Thursday, December 27, 2007

My Dog's New "Puppy"

This is our dog Lucy with the new toy she got for Christmas. I figured that this, like all of her other toys, would last a little while. She'd bite it, chew it, squeak it, throw it around, etc. One time we gave her a plastic hamburger which was bitten into five million pieces only minutes after she got it. So I figured that this plastic tiger would last at least for Christmas Day.

When we gave Lucy the toy amidst all of the Christmas unwrapping and opening present frenzy, she suddenly got very nervous. She started pacing. She was panting. She was crying. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with her. Finally, we decided that the toy was not really working out, so I put it away in the cupboard while we went to church.

When we got back, I decided to see how she would do with the tiger. Instead of her normal behavior of pulling apart the toy until she can get the squeaker out of it, she was incredibly gentle with it. She carried it around in her mouth, but never once squeaked it. She was never at all rough with it. If anything, it seemed to upset her. She cried and whimpered. That night, she went to bed with her new toy and never let it out of her sight.

It's been two days, and she is still totally attached. We think that she has adopted this as her baby. She won't go outside without her tiger. She sleeps with her tiger. She makes sure that he's close by at all times. Just now, someone came to the front door. She was sleeping on the couch with her tiger, and when she tried to get up, she bumped the tiger, made it cry, and stopped in mid-bark. She never stops in mid-bark, but we figure that she was upset about making her baby cry.

I thought this was so odd that I checked around online and found that this is quite common for female spayed dogs which never had pups. They adopt a stuffed animal, "take care of it" for awhile, and then eventually decide it's old enough to be on its own.

On a related note, I recently heard about this story on the radio. The Red Sox closing pitcher for the 2007 World Series got the game ball, but subsequently lost it. He now blames his dog, Boss, for chewing it to shreds.

We'll see if "Baby" gets ripped up any time soon.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Christmas Goose

For the last several years, off and on, we've had a goose for Christmas dinner. I decided to chronicle our goose adventure this year.

Step 1 - Find a goose at a specialty meat store. I bought ours at Jamison Specialty Meats in Fort Wayne.

Step 2 - Thaw goose, and a) Try not to be sad that you are planning on eating him.

Step 2, part b) Try not to think of cute pictures of goslings, like this:

Step 3 - Unwrap and get out all the innards.

[Note: disturbing images of goose innards below.]

Step 4 - Wash goose. Marvel at his wingspan. Salt and pepper him.

Step 5 - Pour boiling water over the goose throughout the cooking process. This helps to get rid of the extra fat. Put goose in oven for one hour on 400 degrees.

Step 6 - Go and watch part of A Christmas Story on TBS for 45 minutes. Fall asleep until buzzer sounds.

Step 7 - Pour more boiling water over goose. Suck extra water out of bottom of pan out with basting bulb. Find multiple containers for water/fat solution. Turn heat down to 350 degrees. (Repeat step 2x)

Step 8 - Take goose out of oven and let him rest for 20 minutes. Talk to family and wish them merry Christmas. Then start carving.

Step 9 - Serve goose!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Eve Poem


I look east on Christmas Eve morning.
The skies, marbled gray and bitterly cold
will not let the morning sun through.
Yet the sun will shine again.

We are wrapped in winter,
frozen by icy winds,
mummified in layers of blankets.
Yet the days will warm again.

Families are broken,
despair threatens.
Yet laughter will return again.

Days trudge on,
frustrations mount.
Yet we are ready--
a tree stands, tinsled and gilded,
gifts pile expectantly,
Christmas cantatas wait to be sung,
and our hearts,
sprinkled with mercy,
buoyed by hope,
confess yet again:
Hodie Christus natus est.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Random things

Here are a couple of random things:

- Here's a game called Know Your World? It's addicting. I'm sure many of you can beat me. I got up to level 7 the first time I tried it. It's fun.

- Two years ago, I posted a link to an Elf game, and it's been my most popular post ever. So, here's an early Christmas gift to you: Elf game.

- Also, I stumbled upon this website: What Should I Read Next? Apparently, the way it works is you record some of the books that you've read and liked and from people's recommendations, the site will link you to titles of other books that match your taste. I got some book recommendations, but haven't read them yet.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

An Awesome Book

I'm currently reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. The Publishers Weekly review on the back says, "The Glass Castle is nothing short of spectacular." And the review from People says: "Walls has joined the company of writers such as Mary Karr and Frank McCourt who have been able to transform their sad memories into fine art." Anyone who liked Angela's Ashes should definitely read this book. It is amazing.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Historical maps

I'm doing some research this afternoon on bodies of water in Israel. I'm finding all sorts of cool websites. I found one with satellite images of the Middle East. I found another with all sorts of historical maps, going back to the sixteenth century. The map to the left is a Lucas Cranach map, interestingly. The thing I like about these old maps is the artistic flare of the cartographer. There are these frothy waves in the Mediterranean with ships' sails billowing in the wind. It's awesome. I also like this one, which shows the faces of the four winds.

The Old and the New

For me this fall has been an interesting mix of the old and the new. I think it all started when my family and I went to Colorado for my dad's 70th birthday party in August. Both of my brothers were able to come, and we celebrated with gifts and a nice dinner out. My mom had pulled out lots of old pictures for one of the gifts we gave my dad, and later, my dad reminisced about his parents, grandparents, and his Uncle Steve as well as memories from childhood.

In the month of November, I traveled to Pittsburgh, our home for seven years. It's been just over a year since we moved, and yet, driving on those windy, narrow streets made it seem like I never left (including the sinking feeling of being lost amid the hills of the city). What struck me about that trip was stepping back into those friendships. The conversations were easy. The connection is still strong.

I also trekked up to Ann Arbor, MI, where we attended college. My husband and I took our son on a tour through the Manor, what used to be our student commons. We found the secret passageways, the trap doors, and all the fun and interesting spots where we made all of those college memories. We attended the Boar's Head Festival, we chatted with old friends and professors.

Then, friends moved into a house here in Fort Wayne where we lived when Jacob was a baby, and I walked through the halls of those memories again too. When I think of Jacob as a baby and preschooler, I think of living in that house. He took his first steps there. He sat on the couch and "read" his first books there. That was our first house.

And yet, all of those memories are wrapped up with the new ones we're making day by day. I continue to cherish friendships over the years and build on those relationships. I meet new friends, attend a new church, live in a new home. And through it all, God's tender mercy follows me day by day.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Saint Nicholas Dramatization

Last weekend, a brave group from Concordia Theological Seminary enacted the story of Saint Nicholas based on my book of the same name. Here is a link to my website where there are more photos.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Writing as Process

Over my years of writing, I have come to realize that one thing about writing is absolutely true: whatever I write is never finished.

After the original idea comes to me, it is all about process after that. I start with a vague idea of a storyline and characters. Maybe I'll play with rhymes in my head for awhile--a day, two weeks, two years. Maybe I'll ponder the characters and figure out a good conflict. I've learned, through patience and experience, that this process mostly happens in the background of my everyday life. While driving kids to school, folding laundry, washing dishes, or walking my dog, those ideas are percolating. Sometimes I'll hear a rhythm in my head which flows well for whatever it is I am writing. Sometimes I draw a blank. That's all part of the process.

Then, once I jot my notes in my journal, transfer notes onto a legal pad, and then type the manuscript onto the computer, I continue revising and revising and revising.

Last night, I attended a Christmas party where my St. Nicholas story was dramatized. As I sat listening to the text read to an auditorium full of people, I tried to not revise in my head. But it was impossible.

"Ooh," I thought. "That really wasn't the best word to use there. You should have drawn out the introduction more. You should have used a more descriptive verb, blah, blah, blah." This book was published several years ago, in 2003, perhaps? And still, it feels unfinished to me.

That is the joy and the curse of creative work.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Thank you to everyone who braved the cold to come to my book signing last night at Borders in Fort Wayne. Other than the gorilla with the santa hat scaring the toddlers, it was a great success. : ) It was fun to see the kids enjoy the stories, especially Merry Christmas, Cheeps! My illustrator, Carol Baicker-McKee suggested making props to go along with each page, so that made the story interactive and fun for the kids. Thank you, Carol, for the idea!

Tonight at the seminary Christmas party, some daring folks will be acting out the story of St. Nicholas. I'm looking forward to seeing it--fourth century costumes and all! I just asked that I wouldn't have to read it aloud, so Katie Schuerman (brilliant organizer that she is) asked Dr. Fickenscher with his booming baritone voice to read it. Fabulous!

Thank you to Pastor Petersen, also, for plugging my St. Nicholas book. I like it!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Boar's Head Festival at Concordia University, Ann Arbor

It's been awhile since I've actually posted something of substance on my blog, so I decided to just begin where I am. Right now, I am with my family in Ann Arbor, MI. Scott and I attended college here at Concordia Univ., graduating in 1991.

One of the things I've really wanted to do since graduating is return here to see the Boar's Head Festival. (Read my husband's post about it here.) Boar's Head, as it is (oddly) affectionately known, refers to a very old custom which can be traced back to Roman times. The boar, considered to be the most dangerous animal in the forest, was hunted down and killed in order to show the triumph of good over evil. In the first half of the festival, the boar's head is presented along with lords, ladies, a jester, wassailing men, and of course, good King Wenceslas.

In Concordia University's presentation of the Boar's Head Festival presents in the first half the "Courtly Story," of the yule sprite entering the darkened church, representing the light of Christ coming into a darkened world. Then there is singing, dancing, all sorts of merry-making, the presentation of the Boar's Head, the gathering around the yule log, and so much more.

The second half of the festival is the Christmas story. Mary and Joseph enter the church, the Christ child is presented to the congregation in a dance--a bouree, the singing gradually crescendos into "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" until all gather around the Christ Child to celebrate His victory--God come to us in the infant Christ.

It has been many years since I've seen the Boar's Head. Scott and I once went to a festival at Plymouth Congregational Church in Fort Wayne, but nothing (of course) matches the experience of Concordia's Boar's Head.

My memory for names is not good, but after many years, I could still have sung every part of the Boar's Head with no preparation at all. There have been a few minor alterations which have only improved the production, in my opinion.

Last summer I was elected to be on the board of regents for Concordia Univ. The past two days, I have been in meetings all day to discuss issues that affect the continuing success of the university. The Boar's Head is an example of everything that is good about Concordia, and I was privileged to see the festival once again.