Monday, February 29, 2016

Video Games

Video Games? Yes or No?

When I was a young mama and knew everything about raising kids, I was anti-video games. Because I knew everything. Video games were bad and evil. My children were going to be readers and we weren't going to complicate their lives with video games! I also didn't want them to become isolated and socially inept. PWM and I were perfect parents. And our little ones were going to be perfect little children.

Until. Until I went to a seminar on obstetrical ultrasound. I was setting up a program for me and another physician to do our own obstetrical ultrasound in our practice, so we went to several educational programs. It took a little while for me to get the hang of moving the ultrasound transducer one way while watching the image on the screen move a different way.

You know who was good at ultrasound? People who played video games. I had also read that surgeons who played video games as kids were better at laparascopic surgery. They had to look at the screen and move the instruments on the outside of the body which were moving on the inside of the body.

That was a big part of what changed my mind. The incredibly long and cold winters here in the Great White North also helped change my mind. The kids couldn't get out and run around like they could all summer. PWM likes video games and he would play some on the computer.

We decided to get a Nintendo gaming system because it was family friendly. We decided that we wouldn't do any first-person shooting games until the kids were older. One Christmas, we took the plunge and have had video games in our lives ever since.

Rosie Girl is mostly a fantasy gamer. She loves Zelda and now has a collection of ocarinas. She also enjoys the Mario games. Wild Man loves the Mario games and Zelda, but now that he's older, we've let him get into Assassin's Creed and Halo. PWM loves him some video games and now that we have an XBox One, he's playing Destiny and Battlefront.

Do I think I've ruined my kids with video games? No. Rosie Girl has used the fantasy world of her video games as a jumping off point for fan fiction, drawing, and music. If I thought video games were isolating, I was certainly wrong there. This weekend, Wild Man had four friends over whom each brought a gaming console and/or games. They played video games for the better part of 24 hours straight. There wasn't any isolation there.

I do have some caveats about video games in our family. We didn't let them have any violent games when they were young. It was only when Wild Man was 15 that we let him get Assassin's Creed, and then we made him turn off the blood and sounds. 

We've never let them have anything but their handheld gaming systems in their room. (Well, Rosie Girl had the original GameCube and TV in her room when she was here over the summer, but she was 19.) We also didn't let them do online gaming until just this year (Wild Man is 17).

And, we've always had limits on how long they could use the video games. Well, until this year. Wild Man stays busy enough that he only has time to play for a little while every day or two. Their homeschool curriculum was literature based, so they read quite a bit.

That's been our experience. I don't think video games are inherently bad, but I think each family needs to decide how and when they are going to let their kids play them. And if your 17 year old boy decides to have his friends over to play, make sure to have plenty of food and drink and space for all the gaming consoles.

What's been your experience? Thoughts?

The Facade

In a book I'm reading, the author tells the store of the downing of the South Korean airliner in 1987. The woman who was behind it had a very calm demeanor when she was questioned about it. The Japanese foreign minister asked her how, having traveled the world and seeing how North Korea lies to its people, she could still kill 100 people. She admitted that she had traveled throughout the West but that she had been trained that what she saw was just a veneer over the awful capitalist reality. She had been trained to not believe what she was seeing.

This is what it can be like in Evangelicalism, particularly Fundamentalism. I grew up just on the edge of Fundamentalism. Generally, the churches we went to were Evangelical, but there was just enough crazy to make me worry.

If you are an conservative Evangelical, you can't believe what you see, particularly in the sciences. Science tells us that the universe is 13 billion years old. A tortured reading of Genesis leads some people to say that we can't believe science. But, if we can't believe astronomy, then we need to quit sending people into space. Biology very clearly tells us that there is a "bush" of life (the tree of life metaphor isn't working well these days). Again, though, some would tell us that scripture would tell us that this is wrong.

I walked through my college years in a bit of a fog because I was trying to figure out what was real and what wasn't. Were my college professors REALLY so stupid as to buy into this evolution thing or did they know it was bunk and they were just lying to me? And, then I was learning to read real research, and it was like looking at something with my own eyes. I was seeing something real. But, if I was going to be true to the Young-Earth Creationist perspective of my church days growing up, I'd have to close my eyes to what was in front of me. And that wasn't going to happen.

For some reason, Evangelicals have also decided that global warming is also not a thing. I have no idea why. Maybe because we'd have to put some effort into recycling and using less energy and generally being more responsible people? In any case, this is another of those walking through the world and pretending that what we see is just a veneer. If we don't look at the global temperatures going up, it's really not happening. Most importantly, if our favorite meteorologist disagrees with 98% of the climatologists, then we can ignore the climatologists. I am still flummoxed as to what climate change and Evangelicalism have to do with each other, but it is another of the cognitive dissonant topics.

One of my favorite issues in which Evangelicals pretend that their version of truth is real is American History. I became acutely aware of this when we were homeschooling our kids. Many homeschool curricula are promoting a version of American History called "Providential History" or "America's Christian History". It sounds lovely until you get down to reading it and finding out that there is a lot of whitewashing going on. The colonists are portrayed as heroes without any discussion of the real conflict with Native Americans. Slavery and The Trail of Tears get short shrift while the Founders are portrayed as modern day Evangelicals and full and honest discussions of major historical figures are often minimized. American History is complicated in the first place; coming into it with an agenda makes things even more complicated.

And here is where I have to add my obligatory paragraph about David Barton. He is the most notorious of the pseudo-historians. It's frustrating to listen to him talk and use half-truths or use facts out of context. History is more complex than just a set of facts. Those facts need to be understood in their time and sociological place. When you go looking for good history books from a Christian perspective, I'd recommend starting with John Fea or Mark Noll.

One of the great things about living in the United States is that we have freedom of expression. We have this great marketplace of ideas. I can write about all kinds of things on my blog. I can say what I want. I can believe what I want. I can't imagine living in a place like North Korea where you are told what to believe, what to say, what to do all the time. And then, as a North Korean going in to the West, to not believe anything that you see. To think that it's all just a facade.

And being a Fundamentalist of any stripe makes you kind of like that North Korean woman. You walk through the world and don't believe that any of it's real. I've been fortunate that I was raised just on the edges of Fundamentalism. But, it's easy to get sucked it. No, I can't believe in global warming. No, America has always been explicitly Christian. Don't take those truths from me! But, maybe those are the facades. And the truth is behind it.

Giving up my Young-Earth Creationism made me much more free in how I could interact with scripture. Reading several history books helped me see that one tight view of "providential history" was limiting. Looking past these veneers lets my mind go free to think about more possibilities instead of tying me down.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Evolutionary Creationism

I haven't posted on Creationism since 2009, so it's about time to revisit the subject. It came up again today when I had a short Twitter "conversation" with someone. But, it has come up numerous times over the years on blogs and books that I have read. 

First, of all, what happened in 2009? I shared my intellectual and spiritual journey from Young-Earth Creationism to Evolutionary Creationism on my blog. On of the commenters was Ken Ham himself from Answers in Genesis. That led to having several other supporters of the YEC point of view, whom I had no other relationship with, to post comments. Unfortunately, the day after I posted it, I had a terrible migraine. Either that day or the next, Ham wrote a post using me as a cautionary tale of a homeschooling mother who has caved into Evolution whose children are in danger of walking away from faith. Well, Rosie Girl is no longer an Evangelical, but she claims the label of Christian. Wild Man is almost 18 and plans to become a worship leader.

The kerfuffle of 2009 certainly didn't make me any more likely to consider the YEC perspective. In the last seven years, I've actually become more comfortable in my reading of the Bible and the acceptance of the overwhelming scientific evidence of biological evolution and an old cosmos.

The first chapter of Genesis is not intended to provide a literal account of how the cosmos was created. It is, rather, a theological poem telling us that God created the universe. In a world filled with cultures that had multiple gods, Israel's creation story tells them that God was the creator. And that's the importance of the story.

I have read books by Denis Lamoureaux and Peter Enns that I really like and that have helped me understand the Old Testament. Learning to read the Old Testament on it's terms and trying to understand it through the eyes of the original hearers and readers has been invaluable. Genesis is not a science book and should not try to be understood as one. 

Being willing to engage in the science of evolution has lots of advantages. I don't worry about what the recent hominid remains found in a cave in South Africa mean for Creationism. They are far older than the 6000 years that YEC has to use as their cut-off date for biological creation. But, that's just fine for evolution. They fit somewhere on the hominin tree. Are they a human ancestor? I don't think that's been sorted out yet. But, it's fascinating stuff to read and learn about. Science is completely open. We don't have to make it "fit" the Bible. 

What does this do for my faith? Well, it doesn't compromise it. Reading the Bible on it's own terms leads me to an honest faith. When I come to something I don't understand, I consult commentaries and I pray about it. I don't have to make it fit into a pre-determined set of beliefs. When I read books that are poetic, I can read them as poetic. When I read the Gospels, I can read them as Jesus-centered. When I read the Epistles, I read them understanding the background of their writing.

The Bible is a mixture of types of literature that God inspired for us to learn about him. He deserves for us to take it seriously and to read it honestly.

I welcome your comments. And if I have migraine, I'll answer your comments in a day or so ;-)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mark 4:1-20

Yes, we're still in Mark 4. You're probably thinking, "Get moving, woman! Mark has plenty more to say about Jesus!"

I got kind of stuck in Mark 4:11-12. "He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,   and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!"

Recall that the larger context here is that Jesus has just told the parable of the sower and he is now sitting with just his 12 disciples. But, verses 11 and 12 are a bit tricky. For one thing, Jesus is referring back to Isaiah 6:9-10 when God said through Isaiah that He would keep people from understanding the truth until the proper time had arrived.

I'm not sure that is how Jesus is using it here. I think Jesus is speaking with frustration and irony here. In the Bible, we don't get the cues that we get from other writing, such as, Jesus answered, sounding frustrated and ironic . . .  Instead, we just get the words. 

After reading a few commentaries and wrestling with it myself, I've come to the conclusion that Jesus was probably throwing his arms out to show off the entire crows and saying in a frustrated tone, "See, they don't get it, even when I speak in parables so that "they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing, but never understaing; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven." But, for you close followers, I'll spell out the parable for you.

When we read the ancient and rather sparse literature which comes to us with little embellishment, we have to read between the words to figure out what was really happening there.

Now, after I've spilled all of this digital ink, let me say that there are plenty more interpretations of this set of verses than just mine. Rosie Girl discussed this in her Christianity class the other day. Rosie Girl interprets it as Jesus saying that he's coming to do new thing and that nothing is going to be the same anymore.

So, let's open it up for questions. What do you think? Answer in the comments, on FB, or on Twitter!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Migraines and Control (or the Loss Thereof)

I'm a control freak, I admit it. This is one reason that migraines are such a challenge for me. Chronic migraine (OK, any kind of migraine) involves a loss of control. 

I had plans for today. I was going to clean the house to get ready for someone from the Exchange student program to come take another look and make sure that Ashley is, indeed, in a safe environment. 

But, I woke up at 7:30am with a migraine with headache level of 7/10 with mild nausea. Headache pain tends to be worse for me when I lie down, so I took meds and sat in my rocking chair until I was falling asleep. And then went back to bed. We now have a bed that we can adjust the head of the bed to about 30 degrees, so I put the head of the bed up, put on my CPAP, and slept from 10-2.

And the headache wasn't gone when I woke up at 2pm. I do admit that it was down to about a 5, but that's still not housecleaning migraine, especially not when I have nausea and diffuse myalgias (everything hurts). I asked the cats if they might be willing to help, since part of the mess is theirs, but they gave me the look of death. They could be teenagers.

So, you can see how migraines take over life when they come. I make plans but I never know if I'm going to have to cancel them. Today was my weekly severe migraine. I usually have a couple of other days a week when I have a less severe migraine, but still one that keeps me from engaging in most social events, appointments, and physical activity.

I like to know what I'm going to do each day. I like plans and I like to keep them. Migraines prevent that. Loss of control over my life is one of my least favorite things about this illness. I've missed my kids' concerts and other activities because of migraines. I feel like it steals part of my life. If I knew when the attacks were going to come, I could make plans. But, that's just it, I can't control it.

The loss of control is even worse when the migraine gets bad enough to land me in the clinic or the emergency department. Those are the migraines in which the pain makes me feel like my head is going to explode. The one thing I usually can control is that I won't cry. Crying makes the pain worse. But, I can't stop the vomiting. I try to take meds, but they don't always work (which is why I'm at the clinic or emergency department). It's also rather embarrassing because when I vomit, I lose control of my bladder. The whole event is distressing! I feel better once I get my meds, but I've been at the mercy of the nurses and doctors getting my vitals done, my iv placed, etc. It helps only a little to have once been on the other side of the interaction as the MD. This time, I'm still the helpless patient.

What do I do about all this loss of control? When possible, I make contingency plans. Last fall, when I flew down South a couple of times, I made sure to have all my migraine meds with me so that I could treat a migraine during travel if I needed to. I knew treatment wouldn't completely make it go away, but it could keep me from vomiting and being too miserable. When my plans impact other people, like getting Ashley's eye exam done yesterday, I worked with PWM to have an alternate plan ready. 

I can't always have an alternate plan, so a lot of times, I just have to cancel whatever was scheduled for that day. Like today's house cleaning. PWM cleaned the bathroom floor and I'll try to do what I can tomorrow.

My other solution is spiritual. Be content. God has control over my life, not me. I've spent the last eight years working on this, but I'm still not very good at. Nonetheless, Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:6 "Godliness with contentment is great gain" and in Philippians 4:12, he says, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation." 

I'm still working on being content with daily prayer and meditation. God knows my situation. Scripture tells us in many places that trials are meant for our spiritual growth. I trust that God has my best interest at heart. John 6:33 "In this world, you will have trouble; but, take heart, I have overcome the world!"

Even when I don't have a significant headache, learning to "go with the flow" has it's advantages! I've learned to be more relaxed about whether the laundry is done or the kitchen is clean. I've learned that sometimes it's OK to just hang out and be with my kids.

The loss of control that comes with migraine is one of my least favorite side effects. It's hard to deal with. Yes, it's taught me a lot. But, I'm ready to be done!

My Christmas Present!!

This being February 22, I thought it an auspicious night to use my Christmas gift card from my parents. Actually, my steak knives have all gone missing. That's why I decided to use my WalMart gift card. 

Let's stop for a moment, though, and consider why in the world six perfectly good steak knives would abscond from my kitchen. Actually, five steak knives. The handle on one broke, so I pitched it. Nonetheless, five adequate steak knives are missing. When the cups are gone, a quick search of the living room and dining room usually provides a favorable results. But, knives? It's a mystery.

My mom had hoped that I'd buy something frivolous with my gift card. I can be as frivolous as the next person, but I have a thing about buying stuff. There seems to be a slow migration of stuff into this house, so I try to counter it by slowly getting rid of stuff. I send a bag or two to Goodwill every couple of months. I look through the books and clothes for things that could use a better home. And there's always the clutter than should go in the trash.

But, back to being frivolous. I can be frivolous with the best of them when it involves yarn and books. However, I still have tons of yarn from when we closed the yarn shop. And I've recently bought a couple of books and have several good ones on loan from the library.

So I went with practicality. And a bit of non-frugality, if you will. I needed at least six steak knives. I actually bought an entire knife block. Our current one is at least 22 years old and the knives have seen better days. And the new one is pretty!!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Be All You Can Be, No More

Here is a great article from the Washington Post entitled, "No Honey, you can't be anything that you want to be. And that's OK." The post is a bit wide-ranging, but she seemed to focus on the role of luck and chance in success among high-achievers. You can work as hard as you want and it may pay a lot of dividends, but to get to be a professional baseball player or Supreme Court Justice, you will probably need chance on your side as well.

One thing that she didn't cover much in her article is the role of talent. I'll use my family as an example. I am academically quite gifted. I'm not bragging because I didn't do anything to get these gifts. I was born like this. I did well in school with less studying than most people. That meant I got some sleep in medical school! My husband does not have the same overall academic giftedness, but he is a problem-solver, so he excels in engineering.

Rosie Girl is much like me, but she also showed significant musical talent at a young age. As she has gotten older, her interest in anything academic has waned, but she loves learning about how music works. Wild Man didn't learn to read till he was nine when we had him tested and found that he had dyslexia. Had he been in school, he would have been labeled learning disabled. He has prodigious music talent that has just come out in the last 5 or 6 years.

Four people. Four different profiles in skills and learning. 

God gives us each a different measure of intellectual ability, physical ability, and even interpersonal skills. All of these can be worked on and improved, of course, but we are individuals with limits. 

There are people who will never develop the math skills to learn algebra because it is an abstract concept and their brains will only develop to the concrete level. They are still valuable and make contributions to society, but they certainly don't start with the advantages that other people start with. Is it fair? No. But, it's similar to someone with more cognitive ability growing up in an anti-intellectual environment.

My academic and interpersonal skills are much further developed than my physical skills, but I'm also convinced that my genetics didn't give me much help in the physical department.

Many people think that a college education is the greatest goal in life. In reality, tech schools are avidly looking for students who will work hard to fill openings where people are retiring in things like welding and construction. These are perfect jobs for those who don't graduate at the top of their class, but are willing to work hard.

Of course, the Washington Post piece didn't talk about trying to find God's will for your life, but, as Christian parents, that was part of the discussion with Wild Man and Rosie Girl as they were trying to figure out if they were going to college and where they wanted to go to college etc.

There is real freedom if we can embrace our uniqueness in God. Since we are each specially created, it doesn't matter if we're an academic high flier or a super athlete. We're loved the same by God.

When we talk to our kids when they are young, we can be encouraging about them following their dreams, I'm not remotely suggesting that kids should having their passions squashed!! If she wants to be a ballerina and you can take her to ballet lessons,well go for it! But, you can start talking about being realistic. When that aspiring ballerina sees Misty Copeland on TV and decides she wants to be principal ballerina in the American Ballet Theater, you can start talking about how few women get that far in the ballet world.

And as the kids get older, then we can talk more about the reality of what following their dreams entails and encourage hard work and persistence, but but without pushing. If that little girl still wants to be a ballerina, she'll start realizing how many classes she has to take and how hard the work is!

Remember that your children are not an extension of you or a chance to relive your life vicariously through them. All this is to say not to push a child into an activity that they don't want to. It's OK to say that have to get through the season because they made a commitment. It's OK to say you have to learn piano because you want to learn drums later. But pushing a kid who doesn't like sports into football because you played football? Hmmm - Not so much.

Let the children live their lives. The younger they are, the more you can guide and control. But, by the time they hit their teens, it's time for the parents to take a step back and more of an adviser. Another example from our family: Rosie girl started ballet at age 4 and took all the ballet classes she could take until she was 12. At that age, her friends all took two ballet classes and pre-point. Rosie Girl decided that she was not interested in dancing en pointe or pursuing pallet any further. The next year, she took theater dance and tap. She now teaches two tap classes at the studio. The point is that she was done with ballet. And she doesn't regret the choice.

Of course, our kids are special and darn near perfect as far as we, their parents, are concerned! And God made each of us unique, with our own gifts and talents. I don't want to detract from that. And we must teach our children how special they are in the eyes of a God who loved them so much that he died for them. Don't let them miss that. But, teach them to find God's plan as best they can and to be who he wants them to be, not some nebulous "anything you want".

Help your kids to figure out their strengths and weaknesses. Teach them about hard work, perseverance and persistence. Help them to be ready in case that big break comes along. But, if it doesn't they'll still be ready to live a great life!

What are your thoughts?!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Can Women Have It All?

I came across two articles this week about feminism that made me think about women "having it all". One was "Are You An Accidental Feminist" on Crosswalk that I absolutely can't find right now. The other is "Having It All Kinda Sucks" from The Huffington Post. You should read at least The Huffington Post piece.

The thing about "having it all" is that it's impossible. And it always has been. There simply aren't enough hours in the day for anyone to manage a full-time career with kids and taking care of the house. It was never supposed to work like that. Feminism was supposed to give women more choices, not rope us into doing more than is humanly possible.

Instead of trying to have it all, women need to look at what God wants us to do. And there are so many options available to us in the 21st century!! Life isn't perfect; women are still underpaid compared to men in some spheres, but it's so much better than it used to be. Married women are still doing the lion's share of the housework, but men are much better about stepping up to help and, with good communication, many marriages are finding a reasonably equitable sharing of work.

I'm sure you've figured out that I don't believe that the Bible teaches a Victorian view of sex roles. Instead, God is creative and made his children to be creative as well. Men and women are to listen to God and figure out how he wants us to live our lives.

PWM and I are an example of a non-traditional family, at least for the first part of our marriage. We got married before my third year of medical school. When we had our first child, Rosie Girl, in residency, PWM became a stay at home Dad. When the kids were old enough for school, they did preschool, but then PWM homeschooled them starting at age 5. All this time, I was finishing my residency and starting practice. I loved practicing medicine and I did it for about 10 years.

Everything changed in 2006 when my migraines turned into chronic migraine and I couldn't work any longer. PWM (completely without complaining) went to work for about a year, then started a college program so he could get his teaching license. I became the stay at home parent. PWM ended up starting a tutoring business and then we opened a yarn shop. Rosie Girl graduated high school (from homeschool). Then, the school board superintendent came and asked PWM to teach math in the local high school. So, PWM teaches at the high school and Wild Man goes to school. We look a little more "normal" now

The way things worked out for me and PWM is just one of a myriad of ways couples can structure their lives. And I'm pretty sure that God is cool with whatever works for your family. God teaches us that we are to be content (see the book of Philippians), but you can't do that when you are working 60 hours a week, trying to spend some time with your kids and doing all the house work. When do you even have time to be content? 

But what about single parents? How are they supposed to even survive? I've never been in that situation. What I do know is that God is good and will provide. I also know that even single parents need to pray and be honest about how much "all" is needed. And how clean does you house need to be? What are your priorities and how can you structure them to give you rest and time with people? And who can help you? We weren't meant to do this parenting journey alone.

Women, we can't have it all. Maybe over the course of a lifetime, we can eventually have it all, but having it all at the same time is a pipe dream. Pray, pray, and pray some more. God knows what's best for us and he'll guide toward what we need. (Even if it's being on disability for chronic migraine which I totally don't understand . . . )

What are your thoughts? Can we have it all? Should we try to have it all?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Reality TV February 19, 2016

I like reality competition TV shows. Well, a lot of them. I don't enjoy things like Survivor or Big Brother where everything is contrived. And I don't like Dance Moms and things where kids are exploited and the grown-ups are acting like children. I like shows where people are competing based on skill. I watch several shows every week. It's one of my weaknesses, but I justify it by knitting while I watch. 

So, here's a rundown of the shows I watched this week and what I thought. Because I'm sure you are all interested in it - Actually, I do want to hear your thoughts about them in the comments!!

Pitch Slapped - This is a LifeTime show that is following two high school a capella groups through the summer competition season. Each group has a new coach for the season. The producers have set it up so that Highland Voices is the favorite group and has a tough coach, Diana. Stay Tuned is good, but they are the underdogs. Their coach, Deke, is likable and has an impressive resume, having worked on things like Pitch Perfect. This week's episode was the next to last before the finals. Highlands Voices did "Defying Gravity" with a professional arrangement, and they also had some extra coaching from Diana's professional group. Stay Tuned did "Drift Away" with a less complicated arrangement, but Deke's goal wasn't necessarily to win, but to not get eliminated. In the performances, Highlands Voices did a really good job. I couldn't see any of the mistakes that Deke commented on, but then, I'm not a professional in a capella music. Highlands Voices, though, knocked it out of the park. Stay Tuned ended up winning, which surprised everyone. Next week is the finals, so we'll see how it goes.

Team Ninja Warrior - This one is on Esquire. Right now, they are doing the team version and this week's was the last of the introductory rounds. Of the four teams, I was cheering hard for The Iron Grip (Sam Sann, Daniel Gil, and Richelle Hepler) because I've been impressed with Daniel Gil on ANW - and he's a worship leader - and he's got great hair. They didn't win, though they were in the final round. It was The Lab Rats. Next week starts the next round for Team Ninja Warrior.

Project Runway All-Stars - First of all, can I just say how thrilled I am that Ashley won Project Runway last season?!! I can't wait till her designs get knocked off by someone so they become cheap enough for me to buy!! OK. Back to All-Stars. This week, they had to make a design that showed off the movement of the fabric when the wind machine was on the runway. I agreed with the judges that Sam did the best job. But, I also totally loved Kini's design. I thought that Valerie's was nice. I had to agree with their choices on the bottom except that I thought that Mitchell's would be on the bottom this week as well. I really did not like that design. But, what do I know? In any case, I'm glad that Emily made it through, although I wasn't crazy about what she made. She always manages to come off as very positive and pleasant during the interviews (understanding that those are produced) and I'd like to see her go further.

Top Chef - I love Top Chef. One of the problems with watching it is that I can't really participate in the judging at all. The judges are eating the food, I'm just looking at it. (At least with the other shows, I can see or hear what the judges are judging.) But, I love it anyway. Having MC Hammer as a judge was kind of strange. It made me realize how much we're all growing up (and old) that he looked like a middle-aged man (which he is) and not a young rap star. I really liked the idea of having the chefs cook dishes inspired by a certain time in history. How cool is that? And, of course, Isaac picks the Vikings! When all was said and done, I was sad that Marjorie was in the bottom just because she's been doing well in general. I was sad that Karen was eliminated because  that leaves just one woman in the competition. I haven't been watching Last Chance Kitchen, though, so I'll do that tonight and see who might be coming back.

What do you think about the outcome of any of these shows this week? Do you have other reality shows that you watch?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Teaching Our Kids About Faith

I was part of a short Twitter conversation and one of the participants was concerned about raising her kids so that they believe in God on their own and don't have it forced on them. She doesn't want her kids to be in a spiritually abusive environment. How do we raise our kids in spiritually healthy ways? Here are some of my thoughts on the subject.

Pray!! That's the first and last thing we must do in any endeavor. Pray without ceasing. Pray for your children. Pray for yourself. Pray for the world that they'll be entering.

Let them see our faith lived out. That means that they need to see us reading our Bibles and praying at times besides mealtimes, but it doesn't mean that we have to force them to have "quiet times". Family devotions are good things. It's also good for our kids to see us really serving others in our community - working at the local food bank or soup kitchen or other "real" ministry.

Take them to church. Yes, I said take them to church. But, make sure that your family is part of a spiritually and emotionally healthy church. Your kids won't grow up healthy if they are part of an unhealthy church. If they are taught legalistic concepts in their Sunday School or AWANA classes, they are going to have issues. And somewhere in their teens, you need to decide if you are going to require them to go to church. In our family, we decided that Sunday morning services were part of growing up in our home. But, we didn't require the kids to go to youth group once they were in high school. We homeschooled and did Bible as part of homeschooling (but that's a whole different issue).

Teach them about Jesus. A lot of what we teach kids early on are the Old Testament Bible stories. These are great stories, but we end up teaching them to kids and making sure they learn a moral lesson. But our faith isn't about morality. It's about grace. Children need to learn early on that we love Jesus because he first loved us. We obey Jesus because we love him, not so that God will love us. So often, it seems that we teach kids in Sunday School that the goal of church is to learn to "be good". No, the goal of church is to learn about Jesus. No matter what your church is teaching, make sure to teach them about Jesus at home.

Don't isolate your kids. Someone in the 80s decided that it would be a great idea to raise kids in a bubble, so the Christian homeschooling movement was born. Oh, what a disaster! Homeschooling is wonderful; Rosie Girl never went to school full-time and Wild Man didn't start high school till his junior year. But, keeping kids only with other Christian kids by homeschooling or sending them to a Christian school may not be the best idea. While your kids still live at home, they should be exposed to plenty of people who don't share your beliefs. This way, you can work through any issues they come across together. For example, a couple of Wild Man's classmates identify as gay. This actually hasn't been that big a deal, but it's good for us to have been able to talk to him about it. Rosie Girl took choir at the public school and had some issues with the choir director. Being in the public school environment gave her a chance to learn to deal with it.

Talk to your kids. Whatever it takes, talk to them. Have time set aside where you can just hang out. Sometimes, you will only talk about superficial stuff, but sometimes, it can get deep. Let it. I remember Wild Man (at the time, age 3) asking me from the back seat of the car when we were going to the nursing home for me to do rounds, "Mommy, how do I ask Jesus into my tummy?" Yes, that's hysterical, but it set the stage for some serious discussion. Nowadays, we talk about things from his current events class or Rosie Girl's Christianity Class (she's in college). Rosie Girl's favorite thing nowadays is to come home for the weekend, wait until I've taken all of my sleeping meds, and get into deep, emotional conversations with me. Rosie Girl, can't we do this while I'm awake?!!!

Be firm in your discipline, but make sure your kids trust you. I've developed a theory (with some evidence behind it), that if your kids learn to trust you from early on, they're likely to obey. For example, if you tell your preschooler that you'll get to play a game together after the playroom is cleaned up and you play that game, you've earned their trust. The next time you tell them to clean the playroom so you can play a game together, they're likely to trust that and obey you. The same thing works on the negative. If your child doesn't do what they're told and they're given consequences consistently, they trust that that will happen regularly. The more that your child trusts you, the more that they will do what you ask without much fuss. As they get older, we can then talk through more of what we ask. Hopefully, by the time they are teenagers, they understand that we are trustworthy parents and not capricious.

Pray, pray, pray. Proverbs 22:6 tells us, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." This isn't a guarantee, but more of a guideline. Nonetheless, it is hopeful. It tells us that parents can have an impact on our kids. And then pray some more!!

Remember, though, that a child is a separate human being from you. As much as you may want them to be a Christian and believe the same things you do, they may choose a different path. Rosie Girl is 20 years old and isn't the Evangelical Christian that I expected she would be at this age. But, she's a Religious Studies minor and delving deep into the Bible and loving it. God is guiding her and I have to trust that he's going to keep his hand on her. Wild Man is graduating high school this year and planning to study vocal music so he can be a worship leader. 

Did PWM and I do a good job of parenting? We did the best we could. And the advice I've given above came from 20 years of hard work, tears, and laughter. As a good Evangelical, I believe that God gives individuals the chance to accept or reject faith. God is also full of mercy and grace, and those who seek him will find him.

I hope this is helpful for someone.  What would you add?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Chronic Migraine - Yet Again

I'm warning you now that this post is not going to end on a happy note. You can stop reading now if you want. This post is about chronic migraine and things that often aren't happy. I like my blog to be a positive place, so I usually end my posts with something upbeat, but that's not the reality of life. And, pasting a smile on my blog is no more honest than pasting a smile on my face on days like today. I'd rather be real about the struggle of having chronic migraine.

Are you still with me? At least I know my husband is still reading! Well, I hope I didn't drive everyone away. 

Chronic migraine sucks. Not like a fatal illness where I know my life is going to be shortened by the illness. But, because my quality of life is markedly reduced. I've done things to improve my life - mostly I changed my attitude. Nothing, though, can bring back the ten years of lost work or cure the migraines so that I can go back to work right now.

My headaches have gotten worse than usual over the last couple of months. I'm going to talk to my neurologist about changing my treatment. This is kind of risky because every treatment has the potential for side effects. So, do we try Lyrica, which I have been on before and works some, but gives me weight gain, sedation, and swollen ankles, or Zonegran, which I was only on for a few weeks because the sedation was so terrible and I was working at the time? I hope he has some better ideas than those.

During the last two weeks, I've only had two days that were low-pain enough to allow me to walk for a significant amount on the treadmill - a mile each time. And each time, my headache got worse after exercising. Tell me that's not unfair! Exercise to get healthy, but you get worsening migraine after you exercise!!

I've also developed pain deep in my ear and above my ear (on the right temporal area). And I'm getting shooting pain in my right maxillary area. I don't have any sinus symptoms and my doctor checked my ears, so I'm pretty sure this is migraine related. More fun!

Part of me feels like I'm complaining and I should just delete this entire post. I should be positive! Who wants to listen to a complainer? What good is it to be negative?

For one thing, it allows me to vent all these emotions! It also helps my friends to get a little bit of understanding what my life is like. And, if any other chronic migraineurs read my blog, they can be encouraged that they aren't alone.

I'm not going to end this with one of my "but, it's really going to all be OK". Life is hard. Yes, my faith is what keeps me going. But, I'm tired of having headaches and nausea and all the other stuff along with it. That's it.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Lagniappe - February 15, 2016

February is the shortest month in the year, but feels like the longest. And it feels particularly long this year because my headaches are getting worse! I'm trying to get in to see my Neurologist in the next week or two to talk about a change in treatment. Alas.

Other things than headaches are happening in life. Really.

Ashley and Rosie Girl are loving their hiphop class and are doing really well! I'm not so crazy about the 45+ minute drive to get there and back every Monday night, but it could be worse. And it gives me and Ashley time together.

Rosie Girl is still studying music but she's changed her major to Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music with a Minor in Religious Studies. This semester she's taking a course on Christianity. I told her that I was confused about a passage in Mark and she said that they had just discussed that in her class. We had an interesting discussion about it! We've also discussed some stuff about the early church. She is loving her religion classes this semester.

Wild Man is the lead in the school musical this spring - Aladdin! This means practices almost every afternoon after school. When you add this to jazz band before school and homework after school, he's a pretty busy guy. He's quit both his jobs and won't be applying for another one until after the musical. So, he's staying busy this last semester of high school.

We're getting everything ready for Wild Man's graduation this spring. Rosie Girl didn't go to high school, so we just did a graduation party for her. Wild Man has graduation on the same day as one of Rosie Girl's and Ashley's dance recitals. (There are five shows, so they can miss one and it's OK.) Plus, there's a party to consider, and getting Ashley on her way back to China, and getting ourselves on our way down South to a family reunion. It's going to be a busy spring.

I'm working on scrapbooks for everyone. Digital scrapbooking is actually quite fun. I used to do regular scrapbooking and really enjoyed it, but wasn't doing it enough to justify keeping all the supplies once I started knitting. I gave away all the scrapping supplies. I loved the tactile sensations of regular scrapbooking. Digital scrapbooking doesn't give me that, but it has the advantage of letting me use photos and embellishments multiple times. And, it's pretty fast once I get going.

That's what's up around here. I'm doing some reading, but I'll post more about that later. I also have some political thoughts, but I have a headache, so I won't post those right now!

What's up in your part of the world?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I Don't "Girl" Very Well

PWM says I shouldn't blog when I have a migraine. Here I go anyway!

I am a feminist. I believe that men and women should have equal rights in the public square. For the record, I am also an egalitarian when it comes to Christianity, but that's not what this post is about.

For all my feminism, though, I realize that men and women are different, both physically and culturally. And, I embrace that, to the extent that the power structures are not unequal.

But, I realized today as I was talking to Wild Man that I don't "girl" very well, and I never have. Some things I do well - dressing pretty. Others, not so much - make-up and hair. 

I know the date of my parents' first date because it was on Mardi Gras. (BTW, 51 years ago!! Cool, huh?!) I have no idea when my first date when PWM was. And he had to remind me a few years later which movie we saw. I do remember the shirt he wore!

I don't know the date that he proposed, although I do know it was in the fall before Thanksgiving. Neither of us remembers how long we've been married without calculating the number of years. And we've been known to remember our anniversary two days beforehand.

Wild Man has a girlfriend who remembers the first time for everything! Wild Man needs a calendar to keep up with relationship reminders!

Another funny thing about being a girl in high school. Someone once told me to marry a man who was smarter than I. I had to laugh. I'm pretty bright so I never really considered having to find a guy who was smarter. And when I did finally find the man of my dreams, he didn't care that I'm "smarter" than he. Really, I'm just more educated. He can do engineering. I can do medicine.

There are definitely ways in which I don't "girl" very well. What about you? 

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Mardi Gras 2016

Fifty one years ago today, my parents had their first date. It's easy to remember because their first date was to Mardi Gras day parades!

Growing up in South Florida, I didn't know much about Mardi Gras. We didn't have parades or throw beads or get off of school. Being Southern Baptist, we didn't observe Lent, either.

My first year at LSU was something of an eye-opener. For one thing, we got Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras off, so we had a four day weekend. As I recall, I stayed on campus for the weekend and just went to some Baton Rouge parades. I also noticed that the next day, Ash Wednesday, that a lot of people had black smudges on their foreheads. It turns out that they had gone to Mass in the middle of the day and gotten ashes smeared on their foreheads as part of the service. I've since learned what that actually means.

For the years that I lived in New Orleans, I actually went to the Mardi Gras parades. I lived downtown during my first two years, so I saw Endymion, Perseus, Rex, Zulu, and all the other traditional downtown parades. And I had the beads to prove it!

After PWM and I got married, we went to the Metairie parades. (Metairie is a New Orleans suburb.) For our first Mardi Gras together, we planned a party for the Monday before Mardi Gras. We were going to have dinner and then go the block from our apartment to watch the Caesar parade (I'm pretty sure). Unfortunately, we weren't able to have our party because I got appendicitis on Saturday night. Being in New Orleans which has two medical schools, I got seen by medical students and residents before the surgeon finally got called from watching a parade to see me. In any case, I had surgery Sunday morning and we canceled the party.

Now that we're in the Great White North, we follow the Mardi Gras season vicariously through our friends on Facebook. One year, we were down south during the Mardi Gras season (although not on Mardi Gras weekend). While PWM and I had dinner with a friend, Grandma took the kids to a Baton Rouge Mardi Gras parade. 

This year, we have Ashley with us who has never experienced anything like Mardi Gras. I found a recipe for a really quick king cake using crescent roll dough. I changed out the cream cheese filling for Nutella and decorated it like a king cake. Everyone loved it!!

I made jambalaya using a Zatarain's boxed mix. I had no idea if I would have a migraine today, so a mix ensured that we'd have dinner no matter what! The craziest thing is that I found frozen, boiled crawfish at our grocery store! I bought a bag, which was two servings. I didn't even pay attention to how much it cost, but I'm sure it wasn't cheap. I heated them up in the bag in a pot of boiling water. PWM and I were shocked! They were legit boiled crawfish! They tasted just like they would if we were at a crawfish boil in Baton Rouge! Ashley wasn't crazy about them. She said they were too salty. They do eat crawfish in China, but with different spices.

So, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Being non-liturgical protestants, we won't go to church or observe the day in a religious way, although I do pay some attention to the church calendar. I may write more about that in a day or two.

Have you had any fun (or not so fun) Mardi Gras experiences?

Saturday, February 06, 2016


I am not a big fan of physical exertion. My hobbies are, for the most part, sedentary. I like to read books and knit. Cooking requires movement, though. In any case, except for marching band in high school, I've preferred quiet and minimally physical things.

Which brings me to migraine and fibromyalgia. Both of these conditions are helped to some degree by exercise. And, of course, exercise is needed in to deal with obesity. So, I need exercise, whether I like it or not. Which, I don't.

So, I walk. Given my headaches, I don't walk every day, or even very far. When I was in college, I used to walk four miles several times a week. When I was working, I suspect that I walked several miles in the course of my job, plus walked around the neighborhood with the kids. But, now that I have chronic migraine, it's harder to find time to walk. Exercise tends to make my headaches worse. On a low pain day, I can walk some based on my pain level. On a high pain day, forget it!

For about half the year, I walk outside. I like the outdoors and I rarely listen to a book or music. I just enjoy the outside. I also tend to walk farther outside. I think it's because I get optimistic, so I walk a good long way and then I have to get back home!! When the weather is cold or otherwise not good for walking, I use the treadmill, which we just got a few months ago (our other one died). I tend to walk a shorter distance and slower on the treadmill for some reason. Yes, it's boring, but it's easy to listen to an audiobook or podcast or to watch TV. 

If I wanted to try to ridiculously spiritualize things, I could point out that Jesus walked everywhere with his disciples, so I'm just doing like Jesus. If you've read my blog any, you know that I like to say that the Christian life is walking with Jesus. (I know some people like to use their walking time for prayer, but I pray and meditate at a separate time every day.)

What do you do for exercise? How do you like it?

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Bits and PIeces February 2, 2016

I finally don't have a migraine and have a few minutes to blog. But, all the things that churn around in my head when I have a migraine are still all twirled and twisted like noodles in my brain. I'll untangle them a bit later. Tonight, a fun post about life here in Chez Martin!

Yes, I've been having migraines. What more is there to say about that?

School was canceled today for a huge snowstorm, but it appears that most of the snow went north of here. Nonetheless, the four or so inches that we did get made a mess of the roads today, so I'm glad nobody was out unnecessarily. We just sat around and played on our electronics all day.

Well, except me. I folded clothes that were washed about a week and a half ago. Because I'm on top of things that way. Truly, though, laundry is my nemesis. PWM tries to help out, so he did a load of colored clothes and started a load of white clothes that I promise (pinky swear!) to fold and put away tomorrow. Unless I have a migraine, in which case all pinky swears are null and void.

Food is becoming an item of interest in our house. Ashley and I went to an Asian grocery store in Appleton last week. We bought some taro root and bok choy, items I've never eaten or seen in a regular grocery store. Ashley made homemade noodles, fried potatoes, taro dipped in sugar, and stir-fried bok choy with garlic. It was all yummy, although the taro and bok choy have been the least favorite Asian foods that I've tried so far. The taro doesn't have much taste, so dipping it in sugar is a good thing. The bok choy tastes fine, but the texture isn't my favorite.

I tried some pork curry tonight. It had three ingredients: pork, coconut milk, and green curry paste (also from the Asian grocery story). I served it over white rice. It was delicious!! So, I might be becoming a bit more of an adventurous eater! At age 48! Who'd have thunk it?

For Rosie Girl's high school graduation three years ago (has it really been that long?), I made her a scrapbook that I was going to have printed and give to her. Sadly, I never finished it and forgot about it. I remembered it because I am making a scrapbook of my parents' 50th wedding anniversary party and another for Wild Man's graduation, and another (small) one for Ashley. I got the newest edition of the software and proceeded to look for Rosie Girl's album - and couldn't find it.

We have a back-up drive for our computers that we haven't hooked up to our current computers but that was functioning when I made Rosie Girl's album. I couldn't figure out how to get onto the drive. One evening last week, PWM tried a few things and was about to give up when suddenly, the folder popped up!! I hadn't lost the album!! He gave me a thumb drive with the files on it! Talk about a hero!! I'm working feverishly on finishing Rosie Girl's album so I can work on the rest of them.

I updated my Goodreads account - go check it out! While I was there, it asked if I wanted to set a reading goal for this year. I declined. I read 54 books in 2015. I think I'm just fine in the reading department. I'll probably read fewer books this year because I discovered podcasting. Yes, I realize that podcasting has been around for quite a while. I used to listen to some podcasts about 8 or 10 years ago, but I just listened on the computer. This time, I found Stitcher, an app that will manage my podcast subscriptions without having to deal with itunes, which is nice since I use an Android phone. My guilty pleasure is true crime books and, now, podcasts. But, I also like history, and I found a couple of podcasts about history and historical oddities.

Something else fun that I can write about now!! PWM and I had our DNA tested at last fall. It was completely and utterly unsurprising. Mine came out all British, Scandinavian, and Western European, just like all the old family stories say. Well, actually, there has been a story that there was Native American blood on my grandmother's side, but it was never proven. I also found out last year that some ancestor's on my mom's side were actually slave owners (which was shocking because my mom's side as far as I knew were economically disadvantaged whites) which meant that there was a possibility of African blood, but the DNA says not.

PWM's DNA said that he's about half Mediterranean which is his mother's Italian side. His other half is Western Europe which would correlate very well with his father's Cajun (French) roots. So, like I said, not many surprises. But, it was fun to have it done. And, I couldn't tell anyone because having it done was a Christmas gift for PWM's mom who loves genealogy.

I'm still reading the book of Mark - very slowly because I read with the Barclay commentary. I'm also reading Beginnings by Steve Wiens, which I'll write more about later because I really enjoy it.

That's all that's going on around here. More later when I get the tangle in my brain a little sorted out. What's up in your neck of the woods?