A to Z Over

So, the April A to Z challenge is done.

I met some interesting people through it, so that was pretty cool.

It was a LOT of work to blog every day (except Sundays) — especially when I didn’t have anything particularly gripping to write about for a given letter. I really don’t like posting just to post something. The best days were the ones when there was something I really wanted to write about and I found a way to relate it to the day’s letter. There were also many pleasant challenging days when it took a lot of thought but I found something meaningful to write about.

Thanks to Arlee for getting it going, and for everyone who participated.


Z is for…

Zaire, Zimmer, and Zimbabwe:

I spent a summer in Africa in 1994, between my sophomore and junior years of college. It was Wycliffe Bible Translators’ Discovery Program, designed to give folks a firsthand look at missions and missionary life. We were in Kenya for the first and last portion of the trip, and four of the eight of us spent the middle in Zaire.

I entered college planning to major in linguistics so as to join Wycliffe as a career missionary.

Wycliffe missionaries go where people don’t yet have the Bible in their own language. In some places, they might have no access to the Bible at all, and in others they may only have a regional trade language version. Trade languages are suitable for the marketplace, but not so great for reading.

Working with locals, the missionary or team endeavors to learn the language, develop an orthography (writing system; usually an alphabet, sometimes a syllabary), teach literacy, and finally BEGIN translating portions of the Bible. This kind of missionary work appealed to me because the task is so definite or concrete, as opposed to a church-planting or evangelistic mission effort.

I went on the trip asking God to give me a clear answer about whether or not I would or should join Wycliffe after college. By the end, I didn’t have a clear yes or no, but it seemed just fine to continue pursuing the idea. Later that year, well, Mark and I started dating.

Pretty early in the trip, my roommate Kim was listening to something on headphones, and let me take a listen. It was the soundtrack to the movie The Power of One, scored by Hans Zimmer and mostly sung by the Bulawayo Church Choir of Zimbabwe.

This music is amazing, with the exception of the title song. Shivers me, most of the time. (We tried watching the movie one time and I couldn’t get through it. But the soundtrack rules.)

Y is for


Amy and I had a picnic lunch at the park today. A group of friends from some church were also there, so lots of kids around. Most of the moms were standing around talking. Since I didn’t know them, I was mostly playing with Amy. Some of the other kids found me quite curious — they would come over to watch, or join in, and some even asked me to help them on the zip line or the monkey bars or something. It was sort of sweet and sort of unnerving — I wanted to be respectful towards them, but didn’t want to be everyone’s mom at once.

Yard sale:

On our way to the park, we spied an early yard sale. They were selling a nut-chopper just like my mom’s (which is now mine) for $6. If it had been a dollar or two, I would have bought it just because none of the teeth were broken and one of mine is. They had quite a few antiquey things, and I searched carefully in case they might have a pickle crock or a mortar and pestle set, but alas, no. However, we did score a set of bongos for just $5! I’m sure they’re not professional quality, but hey, they’re real drums and to my uneducated ear they sound pretty cool, and Amy likes them a lot. She says I can play them sometimes, too. Might have to look on YouTube for instruction.


On the way home we stopped at the Salvation Army. As usual, none of the clothes I looked at fit right (so glad they have a changing room), but I found four nice flannel sheets (to sew more diapers) and a bit of plaid homespun-type fabric (to line a jeans bag to sell), all with the color tag that was half off that day.


We made our first foray into Indian cooking last night. I made spiced chickpeas, based on a recipe in one of the two Indian cookbooks I’ve had for years and never used.

1 scant cup of dry chickpeas, soaked overnight, simmered for an hour and a half.

Two-thirds of a stick of butter
1/3 – 1/2 c minced fresh onion
2 minced fresh garlic cloves
1 t ground ginger

Sauteed until golden and tender.

2 c canned tomatoes, pureed in the blender
A couple good shakes each of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, and chili powder, for an approximation of garam masala.

Added to the sauteed mixture along with the drained chickpeas and a couple tablespoons of their cooking liquid. Simmer about ten minutes or so, covered.

I also made chapatis. The recipe was nearly identical to my tortilla recipe, except I think it called for butter instead of olive oil. It wanted the butter softened, and added after the flour and water were mixed, but I was in a hurry and melted the butter instead. The chapatis were rather tough — was it melting the butter, or using all whole wheat flour, or both? They also didn’t puff with lots of bubbles like the tortillas usually do.

Anyway, everyone liked it — even Amy ate her whole portion. I’m pleased that fudging the recipe like I did still resulted in a tasty dish. Might have to give some other recipes in those books a try!

X is for…

Signing your name here, as in X______________________:

Before I was married, my initials were MC. I had what I considered a pretty cool artist’s signature with the C inside the M, starting from the last stroke of the M. I guess the one I use now with MP is okay — a little prettier — but not as clever.

The hardest checks for me to sign were for my dulcimers — the second, and as far as I know final one, was rather worse but both felt really tremendously large.

Crossing, as in (Insert name of animal or equipment or whatever) X-ing:

We have deer crossing signs around here, I think; we at least have deer. I don’t think we have other crossing signs, but most of the non-car/truck traffic we see is farm equipment. There are some really strange-looking contraptions out there for farms. The strangest one, to me, is this thing on extremely tall wheels — looks like you could drive under it if your car was narrow enough. I suppose it’s something designed to drive in a cornfield.

Expired calendar days or to-do-list items:

I don’t usually X out calendar days — I use a weekly planner and just turn the page when the new week comes. I used to fold over a corner so it would be easier to find the current page, but I’ve gotten out of that habit, perhaps because my planner now spends most of its time open on my desk instead of riding in my bag.

To-do-list items I usually cross out with a line, but sometimes use an X. Aren’t you glad I told you that? I write LOTS of to-do lists. I rarely follow them — not in a “these are the things I WILL do TODAY” sense. They serve mainly to get things out of my head so I don’t keep having things floating around with various cries of urgency and others floating away into oblivion. Also, in those rare moments when I have nothing to do, or when I feel inspired to be productive or to reduce stress or clutter, I can look at the list and get ideas.

Christmas, as in X-mas:

This one used to annoy me, because I assumed it was irreverence, like calling Thanksgiving Turkey Day. But the X is the Greek letter chi, first letter of Christ, and has a long history of church use as an abbreviation for the name.

Speaking of Christmas and irreverence, I am one of those people who thinks it’s wise and considerate to wish people happy holidays unless you know what they celebrate. For those who are not religious at all, they still probably consider that late December time off as a holiday, in the sense of vacation if not in the sense of a holy day. For others, holidays is inclusive without necessarily being generic. It’s not necessarily lumping all the holy days together as if the differences don’t matter. And for Christians, well, Christmas is a holy day, a holiday, so it’s included, too. If I were sojourning in a country or culture where Christians were not in the majority, I wouldn’t expect anyone to wish me Merry Christmas, nor would I be offended if people wished me happy whatever they celebrated, but it still seems more respectful to me to say happy holidays in this country when you don’t know the person well enough to be specific.

W is for…

Whiling away the time with pen or pencil; all of these doodles are from my BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) notebook from this school year. Most of the time, doodling doesn’t affect my concentration, or actually helps it.

V is for…


I’ve been asked to be on the Vacation Bible School committee. I sort of hate VBS. Not quite sure why… canned curriculum? wondering how I would feel as a non-Christian to have a church inviting my kids to be evangelized? assembly of identical crafts? I don’t know.

I’m not quite sure what being on the committee would entail. Not teaching, though. But if it involves having to call people to ask them to teach or serve in some other way, or call people to invite their kids, I will run away fast.


Kids need unconditional love. They need to feel sure that they are loved no matter how they behave, how they feel, what they think, what they choose, what they say.

So do I.

1. Crying, whining, and yelling are not pleasant to listen to. If someone I love needs to cry, whine, or yell once in a while, I can usually be there with them in love. If someone cries, whines, or yells a lot, multiple times in a day, every day, I get to where I don’t want to be with that person very much, and also I get to where I’m so sensitive to it that even the least hint of crying, whining, or yelling will set me off.

I understand that this is true for me with other people, too. That the more I cry, whine, and yell, the less my friends will be able to be with me in love.

Only God can tolerate my crying, whining, and yelling to the fullest extent that I can dish it out. He never feels threatened, bored, or frustrated by it. It never makes him want me to go away.

It’s not that I need to stop crying, whining, and yelling, nor that I need to stop feeling the feelings that make me want to cry, whine, and yell. But I do need to choose wisely when and how I express these feelings, and not put a God-sized burden on my friends and family.

I would like Amy to know God this way. To know — in a real and satisfying way — that God does not share those limits and is not provoked in that way.

I would also like her to know how to manage the expression of her feelings — I’m not really sure how to go about teaching this to her. She isn’t an adult and shouldn’t be given adult-sized affect management teaching. But she isn’t a baby anymore either, and I don’t think it’s fair to expect us as her parents to just let her cry, whine, and yell whenever she feels like it — and for us to sit there and take it all in.

In most of my therapy, it’s been emphasized that feelings are not subject to moral judgment. What you feel is what you feel, and that’s okay. The expression is a different story — there are appropriate times and places for certain kinds of expression of feelings.

Is it really true — entirely? Some writers and speakers talk about how we ought to feel, not in an effort to get us to change our feelings, as if we could in our own power, but to show us the extent of our fallenness. Mark points out that, in a marriage for example, it’s not enough to do the right things — what husband or wife would be satisfied with a spouse that didn’t have any feelings for him or her? Again, not that we should expect the infatuation stage to last, but that there should be something more than mere duty. One hopes that by practicing duty, and by asking in prayer, the proper affections would grow.

How much “right” does Amy have to be so terribly upset when it’s time to get ready for bed? (Despite advance warning.) Or about other things that happen quite often, like getting “no” in answer to a request? Is there some magical age or stage when she’ll make peace with these things? How can we help her best — I don’t think it’s helpful to just allow unlimited crying, whining, and yelling about it. And I don’t think it’s helpful to allow her no expression of feelings or no feelings at all. How can we help her feel secure in our love, understand and accept the painful reality of bedtime and “no,” feel her feelings without pressure to deny or squelch them, and make steps toward more appropriate expression of those feelings?

(This is one of the reasons it’s so difficult to have helpful conversation about parenting or so many other things — it’s so easy to identify and avoid extremes, and identify and affirm ideals (like unconditional love and firm boundaries), but much harder to articulate and know how it all works out in practice.)

And? One more little thing?

Can someone teach her to hurry when it’s time to hurry, to focus on a task when it’s time to do something — to understand and accept the difference between play / free time (when I love to notice everything and follow distractions with her) and time when we need to move quickly or do something with focus?

Oh, and I almost forgot — can I have a week off, please?

U is for…


I was a linguistics major in college. Linguistics is the study of language — not so much to be fluent in reading and speaking several languages, but more about how language works — more like math, problem-solving, puzzles, analysis.

There’s things like syntax — how words are put together to form sentences. In English, for example, we generally have the subject first, then the verb, then the object: Charlie stole the barley. In other languages, these bits might be in a different order, like Stole Charlie the barley, Charlie the barley stole, etc.

Morphology is how words are formed. In English, we use a few prefixes and suffixes to form some kinds of words, like adding -ed to a verb to make it past tense: paint –> painted. Other kinds of changing forms, like steal –> stole, are also considered in morphology.

Phonology is the study of sounds in language. Babies babble in all possible language sounds, and gradually narrow their repertoire to the sounds used in their own language. Some languages have no “th” sound. Ours doesn’t do the sound of a French u (say “eee” with your lips rounded as if for “ooo”). And so on.

“Unlockable” is a fun word for introducing morphology.

Un- usually means “not” — unwanted means not wanted, unavailable means not available. It can also mean to reverse or do the opposite — undo, for example. Unlock is the opposite of lock — to make something not locked.

-able means the object can be “verb-ed,” whatever the verb is. Washable means you can wash it, readable means you can read it. Lockable means you can lock it.

So what does unlockable mean — does it mean you can unlock it, or does it mean you can’t lock it?

That is, is it unlock-able, or is it un-lockable?

Ambiguity is fun.