Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Doggy Day

Yesterday Brenda and I rode 20 miles so I went easy this morning.  I was just going to run up to the bank, stop at the grocery store, and then come home -- about 2 miles roundtrip.

But I forgot that the bank doesn't open until 9, so I decided to press on and make it a real ride. I went up to the Town Center to check on my geocache.  Someone said they found it but the coordinates they needed for the next stage were illegible.

Yep, the person was right.  I fixed it (temporarily until I can get a new one over there) but then realized that I had stepped in dog poop.  Darn it!  This is an area at the base of a staircase for a parking garage. It's very nicely maintained so whoever let their dog poop there and didn't clean it up was being a real jerk.  Why do some people NOT clean up after their dogs?

So I scraped the best I could and then rode back down to the bank, which was now open, got some money and ran into the grocery store and then headed home.  On the way home, a person walking her dog let it chase after me growling and snarling.  Yes, it was on a leash (thank goodness), but the other dog with her was not.  I get it -- the dog was old and not likely to chase anyone.  But what if it had wandered into my path?  Sheesh...

I like dogs.  I like people who own dogs. I like people who are responsible about dog ownership best.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wild Goose Chase

You might wonder where I've been.  Of course, as haphazard as I am in posting, perhaps no one even checks anymore.  That's okay.  I've had to accept that blogging is for my own good (or not), not to stroke my ego.

Even so, we've been busy.  We had a sweet Danish girl stay with us for 10 days, then my daughter left for college.  We're in the throes of football pre-season.  Tonight is the first real Varsity game against the team that gets raw meat thrown to them from when they're little ... just kidding, but the school is huge and the players are huge.  Our school, is at the lowest end of the bracket in terms of population vs. this school which is at the top.  It's kind of like your just-turned-8 year old swimming against kids that will be 12 right after the season ends.  David and Goliath...but hey, David beat Goliath, so we can be optimistic, and certainly supportive, right?  I'm just praying for no injuries.  Our JV playing their JV last night lost one of our bright stars to a concussion.  Grrr...

You know I love my bike, so I've been continuing my obsession. My friend and I decided to bike the Wild Goose Chase ride through Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in October.  It's a women-only event!  We're going to try to do the 40+ miles.  I've started extending my rides.  I did 15 on Monday, 20 on Tuesday, rested yesterday, and just got back from 12 easy ones.  Moreover, I figured out how to change my own flat tire this morning.  Thank God for youtube videos I watched earlier!

I've also started being more conscious of my intake.  I use the Lose It! app on my phone to record calories.  Can I say I LOVE the scan barcode feature?  Restaurants are a little problematic, but I estimate high.  So between MapMyRide and Lose It, and the great weather we've had, I haven't been spending much time on the computer...or even in the house.

And now, (drum roll please), I'm 12 lbs lighter to show for it.  We're attending a friend's son's wedding on October 7, and my goal is to "have" to get a new dress!  As long as the weather cooperates, that's definitely doable.

How about you -- what are you doing to be self-indulgent these days?

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Great Unveiling

Here's the bathroom.  First, the before photos.  Next, the after photos.  NOTE:  It has not been decorated and we haven't hung the towel racks.  But you can see the HUGE improvement.  What you can't see is that in the before photos -- we had the circa 70's one inch tile in brown, white, and speckled.  At least when the kids barfed it blended into the floor.  Sigh.

The pink towel reflected in the mirror is hanging on a towel rack on a solid wall -- all the way to the ceiling.
This vanity went from end to end on this wall.

Yes, the 4x4 tiles really are yellow.  Ick.


See that half wall?  My idea -- privacy but not a barrier to the whole room!  I'm going to cap it with a piece of wood laminate to match the vanity.

If you click on the photo you can see the detail work in the tile, and the color of the vanity (it's more a lovely brown teak)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Short Break

Well, I was going to show you the before and after photos of the room I painted, but almost immediately after I finished and before I got the room situated, we started our bathroom renovation and when they took out the toilet and needed a place to put it and the tools ... yeah.  Sigh.  Good news is that you'll get before/after photos of both projects!  The guys doing the bathroom are amazing.  The head guy goes to my church.  He escaped from Iran after hiding from the gov for 2 years for being involved in opposition activities. When he got here and needed some help he was afraid to go to the mosque.

Then one day he was at the local community center and a man started talking to him and asking him about his life.  Pretty soon he was telling the man his story and the man said, "why don't you come to my house for a meal and tell my family this story."  Turns out he had met our pastor.  Over time, their meals and fellowship became a solid foundation for a friendship and then ... one day ... he started asking about this "Jesus" the pastor kept talking about.

He became a Christian a few months later and was baptized.  His testimony was so AWESOME when he shared it at church.  He continues to walk with Jesus and grow in his faith.  Right now he is excited about the growth of Christianity in the underground churches in Iran.  He can't wait to go back as a missionary.

So ... on another note, I was in Baltimore this weekend.  My daughter and her friend attended Otakon 2012 dressed like this:

K & L dressed as characters from Portal.  End of the night waiting for the light rail.  They were tired pups!

K & L dressed as a character from Homestuck and Phineas & Ferb

While they played at the convention, I toured Balto (city of my birth) and geocached.  It was lovely having NO ONE demanding my attention!  Here are some photos of what I saw:

Bromoseltzer tower - now an artists' co-op.  Click on the photo to see the dial.

I just love tugboats.

Big Russian ships

Flag at Fort McHenry (you know -- Star Spangled Banner fame?)

Guns pointing out to where the British were anchored.

Oh say does that star spangled banner still wave
o'er the land of the free
and the home of the brave?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Collection from the Week

Just a few photos that capture one week in my life!

This is the Mark Twain house in Hartford, CT.  When we dashed up to see my grandmother, we flew in and out of Hartford, so we seized the opportunity to see it.  No photos allowed inside, but suffice to say it was HIGHLY decorated in the style of its time.  Very few original Twain family pieces are there.  If you remember your Twain history, they had to leave Hartford because they were broke.  When people are broke, their belongings are sold off piecemeal, so most of the Twain stuff probably languishes in the homes of people who don't know the history of what they own!  Such is life.  The first of their 4 children was born here, and died at 18 months.  Later, their second child, Laura, died here at age 24 -- so they didn't really want to go back to the house anyway.

Sam (that's how they refer to him) did all of his writing in this house in the room on the upstairs left (obscured by trees, sorry).  There's a small desk in the billiard room that looks out upon where I was standing.  While in residence though, he was so disturbed by visitors, most of his writing of those years was done when they visited his wife's family in Elmira, NY.  There he had a studio where he could lock himself away and write.  

This photo is a reconstructed slave cabin on the property at Sully Plantation.  It's within a bike ride of my house, near Dulles Airport, so I went to it on Tuesday.  I don't think the slave cabin would have been this close to the main house, but it seems that all historic properties in Virginia have to display one in order to get school kids to visit.  I'm not sure why they saved this site.  There are so many in Virginia that are beautiful, specifically connected with someone famous (Geo Washington, Jefferson, Madison, etc.).  This one pales in significance and even looks.  Here's what our county parks & rec site says of it: 

  An oasis of the past, Sully reflects the history of Fairfax County. Completed in 1799 by Richard Bland Lee, the main house at Sully combines aspects of Georgian and Federal architecture. Richard Bland Lee was Northern Virginia's first Representative to Congress, as well as General Robert E. Lee's uncle.  It took an act of Congress and President Eisenhower's signature to save Sully Historic Site from the Dulles Airport project demolition in 1959. Today, the story of Sully, from its "new nation" roots to its permanent place in history is being preserved through a new, interactive exhibit that was three years in the making.

 I didn't take a photo of the main house because they're working on it right now and it looks pretty terrible.

And finally, at the end of Wednesday's ride, ten feet from the path where I was riding, the real movers and shakers behind the business that's done in our area.  They are responsible for helping the medical industry flourish as they carry the ticks that carry Lyme.

And I'm continuing my painting of our upstairs guest room today, so next time there will be some before and after photos.

That's all for now!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rethinking the Library

One of the venerable New York Public Library lions
A couple of years back our county was struggling (like all others) with trying to do the same number of things (or more) with less money.  Tax revenues were down, federal and state allocations were down, and the cost of services to the residents was up.  Despite the library representing less than 1% of the entire county budget (schools get 54%), the library and parks & recreation were hit disproportionately.  This led to some interesting conversations and interesting accommodations.

I was on the board of directors for the Friends of our local branch at the time and one of our main arguments in favor of fully funding the libraries (an argument led by the Library administration) was that libraries provide a great meeting place for people to read, visit, learn, etc.

Since that time I have finished my service to the board and started thinking about why the arguments in favor of saving libraries seem to go unheard.  It isn't simply a matter of priorities.  Everyone thinks literacy is a good idea and reading books is the way to gain a foothold in the American dream.

However, I think the libraries (across the country) have shot themselves in the bookshelf.  Instead of focusing on what the libraries provide -- that NO OTHER AGENCY provides -- the libraries tried to diversify.  As if the mission of providing reading materials for free to the community wasn't enough of a mission!  Libraries marketed themselves as meeting places, concert halls, art galleries and museums and minimized their main mission.  But there are many places in each community that can provide those other activities and venues.  ONLY the library provides access to books.  Even competing with the schools over early literacy access might have been a mistake.  In fact, in our county, the school libraries and county libraries only began to talk to each other about working together in the last couple of years.  And why?  Because there are limited available funds and they are both suffering the same problem -- what is the mission of the library and how can we make people care about it?  My kids report that at their high school, no one actually checks out books at the library -- they just use the area to study.  And by the way -- it isn't even CALLED a library anymore. It's a "media center."

Now we are moving away from bricks and mortar library buildings and into digital books.  The writing is on the (ahem) ether that physical library locations will be less and less important.  Our local branch is a regional library and thus has LOTS of room.  It is also next door to the mental health clinic/homeless shelter and across the street from the county municipal center for our area.  That means people with a LOT of time on their hands (i.e. homeless and mentally ill) spend the majority of their day inside the library building.  This has led to fewer and fewer people of means wanting to go into the building and stay for any length of time, much less take their children for programs.  Statistics show the libraries are busy, but very little of the business involves using books.  People come in for English classes, to use the public access computers, to use the meeting rooms, and to get cool/warm depending on the season.

As digital books flourish, publishers will find it less and less cost effective to print physical books.  I predict that in 20 years, the vast majority of libraries will no longer need all their space for physical books.  If I were in the administration end of the library business, I'd be crunching numbers to figure out how I could pour all my money into support of the digital media hunger that is out there.  I'd be taking a hard look at staff as well.  In our county a lot of jobs that we used to pay staff members for are now done by volunteers (shelving, processing books in and out, etc.)  The paid staff may end up coming down to just a few people who are trained to use the many databases for research.  And at some point, people will be able to access a "personal researcher" via the internet from home -- and will not have to go to the library at all.

It breaks my heart to say this out loud.  I grew up in libraries and raised my kids in them.  However, since we got Kindles, we only go there about once every couple of months.  My kids' kids probably won't even do that.  I don't see libraries disappearing entirely, but cutting way back on physical space and need for staff? Yep.

My friends who live outside the Washington DC area always tell me that we don't really understand what's going on in the rest of the country.  Is what we're experiencing here unique?  What do you think?  Is it twilight for our libraries?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

No Great Choices

Ha - you thought I was going to talk about the election, right?  Nope, I'm going to talk about what we did this weekend.

We flew up to Hartford, CT and then drove to a little town called Agawam (a suburb of Springfield, MA).  That's where my 96 year old grandmother lives.  Born in Iowa, spent most of her life in east Texas, she moved to Agawam to a very nice senior community about fifteen years ago.  Until last summer, she was doing fine living there but then she fell.  Climbing your way back to "good health" at her age is daunting and the senior community requires its residents to be very self-sufficient.  Because she requires "skilled care", she had to move to a different facility. Although she has recovered very well from the fall, can't go back there due to the "skilled care" designation (i.e. someone has to adjust her cervical collar and administer pain patches!).  In the old place, she had an apartment with her own things. Now she shares a room separated by a curtain. She is in remarkably good shape for her age, but she is bored, bored, bored. She still has her wit, and when I asked if she wanted to play bingo with the other residents she said, "there are worse things than being bored."  You can tell looking at her photo that she still takes great pride in her appearance!

So here's the lack of great choices.  She can't live in my uncle's home (he lives nearby) as she can't do stairs. The time to have made the adaptations was fifteen years ago but she refused to live with anyone.  Now she has outlived her money, which is another reason she can't go back.  Massachusetts is a socialized medicine state, so she had to spend all her money before she qualified for financial help, but now there are very few places for her to stay.  If my uncle and dad (or us) help her financially, she is no longer qualified to stay where she is, but there isn't any place nicer she can go due to her "needs:.  It really sucks.

We could tell she was depressed, but just making the best of a bad situation.  I'm hoping that when my dad comes through here on the way to visit I can give him an easy (big button) CD player so she can listen to books on CD.  Her eyes aren't good enough to read for any length of time anymore.  She's not interested in computers either.  Sigh.

Did I mention it sucks?

Lois with her great-grandchildren

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Old Dog Learning New Tricks

I know I said we wouldn't host an exchange student again any time soon, and I'm sticking with that.  However, I agreed to be a liaison for one of the girls who is coming to live with another family in my area.  They will be on vacation when she arrives, so she will stay with us for 10 days before they return.  Two days after that I'll take my daughter to college.  Now my dad wants to visit with some overlap of the Danish girl and him ... it's really not a great idea but how do I tell a 79 year old man who only comes to visit once a year that his timing really stinks?

(By the way, don't worry.  He totally rejects computers so he'll never see this!).  He will be 80 in August and he drives (yes in a small car) from El Paso, Texas to my house each August.  Did you realize I live outside Washington, DC?  Yes, he DRIVES the nearly 2000 miles!  Then he "relaxes" here before he drives up to Massachusetts to visit his 96 year old mother, and then retraces the route.  Not only does he reject the computer but airplanes, trains, and going over 55 mph.  I apologize in advance if during your vacation this August you get stuck behind him for any length of time.

At any rate, we can't teach that old dog new tricks, but I'm learning some.  As part of being certified as a liaison for the students, I've had to take some on-line training and it has been surprisingly good.  Despite being an attorney, I'm not very good at managing conflict, so the lessons in that section were really good.  One of the techniques they advocate is:

Invite -- invite the person to discuss the problem, assuring him or her that you will listen to their point of view
Listen -- listen to their point of view without comment
Share -- share how the situation makes you feel
Collaborate -- work together to find a solution

Now if I can only remember that the next time I'm irked with one of my family members.

How do you resolve conflict?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hot. Just Darn Hot.

I joined up with Map My Ride+ as they celebrate the Tour de France with their own Tour de Fat.  I committed to ride 100 miles during the days of the Tour de France.  The next break up was 500 and I knew that was a little bit unrealistic given our schedule and that it's JULY.

I rode this morning.  When I left it was 87 and when I returned an hour later, it was 91 and its been going up since then.  But of course, everyone tells me today is a "cool" day.  Everyone who's not riding a bike in it!  It took me a full hour to cool down before getting ready for church.  Fortunately, our church had power this week though.

We had an interesting testimony from a Pastor who serves in India.  He was born there into a Muslim family and rejected any notion of Jesus being the son of God.  But he had a dream one night about the clouds opening up and he saw Jesus with his angels ascending and descending around him.  The dream bothered him for days so in an unconscious state he searched out and opened a Bible that an evangelist had forced on him years before.  He'd just thrown it into a box in his house and ignored it.  He flipped it open, and in front of him was John 1:51:

And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you,[a] you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

Once he knew that scripture backed up his dream, he was convinced that Jesus was indeed the son of God and he sought out a Christian church and pastor to help him understand what that meant.  Then, 6 months later he surrendered his life to Jesus.

The consequences were that his very devout Muslim family beat him and threw him out.  To them, he is dead.

Later he believed God was calling him to be a pastor, but because pastors in India don't have very nice lives (financially), he said, "No God, I don't want to do that."  He then became seriously ill, and was even wandering the streets, homeless.  Finally he went back to the pastor who had helped him understand Jesus, and said, "Okay, I give.  What do I do now?"

He was healed immediately of his illness, and God began blessing him with the resources to go to Bible college.

There have been other persecutions, but these were the high points.  He comes to the US every other year so he can ask for support for the mission he has in India to church plant.  He notes that he also has four daughters now and needs to either provide a good education for them, or a good dowry!

Have a great Sunday!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Got Power?

Our area was one of those hit by the "derecho" on Friday night.  It was completely unexpected.  We had gone to bed but were not asleep yet when the noise of the wind just freaked me out.  I got the kids and the bird and we went down one floor -- just in case.  Hubs was braver and stayed put.  Our power went out very quickly (as it does in every storm).  And we were powerless until about 4:20pm on Sunday.

Well, not exactly powerless.  Our church showed this sign on Sunday morning:

We worshiped "African Style" -- where there's no electricity, no running water (our church is on a well which requires electricity), and everyone sweats a lot.  The pastor reassured us that it would NOT be an African service in one aspect -- we wouldn't go 4 or 5 hours.  My husband went on a mission trip to Kenya years ago and the entire team was struck by a) how far the Kenyans walked to come to a service, b) how nicely they dressed in that murderous heat, and c) how long they stayed to fellowship together.

I confess that by Sunday afternoon I had lost my sense of humor about it and was just tired of being hot and inconvenienced.  What a first world problem though!  When we found a place that had wi-fi (the Starbucks and Paneras were P.A.C.K.E.D. and the library was closed due to lack of power) and a place to plug in (Thanks, Noodles Plus), we recharged our phones and computers and then ... checked the power company map to see who had power because we sure didn't.  What was that about?  Did it make any difference to speculate that the power company liked our neighbors down the road more than us?  Then we looked at the weather.  Du-uh.  It was already 97 degrees -- did we not FEEL that by stepping outside?  When I found myself moving to Facebook I realized I really did NOT need the computer. I did recharge my phone so I could download Kindle books, and then recharged my Kindle so I could read.

Then we went home to wait to see if the 48 hour (throw everything in the fridge/freezer away) point arrived before relief.  Glad to say we snuck in under 48 hours.  Still, everything in the fridge that had any kind of protein in it went out, and a couple of things in the freezer, but mostly, everything stayed cold/frozen.

What did we learn?  Something that applies to all of us -- be prepared.  Have several jugs of fresh water stored.  Stock up on batteries.  If anyone in your home needs a particular piece of medical equipment, get a small generator.  And keep your freezer full.  A full one is good for 48 hours -- less than full only gives you 24.  Weather patterns are changing and events are more dramatic -- we were lucky this weekend because we could still get out and about to recharge.  Two winters ago when we couldn't, the lack of power became a bigger issue.

Finally, I posted this on Facebook, but it bears repeating.  Two hundred and forty-five years ago, Philadelphia experienced one of the most severe scorchers in memory. Anyone who could, got out of town. Yet, without air conditioning, without indoor running water, and wearing many layers of 18th century clothes, 60 brave men negotiated, argued, threatened and cajoled, until 56 were willing to place their signatures on a document that changed history. If they could persevere in the face of the heat and real danger, I can go without Facebook and other conveniences. Happy 4th!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Farmer's Market Report

I love the Farmer's Markets in our area.  The one on Wednesday afternoons is called Smart Markets and features vendors who farm locally and minimize the use of chemicals.  Yesterday we rode our bikes up there (note to self: no fresh eggs if one does this).

This time of year all kinds of yummy vegetables are showing up.  Using what we picked up, I made the following recipe.  It's from The Glycemic Index Cookbook.  One change though -- I used regular mayo instead of fat free.  I can't stand the fat free stuff.  But if you go with the fat free, you'll save some calories. I wish I had taken a photo, but I forgot and the family gobbled them down too quickly for me to rescue that moment.  Sigh.


1/2 cup finely chopped lettuce
1/2 cup finely chopped spinach
3 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled  (I usually do a whole package and then keep it in the fridge for various things -- doesn't take much bacon to give a lot of flavor to something that needs some zing)
1/4 cup finely diced tomato
1 Tbs plus 1 1/2 tsp fat free mayo
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1 large cucumber
   Minced fresh parsley or green onion (optional)

1.  Combine lettuce, spinach, bacon, tomato, mayo, salt & pepper in a medium bowl; mix well.

2.  Peel cucumber; trim off ends and cut in half lengthwise.  Use spoon to scoop out seeds, discard seeds. (I didn't peel the cuke as I used an English style one).

3.  Divide filler mixture between cucumber halves, mounding in center.  Garnish with parlsey.  Cut into 2 inch pieces.  Here's where you can be smarter than me.  I cut the cucumber into 2 inch pieces and then tried to fill each one.  Made a REAL MESS!

If made with the no-fat mayo: Calories: 26, Carbohydrage: 2g, Total Fat: 2g. Sat Fat: <1g. Fiber: <1g

Enjoy your summer bounty!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wheels Keep Turning

Of course, I found this in New York City too.  They have an awesome bike path on the Battery.  However, we saw it mid morning on a work week, so I can't even imagine what it must be like on the weekends.  One of the A-1 folks told me that a friend of hers got a SPEEDING TICKET while in NYC -- on his bike.  Hmmm.

Here's a photo at the end of the harbor lights cruise in NYC.  Not the best photo of my two, but after two days of non-stop walking, they're both still smiling, so it's a win!

And here are two of my graduate, first with her grandmother (my mom) and next with the best principal EVER, Bruce Butler. He's retiring this year.  What a bummer for my son.

Our exchange student left yesterday.  The house feels a little bit emptier, but he had pretty much "checked out" the last month anyway in a desperate attempt to relive the non-smutty parts of "Endless Summer."  You know how you meet the most interesting people one month before you're supposed to leave the area forever. Then someday you make a movie about it and everyone is bathed in that perfect glow.

So now it's back to getting that room cleaned up, painted, new carpet (not because of him but because it needed it before he moved in!).  Will post photos as it happens.

Time to go for a bike ride.  Catch you on the flipside, dude.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Not Sophisticated Enough

In an effort to not offend people who really like modern art, I will refrain from expressing in words what I kept thinking in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City.  Instead, I will show you a few photos I took and let you decide what constitutes "art".

My son said this looks like the white boards at school
AFTER they've been cleaned!

And here are some photos of things I thought were interesting, but not necessarily "art".  At least they spoke to my heart!

And finally, some things that are indisputedly famous art.

Experts call Van Gogh's The Starry Night a work of art -- I agree.
But my son, a young man fearfully and wonderfully made by our Creator,
is even more so.

I don't have to understand an artist's motivation in order to grasp the artwork, but I do try to apply the standard of Philippians 4:8 -- and if the work doesn't in some way glorify God, I have a hard time calling it art.  Next time I go to MOMA, I'll start at the top floor (where the Picasso and Van Gogh paintings are) and work my way down.

Oops, last one.  This is my graduate, who will be studying Geospatial Imaging in college this fall.  In other words, she is a map geek.  Maps can definitely be art!

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Whew!  Back from New York City.  My son and I had never been, my daughter had only been for "hit and run" visits through school, my husband hadn't been there since BEFORE the World Trade Center towers were built and our exchange student hadn't been at all.  BUT OF COURSE, it was the one place he wanted to see before he leaves the US next week.

I whined, I complained.  I hate crowds, I hate noise, I hate pretentious people.  I thought New York was all about that.  My son whined along with me.  But in the end, we sucked it up and went.

And don't tell anyone I said this:  It wasn't so bad after all.

Yes, it was busy, and noisy, and crowded and smelly.  And there were people of all kinds who were almost uniformly generous, and helpful and kind.  A few were less than pleasant, but compared with some of the people we run into in the Washington, D.C. area, they weren't so bad.

We stayed in Brooklyn at Ft. Hamilton (love those military benefits) which made the trip affordable.  We bought City Passes so we could visit some of the sights without having to stand in line forever.

And most importantly, the rift that had grown between my children and our exchange student closed a bit. It will never be a perfect relationship, but they understand each other better and they are more patient with one another. Sharing trudging a zillion blocks of city pavement cuts through the B.S.

Did we find pretention?  Oh yeah -- but that's another post another day.  In the meantime, here's what we saw last night on our river cruise.  The two structures under construction are the World Trade Center towers that are being rebuilt.  The one on the left is the Freedom Tower.  It will top out at 1776 feet.  On purpose.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

It Went By Too Fast

Wow -- that was fast!  After anticipating it all year, the week of high school graduation flew by!  My oldest is now a graduate, and eagerly looking ahead to college.  In fact, "one foot out the door" best describes her these days.  She's a maps whiz so she's working at an internship at nearby USGS.  She also continues her volunteer work with Spirit Open Equestrian -- a therapeutic horseback riding group.

Because of the graduation, my mom has been with us.  That's been very nice.  She's the perfect grandmother -- indulgent but not interfering. Both kids love having her here.  She's leaving this morning.

Yesterday evening I took her for a walk at some of our pretty gardens.  They are next to the Fannie Mae building, and we could see how the recession is affecting their maintenance.  That part was sad.  But as we were gazing across one of the ponds we saw a huge leaf moving along -- like a sail.  By squinting, we could see it being pulled by a beaver!  He took it all the way across the pond and then "flip", he took it underwater.  We think his wife sent him out to get fresh salad.  I did take a video, but it's not really clear using the viewer available through blogger.  Oh well.

We are headed to NYC for a few days for our exchange student's last "hurrah."  He leaves next Monday.  I'll post some good NYC photos when we return.

Have an excellent Father's Day!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sweat or Wet?

I rode to the next town west today (Herndon, VA).  There's a Great Harvest bread store there (awesome breads -- if you have one near you and haven't tried it, you MUST).  They give samples.  We LIKE samples!  I also needed to pick up our favorite loaf, Apple Scrapple, since my mom arrives this evening for graduation Thursday afternoon.  This is the link for the Herndon store -- you can see their menu and their "home town" approach.

One of my daughter's friend's dad works there.  They immigrated (legally) from Guatamala about ten years ago.  He works two jobs, and his wife works as well so their three children will be able to succeed in America.  The kids are 16, 10, 8.  The oldest already works part-time during the school year and full time in the summer.  She's a year behind my daughter, so every time I'm in there I talk to her to dad about scholarships and preparing his kids for college. It always floors me how little the immigrant parents from Central American really understand about how to access the higher education system in this country.  I'm looking forward to sitting down with them one evening this summer and trying to map out a plan, not just for their daughter, but for the younger boys as well.

Look how cool the new bike racks are!  Herndon has an old-timey downtown and they do a good job of preserving its character.  I love the whimsy of these -- and the marked off parking places!

At any rate, since I talk about my bike all the time, I thought I'd show you a photo.  This is before the rain started.  Yeah -- 5 miles home getting soaked.  All in a good cause, right?

It's a Bianchi road bike, purchased in Germany 22 years ago.  I've replaced the seat and tires, but the Shimano brakes and gears are original and still working pretty well --- okay, the middle gear is starting to slip more and more -- but after 22 years, I think I've gotten my money's worth!

Last night my son agreed with me to try a 26 mile ride this summer.  That's from our town center out to the end of the W&OD trail.  I did 10 today in the rain, without anyone to talk to -- twice that in dry weather with someone for company should be a lot easier.  Still, I think I'd better start extending my mileage!

If you click on it, you can see where the green line crosses the county line between Fairfax and Loudoun.  That's close to where we start and head west, all the way out to Purcellville.  Did I mention that Purcellville is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge?  As in mountains?  So our plan, the first time, is to have my husband drive us out to Purcellville with the bikes racked and then we'll ride back towards home.  Better to do it the first time in a downhill elevation, I think!

If it gets to the end of the summer and you haven't seen me post "I did it!", feel free to harass me!

Monday, June 11, 2012

An Incomplete Phrase

Reading news stories today, I was once again struck by how well-meaning people, in the midst of trauma, claim "God doesn't give we/us more than we can handle."  I think often people say it in order to affirm their faith in a benevolent, loving God who will give them what they hope the outcome will be.  It is to comfort themselves, give themselves something brave to say as they face the awful thing.

While I do believe God is loving, and benevolent, I also believe we can't see what He sees, thus as humans we define "love" in a completely different way.  Our interpretation says that if we love someone, we want them to be happy, healthy, etc.  But that's not true love. It's opportunistic. What if being unhappy or unhealthy for a season is what God has called them to?  What if everyone prays for healing, but the person dies. Does that make God wrong? Or our prayers not good enough? If we love someone the way God does, we want the very best for them as defined by God, not by human desire.

Romans 8:28 says, 'And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

To repeat that "God doesn't give we/us more than we can handle," gives great comfort but indicates an incomplete understanding of how that works.  Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

The idea here is that in order to claim that promise -- that God doesn't give we/us more than we can handle, we have an active part in the relationship to play.  We are to seek Him, call upon Him, talk (pray) to Him, and we are to do it with all our heart.  Mark 12:30 says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."

This comes directly from the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 6:5, which says, "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."

I love The Message version: " Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that's in you, love him with all you've got!"

And that's just it.  If we aren't loving God by seeking His will constantly, we are not in fellowship with Him. And if we aren't in fellowship with Him, we have no idea whether the bad things that are happening to us might be potentially lessened, or more thoroughly understood.

So what people ought to say is, "God doesn't give we/us more than we can handle with His help."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

New Neighbors

A new Dunkin' Donuts just opened within biking distance from my house.  During their grand opening the coffee is free.  They have opened in an area that desperately needs people to believe in retail.  The shopping center is surrounded by subsidized and "affordable" housing, which sadly means that it is really tough for businesses to make a go of it there.

During my stint with the cute, young cop on Sunday (see the story HERE), we talked about this shopping center.  The anchor stores are Safeway and a Rite-Aid Pharmacy.  He said the Safeway loses in excess of $100,000 annually due to theft.  The Rite-Aid used to be about the same, but they've put in more security measures which has helped.  He said that after 10pm, the Safeway only has a few workers on shift and people will come in, grab a case of beer, and walk out of the store -- knowing that no one will/can stop them. That time frame is prime time for police to be in lots of locations, so they can't always be there to deal with it.  So Safeway figures in the loss, charges us, the HONEST PEOPLE, more money, and accepts it as a cost of doing business.  They're a big company, so they can take those hits, but a small business can't.  If Safeway leaves, the housing around there will experience a "food desert" and it will be THEIR OWN FAULT!

What kind of mentality does it take for people to think this kind of behavior is acceptable?  It's a mixed area -- new immigrants (mostly Spanish speaking) and African-American, with a few of the other categories mixed in.  For many, they are third generation living in this same block of housing.  Somewhere along the way these people have decided their "right" to indulge in what they want trumps honesty and integrity.

There are a couple of other businesses like a Buffalo Wings Factory (Thursday night all you can eat -- the local athletes LOVE it), a Curves franchise, a laundromat, Burger King, Dairy Queen, an Indian restaurant and a pizza place.  There used to be a Dollar Store but the theft drove them out of business.  You'll notice that all of the businesses listed are service oriented -- no goods sitting out to be stolen.

At any rate, I admire the Dunkin Donuts for even opening a new business in this economy!  When I stopped by I had just finished 10 miles on the bike but EVEN SO, I passed up a donut and had their chicken salad on croissant instead.  It was incredibly good!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Taking Flight

Since I first discovered the Nest Cam for the Decorah Eagles, I've visited almost every day.  Watching those ugly little creatures go from completely dependent mouths with small bodies attached to the HUGE still-dependent birds that they are today has reminded me of all the parenting pluses and minuses.

When they were brand new and horribly needy, both parents fed them, and couldn't get there fast enough with more fish.  The babies slept a lot and didn't move around much.  At first one parent was on the nest almost all the time and the other brought food to the sitting parent.  It reminded me of how, after my first born arrived via emergency extraction, my husband had to care for all my needs as I tried to heal and care for our daughter.

After a few days, the parents would both be gone periodically.  When they returned, one would arrange him or herself over the top of the three chicks to keep them warm and protect them.  Some of the best moments were when it was pouring rain.  The adult bald eagle sat there, hunkered down against the elements, doing what he/she was designed to do -- protecting the babies.  Isn't that what we did as new parents?  Huddling over and gathering in our little ones?

As they grew, the adult eagle was able to cover less and less of the chicks -- even though an adult bald eagle is one of the largest birds out there!  I look at my over six-foot tall son and marvel that he was ever inside me!

It is rare for a bald eagle's nest to hold three eggs, much less to have all three survive those first few weeks.  Each morning I clicked anxiously to see whether they were all still moving.  I'd try to will the adult bird to move off the nest so I could count the fluff balls.  I'd excitedly call out to my family, "STILL THREE!"

Today, the eagle chicks are the equivalent of teens.  They're so big that the nest that used to look like the size of an aircraft carrier looks instead like a crowded parking lot.  The parents don't really enter the nest much, but drop by to feed.  The chicks are aggressive with the food, but not with each other.  While I don't feed my kids through "fly by" events, the competition for the parents' attention (i.e. food) is quite familiar.  Even when my teens don't act like they want my attention, they're still competing for it.  And I have to say the insatiable desire for food does describe my son pretty accurately.

The eaglets like to sit on the very edge of the nest with their backs to the big world outside -- just like my almost-college daughter who alternates between being ready to go and not quite ...  Each of them practices flapping their wings and jumps around the nest doing it while the other two look annoyed at being jumped on.  (It actually reminds me of moon bounces!).  This reminds me of when one of my kids is pushing the envelope with us and the other looks on with annoyance at the fuss being created.

This is not the Decorah eagles, but still a great photo of a pair of adults.
Photo by Hal Korber/PGC Photo

At this point, the eagle chicks are more of a danger to themselves than at any other time.  The flexing of wings and practice flying can take them right over the edge to danger.  Just like our human children, the exercise of their autonomy is fraught with danger, but necessary for their growth.  I was just watching and the oldest of the chicks looked like he(?) was about to take flight -- but then he saw an interesting stick and backed down.  Reminds me of "I'm going, I'm going, I'm going .... oooh, look, something shiny!"
Still -- soon the chicks will fledge -- they will make their first flight.  It will happen without classroom instruction or flyer's education training.  One minute they'll be exercising their wings and the next they'll be on a different branch or on the ground.  Around 40% do not survive their first flight, so with three of them making it this far, they've already beaten the odds for eaglet survival.  My prayer is that they will all do fine on their first flight and subsequent flights and grow up to make more eagle pairs.

Even after they leave the nest, they will not be able to feed themselves for several months.  The parents will land on the branch near them and feed them.  This is similar to my child leaving for college, but me still making sure the dining hall bills are paid. She may think she's independent, but the reality is that she will still need my support -- and I'll have to come to her branch, rather than her coming back into the nest.

I love that the Raptor Resource Project underwrites this opportunity for us to vicariously participate in the parenting of the eaglets.  This has been a precious opportunity to see God's design for how we are to raise our children evidenced in His creation.  Through it, He instructs and shows us, how to love, nurture, protect, discipline and when it's time .... let go.

Biker Chic(k)

I love my bicycle.  I love everything about it.  I bought it in 1989 in Germany and it was a high dollar purchase back then.  Under the tutelage of my friend K, who knew a LOT more about bikes than I, I selected the shimano brakes and gears, the bianchi frame, and the amazing paint job.  It's a road bike, so it's designed to tour Europe in a leisurely fashion.  It rides very smoothly, but it's very light to carry and maneuver.

This past year or so I've really gotten back into it.  Part of the reason is that riding at top speed down one of the hills here is the closest I'll ever get to flying on my own.

Another great thing that has energized my riding is the Map My Ride app.  I love seeing how far I've gone and how fast and how the elevation has changed.  Then I flip over to the "Lose It!" app and plug in numbers and voila -- weight control.

About three weeks ago I decided I was going to get serious about getting some weight off.  I'd been riding but not in a determined fashion.  I read a sign in the bike store that said "riding 4 miles per day equals 10 pounds of lost fat per year."

I reasoned that was without any other lifestyle changes.  So I quit drinking red wine (yes, again) and started being more aware of what I eat, and began riding at least 4 miles per day.  Usually it's more like 8.  There are days like yesterday where I don't ride any, but mostly it's between 8 and 10.  And guess what?  My clothes already fit better.

I ride on a combination of trails, sidewalks, roads and bike lanes.  I've had people yell at me on all different types of surfaces but I figure they're just envious of the freedom the bike gives me.   I'm very aware of the traffic patterns in my environment and I know where it is safe to be on the road and where it is NOT -- and there are a few tunnels I avoid as well.

And have you seen the cool colors for visibility?  I have bright green, yellow, orange and red moisture wicking shirts to ride in, padded shorts, and a good helmet.

Now if we can only get people who actually RIDE bicycles to design the places we park them, and it will be easier to do our shopping this way too!  What's wrong with this photo?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

My County's Finest

I volunteered this morning as a Bike Marshal during my town's Sprint Triathlon.  A sprint triathlon is named for the distances, not the company (although if you were Sprint, wouldn't you jump on THAT opportunity for sponsorship?).  Usually when we have police support we get the auxiliary and (ahem) senior members of the force.  Today I was luckier than that!

I met up with the officer directing traffic at 6:45 am.  Although I had a chair and an iPhone to play with while I waited for the first cyclists to come through (so he didn't really have to come talk to me), he actually got out of his vehicle and came over to talk.  Can I tell you he was young and cute?  I was running through my "single girls" list in my head trying to come up with the right match.

He was unfailingly courteous (even when some drivers were not) and actually talked -- real conversation.  If you've ever spent time with a cop you know that's rare.  We talked about our high school and the trails I usually ride (he's a cycle cop when he's not on events) and he confirmed my suspicions about a couple of things in our area that have been concerns to parents (like which stores I don't want my kids going into because the students who do go in there are getting a reputation for being petty thieves).

At any rate, I was so happy to support our local event, and interacting with this guy made it even better.  I was so inspired by the cyclists that I went for a ride with my son this afternoon.  Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Where's the Line?

Our exchange student yesterday asked me what I thought of his idea for a souvenir to take home.  He thought to purchase an American flag, and have all his friends write their farewell messages and nameson it with Sharpies .  He wondered if that might be perceived as disrespectful.

Well...I'm glad he was sensitive enough to ask.  Still, I have to admit I had an incredibly visceral response.  I told him that while it wasn't illegal, it was disrespectful.  I admitted that many of the kids he hangs out with  wouldn't see a problem with it.  I confessed I probably had a very different response than many people because I have served in the military as have many in our family (husband, both of our fathers, grandfather, etc.).

He reasoned, "In Germany, we don't have the kind of patriotism you have, so nobody would care."  I answered that may be true, but this isn't Germany.

He went upstairs to think about it and came down about a half an hour later.  He asked, "would you be angry if I do it anyway?"

I said, "No, but I would be very disappointed.  Nonetheless, you need to make the choices that you think are right."

He went back upstairs again.  About 45 minutes he emerged again and said, "What about a T-shirt that says I {heart} America, with the heart picture looking like an American flag?"  I said, "That sounds like a reasonable compromise."  He grinned and went to order one on the internet.

Whew.  Why is this so hard at THIS end of things?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Innovation in China?

A lot of people get upset with the Chinese because they copy so much of our technology.  It's a familiar refrain -- we heard it said about Japan, Russia, etc.  The bottom line is that really good technology is bound to get copied.

What is interesting to think about is whether we copy technology from China?  No, by and large we don't these days.  (Let's overlook all the inventions of the early Chinese that were copied by what came to be the foundation of western civilization).

Advancing technologies require either
a)  A desperate need to do things a better way (improved agricultural practices), OR
b)  A luxury of time to think creatively.

And both situations, in order that the technology will flourish, require a government structure that encourages, allows, or permits innovative thought.  Chinese society and government are very conformist these days, which makes it hard for an Eli Whitney or Boeing Company or Apple (especially Apple) to get off the ground.

My friends who have immigrated from China, once hear, have exploded in creativity and innovation.  One of them tells me it isn't that he was afraid or constrained from doing so in China -- the ideas simply never occurred to him.

Until China's government prizes the maverick, the innovator, the type who "goes their own way", their ability to birth new technologies and companies is limited.

It's similar to what my husband discovered when he researched the idea of how countries use their air forces (remember, he's a retired USAF pilot).  In totalitarian regimes, the rulers feared their airmen.  Of course -- if a pilot wasn't loyal, he could drop bombs on the presidential palace!  Saddam Hussein kept his pilots far away and under strict control.

See a connection?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

In the old days, when people immigrated to America, they couldn't skype, call, or fly back to the old country.  They had committed to making something of their dreams in this new country and they bought into the whole dream.  Yes, they gravitated to places where there were already people from their home region, who spoke their home languages and dialects, but they lambasted their children if they didn't learn English and learn it well.

After living several months with an exchange student, it occurs to me that to really LIVE in another culture, you need to cut off your old one to a large degree. No skype, facebook or e-mail.  Perhaps an occasional package or letter, but no "constant contact."  I think the act that requires the most bravery for an exchange student is to live with strangers.  And you never get to understand another person's point of view if you can hang on to your home country values and views.

Tomorrow -- how can China innovate without freedom?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Different Worlds

The senior girl is home this morning since her next exam doesn't begin until noon.  I heard her folding laundry downstairs so I went to the family room.  How did I hear her, you ask?  Well, she always puts something on to watch while she folds.  Today it was Phineas & Ferb.  Yeah, she's almost 18.  At any rate, I grabbed a stack of clothes and went back upstairs to the "adult" zone where I could hear "intelligent radio" still playing.  Between those two zones I walked through a cloud of Axe cologne, left behind from the Exchange Student's 6:30 am exit.

I'm thinking there's some kind of message in there somewhere.  From kid TV to Intelligent Radio with a big cloud of peer-pressure advertising driven cologne purchase in between.