Saturday, November 10, 2012

Prairie Writers' Day -- A fabulous day!

For any children's writers within driving distance to Palatine, IL, you simply must attend the annual fall SCBWI conference at Harper College. Editors, agents, authors, and art directors--a panel of six today--come to speak to share their insights on writing and illustrating in today's market. As usual, it was a great experience full of information and inspiration!

Go here for more information.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saint Patrick: The Man Behind the Legends
                  St. Patrick lived in fourth-century Briton, and his home was probably on the west coast of modern-day England. His grandfather was a priest (in the days before priestly celibacy) and his father was a deacon in the church.
                  At the age of sixteen, Patrick was captured by slave traders and sold to a slave owner in Ireland. There, for six long years, he labored in the woods and pastures of Foclut near the Western Sea where tended sheep. At first, Patrick, traumatized by his capture, sank into deep misery. But in time, his faith, which had been shallow as a child, grew and deepened. He prayed night and day, a hundred times a day and long into the night. Then he had a dream that a ship was ready to take him back to Briton. He likely escaped during the summer months, making his way through the forests and bogs of Ireland, trying to hide his slave torc, the gold ring around his neck, as well as his foreign accent. Indeed, when he made it to the coast, his ship was ready, and after a little convincing, he climbed aboard and headed back home.
                  Back in Briton, Patrick decided to study for the priesthood. But he had missed important years of his education. Late in life, he still regretted missing those formative years and lamented about how poor his Latin was.
                  But Patrick did not become bitter about his years of slavery. Instead, he had another dream. In this one, the Irish begged him to come back to them. Surprisingly, Patrick decided to do just that—return to the land of his captivity to bring the good news of Jesus to the Irish people.
                  Many years later, after becoming a priest and then finally a bishop, Patrick's dream to return to Ireland was realized. He returned to the land of druids who still performed human sacrifice. He returned to the land which was poor and uncivilized (unlike his Romanized Briton). He returned to the land which at that time was considered "the ends of the earth." He returned to the land where he was a slave.
                  Unlike the legends, he did not drive snakes from Ireland. He did not find pots of gold or leprechauns. But he did bring the message of salvation through Christ to a people lost in sin and darkness.
                  Did Patrick explain the concept of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—with a shamrock? Perhaps. It's not known for certain. But what we do know by letters that Patrick himself penned is that he believed, confessed, and preached about God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that that Irish people clung to this message of salvation.
                  In that time, when Roman civilization was crumbling, many people believed that the end of the world was near. So Patrick took the message of the Christian faith with urgency to Ireland, and God blessed his work.
                  In the years after Christianity spread in Ireland, the country was transformed. As Thomas Cahill writes, "Ireland became a Christian culture, where slavery and human sacrifice became unthinkable, and warfare, though impossible for humans to eradicate, diminished markedly." Slavery and human sacrifice was all but eradicated, women began to have more status in society, and monasteries became centers of learning.
                  That one man—a former slave—could have accomplished all this is remarkable. But it wasn't one man who had achieved so much. It was a gracious God who blessed the humble efforts of a man whose message of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness and mercy of God transformed history.                                       - Written by Julie Stiegemeyer
·       Patrick's own writings: Confessio and Letter to Coroticus (The Confession of Saint Patrick, translated by John Skinner, foreword by John O'Donohue; Image Books, Doubleday, 1998.)
·       St. Patrick of Ireland by Philip Freeman, Simon and Schuster, 2005.
·       How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill, Doubleday, 1995. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Close Calls

Last Saturday, we had a close call with our one-year-old kitty, Kenji. He had a bad reaction to receiving his first full set of adult vaccines, and shortly afterward, he started going into shock and was unable to breathe. It was scary, but thankfully, he survived and is now back to his old mischief.

That incident, along with some discussions Scott and I have been having about bio-ethics, made me think about some close calls in my life.

As he and I discussed advances in medicine and the plethora of choices we have today to extend our lives by using medicines and treatments to combat disease, he touched upon the fact that so many women in childbirth died in previous generations. And the babies often died as well. This, of course, I knew, but in the context of our discussion, it had never really settled in for me that I could have died giving birth to Jacob. He was delivered by "emergency" c-section, which meant that they didn't have time to numb me up with a spinal anesthetic before Jacob would need to be delivered. He was breach--foot first. So, they gave me general anesthesia and I was out for the count. Twenty minutes later, Scott got to see our little bundle of joy wheeled out of the operating area.

I've always sort of resented the fact that for my only child, I was not conscious for the delivery. And then as Scott and I were talking about it last week, I realized how lucky I was to have an attentive team of nurses and doctors who took good care of me so that I was able to deliver a healthy baby and come out of the procedure relatively unscathed. In previous generations, I may have had no option but to deliver the baby naturally and might have potentially died in childbirth. And Jacob could have been in distress during an abnormal delivery. Yes, I agree that c-sections are sometimes unnecessary, and perhaps, if I was omniscient, I would know that my c-section was not necessary either.

But it just made me stop and count my blessings. Maybe all these years, I've looked at it the wrong way. Instead of being grumpy about "missing" the delivery, I should be thankful that God spared me and my son from an untimely death. Yes, it's a bit morbid to consider, but it reminds me of all of those close calls we may have--near-miss car accidents, bronchitis that's knocked out by an anti-biotic, cancer treatments that slow down or eradicate the growth of diseased cells. We have God's angels protecting us, and God, in His mercy, to thank.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tips for healthy snacks

Why is it so hard to admit our mothers teach us so many things without our even acknowledging them? Well, here I am today, hat in hand, thanking mom for the idea for the easy snacks I just prepared.

Sometimes we don't take the time to eat fruits or vegetables, not because we don't like them, but because we're too lazy. So, what I do is turn on some music, and take an hour a week to chop stuff up.

#1 - Hardboiled eggs - what could be easier? I try to keep at least 4-5 hardboiled eggs in the fridge for a snack or quick breakfast.

#2 - Cut-up fruit - of course, this comes in many varieties. Here are the ones in my fridge now:
- fresh pineapple, cut up in chunks
- orange sections (already peeled and divided, in a tupperware container)
- apple slices (my mom's tip is to dip them in saltwater after slicing; then, they can stay in a container in your fridge for easy access but won't turn brown)

#3 - Cut-up vegetables (this isn't rocket science) In my fridge:
- raw cauliflower divided up into bite-size chunks - put in 3-4 snack bags for the week, and add:
- celery sticks
- baby carrots

Nothing genius about this, folks! But if you take just a few minutes to prepare some healthy snacks that are as easy to grab and go as the prepared foods, maybe that Ho-Ho won't look quite so tempting.