Author Archives: kyriosity

Two Years in Moscow

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I arrived at my new digs two years ago today, and I still couldn’t be more sure that it’s the right place for me to be. Did I ever tell you that God tricked me into this move? I’d never have done it. The only idea I had was to go someplace different for a year or two and then come back to Maryland. But then I was buying a house (because I didn’t want to throw away rent money for two years), and while I was still telling the “I’m just going temporarily to go back to school” story, it slowly dawned on me that such was not the case. Finally a friend said, “You’re not coming back, are you.” I grinned and shook my head sheepishly. I’m glad God’s smarter than I am…and clever enough to guide me where I need to be.

In addition to last year’s list, I am grateful for…

  • My Provision
    I’ve also been tricked into freelancing. It was not my idea of a nice, secure position, and I am definitely missing my disposable income, but I’m overjoyed to be able to do editing, designing, and a wee bit of writing on projects that I know are building the Kingdom. Here are a few I’ve been privileged to have a hand in: Introductory and Intermediate Logic, Against the Church, The Seven Laws of Teaching, Fit to Burst, Beowulf, and the Old Western Culture series. Amid the vicissitudes of the freelance life, I’m also grateful for a nice, consistent layer of steady work doing video review for Next Wave Security Solutions. And although it stresses and exhausts me every time, and I frequently swear I’ll never do it again, a little wedding cake income now and again is nice.
  • My Protection
    At a wedding the other day, the homily reminded me of how blessed I am to live in a community where biblical principles of marriage and parenting are clearly taught and abundantly modeled. Although I don’t get to experience the blessings of marriage directly, just knowing that godly husbands and fathers exist, and seeing the evidence of their faithfulness in the wives and children around me gives me a sense of security. It’s a persistent reassurance that, ah, yes, that Story I’ve been reading all my life really is true. This is gonna sound weird, but I feel like the Syrophoenician woman, who knew the children’s meal was not for her, but was content to gather the crumbs under the table. The crumbs at this feast make a better meal than the biggest helpings at the world’s table.

I’m so grateful that God brought me here!

Hot on the Heels of Bartholomew Cubbins

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Of the making of babies there is no end. And likewise of the making of baby hats. I’ve made fifty hats in the last twenty months since moving to Moscow. It’s only 10 percent of Bartholomew Cubbinsʼs collection, but a girl’s gotta start somewhere. Of those pictured below, a few of them were sent back east to family, and one was made before I moved, but I know at least one I made here escaped without being photographed, so…close enough. Most have been given as baby gifts, a couple were made for Halloween costumes, and a few are stockpiled for future gifting. Not nearly enough though; there are at least fifteen expected babies on the church prayer list right now.

A bunch of them were badly shaped — way too short. I was basing them on a pattern that was just a little too short to begin with, and then I was making the pattern incorrectly, so they were even shorter. If your baby got one of those…sorry! You’ll just have to make another kid so I can make another hat! I’ve been aiming for most of them for a 6-12 month size, figuring that ought to catch one winter. But a few have been smaller and a few larger, not usually by design, but by still figuring out what I’m doing.

~~FIFTY HATS

It Never Entered Your Mind

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“They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination….” Jeremiah 32:35, NASB

It never entered God’s mind that parents should murder their children. I am grateful for those of you parents who never let that thought enter your minds, either (or chased it right out again if it did), when your kids were conceived under less than ideal circumstances. You live in a culture that tempted you with a way out, but by God’s grace, you didn’t take it.

The world told you that it would be too embarrassing or too expensive or too burdensome or too risky to have your babies, but you rejected the very notion of the horrific alternative. Thank you for your defiance.

Some of you endured pressure from family, friends, and other busybodies. Thank you for your longsuffering.

Some of you chose the hard path of blessing another family with a baby, and blessing your baby with another family. Thank you for your sacrifice.

Some of you opened your arms to receive little ones who were not flesh of your flesh but became heart of your heart. Thank you for your hospitality.

Some of you chose the hard path raising your baby alone. Thank you for your courage.

Some of you manned up and married her. Thank you for your responsibility.

Some of you resisted the temptation to sock the doctor in the jaw when he suggested your child wasn’t worthy of life. Thank you for your holy indignation.

Some of you endured the reminder of terrible sin perpetrated against you. Thank you for refusing the absurd logic of trying to make things right by adding wrong to wrong.

All of you shine the light of life in a culture of death. Thank you for telling the story of God’s grace with your lives.

Three Words to Vote Off the Kitchen Island

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I’d like to nominate two words that we would all stop using in regard to food:

1) CLEAN. Gives me the willies every time I see it. Did we miss, like, the entire New Testament? “Clean” implies a moral judgment, and that sort of talk is completely off-limits for Christians. Jesus declared all foods clean, and we’ve got no business saying otherwise. Exceptions: If you drop raw chicken on the kitchen floor you haven’t mopped in a month or your ice cream scoop falls off the cone onto a New York sidewalk, you’re allowed to call that unclean.

2) HEALTHY. According to…what? whom? In regard to dietary choices, “healthy” isn’t a monolithic thing. Medical professionals and nutritionists might prescribe a dozen different diets to a dozen different people. All sorts and conditions of people have all sorts of nutritional needs, so “healthy” is a useless word without any context or qualifications. Exceptions: If a belaced old lady serves you elderberry wine or a wild-eyed cult leader hands you a cup of Kool-Aid, you are universally allowed to suspect that these offerings are unhealthy.

UPDATE! My friend Amy reminded me of another one:

3) REAL. As Amy put it, “I think it’s very condescending to imply that if it’s not gmo-free and organic then it’s not actually food.” Exceptions: Wax fruit and accessories in your kid’s play kitchen are fake food.

Grampa

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In 1987, when he was in high school, my cousin Randy (first cousin once removed) interviewed my grandfather and wrote this report. I previously posted my mother’s remembrances of her grandmother; this takes us one generation closer to the present. I think Randy’s son Petey should take it a step further, and interview his grandmother (my Aunt Ellie) and my mother. Now would be the time to do that. They’re a year older than Grampa was in 1987, and Ellie’s memory is failing.

Grampa with Randy and his sister Kristy, 1974ish(?)

Grampa with Randy and his sister Kristy, 1974ish(?)

I conducted my interviews with my great-grandfather, Floyd R—— of Alstead. He was born on November 28, 1903 in Alstead, and has lived most of his lived in the area, now living about ½ a mile from his birthplace. In 1924 he married Margaret Benware of Langdon, who is also still living.

Mr. R—— recalls his teenage years well, and remembers a great number of names and events. Until the age of 14 he lived and worked on his family’s farm, and then he moved into Alstead and boarded with a Doctor Stevens. He did a number of jobs as a teenager, mostly physical labor. He worked in one of the village stores as sort of a stock-boy, earning 10¢ an hour, the standard wage for kids. He also owned his own cows and horses, selling milk for 10¢ a quart, and drove cattle from Alstead into the surrounding towns for other people. At this time most people had a couple cows or horses, even those living on Main Street. He had some jobs kids today wouldn’t be allowed to do, such as assisting the doctor in his office and helping deliver the mail during the winter, which he did have to be sworn in to do. He feels he did more work than most of the teenagers of the time, and worked hard, making 20¢ an hour working on some jobs, which was an adult’s pay. His most profitable job was hauling sawdust to people in town with animals, for which he got $3 a load, and sometimes he got 2 loads a day. It took a while with a wagon and two horses. Another job was working at Vilas Poo when it was being built. His father worked there as a carpenter, and Floyd was an assistant to Mr. Carter, the overseer for the project. He made $3 a day and didn’t have to work too much, going with Carter to town for supplies or working part of the day and then going to an auction. No one else could put him to work while he was just hanging around the pool, because they didn’t want to get Mr. Carter upset; he didn’t really care whether he ran the project.

His most interesting job was working on the race circuit for 3 years with Doc Stevens, touring New England and New York. He never rode the horses; he took care of the horses. He met a lot of gypsies on the race circuit and remembers them as nice but shrewd people. There was one group he knew well in New York, a large family headed by an old man. The old man was a very smart horse trader, and often got good horses cheaply. He would stand outside of the gates in his ragged clothes, and when he saw a good horse, he would wait until it had run a poor race and then offer to buy it from the owner, who was usually eager to get rid of the horse. He would then go into the stables and pretend to borrow the money, instead taking it out of a huge wad he carried with him. He got a lot of good horses cheaply this way, and it took the owners a while to catch on. The gypsies all appeared poor, but once Floyd accepted an invitation to visit this family in NY City, and found they lived in a mansion with huge stables.

For sports, he enjoyed skiing, sledding, bicycling, and football. The YMCA had a program in Alstead for a while, and he got involved in boxing and other physical sports.

Alstead was smaller in the 1910s, but had a lot of local businesses, a horse-shoer’s, plow shop, lumberyards, 2 grocery stores, a barbershop, garage, hardware store, and dry goods store. Freight was brought into town by wagons. The nearest railroad was in Walpole and Bellows Falls. The train depot he used the most was in Cold River, across from where the Jiffy Mart is now. Cattle were shipped out of there, and wild horses were sometimes brought in and sold. There were hobos who wandered through and sometimes slept in the culverts near the train depot. The hobos were generally not bad; they would work wherever they could find a job, and then move on. The tramps, or bums, were mostly dishonest, and were more likely to steal food than work for it.

In 1918 he received a letter from President Wilson notifying him that he would have to report to an Army training camp after his birthday, which was two weeks after the war ended. He says he thinks that at the time they were drafting people between the ages of 16 and 40.

He said that the women’s rights movement didn’t make much of an impact around this area. Floyd and Margaret both remember there being many more boys than girls in the area. Margaret was the only girl in the 8th grade class in Langdon. Her whole class had to repeat the 8th grade because her schoolteacher had been fooling around with a married man, and she had been run out of town. The class had to repeat because the parents figured the teacher hadn’t done a good job. Floyd went to school through the 7th grade in a two-room schoolhouse in Alstead. The nearest high schools were in Walpole and Bellows Falls, but Margaret did go to 2 months of high school in Keene.

In the 1910s, when there was a fire the only way the town had to fight it was a pump to get water from the river or nearest source of water. Then a bucket brigade would have to pass the water to a holding tank near the fire. Using this method, there wasn’t much of a chance to save the burning house; they worried more about saving nearby houses. Finally the town bought a Model T fire engine because they were losing too many houses.

When asked what changes were least appealing in the world, he said that it was too hectic today – life was less hurried when he was younger, with less noise and fewer cars. He bought his first car in 1924 – a Model T Ford for $440. He doesn’t remember there being more than 5 to 10 cars in the whole town before WWI.

He doesn’t remember hearing about many famous people while he was young, mainly the presidents and Babe Ruth. He remembers seeing one of the presidents around 1910, either Taft or Roosevelt, drive by his house in Alstead. He said no one believed him at first, but then they heard news that he had gotten lost going to Keene and ended up on the back roads. Around 1920 he went with one of the Wilder boys from Alstead to Vermont, where they ate supper with Calvin Coolidge, who was already vice president. The Wilders were related to Coolidge, and they had gone to pick up a cow they’d bought.

During the Great Depression, money was scarce around the area. During the early 1930s , many of the men in town sat on the Post Office steps waiting for work. Floyd spent one week on the steps, and then decided that was enough. He found a road job in East Alstead. The town was hiring men for 3 days and then laying them off, giving more people a chance to work. He was the only one to stay on after the 3 days, he worked hard, but he said he was friendly with the lady the foreman boarded with, and she may have talked him into it. He stayed on the job until it was done, hauling gravel to East Alstead from Alstead, the same site where the proposed gravel pit is now.

During the end of the Depression, he worked for the state, pulling gooseberry plats, which were a cause of blister rust in pine trees. After the hurricane in 1938, he worked cleaning old roads of debris.

During World War II, he worked in the mica mines, which became a high-priority government job for the war. Because he was working in northern N.H., gas rationing didn’t hurt him, because the rationing agents would give him as much as he could use. He also remembers rationing meat, lard, and sugar, and covering windows for blackouts.

After the war, he continued working in the mines, and then he joined the state road crew, working until his retirement. After retirement he put all his time into his farm and gardens, which is what he is still doing today.

My Year in Books…and Looking Ahead to Next Year

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After a pitiful showing in 2012 (just 14 titles), I was determined to be more literate in 2013. Here’s the breakdown:

Total titles reviewed on Goodreads: 36

Brief picture books that shouldn’t really count (and aren’t included in the following stats): 2

Audio: 12.5 // Print or onscreen: 21.5

Fiction: 20 // Nonfiction: 14

Books I worked on (editing, proofreading and/or layout): 3 (Beowulf, Against the Church, Rekindling Advent)

Other books I worked on that I suppose I could count, because I read them, but didn’t, because they haven’t been published yet, so I haven’t reviewed them yet: 1

Books I wish I could have worked on  because the editing, proofreading and/or layout needed desperate help: 1 (Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert…amazing book, lame cover, embarrassing editing)

Read for book group: 8

Rereads from previous years: 13 // First-time reads: 21

Multiple reads this year: 2 (World English BIble, audio edition read by David Field…listened through 3 times; Beowulf…2 rounds of proofrediting)

Best of the bunch: Obviously, the Bible. And I wouldn’t have reread 13 books if I didn’t love them. The best new reads were Death by Living, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, and Orthodoxy, all of which I hope to reread in the coming year or two.

For 2014, I’d like to increase the overall count, read a larger proportion of new-to-me titles (rereading all of Narnia kind of skewed things this year…not that I’m complaining), and read more on paper.

I’ve tidied up my “currently reading” list on Goodreads in preparation for the new year. I’ve got four in progress:

Collected Works, Flannery O’Connor — Been chipping away for a few years now, and will probably keep chipping away for another decade or so. I don’t mind the slow progress on this one as long as I’m honest about it.

God Is the Gospel, John Piper — Picked this back up after a long lull when I joined a brief book study that was going through it. Alas, I wasn’t able to attend half the study, but I’m still plugging away at the book.

Crying for Justice, John N. Day — Been working at this one off and on for a while. Want to finish it this year.

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs — Another one for a book study. I’ve already skipped a bunch of chapters when I couldn’t make the meetings, and I probably won’t go back, but I hope to go forward.

I’d also like to restart The Brothers Karamazov, but in a different translation than the one I abandoned last year. And I got Empire of Bones, Peace Like a River, and The Devil’s Dictionary for Christmas, so I plan to get to those, too.

Yay for books!

Turkey Chowder Recipe

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I found this on the Web several years ago. Sorry I don’t have the source any longer, but I do honor the creator in my heart!

Ingredients
4 slices of bacon
1 c chopped onion
4 c pared, cubed potatoes
2 c turkey broth
20 oz frozen corn, thawed
¼ c butter
2½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 c cooked cubed or shredded turkey
2 c milk
1 c heavy cream
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Instructions
In a 5-quart pot, sauté bacon till crispy. Remove and reserve. Sauté onion in bacon drippings till golden brown. Add potatoes and turkey broth. Bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for ~30 minutes or just until potatoes are tender, but not mushy.

In another saucepan, combine butter, salt, pepper, turkey, and milk. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add to potato mixture. Add corn and heavy cream. Cook, stirring occasionally, till hot, but do not boil. Turn into warm soup tureen. Crumble reserved bacon on top and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Notes

  • I start this recipe with the amount of turkey I have, and multiply from there.
  • I’ve never used fresh parsley; just added the dry stuff.
  • Freezes well. Just go ahead and mix in the bacon and parsley before freezing.

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Turkey Chowder Recipe

Death by Quoting…or Commonplaces by Living…or Something Like That

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Buncha quotes from Death by Living, by N. D. Wilson (with comments in italics and parentheses by me):

A critic told me recently that she remembered scenes from one of my newer adventure novels…not as scenes from a book, but more like personal memories from her own experiences….Fiction loves to thwart the filing systems of the mind. (And the mind loves to be thwarted.) (p.18)

…[A] life well lived is always lived on a rising scale of difficulty….But the promotions come regardless of whether or not we’ve actually improved. If you are bad at being two, you will be bad at being four. If you’re bad at being four, you will be bad at being six. (pp. 42, 43) (I’m pretty sure I was bad at being two, so it’s pretty much been a disaster ever since.)

Only two men and one woman have ever lost more than Job.
Adam. Eve. Adam II. (p. 69)

Man is born to trouble. Man is born for trouble. Man is born to battle trouble. Man is born for the fight, to be forged and molded—under torch and hammer and chisel—into a sharper, finer, stronger image of God. (p. 69) (This is the quote I read before I read the book and have had taped to my bathroom mirror for several months. It’s still the money quote for me. A part of me has spent my life demanding, contrary to every shred of both theoretical and empirical data, that life be easy. I need this reminder that trouble is normal. It’s not a bug; it’s a feature. I think I would be happy with a steady stream of trouble-free From Trampoline to Tea Party stories [see p. 82], despite the fact that they’d be lousy stories. I just read this before starting this post, which nails my problem, cowardice, and shows it for the Hellworthy thing it is. But sin is one of those troubles we’re born to, resisting it is one of the fights we’re born to. Bring on the torch and hammer and chisel, Author, and get this image in better shape.)

Living is the same thing as dying. Living well is the same thing as dying for others. (p. 84) (That’s the book in a nutshell.)

Some people are given more on this earth and some are given less. Some people spend their days in pain with bodies that keep the yearning front and center, that keep loss always in the mind’s eye. Widows. Orphans. The sick. The damaged (by birth or man). Know this: God has special promises for you, and He loves bringing triumphant resolutions to those who have tasted the deepest sorrows. And this: Gratitude is liberation….See the gifts. And if they seem sparse, start counting. (pp. 109-110) (Did you catch this one—”Gratitude is liberation”? Here, let me put it another way: GRATITUDE IS LIBERATION. It’s the antidote for the cowardice, I’m pretty sure, though I haven’t worked it all out yet.)

Burden your moments with thankfulness. (p. 117)

We are authors and we are writing every second of every day….What you say and what you do in response will be done forever, never to be appealed, edited, or modified.
….
Of course, we try to edit. We dump lies and likes of white-out behind us. We are always explaining and attempting to recast our actions in “better light.” (pp. 164-165)

[Living] means failing and knowing that, somehow, all of our messes will still contribute, that the creative God has merely given Himself a greater challenge—drawing glory from our clumsy botching of the past. (p. 166)

Things That Make Me Cringe

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I haven’t seen anyone do this in a while, and I can’t remember who was the last person I saw do it, so this isn’t an individual attack, it’s just a hopeful attempt to get folks to think about what they’re doing.

Please stop posting photos of your kids on the potty.

There. I said it. Now I’m going to open my umbrella to protect myself from all of the rotten fruit that’s going to be thrown at me in a minute.

Moms, could you maybe think of this as a Golden Rule thing? Would you want pics of yourself on the toilet posted in a public place?

“But she’s so cute!” “But I’m so proud of him!” She is, in fact, adorable. He has, in fact, accomplished the greatest feat of his young life. But not every cute moment, not every proud moment, needs photo documentation to be shared with the world. Using the toilet should not be a public act.

“But you can’t see anything!” OK, but I could probably take a photo of you on the toilet not showing anything, and it still wouldn’t be respectful.

I don’t get tired of seeing pics of my friends’ kids. I’m not one to complain that you post too many. Just…not this, please. I get embarrassed for your kids every time. They’re not in a position to know enough to say no, so when it comes to potty pics, please say no for them.