Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Is Self-Sufficiency for the Birds?

It was today at the Abrahamsons'.  Joe and I butchered the last five of our chickens.

When we did the first and second batches of butchering, I was conveniently busy with other things.  The kids were home, so Joe put them to work helping him.

But now almost all our children are in Public Schools.

So today mom got to help.

(I learned that linguistic trick while playing cards with our good friends Alex and Carrie during Joe's seminary years.  "I have to go first?"  I'd ask.  Alex would always reply, "No, Mary, you get to go first.")

So yes, I got to help butcher chickens.

I have written periodically in the past about my desire for self-sufficiency.  And how the older I get, the harder it is to really want to bother.  The grocery store is pretty convenient, isn't it?   I don't really like to try new things anymore.  And I am content and fulfilled already.  I no longer need to prove how tough or strong or bold I am.

But today I learned something new.  I am now tougher and stronger and bolder than I was this morning.

I got to hold the chopping block steady while my husband chopped off the fowl heads. (Yes, the pun is definitely intended.)  By the time we did the last one I wasn't even shutting my eyes, though.

I got to pluck the feathers off the hanging birds.

After the first two birds were done, and we saw how much more quickly it went with mom helping as opposed to the kids, we decided to just forge ahead and finish the job in one sitting. 

After that, I got to be more involved so Joe could carry on handling the plucked birds.  (The gutting and cutting, etc that I am still not tough or strong or bold enough to want to do.)

I got to catch the flopping chicken bodies by the legs.

I got to dip them into the boiling water.

I got to dip them into the cold water.

I got to hang them by the foot from the noose.

And I got to pluck them.

Am I cool or what?

Oh, and by the way,  when you set your beheaded chicken down and he starts a-flopping, make sure he is far enough from the house so he does not fall into a window well.  Not a pretty sight.  Guess what we get to do tomorrow?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Emotional Malaise Due to Fiction of Medical Compromisation

Did that title make any sense at all?  Hopefully it will when I'm done venting my angst.

Did you ever read a book or see a movie that left you feeling icky afterwards?  Over the weekend I read Tess Gerritsen's Harvest.  Throughout the day today, I would recall some aspect of the troubling plot and would suddenly feel sad.

There are some genres of literature I avoid because of the intensity of the suspense or the goriness of the story line or the graphically violent or s*xual descriptions.  This book does not really fall into any of those categories.  I would call this story a thriller of medical ethics.  It is realistic enough that the possibility of a situation similar to that described in this plot seems plausible.

I don't like stories that imply that someone into whose hands I may at some point need to lay my life might be immersed in unethical behavior.  When a person is unconscious or in a compromised condition, they ought to be able to trust those into whose care they are surrendered.  I don't like to be reminded of the human nature of caregivers.  I don't want to know about the possibility that some health care provider may make a decision for a patient's care based on things other than the patient's best interest.

Unfortunately I saw the movie, Kill Bill, at the theater with my husband.  (Yes, he likes those comic strip-ish martial arts movies, but that would be another story.)  There was a situation in that movie that left me similarly saddened and unsettled.  The heads getting chopped off didn't both me.  That part was obviously fictitious.  But the behavior of the hospital personnel was realistically heinous.  Ick Yuck.  People ought to have peace of mind that their care during times of physical compromise is above board.

It's Ticker Time Once Again

I decided to go with the fall amoeba theme.

After a summer break from organized exercise and the slowly creeping upward of my bathroom scale, I've felt the need to return to some structure. 

Readers may have noticed the disappearance a month or so ago of the "miles run" ticker?  Yes, well, I don't want to talk about it.

I was inspired by Mr. Bronski's performance on Saturday at the Virgil Crest Ultra 50 mile race.  Pete finished in 7th place (out of 48 runners who started) with an official finish of 51.4 miles in 11 hours and 43 minutes.  WOW!  Great job, Pete!

The top 100 mile finisher was  Angus Repper who did the 102.8 miles in 23 hours and 4 minutes.  Can you imagine?

I noticed there were several 40 somethings who finished in both the 50 and 100 miles versions.  The oldest 100 mile finisher was 48 years old and the oldest 50 mile finisher was 58.  Yes, I'm pretty impressed.

But I blame it all on the scenery.  Yes, that's it.  If only I had a more scenic place to train, I could probably do 50 miles easy.  Don't you think?

Friday, September 24, 2010

See Pete run. Run, Pete, run.

Tomorrow Peter Bronski, of No Gluten No Problem, is running in the Virgil Crest Ultra, in the mountains and forests of New York.  I follow Mr. Bronski's blog for tips and information of the gluten free life style.  But I also am drawn to the sense of adventure he portrays in his blog.  Mr. Bronski according to his personal business website is "an award-winning writer, photographer, speaker and adventurer."  And somehow he brings that through even in a gluten free living blog.

A little over four months ago, after an extended illness over last winter and early spring, Mr. Bronski began training for the 50 ml Virgil Crest Ultra.  He's kept his regular readers up to date on his progress and challenges, and training statistics.  For those of us who are less than successful at our own personal training, it's inspiring to read about the success of another.  And it gives me kind of a vicarious adventure of my own.

Mr. Bronski is using his run to raise awareness of Celiac Disease and to raise money for Celiac research.

I hope you have a great day tomorrow, Pete!  I'll look forward to checking the race stats when I get home tomorrow afternoon.  Be safe.

See also Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, by Christiphor McDougall, for everything you ever wanted to know about ultra marathoning.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gun Related Contests

Impact Guns is running a series of giveaways in the months to come.  In order to enter the current one, a person must post a comment on a gun related site or a gun related comment on a personal site.  The winner will receive a .45cal Smith & Wesson M&P pistol.   Jeff Quinn at Gunblast has a thorough review of the S&W M&P.

Thank you impact guns.  I look forward to winning.

I've recently been introduced to Australian folk rock singer, Steve Lee.  He's come into widespread fame in America due to his recent youTube hit, I Like Guns

According to his website
, Mr. Lee decided that there haven't been enough songs of late celebrating the manliness of guns.  "When had grown men stopped singing about shooting and started singing about love?"  So he produced an entire album celebrating guns and gun ownership.  Some songs are original; some are covers of old gun songs.

The second video from the album, I'll Give Up My Guns, is also up on youTube now.   This song is more political, a musical commentary on loss of freedom.

I've checked out his family's albums and their web site, too.  I'm intrigued by this guy; he exhibits what appear to be conservative values.  He is obviously very patriotic and family oriented.  He loves freedom and at least acknowledges his Christian roots.  I don't want to presume too much on that point. They homeschooled their kids.

But here is the thing I think is cool.  He and his wife raised their kids on the road.  Singing in small venues throughout Australia.  I suppose it appeals to my somewhat rebellious nature and wanderlust.  Here's a family who marches to the beat of their own drum.

The Lee's are talented singers with an engaging, friendly style.

In line with the contest theme of this blog post, the youth hunting organization, The Future of Hunting, is sponsoring a guided whitetail hunt for a lucky youth hunter and attending adult.  But wait, there's more.  Fellow participant in the giveaway hunt ... the aforementioned Steve Lee.  Walker Hollow Whitetails in central Ohio is donating the hunt.  So register your youth hunter to win now.  No, wait, don't.  I know I have more youth hunters than some, which increases my odds of winning, but still, don't enter.  Ohio is so far away, isnt' it?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Poem: Life at the Abrahamson House While Mom Was Writing Previous Post

Two little sisters jumping on the bed
One put powder on her head
She put it on her sister and then they said,
"We've never had so much fun, jumping on the bed!"
I should never take time out to think.  No.  I should never take time to record my thoughts.

One of My Age-Old Questions Resurfaces

When I spend time thinking about our country's founding documents, I inevitably end up in a philosophical catch-22.  The Declaration of Independence, and therefore the entire justification of the American Revolution, uses some phraseology with which I am uncomfortable from a spiritual standpoint.  The following provides an example.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Now, much as I'd like to think it true, I don't think we are endowed by our Creator with any rights except the right to life.  And even that is not so much a right as a gift.

But the entire idea of Natural Laws and Laws of Nature and Natural Rights, etc, to which Enlightenment thinkers such as our nations founders held, does not sit well with me on a spiritual level.  We are worthy of nothing in the eyes of God.  We have no rights before God.  We do have gifts and blessings of which we may or may not even be aware.  The word, "Rights" however, implies something to which we're entitled.  And I don't think the Bible supports this.

In the history of the world, humanity has been granted by God various civic rights and privileges at various times.  Within various civic systems throughout the history of the world, some have lived free, while others not so much so.  But as the apostle Paul exhorts us in Romans 13:1, "Let every soul be subject to a higher power.  For there is no power but of God.  The powers that be are ordained by God."  Even under what may seem the most heinous civic situation, God's people are cared for and blessed according to His Good Pleasure.  We have no right to demand of our God-instituted civic body any particular freedoms or rights or blessings, etc.

At times God has chosen to use the civic authorities to grant certain freedoms or rights.  For instance, under our American system of governance, God has blessed us richly with many freedoms and with certain privileges to participate in our government.

I found the following quote from Thomas Jefferson in Glenn Beck's new political thriller, The Overton Window, which I've reviewed here.  I know there are a handful of theologians and political historians who read my blog.  There are also a handful of armchair theologians and armchair political historians; and also some readers who may not have any particular theological or historical training, but are astute and wise, nonetheless.  I'd like your input.
Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.
I've been thinking about this quote.  At first glance I cringe from it because of the ideas I expressed above.

Again, Romans 13:1, "Let every soul be subject to a higher power.  For there is no power but of God.  The powers that be are ordained by God." That seems to me to be straightforward enough.

But some well read and devout friends and acquaintances have been trying to gently lead me to see, implicit within the Biblical Commandments, especially Commandments 4-10, kind of (forgive me if I'm saying this inaccurately) an inside out endorsement by God of what we might think of today as Natural Rights such as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, along with those rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, and other human rights.  For instance, if we steal, we are infringing upon someone else's right to have that thing; therefore, God endorses private property.  I believe Martin Luther defends this view in his Large Catechism in the section on the Ten Commandments.

With that in mind, I can stretch my imagination to see Jefferson's statement as truly noble and insightful.  When we resist tyrants, we are protecting the rights of our friends and acquaintances to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, along with all the other unalienable God-given rights.

But I wonder, is Jefferson's idea insightful or simply "inciteful"?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

School Morning Musings of a Formerly Homeschool Mom

Here it is, ten minutes after seven, and the morning rush is done.  I have served my children hot breakfast--we had rice custard this morning.  We had morning devotions--Joe read the first half of Galatians 5, and had the kids recite come commandments.  The older kids have their daily chores accomplished.  Six of my ten children are dressed.  Five are on their way to school.  Breakfast dishes are mostly cleaned up and I have nothing to do.  (This last bit is called hyperbole--obvious exaggeration.)  Of course I really do have things to do, but it amazes me that I have so many things under my belt and it is not even fully light.

Now it's time for my cup of coffee and a bit of Mom Time.

I love seeing all my kids race to the bus in the morning.  Don't ask me why.  I feel warm and mushy seeing their legs pumping and their lungs so strong.

There is comfort in knowing I've done my part to prepare them to go out in the world.  This is ongoing, of course, but the foundation is laid.

Now the building continues, but the responsibility is shared by many hands.  That part does not sit quite comfortably with me.  It makes me squirm inwardly not a small amount, when I stop to think of how many varied influences my children will have coming at them each day.  I pray for them, for strength, wisdom, and faith, as they examine these influences through the lenses of their baptismal grace.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quiz time

Among my friends and acquaintances, there is only one person I know off the top of my head who I imagine would know the answer to the following questions readily.  There are a few others I think might have such obscure knowledge.  And anyone can figure it out by googling.  Go ahead and post an answer, but tell me whether you had to research the matter.  I'm going to wait to moderate any comments until I hear from someone who know the answer already.

What is skiffle music?  What musical group of renown got their start playing skiffle?  Name any other well-known musicians who played skiffle.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Important Family Update

This is important to me.  As in, it is a BIG DEAL around here. I think Joe will write about it and include pictures, since he's the more tech savvy one around these parts.

But...For anyone who has not yet heard the news, we have enrolled all of our school aged children, except Louisa in the local public schools, Red Lake County Central-Plummer and Oklee. I can't believe I didn't write about this earlier, but I've been too swamped to even think about blogging until today. OK, I did squeeze in a few book reviews and a few just for fun things.

But I really wanted to give this topic a nice post all of its own to present the things that lead to our decision. But I've decided they are to many to list and a few  are somewhat private matters.

Suffice it to say that maternal overload was a big factor. As was our positive experience with the Oklee school, the teachers and administrators with our older two last year.

It's all been very exciting and somewhat overwhelming. But we had a good week for the most part. We managed to get to bed on time and get up on time. I made hot breakfast all four mornings.

The kids mostly like school. They love seeing friends each day and having structured things to do. For the most part, they like the classes, too, but some things are difficult compared to how we did them here.

Sophie is pretty tired at the end of the day. She's is a bit frustrated by her reading level compared to the other kids in her grade. I've been in touch with the teachers and principle about this and we are sitting on it for now.

The Plummer school has a very nice program in place that combines the kids in third and fourth grades; and then again the fifth and sixth graders. Each of the two pools of kids is then divided into ability levels so that the kids can be taught closer to their ability level than a simple grade division would accomplish. The children are given brief assessments several times during the year to determine that they are still working at the correct level; and also to look for red flag areas in which the child might need that little bit of extra help.

I'm pleased with how things are going and I look forward to hearing from the teachers this week on whether they think Sophie would benefit from bumping down a level.  I'm touched by the amount of care and personal interest the teachers are able to give.

I spent my time at home this week well and have begun the arduous task of reclaiming my domicile from it's years of neglect.    I just keep saying to myself, as in What About Bob?, "Baby steps with the laundry, baby steps with the kids' rooms, baby steps around the house."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Group Dehumanization

Our society is becoming increasingly divided.  Many of us fit into groups of various labels;  we each make use of these labels to a greater or lesser degree.   I, for instance, am a white Christian woman; I am a homeschool, stay-at-home mom; I am within the income level some call "below the poverty".  All these things combined are not really who I am; and certainly no single one of them expresses accurately even a fraction of who I am.

Along with this grouping into various factions of society, comes a constantly increasing amount of group identity.  What starts as a way to help one or another group, ends up diminishing the individual member of the group.  This group identity, then, leads to perpetually decreasing individual humanity.  Gradually none of us is seen as his or her self, a unique individual person, given life by a loving heavenly Father.  Instead  we are mere shells; a mythical sum of our various group identities.

Society has undergone many changes throughout time that are for the good.  Even as recently as the last fifty years, for instance, we have made cultural changes that allow people of color to participate fully in our society.

We eschew labeling anyone by his or her color or gender or religion or occupation, or whatever label you might choose, but at the same time we are increasingly dependent upon those various labels for one purpose or another.  Sometimes it is for political clout.  Sometimes it is to get something from the government or from a non-government charitable organization.  Sometimes for some other reason.

I was reminded of this the other day when I was filling out the application for the reduced price lunches for those of my children who are attending the local public schools.  Yes, these free lunches for which my kids qualify certainly are a financial boon for us.  But is it a necessary thing?  No.  I have been providing healthful meals for my kids here at home for many years and I could certainly continue to do so even with them attending public school.  I could provide sack lunches for them with the occasional luxury of a cafeteria meal.  Yes, I could do this.

But, somehow, income level has become tied together with learning difficulties.  This labeling equates poor people with individuals who have learning challenges to overcome.  I'm not exactly sure how this works and it's a stereotype I despise.  But there we have it; the amount of money the school gets for Special Ed programs, if I understand correctly, is based on the number of children who qualify for free lunches.

One sees the same thing in the Head Start program that is specifically aimed at people of the lower income levels.  Do all mothers who live below the poverty line provide poor educational preparedness for their children?  Conversely do all higher income level mothers provide needed preparedness?  Vain labels, indeed.

Here is another example of this labeling that made me especially frustrated a few years back.  I received in the mail a supposedly voluntary survey.  It was from some state organization, I believe that in conjunction with the University of Minnesota was researching the relationship of timely pre-natal care to low birth weight babies.

On the surface, this seems like a benign enough study.  But the questions in the survey were anything but neutral.  The assumption seemed to be that anyone who did not get to her pre-natal appointments was an under-educated, smoking, drunken, poverty level woman who uses drugs and whose husband beats her.  And I ask then, with all these other factors they seemed to quite obviously be anticipating, how could they even make a connection that the lack of pre-natal care was the primary factor in any low birth weight baby.  Or did they anticipate not having enough respondents within the pre-natal care parameters they were exploring, who were also without other risk factors, which would thereby make them unable to get a true correlation between the pre-natal care and the birth weight?  Either way, the group identity prevails.

At the time I received this survey, I had recently borne, I think, my eighth child.  The pregnancy was an especially fatiguing one.  I hadn't gone to all my pre-natal appointments.  If I recall correctly, I did not get to one until I was about six months along, so that by the time I missed a few more appointments, I think I may have had only four or five prenatal appointments as opposed to the recommended fifteen or sixteen.  Since I don't fit into any of the groups the survey seemed to be attempting to lump together, I really ought to have filled it out.  I would have broken their stereotypes. And even if they were merely trying to identify other risk factor in order to streamline the results, my ten pound healthy baby girl would certainly not have drawn any correlation between low birth weight and timely pre-natal care.

The above examples all exhibit a lack of personal identity.  People are labeled by group and identified by group and treated as a member of said group instead of as individual persons.

I don't know how far this trend toward group identity and ensuing lack of personal identity will continue.  With the passage of the new health care bill into law, it seems as though it can only go down hill.  How is a bureaucracy to analyze anyone's medical needs if not by some statistical actuarial interpretation of group data?

Or worse yet, is it happening already.  Are there in any number of public policy meetings or think tanks or what have you, "experts" discussing what to do with various ones of us; how to control us, or get the most out of us.   A morbid thought, but I don't know that it is far fetched.

This all makes more sense in my head, but trying to get it in writing was somewhat difficult today.  Feel free to leave any comments that might help clarify my thought processes.

I originally thought of all this today while reading The Old Curiosity Shop,
     Supper was not yet over, when there arrived at the Jolly Sandboys two more travellers bound for the same haven as the rest, who had been walking in the rain for some hours, and came in shining and heavy with water. One of these was the proprietor of a giant, and a little lady without legs or arms,...
     'How's the Giant?' said Short, when they all sat smoking round the fire.
     'Rather weak upon his legs,' returned Mr Vuffin. 'I begin to be afraid he's going at the knees.'
     'That's a bad look-out,' said Short.
     'Aye! Bad indeed,' replied Mr Vuffin, contemplating the fire with a sigh. 'Once get a giant shaky on his legs, and the public care no more about him than they do for a dead cabbage stalk.'
     'What becomes of old giants?' said Short, turning to him again after little reflection.
     'They're usually kept in carawans to wait upon the dwarfs,' said Mr. Vuffin.
     'The maintaining of 'em must come expensive, when they can't be shown, eh?' remarked Short, eyeing him doubtfully.
     'It's better that, than letting 'em go upon the parish or about the streets,' said Mr Vuffin. 'Once make a giant common and giants will never draw again. Look at wooden legs. If there was only one man with a wooden leg what a property he'd be!'
     'So he would!' observed the landlord and Short both together. 'That's very true.'
     'Instead of which,' pursued Mr Vuffin, 'if you was to advertise Shakespeare played entirely by wooden legs,' it's my belief you wouldn't draw a sixpence.'
     'I don't suppose you would,' said Short. And the landlord said so too.
     'This shows, you see,' said Mr Vuffin, waving his pipe with an argumentative air, 'this shows the policy of keeping the used-up giants still in the carawans, where they get food and lodging for nothing, all their lives, and in general very glad they are to stop there. There was one giant--a black 'un--as left his carawan some year ago and took to carrying coach-bills about London, making himself as cheap as crossing-sweepers. He died. I make no insinuation against anybody in particular,' said Mr Vuffin, looking solemnly round, 'but he was ruining the trade;--and he died.'
     The landlord drew his breath hard, and looked at the owner of the dogs, who nodded and said gruffly that he remembered.
     'I know you do, Jerry,' said Mr Vuffin with profound meaning. 'I know you remember it, Jerry, and the universal opinion was, that it served him right....
     'What about the dwarfs when they get old?' inquired the landlord.
     'The older a dwarf is, the better worth he is,' returned Mr Vuffin; 'a grey-headed dwarf, well wrinkled, is beyond all suspicion. But a giant weak in the legs and not standing upright!--keep him in the carawan, but never show him, never show him, for any persuasion that can be offered.'
From this preserve us heavenly Father!

Aspiring Authors! Serial Writers!

Announcing my exciting new blog, Write Like the Dickens.

Regular readers will notice it is the direct brainchild of the previous post on this blog.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What the Dickens?

It must be especially observed in justice to poor Kit that he was by no means of a sentimental turn, and perhaps had never heard that adjective in all his life.  He was only a softhearted grateful fellow, and had nothing genteel or polite about him; consequently, instead of going home again, in his grief, to kick the children and abuse his mother (for, when your finely strung people are out of sorts, they must have everybody else unhappy likewise), he turned his thoughts to the vulgar expedient of making them more comfortable if he could.
From The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens.

I love when an author is able, through artful descriptions, to bring to mind specific personality types and social situations.  And Dickens is one of the giants of this art.  He is able to evoke very specific visual images with the written word.  And he creates characters that people relate to in a very personal way.  We love them or hate them or even fear them.

The Old Curiosity Shop, like many of Dickens' works, was originally written in serial style.  I was awed by the following description from a Dickens biography included with the edition I'm reading.  It portrays the depth of his appeal and the anticipation with which his readers awaited a given installment.
When the Irish Nationalist Daniel O'Connell finished reading The Old Curiosity Shop onboard a train, he burst into tears, hurling the sad pages from the window of his compartment.  In Boston, 4000 people assembled at the wharf to wait for the boat carrying Chapter 71 to arrive.  As the vessel approached the dock, those on the shore called out to the captain, hoping to learn Little Nell's fate.  When he shook his head sadly, a moan went up from the crowd.
We don't have anything in our society that can exactly equate with that.  We do have novels and movies that come out in series.  Many people lined up at bookstores for the final Harry Potter book, for instance.  But imagine the scene above.  Imagine the days before mass transportation and communication.  Imagine no instant internet information.

And next think about a book that took 71 installments to reach it's conclusion, each perhaps only a few pages in length.  Remember how Laura and Mary committed to making the stories in their Youth's Companions last throughout The Long Winter?  I know that in the niche genres of literature, such as science fiction, these serials live on.

But I wonder if there might be a place for something like this in pop culture.  What might it look like and how might it be distributed.  A blog perhaps, started by some obscure writer, gradually gaining readership as the story evolves.  Or might a famous author start something to be distributed in the big box stores. Perhaps a news magazine might feature a chapter a week by a rising literary star.  I suppose it could happen any number of ways.

A serial of this sort is probably a romantic idea on my part, but one that appeals to me nonetheless.