Friday, November 30, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday–November 30, 2012


1. The biggest news of the week is that my repeat mammogram was completely normal! Yippee!

2. I have to say how much I love ThedaCare Waupaca. Yeah, I know I used to work there, so it doesn’t quite count, but they really do a good job in a lot of ways. The mammography department runs on time. They have pink gowns that are kept in a warmer. The reception room is private so no one has to see you half-dressed. They call the next day if anything is abnormal and set up follow-up appointments within a day or two. They also give you the results of the follow-up views before you leave the clinic that day. It is really nice to not have to wait for days for something that is most likely normal but is still super-stressful to think about!

3. The kids brought up all the Christmas decorations last Saturday while PWM and I were working and then they decorated the Christmas tree last night. Now to finish the Christmas decorating and get the boxes all back downstairs!

4. I bought a new slow cooker – a big 7 quart deal! So far, I’ve made several dishes with it and really enjoyed it. Tonight, we’re having beef stroganoff. I’m going to use it next week to make turkey chowder with the leftover turkey bones.

5. I used my sewing machine this week. I know, I know, twice in six months is really pushing the envelope, but I had a bit of extra energy, so I decided to patch my trench coat which has some rips in the back. I patched them several years ago with an iron-on patch, which fell off. This time, I used cloth and patched it from the back, but zig-zagged over the rip. It’s visible, but not too terrible. And, I’m willing to wear it again since I’m not concerned about the rips getting bigger.

6. PWM has decided that our family needs a seminar in how to empty the bathroom trash can. I live in a sitcom.

7. We bought a new TV this week! Our very old TV died several months ago, so we’ve been using a 19 inch flat screen that PWM’s mom gave us. It worked quite well, but I couldn’t see things like the score from a football game on it. We are trying to spend very little money, especially on Christmas gifts, but decided that TVs are now inexpensive enough that we could splurge. We now have a 32 inch flat screen TV that is just perfect for us. The kids are thrilled to be able to see their video games so clearly. I love the size and clarity for watching TV and videos.

So, what’s up with you? Check out 7 Quick Takes Friday to see what others are up to!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Results–and Thoughts

My mammogram results were all normal!! Yippee!! Unfortunately, the extra views were more painful than the original, but definitely worth it. I’m seriously looking forward to the day when they develop a completely non-painful way to screen for breast cancer.

So, yeah, God is good and all that. But, what if I had breast cancer? Would God still be good? So often, we hear “God is so good” when our test results or other life circumstance works out well. What about when the medical test result is bad? What about when someone loses their job? What about when my head hurts once again? Is God still good?

A resounding yes! Time and again, we are told in the Bible that God is good even when things are going poorly. We can’t see the whole picture, but God knows our situation and that of the other 7 billion people on this planet. When Job was being tested, he said, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” (Job 19:25-26) Jeremiah says in him Lamentations,

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.

20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

And, of course, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably know that one of my favorite verses on this topic is John 16:33 where Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble, but, take heart, I have overcome the world.”

I’m thrilled that my mammogram was normal and I don’t need to go back for another year. But, no matter what the test results, no matter how much my head hurts, no matter what happens in life, Jesus has overcome the world. And, more importantly, He offers each of us the chance to walk with Him by just believing that he died to pay for our sins and was raised from the dead because He’s God in human form and overcame death.

Not only do we get eternal life in Heaven, but we get to walk every day on earth with Jesus. They won’t always be easy days. Life still sucks sometimes – but, hey, take heart, Jesus overcame the world – and walking with Jesus makes it all OK!!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What If?

What If?

Those two words can be some of the most depressing or some of the most optimistic words in the English language.

What if I didn’t have migraines?

What if I was still working as a physician?

What if we had more money?

What if?  What if?

But we won’t know the answer to the “what if” questions of the past. What would have been is a path now closed off to us. We are here. Today. Right where God wants us.

What if we order that new line of yarn?

What if my mammogram is normal? What if it  is abnormal?

What if Rosie Girl gets a great scholarship?

What if Wild Man gets a new musical opportunity?

These are the optimistic “what if” questions. Even the “what if the mammogram is abnormal” is an optimistic question because it is in the future and we know that God is already there to walk through it with us.

Let’s ask the “what if” questions, but ask them about what lies ahead. Let’s dream about the great things that God can and will do. Let’s even ask about the hard things that could be in our path. Jesus will walk through all of it with us, so we’ll be ready.

What if?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Links I Like

Here are some links you might find interesting!

Stuff Christians Like – The guy who tells you Christmas is a pagan holiday.

Your Brain by the Numbers – a really great graphic from Scientific American

The 66%: America’s Growing Underclass – Really? The implications of this are not good.

Saudi husbands ‘alerted by text’ if their wives leave the country – I can’t even imagine.

GPS Guided Trans-Atlantic Robot Boat – This is cool. A guy built a hobby boat that he’s trying to sail across the Atlantic. He launched today, but it looks like it got caught in a current and might have beached itself. Alas. But, I’m definitely going to be keeping up with this!

Nine Ways to Bide Your Time Waiting for The Hobbit – Actually, we won’t be having too much trouble. The Knitting Nest is doing a Nerd Knitting Night and we’re knitting some Fellowship of the Ring socks. Yeah, it’s not The Hobbit, but it’s Tolkein, so we get credit!!

From the Attorney General to the KKK in 1970

N.T Wright on Women Bishops in the Anglican Church

Rosie Girl would love this link about origami!

The Storm is Gone but the After-Storm Is Always Here - A friend of mine from high school who is now a pastor in New York writes about her church’s experience with Super-Storm Sandy.


My Morning

It started out as a great morning. I was up at 6:30am with PWM. Here’s what I did before 9am:

  • Made pancakes and ham for breakfast.
  • Emptied the dishwasher.
  • Refilled the dishwasher.
  • Dried clothes and hung them up.
  • Made the bed.
  • Woke up kids for breakfast.
  • Exercised on Wii Fit.

It was a good morning.

Then I checked my phone. I had a message to call the clinic about my mammogram results. There went my good morning. They don’t call with normal results.

I go back on Thursday morning for some repeat mammogram views of my left breast. This would be no big deal if it was anyone else. When I was working as a physician, I saw lots and lots of women get repeat mammograms which ended up being completely normal or benign.

So, I’m trying really hard not to stress. The clinic does a great job with their mammography. I’ll leave the clinic Thursday knowing the results of the repeat views, so I don’t have to wait for another phone call.

I just keep walking with Jesus. Walking with Jesus.

Yeah. That was my morning.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ezekiel 20

So, I’m reading in Ezekiel these days. I know, I know, how in the world does what the prophet Ezekiel had to say to Israel apply to us today? Really, I’m not sure. I think you have to have a graduate degree in Old Testament to really “get” Ezekiel.

That being said, I noticed something interesting in Ezekiel 20. When God was telling Israel all the rebellious things they did, He kept specifically saying that Israel “desecrated My Sabbaths”. Interesting. Sure, God was ticked off that the Israelites worshipped other gods and generally didn’t follow His laws, but He specifically mentioned that they didn’t keep his Sabbaths. I hadn’t seen this before.

Soooo, I went to my handy, dandy Broadman commentary to find out why the Sabbath suddenly got such a mention in this part of Ezekiel. According to Broadman, the Sabbath was a hallmark of the Hebrew exilic religion. That is, it set them apart from the other groups of people in the area. When they desecrated the Sabbath, it was obvious that they were defying God.

Does this have any special meaning for us today? I think it’s pertinent that God gave His people one day just to worship and to avoid the usual work of the week. And I think it’s very telling that God considers the rejection of the Sabbath to be so critical.

God gave His people the Sabbath to set them apart, but also (I think) because we need to be reminded to rest. Isaiah 30:15 says, “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”” And this isn’t the only place that God reminds us that He is our rest. In the New Testament, Jesus tells us, “28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

God wants what is good for us. In the Old Testament, He set up the Sabbath as a rest time for us. Even under grace, we need to remember that God originally created the Sabbath for our good. We need to accept His loving rest on a regular basis.

What do you think? Any other ideas on what Ezekiel may have been trying to say?

7 Quick Takes–November 24, 2012


I won’t even pretend it’s Friday. It’s 12:25am on Saturday. I’m writing so late because I’ve had two long naps today trying to sleep off a migraine.

1. How was your Thanksgiving? Things were “interesting” here. I woke up yesterday morning with a migraine, so PWM, Rosie Girl, and Wild Man did the entire Thanksgiving dinner except for the gravy and the pies. I was feeling better as it got closer to time for dinner, so I helped out with those items. And the dinner was delicious. Probably even more delicious than usual because all four of us worked on it together!

2. The two day migraine (because I still have it) was most likely caused by this crazy weather! Yesterday, we had the windows open and were enjoying 60 degree weather. Today, the high temperatures were in the thirties! Granted, thirty degrees is more typical for this time of year, but it was a rude awakening!

3. I couldn’t understand why I was still so cold this morning even after I turned the heat up to 68 degrees. Finally, the third time I checked the thermostat, I realized that the heat was off. I flipped the heat to “on”, and it started to get a lot warmer around here!

4. We don’t make a big deal about Black Friday at The Knitting Nest, but we are definitely excited about tomorrow, Small Business Saturday. If you are planning to do any shopping tomorrow, consider patronizing your local small businesses. We got a door mat from the Waupaca Area Chamber to help promote Small Business Saturday, but the high winds from yesterday appear to have blown it away. Bummer.

5. I left the kids with a list of cleaning to do today. Not only did they do it, but they got the Christmas tree up and lit and all the Christmas boxes out of the basement. I guess they’re ready to decorate for Christmas!!

6. I’m knitting away on Christmas gifts. Unfortunately, I have to hide away in my bedroom at times so that I can work on gift so that certain people can’t see what I’m doing. I also get work done on them at the shop, so I don’t have to spend all my time at home away from the rest of the family!

7. I bought a slow cooker earlier this week. The first dish that I made in it was pretty successful. I put frozen ground venison, barbeque sauce, beef broth, and Pepsi One in the crock. I stirred it every few hours. A couple of hours before eating it, I made biscuit dough and put biscuits on top of it. It was pretty yummy!! With soup season upon us, I forsee lots and lots of use!

How was your week? Check out 7 Quick Takes Friday to see what others have been up to!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book Reviews–November 21, 2012

I haven’t done book reviews in a long time, so these will be short and sweet. I looked through my reading history on Infosoup (our library website) and realized that I only read about half the books I take out of the library these days. I’m finally getting a little selective in my reading. I also haven’t reviewed all the books I read – just the ones I think you might find interesting.

Flunking Sainthood: a year of breaking the Sabbath, forgetting to pray, and still loving my neighbor. I enjoyed this memoir of a woman who tried a different spiritual discipline each month. She wasn’t terribly successful with each particular discipline, but had insights about her own spiritual growth with each one. Well written. A

Discovering God: the origins of the great religions and the evolution of belief. by Rodney Stark. An examination of the origins of monotheism. Fascinating. A

Catherine the Great: portrait of a woman. Robert K. Massie. A very long and dense book, but worth it. I really felt like I had some understanding of why she made the choices she did. A

Sybil exposed: the extraordinary story behind the famous multiple personality case by Debbie Nathan. I had seen All about Eve, but wasn’t very familiar with the Sybil case, which was famous because of a TV movie. This book was a rather critical review of the “Sybil” case, suggesting that the doctor and writers involved may have not been completely objective. Like any psychiatric issue, multiple personalities or fugue states are complex. This book was an interesting read and the author did a pretty good job trying to get a handle on the issues. B+

I’m Eve by Chris Costner Sizemore. This book is by the subject of the movie, All About Eve. She describes her life and the disruption caused by her multiple personality disorder. This was written with her cousin and clearly has a biographical flair. Quite interesting. B

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson. A novel by one of my favorite authors. A mother, daughter, and granddaughter are brought together in the crisis over one of the women’s identity’s. Deep characters, a moving plot, just an amazing book. A+

Unorthodox: the scandalous rejection of my Hasidic roots by Deborah Feldman. We don’t often consider a religion like Hasidic Judaism to be a cult, but it can be just as stultifying as any other coercive and stifling religion, especially for women, according to this author. In her memoir, she describes a life with little opportunity for her as a woman and how she worked to get the education and freedom she desired. Illuminating. A

Trail of the Spellmans: Document #5 by Lisa Lutz. Another side-splitting addition to the Spellman novel series. Lutz is a very funny writer. I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone but adults because there is a fair amount of alcohol and drug humor, but otherwise, it’s hysterical. A

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson. Another of Jackson’s wonderful stories of life in the South, with all it’s good and bad and ugly. A+

Drop Dead Healthy: One man’s humble quest for bodily perfection by A.J. Jacobs. Jacobs took a year and tried to become more healthy, choosing a different health area on which to focus each month. I love his writing and I learned a few things. A

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Suffice it to say that this is one of the best selling fantasy books for a reason – it’s excellent. It’s also the beginning of a series of young adult books that are also worth reading. Our family has read most of them out loud, which has been great for sparking discussion. Some of the books touch on significant topics like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and genocide. Others of the books are more action and adventure. Even when the books seem light, though, there are threads of ideas that make us think. Rosie Girl is studying World Religions this year, and we’ve also discussed how we can see some of Card’s Mormonism underlying the stories. Overall, an excellent series of books. A+

City of Scoundrels: the twelve days of disaster that gave birth to modern Chicago by Gary Krist. If you are interested in American history, this is a good book for you. The author describes the people and events that occurred in the early 20th century that were critical for the future of Chicago. B

The Midwife’s Confession by Diane Chamberlain. A midwife commits suicide and her friends are left to sort out the reasons behind it all. I absolutely loved this book. A+

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain. A woman has to deal with her past – and all the consequences. It’s much better than that summary sounds! A

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: a novel by Deborah Moggach. An Indian businessman and his Anglo-Indian cousin set up a retirement home in India. The personalities of the people who end up living there are as different as possible, but the story works beautifully. A

The Resignation of Eve: what if Adam’s rib is no longer willing to be the church’s backbone? by Jim Henderson A good book showing that women are doing more than half the work in the church, but are the unsung heroes. The author also uses scripture to show that women can play more of a role in the church than they currently are. A-

The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in homeschooling by Quinn Cummings. This book is a memoir of a family’s first year of homeschooling their daughter. In addition to the usual homeschooling issues, Quinn did some exploring of other home education philosophies and techniques – quiverfull, unschooling, etc. I enjoyed her style of writing and the book in general, but there wasn’t much new here. We’ve homeschooled for 13 years now, so the angst about doing it “right” and the various ways to homeschool are kind of old hat. But, it was a fun read. A-

Winter of the World by Ken Follett. I expected to like this one more than I did. I enjoyed The Fall of Giants, so I was kind of disappointed by Winter of the World. I think the book was too wide-ranging. I never got comfortable with the characters because I felt rushed from one part of the world to another. There was not a comfortable balance between the world events and the intimate events among characters. Overall, though, not bad. B-

Goldberg Variations: a novel by Susan Isaacs. An aging business owner of a beauty business decides to leave her business to one of her three grandchildren whom she barely knows. She brings them to her home for the weekend and tells them that she will decide that weekend who will get the business. She is shocked to find that none of the three want it. And it goes from there. Three young adults and their grandmother trying to dance their way into or out of each other’s lives is the plot of this book. And it works. A

So, what have you been reading lately??

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lagniappe–November 20, 2012


1. I’m finally off my steroid taper!! And no migraine today!! I actually worked up at the shop for most of the day. Well, I was at the shop. The “work” consisted of knitting – PWM actually did stuff that needed to be done. I took a walk to the library to get some exercise and sunshine. Yeah, it was good.

2. I made oatmeal this morning for breakfast, but PWM and I were the only ones who ate it. Rosie Girl likes it, so I might do it another time, but Wild Man wasn’t thrilled with it, even after I doctored it up with brown sugar, cinnamon and half and half.  I was just impressed I got up and made breakfast at all.

3. I’m done with my physical therapy from my fall. My shoulder is pretty much healed up, but I have lots of exercises to help with my neck and my posture.

4. Wild Man marched with the high school band in the Appleton Christmas Parade tonight. Rosie Girl and I watched on TV and saw the band, although we didn’t get to see Wild Man himself.

5. Even though it’s Thanksgiving week, I still had to schedule schoolwork for both kids through tomorrow. They aren’t thrilled, but they do get Friday off.

6. Our Thanksgiving tradition is a big turkey dinner with all the fixin’s – Southern Style!! I like that the kids are old enough to help with the cooking. We usually put up Christmas decorations on Thanksgiving night as well.

7. Rosie Girl read “The Importance of Being Earnest” a few weeks ago, so we got the movie (with Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon) from Netflix and watched it last night. Even Wild Man was in stitches – too funny!!

So, that’s what’s up around here right now.  What’s up in your neck of the woods??

Saturday, November 17, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday–The Late Version!


Yes, it’s Saturday. But, we’ll pretend it’s Friday just for fun.

1. I was stuck without my computer last weekend, but my hero, PWM, was able to fix it on Tuesday!!! Yay! Most of my day-to-day stuff is online, so I was able to use PWMs laptop, but there are some things on my computer that I couldn’t get to, so I’m happy to have my “baby” back.

2. Wild Man asked me to make him some fingerless gloves yesterday. I’ve got the first one done and am halfway done with the second one, but have had to rip out part of the second one. Well, it will be done by tomorrow. He mostly wants it by Tuesday since the Wega-Fremont band is marching in the Appleton Christmas parade on Tuesday night. If you’re in the area, check them out!!

3. Rosie Girl’s college application is finished!! On Tuesday night, she was working on her personal statement when the admissions department at the college called to ask if she was still going to apply! Last night, all of the application stuff was finished. Next week, we have to get transcripts sent, but then we wait. And if she gets in, she applies for admission to the music department and an audition.

4. Today was my first migraine requiring Imitrex in two weeks. I’ve been on a really high dose and long steroid taper (taking dexamethasone). I haven’t had migraines, but I’ve had serious side effects – hungry, jittery, irritable, moody. Basically, I have been useless for the last couple of weeks, but I haven’t had a lot of pain. It’s a trade-off. I’m completely done with the steroids tomorrow, so I hope the rest of the effects wind down quickly.

5. My kids are calling dexamethasone “mom steroid”. Since I sleep less and I’m more hungry, I’ve been making breakfast in the morning (we’re usually a cereal/toast kind of family around here). The kids have loved the coffee cake, french toast, and ham and biscuit mornings. I’ve pointed out that it’s kind of sexist to call it “mom steroids” since there’s nothing inherent about my “mom-ness” that makes me cook. Oh, well.

6. The start of November means lots of Christmas music around here! Both kids are playing at church on Christmas Eve while PWM is mixing sound. Wild Man has a school band concert while Rosie Girl has a Christmas recital.

7. The kids have made their requests for holiday meals, so I need to do some grocery shopping. We do traditional turkey and trimmings for Thanksgiving. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I make several soups, so I need to stock up on those ingredients (and get them into Plan to Eat). We have our big Christmas meal the day after Christmas and the kids have requested roast beef, rice, and gravy with traditional Southern fixin’s. Sounds like a plan to me!!

How has your week been? Check out 7 Quick Takes Friday to see what others have been up to!!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


So, just for grins, let’s talk a little about suffering. Over at Internet Monk, they’re having a great discussion about Glorious Ruin, which I haven’t read yet because I’m still on the waiting list at the library (no, that’s not the suffering I’m talking about), and it got me thinking.

In the last month or so, my headache issues have been a lot worse than usual (mostly from when I fell and hit my head), so the whole “suffering” thing is on the front burner again. There’s the question of why we suffer. Books have been written on that subject. God allows us to suffer because we live in a world broken by sin. Sure, He could remove all of our physical and emotional pain, but He chooses not to.

Why? That’s the big question. If God loves me and wants the best for me, why does He let me suffer chronic headaches and the attendant emotional pain and distress? Did I bring it on myself by not being a good enough person? If I could sin less, would I have less pain? Perhaps. Sometimes we do have a hard time because of bad choices that we make. But, we all know good people who seem to have really rotten luck and some really bad people who seem to skate through life. The correlation between actions and pain is hardly perfect.

What interested me, though, in the book club post was the idea of the “Oprah-fication” of our suffering – that is, the idea that our suffering exists to teach us something, to make us better people. While I think that God does use all kinds of circumstances to teach us, I’m concerned that when I focus on “what I am supposed to learn today” all the time, I’m really shining the light back on myself. Pain and suffering far too easily become an excuse for me to become narcissistic. I end up thinking about and praying about my own “spiritual growth” as if it is God’s primary goal of the universe.

Yes, the Bible tells us that “And we know that in all things God works for the good(A) of those who love him, who[a] have been called(B) according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). But, does that mean that everything that happens to me is focused on me? Is God using my headache pain and suffering just to teach me something? Or might there something bigger (or smaller) going on? Is it even about me?

My concern is that I don’t become so self-focused that I forget that the rest of the world exists. Yet, I don’t think that denial of real pain is helpful, either. There has to be a middle ground of accepting the pain and suffering of life’s circumstances while not wallowing in self-pity.

I think this is where focusing on walking with Jesus comes in. It’s more important to “fix our thoughts” on Jesus (Hebrews 3:1) in the everyday circumstances than to try to see what God is trying to teach me this instant. Instead of asking what God wants to teach me about having a good attitude with teenagers even when my head hurts, maybe I just need to pray for more patience to show those teenagers how much I love them. Maybe God’s plans are better than mine. After all, Isaiah 55:9 says “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

What do you think? How should we think about pain and suffering?

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Day 2012


  • Yes, I voted today. I actually had to wait a full 15 minutes in line, but it was OK because I talked with one poll worker who was wearing a cowl that she made with yarn and a pattern from our shop and then another poll worker whose kids are close in age to mine. I love small towns!
  • I’m very glad that the dexamethasone has kept my migraines at bay enough that I haven’t needed Imitrex since Friday, but I’m not so crazy about the moodiness, jitteriness, hunger, and ankle swelling. I’m sure the symptoms will improve as I taper down on the dose, but right now I just wanted to complain a bit.
  • Wild Man declared that soup is one of the three best things about winter – #1 is Christmas and soup and chocolate crinkle cookies are #2-3. Today I made some chicken and corn chowder while I was cleaning the kitchen and it turned out really well. I suppose I should make some crinkle cookies soon.
  • Rosie Girl has been working on her personal statement for her college application. I’ve done my part by getting her transcript ready. I hope she can send in the application by next week.
  • I really hope to spend some time in the shop later in the week because we’re getting the shop Christmas ready!
  • I have no idea how long I’ll be staying up tonight watching election returns, but the dexamethasone insomnia will certainly not send me to bed early!

I hope you are having a lovely Election Day/Night!!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Three Medieval Women

Internet Monk is having a book club this month. The last week of the month, they’ll be discussing Julian of Norwich: A Contemplative Biography. I thought this sounded interesting, so I got a copy from the library and read it. And this reminded me of reading a book about St. Catherine of Siena a few years ago and also about reading on the web about St. Hildegard of Bingen.

What do these women have in common? They were all three medieval women who took their faith seriously. They had mystical experiences. And they were all educated enough to leave us a record of their lives and thoughts. I don’t know that we could say that they are “typical” medieval women because they were all somehow “religious” (i.e. they were unmarried and were somehow connected to a church vocation).

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was raised by an anchoress in connection with a convent. Hildegard later become the head of this convent. She had visions throughout her life, but became compelled to write them (with the help of a scribe – she was literate, but not comfortable with substantial writing) after a major vision when she was 42 years old. Hildegard also loved music and wrote a good bit of psalmody and plainsong. She demonstrated significant leadership by moving her convent to a better location and then founding another convent several years later. She also wrote about herbs and medications and their uses.

Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) was quite influential, despite her short life. She was born to a well-off family, but refused to marry, apparently having pledged celibacy at age 7.  Her visions began when she was six years old and appear to have been intermittent. In her teens, she had a serious illness that did not resolve until she was taken to an order of Dominican sisters. She became a Dominican “tertiary”, which meant that she lived outside the order itself, but lived by their vows. St. Catherine was quite active with charity work in her city. She was also known for eating very little, often just taking Mass once a day and vomiting any other food people tried to force on her. During the most productive time in her life, she corresponded with the pope, urging him to return to Rome from Avignon as well as encouraging him to start another Crusade. She died at age 33, three days after having suffered a stroke.

Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) is the woman about whom least is known. Most information about her comes from the works she left behind. She was born and raised in Norwich, England, during the time of the Black Death, which decimated the city’s population. Julian survived this to have another illness during adulthood which is when her visions occurred. After the death of her mother (it appears), Julian became an anchoress and wrote her accounts of her visions. According to the biography I read, she probably was somewhat literate before her visions, but learned more scripture and other writings probably from a local friar. Despite the concern about a woman being literate, she did have her book published during her lifetime.

Why am I writing about these three women? Mostly because they are interesting. Also because they all probably had some brain illness that gave them visions. Hildegard most likely had migraines – more interesting than my migraines since she had visions with them! Saint Catherine almost surely had anorexia mirabilis, a compulsion to not eat in an attempt to become more spiritual, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she also had temporal lobe epilepsy or some other epilepsy that gave her visions. Julian of Norwich had one series of visions associated with a severe illness.

Did God really send them visions? Or were these purely natural phenomenon that these women chose to interpret religiously? I think the answer is partly both. God is in control of whatever happens to us, even when it appears completely natural, so the fact that these women had these experiences isn’t “random” (at least those of us who hold a Christian worldview believe). The women interpreted them as religious phenomena because that’s what they expected. Hildegard had been raised in a religious house; St. Catherine expressed a desire for religious experience as a young child; Julian had prayed to suffer like Christ. When these women had what we might call a delusion or seizure, they attributed it naturally to God and, I believe, were led by God into Christian interpretations.

For these three medieval women, their “illnesses” (because I think they really were having primary brain pathology) became assets. But what about others who had these same diagnoses? I would hate to be stuck in medieval times with intractable migraines – the pain sounds bad enough, but to also get hallucinations?! And I can’t imagine that all communities were very sympathetic to everyone with seizure disorders or mental illnesses that gave them hallucinations or random acts of catatonia. What happened to those folks in medieval times? Were they branded as heretical instead of religious? Or shunned? Or given bizarre treatments for exorcism?

And are we losing some Christian “mystics” or insight because we’re medicating these brain illnesses? I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t be treating these illnesses with medication!! Seizures, migraines, and compulsions are all debilitating. The three women noted here were blessed to be in a position to have education and influence.

Did God use mysticism more in earlier times before we understood how the brain affects the mind? This is the explanation I find most comfortable. As we learn more and more about biology, we learn how brain chemicals affect how we think and behave. I believe that God will still give some people mystical experiences, whether or not we can explain it physically. But, it’s less common as we understand the brain and help people live as normal as possible lives with these illnesses.

I’m fascinated to see how God redeemed the illnesses of these three women, I think partly because I’m still trying to see how God is working in my life with my migraines. And I wonder about the people who weren’t able to write about their experiences – how did they cope? what were they thinking and feeling? What about people who are having these experiences today? How many are real and how many are undiagnosed illness? And what if they are both?

Clearly, I have more questions than answers. What about you? Any thoughts?

BTW, the Internet Monk book club is discussing Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free this week. You might want to check it out since it goes along with the suffering of these women and how they interpreted it and how it affected them.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Our Week In Review–November 3, 2012


It’s been one of “those” weeks here at our little schoolhouse. I was having such awful headaches that I got three days of iv medications at the neurology office early in the week. By Thursday, I was feeling better, but tired. And the migraines restarted on Friday, so now I’m on steroids again.

And, what does this have to do with educating my children? Well, quite a bit, actually. I wasn’t around to keep an eye on Wild Man who needed to do lots of catching up this week, so he ended up going to the shop with PWM on Tuesday. The good news is that Wild Man is all caught up! His biggest educational need these days isn’t his dyslexia, but his focus!

So, here’s how things stand at the moment.

Wild Man

He’s finished the Revolutionary war, read about the Constitution, and is learning about James Madison.  His history biography right now is The Great Little Madison. For literature, he finished reading Mary Jamison, Indian Captive and continued reading some poetry. (We’re not quite together enough right now to actually analyze poetry, but at least he’s reading some.) Overall, not too bad.

Volcanoes were the topic of the week in Science. I would like to have read his Science with him because it’s such a good book, but it didn’t happen this week.

Wild Man is about a week or so away from finishing Revelation for Everyone. After this, we’ll start working through a book on basic apologetics.

He needs to do more Math, but he prefers to do it when PWM is home in case he needs help. He assures me that he knows I can help, but points out that I’ve had lots of headaches lately. Deep Sigh.

Spelling has not been languishing, but it’s not on the front burner, either. We’ve been working on ways for him to learn the words he has trouble with. And he did a few pages of grammar. Yay.

Music is still where Wild Man would like to spend all his time. He loves playing his various guitars and drums. The big music store in Appleton is doing a big emphasis on percussion, so I would like to take Wild Man to one or more of their events. He says he doesn’t want to do their “Science of Cymbals” (which I’m pretty sure is a little science and lots of letting them play the various brands of cymbals so they’ll want to buy them!) but he said he might be interested in doing something to do with hand-drumming. They do have a couple of sessions of hand-drumming and improv circle which sounds very interactive. They are also doing Afro-Cuban drumming which Rosie Girl wants to attend because she’s pretty sure it’s the professor she did Afro-Cuban drumming with this summer. In any case, I hope we can get in a field trip this month.

And, it sounds like he’s going to see The Lion King with his band class sometime in the Spring.

Rosie Girl

She’s getting close to being done with American Government. She tells me that she knows all about the Electoral College now. After reading this book, I’m going to have her read Lies My Teacher Told Me and The Godless Constitution. That will make her done with American Government and she’ll move on to Sociology in the spring.

Rosie Girl took the ACT again on Saturday. She thinks she did OK. She is still working to finish Algebra 2, but she starts her Dave Ramsey Personal Finance in 2 weeks, no matter what!

Rosie Girl is reading Paradise Lost as her literature assignment. She’s not nearly as thrilled as I am. I loved reading Paradise Lost!! Of course, I was a junior in college, not senior in high school. Alas. For last week’s paper, she wrote an essay on how “The Lion King” is different from “Hamlet”. Apparently, some people think the story lines are quite similar. I’d never heard that hypothesis, but Rosie Girl had and debunked it quite nicely in 6 paragraphs. Her current “writing assignment” is to do her personal statement for her college applications. She’s not thrilled.

BYU Japanese is all finished!! It was nice to have Rosie Girl work on an outside course, but we still needed to monitor her workflow, which was frustrating. Now that she’s got her credit from BYU, she’ll do the rest of her Japanese on Rosetta Stone. We still have to keep an eye on her, but it’s easier with Rosetta Stone (which we’ve used before).

Rosie Girl read about Eastern Orthodox Christianity and is starting on Catholicism this next week. Doing World Religions has been good for us. We’ve had a number of really good discussions based on her World Religions’ reading.

And, of course, there’s music. Rosie Girl is practicing for her auditions in the late winter. She’s been doing some actual composing with her composition lessons. Her teacher right now wants quantity, even at the expense of quality – something Rosie Girl doesn’t do so well! But, she has already written two short pieces and gotten some good feedback. I  also have a feeling that she’s going to want to go see The Lion King when she hears that Wild Man is going.

Rosie Girl’s field trip and community service this week was to drive me to the neurology office for my meds. I’m sure she found it quite exhilarating to read while I was getting meds!

So, how was your week? Anything exciting happen? Check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers to see what others are up to!

Friday, November 02, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday–November 2, 2012


1. So, my migraine relief from the three days of D.H.E. infusion lasted one day. I was up at 4am with a terrible migraine. And it’s still going pretty strong! I did call my neurologist and I’m back on a steroid taper. I hope this is all from neck strain due to the fall I took last month and that I just need time and some physical therapy to heal it.

2. On to less depressing topics! Rosie Girl made an amazing soup tonight with garlic, kale, and carrots. Oh. My. Goodness. The recipe is from the Williams-Sonoma book, Soup.

3. Our little yarn shop, The Knitting Nest, is growing and becoming more popular! I need to get rid of my headaches so that I can actually be up there and be part of all the fun! October was our biggest month so far!

4. Wild Man and Netflix are not such a great combination. He’s discovered a new TV series (Psych) and is determined now to watch all of the episodes (and there are several seasons available). I haven’t had to limit his media too much recently until this started.

5. I don’t feel too bad about kicking the kids off the electronics, though. The weather here is in the 40s and 50s, so they can be outside if they want. What really interests both of them, though, is music. When I tell Wild Man he can’t have media during his breaks, he goes upstairs and plays guitar or drums.

6. I just finished reading Julian of Norwich: A Contemplative Biography. I’m always so impressed by medieval women who managed to get educated despite the limitations placed on them by society. And she knit!!

7. Once again, I’m thankful we live in a small town. The van needed work done, so PWM took it to the mechanic and walked to work. Rosie Girl had to take her Japanese final exam at the library (the librarian was the proctor), so she just walked to the library. The big crisis was that Rosie Girl doesn’t drive a standard transmission car yet, so she couldn’t drive the one car left at home and had to cancel the piano lesson she would normally teach. But, it turns out that the student was going to have to cancel anyway. Overall, it was good that most things were within walking distance because I was definitely NOT up to driving today!

What’s up with you? Check out 7 Quick Takes Friday and see what others are up to this week!