Monday, January 25, 2010

The G.S.E... redux

We were sitting in church Sunday-a-week-ago, listening to the sermon. For the second week in a row, the philosopher leaned over and said, "He's talking about the "U" in TULIP." (Now, for those of you who are suddenly worried, no hard drugs or alcohol was involved!) He was talking about the "shorthand" for five-points Calvinism... T.U.L.I.P. Which, if I recall correctly, stands for:

Total depravity
Unconditional election
Limited atonement
Irresistible grace
Perseverance of the saints

Now I don't know if I mentioned it in one of my other Great Sociological Experiment posts, but we are not Five Point Calvinists. And up until recently, the philosopher has remained (mostly) silent during the sermons at the PCA church we've been attending. Sure, there have been the occasional wince and frown, but generally he hasn't been too cranky.

So why the change in the professorial demeanor? The church has a new pastor, and if I'm not imagining things, he's a bit... errr.... more stridently Calvinist. And the philosopher also doesn't agree with our lessons on Romans in Sunday School. Thus he's getting very little out of our Sunday visitations these days. And because I'm fretting about how uncomfortable he looks, I'm not getting much either. A friend laughed and told me we were like the couple in the O'Henry story, The Gift of the Magi. He wants us to go to a big local church so I can make friends, and I want us to go to an Anglican church, even if it's small and an hour away, to preserve his sanity! (We are, if you haven't picked up on it, Anglicans, after all!)

This past Sunday, though, we did head off to a small Anglican church about an hour south of us. (What letter am I on? Church F?) There were about 20 folks there on a stormy morning. They meet in a small historic chapel, and have a wonderful guitarist and a LEM with a fabulous voice. And we got to have communion. ::sigh:: It's been three months since we partook in an Anglican communion (longer than that if you go for a 1928 BCP communion). I so missed saying the Prayer of Humble Access!

So, to all of my far-away friends, please continue to keep us in your prayers. We're still so unsettled, and with possible out-of-state jobs in the offing it's hard to find that internal peace. For now, my Bible verse will remain Isaiah 42:16... "I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Winter's Trail

For my birthday, the philosopher and I went on a hike - a real hike, not a walk in the local park or a stroll around the city lake. It was a glorious day, about 62 degrees and sunny with a brilliant blue sky. Our original plan was to find the Pinhoti parking area near Coleman Lake. We had the directions from the Pinhoti Trail Alliance website, and off we went.

Well, first we packed a lunch - peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, and trail mix - and collected our hiking sticks and backpacks and compass and small first aid kit and Pinhoti trail map and chap stick and .... did I ever tell you I'm married to a Boy Scout, by the way?

Anyway, once we got our gear together, we pulled out our trusty Alabama Atlas and Gazetteer and headed down the road. And over the mountain. And through the woods. And... well, we never saw grandma's house which is a good thing, since she lives in the other direction. We did, finally, find the last leg of the journey to the parking area. We made the turn, and immediately realized that "FS 500" meant "Forest Service Road 500." Which meant unpaved. Which meant muddy. And did I mention we own a Ford Focus? We were supposed to go 2 miles to the trail crossing. We went about a 1/2 mile, and saw up ahead deep ruts in the road, angling uphill. At that moment reality hit us. What the HECK were we doing on a Forest Service road the day after a big rain in a Ford Focus?? The philosopher put the car in reverse, and immediately realized that there wasn't enough room to turn around. So we reversed course, literally, and backed back to the paved road we were on. (Thank you God, for taking care of fools. I promise we will never be so foolish again!)

We consulted our map, and discovered that a bit farther down our lovely, paved county road was an acutal Talladega National Forest trailhead. ::doh:: So sheepishly we drove a couple of miles and parked in a nice, gravelled area. Burns Trailhead. Named for a log cabin built on the site almost 100 years ago by Pink E. Burns. (Yes. Pinky Burns. This is Alabama, remember.)

We also discovered that THIS trailhead was outside the Choccolocco Wildlife Management Area, and since deer hunting season runs until the end of the month we'd be much less likely to be taken for wild game. Bonus!

After donning our boots and trussing up our packs, we headed onto the trail. Our path took us north into the Dugger Mountain Wilderness. It's a very different experience hiking in the winter. Things are quite brown and gray, with little color to brighten the woods. Fallen trees lay scattered like dinosaur bones, and there are graveyards of majestic pines lost to the pine beetle many years ago. Boulders lie partially buried in leaf debris as though hibernating, and you hear very few sounds of wildlife. It is desolate. But it is also beautiful - because the trees have lost their leaves you can see the ridges clearly, and follow the folds of earth that form the bones of the mountain. There are groves of ancient rhododendron, holding tight to their shiny leaves, which throw their splash of green into sharp relief against the barren landscape. You hear the merry sound of a running creek and waterfall in a valley below, and see the sun glint off the water through the tree trunks. Peaceful and quiet - the earth is waiting for spring's rebirth.

And there are signs of recent human activity. Many winter treefalls have blocked the trail, and recently someone has come along and cut and cleared the way for future hikers. Some cuts look so new that I keep expecting to come across a solitary hiker with a saw, working hard on a fallen branch.

We talk of theology and philosophy and Anglican history and liberal arts and the future and other such nonsense, and stop occasionally to marvel at something we spot along the way. Someone listening to our conversation would probably think us completely scattered, as we shift and jump from topic to topic followed by long spaces of comfortable silence as we each ponder our own thoughts.

After three miles we stop for lunch partway up a ridge on a convenient outcrop of rocks, where we are investigated closely by a lizard and a yellowjacket. Then we head home for a hot cup of tea and a hot bath, quite content with our day's adventures.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Evening Horrors

As I've mentioned before, there is a 17-mile-stretch of dark, deserted country road that I travel every day going to and from work. And I've posted on some of the suicidal wildlife I've experienced on my evening sojourns.

But now there's something more sinister afoot. Animals no longer seek to hurl themselves in front of my car (which is good). Instead, they lurk on the edges of the road with their red eyes reflecting wickedly in my headlight beams. And it's not just the deer and the cows, oh no. The smaller creatures are getting in on the act. Raccoons, dogs, cats, possums... they sit and watch as I drive past. Quietly. Like they're waiting for something to ... happen.

I fear for my soul, I tell you. One of these days I'm going to be cruising home, minding my own business and my car will break down. In the dark. In the woods. And the creatures will come.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Snow and Legos

We had some snow last week.

Not much, but enough to close schools and freeze roads and basically force everyone to stay home and entertain themselves. So I pulled out my jumbo box of Legos and decided to create the Smiths' dream house, a 1 1/2 story craftsman bungalow! (Well, ok. We might opt for a different color scheme!)
It may not be a masterpiece like this or this, or even as good as my rendition of Notre Dame Cathedral some years ago (and yes, I even made flying buttresses), but I'm proud of it. And it even has a grill for the philosopher!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy 2010! My resolution for the year...

(Wow - it's been a while since I've posted anything. But maybe that's because I was on vacation and almost never turned on the computer? Naaaaaah.... couldn't've been that!) not to make a resolution! ::grin::

I'm not a big fan of New Year's Resolutions, actually. Mainly because, well, I can never keep them. I'd rather commit to something achievable, and do it with the help, participation, and encouragement of my better half. Last year we started reading through the Bible together every night, and that is a Good Thing we still continue to do.

This year is a bit more nebulous. It's all about Healthier Eating. Now, I call this nebulous because we've been changing our diet slowly for the last few years - really since we joined a CSA farm when we lived in Virginia. When you get local, in-season produce delivered to your home every week, it becomes a motivation to actually EAT it. You don't want to waste the money you've invested in the farm share, and more importantly, the fresh produce is darned tasty!

We've been members of Grow Alabama now for a while, and we feel the same way about this CSA too. (Heck, we haven't bought produce in the grocery store for months!) So that certainly increases the quick access to produce. But we're also big meat eaters. And bread/rice eaters. And I must admit (in my opinion) that chocolate really should be a fifth food group. So this year, I want to increase my good foods, and decrease those things we really like but really shouldn't have.

For those of you who are fan of Good Eats, the host Alton Brown lost a lot of weight over the last year, not by dieting as we understand the term, but reorganizing how he ate. In a recent episode he made some food group lists, which I'll copy here:

- Fruits
- Whole Grains
- Leafy Greens
- Nuts
- Carrots
- Green Tea

3 times a week
- Oily Fish
- Yogurt
- Broccoli
- Sweet Potato
- Avocado

Once a week
- Red meat
- Pasta
- Dessert
- Alcohol

- Fast Food
- Soda
- Processed meals/frozen dinners
- Canned soup
- "Diet" anything

That's pretty basic, and straightforward. I'm pretty good on the "Never" list, because I don't consume the first three anyway. I use canned soup in recipes sometimes, but I'm much more fond of making my own. It's the final one that I have problems with. I'm a diabetic. And I keep sugar-free cookies and such because it keeps me from eating things even worse for me. So I'm not sure how much impact one sugar free cookie or one small piece of sugar free candy a day would be, but I also think that if I cut ALL sweets out completely I'd go 'round the twist and start hurting people. ::heh::

So this year, I think we're going to work towards a more balanced way of eating. Less meat. More fish (the flash-frozen salmon you get at Sams is quite tasty, and easy to cook with). More greens - and hey! - the spring season for dark leafy greens like kale and mustard/turnip greens is right around the corner. More whole grains and fewer processed starches like white bread and white rice. I'm not like Alton, I don't need to lose 50 pounds. (More like five...) But I also want to maintain my healthy-ish weight and help keep my diabetes in control.

So I may write blog posts about foods we discover, or recipes we find especially tasty. (There's this mushroom lentil casserole we made over the holidays that was absolutely fantabulous....!) This isn't going to become a food blog. It will still have a completely random theme of "whatever is on the librarian's mind at the moment", but expect more foodie bits. 8-D

Anyway, to all my friends in blog-land, have a blessed 2010!