Book Reading and Avoiding Laundry For Dummies: 101

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I’m sure I am not the only one who starts a few books at a time…doesn’t your mind get tired of reading just one book?  Wouldn’t you rather be bombarded with the inner workings of a few authors, and enjoy the juxtaposition of worlds, finding common themes between them and further relating to the layers and layers of your onion mind? I love this unraveling of layers, slowly exposing and rebuilding myself with every turn of the page.  It is truly delightful.

Like a girl in every port, I have a book in every room.  

 

So here are the few ports I’m visiting now:

 

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The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out  

                “Jesus says the kingdom of His Father is not a subdivision for the self-righteous nor for                   those who feel they possess the state secret of salvation.  The kingdom is not an                               exclusive, well-trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live there.  No, it                       is for a larger, homelier, less self-conscious caste of people who understand they are                     sinners because they have experienced the yaw and pitch of moral struggle.”

I got this book around 10 years ago, and I flipped through it then; but I never finished it.  At the time I was deeply immersed with Donald Miller‘s writing, and that was where I was at spiritually during the time.

Right now, I’m definitely in a growth period…but not in a “Joyce Meyer” devotional kind of growth.  This is a much more “Rich Mullins,” and “Brennan Manning” growth.  This is when I am sitting in a garden with barefeet, digging my toes in the dirt and picking grass with my green, stained fingers, having a quiet discussion with God and trying to figure things out, kind of growth. My body is rejecting cliche phrases, and locking in on things that I can chew on:

                  “When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes.  I believe and I doubt, I hope                       and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty                               about not feeling guilty.  I am trusting and suspicious.  I am honest and I still play                           games.  Aristotle said I am a rational animal: I say I am an angel with an incredible                       capacity for beer.”

I wish I could thank Brennan for writing this, but unfortunately his time here has passed.  I am so grateful he took the time to scribble the painful throes we wrestle with in our lives, though.  It can be hard to find reality when you are living in a well-irrigated desert, and the illusion of green grass lays on top of the barren ground underneath.  Sometimes it’s nice to help someone pull the sod up, and finally appreciate the beauty of life in the desert, however small or prickly it may be.

 

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Finding God in the Bible: What Crazy Prophets, Fickle Followers and Dangerous Outlaws Reveal about Friendship with God

This is another book that speaks from a different perspective…the perspective of the creative artist.

Artists have it bad, because we see everything from a different angle.  We get distracted on Sundays because of the way the light is shining on the curtains.  We find it interesting how the Pastor uses different words than we do, and spend time writing down these different words on index cards during the sermon, rather than listening to the sermon.  Artists are going to argue and fight and roll their eyes over really basic things: like the use of the color beige.

So to throw theology at them is like throwing paint onto oil.  You might get some of it to stick, but it’s still going to be just colorful oil in the end.

You might be able to change the color of the walls in a church, but you aren’t going to be able to change the color of an artist.  They’re stubborn, and they’re opinionated…and most of the time they’re repressing the daylights out of the nonsense that is engrossing their mental energy.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this book because it is a relief to read someone with the same ridiculous ideas interwoven with thought-provoking theology:

    “Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve wondered what God looks like.  At first I figured He was just     like a puff of smoke, since He was a “spirit” and didn’t have flesh and blood like me, but               then I remembered reading in Genesis that He decided to make man in His “image,”                       whatever that meant…Maybe it’s just my odd mind at work, but if, by some chance, we               aren’t the only ones He created, and out there in the vastness of the universe is another life      form, another planet and another people He is trying to have relationship with, would He         have created them in His image as well, or would He have thought about throwing a curve       ball, spicing things up a bit?  These are the things I ponder, and they are probably the                   stupidest things I could spend my time pondering.”

And that is why I am reading this book.

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Well, the kids are reading this for a Literature class, so naturally I have to read it with them.

Naturally.

The funny thing is, since I haven’t read it in so long, I had forgotten how very long Austen’s sentences are.

So very, very long.

The sentences Austen wrote were as long as the wandering, speckled verdant highlands road in late spring, well after the last toilsome, precipitate showers pelted the intemperate soil in such a way as to wonder if Miss Lucas’ afternoon parlor chatter may have summoned the impenetrable riot of showers and clatter of thunder, in order to bequeath a polite farewell to her monologue; which may have, in fact, allowed the younger ladies leisure to take a sip of their tea without the uncertain moments when they felt the very requisition of their eyebrows to raise, in so much as to suggest that they were, indeed, following along with the story all along.

I shall look forward to returning to my stomping grounds with the Bronte sisters, who made much more sense, with clearer grammar, and outside of drawing rooms.  That is the biggest difference that I see: Austen’s settings were always inside.  The Bronte sisters wrote stories which involved travel.  I enjoy the Brontes’s world a little more, for that reason.  Less sitting, more moving.

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Hello Kitty Is A Girl, And So Is The Brave Little Toaster…

I totally can’t think at all when I am in pain.

I haven’t just had this dense, chilled mercury brain-fog all week because of pain: I have had an entire body fog.  I haven’t been able to move much, sit much, or do much without the express aid of Motrin.  My “give a care” meter for decisions has also been on the low side: macaroni for dinner for the kids?  Yep. And I am positive every step of my “low carb diet” plan has been foiled, burned and tossed into the nebula of gluten free pizza.

On the plus side, I’m finally coming out of it!  FINALLY.  I am just so done with this.

So now I have enough brain power to feel guilty for the gluten free pizza again.

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You need to buy more vegetables, missy.

Anyway, the real reason why I am back ENFORCE is because the earth stopped spinning for a second:

Sanrio declared that Hello Kitty wasn’t a cat.

Which is stupid, but they said it: “I was corrected — very firmly,” she (University of Hawaii anthropologist Christine R. Yano) told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it’s called Charmmy Kitty.”

This didn’t shake the foundations of reality for me.  She looks like a cat. She has whiskers. She has cat ears. She has a cute little cat nose.  Her friends are penguins and frogs.

Oh yeah, and her name is “Kitty.”

So this stupid idea that she isn’t a cat is…stupid.  Even though Sanrio said she isn’t a cat because she has a pet cat.  Wanna see a paradox?

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Guess who is a dog with a pet dog.  I rest my case.

So, Hello Kitty not being a cat didn’t rock my world…probably because I rejected it entirely.  But “The Brave Little Toaster” bombshell is still killin’ me:

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The Backstory On This:  Reddit does AMAs every day (which is “Ask Me Anything,” and it’s an open forum for questions…it’s very awesome), and some are really interesting. The top scoring AMAs can be seen here, and they feature people like Barack Obama, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye and LeVar Burton (to name a few, but there are many).

But there was one day that Jerry Rees did an AMA, and people just went nuts.  Everyone loves “The Brave Little Toaster,” and people came out of the woodwork to talk to Mr. Rees.

The thing is, he dropped this bombshell that The Toaster was a girl…and no one knew.  I didn’t even know, and I have seen that movie (and cried) many times.  The rest of the thread was filled with awestruck fans, having to reevaluate one of their childhood heroes.

The Brave Little Toaster is a girl.  

That, my friends, is a bombshell.

Hello Kitty isn’t a cat?  Is not a bombshell.  It’s stupid.  She’s a cat.

Chapters 6-9

BKB2DC / Television - Pride and Prejudice

Chapter 6: Progression

What has “progressed” during this chapter?

Why has she come to Wildfell Hall? (as a refuge)

What views of marriage does his mother express, and how are these contrasted with those he holds? (78) Why do you think the author includes this interchange?

On what grounds does Mrs. Markham suggest that Helen would make an unacceptable daughter-in-law?

Chapter 7 The Excursion

What does Gilbert observe during the group excursion? (Helen’s seriousness at painting, dislike of conversation while painting, willingness to accede to his suggestions)

How have his emotions toward Eliza changed?

Chapter 8: The Present
What are some implications of the gift Gilbert gives to Helen? How does she receive it, and how does he react to her reluctance?

Chapter 9: A Snake in the Grass

What is referred to in the title? What scandal is suggested by Eliza?

Do her suspicions seem likely? What emotions do they prompt in Gilbert? (jealousy) What hostile interchange occurs between him and Mrs. Graham’s landlord Lawrence?

 

 

(using external notes for this week: http://www.uiowa.edu/~boosf/questions/brontetenant.html)

Boosting Your Serotonin Levels Through Homeschooling

This semester we are starting a Literature class with the kids.

Can I get an AMEN!!

Yeah, so this is my territory and I am super stoked.  Bonus: the first novel we are reading is none other than Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”  I’ll just be in a delirium of heaven over here.

The problem is, the kids in the Lit class are in 4th and 5th grade, and Jane Austen is a little tough for this age.  We’ve been reading the first few chapters a few times, and it just wasn’t getting through.  Reading it alone, reading it out loud, reading it together.  There are a lot of characters, a lot of Bennets, a few Bingley’s, and a slew of gigantic, 18th century words like, “ingenious suppositions, and distant surmises;” or “I honour your circumspection. A fortnight’s acquaintance is certainly very little. One cannot know what a man really is by the end of a fortnight.”  I mean, we are getting through it…but it’s taking a while.

So I had this plan.

Let’s break this book down.  We’ll read 5 chapters, and then we will watch the 1995 BBC version of “Pride and Prejudice,” which is neatly broken up into 6 parts, so we can watch only what we have read.  So we started this today.

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Helllooooo Mr. Darcy

And I am dead serious when I say that the whole time we were watching Episode 1, the kids were excitedly saying, “Oh, that’s Mrs. Bennet!  And that’s why she is foolish!  I didn’t understand why she was foolish, but that makes sense now.”  They watched what they read, and they saw the characters, and they were able to put faces to the names.

IT. WAS. AWESOME.  The kids were excited about the ball, and excited about seeing the characters, and they were excited about the story.  We really have been working on reading these first 5 chapters for a few days now, and when I finally made the breakthrough with them…I was overcome with pride.  Big, fat, warm squishy happy pride.  We did it.

Now, the infamous Simon Sinek wrote a book about the release of serotonin as a result of these moments.  He actually broke down the features of quite a few endorphins in his book:

 

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(you can buy it here…but I would suggest the eBook.  There are videos in it, which are really nice)

I am very interested in what he has to say about this balance of endorphins in our life.  Stress is good…it pushes us to innovate.  Goals are good…they get us to create.  Serotonin is good…it gives us a satisfaction that drives us forward.  But how do you balance it all?

I found a great summary on GirlFriendCircles.com

“Sinek relied on human biology to illustrate what motivates behavior, saying basically that our actions boil down to the good feelings we get from four key chemicals in our body: dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin.  When we trigger any of these chemicals in our bodies, we get a shot of something euphoric whether it’s extra energy, joy, calm, or pride.   Here’s how we receive those good feelings:

  1. Dopamine is the result of accomplishing goals, it’s designed to help us find what we’re looking for. Every time we see a finish line, cross something off our to-do list, or see movement toward our goals– we get that shot of dopamine!
  2. Endorphins mask our physical pain and help us keep pushing ourselves to where we need to be. For most of us who live more sedentary and safe lives, our most common form of endorphins come from exercise. If you’ve ever had a “runner’s high”– you know this feeling.
  3. Oxytocin is one I talk about a lot in connection with our friendships as it reinforces bonds, builds trust, and relieves stress.  We get this from touch, meaningful conversation, breast-feeding, and when we see/experience acts of human generosity.
  4. Serotonin happens in moments of pride, recognition, and status. When we receive our diploma on stage, say “I do” in front of friends and family, or are the recipients of a meaningful award– we get that shot of serotonin that boosts our joy.

Now, what I thought was super fascinating is that the first two chemicals you can get all by yourself.  You need no one else present to get your dopamine from crossing something off your to-do list or to exercise and feel the endorphins.  Sinek called these “selfish” hormones.

The latter two–oxytocin and serotonin– are “unselfish” chemicals since we need someone else present in order to receive the rewards that our body wants to give us.  He gave the example of someone who could just receive an email telling them that enough credits had been accomplished and the bill paid so therefore they earned their diploma– and that person would have most certainly received a shot of dopamine for reaching their goal.  But it’s when that person dons their cap and gown and walks in front of everyone that the serotonin is released.  We need an “audience”– someone to cheer for us or witness our success– to give us that sense of pride and recognition.  And the best part of these unselfish chemicals?  BOTH people get the shot.  Not just the graduate on stage, but also the teachers who taught that student, the family that supported them, and their friends who did it with them.  Oxytocin and serotonin need others present to initiate them, but they also benefit all parties.”

 

(I was trying to find Simon’s list of these 4, but GirlFriendCircles.com did such a great job summarizing it, I would love to give her credit for what she said!! http://www.girlfriendcircles.com/blog/index.php/2013/07/friendships-stress-and-hormones-simon-sinek/)

Correspondence With Costa Rica: Letters From Anna

Okay, so I am super excited about this: An extremely good friend of mine and her husband (also an extremely good friend) are moving to Costa Rica!  

This is an excellent opportunity to learn what it is like to be an American living in Costa Rica.  I want to hear about what they experience, what they eat, what they drink, who they see, how hard or easy it is to transition between cultures.  After you grow up on horses in Colorado, get a degree in Political Science and marry an entrepreneur in California who looks like Thor, how do you start a new home in a foreign, tropical country?  

I want to know it all, and I would love to share this with you guys  🙂  

So, here is Anna’s first letter: The Few Weeks Before They Leave!

 photo 3Anna & Dreutch 

Tamarah,

We have only a few weeks until we move to Costa Rica. Yikes! It has not truly hit me yet that we are leaving. I am excited and nervous at the same time.

In regards to planning: we decided that we could either plan for the entire year before we moved or wait until 3 months before and work like mad to be ready in time. We chose the latter. We recently coined the term in our house “The wall of inevitability” in reference to the move date. When I start to panic that we won’t be ready or that I will forget something we need, I try to remember that I only technically need our passports and money. So if I forgot to purchase the snake-bite kit, water purifier, carabineers, or other misc. “Costa Rica items” or if per chance they don’t fit, it will not be the end of the world.

We are moving with 2 suitcases and a carry-on for each person. In case your brain just exploded like mine did at first– our apartment there will be fully furnished. So it’s not quite that crazy. Ya! I love the freedom of only being responsible for 100 lbs of stuff!  I have been lauding the merits of minimalism for months. Yet it has been a bit of a challenge to clear the nonessentials. I discovered that I struggle the most to let go of free stuff. My mom has generously given me an abundance of clothes that she no longer would wear or that don’t fit (and I have been accumulating them for the past 8 years) For obvious reasons, they were free and they were from my mom! It didn’t take me long to decide that at this point, the ones I don’t wear, I shouldn’t keep “just in case”.  Here’s to hoping someone else will enjoy them!

Then there are the clothes that I don’t fit into anymore, but I keep around because I want to fit into them. I am almost ashamed to admit I put a decent number of shorts into storage that I can’t even wear right now. You know, for magical future me that will be able to wear them. I like to consider myself an optimist. Or maybe I should just imagine myself as Gollum on this issue… “my precious pants that are 4 sizes too small…”

I know, I know, let it go….

A few things I will miss from the US.
1.     Friends and family
2.     Cheddar cheese, steak, asparagus, peaches, strawberries
3.     Toffee nut latte – Starbucks
4.     Boots for blustery fall weather
5.     My amazing spin instructor and her crazy music.
6.     Our new-ish church that we love!

Excited for
1.     Meeting new people and living near friends.
2.     Discovering new amazing and fun foods and hobbies!
a.     Pineapple, manga, sashimi straight from the ocean
b.     Spear fishing
c.      New adventures!

“Toodle-oo!”

Anna

P.S. (Try using “Toodle-oo” on guys, sometimes they will say it back to you before they process that it sounds silly. Which makes me chuckle (inside)).   Except when Duke Ellington does it. Then its magic.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_Y0cJ-aEbY

Blogging With Kids

 Most of the time when I am writing, it looks like this.

 

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But I get interrupted often.


Photo on 8-20-14 at 11.54 AM Photo on 8-20-14 at 11.54 AM #2By very cute people who sit on me.

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A lot of the time, I can’t even see my laptop.


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But I know they won’t lay on me forever.  

One day they will be too old to cuddle with Mom.

 

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So, for now, I get to smile with them and hug them while I can,

and blog when my hands are free.

 

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Coloring Inside The Lines

This morning I was just about to start mopping, for obvious reasons, when I found a square out of place:

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This was from my very artistic 4 year old.  She has been hiding crayons in her pockets forever so she could color her crib (when she was in a crib), and the walls surrounding her crib, in peace.  I don’t want to overreact and say her need to color on the house is an epidemic, but we’ll just say it’s a bit of a habit.  One that I thought we had grown out of, since there hasn’t been a crayon outbreak lately.

But armed with new crayons, to her, this particular square of kitchen needed to be filled.  Apparently.

Now, I’ve already talked with her about drawing on the house (again), and I imagine that since we just got fresh crayons for the school room, this won’t be the last time I see something on the house colored.  And today won’t be the last time I talk to her about not drawing on the house.

But here’s the thing: it’s really not that big of a deal.

I’m not too worried about it because I can wash this off.  I was going to mop anyway, and it will come off.  It’s just crayon, and it’s drawn on tile.  Even permanent marker isn’t permanent (nail polish is a little tougher).

But the heart of my daughter is.  And I take that into grave consideration when I scale the discipline with my kids.

There are some things that are inexcusable: lying, betrayal, violence, rage…things of destructive natures.

But drawing on tile is not destructive…it is an instructive moment.  I can teach her why we don’t draw on the house in this moment.  She can get a sponge and help me clean the crayon, so she sees how hard it is to get off.  We can discuss this together, and I can make this moment a learning moment for her.

Honestly, when I saw this, the first thing I thought was, “If you teach your kids to color inside the lines, sometimes we have to also show them where the lines are.”  Because, as you can see, she did color inside the lines very well.

I just need to show her that we color inside the lines on paper.

Because You’ve Been Pining For It – “Tenant of Wildfell Hall”: Chapters 2-5

Monday No-Obligation Book Club Study Questions!

W007!

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Listen, Benedict loves my study questions.  He told me so himself.

Chapter 2: Autumn- a time to plant your winter garden

1) the chapter begins in the fall, which is the best time to begin your winter garden, or to plant
trees. How is this significant to the story, or to the relationship between Gilbert and Mrs.
Graham?
2) Why do you think the men went hunting, as opposed to showing the men at work, at the
pub, etc.?
3) Why is the name and history of “Wildfell” important?
4) How does the description of Wildfell reflect on Mrs.Graham?
5) The opening of gardens and closing of iron gates with her first conversation with Gilbert:
how is this reflective of Mrs.Graham?

Chapter 3: Setting Boundaries

1) mrs. Mark ham and mrs. Graham really get into it in the beginning of this chapter. mrs. Mark
ham states her position as,” But my dear, I call that doting. You should try to suppress such
foolish fondness, as well to save your so from ruin as yourself from ridicule…” “…he should
learn to be ashamed of it (apron strings)Why do you think she feels this way? How does it
reflect the nature of the small, rural community in which she is raising her children?
2) How is mrs. Graham setting boundaries around her home, and her son, in particular? After
her stance on wine is exposed, what do you think is her motive for her boundaries?
3) Old views of parenting vs. new views of parenting?
4) Mrs graham has distinct views on virtuous ness. “Girls are prone to sin, while the nobler sex
there is a natural tendency to goodness, superior fortitude, further developed” “I would not
send a girl unarmed into the world, ignorant of the snares; nor will I guard her, till deprived of
self-respect and self-reliance, she lost the power or the will…” Where do you think she
came up with these ideas? Do you think she is trying to form a cultural rebellion, or is it for
self-preservation?
5) Gilbert admits in the end that, “perhaps I was a little spoiled by my mother and sister.” Why
do you think the author included this?

Chapter 4: Study of Persons

1) The party begins on November 5th. This is a pretty significant date for Britain. Why did the
author plant this date in the story?
2) The party politics were interesting, but familiar. Why is it interesting that the persons at this
party are the same type of persons who we find at parties now, as well?
3) Piano: “there was plenty of skill, but precious little feeling.” Why is it interesting that this
would be important to Gilbert to notice?
4) Why do you think Eliza’s father wanted a moderation of dancing?
5) “As artful a little hussy as anybody need wish to see.” Gilbert’s mother doesn’t like Eliza.
Why not? Do you think this is contradictory to what she claims to espouse as well tempered
people?
6) How does Gilbert respond to his mothers opinions of Eliza?

Chapter 5: Mrs. Graham, exposed

1) Rose and Gilbert visit Wildfell Hall, and first see an easel. Why is this interesting?
2) What is the significance of Fernley Manor?
3) She admits she is under cover. What does this mean?
4) Who do you think the man is who arrived “suddenly”?
5) Who do you think the portrait of the winking man is?) Is it significant that she apologizes? Why?
7) “When a lady condescends to apologize, there is no keeping ones anger.” How is this
important to Gilbert’s relationship with mrs. Graham?

Do Not Poke The Bear

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A phrase of warning used to prevent oneself or others from asking or doing something that might provoke a negative response from someone or something else.
 
Employee 1: “Should I ask the boss for a day off?”
Employee 2: “He just found out his wife left him, so don’t poke the bear.”
 
Or, maybe another way of putting it:
 
Church member1: “I know we have been sitting here with a flock of toddlers for 4 hours, but do you think it is a good idea to spend another hour asking vacuous questions, again, for the millionth time, to make sure people are paying attention to me?”
Church member 2: “No, that is a terrible idea.  The bear over there has already had it with a litany of things this morning, such as saying that certain mental illnesses don’t even exist, and if you even so much as breathe on the bear, it might destroy you.  You might want to save this for after service, with respect for the families with little kids!”
 
What would have been optimal is if the response was this:
Church member 1: “Oh, that is a much better idea.  Thanks for the tip!”
 
Unfortunately, it was not.  And I am doing clean up crew for the mess I made.  
 
Anger and wrath enter the lives of every one of us. But let us learn from Jesus to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath” (James 1:19). Let us also learn that there is a time for righteous indignation. When there are those who stand between God and the true worship that is due Him—whether it be through false doctrine, hypocrisy, or any other vice—let us remember the example of the Lord and “be angry, yet sin not” (Ephesians 4:26).”
 
So, apparently I have reached the boundaries of my patience, and lost it in church yesterday.  Lost. It.  I remember in the film, “Patton,” Gen. George Patton was looking over the grave of a soldier he had just buried and wrote a letter to the soldier’s family.  It was absolutely beautiful, and gets me every time I hear it.  He said something along the lines of, “He was a good man, and had no vice.”  
 
I would love for that to be said of me when I am remembered.  Unfortunately, it isn’t a realistic goal.
 
I certainly don’t have huge, glaring vices like drugs or gambling.  But the vices of hatred and pride are certainly ones I struggle with.  I hate men who are abusive to women.  Even a little bit.  Easy enough, right?  What if no one else has a problem with it?  Hmm. I hate men who make younger women feel very sexually uncomfortable.  Probably something to be angry about, as well.  But he’s “just *name*.”  Okay.  I hate hypocrisy…even though I am a hypocrite and I hate that in myself as well.  Anyone who says they aren’t a hypocrite is naive and blind.  It’s as clear as that.  But some days hypocrisy is tough to listen to.  For hours.  And hours.
 
And don’t even get me started on false teachers in the church.  I’m already in a world of trouble as it is.
 
My prayers, my earnest prayers, for myself are, once again: humility.  Maybe even meekness, if I really want to stretch myself.
 
So, that’s where I am, people.  One giant, cuddly, flawed bear.