29 October 2012

Upcoming & Now Online...

I do, in fact, have a Weekend Workroom to post, but I've been sucked down the Hurricane Sandy rabbit hole (because I am a news junkie - there is no doubt). Hopefully I'll get that up tonight or tomorrow. In the meantime, there's a new post of mine at the Summitview blog about how literature affects my desire to be in the Word. You can check it out here:

And, just as a disclaimer, I did have a different title for it originally... Don't remember what in particular, but it was a little shorter! Enjoy!

21 October 2012

Weekend Workroom: Finishing

This weekend was about finishing things.

For one, the inside of our front door has long looked like this:

Not very attractive, to be sure, but it at least got sanded somewhere along the way, which means it's been leagues ahead of the outside of the door (or the house for that matter - if you visit, you'll understand how our house is not-so-pretty from the outside).

While Chris and his dad worked on outside stuff, getting the yard ready for winter (and for our dogs not to have mud to roll around in!), I decided I was going to tackle some painting projects that have long sat unfinished. I'm still mid-project on a few of them, but it was nice to finally get somewhere... A few hours and two coats of paint later, our front door now looks like this:

It's really pretty. I rehung my wreath there tonight. It just seemed right.

Anyway, after that, we went to our semi-annual teens-run-around-in-the-dark-with-noodles youth ministry night last night and I tackled the last round and a half of the border on the blanket I've been working on since this spring (see here and here for beginnings and mid-point). I got to the last 20 stitches and I ran out of yarn in my skein. So, I finished it after I went home. And it's awesome. Definitely one of my favorite projects. Consequently, I'm back to work on Christopher's blanket now. Some pictures of the finished product:

It was nice to finish some things for a change. Off for another busy week!

15 October 2012

Weekend Workroom: Fall Color

I've been looking for inexpensive ways to decorate our home for the seasons, particularly fall, whose color palette I really enjoy... so I'd been shopping around and finding a ton of things that I liked that came at a pretty steep cost (can't really afford a $40 wreath, you know?).

Regardless, I came across a few tutorials for time-light, investment-light (I spent about $10 total on felt, fabric, and yarn) projects, made a run to the craft store last Monday while waiting for our vehicle to get an oil change, and invested my afternoon in making my home a little more colorful. Here's what I came up with:

Tricks + Treats: Autumn Fabric Wreath by Elise Blaha
I purchased $5 worth of fabric quarters (they were on sale for $1.25/ea. at Joann's) in 4 colors and spent a bit of my afternoon cutting (and tearing, because ripping fabric is quite a bit of fun) the quarters into 1x7-inch strips. I just followed the tutorial and tied them one at a time, right next to each other (in a repeating order because I don't do "random" so well).

Fall Leaves Garland DIY
This was one of the easiest projects I've done in a while, though it did require a bit of prep work. I made a few of these and gave them away as birthday presents to some friends (I kept one for myself, don't worry!). I grabbed a bunch of fall-colored felt at Hobby Lobby (reds, yellows, oranges, greens, browns) and some craft yarn. The leaves I just cut out free-form, some multiple sheets at a time. I used about 40 leaves per garland because they were 2-3 inches in length and that was what I was going for in length. Mixed them all together in a paper bag and pulled them out at random (though I did have rules for how close leaves of the same color could be). You can make them however long, but it does get tiring after a while of continuing to push the ones at the bottom further down the yarn. Tied each off at the end.

My house looks a little more festive for the season, and I'm pretty excited about it all. I like the fall. The leaves are turning and the air is much cooler than it was over the summer.

And, to beat it all, I didn't spend $40 on a wreath.

08 October 2012

Media Monday: "The Shallows"

Over the last three years, I have read a lot of very interesting books and articles in my quest to get my master's degree. The result is that I have fed my nerdiness. While trying to ease my way back into studying and reading things related to my field so that I can get back on track toward finishing my thesis (and consequently, my degree), I picked up The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.

It's a book I received for Christmas in 2010, which I started and then put aside with all of my field-related studies when Christopher got hurt and we bought/started renovating our home. I picked it up again over spring break and finished reading it shortly after returning home. I was blown away, and immediately started synthesizing the book's content.

The premise pertains to how the Internet is completely changing how our brains work, particularly with regard to how we remember things and how we engage with life. Carr deftly describes how our cognitive functioning is interacting with the change in how and where we gather our information:
Imagine filling a bathtub with a thimble; that's the challenge involved in transferring information from working memory into long-term memory. By regulating the velocity and intensity of information flow, media exert a strong influence on this process. When we read a book, the information faucet provides a steady drip, which we can control by the pace of our reading. Through our single-minded concentration on the text, we can transfer all or most of the information, thimbleful by thimbleful, into long-term memory and forge the rich associations essential to the creation of schemas. With the Net, we face many information fuacets, all going full blast. Our little thimble overflows as we rush from one faucet to the next. We're able to transfer only a small portion of the information to long-term memory, and what we do transfer is a jumble of drops from different faucets, not a continuous, coherent stream from one source. (pp. 124-125)
Carr details how this change has happened in his own habits - how he writes, reads, works - and contrasts it with historical perspectives and understandings of the brain (something he does really well in The Big Switch, his first book). Breadth of knowledge may be increasing, but there are signs pointing to a decrease in depth of knowledge (hence, Carr's title).

The book is a great read, engaging and thoughtful. It was even a Pulitzer finalist. These are reasons I encourage you to pick it up yourself and give it a read. I will, however, share one of the most fascinating sections from my trip through its pages:
It's not hard to see why books have been slow to make the leap into the digital age. There's not a whole lot of difference between a computer monitor and a television screen, and the sounds coming from speakers hit your ears in pretty much the same way whether they're being transmitted through a computer or a radio. But as a device for reading, the book retains some compelling advantages over the computer. You can take a book to the beach without worrying about sand getting in its works. You can take it to bed without being nervous about it falling to the floor should you nod off. You can spill coffee on it. You can put it down on a table, open to the page you're reading, and when you pick it up a few days later it will still be exactly as you left it. You never have to be concerned about plugging a book into an outlet or having its battery die. (pp. 99-100)
Now, it is certainly no secret that I love books, or even that I love real, printed ones. But a lot of what Carr relates about how the format of the book has changed as it has made its way into interactive platforms is mind-boggling to me. It ceases to be just reading. We lose our ability to simply be lost in whatever it is that we're reading.

Sure, we all know that it can be easy to lose one's train of thought while reading a book, but you realize it when you come to recognize you don't have a clue what is happening on the page and either put it down for a time when you can concentrate or get back on track. With a lot of electronic and interactive book platforms, there are more than our own trains of thought going while we read:
Christine Rosen, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC, recently wrote about her experience using a Kindle to read the Dickens novel Nicholas Nickleby. Her story underscores Johnson's fears: "Although mildly disorienting at first, I quickly adjusted to the Kindle's screen and mastered the scroll and page-turn buttons. Nevertheless, my eyes were restless and jumped around as they do when I try to read for a sustained time on the computer. Distractions abounded. I looked up Dickens on Wikipedia, then jumped straight down the Internet rabbit hole following a link about a Dickens short story, 'Mugby Junction.' Twenty minutes later I still hadn't returned to my reading of Nickleby on the Kindle."
When we step outside of the traditional book platform, we step into a world filled with rabbit trails. They all lead to information of some sort or another, but is it good information? Is it actually leading to a depth of knowledge, a depth of understanding? Do we actually understand the book better?

These are all good questions, and I think Carr has some good thoughts on how our brains are changing with our constant and overflowing influx of information and stimuli. If you want to read it, I recommend a paper copy. Might even let you borrow mine.

06 October 2012

Weekend Workroom: THE Pumpkin Patch

So... be prepared for a bit of a picture dump.

At the end of last month, we went to Nebraska to celebrate my brother-in-law's 30th birthday. On our way back from Omaha, we stopped at Vala's Pumpkin Patch to experience the now-annual family trip with our nephews. It's quite the place. Didn't think we'd spend the whole day there, but we did.

There were a lot of animals to see and pet:

Definitely a few cuties to hang out with:


 Duck races with Oma and corn mazes to get lost in...

 ...and a grown-up size jumping pillow.

 Good grub. Christopher "split" a turkey leg with Mackers.

I really liked the lanterns in one of the eating areas.


And, of course, pumpkins. Lots and lots of pumpkins.

I am so excited that it is finally autumn!

04 October 2012

Thursday Thoughts: What I Learned at a Dueling Piano Bar in Omaha

As the finale for my brother-in-law's 30th birthday, Christopher and I met up with him and his wife for drinks at a dueling piano bar in Omaha. It would be a new experience for everyone and we just hoped it would be fun.

It was definitely a new experience.

First, it was extremely loud. Set in the back room of a sports bar, the room consisted of a bunch of tables (filled with all sorts of people, including a few bachelorette parties) and some pretty sizable speakers that washed out any ability to hear even the waitress trying to take our order.

Second, it seemed innocuous enough at first. A few well-known songs. Guys playing piano, singing to each other. And then came the first hit of raunch, which we assumed was in passing and would get better as the night progressed.

But, third, we were wrong. It became progressively worse. And, to be honest, it's not the cursing or lewdness that got to me the most: It was the (seemingly) endless attack on marriage.
Marriage is the end of fun, of enjoying your partner. It's all about how one spouse can manipulate the other. Better enjoy the last night or nights you have before it's all over.
Chris and I later talked about how we're surprised anyone actually gets married anymore. There has to be something built into us that knows it is supposed to be meaningful, worthwhile, and beautiful. Most of the world has just seen the bad examples, the "irreconcilable differences," the affairs, the drifting apart after multiple decades together.

The Christian side of things isn't really any better. More than half of those marriages end in divorce, just like the rest. What's missing? Why are we failing at something we so obviously desire but just can't seem to get right?

About a month ago, I had a pretty rattling dream where I was surrounded by a number of believing couples whose marriages I greatly respect who, at the influence of one member of the group, decided that they should all get a "mass" divorce and swap wives. (Most of this is probably due to subconscious fears rooted in experiences at one of the churches my family attended while I was growing up, which is a long, crazy story.)

And, as they began to strip off their wedding rings and celebrate the finalized dissolution of their marriages, I got up on the table and started yelling at them about how foolish they were, about how God would never divorce them - and He had every reason to do so.

Which is BIG for me, you know, because whenever I start yelling in dreams, nothing actually comes out of my mouth. I typically start yelling and realize that no sound is coming out, and become increasingly burdened until I wake either shaking or weeping.

But I was definitely yelling in my dream, and I awoke with the words, "God will never divorce you," rolling over and over in my head. There is so much power in those words that we too often neglect.

You see, Christopher and I are married. We took vows in front of family, friends, and God, and we celebrated in style like so many others do. But we are committed to more than just one another. We're committed to something deeper - that Christ's sacrifice for the Church (His bride) ought to shape us and how we understand marriage. And divorce is not an option.

It's a covenant that's deeper than affection. It's rooted in the very fact that Christ chose us when we did not deserve it, but He did it anyway. We whore after lesser things, thinking they will fulfill us. We have been unfaithful to the Faithful One. Yet, though we fail Him time and again, He upholds His covenant with us that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Marriage can be a beautiful, life-giving thing. The world may see chains, but I see freedom in the fact that God will hold me to my covenant to this man. Freedom from fear. Freedom to believe that, in the same way, God holds Himself to His covenant to me. He will never divorce me. What a beautiful truth upon which to build my life and my marriage.

And, to think, I learned that at a dueling piano bar in Omaha.

01 October 2012

Media Monday: Reassessing Facebook

While I am going to start pulling together some thoughts on media to post here (that whole trying-to-start-finishing-my-thesis thing), here's a little something to kick it all off: My latest post over at the Summitview blog, which is an update of my original I'm-leaving-Facebook post from 2010.

You can find the permalink for the blog post here: http://summitview.com/blog/entryid/30/two-years-sober-why-i-left-facebook-and-haven-t-gone-back

Happy reading!