Monday, June 29, 2009

Happy Birthday, Paul

Okay, I am not going to make a list of 48 things I love about my husband. He wouldn't read them if I did. Not even half. He's a man of few words who married a woman who is not, but who is learning to condense and get to the point before people's eyes glaze over.

How, then, shall I choose the number of things I love and admire about him? Well, since he was born in the sixth month of the year, how about six?

1. He can fix almost anything (and has had to). Dryers, dishwashers, ice makers, car brakes, car alarms, baby toys, bicycles, toilets, holes in the wall, eyeglasses, fences, windows, garage doors, sinks, faucets, AC units....

2. He can stretch a buck farther than any man I've ever met. He loves the words free, cheap, discount, bargain, deal, and the sentence "It's on me." Though he has a reputation in the family for being frugal, he has grown into one of the most generous people I know also.

3. He makes me laugh. I don't know how I'd live with a bore. I really don't. Even when I try not to laugh at his jokes when I'm angry, I have to admit (to myself only) that he's pretty darn funny.

4. He has a work ethic as strong as a border collie, but is not what I'd call a workaholic. I've always told him how grateful I am that he is married to me and not to his job. He knows how to relax and enjoy a slow pace, but his relaxation comes after hard work, not before.

5. He has played guitar for every care group we've been in since about 1996. When I ask him about taking a sabbatical, he says, "I only have one or two talents. I want to use them as much as possible when I'm able." I disagree with the one or two talents. He has many, but few get public notice.

6. He expresses his love mostly in acts of service. See numbers 1-5 above for examples, and add: picks up library books for me, cooks dinner rather often, does dishes, looks out for my parents, spends time with the kids, makes sure everything is in running order, safeguards our finances, and many other things.

I love you, honey. Happy birthday.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Relatively Speaking

This past week has been one about relatives, biological and spiritual. By way of a catch-all post (since our internet is down and I'm having to blog from the library, there will be no pictures as I'd like), I'll recap. Might be refreshing for those who like to read soundbites instead of novels.

1. My mom's "son in the faith" and his wife from Birobidzhan (far east Russia) came here 2 weeks ago. We had them over for dinner Tuesday night. I fixed some orange roughy (yummy simply seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper) plus boiled red potatoes, green salad with tomatoes and cukes, fruit, and sourdough bread. Andrey peeled his potatoes at the plate; guess he's not a Skins fan:). Valeria thanked me profusely for cooking a Russian meal; I told her I had been missing Russia and was more than ready to serve one. I thanked her for refreshing my memory of the Russian words for various colors found in the salad. Funny the little things that make us happy.
The highlight of their evening was our re-visit to Broom's Blooms (took them there 2 years ago). This time was the first ever they had seen lighting bugs and they videotaped it. There must have been 400 lightning bugs out that night.

2. My dad could use prayer. He has been having sharp, recurring headaches for a couple months. Yes, months. He is less social than he used to be, seems more preoccupied with other things while visiting. It's sad for me. Actually I could use prayer. I am fighting a lot of fear over the whole headache thing and the fact that he just looks and acts so much older now than he did a year ago. Granted it's a challenge having house guests for three weeks, guests who have very little money (Birobidzhan is poverty stricken) and eat meat (my folks are vegetarians and diabetics) and only one of them speaks English. But these folks are missionaries and like my parents' fifth set of kids.

3. Sarah is HOME! Not for long. She came in yesterday and we went to the beach wedding. Loveliest imaginable weather on earth. My favorite scene was watching Danny (the groom, my nephew) and his groomsmen in shorts and t-shirts setting up the bridal hut an hour before the ceremony. It was a simple lean-to of bamboo and tulle. You could definitely tell guys had assembled and decorated it, which it made that much more memorable. I had never seen a guys-only wedding set-up team. The reception was on the top floor of the Henlopen Hotel overlooking Rehoboth beach. Gorgeous. Food was amazing. It was also wonderful seeing all of Paul's brothers together at the same time. I only regret that they have to return home and won't get to celebrate Paul's b'day with him this weekend. I'm hoping we get a little more time w/ the relatives who are still here; I was expecting house guests but that didn't transpire. Oh, well. My house needed a good cleaning and got it anyway!

Time's up. That's my post. Oh, my husband wants me to quit WW. Says I can do it on my own. The jury is still out (ie I'm trying to convince him I need weekly acct'y and personal encouragement which I don't get at home. My family isn't great about that. I shouldn't need it, but I'm human. Thanks to y'all who provide it from the outside!

If you have an urgent need to contact me, you'll have to call. Don't know when I'll get back online. But it's not all bad. My house got cleaned while I wasn't online!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weight Weport Week 8: Go Smaller or Go Home!

True confession: I'm angry as I write this. I gained weight this week, not lost. I messed up my 2 pounds a week average. If it weren't for Karen who would surely be asking me how I did, I wouldn't be admitting it. Oh, I knew it hadn't been a stellar week, but I thought I'd be down a smidge. Guess last week was mercy and this week was justice.

What I'm most angry at is myself for not sticking with the self-discipline I know it takes. I didn't think I was a glutton this week (haven't been for two months) but I didn't track my "spending," so to speak, nor did I sweat much. Did the prayer walk on Monday night and the treadmill once, but that's not enough. I will not make excuses for being a woman, but that had to have been a slight factor, although I've been a woman for the last eight weeks without it hurting my plan.

The other thing I'm angry about is the popping of my bubble, the one that's in my mind and heart. I had a couple people compliment my weight loss this morning at the park (thanks, friends) and was feeling happy. Then I went to Weight Watcher's, and the lady who weighed me in told me I was up 1.4 pounds. I wanted to cry, but instead got angry with myself. I know my husband won't want to hear this; he already isn't fond of the notion of paying to lose weight when you know how to do it on your own. The kicker is I know how, but I need the accountability. If it was only about knowledge, I wouldn't be where I am. Not only did the lady tell me I was up 1.4, she proceeded to comfort me by telling me it's normal to gain once in a while, and that I am "ahead of the curve" as weight-loss goes. I interrupted, "Well, maybe according to "the program" I am, but MY personal goal is 100 pounds in a year or 2 poudns a week average. This does NOT fit into my plan and it feels like a waste of money to come here and show a gain." She then of course asked, "Well, where would you be if you hadn't come?"
Well, truthfully, (I only thought this but didn't say it,)" I would be home preparing for house guests this week, thinking I had lost half a pound but happy about my fantasy. And I'd have 12 dollars in my pocket instead of yours."

Speaking of house guests, I am looking forward to having my husband's side of the family in town this weekend. They're coming for the wedding of a nephew and staying part of the time with us. The cousins get along famously, though visits are few and far between. To that end, this morning at the park was a breather from the housework and errands. I was watching a few little kids on the pier next to a rising river (lotsa rain lately). Joel and Iris were the "big kids" and all the rest (3 or 4 of them) were smaller. Only one of the moms was close by, and I was a nervous wreck. At one point, I said, "Kids, I have house guests coming. I don't have a water rescue on my agenda." Joel piped up, "But you're supermom!" To which I laughed and said , "That may be, son, but I still don't want to perform a water rescue today."

Anyway, I could use a rescue from this pit of anger I'm in at the moment.

PS My modem is down; I'm writing this from the library and don't know when I'll be back online.

Friday, June 19, 2009

As I Tie Up Your Laces

My son, my youngest of the four arrows in our quiver,
You bring me such delight deep in my heart.
Your smile--the one that has not diminished through
the loss of two of its members this week--
oh I wish I could capture that smile in my mind forever.
Your laugh, a giggle over the sound of funny words strung together
in a tongue-twister book, or your daddy's joke--or your own.

Your voice, the one that says, "awww....awww, isn't it SO cute?"
whenever you see a kitty. How you long for one of your own,
but will have to "just imagine it."

Your fingers that draw sports cars and sports figures,
both in full gear. The fingers that fit and unfit tiny Lego
Star Wars pieces together, a feat of engineering that
both charms and baffles me.

Your arms which hug me tight 'round the waist
and squeeze 'round my neck
with all the love you've got and can't contain
for your mama
and you say, "I love you more than you
love me and that's true!"
and I reply, "That's impossible.
No boy can love his mama more than this mama loves her boy!"

The boy whose deep blue eyes dance with furtive joy when
he fetches the mail and finds an envelope addressed to him,
and sees that it's from
his sister,his only sister, who is living away from home.
He exclaims "It's from the best sister
in the whole entire world!"

Your feet that seem to grow with each step you take
The feet that no longer demand Velcro straps
because you're learning how to tie real shoelaces.
(I want you to learn,
but I don't, for that means you will take yet
another step of independence on your way out the door
of childhood.)

Today you and I started your first official Bible study.
Just the two of us, shoulder to shoulder on the sofa.
The book of John. "That you may believe," it says.
(My prayer for you.)
You are drawing a storyboard, starting with a picture
of the Word, and then putting words to your picture.
"You are the Lamb of God!" John exclaims, pointing to Jesus
who is on a rocky cliff above him. "And I am not." Your
cartoon bubbles are priceless: John has rips in his jeans.
Jesus wears patches on his.
You point out they're both wearing sandals that tie up.

For a moment I think of Jesus when he was seven.
His own mother must have wondered as she
sewed on a patch or two for her mud-puddle stompin' boy,
"Yeshua! Please don't grow up so fast!
Yeshua! Wasn't it just yesterday you got your first tooth
and now you've lost two? Before I know it, your voice
will change, and you'll have big muscles like your dad,
and you'll carry the weight of the world on your shoulders."

And she must have had the other same thought, "No boy has ever loved his mama the
way this mama loves her boy."
But knew she was wrong.

How many times did she tie her boy's sandals and think,
"I'm not worthy to be doing this"?
Yet, God chose her to mother His Son,
And God has chosen me
to mother you,
our last son, a task for which I do not feel worthy
as I tie up your laces.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


"Something's coming
I don't know
What it is
But it is
Gonna be great."

These words from the hit musical "West Side Story" are ringing in my head. Last night a couple of sisters in Christ asked how they could be praying for me. I mentioned a couple of specific needs right off the cuff, but then told them of a vague and blurry vision of something I am being called to in the sense of mercy ministry. I can't put my finger on it. You can probably identify: when God has given you a gift that isn't being tapped, and then he taps you, but doesn't clarify it right away, you wait. You wait with eagerness and joy and a bit of fear and apprehension that life is suddenly going to be different. Scary at first, but better in the long run.

Maybe you're old enough to remember the commercial for very thick Heinz ketchup where the person holding the bottle over their burger or fries is waiting, and the little jingle goes, "Anticipation is making me wait." And then the plop of ketchup is worth the seeming eternity it took to reach the bun.

I feel like I'm holding the bottle of ketchup but the contents are invisible.
Anticipation is making me wait.

Perhaps this stirring comes from reminiscing on my missions trip to Russia in 2007 with Sarah. It was June, like now, when my heart swelled with compassion for orphans, and for those oppressed by spiritual blindness and bad theology,
and with anger that the Church and I were not actively keeping abreast of the poor and suffering. I lament that I have fits and spurts of caring; my heart does not beat steadily as Christ's does. There is a "hole in my gospel" as I read recently in the World Vision newsletter.

Sometimes I just want to give everything away and live by faith alone.
Other times I love the affluence of American culture.
Sometimes I weep over the memories I have from visiting Russian orphanages. Or from visiting preteens there in "social rehab centers," as they're called.
Other times I pay no mind to the oppressed people in my own neighborhood because I don't care enough to pray for them.

I am praying that God would make it clear what I am supposed to be doing with this anticipation, this stirring of the mercy gift He has put in me.

Something's coming,
I don't know
what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Weight Weport 7, or in a word, Grace

My goal this week was to hit a total of 13 pounds off. But I lost sight of that goal early on and instead had a terrible fight with food this week.

I almost didn't go to the Weight Watcher's meeting today. Had no vehicle, although I could've had one, but chose not to since I had pretty well decided that I wouldn't go to the meeting; I figured I had probably gained weight and therefore did not want to weigh in or pay the money.

It had clearly been a week of losing control over the appetite, which--though I can say happens with calculable frequency (wink, wink)--meant I was eating Oreos, Snickers, and even a free peach milkshake sample at Chick Fil-A. I had only done two hours of exercise all week--and 10 minutes of it was before today's meeting!

So I emailed Karen this morning, my faithful, trusty, encouraging weight loss partner. "I'm debating," I told her. "If I go, I would need a ride, but I might just skip this week." She wrote back post haste with, "You should go...keep yourself honest...might even surprise yourself. I'll pick you up."

Okay, she swayed me.
She picked me up and took me there.

I kept myself honest.


I surprised myself. Lost 2.8 or a total of 15.4 !!! That's 15.4% of my longterm goal in the first 7 weeks.

All I can say is, "Thank You, Lord." I did not deserve to lose weight. It didn't seem scientifcally possible. Nor did I deserve to be rewarded after making so many bad choices.

But God was merciful, and showed me that He will sometimes perform miracles just for the fun of it, for His glory. Sometimes we trust Him for a miracle; sometimes we don't even ask. We look at the science, the forensic evidence, the algebra, and it doesn't make sense. In fact, I didn't think it was wise to say, "May I please have a weight loss?" after eating a sleeve of Oreos. So I didn't ask. I'd ask next week after adding works to my faith.

Grace: getting what you don't deserve. That's my report for today and my anthem for life.

"Up and Down and Up and Down"

When Joel woke up today, I asked him to read Matthew 7:11-17 before he started playing. He read each one aloud, and after each, we discussed them briefly.

He got to the part about the kinds of fruit that trees bear.

"If someone is godly, they will do godly things," I said. "Do you know a godly person?"
"Yeh. Natalie," he said, naming a friend in second grade.
"Do you know someone you're not sure about, whether they love Jesus or not?"
"Yeh, __________," he said, mentioning an older boy in school. "One minute he obeys and the next minute he doesn't. He's up and down and up and down. I can't keep him in the middle!"

I guess if I hadn't been laughing so hard on the inside, I could have launched into a mini-lecture about how we cannot keep another person in the middle, nor should that be our goal. We ought to encourage others to always obey (be "up," according to Joel's vernacular) but when they don't, we should pray for them and encourage them to "get up.") Likewise we should always try to be "up" so that people can tell from our obedience that we love Jesus.

Don't you love how kids keep it simple?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Happy 25th Anniversary, Barb and Boyd

A Poem for my Wonderful Friend and Her Husband

Can it really be that you've been married
For twenty-five years already--
Longer than you were single?
Now that's what I call "going steady"!

You've weathered many storms
On the road that is named Marriage
And you've brought two darling babies home
In a true blue baby carriage.

Boyd, you're the kind of man
who can fix most everything
From broken trykes to Harley bikes
And a troubled washing machine.

Barb, you're the kind of woman
Every avid hunter wants near
'Cuz not only can you shoot
But you can also gut a deer!

Boyd, you're the kind of man
Who shows up for work each day
And makes the old folks laugh a lot
While he's collecting hard-earned pay.

Barb, you're the kind of woman
Whom other women admire
You're compassionate and gentle
And for God you are on fire.

Kansas grows some good stuff--
The best are corn and wheat--
But far better than those combined
Are marriages that can't be beat.

The two of you make one good match
You're among the finest couples
I pray the next 25 years will find
You growing closer in your nuptials.

Happy anniversary, you guys. How blessed I am to witness the grace of God in your marriage through thick and thin. I've gotta say, though, it makes me feel really old when my friends have been married longer than we have. Oh, it's a good thing, but I'm just sayin'...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Diary of a Bathroom Painter's Wife

1. As a couple, Paul and I have similar design and decorating tastes. Of course he would never willing put his name in the same sentence with the words "design and decorating." He would say, rather, he knows what he likes and doesn't like to see in the house. Four colors will never come from his paintbrush onto these walls: blue, pink, yellow, or orange. The only times he compromised were in 1992 (when Sarah wanted buttercream walls to go with her baby doll wallpaper border), in 1999 when the same child wanted sky blue walls, and in 2006 when she wanted one of four walls in a grapey purple with cobalt trim. He will bend--and break--for that daughter of ours.
2. It takes us a good while to agree on a paint color. When going between his choice and mine, he says, "It's up to you." So I get what I like (or think I'll like). Today it was a color called "Falling Leaves" to match a color in my inspiration piece of art. Turns out "Falling Leaves" appeared to change color on its way home from Home Depot. When Paul slapped on the first few strokes, I thought he'd have a stroke of his own. "Falling Leaves" looked more like "V-8: The Morning After." (I Googled "spilled tomato juice" for an image; whaddya know?)
3. Scott at the local Home Depot should be getting a Customer Service Award if my two cents to the manager has the promised effect. Scott spent at least a half hour tyring to find a cure for the Falling Leaves. God bless him, eight years of paint school training couldn't have prepared him to doctor my diseased color choice. I finally asked him to start over and color match the original swatch of a Lowe's color I liked ("Rustica" by Valspar) but using Behr paint which we love.

4. Dear hubby the painter has applied the first coat. I'm going to slip downstairs and take a look-see. I sure hope my Rembrandt likes Rustica.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Did it Again

Embarrassed myself in public, that is. And as if that weren't enough, I'm posting it for you all to laugh about, too. There must be something wrong with me. (Well, that's a given.)

How did I commit the latest social blunder, you ask? Well, I went clothes shopping today for an upcoming beach wedding. (Thanks to Kathleen, Joel was much happier to play with her children at their house than to offer his opinions on my wardrobe selections. )

So I'm standing there at the cash register with a frilly sleeveless Spandex top in one hand and my money in the other. The cashier asks if I have a Macy's card. No. Do I want one? No, thanks. You'll get every discount known to man or woman if you do, she pushes. No, thanks; we have one card and pay it off monthly or use cash. Pretty simple. Did you find everything you were looking for? No, I tell her. I wanted a skirt to go with this top. She points me in the direction of a flowy periwinkle number and I thank her again, punching in my PIN number on the debit card. She bags my purchase and wishes me a nice weekend. You, too, I say.

All business as usual.


I turn to leave the register, a Good Samaritan taps me on the shoulder and leans close to my ear. "Your shirt is inside out, "she tells me in low tones. "The tag is sticking out and the seams are showing."

"Oh, no! Thank you!" I freak --and fly like my bum's afire into the dressing room.

Pitiful thing getting old. They say the eyesight's the second thing to go...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Class: The Year in Review

Left: Georges Seurat's technique: pointillism. It took two class periods (almost two hours) for the 3rd-4th grade class to complete their renderings of The Island of La Grande Jatte. One clever child quipped as he neared the 90 minute mark, "This is pointless."

Mini Monets. This was one of the students', parents', and my all-time favorite project. These were done in chalk pastels by 5th and 6th graders. One parent remarked to me, "You HAD to have helped
them!" And I said, "No. I was demonstrating on my own paper, and showed them where to place the first of the three arcs on the Japanese bridge, but they did their own." I showed them how to mix greens and yellows to show where the sun would hit the trees, and how to hint at lilies on the flowing stream (albeit an enthusiastically more sinuous flow than any I've observed on Monet's own pond).

My room is the first one past the paintings.

In random sequence, here are some of my favorite shots from the memories we created as a 5th/6th grade class. Please, one small request: for security reasons, if you know these kids, I would ask that you refrain from mentioning them by real name in the comments. I will give them fictitious names. All of their parents have given me permission to post their pictures and I promised I wouldn't use real names.

More to come with other students pictured...Model T, Election Day '08, BizTown, and playground painting.
First up, from our study of 20th century American history is ballplayer-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday, aka Jordon. This guy aspires to be a professional actor. The best way to engage him in learning is to give him a role to play--and require a costume. Each famous person from the decade was being interviewed on our "TV show" which the student had to name. Jordon named his show "Good Mornin' West Dakota". (No, we don't lack for corn in these parts.)

Next, Andrew Carnegie, aka Ryan. A boy with a heart as generous as Carnegie's bank account, Ryan had a pouch of coins in his pocket as a prop. After class, he pulled out one, examined its date, and said, "This one's for you, Mrs. Zubrowski. I thought you'd like something from the 19th century."

The next fellow is jazz musician Eubie Banks, aka Rob. He flourished in any discussion of musical styles and I let them choose their topic for their decade presentation. He immediately gravitated to music, and pulled out all the stops (pardon the musical pun) when he donned suit, tie, shades, and his brother's sax.

For Jake and Kathy

We miss you! It's great to see your girls on your blog, Kathy, but when I came across this shot while browsing through old graduation pictures, I realized, "Wow. I sure do miss seeing these folks." If you recall, this shot was taken at
the senior dinner last year in Little Italy. (The way overpriced one I recommended that had flat ginger ale and fake library books painted on the walls.) The company 'round the table certainly redeemed the price we paid to get together.
Anyway, it's a beautiful picture of the two of you. Hope you're well. It sounds like you are.


On several different levels, things are brewing in my mind and in our home.

At a heart level, challenged by my current Bible study (Believing God) to read Romans 4 (all of it) 20 times this month is brewing a belief sytem stronger than Army coffee--a belief that truly
I am justified by faith and not by works. After spending most of my adult life up till
now trying to help Jesus atone for my sins, I am now almost fully persuaded that He alone
has already done it UNAIDED.

Confidence is brewing that I am going to be okay without my beloved Sarah at home this summer. At least I don't well up with tears every time I think of the physical distance between us. (By the way, she would LOVE mail. If you want her address, please let me know. She has no internet service except on Saturday evening at her host family's house. Her phone doesn't get a signal out in the boonies where she is, so verbal communication is severely limited. She would especially love children's notes and art to decorate her bunk area with.)

Excitement over getting a bathroom makeover this weekend is brewing. We've had the new vanity sitting in our garage a while, as well as the cool copper faucet shaped like an old-fashioned pump handle, but it has been missing a deck plate that the company has kept promising and failing to deliver. Paul and I don't believe they'll make good on their now-August date, so we're heading out tonight to find a new faucet that will do with the new vanity. This was the faucet Sarah picked out for the half-bath, so we'll just hold onto it for whenever her daddy decides to update the kids' bathroom. ("One project at a time" is his motto, but once he starts, he is a Clydesdale.)

A post is brewing, one about my observations of the similarities and differences between homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers. Having had homeschooled for 15 years with and without a co-op versus teaching other people's kids every day for an entire year has certainly given me plenty of material to write about.

Ideas and plans are brewing in my head for next year's study of world geography and art. I know, I know, I just finished this year. I'm nuts. Nuts about certain subjects and how to make them equally thrilling to young minds.

What to wear to a beach wedding? is the question brewing in my thoughts. My nephew is getting married at Rehoboth in a couple weeks. I can hardly wait, but the only thing I have to wear is too big. I love saying that. "It's too big!"

See the smile brewing on my face?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Weight Weport after 6 Weeks

This week I lost just .2, which was a pleasant surprise, atually, considering I ONLY exercised once by taking a prayer walk with my friend Bonnie. Though I always wish for more, I am glad to be averaging just over two whole pounds a week.

Total lost: 12.6 in 6 weeks.

I was aware this week of excuses going on in my head, the biggest one being "it''s been so hectic trying to finish up school that I'm wiped out.'" Well, granted, it was hectic (it's not as easy as fazing out a homeschool year because--ready or not--you've got to stop on the last day of school, take everything off walls, clean the room up, gather books, send junk home with students, blahblahblah.) But an excuse is an excuse is an excuse, an it don't take no discipline a'tall to build the Great Wall of Fat with them!

No more excuses. Like I ask my students, "Are we going to make excuses or are we going to make progress?"

For me, I am determined to shed 1.8 pounds this coming week to keep my average streak going. I keep the really big picture in mind, which is 100 in a Year. Progress: one good choice after another.

Starting the Bible study, Believing God, is exactly what I need during this time. Those times when I say, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief," keeps me focused on two facts:

1) He has given me faith to believe what I believe now.
2) He wants to change my unbelief to belief in every area, and I can look back on the past six weeks as a testament to His ongoing work to change me from believing "once fat, always fat" to "once out of control, now Spirit-controlled in my appetite for food."

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Life is Beautiful: A Movie Review

Rarely do I read a book or watch a movie twice, but I will certainly be watching "Life is Beautiful" again and again. It's no wonder it garnered so many Academy Awards.
Stephen and Ben and a bunch of other young people rented it in the Outer Banks last week, and came home with rave reviews, so Paul and I watched it last night with Stephen and Joel. (Stephen knew the one part where Joel would need to "go get us some popcorn and refill our drinks.")

"Life is Beautiful" is the story of an Italian Jewish waiter who uses his wit and brilliant imagination to romance a princess, marry her, and then save his family's life from German Nazis during World War II. A war movie, you say? No thanks? Well, this movie has very little real violence, but rather hints at it in the most moving ways--an antiquated concept in modern cinematics, and tremendously powerful. The main character, played by Roberto Benigni, has an ADHD personality which makes for hilarious physical comedy, but it's his quick one-liners and facial expressions that had me guffawing throughout. His leading lady, whom he always calls "principessa" (princess) is an adoring wife and an endearing mother. The little boy, with his large brown eyes and sweet mouth, is a darling child; you just want to pick him up and squeeze the stuffin' out of him.

Though the dialogue is almost completely in Italian, the script is so enchanting and poignant that following along with English subtitles was not a drawback for me whatsoever. Benigni also wrote and directed the screenplay, making his portrayal as true to his vision as he could have hoped.

There was no foul language and no nudity (though there were a couple times when the man says to his wife-to-be something like "I want to make love to you tonight, two--maybe three times-- if I can.") Nothing offended me except for history itself. No one can "bleep out" history, complete with smoking gas chambers, swastikas, and diabolic dictators. Hitler and Mussolini slaughtered millions of people and left a trail of blood and pain that continue to this day in the memories of my Jewish ancestors--and in my own heart. As the credits rolled, I couldn't stop the rivers of tears. Joel kept asking, "Mom, why are you crying? Dad, why is Mom crying? Mom! Please tell me why you're crying!" I finally choked out the words, "Because it's true, honey. Have you ever heard of Adolph Hitler? He was a very wicked man! He hated people just for being Jewish. He wished everyone could have blue eyes and blonde hair. " I thought how my boys look Aryan but have clearly Jewish roots; which "camp" would Hitler have put them in--the Hitler Youth or a death camp? I can only wonder if their daddy would have had the God-given imagination that this man did which kept his family alive through concentration camps and metal meltdowns.

Anyway, "Life is Beautiful" should go on your short list of must-see movies. I'm gong to check it out again this summer. It's that good.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Prayer Walks Start Tonight

Sisters in Christ, put on your walking shoes and bring your water bottle and prayer list.
We're starting our prayer walking tonight.
Email me for details.

Warning: it's a very hilly walk. Just like life.

B&BW Testimony

I briefly mentioned it before, but Bath & Body Works is having their BIG semi-annual sale now. For anyone who loves their foaming soaps (and who doesn't?) they're 4 for $10 now.

Little testimony, one of those "it could only be God" things: Sarah has linked up to a host family in PA who planted a church up there. According to her, they are "SO, SO, SO nice." I had insisted that while away at camp Sarah attend an SG church at least six times. Well, the woman whom Sarah contacted has an amazing gift of hospitality. When I talked with her for the first time, it was an hour! She asked me specifically what Sarah likes because Jody wanted to "have something special for her when she gets here."

I wanted to bless Jody and her 15 year old daughter with a hostess gift from B&BW, not knowing they were having a big sale. The only thing I really knew was that Jody's father-in-law has just been diagnosed with cancer and is going from one doctor or hospital to another, and so I thought --since she'll be in a germy environment with him but still wants to offer the comfort of physical touch to him--I'd get a little gift that a friend gave me upon my hospitalization: a moisturizing tube of antibacterial hand soap. You know there are at least 15 different fragrances to choose from. I forget which one I decided on for her, but for her daughter I picked up Nectarine Mint. Well, check this out: Jody opened the gift bag (which included a Coconut Lime Verbena Wallflower and some foaming soap--forget which fragrance again) but she exclaimed, "That is my favorite store!" Sarah said they were having a big sale and so the 3 of them (Jody, Abby and Sarah) went shopping Friday. When they got there, Abby asked if she could get a tube of nectarine mint anti-b lotion, not realizing that the one I sent was for her. She was so thrilled. Come on, of ALL the scents I could have chosen, the Lord hand me choose Abby's favorite for her? I've never even met the girl!

That's the kind of story that just makes me shake my head and say, "Only you, God. Only You, could've orchestrated those details."

I decided to stock my closet with foaming soaps, especially after trying Kathy's trick to stretch the soap for as long as humanly possible! (She uses 1/4 soap to 3/4 water in the pump, plus a drop of food coloring.)

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Which bird next?

Last year for my older sister Rachel's birthday, I drew this Baltimore oriole using chalk pastels.

Rachel lives in Texas with her husband, Pat, and my two nephews. Pat is from Aberdeen, MD, home of the famed Cal Ripken and Ironbird Stadium. The two of them get homesick for Maryland from time to time, so I thought an oriole was in order. Besides, as birds go, this one is fairly easy for a novice like me. It leaves a bit to be desired in scale; this one's kind of elongated and I got a little "overblendy," but Rachel loved it enough to hang it in their foyer. (I photographed it on my glass deck table, which has embossed leaves. I didn't notice it at first, but when you click to enlarge the photo, you can see the cool effect. Rather than crop it, I'm going to "leave" it alone.)

So, now that I have summertime to sit and enjoy doing art for myself and not for class prep, the question is, "Which bird next?" I have done the American goldfinch and a ruby-throated hummingbird, a bluebird and a sparrow--though hardly perfected a one of them.

What's your favorite bird? Maybe it'll inspire me.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Love and Scrapbooks

Today was the last day of school. I thought it might be bittersweet, but it was only sweet. Last night I literally stayed up all night long making a scrapbook for my only girl student, and making
photo albums (cheapie, not fancy, just load 'em in) for the five boys in my class. When I was ready to go up to bed, I saw the dawn of a new day. Literally.

No way.

Yes way, it was 6:37 a.m . Granted, I had made a six-hour round trip to PA to drop Sarah and Hannah off, and took a nap in the evening, but then started working on the pictures and last-minute grading at 8:30 so that I could give a special giftie to each student today. It was well worth the lack of sleep, though. My girl absolutely beamed. One of the boys said, "Why didn't we get one like that?"

I replied, "I didn't think you'd appreciate it."
"Yes, I would," he said, "I'd love it."
Another boy said, "I would, too. I'd appreciate anything you do for me."

Gulp. Wow. There really are a few young men who recognize the love that sentimental hard work entails. I remember making a scrapbook for Ben when he graduated from high school. His friends came for a party here and were browsing through his book on the sofa, leaning in to see old photos.

I overheard a guy friend say to him, "That's really cool, Ben. That takes a lot of work to put all those pictures together. I wish my mom had done something like that for me." Now that choked me up, because this friend had lost his mom to cancer when he was 12. I realize not everyone is into scrapbooking, and truth be told, I rarely do it. But having received one from my own daughter as a Christmas gift one year, I know the feeling: indescribably loved.

In fact, this past week when I was at Target, shopping for the perfect albums for my students, a woman came into the same aisle. She asked me my opinion on the two albums she was considering and I gave it (as always. I like to help people over the hump, that's all:). One album was a simple sleeve kind that you can't add doodads or much journaling. The other was the opposite. "I like to journal, " I said, "It makes it so much more personal and helps you remember the details you think you'll never forget...but you do."

She proceeded to tell me that she was buying it for her best friend whose husband left her four years ago with two young sons. Then she met the man of her dreams and they were engaged to be married this past April. But he died suddenly in October. The woman talking to me said, "We just got back from a cruise, her and I. I was thinking of making her a scrapbook, but I just don't know. They're so much work."

""Have you ever received one?" I asked.
"Hmm, have I ? No...I've given plenty, but--"
"Well, let me tell you. I have gotten one, and there's just nothing that says "I love you" like a scrapbook."
"You're right," she said. "My friend's a single mom, she's lost her fiancee,she works full time, she is too busy to scrapbook our trip herself...." She tapped her lip. "You know, I'm gonna do this. It's a lot of work, but we had such a great time on our cruise, we'll never forget it. And she deserves something really special. You're absolutely right, there's nothing that says "I love you" like a scrapbook."

"Chances are, "I added, "she knows you love her, but this would prove it, huh?"
"Yes! It sure would!"
"She will be so blessed," I affirmed, pushing my cart away because I felt tears welling up.

It was one of those moments in life that make me stop and think, The world is filled with love. Yes, there is plenty of hatred and sadness and sorrow and ugliness, but let the media report that. Come to Target or visit a school or go to church or drive your daughter to a summer job far away and experience the deep love that people have for one another. Thank You, God, for love and for proving Yours to me and for givng people the capacity to express theirs in many ways, including scrapbooks. After all, You've said in the Bible, "These things are written down so that you will remember." And when we remember, it's obvious we are loved.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Weight Weport #5

Popping onto my blog with exciting news: I lost 4 pounds this week! I'm quite a happy camper. Total now for six weeks: 12.4 lbs. What was really sweet is that it's an uncanny display (for me) of self-control in the midst of all my sadness (about my camper girl going away)and hectic readying for Sarah's farewell. I even attended a nice dinner out w/ Paul (Mtn Branch), a graduation party, and only exercise 3x. It's a testimony to God's grace that I no longer have the immediate urge to eat when I'm emotional. Or at least if I do, I now recognize it. I go to the one true God, not the false god of food that brings a momentary promise of happiness and a lifetime of bad habits.

God was kind in the smallest details today, I just have to tell ya .

1) When I went to weigh in at the meeting, the lady at the counter asked how my week was and I told her, "Not bad, but not great foodwise and exercise wise, plus my daughter leaves tomorrow for 8 weeks to a Christian camp as a counselor. " This lady replied by telling me she just sent her son off to Alaska as a counselor at a Christian camp, and her daughter to Ethiopa for 10 days on a missions trip. She has a third child graduating high school this Friday and the fourth kid is 11 and having sadness over her older sibs leaving. I thought, Wow, Lord, how perfect is your timing. I asked the lady if she'd had a good cry yet and she shook her head and bit her lip. "Not yet. It's coming, though. Have you? " "Yes, a big one Monday." She smiled knowingly. So I felt a kindred spirit with her and went skipping off to answer a call from Sarah.

2) Turns out Sarah's car was overheating again. (She was practically across the street from me when she called.) Antifreeze leak, so we had to run our errands together (I mean got to! I loved picking out cute new washcloths and bedsheets with her for her camp room.) We ended up deciding she will use the Jeep for the summer and we'll keep the convertible here (yay for top down fun for me!!!) . I'm so thankful the engine trouble was spotted y'day and kept up today rather than happen when Sarah's alone on dusty backroads in Nowheresville, PA.

3) Got to the mall parking lot to pick up a hostess gift for the family she'll be staying with most Saturday nights. (There's a new church plant and these folks are the pastor and wife. To safeguard Sarah, I won't mention names and places.) They have been emailing her and can't wait to meet . Anyway ,this SUV in the mall lot had a bumper sticker "My son is in Afghanistan. Enjoy your freedom. " The mom got out and I was right behind her. I told her to please give my regards to her son. She smiled broadly and announced he's coming home tomorrow! They will celebrate not just his return but his 20th birthday. "He's a young'un," I said. "Well, please tell him I am grateful for his service --and happy birthday." My throat is always half stuck in my throat when I talk to soldiers or their loved ones.

4) I went to Bath & Body Works not knowing they were having a great sale! I stocked up on foaming hand soap (4 for $10) and other goodies. Big bin of 50 and 75% off stuff! Get there soon!

Sarah and I leave in about six hours for PA, caravanning with her lifelong friend Hannah and her mom Kathy ( my lifelong friend). Please pray for us.

I've just finished typing a grammar test and am headed to bed. It's quarter till 2 .