Archive for July, 2010

A Free Woman

It’s been a morning of contrasts.

I finished The Awakening by Kate Chopin.

Then I listened to a Focus on the Family broadcast: Overcoming Selfishness In Marriage.

Then I climbed 25 flights of stairs and thought about the two.

Here’s what I came up with:

1.  300 stair steps is no picnic when your lungs and legs are as disgustingly out of shape as mine.

2.  There is enough elevation change in 25 flights of stairs to make your ears pop.  And before they pop, they hurt.  And while they hurt, it is hard to think on anything else of much substance.

3.  Everyone else just rides the elevator down to the gym on the 4th floor.

4. In The Awakening, Kate Chopin tells of a woman’s coming to herself.  “Edna was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.”  Not such a bad thing, eh?  I, too, have a fictitious self which I wear before the world; and I, too, am slowly learning to cast it aside.  But Edna’s is a deeper, darker coming to: “Whatever came, she resolved never again to belong to another than herself.”  “‘I don’t want anything but my own way.  That is wanting a good deal, of course, when you have to trample upon the lives, the hearts, the prejudices of others–but no matter.'”  

I found it a very disturbing story because of how often I find similar desires in my own heart.  Edna is the picture of selfishness, yet glorified and magnified (in both the story and in current culture) into something admirable and worthy–and someone, to my shame, that I can sometimes envy and other times empathize with.  Too often, I also “don’t want anything but my own way.”  Not God’s, not Tim’s, not the church’s, not my relations’, not society’s.  I have wanted the courage (or cowardice, depending on your perspective) to be “the bird that soars above the level of tradition and prejudice.”  I have felt bitterly my own hypocrisy and farce: I have wanted to break all the rules (large and small, doesn’t matter, just so long as its a rule–not too long ago I actually got mad at Tim for refusing to forgo brushing his teeth before bed.  Not sure how he puts up with me; sure glad he does), rebel against the weight of everyone’s expectations (there are times when they seem heavier than others), lash out and break out and break free. 

In The Awakening, Edna does.  She leaves the house on her established weekly reception day.  She takes up frowned upon hobbies and develops independent interests.  She abandons the responsibility of her children to their grandmother.  She escapes from the oppressive care of a husband she does not love.  She has an affair.  Or actually two, simultaneously, since sexual autonomy is the doorway to happiness.  She becomes alone, independent, completely free from restraint to pursue her own selfish interests and delights.

And she lives happily ever after.

No, actually, she doesn’t.  Left to herself, she becomes very lonely.  No one understands her.  She cannot manipulate others to her own way.  She drives herself to suicide.  The editor of the American Lit Anthology I’m perusing sees this ending as a casualty of the evil patriarchal society and Edna an early martyr for the cause of feminism.  But perhaps this is an interpretation of the 1950s, when Chopin’s writings were “rediscovered and reassessed” (she wrote in the late 1800s).  What if Chopin was saying that such selfish abandon is not all that we imagine it to be?  What if being true to ourselves whatever comes does not lead to happiness and fulfillment?  What if autonomy breaks its promise?  What if, as Townsend and Cloud suggested on Focus on the Family, personal happiness is the worst goal you can ever have for marriage but the best byproduct, a wonderful gift God gives as self surrenders?  What if that same thing holds true for all of life?  What if true joy is found only as we delight ourselves in God, as we submit to His rules and commands, and as we give up even our very souls (with all their selfishness) (Ps 25) to Him?

It’s not easy.  I know it’s not, because  it’s something I struggle and struggle and struggle with.  Something I deny.  Something I rebel against.  But by His grace, He’ll keep my soul no matter what, and I’ll continue to learn to give it up to Him.       

If Christ makes you free, then you are free indeed.

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I love Arby’s curly fries

I’m writing from Pittsburgh, PA this week.  Tim’s here for a yearly conference put on by one of the vendors he works with.  It’s a big sha-bang in downtown at an upscale hotel/conference center with 26 floors (minus one; they left out floor 13).  The setting is a little intimidating for me…it’s definitely of a class into which I do not (nor want to) fit.  BUT I’m sure I can manage to enjoy it for the week! 

A major upside to this whole deal is not being home alone for the week.  I’m so thankful that I’m here with Tim this time around (this is his 4th conference, my 1st).  Last year at this time I was still working, we’d just gotten married, and it was one of THE longest weeks of my life.  I think I ended up spending most of it at Tim’s grandfather’s house so I didn’t have to be by myself at night.  Why are house creaks and cracks so much scarier when no one else is there to hear them, too?

Another big blessing: we have people to see in this area!  My brother and his (new) wife live about 45 minutes from here.  We’ll get to spend the evening with them on Thursday.  Their summer housing consists of a one room cabin built onto the side of a camper trailer right on the Allegheny River.  I can’t wait to see it.  I heard a rumor that they’re planning to take us on a river adventure involving a river, adventure, and a rope swing.  I can’t wait to confirm this rumor.  Also, Tim and I spent 4 years of our lives (the college part) about an hour north of Pittsburgh.  Since that was the not so distant past, several near and dear fellow collegians still inhabit these parts.  Friday is devoted to catching up with them.  Yay, yay, yay!

Speaking of catching up, did I mention that one of my favorite things on the road is Arby’s curly fries with extra ketchup?  Also, they now have Jamocha shakes on the dollar menu.  Excellent move, Arby’s!

We are in the middle of some major house projects.  Our ‘whenever’ deadline got pushed up to ‘the end of the summer’ (more on this later) on our den, our garage, and our upper most room.  (Someday soon, I’ll have to post a walk through of our house so you know what I’m referring to.)  It’s a good thing, because we needed a motivational kick in the pants.  But it also means that most of our down time for the next few weeks is booked.  Saturday we spent about 3 hours in Lowes looking at carpet, thresholds, garage doors, torque wrenches, freezers, towing balls, and trailers.  Since concrete floors, 107 degree weather, making decisions, and spending money rank right down there with extracting infected blackberry splinters on the list of our favorite things, it was a brutal afternoon.  But it is going to be so nice to have some of these projects completed.  We’ve been holding back on settling in to most of the rooms in our house until we can get them ‘fixed up’–I’m so looking forward to making our whole house a home soon!  Especially our den.  It is my favorite room, and it’s been ‘in progress’ for one reason or another since we moved in.  It’s so close now!  all that’s left is: 1) grout the tile 2) paint the hallway (that I just textured) and 3) install new carpet (we’re not going to attempt this ourselves, don’t worry). 

Our electricity bill quadrupled for the months of June and July.  Ouch.  However, I’m not going to complain too much because I would be dead right now if it weren’t for our air conditioning.  How did our founding fathers survive, I don’t even know.  

Tim’s key note speaker at his first session this morning has been to the moon.  My key note speaker at the spouse breakfast was the concierge.

The breakfast was entirely proteinless, which meant that my morning looked like an upside down V (wake up hungry low, bouncing off the walls carb high, plummeting blood sugar looooooooow).  Thankfully, Tim’s mid-morning break landed on the carb high instead of the blood sugar loooooow.  I had crackers, ham, and cheese for lunch and am feeling (relatively) stable at the moment, thank you very much.

I’m supposed to be working on some various writings and my science lesson plans right now.  But I have all week.  (My life’s motto seems to be: why do now what you can put off until later?  even though later always comes back to bite me where it hurts.)

Later!

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Gittin’ Hitched

The pick-up-less man’s alternative:

Next step:  a 5×8 utility trailer, max load capacity 2000 lbs. 

Yeehaw.  One step closer to a milk cow, baby.

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Peach Pie

Here’s the rest of the story on the peaches:

Peach Pie Filling:
4-5 cups peaches (whatever fits in your freezer bag)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2  tbls cornstarch (or flour)
1/8 tsp salt
Mix, freeze.

Peach Pie:
Put one bag peach pie filling into a pie shell,  Dot with 1 1/2 Tbls butter and cover with second pie crust. Cut slits into top of pie.  Rub pie crust edges with milk to keep from burning.  Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350, bake until golden brown (35-45 min).

This is my Dad’s favorite pie…Mom always made it at least once a year on his birthday!

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Peach Jam from A to Z

A. Find a friend (preferably one as cute as mine and a little less ornery). 

B. Find an orchard (www.pickyourown.org works.  very.  slowly.) 

C. Fight over who will call the orchard to check times, prices, and availability. 

D. Pack a lunch (pbj, chips, salsa, and girl scout cookies is a well balanced affair) 

E. Meet halfway in a sketchy parking lot. 

F. Park in the shade (your car will be just as hot as ever when you get back to it, but at least you’ll feel proactive) 

G. Ride the rest of the way to the orchard together listening to hits from the 80’s. 

H.  Follow directions on billboard to peach picking area. 

I. Survey the orchard for peaches. 

J.  Do you see peaches?  We didn’t either. 

K. Pick for one hour.  

L. Become slightly deflated because 1) all the peaches seem to be in the rows labeled DO NOT PICK 2) it is very, very hot and 3) the peaches are very, very small.   

M. Take a break for lunch. 

N. Make it count. 

O. Send your friend out to finish picking while you take a nice nap on the picnic blanket. 

P.  Be very, very thankful for sunglasses 

and cooling vents. 

Q.  Survey picked produce proudly. 

R. Divide and conquer (split up and return back to respective homes). 

S. Wash ants, dirt, and pesticides off peaches. 

T. Sort peaches into piles: 1) unripe 2) mangled, bruised, or otherwise suitable for jam or 3) whole, symmetrical, or otherwise unsuitable for jam. 

unsuitable for jam

 

U. halve, pit, dice, and mash jam peaches with a potato masher. 

V. Follow all directions on pamphlet in box of surgel to make cooked jam, including 

W. Sterilize jars in boiling water 

X. Cook jam 

Y. Put jam into hot jars, put hot lids on jars, turn jars upside down for 5 minutes, and run burnt fingers under cold water. 

Z. Turn back right side up, listen for the ‘pop’ when it seals, jump up and down for joy when you hear it, and go about cleaning up the mess that has taken over your kitchen. 

ZZZZZZZZ.  Crash on couch.  Make husband fix supper (or eat leftovers, or both).  Feel proud about your day.  Think not on the pile of peaches unsuitable for jam still sitting on your kitchen counter.

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Words I Like

DEXTERITY

Skill and adroitness of hands or mind.

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DIY: How To Texture A Wall

I finally buckled down this afternoon and textured our hallway wall.  It wasn’t bad at all!  It only took me 2 hours, start to finish, all by myself.  Aaand, since I know so many people who are (relatively) new owners of fixer-uppers, I thought I’d share. 

My parents were the ones to teach us when we first moved in–they came for about a week and helped us (among many other things) texture the kitchen ceiling and the bedroom ceiling.  

Dad and Tim texturing our bedroom ceiling

 

 Now, ceilings are harder than walls because of the awkward angle.  I don’t know if I would try a ceiling on my own.  Just FYI.  Also, my Dad has some equipment that we don’t– a mortar comb to apply the compound evenly on the ceiling and a sponge glued to a wooden handle to make the swirling easier.  But my way worked just fine for a little wall. 

Not only does texturing drywall add character to a room, it hides things.  Whoever did our drywall originally didn’t do a very smooth job (not that I could do any better, just saying).  So this is the perfect solution for some of our lumps and bumps and seams. 

WHAT YOU NEED: 

a spreader (some form of putty knife, the wider the better) 

 a sponge (I just used a cheap yellow kitchen sponge that came with a rough green pad on one side) 

a container (to hold the joint compound–they make nice rectangular plastic ones you can buy or you can substitute whatever you have handy in the kitchen or you can work out of the original bucket, although you want to make sure you don’t get any dirt or grit in the compound!) 

joint compound (you can buy anywhere from 1/4 gallon to 10 gallons at Lowes…we used 10 gallons on two ceilings, but I used less than a gallon on my ~14’x7′ hallway wall) 

 

1. Use the putty knife to fill your container with joint compound. 

2. Dip the putty knife into the compound so that the edge is covered.  

3. Swipe the putty knife down the wall leaving a thin layer of compound.  Adjust the angle of the putty knife to adjust the thickness of the compound applied.  The more compound, the more texture.  It is okay if the compound does not spread evenly through the swipe–you will be able to spread it out evenly when you use the sponge to make the texture.  Only swipe a small portion of the wall before moving on to step 4.  Then come back and swipe the next section and repeat (you don’t want the compound to have a chance to dry before you can sponge it!). 

4.  Place your sponge flat on the compound-covered wall and give it a half-twist with your wrist.  Pick up the sponge, move over and replace the sponge on the wall so that it just overlaps your last half circle, and twist your wrist to leave another swirl.  Don’t be afraid to go back over what you have done with a few more twists just to even everything out.  The texture turns out the best if you do not try to stick to a rigid pattern.  Rather, swirl away in quick, irregular overlaps until you’ve reached the end of the strip of compound on your wall.  The sponge will leave a ‘smuck’ as you pull it away from the wall.  This adds character to the wall.  Thicker compound leaves a more prominent smuck.  After the compound has dried for a few hours, the sharp tips of the smuck can be knocked off with the putty knife.  Then once it’s dry, the wall can be swept with a soft-bristled broom. 

5.  Use a wet rag to clean any drips on the floor.  Make sure to clean all your equipment while the compound is still wet.  It’s probably not a great idea to dump alot of the compound down the sink drain…I washed most of my stuff outside with the hose. 

6.  Let dry at least 24 hours before painting. 

7.  Make sure to seal your bucket of compound tightly if you have any left.  It dries out really easily.  In fact, the best plan is to cover it with plastic wrap and then put the lid back on tight. 

texturing in progress

 

texturing adds character and hides rough spots

 

all it needs now is paint!

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