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Showing posts from 2010

Advent Failure/Christmastide Success

So this year was going to be the year that our household went full throttle on Advent traditions. I planned the advent calendar. I planned the advent wreath. I planned the advent meals and fastings and weaving in all sorts of historic advent traditions. And then we did none of that. I was so busy and stressed (a good kind of stress) from getting used to new work hours, the commute and the job itself that I just couldn’t work up the energy to go gangbusters on Advent. The opportunities passed us by. We didn’t even have time to go to but one small Christmas party.As far as Christmastide (i.e. the 12 days of Christmas which begin Christmas day and go through January 5th) and the Epiphany, we typically celebrate on Christmas day with the traditional presents and meal with family/friends and then hold an epiphany dinner on the 6th of January. The Epiphany Feast celebrates the coming of the Magi to the Christ Child.This year I indulged in more research on the traditional celebrations of Adv…

Yoga and the Christian Walk

I don’t subscribe to the common thinking surrounding the practice of yoga. Some eastern religious traditions use yoga in an attempt to empty the mind and quiet the thoughts. There is nothing in our Christian tradition that validates this as a desirable goal. God created us as active thinkers, not passive vessels that need to be emptied. There is no model of mind emptying in our scriptures and attempting to empty the mind leaves one more susceptible to brainwashing.In India, yoga is prescribed as a method to facilitate communication with the Hindu gods. As Christians we are explicitly  told to abandon the worship of false Gods and turn to the one true God only.Many new age philosophy adherents claim that regardless of attempts to empty the mind or fix it on the supernatural during yoga, just by putting the body in certain postures and breathing in certain ways can open the physical body up to other dimensions/spiritual realms. This spiritual awakening is why they turn to yoga. A portio…

2011: The Year of the Written Letter

I’ve decided that 2011 shall be the year of the written letter in my household. I used to write cards and letters frequently because I enjoyed crafting special correspondence reminding friends and family they are loved and thought of and also because I loved the art of writing itself. Somewhere along the way I abandoned this pursuit as email became widespread in the mid 90s and evite.com came on board to offer electronic invitations. I think there is something of value in hand written letters. I lost this ‘something’ by turning my back on letter writing and I aim to pull it back into my life in 2011. What I look to gain:1. A sort of quiet peace as the pace of conversation must ebb and flow with the postal schedule.2. A sense of directed thoughtfulness as each letter represents time focused on specific friends and family. 3. A reconnection with the physical pleasures of writing: choosing beautiful papers and writing instruments (I collect Italian glass pens among others), decorating th…

On Consulting

I promised more details on my new job and so here we are. I work for CSC as a Senior Consultant for their Federal Consulting Practice (FCP). In some instances, I may consult on projects the FCP has negotiated directly with the US government, but typically I am asked to step in on federal govt projects that CSC’s North American Public Sector (NPS) is already managing.  This means at a practical level that I consult to one division of CSC on behalf of another division of CSC. CSC is a very large company (92,000+ employees) and it has fashioned itself into several divisions to handle different market segments. For example, it has a large division devoted to commercial work both domestic and abroad. It also has a major division devoted to US government work. This division or entity provides services to the US government under contract. The FCP division was created to maintain a pool of expertise to drop in to NPS projects as needed. This benefits the company to keep a supply of techie-gee…

Putting the Pieces Together

Prior to the start of my new job, I had a somewhat regular daily routine established. Mornings I’d wake up and after getting groomed and dressed, check email/facebook and then sit down with my bible to go over my morning devotional. Then breakfast, downstairs at the table. Work would follow punctuated with errands and projects. Afternoons meant lunch in front of the tv watching Law and Order reruns and then cleaning occasionally. After that I’d exercise, shower and start dinner. Sometimes I’d remember to do evening devotionals, sometimes not. Every 2 weeks I’d borrow a work afternoon to do finances and carve out time to grocery shop. So I started working for CSC and all hell broke loose with my new schedule. The first week just the stress of getting up at O’dark o’clock (4:30AM!) was enough to exhaust me. Add in new trainings on the job, new people to meet, new tasks to do/learn and the general anxiety of wanting to make an excellent first impression and GAH. In the mornings I was to …

Books

With my new job comes a new daily commute to/from DC on the VRE train. One hour and ten minutes in each direction which approximates to three novels a week. This month the best things I’ve read include:The LamentsThe Year of Magical ThinkingThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel SocietyThe Girl Who Played With FireLaments told the story of a family continuously replanting themselves; always searching for something to satisfy. Along the way we come to know the characters in depth. Rich in plot and character development, I really enjoyed the text.Year of Magical Thinking is a non-fiction account of writer Joan Didion’s grief experience after her husband (also a writer) unexpectedly died. I learned a lot about sadness and longing from her piece. Guernsey is a fictionalized WW2 tale  centering on one of the Channel islands. It speaks to the impact of war and terror on a community and on strangers. I found it to be a moving story and learned a bit more about the war in the process.Girl is t…

Person Y

I can’t even give Person Y a gender descriptor such as Mr. or Ms. I can only report that Person Y was confirmed alive on Tuesday when I saw them last and is likely mentally ill based on the evidence laid out before me. Evidence: several wool blankets piled on top of Person Y as they slept on the sidewalk in DC. Our capital has an open door law which requires all shelters to take in every walk in when the temp dips below freezing. No one can be denied and if space runs out the district will open reserved emergency space in other public buildings. Shelter reps and other concerned residents do regular sweeps in the evenings and transport any homeless willing to go to the shelters. There is also a hypothermia hotline to report folks you see in the cold. Result: the only people remaining on the streets are those who actively refuse to go to the shelter or walk away from them. And in those cases the caring are left to only drape them with wool blankets and move on. Refusing shelter when it’…

Mr. X

“You can’t save the world Jenni”. This is what Jon said to me recently when I told him my offer to Mr. X was rebuffed. Mr. X is currently sleeping his nights at the Manassas VRE station, in the waiting lobby. A buffer from the cold, the lobby is perhaps 50-55 degrees. The outside temps are in the low to mid 20s this week. I met Mr. x last week while I lulled about waiting for the 5:50am train to DC for work. He sat on one of the benches staring straight ahead. We exchanged a friendly hello and a smile. I saw him again the next morning but he was slumped over sound asleep and I didn’t want to disturb him. When I got to work that morning I called our church. “What can we do for him?”, I asked. “Is there a shelter I can take him to?” Answer: no. There is only one shelter in Manassas and it’s over capacity and not accepting new walk-ins. Our church used to put the homeless up in hotels but after a few got destructive the local hotels barred the practice. I was certainly hesitant to bring …

Ruining Children

(written on Sat 12/18/10)Today I felt rude and stabby as I waited for my shuttle bus outside MCO (Orlando airport). 30 minute wait. Argh. Maybe it was the wait that was agitating me most, maybe it was the dreary rain or maybe it was just leftover bitterness from my brush with the older woman at DCA this morning who was extremely rude to me while we waited for our plane. I should have confronted her perhaps. In any case I was cranky. And then, as it typical, my inner voice reminds me it is my civic and spiritual duty to be kind to others even when I don’t feel like it. Manners are a simple expression of love for others. Suddenly with this thought I am pulled back to the time I explained this concept of love-as-demonstrated-through-manners to a particularly unruly child at church once. A child with a difficult home life who had likely never seen good manners modeled for him at home. Now I panicked – had I, in that moment, been the stranger who confirmed for him with one casual sentence …

Christmas is Around the Corner

First there was the season of advent, and soon the season of Christmas will be here. Joy to the world!
Although the secular market is ready to put the holiday away after the capitalist consumption has culminated in unwrapped presents on the 25th, the holiday traditionally lasts for a much longer period of celebration. This year our household will celebrate the full 12 days of Christmas (begins on Christmas day and is capped with the epiphany). I encourage you and yours to do the same and keep the focus on Christ our savior. This will be a time of shared dinners with friends for me and little ways to make each of the 12 days memorable. Perhaps a party as well.

Swiss Chard and Parsnip Soup

Adapted from a recipe of the same name published in Oxygen Magazine in June 2010. My version adds white wine, spices and a bit of butter. Made this for dinner last night and it was fabulous. A really good way to sneak in greens for husbands/kids who are anti-veggie. Over 100% of vitamin A and over 600% of vitamin K. Fantastic!2 T olive oil1 large onion, chopped2 cloves garlic, minced1/2 cup white wine2 T butter3 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced4 cups chicken stock1 bunch Swiss chard, rinsed, stems trimmed, chopped2 T balsamic vinegar1/2 cup skim milk1 tsp caraway seed1/2 tsp ground celery seedsea salt and pepper to taste1. Salt the onions and saute them in olive oil over medium heat until soft. Remember to heat the pan first, then add the oil, then add the onions once the oil is hot.2. Add garlic and parsnips and saute for 5 minutes or until parsnips are golden. Add wine and cook until most of wine is evaporated. Add butter.3. Add stock then bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer f…

Delta Business Elite Menu Review ATL-MUC

I really enjoyed the service and menu offered on our recent Delta flight from ATL- MUC. We were booked in the Business Elite cabin. Our flight attendant was this lovely woman (Annie) from somewhere down south in the States with a smooth motherly voice; should I ever fall ill I’d love to have her by my side to ease the agony. People have often complained about how awful airline food is but I’ve never had a bad meal yet on any airline, even in coach (tip: always go for pasta or seafood in coach). For our dinner the starter was presented as follows: seared tuna medallions aside roasted red peppers and goat cheese with a seaweed edame salad. It doesn’t read in print as appetizing as it tasted (it was delicious!). A simple green salad followed for the second course. I chose a fruity white wine which was promoted as “no oak” to pair with my appetizer and salad and I really enjoyed it: Boulder Bank Savignon Blanc 2008. (While I’ve never loved wine for it’s own sake, I have always loved good …

Dateline: November 21, 2010 2pm

Here’s another thing that annoys me: Pittsburgh. We took off for our European trip from PIT this morning b/c Delta is offering double MQM promo for all flights out of PIT. We drove into downtown Pittsburgh last night from VA and encountered a crowd of 20+ people milling about on the sidewalk in front of a bar that was about to open for the evening. They were almost all wearing Steeler jerseys (Steelers are the PIT football team). Must be a game tonight I thought. We walked a few more blocks, passing more Steeler attired fans. Into our restaurant for the evening – Fat Head’s. I saw Steeler scarves, Steeler hats, Steeler pins, Steeler t-shirts, Steeler sweatshirts, Steeler jackets. I saw Steeler earrings and even a Steeler tattoo! Middle aged men, kids, senior citizens, dogs, all dressed to support the team. Now, the shocking fact: THERE WAS NO STEELER GAME. Turns out this is just regular evening wear for 3/4 of Pittsburg residents. I found it ridiculous. Ridiculous! Then I spotted the …

Dateline: November 21, 2010 1pm

I’m terribly annoyed with myself this afternoon. I’ve just purchased a trendy (read: overpriced) Moleskin brand notebook at the Cincinnati airport because I could not quickly find any simple and cheap alternatives before we had to board our flight. I feel the fool for trading in twelve quality dollars for what should be a $1.29 notebook if I were buying it at any standard office supply store. The ridiculous pricing of these notebooks is not lost on the author of the cheeky “Stuff White People Like” franchise (which mostly pokes fun at middle class Anglos). He describes the enduring hipster affinity for them among the rest of the nonsensical trends of our culture. To read the description of the notebook listed on the promo sheet provided with the purchase you’d expect that writing in a Moleskin will elevate you to a higher spiritual plane. Pffft.I wish I’d remembered to bring a notebook from home and then I’d not be faced with this choice of no notebook versus overpriced notebook. But …

High Self Esteem Versus Healthy Self Esteem

Coming as a surprise to many education administrators and counselors who are tasked with shaping our children within the school setting and preparing them for adult responsibilities, studies are now out showing that promoting high self esteem as a cure-all has been a lot of baloney.  The experiment has failed to elicit the changes promised and instead has created a worse problem: narcissism on grand scale (across an entire generation; maybe even two).  Turns out an unrestrained sense of self-worth is pretty dangerous. One of the psychologist bloggers on the political right that I follow has provided interesting insights on the studies; on narcissism; and on the risks of raising children with superegos (dictator training 101) or, at the other extreme - with such a deep sense of worthlessness paired with idealized view of others that they’re willing to sign up for enslavement to the state or jihad crusades. Her essay is here: http://drsanity.blogspot.com/2007/02/narcissism-and-self-este…

Human Rights

Regardless of one's political slant, there is a bit of logic askew to deem education or healthcare a human right. Here's why. In order for something to be a right- a fundamental human right that others cannot take away from you, it cannot involve forcing someone else to do an action. It *can* involve preventing someone from doing something (like killing you; the recognized right to life for example prevents people from killing you without punishment) but it can't compel others to do something otherwise you are stomping on *their* rights to abstain from that activity. The problem with making a good or service that cost $$$ a right means that someone has to pay for it. And, in theory, you cannot force people to work. If you cannot force people to work (that would be against their human rights i.e. forced labor) then you have two problems- one you cannot force someone to teach others or force another to write the curriculum and two you cannot force the general population to w…

This and That: fourth qtr 2010 edition

In September I penned a lengthy update providing a general overview of the happenings in our family. Here we are in the last quarter of the year and there have been a lot of new events since that post. Thus begins a new blog tradition: quarterly updates, filed under ‘This and That’. WorkIn September, I put in my notice at my federal contracting job to coincide with the end of the contract. I had lined up a new job with another contractor – SAS admin work again (yay) for a different agency than the one I’ve been working with the past 4 years.  Regardless of whether my previous employer would win the follow on contract or not, I was ready to move on. My decision was validated when it was announced at the end of September that a competing company had won the follow on. I patted myself on the back for being prepared with a new job and approximately 10 seconds later it (the new job) evaporated as they too lost their contract that I was to work on. Oops. So it was back to job hunting. I mad…

Today is All Saints Day

All Saints Day is a rather nuanced holiday for Christians, depending on your global location and denomination. Eastern Christians celebrate the holiday during an entirely different season of the year so we will leave them to that. Western Christians join together to celebrate it on or near today but each denomination has a different understanding of just what “it” is. Traditionally, most Catholics hold up the day in honor of dead saints who have achieved beautification (completed the process of becoming a saint by the church’s definition, which includes performing miracles from beyond the grave, etc. Incidentally they hold up tomorrow as All Soul’s Day to celebrate dead saints who have not achieved beautification yet). Some Catholics hold up the day to honor all dead Catholics who are in heaven (and reserve tomorrow for the dead in purgatory). Because the definition of ‘saint’ in the Protestant denominations is generally widened to all Christians, the only variations between protestan…

Book Review: Random Magic

Publisher: Beach BooksAuthor: Sasha SorenIn this novel, Ms. Soren weaves a tale of adventure from the threads of common cultural references (Alice in Wonderland, book jumping, a bit of Harry Potteresque magic, etc). Alice in Wonderland has gone missing and Professor Random has appointed one of his students to find her. Along the way mischief and mayhem ensue. Eventually everything is resolved and wrapped up satisfyingly in the end.
Random Magic is available on Amazon.comThe plot is detailed, inventive and interesting. Combined with Ms. Soren's precision in utilizing adjectives and adverbs in nearly every sentence it would do well as the foundation for a witty screenplay. However, while professional actors can benefit from the abundance of adverbs and likewise set designers will be right on track with the numerous adjectives, the constant barrage of descriptions tires the novel reader. Likewise, the subtle British humor, innuendos, and doublespeak would play out beautifully on s…

Pressing On

It's been several weeks since I've posted about my couch to 5k progress. I have been on the mat so to speak wrestling with the program. It took me 6 tries to nail w5d3 and that was my hardest goal to accomplish in terms of number of tries up to that point. On to week 6, I switched from the time goals to the distance goals so that I could master a 5k by graduation. D1 and D2 of W6 went by smoothly but it took 7 tries to succeed at D3. Seven tries! The distance goal was 2.25 miles and took me approx 28 minutes of running. Still, I refused to give up and I faced each session with a new dose of determination. It never occurred to me to consider quitting.
Then....then I went out to tackle W7d1 (2.5 miles) and failed spectacularly. I cramped up before even a mile. I was going backward in progress! So I tried again and made it just 1.5 miles. And again going 2 miles. Just the week before I'd done 2.25 miles and now it was a struggle to even get to 2! What was going on?! I was frus…

Feeling Discouraged

Today I am feeling very discouraged about my personality. I’ve always been a bit ‘different’. This difference is not just some imagined phenomenon wrought out of an emotional ‘nobody gets me’ teenage angst. It’s a well documented set of traits objectively observable by others around me. My husband told me while dating that it was my sincere and open/vulnerable kindness (a kind of sweet naivety in his words)  that drew him to me as he found it to be unusual. Friends often tell me I’m quite different than most others. According to Myers-Briggs testing I am an ENFP, which is less than 8% of the population. ENFP summary: I wear my heart on my sleeve; I’m very passionate about things that spark my interest (and very unmotivated to tackle things that don’t); I have the strongest need to be liked/loved out of any of the personality types; I have a directed sense of purpose and require that my relationships and job work toward that purpose in order to feel ok with life; I am intelligent; I am…

National Novel Writing Month and Life Decisions

This year I have decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The annual event occurs in November and the objective is to write a fiction work consisting of at least 50,000 words within the month. I have begun to brainstorm plot constructs and thinking that it’s best to start from a base of ‘what-you-know’ I have decided to write about a woman’s life that followed the alternative path to mine. Then I got stuck trying to decide where to veer my character’s life off the course of mine. To make the decision easier, I sat down and mapped out (in decision tree form) all the major life decision points I’ve gone through so I could play with alternative choices.  While I’m sure there is truth to the claim that even the tiniest inconsequential decision can alter our lives irreversibly, I wanted to focus on the major choose-your-own-adventure moments.Here is my tree. Here are over 30 decisions I made which changed my life. When I look back over these decisions I have some…

Breaking the Cycle of Misery

It breaks my heart the way the enemies of God are able to leverage the little agonies and injustices inflicted by the spiritually broken to perpetuate the brokenness over generations of a family. Look at such a situation from the outside and it seems helpless but I know that with God nothing is impossible. God is stronger than any of his enemies and he can break the inheritance of brokenness within us. I pray frequently that God will affect this miracle in myself.

In Flight Philosophy

There is something deep and philosophical about flying above the clouds. As we cross over oceans, we have a chance for meaningful fellowship between ourselves, our God and his sky. Just like the plane hurling forward, our lives advance in an irreversible march toward our final destination. ‘Trapped’ in the modern metal cabin we are given the chance to reflect on what we really value. And when we eventually land halfway across the world and spend time in the local culture we realize (if we’re lucky) that our travel has broken through many of the artificial constructs of who “we” are (versus “them”) and shown us that we are all fundamentally people.

Book Review: Naomi and Her Daughters

Publisher: ZondervanAuthor: Walter Wangerin Jr.Many Christian readers are already  familiar with the story of Naomi and Ruth. It's often touted as one of the most beautiful stories of friendship in the bible. The sad recounting of the Levite who gives over his wife to the sex crazed mob in the book of Judges to protect himself is also known to most readers although structurally these story lines are presented as unrelated in scripture. Wangerin weaves them together brilliantly in ‘Naomi and her Daughters’, providing a back story of events in Naomi's life that propel her and Ruth together on a journey to Bethlehem. Throughout the novel, Wangerin uses an italicized typeface whenever he directly quotes the bible. This is helpful for the reader to discern Wangerin's beautiful fictionalized embellishments from what's been lifted out of the Word of God "as-is". Fictionalized accounts of historical events prove justice to their story when they draw interest so sever…

Purpose Statement

Have you ever crafted a mission or purpose statement for an organization? Have you reflected on the purpose of your life and set about to craft a personal mission statement?I have been keeping a personal goal journal since 1999 (when I was 22), which I call my 'Life Project Book'. I record all my goals in it and track my progress in achieving them. I felt that I had explicitly established a partnership with God at that time whereby I agreed to thoughtfully detail a mission statement that was scripturally based, construct goals following from that statement and then pray over my goals. For his part he would provide guidance, direction, and connection+correction to mold me toward perfection in him for his glory. I know that he is working to do all of these things in me because there are numerous scripture references that state so. Originally when I began the journal in 1999 I thought that developing my character was the single most important accomplishment I could effect in orde…

Why I Don’t Like Abstract Art

Today while meandering with my husband through the Norman Rockwell temporary exhibit at the American Art Museum (works on loan from the private collections of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas) I realized what I don’t like about modern art: it lacks a storyline. Artists such as Rockwell, Monet and many of my favorite Flemish artists are masterful storytellers and through their art they craft amazingly rich tales in a single frame. Modern abstract art instead typically attempts to convey an emotion [or several] or a philosophical/political statement. Frankly, I’d rather be pulled into a story than a statement. Another powerful realization that came to me this afternoon is how much of an impact American art has the world over. One of the visitors to the exhibit signed the guestbook and provided his personal testimony to Norman Rockwell: as a child growing up in poverty in Columbia he glimpsed the bright and beautiful America that Rockwell depicted in the Saturday Morning Post and knew h…

Workout Schedule for Autumn 2010

CardioFlexibilityStrengthMonRun--------------------------------------TueKickboxing
or
Swim
or
Power Step--------------------------------------WedRunPilates (week A)Weight Machines
(week B)Thu--REST--Yoga (week B)Weight Machines
(week A)FriRun--------------------------------------SatZumba
or
Spin
or
Bike Ride--------------------------------------SunRun
or
Swim-------------------Weight Machines

Working the C25K Program: Tips

Consolidating these here for the many people that have asked my advice for going from couch potato to runner on the C25k program:1. Make sure you have decent running shoes. Other equipment that I have AND LOVE: wicking socks [asics], running skirts to look good while running and prevent chafing or riding up [skirtsports.com], wicking sports bra and tops [any sports store], garmin fr60 watch with heart rate monitor and shoe pod [the only way to objectively measure gains in cardio fitness- as you move through the program your resting hr should go down, your ability to stay below 170bpm during cardio should increase, your return to resting hr after workout should quicken, etc. also tracks mileage, pace, time, etc. you can buy on amazon.com]
2. Make sure your form is anti-injury: midfoot landing [versus heel strike] and try not to push off with your feet so much as lift them up using your leg muscles for each stride.
3. Make sure you stretch stretch stretch before each run. I do 10 m…

This and That

From Zechariah Chapter 1, verse 4: ‘Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Return to me,' declares the LORD Almighty, 'and I will return to you,' says the LORD Almighty.’
I read this verse last night (I’m making my way through Zechariah) and it really jumped right off the page at me. After everything God’s people had done to each other and to him he extended this invitation. They murdered, they blasphemed, they lied, they cheated, they worshipped idols and turned their backs on God stubbornly. And yet, God wanted them to know it was as simply as turning back to him and he would respond with love. It’s the most beautiful love story.
Aside from reading scripture verses that get me emotional, I’ve been filling my time as of late with work, exercise, and trying to manage my very hectic to-do list.
The government contract of my primary employer’s ends at the conclusion of this month, so there is a lot of tasks to be completed related to that, esp…

My First 5k Race

This morning my husband and I both ran our first 5k race together. (Technically he ran a race or two as a kid but that was a long time ago). With regard to the c25k program, I am currently on week 6, able to run 2 miles with a 3 minute break in between, or able to run 1.75 miles straight through.We got to the race location and I had a bit of anxiety that I wasn’t expecting. Before arriving, I just assumed it would be like any other run session; I didn’t know I was going to feel jittery and nervous about the race. I hadn’t seen anyone write about that before in the running communities (maybe it’s unique to me then?). The net effect was that my heart rate was up to 125bpm before I ever started running!  (Normal resting hr is 74 for me). My second surprise was the pace at which everyone took off from the starting line. From reviewing previous year’s race results I *knew* I would not be the slowest in the pack, but when I started off with everyone else and saw my Garmin was reporting my s…