Thursday, December 29, 2005

Three Cheers for the Book Worms!

This message goes out with a shoutout to all my friends who love reading as much as I do. Since I generally average a novel (~300 pages) per week I thought I'd take you on my year in review of the books I've read this year and also give you the chance to say "I've been meaning to pick up so and so's latest, how was it?" or "Oh I read that too - wasn't the horse kind of creepy?". (And if this list doesn't seem like one a week keep in mind that I know I'm forgetting some and a lot of these are in the 500+ pages category). Also, I want to post this to show my variety of reading habits. Although some authors make multiple appearances, I tend to jump from fantasy to romance to mystery to children's books to humor to general fiction pretty much at random.

Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden * Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman * Obsessed - Ted Dekker * Judas Child - Carol O'Connell * Lost - Gregory Maguire * Highland Fling - Katie Fforde * The Fallen Man - Tony Hillerman * Reliquary - Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child * The Historian - Elizabeth Kostovo * The Wailing Wind - Tony Hillerman * Winter House - Carol O'Connell * Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling * The Big Over Easy - Jasper Fforde * The Princess Bride - William Goldman * Life Skills - Katie Fforde * American Gods - Neil Gaiman * Magyk - Annie Sage * Second Thyme Around - Katie Fforde * Dead Famous - Carol O'Connell * The Promise of the Witch King - R.A. Salvatore * Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - Robert C. O'Brien * Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman * The Relic - Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child * Black - Ted Dekker * Red - Ted Dekker * White - Ted Dekker * The Kite Runner - Kahled Hosseini * MYTH-taken Identity - Robert Asprin * Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Susannah Clarke * The Dark Tower - Stephen King * Song of Susannah - Stephen King * Wolves of the Calla - Stephen King * Wizard and Glass - Stephen King * The Wastelands - Stephen King * The Drawing of the Three - Stephen King * The Royal Treatment - Mary Janice Davidson * Wicked - Gregory Maguire * Artemis Foul - Eoin Colfer * Fire Ice - Clive Cussler * Brilliance of the Moon - Lian Hearn * Candy Freak - Steve Almond * Falling Angels - Tracy Chevalier * Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse - Robert Rankin * Monster - Frank Peretti * Chocolat - Joanne Harris

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas (12)

This series was supposed to wrap up by the 25th but it felt too weird to leave it with only 11. Here's a recap of the lyrics covered and the numbers will link you to the posts in case you've missed any or want to check out a specific topic: (11) Christmas day will always be, just so long as we have we; (10) When blossoms flowered 'mid the snow upon a winter's night 'twas born a child; (9) Yet in thy dark streets shineth the Everlasting Light; (8) So he said "Let's run and we'll have some fun now before I melt away."; (7) We three kings; (6) Oh tidings of Comfort and Joy; (5) The Twelve Pains of Christmas; (4) From Atlantic to Pacific, gee, the traffic is terrific; (3) Do they know it's Christmastime at all?; (2) Sing we joyous all together...Heedless of the wind and weather; and (1) It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Part Twelve: Wherever you find Love it feels like Christmas.

This is another more obscure lyric and I apologize to anyone who would rather me blog about Hark the Herald or O Holy Night (both of which were in the running and got bumped last minute for other songs). This one is the title lyric from the song sung by the Ghost of Christmas Present in The Muppet Christmas Carol (told ya it was obscure). I've always loved the story of A Christmas Carol* because to me it's a cool redemption message in a completely non churched package.
*I'll just assume at this point that you all are familiar with the story because Dickens was usually required middle school reading and even more likely I doubt that any of you managed to escape all thirty some film versions of the tale. (Choose from Alistair Sim, Bill Murray, Patrick Stewart, Kelsey Grammar, Michael Caine and the Muppets, and many more!)
The star of the story, Ebeneezer Scrooge, does a complete turn around with his life because, with the help of some ghosts, he comes to realize the true meaning of Christmas. The ghosts explain to him that he needs to go to church, read the Bible and pray more. No, wait... I meant that they tell him he needs a Christmas tree, better gift wrap, and cards to send to his relatives. Nope. Still wrong. Christmas isn't about being more religious. Christmas isn't about being more commercial.

Christmas is about what the ghosts really show Scrooge: love, helping the needy, and living for others. Loving people, serving the forgotten, self-sacrifice - sound familiar? It's Christ's message too. The funny thing about A Christmas Carol is that most film versions don't say much about Scrooge on December 26, 27, 28, etc but everyone knows that his changes weren't temporary. There's something about jumping into a servanthood lifestyle that brings a permanent revolution. A heart dedicated to love will choose no other path. When Scrooge swore that he would keep Christmas always in his heart he was promising to choose a life a love. As the Muppets sang: "Wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas".

For anyone feeling a little let down that the holiday is over, know that it really can last all year. With the love we share, any day can feel like Christmas. Today, tomorrow, forever. I know it's cliche but I can't resist: Merry Christmas to all and God Bless us, everyone.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas (11)

This is the eleventh of... you know the drill.

Part Eleven: Christmas Day will always be, just so long as we have we!

I'll leave the origin of this lyric as a guessing game, suffice it to say that it's one of my favorites - 50 cool points to whoever correctly identifies it (without a Google search). I hope that everyone has a wonderful Christmas though and that you all have the opportunity to enjoy it with whoever the "we" in your life is. Merry Christmas!

Love and blessings to all!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas (10)

This is number ten in what will hopefully be a twelve part series of blogs before Christmas (assuming I can get a blog a day in during my vacation time - woohoo!) relating life to lyrics from holiday songs and trying to be way more profound than I really have any right to be. Heh heh. Just kidding, here's your quick links for Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine.

Part Ten: When blossoms flowered 'mid the snow upon a winter's night, 'twas born a child...

I really couldn't tell you the name of this song. I think it's more of a medley type song where they added a cool lyrical intro to "Oh Come All Ye Faithful". I sang it in choir in junior high or high school and my steel trap mind has a penchant for recalling the lyrics. In fact I'll even write out the lyrics that I remember because it's really pretty but for reasons soon to be revealed I want to focus on the lyric above. Here's the total song:

When blossoms flowered 'mid the snow upon a winter's night
Twas born a child the Christmas rose, The King of Love and Light!
The angels sang, the shepherds sang, the grateful earth rejoiced!

And at His blessed birth, the stars - their exhaltaion voiced:
Venite Adoremus, Venite Adoremus, Venite Adoremus Dominus!*
(*Latin translation of O Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ the Lord!)

Isn't that pretty? I wish I could sing it for you but (1) I'm talking to you via computer and (2) my singing might ruin the previous assertion of it being pretty. ;) Anyways, I wanted to bring up this song because the line "upon a winter's night 'twas born a child" seemed very appropriate in that as of yesterday, I have a new nephew! Talk about a great Christmas present - the miracle of life!

Sitting in the hospital holding that little baby, I couldn't help but think about the Christmas miracle. God - infinite, powerful and amazing - coming to Earth as a tiny infant, fully limited but fully God is a miracle indeed. I mean, have you ever really thought about how helpless babies are? They rely on others for everything - except maybe sleep, they do that pretty well on their own (...sometimes). But why would God, who could easily appear as a full grown human and avoid the poopy diapers, terrible twos, and awkward hormonal teenage angst years with the snap of a finger choose to take the form of a newborn child? I could give you all the churchy answers here: He needed to be seen as fully human; He needed to come into the world the same way as everyone else; by appearing as a baby His innocence was emphasized; the miracle of birth is God's greatest accomplishment; and blah blah blah. Not that they aren't good answers, but here's a different one to swallow.

God needed human love. How was Christ to survive as a baby if He wasn't nurtured? Sure the gold, frankincense and myrrh were AMAZING GIFTS but I imagine what Jesus wanted most on that first Christmas was to be near his mother. I bet He loved the adoration of the shepherds and the singing of the angels, but more than that, maybe He just wanted to be wrapped in loving arms and to have soothing words of comfort whispered in His ear. I know at this time of year churches fill to overflowing and many of them tell everyone who'll listen, "you need Jesus" but think just for a moment that perhaps Jesus needs you. The same way my new nephew wants to be held and swaddled, loved and cherished; The King of Love and Light, The Christmas Rose wants to be held. And loved. And cherished... by you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas (9)

This is part nine of what will hopefully be a twelve part series of blogs between now and Christmas reflecting on lyrics to holiday songs. As always, I love your comments so let me know what you think about individual posts or the series as a whole. And of course, here's the quick links to Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven and Eight.

Part Nine: Yet in thy dark streets shineth the Everlasting Light

This line is from O Little Town of Bethlehem. My favorite version of the song is the one done to the tune of House of the Rising Sun, but regardless of the melody it's a great song lyric-wise. Something that I think is really cool is how Jesus is referred to as the "Everlasting Light" shining in the dark streets of Bethlehem. It reminds me of the Chris Tomlin song How Great is Our God with the lyrics:
He wraps Himself in light and darkness tries to hide and trembles at His voice...
This idea of God as light for the world conjures up two images from my memory. First was a trip to Ohio Caverns sometime in middle school. I don't know how many of you have ever done cave tours but on this particular one, they took our group who-knows-how-far-down and for thirty seconds - to prove a point - they turned out the lights. It's the only time in a childhood marked with hide and seek games and playing outdoors at night that I ever remember being in complete darkness, literally unable to see my hand in front of my face. Even in those short seconds, panic crept in but was assuaged immediately when the switch flipped and light flooded back over the stone walkways. I always think back to that moment of light equaling hope when I consider the instantaneous moment that God's light entered a dark and weary world on the first Christmas.

The second memory this lyric reminds me of is celebrating Advent with my family. For those unfamiliar with the traditional Catholic celebration, Advent involves four candles - one for each week before Christmas - and every Sunday one or more candles are lit along with prayers and scripture readings and the number of candles lit signifies the number of the week. (Growing up with four kids in the house this was especially convenient, as we all got to light one, except there was some dissention over who got to light Week Three - the pink candle, One, Two and Four were purple). Anyways, I remember sitting around the table after dinner and reading Bible verses together and watching as each week another flame was added to the circle of candles. When I was little the candles were just mesmerizing because they were pretty but later I realized that this constantly increasing light signified our hearts and lives being prepared for Christ's birth.

On that first Christmas, as in my cave story, light was instantaneous. With the Star shining as a beacon in the sky, God tore into the darkness that enveloped the world. Nowadays perhaps, God's more subtle. Like with the Advent wreath of candles, He's reminding us more and more each week that His light is in the world and it's our choice to light more candles and create an ever increasing illumination. Not just at Christmas, but always - for every dark street, an Everlasting Light.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas (8)

This is the eighth of what will hopefully be a twelve part series of blogs between now and NEXT SUNDAY about lyrics to holiday songs. See also Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and Seven.

Part Eight: So he said, "Let's run and we'll have some fun, now before I melt away."

This is a lyric from the children's classic Frosty the Snowman and I wanted to throw it out to the blogosphere with the challenge for everyone to find a way to enjoy the massive amounts of snow we've gotten this year. I know it's cold. And wet. But everyone warms up and drys off so enjoy it while it's here!!! Build a snowman, make a snow angel, go sledding or (as I did last weekend) start a snowball fight - insert mischievous laughter! If there's one thing the Christmas season should teach us all, it's that life moves fast and the years rush by so none of us should be in too much of a hurry to grow up. Think of Christmas as your personal excuse to be a kid again. Run and have some fun now - and tell me all about it with a comment!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas (7)

This is the seventh of what will hopefully be a twelve part series between now and Christmas reflecting on lyrics to holiday songs. See also Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five and Six.

Part Seven: We Three Kings...

Since I mentioned this song briefly in Part Six I thought I would blog about it a little more here because it's all in all a very strange Christmas song. We're all used to seeing the traditional nativity set up with three kingly figures bowing down with gifts for the newborn baby Jesus in the manger, but how true is this storybook nativity? Were the wise men really kings? Were there only three of them? Did they even come to the stable behind the inn? I did a little Wikipedia research on the song and the tradition of the "Three Kings" to answer some of these questions and I thought I'd share the info here.

First question - were they kings? This is one of those translational issues where they are never in the Bible referred to as Kings. The song that we're all familiar with was penned in 1857 by John Henry Hopkins, Jr. but "Kings" in the modern sense of the word is not entirely accurate. Rather they were "magi" - a translation of the Greek "magos". They were astrologers/astronomers and were rulers of some sort but perhaps not kings in the sense we interpret the word today. This is clarified in a quote from the Wikipedia article:
"The three pagan kings were called Magi not because they were magicians but because of the great science of astrology which was theirs. Those whom the Hebrews called scribes and the Greeks, philosophers, and the Latins, wise men, the Persians called Magi. And the reason that they were called kings is that in those days it was the custom for the philosophers and wise men to be rulers."
- Ludolph of Saxony
So we'll let the Kings term slide but what about this notion of "Three"? The number of wise men is never stated in the Bible. (I'll wait while you check....) See?!?? Aren't you surprised? All this time you thought the carol was Biblically inspired and nowhere does it say there were three of them! The number is assumed because there were three gifts presented, but maybe there were five of them and they needed three to haul around the gold? Or maybe it was twelve but only three brought gifts? "But wait," you argue, "there must be three of them! We learned their names in Sunday school: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar!" Clue phone - it's for you. These names aren't listed anywhere in the Bible. I would assume they came from some oral tradition, poetry or artwork as the names given vary all around the world (and Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar aren't even Persian names). In Ethiopia it's Hor, Basanater, and Karsudan; in Syria they are Larvandad, Hormisdas, and Gusnashaph.

And another thing, they didn't show up at the stable. Sorry folks, I know it's another strike against the nativity scene and the Christmas play but they were sent out from Herod when Jesus was born and Matthew 2:11 says that "They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were, and they fell down before him and worshiped him." This was after the manger part. But don't worry, the shepherds were there for that part so you don't have to eliminate the bathrobe boys from the pageant.

So now you're guessing that next I'll tell you they didn't even bring him the gifts, right? Well, no. The gift part as you know it is correct - and thank God it is cause that's where the tradition of Christmas presents comes from - Woohoo!! But just for the sake of looking deeper here too, we all know it was gold, frankincense and myrrh, but why? Each gift represents a different aspect of Christ's purpose on Earth and in the full song We Three Kings, each gift has a verse. Gold represents his kingship and giving of gold is a direct sign of worship.
Born a King on Bethlehem's plain, gold I bring to crown him again, 
King forever, ceasing never,over us all to reign.
Frankincense was used specifically in worship at the Jewish temples and stands for the preisthood of Jesus.

Frankincense to offer have I; incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising, voices raising, worshiping God on high.

Myrrh is perhaps the mostt striking though in that it is a spice used in preparing bodies for burial - an odd thing to present to a child unless to represent that his death would be the ultimate gift, an atoning sacrifice for the world.

Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom;

sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

Hope this was informative and interesting to all of you. As one more side note, despite it's inaccuracies, I still love the song We Three Kings. I love the final verse that sings "Glorious now behold Him arise, King and God and Sacrifice" but perhaps my favorite lyric is in the chorus after "westward leading" the two simple words that are packed with meaning "Still Proceeding". Even today wise men still seek Him.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas (6)

This is number six of what will hopefully be a twelve part series of blogs between now and Christmas reflecting on lyrics from holiday songs. See also Parts One, Two, Three, Four and Five.

Part Six: Oh Tidings of Comfort and Joy, Comfort and Joy...

Hmm. I heard this one on the radio this morning and knew it was gonna be the blog line du jour. It's from the song God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (as far as versions go the Barenaked Ladies with Sarah MacLachlan one is my favorite cause it mixes this song with We Three Kings which could potentially appear in a future blog too....)

I think as a child caroler I always took God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen to be a happy song encouraging everyone to find happiness in the Christmas season. Even the title rings up images of Dickens and a proper, stiff-collared Christmas wish for peace and joy. But in hearing it this morning, I realized that the song isn't necessarily about joy as in "Happy Happy Joy Joy!" Rather it's wishing Comfort and Joy. Comfort for sorrows, easing of pain, and the joy of the Lord - which is strength. This type of joy isn't about warm fuzzy smiley feelings, but a deeper seeded inner joy that comes from knowing God is sovereign. Even if things are not how we would have them, life is still blessed. Comfort and Joy.

I try to make this blog about the good things in life. There's enough pain and hardship in the world that this can be a forum to look for a silver lining, a positive outlook. With that in mind and this being said, I don't want to gloss over the rough times that people - myself included - go through or give the impression that I live in some bizarre Utopia. I realize and acknowledge that the Christmas season can be a very difficult time of year for some people. If I seem happy or upbeat all, or at least most, of the time it's because of this principle of Comfort and Joy that I wish upon all of you as well.

Has it been a fabulous year? Definitely. Has it also been a really tough year? No doubt. Comfort and Joy. We had three family weddings, I also attended two funerals. There was unemployment, there was a new job. There were breakups, hook-ups and divorce. Three loved ones announced pregnancies, two parents buried their son. There was health, there was cancer. There were four new homes to celebrate, there were clothing drives for people who lost their homes. Maybe the goods outweigh the bads, maybe vice versa, maybe it all just evens out - it doesn't really matter though because through all of it, good bad and ugly, there is comfort and there is joy and with those simple tidings it has been a truly blessed year.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas (5)

This is the fifth of what will hopefully be a twelve part series of blogs between now and December 25th reflecting on all sorts of holiday songs. See also Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.

Part Five: The Twelve Pains of Christmas

Well, this isn't a true Christmas carol but as the saying goes, it's funny cause it's true. It was originally done by the Bob Rivers Comedy Group and you can hear it on their website - they also do an awesome version of O Little Town of Bethlehem to the tune of House of the Rising Sun, it rocks! It's probably going to be increasingly more difficult for me to convince you all that I'm not a cynic after you read this but since we can all relate to the same sorts of annoyances of the season, if we can learn to laugh at them maybe they won't be annoying anymore! If you've never heard the song or are unable to play it off the site I'll write out the last verse here. Keep in mind though, that the song goes just like the Twelve Days - starting with one and adding a number with each verse. It's actually much funnier if you listen to it too, because the lyrics change a little as the song goes on. Here's wishing you none of them but feel free to comment on the ones you find to be the most true - for me it's 9, 5, and a little bit of 4.

The twelfth thing at Christmas that's such a pain to me:
(12) Singing Christmas Carols,
(11) Stale TV Specials,
(10) Batteries Not Included,
(9) No Parking Spaces,
(7) Salvation Army,
(6) Facing My In-Laws,
(4) Sending Christmas Cards,
(3) Hangovers,
(2) Rigging Up The Lights,
(1) And Finding a Christmas Tree!

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas (4)

This is the fourth of what will hopefully be a twelve part series between now and Christmas relating life to lyrics from holiday songs. See also: Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

Part Four: From Atlantic to Pacific, gee, the traffic is terrific...

I've been getting a little too texty lately so I thought I'd show this picture from last night's news. For those outside the midwest you probably didn't hear, but due to the awful snowstorms in the Chicagoland area, a plane skidded off the runway at Midway airport, out the fence, and into the nearby intersection. Two cars were pinned underneath the plane. Tragically one person died but I think everyone is grateful that the situation was not - as it well could have been - much, much worse. Here's the link to the full story if anyone's interested and the song lyric is from "No Place Like Home for the Holidays". I promise I'll be back to cheerier subjects soon.
picture from MSN news article linked above

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas (3)

This is the third of what will hopefully be a twelve part series of blogs between now and Christmas based on lyrics to holiday songs. See also: Part One and Part Two.

Part Three: Do They Know It's Christmastime At All?

This song was released in 84 and I think when it was getting extreme radio play (84-86) I was too young to really realize what it was about. It wasn't until recent years when I began to seek out Christmas songs I didn't know that I heard and memorized the lyrics to this one. I'll include them here for anyone else who wants to know the whole song.
It's Christmastime there's no need to be afraid, at Christmastime, we let in light and we banish shade. And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy, throw your arms around the world at Christmastime.

But say a prayer - pray for the other ones.
At Christmastime it's hard, but when you're having fun, there's a world outside your window and it's a world of dread and fear, where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears, and the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom. Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you.

And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime, the greatest gift they'll get this year is life. Where nothing ever grows, no rain nor rivers flow, do they know it's Christmastime at all?

Here's to you - raise a glass for everyone.
Here's to them - underneath that burning sun, do they know it's Christmastime at all?

Feed the world. Feed the world. Feed the world.
Let them know it's Christmastime again. Feed the world - Let them know it's Christmastime again.
It's a pretty sad song and it was written to raise money and awareness for the famines plaguing Africa in the mid 80s. As a radio tune it's easy to get carried away in the catchy tune and lost in trying to identify the 80's rockers (Was that Bono? Yes!) but when really searching the lyrics, it sends a pretty powerful message about a forgotten continent and an ignored people.

As I mentioned in Part 2, I've been home sick from work this week. I was in on Monday and made it back today but it's interesting that on Monday morning the top story in the news was a massive earthquake between Congo and Tanzania and there was no mention of it anywhere in the news today. No reports of casualties? No rallies for relief efforts? How is this tragedy any different from the quake that hit Pakistan in October?? For several weeks the media kept us informed and up to date on the situation there and pointed us toward organizations we could support. And yet three days after African children die buried in rubble there's no words to report, no places to offer aid.

It's been suggested that since the quake in Pakistan hit a more densely populated area there was more damage to the infrastructure where as in Africa, not as much aid is needed because the areas hit were mostly small farms and refugee camps and there was not much infrastructure to damage. I don't mean to - in any way - say that the quake in Pakistan was not a situation that deserves our help but I am left with one question: Wouldn't farmers and refugees need help EVEN MORE than city businesses and suburban families?

If anyone knows of any organizations that are providing help to survivors of the quake in Congo give me the heads up. I still don't know why this story disappeared so quickly from the headlines. I'm optimistic to think that it's because the damages weren't that bad rather than to think that it's in a place America isn't concerned about. If there's a way to help, I'll be the first to want to share love in that manner and "let them know it's Christmastime again".

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas (2)

This is the second of what will hopefully be a twelve part series between now and Christmas based on holiday song lyrics that are either favorite songs of mine, annoyingly overplayed songs that are stuck in my head or songs that are excessively applicable to life in the holiday season. See also The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Part One.

Part Two: Sing we joyous all together... Heedless of the wind and weather...

This lyric falls under the category of slightly more obscure carol lyrics cause it's from the third verse of Deck The Halls (the "..." represents a "fa la la la la la la la la") but it's fits perfectly with what I was doing this weekend.

Tony and I have been helping out with collecting toys for a Christmas service project that our church is doing. One part of this involved spending Sunday afternoon unloading boxes from trucks into a storage unit. In between truckloads we sat in the car and listened to the holiday music station (when the Bears game went to commercial). On one such musical interlude we heard the most strange little song with no words but a happy little tune that I was unable to identify. This was really strange considering my vast knowledge of Christmas music as well as the limited library played on The Lite. Anyways, we both started laughing at the tune and it ended shortly before the truck pulled up.

As we unloaded and began to sort the next group of boxes, I found that the bouncy little song from the radio was stuck in my head. So I did what anyone with an annoying song in their head would do: I sang it outloud. Tony of course laughed at this and then admitted that he too had it stuck in his head. I wish I could link this blog to an mp3 of it but I don't know the name of the song or the artist, only that it's a perky little tune that sounds like something to be streamed into Santa's workshop which made singing it in the storage space even funnier. Tony and I decided that it was a very appropriate theme song for us sorting toys and effectively acting as Santa's Little Helpers!

When I was trying to come up with a lyric to fit with this story I was reminded of Deck the Halls and it seemed to fit that we were singing (or at least humming) joyously together and we were also pretty heedless of the wind and weather. It was one of those weekends where the highs were just around freezing and I'm paying for my times outside (Saturday was outdoors helping string up Christmas lights) with a day at home with a head cold. Nevertheless, I think it's a fun season to sing through cold weather - as long as you wear a hat, scarf, and warm gloves - and to share the joys of serving regardless of the chills in the air!

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas

Okay this is the first of what will hopefully be a twelve part series between now and Christmas based on holiday song lyrics that are either favorite songs of mine, annoyingly overplayed songs that are stuck in my head or songs that are excessively applicable to life in the holiday season.

Part One: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

So this doesn't do much to show off my impressive knowledge of Christmas song lyrics but it seems an appropriate place to start. I mentioned in some previous blogs that Tony and I have had our tree up since well before Thanksgiving and although part of me does cringe at the thought of increasing the "Holiday Blur" (with Christmas decor hitting the stores before Halloween these days it does seem a shame not to appreciate the individual joys of the fall to winter months) it's been fun to be greeted with a twinkling faux-evergreen each morning and evening. With daylight becoming increasingly more scarce I'm one of those that likes to substitute Christmas lights for daylight - which is all the more advantageous since after Christmas (technically after Dec. 21st) the daylight hours are on the upswing!

But back to my topic - It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go. And that should be a good thing. Instead of seeing trees and santas and lights and psychotic shoppers as an awful reminder of the commercialism of the holidays - be glad that the holidays are commercialized! Yes. You did read that right. And I'm NOT being sarcastic. Hear me out: Christmas season is an advertisement for Christmas. *TANGENT ALERT* Think for a moment about the super bowl... The super bowl is a football game that was once upon a time just a football game and has now become a media frenzy about music, showmanship and of course commercials! There's been tons of things added to it, but at it's heart it's still a football game and no one can ever change the fact that it's a football game and all the extras just get more and more people involved to be a part - no matter how small a part - of a football game. Now here's the analogy: Christmas which was once upon a time just about Christ's birth has become a media frenzy about music, characters, and of course shopping! There's been tons of things added to it but at it's heart it's still about Christ's birth and no one can ever change the fact that it's about Christ's birth and all the extras just get more and more people involved to be a part - no matter how small a part - of Christ's birth.

So now instead of groaning at the eighteenth bell ringing santa you've seen in the course of four city blocks, think of it as free advertisement. A daily reminder that the time of Christ's birth is almost here! Those trees lit up in the park might as well be neon signs declaring "IT'S CHRISTMAS". And every little Frosty and Rudolph will get a child to recognize that it's time for a very special holiday. And when you stop and realize each year that It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, you can stop and think that it's beginning to look a lot like the time to celebrate the birth of Our Lord.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Boy, Oh Boy!

My family is nuts. Some of you read my ramblings and think, yeah she's a little crazy. And some of you have met my parents and siblings and have seen a pretty hilarious crowd. But when you take that to the next level and experience my extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandparents, etc) it's guaranteed to be smiles and fun times that will bring back memories of side splitting laughter years after it's possible to remember what we were laughing about. My aunt and uncle from Ohio came for a visit this week and as a sample of our randsanity here's a snippet from a conversation last night starring my three and a half year old niece:

The Scene: After dinner, hanging at my parent's place, playing the I Spy game with Christmas ornaments
The Onlookers (aka the laugh track): me, my mom (gramma to my niece), my sisters Anne & Laura
The Players: My Aunt Peggy, my pregnant sister-in-law Kelly and her daughter my hilarious three and a half year old niece, Ashley

The Conversation:
Aunt Peggy: So Ashley, you're gonna be a big sister...
Ashley: YEAH!! (squealed in a cute manner that only 3 year old girls can pull off)
AP: Are you excited?
A: YEAH!! (see previous note)
Kelly: What should the baby's name be?
AP: That's your name, silly! The baby can't have the same name as you!
A: (Giggles maniacally)
AP: What should we name the baby?
A: Aunt Peggy!!!
AP: Aunt Peggy? That's a great name!! What about if it's a boy, though?
A: Aunt Peggy Boy!!
(Laugh Track Giggling)
K: Aunt Peggy Boy??
(thoroughly encouraged) AUNT PEGGY BOY!!!!
AP: I'm not Aunt Peggy Boy!
A: YOU'RE Aunt Peggy Boy!!!
AP: No, you're Aunt Peggy Boy!
(Laugh Track Roaring)
AP: Then who's that? (points at Laura)
A: Laura Boy!
AP: And who's that? (points at me)
A: Lisa Boy!
AP: And that? (points at my mom)
A: Gramma Boy!!!
(Continuous cracking up from the Laugh Track)
AP: And is that Mommy Boy? (points at Kelly)
A: Nooooo! Daddy's the Mommy Boy!!
I can't quite say where the conversation went after that except that Laura literally fell off her chair laughing so hard and my brother was thoroughly bewildered when we proceeded to ask him if he was a "Mommy Boy". Hopefully that's funny to those that weren't there too and I want to dedicate this blog entry to those I have loved the most and the longest in my life, for a contraction and anonymity's sake I'll call them the Moorbaketownshereachejastarzerrero Clan, and although the word doesn't do justice to how amazing they are as individual's, they are my family!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Dish Best Served Cold

Illinois - 68 ; North Carolina - 64

Okay so maybe it's not a true rematch but this is just plain sweet! Hats off to Bruce Weber and the boys for helping us to forget the agony of football season. Go ILLINI!!

* And in case anyone didn't get the reference the title is from the phrase "Revenge is a dish best served cold." It has nothing to do with my previous blog about stew.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Turkey Stew

So the stew was actually pretty yummy. It's a recipe I modified from a Braised Beef Stew recipe that I found off the internet a while ago. I've made the beef version and liked it a lot but here's what I did for the turkey variety:
Lisa's Turkey Stew
  • Six to ten small red potatoes cut into eighths (halved then quartered)
  • Half pound of baby carrots cut in half
  • One green pepper cut into bite size pieces
  • Turkey (however much you want) cut into bite size pieces
  • Small can of whole kernel corn
  • One large can of crushed tomatoes
  • Dried crushed Basil (1 tsp or so)
  • Dried crushed Oregano (1 tsp or so)
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
Add ingredients in the above order to a crockpot. Heat on high for 5-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours. Stir and Enjoy.
I have a really huge crockpot so this made enough for four-six people (or three people with leftovers) so it could be scaled down too. Let me know if anyone else tries and enjoys it!

Turkey Day(s), Movies, and of course SHOPPING!

Wow, long time no blog! Hope y'all haven't missed me too much. ;)

In short: It's been a good week. (For just details read the bold italics of In Long section)

In long: Had back-to-back Thanksgiving feasts with Tony's family on Wednesday night and my family on Thursday afternoon. Then Tony surprised me with tickets to see Pride and Prejudice (he knows I love the book!) on Thursday night. It was a really fun date night and the movie was pretty great. Although the A&E Colin Firth version still reigns supreme, the new one was a decent feature length version and Kiera Knightly was surprisingly perfect as Elizabeth Bennet. And then of course Friday morning was the annual shopping extravaganza! I didn't go out as early as I have in the past but I was still at the mall by 5:45 (would've been 5:30 but there was a mandatory stop for coffee at a very crowded Dunkin' Donuts). I got some amazing deals - that I unfortunately can't talk about - but I will say that I have about 90% of my Christmas shopping done at this point which rocks my world! Friday afternoon was awesome too, cause I went to see Rent with some friends I haven't hung out with in a long time (and some that I've seen more recently too) but again I thought it was a fantastic movie. A lot of people are complaining that the actors have gotten too old or that they shouldn't have cut/rearranged some of the music, but I think it had the best of both worlds - close enough to the stage version to maintain Jonathan Larson's original vision but different enough to be considered a fresh recreation for the silver screen. Also, something about the film instead of the stage puts you up close and in the faces of the characters, who are already able to break your heart from a distance, made it really moving. I pretty much cried through most of the second half but I still loved it so in my book that's a definite two thumbs up. Saturday and Sunday were marked mostly by running errands and getting ready for a traitorous thing called Monday Morning but Tony and I also managed to get in the holiday spirit and decorate three different trees (both our parents' houses and our own - that's over 22 feet of Christmas tree!). So yeah, that's my update for now. Hopefully more hilarity and randsanity will ensue in further blogs but for now this is just the who's who and what's what of my life at current. Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and feel free to share any good recipes for leftover turkey (no joke - my mom cooked a 28 pound turkey this year). I made up some Turkey Stew in the crockpot this morning I'll let you know tonight or tomorrow if it's edible.

Recap: back-to-back feasts, Pride & Prejudice, shopping extravaganza!, 90% of my shopping done, went to see Rent, running errands, decorated three trees, and turkey stew - Yep, I think that about covers it!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Daydream Believer

"Everyone dreams, indeed, at night. But there are two types of dreamers, my friend, those who dream at night and those who dream in the day... Nighttime dreams are for release, say some, a purging of the worries or a fanciful flight to no end. Those who dream in the night alone are doomed to mundanity, don't you see? The ordinary. The mediocre. Night dreamers do not concern me because there is nowhere for them to rise. But those who dream by day... those, my friend, are the troublesome ones. Daydreamers alone are truly alive, for daydreamers alone find perspective in existence and seek ways to rise above the course of simple survival. To live and not merely survive - that secret is in your heart, if only you are wise enough to look."

~ R. A. Salvatore

This quote is from a book I finished last week. I started reading (and fell in love with) R.A. Salvatore novels somewhere around 9th or 10th grade, and although they're essentially cheesy fantasy novels that I should have left in high school with flannel shirts and my overuse of the word "whatever!", I'm so hooked to the characters and stories Salvatore creates and so in awe of his literary genius that I can't bear not reading his latest works. The quote above is from a recently released book that probably few have read (The Promise of the Witch King - cover shown at right) and takes place in the novel when an optimistic and opportunistic dark elf mercenary (Jarlaxle Dearthe) is asking his friend, a reformed human assassin (Artemis Entreri), about his lack of motivation for their current adventure. No surprise that one of the things I love most about Salvatore is his ability to write dialog that transcends the characters situations and speaks to reader's hearts. Among his great quotes from other novels are:
"There is no pain greater than losing something - or someone - before truly recognizing it's value"

"It is one thing to know one's heart and another to admit it. It is another thing entirely different to follow it."
And there's lots more too but those are my favorites (and the only ones I can remember right now). Brilliant, eh? With the popularity of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter I'm guessing that more people might be open to reading fantasy novels so for anyone looking to check out Salvatore's books I recommend The Crystal Shard (his first published novel from 1988) or Homeland (a prequel that starts in with back story from his most popular character) as a great place to start. I've read and enjoyed all of his novels published in the TSR/Wizards of the Coast: Forgotten Realms series and I know that makes me an even bigger nerd than when I was calculating how much caffeine there was per milliliter in Mountain Dew but that's me. Crazy, nerdy, caffeinated.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


My husband is a dog.
And no, I'm not bitter or angry. Rather, I'm stating something of a fact. For today, at least, he's a dog. A big, red dog. Answers to the name of Tony, but you can call him Clifford.

I guess you could say at his new job he's working like a dog. Yes, this is one of many things Scholastic pays him for. He's in Wisconsin dressed as a puppy and I'm home for the day. (Couldn't get to work cause I had to spend the morning getting a flat tire repaired on my car - don't even try to comprehend what awful luck causes things like this to happen on the one day when Tony had to leave at 6:30 and the first snowfall of the season as well - UGH!!) And yes that is a Christmas tree in the background of the picture... more on that later.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


In an effort to maintain a "something of everything" blog and also as a way to bite my thumb (in a most Shakespearean manner) at any guys who say girls can't do sports commentary, I have to talk for a minute about how awesome Da Bears are this year. I don't know if anyone else watched Sunday's game against the 49ers but this was quite the play.

After psychotic wind gusts caused another missed field goal, defensive back Nathan Vasher caught the ball and ran it for a 108 yard touchdown - now the longest in NFL history! And since all great blogs must be a sensitive mix of news and introspective thinking, there's a couple things to be learned from this record setting play. First off, take a chance. Vasher's name would probably barely have made the news if he had decided to go the safe route and not leave the end zone - and if you saw it he did hesitate. There was that moment of indecision before he took off, but he went for it and the chance paid off remarkably as his name and picture graced the front page of Sports in all the major Chicago papers on Monday. Secondly, it's okay to change your mind. Vasher sprinted to the 15 before seeing all his blockers on the other side of the field and a quick spin gave him a much more desirable running path. Had he been too set in his ways, too stubborn or inflexible, the result would have been a tackle and a much more difficult stepwise drive to the endzone. Just because you've chosen a direction doesn't mean there's not a more optimal route open to you. Keep your head up and don't be afraid to change your course. Lastly, your teammates are there to help you, stay close to them. The only thing the news is more proud of than the run is the excellent blocking provided by the team. Good lesson here, also, is that even if you're not the one with the ball, your job is still important. You can even tell from the picture that Vasher was amazingly covered by his teammates (yes, that is Urlacher #54 right behind him). Maybe you're the runner who needs to stay close to those who can help you succeed, or maybe you're someone who needs to run your hardest to help someone else achieve the goal - either way, neither would win without teamwork.

The touchdown turned the tide of the game and gave the Bears a 7-3 halftime lead that turned into a 17-9 win - Go Bears! (And although it might be a rarer subject for me, I think I'm pretty decent when it comes to talking about sports and I can for sure hold my own with da boys. In fact, some might say it's even something I was named to be good at.)

picture from Yahoo news article linked above
The biting of my thumb at guys who think girls can't talk sports is a Shakespearean insult quoted from Act I of Romeo and Juliet (come on, I couldn't have too much testosterone in this blog!)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Just Call Me Pavlov

I have a little story to share about the nature of conditioning. This might be one that's gonna disqualify me from ever running for an elected office, but it's equal parts funny and embarrassing so I'll share it anyway. As a quick recap for those unfamiliar with biology or psychology Pavlov was the guy who conditioned dogs to drool by ringing a bell every time he fed them. Ring Bell, Give Food, Dog Salivates - Repeat several times. Eventually ringing the bell alone causes the dogs to drool even without the sight or smell of food. Get it? Got it. Good!
Last night I was over at church with my small group setting up our booth for Market of Hope tonight. Basically we were stapling burlap fabric to a wooden frame to create a mock African hut. Problem was, we miscalculated how much burlap we needed and ran out halfway through the project. Tony was going to run to JoAnn Fabric to buy some more, but he's the tallest in our group and needed to help with the roof assembly, so I went instead but I had to take Tony's car since he drove us to church. So I drove to the store, bought the fabric, checked out, got back to the car, and got in the passenger side. As I tossed my bag into the back seat and reached for the seatbelt, I suddenly realized - "Wait a minute: I'm Driving!" I even had the keys in my hand! I burst out laughing at my own stupidity and was laughing even harder when I noticed there was someone sitting in the car across from me giving me very odd looks as I exited the car and got into the driver's seat, laughing at myself the whole time. (Seriously, I must have looked like a total loon.) I don't know if I was just really tired or if I'm just classically conditioned to get into the passenger side of Tony's car - either way it ranks up there as the stupidest thing I've done* in quite a while. I was still laughing about it when I got back to church so I shared the story with my small group who really enjoyed laughing with me about it, and now you can too (I think that's the sign of a good small group - you can be openly stupid and they love you anyway).
And if anyone else has stupid stories to share to make me feel a little better, I'd love to hear them! Happy Friday!!

*This would probably be the stupidest thing I've done in several months, but over Halloween weekend Emily, Tony and I went up to Spring Grove, IL to go through the world's largest corn maze and I had a hilarious incident of trying to drink a whole mouthful of very hot Hot Apple Cider. I ended up spewing the whole thing all over the ground - accompanied by gales of laughter - in a most unladylike spectacle. What can I say? I'm a spazz.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

My Kind of Town...

Been busy this week so sorry for the lack of updates. Meanwhile, I found this while scouring my Inbox for something good to blog about. It's a fun picture from Navy Pier that my dad took on Columbus Day weekend when we were touring Chicago with my grandparents.

Three thoughts:
(1) Even if you work in a city day after day sometimes it's fun to see it as a tourist.
(2) Aren't we cuuuuuute? (Hee hee... Truthfully I was huddling close more cause I was freezing than cause I thought it looked cute but don't tell Tony that! Oddly enough it's about 20 degrees warmer now, a full month later. Chicago weather: *sigh*)
Gotta love the resolution you get with camera phones these days. Yay Motorola!

Friday, November 04, 2005


I've invented a new word. Dewfeine. It's like caffeine, but better. I figure since caffeine comes from coffee (en francais: cafe), Dewfeine comes from Dew. And that's Dew with a capital D - short for Mountain Dew. Get it? Okay. Say it with me now "Dewfeine. D-E-W-F-E-I-N-E. Dewfeine". Here's what Webster's may someday print:

Dewfeine: noun. (doo-FEEN) The caffeine contained in Mountain Dew, a citrus flavored carbonated soft drink beverage known to cause the jitters, short attention spans, hyperness, and hilarious blogs. (i.e. I'm full of Dewfeine!)

Dewfeinate: verb. (DOO-fin-ate) To consume or to have consumed caffeine from Mountain Dew, approximately 98.6 micrograms per milliliter. See also Dewfeine. (i.e. I am Dewfeinated, You're going to be Dewfeinated, That 32 ouncer from Taco Bell will really Dewfeinate us.)

Except Webster's will print them in alphabetical order. Spread the use of Dewfeine by using this word whenever you consume the Midwest's #1 beverage. (At least that's what this site claims. They also list an official Mountain Dew Addicts Pledge. I should probably learn that one.) And yes I actually calculated the ug/mL of caffeine in Dew. 35 mg of caffeine per 12 ounces, baby!

This page is not sponsored, endorsed or in any way affiliated with Mountain Dew or Pepsi (or Taco Bell for that matter) and I think the names themselves are property of Pepsi (except for Taco Bell which is property of Taco Bell) but hopefully it's cool for me to use them as free advertising of how wonderful their beverage is. Dewfeine, Dewfeinate, and all subsequent dewfeinous conjugations are solely mine (as far as I know) seeing as how they emerged from a very sleep deprived but Dewfeinated mind. Happy Friday and if you can read this you have very good vision or just a really big computer screen.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Squirrel Fishing

Just in case anyone was confused about what Squirrel Fishing is.

Thanks to Lauren for the picture. I opened it in an e-mail this morning and almost fell off my chair laughing.

Shoutout for the Ticos!

Went out to dinner with Tony's family last night then we all watched Amazing Race together. (Side Note: I've given up Reality TV except for this one vice - Tony's family loves it and it's basically the show I married into watching but as far as reality shows go, it's pretty cool.) Anyhoo, they went to Costa Rica last night and it made me think of cool people like Greg and Kate who got to go on a mission trip there last summer!! Three quick thoughts: (1) phenomenally Gorgeous Country - Holy Rainforests Batman! ; (2) You guys (and the rest of your team that may never read this but can get the message from you) rock! (3) I wonder if I can find a picture online of Phil, the Amazing Race host, posing in a Costa Rican Rainforest next to a "Beware Snakes" sign with a goofy look on his face.... (hmmm... guess wishes DO come true!)

Thinking about my traveling friends also got me pondering mission trips in general and the work that my church is currently doing to serve the impoverished around the globe. We're doing an event called Market of Hope next weekend and our whole church will be set up like a third-world market with different booths representing different countries. People can then come and learn facts about these countries, sample their food, and make purchases for people living there (items for "sale" include education for children, occupational training for single mothers, livestock for hungry families, medications, housing, etc. - it's an amazing event, e-mail me if you want more info!). Our small group is sponsoring Rwanda and we're excited about the opportunity but at the same time it's a hard thing to grasp that however much we do, there's always more to be done. I think a lot of people are discouraged by feeling that the little bit they offer doesn't make a difference - but on the individual level, every contribution counts. Instead of feeling like we can't change the world, perhaps we need to just work on shining a light into some little part of it. After all, at the end of the day all we can do is ask - did I do my best to become more like Jesus?

"I wanna be Your hands, I wanna be Your feet:
I'll go where You send me, go where You send me.
And I'll try, yeah I'll try,
To touch the world like You've touched my life,
And I'll find my way to be Your hands."
~Audio Adrenaline, "Hands and Feet"

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

My Embarassing Cell Phone Story

I got a new cell phone. It's a totally funky Motorola ROKR model with iTunes capabilities built in. Now from the title of this entry you might expect me to tell you about accidentally blasting music during a meeting or maybe making unintentional calls by forgetting to lock the keypad, but my story is even more embarassing than that. I'm usually the first person in my lab in the mornings and I thought it would be cool to use the iPod-like features of my new phone to play some music for myself since there's noone to talk to pre 9:30 am. Only problem is I haven't had the chance to upload any music into the phone yet. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Let me start with the story of how I came to own this choice piece of cell phone heaven. At over $200 you better believe I didn't buy it on my own. Rather I've been gifted enough to be the daughter of a Motorola employee who was on a focus group to test a prototype of the ROKR earlier this year. As a reward for my dad's feedback he got to exchange the prototype for an actual model. However, he and my mom are very much attached to their slimline RAZR phones which meant the ROKR was up for grabs. My other siblings all have cooler phones than me already and seeing as how I'm a train commuter and would make the most use of an iPod-ish device, I got the phone! So back to where I was...

I wanted to listen to some music this morning but the only songs in the phone were songs my dad uploaded into it. Eleven songs in total (just enough to get me through my freaky quiet alone in the lab phase): five from 10,000 Maniacs, two from The Byrds, and four from ABBA. Here's where the story gets embarassing - it was great music. I'm sure many of you that know me as a Bon Jovi, Kutless, Metallica, fan are laughing yourselves silly right now but I was really jamming. I mean, yeah, I've always been one to join the crowd on the floor at weddings when "Dancing Queen" starts but I was really digging the intro bars to "Fernando" and once that chorus hit it... oh my. I needed every ounce of self control I had not to start belting out "THERE WAS SOMETHING IN THE AIR THAT NIGHT....." (That would have made this My Mortifying Cell Phone Story - heh heh.) What can I say, though? I have to admit it. I'm an ABBA fan.

I think it goes back to when I was a kid and it was the preferred music of my parents. We'd go on car trips (usually Minnesota to Michigan) - sometimes with six people piled into a six seater "Clown Car" Cadillac - and aside from the Find All 50 States' License Plates game, what I remember most about the actual trips is the music we'd listen to. There was The Moody Blues , Roy Orbison, the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing, and of course - ABBA. Dancing Queen has long been a favorite and all four of us kids would always chime in on the chant-like "takeachance takeachance takeachance" background of "Take A Chance on Me". There's fond memories there and even more recently for my dad's and sister's birthdays we took a trip to Chicago as a family and went to see Mama Mia, the musical based around the music of ABBA.

So what can I say? That's my embarassing story. I confess to the entire blogosphere that I am an ABBA fan and here's my questions for you (answer HONESTLY!):

(1) What do you really think of ABBA?

(2) What songs bring back fond friend or family memories for you?

(3) What's one song that you would say is a MUST DOWNLOAD into my new phone?

Happy November and have fun answering!
...And somewhere in the crowd, there's you.

Monday, October 31, 2005

And I, Jack! - The Pumpkin King....

Boys and girls of every age wouldn't you like to see something strange?
Come with us and you will see this, our town of Halloween!
This is Halloween, this is Halloween! Pumpkins scream in the dead of night.
This is Halloween, everybody make a scene -
Trick or treat till the neighbors gonna die of fright!
It's our town, everybody scream - in this town of Halloween!

This is Halloween, this is Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! In this town we call home everyone hail to the pumpkin song!

Just watched Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas. These are the lyrics from the opening song that I now have stuck in my head (I love that movie!!!) and the picture is of the pumpkins that Tony and I carved this year. Mine's the cute little one, his is the big scary one. Happy Halloween everyone!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Guess Who?

Cuckoo! Cuckoo! I loove zee little Cuckoo Birds!!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Awaiting the Death of The Great Radinski


A frustrating and tiresome morning has blossomed out into a thoroughly uneventful and down right BORING afternoon. Such are the highs and lows of a research lab. Sometimes it's business and hurried experimental chaos and other days (like today) it's waiting... and waiting.... followed of course by more waiting. I'm working with gravity filtration right now and it's slightly annoying to think that the progress and the pace of my day is being hindered by a small little rate of 9.8 meters per second squared (for those non physics folk that's gravity for you). But on the plus side I suppose this - in it's essence - is the perfect reason to blog.

So now that you know why I'm blogging, you ask yourself, "Self, who the heck is The Great Radinski?" Or for those who know me a little better you may ask "Why is a seemingly peaceful girl like lisa awaiting the death The Great Radinski?" And then those of you that really know me ask "Is this gonna lead to some gross out story about mouse tumors again???"

- Rest assured this story will be mouse-gut free. -

But alas, I am awaiting the death of The Great Radinski. But this is not to reveal some psychopathic side of me. Rather, I'm going to a murder mystery dinner party hosted by and in honor of the birthday of the super spiffy Greg (consider this your shoutout!). Greg's an old college pal and one of the It's Just a Blog contributers - he's also one of the team that started me on my blog addiction (gee, thanks man!). Anyhoo, the evening promises fun and intrigue, murder and mayhem, and overall times much more exciting than waiting for buffer to drip out of columns. I've only been to one other murder mystery dinner and that was back in high school. It was hosted by my long time buddy Lauren (here's your shoutout!) and was a totally fun and crazy time. Actually the craziest part about that one was that I turned out to be the murderer!! That time I was a French wine guru named Bo Jalais (yes, I cross dressed in high school. My, this blog is just full of confessions...) but this time I'm a German cuckoo clock maker named Gretel Auerhahn. You gotta love the punny names too. Beaujolais is a type of wine and today it occurred to me that as a clock maker Auerhahn (Auer hahn... hour hand) is pretty funny too.

Should be fun times and I'm really looking forward to it. And did I mention that I'll be dressed as a cuckoo bird? Wonder if anyone'll have a camera...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Standing Up by Sitting Down

Rosa Parks died yesterday at age 92. She is probably much more an icon of my parent's generation, yet I still remember with wide-eyed excitement first learning of her in a childhood social studies class. I remember the shock of learning that not giving up her bus seat to a white man led to her arrest and it opened my eyes to the tumultuous history of the civil rights struggle. As a child I held the naive view that "All men are created equal" was something our country had always believed and followed. Growing up meant surrendering that ideal to the truth that freedom isn't free and that for many, equality was earned through years of hardship and the blood of many great citizens. Reading today about the life of Rosa Parks, I'm awed most by her humility. She never believed that her actions were going to spark a movement as pivotal as the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Although history books cast her as the hero of that cause, she would probably be the first to agree that the only reason it was a "success" was not her actions alone but rather the unity of those affected.

It got me reflecting on how often in life we try to implement change with 10% of the people doing 90% of the work. I can't even count how many service organizations operate within this paradigm. It's a model for getting things done, yes, but it's also a model for breeding exhaustion and feelings of futility of a cause. How much more effective could we be if - as in the bus boycotts, sit ins and other protests of the civil rights era - 100% of the people gave their 1% (walking instead of bus riding) and those able could give even more (their very lives for the cause)? Suddenly with this model 100% is the bare minimum of what can be accomplished.

Unfortunately in today's culture we have too many excuses for not serving others. Sure there are times and places to give. My church had an amazing response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Over three giant truck loads of supplies were donated by our community and shipped to a church in Baton Rouge for New Orleans evacuees. I don't want to in any way put down the generosity of those who contributed to the cause, but what would it be like if every week people bought a case of Dasani for strangers without drinkable water? Would we no longer have to hear about yellow fever in Malawi? Or if every month people would clean out their closets and donate unused clothing - could January's news not include a death toll from exposure on Chicago's cold streets?

Again, my heart congratulates and soars for those who gave to relief efforts for Tsunami victims and Hurricane Relief funds. I applaud and thank you but I also implore you: PLEASE keep up the good work.

"Anyone can be great because anyone can serve:
you only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
All pictures from MSN article linked above.

Here's another cool article about Rosa Parks if anyone's looking to go a little deeper into her life and faith.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Illini Vs. Penn State

Final Score: 10 - 63.

All I can say is OUCH!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Crack Squirrels!

Okay since I'm in the middle of a psychotic scarf down your lunch in less than 15 minutes if you want a chance to eat at all today I figure I deserve a quick break to put up a post. I got this article e-mailed to me from my brother today. It's about squirrels on crack... literally. I want to dedicate it to anyone who:

(a) Looks back at U of I with fond memory of Quad Squirrels

(b) Has ever engaged in "Peanut on a String" Squirrel Fishing

(c) Wanted to be a member of SAGE*

(d) Believed at one time or another that being devoured by squirrels was a punishment for being late to class

(e) Just needed something to laugh about on a Friday

Happy Friday and Happy Squirrel Fishing!

* SAGE is a wannabe club at U of I it's an acronym for Students Against the Gluttony of Squirrels (the E stands for "of Squirrels")

Thursday, October 20, 2005

My Kind of English

Okay... two posts in one day (yeah, I'm an addict) but it's a slow day at work cause of some issues with antibody shipping so I thought I'd post this cause it's pretty funny. (I actually meant to post this yesterday but forgot to). Not sure how I live in Chicago Suburbia with 0% Midwestern speech - but does the Upper Midwesterner part prove my Minnesotan roots? You betcha!!

Your Linguistic Profile:

65% General American English

15% Upper Midwestern

15% Yankee

5% Dixie

0% Midwestern

The OTHER Chicago Marathon

Cancer is horrendous. I sometimes wonder why I work with such an abominable disease and I can barely explain how discouraging some of my experiments are right now. Sure maybe it's the essence of human nature to ask the pathetically rhetorical question "Why am I here?" but I think this is one of those days where I really do wonder why I do what I do. A friend of mine's relative just got diagnosed with lung cancer and as I look around my lab at work this morning part of me just wants to scream in frustration "WHAT IS THIS ALL FOR?" People are still getting sick and dying at alarmingly high rates. Am I really contributing to progress? Is it foolish of me to think that we will find a cure? Foolish - I dunno. Arrogant - maybe. Idealistic - definitely. But regardless, there's times where I just have to get real and face up to the doubts plaguing my mind. And then I have to doubt my doubts. I wanted to post an e-mail on here that I wrote a while ago. (Appropriately enough I wrote it two years ago to the week.) It's a good reminder for me - and hopefully a good insight for you - of why I love what I do. I suppose my frustrations are due to feeling like I'm actually in the thick of "the marathon". It's long, but a worthy read.

Friday, October 17th, 2003
Wow. Since you're all usually asking me "How's work going?", "Any progress?", "Didja cure cancer yet??", I figured I'd send out a little journal type summary of my work life at present. See, there's times when I just really love my job. No, we didn't cure Neuroblastoma yet but our whole lab group has been going to the AACR (American Association of Cancer Research) Special Topics Conference in Chicago this week on "New Directions in Angiogenesis Research" - and yes, I got my name on the abstract for a poster/reserach paper that's gonna be presented, but that's another story.

To translate out of "Scientese", Angiogenesis is basically the term for growth of new blood vessels - which studies have shown is necessary for tumor growth. [The theory is that for cancer cells to multiply they need to recieve nutrients from the blood and in order to continue to be "fed" as they get larger, new blood vessels need to grow.] One of the head researchers responsible for discovering and proving theories of angiogenesis is a guy from Harvard, Dr. Judah Folkman, who has been speaking at this conference. Anyways, there's a whole complex world of the past thirty years where different people have discovered different protiens and different genes (that are responsible for producing proteins) that either activate or inhibit angiogenesis - they either cause or prevent the growth of new blood vessels and thus, in most cases, cause or prevent the growth of tumors.

The latest and probably most encouraging studies about this stuff involve combining chemotherapy with drugs proven to be angiogenesis inhibitors. One of the presentors this morning shared evidence of a stage three (tumors with really bad prognoses) clinical trial where a drug called Avastin, when administered with chemotherapy, was shown to extend the lifespan of patients with colorectal cancers to an average of five months longer than with chemotherapy alone. It was pretty cool news to see evidence of, but the research got a lot of backlash. "What good is five months?", "Five months more of chemo, that's not such great news!", "Is this really significant?", etc. That's when Dr. Folkman stood up and said something really cool (I wrote it down so I could quote him) - "In 1903 the Wright brothers took the world's first trip in an airplane. It lasted twelve seconds and only went fourteen feet in the air. Everyone said that a flight of this magnitude would never be worth anything. Forty years later Linbergh flew across the Atlantic and sixty years later we flew a man to the moon. This - is a first step." It really put things in perspective. We can't discard progress just because it is small. Even baby steps in the right direction means we're moving forward! And it really makes me think that all the work we're doing really can make a difference. Cancer research is a marathon race, not a sprint.

So, yeah, sorry that got so long, but that's me and my work for now. I'm not going to go into all the details of the project I'm on cause it's pretty technical but I will say that more and more I'm confident that God put me where I'm at for a reason. People might think that there's not much glory in being a paid by the hour research tech but I love what I'm doing (and the people I work with!!) and who knows, todays twelve seconds could be tomorrow's trip to the moon!