Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Tale of Two Marriages: an Introduction

photo by andy.w2008

My summer reading list includes a biography of A. W. Tozer and a biographical novel about Mary Todd Lincoln, and I keep finding myself mentally contrasting their marriages. It would never occur to me to compare the marriages of two such disparate personages except for the fact that their life stories happen to lie side-by-side on my reading table. Strange bedfellows, to be sure, but the juxtaposing of the two marriages elicit some interesting thoughts and questions.

It's lonely at the top. That aphorism seems to hold true even for people who start their climb with a beloved soul mate. Paradoxically, in the case of both A.W. Tozer and Abraham Lincoln, entrance into their destined arenas was granted via their wives. Stepping over the threshold, they went on to live and move and breathe in a world in which their partners seemed locked out. Is it possible to remain soul mates when living in two separate worlds?

I've also wondered whether marital tension actually serves to catapult the man to the top, by forcing him to make a conscious choice about how he spends his lifeblood, about where he channels his energy. Tension creates a climate where the man must define his boundaries and clarify his goals.

It is always instructive to study the lives of great men and women, and to consider where their choices led them, but because my ruminations are lengthy, I've chosen to write them in separate parts. I will recap the stories of the Tozers and the Lincolns in separate posts, and then seek to ask questions and draw some conclusions from there.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Classic for Father's Day

Dad 'n' Brad (My brother) 1961

Small boys become big men through the influence of big men who care about small boys.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Dreaded Question

Nickolas Muray (1892-1965) George Eastman House Collection 1931

"Where are you going to college?" is the inevitable question every highschool grad will be asked, again and again. With a steady gaze and unwavering voice, my daughter has answered, "I'm not going to college."

As if to comfort, some have turned to me and said in a low voice, "Perhaps she'll be ready for college next year."

I don't think so.

And, thank you, but I don't need to be comforted. I am proud of her decision, one that she made prayerfully and carefully.

If not college, then *what*?? I will answer that question with another question, the same one that Melody asked me some time back when she was grappling with the college decision:
"Would it be OK to use my gifts at home and at church?"

The simple answer is "yes." At home she will have a safe refuge plus the one essential she needs as a budding composer: the luxury of time. She will continue under the wise tutelage of her long-time teacher/mentor, an arrangement that simply cannot be improved upon at this time.

At church, Melody has ample opportunity to grow in leadership skills as well as musically. The responsibilities she carries out there would be a challenge to someone twice her age.

Will she stagnate? I think not. Her homeschool education has endowed her with a thirst for knowledge and a love of reading. On her nightstand this very moment you will find a stack of books: The Bible, a medical mystery-thriller, Paradise Lost, Mein Kamf, three holocaust survivor memoirs, and a large tome on WWII. Melody will continue to enjoy the intellectual freedom to study what she wishes, when she wishes.

But what about money? Looking at college from the utilitarian standpoint, I suppose it is possible her financial future may not have the safety net that a college education could supply. But she also will not incur the huge debts that would require the income of a college grad :)

In her own words, "I feel called to the life of faith." Faith WILL be required, because the musical opportunities that carry remuneration are irregular. The sales garnered from her newly released CD are being held in a special account, to be used as seed money for the next project. Ultimately, it is an act of faith to pursue what you love and expect that at some point the abundant rewards will follow, financial provision included.

Lean seasons and challenging stretches will no doubt be a part of her journey. I'm just crazy enough to believe that those experiences, too, will be part and parcel of her ongoing life learning. My hope is that she will gain confidence in her calling and that all of her encounters, both joyful and difficult, will be the means by which the intangible qualities of maturity can blossom.

May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace; may our granaries be full, providing all kinds of produce; may our sheep bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields; may our cattle be heavy with young, suffering no mishap or failure in bearing; may there be no cry of distress in our streets! Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!

~Psalm 144:12-15

One Wild and Precious Life

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

from New and Selected Poems,
Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver

Melody's graduation evening

Friday, June 04, 2010

More Than You Want to Know About Cupcakes....

I opted to serve cupcakes instead of sheet cake at Melody's CD release reception for several reasons. One, they are easier for an amateur to bake and decorate. I started baking about a month in advance, popped the unfrosted cakes in the freezer, and frosted them all at once on the week-end of the big event.
Other advantages:
  • you don't have to mess with cutting the cake
  • no need to enlist an extra hand to serve cake
  • a greater variety of flavors can be offered
  • they are just so darned cute!
There are all kinds of cupcake trees available for purchase, but I ended up with this 3-tiered glass set by Anchor Hocking. It was inexpensive and elegant, and since it can be taken apart, it's versatile as well.

The Cake Mix Doctor is my go-to book for cakes, but for economy & ease I decided to skip the premium ingredients and go for the simplicity of cake mixes. (Duncan Hines makes a great red velvet mix!) The crowning glory was the silky buttercream frosting and I piped it on as artfully as possible using an icing bag and a 1 M decorator's tip. Filling the decorating bag with frosting is easier if you place it in an upright drinking glass like this:

Here is the recipe for the Buttercream Frosting. It was one I found on the web, and tweaked slightly by switching out part of the butter for shortening. I would have used 100% butter if the cupcakes hadn't needed to be transported; the shortening gives the frosting a little more stability to endure warmth and transport. This makes a lot of frosting, one batch can probably frost about 75 cupcakes, depending how thick you lay it on.

Silky Buttercream Frosting

1 lb. butter (4 sticks), unsalted
1 c. (or 1 lg. stick) butter flavored shortening
2 tsp. vanilla extract (clear)
2 tsp. salt
1 Tblsp. corn syrup
2 lb. confectioners sugar, sifted

Blend shortening and butter together well. Add vanilla, salt and corn syrup. Blend well.
Add sugar in small batches, until it is all incorporated. Blend until light and fluffy.

To make chocolate frosting, mix about 1 c. of cocoa in with the sugar before adding to the shortening mixture. Almond extract complements the chocolate.

Life's Poetry

"Too often we see life's prose, but not its poetry."
~Mrs. Charles Cowman

I made gallons of fruit salad for my daughter's graduation reception, and couldn't resist snapping this photo of the grapes drying on the table. I had asked the Lord to enable me to savor this event, and He truly did. We had spent the bulk of our budget on producing the piano CD, which necessitated that I prepare the food buffet myself. Thankfully, I had plenty of help both at home and from our beloved church family!

Transporting Cupcakes

Transporting hundreds of cupcakes on a warm day can be a challenge. I purchased 19-inch cake boxes at Michael's, and inserted cardboard forms that I salvaged from a warehouse grocery store. The forms originally held yogurt, and were just the right size for a single cupcake.

I baked a variety of cupcakes; this picture shows the chocolate but we had red velvet, lemon, and white cupcakes as well. I'm happy to say they arrived in good shape and looked lovely on the table for our daughter's graduation reception.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Cure for Sore Feet

Photo from the Washington Post
Tony Smith, left, takes Brandon Winn, 30 and Brenna Wiebe, 22, of Sterling, Kan., to the Natural History Museum

I am a walker. Last year I walked Washington D.C. for 3 days with my children and sometimes I had tired, but never sore feet. This year was another story. Our first day of travel kept us busy for 21 hours, and we were asked to dress up for our private tour of the capitol. Alas, dress shoes are the wrong thing to be wearing when you are already tired and are going the distance on hard marble floors. I felt hamstrung.

So my kind husband hailed a pedicab for our sightseeing. What fun! Not only was the weather lovely, but we had a friendly young Navy recruit as our driver. Part of the fun of traveling is rubbing shoulders with people like him. The cost? Whatever you'd like to pay him. What a treat to meet a young man who is pleasant, hard working, and willing to trust that his hard work will be generously remunerated.


"June" by John White Alexander 1911 oil on canvas

May is usually the busiest month of the year for me; especially true this year as we celebrated my eldest daughter's graduation and the release of her piano CD. As much as I loved the festivities, I admit to casting a longing gaze at the "June" calendar page. White space! And for me June brings the first roses, the hammock and a glass of lemonade, the closing of homeschool for the season, and the opening of delicious books that I can peruse at leisure. That feeling of being on the precipice of summer is so regally captured in this painting, one of the many visual delights I enjoyed on my recent visit to the National Portrait Gallery. The light filtered through filmy curtains and the counterpoint created between the elegant lady and the flower vase create a scene that invites one to linger. And I did :)