrees C or 140 degrees F) kills head lice adults and nymphs, if applied for at least 30 seconds.

A test of motherly love: to comb through her child's head-lice-infested hair every night for two weeks.

A test of fatherly love: to vacuum and iron the mattresses and floor in the bedroom of the head-lice-infested child every night for two weeks.  Add to that doing humongous loads of laundry on HOT and drying on HOT.  Add to that earning the money to pay for all that water and electric use.

Do not ask me how I know these things.