Tuesday, January 29, 2008

my birthday! I love my birthday

Today has been LOVERLY! It started out with lots of berfday wishes from my CTF brothers and sisters :D

I went to bed early last night. I woke up this morning cuddled up with a Pint Size Princess - well rested!
I took said princess to preschool after the other three were on the bus, then went for my first day of classes. Today was Canterbury Tales - woo hoo!

After class, my Mom picked me up on campus (some things NEVER change!) and we went to lunch where 7 of my friends joined us, at Applebees. (yes, I had chocolate - though a nice grilled chicken caesar salad, too).
After lunch, I picked up my princess and we bought a book for my class at the book store, and a Cadbury Cream Egg for her at the stationers, went to the grocery store, then Barnes and Noble, where I picked up a mug with a gift cert from my brother. The mug is yellow with pink tulips on it - I'm READY for some tulips!

When we got home, the last two of my window quilts was installed - yea! The OP came to pick up the princess (boo!) but then I took a nice long hot bath.

I met Mom for dinner per our usual Tuesday night date, then went to rehearsal. It was FABULOUS!!! The music is just exquisite, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE singing it. After the break the entire 180 voice chorus sang Happy Birthday to me - I blushed, but the sound was glorious.

Once rehearsal was over, I went out for more chocolate with friends - three Mikes and a Ruth. She was goggling that we were essentially all Michaels - very funny. And now I'm home!!!

Note: the photo is from my birthday LAST year - but it's what I could find.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Christian Defense of Harry Potter

This came from my friend Strider Elfstone, who's an Episcopal minister and the mom of three young children.

This is written from an explictly Christian point of view, but it is not saying that you have to be a Christian to read Harry Potter. It IS saying that the argument to which the writer is responding is not an adequate one for Christian critics. I think it's one of the best-thought- out defenses of HP I've seen.

The Helpful Discovery of Dirt in Potter's Field
by A.M. Hutchens

I recently read yet another Christian complaint about Harry Potter. The critic's thesis was that Joanna Rowling is a "contemporary transgressive artist par excellence," who holds lightly to the canons of Judeo-Christian morality and of traditional children's literature in the west, the Potter tales being a catalog of rule-breaking, disobedience, lying, vengeance-taking, and whatnot, its final installation containing the revelation of the Snape-Dumbledore murder-suicide pact that insinuates euthanasia into the minds of children--not to mention that all of this is done in a pagan context by witches and wizards, no less.

My reaction was--yes--but did he miss something? Like the Point of it All?

One wonders just what kind of literature a person like this can read. Must everything be reduced to black and white, not only with unwelcome details smoothed over, but with tools that, by neutralizing elements the critic prefers not to see in his desire to define the work by the ones he finds obnoxious, guts it and renders invisible the message of the whole?

The Rowling fantasy, for those who are able to see it, is a very typical moral tale of the Judeo-Christian west: it is the story (I have said elsewhere that this is the only real Story there is) of the hidden prince born in troubled obscurity, who finds it in himself to love good and oppose evil, and who, aided by a rather motley lot of companions, destroys at the forfeit of his life the kingdom of the Evil One, finally coming into his own and living happily ever after. It is the story of the Gospel; it is our story. To love it is to love the story of Christ and his church. Harry Potter is an imperfect Christ, to be sure, but what reasonable person would confuse the thing itself with its image?

Here, however, was someone who thinks that since the principal characters are in many ways flawed, the piece should be kept away from Christian children instead of given them for edification. Christians are apparently supposed to be people for whom everything is a monochromatic moral tale, and who operate on the maxim that people are what they read. But this is only true of fools, and one cannot account for the actions or opinions of fools.

Christian children who are old enough to read Harry Potter are old enough to understand the imperfections of heroes, and judge the flaws of literary characters, if they have been given the standards by which to render the judgments. Shall we train their instincts to flee imperfect human beings rather than love and embrace them--not for the imperfection, but in spite of it--in hope of redemption, both of their imperfect selves and those they embrace? If we train them to flee, those who castigate our faith for making people who hate first themselves, and then by extension, others, are quite correct about our faith, but wrong in thinking it Christian.

These children are also old enough to understand that murder/suicide pacts are the sort of things that can be entered by pagans with noble and admirable ends in mind, but which Christians know are sinful--they are old enough to understand what is splendid even in the virtutes paganorum, and to think of Dumbledore and Snape accordingly. If Dumbledore's creator thinks of him as a man of homosexual orientation, why does that mean Christians are obliged to belittle his excellences- -particularly if he lives, as he is depicted, a chaste and celibate life? In that case might homosexuals be justified in saying we train our children to hate the sinner along with what we allege to be the sin? If we did, and they did, they would be right about our faith, but wrong in thinking it Christian.

One wonders what critics like this do with Odysseus, with David or Solomon, with Simon Peter, with Hamlet, Lear, or, Bunyan's Christian, for that matter. Or the Bible. The Christian literary tradition, because it is grounded in the perfection of God, the primordial goodness of creation, and a redemptive teleology, does not require perfection of its heroes, only perfectibility, and--this is critical--the ability to represent Christ, whether by authorial intention or not.

Given what we are shown of our Lord in the Gospels, I strongly suspect if he were accurately depicted by friendly and sympathetic eyes in accounts that did not have the status of holy scripture, and without the overlay of piety, we would see a good, but flawed, perhaps deeply and fatally flawed, man. He would not in fact have the imperfections we would lay to his account, but he would be far from measuring up to our expectations for a perfect man. He would not be prudent enough, respectful enough, humble enough, patient enough, pious enough, obedient enough, considerate enough, or kind enough to be God Incarnate (and only rarely are we visited by the capacity to admit that we secretly attribute the same flaws to God himself).

Even though we would notice prodigies of all these virtues in him, we would also see evidence of their lack in certain instances--of inconsistency. We would see his tragic end on the cross as heroic, perhaps, but it would not surprise us, given certain qualities we had observed--connected , perhaps, with persisting questions about the moral uprightness of his parentage. It is for this reason he can be represented to us, while imperfectly, in stories of imperfect heroes; it is why these stories lead back to him. It is because we are what we are, and Almighty God has regarded our low estate.

The Evangel, in fact, is always mediated to us through imperfect heroes, or heroes we may easily assume share our imperfections, handsome princes though they may be. It is no coincidence the keys to the Kingdom were delivered to the most robustly flawed of all Christ's disciples. This is why we are uncomfortable with the attempt to create perfect heroes. For one thing, we can't do it, so the attempt makes for bad literature, and for another, for some reason characters sanitized to our standards never look like the Lord.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Field trip

I had the pleasure today of going on a field trip with my Older Boy. He's in 4th grade. We went to the greenhouses and art museum at Smith College. The greenhouses were amazing, as always. We saw orchids, a rubber tree, banana tree (without fruit, alas), coffee tree, cocoa (cacao?) tree (with fruit - mmmmm!), and loads of other plants. I learned that it was a Smith College botanist who manipulated Black Eyed Susans (rudbeckia) into Gloriosa daisies, then sold the new plants to Burpee. How 'bout that.

The art museum, on the other hand... well, I've always known that I don't 'get' art, for the most part. That was certainly true today. I looked at everything past the Greek ceramic works and thought, 'What a bunch of crap!' If you tell me something is a book, I expect it to be a book. Or at least to be a rectangle - or have words - but hinged acrylic octagons with abstract designs? Sorry, no can believe that qualifies as a book. I just kept quiet.

My older girl lobbied for staying after school today to go sledding, so I said yes. I remember sledding on that same hill, and it was great. The snow isn't great for sledding just now. In fact, two of my four came home as muddy as they were wet. That did allow for laundering the snow clothes, taking baths, and having hot chocolate.

Four of the books I put up for sale on Amazon have sold, including a quasi-antique that sold for $25! Also, 4 pairs of curtains that I'd put up on Craigslist for sale have sold. Since the window quilts are up, I don't need the curtains or the curtain rods, so I get them out of the house in exchange for some cash, and the folks who've bought them get a good deal. That's my opinion, by the way, but one hopes that they wouldn't have bought them if they didn't think them a good deal as well.

Rehearsal last night was fantastic. The sectional rehearsal was weird, I have to say: we sang so SLOWLY that I kept getting ahead of the beat, the accompanist played just our notes, so I had no reference from the men's parts or the accompaniment, and the altos (despite outnumbering the first sopranos almost 2:1) mumbled hesitantly. After the break, though, when the men rejoined us, things started cooking with gas. It was exquisite! Sublime! All the reasons I get out of bed in the morning!

My joy from the rehearsal was somewhat mitigated when I heard the three messages my oldest girl had left on my cell phone. "I miss you so much, Mommy. I can't wait until tomorrow afternoon when I can finally come home. Please call me as soon as you get this message," and the like. It was 9:45 by the time I heard the messages, but I did call. The Other Parent did not answer - I rang twice and let it ring all the way into voice mail both times. I tried again once I got home (there was another message from her here) and he'd shut the phone off. Now, habitually he declines to answer the phone if I call while he has the children. Ordinarily it's just annoying - especially since he also fails to listen to any voice mails I leave. Last night, though, I was really hacked. The children had been gone since I put them on the bus on Friday morning, and I really missed them already.

Their behavior today reminded me why I discontinued allowing them to spend more than the court ordered 8 nights per month at the Other Parent's house. They have been rude, surly, aggressive, mean to each other, and extremely naughty about listening. Older Boy has been teasing/chasing/tackling/harassing Older Girl to the point of tears. Older Girl has been screeching and whining. I also learned that they are routinely awakened almost an hour before I awaken them - Older Boy tells me that it's so they have time to take showers and play PlayStation. I find all this just fascinating, especially in light of their tardy arrival at school this morning. Showers? Yeah, hygiene is important, but they're LITTLE! Bathe them at night, for Pete's sake, like the rest of the world! And PlayStation before school? Don't EVEN get me started.

The greenhouses today reminded me how very excited I am for spring. I do so love growing things - and here I use growing both as a verb and as an adjective! The photos today are from last year's bulbs - I have since dug out all of the bulbs and moved them, so that I will have room to plant three new rose bushes in that space.

I was up too late last night, but I was up sorting the digital photos all jammed together in "My Pictures". They are now sorted by year, from 2000 to the present, and in some cases into subfolders by year as well. I discovered that I have no pictures at all between July 2003 and October 2005, which lacuna is explained by the wanton destruction of the hard drive of my late lamented computer at the hands of the Other Parent, when he hurled said hard drive onto the concrete garage floor (a professional data recovery company told me he'd actually bent the hard drive). He has previously alleged that he has copies of any pictures lost in that destruction, so I have emailed a request for copies of same. I won't be holding my breath. However, I'm very happy to have such digital images as I have, and to have them in some semblance of order now. That means that I can put pictures up with much greater ease!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Hurray, I put all of the books that I want to let go (sniff!) up for sale on Amazon. Three of them sold in the past 24 hours!

I also put all of the thermal and lined curtains up for sale at Craigslist, and I have a person coming by in the next hour or so who wants a bunch of them. Yippee! Trading excess stuff for cash always makes me happy.

Mom and I are going to take the children to see Music Man on Thursday night. A local community theater group is performing it, including several friends of the family. Last year it was Beauty and the Beast, and we had a ball.

I am registered for my two classes now. Yippee! My first class is next Tuesday, which is also my birthday.

Tomorrow I won't get to the gym, because I am going with my oldest son's class on a field trip. I think we're going to the art museum at Smith College. Can you tell that I don't really care where we go, as long as I'm with one or more of my children?

I spent at least an hour yesterday going through my score in preparation for rehearsal tonight. We're scheduled to rehearse the Gloria/Et In Terra Pax, and that's my FAVORITE part of the entire mass! (well, not of the mass as a concept, but of this particular mass) I am so excited. I know it almost note-perfect, but there were a few hiccupy spots that I had to bang out on the piano.

I'm very curious to see my next gas bill. I've just had window quilts installed. (that's why all my old curtains are up for sale on Craigslist) The very first morning they were in, when I opened the quilt on the back door, there was ice on the inside of the windows of the door. I'd like to think that means that the cold air was staying on the far side of the quilt! On the other hand, it's been dang cold here - single digits at night - so I'm withholding judgment on the ultimate effect on my gas bill. One thing I'm sure will help is the quilt now covering the attic fan. Here's hoping - being green and being thrifty are two of my best things!

Oh, that's Sheba up top there. The entry just looked too plain without a picture!

Monday, January 21, 2008

a new blog!

How shall I begin to overcome my reticence to put anything about myself out into virtual space? With a plunge, I guess, and I'll just hope the water isn't too icy. Gosh, I can play with colors... and fonts... but not, apparently, upload a photo. Fun for another day, perhaps?

Ok, a few things about me, I guess.

I love my children! Since I have only nine months left before my baby goes to kindergarten, I want to spend lots of time this year playing.

I love to knit. I have a pretty good stash of scarves and blankets and baby blankets going, and I'll be doing at least one craft fair this year. Fun + fiber + craft fair might actually = selling some of these beauties!

I love to garden. I have several large garden beds. One of them is in dire need of having its supporting 2x12's replaced come spring. I think I'd like to try using composite this time. Once the side boards have been replaced, I can put the fence back up around it. NO dogs or children allowed in the garden! Don't even ask me about the time the children trampled the corn, ok? Another garden needs serious plant management. I put violets in there - on purpose - I didn't listen to my mother. Now I need to dig out the bulbs, and if I can find them, the asparagus crowns, then probably just solarize the bed. The violets have to GO.

I love to sing. Right now I'm in rehearsals for Bach's Mass in B Minor with the Hampshire Choral Society. I'm just giddy about it - Bach is my FAVORITE!

And I love medieval studies. I'm signing up for two graduate courses this semester, Medieval English Literature and Canterbury Tales. I haven't been in the classroom since December 2005, but I'm not too worried. It's going to be GREAT!

Now - projects for the short term. I need to put the thermal lined curtains up for sale on Craig's List. I want to prepare eBay listings for all of the Motherwear clothing I'm ready to let go. And I am going to consider seriously offering fudge for sale next fall between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Ooh, and I think I manage to upload a picture!