Friday, June 27, 2008

Book: Dear John

This is my second Nicholas Sparks book recently, and like most of his books, it's an enjoyable and engaging story. I am finding, though, that the more of his books I read, the more kleenex I require: if this was a movie, it would no doubt be a tear-jerker. Still worth reading, even if from the beginning - or actually, from the title - it's obvious that this love story doesn't have a fairy-tale ending.

Dear John
by Nicholas Sparks

Thankful Thursday: Just Beachy

I don't get to the beach all that often, despite it's being a mere 45-minute drive from here. Every time I do get there, I tell myself myself I should go more often. I'm not much of a sun-worshiper as I burn far too quickly, but I love being by the water. I could sit for hours and watch the waves crash on the sand, or take a long walk on the hard damp sand, usually carrying rather than wearing my shoes, even in the winter.

My parents' church plans a handful of beach days during the summer, and I penciled every one of them into my calendar. I attend a different church, but I know a lot of the families there. The group gathered around mid-afternoon yesterday, as many others were already leaving for the day. The bigger kids hardly left the water, and the little ones played in the sand. The grown-ups relaxed in comfortable chairs under big umbrellas and made sure that nobody drowned, got lost, missed out on BBQ hot dogs for dinner.

Later, there was a campfire and endless s'mores. I know, because I ate at least one too many, and oh, the sugar headache! If summer had a taste, it just might be s'mores. (I even lived up to a double-dog dare to eat a marshmallow recently extinguished from the flames and only a little carcinogenic.) It was wonderful day in that it was a seized opportunity to relish simple pleasures, and for that I'm thankful.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Green is the "new Patriotism"

I guess if I was the mayor of and I'd challenged the Democratic Party to have the greenest political convention ever, I might say that too. (Never mind that in my life, sentences using that structure are normally fashion-related, as in 'green is the new black.' Which also seems to be true based on recent shopping experiences.)

I read with interest the Wall Street Journal article* explaining the great lengths necessary to make the convention green, sustainable, recycled, recyclable, AND pro-union, made-in-the-USA, organic and healthy. Wow. Not surprising that they've hired a Director of Greening to head up this task.

She's recruiting hundreds of volunteers to sort through bags of trash to separate it for reuse, recycling or composting. A Carbon Advisor is calculating the carbon footprint of the convention, including not only the impact of the event, but the travel of every person who attends. Caterers have been told fried foods are banned at the convention, all foods must be organic and locally grown, and each plate must include at least three colors. As a part-time foodie, I love it when food looks pretty, tastes great, and is healthy, too. But for the record, a bacon cheeseburger with fries does have three colors, more if you eat the tiny bit of lettuce and almost-ripe tomato. (Don't worry, you can't tell it's not ripe under all that mayo.)

Don't get me wrong, I think it's a pretty impressive effort and an admirable goal. To simply be aware of the environmental impact is a big step in the right direction. An event like this provides an opportunity to illustrate how small changes made by a lot of people can make a big difference. So, I guess I'll keep recycling and doing my part, and believe that every little bit helps.

* Article details: The Greenest Show on Earth: Democrats Gear Up for Denver appeared in the Wall Street Journal on June 25, 2008.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Book: Goodnight Nobody

Sadly, the cover of this book was the most exciting thing about it. Jennifer Weiner's other books have been much better, where she sticks with the fun chick lit but she wasn't as successful with the mystery element.

I did finish the book, because I was somewhat interested in finding out "whodunnit" but was disappointed because some of the other plot lines were left unresolved. I can't help it - I'm a sucker for a happy ending, and I figured this book would have one. Not that it was unhappy, just too many loose ends. Overall, I'd have to go with "not recommended."

Goodnight Nobody
by Jennifer Weiner

Friday, June 20, 2008

21st Century

Well, I've finally started upgrading the technology in my life to the current century. I've just managed to print a single page on my new printer, which I bought for two reasons: the price was right, and it has a wireless connection. Because my space is... cozy, the printer won't fit on my desk so being able to print from across the room is going to be really nice. Actually, until I found this wireless printer, I wasn't even going to get one because I just didn't know where to put it.

As for the price, I was pretty happy with the number of features I could get for a very reasonable price. However, like putting gas in my car, I will need a personal loan to buy replacement ink cartridges. Just a guess that the printer companies make the profits on the ink not on the printers themselves. (How could they at $95?) Just imagine how much gasoline would be if each brand of car required it's own unique brand of gasoline. And the gasoline pumps were equipped with microchips, so your car would know if you put generic gas in it. I guess if it was really like a printer, you'd have to buy a whole new tank when you needed gas because refilling the existing tank would also create an error message. Don't let the oil companies read this.

Next on the upgrade list: trading in my "discman" for an iPod... so I can put all my CD's in storage to make room on the bookshelf for the printer.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Peanuts and Cracker Jacks

I went to a ball game on last night, just for fun. The Storm team is an affiliate of the San Diego Padres, and they always have fun things going on at the ballpark. In other words, one goes to hang out with friends and watch the mascot and less so because baseball is a consuming passion. In this stadium, the upside is that there are no bad seats, and the downside is that nearly all of them are in foul territory. I think that's on purpose so you have to pay attention.

There's something about baseball that is inseparable from summer... being outside, singing along to the national anthem, the cute little leaguers who shout "play ball!" and singing "Take me out to the ball game..." during the seventh inning stretch. (Technically, that's as close as I got to any peanuts or Cracker Jacks.) I admit we left sometime during the eighth inning, as the game had already run more than three hours, so we missed the Friday night fireworks, yet another summer "thing." No matter... I still got my baseball fix for a while.

Monday, June 9, 2008

1 Mile

I ran a mile today! Well, OK, I ran a half mile twice, not the whole mile all at once (in the interest of full disclosure.) I hated pretty much every minute of it until I could sit down at the end and say "I did it!" It didn't help that I'm trying to break in a new pair of shoes, and they repaid me by rubbing a blister on my heel. Arghh. But until the blister cut my workout short, they did feel vastly better than my tired old pair of shoes.

So why am I putting myself through this agony? Every October, I participate in the Race for the Cure, and I've always walked the 5K route. But every year, I tell myself that one of these times I'm going to actually run the race. Not to compete for a prize, but just for the satisfaction of doing it. But having to start from, well, not running at all was a bit challenging. So in my belief that if it isn't on the internet, it doesn't exist, I did a Google search and found the Couch to 5K Running Plan.

The Plan gets you running the 5K in 30 minutes over a nine week training schedule. I'm allowing myself extra time because I've actually tried this before and reached week 5 before some knee pain became my excuse to quit. This time around, I'm doing most of the workouts 4 times instead of the 3 they recommend, so it will probably take more like 12 weeks.

Today was my first workout in the dreaded week 5. Although hating it, I was feeling like I could actually finish, so I was rather disappointed to quit early. But seeing as just walking back to my car was painful - I almost walked in just my socks - I'm sure it was the right decision. We'll see how Wednesday goes.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Book: Identical Strangers

I generally read quite a bit more fiction than non-fiction, but when I make an exception, it is often for a biography. This duo-biography (and, no, I'm not sure that's a word) tells the story of two women about my own age who discover a big secret about themselves: although they had always known they were adopted, they did not know they had an identical twin.

This is something I can't begin to imagine. They couldn't either, but were suddenly faced with trying to figure out how to handle this new reality. The book, in alternating voices of Elyse and Paula, takes the reader through the moments they first learned about having a twin, their first meeting, the tentative steps they took to become acquainted with a new-found sister, and a search for their birth mother and the truth about why they were separated.

Along the way, they introduce other sets of identical twins that were also separated and adopted out to different families. The facts about they uncover about twins are completely fascinating, as is their very honest and personal account of their discovery.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thankful Thursday: Sermon Homework

The current sermon series at my church is called Hearing God Speak. So far, we've learned about hearing God through the Holy Spirit within us, through the creation and through circumstances. This week, we learned about hearing God speak through others. This comes out of the idea that we grow, in part, through being part of a community of believers, and often it is others in that community who teach and encourage us.

The "homework" was to consider who in my life, past or present, for a short time or a long while, served as an encouragement in my faith. The first person who came to mind was my favorite high school teacher, Mr. Freiberg. (Any readers of this blog who also had this teacher may well roll their eyes!!)

Mr. Freiberg taught science, but had this quirky assignment he required of all of his students: every Monday morning, we had to turn in sermon notes. One could attend church in person, listen to a radio sermon, or watch one on TV, but notes were due at the beginning of class every week without fail. For three years, I was rarely without pen and paper at church. What started as a required assignment became a habit that I expect will last a lifetime since I haven't given it up yet.

I'm thankful for this habit because writing notes helps me pay closer attention on Sundays. It helps me to learn more from what I'm hearing, so it has a bigger impact on my week and on my life. Sometimes I wonder if my furious note-taking is distracting to my neighbors. I hope not, because I'd hate to give it up.

Imposing on Grace

If there is one thing I count on in my faith, it is God's grace. His infinite, patient, deep, broad, ever-present, unimaginable grace. But this week, I wondered: do I depend on it too much? Take it too much for granted?

My Bible study group has recently finished reading and discussing Galatians, and a main point in this letter is that our salvation is by grace alone, and does not depend on our own actions (works.) At our last discussion, we were asked to consider what the most life-changing thing we'd learned was. For whatever reason, the idea of imposing on grace too much came into my mind.

I do not fear that I could exceed the limits of God's grace, but rather it made me think about those stubborn moments when I know what the right thing is, but I choose the wrong thing anyway. Paul sympathized in Romans 7:19... "For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing."